Panda Express introduces vegan options

March 14, 2019 by  
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Good news for suburban vegans and those who find themselves trapped in airports or mini-malls: The Chinese fast food chain Panda Express has added its first vegan entrees. Vegan diners at all 2,000 locations can soon safely chow down on Panda Express’ chow mein and eggplant tofu. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ( PETA ) has long been chipping away at Panda Express’ resistance to offering any dishes sans chicken broth or animal-derived seasoning. Supporters of the animal rights group contacted Panda Express 234,000 times about adding vegan menu entrees. But ultimately it was Vegan Outreach’s 5,000-signature petition that coaxed Panda Express into taking the chicken broth out of the chow mein. In February, the Chinese chain adopted reformulated recipes for its eggplant tofu and chow mein. Other vegan options now include spring rolls, a super green side of kale, cabbage and broccoli and vegan brown and white rice. However, as the restaurants use up old inventory, they might still be serving non-vegan versions through March. Vegans also shouldn’t expect separate cooking surfaces anytime soon. “While seemingly small, this change by Panda Express will make a big impact,” Taylor Radig, campaigns and social media manager of Vegan Outreach , told VegNews . “Not only will the chain expand its customer base to include vegans, but it will also contribute less to animal suffering by using more plant-based ingredients.” Panda Express now joins a growing list of fast-food chains that have added vegan options, including Taco Bell, Panera Bread and Carl’s Jr. Vegan Outreach, founded in 1993, introduced the petition as part of its work to end violence toward animals . According to the nonprofit’s website, “We focus on reaching the people who are motivated enough to make changes now — of which there are always many in our target audience who just need some additional encouragement.” Some of these folks might not be ready to venture into a vegan raw food restaurant, but they may be willing to try Panda Express’ eggplant tofu and chow mein. + Panda Express Via VegNews Images via Rick Obst and Willis Lam

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These 5 animals are being consumed into extinction

March 12, 2019 by  
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Humans have a long history of wiping out animal populations, and we continue to do so even to this day. According to a new study published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, people around the world are eating hundreds of animal species into extinction. If we don’t make some changes, the authors of the study warn that the food security of hundreds of millions of people could be threatened. Currently, we are in the middle of mass extinction that rivals the wiping out of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. But this time, it isn’t a giant meteorite doing all the damage — it’s humans. Over the past century, we have accelerated extinction rates 100 hundred times greater than what would naturally occur without human impact. As we continue to destroy habitats with construction and invade wild areas for hunting, 301 species of land mammals are now critically endangered and have made their way to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. The list includes 168 primates, 73 hoofed animals, 27 bats, 26 marsupials, 21 rodent species and 12 carnivores. There are also 1,414 species of fish on the Red List. “There are plenty of bad things affecting wildlife around the world, and habitat loss and degradation are clearly at the forefront, but among the other things is the seemingly colossal impact of bushmeat hunting,” said David MacDonald, professor at the University of Oxford and part of the international research team. Bushmeat is a traditional food source for rural people in societies across the globe. That is starting to change because of large-scale commercial hunting and road construction in remote areas. MacDonald said that the number of hunters continues to increase, and the roads are being built in the most remote places, so there is no place left for wildlife to go. Not only does this mass extinction threaten food security, but it also upsets ecosystems. To reverse this problem, the researchers in this new study have a few ideas. They recommend greater legal protection for the endangered species, empowering local communities to prioritize wildlife conservation , providing alternative foods and family planning to reduce the rate of population growth. The list of endangered animals is long, but here are a few highlights. Bluefin tuna One of the fastest fish on Earth, bluefin tuna can hit speeds around 40 miles per hour when they are hunting, can grow up to 15 feet long and weigh as much as 1500 pounds. However, with the growing demand for sushi, overfishing is becoming a huge problem, and the bluefin tuna numbers are dropping. Related: Endangered bluefin tuna sold for $3.1 billion to sushi tycoon Whale shark The largest fish in the sea, the whale shark has been on the critically endangered list for three years, because the population has dropped more than 50 percent in the last 75 years thanks to both legal and illegal fishing. According to National Geographic, fishing for whale sharks is extremely lucrative, because they can be “harvested for their meat, fins and other parts used in traditional medicinal products.” Of course, they are also in great demand for shark fin soup. Pangolin These nocturnal mammals have keratin scales, emit a harmful chemical like skunks and eat ants and termites. In Africa, they are a major source of food and medicine, but in China and Vietnam, they are a delicacy. This has led to the pangolin becoming the most trafficked animal in the world. Related: Zimbabwe hopes to bring attention to trafficking endangered species with the Pangolin Project There is an international trade ban on all pangolin species, but this has only resulted in rising prices as the population declines. Chinese giant salamander As the largest amphibian on Earth, the Chinese giant salamander has been around for more than 170 million years, and it can grow to be 6 feet long and weigh over 100 pounds. The species is currently on the critically endangered list, because it is a Chinese delicacy. It is also used in traditional Chinese medicine. In just three generations, the population has plummeted by 80 percent. Sturgeon With fossil records dating back 200 million years, we know that sturgeon have survived two — maybe three — mass extinctions . This time, the species might not be so lucky. The beluga sturgeon is being overfished, because the eggs are needed for caviar. They take 20 years to reach maturity, but we are killing them to harvest the eggs at massive rates. You can learn more about the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species on the organization’s website. Images via Danilo Cedrone / UN Food and Agriculture Organization , Aruro de Frias Marques , A.J.T. Johnsingh / WWF-India , Petr Hamerník , USFWS and National Marine  Sanctuary

