Satellites show hope for Brazil’s disappearing Atlantic forest

August 2, 2019 by  
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While international media focuses on the important and devastating losses in the Amazon rainforest, an extensive forest biome along Brazil’s eastern coast is rapidly disappearing. The Mata Atlântica biome hosts incredible biodiversity and is critical for fighting climate change through its massive contribution to carbon sequestration. It is considered one of the most threatened large tropical forest ecosystems, but a new study finally reveals a glimmer of hope — the area of deforestation is bad, but not as bad as it used to be. According to the joint report by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research and Fundação SOS, heavily deforested areas have nearly 10 percent more forest cover than previous years. Their findings are based on innovative satellite mapping. Related: Deforestation and climate change combined may split Amazon in two “Just as important as analyzing the loss of Mata Atlântica in the last [most recent] period is to look at the historical series and think about prospects going forward,” said André de Almeida Cunha, an ecology professor at the at the University of Brasília. The forest used to stretch down Brazil’s eastern coast and through Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. Now, it has been reduced to small, fragmented protected areas. The majority of deforestation is because of cattle grazing and land clearing for other agribusiness as well as real estate development. “Mata Atlântica is still the most threatened biome,” explained Pedro Brancalion, a researcher at the University of São Paulo. “The [deforestation] process we see in the Amazon began 500 years ago in Mata Atlântica. There is still deforestation [underway] in Mata Atlântica [today] where biodiversity losses have not been offset by reforestation initiatives.” While the report shows that some reforestation efforts have been successful, not all reforestation is equal. Throughout Brazil and much of the world, some reforestation initiatives have focused on planting monocrop trees for agriculture, such as eucalyptus or palm oil. While these trees are better than nothing, they are eventually harvested and do not provide the benefits of biodiversity . Via Mongabay Image via ICLEI América do Sul

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Satellites show hope for Brazil’s disappearing Atlantic forest

Rethinking conservation: the Amazon through the lens of a NatGeo photographer

July 15, 2019 by  
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The best of live interviews from GreenBiz events. This episode: Is conserving natural resources in the Amazon rainforest as black-and-white as we think?

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Rethinking conservation: the Amazon through the lens of a NatGeo photographer

One-sixth of the world’s economy soon could be covered by carbon neutral commitments

July 15, 2019 by  
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A new analysis shows that 16 percent of the global economy could soon be covered by net-zero goals.

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One-sixth of the world’s economy soon could be covered by carbon neutral commitments

Deforestation and climate change combined may split Amazon in two

June 27, 2019 by  
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Deforestation is a well-documented enemy in the Amazon, but new research suggests that the climate crisis , when coupled with the destruction of trees, could mean the end of the rainforest as we know it. The Amazon contains at least ten percent of the world’s biodiversity, but the synergistic impact of a changing climate and tree clearing could destroy up to 58 percent of the trees by 2050 and effectively split the forest in two. A new study, published in Nature Climate Change , developed and applied models of different climate scenarios to over 5,000 species of trees and layered that with possible deforestation scenarios. Related: Deforestation in tropical countries linked to European diets in new study For example, their computer program modeled scenarios where current rates of carbon emissions and deforestation remain constant and discovered that between 19 and 36 percent of trees would be lost to deforestation in addition to 31 to 37 percent from climate change. As if it weren’t enough, the loss of these species will be detrimental to other plants, animals and people who live within and depend upon the ecosystem. “The impacts of deforestation are local. We can see clearly the area we are impacting,” study author Vitor Gomes. “Climate change may impact the whole area. Climate will be changing all over the forest area.” The scientists’ models also indicated that given the current rate and location of deforestation activities, the Amazon might be split in two, with human settlements between the two disconnected sides. This ecosystem fragmentation is also devastating to animals, particularly migratory birds and wide-roaming species. In addition to policies that curb emissions and limit deforestation, the researchers suggest establishing more protected areas within the forest. Protected areas have been documented to retain more biodiversity and can be effectively managed and even sustainably harvested when under the control of local and indigenous groups. Via Earther , Nature Climate Change Image via Ibama

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Deforestation and climate change combined may split Amazon in two

The World Surf League is pledging to eliminate single-use plastics and become carbon-neutral by the end of 2019

