New York City passes landmark bill to cut carbon emissions of big buildings by 80%

April 22, 2019 by  
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New York City just passed a landmark bill to cut carbon emissions. City council members overwhelming voted in favor of a historic law, called the The Climate Mobilization Act, which will reduce emissions of buildings larger than 25,000 square feet by 80 percent over the next 30 years. The most significant portion of the bill will require these buildings to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent over the next decade. By 2050, these buildings will have to cut emissions by 80 percent total, greatly reducing overall air pollution in the Big Apple. Buildings of this size, including Trump Tower, represent a tiny portion of the city but cause about half of building-related pollution. Related: New York vows to ban plastic bags statewide in 2020 The new law comes on the heels of a study from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that linked building emissions to climate change. Researchers with the IPCC concluded that carbon emissions in the United States grew by a little over 3 percent in 2018. Large buildings were a major contributor to the jump in emissions, and the study called for tighter restrictions in the building sector. New York City’s new initiative will undoubtedly help lower those numbers. The plan will also create jobs for thousands of New Yorkers. Lawmakers estimate that the law will put around 20,000 people to work, mainly in the construction industry. With the bill being beneficial to the environment and economy, city council members voted it in 45-2. “The Climate Mobilization Act is a down payment on the future of New York City — one that ensures we lead the way in the ever-growing fight against climate change ,” Costa Constantinides, a member of the city council, shared. Constantinides added that he hopes the new law will encourage other cities to enact similar legislation. Apart from curbing building emissions, the bill includes measures to boost energy efficiency in utility plants, encourage green roofs and various forms of renewable energy  and make it easier for individuals to receive wind project permits. Despite the positive outlook on cutting carbon emissions, the bill was met with considerable resistance on behalf of several real estate firms in the city. Via Climate Nexus Image via Bruce Emmerling

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New York City passes landmark bill to cut carbon emissions of big buildings by 80%

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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Lyft vows to help customers find electric vehicles with Green Mode

February 14, 2019 by  
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Lyft is making important strides to decrease carbon emissions in the ride-hailing industry. The company just announced a new initiative called Green Mode, which will make it easier for customers to find electric vehicles (EVs) through the platform. The company, which was the first of its kind to get a carbon-neutral label last year, is planning to introduce a score of electric vehicles in 2019. Putting thousands of EVs on the road will offer a more eco-friendly alternative to customers while putting more money in the pocket of its employees. According to Lyft , the Green Mode program will eventually be incorporated in cities around the world. The company hopes that introducing electric vehicles to cities will significantly curb carbon emissions and reduce the number of gas-powered vehicles on the road. With electric vehicles producing half as much greenhouse gases as their traditional counterparts, Lyft’s program is promising. Lyft will introduce Green Mode in Seattle first before branching out into other cities in the United States. Other locations have yet to be announced. Once the program is widespread, customers will be able to use Green Mode in the company’s app to filter electric and hybrid vehicles . The Green Mode program is also beneficial to drivers. Individuals who use Lyft are always looking for ways to decrease fuel costs, and providing electric vehicles would be a major step to make that happen. That is why Lyft plans to offer an electric vehicle rental service, in which drivers can rent EVs without worrying about mileage or maintenance costs. The company would also pay for the insurance. Lyft will incorporate the rental costs into the driver’s weekly rate. Because electricity costs much less than gasoline, this will put more money in the pocket of drivers who use electric vehicles. In fact, the company estimates that its Green Mode initiative will save employees thousands of dollars every year — and that only accounts for fuel savings. + Lyft Image via Lyft

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Lyft vows to help customers find electric vehicles with Green Mode

