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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The Truck Surf Hotel is a traveling retreat that hits the best surf spots in Europe and Africa

May 3, 2018 by  
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Good news, surfers! The surf is always up at the ultra-cool Truck Surf Hotel – a converted Mercedes Actros truck that has been revamped into an expandable two-story retreat. The hotel on wheels has an innovative hydraulic system that enables the walls and sealing to expand upwards and outwards once parked, offering surfers a front-row accommodation to hit the waves in some of the best surf spots in Portugal and Morocco. The Truck Surf Hotel offers a unique accommodation for active travelers who want a little flexibility in their vacation plans. When fully expanded, the truck hotel has two stories. The living space on the first floor has a kitchen, social room, and bathroom with shower. On the upper floor, there are five bedrooms – four shared double rooms with bunk beds, and one private double room. Related: This dreamy boutique hotel in California is made up of 11 refurbished Airstreams Large windows flood the interior with natural light. There’s also a long, outdoor terrace with plenty of bean bags where guests can sit and take in beautiful views of the sea. Guests will also enjoy a buffet breakfast every morning, along with a variety of packages to choose from, all geared towards making the most out of the truck’s roaming capabilities. After years of traveling to the best surf locations in Europe and Africa, the truck’s owners – Daniela Careiro and Eduardo Ribeiro – were inspired to create a retreat on wheels that would help other surfers explore uncrowded surf spots with the best waves. The hotel’s many packages on offer include options for new surfers or expert wave riders. According to Ribeiro and Careiro, “Every morning we wake up with the best view, serve the buffet breakfast on board, surrounded by nature in rural tourism farms and natural camping parks. We take you to amazing places in Algarve and Alentejo, according to the experience you’ve chosen, either…surfing on different beaches along the coast or explor[ing] the spectacular nature with different outdoor activities.” + Truck Surf Hotel Via Uncrate Images via Truck Surf Hotel

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The Truck Surf Hotel is a traveling retreat that hits the best surf spots in Europe and Africa

Snarkitectures Fun House will take over the National Building Museum

May 2, 2018 by  
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It’s almost that time again—the National Building Museum’s (NBM) Great Hall will undergo another dramatic transformation as part of its ongoing Summer Block Party series, this year under the direction of New York-based Snarkitecture . Returning after their wildly popular ‘The Beach’ NBM installation from 2015, the design studio recently unveiled designs for ‘Fun House,’ a comprehensive museum exhibition housed within a freestanding gabled structure. Created in the image of a giant traditional home, Fun House will comprise rooms exhibiting well-known Snarkitecture projects that trace the firm’s 10-year history. National Building Museum’s Summer Block Party is one of Washington, D.C.’s most anticipated architecture events every year thanks to its interactive, family-friendly installations by major design names including the likes of Bjarke Ingels Group , Studio Gang, and James Corner Field Operations. One of the most popular NBM exhibitions to date has been Snarkitecture’s The Beach, which filled 10,000 square feet of the historic Great Hall with nearly one million recyclable plastic balls. Snarkitecture’s Fun House will, for the first time, take up the entirety of the Great Hall. The exhibition, curated by Italy-based Maria Cristina Didero, will lead visitors through a sequence of interactive rooms with recreations of Snarkitecture’s important projects, such as The Beach -inspired kidney-shaped ball pit. The Fun House opens to the public July 4 through September 3, 2018 and will be complemented by a full schedule of programs and special events. Related: Gigantic swimmable ball pit takes over D.C.’s National Building Museum “Fun House represents a unique opportunity for us to bring together a number of different Snarkitecture-designed interiors, installations, and objects into a single, immersive experience,” said Alex Mustonen, co-founder of Snarkitecture. “Our practice aims to create moments that make architecture accessible and engaging to a wide, diverse audience. With that in mind, we are excited to invite all visitors to the National Building Museum to an exhibition and installation that we hope is both unexpected and memorable.” + Snarkitecture Images via Snarkitecture , photographs by Noah Kalina

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Snarkitectures Fun House will take over the National Building Museum

