Bottle recycling in Oregon hits 90 percent record high

February 7, 2019 by  
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Oregon is seeing record-breaking recycling  rates for their progressive movement dating back to 1971. As the first state in the nation to initiate a bottle return bill, residents of the west coast state are long-accustomed to paying a bit more for their canned and bottled beverages. The idea is simple — pay a deposit when you purchase a six-pack and get that money back when you return the container to the store, but 48 years after the bill was introduced, the state is experiencing high recycling levels for the first time. The original bill, called the Oregon Bottle Bill, requires all beverage distributors, excepting alcohol, milk and a few other select beverages, to charge a minimum refundable amount on each container sold. From 1971 until 2017 that amount was five cents. So a six-pack of beer or soda would have cost 30 cents more at the store. That 30 cents was then refunded to the consumer when they took the cans back to the store. In 2017, the state supported a legislative increase to ten cents per container, with remarkable results. This change alone is credited with increasing return rates to 82 percent. The national average runs around 33 percent. While legislators likely would have directed policy towards the change eventually, the increase was triggered by a provision of state law enacted in 2011, which states that the increase must occur if return rates fall below 80 percent for two consecutive years. After 2014 clocked 68.3 percent and a 2015 return rate of 64.5 percent, 2016 got the ball rolling on the initiative. Related: Oregon initiates first modern statewide refillable glass bottle system in the US Since the recycling program’s initiation in Oregon, the state has seen promising results, especially in reductions of roadside waste and a dramatic increase in return rates. Reports state that at the time of the bill, bottles and cans were estimated to make up 40 percent of roadside waste. That estimate is now six percent. An even more impressive marker of success is the 2018 90 percent return rate. Put a different way, that represents two billion containers. Obviously the goal is to recycle every single recyclable bottle and can, not only to save on resources such as virgin aluminum, but to minimize waste. It’s easy to see that Oregon citizens have bought into the program with a 90 percent return rate. Oregon is known as a progressive state, especially when it comes to environmental issues, so it’s no surprise they’ve led the nation in this drive towards awareness of single-use containers and the importance of recycling. With this in mind, another major policy change contributed to the increase in recycling numbers. In January 2018, the bottle return policy expanded to include all plastic , aluminum and glass beverage containers such as energy drinks, juice, coffee, tea and others. To hit the 90 percent mark with all of those added containers is a testament to the efficiency of the system and dedication of Oregon’s consumers. The combination of the increased refund value, along with a wider variety of containers being accepted, is credited with a 35 percent increase in refund returns over just the last two years. While the legislation has remained relatively unchanged over the years, the process for returning bottles has evolved to accommodate those growing numbers. What once began as hand-counting returned containers later became automated, as return machines were installed in most major retail locations. The machines accept the different types of materials, read the barcode and keep an electronic tally of the return value. A printed slip is then taken to a cashier who exchanges it for cash. Many retailers in the state have pooled resources to initiate a centralized bottle return center known as BottleDrop. These return centers are located away from retail establishments, meaning that consumers have to make a special stop to return cans rather than being able to return them at the store where they shop. While it makes it somewhat less convenient, the fact that BottleDrop specializes in container returns means that the process is streamlined with hi-tech machines and staff available to help with any issues. Related: Hundreds of organisms hitch a ride from Japan to Oregon on waves of plastic trash Consumers have the option of feeding cans into the machine themselves or dropping them at the location and having staff count the cans for a small fee (around 40 cents per bag). Those that manually feed their cans receive a printed receipt. The receipt is then scanned into a nearby machine that dispenses payment. For those that choose to drop their bags, their account is credited after the cans and bottles are processed. The consumer can then cash out or even move those funds as a credit to a nearby participating retail grocery store . The convenience of this program has proved to be another valuable key in the success of the overall bottle return initiative. 2018 saw a 50 increase in BottleDrop accounts, needless to say, people are definitely taking advantage of it. With the high return rate and low waste rate, it seems shocking that the idea has not taken affect nationally. While most of Canada has now adopted the policy, only 11 states currently participate in a state- legislated bottle return plan. In addition to Oregon, those states are Vermont, Maine, Michigan, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Delaware, California and Hawaii. Via KPTV Images via Shutterstock

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Bottle recycling in Oregon hits 90 percent record high

Faux fur or real fur, which one is better for the planet?

