LA City Council unanimously agrees to ban the sale of fur

September 25, 2018 by  
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The Los Angeles City Council made a historic vote last week by unanimously agreeing to ban the sale of fur. The meeting resulted in a direct order to the L.A. City Attorney, who is responsible for penning the formal policy to outline the new law. The document is expected to surface sometime next month and will effectively ban fur beginning two years from the date of its signage. When completed, this process will result in L.A. being the largest city in the U.S. to ban the sale of fur clothing and accessories. “This is L.A. taking a stand and saying we will no longer be complicit in the inhumane and vile fur trade that’s been going on for years,” council member Bob Blumenfield said. Related: British Fashion Council commits to a fur-free London Fashion Week Some skeptics of the policy raised eyebrows, wondering how a city like L.A. that enjoys average temperatures of 75 degrees plans to make a major impact on the fur market. “I don’t think it’s happening in Moscow,” said P.J. Smith, the senior manager of fashion policy at the Humane Society. While colder cities are not expected to jump on the band wagon any time soon, the council’s initiative is definitely sparking encouragement for other cities and states in the U.S. to adopt the same measures. Blumenfield, the council member responsible for initiating the motion, explained, “We’re trying to set an example for the rest of the state and the rest of the country.” Smith agreed that as the second largest city in the U.S. — also recognized as an epicenter of global fashion — the influence that L.A. would have over other cities is extraordinary. Top international fashion houses have also pledged their commitment to the no-fur campaign, along with several other cities and countries. Smith described his experience with this domino effect saying, “I’ve been doing this job for about 10 years, and if you would have told me just two years ago that Gucci, Versace, Burberry, InStyle magazine, London Fashion Week, Norway, the Netherlands, São Paulo would be going fur-free, I wouldn’t have believed you, but it’s happening.” Related: Burberry vows to stop burning unsold clothes and using real fur Smith attributed the back-to-back bans to a little friendly competition between cities. There is already a handful of cities that have adopted anti-fur laws in California , for instance. L.A. will be joining a list that includes San Francisco and West Hollywood, “to see who’s the most compassionate city out there,” Smith explained. “San Francisco’s colder, and when San Francisco banned fur sales, it was considered the compassion capital. Then you have L.A. turning around and claiming that title back.” Via New York Times Image via Pete Bellis

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LA City Council unanimously agrees to ban the sale of fur

California implements plastic straw ban at dine-in restaurants

September 25, 2018 by  
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A monumental week of reforms forged by California lawmakers saw no sign of slowing down as groundbreaking legislation was brought into effect by Governor Jerry Brown on Thursday. The statesman, who has chastised the overuse of single-use plastics on several occasions, signed a bill banning restaurants from distributing plastic straws with their customers’ beverages. While diners will still be given a straw if they specifically ask for one, the plastic straw ban could make leaps in curtailing unnecessary pollution and raising public awareness about the environmental impact of disposable straws. California politicians such as Governor Brown agree with many supporters that the ban is unfortunately limited and easily circumvented. “It is a very small step to make a customer who wants a plastic straw ask for it,” Brown noted in his signing address . “And it might make them pause and think again about an alternative.” Related: Plastic straws are a thing of the past, but which reusable straw is best for the future? Beginning January 1, dine-in restaurants will no longer be handing out plastic straws with meals; however, the largest distributors, including fast food chains, delis, coffee shops and any other take-out locales, will be able to disregard the rule completely. Despite the free pass to these types of restaurants, the governor believes that in due time, Californians will likely choose to nix plastic straws on their own, regardless of legal mandates. Plastic was invented back in the 19th century and, as Governor Brown explained, “has helped advance innovation in our society, but our infatuation with single-use convenience has led to disastrous consequences.” The politician has been mobilizing efforts to reduce and eliminate plastic consumption vehemently throughout his tenure. “One thing is clear,” he wrote. “We must find ways to reduce and eventually eliminate single-use plastic products.” Plastic straws appeared in the early 1960s. By the 1970s, they had almost entirely replaced paper straws, the original variety of sipper. According to the California Coast Commission, plastic straws are seeded sixth in the rank of most common forms of litter found on beaches, and they threaten more than 500 aquatic species. Among these, 23 endangered forms of wildlife exist in the San Francisco Bay, where plastic pollution fed through urban storm drains are placing the animals at an even higher risk of perishing.  “Plastics, in all forms — straws, bottles, packaging, bags, etc. — are choking our planet,” Brown wrote. The California straw ban follows in the footsteps of previous legislature banning plastic bags in 2016. The state is the first in the nation to enact limitations on disposable straws. City-level restrictions are already in effect for San Francisco, Alameda, Oakland, Richmond, Berkeley, Carmel, San Luis, Obispo and Davis. Via San Francisco Chronicle Image via Joshua Sorenson

