A beer crisis is brewing in Germany as bottle recycling slows amid heatwaves

August 15, 2018 by  
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With summer still in full swing and heatwaves gripping countries around the world, breweries across  Germany have been scrambling to keep up with the beer demand from hot and thirsty customers. The brew masters have enough of the bubbly beverage to go around, but companies are running out of containers to distribute their goods as people continue drinking  beer without returning the bottles for reuse fast enough. While there are approximately 4 billion beer bottles in circulation within Germany, the demand for beer is higher than the return rate of the glass bottles. Germany is very proactive in recycling , having one of the highest recycling rates in the EU at around 50 percent, according to a Eurostat data report . Customers pay a small deposit on bottles when they buy beer from the store, which they get back when they return the empty cases. This small incentive, and a high regard for the environment, encourages customers to reuse and refill the glass bottles up to 30 times. Related: France plans to make recycled plastic bottles less expensive Greif Brewery recently told its customers to return their empty bottles, or they would have to go without beer. “We’ve had a beer bottle shortage since the middle of May,” said Christian Schuster, employee of Greif Brewery. “We can’t get hold of used ones fast enough, and ordering new ones takes time. I’m having to send my delivery guys out to look for old, empty bottles.” According to master brewer Thomas Tyrell, who heads up the Berlin plant for California’s Stone Brewing, German attitudes toward aluminum cans are contributing to the problem as much as the heat is. Most Germans believe that cans are not environmentally friendly, so they prefer glass bottles. This is not the case, he pointed out, and the cans hold the same small deposit fees as their glass counterparts. Many Germans also see drinking beer out of a can as being crass and ill-bred, but soon they may not care as many breweries struggle to put fresh beer on the shelves. Related: The world’s largest beer brewer invents low-carbon beer bubbles Meanwhile, Stone Brewing may have found the only solution to the problem. Stone opened its first brewery in Berlin two years ago — with canned beer. Manners aside, Tyrell added, “We think it’s best for the beer… there is no light ingress and, over time, there are some oxygen permeations through the lid of a bottle, which the can doesn’t have.” Any beer is good beer when there is none to be had, but with crisp and refreshing beer, Stone seems to hold a sustainable recipe for success. Via NPR Image via Kaktuslampan/Flickr

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A beer crisis is brewing in Germany as bottle recycling slows amid heatwaves

Singapore, the City in a Garden, sets an example for a green planet

August 15, 2018 by  
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Singapore has transformed itself from a hub of pollution to an environmental dream-city in the past 50 years. From afar, the country’s landscape looks like any other modern city with abounding skyscrapers etched into its skyline. On the inside however, a green heart has grown at the center of the city, spreading into the minds of its people and up the walls of its buildings. This heart was initiated by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew — often called ‘Chief Gardener’ — who pushed his imperative of a clean and green Singapore until it became reality. In the 1960s, raw sewage loaded already-polluted canals of the city-state with so much waste that they poured sludge-like  waters into the Singapore River and surrounding areas. “In the 1960s, Singapore was like any other developing country – dirty and polluted, lacking proper sanitation and facing high unemployment,” Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources for Singapore, explained in his recent address to the Global Environment Outlook 6 (GEO6) . “These challenges were particularly acute, given our constraints as a small island state with limited resources; we did not even have enough drinking water.” These problems encouraged rapid industrialization to help improve living conditions for the citizens of Singapore, but the widespread urbanization only aggravated the environmental concerns. Related: A rainforest-like green heart grows within Singapore’s Marina One Yew saw the decay as “a blighted urban jungle of concrete [that] destroys the human spirit.” He believed that “we need the greenery of nature to lift our spirits,” hence planting the first tree of many in 1963 to inspire a generation of eco-warriors into action. This has become The Singapore Story  of the ‘Biophilic City in a Garden.’ The incredible journey began with this small deed, shortly before Singapore’s separation from Malaysia. Now, the city sits at the center of architectural innovation and technological design and has become a green global powerhouse. “We merely wanted to rise above the region we found ourselves in,” Lim Liang Jim, group director of the  National Biodiversity Centre at the National Parks Board, said in an interview with UN Environment . “Lee Kuan Yew had a plan. Keep us clean. Keep us green.” The generation that pioneered this change understood that if Singapore became “a nice place to live, then people will come and invest. Then we moved up,” Jim explained. But the movement was not solely economic or aesthetic in nature. The small self-governing city-state was urged to clean up the region by Singaporeans who wanted to stay on their land. These residents launched a strenuous 30-year campaign, cleaning up pollution and creating agencies where there were none to support their cause. This lead to the inception of the National Parks Board, which decided there should be greenery and plant life everywhere people looked. The board rejected the idea of being confined to a concrete jungle and instead constructed a sustainable model for any city to follow. Part of the ongoing changes involves educating students from an early age on the importance of environmental awareness, protection and advocacy. “We are going back to history, to ensure that we build from the ground up and ensure that the youth of Singapore don’t take our 50 years of history for granted,” said Lim, who believes that history can be easily forgotten by the minds of young Singaporeans who only know the smell of fresh air and the sights of lush greenery. “[Environmentalism] has to be something that is driven by the grassroots movement, it has to become in a sense political. You can’t easily turn a nature reserve into buildings, it would require some reasoned discussion with the public. We have to make sure that the younger generation appreciates our nature and biodiversity and do not take them for granted.” Related: Giant glowing bottle walls light up Singapore for “plastic binge” awareness This is Singapore’s mission in preserving the achievements it has made while ensuring the future of its vision as an environmental champion. It believes that its citizens are entrusted a with stewardship that makes caring for common spaces second-nature. The residents built this new Singapore from the ground up, adding innovative features like the SGBioAtlas , which allows members of the public to become ‘citizen scientists’ by uploading photos of plants or animals and to the National Biodiversity Centre’s central database. Other ongoing projects include urban planning and zoning as well as policy changes and public awareness campaigns focused on a smaller carbon footprint and zero waste, among other goals. With its visionary leadership, Singapore’s long-term plan includes a phase of sustainable development found in its Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015 , which underlines improvement in sectors that include all 17 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals through 2030. “Our approach has been to build a livable and sustainable city through pragmatic policy-making based on sound economic principles and science; a focus on long-term planning and effective implementation; and the ability to mobilize popular support for the common good,” Zulkifli said. Singapore has set the standard for a clean and green future worldwide, and it looks absolutely inviting. + The Singapore Story Via UN Environment Images via Joan Campderrós-i-Canas ( 1 , 2 ), Jaafar Alnasser and Jo Sau