January 9, 2019 by  
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Remember the days when anti-fur advocates would sling red paint onto the fur-clad fashion lovers dressed in mink? The fur debate has come a long way since then, with many key players in the fashion world now becoming some of the biggest voices in the anti-fur movement. But, instead of ditching fur altogether, some brands have switched to lavish faux fur options, and that has pivoted the discussion. Instead of focusing on ethics and animal welfare, the spotlight is now shining on its  environmental sustainability. Is it good for the environment? Over the past couple of decades, faux fur has evolved from a cheap, itchy material to a luxurious, affordable option that looks just like the real thing. Faux fur now looks so realistic that consumers can’t tell the difference, but is this option really better for the environment? If you are morally opposed to wearing fur, then it is easy to avoid it. However, if you are just trying to make the best choice for the environment, there are some things you need to know. Just because a piece of clothing might be animal -free, it doesn’t mean it’s not causing damage. Fur industry lobbyists now argue that faux fur is a less sustainable choice because it is made from acrylic, which is a synthetic material made from a non-renewable source that takes centuries to biodegrade. “Petroleum-based faux fur products are the complete antithesis of the concept of responsible environmental conservation,” says Keith Kaplan, director of communications at the Fur Information Council of America. “Right off the top, petrol-based plastic fur is extremely harmful to the environment. It isn’t biodegradable. It’s harmful to wildlife .” Kaplan also points out that trapping wild animals like fox, coyotes and beavers— which is about 15 percent of the fur trade— actually helps manage the wildlife population, and it also provides a livelihood for many indigenous communities. What do the experts say? The research is starting to support this opinion , and we are just beginning to learn about the environmental impact of microfibers— the tiny plastic particles that synthetic fabrics shed when you wash them. A 2016 study published in Environmental Science & Technology found that when you wash a synthetic jacket, it can release an average of 1,174 milligrams of microfibers. And, whatever isn’t filtered out by wastewater treatment plants can end up in waterways, and aquatic animals will ingest them. Many designers, like London-based footwear label Mou, have taken the stance that real fur is a more sustainable option than faux fur because the synthetic is a “non-biodegradable pollutant.” Mou founder Shelley Tichborne says that the faux fabrics don’t “breathe” like natural materials, and that causes unpleasant smells and shortens the product’s lifespan. Related: This couch made from recycled water bottles is built to last a lifetime “In contrast, the natural fiber materials we use such as calfskin, goatskin, sheepskin, antelope, lambskin and rabbit fur are by-products of the meat and dairy industries — all the animals are eaten for their meat, and some produce milk for human consumption,” Tichborne says. “The skins from these animals are naturally beautiful, soft to the touch, warm, bio-degradable and durable, lasting — with care — for up to thirty years.” Anti-fur advocates admit that synthetics like faux fur aren’t the best substitute, but they say the environmental hazards in the fur manufacturing process make real fur the worse option. Advocates claim that CO2 emissions produced from feeding thousands of minks on a single farm, manure runoffs into nearby lakes and rivers and toxic chemicals used in fur dressing and dyeing is evidence enough that real fur is far worse for the environment compared to its alternative counterpart. They also mention that the traps used to hunt wild animals ensnare “non-target” animals like domestic dogs, cats and birds. Which is best? There is a ton of evidence that backs up both sides of the argument, and it is a lot of information to process. But, the reality is that banning fur outright doesn’t solve all of the issues in fashion’s supply chains since the alternatives are petroleum-based textiles. However, the consumer interest in this issue can only be a good thing. We know for sure that cheap, disposable clothing— and our tendency to buy and throw out almost all of it— is terrible for the environment. But, is it really a good idea to wear genuine fur instead of faux fur? Ultimately, it comes down to your own morals and ethics, and the debate won’t be settled anytime soon. Fortunately, with technological advancements happening every day, it probably won’t be long before we start seeing faux furs that have a smaller environmental footprint. Via Fashionista , Refinery29 , HuffPost Images via Shutterstock, Tamara Bellis

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Faux fur or real fur, which one is better for the planet?

