Solar-powered COAF SMART Center brightens the future of Armenias rural youth

January 2, 2019 by  
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The Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) recently completed its flagship COAF SMART Center, a state-of-the-art facility that will empower Armenia’s rural communities through locally and globally relevant knowledge and technologies. Designed by Beirut-based architecture firm Paul Kaloustian Studio, the innovative campus features a contemporary and sculptural form powered with clean energy . Opened May 2018, the first COAF SMART Center is nestled in the rural hills of Armenia’s northern province of Lori. Designed to advance COAF’s goals of rural revitalization, the COAF SMART Center serves as a platform for connecting villages to resources in education, health, arts and sciences and renewable energy . Covering a built area of 5,000 square meters, the large campus is nonetheless dwarfed by the beautiful highland landscape and purposefully defers to its surroundings with a sinuous, single-story form that follows the natural terrain. Full-height glazing wraps around the structure to blur the boundary between indoors and out. Related: Zaha Hadid Architects completes highly complex Nanjing International Youth Cultural Centre As the flagship SMART Center campus, the building encompasses sustainable and green design principles that will be applied to all future SMART campuses as well. Powered with solar energy , the building comprises classrooms, health posts, studios, computer lounges, meeting rooms, a multipurpose auditorium, libraries, restaurants and other flexible spaces both indoors and out. The regional education hub will offer a rich curriculum spanning topics from blockchain technology and robotics to agriculture and linguistics. “Targeting the rural regions, these campuses will respect the integrity of rural aesthetics in sync with contemporary architectural design, maintaining the authenticity of the region, while encouraging progressive ideology,” the architecture firm said. “The contradictive play of scale between landscape and building blurs all the visual boundaries. The blend becomes an essential architectural language meant to erase the traces of architecture from the landscape and in return the landscape adopts the architecture as an extension of itself.” + Paul Kaloustian Studio Photography by Ieva Saudargaite and Paul Kaloustian Studio via Paul Kaloustian Studio

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Solar-powered COAF SMART Center brightens the future of Armenias rural youth

