These solar-powered cabins are made of natural materials and shungite plaster

June 29, 2020 by  
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The Karg Cabin provides owners with a cozy opportunity for off-grid living with 100% solar-power capabilities (and that’s not even its most sustainable feature). These honeycombed-shaped micro-homes are also made completely out of natural materials . The solar-powered Karg Cabins come in three different designs: a standard cabin, a micro-home (measuring about 129 to 215 square feet) and a sauna. Karg Cabins can be used year-round and are easily transported via flatbed to a variety of rural or urban locations without a need for environmentally damaging foundations. Solar energy is used to provide 100% of the power needed for everything from lighting to ventilation to electrical sockets. Related: Check out these amazing sustainable cabins by ZeroCabin The compact design, ease of transportation and variety of different model types makes the Karg perfect for a traveling office, guest house, micro-home or just a spot to detox and disconnect from normal, everyday life. When it comes to building materials, the company chooses only those that can be found in nature. The majority of the structure consists of straw panels, cellulose wool for insulation , wood and shungite, a type of carbon-rich mineral found in Russia that is known for its healing properties. The straw panels help ensure proper insulation due to its ability to store heat and provide long-term, stable temperatures indoors. Cellulose wool collects moisture and is breathable enough to maintain a comfortable interior climate yet strong enough to eliminate condensation and keep the construction damage-free during the wet season. Shungite plaster is believed to block electromagnetic waves (EMF), improving the sleep quality of those living inside the home and keeping the interior very quiet. Triple-glazed, reflective windows help bring in natural light and connect the occupant with the outside environment. The Estonian company offers an online feature where those interested can build their own Karg on the website to find out exactly how much their personalized, off-grid cabin or sauna will cost. + Karg Images via Karg

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These solar-powered cabins are made of natural materials and shungite plaster

Pela offers biodegradable phone cases and other zero-waste products

June 12, 2020 by  
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Cell phones have become ubiquitous in the world, with the average phone being replaced every 1.5 to 2 years. Along the way, the plastic cases used to protect our expensive investment quickly become outdated and end up in landfills, where they sit for hundreds to thousands of years. This process leaves an unimaginable amount of garbage behind for generations to come. So Jeremy Lang decided to do something about this plastic waste by creating Pela phone cases, which offer protection for every major model of phone and completely biodegrade into the soil at the end of their lifecycle. Pela’s 100% compostable phone cases and other sustainable products are part of a larger goal to remove 1 billion pounds of plastic from the waste stream by using renewable resources and other waste materials in production. In the case of Pela’s phone cases, a byproduct of flax harvest creates the strong yet biodegradable material used in manufacturing.  Related: Tokyo’s Olympic medals will be made from recycled phones With an expansive collection of colorful or clear cell phone cases that offer a variety of etched designs, Pela has moved onto other endeavors with the same goal of eliminating plastic from the production stream. Other products include AirPods cases, a zero-waste liquid screen protector, radiation reduction inserts, sunglasses and a guidebook on how to cultivate a positive outlook in life, called Pela’s Guide to Positivity. Most recently, Pela acquired a fellow Canadian company in a partnership that includes a plastic-free personal care collection. Habitat Botanicals develops soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and even deodorants that are zero-waste and plastic-free. “Pela is proud to welcome Habitat, our new sister company, to our waste-free family,” said Matt Bertulli, CEO of Pela. “Like any family dynamic, there are different practices and products, but one thing that ties us together is our goal to reduce global plastic waste.” Pela is also committed to giving back to causes that support the planet. As a Certified B Corporation, Climate Neutral Certified business and member of 1% For The Planet, Pela supports several nonprofits in their efforts to clean up the oceans and coastlines . By using technology to produce materials without plastic while also working to remove plastic from the waterways, Pela is taking a two-sided approach to the problem. Even with the efforts to create bio-based materials for its products, Pela felt that it could do more to ensure plastic is properly disposed of, so the company implemented a program called Pela 360. This initiative allows customers to mail back their old phone cases from other brands when they purchase a Pela case, so Pela can ensure proper recycling . The program is one more way Pela hopes to help bring plastic waste to an end. + Pela Images via Pela

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Pela offers biodegradable phone cases and other zero-waste products

