EWG warns forever chemicals are contaminating US drinking water at levels far worse than expected

January 24, 2020 by  
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Toxic ‘forever chemicals’ known as PFAS, per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, persist in the environment , grossly tainting the drinking water of many United States cities, like Miami, New Orleans and Philadelphia. More specifically, findings by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reveal that the a 2018 estimate of 110 million U.S. citizens being contaminated with PFAS is far below actual numbers. “It’s nearly impossible to avoid contaminated drinking water from these chemicals,” shared David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG and co-author of the report. “Everyone’s really exposed to a toxic soup of these PFAS chemicals.” Related: Climate change-induced melting of mountain ice threatens global supply of freshwater PFAS are highly fluorinated chemicals that do not break down in the environment. The most infamous PFAS are those associated with Teflon and 3M’s Scotchgard. Much of the PFAS contamination is legacy pollution . In fact, both Teflon and Scotchgard were phased out years ago, but these harmful PFAS still persist in the environment — in soils and especially in water , such as the rainwater that supplies drinking water. Despite the original PFAS chemicals being taken off the market, they’ve been replaced by modern PFAS chemicals that might still be just as harmful, if not more so. These modern PFAS chemicals lurk in packaging, stain-resistant furnishings, water-repellent clothing and items, cosmetics and personal care products and firefighting foam. What’s worrisome, too, is that PFAS can accumulate in the human body, thus compromising health . Cancer, disease, endocrine disruption, reproductive issues, low birth weights and a host of other compromised health incidences are some of the consequences of drinking PFAS-tainted water. EWG is advocating for tougher regulations and laws to reduce PFAS chemicals in drinking water and consumer products to help reduce human exposure to these toxins . Some states are ramping up their efforts to reduce PFAS in the drinking water by banning PFAS-based food packaging or firefighting foam. But more work is still needed. + EWG Via The Guardian and Reuters Image via Arcaion

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EWG warns forever chemicals are contaminating US drinking water at levels far worse than expected

Scientists announce the Doomsday Clock is within 100 seconds to midnight

January 24, 2020 by  
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Since 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has been warning the public about how close humankind is to irreversible destruction. The nonprofit does this via its iconic indicator, the Doomsday Clock. Recently, the Doomsday Clock advanced one-third of a minute to now be within 100 seconds to midnight, with the midnight hour symbolizing our planet’s apocalyptic demise and humanity’s possible extinction . “Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers — nuclear war and climate change — that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond,” the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said in a statement. “The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.” Related: Immersive, dystopian exhibit shows what life could be like post-climate change The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is based at the University of Chicago and was founded in 1945 by Manhattan Project researchers, who developed and produced the world’s first atomic weapon. While the Doomsday Clock is a symbolic tool, it is nonetheless utilized as a means for raising awareness about the planet’s proximity to potential annihilation. Each year, the Bulletin ’s Board of Sponsors and its Science and Security Board assess the state of the planet to determine where the minute hand would rest on the Doomsday Clock. According to the Bulletin ’s website, the team evaluates three main focal points: nuclear risk , climate change and disruptive technologies. Because these major entanglements were initiated and heightened by humans, the nonprofit believes they can, with concerted international effort, be managed and possibly contained. Back in 1953, the Doomsday Clock was within two minutes of midnight when the first hydrogen bomb was tested. But international agreements to limit nuclear arms helped minimize the risks of global catastrophe, thus pushing the minute hand back. By the close of the Cold War in 1991, the Doomsday Clock was set back at 17 minutes to midnight. Unfortunately, the dawn of this new century has seen the minute hand creep ever-closer to midnight, mainly due to the growing climate crisis combined with geopolitical tensions exacerbating the threats of nuclear weapon misuse and the leveraging of cyberspace attacks to disrupt society. Rachel Bronson, the Bulletin’s current president and CEO, emphasized, “We now face a true emergency — an absolutely unacceptable state of world affairs that has eliminated any margin of error or further delay.” Similarly, former California Governor Jerry Brown, who is now the Bulletin’s executive chair, said, “Dangerous rivalry and hostility among the superpowers increases the likelihood of nuclear blunder. Climate change just compounds the crisis. If there’s ever a time to wake up, it’s now.” + Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Via University of Chicago News Image via Shutterstock

