Ontario cancels plans to reduce its carbon footprint

April 26, 2019 by  
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Ontario just cut plans to reduce its carbon footprint as Doug Ford, the Premier of Ontario, Canada decided to cancel an initiative that would have planted 50 million trees across the province and would have absorbed a considerable amount of carbon dioxide . This is not the first eco-friendly plan Ford has sidelined as he previously got rid of a carbon cap that was expected to bring in billions of dollars to the government. Ford also ditched a plan to test cars for harmful emissions and is having a bit of trouble with Toronto’s subways, but his latest move could have much wider implications. Related: Washington becomes the first state to allow human composting Planting trees is one of the best ways to naturally absorb carbon and cut down on air pollution. Trees act as a filter and soak up carbon in the atmosphere , storing it for later use. The millions of trees that were supposed to be planted in Ontario would have made a big impact in cutting carbon in the province and surrounding region. That opportunity, however, was squashed by Ford’s latest decision. Instead of planting trees , Ford is banking the money that would have been used for the project and using it to fund another initiative related to beer. Rob Keen, the leader of a group called Forests Ontario, says that the cancellation could affect the forests in the region, which need at least 40 percent coverage to survive. Keen added that not planting the trees will increase erosion in areas of Ontario that are prone to flooding. Bodies of water in the region, including lakes and rivers, will also get warmer with the lack of shade from trees. Lastly, water and air quality will also go down as a result of the canceled program. Ford has not commented on the backlash his administration has received, but we can only hope that lawmakers realize the mistake and do their best to reduce their carbon footprint in the near future. Via Tree Hugger Image via  Daniel Joseph Petty

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Ontario cancels plans to reduce its carbon footprint

These bamboo socks by Flyte are anti-bacterial and hypoallergenic

April 26, 2019 by  
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An environmentally-conscious customer base has more than supported the Flyte Socks cause, launching it into a business after humble beginnings as a Kickstarter campaign just hoping to fund a new style of sustainable socks . Partners Hung Jean and Jeffrey Trinh of Toronto set out to provide quality socks made out of sustainable materials with the goal to donate to causes close to their hearts. They had instant support with the first round of Flyte Socks, funding the campaign at 850 percent of the goal and shipping over 10,000 socks. Now, they’re back with a second round and meeting equal support for a product deemed Flyte Socks X: Bamboo Socks Re-Engineered. The Kickstarter campaign for this second design closes on April 17 and has already received over $80,000 in pledges to exceed the original $10,000 goal. Related: How to: knit a pair of smart socks that pause Netflix when you doze off Made from bamboo, the Flyte Socks X offer an end product sourced from a material that requires a third less water than cotton, regrows quickly and has a low environmental impact without the use of herbicides, pesticides or fungicides. Plus, bamboo is kind of the superfood of the forest — absorbing five times more carbon dioxide (that’s bad stuff) and outputting 35% more oxygen (that’s good stuff) than other trees. In addition to responsible materials sourcing, the products are earning strong reviews. They are anti-bacterial, hypoallergenic and naturally odor resistant due to the breathability of the fabric . The soft material is reinforced at the toe and heel to reduce wear in those areas and the elastic is re-engineered to guarantee they don’t fall down as you walk. The socks come in a variety of material options that are treated to keep colors from fading. Jean and Trinh have also vowed to use the success of the campaign to give back to the those in need. The social initiative pilot program states that for each pair of socks backed during the campaign, one pair will be donated . Proving their dedication to worker safety, the team is also certified by the Business Social Compliance Initiative. + Flyte Socks Images via Flyte Socks

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These bamboo socks by Flyte are anti-bacterial and hypoallergenic

