What we talk about when we talk about the circular economy

February 26, 2019 by  
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What’s the right way to measure progress? The World Business Council for Sustainable Development is framing out one possible method.

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What we talk about when we talk about the circular economy

The connection between diversity, inclusion and corporate responsibility

February 26, 2019 by  
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Imagine what we could do together.

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The connection between diversity, inclusion and corporate responsibility

New York City bans polystyrene foam starting January 1

January 4, 2019 by  
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New York City has officially become the largest jurisdiction in the United States to ban polystyrene foam food and beverage containers. On January 1st, the city’s new policy went into effect after a five-year lobbying and litigation effort from the plastics industry to upend the city’s environmental initiative. Back in 2013, the City Council authorized the statute that states NYC restaurants, food vendors and stores can’t possess, sell or offer polystyrene foam containers for food and beverages. In addition, stores can’t sell or offer “packing peanuts,” which is polystyrene foam used in shipping. They added the ban on the peanuts because they are difficult for both consumers and sanitation officials to dispose of sustainably . Even though the policy took effect on January 1st, businesses will have a six-month warning period to make the necessary changes before the sanitation department starts to enforce the ban. After June 30th, violators will be facing a $250 fine for their first offense. Related: Study finds microplastics in sea turtles around the world In anticipation of the new rule, many NYC food service establishments have already abandoned polystyrene containers and switched to more environmentally friendly options. Some of the substitutes are containers made from aluminum, compostable paper or easily-recycled plastics. Since hitting the market in the 1970s, polystyrene foam food and beverage containers have been an environmental problem because of their brittle composition, which means they break down into tiny pieces and litter the city streets, park, and beaches. To make matters worse, the foam gets flushed into storm drains and gets into local waterways, where fish and birds mistake the foam pieces for food. And, if the containers do make it to a landfill , they can survive for more than a century. The price of more environmentally-friendly containers is nearly the same as the polystyrene foam. However, if businesses with an annual gross income under $500,000 can’t find a substitute with a comparable price, they can obtain a waiver from the ban. Via NRDC Images via felixgeronimo

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New York City bans polystyrene foam starting January 1

MVRDV to transform an Amsterdam office complex into a green residential zone

January 4, 2019 by  
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In response to Amsterdam’s increasing housing demands, prolific Dutch architecture firm MVRDV has designed Westerpark West, a sustainable proposal to transform the former ING office complex into a new residential zone flush with green space. Located in the Amsterdam Brettenzone, directly west of the city’s popular Westerpark, MVRDV’s master plan envisions a neighborhood of approximately 750 homes that will range in size, building typology and price. Westerpark West will also follow an “innovative energy master plan” that combines district heating with seasonal thermal energy storage. Spanning an area of 70,000 square meters, the Westerpark West master plan will include twelve buildings, five of which will be designed by MVRDV. To reconnect the isolated area to its surroundings, the architects will work with London-based landscape architecture firm Gustafson Porter + Bowman to extend the landscape of the Westerpark onto the site and align the plot structure with the street patterns found to the south. MVRDV has also enlisted architecture firms TANK, Blauw, KRFT, Studio Maks, and DoepelStrijkers to design the architecture of Westerpark West. A number of existing office buildings on site will also be transformed into comfortable, energy-efficient housing. An abundance of outdoor green space will tie together the buildings and include front gardens and loggias as well as balcony gardens and roof terraces. The master plan also includes catering facilities, a child daycare center, as well as three underground parking garages with charging points and car sharing. Related: Shipping container village for startups pops up in Amsterdam “Amsterdam urgently needs housing in all sorts of sizes and price ranges, for both purchase and rental,” says Nathalie de Vries, co-founder of MVRDV. “Given the large number of homes that this project adds to Amsterdam-West, we have focused entirely on architectural diversity. The public space will be green and closely connect with the Westerpark. The combination of park and urbanity is unique to Amsterdam. Where else can you live in a park in the middle of the city?” + MVRDV Images © CIIID

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MVRDV to transform an Amsterdam office complex into a green residential zone

