Some dual-flush toilets are actually wasting water

September 30, 2020 by  
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The innovation was supposed to save us water. But now, in shocking commode news, the water-saving organization Waterwise has revealed that dual-flush toilets actually waste water. Waterwise estimates that between 5% and 8% of U.K. toilets are leaking a total of 88 million gallons per day. Dual-flush toilets allow users to select from a small flush for liquids and a larger flush for solid waste , a design intended to save water. This type of toilet usually depends on a drop-valve system. The valve sits underwater and opens for a flush. But debris can catch in the valve, resulting in leaks and constant running. Related: High-tech public toilets proposed for San Francisco can recycle rainwater for reuse “Because we’ve got so many [loos] that continuously flow all through the day, collectively that water loss is now exceeding the amount of water they should be saving nationally,” Andrew Tucker, water efficiency manager at the U.K. sewerage company Thames Water, told the BBC . “The volume of water loss is getting bigger every day as more people refurbish and retrofit their older toilets and as we build more homes, so we’re actually adding a problem.” Some experts say the solution is to manufacture more dual-valve toilets that use a siphon system rather than a drop valve. The siphon works by forcing water down through a tube and into the pan when you depress your toilet handle. That way, the water can only escape if it’s above the water line, which makes it much less likely to leak. Jason Parker, managing director of U.K. plumbing manufacturer Thomas Dudley Ltd, wants drop valves outlawed, no matter the cost to his own business. “If we’re serious about wasting water and we want to stop it, the only way to do that is put a siphon back in,” he told the BBC. Additional water is lost when dual-flush users get confused over which button to push. Thames Water’s recent consumer research found that as many as 50% of customers either chose the wrong button or pushed both. Via BBC Image via Adobe Stock

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Record number of pilot whales get stranded, die in Tasmania

September 25, 2020 by  
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Over 380 long-finned pilot whales have been confirmed dead after nearly 500 were stranded on Tasmania’s west coast. The whales are believed to have been lured to the shore to feed or erroneously guided by one of their own. By late Wednesday, rescuers had managed to save 50 of the stranded whales and were working hard to save the remaining 30. According to Tasmanian officials, the rescue efforts are to continue as long as the whales are still alive. Nic Deka, the regional manager for Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service, said that the government has hope of rescuing the remaining whales and as long as they are still alive, they have a chance of getting back to the water. However, Deka also explained that the chances of survival get slimmer every second that passes by. “While they’re still alive and in water, there’s still hope for them — but as time goes on they do become more fatigued.” Related: Right whales now ranked as critically endangered species While the rescuers are making efforts to save the living whales , the Australian government is working on a plan to clean up the carcasses. The government has to decide the best way of disposing of the perished whales before embarking on the process. In previous cases, carcasses were buried on the shoreline to reduce the cost of transportation. It is still not clear why the whales in Tasmania ended up beached, but investigations are underway. This incident surpasses one of the largest strandings ever recorded in Australia in 1996, when 320 whales were beached. Tasmania is prone to whale strandings, with more than 80% of the continent’s stranding events occurring here. According to Kris Carlyon, Marine Conservation Program wildlife biologist, the latest mass stranding is the largest to occur in Australia in terms of the number of whales stranded and deaths. Carlyon said that the whales might have been lured into the coast for food or misguided adventure. Pilot whales travel in groups. Unfortunately, their bond means that they may get stranded in masses and eventually lead to huge losses, as is currently happening in Tasmania. Via BBC and Huffington Post Image via Ursula Di Chito

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Record number of pilot whales get stranded, die in Tasmania

Painting wind turbines may reduce bird collisions and deaths

August 27, 2020 by  
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A new study published in the journal Ecology and Evolution shows that painting one blade on a wind turbine black may reduce bird deaths at wind farms by up to 70%. For a long time, organizations, such as the Royal Society For The Protection of Birds (RSPB), have been championing for more care when it comes to setting up wind power plants to avoid the deaths of birds through collisions. This study could reveal a simple solution. Although wind farms provide one of the cleanest sources of energy , they are tainted by the effects of the turbines on birds. It is common for birds to collide with the turbines and die on the spot. The study now shows that if the blades of turbines are painted black, the rate of accidents could greatly decrease. The study was conducted off the coast of Norway; the location is home to the Smøla plant, where six to nine white-tailed eagles are killed annually. Related: US and Canada in drastic crisis with 3 billion birds lost since 1970 According to Roel May, researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Nature Research and one of the authors of the study, wind power negatively impacts wild bird populations. “Collision of birds, especially raptors, is one of the main environmental concerns related to wind energy development,” May said. The main purpose of the study was to find out if there are any mitigating measures that could reduce the collisions. The researchers found that if one of the main rotor blades is painted black, it reduces the motion smear, making the blades visible to birds when they are in motion. While the findings are promising, the study authors warn that more research still has to be done. The new study provides a platform for more studies to explore the possibility of reducing bird deaths at renewable energy plants. “Although we found a significant drop in bird collision rates, its efficacy may well be site- and species-specific,” May explained. “At the moment there exists interest to carry out tests in the Netherlands and in South Africa.” Further studies will need to be carried out in diverse locations to determine the viability of such a move in different areas and on specific bird species. Members of RSPB are also championing for establishing wind power farms in safer locations, where there are no large populations of birds. + Ecology and Evolution Via BBC Image via Matthias Böckel