Planning a low-water garden with expert Guy Banner

April 28, 2020 by  
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For those fortunate enough to have some outdoor space, gardening has become a top  pandemic  activity. It gets people outdoors doing something constructive while maintaining social distancing. You might even grow something to eat. But as all eco-conscious people know, gardening requires water. Sometimes a lot of water. For low-water gardening tips, we asked horticulturalist Guy Banner of  Red Butte Garden  in Salt Lake City for some tips. Banner worked as a field botanist for federal agencies like the U.S. Geological Service and the U.S. Forest Service in Oregon before going back home to Utah. He now co-owns  Grand Prismatic Seed , which specializes in hardy organic seeds, and works as the assistant horticulturalist in Red Butte’s Water Conservation Garden. Red Butte is a gorgeous 100-acre botanical garden with display gardens, hiking  trails , walking paths, talks, outdoor concerts, flower shows and lots of educational displays for home gardeners. It’s definitely worth a trip once we can leave our houses again. Inhabitat: Could you tell us a little bit about the history and inspiration behind Red Butte’s Water Conservation Garden? Banner: The  Water Conservation Garden (WCG) had been a long-term goal for the garden as a response to our arid climate and regional projected population growth as well as an opportunity to create a garden space with a different feel and plant palette. Ten years of planning and preparation came before the grand opening in the spring of 2017. The hope was to create a water conservation garden that demonstrated low to no water use through design,  plant selection and gardening techniques without sacrificing high aesthetic value. I believe it has been a success. The WCG hosts plants from similar climates across the globe but there is a special emphasis on housing many examples of the beautiful and well-adapted native flora of the western U.S. Inhabitat: Any tips for people planning a low-water garden at home? Banner: There are many lovely dry shade plants, but the majority of the most colorful and structural low-water plants need full sun and warmth. They are great for sunny south and west facing garden beds.  Rocks , slopes, windbreaks, evergreens and structures can be used to create warmer sheltered spaces for more cold-sensitive plants. Low-water plants tend to need good drainage in the  soil , especially in non-arid climates. You can find out your soil’s drainage by doing a simple DIY soil percolation test, like this one from Tennessee State University Cooperative Extension:  Soil Perc. Test. To improve drainage, plant on a slope, use rock, gravel, sharp sand and coarse organic material to amend heavy clay soils and/or use plants adapted to those conditions. You can also build mounded beds with large rocks, cobble, cinder blocks, etc. inside to give height and good drainage. If you are lucky enough to have a naturally moist and/or cool garden site, ‘low-water’ plants for you can have higher water needs. Draw inspiration from your native upland flora . Those plants will indicate plant types that can thrive in your area without extra water. Newly planted and transplanted plants will have to be watered regularly until their roots can establish. Establishment can take between one and three years, depending on how slow-growing the plant is. Only the most low-water plants can establish with little to no water after initial planting. Rainfall should be considered. Plants that grow from seed or seedlings in your beds will create the best root systems most quickly, because the roots are free to grow to their fullest potential while seeking out the nutrients and moisture in your garden soil. Mulch is a great way to improve soil texture, moderate temperature, reduce weeds and retain moisture. Use well-draining inorganic rock or gravel mulches around very xeric plants that are prone to rot if their stems and crowns are surrounded by excess moisture. The spongy organic material, beneficial bacteria and fungi of healthy living soils help plants to better utilize available water and nutrients. The natural symbiosis of roots with beneficial fungi (mycorrhiza) in upwards of 90% of studied plant families help plant roots access much more of the soil’s water and nutrients than they can on their own. To improve sterile and impoverished soils use healthy compost or beneficial soil life inoculants. Be minimal and cautious with pesticides, toxic materials and repeated heavy tillage. Visit and support your local nurseries, botanical gardens, university extension programs and gardening clubs. They can be excellent resources. Inhabitat: What are the biggest water-related mistakes people make when planting a garden? Banner: One of the biggest mistakes in low-water gardening is to mix plants with high and low water needs in the same irrigation zones. This creates a lot of hand watering or drowned low-water plants. The key is to create ‘hydrozones’ of plants with similar water needs that receive the same irrigation. Another water-related mistake is to not maximize the water that naturally falls on your garden area. Unless you live in a heavy rainfall area, slow, spread and sink the water you receive by integrating passive rainwater harvesting into your landscaping . It can be particularly useful to integrate your rain gutter downspouts, create swales and basins and then hydrozone the plantings based on how much water is retained. Be mindful of rainfall patterns, leaks and potential flooding in your designs. Inhabitat: What have you learned from working at the Water Conservation Garden? Banner: It’s always teaching me new things of course but here are some of the most poignant lessons that I have learned. The amount of water used to establish many of our garden’s low-water plants is more than some of the most xeric or sandy soil adapted plants can handle; they establish better now with the lower water scheduling. The natural slopes of our foothill garden have helped significantly with drainage of our rocky, clay soils. The use of native annuals and summer drought-adapted bulbs in the garden can create a wonderfully lush landscape by taking advantage of natural seasonal moisture. People are very excited and often surprised to see the wide range of possibilities in low water gardening that we display, and it inspires me to continue to make the garden botanically interesting, aesthetic and approachable. Inhabitat: Can you recommend some low-water plants? Banner:  My current favorite low-water plants are Northern Blazing Star (Liatris scariosa var. nieuwlandii), Shasta Sulphur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum var. polyanthum), Long trunked Spanish Dagger (Yucca gloriosa), Palmer’s penstemon (Penstemon palmeri), Smoothstem blazingstar (Mentzelia laevicaulis), Pale stonecrop (Sedum sediforme), Silverleaf Oak (Quercus hypoleucoides), Yellowhorn (Xanthoceras sorbifolium), Texas beargrass (Nolina texana),  Arizona fescue (Festuca arizonica), New Mexico Agave (Agave parryii var. neomexicana), ‘Frazier Park’ Big Berry Manzanita (Arctostaphylos glauca ‘Frazier Park’), Canyon Liveforever (Dudleya cymosa), Saint John’s Chamomile (Anthemis sancti-johannis) Inhabitat: Anything else our readers should know about water conservation and gardening? Banner: There is a lot to explore in finding the best water- conserving garden for your unique situation. While there are many general guidelines and recommendations you will find special opportunities as you dig deeper in your gardening practice (pun intended). Don’t be afraid to experiment and make some mistakes. Have fun with it! For more information on what to plant for your climate zone, check out this EPA site . + Guy Banner, Red Butte Garden Images via Teresa Bergen