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Scientists announce the Doomsday Clock is within 100 seconds to midnight

Stunning House on the Rocks uses geothermal power

January 23, 2020 by  
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On Finland’s windswept Turku archipelago, Helsinki-based design practice and log house kit purveyor Pluspuu has completed yet another ecological wood house — fittingly named the House on the Rocks. Designed to embrace landscape views in multiple directions, the three-bedroom, two-bath residence is a custom design based on Pluspuu’s pre-designed house models Isokari and Kustavi. As with all Pluspuu projects, the geothermal-powered log house is built primarily from timber and boasts a relatively small carbon footprint. Completed last summer, the 150-square-meter House on the Rocks was constructed from 202 x 195-millimeter non-settling logs that are supposedly superior to the cheaper lamella log due to its flexibility of use without the need for post-construction adjustment. The solid log walls also mean that the house doesn’t need additional insulation aside from the eco-friendly wood fiber that insulates the sheet metal roof.  “The carbon footprint of the construction of a log house is extremely small, and the timber will act as a carbon sink for the house’s entire lifespan – this truly is eco-friendly construction,” the architects explained, noting that over 20% of all detached homes are log houses in Finland. “In addition to its environmental friendliness, a log house also has extremely healthy indoor air.” The home is also heated with geothermal heat distributed via underfloor heating. Related: Super-insulated modern log cabin withstands frigid Finnish winters in style Using Pluspuu’s pre-designed housing models as a starting point, the client worked with the architects to craft a site-specific dwelling that embraces outdoor views through large windows and a sea-facing terrace that’s over 100 square meters in size. The property also includes a freestanding Pluspuu Luoto 25 sauna as well as a two-room guesthouse on the shore; both structures are built from smaller 134 x 195-millimeter laminated timber.  + Pluspuu Images via Samuli Miettinen

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Stunning House on the Rocks uses geothermal power

Check out these amazing sustainable cabins by ZeroCabin

January 23, 2020 by  
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Armed only with experience in biology, chemistry and physics, a group of Chile -based scientists took concepts ranging from photosynthesis to thermodynamics to create ZeroCabin, a collection of off-grid and self-sustaining cabins that use “free energy” to function. With no prior knowledge of architecture between them, the team set out with one rule: to place nature (namely sun and rainwater) at the forefront of the project. The timber-framed cabins are elevated on two-meter wooden piles and built by the company itself, but come with maintenance plans for photovoltaic panels, waste recycling and rainwater collection through reverse osmosis. These kits provide buyers with the tools and information to create a self-sustaining cabin with negative impact customized to function anywhere in the world. The structures use biodegradable insulation, and the need for excess artificial heating and cooling is cut down with thermal glazing. To reduce the need for additional materials during construction, the frame is built without using nails. In the field of botany, phyllotaxis refers to the arrangement of leaves on a plant stem, one of the many ways that nature organically creates the maximum conversion of photosynthesis and harnesses energy more efficiently. ZeroCabin takes this concept and applies it to architecture, arranging each self-sustaining cabin at the optimal angle for sun exposure, therefore gaining the most efficient use of solar panels. For heating, a system was created by placing air suction tubes onto the sides of the stove burn chamber. This allows owners to cook, bake and warm water using one-third the typical amount of wood. Apart from the goal of generating a smaller environmental footprint, ZeroCabin is also driven by creating a higher quality of life for its clients. Lower utility bills on trash, water, electricity and gas mean less financial strain — a cherry on top of zero-impact living. Another inspiration behind ZeroCabin is the sense of freedom gained by using only natural resources as power. The company proves its dedication to the environment even further by putting 10% of its utility towards native forests and wildlife preservation. + ZeroCabin Images via ZeroCabin