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Painting wind turbines may reduce bird collisions and deaths

Proposed UK law pushes accountability for Amazon products

August 26, 2020 by  
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People around the world have watched with increasing horror as Amazon forest destruction has accelerated in recent years. Now,  U.K.  officials have proposed a law to make large companies operating within the U.K. comply with environmental laws and show where their products originate.  The new law would cover  soy , rubber, cocoa, palm oil and other commodities. According to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) survey, 67% of British consumers want more government oversight on companies, and 81% think businesses should be more transparent about product origin. Related: Indigenous Amazon communities use tech to protect the forest “This consultation is a welcome first step in the fight to tackle the loss of our planet’s irreplaceable natural wonders such as the Amazon and in the pursuit of supply chains free from products that contribute to deforestation ,” said Ruth Chambers from the Greener UK coalition. Additionally, this law could require businesses to publish purchasing details for commodities like soy and  palm oil , to prove the resources were produced following local laws protecting natural ecosystems. Failure to do so would incur fines. Critics say the plan needs ironing out, especially regarding details on penalties. Though delayed, the COP26 climate conference will occur in Glasgow in 2021. In the meantime, the U.K. works to show international leadership on environmental and climate concerns, including deforestation. About 10% of the world’s known species make their home in the  Amazon , which is the largest rainforest and river basin in the world. Already 20% of the Amazon biome has disappeared, and matters are getting worse. At the current rate of deforestation, WWF estimates that more than a quarter of the Amazon biome will be treeless by 2030. The new U.K.  law  remains in the planning stage. Emphasizing the law’s significance, Chambers said, “The evidence linking deforestation with climate change, biodiversity loss and the spread of zoonotic diseases is compelling. A new law is an important part of the solution and is urgently needed.” Via BBC and WWF Image via Pexels

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Proposed UK law pushes accountability for Amazon products

One-quarter of UK mammals face threat of extinction

July 31, 2020 by  
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While tigers and elephants regally pose for endangered animal posters, many smaller creatures are fading away unnoticed. Now scientists are bringing attention to the dire outlook for less glamorous native U.K. mammals, claiming that one-quarter of them are at imminent risk of extinction. The scientists put 11 mammals on the U.K.’s first official Red List of endangered species . This list categorizes species according to their conservation status, using internationally agreed upon criteria. Related: Right Whales now ranked as critically endangered species “When we draw all the evidence together — about population size and how isolated and fragmented those populations are — we come up with this list of 11 of our 47 native species being threatened imminently,” Fiona Mathews of the Mammal Society told BBC News. “And there are more species that are categorized as ‘near threatened’.” The study concluded that the Scottish wildcat and the greater mouse-eared bat are the U.K.’s most critically endangered mammals. Beaver, red squirrel, water vole and grey long-eared bats ranked as endangered. The vulnerable category included the hedgehog, hazel dormouse, Orkney vole, Serotine bat and Barbastelle bat . “The three categories of threat — critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable — tell you about the probability of the animal becoming extinct within this imminent timeframe,” Mathews said. The U.K. Red List was produced for official nature agencies of England, Wales and Scotland and has been approved by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature ( IUCN ). The biggest reason for plummeting populations is habitat loss. A 2019 report on U.K. wildlife called the country among the most nature-depleted in the world. Many animal species in the U.K. have decreased by an average of 60% since 1970. Invasive species are another factor. Disease-ridden grey squirrels moved in and killed off endangered red squirrels, who lost more than 60% of their range just in the last 13 years. American mink that escaped from fur farms — and who can blame them — ate many native water voles. Scientists lacked enough information to assess the status of some mammals, including the wild boar and whiskered bat. They assigned five animals into the “near threatened” category, meaning they’re slightly too populous to make the Red List: the mountain hare, harvest mouse, lesser white-toothed shrew, Leisler’s bat and Nathusius’ pipistrelle. Via The Guardian and BBC Image via Peter Trimming

