The best eco-friendly resolutions for 2019

December 26, 2018 by  
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With the new year looming, resolutions are on everybody’s mind. That’s because the new year is all about new beginnings. Whether that means changing your diet, incorporating more exercise or focusing on continuing education, 2019 can be an amazing year of growth and discovery. While you formulate your list of new year’s resolutions, be sure to include a few goals focused on sustainability. We all share one planet, which means each person needs to do their part to make it last. Making small changes leads to huge results, so even if you start small, resolve to start. Here are a few eco-friendly resolutions to focus on while you enter 2019. Start a compost bin Composting creates a full-cycle process for making the most out of your food and paper products. Begin with a design for your compost bin. Consider the space you have available along with the layout of your yard. Composters work best in full sun since they yield the best results at high temperatures. It will take longer to break down compost on the shady north side of your home, but it will break down eventually nonetheless. Related: Austin passes law banning restaurants from throwing out food waste Compost bins can be purchased online or at your local garden center or home improvement store. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Resin or plastic compost bins will last longer, but are also petroleum-based, making them an enemy of the environment . Wood composters are much more eco-friendly although they will eventually show the wear of weather exposure. Better yet, don’t use a compost bin at all, but just create a loose pile. Regardless of the type you choose, make sure you can rotate the contents occasionally and that the compost receives water and heat. Fill your compost throughout the year with equal parts green (such as lawn clippings), brown (such as brown paper bags or small twigs) and organic food scraps. Not only does this reduce your food waste, but creates nutrient-rich soil for use in your indoor or outdoor garden . Vow to shop with reusable bags As cities and even entire states begin to ban the use of plastic bags, it’s the perfect time to get into the habit of bringing your own bags when you go shopping. Reusable shopping bags are a great way to reduce both plastic and paper bag consumption. Choose some favorites and keep them in your car. Just remember to return them to the car after bringing the groceries inside so you have them next time around. You can take your reusable bag resolution one step further with the purchase of washable produce bags to use as well. Install rain barrels Rain barrels are easy to install and use. Surf the internet or head to the local home improvement store for a rain diverter. This device is installed in the downspout of your gutter system and diverts a portion of the water into the nearby rain barrels. If you receive even moderate rain in your area, it’s easy to accumulate 50, 100, or more gallons of water during the wet months. Use that water during the summer for gardens, lawns, or animals and save on your water bill. Swap out shower and faucet heads The easiest resolutions are the tasks that you perform once and they provide ongoing benefits. With this in mind, take the time to install low-flow faucet and shower heads. By using air to provide a strong pressure, newer water-restricting heads make it so you barely miss the extra water while benefiting your budget and the environment. Eliminate meat one day each week It’s so well researched and documented these days that no one can argue the drastic effects that raising cattle and other livestock has on the environment. Raising meat is resource consumptive, in the amount of both water and land required. The good news is that even if you’re a blood-thirsty carnivore, small sacrifices can make a big difference. Eliminate meat from your diet one day each week. You might find it easier than you think. If you do, increase to two times per week. Each meatless meal means good things for nature . Avoid plastic Plastic is bad for the environment on every level. It requires huge amount of petroleum to produce and never breaks down, adding to the massive waste issues the world currently faces. Set a goal to do your part to avoid plastic as much as possible. It’s no easy task since it is everywhere we turn, but start by noticing the packaging on your frequent purchases. Buy bulk and bring your own containers. Purchase individual fruit instead of the pre-bagged variety. Bring your own produce and shopping bags to the store. Buy food in glass jars instead of plastic. Take your own cup to the coffee shop. Take your refillable water bottle everywhere. Buy tampons with cardboard applicators or move to a menstrual cup or washable pad. Ask the waitress to hold the plastic straw and bring your own reusable straw if you want one. Shop with companies that use environmentally-conscious packaging. Related: Over 200 nations commit to ending ocean plastic waste Avoid fast fashion Fast fashion is killing the planet. Defined by quick-passing trends, the cheap clothing reels consumers in. But the resources required to produce and dispose of all that clothing earns the industry the title of the world’s number one pollutant . Instead of subscribing to this season’s best that is forgotten a few months down the road, invest in a capsule wardrobe that incorporates interchangeable pieces that suit all your dress and casual wear needs. Buy seasonal and local Your purchasing decisions hold all the power. Use them wisely and make this year’s resolution to buy local as much as possible. Not only does this provide you with the best farm-fresh foods, but it reduces the transport emissions from those manufactured across the ocean to those made just down the road. Gift give the work of local artisans. Attend the farmer’s market. Buy honey, soap and jewelry from local vendors. Think about the journey each product makes and select those with the shortest travel time. Baby steps in your efforts make a huge difference, so remember that you don’t have to go zero waste all at once or give up your car in lieu of a bike. Although it’s great if you want to do those things, start by adding some achievable and sustainable goals to your 2019 resolutions and vow to practice them all year long. Via My Green Closet Images via 955169 , Mike Kenneally , Shutterstock

