The planet is losing an area of forest cover the size of the UK each year

September 13, 2019 by  
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The rate of world deforestation continues to accelerate, despite governments’ promises to reverse it. Now, the world loses 64 million acres a year of forested land, which is equivalent to the size of the United Kingdom, according to a new study by Climate Focus . Thirty-seven governments as well as many multinational companies, NGOs and groups representing indigenous communities have signed the New York Declaration on Forests since it sprang from the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in 2014. This declaration pledged to cut the deforestation rate in half by 2020 and to end it by 2030. Unfortunately, this feel-good, non-legally binding declaration has been hugely unsuccessful. Since the declaration was penned, tree cover loss has skyrocketed by 43 percent, while tropical primary forests have been slashed. The world is now in worse shape than when the well-intended pledge was made. Some countries are making an effort. Indonesia slowed its rate of deforestation by a third between 2017 and 2018. Some countries, such as Ethiopia, Mexico and El Salvador, are determinedly planting trees. But these attempts are overshadowed by deforestation in much of Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa. Major forests in these regions saw marked decreases in tree cover between 2014 and 2018. Latin America lost the most forest by volume, but Africa experienced the greatest increase in the rate of deforestation. Of course, the recent Amazon wildfires are bringing deforestation to a whole new level. Climate scientists worry about feedback loops, where climate change makes trees drier, leading to increased flammability and more fires and carbon dioxide, which in turn makes things drier, hotter and even more flammable. “Deforestation, mostly for agriculture, contributes around a third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions,” Jo House, an environmental specialist at the University of Bristol, told The Guardian . “At the same time, forests naturally take up around a third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. This natural sink provided by forests is at risk from the dual compounding threats of further deforestation and future climate change . The continued loss of primary forests at ever-increasing rates. despite their incalculable value and irreplaceability, is both shocking and tragic.” + Climate Focus Via The Guardian Image via Robert Jones

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The planet is losing an area of forest cover the size of the UK each year

Will iconic red beer pong cups be replaced by aluminum?

September 3, 2019 by  
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Used for decades at family picnics, beach parties and beer pong games, the familiar red plastic SOLO cup might be headed for extinction thanks to a sleek, aluminum alternative that is endlessly reusable . Founded by Leo Hulseman in 1936, the SOLO Cup Co. is facing some fierce competition that is promising to be better for the environment — a reusable, aluminum cup created by Ball Corp., the same company behind the beacon of sustainability that is the mason jar. Related: Coca-Cola to offer Dasani water in aluminum cans and bottles to reduce plastic waste The aluminum cups were recently introduced to some colleges and will soon be tested in other venues. The cups should be available for retail by 2021, John Hayes, CEO of Ball Corp., told Bloomberg . When they do hit the market, expect to pay 25 cents per reusable cup, versus an average 17 cents per disposable SOLO cup. “The aluminum cup is a game-changer for the industry,” Sebastian Siethoff, Ball Corp.’s general manager, told Packaging Digest . “We hope that our customers and consumers view the aluminum cup as a sustainable and easily recyclable alternative to plastic cups, which are currently a mainstay of stadiums, restaurants and beaches and often end up in the trash or on the ground.” As more and more consumers ditch plastic to reduce their carbon footprint, aluminum continues to be a popular choice for cups and cans. Aluminum cans are considered the most sustainable beverage package and are forever recyclable; the average can contains 70 percent recycled metal. Ball Corp. has done its homework and found that 67 percent of U.S. consumers would visit a venue offering aluminum cups more frequently, and they are willing to pay the extra cost for reusable cups. “We think they’re willing to make that choice,” Hayes told Bloomberg. “They know we’ve polluted our world, and they want to do something about it.” Ball Corp. said the cups will be produced in different sizes and can be personalized with designs, logos and more, further enticing consumers to make the switch. + Ball Corp. Via EcoWatch , Packaging Digest and Bloomberg Image via Ball Corp.

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Will iconic red beer pong cups be replaced by aluminum?

