LEED Platinum fire station is powered with solar energy in Seattle

April 11, 2019 by  
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The north end of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood has recently become home to a new, contemporary fire station that’s also a beacon for sustainability. Certified LEED Platinum, Fire Station 22 was designed by local architectural practice Weinstein A+U to harvest solar power, as well as rainwater , which is used for all of the station’s non-potable water uses. The building also has an enhanced civic presence with a super-scaled and illuminated “22” on its facade and large walls of glass that invite the neighborhood in. Due to its location on a long and narrow corner lot confined by two freeways and a heavily trafficked road, Fire Station 22 forgoes the conventional back-in configuration in favor of a drive-through layout for better visibility and safety. However, this configuration and the constraints of the space meant that the two-story support and crew spaces needed to be put at the front of the site, thus blocking views of the fire station’s apparatus bay, which has always traditionally been visible to the public. To reengage the community, the architects added a public plaza at the main entry, a super-scaled “22” sign on the concrete hose-drying tower and a glazed lobby and station office. “The station needs to mediate this complex site while maintaining rigorous programmatic requirements and balancing users’ desire for privacy,” said the architects , who completed the project as the last full-building replacement project under the 2003 Fire Facilities and Emergency Response Levy. “It does so with a sculptural facade along E. Roanoke Street, which provides privacy for the building’s users while creating pedestrian interest and texture. The station opens up to the future 520 Lid at the northeast corner, with a fully glazed lobby, the iconic Apparatus Bay egress doors, and a hose tower that acts as a landmark on the singular site.” Related: LEED Platinum fire station boosts firefighter wellness in Seattle Built to meet current program standards, Fire Station 22 features highly efficient mechanical and plumbing systems in addition to a solar PV system and rainwater harvesting systems. The project has earned three 2018 AIA Merit Awards. + Weinstein A+U Images by Lara Swimmer

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LEED Platinum fire station is powered with solar energy in Seattle

Baby turtles officially return to the beaches of Mumbai after largest beach clean up in history

March 19, 2019 by  
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Olive Ridley baby turtles have officially returned to the beaches of Mumbai, and it is all because one of the world’s largest beach clean-up efforts. Last summer, conservationists watched as over 80 baby turtles made their way across Mumbai’s Versova Beach, which was previously home to a massive garbage heap. “I had tears in my eyes when I saw them walking towards the ocean ,” Afroz Shah, an activist in Mumbai, shared. Related: Plastic pollution is causing reproductive problems for ocean wildlife It has been a few decades since the baby turtles have had access to the beach, which is an important part of their migratory journey to the Arabian Sea. Watching the turtles waddle towards the sea was confirmation that the clean-up efforts were well worth it and inspired volunteers to keep up the good work. It took a little over two years for volunteers to clean up the beach and remove the massive piles of trash . The mounds of plastic and other human waste was over five feet high, making it impossible for the baby turtles to make their journey to the sea. Following the clean-up effort, you can now play in the sand just like any beach in the world. The pristine condition of the beach is all thanks to the efforts of  hundreds volunteers who gathered over 11 million pounds of garbage over the course of two years. The volunteers, whom Shah helped organize, also cleaned up nearby river systems and initiated programs to prevent local residents from using the beach as a landfill . Shah also cleaned up over 52 public restrooms in the area and installed 50 coconut trees alongside the beach. Shah and his team plan to plant a grove of mangrove trees in the future, which he hopes will help with flooding and increase the quality of the water. Between the beach clean-up and the baby turtles returning to Mumbai , the United Nations gave Shah their Champion of the Earth Award and named the project the “world’s largest beach clean-up effort.” Via Global Citizen Image via skeeze

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Baby turtles officially return to the beaches of Mumbai after largest beach clean up in history