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Canada unveils its first chemical-free public outdoor pool and it’s gorgeous

September 13, 2019 by  
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Toronto-based architects, gh3* have just unveiled a stunning chemical-free natural pool in the city of Edmonton, Alberta. The Borden Park Natural Swimming Pool, which replaced an existing pool that dated back to the 1950s, was incorporated with several innovative natural filtration processes that uses a combination of stone, gravel, sand and botanic filtering to keep the waters clean and pristine. The project was a massive undertaking from the start. The old pool and infrastructure had to be completely gutted to make room for the new, completely chemical -free swimming pool. The whopping 64,465 square foot complex is made up of seasonal pavilion and landscaped pool area that accommodates up to 400 swimmers. In addition to the main swimming area, there is also a kids pool. Next to the outdoor area, a large contemporary building houses the universal changing rooms, along with showers and bathrooms. There is also a sandy beach and picnic area, as well as a volleyball court and exhibition space. Related: Chemical-free community swimming pool is filled with recycled rainwater filtered through plants To create an all-natural swimming pool that was safe for swimmers, the designers had to work within Canada’s ultra strict regulations for public swimming pools. To completely avoid the use of chemicals was challenging, but the team worked with several experts to create a balanced ecosystem where plant materials, microorganisms and nutrients come together to create a system of “living water.” The pool water is filtrated in two ways: using a biological-mechanical system or using the constructed wetland and gravel filter filled wtih Zooplankton . These soil-free systems allow for a chemical and disinfectant free filtering system in which water is completely cleaned via a natural process as it circulates. The system entails a long circulation process that sees the water flow through a sand and stone pond first, then a hydro botanic pond. Adjacent to these ponds, a granular filter PO4 adsorption unit was installed that runs along the gabion walls that run the length of the pool, allowing the water to circulate from one end to the other unnoticed. The entire system allows for a natural, chemical-free cleaning process that is entirely eco-friendly and safe for swimmers. The natural swimming pool is the firm’s latest addition to the Edmonton area. In 2015, the designers unveiled a gorgeous glowing mirrored pavilion in the same area. + gh3* Photos via gh3*