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Singapore, the City in a Garden, sets an example for a green planet

Historic Copenhagen post office transformed into a beautiful mixed-use hub

April 27, 2018 by  
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A historic gem in the heart of Copenhagen has been sensitively revamped to suit the modern needs of the bustling city. Årstiderne Arkitekter transformed the 18th-century former post office, known as Postgården, into a mixed-use hub with retail, showrooms, and offices, with workspaces for 800 people. Located on one of Copenhagen’s busiest shopping streets, Postgården has enjoyed a storied history as not only the first to print Danish stamps in 1851, but also as the post office of lore where the famous Hans Christian Andersen regularly picked up his mail. In recent years, however, the post office sat largely empty and its introverted facade closed the building off from the public. “The vision for the project has therefore been to open up the block and invite the public inside,” wrote the architects. “The project involved taking a well-known site in Copenhagen –originally a workplace for several hundred people– and re-establishing it as a central address for shops and offices.” Related: Derelict London post office transformed into an artisanal bakery In upgrading the 170,000-square-foot building to meet modern requirements, the architects were careful to preserve the building’s historical character and studied each room one by one. The team worked in close collaboration with specialists trained in conservation work to restore the architecture, providing a unique backdrop to the light-filled and contemporary interior design. Shops line the lower levels while offices are stacked above. + Årstiderne Arkitekter Via ArchDaily

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New refrigerator camera takes aim at food waste

August 17, 2017 by  
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We know food waste is an issue, but often it’s all too easy to forget about that bag of lettuce in the back of your refrigerator until it rots. It turns out 40 percent of the salad British families buy each year ends up in the trash – but a new refrigerator camera could help slash that waste. The Smarter FridgeCam helps people monitor expiration dates and even suggests recipes – for far less than the price of a smart refrigerator. London-based company Smarter says their FridgeCam can turn any refrigerator into a smart one for £99.99, or $129.50. The wireless FridgeCam allows users to monitor what’s in their fridge from anywhere using an app . But the product doesn’t just snap a fridge selfie. It also tracks expiration dates, notifies users when it’s time to buy more of a product, and offers recipes to help them use up food . Related: Peek inside the zero-waste kitchen of the future Smart refrigerators can cost thousands of dollars, but according to Smarter, the FridgeCam could save users as much as £400, or around $518, every year – meaning the device pays for itself in around three months. The company says their product will work with any refrigerator on the market right now, and their app works for iOS and Android. Smarter founder Christian Lane told The Guardian, “The supermarkets tell us that the way we shop has fundamentally changed. People are shopping little and often and using different shops. The more we developed and trialed this technology, the more we found that it could not just help reduce food waste but it also encourages people to shop in a smarter and more efficient way.” The FridgeCam is currently available for pre-order here . It’s slated for a September launch, and Smarter says free shipping is available for the United Kingdom and United States. + Smarter FridgeCam Via The Guardian Images via Smarter Facebook

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New refrigerator camera takes aim at food waste

