Starbucks suspends personal cup use because of coronavirus

March 6, 2020 by  
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Starbucks is putting public health first until the coronavirus situation improves. The coffee giant has announced a decision to temporarily suspend its practice of refilling people’s personal cups as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread. Because Starbucks is a popular place to socialize, with more than 30,000 stores worldwide, executives recognize the importance of being proactive in fighting the viral spread. Thus they’re opting for disposable cups indefinitely. “We are optimistic this will be a temporary situation,” Rossann Williams, president of Starbucks-operated businesses in the U.S. and Canada, said in an open letter on the company’s website. Related: This giant Cup Monster wants Starbucks to use recyclable cups In 1985, Starbucks began giving customers a discount if they brought in their own personal cups. The program became more formalized in 2008, when the company set a goal of serving 25% of all beverages in either personal or “for here” cups by 2015. Starbucks failed to track “for here” use and eventually revised the goal to concentrate on more people bringing in personal tumblers. Starbucks will still give customers a 10-cent discount for bringing in a personal cup or asking for a “for here” cup during the suspension, but all drinks will be served in the single-use paper or plastic cups. Other coronavirus prevention strategies include increased sanitizing and cleaning of all company-operated stores, restricting both domestic and international business-related air travel through March 31 and postponing or modifying meetings for U.S. and Canada offices. Starbucks is also training employees on dealing with the virus . “We have provided scenario-based procedural information to our store teams on how to report and support anyone that may express they’ve been impacted by the virus, including store closure decision making support,” Williams said. For now, the suspension of the personal cup program is indefinite. As new developments unfold in the epidemic, Starbucks will modify its response. Williams said, “We will continue to communicate with transparency and act courageously and responsibly to ensure the health and well-being of our partners and customers.” Still, if you need your morning coffee, the most sustainable, cheapest and healthiest option is to brew it at home. + Starbucks Via CNN Image via Quan Le

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Starbucks suspends personal cup use because of coronavirus

LEED Gold-certified Azurmendi crowned Worlds Most Sustainable Restaurant

March 6, 2020 by  
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Three-star Michelin restaurant Azurmendi has once again been crowned the “World’s Most Sustainable Restaurant” by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Noteworthy for its renewable energy systems that offset the building’s carbon footprint, the LEED Gold -certified restaurant has also distinguished itself as a leader of sustainable development with its proactive community role in encouraging knowledge-sharing and a circular economy. Located in Spain near the town of Bilbao, Azurmendi is also currently working on a germplasm bank to host over 400 local seed varieties of vegetables to show the importance of preserving genetic diversity.  Helmed by owners Eneko Atxa and Gorka Izagirre, Azurmendi was developed with the belief that all parts of the restaurant’s operations should be holistically considered, from the land it sits on to the surrounding Basque cultural heritage. Completed in 2010, the bioclimatic building was designed to minimize site impact and incorporate local and recycled materials as well as cutting-edge renewable energy systems. In addition to being recognized as the World’s Most Sustainable Restaurant by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2014 and 2018, Azurmendi also earned LEED Gold certification and is the first sustainable restaurant of its kind on the Iberian Peninsula. Related: Eco-friendly Brae restaurant and retreat targets net-zero energy in Australia Along with adherence to passive solar conditions to minimize energy usage, Azurmendi is equipped with highly efficient insulation, energy-efficient fixtures and high-performance glass that improves energy savings by 50%. The building draws power from photovoltaic solar panels as well as geothermal energy, which is used to power the climate control systems. Rainwater is collected and stored in tanks large enough to cover 100% of irrigation and toilet needs. To further reduce its carbon footprint, the owners planted 700 native trees around the restaurant. They have also joined an initiative promoted by the City of Larrabetzu to recycle all of the restaurant’s organic waste into compost that is then used by local farmers to fertilize their fields. Azurmendi works closely with several producers in the area for local ingredients, which are picked up by a single truck in one trip to reduce carbon emissions. + Azurmendi Images via Azurmendi

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Roaming shipping container museum brings contemporary art through Panama