Outdoor giant Merrell presents its most sustainable shoe to date

December 3, 2018 by  
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Outdoor apparel leader Merrell has unveiled its most sustainable shoe yet — and not just a single style, but a lineup of both men’s and women’s options. The Gridway collection emphasizes fashion as well as sustainability and targets the less-than-vogue goal in the fast fashion industry to create shoes that last. The Gridway collection offers three styles for both men and women: the Gridway Moc is a slide-on option, the Gridway is a sneaker style and the Gridway Mid brings a bit of height to the upper portion. Each style is available in three color options, and prices range from $120-$140 at regular price. Related: nat-2 creates a completely vegan sneaker made from coffee Starting at the bottom, the outsole is made from a minimum of 30 percent scrap rubber rather than relying on virgin materials. The removable footbeds and midsoles encompass a minimum of 40 percent of recycled materials from scraps off the manufacturing floor. Moving to the knit uppers, materials come from 100 percent recycled yarns. Although the laces look traditional, they are also made from 100 percent recycled materials rather than sourcing new ones. As an outdoor company, Merrell strives to create quality products that meet the needs of both the consumer and the environment . “At Merrell, we’re actively exploring ways to build great products more responsibly,” said Strick Walker, CMO at Merrell. “The Gridway Collection is a significant step forward.” Related: Reebok develops plant-based sneakers made of cotton and corn In conjunction with the release of the Gridway collection in November, Merrell shone a light toward Keep America Beautiful, an organization that promotes America Recycles Day and continues to educate and motivate consumers about aggressive and proper recycling practices. In support of these ideals, Merrell donated $10,000 to the non-profit. + Merrell Images via Merrell

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Outdoor giant Merrell presents its most sustainable shoe to date

Inside Kathy Hannun’s quest to provide accessible household geothermal energy

May 16, 2018 by  
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It’s about the consumer-friendly product, yes, but for this ex-Googler, it’s especially about the right employees.

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Inside Kathy Hannun’s quest to provide accessible household geothermal energy

Tiny Yves Behar-designed wearable warns you when youve had too much sun

January 8, 2018 by  
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A tiny piece of innovative tech wants to help you stay away from sun-induced skin cancer. Global beauty leader L’Oréal teamed up with prolific designer Yves Behar of fuseproject to create UV Sense, the first battery-free wearable electronic UV sensor. Soon to be unveiled at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show kicking off tomorrow, this innovative technology collects and shares real-time data on individual UV exposure within a wearable so small and thin it fits on a fingernail. The UV Sense is the second UV-related wearable product L’Oréal’s presented following the debut of their temporary tattoo-like My UV Patch last year. Like its predecessor, the UV-monitoring wearable is activated by UV rays and uses near-field communication to transmit information about exposure trends to a smartphone app. In response to user feedback about My UV Patch, the new and improved UV Sense is smaller, reusable, and updated to automatically sync with the app with real-time data. At just nine millimeters in diameter and less than two millimeters thick, the tiny UV Sensor is designed to fit on a thumbnail and can be worn for up to two weeks at a time. Users can reattach the sensor with a new adhesive. The technology can hold individual UV exposure data for up to three months. Instead of a battery, the technology is powered by the user’s smartphone. L’Oréal’s accompanying app shares information on sun-safety habits and personalized advance on how the user should adjust his or her sun exposure levels. Related: L’Oréal’s wearable patch changes color to warn against skin cancer “Design and technology are inextricably linked, and as products become more personalized to individuals, both elements are integral to providing people with seamless experiences,” said Yves Behar, designer entrepreneur and founder of fuseproject . “By working with L’Oréal, we are able to pair deep expertise in beauty tech with an effective design that enhances consumers’ wellbeing without distracting from their everyday lives.” UV Sense will be available in the U.S. with limited stock through their La Roche-Posay brand this summer 2018. The global launch is slated for 2019. + La Roche-Posay Images via L’Oréal

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Tiny Yves Behar-designed wearable warns you when youve had too much sun

