Maryland could become the first state to ban plastic foam containers

April 9, 2019 by  
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Last week, the Maryland General Assembly voted 100 to 37 to approve a ban on plastic foam containers. If the bill is approved by Governor Larry Hogan, Maryland will become the first U.S. state to ban such containers because of their harmful impact on human health and the environment. The bill will now go to Republican Governor Larry Hogan for approval. Although Governor Hogan has not yet expressed a position, the bill has enough votes from the House and Senate that it would be able to override a potential veto, should the Governor decide to issue one. Related: TemperPack raises $40M to combat plastic foam waste “After three years of hard work, I’m thrilled to see Maryland be a leader in the fight to end our reliance on single-use plastics that are polluting our state, country and world by passing a bill to prohibit foam food containers,” Brooke Lierman, Democratic representative from Baltimore and sponsor of the bill,  said in a statement . “The health of the Chesapeake Bay, our waterways, our neighborhoods and our children’s futures depends on our willingness to do the hard work of cleaning the mess that we inherited and created.” Plastic foam  is widely used for food containers, because it helps maintain temperature and prevents spills; however, the material is highly toxic to humans and the environment. The problem with plastic foam Styrofoam is actually a trademarked brand name for the plastic material Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam. In her book  My Plastic-Free Life , Maryland based author and anti-plastic expert Beth Terry explained the four major problems with Expanded Polystyrene foam: 1. Polystyrene materials do not biodegrade. This means that every food container used once and thrown away will stay on the Earth forever. The containers do break apart into smaller pieces, but never compost . 2. Plastic foam is made with fossil fuels and toxic chemicals. Plastics are made from fossil fuel products and are detrimental to the Earth in their manufacturing, use and disposal. ESP includes the chemical polystyrene, which was labeled as a “ probable carcinogen ” by the World Health Organization. Not only does the manufacturing of polystyrene products pollute the air and cause serious health problems for factory workers, but the chemical also leaches into drinks and hot or oily food. This is especially problematic, considering plastic foam containers are frequently used, particularly for hot foods. Polystyrene is linked to cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma. As The Story of Stuff explained , “Yes it keeps your coffee hot, but it might be adding toxic chemicals to it, too.” By the Center for Disease Control’s current estimates,  100 percent of humans have traces of polystyrene in their fat tissues — an example of how pervasive this pollution and toxic problem is. 3. Animals try to eat it. Because plastic foam never biodegrades and floats on the surface of water, small pieces are often mistaken as food by marine animals , like sea turtles. In Baltimore Harbor, a trash-collecting machine has scooped up more than 1 million bits of plastic foam since it launched in 2014. The machine, locally nicknamed “Mr. Trash Wheel,” records approximately 14,000 plastic foam containers collected every month from the Harbor. Related: Baltimore’s floating trash-eaters have intercepted 1 million pounds of debris 4. Plastic foam cannot be recycled. Unlike some other types of plastic, polystyrene products cannot be recycled in most facilities; therefore, they often end up in landfills if not carried out to the ocean. The few facilities that do accept plastic foam only allow clean, uncontaminated products, which rarely exist because the containers are typically used for messy food items. The first state-wide ban Several counties in Maryland and throughout the U.S. have already banned plastic foam , but this will be the first state-wide ban. To see what cities and counties have banned the hazardous material, check Groundswell’s map . Opponents of the bill argue that it will unfairly hurt small farmers, food businesses and nonprofits, because biodegradable food containers are more expensive to source. Eco-friendly alternatives include containers made from cardboard, bamboo , mushrooms and other organic materials. These novel inventions are significantly pricier than plastic foam. Maryland’s ban will notably not include plastic foam items packaged outside of the state, such as microwavable instant noodle bowls. It will also not include the foam trays sold with raw meat products, nor will it cover non-food related items. This is Representative Brooke Lierman’s third attempt to get the bill passed. If successful, the bill will go into effect in July 2020 and be punishable by a fine of $250. Via Phys.org Images via  Matthew Bellemare ,

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Maryland could become the first state to ban plastic foam containers

