New York vows to ban plastic bags statewide in 2020

April 3, 2019 by  
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Lawmakers in New York just agreed to ban plastic bags across the state. The law is a part of a larger budget agreement and makes New York the second state in the United States to join the fight against single-use plastics . “I am proud to announce that together, we got it done,” Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, stated. The ban on plastic bags will officially start on March 1 of next year. In addition to ditching plastic bags, businesses within the state will be allowed to charge up to five cents for every paper bag. Two cents from that charge will go into a fund that enables low-income families to purchase reusable bags, while the remainder will go towards an environment fund. Related: EU moves forward with its plastic ban The only other state in the union to pass such a law is California, which initiated a ban back in 2016. Hawaii has also gone to great lengths to discourage the use of plastic bags, with most counties in the state prohibiting them. This is not the first time New York has attempted to ban plastic bags . Two years ago, politicians tried to pass a law that would force companies to charge customers five cents per bag. That initiative was blocked by Cuomo. In 2018, Republicans in the state blocked a similar plan, though Democrats picked up a few seats in the state legislature, making the most recent ban possible. While the new law is a big step towards curbing plastic waste, not all residents in New York are happy about it. In fact, a few people have expressed their concerns about the ban and claim they use the plastic bags at home. Environmentalists also believe that customers should not be allowed to buy paper bags instead of purchasing reusable ones. There has also been some backlash from grocery stores in New York. While some owners are in favor of the ban, they think a portion of the five-cent charge should go back to the stores to help with costs associated with banning plastic bags. Via Eco Watch Image via  cocoparisienne

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New York vows to ban plastic bags statewide in 2020

Stanfords sustainable scholars building embraces the California landscape

March 26, 2019 by  
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A former parking lot has been converted into the Denning House , the new home for the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program at Stanford University. The University and the Denning Family tapped New York City-based architectural firm Ennead Architects to design the building as a gathering place for graduate scholars hailing from international backgrounds and diverse disciplines. Wrapped in timber and surrounded by California oaks, the Denning House has a treehouse-like atmosphere and sustainably embraces the landscape by minimizing site impact, tapping into natural ventilation and using bird-friendly glass to reduce bird collisions while improving solar performance. Located at the edge of Lake Lagunita and surrounded by a dense forested landscape, the Denning House design draws inspiration from its site surroundings. Hidden in the trees, the 18,000-square-foot building features a Douglas fir wood structure that’s clad in cypress with interiors lined in Douglas fir. The exposed wood, expansive glazing, and open-floor plan makes the indoor environment feel seamlessly connected with the outdoors. The building has also been designed for optimal views of Lake Lagunita. The large public spaces, such as the dining areas, classrooms and lounges are located on the second floor to take full advantage of spectacular lake vistas. The shallow arcing facade also gives way to a continuous outdoor deck from where views of the lake can be enjoyed. Meanwhile, the ground floor is given over to administration, conference and back-of-house facilities. Related: Heroic Food Farm gives military veterans a new mission as farmers growing sustainable food “It is a very environmentally immersive site,” said Emily Kirkland, the project architect and project manager. “The building was designed to respect and enhance the symbiotic relationship between visitor and nature, and by virtue of its minimal footprint, help to restore the native landscape.” To further reduce the building’s site impact, the Denning House is set on recessed footings to conserve and intensify native vegetation and is accessed via a gently curving, sloping boardwalk. + Ennead Architects Images by Tim Griffith

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Stanfords sustainable scholars building embraces the California landscape

Santa Barbara home is surrounded by wooden screens for natural climate control

March 15, 2019 by  
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Indoor-outdoor living never looked so good! This modern design by Shubin Donaldson takes full advantage of the beachy climate of Santa Barbara, California. Wooden screens and a central skylight flood the entire beach house with natural sunlight while keeping the space protected from the ocean winds. “Environmentally, the home is cooled passively by ocean breezes, lit evenly during the day by daylight, and ipe wood screens minimize sun load on the extensive view windows,” the designers said. The unique structure also uses stacked volumes of steel, concrete and glass to create the look and utilize the space. Related: Circular, solar-powered beach house is a sustainable holiday retreat Because the client was an industrial designer, it allowed for a special collaboration with the architects of Shubin Donaldson. “He came to SD knowing that our design values were in-sync, and this stunning home is the result of a very productive and satisfying client/architect relationship.” The suburban building site was generally narrow and oddly shaped, so the designers had quite a challenge on their hands. “These constraints resulted in a unique formal solution deploying a concrete and steel structural frame to maximize the formal responsiveness of the structure,” according to Shubin Donaldson. To address the limited space, the beach house stacks different living spaces on top of each other, creating three separate floors. The garage, den and laundry room sit on the ground floor, while the second floor houses the bedroom and terrace . The main sitting area was built into the third floor. This stacking design not only takes full advantage of the residential hilly area but the lovely ocean-side location as well. Thanks to the elevated flooring, the owners enjoy vast wrap-around views. Outside of the main structure extends a wooden planked deck, perfect for enjoying the California weather. The beautiful patio has additional privacy thanks to a well-manicured landscape of native plants such as cacti and palms. A majority of the concrete walls were left uncovered and exposed, adding another modern aspect to the design. A gorgeous response to a challenging site while also utilizing eco-friendly options, the Skyline Residence is truly a one-of-a-kind design. + Shubin Donaldson Via Dezeen Photography by Jeremy Bittermann via Shubin Donaldson

