In China, a billion cockroaches are leading the fight against food waste

December 13, 2018 by  
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Warning: This story could make your skin crawl. As China’s cities continue to grow at a rapid pace, problems are arising with the country’s food waste. The Chinese population is producing so much food waste that the landfills can’t keep up, and this has led to some out-of-the-box thinking — using a billion cockroaches to take care of the problem. According to a new Reuters report , a plant outside of the city of Jinan — the capital of the eastern Shandong province — is disposing of the 50 tons of kitchen waste it receives every day by feeding the food scraps to the cockroaches. This process is not just a creative solution for food waste, but it is also providing livestock with nutritious food once the cockroaches die. Related: 5 simple ways to reduce your food waste right now “It’s like turning trash into resources,” said Shandong Qiaobin chairwoman Li Hongyi. Shandong Qiaobin Agricultural Technology runs the Jinan plant, and the company hopes to open three more plants next year, with the goal of eliminating one-third of the city’s food waste. Jinan currently has a population of around 7 million. This novel approach to urban waste starts with the waste arriving at the plant before daybreak, and then workers feed it through pipes to cockroaches in their cells. China banned the use of food waste as pig feed because of outbreaks of African swine fever. Now, this new process is encouraging the cockroach industry to grow. Shandong Qiaobin is beginning to serve as an example for others throughout China , with many people opening their own cockroach farms. Humans waste about one-third of the food produced across the globe each year — around 1.3 billion tons — and this is negatively impacting the environment as well as the economy. If the cockroach trend takes off outside of China’s borders, it could mean that these little pests will be soldiers on the frontline of the global war against food waste. Via Reuters Image via Shutterstock

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In China, a billion cockroaches are leading the fight against food waste

Luxembourg will be the first country to offer all public transportation for free

December 10, 2018 by  
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Luxembourg — a small, landlocked European country that borders Belgium, Germany and France — is going to be the first country on Earth to have completely free public transportation . The newly re-elected Xavier Bettel and a coalition government will lift the fares on all of the public trains, trams and buses starting in Summer 2019. The country’s capital, Luxembourg City, is small but has some of the worst traffic congestion in the world. It has a population of about 110,000, but more than 400,000 additional commuters from neighboring countries travel into the city each day for work. Related: Estonia will soon offer free public transportation The traffic jams aren’t just in the capital. The entire country (which is only 999 square miles) is home to approximately 600,000 people, but another 200,000 people cross the Luxembourg border every day to get to work. Free public transportation will begin next summer, and it will continue Luxembourg’s progressive approach to transport. This year, it started offering free transportation to everyone under the age of 20. Secondary school students can also ride free shuttles between school and home. Currently, all other commuters pay a little over two dollars for up to two hours of travel . Since the country is small, that fare covers just about every commute. But by 2020, all tickets will be abolished. There is still some work to do on the policy, because the government has yet to figure out a plan for the first- and second-class train compartments. Still, it is a step in the right direction to reduce the country’s carbon footprint. Via The Guardian Image via Rubentje01

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Luxembourg will be the first country to offer all public transportation for free