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Governor Cuomo announces a bill to ban single-use plastic bags in New York state

April 24, 2018 by  
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Could New York be the next state to ban plastic bags? Ten cities and towns in New York have already put plastic bag bans in place. Now the rest of state could follow. Governor Andrew Cuomo just introduced a bill to ban single-use plastic bags in the state, where people use an astonishing 23 billion of them each year. After blocking a New York City five-cent plastic bag fee bill and launching a New York State Plastic Bag Task Force last year, the governor  announced this bill based on recommendations in the task force’s report. Trash bags, garment bags, and bags for wrapping certain food like meat or fruit would not be part of the bill. Instead, the bill targets single-use , carryout plastic bags “at any point of sale.” Cuomo’s statement on the bill also said New York would launch an outreach campaign to educate the public about the environmental impact of plastic bags, and promote reusable bags . Related: Boston just officially banned single-use plastic bags Will Cuomo’s bill pass? It’s not a done deal yet. The New York Times said leaders of the Senate and Assembly opposed New York City’s bill. A spokesperson for Assembly speaker Carl Heastie told The New York Times the Assembly mainly supported a ban; a fee was a different story. The Republican-run Senate may or may not back the bill. Some people are skeptical about the timing of the bill as Cuomo faces a challenge to re-election from Cynthia Nixon, who recently unveiled her climate platform . While her web page makes no mention of plastic bags, it does come out strong on issues like energy ; for example, criticizing Cuomo for bailing out three aging nuclear power plants last year with more than $7 billion in taxpayer dollars. If passed, Cuomo’s plastic bag ban would go into effect January 1, 2019. + Governor Cuomo Introduces Program Bill Banning Single-Use Plastic Bags in New York State Via The New York Times Images via Dan DeLuca on Flickr and Depositphotos  ( 2 )

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Governor Cuomo announces a bill to ban single-use plastic bags in New York state

UK plans to ban the sales of plastic straws to tackle ocean plastic pollution

April 19, 2018 by  
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8.5 billion plastic straws are tossed out in the United Kingdom every year, according to a recent study cited by the government . They plan to take action — by ending sales of plastic-stemmed cotton buds and plastic drink stirrers and straws in a bid to reduce ocean plastic waste. The UK is cracking down on ocean plastic . The government announced the ban at the summit for the Commonwealth heads of government. Prime Minister Theresa May said, “ Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world…the British public have shown passion and energy embracing our plastic bag charge and microbead ban .” Related: Queen of England bans plastic bottles and straws at royal estates The ban won’t take effect immediately; the statement said the government would work with industries to ensure time to adapt and create alternatives. Plastic straws utilized for medical reasons could also be excluded from the ban. May challenged other countries in the Commonwealth, which includes 53 member countries across Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Caribbean, to battle marine plastic as well. The UK government is committing to £61.4 million, around $87.4 million, in funding for research and better waste management for developing countries , according to May, who said, “The Commonwealth is a unique organization, with a huge diversity of wildlife, environments, and coastlines. Together we can effect real change so that future generations can enjoy a natural environment that is healthier than we currently find it.” The UK government’s microbead ban went into effect in January of this year, and their five pence single-use plastic bag law has resulted in nine billion fewer bags distributed, according to the government. Another statistic the government drew on to back the plastic straw scheme is that one million birds and more than 100,000 sea mammals perish due to eating plastic waste and getting tangled in it. They also said there are more than 150 million metric tons of plastic in the oceans on our planet. + United Kingdom Government Images via Depositphotos and Carly Jayne on Unsplash

