UN creates a new global climate change coalition

June 1, 2018 by  
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Earth has a “30-year window of opportunity” to tackle climate change, according to World Meteorological Organization (WMO) secretary-general Petteri Taalas. He called for greater urgency in carrying out the Paris Agreement as the leaders of the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) together with WMO launched a brand-new climate change coalition. Every year 12.6 million people perish due to environmental risks — air pollution in particular — and the group aims to lower that number. Average temperatures in 2017 were 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to the UN, while global average concentrations of carbon dioxide were greater than 400 parts per million (ppm). Taalas said climate change is impacting developing countries — the cost of natural disasters reached a new record in 2017. The three UN organizations already work together, but under the new coalition will strengthen action on guarding health from climate change- and environment -related risks. Taalas, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and UNEP executive director Erik Solheim came together to form the coalition and spoke to delegates at the World Health Assembly about opportunities and challenges to come. Related: 95% of the world’s population breathes unsafe air Air pollution is one such challenge. Around seven million people die prematurely each year from diseases related to air pollution, such as respiratory illness, cancer, heart disease, or strokes. According to the UN, in many of the world’s major cities, air pollution is higher than WHO air quality standards. Pollutants which threaten human health also contribute to climate change and damage the environment — examples are waste incineration or black carbon from diesel engines. The UN said lowering what they called short-lived climate pollutant emissions coming from agriculture, traffic, industry, or cookstoves, for example, “could help trim the rate of global warming by about 0.5 degrees Celsius by 2050.” Solheim said, “If we speed up on renewable energy solutions, fewer people will die from air pollution. Let’s create a pollution-free environment.” One of the coalition’s first outcomes will be a Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health , which will take place at WHO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland from October 30 to November 1. + United Nations Climate Change Images via Depositphotos

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This lightweight, soda can-sized air purifier destroys mold, VOCs and odors