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Canada unveils its first chemical-free public outdoor pool and it’s gorgeous

Cell-based meat could replicate and replace shrimp, lobster and crab

April 11, 2019 by  
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Companies around the world have been working on alternatives to replace meat products, and a new cell-based meat promises to be a viable substitute for seafood. Following in the footsteps of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, Shiok Meats is looking to replace a host of seafood options with cleaner, more sustainable alternatives. The company’s founders, Ka Yi Ling and Sandhya Sriram, are using their background as stem cell scientists to create the next generation of clean meats . The co-founders are currently in the research phase of their project and hope to use cell-based meat to replicate shrimp, lobster and crab. Related: How meatless shrimp could solve seafood’s sustainability problem According to CleanTechnica , Shiok Meats is still a few years away from releasing a product, which it hopes will be available to a large market. Although the company is targeting seafood , its goal is not to replicate the look and feel of the meat. Instead, Ling and Sriram want to get the flavors right and hope to release something along the lines of a dumpling filling. “Definitely we can’t make seafood look like seafood that you catch from the ocean,” Sriram shared. “We can’t make the fish as a whole.” With its research well underway, Shiok Meats has secured funding from multiple sources. This includes firms like Boom Capital, AIIM Partners and Ryan Bethencourt. If the company is successful in producing cell-based seafood, Shiok Meats hopes to release its product around the world, starting in Asia. Shiok Meats is concentrating efforts on producing a shrimp alternative first, as this is more affordable and an easier meat to work with. If all goes well, then it will look into replicating other crustaceans. The company estimates that it can replace shrimp for around $5,000 per kilogram. Although this might seem like a hefty price, it is actually much more cost-effective than some of the beef alternatives currently on the market. For those interested in cell-based seafood, Shiok Meats plans to release its product in stores over the next three to five years, starting first in Singapore before expanding to other markets in Asia. + Shiok Meats Via CleanTechnica Images via Vedat Zorluer

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Cell-based meat could replicate and replace shrimp, lobster and crab

A 1992 International School Bus gets a second life as an adventure-mobile

April 11, 2019 by  
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Remodeling an old bus into a new tiny home on wheels is never an easy feat, but most times, the results are breathtaking. Such is the case with Mande and Ben Tucker’s renovation of a 1992 school bus. Renamed Fern the Bus (in honor of the main character in Charlotte’s Web), the couple renovated the 24-foot-long  skoolie themselves, creating a customized, light-filled adventure-mobile. According to the couple, the 1992 International School Bus was in great condition when they purchased it, making the DIY renovation project in front of them just a little bit easier. Their first step was to strip the exterior of all of its original elements and repaint it in a fun sea foam green. Related:A couple converts an old prison bus into a criminally beautiful tiny home The bus is just 24 feet long and 7 feet wide, which meant the couple needed to custom design and build most of the furniture. After gutting the interior seats, rubber mat flooring and the bulky heating and AC units, they got to work crafting their future living space . Mande and Ben worked on the bus conversion for about a year. The result is a beautiful tiny home, well-lit with ample natural light. Throughout the living space, the couple used both natural cedar panels and white-painted pine on the walls, giving the interior a modern cabin feel. Acacia wood floors run the length of the home. The living room is marked by two large built-in sofas with cushions that Mande hand-sewed and stuffed with the foam from the old seats. At the end of the bus is the sleeping space, which fits a full XL mattress. In between the living room and the bedroom is a compact kitchen that houses all of the basics: an under-the-counter refrigerator, an oven with a stovetop and butcher block countertops with live-edge lumber accents. Plenty of shelving and storage keeps the interior spaces clutter-free. Next to the kitchen, a mirrored closet conceals a marine portable toilet. As for the family’s energy and water needs, a 25-gallon water tank of freshwater supplies water for the faucet and outdoor shower. The bus is also equipped with a 25-gallon gray water system . A propane tank provides heat for the oven and stove as well as the tankless water heater. Another great feature of Fern the Bus is her outdoor space. The couple outfitted her rooftop with a wonderful cedar deck, which is used for hauling sporting equipment, such as paddleboards. Additionally, the space is used as an open-air lounge, with enough space to have elevated picnics or do some stargazing. As an extra bonus, four posts are perfect to hang the couple’s hammocks, making it a prime spot for nap time. + Fern the Bus Via Dwell Photography by Mande Tucker