Supreme Court will make historic Clean Water Act ruling

March 4, 2019 by  
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This Fall, the Supreme Court will make a monumental decision on whether the Clean Water Act prohibits groundwater pollution. The upcoming case is in response to a 2018 verdict in Hawaii, which ruled that a wastewater facility needed a Clean Water Act permit to inject treated wastewater into ground wells. The ruling will have national implications about what constitutes direct water pollution with two possible and controversial outcomes: either creating a massive loophole for major polluters or drastically expanding the Clean Water Act to include infinite sources of non-direct pollution. “This is the most significant environmental law case in the last few year,” former Head of the Justice Department’s Environment Division, John Cruden, told E&E News . First, what is groundwater? According to the U.S. Geological Survey , ground water is water that is beneath land surface. It is water that fills pores and fractures in sand, soil and rocks. Groundwater supplies 40 percent of water used by the public and 39 percent of water used in U.S. agriculture. It also feeds into bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers and the ocean. Related: Compensation for conservation: water markets are economists’ answer to scarcity What is the Clean Water Act? Since 1972, the Clean Water Act has been the main federal law governing the health of the country’s waterways. The Clean Water Act explicitly covers all navigable bodies of water. This definition has been up to judicial interpretation, but widely includes ocean, rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands, arguably including bodies of water that fill after heavy rains. The Clean Water Act channels federal funding to state and Tribal governments for water protection and remediation projects. Direct polluters are also required by the Act to obtain permits for any pollution discharged into bodies of water. The pollution case in Hawaii Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility in Maui was in violation of the Clean Water Act and needed a permit for its ongoing practice of injecting 3 to 5 million gallons of treated wastewater into the ground every day. In 2011, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study used tracer dye to prove that treated sewage was seeping out into coastal waters near Kahekili Beach. In 2012, a coalition of environmental advocacy organizations sued the treatment facility in order to protect nearshore coral reef. In 2018, the Court determined that because of its traceability, this case was considered direct pollution and therefore required a Clean Water Act permit. “If the Supreme Court reverses the lower courts’ decisions, chemical plants, concentrated animal feeding operations, oil refineries, and other industrial facilities would effectively have free rein to discharge pollutants indirectly into the nation’s waterways without Clean Water Act permits,” Earth Justice said in a statement reported in USA Today . However, the County of Maui argues that this is their most environmentally friendly option given limited resources and that they would need more time and funding to explore alternate methods of disposing of wastewater, such as offshore facilities.The County believes such issues should be determined at a local level, where judges understand the constraints. “We all want unpolluted waters, healthy coral and fish. But we want workable solutions, not onerous and costly government red tape. This is a home-rule issue that should be addressed here, not by far-off regulators imposing rules that don’t properly address our real world problems,” Maui County spokesperson Brian Perry said to the Lahaina News . Have other courts ruled on groundwater pollution? This is not the first time a local court has had to make a decision on indirect versus direct groundwater pollution and the Clean Water Act. In fact, USA today reports that in 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in South Carolina ruled that an oil spill from a burst pipeline was in violation of the Clean Water Act because the oil seeped through groundwater and entered bodies of water such as the Savannah River. However, in 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Kentucky ruled that pollutants from a coal ash pond that entered groundwater was not in violation of the Clean Water Act because groundwater does not fall under “navigable waters”. The Supreme Court has important decisions to make both about state versus federal jurisdiction and also about the possibilities of discharging pollution into groundwater. If the Supreme Court rules against the local decision, environmentalists believe this would give polluters free reign to contaminate the country’s important water sources. If it upholds the local decision, municipalities worry they will be inundated with costly changes to infrastructure as well as open targets for lawsuits for everything from road runoff to leaky water fountains. The Supreme Court is expected to hear the County of Maui, Hawaii versus Hawaii Wildlife Fund in October or November, 2019. Via The Lahaina News Image via Shutterstock

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Supreme Court will make historic Clean Water Act ruling