May 30, 2018 by  
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Did you know that indoor air pollution can be as bad as or worse than outdoor air pollution? From off-gassing chemicals in paints to mold and dust, the contaminated air inside our homes and offices negatively impacts our health and can lead to fatigue and dizziness, or even respiratory diseases in the long-term. Fortunately, air purification technology has improved in recent years to offer easy and affordable ways to combat indoor air pollutants. Read on to see our review of one such product, the Luft Qi , an on-the-go and filter-free air purifier billed as the smallest of its kind in the world. About Luft Qi Developed by Taiwanese company Titus & Wayne, the Luft Qi air purifier is described as the “first compact air purifier using nanotechnology.” The air purifier uses a method called photocatalytic oxidation (PCO), a technology originally invented by NASA to prevent food spoilage — for instance, by removing bacteria in meat or pesticides from fruits and vegetables — and has since been applied to air purification. Here’s how it works: broad-spectrum ultraviolet light — Luft Qi uses UV-A LEDs  — is combined with a tungsten oxide modified titanium oxide (TiO2) filter to create highly reactive oxidizers that break down harmful molecular-sized and microbial pollutants. Luft Qi isn’t the first to use PCO technology for air purification; followers of Ellen DeGeneres might remember her shout-out to the Airocide PCO air purifiers on her show in 2013. Advantages of Luft Qi Unlike Airocide, however, Luft Qi is much smaller and more compact. Made of aluminum , the soda can-shaped device only weighs 160 grams and its modern design, available in six different colors, means it probably won’t clash with your existing setup. Moreover, since Luft Qi only uses PCO, the device is conveniently filter-free, meaning that you’ll never need to buy or replace the filter. When plugged in, Luft Qi will gently draw air in through its perforated base, where pollutants are then broken down through photocatalytic oxidation. The purified air is then pushed through the top, with carbon dioxide and water molecules as byproducts. PCO technology has also proven effective at removing ultra fine particulates, airborne mold spores and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde and exhaust fumes. Luft Qi is designed for on-the-go convenience and comes with a standard 3.3-foot-long USB-C to USB-A cable that can plug into a laptop or any USB port adapter outlet. The startup says that the device can be safely used 24 hours a day and attribute its minimal electricity demands of 2.5W to an energy-efficient design. The air purifier uses a hidden brushless fan — the same as those used for computer servers — with a measurable noise level of around 25 decibels, which isn’t very quiet, but isn’t loud enough to be distracting either; it is quieter than most air purifiers. Luft Qi is estimated to last at least 4.5 years without replacement. Disadvantages of Luft Qi Despite Luft Qi’s many benefits, there are several downsides to the product. Firstly, since Luft Qi only uses PCO technology instead of filters, the device cannot remove larger particulates like traditional devices with HEPA filters can. This means Luft Qi will not eliminate pollen, dust, dust mites or pet dander, which are among the major contributors to poor indoor air quality and allergies. Due to its small size, Luft Qi also requires a long time to achieve desirable results and is best used in contained rooms such as bedrooms or car interiors. And while Luft Qi does eliminate odors, it also does so at a fairly slow rate; carbon filters are a better choice for odor removal. Moreover, PCO technology produces carbon dioxide as a byproduct. While the amount produced is likely small, those who want to keep Luft Qi turned on 24 hours a day will need to introduce adequate ventilation. Speaking of constant use, Luft Qi’s PCO technology also has its drawbacks for those hoping to sleep with it plugged in at night. While the constant fan noise can be dismissed as white noise, the device’s bright blue light can be distracting in an otherwise dark room. Putting Luft Qi on the ground isn’t a good option either; the air purifier should be elevated above the floor since it relies on the surrounding environment’s air circulation to work optimally. Should You Buy Luft Qi? Overall, Luft Qi isn’t the best air purifier given its small size and the limitations of PCO technology. If you really want to get rid of indoor air pollution, it’s best to use PCO technology in conjunction with air purifiers with filters. Luft Qi’s relatively steep price may also put buyers off. However, if you’re mainly interested in removing VOCs, microbial pollutants, odors and mold spores in small, contained environments, Luft Qi is a good choice. This particularly holds true in small offices or rooms in tropical and humid environments where mold is an ever-present concern, like Taiwan, where the Luft Qi startup is based. Furthermore, the product is nicely designed, well-constructed and doesn’t become hot to the touch. Titus & Wayne launched Luft Qi on Indiegogo in a successful crowdfunding campaign that’s since raised more than $215,000. From now until mid-June, Luft Qi is available for $99 , not including shipping, in an early-bird special with an estimated delivery in July 2018. The product’s regular retail price is $169. + Luft Qi Images via Luft Qi

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This lightweight, soda can-sized air purifier destroys mold, VOCs and odors

This spiraling sculpture can absorb the emissions of 90,000 cars

April 25, 2018 by  
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Kengo Kuma just unveiled a spiraling, air-purifying sculpture that can absorb the emissions produced by 90,000 cars in a year. Kuma’s “Breath/ng” is made from a cutting-edge fabric with a nano-molecule activated core that separates and absorbs toxic molecules. Developed by Anemotech , this pollution-neutralizing material uses the natural flow of air to purify the surrounding environment. Created from 120 hand-folded origami “ Breath ” panels (each 1.2 meters by 1.2 meters), Kuma’s spiraling work is about six meters tall. The installation’s 175 square meters of fabric are enough to absorb the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from around 90,000 cars per year. The spiral is suspended from a single carbon fiber rod and fixed in place by 46 unique 3D-printed joints, which were made with a HP Multi Jet Fusion printer . Related: A giant, air-purifying “cloud” just popped up in the middle of Milan The entire “Breath/ng” structure was developed using advanced Dassault Systèmes software and tools. In fact, the French company — a leader in the 3D design world — invited and inspired Kuma to explore the theme, “Design in the Age of Experience.” Along with Kuma’s spiral, Dassault Systèmes presented other ecological works by Daan Roosegaarde and Wesley Goatley e Superflux at Milan Design Week 2018. The powerful aesthetics of Kuma’s air purifying installation offer a great zero-energy solution for contaminated cities. The installation boldly transforms the nearly-invisible problem of air pollution into a visible, tangible experience. + Kengo Kuma + Milan Design Week Images via Maria Novozhilova for Inhabitat

