5 ways to shift consumers towards sustainable behavior

August 21, 2019 by  
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How can we translate this consumer sustainability buzz into actual action?

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5 ways to shift consumers towards sustainable behavior

5 ways to shift consumers towards sustainable behavior

August 21, 2019 by  
Filed under Business, Green

How can we translate this consumer sustainability buzz into actual action?

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5 ways to shift consumers towards sustainable behavior

Arsenic found in bottled water sold at major retailers

June 24, 2019 by  
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Multiple studies have found arsenic in bottled water sold around the country. Major companies Whole Foods and Keurig Dr. Pepper are under fire for their spring water brands Peñafiel and Starkey, which, according to the California Center for Environmental Health, exceed the federal limit for arsenic. Keurig Dr. Pepper has voluntarily withdrawn its unflavored mineral water from shelves at retail outlets like Target and Walmart and is offering a refund for customers that return the contaminated bottles. Related: Ragú pasta sauce pulled from shelves for possible plastic contamination A corroborating study by Consumer Reports also found that the waters exceeded the federal limits for arsenic by 10 parts per billion. Despite pressure from the Food and Drug Administration, Whole Foods has not issued a recall . According to Whole Foods, an internal study found that its water is within the federal safety limits. The Center for Environmental Health did not release the exact findings of its study, as it has launched a lawsuit against both companies. The specific results of the analysis are confidential until further notice. “Arsenic when present in the diet at very high levels, well above those detected in recent samples of Peñafiel, is associated with numerous chronic diseases ,” Keurig Dr Pepper said in a company press release. “Water quality tests of Peñafiel samples conducted by an independent laboratory on behalf of Keurig Dr Pepper detected arsenic at levels that exceeded the FDA’s bottled water standards for mineral water of 10 ppb.” Peñafiel is imported from Mexico, where bottling has halted until further investigation. Starkey is bottled from a spring source in Idaho that was recently lauded for its purity during the brand’s launch in 2016. By 2017, however, the Food and Drug Administration had already recalled the water for the first time. Bottled water is the top selling bottled beverage in the U.S., with most consumers assuming it is safer and more regulated than municipal tap water. Via Huffington Post Image via FotoBlend

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Arsenic found in bottled water sold at major retailers

These biodegradable sweaters ditch fast fashion in favor of sustainable cashmere

June 24, 2019 by  
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With a goal of replacing fast fashion with consciously consumed fashion, Frances Austen’s summer 2019 collection features 100 percent biodegradable sweaters made from sustainably sourced cashmere and silk. After many years in the fashion business, Frances Austen founder Margaret Coblentz was tired of seeing the trends in fast fashion , including a flurry of wasteful production and post-consumer disposal. With the clothing industry consistently falling into the highest-ranking waste production industries, she decided to do something about it with a very basic philosophy — make quality clothing that is versatile and long-lasting. Her goal is to encourage consumers to re-wear clothing, both because it’s good for the planet and because they love what they’re wearing. With that in mind, the luxury product line aims to be both trendy and timeless. Related: H&M releases sustainable fashion line made from fruit and algae “The lightbulb moment was years in the making,” Coblentz said. “After a decade of witnessing firsthand the overproduction of fast fashion that is not re-wearable, recyclable or re-sellable, we decided to do something about it. We saw amazing qualities in luxury fabrics , silk and cashmere, and envisioned game-changing clothing that is 100 percent sexy on you as well as the environment. If you want to help the planet, it starts by re-wearing your clothes, and our aim at Frances Austen is to make that easier for you. All our pieces are made to last, versatile for every occasion and comprised of biodegradable materials and are 100 percent cashmere.” Sustainability begins with the materials used during production, so the yarn comes from specialists in the industry, spun by Cariaggi in Italy. All of the yarn is Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified, a certification only earned with chemical-free production and high international safety standards. For production, the company partnered with Johnstons of Elgin, a family-owned factory in Scotland. In business for over 200 years, it is the largest employer in the small community of Hawick. Long associated with luxury and an emphasis on craftsmanship, Johnstons of Elgin is a name known for its socially responsible practices. With reliable material and manufacturing partnerships in place, Frances Austen shifted focus to long-lasting durable designs in the sweaters themselves. Dedicated to using the finest fibers (15 micron), the goal of less pilling leads to durability and a softer feel over the life of the garment. Hoping to meet the needs of a range of consumers, the product line includes crop designs, lantern sleeve, raw edge crew and a longer, reversible V-neck in a range of colors from citrine and kiwi to traditional charcoal and soft white. As a result of my interest in writing about the sustainably focused 2019 summer sweater line, Frances Austen sent me a sample sweater to experience. The Reversible V in blush mauve is uniquely designed to allow a deep V front or a stylish V back and crew neck front. In my opinion, this adds to the versatility of the piece, giving it more value as a long-lasting article in my closet. The material is remarkably soft and comfortable on the skin. Time will tell the story of durability, but I’m excited to put it to the test as a staple of my wardrobe for many years to come. + Frances Austen Images via Frances Austen and Dawn Hammon / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: This product overview and review is not sponsored by Frances Austen. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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These biodegradable sweaters ditch fast fashion in favor of sustainable cashmere

