A Victorian cottage gets a stylish and sustainable makeover

January 17, 2019 by  
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In one of its latest eco-conscious retrofits, Australian architecture firm Green Sheep Collective has given a single-fronted timber Victorian cottage a sustainable transformation in inner Melbourne. The renovation and expansion project combined recycled and eco-certified materials with low-tech, passive solar principles to reduce the carbon footprint of the home while improving livability. Filled with light and contemporary flourishes, the updated house — named Magnolia Soul — has also been designed to embrace the outdoors. Commissioned by a young family with pets, Magnolia Soul was designed with an emphasis on spacious indoor-outdoor living as well as healthy and eco-friendly materials. During the renovation, the architects preserved a mature magnolia tree — a stunning Magnolia x soulangeana — and turned it into a main focal point. In addition to the tree, the existing property conditions also informed the building’s siting, mass and volume, which were all optimized to follow passive solar principles. Moreover, the building footprint is minimized in favor of maximizing the garden area. “A unique folding roof form envelopes and cradles robust living spaces, whose lowered floor level is embraced by adjacent decking,” the architects explained, having created a flexible open-plan interior layout with strong sight lines to the outdoors. “Views of the magnolia tree are intentionally framed by the roof structure, through a high-angled window and bay window seat. The generous and versatile window seat creates a lovely place to relax, read a book, admire the flowering magnolia or sit on the edge of the garden. High angular ceilings offer views of the magnolia, allow dappled light to penetrate deep into the residence and provide stack effect ventilation.” Related: Smart Home targets affordability and eco-friendly design in Australia The home is oriented for optimal thermal comfort : north-facing windows draw in natural heat for winter, while deep eaves and strategically placed windows for cross ventilation combat unwanted summer heat gain. Low-E double glazing and effective insulation also accommodate a temperate climate. Recycled, low-emission and ethnically procured materials were used wherever possible. For added resource savings, the home is equipped with a rainwater tank that reuses roof runoff for the laundry and toilets. + Green Sheep Collective Photography by Emma Cross via Green Sheep Collective

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7 ways to conserve water and reduce your water footprint

January 17, 2019 by  
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When it comes to conserving water , making small changes can have a huge impact. But many of us don’t really think about water shortages unless we are in the middle of a heatwave, when temperatures are consistently at 85 degrees or more. Extreme heat or not, the water system is overstretched, and with climate change , we can expect to put even more pressure on the depleting water supply. Here are some ways to do your part in conserving water. According to Friends of the Earth , 97.5 percent of the world’s water is locked in oceans and seas, which means it is too salty for humans to use. The remaining 2.5 percent is mostly in the ice caps, so we are all relying on a tiny amount of freshwater to survive. Water isn’t just for drinking. We use it for bathing, cleaning and producing everything from crops to clothing. It’s time to save water, and we need to do it fast. Here are seven ways that you can start conserving water now. As an added bonus, these ideas can also save you money. Change your diet It takes a lot of water to grow, process and transport food. Raising animals for meat and dairy products is also incredibly water-intensive. To reduce your water footprint , reduce your meat and dairy consumption, switch to shopping local and grow food in your own garden. If more people do these things, they will not only lead to a reduction in total water usage but also in less food waste . Related: Vegan diets deliver more environmental benefits than sustainable dairy or meat Have a plan for your garden If you do have a garden , water your outdoor plants early in the morning or at the end of the day, so the water doesn’t immediately evaporate in the sunlight. Also, make sure to water the soil, so the roots get the much-needed liquid. If you water your plants manually instead of with automatic sprinklers, it can cut your water use by 33 percent. American lawns consume a large amount of water, so reduce how much you are watering your lawn. Installing rain barrels to capture rainwater can also be a huge help and can save you up to 1,300 gallons of water every year. Related: New study suggests it’s time to replace modern, grassy lawns Turn off the tap When you let the water run while you brush your teeth, you are wasting over 1.5 gallons of water. If you have leaky taps, you could be letting up to 15 gallons a week go down the drain. Every minute you spend in the shower burns 4.5 gallons of water. So turn off the tap water when you are brushing your teeth, set a timer on your shower to keep it short and fix those leaky faucets. Don’t forget about the outside of your home. Leaky outdoor faucets, pipes, hoses and broken lawn sprinklers can waste water, too. Also, monitor your water bill for unusually high usage so you can discover leaks. Save your dirty clothes When you wash two half-loads of laundry, it uses more water and energy than washing a full load of clothes. Wait until you have enough dirty clothes to fill up the washing machine. This will not only save water and electricity, but it will also lead to lower utility bills. Related: 10 money-saving tips for a green home Use the dishwasher It may be hard to believe, but if you fill up the dishwasher every time you use it , you will use less water than if you washed the dishes by hand — even if you fill up your sink and clean your dishes without the water running. If you use water- and energy-efficient appliances, you will save even more. When you have extra-dirty pots and pans, let them soak first instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean. Wash your car at home Instead of going to a car wash, wash your vehicles at home on the lawn, so you can water your grass at the same time. Use a hose nozzle or turn off the water while you are scrubbing your car so you can save up to 100 gallons of water each time you give it a wash. Recycle ice cubes When you have leftover ice cubes in your drink, toss them into a houseplant instead of pouring them into the sink. When you are washing fruits and veggies , save that water as well to use for watering your plants. Via Friends of the Earth Images via RayMark , Jerzy Gorecki , Pierre Gilbert , Charles Deluvio , Steve PB , Conger Design , Sasin Tipchai and Hans Braxmeier