Great Barrier Reef outlook decreases from ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’

September 3, 2019 by  
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Conditions at one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, is declining, and coral bleaching caused by climate change is to blame. The world’s largest coral reef, where 400 types of coral as well as about 10 percent of the world’s fish live, has gone from “poor” to “very poor.” The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) that manages the reef released a five-year study of the reef and stated, “Significant global action to address climate change is critical to slowing the deterioration of the reef’s ecosystem and heritage values and supporting recovery.” Related: University of Queensland wants to drop “bommies” on the Great Barrier Reef Located off the northeastern Australian coast , the reef is a major tourist attraction, bringing in around AU$5-6 billion (about $3.3-4 billion USD) yearly to the country’s economy. But if things don’t improve, the reef might not be around to enjoy for much longer. While coral bleaching and climate change are the main concerns, the report suggested the 1,400-mile reef has “multiple, cumulative and increasing” problems including run-off from agriculture , coastal land clearing and crown-of-thorns starfish that eat the coral. Another possible factor hindering the reef’s growth could be the increased use of coal mining in Australia. Statistics show that Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have been on an upward climb for four years and counting. As reported by Deutsche Welle , a 2012 study said that since 1985, the Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half its coral cover. Five years later, the journal Nature said 91 percent had been bleached at least once in the last 20 years. Those concerned by the GBRMPA report have gone as far as asking UNESCO to quash the reef’s standing as a World Heritage site, which could humiliate the Australian government. In early 2019, the government did say it would spend AU$380 million to try and reproduce stronger coral. + Great Barrier Reef Via EcoWatch and Deutsche Welle Image via Robert Linsdell

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Great Barrier Reef outlook decreases from ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’

Earth911 Quiz #69: Carbon Offset & Renewable Energy Certificate Challenge

August 22, 2019 by  
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Earth911 Quiz #69: Carbon Offset & Renewable Energy Certificate Challenge

Wisconsin plans to go carbon-free by 2050

August 21, 2019 by  
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Following a year of historic flooding and sweltering heat waves across the Midwest, some states are ready to fight the climate crisis through legislation. If all goes according to plan, Wisconsin residents will be using 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2050. Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Anthony Evers recently signed an executive order kicking off the clean energy legislation he has been pitching for a while. “A transition to a clean energy economy will generate thousands of family-supporting jobs in Wisconsin,” Evers said in a news release as reported by Gizmodo . “Our state has a responsibility to current and future generations of Wisconsinites to act to prevent continuing damage to our climate and to invest in solutions that help to mitigate the changes that have already occurred.” Related: California legislature passes historic bill to achieve 100% clean energy Evers introduced the clean energy plan, which is not yet a mandate, in the state’s 2019 budget; however, it was removed by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, according to Madison.com . With its new goal of transitioning to clean energy by 2050, the Badger state is aiming to help curb the climate crisis. Some examples include addressing the higher than normal temperatures from heat waves and earlier 2019 flooding from heavy rains and storms. Additionally, the Wisconsin Initiate on Climate Change Impacts noted that if carbon emissions worldwide keep climbing come 2055, Wisconsin could see its problems increase by 25 percent. To make sure the newly signed legislation meets the 2050 deadline, the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy will be formed. Part of its undertaking will be to hire workers who can develop and research strategies and technologies to implement the carbon-free energy policy. With Evers’ executive order signed, Wisconsin is now the first state in the Midwest to jump on the 100 percent carbon-free, clean energy bandwagon. Others following a similar path include Washington, California, Hawaii, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. Via Gizmodo and Madison.com Image via Anne Marie Peterson

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Carbon Offsets & Renewable Energy Certificates: Know the Controversies

August 14, 2019 by  
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Earth911 Podcast, August 5, 2019: Carbon Removal With Nuclear Power?

August 5, 2019 by  
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Do people in tiny houses live more sustainably?

