Earth911 Quiz #83: Five Sustainability Changes

April 2, 2020 by  
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What are five areas for quick changes in your carbon … The post Earth911 Quiz #83: Five Sustainability Changes appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Quiz #83: Five Sustainability Changes

Scientists get closer to artificial photosynthesis for renewable energy

March 26, 2020 by  
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Scientists at Berkeley Lab are getting close to a long-held goal of using artificial photosynthesis to generate renewable energy from the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. If produced in large enough quantities, the energy created from artificial photosynthesis could be a huge step to slowing climate change. Photosynthesis is the chemical reaction by which algae and green plants turn carbon dioxide into cellular fuel. Scientists at Berkeley have designed square solar fuel tiles containing billions of nanoscale tubes between two pieces of thin, flexible silicate. These squares will comprise the new artificial photosynthesis system. Related: New photosynthesis machine is twice as efficient at creating hydrogen fuel The Berkeley scientists recently published a paper in Advanced Functional Materials explaining how their design “allows for the rapid flow of protons from the interior space of the tube, where they are generated from splitting water molecules, to the outside, where they combine with CO2 and electrons to form the fuel.” So far, the scientists have managed to produce carbon monoxide as the fuel but are trying for methanol. “There are two challenges that have not yet been met,” said senior scientist Heinz Frei in a press release from Berkeley Lab . “One of them is scalability. If we want to keep fossil fuels in the ground, we need to be able to make energy in terawatts — an enormous amount of fuel. And, you need to make a liquid hydrocarbon fuel so that we can actually use it with the trillions of dollars’ worth of existing infrastructure and technology.” Once the scientists are satisfied with their model, they should be able to quickly build a solar fuel farm out of the tiles, which measure a few inches across. “We, as basic scientists, need to deliver a tile that works, with all questions about its performance settled,” Frei said. “And engineers in industry know how to connect these tiles. When we’ve figured out square inches, they’ll be able to make square miles.” + Berkeley Lab Images via Andreas Senftleben

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Scientists get closer to artificial photosynthesis for renewable energy

