Atlantic has 10 times the microplastics previously thought

August 20, 2020 by  
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We knew it was bad. But a new study of plastic in the Atlantic Ocean reveals the  pollution  problem is ten times worse than scientists suspected. The study, just published in  Nature Communications , uses data collected in fall 2016. Scientists from the U.K.’s National Oceanography Centre sampled seawater from 12 Atlantic locations, from Britain to the Falklands. Samples include large amounts of  water  from three different depths within the ocean’s top 200 meters. Using spectroscopic imaging, researchers calculated the water’s quantity of polystyrene, polyethylene and polypropylene microparticles. These three microparticle types represent the world’s most common plastics and account for approximately half of global plastic waste. Related: Record high amount of microplastic found on seafloors Scientists’ calculations suggest that the Atlantic contains about 200 million tons of these three  plastics . Previous estimates put the figure at between 17 and 47 million tons, the total amount likely released into the Atlantic Ocean between 1950 and 2015. “Our key finding is that there is an awful lot of very, very small microplastic particles in the upper  Atlantic ocean , much higher than the previous estimate. The amount of plastic has been massively underestimated,” said Katsiaryna Pabortsava, lead author of the study. Microplastics threaten both human  health  and marine life. Scientists have found microplastics in small and large animals alike, from the gooseneck barnacle to humpbacked whales. Even humans now ingest microplastics in water, air and some foods. “We definitely know we’re exposed, there’s no doubt,” said Chelsea Rochman, an ecologist at the University of Toronto in Canada. “We drink it, we breathe it, we eat it.” The problem is new enough that scientific health assessments are only just beginning. The study’s authors hope their findings will encourage policymakers’ to act before it’s too late — if it isn’t already. “Society is very concerned about plastic, for ocean health and human health,” Pabortsava said. “We need to answer fundamental questions about the effects of this plastic, and if it harms  ocean  health. The effects might be serious, but might take a while to kick in at sub-lethal levels.” + Nature Communications Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Atlantic has 10 times the microplastics previously thought

Humans can’t count on rainforests to offset their carbon

March 5, 2020 by  
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Instead of absorbing carbon dioxide from the air, tropical rainforests could become a source of carbon in the atmosphere as soon as the next decade. Long appreciated as “carbon sinks,” those days will soon be over, according to a new study published in the journal Nature. “We’ve found that one of the most worrying impacts of climate change has already begun,” Simon Lewis, study author and plant ecologist at University of Leeds, told The Guardian . “This is decades ahead of even the most pessimistic climate models.” Researchers spent 30 years tracking 300,000 trees in African and Amazonian rainforests. Their work took them to remote sites, and even required a week in a dugout canoe traveling deep into the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The team tagged individual trees with aluminum nails, charting their height and diameter every few years and calculating the carbon stored in both the surviving trees and those that died. The Amazonian forests — which face higher temperatures and worse droughts — were weakening first, but the African forests weren’t far behind. The researchers based their projections that the forests will soon turn into carbon sources on a statistical model, their own observations and trends in emissions, rainfall and temperatures to predict how forests will store carbon in the near future. Carbon uptake by tropical forests peaked in the 1990s. Back then, the forests absorbed about 17% of the carbon dioxide humans generated. But droughts, deforestation and high temperatures have adversely effected these carbon sinks. By last decade, forests could only take about 6% of global emissions off our hands. “Humans have been lucky so far, as tropical forests are mopping up lots of our pollution , but they can’t keep doing that indefinitely,” Lewis said. “We need to curb fossil fuel emissions before the global carbon cycle starts working against us. The time for action is now.” + Nature Via The Guardian and Phys.org Image via Etienne Delorieux

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Humans can’t count on rainforests to offset their carbon