Deforestation in tropical countries linked to European diets in new study

April 16, 2019 by  
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New research shows that European diets are linked to deforestation  in tropical countries. Scientists from Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology tracked carbon emissions that are produced from tropical deforestation and found that one-sixth of the harmful emissions are related to European diets. “In effect, you could say that the EU imports large amounts of deforestation every year,” lead researcher Martin Persson shared. Related: Cargill announces plan to reduce deforestation from cocoa Persson noted that the European Union needs to address the issue of deforestation if it wants to meet previously announced climate goals. The study showed that deforestation contributed around 2.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide over a four-year span, from 2010 to 2014. Most of the cleared land was used for crops and pastures, with cattle and oilseed farming leading the way in production. A good portion of the deforestation was driven by international demand. The researchers estimated that anywhere between 29 to 39 percent of the carbon emissions could be traced to trade, which is directly linked to consumption in several EU nations. Fortunately, some countries in the EU are cracking down on imports tied to deforestation. France, for example, initiated a plan to discourage such imports over the next 10 years. Investors have also issued warnings to companies that produce soy, criticizing them for participating in deforestation for the sake of making money. Although some countries are fighting back, Persson and his team do not believe the efforts will stop companies from clearing land. Part of the issue is that there are few regulations that actually prevent countries from importing products that are linked to deforestation. Persson also believes that nations should provide better support for local farmers who are practicing sustainability . Moving forward, Persson hopes more studies will be done that expand on his work and show stronger links between imported products and deforestation. With more data to support their conclusions, Persson believes that countries can work together to put an end to deforestation before it is too late. The study will be published in the journal Global Environmental Change in May 2019. Via Mongabay Image via Shutterstock

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New study predicts mass extinction in 140 years

February 25, 2019 by  
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A new study suggests that the old saying about history repeating itself is absolutely true. In this case, history repeating itself pertains to none other than the topic on everyone’s minds— extinction. Researchers believe it’s taken 56 million years for earth to face another mass extinction that can occur in as little as 140 years.  The research, released last Wednesday and published in Geophysical Research Letters , compares conditions in the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) period with our planet’s present warming condition. Back in PETM days, carbon dioxide shot up, increasing Earth’s temperatures by 9 to 14 degrees. The tropical Atlantic heated up to approximately 97 degrees. Land and marine animals died. It took 150,000 years for the planet to recover. Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 Unfortunately for us, carbon dioxide emissions are rising ten times faster now than they did during the PETM. Back then, wildfires, volcanic activity and methane wafting from the seafloor and permafrost were the culprits. Today, it’s down to us. Last year, emissions in countries with advanced economies rose slightly after a five-year decline. At this rate, the study predicts Earth’s atmosphere will be comparable to the beginning of PETM in 140 years, reaching a peak in 259 years. The result? Mass extinction. Philip Gingerich, the study’s author, did a literature review of previous studies on PETM and the rate of carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere. Based on eight studies published between 2009 and 2018, he used models to project future emissions caused by humans. Gingerich is an emeritus professor in the University of Michigan’s earth sciences department. He directed the university’s Museum of Paleontology for nearly 30 years. “[It’s] as if we are deliberately and efficiently manufacturing carbon for emission to the atmosphere at a rate that will soon have consequences comparable to major events long ago in earth history,” Gingerich told Earther. As he states in his study, “A second PETM-scale global greenhouse warming event is on the horizon if we cannot lower anthropogenic carbon emission rates.” Via Earther Image via nikolabelopitv

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Art-inspired home sits as an ‘abstract sculpture’ in seaside town in Portugal

February 25, 2019 by  
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Located in the seaside town of Afife, Portugal, a beautiful, minimalist house was designed to pay homage to the traditional type of construction found in the region. Designed by Portuguese firm  Guilherme Machado Vaz , the geometric Afife House is a cube-like volume clad in bright white with golden-hued shutters that, when closed completely, transform the home into a modern “abstract sculpture” surrounded by greenery. Tucked into a green landscape that rolls out to the sea, the home’s design is quite modern. According to the architects, although the bright white facade of the geometric home is certainly eye-catching, the inspiration behind the design was to blend the structure into its tranquil surroundings. Related: A modern vacation retreat is embedded into the rolling hills of southern Portugal Using the local environment to inspire the design, the architects also took into consideration a beloved chapel that is separated from the home by a stone walkway. Not wanting to infringe on the religious site, the designers respectfully restrained the width of the building area to a mere 28 feet. “The chapel stands on a base of granite walls, and it imposes itself in that area. Its presence had an influence on the project, particularly as regards the design of the volume,” explained the Portuguese architects. “The house sought not to disturb the harmony of this religious space, but at the same time it did not want to be submissive to its presence.” The white volume is broken up by a series of square windows in various sizes and covered in flat shutters. The shutters on the south elevation are painted in a glossy gold color, a nod to religious triptych paintings. When open, the windows bring plenty of natural light indoors. The crisp color of the exterior continues throughout the interior living space. The unique layout was inspired by Austrian and Czech architect Adolf Loos’ Raumplan concept, which sees various multi-level spaces being connected by one long staircase that runs through the center of the home. This system helped take the design vertical to make up for its restricted width. The home also has plenty of exterior spaces, including a flat roof that pulls double duty as an open-air terrace. A circular swimming pool also sits in a square, all-white deck, again adding to the strong character of the design. + Guilherme Machado Vaz Via Dezeen Photography by José Campos via Guilherme Machado Vaz