Turtle hatchlings spotted on Mumbai beach for the first time in nearly 20 years

March 30, 2018 by  
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Plastic and trash used to pile five feet high in some spots on Versova Beach in Mumbai , India, but in 2015, local lawyer Afroz Shah launched what the United Nations described as the “world’s largest beach cleanup project” — and people recently spotted Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings there. The Independent and The Guardian said it’s the first time turtle hatchlings have been glimpsed on the beach in years. Week 127 . Fantastic news for Mumbai . We got back Olive Ridley Sea Turtle after 20 years. Historic moment Nested and Hatched at our beach. We facilitate their journey to ocean. Constant cleaning helps marine species. Marine conservation centre needed at @versovabeach pic.twitter.com/j79xCKamNh — Afroz Shah (@AfrozShah1) March 22, 2018 Around 80 to 90 turtle hatchlings recently crawled towards the sea at Versova, guarded by volunteers who The Guardian said slept in the sand to protect the baby turtles from birds of prey or dogs. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature classifies Olive Ridley turtles as vulnerable , and they may not have been born at this Mumbai beach for almost two decades. Related: Tiny treadmills for turtle hatchlings help scientists evaluate their stamina Scientist Sumedha Korgaonkar, who’s finishing a PhD on Olive Ridley turtles, told The Guardian it is possible small amounts of the animals nested on the beach in the past; she can’t be sure because “regular patrolling for turtle nests is not done in Mumbai.” However, she added, “Beach cleanups definitely have a positive effect on nesting turtles.” Yes yes .. We did it .. Thank you Afroz . Here is the journey . lovely Mumbaikars . we did . Urban cities getting our olive Ridley turtle back . pic.twitter.com/vg4ZJe5cTk — Clean Up Versova (@versovabeach) March 22, 2018 Shah has been leading volunteers to clean up the 5,000 tons of trash at Versova for more than two years. Around 55,000 people reside near the beach, and Shah started by offering to clean up communal toilets and picking up waste on his own. He told The Guardian, “For the first six to eight weeks, nobody joined. Then two men approached me and said, very politely, ‘Please sir, can we wear your gloves?’ Both of them just came and joined me. That’s when I knew it was going to be a success.” Shah’s effort flourished into a national movement; everyone from slum dwellers to politicians to school children to celebrities has joined in. UN Environment head Erik Solheim said in a 2017 press release , “What Afroz Shah has achieved on Versova beach is nothing short of remarkable. These 100 weeks of hard work and determination by Afroz and countless volunteers goes way beyond dealing with a local crisis. This has inspired what is becoming a nationwide and global movement to turn the tide on plastic and waste.” Via The Independent , The Guardian , and UN Environment Image via Wikimedia Commons

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Turtle hatchlings spotted on Mumbai beach for the first time in nearly 20 years

Thresher sharks die in Massachusetts – likely due to cold shock

December 29, 2017 by  
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Winter is here, and it appears even marine creatures are feeling the impact. The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy responded to calls of two thresher sharks stranded on Massachusetts beaches, and said the sharks likely succumbed to cold shock. The north half of the United States is battling bitter cold with a mass of Arctic air, according to The New York Times , with meteorologists saying single-digit temperatures could be here to stay for at least another week. And even sharks are battling the frigid weather . The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy shared on their social media they were called to two thresher shark strandings near Cape Cod in Massachusetts, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries . The conservancy said the sharks were both male, and probably stranded because of cold shock. Related: 512-year-old Greenland shark may be the oldest living vertebrate on Earth Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries marine scientist Greg Skomal told The New York Times, “If you’ve got cold air, that’ll freeze their gills up very quickly. Those gill filaments are very sensitive and it wouldn’t take long for the shark to die.” Skomal said the thresher sharks may have been working their way south with the cooling of northerly waters, but could have gotten trapped by Cape Cod and stranded on the beach, where they may have died more rapidly because of the cold. The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, which promotes Atlantic white shark conservation through scientific research and education, gathered morphometric data and organ and tissue samples for analyzing once they thaw. They called on people to report anything strange they might see on Cape beaches, with a picture and location. If you’d like to help out the conservancy, they put together a shark stranding response kit wishlist on GOODdler; you can donate here . Via the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Facebook and The New York Times Images via the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Twitter

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Thresher sharks die in Massachusetts – likely due to cold shock