Upcoming vegan festivals around the US in 2020

March 5, 2020 by  
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As plant-based eating has crept into the mainstream in recent years, vegan festivals have proliferated. In addition to the long-established fests, like those in Boston and Portland , Oregon, vegan fests have sprung up in surprising places, from West Virginia to Houston. This is by no means an exhaustive list of vegan events but a sampling of some of the top 2020 U.S. vegan festivals, large and small. Vegan Street Fair Los Angeles, March 21-22 The Vegan Street Fair in the North Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles takes over a boulevard and fills it with vegan food and product vendors. Sample everything from plant-based “mozzarella” sticks, burgers, fried “chicken”, macaroni and “cheese” bites and more. The event is free, and you can purchase small samples or full meals from vendors. If you live in the area, the street fair is a larger extension of the weekly Vegan Exchange event in the same neighborhood. Related: Best US cities for vegans and vegetarians Savannah Veg Fest, Sunday, March 22 Savannah is simultaneously historic and progressive, with lots of good vegan food . On March 22, locals will celebrate all things vegan in beautiful Forsyth Park at the Savannah Veg Fest . Organizers are asking folks to RSVP for an accurate head count, as they’re aiming for a zero-waste event. Whole food advocate Dr. Michael Greger, author of How Not to Die, is the keynote speaker. Inland Empire Vegan Festival, March 28 The Inland Empire is a vast swath of southern California between Los Angeles and Nevada. While California is known as a land full of vegans, the Inland Empire is less so. Edward Yniguez and Kawani Brown, in partnership with their nonprofit Plant Based For All, are behind several popular vegan events in southern California, including the annual Long Beach Vegan Fest. Last year, they put on the first Inland Empire Vegan Festival . “We didn’t know what to expect,” Yniguez told Inhabitat. “It was just a huge response. That’s why we’re doing it again.” Expect dynamic live performances from musicians like Mia Sera and Rebecca Jane, and a music fest-feel that might make you want to stay all day. Yniguez recommended the perfectly spiced vegan carne asada from Cena Vegan, which will be at the fest. “The seasoning, how they do it, that’s the killer right there.” VIP tickets get you early access to the event, a swag bag and a shady, seated area by the stage. Puerto Rico Vegan Fest, March 29 Started in 2016, the largest vegan festival in Puerto Rico features 25 food kiosks from around the island, cooking demos, an art exhibition, vendors selling cruelty-free crafts and special activities for kids. An exercise pavilion features talks about vegan athletes, a boot camp class with Malcolm Cuadra and Cris “Chally” Maldonado and the Booty Vegan Workout led by trainer and herbal nutritionist Pearl Alessandra. Santa Cruz VegFest, April 11 Santa Cruz, California always makes the lists of top vegan cities. So you can expect it to throw an especially good vegan festival. More than 5,000 people attended in 2019. This year, more than 100 exhibitors will be showing off cruelty-free beauty products, educating people on animal-related nonprofits and offering samples of vegan foods at the Santa Cruz VegFest . Experts will lecture on plant-based kids, food justice and vegan nutrition. Internet sensation Brian Manowitz, better known as the Vegan Black Metal Chef, is sure to draw legions of fans. Alabama Vegan Fest in Birmingham, April 26 Desare Flournoy, owner of Elegance on any Budget, founded this festival last year and was thrilled to have more than 2,000 people attend. Flournoy told Inhabitat that this year’s fest will include several local bands, spoken word performers and belly dancers. She’s also introducing a series of speakers, with topics like managing fibromyalgia naturally and understanding veganism. The Alabama Vegan Fest aims to welcome omnivores and the vegan-curious, not just die-hard vegans. Orcas Veg Fest, May 16 If you find yourself in Washington State’s San Juan Islands in mid-May, support the fledgling Orcas Veg Fest , debuting in 2020. In addition to the food samples and educational booths, the Orcas Winery will facilitate a special wine and beer garden. Plant-Based World Conference & Expo 2020, New York, June 5-6 This one is for the pros. Now in its second year, the Plant-Based World Conference & Expo bills itself as “The only professional 100% plant-based focused event for food service, retail, and healthcare professionals, distributors, investors, manufacturers, and the savvy consumer community.” Want to find out what’s next in revolutionary plant-based products? Looking to invest in the next big vegan thing? Looking for new suppliers for your wellness business? Network on the exhibition floor and attend sessions like “Data-Driven Plant-Based Merchandising: How to Turn Retail Insights Into Results” and “Why Big Food is Betting Big on Plants.” Vegan SoulFest in Baltimore, Aug 22 Baltimore’s seventh annual Vegan SoulFest invites the local community to bring their lawn chairs and spend a summer day in Clifton Park soaking up soul and hip-hop music, watching cooking demos, trying yoga or a workout with Khnum “Stic” Ibomu (now a wellness trainer) of the legendary rap group Dead Prez and, of course, eating lots of good vegan food. Co-founders Naijha Wright and Brenda Sanders are deeply involved in the local vegan scene. Wright co-owns vegan soul food restaurant Land of Kush , and Sanders heads a public health organization and co-directs an animal advocacy group. Portland VegFest, October 24-25 Now in its 16th year, Portland hosts one of the country’s biggest vegan festivals. The schedule hasn’t been released yet, but expect tons of food samples and a full day of lectures and cooking demos from this two-day fest. If you’re especially interested in health, a plant-based nutrition conference takes place on the Friday before Portland VegFest . Boston Veg Food Fest, October 24-25 Another biggie, the two-day Boston Veg Food Fest is turning 25 this year! There will be plenty of exhibits and speakers, not yet announced, not to mention an abundance of vegan foods to try. Expect to be greeted by a huge inflatable cow. The event, parking and food samples are all free. Seed Food and Wine Miami, November 5-8 For a more upscale veg experience, Seed bills itself as, “the premiere plant based food and wine festival in the country.” Activities span a week and include celebrity chef dinners, yoga, spirit tastings and endless vegan food and wine samples from more than 150 restaurants and brands. Via Veg Events Images via Inhabitat, Inland Empire Vegan Festival, Santa Cruz VegFest, Mary Margaret Smith Photography / Alabama Vegan Fest, Orcas Veg Fest, Plant-Based World Conference & Expo, Vegan SoulFest, Boston Veg Food Fest and Shutterstock