March 6, 2020 by  
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Panamanian architect Héctor Ayarza has figured out a cool and sustainable way to bring art to the masses. His fantastic Wandering Museum is a roaming structure made out of two reclaimed shipping containers . The project helps bring certain works of art from the Museum of Contemporary Art throughout neighborhoods in Panama City. The project began as a collaboration between the Panama City-based Museum of Contemporary Art and Ayarza. Hoping to showcase certain pieces that may not have permanent space in the museum itself, the team decided to create a sustainable way to bring a selection of contemporary art collections to people in various locations throughout the city. They did this by turning to recycled shipping containers. Related: Spectacular new shipping container museum nestles near China’s Great Wall Towed on the flatbed of a truck, the lightweight Wandering Museum travels easily through the city streets. While it is on the road, the traveling museum is instantly recognizable thanks to its multicolored design. Bright stripes of red, orange and green cover the shipping containers’ exteriors, bringing a fun, vibrant feel to the project. Once parked, the shipping containers are laid out in a perpendicular formation. The entrance is through one end of the first shipping container, which is painted black inside. This is the main exhibition space, with a  minimalist atmosphere that emits the same contemporary style of the permanent museum. The second shipping container has interior walls that are clad in a low-cost particle board with various shelves. There is also a floor-to-ceiling chalkboard, where visitors can leave messages. An entire side of the container can be completely left open, inviting art-lovers to explore the interior contents while also socializing in the make-shift courtyard space between the two structures. + Héctor Ayarza Via ArchDaily Photography by Fernando Alda via Héctor Ayarza

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Roaming shipping container museum brings contemporary art through Panama

Pacific Oceans elevated acidity is dissolving Dungeness crabs shells

February 5, 2020 by  
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A new study commissioned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and published recently on Science of the Total Environment journal has found that the rising acidity level of the Pacific Ocean is eating away at the carapaces and exoskeletons of Dungeness crabs, damaging their sensory organs. Even more worrisome, the pace of the damage, according to the study’s authors, is accelerating faster than what had originally been projected, foreshadowing an unpleasant future for Dungeness crabs if this trend continues. “If the crabs are affected already, we really need to make sure we pay much more attention to various components of the food chain before it is too late,” said research team lead Nina Bednarsek, a senior scientist with the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project. Related: Pacific heat wave threatens coral reefs in Hawaii and other regions Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels set in motion increased carbon dioxide absorption by the water, thus lowering the ocean’s pH levels. NOAA has reported that the ocean absorbs about one-third of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere via fossil fuel misuse and land-associated carbon emissions (ranching, logging, forest fires, etc.). As carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean, the water becomes “more acidic and causes carbonate ions to be relatively less abundant.” These carbonate ions are necessary for Dungeness crabs and other marine organisms to create, build and maintain their exoskeletons. Besides crustaceans, other affected organisms include mollusks, echinoderms, corals and calcareous plankton. For the Dungeness crabs, especially their larvae, decreased carbonate ions in the acidic seawater means they are unable to craft exoskeletons to deter predators or even to normally develop. Delayed development further hinders maturation rates and, by extension, the species’ overall population growth. The researchers were also surprised to discover that with abnormal shells damaged by the low pH levels, many of the crabs were correspondingly without certain mechanoreceptors necessary for proper swimming and vital sensory and behavioral functions. Abnormal movements made them vulnerable to predatory attacks and similarly prevented them from properly searching for food. In aggregate, the crabs’ chances for survival into adulthood decreases. NOAA’s work has always been to inform local fisheries and conservation endeavors. It is hoped the study’s results will convince policy makers to take immediate action against rampant greenhouse gas emissions to curtail atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and reduce ocean acidification. + Science of the Total Environment Via CNN Image via Jerry Kirkhart

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Pacific Oceans elevated acidity is dissolving Dungeness crabs shells