Universal DNA vaccine could make yearly flu shot a thing of the past

December 29, 2017 by  
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There were 7,000 confirmed cases of the flu in the United States by the end of November – double the amount from the same time the prior year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. University of Washington School of Medicine researchers are hoping to one day offer an alternative to the annual flu shot: a DNA vaccine . The vaccine could offer long-lasting protection from all flu virus strains – even as viruses genetically change. A DNA vaccine could instruct a person’s skin cells to generate antigens and induce antibodies and T cell responses to fight the flu, according to UW Medicine . A gene gun device could inject the vaccine right into skin cells. With the universal vaccine, people might not have to get a flu shot every year. Related: Experimental Zika vaccine to be tested on humans for the first time The DNA vaccine is able to get around genetic changes in flu strains by “using genetic components of influenza virus – the conserved areas – which do not change,” according to UW Medicine. The DNA vaccine doesn’t just repel a virus but finds infected cells and kills them. The research team tested the vaccine on primates , and found T cell responses were so fast the primates just did not get sick. Department of Microbiology professor Deborah Fuller, in whose laboratory this research took place, said in a statement, “With the immunized groups, we found that using this conserved component of the virus gave them 100 percent protection against a previous circulating influenza virus that didn’t match the vaccine.” This universal vaccine could be ready for rapid deployment in case of a deadly pandemic flu strain, and has a production time of around three months as opposed to the nine months required for the United States-approved vaccine for flu season. The DNA-based approach could also offer a mechanism for vaccines for other viruses like Zika . The vaccine could still be five to 10 years away – UW Medicine said that’s about as long as it takes from promising laboratory results to commercial viability. The journal PLOS One published the research this month. 17 researchers from institutions around the United States contributed to the paper. Via University of Washington School of Medicine Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Universal DNA vaccine could make yearly flu shot a thing of the past

Tiny treadmills for turtle hatchlings help scientists evaluate their stamina

December 20, 2017 by  
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When baby sea turtles are born, within their first 24 hours they make the journey from nest to ocean . The trek which should take a few minutes sometimes lasts hours in urban settings where artificial light can disorient the hatchlings. Two Florida Atlantic University (FAU) scientists employed wee treadmills and little swimsuits to dig into the turtles’ swimming performance after crawling for so long – and they were surprised by what they found. Speed is crucial for turtle hatchlings, who face dangers on their way to the ocean. Their survival “depends heavily on their ability to swim,” according to FAU. But in urban settings, excess light from streets and buildings can draw the babies away from the ocean and towards land – where they might get run over by traffic, drown in a pool, or be eaten by a predator. Biological sciences associate professor Sarah Milton said in a statement, “What prompted our study was the desire to understand what happens to these hatchlings after they spend hours crawling on the beach because they are disoriented. We wanted to know if they would even be able to swim after crawling 500 meters or more, which could take them as long as seven hours to complete.” Related: Police Officer Saves Nearly 100 Baby Sea Turtles in Florida Milton and graduate student Karen Pankaew conducted what FAU described as the “first study on disorientation to examine the physiological effects of extended crawling and swimming performance.” They gathered 150 hatchlings from 27 loggerhead and 18 green turtle nests in Palm Beach County, Florida . The hatchlings walked on tiny treadmills before swimming in a tank in a specially designed swimsuit. The scientists measured oxygen consumption, lactate accumulation, and swimming breathing and stroke rates. Field studies supplemented laboratory observations. The hatchlings were placed into the ocean in their natural habitats shortly after collection. The study results completely surprised the researchers, according to Milton, who said, “We were expecting that the hatchlings would be really tired from the extended crawling and that they would not be able to swim well. It turned out not to be the case and that they are in fact crawling machines. They crawl and rest, crawl and rest and that’s why they weren’t too tired to swim.” She also said the study offers a scientific basis to back up lighting ordinances during hatching season. The Journal of Experimental Biology published the study in November. Via Florida Atlantic University Images via Pixabay and Jay Paredes

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Tiny treadmills for turtle hatchlings help scientists evaluate their stamina

The World’s First Shampoo Bottle Made from Beach Plastic

November 21, 2017 by  
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At the moment, there are 165 million tons of plastic … The post The World’s First Shampoo Bottle Made from Beach Plastic appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Biomimicry helps nature-lovers and fragile wildlife co-exist at the Votu Hotel in Brazil