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A sustainable campus is built from 22 recycled shipping containers

September 20, 2018 by  
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The International Sustainable Development Studies Institute in Thailand is taking its own teachings to heart with the an eco-friendly campus crafted from 22 recycled shipping containers. Now, the institute has a clear example when teaching students about the importance of upcycling and sustainability, plus plenty of space for educating on tree conservation, urban farming, waste management and more. As an institution aimed at teaching others about sustainability, the ISDSI made every effort to minimize any impact throughout the building process. Starting with a bare lot full of trees , the final design saved all but two of the acacia wood grove by using a skilled crane operator to maneuver the shipping containers into place around the existing landscape. They also scrutinized the amount of concrete that was necessary and took steps to avoid greenhouse gas emissions. Related: 13 shipping containers are reborn as a new restaurant on Treasure Island The  shipping containers were hand-selected with the end design in mind, so when each showed up on site, it had a specific purpose. Once the containers were properly stacked, builders began to cut out portions of the massive metal boxes in order to create windows, doors, decks and connecting open-air walkways. To take the sustainable design one step further, none of the cut metal went to waste, as it was turned into interior walls, doors, sinks, bathroom stalls and a kiosk and welcome counter in the cafe and gym. The complex also includes classrooms, conference rooms, a kitchen and plenty of outdoor spaces. The entire project took about nine months to complete. In addition to reusing containers slotted for melt-down recycling on the front end of the project, careful thought went into long-term energy savings from daily operations. For example, the entire campus uses low-energy LED lighting for areas not already lit through copious natural lighting. Proper insulation keeps the campus temperate, but when air conditioning is necessary, each pod has its own unit for efficiency, and most of the units were recycled from old buildings. Outside areas also received a sustainability upgrade with the use of composting , an on-campus garden, plants and green spaces, all intended to help support the soil and provide fresh air. + The International Sustainable Development Studies Institute Images via ISDSI

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A sustainable campus is built from 22 recycled shipping containers

Zero-energy tiny home has a near-invisible footprint

March 12, 2018 by  
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COULSON architects designed Disappear Retreat, a tiny, mirrored house that not only appears to disappear into the landscape but also boasts a near-invisible footprint. Created for “triple-zero living,” this prefabricated structure is an off-grid dwelling that’s zero energy, zero waste, and zero water. Built to the Passive House Standard, the 83-square-foot home needs no active heating or cooling systems even in extreme weather climates. Disappear Retreat’s minimal boxy form and design open the home up for a myriad of uses from stargazing in the boreal forests to suburban backyard sauna. Mirrored glass walls allow for privacy and full-height views and are triple-pane insulated with R-values of 32 to minimize energy consumption. The walls will also have a UV reflective coating to protect against bird and animal collisions. COULSON Architects have developed three retreat models with different interior layouts, including: Bed+Bath with a built-in sofa/bed and bathroom; Basic with an open-plan layout for multipurpose use; and Sauna that’s equipped with a sauna heater and built-in benches. Each module can fit on a standard trailer. Related: Incredible glass home stays comfortably snug even in extreme temperatures The airtight and super-insulated homes are powered by solar energy and feature an integrated plumbing system with gray, black, and potable water tanks. The units are also equipped with rainwater collection and composting systems. The Disappear Retreats are open for preorder enquiries now. + COULSON architects Via New Atlas Images via COULSON architects

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This ultra-thin aluminum pavilion evokes a supernatural pine tree

