Futuristic Safezone Shelter battles air pollution in Thailand with a green oasis

March 18, 2020 by  
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According to the World Air Quality Index of 2019, the city of Bangkok suffers from unhealthy levels of air pollution most of the year. In a bid to raise awareness about air quality and the urban heat island effect, Thai design collective Shma Company created Safezone Shelter, an ephemeral pavilion filled with air purifying plants and technology to create a welcoming gathering space for passersby. Shaped like a cloud, the sculptural intervention was briefly installed in front of the Grand Postal Building during Bangkok Design Week 2020.  In contrast to the brutalist architecture of the Grand Postal Building, the 150-square-meter Safezone Shelter features a futuristic, organic shape with a white nylon covering to evoke the appearance of a cloud. The white textile allows light to diffuse through while hiding the interior from outside views. Inside, the designers created an unexpected oasis filled with tropical plants, informational signage and seating, which also includes part of the postal building’s steps.  Related: Architects design giant air purifying towers to fight Delhi’s air pollution To create a cooling microclimate, the designers engineered the pavilion to pull in hot, polluted air with fans and pass it through dense vegetation to capture dust particles. This “pre-filtered wind” is then passed through a dust filter plate and a cooling plate to purify the air . In addition to the cool air flow generated by fans, the trees, shrubs and ground cover help keep the pavilion’s interior temperatures to between 72 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit. A humidifier maintains humidity levels of 50% to 70%. Recorded nature sounds, such as the sounds of water and birds, are also played inside the space. “All of these inventive methods could further be applied to solve air pollution in other kinds of design,” the designers explained. “Looking wider at an urban scale, bus stops, recreational space under expressways and skywalks also have a potential to be revitalized with such purification systems. At the end, even high-rise buildings might become old-fashioned when a better choice like an air purifier tower could be constructed.” Safezone Shelter was put on display from December 2019 to February 2020.  + Shma Company Images via Shma

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Futuristic Safezone Shelter battles air pollution in Thailand with a green oasis

