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

5 major ways millennials are changing office culture and design

April 24, 2018 by  
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Millennials are changing office culture in visible ways — you can see it in the design sensibilities of modern workplaces and the thoughtfulness of office layouts. But they are also making figurative improvements which can be a little more difficult to see at first glance. Read on to learn how this younger generation stands to change the workplace, and even the economy, as we know it. 1. Flatter company hierarchy and open offices In both a literal and a figurative sense, millennials want to flatten the average company model. The quintessential office — cubicles at the bottom and high-powered offices at the top — presents physical and psychological barriers to workplace harmony and productivity. It doesn’t have to be that way. Millennials seem to understand this. Employees who had direct interaction with their managers within the last six months report being up to three times more engaged than workers who had no interaction with company leaders. This engagement gap is something millennial employees are trying to change for good. From open offices to more frequent opportunities for feedback and exchanging ideas, millennials crave flatness in company structure and communication channels. Open-door policies don’t mean anything, after all, if your CEO’s office is inaccessible. Millennials also prefer to work in an environment with great natural lighting — probably because this, too, contributes to a sense of openness and harmony. 2. The vanishing office The office is vanishing — not completely or overnight, but certainly with time. It’s all about allowing employees to do their work in familiar, comfortable or novel environments. You have probably heard of communal work spaces, which offer an interesting middle-ground between a home office and a company campus. Home offices are booming, too, thanks to millennials. In one survey, 85 percent of millennial respondents indicated they would prefer telecommuting from home or elsewhere 100 percent of the time, versus commuting to a central location. There are plenty of ways for employers to support this new way of working — even in the smaller details like outfitting home or satellite offices. Many companies provide their employees with allowances to buy furnishings, decorations or electronics for their spaces at work, and the same concept can apply for telecommuters. A stipend for remote workers can help them create a unique work environment at home, which contributes to their productivity and makes them feel more connected to the company’s home base. 3. The rise of the side-hustle Depending on whom you ask, this is either a gift of market-driven society or a symptom of it. Either way — and whether out of necessity or the sheer pleasure of developing new skills — millennials are encouraging a new aspect of the economy. The side-hustle isn’t the second job that parents and grandparents knew. It might not be incredibly lucrative, but the side-hustle does provide an opportunity to develop skills, pursue interests and gain a new stream of income in addition to a full time job. According to many economists, a side-hustle economy might soon become reality. 4. Building a brighter future with technology Many jobs that require repetitive motion or manual labor may soon be performed by machines. What comes after that? According to some experts, one solution includes taxes on the robots , which would fund a citizen stipend known as “ universal basic income .” Even now, polls are finding a majority of millennials to be in favor of UBI, since it could help many underemployed college graduates find some financial security as they monetize their skills. We’re getting ahead of the point, but the fact remains: millennials have been extremely quick to read the writing on the wall when it comes to technology and the future of the world economy. They’re envisioning a future where everyone is free to pursue talents and passions, while also learning to integrate these passions with our work responsibilities. 5. Companies that benefit the world Millennials want to spend their time working for organizations that contribute to the common good in some way. They see the challenges facing the world, and recognize the importance of the triple bottom line : social, environmental and financial sustainability. They’ve also given  more of their earnings to charity than their parents’ generation. It doesn’t stop there. When it comes to the physical environment of the workplace, green design is very much in demand. The younger generation wants to work in spaces with eco-friendly lighting, solar power and even down-to-earth structural designs using recycled materials. The point of all this is that young people seem to see a better way of doing things when it comes to working. Step one is to make work more comfortable and relevant for the people doing it. Step two is to make it relevant to the rest of the world. Via NBC News , OnRec , Flex Jobs , Market Watch , SF Gate , The Street and Generosity Images via Brooke Cagle , Marc Mueller , Bruce Mars , Johnson Wang , Scott Webb , RawPixel.com and Deposit Photos

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5 major ways millennials are changing office culture and design