June 27, 2019 by  
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The World Surf League (WSL)  is known for being the authority for all things surfing, famous for showcasing the most talented professional surfers to the rest of the world. Now, they’ve decided to use that powerful platform to set an example for sports organizations everywhere by committing to substantial environmental initiatives. Earlier in June, the WSL announced a series of pledges that will apply to all WSL Championship Tour and Big Wave Tour events. They include becoming carbon neutral globally by the end of 2019, eliminating single-serve plastics by the end of 2019 and leaving each place better than they found it. The WSL runs more than 230 global surfing events each year. Considering the WSL’s millions of passionate fans, and the organization’s plan to hold competitions throughout Australia, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa, Tahiti, France, Portugal, California and Hawaii in 2019 alone, these public commitments are bound to inspire others to address critical issues about the state of our environment. Related: Kin Travel is offering unique vacation ideas that benefit destinations through conservation and sustainability Along with the announcement came an expansion of the WSL’s already-active ocean conservation efforts by their launch of a global campaign to “ Stop Trashing Waves ” with its non-profit arm, WSL PURE (“Protecting Understanding and Respecting the Environment”). WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt spoke of breaking new ground in the world of sports when it comes to the “urgent battle against climate change and ocean pollution,” saying, “We believe it’s our responsibility to be ‘all in’ with our efforts to protect the ocean and beaches amid the devastating climate crisis we all face. We invite everyone who cares about the ocean to join us.” So how does the WSL plan on carrying out these goals? For starters, the organization is offsetting its carbon footprint by investing in REDD+ and VCS (Verified Carbon Standard) certified carbon offset projects. These projects are focused on restoring and protecting natural and renewable energy ecosystems based in each of the WSL’s operating regions. The WSL will also be making an effort to limit non-essential travel and implement policies to reduce carbon emissions within its offices. 11-time WSL Champion and surfing legend, Kelly Slater, spoke of the announcement with enthusiasm. “I think it’s a great stance and an important message to send to people around the world. The ocean is vital to everyone, for food, for oxygen and especially to us surfers. I think everyone should make it their priority to care about this issue and make changes in their lives to help.” + World Surf League Images via World Surf League

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The World Surf League is pledging to eliminate single-use plastics and become carbon-neutral by the end of 2019

The climate rebellion inside Amazon

June 24, 2019 by  
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The online giant faces a growing revolution from within that demands it get serious about climate action.

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The climate rebellion inside Amazon

The pros and cons of online versus in-store shopping

June 20, 2019 by  
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In as little as a few clicks and confirmations your online purchase can be at your doorstep in a matter of hours. Online shopping is so simple there is barely enough time to consider the process your order goes through in order to reach its destination, not to mention the cost! It’s easy to condemn Americans’ obsession with online retail as unsustainable over-consumption, but when the numbers are pitted against in-store shopping, online shopping is actually the more eco-friendly option. Think of delivery services as public transportation for your packages, where everyone’s package rides the same bus instead of your personal car. Online shopping Online shopping constitutes one out of every seven purchases around the world, that’s nearly 15 percent of all shopping. The online retail industry is worth over $3.5 trillion, a massive total that rises by 20 percent every year. The average carbon footprint of a package is difficult to calculate because there are huge discrepancies. For example, the time and resources used comparing a local clothing delivery and a refrigerator that travels across the world from China. The advantages In Britain, the average package produces just six ounces of carbon dioxide, which sounds tiny but has to be multiplied by millions of deliveries. Going to the store to pick up your item and back, averaging an estimated 13 miles, produces approximately 144 ounces of carbon dioxide , which is 24 times more than the delivered package. You would have to pick up 24 items in order to break even. According to a researcher and author of Decarbonizing Logistics , even when you consider mis-deliveries and returns, the averages point to online shopping as a more environmentally-friendly option. Nowadays, many popular brands no longer have (or never had) storefronts. The carbon footprint of running a website alone is also drastically less than the energy it takes to power and maintain a building space. The disadvantages The biggest polluter for delivery services is the last mile, and those emissions are multiplied every time the delivery is unsuccessful. Between 12 and 60 percent of all deliveries are unsuccessful on the first try, so they often make a second or third attempt. If they are still unsuccessful, the consumer must drive to a warehouse to pick up the package– negating all benefits in terms of carbon emissions . Furthermore, about one fifth of all products purchased online are returned, which can double the carbon footprint. In-store shopping The advantages Shopping in person partially cuts down on returns because customers are able to touch, see and try on the items before purchasing. This means they are more likely to select something they like and that fits them and avoid the common online practice of buying one item in a few sizes and returning all but one. Additional advantages of in-store shopping lie in the personal choices people make to reduce their carbon footprint. Many people walk or bike to stores, while others utilize public transportation . Although a bus still has a carbon footprint, you technically aren’t adding additional emissions since the bus was simply completing a pre-determined route. Moreover, shoppers tend to purchase more than one item at a time, which minimizes the emissions per item. The disadvantages Depending on the distance the consumer travels and their mode of transportation, online shopping is highly inefficient. In most cases, shoppers drive individually in personal cars to malls or commercial areas. Although shoppers can make personal choices to cut down their emissions, such as carpooling and staying local, research shows these steps still do not compensate for the benefits of online shopping . Related: Over 6000 employees demand Amazon take climate change seriously How to make smarter shopping choices New innovations Delivery services are growing rapidly and getting creative. Amazon is piloting drone deliveries and other companies are experimenting with ground-based robots. New apps and shared economy services are also popping up, like bike courier companies. One innovative app called Roadie is playing with the idea of a package hitchhiking system that connects your package with a delivery already heading in that direction. Slow shopping You’ve heard of slow food , but it turns out that slow deliveries might be more environmentally friendly too. Most people who can afford it opt for speedy deliveries, but this forces retailers to send packages out individually, immediately and sometimes in emptier trucks just in order to meet deadlines. With the wiggle room of a few more days, shippers can bundle items going to a similar location together and reduce the number of trips and emissions. Buy Local If you can walk or bike to the store, that’s a great option. If you have to ship something, check out different retailers and chose the one located closest to you. The less distance your package travels, the lower the carbon footprint. Conspicuous consumption There are a few ways to be a more responsible buyer. If you know a delivery is coming, make sure to be home when the delivery arrives so it does not have to double back. Select slower delivery times when not in a rush and shop more purposefully to avoid returns. Overall, the best way to reduce retail-related emissions is to buy less! Carefully consider what you need and do not buy items that you will barely use. But most importantly, always consider all items before a purchase. Are they necessary? Afterall, an item not purchased has the lowest footprint. Via Ensia Images via StockSnap , HutchRock, kasjanf, RouteXL