Twenty aims to dramatically reduce the waste of household products

November 28, 2018 by  
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Dubai Design Week — an annual event celebrating and promoting design and creativity — took place earlier this month, with imaginative minds from all over the world competing for the coveted Progress Prize at the Global Grad Show. This year’s winner, Twenty, sets out to cut down the environmental costs of packaging and shipping household products, like shampoos or cleaners, by offering dry capsules and reusable containers — just add water , and the items are ready for use. Considered to be the largest creative festival in the Middle East, Dubai Design Week takes place at venues throughout the city, with the central hub of the festival being in the Dubai Design District. The competition’s coveted Progress Prize celebrates the next generation of design talent while recognizing the impact of design on society and the environment . Related: How to decode confusing labels on common household cleaners This year, the competition announced Twenty — designed by Mirjam de Bruijn from the Design Academy Eindhoven in The Netherlands — as the winner of the Progress Prize for a collection of dehydrated household products designed to reduce waste and unnecessary emissions by eliminating water content. Judges chose Twenty from 150 selections that came from all over the world, which they then shortlisted to 11 finalists. Since most everyday cleaning products contain at least 80 percent water, Twenty proposes to eliminate the waste and simplify production and transportation with a capsule that you can put into a bottle, add water and then shake to create a cleaning liquid that is just as effective as a store-bought option. “I designed Twenty for people like myself who really want to be sustainable but also have busy lives and need products that are simple, economical, easy to use and fit into their lifestyle,” said de Bruijn. She added that she wants Twenty to be the new standard in household cleaning products, and she is working closely with the university to refine the product while talking to producers and retailers to adopt the perfect strategy for bringing it to market. Brendan McGetrick, the director and curator of the Global Grad Show, said that Twenty is exceptional because it is based on a smart analysis of something that we all need and take for granted. + Twenty Images via Twenty

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Twenty aims to dramatically reduce the waste of household products

A remote, off-grid cabin is elevated off the forest floor with log columns

November 15, 2018 by  
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Panama-based architect Jose Isturaín (JiA) has built a beautiful tiny cabin tucked into a remote, mountainous area in Panama. With the help of local builders as well as his own family, Isturaín constructed Cabin 192 atop pine columns to elevate the glass-enclosed structure off the landscape to reduce its environmental impact . Located in Altos del María, a mountainous region about two hours outside of Panama City, the cabin is the first structure of what will eventually be a family retreat consisting of a main house and three individual cabins. Tucked deep into a wooded forest, the idyllic area offers a serene respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. Related: A cluster of wooden cabins create a serene weekend retreat in Norway Working with local builders, as well as his family and friends, Isturaín envisioned a cabin that would “transmit the peace and tranquility that simplicity offers, an elementary architecture.” Accordingly, he decided to forgo any type of ostentatious design, instead opting for an off-grid cabin  that would put preserving the natural landscape at the forefront of the project. The cabin’s frame was built from  reclaimed pine wood beams and columns felled on site. Pine trees are not native to the area, so the decision was made to use this wood for the cabins and a perimeter fence. The team reforested the surrounding area with native species that would help provide shade to the home and improve the local environment. Using the basics of tropical architecture, Isturaín designed the tiny cabin to not only be off-grid, but also resilient to the local climate . Raising the main living space off the ground certainly helped to preserve the natural landscape underneath. But by elevating the home off of the natural soil, it also helped keep the tropical humidity at bay. The roof is covered with a slanted metal mooring structure that juts out substantially over the cabin’s perimeter, a strategic feature that will help cool the interior space during the hot and humid summer months. The ground floor of the  cabin is actually an open, 226-square-foot space with no walls, just pine columns that mark the perimeter. The covered, open-air living area has a small kitchenette, dining table and ample seating, the perfect space for family gatherings. The bedroom and bathroom are located on the upper floor, which is a very compact 387 square feet. Large floor-to-ceiling windows illuminate the space with natural light . Facing out over the surrounding forest, large sliding doors open completely, further connecting the structure with its forested surroundings. + JiA Via Archdaily Photography by Alfredo Martiz and Nadine Sam via JiA

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A remote, off-grid cabin is elevated off the forest floor with log columns