10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration

January 2, 2019 by  
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The Endangered Species Coalition has released a report titled  Extinction Plan: Ten Species Imperiled by the Trump Administration , which outlines the possible impact of the current administration’s anti-wildlife policy stances. The report highlighted the 10 species that are in the most danger because of proposed new regulations as well as the specific changes that put these animals at risk. California Condor The California Condor has a 10-foot wingspan, making it one of the largest land birds in North America. These birds can reach altitudes of 15,000 feet and speeds up to 55 miles per hour. They are a critically endangered species, with fewer than 500 left, after flying in the skies of the western U.S. and Mexico for thousands of years. Most California Condors die in the wild from lead poisoning, and when the population shrank to less than 30 back in 1982, survivors were captured and put in breeding facilities. By 2017, more than 290 were flying free in the wild, with another 173 in the breeding program. However, on his first day in office, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke rolled back legislation from the Obama administration that banned the use of lead ammunition in critical condor habitat. This could be a catastrophic action that might lead to the end of the California Condor. Leatherback and Loggerhead Sea Turtles Both of these sea turtles can swim for thousands of miles, and they help maintain balance in their ocean habitat while providing essential nutrients to the beaches where they nest. Both types are protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but they are also vulnerable to human activity. Each year, thousands are snared in fishing nets and die, and climate change is hitting their homes hard. Related: Study finds microplastics in sea turtles around the world The Trump Administration’s proposed new regulations give leeway when it comes to how a habitat is or isn’t protected. If those regulations do kick in, the Fish and Wildlife Service can ignore protections in that habitat altogether, and the leatherbacks and loggerheads could lose their fragile beach nesting grounds entirely. Red Wolf Red wolves were declared extinct in the wild back in 1980. But after a successful experimental breeding program, they were reintroduced in North Carolina in 1987. The red wolf is on the edge of extinction again, with fewer than 30 left in the wild. The only place in the world that you can find red wolves is in a five-county area in North Carolina. Under proposed regulations from the Trump Administration, the delisting of the red wolf could be justified, even though scientists are still investigating their genetics. This would be a fatal blow to the species. Hellbender This ancient salamander is slimy and mud-brown or speckled gray, like a river rock. It has flappy skinfolds on the entire length of its body, lidless eyes that keep it from seeing much of anything and chubby toes for clinging to the river bottom. It also has a superb sense of smell. Hellbenders live solitary lives under a single boulder, and they never relocate. They do not pose any threat to humans and are a vital indicator of water quality, because they thrive in clean streams but deteriorate when their habitat does. Because the Trump Administration’s proposed regulations include economic analysis in their listing decisions, it could mean the end for the hellbender. The economics of mining, logging and fossil fuel extraction could cloud a listing for this species, and those businesses could also damage the hellbender’s habitat beyond repair. Giraffe The world’s tallest animal with 6-foot-long legs and a 6-foot-long neck, the giraffe is a highly social animal that roams in groups called towers. Their patterned coats are unique, just like fingerprints, and the animal is emblematic of Africa’s savanna. Hunting and habitat encroachment have reduced the population by 30 percent in the last three decades, and the animal appears to have gone extinct in seven countries. The two biggest threats are a growing trade in giraffe parts and trophy hunting; however, this animal is not protected internationally or by the Endangered Species Act. Related: Trump administration wants to allow “extreme and cruel” hunting methods in Alaska To make matters worse, Zinke created an International Wildlife Conservation Council full of NRA members that is promoting and expanding international trophy hunting. President Trump has not responded to a request to add the giraffe to the Endangered Species list. At this point, fewer than 100,000 are left. Humboldt Marten Related to the mink, the Humboldt marten is the size of a kitten. It is a stealthy hunter that lives deep in the forests of Northern California and Southern Oregon. This animal is so secretive, there is only a handful of photos in existence, and they were taken by remote-sensing cameras. At one time, the species was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1996. But only four separated populations remain, and humans have put them at risk by trapping them for their fur and logging in their rainforest habitat. Fewer than 400 are left, but it is not on the endangered species list and receives no federal protection. The Trump Administration finally proposed to list the Humboldt marten under the ESA but only to classify it as threatened. Under the new proposed regulations, a species classified as threatened no longer receives the same protections as those classified as endangered. There is also a special rule that exempts logging operations, which means the Humboldt marten population could vanish entirely. Rusty Patched Bumble Bee This species was the first bee in the continental U.S. to be listed under the ESA. That was a challenge all its own, because the paperwork was delayed on President Trump’s first day in office when his administration put a hold on the protections just before the bee was supposed to be listed. It finally made the list in 2017, but the Trump Administration’s proposed regulations prioritize the protection of habitat currently occupied by the species. This is a problem, because the rusty patched bumble bee has vanished from nearly 90 percent of their historic range due to disease, habitat degradation and use of pesticides . The bee needs that historic habitat to recover. If there are no safeguards for the habitat these bees once called home, it could have deadly consequences. West Indian Manatee This fully-aquatic, plant-eating mammal has some interesting relatives. At one end there is the elephant, and at the other, there is the hyrax. Manatees weigh around a thousand pounds and can live up to 60 years old. They have no natural enemies … except for humans. Manatees get hacked by propellers, smashed in watercraft collisions, drowned in canal locks and tortured and killed when they eat fish hooks, litter and lines. The biggest threat to the manatee is habitat loss thanks to red tides, algae blooms and pollution . But this didn’t stop the Trump Administration from downlisting the West Indian Manatee from endangered to threatened. The new rules also ignore impacts to habitat unless those impacts occur across the entire habitat and affect the whole species. With the manatees having such a scattered population, their habitat won’t get necessary protections. San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat This little rodent has specialized fur-lined face pouches that allow them to cache seeds in their cheeks until their face almost bursts. The San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat is about four inches long, and its tail is longer than its body. Their survival depends on natural cycles of wet and dry, and they never have to take a drink. They get all of their moisture from food, which comes from plants that mature at the perfect time and produce seeds at the right rate. Green vegetation stimulates their reproduction, but it has to be in moderation. There is a fragile wet/dry balance that human activities have messed up with mining, dam building and residential and commercial development. The new regulations from the Trump Administration would require less consultation between agencies, which means they can ignore the impact of what they do to their surroundings. Something as simple as a new road can mess up the rat’s wet and dry life, leading to extinction. Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo This bird loves where the water meets the woods, and they often avoid detection even when they are out hunting caterpillars and other prey. One researcher once watched a Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo for an entire hour waiting for him to budge, but he didn’t. In addition to hiding in plain sight, this bird is disappearing altogether. There are only about 2,000 left, and the species was listed under the ESA in 2014. But the bird needs habitat protections. It is now being reviewed for delisting, and the new regulations from the Trump Administration could kill the recovery plan. This could end up being a fast-track to extinction . + Endangered Species Coalition Images via U.S. Department of State , U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ), Red Wolf Recovery Program , Brian Gratwicke , Charles J. Sharp , Nbonzey and Mark Linnell / U.S. Forest Service