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Check out these amazing sustainable cabins by ZeroCabin

Carbon-negative snack company AKUA offers kelp jerky and pasta

January 22, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Green

Amidst the growing awareness about our planet’s climate crisis , there is now a burgeoning need for more sustainable food resources. In recent years, seaweed has been quite a catch for health-conscious consumers, in turn, making kelp, a brown macroalgae, one of the more in-demand types of seaweed offerings. As such, startup business AKUA is set to enhance the sustainability of the snack industry with its product line of kelp-based jerky and pasta. “I started the company when I was an adviser to GreenWave , a nonprofit that trains ocean farmers. When I asked the farmers what they truly needed, they answered, ‘We need your help creating a consumer market for kelp.’ So, I started sending out 5-pound bags of frozen kelp to all my chef friends across the U.S.,” said Courtney Boyd Myers, co-founder and CEO of AKUA. “We came up with dozens of cool products and hosted tastings in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. One chef came up with kelp jerky, burgers and sausages — all vegan and made from kelp and mushrooms. That made me think, ‘Wow, what if we could create a line of meat alternative products from one of the most sustainable sources of food on the planet?’ Together with my co-founder Matt Lebo, we set out to launch AKUA and to bring regeneratively grown, kelp-based products into the world.” Related: Eating seaweed could reduce cows’ methane production Why is kelp a good idea for food sustainability? For one, Harvard University has documented that kelp plays a significant role in reducing global warming . That is attributed to kelp’s rapid growth rate, typically about 2 feet per day. Kelp is also able to naturally remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, mitigating rising temperatures and climate change. Kelp is also appealing because of its nutritional value. According to the University of California – Berkeley’s Wellness page , kelp, as a seaweed, “is a rich source of several vitamins, including vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E and B vitamins.” Because kelp has been called a sea vegetable, alongside other seaweed, it likewise “contains vitamin K, which plays a role in blood clotting.” Kelp’s health benefits extend beyond vitamins, as documented by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) FoodData Central site . Kelp is abundant in several minerals, such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and potassium. A University of California – San Francisco Medical Center study even documented that kelp has more calcium content than leading vegetables such as bok choy, collard greens, corn, curly endive and even kale. Kelp is particularly important for its high iodine content, a characteristic it has in common with other brown seaweeds. Iodine is vital for the human body to optimize thyroid hormone production, metabolic functions, immune response and the health of both the central nervous system and skeleton. Pregnant women especially need iodine for the proper bone and brain development of the fetus. Besides that, iodine helps remove free radicals from human blood cells, in essence counteracting the free radicals responsible for accelerating a cell’s aging process. Because of the health value of kelp, AKUA sought to leverage this as it developed its first product. “After studying trends in high protein snacking meets plant-based eating, we decided on creating a high-protein, soy-free vegan jerky made of kelp! In fact, today, Kelp Jerky is the world’s first meat alternative snack made from ocean-farmed seagreens and the only high-protein, soy-free vegan jerky in the market,” explained Myers. With the dawn of this new decade, AKUA has been seeking new and innovative ways of presenting kelp into meals. This is why it also offers kelp pasta as another nutritious product. “We have always wanted to introduce this product because eating kelp in this way is how we fell in love with kelp to begin with, literally just dehydrated kelp cut into noodle form,” continued Myers. “But because it is such a simple product with almost zero barrier to entry, we wanted to wait until after we had introduced Kelp Jerky, which is an incredibly innovative product — Time magazine named it one of 2019’s Best Inventions.” When asked about other food innovations and future plans for AKUA products, Myers eagerly shared, “In March, at Expo West 2020, we will debut our Kelp Balls, a slightly sweet snack focused on gut health that we created in partnership with next-gen microbiome company Biohm Health. If Kelp Jerky is all about protein and energy, our Kelp Balls will be all about improving your digestion.” Besides being a food innovator, AKUA is also committed to leaving a positive impact. One of the ways it does this is by donating part of its annual profits to GreenWave , a nonprofit devoted to training the next generation of ocean farmers. AKUA additionally partners with Parley for the Oceans , an environmental organization that raises awareness about the fragility of our oceans and seeks to prevent ocean pollution . Yet another key value for AKUA is its dedication to collaborating with local ocean farming communities. “Today, 98% of all seaweed is sourced from Asia, while AKUA sources 100% of its kelp from U.S.-based ocean farmers,” Myers said. “In fact, we are one of the first companies to utilize the emerging U.S.-based supply chain of ocean-farmed kelp, supporting the creation of hundreds of new jobs in our coastal communities.” Minimizing its carbon footprint is another crucial mission for AKUA. Last year alone, the company’s Kelp Jerky product utilized “40,000 pounds of regeneratively ocean-farmed kelp … and pull[ed] 2,000 pounds — 1 ton — of carbon from the sea,” according to Myers. “As a comparison, this is the same amount of carbon created by just 300 cheeseburgers. Based on our conservative projections for our Kelp Jerky product alone, by year five, we will be removing 1 million pounds of harmful carbon from our seas each year. With this data in our pocket, we are positioning Kelp Jerky as a ‘ carbon negative snack’ and building a brand that raises awareness for the climate crisis, food sustainability and ocean health.” + AKUA Images via AKUA

