U.S. loses 24 million acres of natural land

August 7, 2019 by  
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Mother Nature might be ticked, because the United States is losing land fast. If you’ve ever visited the glorious Grand Canyon, you already know how vast it is. Imagine what a combined nine Grand Canyons would look like, and you have the equivalent of the amount of natural land the U.S. has lost from 2001-2017. That’s 24 million acres if you do the math. The reason? According to a recent study conducted by the Center for American Progress, “How Much Nature Should America Keep,” it’s all because of agriculture, energy expansion, an increase in housing build-outs and other human-made developments, making the U.S. more susceptible to climate change . Related: Scientific consensus reaches beyond 99% on human-caused climate change The study calculated the country’s land degradation by adding up the impact of all the above factors to come to an assessment. Bottom-line, the center said that the “U.S. needs to set a goal to protect 30 percent of land and oceans by 2030 to stem the rapid decline of natural areas, which will protect the country from the worst impacts of climate change and wildlife extinction .” The report also found that presently, 12 percent of the country’s land area has been saved as national parks , wilderness areas and other kinds of protected areas, while 26 percent of the country’s ocean area is protected from drilling for oil and gas. The report continued, “The United States is entering an era in which it will rely more than ever on the integrity and stability of the natural world to provide economic prosperity, safeguard the health of communities and weather the effects of a changing climate.” As for the sharpest losses of natural areas, these took place in the southern and Midwestern U.S. as the carbon footprints of cities, farms, streets, power plants and other developments increased from 47 percent and 59 percent of land area, respectively. To turn things around — and hopefully protect 30 percent of land by 2030 and avoid even more land degradation — the U.S. must increase its current land conservation blueprint at both the federal and local levels. + Center for American Progress Via Reuters Image via Tony Webster

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U.S. loses 24 million acres of natural land

Zero-carbon masterplan on the water aims to revitalize Bergens urban growth

July 22, 2019 by  
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In a bid to revitalize the Norwegian city of Bergen, London-based architectural practice Waugh Thistleton Architects has proposed Trenezia, a masterplan that would transform the coastal city into a shining example of zero-carbon urban development. The mixed-use development would consist of over 1,600 homes and be built on the waters of Store Lungegårdsvann, a bay that separates the city center from the southern boroughs of the city. Energy demands and the carbon footprint would be minimized through site-specific, environmentally responsible design and the use of carbon-sequestering timber as a primary construction material for all of the houses. Created in collaboration with local architects Artec, Urban System Design, Degree of Freedom and landscape design firm East, the zero-carbon Trenezia masterplan was created for the BOB, a Norwegian housing association with a goal of building sustainably in urban areas. In addition to promoting sustainable ideals, Trenezia aims to revitalize the city center, which the architects said is currently suffering from depopulation as people move to the outskirts to live in suburban family homes. Related: Industrial building is reimagined as a zero-carbon paragon for Paris 2024 Olympics Edged in by mountains and water, Bergen’s city center has little land left for development. As a result, the architects decided to build on the lake. “Perfectly placed between the historic town and the new cultural arts hub to the east, the Store Lungegårdsvannet Lake is the ideal site for a new cultural and residential center,” the team explained in a press release. A new boardwalk would span the lake and serve as a ‘central spine’ that connects the public-facing elements, which includes a swimming pool and sailing club, retail, performance spaces and cafes. More than 1,600 homes would be placed behind the boardwalk . The new homes would stress intergenerational interaction and offer a range of accommodation from family houses to co-living to student flats to sheltered housing both for private sale and rent. The homes, which will be built from timber, echo the gabled rooflines of Bergen’s iconic wooden houses that helped earn the city a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. “The masterplan, by virtue of its form, responds to the local climate through the creation of solar corridors through the site to maximize sunlight and daylight into every home,” the architects said. “Residential fingers are separated by canals with individual and communal boat moorings and pontoons for residents, creating a comfortable environment where people can be healthy, happy and productive.” + Waugh Thistleton Architects Images by Darc Studio and Artec via Waugh Thistleton Architects

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Zero-carbon masterplan on the water aims to revitalize Bergens urban growth

The future of dairy sustainability: Communications, partnerships and progress

June 26, 2019 by  
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Sponsored: California’s dairy industry is setting an example in sustainability by reducing the carbon footprint of a glass of milk.

