Biofase has discovered a unique way to recycle avocado pits

February 15, 2019 by  
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A Mexico-based company has discovered a unique way to recycle avocado pits. Biofase, a startup founded in Michoacan, Mexico, is using discarded waste from the fruit to create biodegradable cutlery and straws in a bigger fight against single-use plastics and food waste. A biochemical engineer named Scott Munguia created Biofase in 2013. The company uses a technique that transforms avocado waste into bioplastics, which are then used to form materials. All of the products the company creates from the pits are fully biodegradable and decompose within 240 days. Related: How to grow an avocado tree from an avocado pit “Our family of biodegradable resins can be processed by all conventional methods of plastic molding,” Biofase explained in a tweet. According to EcoWatch , the organization processes around 15 metric tons of avocado waste every day. Not only is the operation proving profitable, but it is also good for the environment. Apart from the biodegradable utensils and straws, Biofase is preventing a significant amount of agricultural waste from ending up in Mexico’s landfills and surrounding bodies of water. Biofase claims to be the sole biopolymer supplier in its home country of Mexico . The company ships its biodegradable products to more than 11 countries in Latin America. Several chain restaurants also order cutlery and straws from Biofase, including Chili’s Grill & Bar, Fiesta Americana and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro. Although Biofase is leading Mexico in the production of biopolymers, new laws will likely create a need for more development in the industry. In fact, several municipalities in the region have passed laws against single-use plastics , emphasizing a growing need for eco-friendly alternatives. For example, Querétaro banned plastic bags in 2017, and Tijuana followed suit the following year. Ditching single-use plastics is a growing trend in Mexico. To date, there are more than 15 laws at city and state levels that are meant to discourage the use of disposable plastics. Biopolymers come with their own disadvantages, but these are a viable solution to the growing problem of plastic waste around the globe. If a company like Biofase can come up with an ingenious way to create biodegradable straws and biodegradable utensils, we can only hope that other forms of biodegradable plastics will follow. + Biofase Via EcoWatch Image via Julie Henriksen

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Can the Caymans save the Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs?