Pixie Retreat: Behind the scenes in a raw commercial kitchen

March 18, 2020 by  
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I’ve been vegetarian since childhood and have met people with many different takes on a healthy plant-based diet. The raw foodists I’ve encountered have blown me away with the innovation it takes to come up with a menu beyond salad while limiting cooking temperatures to no more than 118 degrees. The raw food philosophy is that heat breaks down food’s nutritional value, while low temperatures allow food to retain enzymes and vitamins, leading to the body’s ability to prevent and fight disease and generally thrive. So when Theresa Keane, co-owner of Pixie Retreat , invited me to tour her Portland, Oregon raw food kitchen, I was intrigued. Her team produces a full vegan, organic , gluten-free and mostly raw menu on a commercial scale. Not only do they supply Pixie Retreat’s three Portland retail locations, they’ve also started wholesaling to local stores. Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at a commercial raw food kitchen. The early years Pixie Retreat was built on a dream and a lot of hard work, trial and error. Keane co-founded the business with Willow O’Brien in 2008. At the time, they wanted to make and sell healthful and delicious food , but were new to the dining business. “We didn’t know what we were doing,” Keane said. “We never worked in kitchens, Willow and I. She didn’t even know how to make food. She made tea and stuff like that.” They started out sharing a commissary kitchen with other vegan businesses. That’s where they met Anna Clark, who later became their third business partner. Clark, a pastry chef, was the only one with formal culinary training. After 9 months in the commissary kitchen, they rented a house and ran Pixie Retreat out of it, working late into the night while filling wholesale orders. Keane described a time when an engineer acquaintance stopped by. Their setup left him shocked. “We had eight refrigerators, freezers, 20 dehydrators,” Keane said. “He said it’s amazing you don’t burn this house down. Every night, the power would trip off. We couldn’t even turn the heat on because it would trip the power.” A spotless, modern raw food kitchen They’ve come a long way. Now headquartered in Southeast Portland’s industrial district, the Pixie Retreat RAW’r Laboratorie & Makery is both a retail outlet and the site of their commercial kitchen. The small front part has a seating area and a case of premade wraps and goodies. “We’re grab-and-go style, because that’s how people are living,” Keane said. “We’re not a sit down-like service restaurant . We’re into flavor, satisfaction and integrity of our ingredients. Plating is not my forte.” Customers can also custom-order kale- or millet-based bowls and coconut cream puddings with toppings. The millet is one of several cooked ingredients available. A big white curtain hangs behind the counter, obscuring the kitchen. “That’s more for health department reasons,” Keane said, indicating the curtain. “And to protect the magic back there.” We step through the curtain and find three workers preparing food in an extremely well-organized kitchen. It’s Thursday, one of the big assembly days for delivering to the two other Pixie Retreat outlets. Tacked up on the door of the walk-in dehydrator are long to-do lists for each day of the week. Keane introduced me to her staff and to each machine, many of which were specially made or adapted to the needs of a mostly raw food kitchen. The walk-in dehydration room is the most exciting and unusual. Keane opened the door, releasing a smoky smell. Inside are trays and trays of eggplant bacon strips, which stay in there for 72 hours. Pixie Retreat bought the dehydrator from a former kale chip entrepreneur who devised tools to streamline raw food making. Keane estimated the walk-in dehydrator is 75% more efficient than the company’s former multiple-dehydrator setup. Pixie Retreat has a Robot Coupe Blixer, which is an industrial-strength food processor. “This tool is a game changer,” Keane said. “I mean, it’s expensive like a car, but it paid for itself in labor. I love this tool so much.” The company uses it to blend ingredients for pizza dough, macadamia nut cheese and raw onion bread. Pixie Retreat makes raw chocolate in its chocolate machine, melting it down at a temperature of 108. The chocolate winds up in treats like chocolate salted “karmals”, “almond butta cups” and dehydrated, oat-based chocolate chip cookies. Other interesting tools include an Italian fruit press repurposed for squeezing excess moisture out of sauerkraut and a specially made enormous cookie-cutter to cut onion bread into uniform squares while minimizing waste . Raw and vegan at home The Pixie Retreat kitchen is cool but daunting. What about the average person who wants to add more raw food into their diet without shelling out for a Blixer? “Make nut milk ,” Keane said. “That’s where I would start.” You’ll need a nut milk bag, available online or in some grocery stores’ produce departments. She recommended starting with hazelnuts or almonds. For flavor and sweetness, add sea salt, vanilla and a Medjool date. Put it all in your blender. “Kick it up on high. Blend it. Then you put it in the nut milk bag and you squeeze it out.” Dry out the pulp and use it as a nut flour for baked goods. Related: How to choose the healthiest, most sustainable milk alternative After you master nut milk, try making nut cheese. Keane recommended blending buttery macadamia nuts with water, Italian seasoning, lemon juice and sea salt for a plant-based ricotta. Going national Pixie Retreat scaled back from wholesale for a while to focus on retail locations. But it has just relaunched, selling chocolate “karmal”, salted “karmal” and raspberry “l’il puddin” at New Seasons stores in Portland. Made with organic young coconut meat and Irish moss, these raw desserts are packed with nutrients . Soon, Pixie Retreat plans to introduce nationwide cold shipping of the “l’il puddin’”. Currently, customers across the U.S. can order sweet or savory Pixie snack boxes . But Pixie Retreat’s goals go far beyond Portland or even the U.S. When I asked Keane about the company vision, she immediately said, “Global. That’s the dream. We want to be the fast food of the future.” + Pixie Retreat Images via Josh Chang and Marielle Dezurick / Pixie Retreat and Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Pixie Retreat: Behind the scenes in a raw commercial kitchen

Futuristic air-purifying masks combat air pollution with innovative fan system

February 26, 2020 by  
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In a world where air pollution causes an estimated 7 million deaths annually , the fashion and health worlds are colliding to bring us products that not only make us look good, but also keep us safe. A? Air has recently unveiled its Atm?s face mask — a high-tech, futuristic mask that wraps comfortably around the face while purifying the air you breathe. Recently unveiled at CES 2020 in Las Vegas, the Atm?s face mask has been proven to provide up to 50 times better air quality than the top anti-pollution masks on the market. In fact, although most air pollution masks can help reduce the amount of particulate matter that enters your airways, they typically don’t seal properly around the mouth and nose areas, which greatly reduces their effectiveness. Related: This 3D-printed device could help its users breathe underwater The Atm?s mask was designed with a special proprietary design technology called PositivAir that eliminated the need for an uncomfortable seal. Instead, multiple tiny fans within the device, which wraps comfortably around the lower half of the face, guide pure, filtered air directly into the nose and mouth. This system provides as much as 240 liters of clean air per minute. The state-of-the-art system channels the air you exhale directly out of the mask, which avoids fogging up the front window. Additionally, Atm?s has embedded Bluetooth technology that constantly tracks your respiratory activity in order to adapt the mask’s performance to ensure optimal air filtration under any circumstances. According to the company, although Atm?s, which retails for $350, has already been used as a futuristic accessory on more than a few fashion runways, the face mask is an innovative device specifically designed for medical professionals, first responders and firefighters. With the current outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, people around the world are investing in masks to reduce their exposure not only to air pollutants but also airborne pathogens that threaten health . The demand for masks will likely become greater overtime, making this design more important than ever. + A? Air Images via A? Air