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These 5 animals are being consumed into extinction

China closes Mount Everest base camp after overwhelming trash problem reports

February 22, 2019 by  
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China is taking steps to clean up Mount Everest amid growing concerns about trash accumulation. The base camp at the foot of the world’s tallest mountain is officially closed to tourists until further notice. The closure of the base camp comes after a surprising report from the Tibet Autonomous Region Sports Bureau, which claims it has picked up over 8 tons of trash from the site, including human waste and general garbage, last year alone. It is unclear when the base camp will open to tourists. Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 “[N]o unit or individuals are allowed entry into the core area of the Mount Qomolangma National Nature Reserve,” local officials posted in Tibet . Qomolangma is what Tibetans call Everest. The notices were originally posted last December, though the closure is only now getting attention from media outlets around the world. Climbers can still gain access to Everest via China but not without a special permit. The country plans to issue around 300 permits in 2019. Tourists can also visit Everest, they just cannot reach the mountain through China. Anyone can still reach the north face of Everest via the Rongbuk Monastery, which is located around a mile from the main base camp. Trash buildup around the base of Everest has become a major issue over the past few years. China and Nepal have both initiated programs to deal with removing trash from the site, including encouraging climbers to take their garbage with them when they leave base camp. China, for example, has started to fine climbers who do not come off the mountain with their waste, while Nepal charges $4,000 for a refundable garbage deposit. Despite the efforts to curb trash accumulation, only about 50 percent of climbers came off the mountain with the minimum trash requirement. Although the majority of climbers reach Everest by way of Nepal, 40,000 visitors made their way to the Chinese base camp in 2015. China has not announced when it plans to reopen its base camp on the foot of Mount Everest. Via EcoWatch Image via Shutterstock

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China closes Mount Everest base camp after overwhelming trash problem reports