Children hurt after Delta jet dumps fuel on schools

January 16, 2020 by  
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On January 14, a Delta jet malfunctioned and dumped jet fuel over Los Angeles-area schools. The incident injured more than 50 people, including students from Park Avenue Elementary, San Gabriel Elementary, Graham Elementary, Tweedy Elementary, 93rd Street Elementary and Jordan High School. Currently, injuries such as skin and eye irritation and breathing problems have been reported. As the Los Angeles Unified School District said, “Students and staff were on the playground at the time and may have been sprayed by fuel or inhaled fumes.” Several people affected by the fuel were treated on-site. A “reverse 911” text message was sent out to locals, informing them of the event, noting affected areas and advising residents on how to proceed. The L.A. County Fire Department also updated its Twitter with the number of patients affected at each school site. As of Tuesday evening, the patient count included 31 patients from Park Avenue Elementary, six patients from Tweedy Elementary, one patient from Graham Elementary and six patients from San Gabriel Elementary. The Delta flight in question was Flight 89 to Shanghai , which apparently experienced an engine malfunction after takeoff. According to Delta, safe landing procedures following such a malfunction required fuel release — though the Federal Aviation Administration commented that fuel-dumping procedures “call for fuel to be dumped over designated unpopulated areas, typically at higher altitudes so the fuel atomizes and disperses before it reaches the ground.” This event isn’t the first environmental issue Park Avenue Elementary has faced, either. For an eight-month period between 1989 and 1990, the school was closed due to a mysterious ooze appearing. Investigation then discovered that the school was formerly the site of a city dump . As Elizabeth Alcantar, recently appointed mayor of Cudahy, said, “The very same playground experienced another environmental injustice. For our residents, they’re rightfully upset, and there is concern over when this will truly be over.” Via L.A. Times and CNN Image via Pixabay

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Saving New Zealands kakapo from extinction

January 2, 2020 by  
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One of the world’s rarest birds, the kakapo, is on the brink of extinction. Found only on some New Zealand sanctuaries, it is the planet’s only flightless parrot. The current population number is at 211, thereby sparking conservation initiatives, especially because the Maori people continue to uphold a strong spiritual connection with the kakapo, whose name translates as “parrot of the night.” One initiative, for instance, is the Predator Free 2050 project to eliminate predators across the New Zealand wilds to help native species thrive again. The 2019 kakapo breeding season saw record success, according to Andrew Digby, New Zealand’s kakapo science adviser, who said, “Between January and April, 86 chicks were born, of which 70 are still alive.” Nonetheless, nine kakapos succumbed to aspergillosis, a respiratory infection attributed to airborne fungi. Related: Koala-sniffing detection dog, Bear, helps save koalas from Australian bushfires Interestingly, humans did not populate New Zealand until the 1200s. Kakapos were not threatened, having only a couple of bat species to compete with for food. Their natural predators were birds of prey that they could elude, thanks to highly-evolved feathers that camouflage kakapos against the forest floor. All that changed upon the arrival of the first Polynesians in the 13th century and was exacerbated further five centuries later, when European settlement began. Tane Davis of the Maori Ngai Tahu tribe’s kakapo conservation team explained that the early Polynesians “ate the kakapo, used their feathers to weave cloaks and carved their bones into fish hooks.” Europeans accelerated kakapo demise with their hunting dogs, cats, English ferrets and weasels, stoats, deer, stowaway rodents and even Australian possums. Plus, extensive forest clearances, to build towns, cities and farmland, led to extreme habitat loss that devastated kakapo populations. By 1995, only 51 birds were left, galvanizing conservation efforts. Kakapos are even more vulnerable because 40 percent of their eggs are infertile, a consequence of today’s inbreeding. Contemporary success rates are boosted with artificial insemination of pairs genetically matched as compatible. Meanwhile, the islands of Anchor, Chalky, Hauturu and Whenua Hou have been cleared of predators to become kakapo conservation sanctuaries. A drone transfers sperm between conservation teams working in the different locations. Two new kakapo sanctuaries are being planned for the future. Other measures taken to ensure kakapo survival rates are that each mother bird is given one chick to raise, while the rest are hand-raised to ensure proper nutrition . Likewise, all kakapos are microchipped and outfitted with a transmitter to maximize tracking efforts. The birds are so closely monitored because, if left on their own, they only breed once every two to four years, to coincide with when New Zeland’s rimu trees bear fruit. But conservationists “trick” kakapos to breed more often by feeding supplementary food and maintaining bird weights for better egg health. These efforts contributed to a more successful breeding season in 2019, and conservationists hope to continue boosting those numbers to save this rare and unique bird. Via CNN Image via Chris Birmingham / Department of Conservation

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Saving New Zealands kakapo from extinction