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The future of dairy sustainability: Communications, partnerships and progress

Stay home from work to save the planet, study says

May 23, 2019 by  
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Need an excuse to stay home from work? How about new research findings that a shorter work week is essential to combating climate change ? European think tank Autonomy recommends that employees in the U.K. work far fewer hours in order to avoid a climate crisis. In fact, the think tank recommends people work only nine hours per week! Although a nine-hour work week might sound too good to be true, there are many experts who are pushing for a four-day work week as a compromise. After the economic recession in 2008, Utah became the first state in the U.S. to experiment with a mandatory four-day work week — and found many benefits. The newest findings are based on greenhouse gas emissions and efforts to decarbonize the economy. Autonomy is careful to say that a reduced work week is only one out of many ingredients that should go into a comprehensive and urgent plan to reduce carbon emissions. Related: 9 ways to introduce nature into your dull workspace “Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies — a shorter working week being just one of them,” Autonomy director Will Stonge told The Guardian. “This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like.” The benefits of working reduced hours include both environmental and social impacts. With a shorter work week, fewer people would commute, which would significantly reduce transportation-related carbon emissions and improve air quality . According to the report, a “1 percent decrease in working hours could lead to a 1.46 percent decrease in carbon footprint.” Additionally, fewer workers would also mean fewer goods produced and resources used, which would ultimately be more sustainable than our current rate of over-consumption. Being overworked also encourages unsustainable habits by stressed and rushed employees, such as driving instead of walking or buying ready-made meals packaged with single-use plastic instead of cooking. Evidence also suggests that working shorter hours would improve employees’ mental health and well-being without losing productivity. Employees would have more time to exercise, cook, relax and build social ties, enabling improved focus while on the job. Employers likely aren’t going to buy the argument for a nine-hour work week any time soon, but the report confirms similar findings that “the climate crisis calls for an unprecedented decrease in the economic activity that causes GHG emissions,” or in other words, the “necessity to be lazy” — or at the very least a reconsideration of how industrial societies have defined lazy. Via The Guardian Image via Freddie Marriage

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Stay home from work to save the planet, study says

