EPA promises an end to animal testing

September 12, 2019 by  
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Animal rights activists are rejoicing this week. On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a move to “aggressively reduce animal testing” and to stop funding mammal tests by 2035. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler promised to reduce new mammal tests by 30 percent by 2025 and pledged $4.25 million toward developing non-animal alternatives for testing chemical safety. “Part of why I’m doing this today is because it’s been 30 years and we haven’t made enough progress,” said Wheeler, who wrote an anti- animal testing op-ed for his college paper in 1987. Related: California becomes the first state to ban animal-tested cosmetics However, some people question the federal agency’s motives. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) suggested the decision had more to do with reducing costs for chemical companies required to do expensive animal tests rather than helping animals. “Phasing out foundational scientific testing methods can make it much harder to identify toxic chemicals — and protect human health ,” said Jennifer Sass, senior scientist for the NRDC’s Healthy People and Thriving Communities program. Some scientists worry that mathematical modeling and other non-animal testing approaches won’t effectively replicate the human physiological system. As People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) pointed out in a tweet, “PETA worked with the EPA for decades to prevent rabbits, mice, rats and dogs from having to ingest or inhale toxic chemicals .” The animal rights group is confident that modern alternative models will effectively protect humans, animals and the environment. “PETA will be helping regulatory agencies and companies switch to efficient and effective, non-animal testing approaches and working toward a day when all animal tests are only found in history books,” Amy Clippinger, director of PETA’s Regulatory Testing Department, said in an EPA press release. Many people are disturbed by the pain and cruelty of animal testing, leading to bipartisan efforts to decrease its use. During Obama’s presidency, the Toxic Substances Control Act was amended, calling for the EPA to reduce animal testing. Via EcoWatch Image via Tiburi

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EPA promises an end to animal testing

Psychedelic installation in NYC spotlights environmental issues with immersive art

September 12, 2019 by  
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The call for environmental awareness and action has been given a new voice in a visually stunning art installation that just opened its doors in New York City. Entitled Arcadia Earth , the temporary art exhibition immerses guests in a multi-sensory journey spotlighting pressing ecological issues — such as overfishing, plastic pollution, food waste, deforestation and climate change — with vivid artworks designed with upcycled and reusable materials. The 18-room exhibition is powered by augmented and virtual reality to create a large-scale interactive environment that encompasses a variety of landscapes, from underwater worlds to fantastical forests. Founded and designed by experiential artist Valentino Vettori, Arcadia Earth is billed as the “first immersive augmented reality journey through Planet Earth.” The art installation was created in collaboration with 12 leading environmental artists , including Samuelle Green, Tamara Kotianovsky, Etty Yaniv, Cindy Pease Roe, Poramit Thantapalit, Jesse Harrod, Justin Bolognino/META, Katie Donahue, Katharina Hoerath, Charlotte Becket and Emmy Mikelson. The project has been presented in association with its educational and charity partner, Oceanic Global , which will receive part of the proceeds from ticket sales. To highlight environmental issues, Arcadia Earth created a series of spectacular naturescapes afflicted by human-caused environmental problems that are accompanied with educational commentary. In the underwater ocean scene, for instance, guests can take in views of shrinking coral beds, plastic-coated jellyfish and life-size fishing nets representative of overfishing. One underwater cave is built from 44,000 recycled plastic bags to represent the number used in New York state per minute. Related: Giant totems in Poland warn against climate change catastrophe Fortunately, the hauntingly beautiful art exhibition doesn’t only project images of a doomed future. Arcadia Earth provides actionable suggestions that visitors can adopt to reduce their environmental impact . The visit also culminates in a “vow room,” where visitors can sign a petition and make personal vows to help the planet. Arcadia Earth is located at 718 Broadway and will be on display until January 2020. A tree will be planted for every ticket sold.  + Arcadia Earth Images by David Mitchell for Arcadia Earth

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Psychedelic installation in NYC spotlights environmental issues with immersive art