Toxic smog causes school closures in Bangkok

January 31, 2019 by  
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Officials in Bangkok have closed schools for the rest of the week amid growing concerns of toxic smog . The Ministry of Education in Thailand announced the closing of around 450 schools in Bangkok and the surrounding area this week as the government tries to deal with a massive pollution problem. The air quality in the city of Bangkok has dipped to unacceptable levels. The amount of dust particles — also referred to as PM2.5 — deemed dangerous to health has far exceeded acceptable standards. This fine particulate matter is hazardous to health , because it is tiny enough to enter the body and do considerable damage to organs. Related: Scientists find air pollution leads to a significant decline in cognition According to The Guardian , the massive amount of pollution is caused by poor construction standards, car exhaust, factory fumes and crop burning. The pollution is so large in scale that it is unable to escape the city, leaving people trapped in a toxic environment. To combat the situation, residents in Bangkok have been wearing respirator masks to avoid inhaling the fine particles. The government, which has been under considerable criticism for not actively fighting pollution , has attempted to make it rain in the city by seeding clouds. The rain helps fight pollution by trapping the toxic particles. Officials have also sprayed water in strategic locations to help decrease the amount of dangerous particles in the air . Residents have been avoiding burning incense, which is a popular activity over the Chinese New Year. Despite their efforts, authorities were forced to close down 437 schools in Bangkok. They also declared a “control area” around the city that is over 580 square miles in size. Officials hope that closing schools will help alleviate some of the traffic and reduce vehicle emissions. “The situation will be bad until February 3 to 4, so I decided to close schools,” Aswin Kwanmuang, the governor of Bangkok, shared. School authorities plan to look at the situation next week to determine if the closing should be extended. The air quality index in Bangkok was measured at 171 this week, which is the highest it has been in more than a year. Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Brilliant home made out of cascading concrete planter boxes grows more than 40 types of edible plants

January 31, 2019 by  
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Built for a retired couple who loves to grow their own food, this home design by Kuala Lumpur-based firm FormZero is comprised of several concrete blocks planted with more than 40 types of edible plants on every floor. With various patio spaces that double as mini home gardens , the Planter Box House oscillates between garden, farm and living space. The home’s overall design was heavily influenced by Kuala Lumpur’s vernacular. Being that the area is a tropical region, the homes are often built with split bamboo, a practice that goes back to the area’s indigenous people. By using bamboo as form work for the concrete cladding, the architects not only paid homage to the local history and culture, but ensured a durable design that would last years. Using the two durable and low-maintenance materials added extra resilience to the design so that the three-story home could withstand heavy rain storms and local pollution. Related: Giant bamboo planters protect a Ho Chi Minh City home from the sun and rain In addition to the home’s resilient features, the architects worked closely with the homeowners to create a design that would enable the couple to grow their own food . Accordingly, the design is a 3,650 square feet building that spans over three stories, with every level outfitted with various concrete planters that provide ample space for growing a variety of plants. A custom-made irrigation system, a joint endeavor between the couple and the architects, enables the boxes to store and reuse rainwater. The cascading design was a strategic feature that helps each box enjoy optimal natural light , but also adds a system of natural air ventilation throughout the interior. On every floor of the home, large sliding glass doors that lead out to the balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows create a strong connection to the exterior. All-white walls and minimal furnishings, along with the abundance of greenery, will allow the homeowners to enjoy a healthy, self-sufficient lifestyle as they age. + FormZero Via Archdaily Photography by Ameen Deen via FormZer

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Brilliant home made out of cascading concrete planter boxes grows more than 40 types of edible plants

Budweiser’s Super Bowl LIII commercial focuses on renewable energy

January 31, 2019 by  
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Millions of fans and spectators around the world are expected to watch Super Bowl LIII this Sunday, and with secured viewers accounted for, Budweiser has gone above and beyond to announce its commitment to renewable energy in the best way possible — a Super Bowl commercial. Last year, the popular beer company announced its commitment to using 100 percent renewable electricity from wind power to brew its beer. Sticking to its promises, the company decided to focus on that effort in this year’s commercial entitled “Wind Never Felt Better” and showcase its iconic Budweiser Clydesdale with wind turbines accompanied by Bob Dylan’s classic song “Blowin’ in the Wind” as the soundtrack. “Super Bowl is one of the most exciting times of the year for our team, and people all over the country,” said Ricardo Marques, VP of marketing core and value brands at Anheuser-Busch. “Those who wait for the best commercials all year expect Budweiser to show up big, and we felt there was no better way to show up this year than to talk about our commitment to Renewable Electricity.” Related: Anheuser-Busch orders 800 hydrogen-electric semi trucks from Tesla competitor Nikola Marques added that Budweiser is proud to be the first brand in the Anheuser-Busch family — as well as the first major beer brand in the world — to be brewed with 100 percent renewable electricity from wind power and hopes to inspire others to follow in their footsteps. In addition to the commercial, Budweiser is also emphasizing the importance of its commitment to renewables by donating clean electricity to the city of Atlanta for Super Bowl week. As the largest city in the south, Atlanta has been at the forefront of building a clean energy blueprint and Budweiser’s donations to the city align with the overall goal of reducing an environmental impact. By doing its part, Budweiser is hoping to inspire communities to adopt clean electricity . It is also teaming up with Drift, a leader in clean electricity, to offer a one-month free trial of a green plan as a thank you for signing up. + Anheuser-Busch Image via Shutterstock

