English tree planting challenge will help plant 130,000 trees

May 21, 2019 by  
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This week, England announced a plan to plant at least 130,000 trees in cities and towns throughout the country as part of the Forestry Commission’s Urban Tree Challenge Fund. The challenge, endorsed and announced by environment secretary Michael Gove, allows individuals, municipalities, nonprofits and non-governmental organizations to access trees and maintenance funding as long as they can prove they have funding to continue to maintain the trees after a three-year funding period. “We need trees lining our streets, not only to green and shade them but to ensure we remain connected to the wonders of the natural world, which is why we must go further and faster to increase planting rates,” said secretary Michael Gove . Related: Labor party launches solar panel program for 1.75m homes Trees have remarkable benefits for the environment and for people living in urban areas. Although 130,000 trees won’t stop climate change , evidence suggests that a mature tree can absorb and store up to  22 kg of carbon every year and produce enough oxygen to sustain two people. Every 10 percent of forest cover in urban areas reduces ozone gas by 3 to 7 percent. In addition to the benefits to air quality , urban trees provide a habitat for birds, squirrels and other species. Tree-lined streets are considered aesthetically pleasing and mentally calming and have even been linked to a reduction in violent and petty crimes, as well as an increase in property values of between 5 to 15 percent. The English Forestry Commission is a U.K. government agency with a mission to increase the value of forests for people and the environment. Forestry Commission chair Sir Harry Studholme said of the tree planting challenge, “This will allow us to plant more trees much closer to where people live and work and where the benefits of trees make the most difference.” Via The Guardian Image via Mary Salazar

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English tree planting challenge will help plant 130,000 trees

Vincent Callebaut wins bid to sustainably revive Aix-les-Bains ancient thermal baths

April 15, 2019 by  
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The defunct National Baths of Aix-les-Bains will receive a vibrant and sustainably minded revival in the hands of the Paris-based practice Vincent Callebaut Architectures . Selected as the winner of a competition following the popular vote, the firm’s proposal — dubbed “The Foam of Waves” — will not only restore the ancient thermal baths, but also introduce a sustainable, energy-producing paradigm that follows the carbon-neutral guidelines as recommended by COP 21. The project will adopt a mixed-use program that incorporates residential, commercial, tourist, educational and urban agriculture spaces. The Foam of Waves focuses on the renovation of the Pellegrini, Revel and Princes buildings while staying respectful of the existing Roman remains. To inject new energy into the space, the architects have created a mixed-use program designed to attract locals, tourists and business investment. The scope includes a tourist office, a Center of Interpretation of Architecture and Heritage, a wellness center, a teaching space for the Peyrefitte School, a wellness-focused shopping center with restaurants, coworking spaces, 185 “green apartments” and parking. An urban educational farm integrating permaculture and aquaponics will be located on the green roof . “The whole architectural project is the carrier of the new paradigms of our society,” the architects said. “It offers future residents and visitors the opportunity to adopt new lifestyles that respect the environment, health and urban well-being in order to simply live better. It is a resilient architecture, innervated by nature. It is an ode to biodiversity, renewable energies and the circular economy that advocates the construction of post-carbon, post-fossil, post-nuclear and even post-insecticidal cities.” Related: Historic Luxembourg building is metamorphosed into an eco-friendly powerhouse In addition to an expansive green roof, the buildings will feature updated wave-like facades with balconies large enough to accommodate trees and private garden spaces for residents. The building envelopes will be also be optimized for airtightness, insulation and passive solar conditions . The project aims to produce more energy than it consumes and will include a solar photovoltaic and thermal roof, a mini-biomass plant on-site and a co-generation system with rapeseed oil. Rainwater harvesting systems and gray water recycling will also be implemented. + Vincent Callebaut Architectures Images via Vincent Callebaut Architectures

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Vincent Callebaut wins bid to sustainably revive Aix-les-Bains ancient thermal baths

