The Science of Sustainability

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Air Conditioning Reinvented

Air Conditioning Reinvented

It's that time of year again. Temperatures are hot, so we're cranking up the air conditioning. That means more electricity from the power grid, more greenhouse gas emissions, more global warming and — with warmer temperatures — even more air conditioning! There are a few ways to halt this vicious cycle, one of which starts with a makeover for the machine itself.

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Designer Biofuels

Designer Biofuels

Taking the energy from plants and making a gasoline alternative to run our cars has great promise but there are huge problems to solve. The next answer may not come from Saudi Arabia but from a UC Berkeley lab, a Silicon Valley start up or a local researcher working in the jungles of Costa Rica.

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Sea of Plastic

Sea of Plastic

When you order your double latte to-go at the corner coffee shop, the empty cup and lid may end up in a giant pit of plastic ocean litter off the coast of California. Some cities and counties are so concerned about the garbage in the so-called North Pacific Gyre that they've passed ordinances to try to limit the amount of plastic in our lives.

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Beyond Solar: Do It Yourself Home Energy

Beyond Solar: Do It Yourself Home Energy

Forget solar panels – how about having your own wind turbine? Your own solar thermal power generator? Your own geothermal well? San Francisco homeowners are some of the first to experiment with these DIY home-energy technologies, and they are getting some help from the city to do it.

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Drugs In Our Drinking Water

Drugs In Our Drinking Water

Earlier this year a report came out showing that trace amounts of pharmaceuticals — everything from ibuprofen to birth control pills — are showing up in America's drinking water. Today, water agencies and consumers are still grappling with some unanswered questions: Do these tiny amounts of drugs pose any health risk? And if so, what can we do about them?

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California Ablaze

California Ablaze

Hot, dry conditions have made this one of the worst fire seasons in California history. With firefighters and equipment stretched thin, hundreds of remote blazes are left to simply burn. Is this a sign of fire seasons to come, and are we prepared to deal with it?

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Wildlife CSI

Wildlife CSI

An age-old environmental crime has become an increasing problem. Poachers illegally hunt down everything from abalone to black-tailed deer, on private lands, parks and wilderness areas. But catching poachers can be tough because of California's vast size, so state fish and game wardens are trying something new.

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Eating a Low Carbon Diet

Eating a Low Carbon Diet

Local, organic, fair trade… Consumers looking for a sustainable diet face a lot of choices and recently, another one has been added to the list: low-carbon. But it turns out reducing your meal's carbon footprint isn't so easy.

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Who Will Revive the Electric Car?

Who Will Revive the Electric Car?

As drivers increasingly look toward hybrids and mass transit for some relief, has the time finally come for one car technology that needs no gasoline at all? Amy Standen reports.

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Exoplanets

Exoplanets

Since 1995, astronomers have identified more than 200 new planets, but these planets aren't in our solar system. Known as exoplanets, they're the planets orbiting other suns and Bay Area scientists are leading the search. QUEST reports on some of the latest efforts to find new planets– and maybe even life– in outer space.

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California's Fire Future

California's Fire Future

Scientists predict we'll be seeing hotter conditions and drier forests in the near future. The Summit Fire that's been burning in the Santa Cruz Mountains is likely a part of that trend. QUEST talks to Malcolm North with the U.S. Forest Service. He says any area that's burned before is vulnerable to burning again, including the coast range and Sierra Nevada.

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Server Farms

Server Farms

Server farms – those huge collections of computers that run the networks of Google, Yahoo, and other companies – are enormous users of energy. QUEST looks at efforts to make the information superhighway more efficient.

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Bike to Work

Bike to Work

With gas prices rising, parking a headache, and a desire to reduce their carbon footprint, more and more San Franciscans are cycling. What are cities like San Francisco doing to help people who want to pedal rather than drive?

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Mercury Poisoning: Interview with Dr. Jane Hightower (web only)

Mercury Poisoning: Interview with Dr. Jane Hightower (web only)

Dr Jane Hightower was one of the first Bay Area doctors to start diagnosing mercury poisoning in her patients. In this audio clip, she explains how to know if you might be getting too much mercury from the fish you eat. And, she tells us what she feeds her 10-year old twin boys. (Hint: No tuna fish sandwiches in the Hightower home.)

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Mercury in the Bay – Part 2

Mercury in the Bay – Part 2

Last week, we took a look at how mercury enters the San Francisco Bay. This week: Now that it's here, how is it affecting us? Quest talks to local fisherman, a physician, and a Bay ecologist to find out how we're contending with the Bay's worst toxin.

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Doggie DNA: Human Genetics through Dogs

Doggie DNA: Human Genetics through Dogs

It's often said dogs and their owners resemble each other. Now, researchers at UC-San Francisco are looking for those connections on a whole new level. They're searching for the genes that cause common psychiatric problems in humans – by looking at the DNA of dogs.

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Cement – A Dirty Business

Cement – A Dirty Business

California has 11 coal-fired power plants, all used to heat limestone into cement — making us one of the biggest cement-producing states in the country. These kilns produce 95% of the state's airborne mercury pollution and 2% of its greenhouse gas emissions. Mostly, they've slipped under the radar of regulators, but that is changing fast.

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Urban Heat Islands

Urban Heat Islands

Buildings, concrete, asphalt, tar roof tops and industry have caused cities to reach higher temperatures than surrounding rural areas. Now, green-minded architects are taking cooler approaches to their designs.

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Wild Prices for Wild Salmon

Wild Prices for Wild Salmon

Consumer appetite for salmon is booming at a time when the supply is about to dry up. With an impending year-long fishing ban in place, prices for wild salmon — that is, salmon caught in the ocean off California and Oregon — are expected to skyrocket. What are the alternatives for shoppers?

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Chevron's Plans

Chevron's Plans

Richmond city officials are expected to approve a controversial upgrade to the Chevron refinery plant. Quest reports on the decision and explores the debate around Chevron's billion dollar proposal.

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