Scott Pruitt can’t name a single EPA regulation he approves of

January 31, 2017 by  
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Scott Pruitt should send a shiver down your spine, even if your idea of environmentalism is reusing the same cup for your soda refill. At his confirmation hearing for head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a week and a half ago, Pruitt was unable to name even a single EPA regulation he supported. It showed a breathtaking, if perhaps unsurprising, amount of contempt for not only one of the nation’s most vital offices but also the very post he aspires to hold. During his tenure attorney general of oil- and gas-fueled Oklahoma, Pruitt sued the agency 14 times for anti-pollution regulations that he said were “inconsistent with its constitutional and statutory authority.” Ken Cook, president and co-founder of the Environmental Working Group , said that Pruitt could be the “most hostile EPA administrator toward clean air and safe drinking water in history.” When Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, the senior Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee asked Pruitt to name “one Clean Air Act regulation—not a voluntary or grant program—on the books today” that he approved of, Pruitt hedged. “I firmly believe that the EPA plays an important role, especially as it relates to cross-state air and water pollution, but EPA must do so within the bounds of its legal authority as provided by Congress,” he said. “Regulations that are not on solid legal foundation and that cannot survive judicial review will not result in environmental protections.” While Pruitt disagreed with President Donald Trump’s assertion that climate change is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese government, he stopped short of declaring that human activity was to blame. “I do not believe that climate change is a hoax,” Pruitt told Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) at the hearing. Later, when pressed by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to explain his position, Pruitt demurred by calling the issue “subject to continuing debate and dialogue.” In response to a query about whether “removing lead from gasoline was an important and successful EPA rulemaking,” Pruitt tersely said that he had “not evaluated this issue.” Lead cast a particularly large shadow at the hearing. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) asked Pruitt if he believed there was any safe level of lead in the human body, particularly for children and adolescents. “That’s something I have not reviewed nor know about,” Pruitt replied. “I would be very concerned about any level of lead going into the drinking water or obviously human consumption, but I’ve not looked at the scientific research on that.” Related: Trump’s EPA pick put industries before federal environmental policies According to EPA there is “no safe level of exposure to lead,” although an extremely small amount is allowed in pipes and plumbing fixtures. Equally alarming, Pruitt dodged senators’ questions about his ties with energy companies and other potential conflicts of interest by directing them to file open-records requests not once but 18 times. “Pruitt’s directive to senators to file Oklahoma open records requests is the political equivalent of saying ‘go pound sand,'” John Walke, Clean Air director at the Natural Resources Defense Council , said on Thursday. Suffice to say, none of this went down well with the committee. In a follow-up letter , Sanders, Markey, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) took Pruitt to task for what they dubbed his “troubling evasions.” In addition to calling out Pruitt’s murky public reporting of any political and legal conflicts of interest he may have as EPA administrator, not to mention his history of undermining environmental protections, the senators also condemned his “erroneous statements concerning well-established science.” “You did not know there is a safe level of lead in the human body,” they said. “You refused to repudiate statements you made that question the health impacts of mercury pollution. You refused to acknowledge that carbon pollution from human activities is widely recognized as the largest drive of climate change. These statements raise significant questions about whether instead of embracing science, you will be embracing ‘alternative facts.'” Perhaps most tellingly of all, Charles and David Koch , a.k.a. the Koch Brothers , are backing Pruitt’s power grab. Prognosis? Good for polluters, bad for everyone else.

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Scott Pruitt can’t name a single EPA regulation he approves of

Ikea flat-pack refugee shelters awarded Design of the Year

January 31, 2017 by  
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IKEA’s flat-pack refugee structure, the Better Shelter , has been awarded Design of the Year by London’s respected Design Museum . Developed in collaboration with the United Nations, the modular, solar-powered housing units have just 68 components, making them easily assembled in just a matter of hours. Since production started in 2015, thousands of Better Shelters have been installed in countries around the world to help with the ongoing refugee crisis . https://youtu.be/Ect-FwtK-84 The 17.5-square-meter shelters, which can sleep a family of five, are made out of galvanized steel frames with recyclable polymer plastic walls and lockable doors. A singular rooftop solar panel charges the indoor LED lamp and a USB port capable of charging mobile phones. Since production started on the shelters in 2015, thousands of units have been delivered to countries around the world to be used as homes, medical facilities, food distribution points, and offices. Related: IKEA’s Modular Better Shelter Housing Unit is a solar-powered emergency home for refugees The Better Shelter took home both the Architecture award and the 2017 Beazly Design Grand Prize this year. Presented by London’s Design Museum , the awards recognize “design that promotes or delivers change, enables access, extends design practice or captures the spirit of the year.” + Better Shelter + Beazly Design of the Year Via CNN Images via Better Shelter