5 Wellness trends that are bad for the environment

March 12, 2020 by  
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Wellness is an ongoing pursuit that involves diet, exercise, mental health and many other factors. But the activities that make us feel good might be causing  harm to the planet  without us even knowing. Here’s how.  Crystals For those who feel a connection with Mother Earth, crystals are said to offer healing qualities, protection and the ability to calm the mind, among other benefits. While crystals are natural resources from the Earth, problems arise from how they are sourced. Many reports claim anything but safe working conditions for those harvesting the gems, with lax labor laws and many poverty-stricken areas being ruled by brutal military groups. In many countries, the industry is completely unregulated, which means in addition to the human cost, the planet is paying the price. Without oversight, mines can destroy animal habitats and cause extensive water pollution. In tropical areas, abandoned pits fill with stagnant water and create an inviting habitat for malaria-ridden mosquitos that contribute to the spread of disease. Although many retailers do their best to buy from reputable dealers, the supply chain is questionable at best with no transparency to truly know the path of the crystal you hold. Related: Ice rink alternatives and their environmental impact Essential oils For thousands of years, people have used plant oils to treat ailments, anxiety, headaches and much more. As the industry enjoys a resurgence, we wanted to peek into the production and waste components of essential oils, and what we found isn’t great news for the environment. Essential oils are naturally available from plants , some producing the oils on the outside and others storing it in pockets inside the plant. Regardless of the type of oil, it takes a lot of plants to source a single pound of oil. Many of these plants are grown on commercial farms with the same pesticide and water consumption concerns as other crops. Plus, if they are not native to the area, it can take more resources to keep them productive. For example, it takes 10,000 pounds of rose petals to garner one pound of rose essential oil. An even bigger issue is the  post-consumer waste  from essential oils. If thrown into the garbage, it contributes to overflowing landfills, and down the drain, it can create toxic water for fish and other wildlife. Additionally, many municipalities don’t allow recycling of the glass bottles because essential oils are classified as a flammable substance. In short, that means there is no great waste solution for millions of bottles of essential oils that should responsibly be recycled through toxic-waste collection events. To try cleaning up your act, look for native plants rather than those forced to grow in an area outside their normal habitat. Also, look for companies that offer a return program to recycle bottles. Alternately, source your own plants, being sure to check local regulations for your area. Sheet masks Face masks hydrate and exfoliate, leaving your skin looking vibrant and healthy. However, the common practice of using sheet masks may not leave the planet so healthy in its wake . Starting with the production of millions of sheet masks, the carbon footprint begins to unfold. Plus, transport around the world further contributes to pollution and resource consumption. Then there is the post-consumer waste to consider. Most sheet mask packaging contains a combination of aluminum and plastic, making it unrecyclable, so it ends up in the trash. The thin plastic sheet that often accompanies the mask follows close behind. Finally, the sheet mask itself typically ends up in the landfill as well. Even bamboo and cotton options are often treated in a way that keeps them from being composted so they get tossed. Let’s be honest, sheet masks are marketed as single-use products and as such will continue to produce waste. But before you cut out your sheet mask treatment, consider purchasing brands with packaging made from recycled materials, composting or recycling options, or significantly reduced packaging waste as your first choice. You can also select 100% biodegradable masks. Keto diet There seems to be a diet plan for every week of the year and Keto has made more than a few headlines with its low carb, high protein layout. But all that steak and butter comes at a cost to the planet . Meat is a high-polluting industry, consuming high quantities of drinking water as well as water for feed crops. Plus, it contributes to  methane gas in the air. Even if livestock is not being raised for meat, the same problems occur when it comes to milk animals used for cream, butter and other fats. While many oils come from plants, the increase in livestock production equally contributes to greenhouse emissions. Put simply, raising plants is much better for the planet than raising cattle. Hot yoga While it might be good for your body, hot yoga’s ramifications on the planet are less appealing. Classes take place in a studio, heated excessively by natural gas, electrical heat, propane or other sources. This alone contributes significantly to the studio’s carbon footprint. Additionally, lighting the studio, washing towels, cleaning and showers eat up additional resources. If you travel for your yoga class or retreat, the plane or car contributes to air pollution. To minimize your impact, look into mass transit and carpooling options or simply take your yoga class online. As another option, invest in carbon offsetting programs. Also be aware of the fabrics you wear to the gym, selecting organic fibers and options that will last for many years. Plus, invest in a quality yoga mat for long-term use. Images via Pexels and Pixabay 

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5 Wellness trends that are bad for the environment

A zero-waste, self-sustaining home of the future

March 12, 2020 by  
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Designed by Shanghai-based firm YANG Design , the Green Concept House is a futuristic concept that envisions a residence where sustainable technologies are embedded into the living spaces to create a zero-waste, 100% self-sustaining home. The design features several high-tech systems that use spare household energy to provide water, lighting and energy for growing plants throughout the home, essentially becoming a living greenhouse. House Vision is an annual event that invites architects to create futuristic residential designs that incorporate innovative technologies. This year, against the backdrop of the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing’s Olympic Park, 10 dwellings were unveiled, one of which was the incredible Green Concept House by Yang Design. Related: A greenhouse is transformed into an experimental living space in Taiwan Like the other full-scale home prototypes, the Green Concept House was a collaboration between architects and leading global companies that specialize in the various fields of technology, such as energy, vehicles, logistics and artificial intelligence. The 1,600-square-foot structure is a powerhouse of futuristic tech that merges organic food production into the house in order to create a living space that is 100% self-sustaining. Several compact garden pockets in every corner of the layout would allow homeowners to care for almost any type of plant using spare household energy (from solar and wind power generation ) to provide water and light for the gardens. The setup would permit residents to closely monitor their home gardens, including fruits, vegetables and herbs, via an app on their phones. For example, the app would sound an alarm when one of the plants is in need of specific care. Another notification would alert homeowners when a specific fruit or veggie is ready to be picked. Using this full-circle system, homeowners will not only be able to grow their own organic fare but will also be able to lead zero-waste lifestyles . + YANG Design Via ArchDaily Images via YANG Design

