Innovation That Matters

Soon all of our beaches could be covered by green sand | Photo source Project Vesta

Fighting climate change with green sand

Nonprofit & Social Cause

A non-profit is testing a scientific theory that spreading a green mineral on beaches could help remove excess carbon from the oceans

Spotted: Most people have seen images of idyllic white and black sand beaches, but what about green sand? The unusually coloured sands are being transported to some Caribbean beaches thanks to a non-profit called Project Vesta, in the hope that they could be a new way of fighting climate change.

The green sand is made from crushed olivine, an abundant volcanic mineral with natural green colour. As olivine dissolves in seawater, it pulls hydrogen ions from the seawater, which then combine with carbon dioxide in the water to form bicarbonate. The bicarbonate acts as a natural counter to the acidic CO2 in the seawater and over time, the bicarbonate becomes carbonate, a mineral used by organisms such as coral to build their skeletons and shells. 

Project Vesta hopes that by transporting olivine to beaches, they can greatly speed up this natural process and help reverse the effects of climate change on the marine environment. Although research studies have theorised that the process works, no one has actually attempted it until now. The non-profit plans to begin testing the process later this year, at a site on an undisclosed Caribbean island. Results will then be compared to an untreated beach nearby.

Tom Green, executive director of Project Vesta, explains that “About 30 years of scientific research has gone into this, including a lot of theoretical work, a lot of lab experiments. Where we came along was to say, why is this stuck in the lab? We need real-life beach experiments to prove that this actually works in the wild …”. Vesta has already received donations from credit card processing company Stripe and is working to raise an additional €1.11 million to fund pilot projects.

The growing urgency to find ways to mitigate climate change is leading to a tremendous number of creative and innovative solutions. Some of those recently covered here at Springwise include a cloud-brightening trial on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and the use of bioreactors to optimise the growth of carbon-sequestering algae.

Explore more: Science Innovations | Sustainability Innovations



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