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Futuristic air-purifying masks combat air pollution with innovative fan system

Research finds heart attacks and strokes surge on high pollution days in England

October 25, 2019 by  
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A new study published by King’s College London (KCL) reports that elevated levels of air pollution contribute to increased spikes in cardiac arrests, stroke admissions and asthma hospitalizations. The sobering news has been described as a health emergency, prompting calls for the British government to commit to more enforceable sustainability targets and improved air quality standards. The research team surveyed data across nine cities: London, Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and Southampton. London had the largest uptick of health incidents because it experienced more high pollution days. For the English capital city, an additional 124 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, 231 stroke admissions and 193 asthma hospitalizations occurred on days registering higher pollution levels. The collated data clearly revealed a cause-and-effect correlation. Thus, increased air pollution from wind direction and wind strength conclusively affected people’s health in just a short period of time while similarly having implications on life expectancy. Related: For 2019, the 10 worst cities for air quality are in California and Arizona Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said, “London’s lethal air is a public health crisis — it leads to thousands of premature deaths in the capital every year, as well as stunting the development of young lungs and increasing cases of respiratory illness.” The research results were published ahead of the British National Clean Air Summit , which was hosted by UK100 , a British network of local government leaders. In response to the study findings, the British National Health Service (NHS) tweeted that almost a third of preventable deaths in England “are due to non-communicable diseases specifically attributed to air pollution .” Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS, further explained, “Since these avoidable deaths are happening now — not in 2025 or 2050 — together we need to act now. For the NHS, that is going to mean further comprehensive action building on the reduction of our carbon footprint of one-fifth in the past decade. So our NHS energy use, supply chain, building adaptations and our transport will all need to change substantially.” + King’s College London Via EcoWatch Image via Matt Buck

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Research finds heart attacks and strokes surge on high pollution days in England

EEA reports poor air quality caused premature deaths of 400,000 Europeans in 2016

October 17, 2019 by  
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Coal-fired power plants, vehicle-clogged highways and fossil-fuel spewing factories have contributed to the growing European air pollution dilemma. Industries, households and vehicles all emit dangerous pollutants that are harmful to human health. Indeed, the European Environment Agency (EEA) highlighted the issue when reporting that over 400,000 Europeans met their untimely demise in 2016 due to poor air quality. Air pollution is detrimental to society, harms human health and ultimately increases health care costs. An air quality expert at the EEA and author of the study, Alberto Gonzales Ortiz, warned that air pollution is “currently the most important environmental risk to human health.” Related: Climate change is a public health issue amounting to billions in medical costs According to the World Health Organization (WHO) , “Pollutants with the strongest evidence for public health concerns include particulate matter (PM), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2).” The presence of air pollutants produced by fuel combustion – whether from mobile sources like vehicles or from stationery sources such as power plants, biomass use, industry or households – above European skies means the continent is in serious need of more effective air quality plans. Current European Union (EU) legislation requires air quality evaluations to assess whether dangerous particulates have exceeded certain thresholds.  As early as 2017, the EU set limits on certain air pollutants to tackle the scourge that is prematurely claiming hundreds of thousands of European lives each year. In fact, this past July, the European Commission asked the EU’s Court of Justice to reprimand Spain and Portugal for their poor air quality practices. More recently, the British government proposed a new environment bill that legally targets the reduction of fine particulate pollution by requiring automakers to recall vehicles with sub-par emission standards. The WHO has repeatedly said that air pollution is to blame for high percentages of global mortality linked to lung cancer (29%), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (43%), acute respiratory infection (17%), ischemic heart disease (25%), stroke (24%) and other cardiovascular ailments. Low-and middle-income countries are disproportionately more vulnerable to the particulate pollution burden, especially poor and marginalized populations. Interestingly, air pollution is also the main driver of climate change . Emissions have been among the largest contributors to global warming , accelerating glacial snow melt as well as causing extreme weather conditions that affect agriculture and food security. Ortiz added, “When we fight pollution, we also fight climate change as well as promote more healthy behavior. It’s a win-win.” Via Reuters Image via dan19878

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EEA reports poor air quality caused premature deaths of 400,000 Europeans in 2016

