COVID-19 pandemic leads to plastic ban reversals

March 23, 2020 by  
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Health concerns are trumping environmental worries as U.S. states and cities reverse single-use plastic bans . As shoppers worry about catching germs from everything and everyone in grocery stores, and restaurants move from dine-in to take-out, bags and containers have become a big issue. Maine Governor Janet Mills announced on March 17 that the state will delay a single-use plastic bag ban that had been slated to start on April 22. “These emergency measures will support the state’s response to the coronavirus and mitigate its spread in Maine,” Mills told Plastic News . Brookline, Massachusetts has suspended its ban on polystyrene containers, and Nick Isgro, mayor of Waterville, Maine, wants to ban shoppers from bringing their own reusable bags. Related: Discarded face masks now threatening wildlife habitats “These reusable tote bags can sustain the COVID-19 and flu viruses — and spread the viruses throughout the store,” Isgro said on his Facebook page. “Be assured this is not to re-litigate our current ordinance. … This should be seen as a temporary public safety measure.” While some environmental organizations claim that properly washed reusable bags are as safe as disposable bags, experts warn that shoppers seldom follow hygienic protocol. A 2011 study by Loma Linda University and University of Arizona randomly collected bags from shoppers entering grocery stores in California and Arizona. They learned that consumers rarely, if ever, wash their bags. Almost all of the bags collected were covered in bacteria, including E. coli on 12% of bags. Those bags that had carried leaky packets of meat and were stored in car trunks for 2 hours had tenfold the bacterial growth. However, hand- or machine-washing can reduce bag bacteria by 99.9%. Since 2014, eight states — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont — have enacted some kind of single-use plastic bag ban. Polystyrene bans have also been on the rise. But COVID-19 could change all that. Via Plastics News , Forbes and Food Protection Trends Image via ToddTrumble

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COVID-19 pandemic leads to plastic ban reversals