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Art-inspired home sits as an ‘abstract sculpture’ in seaside town in Portugal

Get ready to use soapnuts for everything from cleaning to self care

February 25, 2019 by  
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Cleaning with soapnuts (AKA soap berries) might seem like a new, eco-friendly trend, but the practice has actually been around for centuries. People in Nepal and India as well as Native Americans have known about the amazing cleaning powers of soapnuts for hundreds of years. But if they are new to you, keep reading and be amazed at what this all-natural, sustainable cleaning product can do. What are soapnuts? Sapindus mukorossi — the Soapnut Tree — is native to India and the Himalayas, and it produces a small, black berry-like fruit that can be harvested between September and February. When the berries are deseeded, and the shells are dried, you can use them to clean anything and everything, but they are most often used as a laundry detergent. Soapnut shells contain saponin, a natural surfactant. When soapnuts get wet, they absorb water and release the saponins, which circulate in the wash water to remove dirt, oils and particles from clothing . In comparison, commercial laundry detergents mostly contain chemical surfactants, and some have been linked to cancer. Related: How to decode confusing labels on common household cleaners The tree itself has some amazing environmental benefits. It has a six-month harvest time each year and can be harvested for almost an entire century, which means one tree can produce a lot of soapnuts. The tree also helps in the fight against climate change , because it converts carbon dioxide into oxygen and cleans the air. But the berries are even more impressive. The shells are 100 percent biodegradable for easy composting, they are safe for septic systems, naturally hypoallergenic, gentle to sensitive skin and they don’t damage fabrics, skin or surfaces. Medicinal properties of soapnuts Ayurvedic medicine is a holistic  healing  system that has been  using soapnuts for thousands of years , for everything from solving skin problems to helping people to quit smoking. Soapnuts are used to treat eczema and psoriasis, and they have a natural anti-venom property that can remove poison from snake and scorpion bites. Some research has shown that soapnuts have anti-cancer properties that can  prevent tumor cell growth . Soapnuts have also been used by smokers to help reduce tobacco cravings, and they have also been known to  relieve migraines . A shampoo alternative You can ditch shampoo and wash your hair with soapnuts . They are a natural, inexpensive alternative that will leave your hair soft. They are also great for hair growth and preventing hair loss. The vitamins in soapnuts will make your hair shiny and smooth, and if you use them regularly, soapnuts can reduce split ends, tame frizz and detangle. Soapnuts can fight dandruff, because they are antifungal and antibacterial. They also have insecticidal properties that can kill lice. There is one word of caution when it comes to soapnuts: you want to make sure not to get them in your eyes. Because of those lice-killing properties, they can cause your eyelids to swell. Sustainable pet care Liquid soapnut solution isn’t just great for human hair; it can also be used to shampoo your pets . A soapnut detergent works well for washing pet beds and cleaning toys. Because  insects hate soapnuts , you can spray your pet with the solution to repel fleas and ticks. An eco-friendly laundry detergent Soapnuts are the perfect,  plant-based substitute  to conventional laundry detergents. All you have to do is place four or five soapnuts into a muslin bag and throw it in the wash. They will make your clothes fresh and clean, they don’t leave behind residue and they even remove stains. You can also reuse them several times, and then  compost  them when finished, making soapnuts a  zero-waste  laundry detergent. Natural skincare Soapnuts can prevent dry skin, because they are a natural moisturizer. Using them as a face cleanser can brighten your complexion and even out your skin tone. Using soapnuts as a body wash will cool and cleanse your skin without causing damage. This all-natural product can also help fight acne and soothe eczema. Skin rashes and  allergies  are no match for soapnuts, because they don’t dry out skin like many store-bought options. They are hypoallergenic and non-toxic, so you can use soapnuts on your baby’s skin — they may even work on diaper rash. A green all-purpose cleaner You can clean your entire house with soapnuts. Just a couple of mashed berries mixed with water will create a powerful, natural solution that can clean glass, cabinets, kitchen surfaces and dishes. They are odorless, so if you want a fragrance, simply add a few drops of essential oils. Soapnut liquid soap solution is also great for cleaning electronics , polishing jewelry or even washing your car. How to make a soapnut cleaning solution The basic recipe for soapnut cleaning solution is two to three berries for each cup of water. You mash the berries and add them to water before boiling for about half an hour, so they release the saponins. Once the water is cool, strain it through muslin cloth and add essential oils, if you prefer. You can store the solution in a jar or put it in a spray bottle. Images via Shutterstock