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Upcoming vegan festivals around the US in 2020

Study shows reusable menstrual cups are safe and just as effective as tampons, pads

July 18, 2019 by  
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Reusable menstrual cups have been around for decades, but they are just starting to pick up in popularity. Most people can’t shake their familiar comfort with tampons and pads, but a new study indicates that the cup is just as effective as the disposables and has no health risks. If you can get past the learning curve and “ick” factor, the menstrual cup is one of the easiest and most sustainable options for your period. Reusable cups are typically made from silicone or rubber and are inserted into the vagina. The cup stays put via suction against the vaginal walls. A finger must be inserted to break the suction, and then the user removes the cup, empties its contents, washes it and reinserts it. It can stay for up to 12 hours. The initial cost of cups might seem expensive, around $40 USD, but they last up to 10 years. Related: 5 eco-friendly menstrual products that also protect women’s health The study in The Lancet Public Health used data from more than 3,000 people around the world and proved that the cup is safe and effective. Not only are there no associated health risks, including vaginal infection or discharge, but the cups are light, compact and easy to travel with. Once you get past the initial sticker price, cups are one of the most affordable options and could be helpful for people in poor and rural communities. “People in non-profits assume that [the cups are] not suitable,” said Mandu Reid, founder of The Cup Effect , which trains people how to use cup. “That’s based on presumptions about these women’s preferences. That they wouldn’t like them because they have to be inserted or because they don’t want to touch their own menstrual blood.” There is certainly an “ick” factor to get past and some challenges in areas with limited access to clean water ; however, the study found that 73 percent of first-time users expressed a willingness to continue using it. + The Lancet Public Health Via NPR Image via Shutterstock

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Study shows reusable menstrual cups are safe and just as effective as tampons, pads

Beer prices expected to soar as climate change challenges barley production

October 17, 2018 by  
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Shrinking barley yields caused by climate change will be disrupting the beer industry in the coming decades. The grain is central to beer production, and a new study published on Monday signals trouble for brewers who rely on the failing crop. Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage worldwide, and consumers are equally as dismayed by the report, which will cause a surge in beer prices up to two times its current cost for some nations. The shortages in barley production are caused by extreme weather that has intensified because of global warming . Both heat waves and droughts are expected to decimate the beer industry in the second half of the century. These events, which are predicted to occur every two or three years, are directly linked to rising temperatures. At the current expected rates of temperature rise, experts say the production drop is inevitable. Related: A beer crisis is brewing in Germany as bottle recycling slows amid heatwaves The study, published by researchers at the University of East Anglia, said that brewery troubles are minor in comparison to other challenges the planet will face from climate change. Among these are food security, fresh water and storm damage. Even so, the 3 to 17 percent drop in barley yields is disheartening for beer fans who will face shortages and price spikes. China is set to face the most shortages this century, with the U.S. as a runner up. Beer production in Germany and Russia will also fall on hard times, but Ireland, Italy, Canada and Poland will see the largest price increases. In Ireland, which is home to a popular brew culture, the price for a 500ml bottle could rise from $2.50 to a whopping $5. “Climate change will affect all of us, not only people who are in India or African countries,” said Dabo Guan, professor of climate change economics and lead author of the study. Guan emphasized the importance of recognizing that climate change is not something that developed nations will be immune to. Ultimately, the answer lies in supporting policies that reduce the emissions causing this climate disruption, and many companies are moving forward and instating their own regulations. One such company is Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s biggest brewing house, which is planning on cutting its emissions by 25 percent by 2025. The company is also working on a drought-resistant strain of barley that could offset shortages as well as strains that could be grown throughout the winter. Via Reuters Image via Raw Pixel

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Beer prices expected to soar as climate change challenges barley production