The 10 best tiny homes in California

March 23, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

If you’re looking for some cool tiny home retreats to try out a more minimalist style of living or just looking for a serene vacation spot, well, California is definitely the place to be. We’ve scoured the beautiful coastal state for some of the best tiny homes in California. Take a look! Gorgeous tiny home thrives in the California sunshine Surf’s up in this gorgeous tiny home, which is designed to be both comfy and mobile. One of Canadian studio  Minimaliste’s most recent tiny home builds, the compact 331-square-foot structure was built to perform just as well in warm climates as it does in colder regions. The interior space, although compact, was strategically laid out to provide optimal space, including a cozy sleeping loft made possible by the home’s slanted roof. Related: 8 tiny homes built tough for off-grid living Converted school bus in Malibu Creek State Park This gorgeous glamping retreat is located near Malibu Creek State Park and promises incredible mountain views. The interior is spacious and sleeps up to four people comfortably. Although you’ll most likely enjoy this cozy interior, the outdoor space is what makes this skoolie so special. An open-air deck with ample seating and dining space is a wonderful area to take in the views over breakfast, lunch and dinner. The nearby hammock is a prime napping spot. Young couple build tiny home to avoid sky-high Bay Area housing prices It’s well-known that California’s Bay Area is one of the country’s — and the world’s — most expensive places to live. However, its also an idyllic area to put down roots, or wheels for that matter. When Nicolette and Michael decided to live in the Bay Area so that Michael could stay in college, they had an impossible time finding proper housing. Frustrated at price of housing, the ambitious couple decided to just build their own tiny home . The result is a stunning, 300-square-foot home on wheels that comes with a full kitchen, sleeping loft and even a reading nook. Off-grid eucalyptus tiny home radiates cool Californian vibes Another creation by Canada-based  Minimaliste Houses , the Eucalptus tiny home is a sight to behold. Built for a client who wanted to explore the California coast, the beautiful tiny home on wheels is optimized for off-grid fun. Besides its modern design, the 28-foot-long home is equipped with roof-top solar panels , tight thermal insulation and natural light, all of which contribute to the home’s self-sustenance. Try out tiny home living in San Francisco’s ‘Pavilion’ This tiny home retreat is a perfect place to enjoy the beautiful city of San Francisco. The Airbnb property is just 450 square feet, but its charming cottage-style design, made up of several recycled and repurposed materials , makes it feel so much bigger. The retreat sleeps up to two guests, who can make use of its many amenities such as a light-filled, glass-enclosed living space surrounded by a serene garden with a pond. Relax in this retreat with a hot tub in San Francisco If you’re looking for a tiny home experience in California that is guaranteed to bring a little tranquility to your life, check out this retreat in San Francisco. Located in a spacious backyard of the owner’s home, the minuscule studio sleeps two guests comfortably in its shed-like space. The interior is compact, with just one room fitting in the bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom. But, the biggest draw to this retreat is its outdoor space. The home is surrounded by an open-air hardwood deck with a two-person hot tub. Built around a 700-year-old redwood tree that offers as much of a romantic touch as it does shade, the rental also boasts an outdoor shower, where you can bathe under the stars. The ‘Nugget’ in Costa Mesa takes tiny home living back to basics Located just a 10-minute drive to the beach, this beautiful tiny home in Costa Mesa is the perfect place to recharge your batteries. Although it is just 140 square feet, the retreat sleeps up to two guests comfortably. With its large sliding glass door entryway, the home boasts a minimalist feel that makes it just as perfect for a business trip as it does for a relaxing stay at the beach. A private deck wraps around the home and is shaded by bamboo trees. Tiny home getaway near San Diego These days, many travelers are forgoing the excessive displays of luxury in fancy hotels for simpler getaways. Tiny home retreats, like this gorgeous cabin-inspired tiny home near San Diego, offer guests a chance to relax and reconnect with nature. Located near beautiful Mount Laguna, the tiny home sleeps up to four people between a double bed and two sofa beds. Although the living space is more than sufficient, it is the outdoor area that is so special. The glamping retreat is completely immersed in nature, and features a rooftop terrace for guests to take in a bit of stargazing before enjoying a toasty nightcap around the private fire pit. Vintage glamping travel trailer in San Fernando Valley If there’s one iconic image that encompasses California adventure, it’s the gleaming vintage travel trailer, like this 1954 trailer just outside of Los Angeles. The trailer itself sleeps up to four and has a lovely interior. The magic really begins with the outdoor space, which features a covered deck with a romantic canopied double bed, perfect for sleeping under the stars during the long summer months. Additionally, guests can enjoy the incredible views of the San Fernando Valley from the adjacent outdoor lounge space. Off-grid tiny home in southern California Sometimes, you just need to get away from the hustle and bustle. For those times, this off-grid tiny home in Southern California will do the trick. The compact studio is outfitted with a plush, queen-sized bed. The space is tiny, but as an extra bonus, the home features a custom, garage door-style window that can be fully opened to enjoy amazing views of the 20 acres of beautiful private land that surround the tiny home retreat. Images via Minimaliste, Airbnb and Glamping Hub

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New affordable housing in Silicon Valley boasts net-zero emissions

March 16, 2020 by  
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In one of the nation’s most expensive housing markets, a new multifamily community has sprung up to provide 66 affordable rental apartments in Silicon Valley. Named Edwina Benner Plaza after the first female mayor of California, the affordable housing project designed by Caifornia-based architecture firm David Baker Architects also boasts net-zero emissions for operations thanks to the use of all-renewable community utilities and rooftop solar panels. Located in the city of Sunnyvale next to Highway 237, Edwina Benner Plaza occupies an underutilized site where a single-story commercial building once stood. The 110,612-square-foot affordable housing project was strategically oriented and arranged to shield the residential areas and common spaces away from traffic noise and pollution. The massing strategy also helps to encourage an active and healthy community life by placing the shared areas — such as activity rooms, laundry, service programs and an after-school center — around a central outdoor play space.  Related: The Union Flats is a LEED Platinum-certified housing community To further promote an environment for healthy living, Edwina Benner Plaza offers diverse supportive services such as an after-school program, adult education and mediation support. The 66 affordable rental units, which comprise one-, two- and three-bedroom units, are made available to families earning up to 60% of the area median income as well as to individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Onsite case management reserves 13 apartment units for formerly homeless individuals and 10 units for those at risk of homelessness. Solar panels cover the building’s roof and power the common loads of the residents. Each residential wing is also served by a custom, high-efficiency central heat pump. “An all-electric building, Edwina Benner Plaza is among the first affordable housing projects in the nation to have zero operating emissions,” the architects added. The project has earned a Platinum certification under the GreenPoint rating system. + David Baker Architects Photography by Bruce Damonte via David Baker Architects