For 2019, the 10 worst cities for air quality are in California and Arizona

September 24, 2019 by  
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Since the enactment of the Clean Air Act in 1970, there has been growing awareness for the importance of good air quality in American cities. Air quality plays a significant role with health and sustainable living. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recognizes this, which is why for the 2019 American Fitness Index rankings, the ACSM added air quality as an environmental indicator of a city’s health. According to its findings, these are the 10 cities in the U.S. with the worst air quality. The annual Fitness Index assesses 100 of the United States’ largest metropolitan areas. The cities are evaluated, then ranked from the highest score to the lowest score. The index is a helpful tool to compare the air quality of these 100 cities. It does so by considering the healthy behaviors of a city’s residents, the population of residents with chronic diseases as well as the community’s infrastructure. In turn, the rankings provide insight on air quality safety that can helpfully instruct a city’s policy makers, infrastructure management and governmental direction. Related: Almost all U.S. national parks have polluted air According to the 2019 Fitness Index, these are the 10 worst metropolitan areas with bad air quality, or air pollution . They each have unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution: Long Beach, California Los Angeles, California Gilbert, Arizona Phoenix, Arizona Scottsdale, Arizona Chandler, Arizona Mesa, Arizona Glendale, Arizona Riverside, California Bakersfield, California What determines air quality? Geography and weather are the natural agents influencing air quality. But man-made elements — including vehicular use plus industrial emissions — especially affect air quality. In fact, two of the most common pollutants are ozone and particles, like soot from wildfires. Exposure to pollutants and airborne toxins predisposes a given area or region’s population to ailments. These include cardiovascular harm (heart disease and stroke), shortness of breath, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, wheezing, coughing, susceptibility to infections, even allergies — all of which can be influenced and impacted by air pollution. Annual rankings indicate a consistent monitoring of air quality, which is a positive takeaway. This type of monitoring can inform agencies, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ), so that key safeguards and their enforcement can be put in place. + American Fitness Index Image via Florian Lehmuth

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For 2019, the 10 worst cities for air quality are in California and Arizona

For 2019, the 10 worst cities for air quality are in California and Arizona

September 24, 2019 by  
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Since the enactment of the Clean Air Act in 1970, there has been growing awareness for the importance of good air quality in American cities. Air quality plays a significant role with health and sustainable living. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recognizes this, which is why for the 2019 American Fitness Index rankings, the ACSM added air quality as an environmental indicator of a city’s health. According to its findings, these are the 10 cities in the U.S. with the worst air quality. The annual Fitness Index assesses 100 of the United States’ largest metropolitan areas. The cities are evaluated, then ranked from the highest score to the lowest score. The index is a helpful tool to compare the air quality of these 100 cities. It does so by considering the healthy behaviors of a city’s residents, the population of residents with chronic diseases as well as the community’s infrastructure. In turn, the rankings provide insight on air quality safety that can helpfully instruct a city’s policy makers, infrastructure management and governmental direction. Related: Almost all U.S. national parks have polluted air According to the 2019 Fitness Index, these are the 10 worst metropolitan areas with bad air quality, or air pollution . They each have unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution: Long Beach, California Los Angeles, California Gilbert, Arizona Phoenix, Arizona Scottsdale, Arizona Chandler, Arizona Mesa, Arizona Glendale, Arizona Riverside, California Bakersfield, California What determines air quality? Geography and weather are the natural agents influencing air quality. But man-made elements — including vehicular use plus industrial emissions — especially affect air quality. In fact, two of the most common pollutants are ozone and particles, like soot from wildfires. Exposure to pollutants and airborne toxins predisposes a given area or region’s population to ailments. These include cardiovascular harm (heart disease and stroke), shortness of breath, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, wheezing, coughing, susceptibility to infections, even allergies — all of which can be influenced and impacted by air pollution. Annual rankings indicate a consistent monitoring of air quality, which is a positive takeaway. This type of monitoring can inform agencies, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ), so that key safeguards and their enforcement can be put in place. + American Fitness Index Image via Florian Lehmuth

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For 2019, the 10 worst cities for air quality are in California and Arizona

The world is going sideways. What’s a sustainability professional to do?

August 27, 2019 by  
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The Amazon and the Arctic are burning, Greenland and Antarctica are melting, and longstanding concerns such as plastic waste, air pollution and water security that don’t seem to be getting better. How do you stay positive?

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The world is going sideways. What’s a sustainability professional to do?