February 13, 2019 by  
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A rehabilitation program for coral reef species has proven to be successful for an ongoing project to combat a massive disease spreading throughout the Cayman’s pillar coral species, according to the Department of the Environment in the Cayman Islands. The rapidly spreading disease, called “white band disease”, was first noticed on a famous dive site called the Killer Pillars in February 2018. It has ravaged pillar coral throughout the Caribbean and destroyed almost 90 percent of the species along the Florida coast. Scientists in the Cayman Islands removed diseased coral from the reef and selected healthy fragments to grow in a nursery. They later planted healthy coral back onto the reef, in hopes the fragments became resilient enough to resist the disease and build back the reef. Though the project is still an experiment, the results look promising thus far and can have wide implications on how other islands respond to this disease throughout the region. The Caribbean already lost 80 percent of all coral reefs Throughout the world, coral reefs are seriously vulnerable and rapidly dying. Reefs are thought to host the most biodiversity of any ecosystem in the world– even more than a rainforest . Despite their importance, reefs are critically vulnerable to small changes in the environment. Slight increases in ocean temperature cause widespread die-off throughout Caribbean and Pacific reefs. Additional threats include pollution, over fishing and run-off of nitrogen from farms that fertilize algae and causes it to smother reefs. Abandoned fishing gear also wreaks havoc on reefs and creates an opportunity for disease. “Fishing line not only causes coral tissue injuries and skeleton damage, but also provides an additional surface for potential pathogens to colonize, increasing their capacity to infect wounds caused by entangled fishing line,” says Dr. Joleah Lamb from the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Coral reefs are home to nearly 25 percent of all marine species and sustain the fishing industry. They are paramount to Caribbean economies and are an important defense for small islands and coastal communities during hurricanes . Evidence shows their structures reduce damaging wave energy by nearly 97 percent . Also, reefs attract dive tourists and help build beaches by breaking down into sand. Experiments such as the one in the Cayman Islands are critically important for ensuring the reefs that do remain, are healthy and functioning. How does the project in the Cayman Islands work? Along with marine scientists from the U.K. and U.S., coral experts from the Department of the Environment removed diseased coral from the reef in order to stem the alarming spread of the disease. They then cut segments of healthy coral to regrow in nurseries. Coral nurseries, a growing trend in coral restoration, are structures constructed in clean, sandy sections of the ocean floor. Scientists attach healthy coral fragments to the simple structures, often made out of PVC pipe, and monitor them as they grow in a safe environment. Once the corals are strong, healthy and considerably larger in size than the original fragments, the scientists plant them back onto the original reef or select new sites to start a reef. Related: Using nature to build resilient communities Coral nurseries are popping up around the Caribbean Impressively, 100 percent of the coral fragments in the Department of Environment’s nursery survived. Coral nurseries are a restoration technique popular throughout the Caribbean basin, including Bonaire, Curacao, Grenada, the Virgin Islands and many restoration and research laboratories in Florida. Disease is still a threat After their successful growth in the nursery, 81 percent of the fragments re-planted were still alive after five months. This is a considerable success rate given the threats these corals face. However, 23 percent of the planted fragments also showed signs of the relentless “white band disease” (Acroporid white syndrome). Researchers have not given up hope and recognize that if kept contained, disease can be a natural part of ecosystems. “We do know that diseases have their seasons, they come and go, they are vigorous for a while and then they die back, and at that point we have to see some kind of coral colony recovery,” Tim Austin, Deputy Director of the Department of Environment, told Cayman 27 News . “We are monitoring it and we are hoping to have a better handle on how this disease progresses.” In addition to techniques such as reducing marine debris, pollution and establishing protected conservation zones around reefs, coral salvage projects are an important technique to ensure that Caribbean’s the remaining corals survive. “If longer-term monitoring results prove equally successful, the salvage, relocation and restoration of actively diseased coral colonies could become an everyday tool in the restoration toolbox of coral reef managers,” the Department of Environment reported . Via Yale 360 Image via Shutterstock

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ODA to transform Rotterdams historic post office into a vibrant destination

February 13, 2019 by  
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After sitting vacant for over a decade, Rotterdam’s former Central Post Office, the Postkantoor, will soon undergo an extraordinary transformation into a vibrant, mixed-use destination. Designed by ODA New York , the adaptive reuse project will span 58,000 square meters and sensitively restore the building’s early 20th century architecture while injecting new programming ranging from retail to a five-star hotel. ODA will work in close collaboration with local architecture firm Braaksma & Roos Architectenbureau in addition to Omnam Investment Group to create POST Rotterdam, a civic hub that’s slated to begin construction in 2019. Built in 1916, Rotterdam’s former Central Post Office is one of the only original structures left standing after the 1940 Rotterdam Blitz that decimated much of the city’s historic core. ODA New York was tapped to revive the building with a mixed-use design that mixes new construction with preservation efforts, from the new 150-meter tower that will rise at the rear of the Postkantoor to the restoration of the dramatically vaulted 1916 Great Hall, which will serve as the project’s public heart. Public amenities will reactivate the building’s curbside appeal and include retail, gallery spaces, restaurants and cafes woven throughout the hall and courtyard spaces. A five-star hotel operated by Kimpton will take over the upper floors that formerly housed the Post Office’s telegraph and telephone services. The renovated Postkantoor will be accessible from every side and not only offer open sight lines to the Coolsingel and Rodezand streets, but also serve as a bustling city hub and connection between Rotterdam Centraal to Markthal. Related: This floating park in Rotterdam is made from recycled plastic waste “We believe that it’s time for the POST to stand not only as a memory, but also as an expression of the strength of Rotterdam today as a vibrant, connected, center of culture, renewal, and quality of life. We believe that the hidden treasures that it holds should be shared by all citizens,” says Eran Chen, Executive Director at ODA. “The POST tower is a reinterpretation of both urban living and the Post Office’s architectural assets, extending the elegance of the main hall through to the tower. This modern addition to the Ensemble Buildings in the Coolsingel district is based on an extremely rigorous investigation combined with the expertise gained over two years working with city partners.” + ODA New York Images by Forbes Massie via ODA New York

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How emerging tech can counteract climate change

January 23, 2019 by  
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Artificial intelligence and the internet of things hold promise, but it will take collaboration to bring long-term, systemic change.