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Earth School offers kids interesting science lessons online

June 3, 2020 by  
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Kids stuck at home due to coronavirus have another opportunity for quality online learning. Earth School, a collaboration between TED-Ed (TED’s youth and education initiative) and the United Nations’ Environment Programme, is releasing 30 short videos to teach children about connections between nature and many aspects of society. The videos started dropping on Earth Day , April 22. Since then, the collaborators have released one video daily. The last video will be posted on June 5, World Environment Day. The videos will remain online and can be viewed consecutively or randomly. Related: Take a virtual dive with NOAA More than 30 organizations helped create the videos. The World Wildlife Fund, National Geographic and BBC contributed high-quality video footage, articles and digital interactive resources. The 30 video lessons fall into six categories: The Nature of Our Stuff, The Nature of Society, The Nature of Nature, The Nature of Change, The Nature of Individual Action and The Nature of Collective Action. The producers designed them to appeal to science-curious kids with topics like the lifecycle of a T-shirt, whether we should eat bugs, where does water come from and tracking grizzly bears from space. A press release stated the program’s three goals: to help kids and parents sort through a myriad of options to find a solid, reliable science source; to keep kids interested in nature even while they’re stuck inside; and to ease the load of harried parents who suddenly find themselves in charge of their kids’ education 24/7. Watching these videos will help children understand their roles as future stewards of our troubled planet. The last two weeks of instruction offer concrete ways kids can improve the world individually and collectively. As the press release explains, “We aim to inspire the awe and wonder of nature in Earth School students and help them finish the program with a firm grasp of how deeply intertwined we are with the planet.” + Earth School Image via Lukas

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Earth School offers kids interesting science lessons online

Earth School offers kids interesting science lessons online

June 3, 2020 by  
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Kids stuck at home due to coronavirus have another opportunity for quality online learning. Earth School, a collaboration between TED-Ed (TED’s youth and education initiative) and the United Nations’ Environment Programme, is releasing 30 short videos to teach children about connections between nature and many aspects of society. The videos started dropping on Earth Day , April 22. Since then, the collaborators have released one video daily. The last video will be posted on June 5, World Environment Day. The videos will remain online and can be viewed consecutively or randomly. Related: Take a virtual dive with NOAA More than 30 organizations helped create the videos. The World Wildlife Fund, National Geographic and BBC contributed high-quality video footage, articles and digital interactive resources. The 30 video lessons fall into six categories: The Nature of Our Stuff, The Nature of Society, The Nature of Nature, The Nature of Change, The Nature of Individual Action and The Nature of Collective Action. The producers designed them to appeal to science-curious kids with topics like the lifecycle of a T-shirt, whether we should eat bugs, where does water come from and tracking grizzly bears from space. A press release stated the program’s three goals: to help kids and parents sort through a myriad of options to find a solid, reliable science source; to keep kids interested in nature even while they’re stuck inside; and to ease the load of harried parents who suddenly find themselves in charge of their kids’ education 24/7. Watching these videos will help children understand their roles as future stewards of our troubled planet. The last two weeks of instruction offer concrete ways kids can improve the world individually and collectively. As the press release explains, “We aim to inspire the awe and wonder of nature in Earth School students and help them finish the program with a firm grasp of how deeply intertwined we are with the planet.” + Earth School Image via Lukas

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Earth School offers kids interesting science lessons online

Off-grid cabins in Brazil offer remote eco getaway

June 3, 2020 by  
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While some people may find social distancing a bit inconvenient, others may have found a new way to live — and vacation. For those who are looking to continue to enjoy solitude, but in an amazingly natural landscape, Brazilian firm  Arquitetura Rural  has just unveiled two off-grid  eco cabins  located deep in a very remote Brazilian forest. Both of the eco cabins were designed for a sustainable farm located in the remote Brazilian region of Rio do Coco. The region is known for its lush forest landscape, meandering river and stunning wildlife. To better accommodate nature lovers to the area, the EcoAraguaia Farm of The Future tasked the team from Arquitetura Rural with designing two  solar-powered  eco cabins that would fit in harmony with the surroundings. Related: Embrace sustainable travel in this solar-powered A-frame cabin The first cabin, the OCA, is 904 square meters. Inspired by indigenous Brazilian architecture, the cabin is a two-story rounded volume with open sides. Made out of  sustainably-sourced local wood  from a native Brazilian tree called Cumaru, the cabin is set off the ground on stilts to protect the landscape and encourage natural ventilation and temperature control. The interior of the space, which features a large open layout, is clad in teak wood. The cabin’s roof is covered in natural palm tree fibers, which also offer optimal protection from inclement weather and provide shade for the interior spaces. The second  cabin design , the TABA, is the smaller of the two. At just 322 square feet, the cabin can accommodate up to two people. However, the farm plans to build several modules of the TABA, all connected by an elevated wooden deck. The cabin design features two large windows, which frame the incredible views. Built by local craftsmen, both of the cabins will operate completely  off-grid . Water used in the cabin is pumped from the local river, called Rio do Coco. Energy is generated by solar panels, which generate sufficient power while the sun is shining. At night, the cabins are illuminated by candles and lamps, which apart from saving energy, also keep the curious wildlife such as jaguars, howler monkeys and birds at bay. The cabins are also installed with green sanitation systems designed to operate on a zero-waste output. There is a special composting mechanism that turns  organic waste  into compost, which is then used as fertilizer for growing food. This system is used to care for the farm’s organic banana trees and papaya and sweet potato plants. + Arquitetura Rural Images via Arquitetura Rural

