Australia takes stand on single-use plastic bags

July 2, 2018 by  
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Single-use plastic bags are going out of style in Australia, but shoppers aren’t thrilled by the reduction. Two major retailers, Big W and Coles, have officially ended the use of plastic shopping bags from their stores. The move effectively outlaws their use in nearly every Australian state. After Tasmania and South Australia started by installing a plastic bag ban, national retailers voluntarily began relying on them in stores. On June 20, 2018, Woolworths stopped offering single-use bags, instead charging shoppers 11 cents for reusable plastic totes starting July 9. After sharp customer backlash, the totes will be free until July 8. Related: Billions of pieces of plastic trash are sickening the world’s coral reefs The other two retail chains pulled the plastic shopping bags off their shelves July 1. To quell community outrage, Coles brought on more staff to ensure check-out lines moved quickly as a result of the shift. As a nation, Australia is reducing its reliance on one-use plastic products to combat ocean pollution . According to the United Nations’ Environment Program , the world produces over 300 million tons of plastic annually. Approximately 2.6 percent – eight million tons and as many as 5 trillion plastic bags – end up in the ocean, where they can poison marine life. Without reducing single-use plastic production, the UN estimates plastics could outnumber ocean fish in just over 30 years. While the move is environmentally conscious , it isn’t popular with shoppers. According to Australian labor union SDA, around 43 percent of retail workers said they suffered “abuse” from shoppers because of the change. At least one was reportedly assaulted, leading the union to start a public service announcement campaign to educate the public about plastic pollution. In the United States, the National Conference of State Legislatures shows only two states have instituted single-use plastic bag bans for shoppers: California and Hawaii . Six major cities, including Austin, Boston, Chicago and Seattle, have all banned single-use bags, while four states and at least six cities charge fees to shoppers who opt for plastic bags. Via NPR and Reuters

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Australia takes stand on single-use plastic bags

Eco-friendly Community Rowing Boathouse boasts a stunning kinetic facade

June 27, 2018 by  
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Cambridge-based Anmahian Winton Architects has designed a new eco-friendly home for the largest public rowing organization in the United States—the Community Rowing Boathouse in Boston, Massachusetts. Created to offer rowing opportunities at all skill levels, the modern community landmark comprises two buildings that cater to underserved populations, such as Boston public middle school students, the physically disabled and veterans. To lower energy demands and reduce the rowing boathouse’s environmental footprint, Anmahian Winton Architects optimized the buildings for natural lighting and ventilation and also installed stormwater reuse systems and geothermal wells. Located on the south side of the Charles River in the Boston neighborhood of Brighton, the Community Rowing Boathouse’s site had long been used as a staging area for heavy construction equipment. Instead of simply plopping a building on site, Anmahian Winton Architects considered the surrounding environment in their design and sought to remediate the land and restore habitat in the process. Thus, the design process included improving soil permeability and the implementation of stormwater and rainwater harvesting and reuse. The larger building’s appearance was also created in response to the environment and features a kinetic facade that changes shape with the movement of the sun and users’ movements around the structure while mimicking the rhythmic patterns of rowing and the river. Related: Boston outlines its plans to adapt to rising sea levels “CRI’s design expands the traditional vocabulary of rowing facilities on the river, reflecting the proportions and cladding of regional precedents, such as New England’s iconic tobacco barns and covered bridges, and anchoring this new building to its surroundings,” explains Anmahian Winton Architects. “The main building’s pre-fabricated kinetic cladding system of large-scale, hand-operated panels facilitated fabrication and expedited installation on a compressed construction schedule. These operable vents eliminate the need for mechanical cooling and ventilation of the 300-foot long boat storage bays, providing functionality and energy efficiency. Glass shingles sheath the sculling pavilion to protect, ventilate and display smaller boats to the adjacent parkway.” + Anmahian Winton Architects Images by Jane Messinger

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Eco-friendly Community Rowing Boathouse boasts a stunning kinetic facade