Bananatex launches a sustainable material revolution at Milan Design Week

April 9, 2019 by  
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A party of three has collaborated to create a multi-purpose material sourced entirely from banana leaves. Swiss bag brand QWSTION, a yarn specialist from Taiwan, and a Taiwanese weaving partner spent four years developing the new material, which is being revealed at the 2019 Milan Design Week. The strong, flexible material, called Banantex, offers a new universal option in the search for sustainable materials . Beginning at the source, the banana leaves come from a natural ecosystem of sustainable forestry in the Philippines. The banana trees grow naturally without the use of pesticides or other chemicals. Plus, they do not require any additional water. The banana plants are a boon to an area previously eroded by palm plantations, bringing back vegetation and a livelihood for local farmers. Related: See how banana trees are recycled into vegan “leather” wallets in Micronesia With a long history of creating materials from sustainable resources, QWSTION saw the strength and durability of the banana leaves that were used in the Philippines for more than a century as boat ropes. Following three years of research and development, the bag company finalized the plant-based material. As a bag company, the first products they put together are backpacks and hip pouches, made completely with the plastic-free material. The larger goal, however, is for other companies to use Banantex in their own production, spreading the application to any number of industries that could eliminate many of the synthetic materials on the market today. United with the common goal of inspiring responsible product development, the team conceived the idea as an open source project with this in mind. The characteristics of the material makes this idea easy to imagine since it is durable, pliable and waterproof. Plus, it is biodegradable at the end of the life cycle, significantly reducing post-consumer waste rampant in the clothing and accessories industries in particular. The display will be open to the public at Milan Design Week on April 9-14, 2019. + QWSTION Images via QWSTION

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Bananatex launches a sustainable material revolution at Milan Design Week

New Jersey first state to ban wild animals in circuses

December 20, 2018 by  
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Last week, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill banning the use of elephants, tigers and other wild and exotic animals in circus acts that travel through the state, making New Jersey the first state in the country to pass such a law. Known as “Nosey’s Law,” the bill is designed to protect animals in traveling circus acts from being exploited and abused. Nosey, the law’s namesake, is a 36-year-old African elephant that was forced to travel around the country with a circus even though the animal suffered from crippling arthritis. “These animals belong in their natural habitats or in wildlife sanctuaries, not in performances where their safety and the safety of others is at risk,” Gov. Murphy said in a press release . Governor Murphy said that the law finally became a reality because of the years of hard work by Sen. Ray Lesniak, and the bill passed the New Jersey legislature with only three opposing votes. The bill also overwhelmingly passed during the state’s last legislative session, but then-Governor Chris Christie refused to sign it. Christie’s pocket veto of the bill forced the legislature to start from scratch when Murphy became governor. One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Nilsa Cruz Perez, is now calling on other state’s to follow New Jersey’s lead. She said that circus animals suffer from routine abuse by their handlers for the sake of entertainment. But this law protects other animals from being abused like Nosey— who is now safe and living in an animal sanctuary . Last year, the public’s growing concern over animal welfare led to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus shutting down their “Greatest Show On Earth” after a 146-year run. When they removed elephants from their show tours, the circus was not able to recover from declining ticket sales. Illinois and New York have already banned the use of elephants in traveling or entertainment acts. But, New Jersey was the first to ban all wild and exotic animals. + State of New Jersey Via EcoWatch Images via Shutterstock

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New Jersey first state to ban wild animals in circuses

California legislature passes historic bill to achieve 100% clean energy

August 30, 2018 by  
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California is going all in on clean energy. Legislators just passed a bill that puts the state on a path to become 100 percent reliable on clean energy by 2045, making it the largest economy in the world to enact such an environmentally friendly policy. Governor Jerry Brown has until the end of next month to sign the bill and make it official. This is not the first eco-friendly move in the California state legislature. The state previously had a goal to become 50 percent reliant on clean energy by 2030, a goal the new bill upped to 60 percent. This past spring, legislators changed state building codes to require newly constructed houses to feature solar energy capabilities. The mandates show that California is looking to become a leader in environmental issues in the decades to come. The historic bill comes amid a struggle with Donald Trump’s administration, which has been attempting to revive interest in traditional energy sources, such as coal, over renewable energy . Trump has also been relaxing regulations when it comes to the environment. California’s new bill flies in the face of Trump’s political agenda and is a victory for clean energy supporters. It also follows what has been a difficult year for California, as the state continues to deal with the aftermath of historic wildfires. “Ongoing wildfires fueled by record-high temperatures and drier conditions exacerbated by climate change have shown us that we can’t wait any longer to tackle the climate crisis and move to clean energy,” said Michael Brune, executive director of Sierra Club. California is not the only state to eye 100 percent clean energy. Hawaii passed a similar bill in 2015 and plans on fulfilling the initiative in 2045. Following California’s clean energy bill , New Jersey, Massachusetts, Washington, D.C. and New York are debating similar policies. Colorado and Maryland have also considered going 100 percent clean energy but did not have enough votes to pass it. Legislators in California passed their clean energy mandate 44 to 33 votes. Democrat Gov. Brown is fully expected to support the bill in the coming weeks. Via Earthjustice and Sierra Club Image via Camille Seaman / Solutions Project, 100% Campaign