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This spiraling sculpture can absorb the emissions of 90,000 cars

95% of the world’s population breathes unsafe air

April 17, 2018 by  
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Are you breathing clean air ? A new air pollution study suggests you might not be. It found that almost 95 percent of people in the world live in areas with higher fine particle levels than the World Health Organization ‘s air quality guidelines. According to The Guardian , poor communities are taking the brunt of the burden. The Health Effects Institute recently published the State of Global Air/2018 report. They drew upon satellite data and improved monitoring to discover that the majority of us could be breathing unhealthy air. According to the report , “An estimated 95 percent of people live in areas where ambient (outdoor) fine particulate matter concentrations (small dust or soot particles in the air) exceed the World Health Organization’s Air Quality Guideline of 10 µg/m3. Almost 60 percent live in areas where fine particulate matter exceeds even the least stringent WHO interim air quality target of 35 µg/m3.” Related: New map reveals world’s most toxic countries The 2018 report also delves into household air pollution. More than one third of the world’s population is exposed to polluted air from the burning of solid fuels for heating or cooking indoors. Reportedly, “For them, fine particulate matter levels in the home can exceed the air quality guidelines by as much as 20 times.” Air pollution has been connected to sickness and early death — just last year, exposure to polluted air played a role in over six million deaths around the world, according to experts. Half of the deaths were in India and China . And the gap between the most and least polluted countries is increasing: it’s now 11-fold compared to six-fold in 1990, Health Effects Institute vice president Bob O’Keefe told The Guardian. But, he said even though countries may have a ways to go on cleaning the air, there are reasons for hope — such as India’s focus on electrification. O’Keefe said China “seems to be now moving aggressively,” as they put stronger controls in place and work to cut coal . You can explore the data from the State of Global Air/2018 on the report’s website . + State of Global Air/2018 Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1 , 2 )

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White Castle is now offering ‘bleeding’ vegan Impossible Burger sliders

April 17, 2018 by  
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Iconic fast-food chain White Castle is now offering a vegan version of its signature sliders, with the “beef” provided by Redwood City-based start-up Impossible Foods . It’s the first time that a major chain has offered the meatless burger alternative and marks a shift in what consumers are demanding these days. The Impossible slider re-creates the sensation of eating meat, complete with “blood,” in hopes to bridge the gap between the dry veggie burgers of yore and real meat. While the Impossible Burger is offered at 1,300 different restaurants in the United States, including Fat Burger, Umami Burger, and Momofuko Nishi, its featured debut at White Castle, the largest chain to partner with Impossible Foods, is a landmark for the companies involved. Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown hopes that the White Castle partnership will help the burgeoning vegan “meat” company better understand how to “popularize plant-based meat with mainstream burger lovers.” Founded in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas, White Castle is credited as the first fast-food chain as well as the inventor of the slider. It also has been owned and operated by the Ingram family for four generations. White Castle CEO Lisa Ingram cites the strong relationship that the company has with its customers as a primary reason to explore a vegan burger option.  “It really starts by listening to our customers as we try to do with all of our innovations,” Ingram told Marketplace . “We also have some customers that grew up on White Castle but have decided to be vegetarians… This was a natural evolution for us when we found out that Impossible Foods was creating a plant-based product that looked and tastes like beef both for the people that like meats and for the people that are choosing to have a vegetarian diet.” Related: NYC’s first vegan butcher shop set to open this spring Founded in 2011, Impossible Foods opened its first high-volume production facility in Oakland , California in the fall of 2017. Despite this facility’s taking up a full city-block, the demand for Impossible Foods “meat” has become so high that the company is looking double its production in the near future. The Impossible Burger slider at White Castle costs $1.99, in contrast to the $.77 per beef slider, and is available in select stores in New York, New Jersey and the Chicago area. If this trial run proves to be a success, consumers may soon be able to enjoy the Impossible slider at White Castles across the United States . Via Grub Street and Marketplace Images via Impossible Foods and White Castle

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White Castle is now offering ‘bleeding’ vegan Impossible Burger sliders