Dangerous jellyfish have invaded Australian beaches

January 14, 2019 by  
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Bluebottle jellyfish have invaded Australia’s Gold and Sunshine Coasts. This past weekend, the jellyfish (also known as the Portuguese man-of-war) stung more than 5,000 people, and many of the victims weren’t even in the water. Just walking on one bluebottle jellyfish on the beach can bring intense pain, and because of strong north-easterly swell conditions, the jellyfish have been pushed to shore. Meanwhile, the deadly Irukandji jellyfish are bombarding the eastern coasts because of warming waters. “I have never seen anything like this — ever. Not everyone reacts the same way, but there have been very serious reactions,” said Jeremy Sturges, Surf Life Saving duty officer. The bluebottle jellyfish species travels in groups. Lifeguards have now closed several beaches, because during the month of December and the first week of January, more than 22,000 people have sought treatment for bluebottle jellyfish stings. Related: Invasive longhorned tick could spread disease across the US According to Queensland Ambulance, people that are stung should “pick off the tentacles with a towel or other object, rinse the area with seawater, place the affected area in warm water and, if needed, apply ice packs.” Luckily, there have not been any fatalities as a result of the bluebottle jellyfish stings. But on Australia’s east coast, experts say that deadly Irukandji jellyfish are spreading, and their stings are so severe they can cause brain hemorrhages and an intense feeling of impending doom, a condition known as Irukandji syndrome. These stings are the most concerning, especially near Queensland’s Fraser Island, because the sting rate has been growing steadily as the waters get warmer . This jellyfish likes to live in higher water temperatures and are normally found in the northern tropics. Recently, there have been two confirmed deaths in Australia due to the Irukandji, and the mysterious deaths of three other tourists have also been linked to the jellyfish. If waters continue to warm, the Irukandji will inevitably move farther south. In three years, they could hit the Gold Coast. “In Queensland alone, we put more people in hospital due to Irukandji stings than shark attacks, crocodile attacks and snake bites combined,” said Jamie Seymore, a professor at James Cook University. “This is something that we need to address now. I can see a time when we have to shut major beaches on the Sunshine Coast. It is going to happen.” Via Matador Network and The Guardian Image via GondwanaGirl

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Dangerous jellyfish have invaded Australian beaches

New York City bans polystyrene foam starting January 1

January 4, 2019 by  
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New York City has officially become the largest jurisdiction in the United States to ban polystyrene foam food and beverage containers. On January 1st, the city’s new policy went into effect after a five-year lobbying and litigation effort from the plastics industry to upend the city’s environmental initiative. Back in 2013, the City Council authorized the statute that states NYC restaurants, food vendors and stores can’t possess, sell or offer polystyrene foam containers for food and beverages. In addition, stores can’t sell or offer “packing peanuts,” which is polystyrene foam used in shipping. They added the ban on the peanuts because they are difficult for both consumers and sanitation officials to dispose of sustainably . Even though the policy took effect on January 1st, businesses will have a six-month warning period to make the necessary changes before the sanitation department starts to enforce the ban. After June 30th, violators will be facing a $250 fine for their first offense. Related: Study finds microplastics in sea turtles around the world In anticipation of the new rule, many NYC food service establishments have already abandoned polystyrene containers and switched to more environmentally friendly options. Some of the substitutes are containers made from aluminum, compostable paper or easily-recycled plastics. Since hitting the market in the 1970s, polystyrene foam food and beverage containers have been an environmental problem because of their brittle composition, which means they break down into tiny pieces and litter the city streets, park, and beaches. To make matters worse, the foam gets flushed into storm drains and gets into local waterways, where fish and birds mistake the foam pieces for food. And, if the containers do make it to a landfill , they can survive for more than a century. The price of more environmentally-friendly containers is nearly the same as the polystyrene foam. However, if businesses with an annual gross income under $500,000 can’t find a substitute with a comparable price, they can obtain a waiver from the ban. Via NRDC Images via felixgeronimo

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New York City bans polystyrene foam starting January 1