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Bees addicted to pesticides much like smokers to nicotine, scientists say

August 30, 2018 by  
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Bees have developed a likening to pesticide-containing plants , according to a recent study. The affinity exhibited by the bees is similar to an addiction to nicotine from cigarettes. Apparently, the more pesticide-laced pollen that the bees ingest, the more they crave the tainted alternatives. The contaminated nectar is potentially harmful to bees and unfortunately, researchers are finding higher quantities entering bee colonies than before. To reach these conclusions, a British research team conducted a series of studies over 10-day periods, offering 10 different bee colonies access to both pure sugar solutions as well as a compound that contained neonicotinoids, or neonics. Over extensive exposure, the bees increasingly preferred the sugar flavored with pesticides over the natural alternative. Related: Canada moves to ban bee-killing pesticides “Interestingly, neonicotinoids target nerve receptors in insects that are similar to receptors targeted by nicotine in mammals ,” explained Richard Gill, researcher in the Department of Life Sciences at London’s Imperial College . “Whilst neonicotinoids are controversial, if the effects of replacements on non-target insects are not understood, then I believe it is sensible that we take advantage of current knowledge and further studies to provide guidance for using neonicotinoids more responsibly, rather than necessarily an outright ban.” Related: Total field ban on bee-harming neonicotinoids likely after new EU assessments Researchers will continue to experiment with the bees, according to lead scientist Andres Arce, part of the same Imperial College department as Gill. “Many studies on neonicotinoids feed bees exclusively with pesticide-laden food, but in reality, wild bees have a choice of where to feed,” Arce said. “We wanted to know if the bees could detect the pesticides and eventually learn to avoid them by feeding on the uncontaminated food we were offering. We now need to conduct further studies to try and understand the mechanism behind why they acquire this preference.” The extensive research will have major implications for agriculture practices in the EU as well as North America. The EU already imposed a partial ban on neonics in 2013 after evidence found that they may have an adverse effect to bee colonies. As of today, the ban has been extended to all crops that are not grown in greenhouses. Canada has already moved to ban the pesticide this year, with the U.S. following suit in the near future. + The Royal Society Publishing Via The Guardian Image via Axel Rouvin

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Bees addicted to pesticides much like smokers to nicotine, scientists say

United Kingdom moves to ban most of its ivory trade

May 30, 2018 by  
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United Kingdom Secretary of the Environment Michael Gove has introduced a bill to Parliament that would ban the purchase, sale, possession for sale and international trade of ivory . Though the bill contains several exceptions for ivory found in museums, musical instruments and some antiques, it would be one of the most comprehensive ivory bans of any country. The United Kingdom is the largest legal ivory exporter and the bill, if passed into law, would certainly put a dent in this lucrative trade. While environmental organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have praised the bill , they also have identified weak points within it, such as the potential for the exemptions clause to become a widely-used loophole. The NRDC also urges the bill to require those who benefit from the exemption to provide more detailed documentation. The bill will be submitted again on June 6th for what is known as the “second reading,” during which members of Parliament will be able to make amendments to the bill. Then, the bill will be sent to committee, then return to the floor of the House of Commons for a final vote. The NRDC and other organizations are expected to engage with the crafting of the bill as it moves through the process. Related: The world’s largest ivory market just banned ivory According to the BBC , Gove said that the successful adoption of the bill would “reaffirm the U.K.’s global leadership on this critical issue, demonstrating our belief that the abhorrent ivory trade should become a thing of the past.” He continued, “Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol.” Those who break the law could face jail time of up to five years or an unlimited fine. This is not the first instance of British leadership on curbing the ivory trade. “Since the U.K. government held the Illegal Wildlife Conference in 2014, the U.S. and China have both enacted bans on their domestic ivory trade, so the U.K. doing this now is extraordinarily important,” Stop Ivory founder Alexander Rhodes told the BBC . “The EU on the other hand has been very resistant — I am hopeful that the U.K.’s strong position will lead to change.” Via NRDC and BBC Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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United Kingdom moves to ban most of its ivory trade

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

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