Heat wave in Australia kills 23K flying foxes

April 15, 2019 by  
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A historic heat wave in Australia killed off thousands of flying foxes late last year. In Australia’s northern coast, temperatures reached over 107 degrees for several days, leading to the deaths of around 23,000 flying foxes, which are some of the largest bats on the planet. The flying foxes did everything in their power to beat the heat. This includes panting, using their wings as fans and coating their bodies with saliva. Unfortunately, the heat proved to be too much, and many of the bats fell to their deaths. A few hundred were also taken to rehab facilities in the region. Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 “We have never seen die-offs in this species before,” David Westcott, who works for the National Flying-Fox Monitoring Program, explained. “Indeed, across the species’ range, we have rarely, if ever, seen temperatures like this before.” The large bats are not the only wildlife affected by such temperatures. The record-breaking heat wave killed camels, wild horses and fish over the past few months. The temperatures have climbed so high that hanging fruit cooked on trees. Although 23,000 bats is a lot, this is hardly the first time such huge numbers of species have died because of heat waves. In 2014, a devastating heat wave led to the death of more than 45,000 bats in Queensland. Dating all the way back to 1791, there have been around 39 similar events , although 35 of them have happened after 1994. What makes last year’s die-off unique is that it happened to a type of bat that is on the endangered species list. Prior to November, scientists estimated that there were around 75,000 spectacled flying foxes in the world, spread out among  Australia , New Guinea and Indonesia. That means the latest heat wave killed close to a third of their population, which could have devastating results on the future of the species. In light of the situation, conservationists are doing their best to prevent future die-offs. Scientists working out of Western Sydney University have created a warning system that alerts local residents ahead of a heat wave , giving them enough time to provide the bats with life-saving water sources. Via EcoWatch Image via Lonely Shrimp

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Heat wave in Australia kills 23K flying foxes

Car-free Sundays are the norm in Colombia’s capital city, Bogot

April 15, 2019 by  
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Imagine your city without cars — every single Sunday. At first, you might be frustrated by the inconvenience and inability to complete errands, but once you embrace the throngs of bikes, recognize your friends and neighbors among the people out for a stroll or attend a Zumba class at what was once a congested intersection, it’s likely to become one of your favorite traditions. For 45 years, the Colombian city of Bogotá has closed its major roads for Ciclovía, a weekly event where cyclists and pedestrians reclaim the street. The world’s most successful mass recreation event Vox calls the weekly event “the world’s most successful mass recreation event,” and more than 400 cities around the world look to Bogotá as a model for replication. In Spanish, Ciclovía means “Bicycle Way,” but the roads are open to bikes , roller skates, scooters, wheel chairs, skateboards, runners, walkers and all other types of physical activity, recreation and relaxation. Since its launch in 1974 , the event has expanded to include juice bars, fruit stands and exercise classes at various stops along the now 76 miles of designated roadway. Related: France moves to reshape infrastructure and promote bicycle transportation Ciclovía occurs from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every single Sunday and on major holidays, a frequency that sets it apart from similar events in other cities and is credited for its long-term success. Pulling off such a large-scale event is no easy feat in Bogotá , a major Latin American city that normally moves 1.5 million cars, 50,000 taxis and 500,000 motorcycles on any given day. “The Ciclovía is the moment when motor vehicles make way for human beings,” a director for the event, Bibiana Sarmiento, told National Geographic . In fact, nearly 1.5 million Bogotanos take over the public space every Sunday, which is approximately a quarter of the city’s entire population. Statistics show that the average participant is out there for about three hours, which has significantly helped residents reach widely recommended levels of physical activity. Bogotanos, like most city-dwellers, face limited space for recreational activities and soaring rates of chronic diseases linked to sedentary lifestyles. Although Ciclovía is only once a week, the city-wide emphasis on physical activity and community access to exercise classes and bike routes has caused a marked difference in health indicators. Street closures are good for your health In addition to improved air quality and a palpable decrease in stress and aggressive behaviors, the city of Bogotá is also attempting to analyze specific public health benefits. Program analysts studied savings on medical costs and found that Ciclovía saves between $3.20 and $4.30 in direct medical costs per every dollar invested, which is approximately $6 per participant. General analyses also indicate that public health benefits are more profound and long-term when such recreational events are reoccurring, something that sets Ciclovía apart from other cities with similar programs. To date, more than 400 cities worldwide have implemented similar mass recreation and street closure events, including 122 U.S. cities. A major roadblock (pun intended) to hosting such events is the logistical nightmare of acquiring permits for road closures and the cost of paying traffic staff. The benefits can outweigh the costs According to Vox, researchers recommend establishing reoccurring events to streamline permitting, staffing and signage and to ensure that residents are aware of the event and familiar with the detours.  Researchers argue that if made more frequent, “the cost of coordinating the event could come down and it could ‘help thousands to meet weekly recommended levels of [150 minutes of] physical activity.’” Related: How to make American cities bike-friendly “Over time the system has been perfected in terms of minimization of costs and of making the public aware of the road closures,” Marcela Guerrero Casas, managing director of Open Streets Cape Town in South Africa, told Vox. “When you do this consistently (in terms of time and location), people accept and embrace the program.” In addition to onerous permitting procedures, planners cite overtime for police officers as one of the largest and prohibitive expenditures. As part of the success, Ciclovía and a similar event in LA (called CicLAvía) utilize volunteers for traffic assistance. The city also pays for the program through sponsorships and a tax on phone bills, made possible because the program is so longstanding and beloved by all types of people that it is an accepted part of Bogotano culture and government spending. Going car-free can bring together the community Although the specific health and urban planning benefits aren’t always easy to quantify, there is resounding, worldwide interest in events like Ciclovía and a multitude of examples of its uniting , cross-cultural success. “No one cares about the clothes you’re wearing or what social class you’re from,” director Bibiana Sarmiento explained to National Geographic. “Everyone is welcome, and everyone is equal.” Via National Geographic and Vox Images via Saúl Ortega ( 1 , 2 , 3 ), Cidades para Pessoas and Carlos Felipe Pardo