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A 1992 International School Bus gets a second life as an adventure-mobile

Thousands of animals have been displaced by California wildfires

November 14, 2018 by  
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The California wildfires are raging on, but humans aren’t the only ones in danger. Thousands of pets and farm animals have received attention in Northern and Southern California while over 400 square miles continue to burn. Over the past few days, the fires have led to mass evacuations, jammed roads and packed shelters. The animals caught in the blazes are also trying to figure out where to escape. In Malibu last Friday, horses, goats and alpacas packed the shoreline along with humans, and a parking lot became an evacuation zone. Multiple photos have surfaced of animals tied to things like lifeguard towers and fences while smoke fills the background. Related: The fearless dog who refused to leave his goats during the Santa Rosa wildfire “There was just no time to do anything,” said Talley Hutcherson, a ranch owner. “Within hours, we had to make the decision to come to the beach because the [Pacific Coast Highway] was shut down.” Hutcherson’s decision to evacuate to the beach with eight horses required her to make multiple trips back and forth. Searchers combing through areas affected by the California wildfires have rescued hundreds of animals — including dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, ducks, and a tortoise https://t.co/eY2uwf8E5U — CNN (@CNN) November 14, 2018 According to the Huffington Post , animal shelters throughout Southern California are reaching capacity. But there are many shelters in the Los Angeles area that are still open and requesting donations. These facilities are caring for hundreds of animals , including horses, pigs and rabbits. The Los Angeles Zoo also briefly evacuated some animals last Friday while firefighters battled to contain a fire in nearby Griffith Park. The zoo does have an emergency evacuation plan in place when needed, and it eventually returned the animals to their habitats. But not all animals in the evacuation zones have been able to get to safety. Photos from the fires have shown injured and dead animals that became overwhelmed from smoke or flames. There has also been concern on social media for a popular giraffe and other animals at Malibu Wines and Saddlerock Ranch. The ranch was under evacuation orders but didn’t appear to have an emergency evacuation plan in place. Several buildings on the property ended up being damaged or destroyed by the fire, and when a USA Today reporter arrived over the weekend, the ranch looked empty except for one worker and the giraffe. Many people were extremely unhappy that the giraffe, named Stanley, was left behind. Via Huffington Post and USA Today Image via NASA

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Thousands of animals have been displaced by California wildfires

This jet black RV is designed for intrepid travelers who like to explore in style

November 14, 2018 by  
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Clad in jet black, corrugated metal siding and renewable Brazilian hardwood, the Draper is an impressive tiny home on wheels that is as tough as nails on the outside but surprisingly sophisticated on the inside. Created by the ingenious team from Land Ark RV , the Draper RV is designed to be the perfect roaming home for adventurers who want to travel in 300 square feet of style. The exterior of the Draper features black corrugated metal with a hint of red wood. Much like its sister design, the Drake , this RV has a unique, slanted shape that creates a sense of movement even when it is not in motion. The elevated volume not only gives the tiny home a bold presence and more interior space, but it also helps with the aerodynamic pull while on the road. Related: This bold ship-inspired tiny house has a surprising minimalist interior The two designs are quite similar, but the Draper has a few extras such as an ingenious fold-out deck. Made out of renewable Brazilian hardwood, the deck can be folded out to create a wonderful seating area, or folded up flush to the exterior when on the road. In contrast to its bold black exterior, the interior of the RV is light and airy. White-washed pine lends a fresh aesthetic, which is further enhanced by an abundance of natural light thanks to the many clerestory windows. The interior is also quite spacious, with 10′ ceilings that open up the space. Although the living area, which is installed with LED lighting , boasts a sophisticated design, the layout was created with adventurers in mind. There is a 7-foot-wide mud room at the entryway to store gear such as hiking boots, climbing equipment and more. There is also additional storage installed throughout the home. Custom-made,  flexible furniture makes the living space highly versatile. For example, a large galley kitchen with a convertible U-shaped dining space can be configured into different uses. When not needed, the dining table can be stowed underneath, opening up room for the sofa cushions to be folded out into a queen-sized bed, perfect for overnight guests. On the other side of the kitchen, the living room extends to the outdoor deck through a set of large sliding glass doors. The master bedroom is located on a sleeping loft at the far side of the home. The bedroom is reached by ladder and has enough space for a king-sized bed. The tiny home’s bathroom also comes installed with a vanity, wall-hung toilet and a full-size shower. + Land Ark RV Images via Land Ark RV