Boston just officially banned single-use plastic bags

December 20, 2017 by  
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Boston just became Massachusetts’ 60th town to pass a ban on plastic bags . Mayor Martin Walsh recently signed the measure, which will go into effect next December – and a statewide ban is pending before the legislature. 357 million single-use plastic bags will be used in Boston this year, according to Metro . Councilor Matt O’Malley, lead sponsor of the measure, said 20 tons of plastic bags are tossed into Boston’s single-stream recycling every single month – and workers must spend hours every day extracting bags from equipment. Related: Kenya introduces world’s harshest law on plastic bags That’s to say nothing of the environmental impact of plastic bags. O’Malley told Metro, “Plastic bags are only used for an average of 12 minutes, but their impact on the city’s streets and drains is permanent. They end up in streets, storm gutters, trees, and tangled in our wildlife and marine ecosystem .” These environmental arguments helped sway the mayor, who said he signed it for benefits such as cutting down litter . When the ban takes effect, shoppers will need to pay five cents for aarger paper bags or thicker, compostable plastic bags – or use reusable bags . Stores will collect the money to help offset the cost of the bags, which are more expensive. But not everyone is happy with the plastic bag ban. Critics of the measure said it was basically a tax on the poor. Local Deborah Branting told the Boston Globe she’s been stockpiling plastic bags, describing the ban as “an unnecessary inconvenience for people who are financially less fortunate.” American Progressive Bag Alliance executive director Matt Seaholm said in a statement the ban “incentivizes the use of products that can be worse for the environment than 100 percent recyclable, highly reused plastic retail bags.” O’Malley said he will work with all stakeholders to carry out the ban and “ensure that every Bostonian has access to reusable bags.” Via TreeHugger , the Boston Globe , and Metro Images via Depositphotos and votsek on Flickr

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Boston just officially banned single-use plastic bags

Wildfires in California now larger than NYC and Boston combined

December 11, 2017 by  
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The wildfires raging throughout Southern California are now so fierce and widespread they cover a land area larger than Boston and New York City combined. The Thomas Fire, the largest of the six blazes, covers 230,000 acres, making it the fifth largest wildfire in modern Californian history. Firefighters are struggling to make progress against the inferno, with containment of the Thomas Fire shrinking from 15 percent to 10 percent on Sunday. The fire’s spread has been aided by powerful, dry Santa Ana winds and a lack of rainfall , which are fairly typical of the Southern California coastal region. “Every single year, we have ideal conditions for the types of wildfires we’re experiencing,” ecologist Alexandra Syphard at the Conservation Biology Institute told Wired . “What we don’t have every single year is an ignition during a wind event. And we’ve had several.” Related: The fearless dog who refused to leave his goats during the Santa Rosa wildfire “The problem is not fire,” Syphard added. “The problem is people in the wrong places.” While wildfires were a normal occurrence before the development of Los Angeles and the rest of Southern California, they would typically only occur once or twice a year. Human activity in one of the most populous regions in the United States has increased the rate of wildfires, which has damaged the local ecology. “We’ve lost a lot of our natural heritage [to wildfires],” US Geological Survey research ecologist Jon Keeley told Wired . As the effects of climate change continue to become more pronounced and powerful, these ferocious wildfires may become ordinary occurrences. “With climate change, some scientists are saying that Southern California is literally burning up,” said California Governor Jerry Brown, “so we have to have the resources to combat the fires and we also have to invest in managing the vegetation and forests … in a place that’s getting hotter.” Via CNN and Wired Images via Depositphotos , US Fish and Wildlife Services  and Glenn Beltz/Flickr

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TGI Fridays to sell Beyond Meat’s plant-based burger in hundreds of stores

