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People Use More Electricity If They Autopay Their Bills

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Autopaying your bills may not be the smartest way to go after all. A new study of 16 years of billing records from a South Carolina electric company suggests that people who use automatic payments end up consuming more power. 

Around half of households with Internet access in the U.S. pay bills by autopay, according to a 2013 survey. However, by eliminating the step of engaging with monthly bills in the process of writing out a check, automatic payments may allow people to ignore the cost of what they're using, and in doing so, spend more without realizing it, according to the study by Duke University economist Steven Sexton in the Review of Economics and Statistics

Sexton examined years of records from Santee Cooper, a South Carolina power company that serves about 160,000 customers, including bills for both residential and commercial accounts. Households that enrolled in automatic billing showed a 4 to 6 percent increase in electricity consumption, on average, and commercial customers consumed an average of 8 percent more electricity. 

Granted, this study only examined the effects of autopay on one utility in one region, and it’s possible that results might differ across the entire country, or for other utility usages, such as water consumption. But if the results hold true nationwide, at least with electricity use, autopaying could increase U.S. power consumption by 15.8 billion kilowatt hours per year—about the equivalent of the electricity use of 1.5 million homes. So much for the environmentalism of paper-free billing. 

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environment
To Encourage Responsible Trash Disposal, a Startup in Nigeria Pays People for their Waste
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Nigeria is home to more than 180 million people, who produce more than 32 million tons of waste per year and just 20 to 30 percent of this garbage is collected, according to one estimate. To provide Nigerians with incentive to dispose of their trash responsibly, Junks, a Nigerian waste management startup, provides people with the chance to exchange their trash for cash, according to Konbini.

The company offers to pay for items and materials like discarded electronics, glass, plastic, aluminum, books, and clothes. Once purchased, these materials are re-sold to wholesalers and recycling companies, according to Techpoint. Potential users who want to sell their trash are required to register on the startup's website, Junks.ng, and fill out a form with a description of the trash they're selling, along with their asking price and contact information. Once this information is received, representatives from Junks are sent to pick up and pay for the waste.

Computer programmer Bradley Yarrow founded Junks.ng in August 2017. Based in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, Nigeria, the company currently has just three employees, in addition to Yarrow. That said, the tiny startup appears to be doing big business, judging from a growing list of sold junk—which includes laminating machines, old laptops, and scrap car parts—already listed on Junks.ng.

[h/t Konbini]

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High-Tech Skyscrapers Could be Built with Low-Tech Wood
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When we think of wood construction, we often think of log cabins, tree houses, or the framework of residential properties. But if a new start-up has its way, we might soon be gazing up at 12-story buildings made almost entirely out of Douglas firs.

In a report for CityLab, journalist Amanda Kolson Hurley profiled Portland, Oregon's Lever Architecture, a firm attempting to revitalize wood-based towers that reduce the carbon footprints of conventional buildings. Their offices are located in a four-story property made from wood; their next major project, titled Framework, is expected to be 12 stories and slated to debut in Portland in 2019.

Part of Lever’s goal is to reduce concerns over wooden structures—namely, that they’re prone to fire hazards or might not be structurally sound in an earthquake. Developers use a building material called mass timber, a special type of strengthened wood in which timber panels are glued together to make beams and cross-set layers for walls and floors. Fire tests have shown the mass timber doesn’t ignite easily: It chars, which can insulate the rest of the panel from the heat. Strength testing has shown the layers aren’t easily jostled by outside forces.

Lever’s architects hope that wooden buildings will lessen the environmental impact of commercial towers that use concrete and steel, which are responsible for 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions during their manufacturing.

Other firms have designs on taller buildings, including one 35-story tower in Paris and a 24-story building in Vienna.

[h/t CityLab]

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