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A zero-waste, self-sustaining home of the future

Nature-inspired home uses passive design to stay cool in Taiwan

March 12, 2020 by  
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Just outside Kaohsiung’s city center, Taiwanese architecture firm Chain10 Architecture & Interior Design Institute has completed Comfort in Context, a contemporary new home nestled in a lush hillside. Crafted as a respite in nature, the building is set far back from the road and is wrapped in floor-to-ceiling glazing to take in mountain views. Nature also informed the design and orientation of the home, which relies on cross breezes and strategically located roof eaves to stay naturally cool while minimizing the use of electricity. Though strikingly contemporary in appearance, the design of Comfort in Context relies on age-old passive design principles for providing a comfortable living environment year-round. Oriented east to west, the home features a facade that mitigates unwanted solar gain at all times of the day while taking advantage of southwesterly winds to combat Taiwan’s hot and humid summers. In winter, the neighboring hills protect the building from cold winds. Related: Modular materials make up an eco-friendly restaurant in Taiwan “Nature doesn’t have to be the second thought for an architect in 2020, it must always be his or her first,” the firm explained. “The earth isn’t getting any better and everyone needs to do everything they can to reduce the emissions of their projects.” To further reduce the carbon footprint of the home, the architects planted a number of Taiwanese beech trees around the property. Environmentally friendly recycled materials were also used for the building structure, facade, finishes and interior. By building with the existing landscape to minimize site impact, the architects were able to reduce construction costs. As a result, more resources were diverted to the clients’ most important space in the house: the open-plan living room, dining area and kitchen that occupy a large part of the ground floor. The upper floor contains a spacious master bedroom, secondary bedroom, two atriums and five balconies. + Chain10 Architecture & Interior Design Institute Photography by Moooten Studio / Qimin Wu via Chain10 Architecture & Interior Design Institute

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Nature-inspired home uses passive design to stay cool in Taiwan

Humans can’t count on rainforests to offset their carbon

March 5, 2020 by  
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Instead of absorbing carbon dioxide from the air, tropical rainforests could become a source of carbon in the atmosphere as soon as the next decade. Long appreciated as “carbon sinks,” those days will soon be over, according to a new study published in the journal Nature. “We’ve found that one of the most worrying impacts of climate change has already begun,” Simon Lewis, study author and plant ecologist at University of Leeds, told The Guardian . “This is decades ahead of even the most pessimistic climate models.” Researchers spent 30 years tracking 300,000 trees in African and Amazonian rainforests. Their work took them to remote sites, and even required a week in a dugout canoe traveling deep into the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The team tagged individual trees with aluminum nails, charting their height and diameter every few years and calculating the carbon stored in both the surviving trees and those that died. The Amazonian forests — which face higher temperatures and worse droughts — were weakening first, but the African forests weren’t far behind. The researchers based their projections that the forests will soon turn into carbon sources on a statistical model, their own observations and trends in emissions, rainfall and temperatures to predict how forests will store carbon in the near future. Carbon uptake by tropical forests peaked in the 1990s. Back then, the forests absorbed about 17% of the carbon dioxide humans generated. But droughts, deforestation and high temperatures have adversely effected these carbon sinks. By last decade, forests could only take about 6% of global emissions off our hands. “Humans have been lucky so far, as tropical forests are mopping up lots of our pollution , but they can’t keep doing that indefinitely,” Lewis said. “We need to curb fossil fuel emissions before the global carbon cycle starts working against us. The time for action is now.” + Nature Via The Guardian and Phys.org Image via Etienne Delorieux

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What to know about Hulu’s Greta Thunberg documentary