March 12, 2018 by  
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Marc Fornes / THEVERYMANY’s works are both otherworldly and instantly recognizable—and Pine Sanctuary at the entrance to the Riverwood Conservancy in Mississauga is no exception. Like the NYC-based art and architecture firm’s other projects, this vaulted structure combines organic forms with striking coloration in an ultra-thin aluminum composition. The large-scale sculpture was brought to life with computation design and digital fabrication and was funded in part by the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary. From a distance, Pine Sanctuary’s conical and green appearance evokes the image of an unusual tree. Up close, however, the self-supporting pavilion reveals itself as a porous shelter providing shade and an unforgettable photo backdrop. The curvilinear installation was built from laser-cut pieces of ultra-thin aluminum that were painted in four shades of green, blue, black, and white. The linear aluminum stripes and arching components were installed from the ground up. Related: This incredible building is made from material as thin as a coin “A system of branches rotates around a center point,” wrote the architects. “There’s no trunk holding up this arboreal structure. Instead, it opens up into a shady space. “Branches” touch the ground lightly around a covered grove, like a redwood hollowed out. Its feet, splay in all directions, along the way creating a labyrinth through which one can slip in, out and around. Circling the structure, no facade ever repeats itself. The new, unique angle upon every step forward prolongs the sense of discovery.” Pine Sanctuary is the studio’s second public pavilion in Canada. + Marc Fornes / THEVERYMANY Images via Marc Fornes / THEVERYMANY

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This ultra-thin aluminum pavilion evokes a supernatural pine tree

HOW TO: Turn your food waste into clean energy

February 21, 2018 by  
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Each year, 1.3 billion tons of food ends up lost or wasted — 46 percent of the world’s garbage. While the global food waste situation is what you’d call a “doozy,” consumers and companies like HomeBiogas are determined to turn food waste into clean, usable energy. Read on to find out how. What Is HomeBiogas? HomeBiogas is one of several successful projects to come about from Kickstarter. The Israeli company, which began its crowdfunding efforts in 2015, focuses on turning everyday food waste into energy for your home. How do they do it? With compact, household-sized biogas digesters that support anaerobic digestion, a process with zero oxygen and hungry bacteria that are ready to dive into last week’s moldy bread. Since the company’s launch in 2015, consumers have responded enthusiastically to their efforts. In fact, they blew past their crowdfunding goal for both biogas products. The second version, HomeBiogas 2.0 , exceeded its initial goal by more than 400 percent. In dollars and cents, that translates to more than $490,000. How Does HomeBiogas Work? OK, so consumers love it, but how does HomeBiogas work? Like the 27 million biogas plants in China, but on a smaller, less commercial scale. The process is alike, however, because every biogas system operates on the same premise — anaerobic digestion. Here’s a breakdown — pun intended — of the HomeBiogas process: 1. A user pours food waste into a funnel, where it enters the oxygen-free tank. 2. Water and bacteria begin digestion. Bacteria can come from a starter kit or from nitrogen-rich substances like chicken manure and shellfish shells. 3. Fermentation produces methane, carbon dioxide, and other gases. 4. Gas enters a storage tank for use via a pipe to your kitchen. 5. Liquid fertilizer becomes accessible via a spout for use in landscaping. In addition to bacteria, sunlight also contributes to biogas. Why? Bacteria love and thrive in heat, which means a well-placed HomeBiogas in a climate with temperatures around 68 degrees Fahrenheit digests food waste at a more efficient rate, which translates to more clean energy for you. What Does HomeBiogas 2.0 Do Better? With the basics of anaerobic digestion established, as well as the processes behind the original HomeBiogas, it’s time to explore how HomeBiogas 2.0 offers an edge over its predecessor: Upgraded efficiency: The new model promises a 50 percent boost to its processes. Increased capacity: HomeBiogas 2.0 doubles its storage with space to hold up to 185 gallons. Improved construction: The latest biogas digestor offers a lighter weight, plus more durable build. Enhanced installation: HomeBiogas 2.0 requires only an hour of your time to install. And if you’re worried about HomeBiogas filling your home with the nose-assaulting smell of decomposing food, forget about it. The team equipped its products with an airtight seal and filter, while using water to submerge food waste in the tank eliminates odor. How Can You Use This Clean Energy? Back in the 2000s, The Black Eyed Peas asked, “What you gon’ do with all that junk?” While they weren’t referencing food waste, there are plenty of ways to use the clean energy from your converted organic junk. Applications for the clean energy and liquid fertilizer produced by a HomeBiogas include: Powering your stove or grill: Cook up to three hours each day. Just place your HomeBiogas less than 65 feet from your kitchen or patio and connect the two with an included pipe. The biogas can connect to a countertop stove or double-burner setup. Fertilizing your gardens: Nurture your gardens with the liquid fertilizer produced by anaerobic digestion. HomeBiogas 2.0 features a user-friendly pouring sleeve, which makes it easy to dispense fertilizer into a water pail. Helping your neighbor: Support families in underserved communities. When you purchase a HomeBiogas 2.0, the company directs some of those funds to install their products in countries like Jordan and Uganda to combat indoor air pollution from cooking fuels. Like solar, wind and geothermal, biogas is a renewable energy source — and one that’s financially viable for consumers. As long as you have access to organic materials, like plants, you can count on the energy from biogas. As an additional benefit, biogas powers itself with pre-existing waste. What Does HomeBiogas Mean for the Future? Our planet wastes an enormous amount of food, yet the efforts of HomeBiogas and consumers around the globe demonstrate there is a motivation to do better and to reduce the waste that’s dominating the world’s landfills. What does that mean for the future? Hopefully that more people will adopt a lifestyle that thrives on clean, green energy. + HomeBiogas Images via HomeBiogas