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Carbon-negative snack company AKUA offers kelp jerky and pasta

Luzinterruptus turns plastic waste into Death by Plastic eco-art for COP25

January 21, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

Frustrated with the “ludicrous charade” of the COP25 World Climate Summit in December, Spanish design collective luzinterruptus turned to visual protest by creating the temporary guerrilla art piece, “Death by Plastic.” Made from plastic waste and transparent fabric, the glowing environmental art installation depicts a crime scene-like visual with a series of people-shaped sculptures lying on the ground. Held in Madrid, Spain in the beginning of December, the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference became the target of social unrest by protestors frustrated with the inactions of the negotiators on the climate crisis . Members of luzinterruptus also joined the protest and, disappointed by the adopted resolutions at the end of the event, wrote a statement to express their anger. Related: Archstorming announces winning proposals for a school made of recycled plastic in Mexico “The people from the Climate Summit are already leaving with bowed heads (by taxi or by plane) without having reached any significant agreements, as we all expected,” they said. “Everything was just a mirage. Few effective resolutions and big business opportunities for those who parade the flag of sustainability around. Let’s try again next year, perhaps with lengthier political speeches, but never listening to the scientific community or the citizens. And always under the sponsorship of the most polluting companies, which are always happy to take this opportunity to clean up their image. For now, the ‘climate crisis’ is officially postponed until the most environmentally unfriendly countries find a better time to deal with it. We are ashamed for having provided the scenario for such a ludicrous charade.” To further illustrate their frustrations, the artists installed Death by Plastic, an eco-art piece located near the COP25 gathering at the close of conference. Using plastic waste generated from the Christmas shopping along one of Madrid’s busiest retail areas, the artists created large-scale, people-shaped sculptures illuminated from within. The artists also drew a chalk outline around each of the plastic “bodies” to denote a crime scene. The guerrilla installation was displayed for a few hours, after which the artists removed the artworks. The art pieces have been stored away for future use. + luzinterruptus Photography by Melisa Hernández via luzinterruptus

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Luzinterruptus turns plastic waste into Death by Plastic eco-art for COP25