A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for family

December 11, 2018 by  
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When it comes to family, we want to offer the best of the best. The smartest way to gift high-quality gifts to your loved ones is by shopping sustainably. Eco-friendly products (and experiences) are made with love and care for people and the planet. Here are some of our top picks for everyone in your family. For mom: Eco-friendly yoga mats Mom deserves some ‘me’ time. Whether she is an avid yogi or is just getting started, this plant-based yoga mat is made with cork . It’s also free of harsh chemicals, antibacterial and odor-free. The cork is sustainable and helps provide a stronger grip. Hobby classes Does your mom love to cook? Maybe she could spend hours making pottery , or perhaps she enjoys painting. No matter her preferences, buy a pass or certificate for classes that interest her. This is a thoughtful gift of experience, which will leave her with lovely memories for years to come. Sweaters Who doesn’t love a snuggly sweater? We love the various options from Patagonia — the company is a champion for the environment, plus their products are built to last whether Mom likes to sit on the couch in her sweater or explore the great outdoors. Sustainable jewelry Add a little extra bling to your mom’s envy-inducing jewelry box with eco-friendly, ethical accessories. There are many beautiful, unique options from 31Bits , which works with women artisans in Uganda, Indonesia and the U.S. to provide fair working conditions and wages as well as healthcare, mentorship, counseling and more. For dad: Organic skincare There is no better way to show your love for someone than by giving them the gift of healthy skin. Whether it is something to moisturize the rough patches under a beard, something to soothe cracked knuckles or a myriad of products, gift Dad with organic skincare that will allow him to pamper himself daily. We love this line , which is made from recycled coffee grounds and only uses plant-based packaging. Watches Adorn Dad’s wrist with a new watch that will keep him punctual and stylish. Be sure to choose a brand with the environment in mind, like WeWood . WeWood offers wood watches free of toxic, artificial materials. Plus, WeWood plants a tree for each watch sold, and these wooden watches are sure to stand out among a sea of their metallic counterparts. Related: Inhabitat test drives a gorgeous WeWood watch Wool shirts Wool is incredibly durable with the ability to withstand the coldest of temperatures and wick away moisture with ease. Add a sleek wool shirt to Dad’s closet with options like Ramblers Way , a family-owned business in the U.S. that is dedicated to respecting the sheep, the environment and the people. The company uses 100 percent wool and donates time and money to local causes ranging from environmental conservation to human need to arts and education. Vegan or recycled leather jackets The jokes might be lame, but Dad can at least look cool in an environmentally responsible leather jacket. There are many vegan options on the market, or you can embrace reuse with a jacked from Better World Fashion . These jackets are made from recycled leather and the buttons are made with recycled metal. The certified B corp also relies on responsible production methods, uses zero water or chemicals and creates zero waste. For siblings: Eco-friendly subscription boxes Subscription boxes are the gift that keeps on giving, but it is important to find ones that advocate for the environment. Surprise your siblings month after month with a subscription to companies like the Bloomin’ Bin , Feeling Fab , KloverBox , MightyFix  and more. Everlane clothing With a commitment to ethical, sustainable fashion, Everlane offers eco-friendly unisex clothing, shoes and accessories that are sure to please. Be sure to browse the ReNew collection , which offers puffer coats, pullover sweaters and parkas all made from recycled water bottles. Zero-waste kit Help your siblings lower their carbon footprints (truly the best gift of all) by gifting them a zero-waste kit. Specifically, we recommend the {Zero} Waste Kit , which includes a glass jar with a leak-proof, organic bamboo lid; a sustainable cork sleeve for mugs; a reusable, ethically-sourced bamboo dual utensil; a stainless steel straw with an eco-friendly cleaner; a napkin made from upcycled fabric scraps; a knife with a ceramic blade and a bamboo handle; and organic cotton produce bags. Whew! That’s a lot of bang for your buck, and everything your loved ones could need to really embrace the zero-waste lifestyle. Indoor garden With a snappy indoor garden , your siblings can grow their very own food for weeks, months and years to come. We love Click + Grow , which is energy-efficient, small space-friendly and easy to use. In our own tests, we had sprouts from seed in just two days! It’s a great gift for those who would love to grow their own food, but might not have a lot of time or space to do so. For grandparents: Natural candles Nothing beats visiting your grandparents and taking in the comforting scents that fill their home (especially if they love to bake!). Add to the aroma with natural candles. Standard, store-bought candles can be toxic, so be sure to find sustainable candles made from responsibly sourced soy, coconut or palm wax. Also, ensure the wick is lead-free and made with cotton. Check Etsy for a wide range of handmade, eco-friendly candles. Related: Making soy candles for the holidays Birdhouses We all get a bit of joy from hearing birds chirp and watching as they soar above us. Gift this joy to Grandma and Grandpa by giving them a beautiful, handcrafted birdhouse that will spruce up their yard and bring cheerful birds around each day. Reading subscriptions Another gift that continues long after the holidays are over, a subscription for books, magazines or newspapers are an excellent present for grandparents who love to read. If they are open to going digital, it’ll save paper — otherwise, encourage them to recycle or upcycle the products when they have finished them! Choose their favorite media and topics, or introduce them to some reading that focuses on sustainability. Family photos Most grandparents would love to receive pictures of their family to place around their homes. Have your images printed with eco-friendly ink on sustainable paper , and then frame it in reclaimed wood or recycled materials. If you really want to go all out, organize a photoshoot with the whole family, and then frame those photos for a sweet sentiment. Images via George Dolgikh , Urbivore , Cally Lawson , Rocknwool , Artem Bali , Grums Aarhus , Ramblers Way , Franklin Heijnen , Kloverbox , Everlane , Alex Mortensen / {Zero} Waste Kit , Click + Grow , Joanna Kosinska , Nora Vellinga , Jonas Jacobsson , Shutterstock and Inhabitat