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Car-free Sundays are the norm in Colombia’s capital city, Bogot

Green school in Bali shows students how to live sustainably

March 7, 2019 by  
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The goals of the Green School are anything but small, yet they are simple: take care of the local community and teach children to be stewards of our planet and leaders of sustainability in the future. The baby of John and Cynthia Hardy, the Green School was inspired after the retired couple viewed the Al Gore film The Inconvenient Truth . With four children of their own, the couple decided to make a difference and, in 2006, broke ground on a new type of school — an educational campus focused on using a holistic teaching approach and a natural canvas as classrooms. Related: Modscape installs a prefab school building that stays comfortable year-round The Green School is located on 20 acres in south central Bali, where the Hardys lived and ran a jewelry store for decades. Using local architects and materials, mainly bamboo , they spent two years constructing an open-air campus, which now houses several hundred students and teachers. In fact, the local area is becoming a community with families building green homes nearby, so their children can walk to school. Those that don’t walk board a bio-bus, fueled by oils collected at the community level and processed into biofuel locally. In addition to eliminating a reliance on fossil fuels and reducing the carbon footprint, the process of making biofuel produces glycerine as a natural by-product that is then turned into soaps to use on campus. This earth-friendly alternative to traditional palm oil-based soaps reduces the chemicals that would otherwise end up in the water system. Electricity to the school comes from solar panels and a water vortex system, which diverts water from the river that flows through campus and turns it into energy. Waste is an issue at any school, and the designers of the Green School have taken special consideration to create a closed circuit. The composting toilets produce waste that can be amended back into the adjacent soil, feeding the bamboo that grows rampant on the campus. Local Balinese woman use wood-fired stoves instead of gas and traditional cooking techniques to minimize resource usage. Food waste from feeding over 400 people each day is either fed to the school’s pigs or added to the on-site composting pile. Speaking of food, most of the meals provided are grown on campus, giving the students a full understanding of how to plant, nurture, maintain and cook vegetables and rice. The students also help raise the pigs, cows and even the buffalo that roam the campus, enclosed only by organic , natural fencing made from branches and leaves. Mostly tapioca root, the students recognize the fencing is edible for grazing animals as well as themselves. The eco-friendly design continues all the way down to where the footprints go by eliminating any pavement and the petroleum-based chemicals that come with it. Instead, all pathways are paved with hand-laid volcanic rocks. Drinking water comes from a nearby well after traveling through a reverse osmosis system to filter it. Water is used other ways on campus, too, with an aquaponics system that combines aquaculture (raising fish) with hydroponics (raising crops with little to no soil). These systems work in conjunction with each other, so the fish waste feeds the plants while the plants provide much-needed water filtration for the fish. While the goal to be sustainable and local may seem simplistic, the objective of teaching the next generation how to work with students from 25 other countries to solve problems on campus and eventually in the world means the potential for a better future for the entire planet — and that’s no small feat. + Green School Images via Green School Bali

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Green school in Bali shows students how to live sustainably

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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China hopes to bring solar power to space