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Scientists believe lab-grown meat may be more harmful to the environment than farms

February 21, 2019 by  
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Scientists and environmentalists are always looking for ways to make meat consumption more environmentally friendly, but lab-grown meat may not be the solution. Scientists now say that synthetic meat might be more damaging to the environment than traditional cattle farms. Research has shown that cattle farms have played a role in global warming. In fact, scientists estimate that 25 percent of all greenhouse gases can be attributed to agriculture, with beef production leading the way in methane and nitrous oxide production. These alarming statistics have prompted scientists to look for viable alternatives in the meat market. Lab-grown meat has been a promising solution to the problem, though scientists warn that growing meat in a laboratory setting may be more harmful to the environment under certain circumstances. Related: Aleph Farms has created the first lab-grown steak The biggest difference between cattle beef and lab-grown beef is the type of emission that is produced. Cattle farms tend to produce a lot of methane, which contributes greatly to global warming. Manufacturing meat in a lab, meanwhile, releases carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is also bad for the environment. The catch is that methane breaks up in around 12 years while carbon dioxide can remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years. “Per tonne emitted, methane has a much larger warming impact than carbon dioxide. However, it only remains in the atmosphere for about 12 years, whereas carbon dioxide persists and accumulates for millennia,” Raymond Pierrehumbert, a professor at Oxford Martin School, explained. That said, growing meat in a lab can be better for the environment if the manufacturing process uses sustainable energy. This would help curb the overall carbon use without releasing the amount of methane of traditional cattle farms. While this would lessen greenhouse gas emissions, there are other factors to consider with lab-grown meat, including water pollution. Until more research is done on the long-term effects of lab-grown meat, scientists are ultimately unable to determine which method is better for the environment. Via BBC Image via Shutterstock

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Scientists believe lab-grown meat may be more harmful to the environment than farms

Valentine’s Day flower deliveries come at a huge cost to the environment

February 14, 2019 by  
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Americans purchase an estimated 250 million roses for Valentine’s Day every year, many of which come via flowery delivery from South America. But shipping these roses in time for the holiday comes at a heavy cost to the environment. Colombia has become a major trading center for roses because of the Andean Trade Preference Act, which was passed under President George H.W. Bush. This act encourages farmers in the region to grow roses as an alternative to coca plants. Growing these precious petals can be good for the economy of Colombia, and as many as 130,000 workers are now employed in the flower industry. Related: 9 ways to have an eco-friendly Valentine’s Day The biggest issue, unfortunately, is with flower delivery. According to TreeHugger , Colombian growers send out 30 cargo planes loaded with roses every day in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, and by the time the holiday rolls around, these planes will have burned about 360,000 tons of carbon dioxide. Those numbers do not factor in the weight of the packaging, which adds an even greater carbon footprint to the equation. That’s only the start of the problem. Once the flowers reach the U.S., hundreds of refrigerated trucks deliver the roses to various locations. Some of the flowers are also loaded on planes and shipped a second time to cities across the country. Once the flowers reach local businesses, they are wrapped in cellophane and given plastic stem tubes, all of which end up in landfills across the U.S. One way to fight this growing problem is to purchase roses that feature a Florverde Sustainable Flower label. These varieties of roses, while still shipped via airplanes, are grown using ethical, sustainable practices and are better for the environment. If you really want to help cut carbon emissions on Valentine’s Day, then consider buying seasonal flowers from local growers in your area. Via TreeHugger Image via Emily Fletke