August 2, 2019 by  
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Minimalist living is as old as time, but the tiny house trend sweeping across North America and Europe has influenced many people to downsize, declutter and live simply. A new investigation into the habits of tiny house residents reveals that living in smaller houses encourages people to adopt more sustainable habits across the board. What are tiny houses? The unofficial definition of a tiny house is typically any single housing unit under 500 square feet. Many tiny houses are on wheels to get around state and federal government laws that limit the minimum habitable dwelling size. Because of this restriction, tiny house owners often own the transportable housing unit but not necessarily the land that it is on. Related: Is a tiny home right for you? The media and tiny house designers market the micro-dwellings as environmentally friendly alternatives to large family homes. Sellers encourage prospective buyers to downsize their possessions and kiss their mortgages goodbye in exchange for experiential riches like travel and financial freedom. Though they take up less space and store less junk, few studies exist that actually prove that living in tiny houses is more sustainable. Little house habits Maria Saxton, an environmental design and planning PhD candidate, studied the impact that downsizing into a tiny house had on inhabitants’ sustainable behaviors. She conducted surveys and in-depth interviews of 80 downsizers who had been living in their new tiny homes for at least a year. She calculated their individual ecological footprints before and after the move and examined which behaviors changed for the better and which changed for the worse. Her research discovered that on average, residents reduced their individual footprints by 45 percent after they settled into a tiny home, which is a huge reduction. She also found that the move and new lifestyle impacted other aspects and behaviors even without the inhabitants realizing it. Ecological footprint is usually calculated by determining the amount of land that it would take every year to support an individual’s consumption. The average American’s footprint is 8.4 hectares per person per year. That’s about the equivalent of eight football fields per person. Among those who downsized to tiny houses, the average footprint was approximately 3.87 hectares per person compared to a per-person average of 7 hectares before the move. How tiny houses encourage sustainable living Remarkably, housing-related behaviors and consumption patterns weren’t the only changes that the residents experienced. Of more than 100 individual behaviors examined, about 86 percent changed to become more environmentally friendly. For example, tiny house residents tended to shop and buy significantly less than the average American and less than they themselves did previously. Without room to store additional items, tiny house inhabitants simply could not support their old consumption habits. While 86 percent of behaviors changed for the better, about 13 percent changed for the worse. For example, tiny house residents tended to eat out more to avoid the frustration of cooking in a cramped kitchen. These residents recycled less because they had limited space for sorting and storing recyclable materials. They also tended to travel more, including both adventure trips and traveling further for basic items, likely because many tiny houses are located in more rural areas than where the owners previously lived. According to a separate investigation into the habits and motivations of tiny house dwellers, the majority of downsizers simply kept a storage unit. So, while they had fewer items within an arm’s reach, they hadn’t really committed to a minimalist lifestyle, and they could still support the overflow of their overconsumption. Smarter designs to support sustainability According to Saxton, the results of this study are critical for tiny house designers as well as to influence archaic laws that restrict tiny houses. If tiny house inhabitants truly do live more sustainably, towns and cities should be encouraging residents to make the move. Related: 7 tips for decorating a tiny home Architects and designers of the little abodes can also use the results of the research to integrate designs that address the prohibitive factors causing that 13 percent shift to less sustainable behaviors. For example — how can the kitchens be larger and more functional? How can trash and recycling storage be expanded to accommodate proper sorting of recyclable materials? Despite the tiny trend, housing is growing in size and destruction In 1973, the average house was 1,660 square feet, but by 2017, the average house sold was 2,631 square feet . This represents a 63 percent increase in the average size of a house in just 45 years. Although the tiny house trend skyrocketed among a niche corner of the population in over-industrialized countries, the majority of people still think bigger is better, which comes at a cost to the environment . The construction of oversized houses means loss of natural habitat and biodiversity , including the fragmentation of ecosystems to clear the way for new housing developments. In addition, the carbon footprint of the materials and construction industry is enormous. Commercial and residential buildings together contribute 39 percent of the U.S.’s total carbon emissions. This includes the transportation and sourcing of the building materials, the energy needed for construction and the environmental cost of maintenance. Maybe they are just another trend, but maybe tiny houses can be a small solution to global warming on an individual and community level. At the very least, the research concludes that cities and towns should re-examine existing laws that discourage tiny house dwellers from owning land or remove the wheels to at least allow residents to feel a sense of permanence. One town, Spur, Texas, adjusted its laws and sells itself as the first tiny home town in America. As the trend continues, other towns and cities would be wise to follow suit. Via The Conversation Images via Paul VanDerWerf , Christoph Scholz and Nicolás Boullosa ( 1 , 2 )