Outside Van’s Powerstation is a rugged yet luxurious tiny home on wheels

April 24, 2018 by  
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Although Outside Van ‘s motto may be “Life is simple in a Van,” their latest model is anything but. The Powerstation is a powerhouse of off-grid living – a tiny home on wheels that can go practically anywhere. The souped-up camper van combines high-tech functionality with a comfortable cabin-like living space, all for the low price of $320,000. The team behind Outside Van takes 4×4 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans and turns them into custom-made adventure vehicles. In this case, a client requested an off-grid vehicle for mountain biking outside of Las Vegas. The result is a rugged home on wheels that sleeps six and comes with plenty of room for bike storage. Related: Nondescript VW van hides a gorgeous and chic mobile home The van was designed to offer optimal off-grid functionality combined with all the comforts of home. Although compact, the living and sleeping space has enough space for a queen-sized bed, a two-person bench, and a bamboo cafe table, in addition to offering several strategic storage options. The kitchen is outfitted with a large custom-made galley with a stainless-steel refrigerator and bamboo cabinets. As far as technology, the van contains $24,000 worth of impressive power-generating gear, including battery packs, solar panels, and a diesel-based heating system. A 100W Solar Roof Rack is used to power the van’s electricity and charge electronics. LED lighting was installed for the interior and gear storage lights. According to Erik Ekman, chief executive officer of Outside Vans, this off-grid van is the ultimate purchase for anyone looking to explore the remote areas of the world, “There’s not an RV on the planet that can take you where this van can, and keep you out there off the grid for a long time,” says Ekman. “Our goal is to consistently make the best and most expensive vans we can. We’re not interested in cutting corners.” + Outside Van Via UnCrate Images via Outside Van

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Outside Van’s Powerstation is a rugged yet luxurious tiny home on wheels

California bill could ban all new fossil-fueled cars by 2040

January 4, 2018 by  
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California could ban all new fossil fuel cars from 2040 under a bill introduced this week by Assemblymember Phil Ting , a Democrat of San Francisco. If it passes, the Clean Cars 2040 act would require all new cars sold in the state to be zero emissions vehicles. Ting said in a statement , “We’re at an inflection point: we’ve got to address the harmful emissions that cause climate change .” AB 1745, or the Clean Cars 2040 Act, would require every passenger vehicle sold in California to be zero emissions after January 1, 2040. Ting said fossil fuel vehicles are responsible for almost 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the state, so “achieving the goal of electrification of transportation is crucial for the health of our people and the planet.” NextGen America president Tom Steyer said polluting cars are California’s biggest source of carbon emissions . The bill would not apply to commercial vehicles greater than 10,000 pounds, just passenger cars. It also wouldn’t apply to cars owned by people in other states moving to California. Related: Scotland to phase out new gas and diesel cars by 2032 California hopes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent under 1990 levels by 2030. Governor Jerry Brown aims to have 1.5 million zero emission cars on the streets by 2025, and there are almost 300,000 EVs registered in CA already. But the state still has a ways to go: the San Francisco Chronicle said in 2016 that while 2.1 million new cars were sold, only 1.9 percent of those were zero emissions. The bill already has support from some environmental groups. Earthjustice staff attorney Adrian Martinez said in Ting’s statement, “Reducing fossil fuels emissions should be California’s highest priority. With this legislation, California will be taking combustion polluting vehicles off the road…helping us to finally address air pollution and better equipping us to combat climate change. I urge our state’s leaders to pass this important legislation.” Via Assemblymember Phil Ting , the San Francisco Chronicle , and Engadget Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 , 3 )

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California bill could ban all new fossil-fueled cars by 2040

2017: the year climate change spiraled out of control

January 4, 2018 by  
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With its extreme weather and unraveling public policy, 2017 provided the world with a glimpse of its climate-chaotic future if changes are not made immediately. Ferocious wildfires burned across California, back-to-back major hurricanes devastated coastal and even inland areas, and the Arctic continued to melt. All the while, Washington DC took action to halt the marginal but meaningful progress made under the Obama Administration by withdrawing from the Paris agreement and stacking the Environmental Protection Agency with those who would serve the interests of industry first. In what is yet another warning sign in a long line of alarm bells ringing, 2017 served as a reminder that the disruptive power of climate change is real and that our failure to act will cost us dearly, today and tomorrow. Although global emissions had remained flat for three years prior, 2017 marked a return to form, with greenhouse gas emissions rising by two percent. While the United States , despite its change in leadership, maintained a slight decline in emissions, this was more than offset by increases in China and India. This continued rise means that in order to meet the emissions goals to avoid catastrophic climate change, substantial cuts will need to be made quickly over the next few decades. Meanwhile, the worst-case climate-change scenarios predicted by scientists seem to be increasingly likely, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature . Related: Climate change is squishing the Earth and making oceans heavier If the numbers aren’t convincing, the visceral experience of 2017 should make clear the dangers of climate change. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria devastated the United States and the Caribbean, leaving much of Puerto Rico still without power and over $200 billion in damages during what was the costliest hurricane season in history. On the other side of North America, wildfires raged in what was also the costliest wildfire season on record. While climate change doesn’t cause wildfires or hurricanes, it creates the conditions that facilitate extreme weather. Meanwhile, the Arctic continues to melt as scientists declare that the region is no longer reliably frozen due to a downward spiral of warming temperatures. The world is not doomed to this climate catastrophe. However, time is rapidly running out. Via MIT Technology Review Images via Depositphotos (1)