Green batteries? Renewable energy storage will cost nature

May 20, 2019 by  
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Our quest to save the world by achieving 100 percent renewable energy will unfortunately also be devastating for the environment . An increase in renewable energy means an increase in the need for batteries to power electric cars and store energy from solar panels and wind turbines. However, batteries are made from unsustainably and unethically sourced metals. A new report , released by the University of Technology in Sydney, estimates that the surge in battery production will increase the demand for metals four times above what is currently available in the earth’s existing mines and reserves. The researchers calculated how the demand for “green batteries” will rise if countries meet their Paris Agreement commitments and transition to 100 percent renewable energy and transportation by 2050. Their findings indicate that the demand will exceed the amount of cobalt that is currently available and will consume 86 percent of the earth’s lithium. What metals are needed? Phones, solar panels, wind turbines and the batteries they use to store energy all use a variety of metals. In addition to lithium, batteries use cobalt, manganese and nickel. Solar panels are made from tellurium, gallium, silver and indium. Other renewable devices also use copper and aluminum. Related: Renewable energy surpasses coal for the first time in U.S. history The impact of metal mining Metal mining is largely unsustainable and there is currently no plan for ensuring a clean transition to renewable energy that reforms the mining industry. The following metals are especially problematic and in high demand: Cobalt 60 percent of all cobalt is sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the mining process causes large scale heavy metal contamination of the air, water and soil. Moreover, the cobalt industry has widely documented human rights abuses, including employing children and forcing workers to mine in highly dangerous circumstances. After extraction in rural areas of the DRC, the raw metal travels to the capitol for processing and is typically transported to China, which refines 40 percent of all cobalt. Chinese companies then sell the refined cobalt to places such as Vietnam, where batteries are produced and then sold all over the world. In addition to the atrocious impacts at the mining site, the entire industry has a massive carbon footprint . Innovators are desperately trying to design a cobalt-free battery. Elon Musk even tweeted a commitment to discovering a new way to produce batteries, hoping to distance Tesla from the environmental and human rights issues tied to the cobalt industry. Such battery technology is not a likely possibility in the near future and the demand for renewable energy will cause a spike in the need to rely on the existing cobalt market at the expense of nature and thousands of lives. Lithium Lithium is largely extracted from South American countries such as Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. The mines have contaminated drinking water reserves and cause conflict with local communities. Leaders from 33 indigenous groups sued mine operators over their right to clean water, however, they are up against a powerful industry that charges everything from our TV remotes to our beloved cellphones. Copper A new technology promises a more environmentally friendly strategy for extracting copper from the ground. It involves injecting an acid solution into the land while leaving the surface relatively undisturbed. However, the technology may still contaminate land and ground water. In Alaska , an indigenous group has been fighting a proposed copper mine on the site of a world’s most highly productive sockeye salmon fishery. Despite the importance of this ecosystem , the indigenous leaders have an uphill battle against powerful corporations, rising demand and limited copper reserves. Solutions: The greening of batteries Despite the negative impact of battery materials, experts still argue that the transition to renewable energy is worth it. Energy professor, Charles Barnhart of Western Washington University, told the media: “I want to be clear that when we talk about environmental impacts, we’re not trying to decide between ‘lesser evils,’” the destructive legacy of fossil fuels is incomparable. Although metal mining may never be clean, there are a few ways to improve the problem: Demand transparency from battery and electronics companies If mining operations and electronics companies know that consumers are paying attention to their supply chains, human rights practices and environmental impacts they are more likely to do the right thing. Respect rights of indigenous communities The sovereignty and voices of dissent from local communities must be recognized and supported both legally and financially in places from the DRC to Alaska. Increase energy efficiency The world’s transition to renewable energy seems to be the path forward, however people can still reduce their need for electricity in their every day lives. For example, homes built to make the most of natural light use less electricity during the daytime. Recycle batteries The lithium and cobalt recycling industry will be worth $23 billion by 2025 and will rise with increasing demand. Major companies like Tesla, Apple and Amazon are developing battery recycling programs for their products. Related: A growing number of states are aiming for clean energy Tips on how to recycle your batteries: Single-Use Batteries Identify a collection program or event in your area by calling your town hall or using Earth911’s Recycling Search program. Store batteries in plastic or cardboard containers and cover the ends with tape to prevent energy drain. Rechargeable batteries Identify a collection program. Many home and office supply stores have recycled battery dropboxes. Remove the battery from your electronics and cover the ends with clear tape. Via Earther Images via Shutterstock

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Green batteries? Renewable energy storage will cost nature

Architects transform a residential building into a lush, green oasis in the heart of So Paulo

May 20, 2019 by  
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Although São Paulo is known as a bustling metropolis, a local architectural firm, Lucia Manzano Arquitetura , is doing its part to add more green to the concrete and glass cityscape. The Lorena is a residential building in the heart of the city that is designed to integrate architecture and landscape. It infuses an abundance of vegetation throughout from its ground floor garden, which was planted with native shrubs and trees to attract local fauna, to the massive balconies covered in hanging greenery, and of course, a lush green roof. Sitting in the middle of São Paulo, the 28,000-square-foot Lorena building holds court in a quiet area, standing out significantly from its concrete neighbors thanks to the massive amount of vegetation that hangs from each of its outdoor terraces and rooftop gardens . According to the architects, the inspiration for the design was to create a strong relationship between landscape and architecture. To do so, the building was covered in layers of vibrant plants. Related: Translucent Ho Chi Minh City office tower infused with greenery helps combat urban pollution The concrete building is four stories, comprised of several 5,543-square-foot duplex units. The common areas, the ground floor and the rooftop were conceived as private gardens for the residents. On the ground floor, the landscaping includes  native vegetation , such as local species from the Atlantic Forest as well as fruit and native trees, chosen to attract local birds and insects. This space also has an extended splash pool to create a soothing oasis where the residents can relax. At the top of the building, residents can also enjoy a beautiful green roof . Equipped with large trees, shrubs and flowers, there are also plenty of lounge chairs to take in the stunning views of the city. When they are not strolling along the pool or taking in the rooftop vistas, residents have their own private escape at home. Each duplex has four bedrooms, each with its own private balcony that pulls double-duty as flowerbeds. The living space in each unit opens up to a balcony, merging the interior with the exterior. As well as creating the sense of being surrounded by a garden , the abundance of plant life also provides the residences with plenty of privacy. + Lucia Manzano Arquitetura  Via Archdaily Photography by Evelyn Müller via Lucia Manzano Arquitetura