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

Lawmakers are pushing gadget manufacturers with the Right to Repair movement

January 17, 2019 by  
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The amount of electronics that we are throwing away each year is growing at an exponential rate, and this toxic trash is hazardous to both people and the planet. What are we supposed to do when our smartphones or other gadgets stop working? According to lawmakers in the United States and Europe, there is one option that should be available instead of getting rid of them— fixing them. Lawmakers in at least 18 states— and the European Parliament— believe that manufacturers should make it a priority that their products last longer and are easier to fix, a movement known as “Right To Repair.” The 18 U.S. states include California, Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia. E-waste is the fastest-growing waste stream on Earth, says the Global E-Waste Monitor. In 2016, our planet generated 44.7 million metric tons of e-waste, and as more products continue to hit the market, the forecasts for future waste are projected to skyrocket. Experts say that by 2021, we are looking at 52.2 million metric tons of e-waste . As technology advances for electronics, DIY fixes for gadgets are a huge challenge for consumers, thus causing more and more consumers and politicians to demand a change to the  law . Related: Precycle, a zero-waste grocery store, opens in Brooklyn California Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman introduced the California Right To Repair Act last March, and her bill would require manufacturers to release diagnostic and repair instructions and make equipment or service parts available to small repair shops and product owners. “We should be working to reduce needless waste —repairing things that still have life—but companies use their power to make things harder to repair. Repair should be the easier, more affordable choice and it can be, but first, we need to fix our laws,” said Emily Rusch, executive director of CALPIRG, in a press release in support of Eggman’s bill. Environmentalists say the “Right to Repair” legislation would not only save resources, but will also reduce carbon emissions from the manufacturing of new products. While the act proves to be beneficial, it could, however, prove to be a considerable challenge to pass. Tech giants like Apple and Microsoft believe that users fixing their own devices could be a security risk to the user, not to mention, the fact that these companies would prefer that consumers continue to buy their new products. Via EcoWatch Image via Shutterstock

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Ecovillage in Copenhagen strives to meet all 17 Sustainable Development Goals

December 20, 2018 by  
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Danish architecture firm Lendager Group has won an international competition for its design of the UN17 Village, a sustainable residential development that will introduce 400 new homes to Copenhagen , Denmark. Selected over shortlisted proposals from prominent firms such as BIG and Henning Larsen, Lendager Group’s winning design aims to create “the first building project in the world that translates all 17 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into tangible action.” The project will span an area of 35,000 square meters in the city’s southern district of Ørestad South and is slated for completion in 2023. Created in collaboration with NREP, MOE, Årstiderne Architects and Arup, the winning UN17 Village proposal will follow the UN’s 17 Global Goals with a design that will be built with recycled materials, renewable energy sources and other energy-saving strategies. The upcycled construction materials will also be locally harvested and processed to stimulate the local economy. In addition to creating 400 new homes, the residential development will also include a variety of public facilities such as a communal kitchen, workspaces, guest housing, a recreation center with a bathhouse and a communal laundromat fed with recycled rainwater. “The built environment is responsible for more than 40 percent of our global emissions ,” Lendager Group said in a press release. “However, it does not have to be this way. In nature, waste does not exist: organisms regenerate themselves and use dead organic materials as building blocks for future growth. The UN17 Village showcases how we can decouple growth from emissions by looking at waste as a resource, and by making sustainability and growth support each other without compromising on quality, aesthetics or price.” Related: BIG completes low-income “Homes for All” project in Copenhagen A healthy indoor climate will also be emphasized throughout. The home interiors will have a spacious feel and will be dressed in nontoxic and certified materials. Rooftop solar panels will fulfill the energy needs while an abundance of greenery and garden spaces will be integrated to promote sustainable living. + Lendager Group Images by TMRW via Lendager Group

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Ecovillage in Copenhagen strives to meet all 17 Sustainable Development Goals

Major utility company Xcel Energy commits to go carbon-free by 2050

December 13, 2018 by  
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A major utility company is making history. Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest utility company, has pledged to go completely carbon-free by 2050. The company serves eight states, and its ambitious new carbon reduction goal far exceeds its current target of a 60 percent reduction in Colorado by 2026. “Our biggest energy source in a few short years is going to be renewable energy . We’re going to absolutely integrate as much of that as we can into the grid,” said Xcel CEO Ben Fowke. The company said that it will be 80 percent carbon-free by 2030 before reaching the goal of 100 percent carbon reduction in 2050. These changes should mean more solar and wind energy  along with a reduction of coal. Fowke said that there will also be other technologies needed to meet the 100 percent carbon goal, including battery storage technology and maybe even carbon sequestration. Related: Blue dye could be the next key to harnessing renewable energy Xcel serves 3.6 million people in Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, New Mexico, Texas, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota. For years, those customers have been demanding that the company make some changes. The utility company said that it really does listen to its customers, and with citizens of cities all over Colorado deciding that they want 100 percent renewable energy, Xcel decided it would be in its best interest to give the customers what they have asked for. Xcel’s commitment is the latest in announcements by large utility companies regarding huge new carbon reduction goals. Indiana’s NIPSCO sped up the retirement of multiple coal plants in favor of renewable energy, and Midwestern Utility MidAmerican announced that it would reach its 100 percent renewable energy goal by 2020. With companies turning away from fossil fuels in favor of renewables like wind and solar, the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects America’s coal consumption to soon be at its lowest level in four decades. Via CPR Image via Laura Lee Dooley