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2017: the year climate change spiraled out of control

Ireland set to ban fracking after both houses of Parliament pass bill

July 3, 2017 by  
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Ireland is one signature away from banning hydraulic fracturing, or fracking . After the country’s House of Representatives, the Dáil Éireann, passed a fracking ban the end of May, Ireland’s Senate, the Seanad Éireann, followed suit the end of June. Now the bill just needs Irish President Michael Higgins’ signature before Ireland bids farewell to the controversial practice. “We’ve made history,” said Fine Gael TD Tony McLoughlin, who introduced the bill, after the vote. President Higgins is expected to sign the bill “in the coming days,” according to the Fine Gael Party . France, Bulgaria, and Germany are the only other European Union states to have banned the practice onshore so far. Related: Ireland votes to be world’s first country to fully divest from fossil fuels “Fracking must be seen as a serious public health and environmental concern for Ireland,” McLoughlin said in a statement. “If fracking was allowed to take place in Ireland and Northern Ireland it would pose significant threats to the air, water, and the health and safety of individuals and communities here.” According to The Irish Times, politicians across the political spectrum in Ireland supported the bill. A public consultation earlier in 2017 drew 8,000 submissions, with just one opposing the ban. Environmental activists touted the bill as protecting people, the environment, and water quality in the country. There are large shale deposits in multiple counties in Ireland such as Sligo and Leitrim, the counties McLoughlin represents. Irish communities will be safe from the negative impacts of fracking seen in towns and cities in the United States, according to McLoughlin, where states are beginning to consider fracking bans . Earlier this year Maryland joined Vermont and New York to ban fracking , and they were the first state with gas reserves to do so. Via The Irish Times and EcoWatch Images via Friends of the Earth Ireland and greensefa on Flickr

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Indiana governor delivers blow to solar industry

May 4, 2017 by  
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The solar industry provides three times as many jobs in the state of Indiana as natural gas, but governor Eric Holcomb doesn’t seem to care. Despite Department of Energy statistics that show the industry’s potential benefits to his constituents, Holcomb just signed a bill reducing incentives for solar power , impacting both installers and customers. Holcomb signed Senate Bill 309 this week. It’s better than a previous variant, which would have treated homeowners as power plants and consumers simultaneously, requiring them to sell all of the power generated on their own rooftops at the wholesale rate, around four cents per kilowatt-hour (kwh), and then buy it back at the retail rate of about 11 cents per kwh. That version didn’t go through; but the new bill hits net metering , or the opportunity for homeowners to sell excess energy at the retail rate in Indiana. Now they can only sell it at just above the wholesale rate. Related: Solar power now provides twice as many jobs as coal in U.S. That’s not all. Utilities can now charge those homeowners with rooftop solar an extra fee for “energy delivery costs.” Some people think the bill’s ambiguous language also ends net metering entirely for people obtaining power from community solar, or those leasing their panels. People who get rooftop solar installed after 2022 won’t be able to benefit from net metering at all; neither will those people who replace or expand the system they have now after 2017. The public were against the bill, according to Hoosier Environmental Council executive director Jesse Kharbanda who said, “Ask Republicans , ‘What kind of feedback are you getting from your constituents?’ They’ll tell us that they have gotten dozens and dozens of calls opposing the bill, but zero supporting the bill.” Solar installer Paul Steury of Indiana-based Photon Electric said the law could hurt sales since it’s stripped away incentives. He said he knows many representatives who didn’t listen to the people. Indiana rooftop solar owner Lanette Erby told Nexus Media, “We’re currently on an inverter with the electric company, but obviously if the net metering bill were to go through, we’d be purchasing battery backups. That’s where we’re at. The same kind of legislation killed the solar industry in a couple of other states…which is terrible because it’s creating so many jobs.” Via Nexus Media Images via Rectify Solar Facebook

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Indiana governor delivers blow to solar industry

