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May 18, 2009
Volume 87, Number 20
p. 56

Phone Hugs Trees, Money Is Also Green

Garbage in, garbage out: Phone claims to calculate fraction of tree saved per step.

Thank heavens for the marketing crowd. Because of them, green will never be thought of as just the color of grass or leaves. And blue will never be thought of as just the color of the sky or the ocean.

Consider a recently introduced mobile phone from Samsung called Blue Earth. The company says it is designed "to symbolize a flat and well-rounded shiny pebble."

According to the marketers at Samsung, Blue Earth "demonstrates our small but meaningful commitments for the future and our environment." And the gadget does have at least one neat trick up its sleeve—or perhaps more aptly, up its pant leg—that most other phones do not: It has a built in PEDOMETER. Samsung refers to this feature as the "eco walk" function.

Like any other pedometer, this one will count the user's steps. Unlike other pedometers, its maker claims it can calculate how much carbon dioxide has been saved when a user decides to take a stroll instead of jumping into the nearest car to get from point A to point B. It does not, however, calculate the extra emission relative to sitting placidly on a couch watching TV.

The marketers do take a wayward stroll themselves, it seems. Whatever the actual algorithm Blue Earth employs to calculate a walker's contribution to staving off global warming, the pitch for the phone doesn't indicate that users must specify whether they drive a Mini Cooper or a Cadillac Seville. Neither does it say that users must specify whether they are strapping bounders or dainty steppers. Even so, the phone's electronic wizardry manages to express the CO2 savings, but in a metric that leads to some head-scratching: the number of green trees saved. Because cars burn petroleum-derived gasoline and not trees, users may well wonder how they have saved a tree by walking instead of driving.

Less worthy of ridicule are the solar cells on the back of the phone, which the marketers assure us can generate enough power "to call anytime, anywhere." Users who drive a car and keep their phones out of the sun can employ an energy-efficient charger that comes with the phone, thereby enabling the global-warming skeptics among us to reach out and touch someone.

Money trail: Greenbacks' natural fibers have DNA fingerprint.

Marketing aside, U.S. paper currency has long been the color green. It also turns out that money is eco-friendly, although the U.S. Treasury probably never thought about money that way.

U.S. paper currency is made of naturally derived materials, about 75% cotton and 25% linen. It would seem that money does, in fact, grow, although not exactly, on trees. That NATURAL FIBER CONTENT has a unique genetic trail that can be used as a diagnostic tool to safeguard the currency against counterfeiters and to track stolen cash. At least so says Applied DNA Sciences, a Stony Brook, N.Y., security firm that has developed a patent-pending method to detect the unique genetic fingerprint of cold hard cash.

Other currencies that are printed on natural-fiber-based paper include the euro, the Mexican peso, the Russian ruble, and the Japanese yen. Like the U.S. dollar, they, too, can fall victim to advanced computerized printing methods that make it hard to distinguish the genuine article from the brilliantly executed fake.

Just as a person's cells contain DNA that specifies an individual's unique qualities, biologically derived materials such as cotton and linen contain DNA in their cells that can be used to identify them as unique, Applied DNA Sciences explains on its website. Taking a reading on the DNA of money could provide the "ultimate reality check," according to the firm.

Marc S. Reisch wrote this week's column. Please send comments and suggestions to newscripts@acs.org.

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Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2009 American Chemical Society


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