This moss can naturally eliminate arsenic from water

April 17, 2018 by  
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Through the magic of moss , anything is possible. Scientists at the University of Stockholm have discovered that  Warnstofia fluitans , or floating hook moss, is capable of extracting arsenic from water. The miracle moss is quick, too – it can make water safe to drink in just an hour. Scientists hope to use the breakthrough to develop wetland areas that can filter out arsenic from mining waste to make water clean for people, agriculture and animals downstream. “Our experiments show that the moss has a very high capacity to remove arsenic,” said research assistant and study co-author Arifin Sandhi . “It takes no more than an hour to remove 80 per cent of the arsenic from a container of water. By then, the water has reached such a low level of arsenic that it is no longer harmful to people.” Native to northern Sweden, floating hook moss offers a green, locally-based solution to a problem plaguing its native habitat. “We hope that the plant-based wetland system that we are developing will solve the arsenic problem in Sweden’s northern mining areas,” said study leader Maria Greger , commenting on the environmental legacy of the Swedish mining industry. Although the use of arsenic compounds in wood products was banned in 2004, the deadly element still infiltrates drinking water through mining, which exposes the water table to natural arsenic found deep within Sweden’s bedrock layer. Related: Gooey cactus guts remove arsenic and bacteria from polluted water Arsenic also poses a threat to agriculture , in which crops absorb arsenic-tainted water through their roots. “How much arsenic we consume ultimately depends on how much of these foods we eat, as well as how and where they were grown,” explained Greger. “Our aim is that the plant-based wetland system we are developing will filter out the arsenic before the water becomes drinking water and irrigation water.” The researchers envision the moss being applied to specific areas through its deliberate cultivation in streams and other bodies of water that pose a high risk of arsenic. Lessons learned in Sweden may then serve other parts of the world that also suffer from arsenic-tainted water. Via Treehugger Images via  Arifin Sandhi and Maria Greger

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The 6 most pressing environmental issuesand what you can do to help solve them