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10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration

Recycling Mystery: Children’s Toys

January 2, 2019 by  
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As kids grow older, they inevitably grow out of their … The post Recycling Mystery: Children’s Toys appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Recycling Mystery: Children’s Toys

A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for children

December 14, 2018 by  
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While it’s obvious that we want the children in our lives to have only the most natural, clean, organic clothes and toys , it’s also important to our planet that we introduce sustainable goods from the start. As children grow up with eco-friendly items at their side, they will naturally grow up to respect the Earth, seeking out these types of green products for the rest of their lives. To get them started on the right foot, here are some of our favorite sustainable gifts for kids and babies. Veggie Crayons These crayons , which are made from organic herb and vegetable powders as well as food-grade soy wax, are safe for babies and children to use. While they shouldn’t be eaten, they are safe for hand to mouth transfer, and they do not contain toxic ingredients like petroleum. Plus, the square shape also makes them fun for stacking and playing. “Adopted” animals Support organizations like WWF , Oceana , The Nature Conservancy and more, and in return, your child will have an opportunity to learn more about our planet and the animals that roam it. Many organizations will allow you to symbolically adopt an animal , and for your donation your child will receive a plush animal, coloring books, educational materials and more. Related: 20 sensory table activities that offer creative ways to teach kids through play Plush toys Kids love their “stuffies,” so gift them their new favorite this year. These options from Ouistitine are adorable yet minimalist, so they’ll still look chic lying all over your living room floor. Plus, each toy is handmade from the scraps of natural, eco-textiles like wool, linen and cotton . Sustainable clothing Clothing is a gifting staple in many households, but conventional fashion often relies on unsafe fabrics and unethical production processes. If you’re looking to give the little ones clothing this year, be sure to choose options that are organic , non-toxic and responsibly made. Gardening kits Most kids love to get messy, so add in the benefits of growing their own food and teaching them the importance of gardening, and you have quite a gift! Surprise the kids with a gardening kit (like this one ), which is fun for children of all ages. You can also check out this website for educational resources to go along with the gift. Images via  Wee Can Too , WWF , Christopher Michel , Ouistitine ,  Phichit Wongsunthi and Shutterstock

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A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for children

5 Children’s Books That Expertly Teach About the Environment

December 14, 2018 by  
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We all know that reading to our children every night … The post 5 Children’s Books That Expertly Teach About the Environment appeared first on Earth911.com.