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New affordable housing in Silicon Valley boasts net-zero emissions

Discarded face masks now threatening wildlife habitats

March 16, 2020 by  
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The worldwide outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) prompted many to purchase face masks for protection. Unfortunately, these protective masks have been harming the environment. Why is that? The masks are made of the plastic polypropylene, which is not easily biodegradable. No surprise then that the accumulation of discarded face masks litters the environment and poses serious risks to the equilibrium of  habitats  and the health of wildlife, especially marine organisms. Environmental groups are now sounding the alarm on how cast-off coronavirus masks are escalating the  litter  and plastic pollution predicaments. Related:  The Ocean Cleanup has first success collecting plastic from Great Pacific Garbage Patch “We only have had masks for the last six to eight weeks, in a massive volume…we are now seeing the effect on the environment,” explained Gary Stokes, founder of Oceans Asia, a marine  conservation  organization. Stokes elaborated with the example of the Soko Islands off Hong Kong. On one 100-meter stretch of beach, Stokes discovered 70 masks, then an additional 30 the following week.  Hong Kong’s dense population means that its citizens have struggled with plastic waste.  Single-use plastic  makes matters more challenging. What’s more, Hong Kong does not effectively  recycle  all its waste. Instead, roughly 70% of its garbage ends up in landfills. That 70% is equivalent to approximately 6 million tons of refuse. Conservationists have been attempting to remove these masks from the environment through beach clean-ups. “Nobody wants to go to the forest and find masks littered everywhere or used masks on the beaches . It is unhygienic and dangerous,” added Laurence McCook, head of Oceans Conservation at the World Wildlife Fund in Hong Kong. Jerome Adams, the United States Surgeon General, has also  advised people to stop purchasing medical face masks , as they are ineffective at preventing COVID-19. Scaling back public purchasing of the masks would not only keep more masks available for medical professionals, but could also reduce the amount being discarded and its impact on the environment. Via Reuters Images via Pixabay

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Discarded face masks now threatening wildlife habitats

How young California ranchers are finding new ways to raise livestock and improve the land

February 26, 2020 by  
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Because these first-generation farmers are starting from scratch, many of them do not view their practices as adapting. They see the techniques they use as central elements of a new kind of ranching.

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How young California ranchers are finding new ways to raise livestock and improve the land

5 hot technologies for cold trucking

February 26, 2020 by  
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Refrigerated trucks use a quarter more fuel (usually diesel) than non-refrigerated trucks do. These solutions could help reduce that impact.

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5 hot technologies for cold trucking

Los Angeles city-owned buildings to go 100% carbon free

February 18, 2020 by  
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It’s also the first California city to demand lower carbon in construction materials.

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Los Angeles city-owned buildings to go 100% carbon free

Trend: Corporate climate reporting gets physical

February 17, 2020 by  
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With events such as the recurring California wildfires and mudslides, hurricanes Harvey and Maria and Typhoon Hagibis, which have had catastrophic human and economic costs, it is perhaps unsurprising that governments, regulators and investors have started to ask companies to disclose their climate risks, including physical risk.