Climate change heightens Californias drought and wildfire risks

October 31, 2019 by  
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Global warming and climate change are to blame for creating the strong winds and low humidity that are currently turning California into a tinderbox. Tracts of Golden State land are drying out, making them more prone to insect infestation, forest disease outbreaks and extended wildfire seasons. In response, two of the state’s main electricity companies, PG&E and SDG&E, have implemented brownouts, unplugging entire cities to minimize fire hazard risks. The California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection , or CalFire, recently reported that “while wildfires are a natural part of California’s landscape, the fire season in California and across the west is starting earlier and ending later each year. Climate change is considered a key driver of this trend.” Related: Thousands of animals have been displaced by California wildfires The growing intensity of present day wildfires is a sobering reminder that greenhouse gas emissions and the global carbon footprint must be curbed, lest our planet be faced with irreversible climate consequences. Accelerated warming and the burning of fossil fuels trap more heat on the planet, shifting precipitation patterns and amplifying the risks of wildfires and their prolonged seasons. Temperature rises from climate extremes likewise lead to drier air that quickly desiccates vegetation on the ground. These drought conditions transform the landscape, inviting infestations of ravenous, bark-eating pests to excessively feed on trees, making them more susceptible to woodland diseases. These ailing California forests are thus compromised further, pushing them to the brink of mortality. High temperatures, strong winds, dry conditions and ailing flora are a formula for wildfire risks. But another variable to increased California wildfire occurrences is attributed to the sparks that can ignite the tinderbox; those sparks can be started by electrical utility infrastructure. Shutdowns of California power grids are now the new normal, according to the California Public Utilities Commission , which regulates services throughout the Golden State to “safeguard the environment and assure access to safe and reliable utility infrastructure and services.” To protect California, the regulatory board has implemented a number of climate initiatives that include a utility wildfire mitigation plan calling for electrical power-downs to customers, especially during exceptionally hot and dry conditions. Many customers in the Golden State oppose the electrical shutdown measures. So, what other solutions are there? California has been at the forefront of fighting climate change, even promoting renewable energy and solar power as go-to strategies. Similarly, insurance companies have been shying away from securing housing development in fire-prone locations, leading to a shift in household relocation trends. Plus, researchers — in academia, military and public and private sectors — are now studying fire-resistant or non-flammable materials to harden California buildings and houses in hopes of making them more resilient. Even with these ideas in place, the best practices will rely on curbing climate change, which increases the likelihood and frequency of wildfires in the first place. Via CNN Image via U.S. Department of Agriculture

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Climate change heightens Californias drought and wildfire risks

Taco Bell launches new menu for vegetarians

September 12, 2019 by  
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While in-the-know vegetarians have navigated Taco Bell’s menu for years, the fast food chain is moving plant-based food to the forefront with an official vegetarian section on its menu. The new menu debuts Thursday, Sept. 12 at Taco Bell’s 7,000 U.S. restaurants . Only two of the items in the vegetarian section are new: the Black Bean Crunchwrap Supreme and a Black Bean Quesarito. But clearly, marking the items as vegetarian makes ordering a much easier experience for customers who eat a plant-based diet. Related: KFC partners with Beyond Meat for vegan chicken nuggets The Black Bean Quesarito ($2.99) consists of black beans, seasoned rice, chipotle sauce, cheese, nacho cheese sauce and reduced-fat sour cream rolled up in a flour tortilla. Popular upgrades include jalapenos, pico de gallo and guacamole. The Black Bean Crunchwrap Supreme ($3.69) adds lettuce and tomato to black beans, nacho cheese sauce and reduced-fat sour cream and serves it in a crispier tortilla. Other vegetarian menu items include three kinds of burritos, a tostada, the veggie power menu bowl, cheesy roll-ups and beans and rice. A green emblem on the new menu signifies that the American Vegetarian Association has certified Taco Bell’s vegetarian food items for people who “are lacto-ovo, allowing consumption of dairy and eggs but not animal byproducts.” But strict vegetarians should beware the fryer. The menu has this disclaimer: “We may use the same frying oil to prepare menu items that could contain meat . Vegetarian and meat ingredients are handled in common, and cross contact may occur, which may not be acceptable to certain types of vegetarian diets.” Taco Bell plans to “further innovate in this growing space,” the restaurant said in a press release. Unlike other fast food restaurants that are embracing imitation meat made by Beyond Meat , Taco Bell is, so far, sticking with less-processed whole foods, like black and pinto beans. Beans are also inexpensive, allowing Taco Bell to sell burritos for as little as one dollar. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has a handy guide on its website for vegans eating at Taco Bell. The magic words “fresco style” mean that instead of cheese and dairy-heavy sauces, you want pico de gallo and guacamole. + Taco Bell Via CNN Image via Taco Bell

