Can the Super Bowl go green?

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By Victoria Jaggard, SCIENCE Executive Editor

Admittedly, I’m one of those people who only watches the Super Bowl for the commercials and the halftime show. I can’t even recall the last time I attended a football game in person. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to hear that this year’s Super Bowl outside Miami—and stadium events in general—are making strides in being green by acting as test beds for the zero-waste movement.

As Nat Geo's Sarah Gibbens reports, the average Super Bowl game generates about 80,000 pounds of consumer waste, a lot of which is plastic. But this year’s big game will be replacing plastic cups with aluminum, which is easier to recycle, and it will be replacing most plastic cutlery and straws with compostable options.

The key here is that stadiums are basically closed ecosystems run by a single decision-maker: The stadium owner can instruct all the concession stands and gift shops on how to package their stuff and how to sort waste for disposal. When stadium managers are willing to (ahem) play ball, researchers can therefore use stadiums to test how well different zero-waste methods might work in the outside world.

In addition to limiting plastic trash, this year’s event will donate leftover food, recover kitchen oil for biofuel, and use energy-efficient lighting, among other green measures. And all that gives me a whole new reason to cheer on Super Bowl Sunday.

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Your Instagram photo of the day

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Conserving water: “I had the pleasure,” photographer Sara Hylton writes, “of visiting a small farming community that has adopted small greenhouse technology to combat climate change in Telangana state, India. Like many places across the globe, this region experiences unpredictable rainfall and extreme weather fluctuations. These small greenhouses protect crops and rely on 90 percent less water.”

Related: Depleted groundwater supplies threaten 600 million people in India

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Tainted tap water: In 2016, six million Americans were reported to have toxic chemicals in their drinking water. A new movie, Dark Waters, is about the efforts at accountability toward DuPont, one of the biggest polluters of these chemicals. Now we are finding out these chemicals are more common in Americans’ tap water than previously thought, Nat Geo’s Sarah Gibbens reports. In tests of 44 different taps in 31 states, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group found that 43 exceeded a safe limit.

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This week in the night sky

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Winter Hexagon: One of the sky’s largest asterisms—a recognizable pattern of stars separate from a constellation figure—dominates the eastern sky this time of the year. The Winter Hexagon can be traced starting with Orion’s blue-white luminary, Rigel. From there, make a clockwise hop to Sirius in Canis Major, then glide over to Procyon, the lead star in the constellation Canis Minor. Next up are the equally bright twins Castor and Pollux of Gemini fame, followed by Capella shining with a hint of golden-yellow in Auriga.—Andrew Fazekas

The big takeaway

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The power of a tree: “I have been into the lumber-yard, and the carpenter’s shop, and the tannery, and the lampblack factory, and the turpentine clearing; but when at length I saw the tops of the pines waving and reflecting the light at a distance high over all the rest of the forest, I realized that the former were not the highest use of the pine. It is not their bones or hide or tallow that I love most. It is the living spirit of the tree, not its spirit of turpentine, with which I sympathize, and which heals my cuts. It is as immortal as I am, and perchance will go to as high a heaven, there to tower above me still.” —Henry David Thoreau, from his diaries (hat tip to Maria Popova). Above: Britain’s Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest, featuring dawn redwoods and swamp cypress.

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The last glimpse

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This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard, with photo selections by Eslah Attar. Have an idea or a link? We'd love to hear from you at . Thanks for reading.