New sweet potato dye spares bugs and pleases vegans

March 11, 2019 by  
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Cochineal beetles are rejoicing this month as the Hansen sweet potato proves a viable alternative for producing the carmine color crushed beetles have long added to foods and cosmetics . Chr. Hansen, a bioscience company based in Denmark and founded in 1874, developed and commercialized the Hansen sweet potato™ Ipomoea batatas . “For the first time, we’ve created a whole new variety of vegetable to create the natural color our customers are asking for,” said Jakob Dalmose Rasmussen, vice president of commercial development at Chr. Hansen Natural Colors. Vegetarians have long wanted an alternative to this common coloring, but the sweet potato took time to develop. “Over 10 years ago, we discovered a promising pigment in a root vegetable’s tuber, but the plant’s pigment content was on the low side. We took this plant and embarked on a process of selective breeding using traditional, non-GMO methods. The result is a plant-based , brilliant red that gives our customers a natural alternative to carmine and synthetic colors,” said Dalmose Rasmussen. Related: California becomes the first state to ban animal-tested cosmetics Chr. Hansen launched its FruitMax® line of concentrates to provide a variety of red coloring options. “Strawberry red is a popular shade for food products — from cakes to confectionery to milkshakes,” noted Dalmose Rasmussen. “But until now it has been nearly impossible to make a fire-engine red color with no risk of off-taste without using carmine.” Cochineal beetles live on cacti in Latin America. Their color comes from carminic acid, a substance which deters predation and makes up almost a quarter of the insects’ weight. The Incas and Aztecs both used the beetle for dye. Once Spaniards arrived in the New World, they quickly discovered that the cochineal beetle dye was far superior to anything they had in Europe, and dried bugs became the second most valuable export after silver. It’s still big business. In 2017, Peru exported more than $46 million dollars’ worth of carmine. Over the centuries, people have used the beetles to dye everything from cardinals’ robes to modern lipsticks. As the Hansen sweet potato gains popularity, perhaps the cochineal beetles will be able to relax on their cacti. While some studies indicate that plants also feel pain, the legless tuber could neither run nor be reached for comment. + Chr. Hansen Via Food Navigator Image via Aunt Masako

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New sweet potato dye spares bugs and pleases vegans

Is cargotecture the future of construction? What you need to know for your next project

March 11, 2019 by  
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As the construction industry continues to evolve and adapt to innovations like green buildings, the push for more sustainable materials  and the efforts to reduce waste, there is one trend that is pushing the limits of design — cargotecture. Steel shipping containers have been a key component of global trade for the past 50 years, and now these steel boxes that are 8 feet wide by 8-and-a-half feet high — and either 20 or 40 feet long — are becoming a recycled building material that you can use to build your own home. There are millions of shipping containers all over the world just sitting in various ports, as returning empty containers to their original location is extremely costly. But now, these shipping containers are being used to build everything from low-cost housing to fabulous vacation homes instead of being scrapped. However, could cargotecture be too good to be true when it comes to building a home? Here are the pros and cons of using shipping containers for your next construction project. Related: Massive shipping container shopping center to pop up in Warsaw Pros Cost-effective The shape of shipping containers makes them ideal for repurposing into buildings . Compared to building a similar structure with brick and mortar, on average, a cargotecture can be 30 percent cheaper. However, the savings will depend on the location and what type of home you are building. Another thing to keep in mind is that a cargotecture home won’t be the same as what you are used to in a traditionally-built home— if cost is a top priority. The look and function will be different, and you will have to make compromises.  You can upgrade to get the features you want with a little more money. Ultimately, you can definitely cut costs when using cargotecture. Structural stability Since steel containers are designed to carry tons of merchandise across rough ocean  tides, they are “virtually indestructible.” Earthquakes and hurricanes are no match for cargotecture, which make containers an excellent choice for building a home in areas prone to natural disasters. Construction speed A traditional housing structure can take months to build, but with cargotecture, all you need is about two to three weeks since they are basically prefabricated. Not to mention, modifications can be made quickly off-site. Or, if you are a hardcore DIYer , you can build a home out of a shipping container much easier than you could with lumber, a hammer and nails. You can also customize a layout by stacking the containers for multiple floors and splicing them together for a larger space. However, there is a lot of modification required when you use cargotecture. Depending on the design, you may need to add steel reinforcement. Heating and cooling can also be a major issue, so you definitely need to have a temperature control strategy in mind. Recycling materials When recycled shipping containers are used in cargotecture, it can be extremely eco-friendly . Repurposing the containers instead of scrapping and melting them can save a lot of energy and carbon emissions while preventing the use of traditional materials. Safety Good luck breaking into a cargotecture structure. Unless thieves have some dynamite or a blow torch, they are not getting inside. This makes cargotecture a perfect choice for building in rural and remote areas. Related: Stacked shipping containers transform into a thriving arts space in Venezuela Cons The green myth The downside with cargotecture is that sometimes it’s not as green as you would believe. Some people are using brand new containers instead of recycling old ones, and this completely defeats the purpose of cargotecture. And, to make a container habitable, there is a lot of energy required because of the modifications like sandblasting and cutting openings. Plus, the amount of fossil fuels needed to move the building makes cargotecture’s ecological footprint larger than you might think. Health hazards Obviously, when shipping containers are made, human habitation was not a factor in their design or construction. Many shipping containers have lead-based paints on the walls and chemicals like arsenic in the floors. You must deal with these issues before moving into a cargotecture home. Temperature control We mentioned earlier that modifications need to be made when you use cargotecture, and one of the biggest concerns is insulation and heat control. Large steel boxes are really good at absorbing and transmitting heat and cold. This ultimately means controlling the temperature inside your cargotecture home can be a challenge. You don’t want to be living inside an oven or a freezer, right? Building codes With cargotecture still being relatively new, it has caused some issues with local building codes. When you build small structures and don’t use traditional building materials , you should always check to see if they meet local regulations. Images via Julius Taminiau Architects, Mattelkan Architect, Whitaker Studio

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Is cargotecture the future of construction? What you need to know for your next project

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