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Energy-efficient greenhouses surround the new French Open tennis court

August 2, 2019 by  
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Plants from around the world are flourishing in four curved greenhouses in an unexpected place — directly behind the spectator stands of the new Simonne Mathieu tennis court at Roland-Garros, home of the French Open. Designed by the Paris-based studio Marc Mimram Architecture & Associés , the 5,000-seat sunken tennis court not only offers a strikingly modern space for the annual tournament but also offers a visual extension of the Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil botanical garden, where the stadium is located. The steel-and-glass greenhouses were built to reference the historical hothouses of the 19th century but feature a modern, energy-efficient design built to the highest technical specifications. Named after the famous tennis player who played at the Roland-Garros in the 1930s, the Simonne Mathieu tennis court is a new venue for hosting the international tennis championships hosted every year in Paris. Taking inspiration from Auteuil’s greenhouses designed by Jean Camille Formige in 1898, Marc Mimram Architecture & Associés introduced new public space around the partially sunken tennis court in the form of four modern, steel-and-glass greenhouses that are visible from the spectator stands. Related: Solar-powered aquaponic greenhouses grow up to 880 lbs of produce each year “These new greenhouses form a glass backdrop, a case within which plants from four continents can flourish,” the architects explained. “They refer to the design of the nearby hothouses and are inspired by, without imitating, architecture in metal that, since the construction of the Crystal Palace in London in 1851, still stands, with its delicate relationship between light and structure, as the perfect model of airiness and economy.” Sheathed in double-pane glass for superior insulation, these curved greenhouses feature flora from the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania. A meandering paved pathway traverses each greenhouse. Because the greenhouses are a new addition of public space, they will be accessible to visitors throughout the year, even outside of the two-week French Open tournament. + Marc Mimram Architecture & Associés Via ArchDaily Photography by Erieta Attali via Marc Mimram Architecture & Associés

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Energy-efficient greenhouses surround the new French Open tennis court

Experimental design-build festival takes over Californian desert

July 16, 2019 by  
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For the second year in a row, design lab Space Saloon has just wrapped up an exciting avant-garde art festival deep in the Southern Californian desert. Aimed to foster innovative design-build and hands-on education, the art festival , named Fieldworks, is an experimental outdoor campus where young artists can learn new techniques and showcase their groundbreaking designs. This year’s festival took place within the expansive desert landscape in the San Bernardino mountains between Joshua Tree, Palm Springs and Los Angeles. According to Space Saloon, the desert was the perfect place to host the open-air campus thanks to the wide open landscape that offers virtually no physical limits. Related: A magical field of solar-powered lights takes over a California landscape Like the first year’s event, Landing , Fieldworks was a week-long program where teams of students and designers live and work together, collaborating on site-specific installations that seek to question the relation between art and the environment. Led by Office Kovacs + Kyle May, Architect and MILLIØNS (Zeina Koreitem and John May), Fieldworks allowed students to attend various workshops that focus on subjects that differ from traditional techniques and processes in an attempt to broaden the students’ artistic horizons . The workshops showcase a range of experimental material, from coding exercises and sound mapping to performances and interactive installations. Using these workshops as guidance, the students developed new art projects, which could include any number of formats, including performances, videos, interactive coded programs, sound installations or immersive objects. One of the standout designs from this year’s event is DOTS, a pink and white framework with various connected platforms that could be used for an almost infinite number of interventions, especially as a flexible, temporary shelter . Another innovative project is Gymnasium 1, an outdoor communal bathing facility made completely out of hempcrete that aims to show that the carbon-negative material can be used in place of traditional concrete construction. The student projects from Fieldworks will be exhibited in Los Angeles in the fall. + Space Saloon Via Archdaily Images via Space Saloon

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