Architects envision a bright new future for Milan’s abandoned railways

May 4, 2017 by  
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Five international studios recently unveiled exciting plans to revitalize seven disused rail yards in Milan, Italy. MAD Architects , EMBT , Stefano Boeri Architects , Cino Zucchi Architetti and Mecanoo reimagined the brownfield sites as beautiful green spaces with social housing and green transportation systems. MAD Architects focused on incorporating sustainable mobility in their design. The team envisioned an entire ecosystem of cycle lanes, footpaths, and pedestrian-friendly spaces that connect different spatial concepts dedicated to different functions. Related: MAD offers up two design proposals for Lucas Museum: one for SF, one for LA Miralles Tagliabue EMBT designed a project named Miracoli a Milano (Miracles in Milan) that includes an area devoted to creativity, one that focuses on education, one dedicated to leisure and entertainment, and a zone for emerging, innovative start-up companies . Stefano Boeri Architects proposed an urban reforestation project for the city. The proposal would transform 90% of the site area into public lawns, woods, green spaces, and orchards interconnected by a sustainable mobility network. Related: UNESCO announces winning design for the Bamiyan Cultural Center in Afghanistan Dutch firm Mecanoo designed seven mobility hubs where trains, subway lines, trams and busses would meet and link to other local and regional hubs. Cino Zucchi Architetti designed a proposal that references the traditional Brolo wooded garden. They replicated the flexibility of this space and envisioned different sites as distinctive environments dominated by greenery. + MAD Architects + Miralles Tagliabue EMBT + Stefano Boeri Architects + Cino Zucchi Architetti + Mecanoo Via Dezeen

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Architects envision a bright new future for Milan’s abandoned railways

California introduces its own 100% renewable energy bill

February 22, 2017 by  
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Massachusetts recently introduced a bill to derive 100 percent of the state’s energy from renewables , and now California is following suit. A new bill introduced by state Senate leader Kevin de León would require the state to obtain 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2045. Under de León’s bill, SB 584 , California would need to reach 50 percent renewable energy use by 2025, five years earlier than the state’s current target of 2030, and cease using fossil fuels completely by 2045. Related: Massachusetts lawmakers sponsor 100% renewable energy bill In 2016, the state obtained 27 percent of electricity via wind , solar, and other clean sources, and California’s deserts offer potential spaces for more renewable energy plants. The solar industry has created 100,000 jobs in California. Experts say the state could reach the 100 percent goal since costs for solar and wind power are falling – in many areas of the state solar is already the cheapest option, according to The Desert Sun. Some people wondered if de León’s bill as a reaction to Donald Trump’s energy policies. Large-scale Solar Association president Jim Woodruff, who worked with de León on the legislation, told The Desert Sun, “Whether it’s a direct response to what’s happening in Washington, I don’t know, but it’s certainly an indication that California will continue to lead in this area. It’s the sixth-largest economy in the world. I think by putting these goals out, it’s making a pretty powerful statement, not only in the U.S., but globally, that if we set out the goals and put the resources to it, those goals can be achieved.” The Desert Sun said it’s not yet clear if de León will move forward with the bill; as he filed it right before the state’s deadline to file bills on Friday, it could act as a placeholder until legislation more detailed can be written. Massachusetts recently introduced a similar bill , but it’s slightly more ambitious than California’s. Under the 100 Percent Renewable Energy Act , Massachusetts would transition to obtaining all their electricity from renewable energy by 2035, and would grant sectors like heating and transportation a 2050 deadline. The California bill gives its state’s electricity sector an extra ten years to reach that 100 percent target. Via The Desert Sun Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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California introduces its own 100% renewable energy bill

Secluded Thai home converted into a luxury lodge with an elephant lookout

February 22, 2017 by  
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Tucked into the green hills of Chiang Mai, Thailand, Hill Lodge was originally built as a private home for a nature-loving family. But the new owners wanted something new, so they commissioned Bangkok-based SOOK Architects to convert the wooden bungalows into a guest lodge. The team completed the luxury renovation using locally-sourced materials and craftsmanship, ensuring ample opportunities to spot the local wildlife. The complex, comprised of three bungalows and a hut, was originally designed for family use, but due to its popularity among visitors, the family decided to revamp the complex into a resort. The project began with a reorganization of the layout, converting the main timber hut into a restaurant, lobby, and office space. The remaining buildings have been designated as four bungalow suites, a large three-bedroom bungalow, and 2-3 houses for employees and their families. All of the guests have access to a cantilevered elephant lookout. Related: Take refuge in this off-grid bungalow tucked into the lush Mexican forest Although most of the complex was completely updated, the architects stayed true to the traditional Siamese vernacular architecture found in the original design. The redesign also focused on creating a strategic layout in order to provide views from almost every angle, all while respecting the site’s existing natural landscape. During the construction process, the architects worked with local carpenters to complete the renovation, which, due to the sloping topography, was quite complicated. The materials had to be shaped just precisely to enable easy and quick transportation through the dense forest. To facilitate transportation, steel was chosen to frame the buildings. This also enabled the architects to create the extended timber-clad volumes and cantilevered forms. On the interior, all of the bungalows have wooden walls, flooring, and roof shingles, all made by local craftsman. + SOOK Architects Via Platforma Arquitecture Photographs via Spaceshift Studio

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Secluded Thai home converted into a luxury lodge with an elephant lookout

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