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Ikea flat-pack refugee shelters awarded Design of the Year

15 stunning examples of interior design using natural stone

January 31, 2017 by  
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Successful interior design creates aesthetically pleasing and healthy indoor environments that enhance how we live, work, and play. Since many of us spend the majority of our time indoors, it is important that the spaces we inhabit support health, productivity and happiness. From uber-renewable bamboo , to hard woods that develop rich patinas over time, it is no secret that nature produces some of the most beautiful building materials around. But out of all of natural building materials available on our planet, time has proven stone to be the most resilient, luxurious, and longest-lasting of them all. Its ability to resist rot, mold, extreme temperatures and water damage, coupled with a low need for maintenance, makes natural stone a great choice throughout the home. Designers and homeowners often choose stone for flooring and walls due to its durability and resistance to wear and tear, but nowhere is natural stone more popular than in kitchens and bathrooms, where its moisture-resisting properties really shine . For those of you who are interested in the design possibilities of natural stone, here are fifteen examples of stunning interior design using natural stone. Why natural stone is an ideal material for bathrooms When it comes to interior design, stone is a perennially popular finish material – especially in bathrooms and kitchens. Natural stone such as marble and granite connote luxury and opulence in an interior space, and it is easy to see why. Not only are these materials more expensive than your average vinyl countertop or vinyl floor, but stone is also much more durable , water-resistant and long-lasting than any synthetic manmade building material. In the wettest room in the home this water-resistance matters. Because of this, the bathroom is the most-likely room in the house to find marble, slate or other types of natural stone. Here are some beautiful examples of bathrooms using natural stone: photo courtesy of MSI Modern marble makes this bathroom shine From the Taj Mahal to the Washington Monument, marble has always been a popular building material due to its wide availability and durability. This modern and minimalist bathroom (above) makes the most of white Arabescto Carrara marble (also known as “Chinese White” and “White Carrara”), which typically exhibits white and grey coloring in medium variation. This marble isn’t too high-contrast or showy, therefore it is neutral as a background color, allowing the homeowners to have fun with their Chevron Pattern White Quarry marble tiles around the bathtub. These beige-colored marble tiles cut into a chevron pattern lend a cool geometric look to the tub that spices up the minimalist bathroom just a bit and gives it more personality. Spa-like bathroom mixes wood and stone to create zen tranquility This gorgeous bathroom combines rich tropical wood with different textures of grey stone to create a warm, soothing ambiance.  The shower floor and backsplash is lined with Ostrich Grey Quartzite tiles from India which are durable, water-resistant and easy-to-clean, making this shower hassle-free as well as rejuvenating. photo courtesy of MSI The modern, freestanding bathtub next to the shower sits on a textured floor of Black Marble Pebbles .  These pebbles look like river stones, but are polished black marble, so extremely durable and water resistant  The varied, bumpy texture of the pebbles on bare feet stimulates the nervous system and is purportedly good for health , if you subscribe to Asian medicine philosophies (see Chinese reflexology path ). It’s like a massage or acupressure for the feet! Imagine stepping out of the tub on to this textured pebble floor. photo courtesy of Stoneshop Luxurious marble bathroom channels old-fashion opulence Reputed to be Michelangelo’s favorite stone to work with and one of the most sought after natural stones around, calacatta marble carries a certain prestige and emotional weight that few other natural stones rival. This elegant bathroom in a Moorestown, NJ mansion utilizes calacatta marble for flooring, backsplash, shower and vanity countertops, creating a sense of timeless grandeur. An elaborately inlaid floor with gorgeous water-jet marble tile pattern looks a bit like reflections off a surface of water, and creates a feeling of organic flow. photo courtesy of MSI Black slate creates a nature-inspired bathroom retreat This open-plan bathroom embraces three different types of natural stone to create a nature-inspired respite for its homeowners. The shower wall and floor tiles are made of smooth, unglazed Montauk Black slate , which creates an tranquil backdrop for the shower’s water stream. With waterproof and slip-resistant qualities, slate is an ideal material for bathroom applications, and creates a sense of calm and grounding. By sticking with a consistent dark-gray color pallet, eye-catching textures come to play without being overwhelming. Watertight thin veneer black marble covers a large expanse of the bathroom wall and creates a rippled effect reminiscent of a waterfall. Both planes meet loose river stones that soften the look on the bathroom floor, evoking a natural river bed. photo courtesy of MSI Classic marble tiles exude elegance This charming bathroom utilizes 2-inch  hexagonal Telaio marble tiles for the vanity backsplash. The intricate geometric Telaio tiles provide a refreshing twist to a traditional mosaic pattern, with white honed marble and mini gray accents. This preset mosaic looks great on walls but is durable