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Off-grid cabins in Brazil offer remote eco getaway

Timber lake kiosk will gradually disappear into landscape

June 3, 2020 by  
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Berlin-based  noa* (network of architecture)  has replaced an aging swimming hut with the new Lake House Völs, a contemporary kiosk that will gradually blend into its scenic surroundings. Oriented for views of the idyllic Völser Weiher Lake in South Tyrol, the new construction provides public changing rooms, bathrooms, a snack bar and swimming jetties for nature lovers who flock to the area year-round. The wood-framed building is clad in untreated larch that will develop a natural patina over time, while fast-growing jasmine planted around the changing rooms will envelop part of the building in greenery to camouflage it from view.  Set against a spectacular mountain backdrop with lush pine forests, the Lake House Völs anchors a popular destination for outdoor activities, from swimming in summer and ice skating in winter. Since the old facility lacked accessible features for the disabled, the architects demolished the existing structure and created two new compact buildings that fit roughly within the original footprint and are connected with a transverse axis defined by an open recess with a  timber  folding element.  The main building is topped with a distinctive  gabled  roof with deep overhangs that frames views of the lake and provides shade to a large outdoor terrace. The terrace extends to a newly designed bathing area with jetties built of locally sourced wood. Inside, the main building houses a new snack bar, kitchen and counter for serving refreshments. The smaller structure next door features a nature-inspired green color palette and contains the changing rooms. The recess that connects the two buildings doubles as a secondary snack bar for smaller refreshments.  Related: A historic hotel is sustainably revamped into a charming “alpine village” getaway In addition to using timber construction with  locally sourced materials , the architects also tied the building to its site by incorporating a traditional South Tyrolean lace pattern into the resin filler. The 3D patterns in the resin “add a special visual flair and a touch of spontaneity,” said the architects. + noa* Images by Alex Filz

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Timber lake kiosk will gradually disappear into landscape

Recyclable aluminum facade wraps BBC Studios new reusable pavilion

November 19, 2019 by  
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BBC Studios, the commercial arm of the BBC group and the biggest producer of TV content in the U.K., has recently unveiled a new, reusable pavilion with a striking facade of fully recyclable, raw aluminum . Installed at Croisette 18 for MIPCOM 2019, the annual TV trade market in Cannes, the new BBC Studios stand comprises two floors of flexible work and hospitality spaces to accommodate the company’s business meetings and events across the four-day market. The building is wrapped in a rippled facade made entirely of aluminum scales angled to let in light and to give the pavilion its dynamic appearance. Previously housed in the Palais venue at MIPCOM, the BBC Studios pavilion marks the company’s first new business space at the four-day event in 20 years. Like the company, the structure has also been fully funded commercially. The overall project direction for the pavilion came from London-based agency Cheerful Twentyfirst , with creative direction provided by Christine Losecaat. Related: Dramatically twisted timber weaves together in the Steampunk pavilion To create a reusable building that could be shipped and installed anywhere in the world, BBC Studios turned to Yorkshire-based Stage One for the construction and detailed design. London-based Giles Miller Studio crafted the sculptural facade, while Universal Design Studio served as the design lead and the interior designers for the project. “From the outset of the brief, it was clear that BBC Studios and Cheerful Twentyfirst had a shared sense of vision and ambition,” said Steve Quah, CEO of Cheerful Twentyfirst. “A project of this huge scale requires a close partnership and trust in delivery. Together with our unique team of collaborative experts — Christine Losecaat MBE, Giles Miller Studio, Universal Design Studio and Stage One — we are proud to deliver a truly unique and exceptional creative project, one that fulfills all our wildest imaginations.” + BBC Studios Images via Cheerful Twentyfirst

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