March 6, 2019 by  
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China is looking to be the first country in the world to install a solar power outlet in space . Scientists at the China Academy of Space Technology are working on new technology to make solar power in space a reality, and they hope to have something in place by the year 2050. The story of China’s ambitious solar power initiative was first published by a newspaper ran by the country’s Ministry of Science and Technology. The scientists working on the project believe that installing solar power in space will provide them with “inexhaustible clean energy,” though details of the plan are still being ironed out. Related: China plans to launch the world’s first ‘artificial moon’ The scientists, led by Pang Zhihao, are targeting space as a potential landing spot for solar power, because the equipment will not be exposed to overcast skies or night conditions. According to Dezeen , Zhihao is optimistic that the solar power will provide as much as six times the energy of solar farms based within the Earth’s atmosphere. Zhihao and his team are currently building prototypes in Chongqing and plan to continue testing different models over the next decade. Once they work out all of the details, they plan to start construction of the solar power space station as early as 2030. Governments around the globe are looking into ways to use clean energy on a larger scale. Businesses are also researching ways to lessen their carbon footprint, and solar power could be a means to that end. For example, Apple recently promised to use 100 percent clean energy in all of its stores and facilities. The company is installing solar panels on rooftops to help reach its renewable energy goals.  NASA has also looked into installing solar power in space over the past 20 years. Japan is looking to put a solar power farm in orbit and has developed technology for it. One of the main issues with solar power in space is getting the energy back to Earth, something China hopes to accomplish via lasers or microwaves. Via Dezeen Image via NASA / GSFC / SDO

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Uber transforms 19th-century industrial buildings into hub for futuristic tech

March 6, 2019 by  
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A row of historic industrial buildings long considered at-risk of collapse has been saved thanks to Uber . The Uber Advanced Technologies Group R&D Center, a group that develops experimental and futuristic transit projects including self-driving technologies, is now housed within part of San Francisco’s Pier 70 — the best-preserved 19th century industrial complex west of the Mississippi. A sensitive undertaking, the adaptive reuse project breathed new life into the decrepit structures yet stayed true to the complex’s architectural integrity. With masterplanning efforts spearheaded by San Francisco-based urban studio SITELAB, Pier 70 in the city’s Dogpatch neighborhood has been undergoing a renaissance of change from a former industrial site to a mixed-use development consisting of offices, retail, residences and public space. Drawn by the site’s history with transportation — Bethlehem Shipbuilding was once a Pier 70 tenant — and the spacious interiors, Uber leased out 130,000 square feet within the complex across four continuous buildings (Building 113, 114, 115 and 116), an area approximately equivalent to two city blocks. Damaged from years of neglect and vandalism, the four buildings needed a gut renovation before Uber could move in. In a process the firm described as a “labor of love,” Uber restabilized the structures with steel braces and columns carefully chosen to complement the historic architecture. To retain existing elements and abide by the regulations put forth by the National Register of Historic Places, the project used a “building-within-a-building concept” that allowed for the insertion of mezzanines, stairs, rooms and other free-standing programmed elements without damaging the historic perimeter brick walls. Nods to the building’s history can be seen in the industrial-inspired architectural lighting and minimalist material palette. Related: Uber just gave the world a first look at its air taxi prototype “The project’s contribution to the community and industry is immense in that it revitalizes a crumbling shipyard facility into a vibrant place for work and public gatherings,” Uber shared in a statement. “Precision craftsmanship is required to both refurbish deteriorated existing construction and accommodate new building components into the highly complex and diverse existing structures. The approach retains and repairs salvageable elements . If un-salvageable, the replacement element or material is specified to be historically compatible and environmentally benign.” + Uber Advanced Technologies Group Via Architectural Digest Photography by Billy Hustace Photography via Uber

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How to Lower Your Pet’s Carbon Pawprint

March 4, 2019 by  
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Sparky might be your best friend — but he’s not exactly eco-friendly. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to lower your pet’s environmental impact. The post How to Lower Your Pet’s Carbon Pawprint appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Essential eco-friendly fixtures to incorporate into your home