National Parks are being trashed during the government shutdown

January 4, 2019 by  
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As the government shutdown continues, many National Parks are suffering from a lack of staff as well as a complete disregard for the rules by visitors. According to multiple reports, some parks — like Yosemite National Park in California — are being overwhelmed by trash, vandalism, human waste and destructive off-roading. “It’s a free-for-all,” said Yosemite worker Dakota Snider, who added that the heartbreaking situation is the worst he has seen in his four years living there. The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week that people had seen some visitors at Yosemite dumping bags of trash from their cars, and the park closed two campgrounds and a redwood grove because of issues with human waste and a lack of staffing. Related: Air pollution levels in national parks rival those of major US cities “With restrooms closed, some visitors are opting to deposit their waste in natural areas adjacent to high traffic areas, which creates a health hazard for other visitors,” said National Parks Service spokesman Andrew Munoz. At the beginning of the shutdown, the Trump administration kept most of the National Parks open with skeleton staffs on site to make sure visitors followed the rules, like no littering and no hunting. But because there was no one to collect admission fees, the number of visitors has surged, and the skeleton crews can’t handle the park traffic. Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park has locked its restrooms and trash bins because of human waste issues, wildlife concerns and public health, according to a notice on the park website. In addition to the human waste problem, the weather has also been an issue in some locations. Arches and Canyonlands in Utah have closed because there is no money to plow the snow. The state of Utah was paying to staff all five of its National Parks , but as the new year started, it decided to staff only Zion. At Joshua Tree in Southern California , local residents and businesses are volunteering to help keep the restrooms functioning by cleaning them and hauling out trash, and private park tour companies are doing similar work in Yellowstone. In New York , the state is funding both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island to make sure they continue to operate during the shutdown. Via Huffington Post and LA Times Images via Joshua Tree National Park ( 1 , 2 )

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LA City Council unanimously agrees to ban the sale of fur

September 25, 2018 by  
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The Los Angeles City Council made a historic vote last week by unanimously agreeing to ban the sale of fur. The meeting resulted in a direct order to the L.A. City Attorney, who is responsible for penning the formal policy to outline the new law. The document is expected to surface sometime next month and will effectively ban fur beginning two years from the date of its signage. When completed, this process will result in L.A. being the largest city in the U.S. to ban the sale of fur clothing and accessories. “This is L.A. taking a stand and saying we will no longer be complicit in the inhumane and vile fur trade that’s been going on for years,” council member Bob Blumenfield said. Related: British Fashion Council commits to a fur-free London Fashion Week Some skeptics of the policy raised eyebrows, wondering how a city like L.A. that enjoys average temperatures of 75 degrees plans to make a major impact on the fur market. “I don’t think it’s happening in Moscow,” said P.J. Smith, the senior manager of fashion policy at the Humane Society. While colder cities are not expected to jump on the band wagon any time soon, the council’s initiative is definitely sparking encouragement for other cities and states in the U.S. to adopt the same measures. Blumenfield, the council member responsible for initiating the motion, explained, “We’re trying to set an example for the rest of the state and the rest of the country.” Smith agreed that as the second largest city in the U.S. — also recognized as an epicenter of global fashion — the influence that L.A. would have over other cities is extraordinary. Top international fashion houses have also pledged their commitment to the no-fur campaign, along with several other cities and countries. Smith described his experience with this domino effect saying, “I’ve been doing this job for about 10 years, and if you would have told me just two years ago that Gucci, Versace, Burberry, InStyle magazine, London Fashion Week, Norway, the Netherlands, São Paulo would be going fur-free, I wouldn’t have believed you, but it’s happening.” Related: Burberry vows to stop burning unsold clothes and using real fur Smith attributed the back-to-back bans to a little friendly competition between cities. There is already a handful of cities that have adopted anti-fur laws in California , for instance. L.A. will be joining a list that includes San Francisco and West Hollywood, “to see who’s the most compassionate city out there,” Smith explained. “San Francisco’s colder, and when San Francisco banned fur sales, it was considered the compassion capital. Then you have L.A. turning around and claiming that title back.” Via New York Times Image via Pete Bellis

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LA City Council unanimously agrees to ban the sale of fur