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Even scientists are shocked by the latest UN report on climate change

October 10, 2018 by  
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According to a Monday report on climate change from the United Nations, maintaining the Earth’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius is crucial if more extreme weather events and species’ extinctions are to be avoided. The current ceiling on temperature increase is set at 2 degrees Celcius since the 2015 Paris Agreement , to which nearly 200 nations are committed. However, new UN research shows that this pledge is not enough to avoid possibly irreparable damage to our planet’s ecosystems. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) both weighed in on the report, saying that as of now, the world is not even on course to achieving the 2C benchmark, let alone a lower target. The UN is calling for rapid changes on the part of nations, businesses and individuals. The unprecedented changes to travel and lifestyle may be jarring but are the only way to avoid catastrophic damage to our planet in the near future. Related: Flood frequency of the Amazon River has increased fivefold “There is clearly need for a much higher ambition level to reach even a 2 degrees target, we are moving more toward 3 to 5 (degrees) at the moment,” explained Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the WMO. The 1.5C target would slow coastal flooding and ocean rise by the end of the century, giving people in these areas time to adapt to changes. Many species would also be given a greater chance of survival. Under the 2C target, coral reefs are still projected to disappear. The lower target would allow anywhere between 10 to 30 percent of coral reefs to possibly survive. “Even the scientists were surprised to see … how much they could really differentiate and how great are the benefits of limiting global warming at 1.5 compared to 2,” IPCC Vice-Chair Thelma Krug told Reuters . According the the IPCC, the human carbon footprint must fall by at least 45 percent by 2030 in order for the planet to maintain the 1.5C temperature rise and reach “net-zero” by mid-century. The report also stated that 70-85 percent of energy needs to be supplied by renewable sources by 2050 to stay at the 1.5C target — right now, renewable energy accounts for about 25 percent. Amjad Abdulla — board member for the IPCC and chief negotiator for small island states at risk of flooding — said, “The report shows we only have the slimmest of opportunities remaining to avoid unthinkable damage to the climate system that supports life as we know it.” While the U.S. is on target to meet the previous goal, the UN is still stressing that more action is needed. Urging individuals to make changes to their lifestyles, even at the smallest of levels, the report believes that every small incentive will make the difference. For us, this means reducing meat consumption and dairy intake, choosing public transportation or switching to electric and hybrid vehicles and demanding companies to supply low-carbon products for purchase. + United Nations Via Reuters Image via  Natasha Kasim

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Old Sydney warehouse is transformed into an industrial-chic home

October 10, 2018 by  
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Rather than strip Balmain, Sydney of its post-industrial architectural heritage and history, award-winning practice Carter Williamson Architects has taken care to sustainably breathe new life into the area’s old buildings. Case in point is the local studio’s transformation of a former timber factory into a stunning, modern home with industrial-chic styling woven throughout its four levels. Dubbed 102 The Mill, the unique home boasts 403 square meters of space with soaring ceilings and plenty of natural light. The adaptive reuse design is part of a greater redevelopment project in which a sawmill, cottage and factory were repurposed into multiple residences. All of the renovated buildings retain parts of the original construction. In 102 The Mill, these deliberately exposed frameworks are complemented by industrial-inspired lighting fixtures and minimalist, streamlined furnishings. Timber floors and warm fabrics help imbue the former factory with a sense of cozy warmth. Entering from the street-facing north facade, 102 The Mill allocates the main living and bedroom areas to the west side that faces the garden, while the staircase and elevator shaft are set on the eastern side of home. The ground floor includes a spacious entrance foyer that leads to an entertainment room and a guest suite; both rooms have access to the garden . An open-plan living room, kitchen and dining area are on the first floor, and an outdoor terrace has been added to the rear side. The second floor houses the master suite in addition to two bedrooms. The roof terrace offers extra entertaining space. Related: A historic farmhouse is transformed into a modern home with a green roof “By embracing its former factory life, The Mill manages to capture the gritty feel of industrial Balmain, sympathetically redefining the traditional Sydney terrace house,” reads the project description. “The result sits with an inevitability, blending in with its inner Sydney surroundings, yet striking forward as a jewel of modern Australian architecture.” + Carter Williamson Architects Photography by Brett Boardman

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