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Taco Bell launches new menu for vegetarians

EPA promises an end to animal testing

September 12, 2019 by  
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Animal rights activists are rejoicing this week. On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a move to “aggressively reduce animal testing” and to stop funding mammal tests by 2035. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler promised to reduce new mammal tests by 30 percent by 2025 and pledged $4.25 million toward developing non-animal alternatives for testing chemical safety. “Part of why I’m doing this today is because it’s been 30 years and we haven’t made enough progress,” said Wheeler, who wrote an anti- animal testing op-ed for his college paper in 1987. Related: California becomes the first state to ban animal-tested cosmetics However, some people question the federal agency’s motives. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) suggested the decision had more to do with reducing costs for chemical companies required to do expensive animal tests rather than helping animals. “Phasing out foundational scientific testing methods can make it much harder to identify toxic chemicals — and protect human health ,” said Jennifer Sass, senior scientist for the NRDC’s Healthy People and Thriving Communities program. Some scientists worry that mathematical modeling and other non-animal testing approaches won’t effectively replicate the human physiological system. As People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) pointed out in a tweet, “PETA worked with the EPA for decades to prevent rabbits, mice, rats and dogs from having to ingest or inhale toxic chemicals .” The animal rights group is confident that modern alternative models will effectively protect humans, animals and the environment. “PETA will be helping regulatory agencies and companies switch to efficient and effective, non-animal testing approaches and working toward a day when all animal tests are only found in history books,” Amy Clippinger, director of PETA’s Regulatory Testing Department, said in an EPA press release. Many people are disturbed by the pain and cruelty of animal testing, leading to bipartisan efforts to decrease its use. During Obama’s presidency, the Toxic Substances Control Act was amended, calling for the EPA to reduce animal testing. Via EcoWatch Image via Tiburi

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EPA promises an end to animal testing

Psychedelic installation in NYC spotlights environmental issues with immersive art

September 12, 2019 by  
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The call for environmental awareness and action has been given a new voice in a visually stunning art installation that just opened its doors in New York City. Entitled Arcadia Earth , the temporary art exhibition immerses guests in a multi-sensory journey spotlighting pressing ecological issues — such as overfishing, plastic pollution, food waste, deforestation and climate change — with vivid artworks designed with upcycled and reusable materials. The 18-room exhibition is powered by augmented and virtual reality to create a large-scale interactive environment that encompasses a variety of landscapes, from underwater worlds to fantastical forests. Founded and designed by experiential artist Valentino Vettori, Arcadia Earth is billed as the “first immersive augmented reality journey through Planet Earth.” The art installation was created in collaboration with 12 leading environmental artists , including Samuelle Green, Tamara Kotianovsky, Etty Yaniv, Cindy Pease Roe, Poramit Thantapalit, Jesse Harrod, Justin Bolognino/META, Katie Donahue, Katharina Hoerath, Charlotte Becket and Emmy Mikelson. The project has been presented in association with its educational and charity partner, Oceanic Global , which will receive part of the proceeds from ticket sales. To highlight environmental issues, Arcadia Earth created a series of spectacular naturescapes afflicted by human-caused environmental problems that are accompanied with educational commentary. In the underwater ocean scene, for instance, guests can take in views of shrinking coral beds, plastic-coated jellyfish and life-size fishing nets representative of overfishing. One underwater cave is built from 44,000 recycled plastic bags to represent the number used in New York state per minute. Related: Giant totems in Poland warn against climate change catastrophe Fortunately, the hauntingly beautiful art exhibition doesn’t only project images of a doomed future. Arcadia Earth provides actionable suggestions that visitors can adopt to reduce their environmental impact . The visit also culminates in a “vow room,” where visitors can sign a petition and make personal vows to help the planet. Arcadia Earth is located at 718 Broadway and will be on display until January 2020. A tree will be planted for every ticket sold.  + Arcadia Earth Images by David Mitchell for Arcadia Earth

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