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Architects transform a residential building into a lush, green oasis in the heart of So Paulo

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

Extinction Rebellion LA protests climate change by supergluing themselves to Universal Globe

April 24, 2019 by  
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A group called Extinction Rebellion Los Angeles (XRLA) organized a protest on the campus of Universal Studios for Earth Day. A few members of the group climbed the company’s famous globe and superglued themselves in place with the hope of sending a message to NBC and the rest of Hollywood. The goal of the protest was to inform the business community in Los Angeles that climate change is real and that we need to take drastic steps to avoid destruction. The group outlined several demands alongside the protest, challenging NBC to publicly act on behalf of the environment. Related: Climate activists will turn up the heat at presidential debate The first call to action is for NBC to admit that we are facing an environmental emergency unlike anything we have ever witnessed. Secondly, XRLA wants the studio to inform the public about the truth of climate change and how the government has failed to do anything about it. Thirdly, the group asks NBC to stop accepting ad revenue from companies that deal in fossil fuels, go zero-carbon by 2025 and perform an internal audit that shows its  carbon footprint . The last demand is for NBC to hire environmental lobbyists and think-tank personnel to handle climate discussions, as long as their funding sources are completely transparent. XRLA sent a letter to the president of NBC Universal outlining these goals and encouraging the company to take part in building a sustainable future. Members of Extinction Rebellion come from a variety of backgrounds and professions and are spread across 38 cities in the United States and 49 countries around the world. To date, Extinction Rebellion protests have led to more than 1,100 arrests in the name of bringing awareness to and action against climate change. The organization often works with other environmental groups to meet specific goals and raise awareness . NBC has not responded to Extinction Rebellion’s letter, though the company did remove the protesters from the iconic globe. + Extinction Rebellion Image via Prayitno

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Extinction Rebellion LA protests climate change by supergluing themselves to Universal Globe