February 20, 2019 by  
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Being a steward of the environment means evaluating how many resources you and your family consume and consistently looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint. The good news is that it’s pretty easy to make small eco-friendly fixtures to your home that can have a huge impact towards those goals. Water costs WaterSense, a federal program sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency provides information about the most water-efficient fixtures for your home. Look for a label that indicates the device has met the strict restrictions certified by an independent testing facility for the best water conservation and lowest water costs. Related: 10 money-saving tips for a green home Faucets The bathroom and kitchen faucets provide a convenience water source for washing hands, brushing teeth and cleaning dishes. With the ability to crank out significant amounts of water, most of the water you pay for heads right down the drain. Instead of free-flowing the cash out of your wallet, look into aerating faucet heads. They work by forcing air through the system, which provides good water pressure while using significantly less water. Look for a model with WaterSense certification and replace each faucet as they begin to leak or as your budget allows. Toilets Standard toilets are a culprit for much of the water usage in the average home. By replacing standard toilets with low flow models, you will see the savings add up. Basically these devices work by providing two flush options: one for solid waste  and one for liquid waste that uses about ? the amount of water. Doing the math, that will save you 25-33% on your toilet flushes alone. With a standard flush requiring around three gallons, that’s some big savings. Showerheads Low flow showerheads work in the same way as other water fixtures. In addition to the aforementioned aerating design, there are other options for slowing the flow in your morning shower. Shower heads equipped with a laminar-flow shower head that feeds individual beads of water through the holes, allows less water flow over all. Other shower heads use a flow restrictor, which allow more or less water through depending on your water pressure preference. Whichever style you choose, look for a shower head with less than 2.5 gpm (gallons per minute) flow rate and a WaterSense certification. Bathtubs Bathtubs are notorious for requiring copious amount of water. After all, submersion in a hot bath averages a consumption of around 30-50 gallons. Showers with a standard shower head, by comparison, use about 10 gallons every four minutes so calculating your shower time will help you evaluate the best water savings. If you’re a disciplined sort, keeping it under ten minutes, than a shower is probably the way to go, especially if you invest in a water-conserving shower head. If you just can’t seem to shut it down in less than 20 minutes, than a bath won’t cost you any more. Lighting One of the best conveniences in a modern home is the ability to flip a switch and bring light to nearly any room in the house. But each flip of the switch costs you at the meter. One option to lower those costs is to replace the type of switch you use. For example, dimmer switches allow you to set the bulb at a lower output level. Lower output means lower consumption and therefore, a lower bill. Timers are another useful option if your family tends to leave lights on frequently. A device that tells your lights to turn off at a specified time will keep the meter from running all day when they are not needed. Motion sensored lights also save money by automatically turning lights on when you enter the room and turning them off behind you when they sense inactivity. Of course, the bulbs you use also make a huge difference in the amount of energy you’re consuming. Traditional incandescent bulbs suck up significantly more energy than the more modern halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs) that not only require less energy, but also last 3-25 times longer. Look for the Energy Star rating on the bulbs you select and be sure to responsibly recycle old bulbs that contain mercury. Electrical costs Your day to day activities are reflected in your electrical bill, whether your house is powered by electricity alone or a combination of sources such as natural gas. The costs of heating, cooling and providing power to the outlets in your home add up quickly, so any changes you can make to reduce your usage will pay you back in the wallet and environmentally. Related: A renovated Toronto home boasts energy savings of over 50% Heating and cooling Heating and cooling costs make-up the lion’s share of every home’s electrical bill. Air conditioners and furnaces should be maintained for the best performance and replaced when they fail or when convenient to you. As your budget allows, swap out old systems for new ones that are more efficient and, of course, Energy Star certified. Although the unit is an investment up front, the savings long term are worth it. In addition, there are often local, state and federal tax credits that help offset the cost. Insulated windows and doors are another investment that can add up to huge savings. Energy Star models are much more energy efficient than those made even ten years ago, keeping warm air in and cold air out, which also equates to lower heating and cooling costs. Another relatively inexpensive fixture that can save you on your heating and cooling bills is an automatic thermostat. These smart devices are easy to find and install. By programming your thermostat to keep the temperature of the home lower during the night and when nobody is home, you avoid paying unnecessary heating and cooling costs automatically. Water heaters Another mainstream fixture that uses both water and electricity for heating is the water heater. By switching over to tankless water heaters, the average homeowner can save up to $100 per year. You can either install a central unit that provides on-demand water for your entire house, or you can use individual units, installed in each bathroom , kitchen, laundry, and other areas that require a water heater. These units work by only heating water as the faucet requests it, rather than keeping a huge tank of water heated and at the ready constantly. Images via Skitterphoto , 955169 , Karishea , TBIT

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