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These AI-powered cameras can sense poachers and save wildlife

January 14, 2019 by  
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Animal poaching is on the rise as people find interest in ivory,  fur , skins and more for their financial value. Previous technologies have tried to capture poachers in the act, but often failed because the poachers could ping cell towers and find (and avoid) the tracking technology. Now, Intel is debuting a smart system of cameras that relies on radio frequencies and artificial intelligence to catch the criminals and save the wildlife. We gave this technology a go at CES 2019, and here is how it works. Intel’s new TrailGuard uses “ AI for social good.” This technology is powering cameras with artificial intelligence to stop illegal poachers in their tracks. Each camera is hidden in natural areas where wild animal poaching is common. The cameras use motion sensors that, once triggered, turn the cameras on to start recording nearby activity. Related: Mass poaching in Botswana leaves behind 90 tuskless elephants Because the cameras use artificial intelligence, they can tell the difference between the movement of, say, an animal or wind and specific human activity, such as poacher’s body language or clothing. At CES 2019, these cameras were installed in a dark area designed to mimic nature. Even if you walk carefully, you are no match for these smart cameras. In the low light, it’s nearly impossible to find the cameras, and because they run on radio frequencies, poachers cannot pinpoint and avoid them. But the recordings capture a clear view of poachers, making it easier for authorities to end these activities and save more animals’ lives. Related: This AI food truck could bring fresh produce directly to you In addition to being showcased at CES 2019, the TrailGuard technology is also being deployed in the Congo. + Intel Photography by Inhabitat

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9 sustainable living tips to take from our grandparents