enough for countertops and floors as well. photo courtesy of MSI Laid-back limestone channels beachy vibe Limestone is a unique natural stone that actually improves with age. Uniformly textured and even in color, this pleasantly beige stone weathers evenly over time and even develops a patina that is described as antique, old-world, or comfortable. Occasionally it contains pieces of fossils or seashells, which only add to its character. Due to its ability to scratch and stain, limestone is not an optimal choice for kitchens, but it holds up well against water, making it the perfect material for bathroom floors, showers, or tubs. This gorgeous bathroom embraces a beachy vibe with an entire coastal sand limestone wall and a backsplash made of eye-catching hexagon tiles. photo courtesy of Lundhs Using stone in the kitchen Stone is widely used for kitchen countertops, due to durability, water resistance, and imperviousness to scratching, bacteria and food stains.  Popular countertop choices include granite, marble, quartzite and Lundhs Larvikite.  Some kitchen countertops – like the Lundhs Emerald (shown above) are so scratch and stain-resistant that you can forgo cutting boards and do your chopping right on the stone. photo courtesy of MSI Form follows function in modern granite kitchen There’s a reason granite is the most popular choice for kitchen countertops. It’s easy to clean, durable, and scratch resistant, but economical and available in a wide range of colors and patterns. This snowfall granite countertop adds an unexpected pop to an otherwise minimalist kitchen, making it eye-catching yet still understated. Snowfall granite is distinctive for its speckled, snowfall-like markings, which come in black, charcoal, grey and beige. photo courtesy of Stoneshop Quartzite countertop exemplifies elegance and practicality Any successful cook will tell you that having a sturdy, accessible, and fuss-free counter space is key to getting the job done. With constant and repeated exposure to sharp utensils, extreme temperatures, mechanical force, and spills, kitchen countertops take a beating that is guaranteed to wear down even the sturdiest synthetic materials over time. For those who want to spend less time on cleanup and more time on preparing yummy food (all of us), hardy, water-resistant quartzite makes an excellent choice for kitchen counter top material. With a creamy gray-white backdrop decorated with beige or darker gray veins, quartzite resembles marble but it boasts the incredible durability of granite, making it well suited to the daily kitchen stresses. This well-polished Mont Blanc quartzite island in a Moorestown, NJ mansion brings all of marble’s timeless elegance to the room without forgoing practicality. photo courtesy of Stoneshop Quartzite counter accents contemporary kitchen style Like other types of quartzite, White Macaubas quartzite boasts all the sturdiness desired for a kitchen countertop, with the rich and timeless beauty of marble. Lighter in color than most forms of granite, white macaubas is a sure bet for anyone looking to increase the value of their home with a material that is sophisticated, low maintenance, and durable. Breakfast nooks, kitchen islands or counters, buffet tables and decorative wall accents are popular spots to make the most of this attractive natural stone. In this kitchen, the quartzite countertops look great paired with the classic tiled backsplash. photo courtesy of Lundhs Norweigan Larvikite sparkles in modern kitchen A beautiful, sparkly stone endemic to Norway is sometimes marketed as ” Blue Granite ” – but it is not actually granite. Instead, it is called Larvikite , and it comes only from the specific Larvik region of Norway . Larvikite is prized as a building material due to its incredible durability and iridescence caused by the crystalline structure of the stone. You can find it in many upscale storefronts in London and New York such as Harrods, and even in the Burj Dubai, but it is also quite popular as a kitchen countertop material. This modern kitchen in Norway is using Lundhs Blue for the countertop. Photo courtesy of Lundhs Here’s another photo of a different Lundhs blue larvikite countertop in the same modern Norwegian kitchen. Prized for its polish and crystalline sparkle, larvikite contains dime-sized crystals of feldspar. Lundhs larvikite is just as hard and durable as granite and is used in similar applications. Larvikite is believed to have calming and healing properties and has also been adopted as Norway’s national stone. photo courtesy of Arizona Tile Artistic tiling exudes charm This eye-catching geometric wall using Arizona Tile illustrates the design possibilities that can be explored by combining different types of natural stone. The contrast between the artfully arranged round White Carrara marble tiles and smooth Fantasy Brown marble countertop demonstrates the homeowner’s artistic eye and attention to detail. While beautiful and easy-to-clean marble has always been a popular countertop choice, it is subtle decorative applications like this that add character and warmth to a home. photo courtesy of MSI Sleek granite and unpolished quartzite complement each other in surprising ways This arrangement by Arizona Tile provides another example of how pairing contrasting natural stones creates unexpected depth and texture. A sleek and contemporary Marron Cohiba Satin granite countertop meets rugged Golden Gate Stack quartzite to create a kitchen space that is both unique and inviting. What might seem like an unlikely combination at first ends up feeling like an organic pairing. To learn more about different types of natural stone, check out MIA+BSI: The Natural Stone Institute . + MIA+BSI: The Natural Stone Institute