April 12, 2018 by  
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More than four decades after the first Earth Day , there are still many environmental concerns for communities around the world to address; perhaps none so pressing as man-made climate change . But progress is being made, and it could be argued that awareness about environmental issues is at an all-time high. For this coming  Earth Day we’re shining a light on the most pressing environmental concerns that affect us al, and showing what you can do to help restore ecological balance to this amazing place we call home. Image via Shutterstock CLIMATE CHANGE While 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change  is occurring and greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause, political will has not been strong enough so far to initiate a massive policy shift away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable forms of energy. Perhaps more extreme weather events such as droughts , wildfires, heat waves and flooding will convince the public to put more pressure on policymakers to act urgently to curb carbon emissions and address this issue before it’s too late. Related: 14 Awe-Inspiring Aerial Photographs Capture the Beauty of the Earth What You Can Do: Your home and transportation could be major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. A certified home energy audit can help make your home more energy efficient. If you commute via biking, walking or public transportation you are doing your part to fight global warming, but if you must own a motor vehicle, consider trading in your gas guzzler for a fuel efficient hybrid or better yet—go electric . When you fly, make sure to reduce your carbon footprint from air miles traveled with carbon offsets from a respected company such as Carbonfund.org . Image via Shutterstock POLLUTION Air pollution and climate change are closely linked, as the same greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet are also creating smoggy conditions in major cities that endanger public health. If you’ve seen horrifying images of pollution-choked Chinese cities and think the smog is isolated to Beijing or Shanghai, think again. U.S. scientists are finding that Chinese pollution is intensifying storms over the Pacific Ocean and contributing to more erratic weather in the U.S. Water and soil pollution might not get the media attention that air pollution does, but they are still important public health concerns. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council , dirty water is the world’s biggest health risk. While the Clean Water Act did much to make American water safe from harmful pollutants, today there is a new threat to clean water coming from the shale gas fracking boom taking place across the country and from the EPA itself . Soil contamination is a major issue across the world. In China, nearly 20 percent of arable land has been contaminated by toxic heavy metals. Soil pollution threatens food security and poses health risks to the local population. The use of pesticides and fertilizers are also major factors in soil pollution Related: Nine Chinese Cities More Polluted Than Beijing What You Can Do: Many of the solutions to air pollution are similar to those for climate change, though it’s important to either make a concerted effort to drive less, or switch to a lower-emissions vehicle. Switching over to green energy is also important, as that will cut back on fossil fuel emissions. If you aren’t able to install solar or wind power on your property or if your utility gets its electricity from dirty energy sources, consider signing up for a renewable energy producer like Ethical Electric that connects consumers to 100 percent renewable energy sources to power their homes. Image via Shutterstock DEFORESTATION Forests are important to mitigating climate change because they serve as “carbon sinks,” meaning that they absorb CO2 that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere and worsen global warming. It is estimated that 15 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation . Cutting down trees also threatens animals and humans who rely on healthy forests to sustain themselves, and the loss of tropical rainforests is particularly concerning because around 80 percent of the world’s species reside in these areas. About 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down in the past 50 years to make way for cattle ranching. That’s a double whammy for the climate because cattle flatulence is a major source of methane gas, which contributes more to short term climate change than carbon emissions. Related: New Web App Uses Google Maps to Track Deforestation as it Happens What You Can Do:  You can support Rainforest Alliance and similar organizations, stop using paper towels and use washable cloths instead, use cloth shopping bags (instead of paper), and look at labels to make sure you only use FSC-certified wood and paper products. You can also boycott products made by palm oil companies that contribute to deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. Image via Shutterstock WATER SCARCITY As the population increases and climate change causes more droughts, water scarcity is becoming more of an issue. Only three percent of the world’s water is fresh water and 1.1 billion people lack access to clean, safe drinking water. As the current drought in California dramatically shows, access to water is not just an issue for developing countries but the United States as well. In fact, by the middle of this century more than a third of all counties in the lower 48 states will be at higher risk of water shortages with more than 400 of the 1,100 counties facing an extremely high risk. Related: Could Solar-powered Desalination Solve California’s Water Supply Problem? What You Can Do: Just as energy efficiency is considered an important solution to the issues of climate change and pollution, water efficiency can help us deal with water scarcity. Some ideas to be more water efficient include installing an ENERGY STAR -certified washer, using low-flow faucets, plugging up leaks, irrigating the lawn in the morning or evening when the cooler air causes less evaporation, taking shorter showers and not running sink water when brushing your teeth. Also, consider using non-toxic cleaning products and eco-friendly pesticides and herbicides that won’t contaminate groundwater. Seventh Generation uses plant-derived ingredients for their household cleaning products. Image via Shutterstock LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY Increasing human encroachment on wildlife habitats is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity that threatens food security, population health and world stability. Climate change is also a major contributor to biodiversity loss, as some species aren’t able to adapt to changing temperatures. According to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Index , biodiversity has declined 27 percent in the last 35 years. Related: Costa Rica is Closing its Zoos and Freeing All Captive Animals What You Can Do: As consumers we can all help protect biodiversity by purchasing products that don’t harm the environment. Next time you are at the grocery store, check to see if food packaging contains any of the following eco-labels : USDA Organic, Fair Trade Certified, Marine Stewardship Council or Green Seal. Other product certifications include Forest Stewardship Council Certification, Rainforest Alliance Certification and Certified Wildlife Friendly. Also, reusing , recycling and composting are easy ways to protect biodiversity. Image via Shutterstock SOIL EROSION AND DEGRADATION Unsustainable industrial agriculture practices have resulted in soil erosion and degradation that leads to less arable land, clogged and polluted waterways, increased flooding and desertification. According to the World Wildlife Fund , half of the earth’s topsoil has been lost in the last 150 years. Related: Soil Erosion Could Cause Food Crisis, Expert Warns What You Can Do: Support sustainable agriculture that puts people and the planet above profit. Support sustainable agriculture by visiting the Sustainable Table for tips on fighting for a sustainable food system. On a smaller scale, you can make a difference in your backyard by switching to non-toxic green pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. The website Eartheasy.com sells natural lawn care products such as corn gluten organic fertilizer. + Earth Day Lead image via Deposit Photos

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The 6 most pressing environmental issuesand what you can do to help solve them