A gloomy house is revived as a modern solar home built of recycled materials

November 8, 2018 by  
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A dark and gloomy, non-insulated dwelling with zero views to speak of has been dramatically transformed into a bright and sustainable home thanks to the work of local architecture studio Urban Creative . Flanked by 6-meter-tall walls and set on a long and narrow lot in inner Melbourne , 2 Halves Make a Home is a three-bedroom family residence that comprises two structures centered on a light-filled courtyard that allows daylight to penetrate deep into the living areas. Bricks sourced from the original decrepit structure were recycled for the construction of the new home, which features repurposed and sustainable materials throughout, from low-VOC finishes to a solar photovoltaic system and green wall. Faced with a site only 5.5 meters in width, the architects knew that access to the outdoors and light were crucial to making the family residence feel comfortably spacious. To that end, a courtyard was inserted along with walls of operable double-pane glass that blur the line between indoors and out. In addition to allowing natural light to enter the home, the courtyard also promotes passive cross ventilation while the full-height glazing and adjacent masonry party walls help capture early morning solar gain for passive heating in winter. “The original brick party wall has been uncovered and cleaned back to expose its rich warmth throughout the main axis of the dwelling,” the architects explained. “Not only does this avoid the use of new materials to construct this facade, but both dwellings on either side of the party wall serve to insulate each other.” Related: Samurai-inspired home keeps naturally cool in Melbourne Aside from the renovated brick wall and reclaimed brick used for the ground-floor facade, other recycled materials were used wherever possible. Reclaimed timber was used from the stairs and floorboards to the repurposed internal solid timber doors and timber shelves in the living room. Instead of replacing the ground floor structural slab, the architects polished the concrete and added a hydronic heating system. Low-VOC materials and finishes, like Tadelakt — a Moroccan rendering technique based on lime plaster and olive oil soap — promote a healthy indoor living environment. The house is also equipped with a solar array and a rainwater harvesting system. + Urban Creative Photography by Jessie May via Urban Creative

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A gloomy house is revived as a modern solar home built of recycled materials

Progress update from Bob Bennett, CIO of Kansas City, on its bold smart city initiative

November 5, 2018 by  
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Bob Bennet, the chief innovation officer of the city of Kansas City, embarked on the ambitious project to “smarten” up Kansas City a few years ago, and he came to VERGE to discuss it then. He came back this year to provide a status report on the project: the city has officially launched technology aimed at engaging citizens on issues, initiatives and action.

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Progress update from Bob Bennett, CIO of Kansas City, on its bold smart city initiative

Emerging leaders and VERGE impact fellows

November 5, 2018 by  
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Emerging leaders and VERGE impact fellows

Earthquake-resistant Christchurch Central Library is a stunning symbol of rebirth

October 26, 2018 by  
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Nearly eight years after multiple massive earthquakes ravaged the New Zealand city of Christchurch , Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects have completed the Christchurch Central Library, a “stunning symbol of hope, unity and rebirth” built on the concepts of resiliency and sustainability. Dubbed T?ranga — M?ori for “foundation” — the earthquake-resistant building also pays homage to the deep cultural heritage of Ng?i T??huriri, the local M?ori people, through various artworks as well as with a striking gold facade inspired by the shape of the local harakeke flax. The $92 million library is one of several major public projects aimed at revitalizing the city. Located at Christchurch’s historic Cathedral Square, the Christchurch Central Library spans five stories across 9,500 square meters. To protect against potential earthquakes in the future, Lewis Bradford Consulting Engineers developed a seismic force-resisting system consisting of large-scale concrete walls connected to high tensile, pre-tensioned steel cables that allow the building to sway and then return to its original position. The self-centering mechanism means that the library will sustain minimal structural damage even during large earthquake events. In addition to its earthquake-resistant properties, the building is modeled after the vernacular architecture of the Ng?i T??huriri thanks to close collaboration with the Matapopore Charitable Trust. The organization helped weave the many M?ori references into the library from the building materials to the various terraces oriented for views of significant Ng?i T??huriri landmarks like Mount Grey and Hawaiki. Schmidt Hammer Lassen drew on its extensive experience with library design to create an inviting and light-filled environment centered on a grand, staggered atrium that doubles as a social staircase and gathering space. Related: Shigeru Ban completes incredible cardboard cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand “T?ranga is the kind of multi-faceted project that layers architectural interest with significant cultural relevance,” said Morten Schmidt, founding partner at Schmidt Hammer Lassen . “It has been a privilege to design a project that not only fulfills the need for a new central library , but also one whose mission of restoring the soul of the city includes the deep cultural heritage of Ng?i T??huriri, the local M?ori people.” + Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects Photography by Adam Mørk via Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