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Danish home champions wood over concrete for lower carbon emissions

December 21, 2018 by  
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Danish architecture firm Tegnestuen LOKAL recently completed TK-33, a modern and energy-efficient home that promotes building materials considered more sustainable than those typically used in Danish residential construction. To reduce the carbon footprint of the project, the architects designed the home with a timber structure rather than the more commonly used load-bearing concrete walls. Triple-glazed windows and a flexible floor plan also add to the home’s environmentally friendly cachet. Designed for an older couple, the TK-33 home is located on the outskirts of a small town north of Copenhagen . The single-story home spans 130 square meters with two bedrooms and a centrally located, open-plan living area that connects to a spacious L-shaped deck. The flexible layout allows the homeowners to easily adapt rooms to new uses without the need for renovation. Full-height glazing pulls the outdoors in while a natural materials palette ties the home to the rural landscape. Driven by a desire to reduce carbon emissions in Denmark, the architects focused on replacing the most emission-heavy elements of typical Danish construction with more eco-friendly alternatives. In place of brick-clad concrete — commonly used for outer walls that the firm said account for nearly 30 percent of the total emissions associated with the construction of a typical home — the architects used a wooden frame clad in a thin layer of brick shingling. The slim brick facade is Cradle-to-Cradle certified and highly durable to ensure longevity. Related: Copper-clad Copenhagen landmark boasts Denmark’s most energy-efficient laboratories “Eliminating emissions during construction, allowing for flexibility in the use of the house and facilitating reuse of the entire envelope makes for a house and a building technique that could decrease the emissions from the single-family house industry in Denmark greatly,” the architects said. “The house can be naturally ventilated and installations are pragmatically limited to the central core containing two bathrooms and a laundry room, lowering overall costs during construction.” + Tegnestuen LOKAL Photography by Jan Ove Christensen and Peter Jørgensen via Tegnestuen LOKAL

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Nature-inspired art gallery is built from bamboo and reused bricks