Germany’s environmental ministry nixes meat, fish at official functions

February 24, 2017 by  
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The German equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency is saying yes to sauerkraut, no to bratwurst—officially, at least. Barbara Hendricks, minister for the environment, announced last week that the Umweltbundesamt , Germany’s federal environmental arm, will serve neither meat nor fish at state events. She cited as a reason the inordinate environmental burden they pose on the environment, especially in the case of livestock farming, which studies show generate more greenhouse-gas emissions than transportation. This isn’t a novel stance for the ministry. In 2009, the Umweltbundesamt counseled Germans to return to the prewar tradition of eating meat only on special occasions, if not for their health, then for the sake of the planet. “We must rethink our high meat consumption,” said then–environment minister Andreas Troge. “I recommend people return to the Sunday roast and to an orientation of their eating habits around those of Mediterranean countries.” A nation that offers hundreds of varieties of sausage may not be so easily swayed, however. Germans consume a lot of meat—about 60 kilograms (132 pounds) per capita per year, according to some estimates . Unsurprisingly, Henrick’s pronouncement has already drawn criticism, with one political rival accusing the minister of “nanny-statism” and forcing vegetarianism on people. “I’m not having this Veggie Day through the back door,” said Christian Schmidt, minister of food and agriculture. “I believe in diversity and freedom of choice, not nanny-statism and ideology. Instead of paternalism and ideology. Meat and fish are also part of a balanced diet.” A member of Bavaria’s conservative Christian Social Union party, Schmidt previously called for a ban on giving meat substitutes names like “vegetarian schnitzel” and “vegetarian sausage” because they are “completely misleading and unsettle consumers.” Infographic: The true environmental cost of eating meat He also censured German schools for eliminating pork from the menu out of consideration for Muslim students. “We should not restrict the choice for the majority of society for reasons of ease or cost,” he said. Meanwhile, Hendricks’s detractors have dismissed her a hypocrite, since meat and fish will still be offered in the staff cafeteria. “The ban only applies to a handful of guests, not to 1,200 employees,” said Gitta Conneman, a senior minister from the Christian Democratic Union. “This is pure ideology, a ‘people’s education’ for the diet.” But, at least for now, the environment ministry isn’t budging. “We’re not telling anyone what they should eat,” it said in a statement. “But we want to set a good example for climate protection, because vegetarian food is more climate-friendly than meat and fish.” Via ThinkProgress Photos by Marco Verch and Oliver Hallmann

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Duke University researchers use light to convert carbon dioxide to fuel

February 24, 2017 by  
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What if the carbon dioxide building up in our atmosphere could be put to good use as fuel ? For years chemists have chased a catalyst that could aid the reaction converting carbon dioxide to methane , a building block for many fuels – and now Duke University scientists have found just such a catalyst in tiny rhodium nanoparticles . Duke University researchers converted carbon dioxide into methane with the help of rhodium nanoparticles, which harness ultraviolet light’s energy to catalyze carbon dioxide’s conversion into methane. Rhodium is one of Earth’s rarest elements, but according to Duke University it plays a key role in our daily lives by speeding up reactions in industrial processes like making detergent or drugs. Rhodium also helps break down toxic pollutants in our cars’ catalytic converters. Related: Scientists create a new kind of matter called time crystals The fact that the scientists employed light to power the reaction is important. When graduate student Xiao Zhang tried heating up the nanoparticles to 300 degrees Celsius, the reaction did produce methane but also produced an equal amount of poisonous carbon monoxide . But when he instead used a high-powered ultraviolet LED lamp, the reaction yielded almost entirely methane. Jie Liu, chemistry professor and paper co-author, said in a statement, “The fact that you can use light to influence a specific reaction pathway is very exciting. This discovery will really advance the understanding of catalysis.” The scientists now hope to find a way to employ natural sunlight in the reaction, which Duke University says would be “a potential boon to alternative energy .” The journal Nature Communications published the research of seven scientists from Duke University’s chemistry and physics departments online this week. Via Duke University Images via Chad Scales/Duke University and Xiao Zhang/Duke University

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Malia Obama attends Dakota Access Pipeline protest