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5 Children’s Books That Expertly Teach About the Environment

RIBA crowns Children Village in Brazil as the worlds best new building

November 30, 2018 by  
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On the edge of a rainforest in northern Brazil , a recently built school complex by Brazilian architecture firms Aleph Zero and Rosenbaum has been awarded the RIBA International Prize 2018 for the ‘world’s best new building.’ Dubbed Children Village, the contemporary project earned praise not only for its beautiful and low-impact design but also for its social impact as boarding accommodation to 540 children aged 13 to 18 attending the Canuanã School. The winning entry was selected by a grand jury chaired by visionary architect Elizabeth Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Funded by the Bradesco Foundation, the roughly 25,000-square-meter Children Village is one of 40 schools backed by the foundation that provides education for children in rural communities across Brazil. The architects — Gustavo Utrabo and Petro Duschenes from Aleph Zero along with Marcelo Rosenbaum and Adriana Benguela from Rosenbaum — worked closely with the children while designing the school. Key to the design was creating an intimate environment that felt like a “home away from home.” Instead of dormitories for 40 students, for instance, Children Village offers rooms for six children as well as a mix of private and public spaces that cater to study, play and relaxation. The school comprises two identical complexes: one for girls, one for boys. The building has been praised for “reinventing Brazilian vernacular” by bringing together a contemporary aesthetic with traditional techniques and local resources. The architects also drew from the local vernacular to mitigate the sweltering summertime temperatures in a cost-effective and sustainable way. For instance, the large canopy roof built from cross-laminated timber beams and columns allows for cooling cross-breezes as well as shade. Earth blocks handmade on site were also used for the walls and latticework. Related: Carbon-neutral Caring Wood wins RIBA award for best new house in the UK “Beyond being a standout work of architecture, Children Village embodies the generosity of the Bradesco Foundation’s philanthropic mission to provide much-needed amenities to those who otherwise have limited access to schools,” Diller said. “Aleph Zero and Rosenbaum have achieved a humble heroism, utilizing a sophisticated approach to detailing and construction that belies the fact that the building’s users are predominately teenagers, age 13-18, in a remote area in Brazil. The architect’s inventive rethinking of the region’s traditional techniques and materials succeeds in building community and in proving that space matters in education.” + RIBA International Prize Images via Leonardo Finotti and Cristobal Palma of Estudio Palma

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RIBA crowns Children Village in Brazil as the worlds best new building

Raising Kids Who Take Action: Value of Teamwork Skills

November 22, 2018 by  
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Some kids understand the benefits of working harmoniously with others … The post Raising Kids Who Take Action: Value of Teamwork Skills appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Raising Kids Who Take Action: Value of Teamwork Skills

"Cheesy" solar charger kit empowers students in East Africa

September 24, 2018 by  
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Playful in its design and highly functional, SunMade Cheese features a charger for flashlights, lighters, radios and even cellphones powered by mere sunlight. The device was developed by YOLK, the solar company applauded for its Kickstarter project ‘Solar Paper’ in 2015 that has sold millions of dollars worth of units worldwide. This time, it seems whimsy has struck the cutting-edge solar tech firm, which decided to express its love of cheese in this new project. Continuing its sun-charged aspirations, the group has debuted quirky, cheese-plate-shaped solar panels and cheese-shaped, solar-powered accessories with a meaningful mission to boot. YOLK is eager to attract current generations to solar energy , making it easy to incorporate the technology in their daily routines. The group also hopes to improve energy infrastructure and conservation in developing nations as well as put an end to child labor, instead empowering families to send children to school. Rather than tackling these issues separately (as is common), YOLK decided to put its creativity to the test and develop the Solar Cow in conjunction with the new cheese chargers. The Solar Cow systems are much larger solar energy generators built with a portion of the revenue that YOLK receives from SunMade Cheese. The company is deploying the conductive cows in remote areas of East Africa that are burdened by poor energy infrastructure. Related: Striking, solar-powered LA roundabout manages stormwater runoff with art As many as one in every five children are prevented from attending school in East Africa. Families rely on child labor to supplement the household income. Besides providing power to local schools , the Solar Cow will provide an incentive for parents to send their children to school instead of sending them off to work. In the mornings, students are able to attach batteries to the “cow’s udders” for charging and take them home at night with a full supply of free, clean energy. “The SunMade Cheese project is more about enjoying solar power and promoting education for solar technology, but the Solar Cow is really a lifeline for people,” YOLK CEO Sen Chang explained. “They are two projects for two different perspectives, but combined in one initiative.” Families in rural areas commonly travel around four to six hours in order to reach a charging station to juice up their cellphones. The mobile phones are a necessity, because they facilitate communication to the rest of the world and a means to make payments and receive income. The cost of this process is astounding, with the average family spending approximately 10-20 percent of their total monthly earnings to simply charge their cellular devices an average of 10-12 times per month. The SunMade Cheese charger is the perfect accessory to promote an environmentally friendly lifestyle at home while assisting YOLK’s efforts to help communities abroad. Stressing creativity and efficiency, the award-winning innovators deserve to bask in the sunlight for their life-changing technological designs . No doubt, many will join them — cheese plate in hand! + YOLK Images via YOLK