The pros and cons of online versus in-store shopping

June 20, 2019 by  
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In as little as a few clicks and confirmations your online purchase can be at your doorstep in a matter of hours. Online shopping is so simple there is barely enough time to consider the process your order goes through in order to reach its destination, not to mention the cost! It’s easy to condemn Americans’ obsession with online retail as unsustainable over-consumption, but when the numbers are pitted against in-store shopping, online shopping is actually the more eco-friendly option. Think of delivery services as public transportation for your packages, where everyone’s package rides the same bus instead of your personal car. Online shopping Online shopping constitutes one out of every seven purchases around the world, that’s nearly 15 percent of all shopping. The online retail industry is worth over $3.5 trillion, a massive total that rises by 20 percent every year. The average carbon footprint of a package is difficult to calculate because there are huge discrepancies. For example, the time and resources used comparing a local clothing delivery and a refrigerator that travels across the world from China. The advantages In Britain, the average package produces just six ounces of carbon dioxide, which sounds tiny but has to be multiplied by millions of deliveries. Going to the store to pick up your item and back, averaging an estimated 13 miles, produces approximately 144 ounces of carbon dioxide , which is 24 times more than the delivered package. You would have to pick up 24 items in order to break even. According to a researcher and author of Decarbonizing Logistics , even when you consider mis-deliveries and returns, the averages point to online shopping as a more environmentally-friendly option. Nowadays, many popular brands no longer have (or never had) storefronts. The carbon footprint of running a website alone is also drastically less than the energy it takes to power and maintain a building space. The disadvantages The biggest polluter for delivery services is the last mile, and those emissions are multiplied every time the delivery is unsuccessful. Between 12 and 60 percent of all deliveries are unsuccessful on the first try, so they often make a second or third attempt. If they are still unsuccessful, the consumer must drive to a warehouse to pick up the package– negating all benefits in terms of carbon emissions . Furthermore, about one fifth of all products purchased online are returned, which can double the carbon footprint. In-store shopping The advantages Shopping in person partially cuts down on returns because customers are able to touch, see and try on the items before purchasing. This means they are more likely to select something they like and that fits them and avoid the common online practice of buying one item in a few sizes and returning all but one. Additional advantages of in-store shopping lie in the personal choices people make to reduce their carbon footprint. Many people walk or bike to stores, while others utilize public transportation . Although a bus still has a carbon footprint, you technically aren’t adding additional emissions since the bus was simply completing a pre-determined route. Moreover, shoppers tend to purchase more than one item at a time, which minimizes the emissions per item. The disadvantages Depending on the distance the consumer travels and their mode of transportation, online shopping is highly inefficient. In most cases, shoppers drive individually in personal cars to malls or commercial areas. Although shoppers can make personal choices to cut down their emissions, such as carpooling and staying local, research shows these steps still do not compensate for the benefits of online shopping . Related: Over 6000 employees demand Amazon take climate change seriously How to make smarter shopping choices New innovations Delivery services are growing rapidly and getting creative. Amazon is piloting drone deliveries and other companies are experimenting with ground-based robots. New apps and shared economy services are also popping up, like bike courier companies. One innovative app called Roadie is playing with the idea of a package hitchhiking system that connects your package with a delivery already heading in that direction. Slow shopping You’ve heard of slow food , but it turns out that slow deliveries might be more environmentally friendly too. Most people who can afford it opt for speedy deliveries, but this forces retailers to send packages out individually, immediately and sometimes in emptier trucks just in order to meet deadlines. With the wiggle room of a few more days, shippers can bundle items going to a similar location together and reduce the number of trips and emissions. Buy Local If you can walk or bike to the store, that’s a great option. If you have to ship something, check out different retailers and chose the one located closest to you. The less distance your package travels, the lower the carbon footprint. Conspicuous consumption There are a few ways to be a more responsible buyer. If you know a delivery is coming, make sure to be home when the delivery arrives so it does not have to double back. Select slower delivery times when not in a rush and shop more purposefully to avoid returns. Overall, the best way to reduce retail-related emissions is to buy less! Carefully consider what you need and do not buy items that you will barely use. But most importantly, always consider all items before a purchase. Are they necessary? Afterall, an item not purchased has the lowest footprint. Via Ensia Images via StockSnap , HutchRock, kasjanf, RouteXL

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The pros and cons of online versus in-store shopping

Cool off this summer at this tiny house water park with a natural lagoon

June 20, 2019 by  
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If the summer heat is already getting you hot and sweaty, cool down at this amazing tiny home water park in Wisconsin Dells. Guests to the Dells Resorts park have a number of accommodation options, but one of the best by far is this gorgeous tiny home built by Bantam Built Homes , which sits next to the park’s natural lagoon. The Bantam tiny home , which sleeps four, blends in nicely with the natural surroundings of the resort. Clad in a blend of dark wood and copper, the exterior boasts a tiny deck with a glass door that leads into a spectacular living space. Related: Try out tiny house living in Oregon’s new micro-home resort in Mt. Hood The home’s interior is light and airy, brightened by natural light from an abundance of windows. The compact kitchen comes with all of the basic amenities, including plenty of counter space and full-size appliances. To the right of the kitchen, the living room is made up of a sofa with what appears to be an attractive wooden accent wall. However, the wall actually conceals a mattress that can be folded out into a bed. Past the kitchen, a ladder leads up to the comfy sleeping loft , which has enough space for a queen-sized bed. Underneath the loft, the designers added a spacious bathroom with a large vanity, a stand-up shower, a toilet and an ingenious sliding shelf unit for linens. In addition to its charming tiny home accommodations, the water park also features a number of eco-friendly practices. The water pond, for example, is kept clean using natural elements instead of harmful chemicals and uses a waterfall to add extra oxygen to the water. + Dell Resorts + Bantam Built Homes Via Tiny House Talk Images via Bantam Built Homes

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Cool off this summer at this tiny house water park with a natural lagoon

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

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