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Santa Barbara home is surrounded by wooden screens for natural climate control

Students around the world join climate strike on March 15

March 13, 2019 by  
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On Friday, March 15, tens of thousands of high school and middle school students in more than 70 countries plan to walk out of their classrooms and protest at town and city halls. Young people are uniting around the world in a coordinated demand for their leaders to take radical action to curb greenhouse gas emissions and slow down the impacts of climate change. How did the climate strikes start? The international youth climate strike movement began in August 2018 when 16-year-old environmental activist, Greta Thunberg skipped school to protest outside the Swedish Parliament. Since August, her actions caused a ripple effect throughout the world and snowballed the movement to include teens throughout the world. Related: 8 women leading the change for a better world Since Thunberg’s protest, students have similarly skipped out on school to hold up “Youth Climate Strike” and “School Strike for Climate” signs outside government buildings in the U.K., U.S., Japan, Uganda, Germany, Thailand, Switzerland and France, among others . Frustrated by inaction— or insufficient action— from politicians throughout their young lives, these students are panicked about the scientific predictions for the future and unwavering in their call for change. In New York, for example, 13-year-old Alexandria Villasenor has forgone her classes for the past twelve consecutive Fridays in order to sit outside the U.N. headquarters and protest. On Friday, March 15, thousands of others will join what the young people have virally hashtagged as #FridaysForFuture . Find a Climate Strike near you To date, there will be over 700 strikes in 71 countries, however the number continues to grow as rallies are added to the map. Check out this world-wide map  to see the incredible number of strikes across the globe. This U.S. climate strike map  is tracking all of the registered climate strikes in the U.S. Students are rallying around the hashtags #FridaysforFuture and #YouthClimateStrike , in honor of Thunberg and other student activists who have skipped school to protest for climate action in the past months. The strikes are supported by outspoken environmental groups such as the Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion. Climate Strike leaders are calling on students to walk out of their classes on Friday, March 15, to protest outside of the nearest town or city hall, and of course post a photo on social media. Not all students get a free pass Many of the U.S. climate strikes will take place at local House or Senate representatives’ offices where the youth plans to push for acceptance of the Green New Deal, a radical environmental proposal championed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Similar protests have already met with dismay by representatives such as Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein, both Democrats from California, who feel the students are naively confident in the Green New Deal without understanding the complexities of politics and party relations. Related: Rep. Ocasio Cortez releases green new deal In the U.K., the Prime Minister condemned the climate strike as wasteful of teachers’ time. In Australia, despite support for the protests by labor unions, the Minister of Education announced that all students and teachers who leave school on Friday will be punished— to which Greta Thunberg quickly tweeted back “we don’t care.” Isra Hirsi, daughter of freshman Representative, Ilhan Omar (D-MN), is one of the young leaders of the behind U.S. climate strikes, but she also expressed concern about the movement’s lack of intersectionality– in other words its lack of recognition and inclusion of climate leaders from many different, overlapping and often disadvantaged, demographic groups. Early this week, Hirsi tweeted about the importance of recognizing that indigenous leaders, not young white students, have been leading climate activism long before these hashtags. What are the students asking for? The strikes are largely a response to a UN Framework Convention on Climate Change report, which indicates that the world has less than 12 years to implement radical change or the impacts of global warming will be devastating and irreversible. Mark Hertsgaard from The Nation wrote of the students: “They grasp what many of their elders apparently never learned: The climate struggle is not about having the best science, the smartest arguments, or the most bipartisan talking points. It is about power — specifically, the power that ExxonMobil and the rest of the fossil-fuel industry wield over governments and economies the world over, and their willingness to use that power to enforce a business model guaranteed to fry the planet.” While students around the world have different demands from their respective leaders, they are united in their call for swift and decisive action to curtail carbon emissions and for politicians to adopt firm environmental platforms. Such platforms, though, might look drastically different in each country. Columnist for The Guardian , George Monbiot, argued that the students must develop and articulate a clear position, or else he fears they will be divided, co-opted or worse– ineffective at ultimately influencing the actual legislation that will save their futures. Via The Nation Images via Mike Baumeister , niekverlaan

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Students around the world join climate strike on March 15