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A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for family

Corona announces pilot program for 100% plastic-free 6-pack rings in 2019

December 6, 2018 by  
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Corona has announced that it will be launching a pilot program in 2019 for 100 percent plastic-free six-pack rings, making it the first global beer brand to attempt such eco-friendly packaging. The company says it will introduce the new rings in select markets at the beginning of the new year as part of its commitment with Parley for the Oceans to lead the multi-billion dollar beer industry in doing its part to protect the world’s oceans from plastic pollution . Corona beer is mostly packaged with glass and fiberboard, but the company does see an opportunity for improvement when it comes to the six-pack rings. The industry standard plastic rings — made from a photodegradable form of polyethylene — break down into increasingly smaller pieces when they aren’t recycled. Related: Danish brewer Carlsberg to swap plastic 6-pack rings for glue However, the plastic-free rings that Corona will be testing are made from plant-based biodegradable fibers and a mix of by-product waste and compostable materials. When they are left in the environment, they are not harmful to wildlife and will break down into organic material. “Our oceans are under attack. We are taking their life in rapid speed, destroying the chemistry that allows us to be here,” said Cyrill Gutsch, founder and CEO of Parley for the Oceans. “Therefore, we are bidding on the few who take the lead in true change. The ones who are shaping the future with us. Corona is such an Ocean Champion, a powerful ally in our war against marine plastic pollution — and in building the material revolution that will lead us beyond it. We share the goal of phasing plastic out for good, because we simply can’t afford its toxic impact anymore.” Approximately 8 MM metric tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans every year, so Corona has adopted Parley’s strategy to avoid and intercept as much plastic as possible while creating alternative solutions to plastic packaging. This reality is motivation for Corona to avoid plastic entirely, so it will be piloting the new rings in the company’s home country of Mexico at the beginning of next year. It also plans to test the new rings in the U.K. Corona’s decision could have a major influence on the beer industry. The company hopes that this solution of plastic-free rings will become the new standard. + Corona Images via Corona

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Corona announces pilot program for 100% plastic-free 6-pack rings in 2019

This dreamy Malibu beach house is designed to withstand climate change

August 21, 2018 by  
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Ask any number of people what they envision as their dream home, and the majority will likely respond with something along the lines of, “A house on the beach where I can hear and see the crashing waves.” With the right amount of money (in this instance, $5.7 million), you can make that vision a reality with House Noir, a spacious, three-story beach house in marvelous Malibu, California . Built on the sandy Las Flores beach, just steps from the mighty Pacific Ocean, House Noir has unmatched views of the mountains, sea and Catalina Island. Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA) met the challenge of designing an aesthetically pleasing and sustainable home that can also withstand natural disasters and the impacts of climate change : earthquakes, rising sea levels and an eroding coastline. Related: Hurricane-resistant home uses resilient boat-building techniques to weather the storm The team began by elevating the 1,790-square-foot house a generous 20 feet above the beach to accommodate a tall seawall and subterranean caisson foundation (or pier foundation), an impermeable retaining structure sunk into the ground. The added energy-absorbing features help the structure withstand earthquake tremors. To combat the caustic effects of sea air, which can seriously depreciate exterior paint and metal facades, LOHA enveloped the house with aluminum and non-corrosive metal and finished it off with high-quality rustproof paint. The entire exterior package is wrapped in standing-seam siding that is seamlessly molded up the sides of the structure over the roofline, all the way to the roof deck. The luxurious — and well-protected — interior of the home offers mesmerizing views throughout. Full-height glass doors, which lead to oblique balconies, allow ocean breezes to cool the beach house. An open-air staircase ascends from the ground floor up through the heart of the home to the rooftop deck, with perforated metal risers and treads that encourage beams of natural light  to illuminate every floor. Other amenities include a large designer kitchen, imported tiles, European fixtures, white oak floors, an airy mezzanine, two bedrooms, two and a half baths and the spacious, private rooftop deck with an outdoor shower. + Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA) Via Dwell Images via Paul Vu/Simon Berlyn

