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Designed and made by Mayya Saliba / Image courtesy of Ananas Anam

This Gorgeous “Leather” Bag is Actually Made from Pineapples

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Designed and made by Mayya Saliba / Image courtesy of Ananas Anam

You already know that pineapples are delicious and super rich in Vitamin C, but did you know that they could be transformed into a fabulous purse or great pair of running shoes?

It’s hardly a secret that eating a vegan diet is kinder to animals, and many experts believe that a plant-based diet can have life-changing effects on the health of an individual and even the world at large. With the number of vegans around the world on the rise, it’s not just the food industry that needs to adapt. The growing public demand for alternatives to leather and other animal products when it comes to clothing and textiles means that companies are coming up with all sorts of creative options. One London-based company, Ananas Anam, has devised a delicious solution to creating vegan materials: Pineapples.

Called Piñatex, the environmentally-friendly textile is created from the fibers of leftover pineapple leaves, which are extracted through a process known as "decortication." Since the leaves are a byproduct of the pineapple harvest, there is no need for extra water, land, fertilizers, or even pesticides to produce the material. It has a low environmental impact, can be easily mass produced and, perhaps most importantly, is affordable for consumers looking to give their wardrobes a socially-conscious makeover. As the pineapple leaves are harvested in the Philippines by local farmers, Ananas Anam’s products are also helping to create more jobs.

“The farming communities in the Philippines will benefit from the added income from the extraction of the fiber,” Jeanne Rideau, Ananas Anam’s public relations and communications manager tells mental_floss. “Moreover, the potential use of biomass, which is the byproduct of the fiber extraction, will give the farmers the opportunity of using natural fertilizers.”

Image courtesy Ananas Anam

Spanish designer, researcher, and entrepreneur Dr. Carmen Hijosa is the founder and chief executive officer of Ananas Anam. Hijosa’s first company was based in Ireland, where she designed and manufactured leather products for such companies as Harrods. Her work eventually brought her to the Philippines, where she saw a traditional Filipino shirt made out of pineapple leaves.

“As a designer, my objective was to create a product that carried social and ecological responsibility throughout its life cycle, and through it, do something about how to sustain and indeed to heal planet Earth through our actions,” Hijosa says. “Piñatex represents a sustainable solution in the face of today’s social and sustainable dilemmas.”

In an interview with Crane.tv, Hijosa explained that to create the final Piñatex material, the pineapple leaf fibers are made into a mesh, which then goes through both "mechanical and chemical processes to make it into a very strong product" that can be used to create a variety of products, including clothing, shoes, purses, accessories, and even upholstery.

Designed and made by NAE Vegan // Image courtesy Ananas Anam

You are probably wondering where to get some cool pineapple shoes of your own. Well, the wait is over—at least in certain parts of the world. A selection of the company’s products are available for purchase in the UK, as well as online. And well-known brands including Puma and Camper have already made prototypes using Piñatex.

Perhaps the even bigger question everyone is wondering is: do Piñatex products actually smell like pineapples? “No, there is no smell,” Rideau says. Now you know.

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Switzerland Flushes $1.8 Million in Gold Down the Sewer Every Year
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Switzerland has some pretty valuable sewer systems. As Bloomberg reports, scientists have discovered around $1.8 million worth of gold in the country's wastewater, along with $1.7 million worth of silver.

Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology examined sewage sludge and effluents, or discharged liquid waste, from 64 water treatment plants and major Swiss rivers. They did this to assess the concentrations of various trace elements, which are "increasingly widely used in the high-tech and medical sectors," the scientists explained in a press statement. "While the ultimate fate of the various elements has been little studied to date, a large proportion is known to enter wastewater."

The study, which was recently published online in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, revealed that around 94 pounds of gold makes its way through Switzerland's sewage system each year, along with 6600 pounds of silver and high concentrations of rare metals like gadolinium and niobium. For the most part, these metals don't harm the environment, researchers say.

With gold and silver quite literally flowing through their sewers, is there any way that Switzerland could turn their wastewater into wealth? Scientists are skeptical: "The recovery of metals from wastewater or sludge is scarcely worthwhile at present, either financially or in terms of the amounts which could be extracted," the release explains.

However, in the southern canton of Ticino, which is home to several gold refineries, the "concentrations of gold in sewage sludge are sufficiently high for recovery to be potentially worthwhile," they conclude.

Switzerland is famous for its chocolate, watches, and mountains, but it's also home to major gold refineries. On average, around 70 percent of the world's gold passes through Switzerland every year—and judging from the looks of it, much of it goes down the drain. As for the sewer silver, it's a byproduct of the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, which is a cornerstone of Switzerland's economy.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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Grass-Fed Beef Is Actually Worse for the Planet, Report Finds
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There are plenty of reasons to reject factory farming, but in the case of beef, your carbon footprint shouldn’t be one of them. According to EcoWatch, new research shows that grazed cattle provide an outsized contribution to greenhouse gasses, as opposed to cattle kept largely indoors and fed on grain.

The report [PDF], released by Oxford’s Food Climate Research Network, aims to provide definitive answers to what has been a heavily debated topic in environmental circles. Some research has found that grazing cattle actually reduces the carbon footprints of beef operations, because all that pasture stores carbon and prevents it from being released into the atmosphere, and because all that chomping stimulates new vegetation growth. Other research has found that the benefits aren’t as great as the grass-fed boosters estimate—especially since the fields of grain used to grow cattle feed for factory farms sequester carbon, too.

The new Oxford research comes down firmly on the side of the latter camp. It finds that while grass-fed operations can help sequester carbon, it’s “only under very specific conditions,” in part since the definition of what a grassland is can vary wildly. There are natural ranges dominated by wild vegetation, there are pastures that are actively maintained and managed by farmers, and there is land that lies somewhere in between. Overgrazing, trampling, and soil conditions can all negatively impact how much carbon the grasses can sequester. And even under the best conditions, the gains can be short-lived. “This sequestering of carbon is even then small, time-limited, reversible, and substantially outweighed by the greenhouse gas emissions these grazing animals generate,” according to FCRN.

And it seems that even if the vegetation does sequester carbon, grass-fed beef is still an outsized source of greenhouse gasses.

To begin with, all cattle are a huge drain on the environment, no matter how you feed them. The report estimates that the livestock supply chain generates around 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and cattle create 65 percent of those livestock emissions. But even compared to cattle in general, grass-fed animals are heavy polluters. Within the global protein supply, grass-fed beef makes up around 1 gram of protein per person, per day, compared to 13 grams from all ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, etc.). But these grazed cattle generate up to a third of all global greenhouse emissions from ruminants. In other words, grass-eating cattle create an outsized cost—emissions-wise—compared to the meat they provide.

And the carbon sequestration doesn't help enough to offset that. The report estimates that the carbon sequestration that might occur from grazing practices would only offset emissions by 20 percent.

There are other reasons to buy grass-fed beef, of course, whether it’s about ethical concerns with factory farming or just a taste preference. But if you’re going to choose grass-fed, your reason shouldn’t be concern for the environment.

[h/t EcoWatch]

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