Retro-inspired beach hut rotates to catch the sun’s rays all day long

September 14, 2018 by  
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London-based JaK Studio has just unveiled a retro beach hut that rotates to follow the position of the sun. Located on the popular Eastbourne Beach, The Spy Glass is an egg-like pavilion striped in bright colors with an all-glass facade on one side and two port hole windows on the other. Once inside, visitors can enjoy beautiful 180-degree views of the beach and the promenade without moving an inch, because the structure is set on a rotating turntable. The design concept was inspired by the classic, colorful beach huts that were once an iconic symbol of the British seaside as well as the common coin-operated binoculars found at many tourist sites. Currently located at Eastbourne’s beach and pier, JaK Studio’s Spy Glass design puts a fun, modern spin on the classic huts by incorporating movement. Related: SPARK designs solar-powered beach huts made from discarded ocean trash “We wanted to pay homage to the traditional beach hut whilst creating a modern concept for a design classic,” Jacob Low, founding partner of JaK Studio, explained. “A big inspiration to our project was the coin slot binoculars which allow one to gaze out to sea . As you can move these binoculars, users can also move our Spy Glass to interact with the sun or coastline. It will hopefully bring a bit of nostalgia to local residents and those visiting on days out.” The brightly-painted orange and blue wooden shingles on the front door of the precast concrete pavilion achieve a nautical feel. The front door opens up to a compact space with an upholstered bench that allows people to relax and enjoy the views through the large glazed wall. A loft rests above the front door, and visitors can climb up into this area and enjoy vistas from two port hole windows. There is also a shower and ample storage, both installed to provide the basic amenities of a private beach hut. Both the large window and the port hole windows allow visitors to effortlessly enjoy views of the beach, the pier or even the promenade. The views change as the hut rotates, which is made possible by a recessed turntable. Operated by a remote control, the structure can be turned 180 degrees to provide the best views at every moment of the day. The Spy Glass hut design was one of the winning entries of an international competition hosted by Eastbourne Borough Council, which sought designs for iconic beach huts with a modern-day twist. + JaK Studio Via Dezeen Photography by Francesco Russo  and Nick Kane via JaK Studio

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Retro-inspired beach hut rotates to catch the sun’s rays all day long

Elon Musk’s first tunnel is almost complete and he’s offering free rides

May 11, 2018 by  
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Another day, another genius marketing idea from Elon Musk . In an Instagram post , Musk announced that he plans to offer free rides in The Boring Company’s first tunnel — which he described as “almost done.” Musk went on to say: “As mentioned in prior posts, once fully operational (demo system rides will be free), the system will always give priority to pods for pedestrians and cyclists for less than the cost of a bus ticket.” First Boring Company tunnel under LA almost done! Pending final regulatory approvals, we will be offering free rides to the public in a few months. Super huge thanks to everyone that helped with this project. Strong support from public, elected officials & regulators is critical to success. As mentioned in prior posts, once fully operational (demo system rides will be free), the system will always give priority to pods for pedestrians & cyclists for less than the cost of a bus ticket. A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on May 10, 2018 at 6:49pm PDT The Boring Company will offer rides in the tunnel under the Los Angeles , California area “pending final regulatory approvals” in a few months. Elon Musk thanked people who have been involved in the project, and said “Strong support from public, elected officials and regulators is critical to success.” As he often does, Musk answered a few questions about the project on Twitter. He said the company has already started working on a route between New York and Washington, D.C., and that they hope to start work on a route between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2019. Musk explained that one would be a true Hyperloop with “pressurized pods in near vacuum tunnels,” and that passengers on that route would be able to travel faster than if they were on a jetliner. Related: Boring Company confirms plans to use excavated dirt for low-cost housing bricks When one Twitter user requested a stop near Vandenburg, an Air Force base in Santa Barbara County from which SpaceX launches rockets, Musk responded , “A cool thing about the design is that’s easy to incorporate branch loops to serve small to mid-size cities without slowing down the main loop at all.” The Boring Company’s frequently asked questions page says the initial test tunnel is in Hawthorne, California. According to the Los Angeles Times , in April the City Council’s public works committee unanimously approved an environmental review exemption for a 2.7-mile tunnel. The Boring Company Images via The Boring Company