November 28, 2017 by  
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When you’re hunting for tasty vegan eats, TGI Friday’s probably doesn’t top your list. But the American restaurant chain will start offering Beyond Meat’s plant-based, vegan Beyond Burger in over 465 stores starting in January. The Beyond Burger – which launched in May of last year – has become Beyond Meat’s most successful product, and it’s currently available in over 5,000 supermarket meat cases next to ground beef. Beyond Meat announced the soft launch of their Beyond Burger in an eight-week trial at six TGI Friday’s outlets in the Boston area back. Now their meatless alternative will roll out in over 465 stores as part of their revamped Burger Bar. TGI Friday’s is the biggest restaurant brand to partner with the plant-based meat company, which also offers a precooked frozen pea protein burger patty, meatless chicken strips, and a ground beef alternative called Beyond Beef Crumble. Related: Impossible Foods cruelty-free burger added to more West Coast restaurant menus While reviewers have raved about the meat-like quality of Beyond Meat’s products, it’s their recently-launched Beyond Burger that’s really shined. People can purchase the burger in over 5,000 grocery stores in America at chains like Safeway, Kroger, Hy-Vee, Wegmans, and Raley’s. The burger boasts 20 grams of plant-based protein, largely from peas, and the company says it looks, cooks, and tastes like real meat, so it’s sold in the meat section of supermarkets. The company aims to offer meat alternatives that will appeal to a wide audience; Fast Company quoted CEO Ethan Brown as saying, “Our products are so good there’s no reason to consider it a sacrifice.” The company’s goal, per their website , is to change the meat case to the protein case by providing food that attracts even burger-loving carnivores. + Beyond Meat Via Fast Company and Beyond Meat Images via Beyond Meat Twitter ( 1 , 2 )

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TGI Fridays to sell Beyond Meat’s plant-based burger in hundreds of stores

Making the rounds at Greenbuild 17

November 10, 2017 by  
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In Boston, there was a greater focus on resilience and biophilic design among the usual parade of advances and innovations at the annual expo.

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Making the rounds at Greenbuild 17

Boston outlines its plans to adapt to rising sea levels

October 30, 2017 by  
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Boston , Massachusetts recently announced specific infrastructure projects and policies that must be implemented for the low-laying, water-surrounded city to adjust to expected sea level rise in the coming decades. A comprehensive report outlines short-term and long-term solutions in hopes of protecting communities from what is expected to be a three-foot sea level rise by 2070. “Climate change is here. It’s happening now,” said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. “It’s more important than ever that we work together to make sure our city is ready for the changes ahead.” Two potential measures outlined in the report include raising a section of Main Street in Charlestown and building a seawall in East Boston, both of which are in neighborhoods that have experienced increasingly frequent and severe flooding in recent years. Founded in 1630, Boston, the only state capital in the contiguous United States located on the ocean, was built to take advantage of its marine location. Boston Harbor’s depth and relatively protected location thanks to dozens of harbor islands helped Boston to become a major port city in the British Colonies and later the early United States. As the city grew in population, landfill taken from nearby hills was used to cover the marshland surrounding the narrow peninsula and create new land, including the Back Bay neighborhood. Although Boston has tackled environmental challenges in the past, including a massive late 20th century clean-up of the harbor and nearby rivers, sea level rise of up to three feet in only 50 years time represents an unprecedented threat. Related: Boston man crosses harbor in a pumpkin boat If Main Street in Charlestown, historically a working-class community and now one of the city’s most expensive neighborhoods, were to be elevated, it would cost at least $2-3 million. This project would block all but the most extreme storm surges from flooding the area, protecting 250 residents and 60 businesses. In total, the mitigation projects for Charlestown alone could cost up to $62 million, though the report estimates that they would offer $201 million in economic benefits. In contrast, a retractable seawall in East Boston would protect 4,300 residents, at least 70 businesses, and cost only $100,000. Although not included in the recent report, Boston is also considering a massive sea wall across Boston Harbor to protect the entire city against rising sea levels. Will other cities follow suit? + Coastal Resilience Solutions Via WCVB Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Boston public schools phase in new map to decolonize curriculum