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Budweiser’s Super Bowl LIII commercial focuses on renewable energy

The ozone is finally healing and could be completely repaired by 2060

November 7, 2018 by  
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Finally, some good news about the environment. Earlier this week, the United Nations announced in a report that the ozone layer is on the mend. If the current recovery rate continues, parts of the ozone could be fully repaired by the 2030s. The entire layer — even the highly damaged parts over the North Pole and South Pole — could be completely healed by 2060. The study, Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 2018 , monitors ozone recovery, and it is the latest in a series of reports that the UN releases every four years. This year, it shows that the ozone has been recovering at a steady rate of 1 to 3 percent since 2000 because of the global efforts made to reduce CFCs and other ozone-depleting chemicals. Related: Levels of ozone-destroying CFCs are mysteriously rising Over the past few decades, humans have done significant damage to the ozone layer, which protects life on Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. But through global agreements like the 1987 Montreal Protocol, we have made huge steps toward healing it. The protocol mandated that countries phase out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone-depleting chemicals. The EPA has described it as the most successful environmental global action in history, with 197 countries signing the agreement. “If ozone-depleting substances had continued to increase, we would have seen huge effects. We stopped that,” said Paul Newman, a NASA scientist and co-chairman of the new UN report. Newman added that if we hadn’t made these changes, two-thirds of the ozone layer would have been destroyed by 2065. Scientists have cautioned against claiming victory too soon. Banned CFC emissions are increasing in China , but the Chinese government has promised to fix the problem. Newman said we need to wait until 2060, and let our grandchildren do the celebrating. Still, these recent findings could help contribute to future climate action. In 2019, the Montreal Protocol is set to be enhanced with the Kigali Amendment, which hopes to tackle climate change by targeting greenhouse gases used in air conditioning and refrigeration. + Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 2018 Via Huffington Post Image via Shutterstock

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The ozone is finally healing and could be completely repaired by 2060

MAD brings a surreal sports campus that mimics a green, martian landscape to China

October 5, 2018 by  
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Architect Ma Yansong and his Beijing-based firm MAD Architects ’ surreal designs often look as though they come from outer space — and the new masterplan for the Quzhou Sports Campus in China is no different. The massive development just broke ground in the historic Chinese city in Zhejiang province and will bring with it an undulating green landscape with mixed programming. Inspired by the traditional Chinese painting style called ‘shan shui,’ MAD Architects conceived a park-like setting with green roofs draped over buildings to mimic mountains and waterways. The first and second phases of the Quzhou Sports Campus will span a little over half of the development’s total size and include a 30,000-seat stadium , a 10,000-seat gymnasium, a 2,000-seat natatorium, a national sports complex, an outdoor sports venue, a science and technology museum, a hotel, a youth center and various retail spaces. The large heft of these buildings will be hidden under an undulating green landscape that the architects liken to an “earth-art landscape in the center of the city — a poetic landscape that falls somewhere between that of Earth and Mars.” The Quzhou Sports Campus is ringed with a dense forest that hides the martian landscape and adds to its mysterious nature. At the heart of the park is a lake that serves as a sunken garden surrounded by buildings shaped as climbable green mountains. In another example of landscape mimicry, the architects designed the stadium in the likeness of a crater that’s crowned by a translucent cloud-like “halo.” The building interiors will also reinforce a connection to the environment with ample glazing so that visitors always feel as though they are immersed in nature. Related: Futuristic “spaceship” Lucas Museum breaks ground in Los Angeles Yansong said, “We dream not only of creating an urban space about sports and ecology but also turning it into a unique land art park for the world, establishing a relationship between the city’s heritage and history of Shanshui culture.” + MAD Architects