Scientists discover cheap method to identify "lost" 99% of ocean microplastics

December 1, 2017 by  
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The world’s oceans are awash with hazardous microplastics that are largely invisible to the naked eye. These tiny plastic fragments, which are less than 5 millimeters in diameter and originate from the breakdown of synthetic clothing fibers, polyester from disposable bags and bottles, and so-called “microbeads” from facial scrubs and other exfoliants, mostly go undetected, according to scientists. In fact, previous surveys suggest only 1 percent of marine plastic waste is identifiable. To suss out the “missing” 99 percent, researchers from the University of Warwick in England decided to shine a light on the problem—quite literally—by using fluorescent dyes. Gabriel Erni-Cassola and Joseph A. Christie-Oleza from Warwick’s School of Life Sciences, who spearheaded the research, claim that the new technique can detect microplastics as small as 20 micrometers—about the width of a single human hair. Because the dye they created binds only to plastic, the “tagged” microplastics show up easily among other natural materials when viewed under a fluorescence microscope. Related: Is synthetic clothing causing “microplastic” pollution in our oceans? Testing the method on samples of surface sea water and beach sand from the coast around Plymouth, the scientists said they were able to extract a far greater number of microplastics than they would have with traditional methods. “Using this method, a huge series of samples can be viewed and analysed very quickly, to obtain large amounts of data on the quantities of small microplastics in seawater or, effectively, in any environmental sample,” said Erni-Cassola in a statement.”Current methods used to assess the amount of microplastics mostly consist in manually picking the microplastics out of samples one by one—demonstrating the great improvement of our method.” Meanwhile, the team at Warwick discovered that the largest quantity of microplastics less than 1 mm in diameter was polypropylene, the ubiquitous polymer found in plastic bags and takeout containers. This finding proves that “our consumer habits are directly affecting the oceans,” the scientists said. Related: Which personal-care brands are still polluting the oceans with microbeads? The research is still in its early days, Christie-Oleza insisted, but it’s a beginning. “Have we found the lost 99 percent of missing plastic in surface oceans?” he said. “Obviously this method needs to be implemented in future scientific surveys to confirm our preliminary findings. It is important to understand how plastic waste behaves in the environment to correctly assess future policies.” + University of Warwick Top image by by Gaetano Cessati on Unsplash

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Scientists discover cheap method to identify "lost" 99% of ocean microplastics

Green-roofed Kew Gardens Hill Library lures patrons indoors with a lifted facade

December 1, 2017 by  
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A branch library in New York City is luring the community indoors with a clever facade that lifts up at the corner to reveal glimpses of the happenings inside. Local firm Work Architecture Company recently announced the long-awaited opening of the Kew Gardens Hill Library, a key institution in the diverse Queens neighborhood. The renovation and expansion project is filled with natural light and topped with a large green roof. The new 10,000-square-foot Kew Gardens Hill Library is a renovation and 3,000-square-foot expansion of the 1966 Lindsey Library. Custom glass fiber-reinforced concrete panels that clad the facade are molded into a rippled pattern of vertical folds. The curtain-like panels appear to be lifted up on the north corner of the building, where large exterior windows let in ample amounts of natural light and beckon passersby indoors. The concrete is exposed indoors and reflects indirect light from the south- and east-facing clerestory windows . “Not only expressive and functional but also structural, this concrete band acts as a 200-foot-long beam to support the green roof without interrupting the open interior,” write the architects. “Two columns are the only supports for this beam.” Related: This adorable red ‘train’ carts books around the New York Public Library “The new façade is a physical and metaphoric lifting up of the library’s exterior walls in order to broadcast the activities of the library to the outside.” From the glazed corner, the angular facade begins its descent to provide privacy at the staff and book drop areas behind before tilting upwards to form a second, smaller peak at the children’s corner for “child-sized views” to the south. The facade also dips down on the north side for privacy in the teen study area. The library opened to the public on September 6. + Work Architecture Company Images by Bruce Damonte

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Green-roofed Kew Gardens Hill Library lures patrons indoors with a lifted facade