January 31, 2017 by  
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Her father may have left the Oval Office, but 18-year-old Malia Obama’s work has just begun. The former First Daughter attended a Dakota Access Pipeline protest at the Sundance Film Festival to show solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. She joined protesters the same day President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum to start moving forward with the contested oil pipeline . Malia is planning to attend Harvard University this fall after a gap year, and reportedly obtained an internship with producer Harvey Weinstein recently. But she took the time to join an event expressing support for the Standing Rock Sioux, as it appears the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline won’t be ending anytime soon. Related: Trump signs executive actions to reinstate Keystone and Dakota Access Pipeline In his last press conference, President Barack Obama said he didn’t think his daughters would pursue careers in politics , but did indicate they might be involved in social issues. He said, “I think that they have, in part through osmosis, in part through dinnertime conversations, appreciated the fact that this is a big, complicated country, and democracy is messy and it doesn’t always work exactly the way you might want…But if you’re engaged and you’re involved, then there are a lot more good people than bad in this country, and there’s a core decency to this country, and that they got to be a part of lifting that up. And I expect they will be. And in that sense, they are representative of this generation that makes me really optimistic.” Author Joshua Kendall, who’s written about presidents parenting, told The Christian Science Monitor First Children have spoken out on issues in the past, and Malia “is firmly in that tradition.” President Jimmy Carter’s daughter Amy participated in marches and was once arrested at an anti-Central Intelligence Agency demonstration. President Gerald Ford’s son Michael said Richard Nixon should confess his role in Watergate before his father pardoned Nixon. Via Grist and The Christian Science Monitor Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Malia Obama attends Dakota Access Pipeline protest

Quirky Pinocchio-themed museum looks like it came out of Geppetto’s workshop

November 23, 2016 by  
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This unusual complex occupies a irregularly-shaped piece of land located on the outskirts of north eastern Seoul. The client, an avid collector of Pinocchio dolls and artifacts from around the world, and owner of a private kindergarden , commissioned Moon Hoon to design a museum and galleries where her Pinocchio collections and related collections and designs could be enjoyed and experienced by kids and adults alike. Three buildings house different programs, and are organized around a nice grassed inner courtyard dominated by a sky-train, a pond, and large Pinocchio statue. Related: Enchanting fairytale museum will pay homage to Hans Christian Andersen The first building is inspired by the whale scene in the story. The curvilinear layout of the building references the whale and the wave, leaving very narrow crawl space between large and small stepped seats to enhance a sense of adventure. The open, concave crater-like space becomes an extension of the interior when the weather permits. The second building is where large character dolls and accompanying tables and seats are exhibited. A curved, high ceiling auditorium functions as a venue for different shows and performances. The third building features a water fountain that provides active sound and movements to the still environment. The balcony in the second floor can be opened on both sides to provide views of the neighboring forest. + Moon Hoon Via Archdaily

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Quirky Pinocchio-themed museum looks like it came out of Geppetto’s workshop

$20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPrize aims to turn CO2 emissions into useful products

July 28, 2016 by  
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A new contest launched in September 2015 aims to fund projects that convert carbon dioxide waste into useful technologies and products. This year, 47 entrants from seven countries around the world are competing for the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPrize to develop their product. The competitors include university students, startups, and unlikely contenders such as a father and son team and a high school group. The products they’ve managed to create from CO2 thus far range from concrete and carbon nanotubes to biodegradable plastic and fish food. The contest is being overseen by an advisory board of experts in chemical and biological engineering, energy and sustainability, and public policy . The competition involves three rounds that will take place over the course of four and a half years – in the first round, each submitted project will be judged for its technical and business viability. The competing technologies will be tested in one of two tracks, at either a coal power plant or natural gas facility to demonstrate their capabilities. Related: X Prize Announced to Save Oceans from Deadly Acidification and Rising CO2 Levels In October 2016, up to 15 semifinalists in each track will be announced, and teams can begin to demonstrate their technologies in a testing environment. In the second round, each team will have a chance to demonstrate their project in action in a controlled environment. Up to 5 teams from each track will be selected to split a $2.5 million milestone prize and move up to Round 3. The final round will pose the ultimate test to entrants, involving a demonstration of the technology under real-world conditions. There will be one grand prize winner in each track, awarded a $7.5 million grand prize each. The contest is one of the many initiatives of the XPrize Foundation , a nonprofit organization dedicated to solving the world’s largest challenges through this type of large-scale competition. Other active competitions include projects to develop artificial intelligence, fully explore the world’s oceans, help improve adult literacy rates, create open source education software, develop a sci-fi style “tricorder” that can monitor and diagnose illness, and create low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. + NRG COSIA Carbon XPrize Images via  Phil Richards  and  Bjørn Christian Finbråten

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$20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPrize aims to turn CO2 emissions into useful products

New California science center regulates solar gain with an arc of perforated screens

July 15, 2016 by  
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The energy-efficient building includes various sustainable features, including a stormwater retention system, a light-colored “cool roof”, and custom perforated stainless steel screens that reduce solar heat gain while allowing natural light to filter in. Related: Eastern Michigan University’s New Science Center Reaches for LEED Silver As a valuable addition to the campus, the facility aims to accommodate the university’s rapidly growing interdisciplinary science program that unifies Christian values with state-of-the-art technology. University President Bob Brower said the 36,000-square-foot facility “will enable the science program to reach new heights and support the continued success of our PLNU science faculty and students.” + Carrier Johnson + CULTURE + Point Loma Nazarene University Photos by Marcus Emerson , courtesy Point Loma Nazarene University

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New California science center regulates solar gain with an arc of perforated screens

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