CLOSE
Original image

A little better ... but how much?

Original image

I drove by it three or four times before I realized what it was: a gas station. Unrecognizable as such from a distance, BP's new Helios House gas station -- of which there are a few in Los Angeles -- aims to be, as the billboard rising above it proclaims, "a little better." It's green in just about every way a building can be green (excepting the fact that its sole function is the sale of fossil fuels). But hey, at least they're trying! Here are a few of the stations innovative features (via Treehugger):

Water: Helios House exceeds current environmental standards for on-site collection, filtration and distribution of water; canopy collects rainwater for irrigation; rain and site water are filtered to prevent hydrocarbons from polluting groundwater.

Heat: Helios House is designed to minimize the "heat island" effect. The green roof is landscaped with drought tolerant plants, reducing the need for heating and cooling systems, minimizing rainwater runoff, and re-oxygenating the air through CO2 absorption (carbon sink).

Light: 90 solar panels produce enough energy to power two to three homes which is equivalent to just over 5,000 lbs/year of CO2 generation reduction. Energy-efficient lighting in the canopy area uses 16 percent less electricity than traditional stations.

Materials: The site utilizes farmed wood from renewable sources; bathroom tiles utilize 100 percent recycled glass; signage is made from stainless steel scraps from the project; all stainless steel used on site is recyclable.

Cell Phone Recycling Center. Cell phones can be dropped off at Helios House, where they will be safely recycled instead of going to a landfill.

LED Lighting. Light emitting diode bulbs are used in signage and throughout the station, saving about 50 percent of the energy of fluorescents or metal halide bulbs. LEDs also last 60 percent to 80 percent longer than conventional bulbs.

Photocells and Timers. Lighting throughout the station uses multiple circuits and sensors to automatically switch electric lights on or off as needed through a 24 hour cycle. This will save about 400 kilowatt hours (kwh).

Natural Light. The design of Helios House makes use of natural light as much as possible, saving about 1,400 kilowatt hours each year.

Low VOC Paint. Ordinary paint releases VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) into the air. The paint in Helios House is Low-VOC and better for the air.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream?
Original image
iStock

While you’re browsing the ice cream aisle, you may find yourself wondering, “What’s so French about French vanilla?” The name may sound a little fancier than just plain ol’ “vanilla,” but it has nothing to do with the origin of the vanilla itself. (Vanilla is a tropical plant that grows near the equator.)

The difference comes down to eggs, as The Kitchn explains. You may have already noticed that French vanilla ice cream tends to have a slightly yellow coloring, while plain vanilla ice cream is more white. That’s because the base of French vanilla ice cream has egg yolks added to it.

The eggs give French vanilla ice cream both a smoother consistency and that subtle yellow color. The taste is a little richer and a little more complex than a regular vanilla, which is made with just milk and cream and is sometimes called “Philadelphia-style vanilla” ice cream.

In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered in 2010—when Baskin-Robbins decided to eliminate French Vanilla from its ice cream lineup—ice cream industry consultant Bruce Tharp noted that French vanilla ice cream may date back to at least colonial times, when Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both used ice cream recipes that included egg yolks.

Jefferson likely acquired his taste for ice cream during the time he spent in France, and served it to his White House guests several times. His family’s ice cream recipe—which calls for six egg yolks per quart of cream—seems to have originated with his French butler.

But everyone already knew to trust the French with their dairy products, right?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Original image
iStock
arrow
science
Belly Flop Physics 101: The Science Behind the Sting
Original image
iStock

Belly flops are the least-dignified—yet most painful—way of making a serious splash at the pool. Rarely do they result in serious physical injury, but if you’re wondering why an elegant swan dive feels better for your body than falling stomach-first into the water, you can learn the laws of physics that turn your soft torso a tender pink by watching the SciShow’s video below.

SECTIONS

More from mental floss studios