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Valentine’s Day flower deliveries come at a huge cost to the environment

Fake trees could help in the fight against climate change

February 6, 2019 by  
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One of the best ways to fight climate change is to invest in trees and plants. Branches and leaves help trap carbon dioxide, effectively reducing overall pollution in the atmosphere. The only hurdle is that trees take up a lot of land and resources to cultivate, which is why scientists are turning to an alternative source in the fight against carbon emissions. Scientists in Germany just published a new study about how artificial plant life can also cut down on carbon pollution . The team created an artificial system that absorbs carbon dioxide and turns it into a product that is rich in carbon, like alcohol. The system then releases oxygen into the air and captures any excess carbon byproducts for later use. Related: How to teach children about climate change The artificial system is actually more effective than what plants and trees do naturally. In fact, some experts believe this new technology is about 1,000 times better than its natural counterpart. This is significant, because there is not enough room on the planet for trees and plants to absorb the amount of carbon we are currently emitting into the atmosphere. Although artificial trees might be the answer to help curb carbon emissions, there is one catch to the system. According to The Guardian , the cost of installing artificial trees is beyond the reach of most communities. Starting a small forest of artificial trees costs close to a quarter of a million dollars, and that is just to get the ball rolling. Scientists hope to decrease that price point in the near future, but that will only happen once technology progresses and investors get more interested in funding research. If scientists can lower the cost of artificial trees, then it might be our best option for capturing  carbon emissions. But this technology is competing against other methods of removing carbon from the air, so only time will tell if artificial systems are the answer to the growing problem of climate change. Via The Guardian  and  Popular Science Image via Pixabay

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Circular, solar-powered beach house is a sustainable holiday retreat

February 6, 2019 by  
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A charming, circular escape from the city has popped up on an idyllic stretch of beach in New Zealand . Powered with solar energy and built with weather-resistant materials, the St Andrews Beach House is the work of Austin Maynard Architects , a Fitzroy-based design practice that prides itself on sustainable architecture. The “Euclidean form” of the dwelling was inspired by the beauty of the remote site and is designed to take advantage of views in all directions. Located on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula along secluded coastline near national parkland, the St Andrews Beach House is surrounded by stunning vistas of the water, wild bush, sand dunes and scrub. The simple two-story circular structure was a site-sensitive response to both the fragile environment and the client’s brief for a ‘bach’ — a New Zealand word commonly used for a very modest holiday home. The simplicity of the home’s design helps focus attention on the landscape, while its self-sustaining construction minimizes the building’s environmental footprint. “Less than five meters in radius, St Andrews Beach House is an object in the landscape,” the architects explained in a statement. “A Euclidean form set amongst the rough terrain. The plan of the house is generated using the rational and precise geometry, as the circle extrudes into a tube. The internal spaces are generated by a tightly controlled plan adhering to the rules of form, guiding and arranging segments that divide the space, with a spiral staircase as its central core, providing light and air but also snug spaces. This is not a slick beach house, but a relaxed and informal escape, designed with materials that will patina and weather, like an old coastal wharf.” Related: Swanky laneway house in Melbourne is built from recycled red brick The communal living areas are located on the ground floor while the bedroom and bathroom zone are upstairs. In addition to the home’s small footprint and use of durable materials, the beach house was built with rooftop solar panels as well as double-glazed windows. A large cylindrical concrete water tank harvests rainwater for reuse in the toilets and for irrigation. + Austin Maynard Architects Images by Derek Swalwell via Austin Maynard Architects

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