Google is celebrating Earth Day with a new addition to its interactive app

April 22, 2019 by  
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In an effort to create an entertaining, easy way to learn about eco-friendly living, Google paired up with the California Academy of Sciences and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to create Your Plan, Your Planet for Earth Day. Using interactive quizzes, tips and visual aids, Your Plan, Your Planet gives users a concise set of messages that will help anyone understand the simple ways they can do their part in helping save the planet’s precious resources. With a trusted name like Google behind Your Plan, Your Planet , you know it will be both accurate and user-friendly. For example, the water pillar explores all the ways, both obvious and not-so-obvious, that we waste water every day. The app gives specific, sourced facts for elements to consider all over the home, from how much water is wasted by having a drippy faucet each year to how much water can be saved from using a dishwasher instead of hand-washing. Related: Google Street View cars will map air pollution in cities worldwide The other pillars focus on two equally as important angles to help the environment: energy and food. Did you know that keeping your lights on for four hours per day in a two-bedroom home annually produces the CO2e (“carbon dioxide equivalent,” a unit for measuring carbon footprint ) as driving a car for 40 hours? The energy pillar lets you pinpoint exactly how many kilowatt hours of energy your own home produces in a year, and that is only one section of the pillar. Among other things, the food pillar shares helpful ways to store food properly to prevent wasted groceries (“Two-thirds of the food tossed out at home could have been eaten if it had been stored properly,” the app explains). Once you’ve reached the end of each pillar, a choice of pledges awaits with links to share on social media and a chance to add reminders of the pledge to your calendar. In order to unlock all the tips, you have to make it through the entire interactive program (it only takes a few minutes, and there is plenty of helpful advice along the way). Users can sign into their Google accounts to save their progress and track pledges. The original three pillars — water, food and energy — are now being joined by stuff on Earth Day 2019 to raise awareness of detrimental “ fast fashion ” as well as many people’s affinity to throw their stuff away without a second thought. These bad habits have lead to the equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothing (2,625 kg) being burned or sent to the landfill every second, a fact revealed early on in the app. On average, a piece of clothing that is made poorly is tossed in the trash after being worn just seven or eight times. The pillar was designed to help users understand the circular economy — the system aimed at managing ways to minimize waste and find better ways to expend the earth’s resources. Instead of the former mindset of “make, use, dispose,” circular economy is designed to keep resources in use as long as possible, rather than just throwing things away after we’re done with them. The facts revealed throughout the app are based on extensive Ellen MacArthur studies, such as The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics & catalysing action and A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning fashion’s future . Some examples of the pledges on Your Plan, Your Planet include: “I pledge to take part in Fashion Friday — Every Friday pledge to wear clothing you haven’t worn in a while. After wearing it, decide whether to keep, resell, reuse or donate your clothing.” “I pledge to prevent single-use plastics — Pledge to limit the purchase of single-use plastics, invest in reusable shopping bags, water bottles and straws, and reuse your plastic to keep it in use.” A simple change in just one of these patterns can have a considerable impact on your carbon footprint and contribution to the decay of the planet’s environmental resources. Related: Google hits its incredible 100% renewable energy goal Some of our favorite tips? Get inventive when it comes to recycling ! “Donate extra toys to a daycare, drop off old hangers to your local dry cleaner or advertise items on your neighborhood social media channels.” These are just a few ways to cut out the middleman and make sure that the items you don’t need anymore wind up in the hands of someone who could really use them. Another good tip from the app: “Choose to buy from a company that takes your products back [after you’re done with them].” Doing a little extra research before making a purchase can be the difference between trash and treasure. It’s no secret that minimalism and environmental awareness is gaining popularity. Videos and articles on sustainable fashion and eco-friendly options for waste have been popping up more and more as the plight of the earth’s resources is worsening. The stuff pillar has been available for teachers to use as a lesson plan since April 15, but Google has now made it available to everyone to celebrate Earth Day. Your Plan, Your Planet is great for both adults and children and an excellent way to learn together! You can access the program via g.co/yourplanyourplanet . + Your Plan, Your Planet Images via Your Plan, Your Planet

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Google is celebrating Earth Day with a new addition to its interactive app

This futuristic, solar-powered travel trailer can be pulled by small cars

April 22, 2019 by  
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There’s no dispute that travel trailers are gaining popularity among those looking to get off the grid and use fewer natural resources, especially while enjoying activities such as camping and road tripping. At 760 pounds and just over 12 feet in length, the Polydrop trailer is an impressive option for your next adventure. Created by architectural designer Kyung-Hyun Lew, this travel trailer has a lightweight frame and sleeps two people comfortably. For the minimalist traveler, it has pretty much all the essentials. The 2017 prototype was so lightweight that the designer was able to travel for an entire year with the personal trailer hitched to a small 4-cylinder car. The attention gained from Lew’s initial 2017 trip influenced the newer 2019 version with improved parts. Inside the wooden cabin bolted to the aluminum frame, there is a three-quarter-sized mattress, three sections of storage cubbies, two USB outlets and a vented roof. The interior is lit with recessed  LED lighting , and thick insulation protects inhabitants from all sorts of weather while saving energy. Heating (controlled by a thermostat), lighting and the electronic system are all powered by a solar panel. Related: Lume Traveler offers panoramic sky views from an open roof There is also a kitchenette with cabinets for electric hookups as well as two storage drawers in the rear. Unlike other travel trailers , the Polydrop doesn’t leave much room for the kitchen space, but the makers insisted that it has all the essentials for a camping trip at a site with separate facilities, like restrooms and benches, available. This isn’t your grandfather’s travel trailer — the Polydrop makes use of a polygonized teardrop shape with a super modern design and a futuristic feel. Safety wise, Timbren Independent suspension and hydraulic disk brakes get the job done for safe driveability. For the unfussy traveler who just needs a place to rest and some storage, the Polydrop certainly offers a successful approach to camping and road-tripping. The simplicity with a sleek, modern design is perfect for those looking for something not quite as bulky as a traditional travel trailer but more comfortable than a tent. + Polydrop Via Curbed Images via Polydrop

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This futuristic, solar-powered travel trailer can be pulled by small cars

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