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UK plans to ban the sales of plastic straws to tackle ocean plastic pollution

Couple converts $7,000 Joshua Tree cabin into a sophisticated desert oasis

April 19, 2018 by  
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When Kathrin and Brian Smirke decided to buy an abandoned property in the desert landscape of Joshua Tree for $7,000, they knew that they had a massive undertaking on their hands. The old cabin , which dated back to 1957, had been left rotting in the desert for years. But with a lot of vision and hard work, the ambitious duo converted the 480-square-foot homestead into a beautiful desert oasis. The couple chronicled the massive renovation project they lovingly call “The Shack Attack” on their blog, We Are in Our Element . The poor state of the structure meant gutting the interior down to the base boards to start fresh. Over a period of two years, the couple revamped the cabin into a beautiful desert home. “We spent over a year planning, demolishing, building, planning again, building, and then finally decorating this little gem,” Kathrin explains. “What makes this home special is that we did a lot of the work ourselves, including the design, complete demolition, framing, plumbing, trim electrical, and we even built a lot of the interior fixtures and art.” Related: Stunning Lucid Stead Cabin Reflects the Colors and Movements of the Mojave Desert The process was quite detailed, with the Smirkes focused on reducing the project’s footprint at every turn. They also had to deal with several building restrictions included in the sale of the property, namely not being allowed to increase the square footage of the structure. Nevertheless, they were determined to fit a comfortable living room, kitchen, full bathroom, and bedroom that would accommodate a king-size bed into the compact space . Using various reclaimed materials, they converted the space into a light-filled home. Large sliding glass doors in the entrance and the bedroom open the interior up to incredible views as well as an abundance of natural light. Additionally, they managed to salvage some materials from the original building – Brian created a few decorative pieces by repurposing timber from the original structure. In the kitchen, Kathrin and Brian formed and poured the concrete countertops themselves and made the floating shelves out of leftover clear pine and plywood. At the back of the home is a compact sleeping area that fits a comfortable king-size platform bed. Again, multiple windows in the room add a light and airy touch to the small space. To take full advantage of the desert landscape , the couple put a lot of work into creating a seamless connection between the interior and the exterior. A large covered porch offers stunning views. But, without a doubt, the heart of the project is the outdoor bathtub, an old water trough painted white. Surrounded by a wooden deck, this is the ultimate space for relaxing while the desert sun sets. The Shack Attack is available to rent via Airbnb throughout the year. + We Are in Our Element Via Dwell Images via We Are in Our Element

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European parliament bans Monsanto from entering

September 29, 2017 by  
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Monsanto recently refused to be present at a hearing in which the European parliament planned to dig into allegations the agrochemical company unduly influenced studies into glyphosate’s safety, according to The Guardian. The European parliament wasn’t too happy with that – and just banned Monsanto from entering parliament. The agriculture and environment committees of the European parliament had set up a hearing for October 11, at which academics, campaigners, and regulators were to be present – but Monsanto decided not to come. The hearing is expected to go over allegations the company influenced regulatory studies into the safety of a key ingredient in their best-selling product RoundUp . Angry, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) subsequently banned Monsanto lobbyists . The Guardian reports this is the first instance of MEPs utilizing new rules to withdraw access for businesses that disregard summons to hearings or inquiries. Related: California adds Monsanto’s glyphosate to list of chemicals known to cause cancer The leaders of major parliamentary blocks supported the ban in a vote, according to a spokesperson for European parliament president Antonio Tajani, who also said, “One has to assume it is effective immediately,” even as officials need to work through a formal process. Under the ban, Monsanto officials will not be able to go to committee meetings, meet MEPs, or use digital resources in Strasbourg or Brussles on parliament premises, according to The Guardian. Green Party president Philippe Lamberts said, “Those who ignore the rules of democracy also lose their rights as a lobbyist in the European parliament. U.S. corporations must also accept the democratic control function of the parliament. Monsanto cannot escape this.” The vote comes before a decision on whether or not to re-license glyphosate later this year. Philip Miller, Monsanto vice president, said in a letter to MEPs, “We have observed with increasing alarm the politicization of the EU procedure on the renewal of glyphosate, a procedure which should be scientific but which in many respects has been hijacked by populism.” One expert World Health Organization panel has linked glyphosate to cancer , while another said it was safe for public use. According to The Guardian, Monsanto spends around €300,000 to €400,000 – or around $354,690 to $472,920 – on lobbying in Brussels. Via The Guardian Images via Die Grünen Kärnten on Flickr and BUND Bundesverband on Flickr

