The stunning impact of COVID-19 social distancing on air pollution

March 31, 2020 by  
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How efforts to flatten the curve of COVID-19 have reflected air quality in the San Francisco Bay area.

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The stunning impact of COVID-19 social distancing on air pollution

New York City is using its fleets to fight air pollution

February 18, 2020 by  
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In a “race to the top,” more cities are gaining unprecedented insights toward cleaning up air quality.

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New York City is using its fleets to fight air pollution

The largest green wall in Europe will absorb 8 tons of air pollution per year

December 10, 2019 by  
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Located in London, U.K., the Citicape House by Sheppard Robson will feature a 40,000-square-foot green wall , the largest in Europe, that sets the standard for urban green development in the city. Not only is Citicape House designed to become a five-star hotel, but its living wall will also absorb a projected 8 tons of air pollution annually. The hotel, projected to be finished in 2024, will house 382 rooms, 40,000 square feet of workspace, a sky bar, meeting and event spaces, a spa and a restaurant on the ground floor. On the 11th floor, a public green space will be available as well, with an unobstructed rooftop view of St. Paul’s Cathedral. From there, the green wall, consisting of 400,000 plants, will wrap around the exterior of the building and contain designated spaces for threatened species of plants to grow undisturbed. Related: Retrofitted “green” living lamp posts in London reclaim water and run on solar power In addition to the 8 tons of air pollution that will be captured by the Citicape House each year, the building is also projected to produce 6 tons of oxygen and lower the surrounding temperature by between 3 and 5 degrees Celsius. Furthermore, the wall will trap about 500 kilograms of hazardous airborne particulate matter each year. Apart from the obvious air quality advantages, the building will take measures to function sustainably with features like air-source heat pumps and rainwater collection systems to provide irrigation to the living wall. This project sets an example for the Urban Greening Policy developed by the New London Plan, aimed toward encouraging businesses to prioritize urban greening with a mandated “Urban Greening Factor” (UGF). The Citicape House will exceed the required UGF by more than 45 times. With the massive, striking green wall located within London’s bustling Culture Mile, it is sure to inspire those who see it while addressing environmental issues and positively affecting the region. + Sheppard Robson Via Dezeen Images via Sheppard Robson

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The largest green wall in Europe will absorb 8 tons of air pollution per year

Minnesota to implement low- and zero-emission clean vehicle standards

September 27, 2019 by  
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In a move that would make both hybrid and electric car manufacturers see dollar signs, Minnesota announced a new proposal that will require auto manufacturers that sell within the state to deliver more hybrid cars and electric vehicles (EVs) to comply with its new low- and zero-emission initiative. The measure places the Gopher State alongside 13 other states that have implemented clean vehicle emissions standards. The standards will take a minimum of 18 months for roll-out, due to the rule-making process set by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).  Thus, the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” is expected to see more hybrid and electric cars in sales lots starting around the 2023 model year. This roll-out will also allow time for the state to beef up its investments in more public electric-charging stations, while similarly brokering anticipated alternative energy deals with the likes of none other than Tesla, as the latter ramps up its nationwide plant acquisition plans. Related: This calculator tracks the carbon emissions of your travels Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety currently reports that residents of Minnesota, on average, prefer large pickup trucks, followed by SUVs. Broad capacity recreational vehicles ( RVs ) are also a Minnesota favorite. Minnesotan loyalty to pickup trucks, SUVs and RVs could make the shift to relatively compact EVs challenging. However, the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy does offer EV tax credits and incentives that Minnesotans and other U.S. denizens can take advantage of. For instance, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) gives a tax credit “for $2,500 to $7,500 per new EV purchased for use in the U.S.” The tax credit varies depending on the vehicle and its battery capacity, but the incentive is a way to shift more consumers to EVs. The tax credit is “available until 200,000 qualified EVs have been sold in the United States by each manufacturer, at which point the credit begins to phase out for that manufacturer. Currently, no manufacturers have been phased out yet.” You can learn more about the tax credit here . Via Consumer Reports Image via MN Administration

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Minnesota to implement low- and zero-emission clean vehicle standards