January 7, 2019 by  
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Our grandparents and great-grandparents lived in a simpler time, and we aren’t just talking about technology . During the Great Depression, many rural areas didn’t have running water or electricity, and things like proper refrigeration, freezers and air conditioning were a luxury. What’s more, big-box chains and massive supermarkets didn’t exist, and you didn’t have the option of throwing a pre-packaged meal into a microwave or hitting a drive-thru for lunch. Many modern conveniences are great, and in many ways, living in 2019 is much more enjoyable than 1935. But there are a lot of things we can learn from older generations to help live a more sustainable life. Here are some things our grandparents and great-grandparents did to live a simpler life that was a lot more eco-friendly. Make meals from scratch For the first time in American history, people are eating at restaurants more than they are cooking at home . In 2016, sales in restaurants passed grocery sales, meaning that people are spending more on eating out than eating in. Cooking from scratch is starting to become a skill that fewer and fewer of us know how to do, and that is resulting in people not knowing where their food comes from or how it was prepared. Related: 10 tasty and easy vegan dinner ideas Not only is cooking a survival skill that everyone should have, but preparing food at home makes you more self-sufficient, and it leads to a healthier diet. Plus, it saves your family a ton of cash, and it is much more environmentally friendly. You will use less packaging when you buy fresh ingredients, and when you skip the restaurant, you can reduce your food waste . If it breaks, fix it We admit that things are made differently than they used to be. With the strategy of planned obsolescence , products aren’t designed to last as long and can break rather easily. From fashion to cars to appliances to electronics, things break, go out of style and become obsolete faster than ever. This can lead to spending money on the newest gadgets and trends, even though we could easily fix what is broken or alter what we have to fit our needs. Our grandparents knew how to mend their clothes and fix broken items, or at least knew where to go to get things fixed. Instead of tossing things out the moment they aren’t perfect, take the time to fix or mend them. Bring your lunch Remember when having a sweet lunchbox was an important part of your life? I loved my old-school metal Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox when I was in first grade, and I didn’t even realize that I was eco-friendly while being stylish. Instead of hitting a vending machine or drive-thru for lunch, avoid the single-use plastic packaging and pack your own sandwich and sides at home, or brown-bag last night’s leftovers. For our grandparents, eating out was a special occasion, not something you do every day. Plant a garden Now this is one popular trend that is rooted in the past. Buying local or growing food in your own garden was a staple of life for our grandparents and great-grandparents. Growing veggies and herbs is something you can easily do, no matter if you live in a rural or urban area, and it is friendly to the environment and your wallet. Related: How to grow a lush garden in your tiny kitchen windowsill Shop smart Those who lived through the Great Depression knew what it meant to be smart with their purchases. If they couldn’t afford it, they didn’t buy it, and they never bought more than they needed. Buying in bulk and using up everything that you buy is a much more sustainable way to live. Buy less and use it all. Go to the store with a specific plan, and reduce those impulse buys. Downsize Less stuff means less worry, and that is what minimalism is all about. That doesn’t mean you have to get rid of every modern convenience, but saying no to some things will help reduce your waste and make life tidier. Huge homes, closets full of clothes you don’t wear and cupboards full of food you won’t eat were foreign concepts to our grandparents. Those things would just give you more things to pay for, service and clean. You don’t have to downsize absolutely every aspect of your life, but simply getting rid of excess clutter can make a big difference in your quality of life and environmental impact. Use a clothesline One of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to give your dryer a rest and hang up your clothes to dry. This option will keep your clothes from shrinking, and your sheets, blankets, shirts and tees will smell clean and fresh. Start sewing During the Great Depression, nearly every household had at least one person that knew how to full-out sew . But now, it’s hard to find people that even know how to sew a button. Get the most out of your clothes and shoes by learning how to patch a hole, replace a zipper or fix a hem. We aren’t saying you have to make all of your own clothes, but knowing how to fix basic problems can lead to more a sustainable lifestyle with less waste. Related: How to sew buttons onto pants and shirts Rethink disposables Ziploc bags didn’t show up until the 1960s, so our grandparents and great-grandparents would store things in jars. After they were done using them, they would wash and reuse. Instead of using single-use plastics to store food or pack your lunch, use containers that you can use over and over again to help reduce waste. Images via Oldmermaid ,  Bruno Glätsch , Maxmann , Priscilla Du Preez , Maria Michelle , Monika P , Monicore and Shutterstock

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Zoos May Be a Surprising Link to Species Preservation and Climate Stabilization

January 1, 2019 by  
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Please consider donating to Health In Harmony to support their … The post Zoos May Be a Surprising Link to Species Preservation and Climate Stabilization appeared first on Earth911.com.

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The National Butterfly Center is threatened by Trump’s border wall

November 2, 2018 by  
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The National Butterfly Center is a 100-acre wildlife preserve and botanical garden in South Texas. Not only is it the habitat of more than 100 different species of butterflies, but it is also home to several endangered plants and threatened animals. It happens to be located directly in the path of the Trump administration’s proposed border wall, and that means its future is in question. In September, Congress approved a federal spending bill that included $1.6 billion to fund the wall’s construction, and last month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a waiver of 28 different laws that protect public lands, wildlife and the environment in order for construction. If the planned wall actually becomes a reality, it could cut the privately-owned center in two, leaving up to 70 percent of the preserve’s land between the wall and the Rio Grande. “It’s going to be a no-man’s land, Border Patrol’s enforcement zone,” Marianna Trevino Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center, told NPR . “They will clear everything. So it’s not like all of this habitat is going to become Garden of Eden, undisturbed. It is going to be eliminated.” Related: Trump’s border wall threatens Texas plants and wildlife A group of scientists published a paper this summer outlining the proposed wall’s negative environmental impacts, and more than 2,700 scientists signed the paper to call on the Trump administration to rethink its border strategy. They would prefer the DHS follow existing environmental laws and avoid physical barriers. There are also multiple lawsuits pending against the Trump administration arguing that the DHS doesn’t have the authority to waive environmental laws to build the wall. But in the past, similar lawsuits in California and New Mexico have been unsuccessful. Wall construction could begin in February 2019. In the meantime, the butterfly preserve will continue to use its property as though the wall will not be built. “We have long-term plans for this place,” Trevino Wright said. “We’re not going to just pack up and abandon that.” + National Butterfly Center Via NPR Images via Alan Schmierer ( 1 , 2 )