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Study reveals mass plant extinction rate since Industrial Revolution

June 12, 2019 by  
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New research suggests that even by conservative efforts, the number of plants that have gone extinct in the last three centuries is 500 times higher than before the industrial revolution, and the rate of extinction is skyrocketing. According to the survey, at least 571 plants have become extinct since 1750, which should be a “frightening” concern to anyone who eats or breathes. “Plants underpin all life on Earth. They provide the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat, as well as making up the backbone of the world’s ecosystems ,” said study author Eimear Nic Lughadha from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew . The scientists also believe that their confirmed list of 571 plants is only the tip of the iceberg. In most cases, it can take years to declare a species officially extinct because of the landscapes that have to be scoured for any last survivors. “How are you going to check the entirety of the Amazon for your lost plant?” Maria Vorontsova, also from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, told The Guardian . Furthermore, there are thousands of species that are functionally extinct, meaning there are so few remaining plants that the chances of reproduction and survival are nearly — if not entirely — impossible. Despite their conservative tally, the researchers’ estimate is still four times higher than what is officially recorded on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List . “It is way more than we knew and way more than should have gone extinct,” said Vorontsova. “It is frightening not just because of the 571 number, but because I think that is a gross underestimate.” According to the United Nations, another 1 million species are currently at risk of extinction. Many scientists believe that extinction and biodiversity should be in the news and keeping us up at night just as much as climate change , but that it is often a less acknowledged, and less funded, crisis. Financing and support for plants is especially challenging within the conservation field, because they just aren’t as cute as their endangered animal counterparts. Scientists often collect and save DNA samples from extinct plants in labs at places such as the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in hopes that innovative discoveries could help save other plants or one day bring back old ones. Via The Guardian Image via Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

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Study reveals mass plant extinction rate since Industrial Revolution