February 28, 2020 by  
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Hopeful, passionate and completely fearless, Greta Thunberg is quickly becoming the face of climate change awareness. The teenage climate activist became a household name after a school-wide strike ignited an international sensation, inspiring millions of young people to stand up to the environmental crisis plaguing the planet we all share. Since those first days of solitary protests outside of the Swedish Parliament, Thunberg has continued to be an example for climate activism. From taking a zero-emissions sailboat for two weeks to attend the United Nations Climate Action Summit to publicly putting the world’s leading politicians on blast, it appears that the 16-year-old is just getting started. Now, her inspirational efforts will be explored in a new Greta Thunberg documentary by Hulu. Hulu recently announced that the original documentary on 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg will be released sometime in 2020. Directed by Nathan Grossman and tentatively titled Greta , the documentary will follow the young activist beginning in August 2018, when she single-handedly started a climate-focused strike in her school in Stockholm, Sweden at the age of 15. The strike and its passion-fueled message made headlines around the world; seemingly overnight, the young girl was catapulted into the spotlight at the center of the climate crisis stage. Related: 16 must-see environmental documentaries Thunberg is the daughter of opera singer Malena Ernman and actor Svante Thunberg and a distant relative of Svante Arrhenius, a scientist who came up with a model of the greenhouse effect and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1903. Thunberg’s passion for the environment was clear from an early age (she even convinced her parents to become vegan ), and she said that she first learned about climate change at the age of eight . She told Time that after finding out what exactly climate change was, she thought, “That can’t be happening, because if that were happening, then the politicians would be taking care of it.” In May 2018, just three months after winning a local newspaper contest with an essay on climate change, she began protesting weekly in front of the Swedish parliament building with a sign simply reading “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (Swedish for “ school strike for climate ”). Her mission was to convince the government to meet the carbon emissions goal that had been set out by the Paris Climate Agreement , requiring governments to reduce emissions to limit global temperature rise. By December, there were more than 20,000 students following suit using the hashtag #FridaysForFuture, with millions more from 150 countries around the world joining in shortly after. Thunberg quickly graduated to internationally covered protests, touring North America while attending rallies, meeting with world leaders and, most famously, speaking at the UN Climate Action Summit (which went viral soon after) and the COP25 Climate Change Conference in Madrid. Part of her impassioned message during the Climate Action Summit addressed her frustration at politicians for ignoring the signs of climate change and placing the burden on young people. “How dare you. I shouldn’t be up here,” she said. “I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean, yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. We will be watching you.” The teenager took almost all of the 2019 school year off in order to attend the UN summit in New York as well as the annual Climate Change Conference in Madrid. Thunberg made history again when she became nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize by two lawmakers in her home country of Sweden. She was named 2019’s Person of the Year by Time , the youngest person with the honor in the 92-year history of the award. After fearlessly going to bat with the likes of President Trump and Vladimir Putin, she has received an outpouring of support from fans including Michelle Obama and Leonardo DiCaprio . The famously public Twitter feud between the President and Thunberg escalated when President Trump suggested she “chill,” “work on her anger management problem” and go to “a good old fashioned movie with a friend,” leading the 16-year-old to quickly update her Twitter bio to say she was “a teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.” The spat even was featured in a “Saturday Night Live” cold open shortly after, with Kate McKinnon playing Thunberg. The team responsible for the documentary has been following Thunberg from her initial school strikes in Sweden through her more recent evolution into a world-famous face of climate change . So, you can expect to see a deeper dive into all of the above events in the Greta Thunberg documentary. Produced by Cecilia Nessen and Frederik Heinig of B-Reel Films, the production of the film is unsurprisingly an international affair. The documentary is co-produced by WDR of Germany, France Télévisions of France, BBC of the U.K., SVT of Sweden, DR of Denmark, YLE of Finland, NRK of Norway and Hulu of the U.S. Greta will also be sold internationally by distributor Dogwoof, which recently boarded the documentary. “ Greta goes well beyond the subject of climate change,” Anne Godas, CEO of Dogwoof, told Variety . “It’s about young people accepting themselves as they are, believing they can change the world, and celebrating being different from the rest. As a mother of two young girls, I can’t think of a better inspiration for them.” Images via Lev Radin, Per Grunditz and Roland Marconi / Shutterstock

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Swedens tallest timber building could save 550 tons of CO2