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KOGAA creates an energy self-sufficient City Cell in response to climate change

November 2, 2018 by  
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Galvanized by the growing debate on climate change , Brno-based KOGAA Architectural Studio and NEXT Institute Research Platform have teamed up to create the City Cell Prototype (CCP), a pop-up installation that serves as a testing ground for ways cities can combat climate extremes. Completed this year, the temporary pavilion of nearly 300 square feet is presently located at Malinovsky Square in Brno, Czech Republic’s second-largest city. Built of timber and powered by solar energy, the City Cell Prototype is a multifunctional design that includes rainwater reuse, urban greenery, human shelter and educational opportunities. The City Cell Prototype is primarily constructed from pre-dried KVH timber, a material that has the added benefit of not requiring any additional protective coatings. Elevated off the ground on footings, the wooden structure is centered on a tree set inside a “biofilter.” To make the pavilion look inviting to the public, KOGAA inserted low-slung seating and made the all-timber envelope as transparent as possible using slatted wood screens and two entrances. In addition to the tree, planters have been installed on both ends of the structure, with one wall comprising rows of street-facing planters. Despite the pavilion’s minimalist appearance, the structure features multiple systems that work together to ensure energy self-sufficiency. The sloped roofs, which are made from a translucent material to let light through, are angled to channel rainwater into the centrally located biofilter, where the runoff is then filtered through settling and phyto-processes. Once filtered, the rainwater is stored in tanks and then pumped up to a drip irrigation system connected to the pavilion’s planters. The water pump is powered by solar energy harvested from photovoltaic panels mounted to the roof; solar power also provides electricity for the LED lighting system. Related: An experimental greenhouse pops up at a busy Copenhagen intersection “Together with the vertical greenery, the biofilter allows water retention and evaporation, allowing the surrounding microclimate to cool down,” the architects explained. “Its shape develops from the need to provide shading, collect water and the intent to create a spatial communication between the new object and the existing square, also achieved through the two-sided openness.” After the testing period, the CCP could be included in more permanent projects. + KOGAA Architectural Studio Images via Boys Play Nice

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Human activity has decimated 60% of animal populations since 1970

October 31, 2018 by  
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A new study from WWF International has reported that humans have wiped out 60 percent of the world’s mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles since 1970, and experts are now warning that wildlife destruction is an emergency that is threatening civilization. As important species continue to die at alarming rates, the ecosystems that humans also depend on are being destroyed. The recent Living Planet Report involved 59 scientists from around the world, and these experts found that the growing consumption of food and resources by Earth’s population is destroying the web of life, on which humans depend for clean air and water. The main culprits of the destruction are overexploitation and agriculture. Related: WWF predicts wild animal populations will plummet 67 percent by 2020 “We are sleepwalking toward the edge of a cliff,” said Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF. “If there was a 60 percent decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.” Barrett also said that this decimation is jeopardizing the future of humanity. Global sustainability expert and professor Johan Rockström said that we are running out of time, and we must address the ecosystems and climate if we stand a chance of safeguarding the planet for our future on Earth. According to The Guardian , many scientists believe that we have entered a sixth mass extinction , and it is the first caused by humans. Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, said that the fundamental issue is consumption, and we cannot ignore the impact of wasteful lifestyles. In 2020, many nations of the world will be meeting at the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity to make new commitments to protect nature and wildlife. Barrett said we need a new global deal for people and the environment, and this is our last chance to do this right. As Tanya Steele, chief executive of the WWF said, “We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet and the last one that can do anything about it.” + WWF Via The Guardian Image via Ray in Manila

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