First newly-developed chocolate in 80 years is made from Ruby cocoa beans

September 13, 2017 by  
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Chocolate aficionados rejoice! There’s a new version of your favorite velvety treat, and it’s ruby red in color. Made from the Ruby cocoa bean, the newly-invented variety of chocolate is the first to be developed in 80 years — since white chocolate was introduced to the world. And though we haven’t tried it ourselves, apparently it has a fruity and slightly sour flavor. The new chocolate was recently unveiled in Shanghai, China by Swiss chocolate producer Barry Callebaut . MNN reports the company spent 13 years developing the treat and describes it as a “tension between berry-fruitiness and luscious smoothness.” It’s “an intense sensorial delight,” says the company. Part of the chocolate’s appeal is its unique color, a result of the Ruby cocoa bean’s pigment. The product is all natural and is made using an “innovative process” that unlocks the bean’s unique flavor and color. Barry Callebaut says no berries, berry flavor or any color is added to the chocolate. Related: HOW TO: Make delicious, raw chocolate pudding from avocados! This is the #rubychocolate that everyone is on about. Taste is like white choc w/ berry fruits – but all from bean… pic.twitter.com/NqGs90Lmda — Andrew Baker (@ccAndrewBaker) September 5, 2017 Unfortunately, it will be at least six months until you can try the ruby chocolate for yourself since Callebaut only makes the chocolate, and not the consumer products that would go with it. Raphael Warmth wrote on the company’s Facebook page : “So far you cannot buy the ruby chocolate. This very much depends on our customers when ruby chocolate will be available … as we are a B2B company and selling ruby chocolate to food manufacturers. Usually, it takes from 6 up to 18 months until an innovation from our side hits the retail shelves.” Judging by the gleeful reactions of people taste-testing the ruby chocolate in the video below, it will be worth the wait. + Barry Callebaut Via MNN Images via  Barry Callebaut

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First newly-developed chocolate in 80 years is made from Ruby cocoa beans

How big data and behavioral science boost energy efficiency

July 31, 2017 by  
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The vast majority of people are willing to do the right thing if given the chance, especially when it comes to preserving the planet for future generations. The challenge is empowering people with the tools and knowledge to make better purchasing decisions for energy-efficient products. Figuring out how to engage the consumer market, which spends $1 billion on energy-consuming products per year in the U.S. alone, is where Enervee comes in. 

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How big data and behavioral science boost energy efficiency

Zika found in US mosquitoes for the first time

September 2, 2016 by  
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For the first time in the continental United States, researchers have confirmed positive tests for Zika virus in mosquitoes trapped near Miami. Just weeks after the Centers for Disease Control issued a historic warning for a 1.5-square-mile neighborhood in northern Miami, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced Thursday that the three mosquito samples that tested positive for Zika were from that affected area. Health officials had already determined that at least five of Florida’s human cases of Zika had been contracted locally, so finding the Zika-positive mosquitoes comes as no surprise. Embed from Getty Images Since the CDC health alert went into effect, Miami-Dade County officials have been working to control local mosquito populations in an effort to reduce the risks of Zika. The virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito as well as through sexual contact and most infected patients feel only minor flu-like symptoms. However, contracting Zika virus during pregnancy can lead to microcephaly, a severe birth defect that results in children needing lifelong care. Women who may become pregnant in the near future, and their partners, are also urged to take extra precautions when living or traveling in Zika hotspots. Related: South Carolina kills millions of bees while spraying for Zika mosquitoes Of the three Zika-positive mosquitoes, officials said that one came from traps at the botanical garden. The locations of the other two positive samples were not revealed. It is also not known to the public when any of the Zika-positive mosquitoes were trapped. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said 16 other mosquito traps in the county tested negative and tests on other samples are ongoing. Confirming Zika-positive mosquitoes and knowing the locations where they were trapped will help local officials focus mosquito control efforts. Mosquitoes travel just a small radius—not more than 150 meters—during their short lifespans, so the positive tests allow officials to create a detailed map of Zika risks. Although eradicating the mosquitoes that carry the virus is highly unlikely, officials are hopeful that the testing and control measures, along with the public health alerts, will keep Zika cases to a minimum. Via CNN Images via Pixabay and CDC

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Zika found in US mosquitoes for the first time

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