Air pollution may decrease eggs in women’s ovaries

June 26, 2019 by  
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Air pollution doesn’t only affect your lungs as new research suggests air quality may also be linked to a decrease in the number of eggs in women’s ovaries. It has long been known that environmental factors impact our reproductive systems, and multiple studies linked low sperm count with environmental indicators, but fewer examine the connection to ovaries. This newest study, presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology is the first to look at the prevalence of eggs and not just fertility. Italian researchers collected hormone samples from 1,300 Italian women and compared their levels of the AMH hormone to air quality metrics. The AMH hormone typically signals a woman’s egg “reserves” but can also fluctuate depending on the woman’s age, genetics and if they are a smoker. Related: Almost all U.S. national parks have polluted air Researchers found that lower AMH hormone levels were associated with higher air pollution indices. This suggests that air pollution may be connected to lower egg count in ovaries. However, researchers also recognize that often air pollution is concentrated in areas with lower income and other environmental justice issues, therefore there are likely confounding factors that also impact women’s ovaries within these areas. The study also did not measure direct exposure to air pollution, only indirect exposure via the average air pollution index at the participants’ home address. “Living in an area associated with high levels of air pollutants in our study increased the risk of severely reduced ovarian reserve by a factor of two or three,” said Dr. Antonio La Marca, who led the research. Other studies have similarly linked air quality with womens’ reproductive health, including one study that links pollution with irregular menstrual cycles and another that connected ozone pollution with decreased fertility . More research is needed to clarify the findings and determine if this is a temporary or permanent effect for women. Via The Guardian Image via Ian MacNicol

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Air pollution may decrease eggs in women’s ovaries

How to celebrate World Environment Day

June 5, 2019 by  
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Today, June 5, is World Environment Day! There are many ways that you can celebrate today, and you can use the celebration as a start to building more healthy, environmentally friendly habits. Here are some suggestions for fun activities and behavior changes to consider today and every day. Group activities for World Environment Day Plan a clean-up Get together with friends and neighbors for a clean-up activity in your area, such as at a beach, park or river. Get outside Getting outside doesn’t necessarily help nature , but taking the time to enjoy it and remember why it is essential to protect in the first place is a great way to honor the environment. Find a local hiking group or coordinate a picnic in the park. If your friends aren’t as excited about outdoor activities as you are, search for outdoorsy MeetUp groups in your area and meet some new, like-minded friends. Write to your senators What environmental issues are important to you and your family? This year, the theme of World Environment Day is “Air Pollution.” Find out what your local government is doing to protect the air quality in your area and write to your senator or representatives about your concerns. Healthy personal habits you can start now Use less water Small changes in how you use water at home can add up to a significant difference and conserve a lot of water in the long run. Turn off your tap when you are brushing your teeth. Be mindful of how long your shower is. When washing dishes, fill up a pot or large mixing bowl with warm water and dish soap. Use that water to scrub all of your dishes at once, and then turn on the tap only to rinse. Do not keep the tap running the whole time to wash and rinse each dish individually. Walk more You’ve heard it a million times, but have you implemented more walking in your own life? Consider the places you go often, like work, and figure out if there are ways that you can walk — even if it is only once or twice a week. Walking is great for your health, cuts down on transportation-related carbon emissions and allows you to get to know your neighborhood in a completely different way. Carpool Take the time to discuss with friends, family and coworkers before an event or activity and find out how you can cut down on the number of cars. For places that you go frequently — like work — get to know who lives near you and decide if you can agree on a schedule to carpool. Switch your light bulbs Every time a light bulb burns out in your house, switch to a long-lasting LED bulb . These light bulbs reduce your energy consumption and last a very long time. Buy energy-efficient appliances When possible, choose ENERGY STAR-rated appliances. It is an extra cost upfront, but it will significantly reduce your energy bill long into the future. Related: 10 money-saving tips for a green home Keep fridge coils and AC vents clean If the coils on your refrigerator and the vents on your air conditioner are kept clean, they won’t need to use up additional energy just to cool to the regular temperature. Recycle e-waste When your cellphone or laptop breaks, bring it to an e-waste recycle facility rather than letting it sit around your house or tossing it into the trash. Shut off your devices When you are finished using it, turn off your computer and monitor. Avoid overcharging your cellphone or leaving it to charge overnight. Ideally, shut off your TV and other appliances through the main switch or outlet, not just the remote, so that you break the circuit and save energy . Switch to sustainable products Consider the products you use at home, like cleaning supplies and toothpaste . Switch to something more eco-friendly, ideally made from natural, biodegradable materials in plastic-free or fully recyclable packaging. Via News 18 Images via Riccardo Chiarini , Brian Yurasits and Arek Adeoye

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How to celebrate World Environment Day

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