This Brazilian beach house is made from locally-sourced natural materials

March 13, 2019 by  
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The architects at MNMA Studio have created a natural beachy oasis made of eco-friendly elements in the region of Pontal do Cupe, Pernambuco of northeastern Brazil. Head architects Andre Pepato and Mariana Schmidt used natural materials such as eucalyptus, certified wood, calcium carbonate rocks and even twigs to complement the concrete structure. The people of the Pontal do Cupe region have limited access to building materials and methods, so the beach house helps to symbolize an innovative and rewarding new period of architecture for the area. The building site is located on an old coconut farm, and construction was completely primarily by workers from the surrounding communities. Not only did the architects use environmentally-friendly materials for building, but they also gave the local area an opportunity to learn about sustainable building since some of the project workers (a portion of which came from families of fishermen) had never used cement or concrete before. Related: Minimalist tiny cabin is a secluded retreat in a Brazilian forest It’s clear that the entire project revolved around choosing eco-friendly materials that would reduce the need for environmental energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. For example, a portion of the structure was designed in certified eucalyptus wood. Perhaps one of the most unique and striking portions of the home is the ceiling, which is made from reused twigs and brings a particular brightness into the interior. The furniture and interior decoration are by Sergio Rodrigues and Cariri Fair. The designers used whitewash to add pigment to the concrete, a natural painting process using a non-toxic solution of calcium carbonate rocks, slaked lime and water . The whitewash on the walls and stairs make an eco-friendly statement and fight humidity while adding a textured bright-white color to the open-aired interior and exterior. As a result, the entire beach house is presented with beautiful natural colors. A dark mustard-colored concrete slab serves as a base for the home and contrasts nicely with the light brown wooden columns that help to hold up the roof terrace. The roof patio was fitted with lovely stone slab flooring of faded natural colors and opens up with an unobstructed ocean view. Via Archdaily Images by Andre Klotz 

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This Brazilian beach house is made from locally-sourced natural materials

These marbled Bluetooth speakers are made from non-recyclable plastic waste

March 13, 2019 by  
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This plastic was said to be incapable of being recycled, but U.K.-based company Gomi found a way nonetheless. Each Gomi speaker is made from about 100 non-recyclable plastic bags of multiple colors, creating a unique, individualized look. The sustainable design company won a 10,000-pound grant from the Environment Now Programme in January 2018 to kick-start the project and were funded further by the Santander Big Ideas Competition later that year. Co-founded by Brighton-based sustainable designer Tom Meades, Gomi’s intention is to use plastic waste that would otherwise be considered non-recyclable (and therefore would end up in a landfill) to create electronic products. The U.K. throws away 300 kilos of flexible plastics that are not accepted for recycling by local councils each year. This includes plastic bags, pallet wrap and bubble wrap. Meades said the company was inspired to target the challenge of flexible plastics to show that these types of materials can be made into usable objects. Related: Simple tips to reduce single-use plastic Because the design is modular, every piece of the speaker can be taken apart and recycled into a new one, so the company urges consumers to return the products for free recycling after use instead of throwing them out. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that these speakers won’t sound good because of their unconventional materials, either. “Our components are made from 100 percent non-recyclable plastic ,” Meades said. “We have worked with audio professionals and electronics engineers over the past 12 months to ensure the product is not only aesthetically desirable but also sounds great.” The company intends to only grow from here. Gomi is planning strategies to increase storage capability and produce on a larger scale in the future. It also unveiled a portable power bank and charger for smartphones made from the same material back in January. Check out the  Kickstarter page to support the project or learn more. + Gomi Via Dezeen Images via Gomi

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These marbled Bluetooth speakers are made from non-recyclable plastic waste

The fight is on: electrification vs. natural gas

March 9, 2019 by  
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A new battle over RNG in California shows that the future of renewable energy still has some kinks to be ironed out.

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The fight is on: electrification vs. natural gas