February 28, 2020 by  
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Scandinavian-based architecture firm C.F. Møller Architects has raised the bar for sustainable architecture with the recent completion of the Kajstaden Tower, Sweden’s tallest timber building. Located in Västerås, about an hour outside of Stockholm, the landmark building rises 8.5 stories in height and was built almost entirely from cross-laminated timber. The architects estimate that the use of solid timber instead of concrete for construction translates to 550 tons of carbon dioxide savings over the building’s lifetime.  Commissioned by Slättö Förvaltning, the Kajstaden Tower was constructed as part of a new central residential neighborhood near the waterfront of Öster Mälarstrand. Along with the record-breaking, solid-timber landmark, the new sustainably minded neighborhood includes an electric boat sharing system in the marina. Related: C.F. Møller’s Storkeengen tackles climate challenges in a Danish town In addition to reducing the building’s carbon footprint, the use of CNC-milled solid timber and glulam for all parts of the building — including the walls, joists, balconies, lift and stairwell shafts — results in an airtight and energy-efficient building envelope without added insulation. The timber frame was also fast to raise; each floor, which contains four apartments, took four craftsmen an average of three days to put together. Mechanical joints and screws were used so that the building can be later taken apart, and the materials can be reused.  “The building in Kajstaden constitutes a new chapter in the history of construction, as it is currently Sweden’s tallest solid-timber building,” said Ola Jonsson, associate partner at C.F. Møller Architects, which is also part of the Nordic Network for Tall Wood Buildings. “Through research projects and our other timber projects, we have focused on innovation and contributed toward developing ways of realizing high-rise buildings made of timber. Industrial timber technology also provides architects with better tools for designing beautiful houses that boast a high degree of detail.” + C.F. Møller Architects Photography by Nikolaj Jakobsen via C.F. Møller Architects

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Swedens tallest timber building could save 550 tons of CO2

This lamp is a work of art that cleans the air

February 28, 2020 by  
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The Guilin Lamp-scape by SUGO uses photocatalysis technology to clean and circulate the air you breathe, eliminating 99.9% of all bacteria, such as salmonella and E. Coli, as well as impurities including carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, formaldehyde, mold and odor particles. This lamp-meets-air purifier also gives off an artsy, ambient glow that can be altered to the user’s preferences. To top it all off, the Guilin Lamp-scape is made from recyclable materials. Low-voltage LED light shines through the rectangular, structural steel base of the lamp, bouncing off acrylic mountains made from 40% recycled plastic. The mountains are fashioned out of 5mm thick, glass fiber-reinforced photocatalytic panels placed inside three slots in the base. Switch the light on, and the acrylic mountains will absorb the illumination into laser-engraved lines. While it is designed to last, the entire lamp is 100% recyclable, and the paint covering the base is VOC-free . Related: This lovely lampshade is made from cabbage Consumers can shift the mountains to create unique landscapes that reflect their personal styles. More mountains can also be added to create different brightening effects, making the lamp both functional and customizable. The company suggests placing the “lamp-scape” on a reflective surface, so it resembles the feeling of looking at a mountain range behind a glossy lake. In addition to the classic Guilin, the company has also unveiled an upgraded model called the Guilin Dawn, which uses Italian nano-tech material to transition the lamp from a lit sunset palette to near-transparency when it is turned off. SUGO founders Kevin Chu and Giulia DiBonaventura got the idea for the lamp on a trip to the Guilin Mountains in northeastern China, where they became mesmerized by the scenery and felt compelled to pay tribute to the experience in some way. Their products are exclusively made in factories with low quantity production that follow international environmental regulation and worker’s rights unions. The Guilin Lamp-scape recently moved to INDIEGOGO In-Demand crowdfunding as well as a Shopify store for its remaining items and future purchases. + Guilin Lamp-scape Via Yanko Design Images via SUGO

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This lamp is a work of art that cleans the air