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"Cheesy" solar charger kit empowers students in East Africa

UK’s Co-op to ditch single-use plastic bags for biodegradable bags

September 24, 2018 by  
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A popular supermarket chain in the U.K. is taking a step toward bettering the environment by putting a stop to plastic waste . Co-op recently announced plans to use compostable shopping bags, which double as biodegradable bags for food waste, in all of its stores. The new bags will replace the old single-use plastic bags. Co-op is introducing the eco-friendly bags over the next few weeks. Stores in England, Wales and Scotland will receive the bags first, followed by outlets across the rest of the U.K. Related: Kroger plans plastic bag phase-out by 2025 The chain has tested other versions of the bags since 2014 and is rolling them out in locations where local food waste companies can accept them. The company estimates that the new bags will save around 60 million plastic bags from ending up in landfills. The biodegradable bags are part of Co-op’s larger strategy to lessen its impact on the environment. This includes launching initiatives to tackle healthy eating, food waste and energy savings. The company plans to completely phase out plastic bags over the next five years and stop selling black plastic — which is difficult to recycle — altogether. Co-op hopes to be plastic free by 2023 and plans on using at least 50 percent recycled plastic in other products, such as pots, trays and bottles. Co-op is not the only supermarket in the U.K. that is removing plastic from its stores. This past week, Lidl U.K. announced plans to stop using plastic trays for fruit and vegetables by the end of September. The company also pledged to ditch plastic from its meat sections by Summer 2019. Asda also announced that it is halfway through with its plastic reduction goal for the year, while Waitrose has vowed to stop using plastic for loose veggies and fruit by Spring 2019. + Co-op Via The Guardian Image via Co-op

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UK’s Co-op to ditch single-use plastic bags for biodegradable bags

New study finds glyphosate in kids’ cereals and snack bars

August 16, 2018 by  
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Bad news for anyone who likes to eat cereal, or granola bars, or anything that contains oats at all: a recent study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested 45 conventional oat products for the presence of glyphosate, and researchers found it in 43 of them.  And, of these 43 oat products, 31 had amounts of glyphosate that were far above the EWG’s Health Benchmark of safe ingestion amounts. The poisonous chemical may sound familiar since it’s the active ingredient in Roundup, the herbicide whose health risks Monsanto intentionally concealed from the public. Related: Court orders Monsanto to pay $289 million in cancer trial The World Health Organization has issued warnings about glyphosate in the past, stating as far back as 2015 that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” And yet, the majority of oat products tested for the study had glyphosate levels that exceeded 160 ppb, the maximum amount considered acceptable by the EWG. In fact, one popular brand of oats contained 1300 ppb. While organic oats did much better, 30 percent of samples using organic oats still tested positive for glyphosate, possibly due to Roundup drift from farms in the area or cross-contamination. Related: Beekeepers file a complaint against Bayer after glyphosate was discovered in honey Given the common use of oats in breakfast cereals, the study raises the possibility that millions of American children are being exposed to the dangerous chemical. “I grew up eating Cheerios and Quaker Oats long before they were tainted with glyphosate. No one wants to eat a weed killer for breakfast, and no one should have to do so,” commented Ken Cook, President of the EWG.  Calling for action on our part, he added, “it’s up to consumers to call on companies to rid their products of glyphosate.” + Environmental Working Group Via Treehugger

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New study finds glyphosate in kids’ cereals and snack bars

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