March 21, 2017 by  
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The global map on which all your geographical knowledge is based probably wasn’t as accurate as you thought. For nearly 500 years, classrooms have referred to the Mercator projection, which exaggerated the size of continents in the northern hemisphere. But now Boston public schools are switching over to the Gall-Peters projection, which attempts to correct the sizes of countries and could have a dramatic impact on students’ worldview. The Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator devised the Mercator projection all the way back in 1569. Now hundreds of years later, Boston schools are implementing a replacement, and director of the Boston public schools history department Natacha Scott says they believe they are the first public school district in America to make the switch. Related: New map reveals the world’s most toxic countries The Mercator projection has informed our collective worldview for centuries, but Mercator made it seem as if North America and Europe were larger than South America and Africa , for example. He also moved the equator, which places Germany near the map’s middle instead of much further north. Arno Peters, a German historian, released his projection in 1974 – as it corresponds with work by James Gall, a 19th century Scottish cartographer; today it’s called the Peters or Gall-Peters projection. Now in Boston classrooms, teachers have put the Gall-Peters projection up next to the Mercator projection. Colin Rose, Assistant Superintendent of Opportunity and Achievement Gaps for the Boston Public Schools, told The Guardian, “This is the start of a three-year effort to decolonize the curriculum in our public schools…It’s important that students trust the material they are given in school but also question it. The Mercator projection is a symbolic representation that put Europe at the center of the world. And when you continue to show images of the places where people’s heritage is rooted that is not accurate, that has an effect on students.” But some people say the Gall-Peters projection is also distorted – stemming mainly from the fact that it’s difficult to place a three dimensional sphere shape on a two dimensional piece of paper. Sizes are correct in the Gall-Peters projection, but shapes are wrong: near the poles countries are stretched horizontally and near the equator they’re stretched vertically, according to Business Insider, which pointed to four alternatives , including the Winkel tripel projection which National Geographic adopted in 1998. Via The Guardian and Business Insider Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Boston public schools phase in new map to decolonize curriculum

Ancient microbes survive inside massive cave crystals for 50,000 years

February 20, 2017 by  
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Scientists have found strange, ancient microbes in Mexico’s Naica crystal caves that could be around 50,000 years old. Although the caves are so hot they’ve been described as hell – while also being so magical they’ve been described as Fairyland – the microbes have survived for thousands of years trapped in crystals . A biologist who studied the microbes referred to them as super life. Scientists discovered 40 different microbe strains and some viruses in the caves. The microbes are so bizarre that even their closest relatives are genetically 10 percent different, which is about as far away as mushrooms and humans, according to NASA Astrobiology Institute director Penelope Boston, who recently presented the research. The dormant microbes survived on minerals like manganese and iron. Related: Researchers discover that architecture has an impact on which microbes thrive around you The Naica caves are a great example of an extreme environment. Found by miners only around 100 years ago, the caves were isolated from the rest of the world for centuries until a mining company commenced drilling. According to Phys.org, some of the caves are as colossal as cathedrals , and are covered in crystals. But the magnificent caves are so sweltering the researchers could work for just about 20 minutes before retreating to a cool room around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. They wore inexpensive space suits and kept ice packs on their bodies. The find doesn’t claim the prize for oldest extreme life – years ago scientists wrote about living microbes trapped in salt and ice that may be around half a million years old. But Boston told the BBC the microbes her team found are extraordinary because “they are not very closely related to anything in the known genetic databases” and scientists can add the recently found microbes “to this atlas of possibilities that we can apply to different planetary settings.” The findings draw on nine years of research, but have not yet been published in a journal. Boston aims to run more genetic tests on the microbes, but did present the find at the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Boston, Massachusetts late last week. Via the BBC and Phys.org Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Ancient microbes survive inside massive cave crystals for 50,000 years

Want to learn about aggregated energy deals? A university lesson

October 31, 2016 by  
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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston Medical Center and Post Office Square Redevelopment Corp. plan the largest aggregated commercial and industrial renewable energy deal in the Eastern U.S.

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Want to learn about aggregated energy deals? A university lesson

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