December 21, 2018 by  
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Belgium- and Brazil-based design practice CRU! architects channeled its passion for bamboo architecture and natural building materials into an art gallery in Catuçaba, a rural community about three hours east of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Spanning an area of 1,184 square feet, the project was commissioned by the owner of Fazenda Catuçaba , an idyllic farmhouse-style hotel that includes an operational organic farm. Building on Fazenda Catuçaba’s environmentally friendly practices, the art gallery was constructed mainly of bamboo and reused fired bricks. More than just an exercise in sustainable architecture, the art gallery for Fazenda Catuçaba was also created as a social building project to benefit the local community. With help from the architects, a community eco-building cooperative constructed the project and provided training and job development opportunities for the local residents. The cooperative constructed the entire bamboo structure, while local workers from Fazenda Catuçaba’s on-site farm carried out the excavation work, foundation work and brick laying. The design of the art gallery draws inspiration from the differing architectural styles of its two neighboring structures: the Fazenda Catuçaba’s colonial Portuguese-styled farmhouse and the Occa, an indigenous communal space built by an Amazonian Indian tribe. As a result, the exterior of the gallery features colonial Portuguese-inspired white walls and blue doors while the interior is marked by narrow passageways and courtyard evocative of Amazonian Indian architecture. A fountain installed in the patio connects to the river and strengthens the building’s connection with nature. Related: This breathtaking Tulum art gallery was created by Peggy Guggenheim’s great-grandson “The gallery is entirely based on the golden proportion — the width and height of the different parts correspond to the rules set by the Greek and Roman architects such as Vitruvius,” explained lead architect Sven Mouton. “It is meant to be a humble construction that fits the colonial style of the surrounding, but that also refers to the occa nearby. A Portuguese face with an Indian heart. Since art can be considered sacred, the spiritual language of a monastery arch-way was used to house the exhibitions. In the original sense a gallery was a covered walk or passageway, narrow and partly open along a wall.” + CRU! architects Photography by Nelson Kon via CRU! architects

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Start Reducing Your Home’s Carbon Footprint With Propane

December 18, 2018 by  
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Editor’s note: This guest posting is from the Propane Education … The post Start Reducing Your Home’s Carbon Footprint With Propane appeared first on Earth911.com.

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‘Uncanny’ Art Repurposes Recyclables

December 18, 2018 by  
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For some innovative upcyclers, aluminum is a favorite material. It … The post ‘Uncanny’ Art Repurposes Recyclables appeared first on Earth911.com.

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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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Vessel Works is changing the to-go beverage game with its reusable mug

November 28, 2018 by  
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A new company called Vessel Works is attempting to change the game in the beverage industry. The idea is to get rid of the waste from single-use cups for hot and cold beverages by providing a reusable to-go cup in participating cafes. Here’s how it works. The Vessel Works to-go cup is an insulated stainless-steel mug that will keep your beverage hot or cold. When you visit a participating location, you can check out one of the free, reusable mugs via an app and then later drop it off at a kiosk. It is very similar to a bike-share program, and Vessel Works is hoping that it will be a popular alternative to the billions of paper cups that end up in landfills every year. It is also a solution that the company believes consumers will adopt more quickly than asking them to bring their own mugs from home. “Getting behavior change to happen is not an easy thing,” says Dagny Tucker, founder of Vessel . “If we look at a community that’s considered very sustainably-minded, i.e., Boulder, Colorado, you’ll find that in a survey of local cafes, less than 10 people are bringing their own cup every day.” According to Fast Company , Vessel Works chose Boulder, Colorado, to beta launch the idea with four cafes and they will later scale and add more. Consumers use an app to participate in the free program, but if they don’t return the mug within five days, there is a charge. After running the pilot for several months at a few cafes in Brooklyn and Manhattan, Tucker discovered that consumers liked the idea and it also led to people evaluating their choices for other single-use items. As consumers use the mug, they will get reports on how much they are reducing their carbon footprint and how much waste they are preventing. Tucker ran a pilot program for this idea in New York City back in 2016 while teaching at Parsons School of Design. She noticed that the paper cup was the most highly visible sign of disposability, with every fifth person walking down the street carrying a paper cup for a few minutes and then throwing it away. There are no upfront costs for a consumer to use the program, and the cost to participating cafes for each mug is less, on average, than what they pay for paper cups. The mugs are also easy to stack and store, and Vessel cleans all of the mugs at their commercial facility and then tracks them back to each cafe to maintain inventory. Tucker says that essentially, her company is trying to “disrupt the status quo of an entire industry.” Via Fast Company and Vessel Works Image via Vessel Works