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Trend: Corporate climate reporting gets physical

Taylor Guitars and the sustainable approach to instrument-making

February 11, 2020 by  
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Since 1974, Taylor Guitars has been a champion guitar brand, renowned for its signature sound and instrument-manufacturing innovations. In this feature, Inhabitat goes behind-the-scenes at the company’s headquarters and factory in El Cajon, California, where tour guide Ryan Merrill shares the Taylor Guitars approach to  sustainability , sourcing  wood  and making guitars.   Inhabitat:  What can you share about the process of making a Taylor Guitar? Merrill:  The very first step of building our guitars is housing them in this outdoor tent when the wood arrives. What we’re seeing here is mostly mahogany. When we bring in wood from around the world, they’re accustomed to other types of climates, places that are generally a lot more humid – Cameroon, India, Hawaii. When it gets here, we therefore need to make sure that wood acclimates to our  weather , temperature and  humidity . If we don’t, then as that wood is drying out in the factory, and we’re working on the guitar, it’s going to start bending and warping in different ways. We want all that bending and warping to happen here outside rather than during the process when we are building guitars because we have some tools in there that have high accuracy. And with that level of accuracy in cutting, if the wood is warping, it’s going to cause some problems. So we leave this wood outside here to acclimate. Water that’s sitting inside the grain of the wood, you want to bring down to about 10%. Sometimes that takes two weeks, sometimes that takes a month. Related: YouTube stars partner up in #TeamTrees campaign to plant 20 million trees Inhabitat:  What does Taylor Guitars do with any leftover wood cuttings? Merrill:  The first measure of our sustainability endeavors is that after we’ve cut wood for our guitars, the scrap wood — instead of us throwing them into the trash bin — we actually utilize it by giving them to other companies that need them, like toymakers, people who make birdhouses, even companies that turn the wood into  mulch . Inhabitat:  Forest management,  reforestation  and the sourcing of ethically harvested tonewoods — the wood used to build acoustic guitars — are important values to Taylor Guitars. Tell us more about that. Merrill: We understand that in order to make our products, we have to cut down trees. But we make sure to plant more trees  than we are taking out of forests every year, and we’ve continued to be dedicated to that goal. A pipe dream Taylor Guitars has is to plant all of the trees we use for all of our guitars on the land we own. That way, we won’t have to source our wood anywhere else in the world, but just focus on effectively using that one piece of land that is ours with all our trees on it. Of course, that’s still what we are working toward. For now, the two places we are focused on are in Cameroon, where we have our ebony, and in Hawaii, where we have our koa. Out in Hawaii, for instance, we own over 570 acres on the Big Island, where we are planting koa trees. Now, koa trees take about 40 to 60 years to grow — that’s a long wait for us to be able to use those trees for guitars. Ebony is even longer, taking 100 to 200 years to fully mature. Inhabitat:  Now, on display here in the corporate headquarters gallery are an array of signature Taylor Guitars, made from various types of wood. What’s the importance of wood type, or tonewood? And, why are certain ones chosen over others for guitar-making? Merrill:  The type of wood affects the instrument sound. First, it’s important to know that woods flavor the sounds. And, historically, there’s hundreds of years’ worth of experimentation on what types of woods are best for what is now the modern guitar . And the main ones that have been settled on are rosewood and mahogany, which are the hardest woods.  So, in a mahogany guitar, you’re going to hear a lot of mid-range sounds, not a lot of bass, not a lot of treble. In rosewood, you’re going to get a lot of bass, you’re going to get a lot of treble, but not as much of the mid-range. You’ll probably notice we’ll get more deep tones and more sparkle with rosewood. Inhabitat:  These are some exotic-sounding names of tonewoods lining this guitar gallery wall. Tell us more about them. Merrill:  Cocobolo is a South American rosewood, so it has a very similar tone to a rosewood guitar. Ovangkol is an African relative of the rosewood. Sapele is an African relative of mahogany. Most tonewoods are going to fall within those two very broad categories. There are some exceptions — we have  maple , which is a very bright wood. It’s the only wood that’s distinct from mahogany and rosewood. We have something like koa as well, which has the mid-range of mahogany and the sparkle of rosewood, but it doesn’t have the bass of rosewood.  Koa guitars have become increasingly popular amongst guitarists. And that’s because as koa wood ages, it gets more dense, which means it will start to produce a better low-end sound. So, if you buy a koa, it might sound one way, but then five years down the line, someone might pick up that same guitar and go, “Wow! This has way more bass than I ever heard out of this instrument!” And that’s one of the very unique things about koa — just the amount that it opens up over time. Inhabitat:  Taylor Guitars has been recognized as a leading guitar-making pioneer. What are some things you can share about what makes you stand out from other guitar manufacturers ? Merrill:  We’re the only company making sapele guitars. We’re the only company making ebony bodies. And we’re the pioneers of the V-bracing, whereas all other guitars elsewhere are still employing the X-bracing. Inhabitat:  What’s the difference between your V-bracing and the conventional X-bracing in guitars out there? Merrill:  One of the beautiful things about the V-brace is that it’s very forgiving of notes that aren’t quite in tune. With an X-brace, the notes start to warble — you can hear the notes bouncing back and forth. You can kind of hear the decay there — decay is just the note fading out. When you compare that with something like a V-brace, the notes just keep ringing — we call it bloom, where it almost grows into a larger chord after you first strum it. You can hear the difference, it sounds fuller, and a lot of that comes down to the sustaining, and that’s the V-bracing being a little more forgiving with those notes. It was fitting for Merrill to say the word “sustaining” to describe the V-brace and what it does to guitar notes, because it circularly tied into Taylor Guitars’ sustainability initiatives. As the tour winded down, a large plaque — entitled “Taylor’s Commitment to Sustainability” — was visible on the way out, reminding everyone of the quality the company stands for in the soundness of its products and  supply chain . Images via Mariecor Agravante