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Historic Chinese granary is transformed into a chic mountain resort

August 27, 2018 by  
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A cluster of historic, rural Chinese buildings has been saved from the ravages of time by Shanghai-based architecture and interior design studio Ares Partners . The architects transformed six granary structures into the new MIYA | LOSTVILLA Huchen Barn Resort, an elegant and modern hotel tucked in the mountains of Ningbo’s Huchen township. Surrounded by stunning views, the sensitively restored architecture is complemented by modern furnishings and new buildings, covering a total site area of 5,430 square meters. Set between Tiantai Mountain and Siming Mountain, the old granary station was built in 1956. Five of the seven existing buildings were mainly built with stone masonry ; the lower part of the white-painted exterior featured rock stone, and the upper part was constructed with brick. The original buildings were fitted with very small windows located on the upper part of the facade. The remaining two buildings featured timber construction. The team’s goal was to preserve the architectural integrity as much as possible yet make the interiors more comfortable and inviting for human habitation. To that end, the architects stripped the white paint from the facade to reveal the beautiful stone masonry underneath and added large windows to let in more natural light and breathtaking views of the mountains. The structures were reinforced, and the utility pipes and conduits were hidden. Interior walls were inserted to create 21 guest suites. The architects also added a new building to house the reception and meeting facilities, and one of the former buildings from the 1970s was replaced with a new-build as well. Related: Schmidt Hammer Lassen wins bid to design new Ningbo Library in China “We believe the project is well accomplished to transform between two extreme opposite function spaces,” said the architects, who completed the project in 2017. “The architecture form of the new building is modern and abstract. The contemporary architecture language is yet to be respectful to the existing buildings around as well as to nature. Architecture, people and nature are in harmony.” + Ares Partners Images by Su Shengliang

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Exotic pets are most likely to be released in the wild and become invasive species

August 24, 2018 by  
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With imports of Fish and Wildlife-regulated reptiles exceeding one million individuals each year, it is no surprise that many of these animals are finding their way into the wild, where they are threatening natural ecosystems. Exotic pets can be extremely endearing and are bought at a low cost when they are babies. But when these animals get too large to handle or are cast off by wavering attention spans, they invade native ecosystems. This is the case for iguanas, Chinese water dragons and ball pythons, which have become the most commonly released pets in the wild, according to new research. The massive exotic pet trade, which isn’t fully regulated, has become the leading cause of invasive amphibians and reptiles in the wild. Whether as predatory hunters or as spreaders of “alien” diseases and pests to native populations, the discarded exotic pets are wreaking havoc that ecologists and animal control workers are endlessly working to offset. Oliver Stringham and Julie Lockwood, leading ecologists at Rutgers University in New Brunswick,  researched the prevalence of specific exotic species. The paper was published on Wednesday and cross-references attributes of species that are commonly released versus those that are typically kept by their owners. The study compared data from  citizen scientists  on numbers of species that were introduced into the wild with figures of imports and sales from online pet stores. Related: It’s finally illegal to own wild animals in the UAE In total, the researchers documented 1,722 species of reptiles and amphibians that were sold on the U.S. market between 1999 and 2016. They found that species that grow to large sizes were most likely to be released. Some of the animals also have long lifespans for pets, as in the case of the boa constrictor, which requires costly care over its 30+ year lifespan. “These species are so abundant in the pet market, they’re potentially more likely to be bought by impulsive consumers that haven’t done the proper research about care requirements with some small fraction of these consumers resorting to releasing these pets when they become difficult to care for,” Stringham said in an interview with Earther . “Even if released exotic pets fail to become established, they still cause harm to wildlife by spreading new diseases.” The effects have been catastrophic for many ecosystems . The animal trade-driven chytrid fungus plague alone has devastated amphibian populations on a global scale. In the Florida Everglades, where released exotic pets are the most prevalent, Burmese pythons and tegu lizards continuously scavenge native populations. Stringham and Lockwood hope that their research will deter importers from selling these wild animals from impulsive buyers in the future; a more likely scenario is the regulation of the amount of animals or the prices for which they are sold. Via Earther Images via Paul Hudson and Thai National Parks

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