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Elon Musk’s first tunnel is almost complete and he’s offering free rides

The 6 most pressing environmental issuesand what you can do to help solve them

April 12, 2018 by  
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More than four decades after the first Earth Day , there are still many environmental concerns for communities around the world to address; perhaps none so pressing as man-made climate change . But progress is being made, and it could be argued that awareness about environmental issues is at an all-time high. For this coming  Earth Day we’re shining a light on the most pressing environmental concerns that affect us al, and showing what you can do to help restore ecological balance to this amazing place we call home. Image via Shutterstock CLIMATE CHANGE While 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change  is occurring and greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause, political will has not been strong enough so far to initiate a massive policy shift away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable forms of energy. Perhaps more extreme weather events such as droughts , wildfires, heat waves and flooding will convince the public to put more pressure on policymakers to act urgently to curb carbon emissions and address this issue before it’s too late. Related: 14 Awe-Inspiring Aerial Photographs Capture the Beauty of the Earth What You Can Do: Your home and transportation could be major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. A certified home energy audit can help make your home more energy efficient. If you commute via biking, walking or public transportation you are doing your part to fight global warming, but if you must own a motor vehicle, consider trading in your gas guzzler for a fuel efficient hybrid or better yet—go electric . When you fly, make sure to reduce your carbon footprint from air miles traveled with carbon offsets from a respected company such as Carbonfund.org . Image via Shutterstock POLLUTION Air pollution and climate change are closely linked, as the same greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet are also creating smoggy conditions in major cities that endanger public health. If you’ve seen horrifying images of pollution-choked Chinese cities and think the smog is isolated to Beijing or Shanghai, think again. U.S. scientists are finding that Chinese pollution is intensifying storms over the Pacific Ocean and contributing to more erratic weather in the U.S. Water and soil pollution might not get the media attention that air pollution does, but they are still important public health concerns. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council , dirty water is the world’s biggest health risk. While the Clean Water Act did much to make American water safe from harmful pollutants, today there is a new threat to clean water coming from the shale gas fracking boom taking place across the country and from the EPA itself . Soil contamination is a major issue across the world. In China, nearly 20 percent of arable land has been contaminated by toxic heavy metals. Soil pollution threatens food security and poses health risks to the local population. The use of pesticides and fertilizers are also major factors in soil pollution Related: Nine Chinese Cities More Polluted Than Beijing What You Can Do: Many of the solutions to air pollution are similar to those for climate change, though it’s important to either make a concerted effort to drive less, or switch to a lower-emissions vehicle. Switching over to green energy is also important, as that will cut back on fossil fuel emissions. If you aren’t able to install solar or wind power on your property or if your utility gets its electricity from dirty energy sources, consider signing up for a renewable energy producer like Ethical Electric that connects consumers to 100 percent renewable energy sources to power their homes. Image via Shutterstock DEFORESTATION Forests are important to mitigating climate change because they serve as “carbon sinks,” meaning that they absorb CO2 that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere and worsen global warming. It is estimated that 15 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation . Cutting down trees also threatens animals and humans who rely on healthy forests to sustain themselves, and the loss of tropical rainforests is particularly concerning because around 80 percent of the world’s species reside in these areas. About 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down in the past 50 years to make way for cattle ranching. That’s a double whammy for the climate because cattle flatulence is a major source of methane gas, which contributes more to short term climate change than carbon emissions. Related: New Web App Uses Google Maps to Track Deforestation as it Happens What You Can Do:  You can support Rainforest Alliance and similar organizations, stop using paper towels and use washable cloths instead, use cloth shopping bags (instead of paper), and look at labels to make sure you only use FSC-certified wood and paper products. You can also boycott products made by palm oil companies that contribute to deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. Image via Shutterstock WATER SCARCITY As the population increases and climate change causes more droughts, water scarcity is becoming more of an issue. Only three percent of the world’s water is fresh water and 1.1 billion people lack access to clean, safe drinking water. As the current drought in California dramatically shows, access to water is not just an issue for developing countries but the United States as well. In fact, by the middle of this century more than a third of all counties in the lower 48 states will be at higher risk of water shortages with more than 400 of the 1,100 counties facing an extremely high risk. Related: Could Solar-powered Desalination Solve California’s Water Supply Problem? What You Can Do: Just as energy efficiency is considered an important solution to the issues of climate change and pollution, water efficiency can help us deal with water scarcity. Some ideas to be more water efficient include installing an ENERGY STAR -certified washer, using low-flow faucets, plugging up leaks, irrigating the lawn in the morning or evening when the cooler air causes less evaporation, taking shorter showers and not running sink water when brushing your teeth. Also, consider using non-toxic cleaning products and eco-friendly pesticides and herbicides that won’t contaminate groundwater. Seventh Generation uses plant-derived ingredients for their household cleaning products. Image via Shutterstock LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY Increasing human encroachment on wildlife habitats is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity that threatens food security, population health and world stability. Climate change is also a major contributor to biodiversity loss, as some species aren’t able to adapt to changing temperatures. According to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Index , biodiversity has declined 27 percent in the last 35 years. Related: Costa Rica is Closing its Zoos and Freeing All Captive Animals What You Can Do: As consumers we can all help protect biodiversity by purchasing products that don’t harm the environment. Next time you are at the grocery store, check to see if food packaging contains any of the following eco-labels : USDA Organic, Fair Trade Certified, Marine Stewardship Council or Green Seal. Other product certifications include Forest Stewardship Council Certification, Rainforest Alliance Certification and Certified Wildlife Friendly. Also, reusing , recycling and composting are easy ways to protect biodiversity. Image via Shutterstock SOIL EROSION AND DEGRADATION Unsustainable industrial agriculture practices have resulted in soil erosion and degradation that leads to less arable land, clogged and polluted waterways, increased flooding and desertification. According to the World Wildlife Fund , half of the earth’s topsoil has been lost in the last 150 years. Related: Soil Erosion Could Cause Food Crisis, Expert Warns What You Can Do: Support sustainable agriculture that puts people and the planet above profit. Support sustainable agriculture by visiting the Sustainable Table for tips on fighting for a sustainable food system. On a smaller scale, you can make a difference in your backyard by switching to non-toxic green pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. The website Eartheasy.com sells natural lawn care products such as corn gluten organic fertilizer. + Earth Day Lead image via Deposit Photos