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Hundreds of organisms hitch a ride from Japan to Oregon on waves of plastic trash

September 29, 2017 by  
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Japanese marine animals have hitched a ride all the way to the United States with unlikely help from plastic garbage. The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami dumped debris into the ocean , and now, several years later, scientists have recorded almost 300 marine animal species showing up in Hawaii and North America, riding on hundreds of crates, buoys, vessels, and trash. Scientists didn’t think organisms passively drifted on debris across the ocean, according to marine scientist John Chapman of Oregon State University . He said, “This has turned out to be one of the biggest, unplanned, natural experiments in marine biology , perhaps in history.” You knew plastic trash was polluting the oceans, but you probably didn’t know it was transporting non-native species across them. Neither did many scientists, who were surprised to discover Japanese species landing alive in North America and Hawaii. Researchers didn’t expect organisms to live through the trip across the North Pacific Ocean – and many species have lived four or more years longer than any previous records of organisms living on ocean rafts. Related: Japanese sculpture memorializes 18,000 people dead or missing after the 2011 earthquake In the beginning, wood released in the natural disasters showed up in Oregon with shipworms inside, but after 2014, wood landings plummeted, and researchers realized non-biodegradable trash like plastic, styrofoam, and fiberglass was allowing non-native species to travel and survive for so long. So far, scientists haven’t found any Japanese species established on the West Coast, but Chapman said that can take years to happen. He said, “One thing this event has taught us is that some of these organisms can be extraordinarily resilient…It would not surprise me if there were species from Japan that are out there living along the Oregon coast. In fact, it would surprise me if there weren’t.” Oregon State University marine scientist Jessica Miller said out of the species that arrived in 2017, almost 20 percent were capable of reproducing. James Carlton of Williams College , who was the lead author on a study published today in Science , said, “These vast quantities of non-biodegradable debris, potentially acting as novel ocean transport vectors, are of increasing concern given the vast economic cost and environmental impacts documented from the proliferation of marine invasive species around the world.” Chapman and Miller were co-authors of the study, along with six other scientists from institutions around the United States. Via Oregon State University Images via Oregon State University on Flickr ( 1 , 2 , 3 )

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Tesla is shipping hundreds of Powerwall battery systems to Puerto Rico

September 29, 2017 by  
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Tesla is stepping in to aid Puerto Rico in its recovery from Hurricane Maria by sending hundreds of Powerwall battery systems to the American Commonwealth, whose 3.5 million citizens still do not have access to electricity. Because full power is not expected to be restored for months, the Powerwall energy storage systems, which can be paired with solar panels, could prove to be vital tools as Puerto Rico and its partners work to restore safety and stability to the island. First introduced in 2015, the Powerwall is Tesla’s home-based battery system, which is able to store energy captured during the day from solar panels and enables solar energy to be used even at night. Some of the Powerwall battery systems have already arrived in Puerto Rico , with more on the way. Tesla employees are on the island, working to install the systems and additional solar panels and repair existing solar panels. They are also collaborating with local groups to determine the best locations for these battery systems to be implemented. In addition, Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk has personally donated $250,000 to the relief efforts in Puerto Rico. Related: Puerto Rico electricity crisis sparks interest in renewable energy Prior to its efforts in Puerto Rico, Tesla had assisted in the evacuation efforts in Florida as Hurricane Irma approached the peninsula. After receiving a request from a Tesla owner who wished to evacuate from their home in Florida, but who was concerned about the car’s ability to go the distance, Tesla released a software update which extended battery range. Ultimately, Tesla decided to extend the battery range for all Model S and Model X cars from 60-70 kilowatt hour to 75 kwh. Via Fortune Images via Tesla , Steve Juverton , and Walmart