China is winning the war on air pollution

March 14, 2018 by  
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China is notorious for having some of the worst air pollution on the planet. In 2014 the country declared war on smog, and the results are in: China is killing it. In just four years, pollution is down 32 percent on average. Now, it’s fair to say that the country is leading the way in proving to the world that meaningful change is possible. Getting to this point wasn’t easy. The Chinese government has been very aggressive in controlling pollution by prohibiting new coal plants and forcing existing ones to reduce emissions, closing some steel and coal mines, and reducing automobile traffic. It has also invested heavily in renewable energy. And it’s working; Beijing has seen air pollution fall by 35 percent and Shijiazhuang has realized a drop of 39 percent. China’s most polluted city of Baoding had a reduction of 38 percent. Related: China calls America selfish amid Trump attempt to revive coal Almost every region in China has beat its targets, and the results go beyond allowing people to breathe easier – experts believe that Chinese citizens could live 2.4 years longer on average if these declines persist. Via Popular Mechanics and The New York Times Images via Deposit Photos ( 1 , 2 )

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China is winning the war on air pollution

German cities get green light from court to ban diesel vehicles

February 28, 2018 by  
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The Federal Administrative Court ruled this week that German cities can legally ban diesel vehicles. German states sought to appeal local bans by Stuttgart and Duesseldorf, but the federal ruling paves the way for cities to impose bans as they see fit to help improve air quality. Germany is known for its passion for cars, and while Stuttgart is home to Porsche , Mercedes-Benz, it is also home to some of the worst air pollution in Germany. To help tackle the problem, the city banned older diesel vehicles on days when pollution is heavy. But the country’s powerful auto industry lobby worked to push against the ban. Related: German government votes to ban new combustion engine cars by 2030 The court ruling doesn’t impose any bans itself. Instead, it opens the doors for localities to decide how to manage their own air quality. A ban potentially leaves some car owners and the auto industry lobby in a difficult position, but it is also being hailed as a huge win for the environment. Via CNET Images via Deposit Photos ( 1 , 2 )

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German cities get green light from court to ban diesel vehicles

First plastic-free supermarket aisle opens in Amsterdam

February 28, 2018 by  
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The world’s first plastic-free supermarket aisle opened on February 28 at the Amsterdam location of the Netherlands -based supermarket chain Ekoplaza. Within this aisle, customers will be able to choose from more than 700 plastic-free products. Eventually, the company hopes to roll out plastic-free aisles at all of its 74 locations. The aisle arrives at a time when global concern over plastic pollution is on the rise and campaigns are being waged to urge companies and governments to change their plastic policies. “For decades shoppers have been sold the lie that we can’t live without plastic in food and drink,” Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, told the Guardian . “A plastic-free aisle dispels all that. Finally we can see a future where the public have a choice about whether to buy plastic or plastic-free. Right now we have no choice.” Ekoplaza is proud to offer an environmentally friendly alternative to its customers. “We know that our customers are sick to death of products laden in layer after layer of thick plastic packaging,” Ekoplaza chief executive Erik Does told the Guardian . “Plastic-free aisles are a really innovative way of testing the compostable biomaterials that offer a more environmentally friendly alternative to plastic packaging.” The plastic-free items, which incorporate biodegradable materials whenever possible, will not be any more expensive than those wrapped with plastic. According to anti-plastic campaigners, the aisle will serve as a “testbed for innovative new compostable bio-materials as well as traditional materials such as glass, metal and cardboard.” Related: Iceland supermarket commits to eliminating plastic within five years According to activists, the grocery store sector accounts for 40 percent of all plastic packaging. “There is absolutely no logic in wrapping something as fleeting as food in something as indestructible as plastic,” Sutherland said. “Plastic food and drink packaging remains useful for a matter of days yet remains a destructive presence on the Earth for centuries afterwards.” Ekoplaza’s first step into a plastic-free world should be emulated by others. “Europe’s biggest supermarkets must follow Ekoplaza’s lead and introduce a plastic-free aisle at the earliest opportunity to help turn off the plastic tap,” added Sutherland. Via The Guardian Images via Ekoplaza

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First plastic-free supermarket aisle opens in Amsterdam

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