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15 stunning examples of interior design using natural stone

Obama orders US govt to consider climate change a national security issue

September 22, 2016 by  
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In a historic first for the United States, President Barack Obama signed a memorandum this week to require federal policy makers to factor climate change when deciding matters of national security . The directive impacts 20 federal agencies and offices that work on climate science, intelligence and national security. Obama ordered those agencies must “collaborate to ensure the best information on climate impacts is available to strengthen our national security” through the newly formed Federal Climate and National Security Working Group . In the next 90 days, the new working group is required to develop and release an action plan concerning the intersection of climate change and national security . The affected agencies will then be expected to identify steps to carry out that plan. This is the first time US federal agencies will be required to factor in issues related to climate change when developing doctrine, policies, and plans concerning national security. Related: Pentagon report states climate change is an immediate threat to national security “Simply put, our agencies want to protect our nation against this threat,” said Alice Hill, special assistant to the president and senior director for resilience policy at the National Security Council, in a conference call with media. She also said the directive establishes “a unified approach to identify the priorities for the federal government.” The directive could easily be overturned by the next president, but White House officials say the continued effects of climate change will have an increasing impact on national security over time. Debates among politicians may be ongoing about the severity of climate change and some, like Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, still believe security decisions should trump environmental concerns in most cases. Despite previously backing legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions, Graham said Obama’s new directive was “elevating it beyond where it needs to be right now.” Via Washington Post Images via Wikipedia  and Pexels

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Obama orders US govt to consider climate change a national security issue

Urban Rigger: affordable floating dorms made from shipping containers in Copenhagen