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This dreamy Malibu beach house is designed to withstand climate change

India plans to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022

June 6, 2018 by  
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Big news from India : the country aims to abolish single-use plastic in about four years. Prime minister Narendra Modi announced the goal on World Environment Day , and The Guardian said it’s the most ambitious commitment out of the actions to combat plastic pollution happening in 60 nations. The move could dramatically reduce the flow of plastic from 1.3 billion people. India is resisting plastic pollution with what United Nations Environment head Erik Solheim called a phenomenal commitment. The country’s Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Harsh Vardhan said single-use plastics will be banned in all of the country’s states by 2022. Solheim said the move would inspire the planet and “ignite real change.” Related: Kenya introduces world’s harshest law on plastic bags “It is the duty of each one of us to ensure that the quest for material prosperity does not compromise our environment ,” Modi said. “The choices that we make today will define our collective future. The choices may not be easy. But through awareness, technology and a genuine global partnership, I am sure we can make the right choices. Let us all join together to beat plastic pollution and make this planet a better place to live.” UN Environment released  a report providing “the first comprehensive global assessment of government action against plastic pollution,” including case studies from over 60 countries. The report included a list of states and cities in India that have banned plastic bags or disposable plastic products, and the selected case study in the country highlighted beach cleanup efforts in Mumbai; Inhabitat covered the initiative started by local lawyer Afroz Shah earlier this year. Volunteers have cleaned up around 13,000 tons of trash, largely plastics , according to the case study, and this year people spotted Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings on the beach for the first time in more than 20 years. + United Nations Environment Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos and Juggadery/Flickr

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India plans to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022

Volkswagen says it will stop all animal testing

June 6, 2018 by  
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German automaker Volkswagen came under fire earlier this year for funding an experiment subjecting macaque monkeys to diesel fumes — tests PETA  described as cruel and outrageous. But PETA has also  just announced a victory : CEO Herbert Diess told PETA Germany the company would “never again use animals in testing unless required to do so by law.” In January, the New York Times reported  on a study involving 10 macaque monkeys at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute (LRRI) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In the experiment, equipment pulled exhaust from tailpipes of a Volkswagen Beetle and a 1999 Ford pickup. The gas was diluted and sent into airtight chambers where the monkeys were kept. The laboratory played cartoons for the monkeys as they sat for four hours breathing fumes. The Beetle used, provided by Volkswagen, had been rigged to generate pollution levels less harmful in a laboratory than on a street. Related: Volkswagen to pay $4.3 billion to US following emissions scandal The European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT), funded by Volkswagen , BMW, and Daimler, commissioned the Albuquerque experiment. The group shut down in 2017 during controversy about its work. EUGT wanted the Albuquerque experiment to challenge a World Health Organization finding that classified diesel exhaust as a carcinogen. EcoWatch said a new Netflix series called Dirty Money, from which the above YouTube video was taken, also documented diesel emissions tests on monkeys. PETA said due to biological and genetic differences between monkeys and humans, “the results of experiments on them are useless in predicting human responses to things like inhaling diesel exhaust.” They also said LRRI has a history of abusing and neglecting animals. Diess told PETA Germany that Volkswagen will update their code of conduct later in 2018 with the ban on animal testing. PETA credited the victory to communications with company executives, protests at Volkswagen headquarters, and emails sent to the car company. They said over 160,000 people in the United States alone took action. + PETA Via EcoWatch and The New York Times Image via Depositphotos

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