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Tesla is shipping hundreds of Powerwall battery systems to Puerto Rico

Britain to ban new diesel and petrol cars in 2040

July 26, 2017 by  
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British government ministers think low air quality poses the biggest environmental threat to public health , but that threat is avoidable. They aim to clean up the skies by targeting emissions-spewing vehicles. Following a similar move in France , Britain is to ban the sale of diesel and petrol cars from 2040. Nitrogen oxide is plaguing the air in the United Kingdom. Earlier this year, London smashed annual air pollution limits in a mere five days – and Greenpeace said diesel vehicles were the single biggest source of air pollution in the city. Now the country could commit to ban sales of those polluting cars as part of their clean air plan. The move could even include hybrid vehicles . Related: France to ban all diesel and petrol cars in just over 20 years The government endeavored to move away from taxes on polluting cars, although they’d been encouraged to introduce charges for cars entering clean air zones. They wanted taxes to be a last resort, and a government spokesperson pointed to a £3 billion, around $3.9 billion, program to clean dirty air near roadways that will offer funding to advance local efforts, like retrofitting public transportation , reprogramming traffic lights, and altering road features like speed humps and roundabouts. £1 billion, or $1.3 billion, of the air quality package could go towards promoting low-emissions cars, with £100 million, or $1.3 million, devoted to boosting charging infrastructure for electric vehicles . More money could go to a green bus fund, cycling and walking, and low-emission taxis. The clean air plan has been part of a lengthy legal battle, with the final plan due by the end of July. Environmentalists weren’t impressed with a draft report seen earlier, which some lawyers said was much weaker than they wanted. Environment secretary Michael Grove will hope for a better response, according to The Guardian, when he puts out the final document this week. Via The Guardian Images via Mavis CW on Unsplash and PIVISO on Flickr

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This beautiful but toxic weed could make you go blind

July 26, 2017 by  
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Be careful before you pick that pretty wildflower . Giant hogweed, which can grow up to twenty-feet-tall and produce attractive white flowers, is a beautiful but dangerous plant. The plant produces a clear sap capable of causing third-degree burns or even blindness in humans who touch it. Native to the Caucasus in Central Asia , giant hogweed has become a wide-ranging invasive species in the Northern United States, Southern Canada, and Western Europe. Those who encounter the toxic flora are advised to admire from a distance. Like Japanese knotweed and other invasive, noxious plant species, giant hogweed was first introduced to the United Kingdom and other countries as an ornamental plant. Its white flowers reveal its familial origins as a member of the carrot family, like its similar though diminutive and less-toxic relative known as Queen Anne’s Lace. Hogweed flowers can be up to two feet across and are popular among pollinators. Related: Could Lasers Be The New Way to Kill Weeds? Hogweed’s curse is its phototoxic sap, which causes skin, eyes or whatever it touches to become highly sensitive to UV light. If the affected skin is exposed to sunlight, it can quickly become red and irritated. Affected areas will rapidly deteriorate if exposure is continued and the sap is not washed off. In North America, giant hogweed usually blooms in July. If possible, it is important to eliminate the plants before they flower and reproduce. “You want to have it eradicated before it does go to seed,” said Barbara Ashey, Town Administrator for Northport, Maine . “There are thousands of these seeds.” On the bright side, pigs and cows seem able to consume giant hogweed without harm and may be used as a biocontrol solution in the fight against the invasive species . Via Bangor Daily News/WGME Images via Nature Photos/Flickr and debs-eye/Flickr

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