Cove launches the first 100% biodegradable water bottle

March 7, 2019 by  
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Officially launched in California on Feb. 28, 2019 and targeted to expand to new markets throughout the year, the Cove brand’s 100 percent biodegradable water bottles have become available as a sustainable plastic alternative. Cove offers an eco-friendly solution for water on the go at every phase of production and regardless of the disposal technique used. Single-use plastic water bottles have made the headlines in every fight for sustainability over the years for good reason — they are toxic for the environment. With the amount of plastic in the oceans as well as little hope of any plastic ever truly disappearing, it’s no wonder companies are looking for better ways to package our must-have water. While some companies have invested in plastic alternatives already, they each include metal, plastic or glass that needs to be separated out at the recycling stage. In contrast, the Cove water bottle sidesteps the recycling process altogether. Related: Everlane introduces long-lasting outerwear made from recycled water bottles Although it looks, feels and functions like regular plastic, the Cove water bottle is made from naturally occurring biopolymers called PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) that are biodegradable and compostable. These bottles break down into carbon dioxide, water and organic waste after being tossed into the compost or hauled to the landfill. They will even break down in the soil or the ocean with zero toxic byproducts. Construction of this innovative water bottle begins with a paper core. Attached to that is the PHA formed cylinder, cap and top dome. While the bottle might not last forever like its plastic counterparts, it is shelf-stable for six months. During that period, the bottle can also be reused . Currently, the Cove bottles are filled with natural spring water sourced from Palomar Mountain, California, for the initial launch. However, founder Alex Totterman believes that businesses have an environmental responsibility, so rather than shipping water across long distances, the company vows to source locally in each region as sales and availability spread across different markets. The idea behind the Cove water bottle is simple — produce an earth-friendly alternative to single-use plastic while keeping it convenient to the consumer. As we all know, people find it much easier to participate if the process is easy, and there is nothing easier than grabbing a bottle made from PHA instead of petroleum-based plastic. + Cove Via Packaging 360 Photography by Ryan Lowry and Sergiy Barchuk via Cove

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Cove launches the first 100% biodegradable water bottle

Scientists invent a solar panel that produces hydrogen

March 7, 2019 by  
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Scientists in Belgium have invented a solar panel that produces hydrogen as a source of fuel to heat homes. Using moisture in the atmosphere, the solar panel converts sunlight into hydrogen gas, producing about 250 liters of gas every day. The team of scientists, lead by Professor Johan Martens, have been developing their hydrogen solar panel for the past 10 years. When they first started, they were only able to produce small quantities of hydrogen gas, but now the gas bubbles are visible the moment they roll the panel out under the sun. Related: California approves rule to require solar panels on new houses “It’s actually a unique combination of physics and chemistry,” Martens explained. “Over an entire year, the panel produces an average of 250 liters per day, which is a world record.” According to CleanTechnica , Martens estimates that 20 solar panels could provide enough energy and electricity to heat up a home and still have some to spare for the following year. The team is still not ready to build the panels for commercial use, but they are getting ready for a trial run at a home in Flanders. If the tests are successful, the researchers are planning to expand their trials to an entire neighborhood. Being an extremely combustible gas, hydrogen can be dangerous if not handled correctly. While the general public may have some concerns about using hydrogen as a heating source, the Belgium-based scientists said it carries the same risks associated with natural gas. The hydrogen produced by the solar panels is stored in an oil tank that is installed near the home. While this technology is certainly promising — and produces zero carbon emissions — the cost of the solar panels, storage tanks and furnace, plus installation, is a big unknown. That said, the upfront cost may be high, but homeowners would pay off the system over time, especially if they no longer relied on city electricity or natural gas. There is no word yet on when the hydrogen solar panels will be available on the market, but the scientists are very optimistic about the upper limits of this technology. + KU Leuven Via CleanTechnica Image via H. Hach

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Scientists invent a solar panel that produces hydrogen

A ceramic facade blends this dome home into the Spanish coastline

March 7, 2019 by  
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Cloud 9 architect Enric Ruiz-Geli has recently unveiled a beautiful home design in the gorgeous Spanish region of Costa Brava. Located on a rustic lot of land overlooking the sea, the dome home is an experimental prototype that combines traditional building techniques with advanced digital and sustainable manufacturing . The Stgilat Aiguablava villa is a domed structure inspired by traditional Mediterranean architecture, normally marked by ceramic cladding, flowing shapes and ample natural light. For the experimental villa, Ruiz-Geli wanted to combine all of these aspects while reinterpreting the local traditional vault system, known as the Volta Catalana. Related: These beautiful desert biodomes will be 100% self-sustaining Using advanced fiberglass engineering , the structure was built with flowing vaulted volumes, adding movement and light to the design. The curvaceous arches, however, did present a challenge for the artisan ceramist Toni Cumella, who was charged with creating a ceramic cover that would allow the home to blend in with the surroundings. Similar to the exterior, the interior of the home is also marked by high arched ceilings. The living space is immersed in  natural light thanks to glazed walls that look out over the landscape to the sea. By using a modern version of the Volta Catalana, the home is energy-efficient. Natural light and air flow throughout the residence in the warm summer months, and a strong thermal envelope insulates the interior in the winter months. Also inside, a specially-designed ceramic piece was installed to to achieve strong, insulative acoustics. An experimental pavilion is separated from the main house by a swimming pool, which uses naturally filtered rainwater. Similar in style to the home, the innovative pavilion was designed in collaboration with the prestigious Art Center College of Design Pasadena. The team built this structure with an inflatable formwork injected with ecological concrete . This building method gives the structure its organic shape, that, according to the architects, was inspired by the existing pine trees that surround the complex. + Enric Ruiz-Geli Images via Cloud 9 Architects

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A ceramic facade blends this dome home into the Spanish coastline

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