"Embroidered filtering skin helps library regulate light

January 20, 2020 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

French design practice Serero Architectes Urbanistes has recently completed the new Bayeux Media Library, a light-filled cultural institution that connects the northwestern French commune’s historical roots to its future development zones. Inspired by the famous Bayeux Tapestry, the building includes an “embroidered filtering skin” along its north facade comprising a series of multicolored tubes hanging behind the glazed facade to help filter views and light while mitigating unwanted solar gain. Energy usage is reduced thanks to an abundance of glazing outfitted with solar shades as well as an insulating green roof. Located next to the beltway near Bayeux’s dense historic center, the Bayeux Media Library has been strategically located to provide views of the cathedral. To emphasize a connection between the historic center and nearby contemporary development, the architects opted for a “transparent, landscape-building” with a horizontal profile and minimalist design. The glazed library also focuses on the indoor/ outdoor experience with outdoor reading terraces on the south side. At the heart of the contemporary Bayeux Media Library is its reference to the Bayeux Tapestry, a nearly 230-foot-long embroidered cloth dating back to the 11th century that depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England. “It inspired the design of the media library’s north façade,” the architects explained in a project statement. “Stitch by stitch and thread by thread, embroidery was applied to the fabric to form the tapestry’s semiotic elements. The Boulevard Ware façade of the library is entirely glazed and protected by a ‘filtering skin’ composed of tubes tinted in the natural colors of the woolen yarns in the famous Bayeux Tapestry: beige, brown, bronze green, blue-black and deep blue with yellow highlights.” Related: Near net-zero energy Helsinki Central Library boasts an award-winning, prefab design In addition to the “embroidered” filtering skin on the north facade, the architects added an overhanging roof to shield the interior from unwanted solar gain on the south facade. The glazed east, west, and south facades are also equipped with roller blinds. Skylights let in additional natural light.  + Serero Architectes Urbanistes Photography by Didier Boy de la Tour via Serero Architectes Urbanistes

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"Embroidered filtering skin helps library regulate light

Architect makes playful puzzle pavilion for Design Week Mexico

January 20, 2020 by  
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At the 11th annual Design Week Mexico, Mexican architect Gerardo Broissin created the Egaligilo Pavilion, an eye-catching structure made with large jigsaw puzzle-shaped concrete pieces. Installed on the grounds of Mexico City’s contemporary art museum Museo Tamayo, the boxy pavilion draws the eye with its puzzle-inspired form and bubble-like protrusions designed to deliberately obscure views of the interior. Inside is a lush garden that remains exposed to the outdoor elements thanks to small slits and perforations cut into the pavilion on all sides. Installed last year at the beginning of October, Broissin’s Egaligilo Pavilion builds upon Design Week Mexico’s tradition of using architecture and design to spur thought-provoking conversations. The basis for the Egaligilo Pavilion begins with the teachings of French philosopher Michel Foucault, particularly how the discovery of self is centered on a state of constant questioning. Broissin explores this “principle of agitation” by designing a space that juxtaposes seemingly opposite elements, from the inclusion of both traditional and parametric architecture to the concepts of the artificial and the natural. For instance, the rectangular pavilion’s puzzle piece-shaped panels seem to suggest rigidity and order but are contrasted with the bubble-like dome protrusions and further undermined by the interior’s curved walls. A large circular opening marks one end of the pavilion and provides the only view inside of the structure, which houses a surprisingly lush garden with a mulch ground. Related: This prefab weekend retreat made from shipping containers can be ordered online “The Egaligilo’s external structure remains light weighted and displays shape contrasts, it holds a living oasis inside, in which symbolism is exalted and gives the visitor the capacity to assume a new role, to reinvent him/herself following Foucault,” Broissin said in the project statement. “A space that originally should have been outside is held on to walls that are capriciously opened to light, but can’t be penetrated by the gaze. This quality demands the visitor to immerse in space, and once again, creates a tension between the limit of the public and the private.” + Gerardo Broissin Images via Gerardo Broissin

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Architect makes playful puzzle pavilion for Design Week Mexico