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The 6 most pressing environmental issuesand what you can do to help solve them

46 tons of Mardi Gras beads found clogging New Orleans catch basins

February 1, 2018 by  
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In New Orleans , clean-up crews have found 46 tons of Mardi Gras beads in the catch basins on St. Charles Avenue between Poydras Street and Lee Circle. These festive plastic staples were clogging 15,000, or fully one-quarter, of the city’s basins, which are used to drain and protect the city from flooding . As part of a $7 million contract, crews from Baton Rouge-based EnviroSystems used nearly two-dozen vacuum trucks to extract 7.2 million pounds of debris, of which 93,000 pounds were Mardi Gras beads. “This is a staggering number,” interim director of the New Orleans Department of Public Works Dani Galloway told the Times-Picayune . In response to the massive amount of Mardi Gras beads posing a threat to the city’s ability to drain itself in case of flooding, the Public Works and Sanitation departments are currently brainstorming ways to prevent further damage from beads, including installing temporary “gutter buddies” to keep the beads out. During a press conference, Galloway also emphasized the need of ordinary citizens to step up and clear catch basins in their own neighborhoods. Dozens of residents in every city district have already received training on how to properly clean the catch basins. Related: New Orleans doesn’t need a hurricane to be inundated with water The clean-up operation comes after extensive flooding during the summer of 2017, which was blamed in part on the city’s backlog of clogged catch basins. This backlog existed despite $3 million having been allocated to deal with the problem. Following last summer’s flooding, the New Orleans City Council approved a $22 million emergency plan to address the issue . Although external contractors were hired to do the work, much of the labor was sourced within the city. “They are our own people doing this work,” said Galloway . “This is important because it maximizes economic impact on the city’s contracts for the people that live and work here.” Via the Times-Picayune Images via Depositphotos and Flickr/Infrogmation of New Orleans

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46 tons of Mardi Gras beads found clogging New Orleans catch basins

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