Weathered steel trees wrap around a solar-powered school building

October 17, 2018 by  
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Delft-based architectural office cepezed recently completed a solar-powered branch for Graafschap College in Doetinchem that — unlike most school buildings in the Netherlands — eschews natural gas in favor of a power supply that’s 100 percent electric. Built for the students of the Sports & Exercise and Safety & Craftsmanship departments, the new school building prioritizes a healthy indoor learning environment that maximizes access to natural daylight and views of the outdoors. In homage of the many oak trees that grow around the building, the architects partially wrapped the structure in tree-shaped weathered steel cladding that serves as a double skin for solar shading. Built to house approximately 700 students, the new Graafschap College branch at Sportpark Zuid features at its heart a large, light-filled atrium named The Midfield in reference to sports and teamwork. The Midfield is organized into a series of cascading terraces with large landing areas that serve as informal meeting spaces. The glass atrium roof floods The Midfield with natural light and is combined with sensor-enabled LED lighting to reduce reliance on artificial lighting. “In order to be able to look over the car park from the ground floor, and to give the building the appearance of a pavilion in green surroundings, the school has been elevated by a half-story and placed on a basement,” the architecture firm noted. “Beside the car park, the height difference is bridged by an elongated, landscaped staircase, which also incorporates a ramp.” Related: Green-roofed Copenhagen sports center is open to the public 24/7 For the facade, the architects installed alternating strips of glass and black aluminum panels to create a sleek and modern appearance. A second skin of perforated Corten steel cut into the shapes of oak trees is laid over the east, west and south facades of the building and helps deflect unwanted solar gain without preventing daylight from entering the building. cepezedinterieur handled the interior design, which also follows a contemporary aesthetic but with brighter colors and patterns that allude to sports and movement. In addition to solar panels, the school also uses solar boilers for water heating. + cepezed Photography by Lucas van der Wee via cepezed

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Weathered steel trees wrap around a solar-powered school building

This breezy, green-roofed home in Singapore embraces nature from all angles

October 17, 2018 by  
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Whereas many modern buildings in Singapore rebel against the country’s tropical climate with air-conditioned, hermetic spaces, international architecture firm Guz Architects decided instead to embrace the natural environment in its design of the Willow House. The single-family home takes on a breezy, pavilion-like appearance with open and well-ventilated spaces that tap into passive design principles and crosswinds for cooling. Draped in climbing plants and organized around ponds and gardens, the home feels like an extension of its lush surroundings. Spanning nearly 900 square meters, the Willow House was completed in 2012 for a young couple with three small children. “The house aimed to create dynamic spaces that encourage play and interaction,” the architects said. Surrounded by tall trees, the home is located in a private oasis of calm that looks a world apart from the dense urban environment  for which Singapore is famous. Oriented to optimize access to cooling breezes, the two-story residence is laid out in a L-shaped plan that wraps around a central courtyard with a pond. A single-story open veranda with an accessible rooftop garden anchors one side of the water courtyard and houses the primary living spaces. The other communal areas — such as the kitchen and dining room — as well as the concealed service areas are located on the ground floor, while the private areas are placed above on the first floor. The master bedroom and children’s bedrooms are placed on opposite sides of the first floor. Related: Lush green roof camouflages the Chameleon Villa into the Indonesian tropics A covered outdoor walkway on the first floor overlooks views of the roof garden and central courtyard , which comprises a large fishpond and a small island with trees. “The movement of water and fish brings life into the courtyard and draws the eye away from the building,” the architects said. In the area between the veranda and kitchen, the fishpond transitions into a shallow freshwater reflecting pond and finally transforms into a 3-meter-deep swimming pool that mirrors the home’s L-shaped layout. + Guz Architects Via ArchDaily Images by Patrick Bingham-Hall

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This breezy, green-roofed home in Singapore embraces nature from all angles

Your Mattress Might Have 10 Million Dust Mites

November 1, 2016 by  
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Could your very own bedroom be hazardous to your health? Yes, according to a new study that revealed dust found in a conventional home is laced with about 45 incredibly dangerous chemicals, including one known for causing cancer. That’s a big…

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Your Mattress Might Have 10 Million Dust Mites

Test finds glyphosate in California wines – even those grown organically

March 25, 2016 by  
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A toxic pesticide linked to cancer and autism, Glyphosate is pervasive in agriculture, and now a new study reveals it has even made its way into California wines. The testing, reported by national coalition for GMO awareness Moms Across America , found traces of glyphosate in 100 percent of wines evaluated, including organic and biodynamically produced wines that are made from grapes grown without direct pesticide applications. Ten different wines from Napa Valley, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties were all found to contain glyphosate, suggesting the chemical drifts from conventional farms and lands just about everywhere. Read the rest of Test finds glyphosate in California wines – even those grown organically

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Test finds glyphosate in California wines – even those grown organically

World’s largest fog harvester produces water from thin air in the Moroccan desert

March 25, 2016 by  
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Moroccan NGO Dar Si Hamad has built the world’s largest fog harvester , which provides water for those in dire need of it. The massive installation measures 600 square meters (nearly 2,000 feet), and it puts fog harvesting into action for people living in arid, landlocked southwest Morocco . Read the rest of World’s largest fog harvester produces water from thin air in the Moroccan desert

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World’s largest fog harvester produces water from thin air in the Moroccan desert

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