New Marine Education Center in Malm raises climate change awareness

January 17, 2020 by  
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In Malmö, Sweden, the recently completed Marine Education Center is giving visitors a closer look at the effects of climate change and sustainable technology. Copenhagen-based practice NORD Architects designed the building, which not only provides an indoor-outdoor learning landscape but also visually blurs the boundaries between the built environment and its surroundings. As a beacon of sustainability, the center is integrated with energy-efficient technologies including solar panels, geothermal heat exchangers and rainwater collection systems. Located next to the Öresund strait, the Marine Education Center officially opened in the fall of 2018, four years after NORD Architects won the bid for the project in a design competition. Surrounded by earth berms built up to resemble sand dunes, the single-story building appears nestled into the landscape, while its long footprint emphasizes the vastness of its surroundings. The wave-like protrusions that top the roof add both visual interest and practical purpose; the angled elements are used to mount solar panels , let in indirect daylight and promote natural ventilation. Related: Obra Architects stimulates climate change discussion with a “climate-correcting machine” Beneath the roof are two enclosed areas separated by a large, sheltered walkway. Walls of glass surround the classrooms and gathering spaces to let in light and frame views of the sea, while the use of timber adds a sense of warmth to the interior. The Marine Education Center was designed to be highly flexible and can adapt over time to accommodate new technologies.  “We have developed a learning landscape where education is everywhere,” said Johannes Molander Pedersen, partner at NORD Architects. “It is in the landscape, in the building and in the transition between nature and culture. The center is open for everyone who is interested in the role we as humans play in nature’s life cycle. It allows hands-on learning experience that invites users to explore using their senses in the field, and thereafter analyze and understand their observations of the marine life .” + NORD Architects Photography by Adam Mørk via NORD Architects

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New Marine Education Center in Malm raises climate change awareness

Quorn introduces carbon footprint labeling

January 14, 2020 by  
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In a trailblazing move, Quorn, the meatless food manufacturer headquartered in the U.K., is now leveraging carbon labeling on more than half its product line. Carbon labeling delineates where greenhouse gas emissions are associated with production, manufacture, distribution and transport of a particular consumer product as it is brought to market. The carbon label serves to inform consumers of an item’s environmental impact and carbon footprint. By reading carbon labels, consumers may be motivated to make better and more sustainable choices. Quorn’s pioneering carbon footprint data is certified by the Carbon Trust. Why is carbon labeling important? Any increase in a product’s carbon footprint has environmental repercussions — like climbing temperatures, shifting precipitation patterns, rising sea levels and increasing frequency of extreme weather as well as species vulnerability and threats to biodiversity. Carbon labeling provides a rating system that scores the environmentally friendly and socially responsible characteristics of a product, so consumers can make better choices that ultimately lead to smaller carbon footprints. Related: Alliance of more than 11,000 scientists warns that our planet faces a climate emergency Quorn’s products are considered healthier and more sustainable. Why? The company does not utilize any livestock. As its website explains, a nutritious soil fungus ferments to produce mycoprotein. Mycoprotein is high in protein and fiber, while being low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Interestingly, mycoprotein’s carbon footprint is 90% lower than beef’s. “For over 30 years, we have been proudly delivering Healthy Protein for a Healthy Planet,” a spokesperson for Quorn said. “Quorn is proven to provide significant health and environmental benefits, and today we’re delighted we can offer carbon footprint data to our customers. This is about giving people the information needed to make informed decisions about the food they eat and the effect it has on our planet’s climate — in the same way that nutrition information is clearly labeled to help inform decisions on health — and we’re asking other brands to get on board with us.” The labels will appear on some products, including the mince, crispy nuggets, sausages, fishless fillets, ultimate burgers and wonder grains, starting in June 2020, with the entire line of products featuring the new labels starting in 2021. + Quorn Via The Guardian Image via Quorn

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Quorn introduces carbon footprint labeling

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