Tackling sustainability in sporting events

February 19, 2020 by  
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At the recent Super Bowl, the NFL focused on sustainability more than in past years with its Ocean to Everglades (O2E) initiative throughout South Florida. Efforts included education on invasive species, beach cleanups, food recovery and recycling initiatives. These conservation efforts are part of a larger trend internationally to shrink the carbon footprints of major sporting events. “Sports is one of the few avenues which can unite people of all different races, creeds and social status,” Matt Jozwiak said in an interview with Inhabitat. Jozwiak was a chef at swanky New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park before founding Rethink Food NYC . His organization feeds 2,000 New Yorkers a day by repurposing leftovers from restaurants and food companies in the tri-state area. Jozwiak is a big proponent of more sustainable sporting events. “The industry literally has the power to make drastic sustainability changes. When a sporting team comes out in favor of a cause, people listen.” He acknowledges there may be growing pains when adopting unfamiliar behaviors. “But eventually, fans will go along with the new changes.” Sporting events step up to sustainability Fans traveling to one European Cup match can generate almost 5,600 tons of carbon dioxide, according to the World Economic Forum. But now, many sports are taking a closer look at how to be more responsible. Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic Games are a leading example of organizers prioritizing sustainability in their planning. For example, builders will use locally sourced wood to construct the athletes’ village, and hydrogen fuel cells will power the event vehicles. Organizers plan to generate solar power onsite and recycle 99 percent of everything used during the event. With the exception of drinking water, they’ll use recycled rainwater for all Olympic water needs. Paris is hoping to be even more sustainable during its turn to host the 2024 Olympic Games. Related: Tokyo’s Olympic medals will be made from recycled phones Some European cities have given their football (soccer to Americans) stadiums an eco-makeover by installing seats made from recycled plastic. In Amsterdam, fans bought the old seats as souvenirs. The stadium in Pontedera, Italy boasts seats made using plastic from local waste. Meanwhile, in England, the Forest Green Rovers have won the title of world’s greenest football club by powering its grounds with solar, recycling water and serving an entirely vegan menu to players and fans. At the 2019 Helsinki International Horse Show, 135 tons of horse manure powered the electricity. A company called Fortum HorsePower enlists 4,300 Finnish horses to generate energy for electrical grids. Stadium food waste Jozwiak takes a special interest in food wasted inside stadiums. He’s found that stadiums are among the hardest places from which to rescue food, because they tend to only have games periodically and throw the food away afterward. Much of that food quickly spoils or gets soggy and unappetizing, like hamburger buns and pretzels. Stadiums should rely on freezers more, Jozwiak said. “Instead of purchasing food all the time, bulk purchase and immediately freezing can cut down a lot on the waste for sporting arenas. Proper refrigeration strategies can expand the lifecycle of food and reduce food waste.”  He also recommended a fire sale strategy for avoiding waste. “Implement a plan where spectators can purchase the remaining food to take home,” he advised. “A lot of food ends up in landfills . So if sporting arenas can provide the options for the fans to either buy or provide for free the remaining food, it would cut down on waste drastically.” One by one, stadium directors of operations need to craft individual action plans to become more sustainable, Joswiak suggested. In addition to avoiding food waste, he recommended conserving water and offering healthier food options with more vegetables and less meat . Stadiums should only contract with vendors who can manage recycling. New buildings should work to be LEED-certified. Joswiak suggested hosting a climate-related event for fans to explain and support all of these green changes. If fans could be convinced to bring their own reusable utensils, that would be great, too. Eco-travel to sporting events Of course, while the football match or the golf tournament is the main event, fans and players still have to travel to the game and may require overnight housing. According to Solar Impulse, 5 million people converged on Russia in 2018 to watch the FIFA World Cup. Their travel and accommodations generated about 85% of greenhouse gas emissions from this event, totaling about 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Related: Green-roofed Copenhagen sports center is open to the public 24/7 Some major governing bodies in sports are embracing carbon offset projects around the world to atone for their contribution to emissions. FIFA managed to offset 1.1 million tons of carbon emissions since the 2014 World Cup . The governing body for European football is promising to offset fan-generated emissions for the EURO 2020 competition. It has also collaborated with the 12 host cities to offer free public transportation to fans with tickets on the days of the matches. This should cut down on emissions and road congestion. Via World Economic Forum and Solar Impulse Images via Shutterstock

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