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Earthquake-resistant Christchurch Central Library is a stunning symbol of rebirth

Indonesia accepts plastic bottles in exchange for free bus rides

October 23, 2018 by  
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Plastic waste is a huge problem in Indonesia , and this has led the country’s second-largest city to come up with a novel approach to encourage residents to recycle — free bus rides in exchange for used plastic bottles and cups. The city of Surabaya launched the initiative back in April, and commuters can ride city buses by either dropping off the plastic bottles and cups at terminals or using the plastic items to pay their fare directly. Under the new recycling initiative, a two-hour bus ticket costs up to five plastic bottles or 10 plastic cups, depending on the size. The city hopes this scheme will help it meet its target of becoming free of plastic waste by 2020. “ Garbage , like plastic bottles, piles up in my neighborhood, so I brought it here, so the environment is not only cleaner but also to help ease the workload of garbage collectors,” said Linda Rahmawat, a resident of Surabaya. Related: Indonesia mobilizes 20,000 citizens to clean up plastic pollution According to Reuters , Surabaya is the first Indonesian city to implement this program, and data show that 15 percent (nearly 400 tons) of the city’s daily waste is plastic. The data also show that one bus can collect up to 550 pounds of plastic each day, totaling about 7.5 tons each month. After collecting the plastic waste, workers remove labels and bottle caps before the plastic is sold to recycling companies. This money then goes toward bus operations and to fund urban green spaces. The head of Surabaya’s transportation department, Irvan Wahyu Drajad, said that Indonesia is one of the world’s biggest contributors of plastic waste , and the city hopes that this new system will raise public awareness for the environment and the problem of pollution. Via Reuters Image via Rudi Lansky

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Indonesia accepts plastic bottles in exchange for free bus rides

Microplastics have made their way into human poop

October 23, 2018 by  
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Each year, humans around the world produce about 882 billion pounds of plastic waste, and about 80 percent of it ends up in landfills or in the natural environment. Now, scientists are beginning to study the effects of microplastics on people, and it turns out that they are showing up in human poop after contaminating our food . Microplastics are the smallest particles of plastic waste — so small that most are invisible to the human eye. They are found in most bottled and tap water, soil and sea, rock and lake salts. Related: Study finds 90 percent of table salt contains microplastics A small pilot study being presented this week at the 26th annual United European Gastroenterology conference in Vienna, Austria looked at stool samples from eight people from eight different countries, and every sample tested positive for up to nine different types of plastic . Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna and the Environmental Agency Austria conducted the study and found an average of 20 particles of plastic per 10 grams of stool. “Personally, I did not expect that each sample would … [test] … positive,” said Dr. Philipp Schwabl of the Medical University of Vienna and lead researcher of the study. “Is it harmful to human health? That’s a very important question, and we are planning further investigations.” In this first-of-its-kind study, researchers found that all eight samples contained polypropylene and polyethylene-terephthalate particles, which both make up a majority of plastic bottles and plastic bottle caps. According to NPR , each person kept a regular diet and maintained a food diary during the week before the stool samples were collected. Everyone had been exposed to plastics via beverages in plastic bottles and foods wrapped in plastic. No participants were vegetarian , and six of the eight had consumed wild fish. Schwabl said the concern is whether or not microplastics are entering the bloodstream, the lymphatic system and possibly the liver. In studies of animals, microplastics have caused intestinal damage and liver stress. Now that this initial study has shown we are ingesting microplastics, two questions remain: what is staying in our bodies rather than leaving as waste, and what impact will the microplastics have on our health ? Schwabl said that he and his colleagues are applying for funding for a larger study, so they can attempt to replicate their findings. Via  NPR Image via Shutterstock

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Microplastics have made their way into human poop

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