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This jet black RV is designed for intrepid travelers who like to explore in style

Looking for a conversion van? Then this is the site for you

August 24, 2018 by  
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It’s hard to find the perfect conversion van online, especially if you have a limited budget. Until now, you had to search through several different sites, like Craigslist and online forums, if you wanted a decent deal. But a new website hopes to make finding the conversion van of your dreams and going off-grid easier than ever. There are a lot of ways you can get a conversion van on the cheap. You can purchase an old van and convert it yourself, DIY style, or buy a kit that does most of the work for you. There are also more expensive routes to explore, which include purchasing a van that’s already equipped for all of your needs. For those of us on a budget, however, ConversionTrader.com is looking to expand those options even more. Conversion Trader was founded by individuals in the ski industry, who came up with the idea after discovering that, while there were plenty of websites for RVs and campers , no one-stop site for purchasing a conversion van existed. Conversion Trader solves that problem with a website fully dedicated to providing customers with an assortment of conversion fans, making it easier than ever to find the perfect fit for your budget. Conversion Trader allows customers to filter vans by new or used status, location, and type of van available. The website just launched, so its van choices are still somewhat limited, but the founders hope to add to them in the near future. And even if the site is still building its inventory, many current listings are for used vans, making it an affordable option for anyone yearning to get off the grid and get into the van life.  + Conversion Trader Image via Shutterstock

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Reebok develops plant-based sneakers made of cotton and corn

August 24, 2018 by  
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In an act focused on sustainability in an industry known for its heavy environmental impact, Reebok has created its first sneaker made from plant-based materials. The Cotton + Corn initiative, announced in 2017 by the sporting-goods giant, touted the company’s decision to move to plant-based materials as a way to clean up both production and post-consumer use in an industry that typically relies on petroleum in manufacturing. In addition to using 100 percent organic cotton for the shoe’s upper, avoiding the pesticides and herbicides used on traditional cotton, Reebok’s new sneakers use a corn product to create the bioplastic sole. To round out the grown-from-the-earth ingredients, the insole is designed from castor bean oil. The first product from this line to hit the market, the NPC UK Cotton + Corn sneaker, is the first shoe to be certified by the USDA as containing 75 percent bio-based materials. These products are sourced in partnership with DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products, a company known for creating bio-based solutions for a variety of markets. Related: The Agraloop turns food waste into sustainable clothing fibers While using these plant-based ingredients is innovative, the overarching work toward sustainable shoes doesn’t stop there. Reebok has a three-part, fully sustainable cycle envisioned for the Cotton + Corn product line that considers production, wear and post-use. It is well on its way to achieving that goal, because the sneakers are completely compostable at the end of their wear cycle. The life cycle continues from there, when that compost is then used for the next generation of shoes. This is in deep contrast to the estimated 20 billion shoes produced annually, nearly all of which eventually end up in the landfill, where they take hundreds of years to decompose. Plus, Reebok has taken the added steps of removing toxic dyes from the production process and shipping the shoes in 100 percent recycled packaging. Related: Biotech company Nanollose could offer plant-free alternatives for the textile industry Following a successful launch, the first run of the new NPC UK Cotton + Corn sneaker is currently sold out. Company representative Lizzy Manno reports that Reebok does not yet have a date for when the shoes will be in stock again, but we certainly can’t wait until these plant-based sneakers are back on the market. + Reebok Images via Reebok Media

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