Honda makes largest renewable energy purchase of any automaker

September 25, 2019 by  
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Multinational auto manufacturer Honda Motor Company, headquartered in Tokyo, recently made the largest renewable clean energy purchase by any car maker. The electricity will be utilized to offset emissions from its United States factories, thus enabling Honda to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent in its North American manufacturing plants. With widespread public debate and mounting regulatory pressures, automakers have no choice but to shift their business models to address the carbon dioxide reduction challenge. It is no wonder then that a growing number of automobile companies are turning to renewables, like wind and solar, to achieve sustainable returns. Related: Beautiful, solar-powered EV charging stations promise to charge a vehicle in 15 minutes According to Honda, it currently obtains about 21 percent of its North American operations’ power from low- or zero-emission power sources.  But it hopes to improve upon that, thanks to clinching the car industry’s largest renewable energy purchase. Honda’s new clean energy deal involves the purchase of wind power from an Oklahoma wind farm as well as sourcing energy from a Texas solar farm. Projections show that, with this clean energy purchase, Honda can annually offset 800,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s equal to “100,000 U.S. households’ worth of CO2-emissions from household energy usage,” as described in Honda’s press release. Honda revealed, “Two Virtual Power Purchase Agreements (VPPAs) will secure 320 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar power totaling over 1 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of renewable electricity annually.” How do VPPAs operate? Honda explained that VPPAs are “a way for Honda to purchase renewable energy in locations where it is unable to purchase renewables from the local electric utility.” The automaker buys “electricity from a renewable energy supplier, but the clean energy does not go directly to Honda’s facilities; instead, it is sold into the electricity grid where the clean power is generated.” In effect, Honda’s ‘virtual purchase’ of that “renewable energy adds more clean energy into the nation’s grid,” which decreases fossil fuel dependency and any accompanying carbon dioxide emissions. Honda’s VPPA purchase essentially “de-carbonizes” the electricity grid. Analysts say VPPAs are becoming an ever-popular means for large corporations seeking to meet carbon dioxide emission reduction goals.  Tech giants, like Google and Microsoft, for instance, have historically purchased VPPAs as well. Business industry pundits forecast an uptick of VPPA procurements in the next couple of years as renewable energy policy intensifies. Aligned with its revitalized green mission, Honda’s long-term plans go far beyond clean energy purchases, as it continues its commitment to sustainability. The company similarly announced plans to electrify two-thirds of its manufactured vehicular fleet so that they are charged via renewable energy by 2030. + Honda Motor Company Image via Honda Motor Company

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Honda makes largest renewable energy purchase of any automaker

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

Sustainably-sourced sunglasses built to last a lifetime rather than a season

June 26, 2019 by  
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Living a sustainable lifestyle is about more than backyard composting and prolific use of Mason jars in lieu of plastic. To truly reach any level of sustainability we need to be aware of every purchase we make including how the product was made and even the packaging used. Although our conscientious purchasing decisions carry weight, corporate responsibility is where the real change will occur — enter Just Human. Just Human feels the burden of that responsibility and has decided to do something about it in the form of long-lasting, quality sunglasses built to last a lifetime, not a season. Related: These sustainable sunglasses smell like coffee and decompose into fertilizer The creation of the sunglasses released earlier this year began with four principals: Focus on the entire system of product creation, from materials to manufacturing to packaging. Streamline the design so that there are only a few products in production, each with a unisex design to serve as many people as possible. Combine function and fashion with a high-performing lens. Focus on durability for a product that won’t end up in the landfill anytime soon. Rather than relying on cheap synthetic materials that have become mainstream in the industry, Just Human sources material for the frames from softwood trees that are sustainably harvested and have earned FSC certification. The glass lenses are made from sand and minerals instead of petroleum-based plastic. Even the cutoffs from lens production are recycled and used for the next round of lens material. Pineapple leaf fibers (we’re hearing a lot about these lately!) and recycled water bottles make up the material for the case that house the sunglasses. The included cleaning cloth is produced using fabric made from 2.5 plastic water bottles . Carrying the eco-friendly idea through to the packaging, Just Human uses 100 percent post-consumer cardboard, eco-friendly inks and compostable tape made from wood pulp. Just Human understands that a focus on sustainability is a mute point if the product doesn’t meet the needs of the consumer so they’ve aimed to combine that focus with function and fashion. Incorporating sports technology into the lens allows them to filter out damaging UVs and glare while providing heat and scratch resistance. In the end, the goal is to provide a luxury product that will endure decades of use without impacting the planet . Wouldn’t it be nice if more companies adopted this simple philosophy? + Just Human Images via Just Human

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Sustainably-sourced sunglasses built to last a lifetime rather than a season