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BP’s chief economist predicts plastic bans will slash oil demand

February 21, 2018 by  
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Oil giant BP has predicted that increased regulation on plastic pollution around the world will result in decreased demand for petroleum, the key ingredient in most plastic. “We think we’re going to see increasing regulation against some types of petrochemical products, particularly single-use plastics,” BP’s Chief Economist Spencer Dale told Bloomberg . “As a result of that, we have less growth in non-combusted oils than we otherwise would have done.” While petrochemicals are predicted to continue as the largest driver of oil consumption, BP also predicts that oil demand will drop by two million barrels a day as a result of developing plastic regulations. BP also predicts that oil production will continue to rise over the next two decades, apparently peaking in the mid-2030s. Notably, this forecast expects an oil peak nearly a decade earlier than BP’s prediction last year. Despite its estimation that one third of total miles driven will be powered by electricity by 2040, BP does not expect the electric vehicle market to impact oil dramatically. “Selling more EVs will tend to have almost no effect on oil demand because now I can sell a greater number of large cars or I can do less investment in light weighting,” said Dale. This assumes that large, heavy, fossil-fuel-powered cars continue to be profitable. Related: Beer with biodegradable six-pack rings finally hits the market BP also revised its expectations from previous years regarding the growth of renewable energy , with the company now estimating that renewable energy will constitute 40 percent of all energy growth in the near future. “We cannot predict where these changes will take us, but we can use this knowledge to get fit and ready to play our role in meeting the energy needs of tomorrow,” said BP Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley in a statement. To prepare for a cleaner energy future, BP has purchased a $200 million stake in British solar developer Lightsource Renewable Energy Ltd. and is reportedly considering purchasing Terra Firma’s Rete Rinnovabile Srl, a solar company based in Italy. Via Bloomberg and Treehugger Images via Depositphotos (1)

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BP’s chief economist predicts plastic bans will slash oil demand

Scientists develop the first solar fuels reactor that works at night

February 21, 2018 by  
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Researchers have developed the world’s first solar fuels reactor that is able to function at night. Called CONTISOL, the solar fuels reactor is capable of producing fuel such as hydrogen without the intensive greenhouse gas emissions caused by creating the fuel from burning natural gas. CONTISOL is able to run at all hours of the day because it relies on concentrated solar power (CSP), which allows for thermal energy storage. Notably, the reactor uses air, which is abundant, accessible, and non-corrosive, in order to store and transfer heat within the device. “It can pull air in just out of the atmosphere and then runs it through the heat exchanger to store the heat,” explained study lead author Justin Lapp , “and then it can vent that air out once it is cool.” In a traditional solar fuels reactor, the process depends upon the solar thermal heat provided by the sun. When the sun disappears at night, so too does its energy. Scientists at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) developed their all-hours solar fuels reactor by combining two previously developed systems. “So the main idea of CONTISOL was to build two reactors together,” said Lapp. “One where sunlight is directly doing chemical processing; the other side for storing energy. In the chemical channels, the high temperatures of the material drives the chemical reaction and you get a change from reactants to products within those channels.” This balancing act provides CONTISOL with stable temperatures and an efficient heat source for powering reactions that create fuels like hydrogen . Related: China is building a giant solar plant at Chernobyl So far, the team has only developed a small-scale prototype that is capable of operating at 850 degrees Celsius with an energy output of 5kW. “This scale is a scientific prototype simply for us to understand how to control it. It wouldn’t be commercialized at 5 kW,” said Lapp. “Commercially, 1-5 MW would be about the smallest for industrial-scale reactors, and they could scale to 100 MW or even larger.” Though still in its early stages, a full-scale CONTISOL system would allow for low-impact access to clean hydrogen fuel when fully developed and deployed. Via EurkAlert Images via SolarPACES