An eco-friendly gift guide for Fathers Day

June 12, 2019 by  
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This Father’s Day, give your dad a gift he will not only love, but one that also won’t hurt the planet nor gather dust on his shelf: quality time together! Here are a few ideas of ways to get outside and celebrate with the father figure in your life as well as some eco-friendly gadgets he will enjoy when you aren’t together. Visit a national park together June is one of the best times to visit one of the country’s national parks . Whether your dad is a serious hiker or more of a couch potato, he will love getting some fresh air and seeing a beautiful new landscape together. Most parks have options for easy day trips, walking tours and more intense hikes. Some have visitors centers, museums and cafes, and many have short paved trails that are accessible for a wider variety of ability levels . Related: How National Parks benefit the environment Here are a few popular parks for Father’s Day: Acadia National Park, Maine This park has miles of rugged coastline that can be too cold for most people during the rest of the year but are beautiful during the summer. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming Located near Yellowstone National Park, this park has gorgeous mountain vistas and overlook sites. It is popular in the summertime for mountaineering, climbing, hiking and walking. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia Only a few hours from Washington D.C., this park is gorgeous even from a car. There are a number of hikes and waterfall spots for different ability levels, plus you and your dad can brag about hiking part of the Appalachian Trail together. For more ideas, check out the National Parks Service’s Father’s Day Guide . Pick your own strawberries June is peak strawberry season in much of the U.S., and it’s a fun group activity with sweet treats along the way. Bring the loot home and make fresh strawberry shortcake for a Father’s Day dessert! Here is a guide to where you can go strawberry picking in different states. Make sure to call ahead to confirm that the farm is open, has strawberries left and is still offering a pick-your-own program this year. Give the gift of knowledge This year, take your father to a movie about the environment or nature, like The Biggest Little Farm . Not only will it allow you to spend quality time together, but you will learn something new about our planet. If your dad is interested, check out local events or talks about climate change and participate in local activism together! Sign up for a road race If you and your dad have a goal to be more active, exercise is a great way to spend quality time together while staying healthy . Research races in your area and pick one that works with your schedule and abilities. The entrance fee typically goes to help charities or medical research. Stick with a 5K or less if you’re a beginner — that is about 3.2 miles. If you’re more advanced, you can look for a 10K or higher. Related: 8 tips to make your exercise routine more eco-friendly Buy a bike tune-up Does your dad like to bike? Maybe he bikes to work, just on the weekends or very little at all, but we’ll bet his bike could use a tune-up to make sure it’s in the best and safest shape possible. Rent canoes or kayaks Now that the weather is nice, spend some time together as a family and rent canoes, kayaks or paddle boats. Many lakes and rivers have rental companies where you can pay by the hour or by the day. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, you could look at places where you can fish, too. Snag tickets to a sports game or concert Spend your money on an experience instead of an item. Do some research to find out if your dad’s favorite sports team or band is in town, and buy tickets to go with him. Plan a customized rainwater harvesting system If your dad loves to garden, get him a customized rainwater harvesting system. Many companies will take the time to learn about your dad’s space and needs and send an easy, customized kit to set it up. You can also try the DIY route . Get environmental gadgets for Dad Before buying more stuff for your dad, ask him what he wants. A good way to cut down on waste is by buying only something that he would really use. Otherwise, here are some good ideas: App-controlled light bulbs Does anyone else have a dad who is constantly reminding you to turn off the lights when you leave a room? Get your tech-savvy dad this app-controlled light bulb that lasts up to 27 years and uses just 10 percent of the energy needed for a conventional bulb. He can set timers for his schedule and say goodbye to the days of following the kids around and turning off lights after them. Swim shorts that save the sea These swimming shorts are made from 100 percent recycled plastic and are SPF 45+. Each design tells a story about ocean pollution , and they are available in matching Father + Son sizes. Grill tools made from recycled hockey sticks Is your dad a grill master and a sports fan? This California-based company recycles used hockey sticks to make unique grill utensils. According to the website: “We all know somebody (perhaps ourself) whose burgers always come off the grill looking like hockey pucks. They just don’t have the right tools.” Stainless steel coffee mug If your dad is like mine, he drinks a lot of coffee . Get him a sophisticated stainless steel coffee mug that he can take with him on the go or bring to coffee shops. Most shops offer a small discount for bringing your own mug, and some cities like Berkeley, California are piloting a program to start charging customers for using disposable coffee cups, just like plastic bags. Related: The problem with coffee pods and the eco-friendly alternatives to use instead Sustainable socks Put a twist on the typical gift for dad and buy him something from a sustainable brand. Check out the sock choices at Organic Basics . Organic wine Research the vineyards near you or your dad and find out which ones use organic, sustainable or biodynamic methods on their vineyard. After confirming its environmental impact, gift Dad with an eco-friendly bottle of wine. Via Earth 911 Images via Shutterstock

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An eco-friendly gift guide for Fathers Day

Mysterious Black Villa is to be tucked in the lush forests just outside of Moscow

June 12, 2019 by  
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There are few things we love more than dark cabins embedded into lush evergreen forests, and this tiny structure is no exception. The Black Villa in the Forest, designed by Russian architectural firm Archslon, has a certain air of mystery to it that is enhanced by its off-grid location just outside of bustling Moscow. The tiny cabin is a low-lying rectangular volume comprised of two blocks with an inner courtyard separating the two spaces. The entrance is through a small open area, which runs from the front of the house to the back. Related: Black charred-timber home embraces forest views in Zürich The front of the cabin is an elongated, open-air deck, or what the architects call a “bypass gallery,” that runs the length of one of the main blocks. The space is lined with a series of thin columns, giving a touch of modernity to the structure. The compact square footage and height was a strategic decision made to conserve as many existing trees as possible during construction. Clad in jet-black timber, the home was also designed to blend into its natural surroundings. The main living area is illumined by natural light thanks to a full wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. Along with providing panoramic views of the picturesque scenery, the glazed wall creates a strong, continual connection to the home’s forestscape surroundings. The two blocks separate the home into two living spaces: public and private. On one side of the cabin is the living room and open kitchen. On the other end is the master bedroom that is connected with another small room that can be used as a small office or library. Like the living space, the master bedroom has fully glazed walls, further integrating the surrounding nature into the cabin’s interior. + Archslon Via Archdaily Images via Archslon

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Mysterious Black Villa is to be tucked in the lush forests just outside of Moscow

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