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Taylor Guitars and the sustainable approach to instrument-making

Odd.Bot, the weed-pulling robot that could eliminate herbicides

February 11, 2020 by  
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The aging adage, “there’s an app for that,” is evolving into, “there’s a robot for that.” More and more automation is finding its way to the market for household chores like cleaning floors, and now that innovation is in farmer’s fields with Odd.Bot, an automatic weeding robot. Odd.Bot made an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last month with an informational booth and the weed-plucking device on display. Martijn Lukaart, Founder and CEO, explains that Odd.Bot is currently intended for use in organic farming fields to make the weed-pulling process easier for large farms who currently do all the work by hand. Many large-scale farmers have already invested in a platform that allows workers to lay face down on a bed as they are propelled through the rows of crops. This provides workers a quicker and more comfortable way to pull weeds manually. However, Odd.Bot’s goal is to work the fields ahead of humans with many advantages for the  crops , farmers and workers. Related: California man files lawsuit against Monsanto for allegedly hiding dangers of glyphosate Firstly, Odd.Bot can improve crop yield by tackling weeds early on and continuously. This gives crops more room to grow without competition from weeds, and thus a larger yield. Additionally, Odd.Bot is 100% organic by achieving the task without any chemicals or harm to the plants . Using the robot provides farmers an alternative to the struggles of finding and keeping as many employees. Plus, it makes the job much easier for those workers who are on staff. Odd.Bot works by autonomously roving along rows of crops, propelled on heavy-duty tires. A mechanism in the center of the robot then extends down to extract weeds as it moves. Cameras and sensors keep the robot on task and away from growing crops, regardless of row width. The robots can be rented to clear fields for a jumpstart to the growing season or as helpful “hand” as crops mature. In addition to reducing the manual workload and minimizing the need for gas-guzzling tractors that pollute the environment, Odd.Bot also hopes to move into the traditional farming market where they can influence a diversion from traditional herbicide usage. On the company website, they state, “With our Weed Whacker we aim to save more than 170.000 liters of chemical herbicides in the next seven years.” By making organic farming more profitable, Odd.Bot also hopes to directly or indirectly contribute to providing healthy food at reasonable costs. + Odd.Bot Images via Odd.Bot

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