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Beer with biodegradable six-pack rings finally hits the market

January 24, 2018 by  
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SaltWater Brewery in South Florida is the first brewery to test biodegradable six-pack rings. Designed by start-up E6PR , the Eco Six-Pack Ring is made from wheat and barley, which allows it to be composted. And best of all? The six-pack ring is not harmful to aquatic life if swallowed. If widely adopted, this groundbreaking product could result in a significant decrease in both plastic pollution and wildlife injuries or deaths related to ingestion of or entrapment in six-pack rings. Initially introduced as a concept in 2016, E6PR’s green six-pack holder required considerable fine-tuning, a process that continues as the startup aims to expand production. “Bringing the product to the level of performance that we have right now was really challenging,” Francisco Garcia, Chief Operating Officer at E6PR, told Fast Company . Since the current model is made from wheat and barley, it is technically edible, though human consumption of the product is not advised. The next iteration will be made from brewing waste by-products in a production facility soon to open in Mexico . Related: This Louisiana craft beer pioneer ‘went green’ long before it was cool If the current roll-out of E6PR’s green six-pack holder proves successful, the startup hopes to expand the product’s usage to other breweries. In addition to its collaboration with craft beer maker SaltWater Brewery, E6PR is also working with a large brewing company to test the scalability of the product. “For Big Beer, it’s really about making sure that we can not only produce the E6PRs, but also apply them at the speed that those lines require,” Marco Vega, co-founder of ad agency and E6PR collaborative partner We Believers , told Fast Company . E6PR also hopes to bring its green drink packaging to other beverages like soda. As E6PR and other companies race to release market-competitive, green packaging products, consumers and environmentalists have reason to hope the tide may someday turn against plastic pollution, more than 8 million tons of which is dumped into the world’s oceans each year. Via Fast Company Images via E6PR

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Beer with biodegradable six-pack rings finally hits the market

Peek inside the zero-waste kitchen of the future

May 24, 2017 by  
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The kitchen of the future will be healthier for our planet and improve our family ties through food. That’s the vision behind The Future Kitchen, a proposal by New York-based architect Marc Thorpe and students of the industrial design department at Pratt Institute. Installed for WantedDesign Manhattan at the Caeserstone booth, the innovative kitchen prototype emphasizes sustainability with zero-waste systems and in-home gardening, while strengthening social ties with its community-oriented design. ? Environmentally friendly principles were at the heart of the kitchen design process. With Thorpe’s guidance, Pratt students researched sustainable strategies for water use, composting , farming, smart technology, and food storage. The Future Kitchen is self-sufficient, a feature Thorpe says will be a necessity in 2050 when 80 percent of the world’s population is estimated to reside in urban centers. ? Related: Friends give their kitchen a green makeover filled with fun upcycled touches The innovative design is centered on a circular hearth that reinforces the idea of the kitchen as a social meeting place. The circular hearth opening also doubles as a food waste disposal chute that feeds the biogas generator and 3D printer, repurposing waste as energy and material. The washing area uses stream automation to minimize water usage, and water drains into a filter system that repurposes wastewater into hydroponic and aquaponic systems. A food prep area with Caesarstone quartz, induction cooktop with smart technology, and separate dining area are also integrated into the compact Future Kitchen. + Marc Thorpe + Pratt Institute + Caesarstone

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Peek inside the zero-waste kitchen of the future

Solutions for Apartment Dwellers: Bokashi Composting

February 8, 2017 by  
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At least 60 percent of the U.S. population lives in multifamily homes like apartments, which can make composting more difficult. When you don’t have a backyard to toss your scraps, where do they go? Fortunately, more cities are taking steps…

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Solutions for Apartment Dwellers: Bokashi Composting

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