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Vessel Works is changing the to-go beverage game with its reusable mug

Norwegian expedition cruise line Hurtigruten aiming to convert six of its 17 ships to use biogas

November 28, 2018 by  
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The Norwegian expedition cruise line Hurtigruten is going to do their part to help the environment. The 125-year-old company is aiming to convert six of its 17 ships to use biogas , liquified natural gas, and large battery packs by 2021. The biogas will be generated with waste fish parts – leftovers of fish processed for food – and mixed with other organic waste to use green energy to power their polluting cruise liners. Biogas is the result of speeding up the natural decomposition process and capturing the methane produced. Liquified natural gas is a fossil fuel, but it is cleaner than many alternatives. Battery power is also a promising technology for ocean transport. It has been difficult building batteries that are powerful enough to last an entire voyage, but advances in battery manufacturing are starting to make it possible. Related: Invasive soft rush weed turned into sustainable packaging materials “Norway is a large shipping nation, but fishery and forestry are also large sectors. They create jobs and produce income, but they also produce a lot of waste products. The steady access to high volumes of organic waste gives the Nordic countries a unique position on the biogas market. We are pushing for more innovation, more investment. I believe we have just seen the beginning of what in a few years will be a huge sector,” says Daniel Skjeldam, the chief executive of Hurtigruten. Ocean transport vessels currently use heavy fossil fuels , and it is an ever-increasing problem because they pollute more than fuels used by land vehicles and they emit sulfur and other contaminants. The daily greenhouse gas emissions from the largest cruise liners in the world are more than the emissions of a million cars. The cruise ship fuels are contributing to air pollution and climate change . But, this change to biogas will cut down the number of pollutants, plus it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Related: The Netherlands will spend 150 million Euros to turn cow poop into biogas Hurtigruten is also banning single-use plastics as part of their plan to be more environmentally sustainable. The company is also currently building three new hybrid-powered ships that will be delivered over the next three years. According to The Guardian, the company operates its cruises in the Arctic and Antarctic , which are both highly sensitive environments. Via The Guardian Images via michaelmep

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Norwegian expedition cruise line Hurtigruten aiming to convert six of its 17 ships to use biogas

nat-2 creates a completely vegan sneaker made from coffee

November 20, 2018 by  
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Vegan sneakers? You bet! Most people know that the fashion industry is notorious for contributing to global waste, heavy water consumption and high electrical usage. The shoe industry is no exception with the traditional petroleum-based synthetic soles and a reliance on harsh chemicals. One company, nat-2 , has taken a stand against this rampant pollution with its new coffee sneakers, made from — you guessed it — recycled coffee. The unisex design incorporates natural materials from the top to the bottom, and there are two different styles to choose from, a high-top and a low-top. The leather-looking portion of the shoe comes from PET recycled water bottles, helping to remove post-consumer plastic waste from the landfills. Plus, by replacing leather, nat-2 refuses to subscribe to the environmental problems associated with raising beef and toxic tannery byproducts that pollute the planet. The rich chocolate-colored covering comes from up to 50 percent recycled coffee that provides the suede-like texture. The company reports that the shoes do exude a subtle coffee scent. Related: These sustainable sunglasses smell like coffee and decompose into fertilizer The outsole of the shoe features real rubber, rather than the non-sustainable synthetic rubber that many companies use. To avoid harsh chemicals that not only put workers in danger but also leach into the soil after hitting the landfill, the company uses a water-based glue that is free from animal ingredients. In addition, the insole is made from naturally antibacterial cork , and the upper portion features nat-2’s signature reflective glass for added style. Handmade in Italy in a family-owned, high-tech facility, the sneakers are made in a production process that cuts out much of the carbon dioxide pollution from traditional coal-burning facilities that mass produce the estimated 20 billion shoes flooding the market annually. nat-2 founder Sebastian Thies developed the shoe following the release of another eco-friendly shoe, the fungi sneaker, which is made from tree fungus. The first run of the coffee sneakers is sold out, but more shoes are in production. + nat-2 Images via nat-2

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