September 20, 2017 by  
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The Maraú Peninsula is a 25 mile long bar of pristine Brazilian sand, flanked by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the tranquil Camamu Bay on the other, where one glorious beach gives way to another. With such stunning landscapes, it’s no wonder hip Brazilians are flocking to these shores. But the native mangrove forests here are one the world’s most endangered ecosystems, and great care must be taken to preserve them. GCP Arquitectura and Urbanismo’s Votu Hotel takes an unusual approach to that challenge: biomimicry––sustainable innovation inspired by nature’s proven wisdom. According to Indian legend, the peninsula’s namesake, Maraú, was a peaceful fisherman who lived in with his beautiful wife, Saquaíra. One day, while Maraú was out fishing, his neighbor, Camamu, came ashore, and he and Saquaíra fell deeply in love. Camamu took her away in his canoe, and when Maraú returned to discover her abduction, he desperately begged the gods for a faster one. They granted his lovesick plea, and away he went after her at top speed, surfing the waves and sculpting the peninsula´s curved beaches and bays as he went. Today, the region is a dreamy wonderland of rich, golden sands, rugged white cliffs, nodding coconut palms, cool waterfalls, teeming coral reefs, tranquil mangrove forests and restingas ––special forests that grows on shifting coastal dunes. Unfortunately, humans are having a massive impact on the landscape. Less than 5% of the original forest cover remains, yet 40% of its plants and 60% of its vertebrates––including a long-hair maned sloth, giant armadillo, giant otter, and unique local populations of cougar, jaguar, and ocelot––are found nowhere else in the world. New species are discovered frequently: over a thousand new flowering plants, a black-faced lion tamarin recently believed extinct, and a brightly blonde-haired capuchin monkey in recent years. Meanwhile, the mangroves and estuaries provide critical nurseries for the fish, crustaceans, and mollusks that feed these populations. Inhabitating such a precious and endangered habitat requires the region’s hotels to care for it just as they care for the visitors who come here. The Votu Hotel, designed by GCP Arquitectura and Urbanismo , embraces the challenge using biomimicry, an innovative approach to design that is in accordance with nature. GCP even has a biologist on staff––Alessandro Araujo, a Certified Biomimicry Specialist educated by Biomimicry 3.8 ––and it’s her job to enhance natural processes already at work here by tapping nature’s proven solutions ––those favored for hundreds of millions of years of evolution. Related: 6 groundbreaking examples of tech innovations inspired by biomimicry The GCP team sought to maintain and support the region’s native species while minimizing air conditioning and electricity consumption, and good water management, ventilation, and thermal comfort were also critically important. These requirements were made challenging by the vulnerability of these shores to heavy rain, floods, coastal erosion, high temperatures, salt spray, and high humidity. To solve these problems, Araujo looked at species that solve these same kinds of challenges. Prairie dogs, for instance, are social rodents that live in large colonies or towns where outside temperatures can reach 100°F in the summer and -35°F in the winter. They rely on long underground burrows to insulate them from such extremes. GCP borrowed this concept for Votu, using concrete walls and a roof garden to buffer heat. The burrows also leverage a natural process called the Bernoulli principle, in which air flow is slowed by the prairie dogs’ earthen mounds, increasing pressure and forcing air to flow quickly through the tunnels. Votu’s team mimicked this clever strategy by optimizing the position of each bungalow using computer modeling, and placing a semi-permeable guardrail in front of the prevailing winds, slowing them and drawing air into ventilation ducts below the roof. The bungalow shell itself was inspired by another biological champion, the saguaro cactus, which relies on long spines and accordion-like folds to mitigate extremes of heat and exposure. The deep folds offer partial shade, cooling air on the shaded side and creating a gradient that facilitates circulation and minimizes heat absorption. The Votu bungalows mimic this strategy with vertical, wooden, self-shading slats. Local species were consulted as well. The little houses rest on stilts, just as the native mangroves and restinga forest trees do, preserving the natural topography and allowing the unimpeded flow of rainwater and tides. Meanwhile, the kitchen takes inspiration from the toco toucan, a local bird that experiences large temperature swings, from hot days to cool nights. The large, vascularized toucan beak is an extremely efficient thermal radiator, offering the greatest thermal exchange known among animals. Heat from the kitchen is dissipated the same way: as it rises, it is drawn into a copper coil that passes through the rooftop soil. Air cools in the shade of a roof garden, and eventually returns to the kitchen: a natural air conditioner requiring no additional energy. Biomimicry is known for its reliance on a simple set of Life’s Principles, and GCP is dedicated to following them. One Araujo particularly loves is “Be resource efficient,” which the team did by relying on multifunctional design, low energy processes, recycling, and fitting form to function. The bottom of Votu’s concrete structure doubles as the bathroom wall, for instance, while the upper part forms the roof. In front of the hotel, a thicket of bamboo intercepts any run-off from the bungalows or tidal wash from the beach, acting as a living filter against salinity, bacteria, or pollutants. In back of the bungalows, graywater goes into the banana circle, while blackwater passes through a biodigester and biofilter, ending in a compost pile that fertilizes a fruit-bearing orchard for the guests to enjoy. GCP’s approach to conservation and tourism may seem unusual, but biomimicry has been growing in popularity among architects for a long time. And after all, these ideas are proven winners, nature’s survivors. Why reinvent the wheel? And maybe, just maybe, such bio-inspiration will let nature’s wild places continue to survive and thrive as we enjoy them. + GCP Arquitetura & Urbanismo

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Biomimicry helps nature-lovers and fragile wildlife co-exist at the Votu Hotel in Brazil

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