New sensor precisely measures air pollution

June 21, 2019 by  
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Scientists agree that air pollution shortens the lives of many Europeans every year, but they have a hard time accurately measuring it. Now, thanks to new sensor technology developed at Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology , pinpointing air pollution and calculating its effects may become much easier. This new optical nano-sensor detects nitrogen dioxide concentrations down to the parts-per-billion level. The underlying concept is an optimal phenomenon called a plasmon, which has to do with plasma oscillation in physics. Scientists use the sensors to detect illuminated metal nanoparticles absorbing certain wavelengths of light— by which they can measure pollution. Related: Earliest human air pollution detected in glaciers The World Health Organization estimates that air pollution causes 550,000 premature deaths in Europe annually and 7 million worldwide. “Air pollution is a global health problem,” says Chalmers researcher Irem Tanyeli, who helped develop the sensors. “To be able to contribute to increased knowledge and a better environment feels great. With the help of these small, portable sensors, it can become both simpler and cheaper to measure dangerous emissions extremely accurately.” The university research team worked with the Gothenburg-based company Insplorion— co-founded by Christoph Langhammer, a Chalmers physics professor— to bring the sensors out of the lab and onto the streets of Gothenburg. “This is a great example of how a university and a company can collaborate. Both parties contribute with their expertise to create a new product, contributing to a more sustainable society,” said Langhammer. Sensors are already installed on the roof of a huge Gothenburg shopping mall and will soon be placed along a local railway tunnel construction project. The sensors can also be calibrated to measure other gases. “Nitrogen dioxide is just one of the many substances which can be detected with the help of optical nanosensors. There are great opportunities for this type of technology ,” said Langhammer. Companies and universities inside and outside Sweden have already been in contact to see if the nano-sensors could help their aims. Via mynewsdesk Images via Chalmers University of Technology

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Jakarta’s massive bus system pilots electric vehicles

June 3, 2019 by  
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Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta, is piloting a program to transition from public buses to electric vehicles . Jakarta’s bus system is the largest in the world with over 200 million riders and new routes added every year. The addition of cleaner vehicles promises to have a significant impact on the city’s toxic levels of air pollution. Starting in April, the city began testing electric buses produced by Chinese and Indonesian manufacturers. After the pilot trials, the city will test the buses with passengers. The city’s governor, Anies Baswedan is determined to make Jakarta one of the greenest cities in the world and cleaner transportation is a big step towards that goal. Related: UK-based company is making home delivery as green as possible with e-cargo bikes “We see the move toward electric vehicles as a vital way to combat air pollution and transition to a greener future. The electric bus trial program will give us a good sense of the changes we need to make to the system to ultimately replace all of Jakarta’s fleet of public vehicles with electric models,” said Transjakarta Chief Executive Officer Agung Wicaksono. The United Nation’s Environment Program is providing support for the initiative as part of their effort to reduce air pollution . In Asia and the Pacific alone, air pollution kills 4 million people every year. Bert Fabian, Program Officer for the UN Environment Program’s Air Quality and Mobility Unit, said: “The transition to electric mobility can have a dramatic effect in reducing pollutants and making cities healthier and more enjoyable places to live.” For some Jakarta residents, though, the clean vehicle program cannot come soon enough. This month, 57 residents unified to sue the city for its inability to address unacceptable air pollution . The lawsuit, which will be filed on June 18, will pressure the government to do more to clean up the air in the city and argues that transportation is only partially responsible. Citizens also call on the government to crack down on coal-fired industries surrounding the city. + U.N. Environment Program Image via Shutterstock

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Architects to transform two old railway yards into eco parks in Milan

May 14, 2019 by  
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OMA and Milan-based Laboratorio Permanente have won a competition to transform two abandoned railway yards in Milan into eco parks that will act as “ecological filters” for the car-centric city. Titled Agenti Climatici (Climatic Agents), the master plan would use the natural, air-purifying power of plants and the filtering capabilities of water to clean and cool the environment while adding new recreational spaces for the public. The project is part of a larger effort to redevelop disused post-industrial areas around the periphery of the city. The Agenti Climatici master plan addresses two railway yards: the 468,301-square-meter Scalo Farini on the north side of Milan and the 140,199-square-meter Scalo San Cristoforo on the south side of the city. The designers have designated Scalo Farini as the “green zone” that will consist of a large park capable of cooling the hot winds from the southwest and reducing air pollution . Scalo San Cristoforo has been dubbed the “blue zone” after the designers’ plan to turn the railway yard into a linear waterway that will naturally purify runoff and create cooling microclimates. “In a moment of dramatic environmental transformation and permanent economic uncertainty, our priorities have changed,” said OMA partner Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli. “The most valuable currency is no longer ‘brick’ — the built — but rather the climatic conditions that cities will be able to provide and ensure for their citizens. The city of the 20th century, with its high energy consumption , must be overcome by reconsidering the principles that have marked urban development since the classical era.” Related: CRA grows a sustainable pavilion out of mushrooms in just 6 weeks For adaptability, only the public elements of the Farini park will be fixed — including the waterways, greenery and bridges — while the location of the buildings and their programming will be contingent on the city’s future economic development. The master plan also calls for Milan’s longest expressway bicycle lane alongside a new tram line and metro stations. + OMA + Laboratorio Permanente Images via OMA and Laboratorio Permanente

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Architects to transform two old railway yards into eco parks in Milan

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