September 22, 2016 by  
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Copenhagen icon and world-renowned architect Bjarke Ingels designed the Urban Rigger units, but the idea was the brainchild of Kim Loudrop, an entrepreneur who founded the Urban Rigger startup. Loudrop sought to create a “revolutionary and innovative floating dwelling system” that took advantage of unused prime real estate—the water. The urgent student housing shortage galvanized the entrepreneur, who also noticed that 80 percent of major universities in Europe were centrally located in cities, with many near bodies of water. The floating Urban Rigger dorms built on the water seemed like a natural solution. Copenhagen was used as the first testing ground—the city is one of the ten costliest cities in the world to live in—but the startup has hopes of expanding the patented concept worldwide. Flexible, floating, and undeniably cool, the mobile Urban Rigger units offer waterfront living at a fraction of the normal cost. BIG’s 680-square-meter modular design comprises nine stacked shipping container units organized in a circle to frame a centralized winter garden and common area. Each modular shipping container dorm houses 12 students, who have their own bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen, but also have access to a 160-square-meter common green courtyard, kayak landing, bathing platform, barbecue area, and 65-square-meter communal roof terrace. Related: 7,500 affordable floating homes could help fight London’s crippling housing crisis To meet carbon neutral status, the floating dorms are powered by solar energy and a hydro-based heat-exchange system that draws on seawater as a natural source of heat. NASA-developed aerogel is used to insulate the interiors, while Grundfos energy-saving pumps are installed for wastewater, heating, circulation, and drinking water. Urban Rigger says the shipping containers, made entirely of Corten Steel, are upcycled to save on materials, energy, and cost . According to Fast Company , each energy-efficient shipping container dormitory is manufactured at a Polish shipyard for $700 to $800 per square foot. Urban Rigger has already begun plans to build their next 24-unit project in Sweden and is fielding requests from North America. But the success of the startup will depend on the willingness of cities to open up their waterfront properties to the affordable floating dwellings. Fortunately, the company and Ingels are optimistic. “We might be in a situation where the goodwill of addressing an issue that is important to the government means that we’d get some access to the key waterfront sites under their control,” Ingels told Fast Company . The architect also sees potential in the experimental model for future applications in refugee housing and his firm even has plans of building Urban Rigger housing for their interns. + Urban Rigger Via Fast Company Images via Urban Rigger and BIG

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Urban Rigger: affordable floating dorms made from shipping containers in Copenhagen

Sydney plans to divest $500 million from fossil fuels

September 7, 2016 by  
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Sydney can now add its name to the list of cities working to divest money away from fossil fuels . The city council is working toward a policy that would divest $500 million from banks investing in fossil fuels. Although the Australian city faces an election this Saturday, campaigners think the policy will go through regardless of the election’s outcome. Current Lord Mayor Clover Moore called for a policy that would place fossil fuels like oil, gas, and coal on the council’s “environmentally harmful activities” list and would prioritize investing in institutions that put money into sustainable activities instead. Right now the council manages over $500 million. According to Moore, 56 percent of the council’s funds go toward the “big four” banks in Australia. But in 2015, those four banks put $5.5 billion into oil, natural gas, and coal. Related: Copenhagen city council approves plan to divest from fossil fuels The council passed the motion calling for the policy unanimously. After the election they’re expected to devise an investment policy divesting from fossil fuels that the council would need to approve. Moore has already said she’ll work to move the policy forward if re-elected. The motion was supported by independent councilors and those from the Liberal, Labor, and Greens parties. Campaigner Isaac Astill of 350.org , a group that lobbied for the policy, said it appears the policy has “wide appeal” and that it will likely “sail through after the election.” Finding new banks in which to invest could still be a challenge. Moore told Guardian Australia, ” Climate change is the most important issue of our times. We urgently need to reduce our greenhouse emissions and move away from fossil fuels to clean energy – but we are currently frustrated by the market offerings for green investments and the ability of smaller banks without loans to fossil fuel projects to accept more of our deposits.” Via The Guardian Images via Pixabay and CeBIT Australia on Flickr

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Sydney plans to divest $500 million from fossil fuels

South Australia reaps 83% of electricity in one day from ‘wild’ wind

July 15, 2016 by  
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South Australia recently had a ” wild ” windy weekend. While the severe weather led to power outages for some, there was a side benefit: wind turbines generated a huge amount of energy , providing over two-thirds of electricity needs over the weekend. On Monday, 83 percent of South Australia’s electricity came from wind. According to Australia’s Clean Energy Council, an organization working to promote renewable energies and energy efficiency, South Australia has led the way when it comes to clean energy. Solar and wind are slowly catching up to fossil fuels there, and last weekend’s large renewable energy supply is a hopeful indicator of a clean energy future to come. Policy Manager Alicia Webb said there are 683 wind turbines in South Australia, which have led to $6 billion in investment and ” hundreds ” of jobs. Related: Portugal powered by 100% renewable energy for over four days “Southern Australia…is in the midst of a remarkable transformation, with more than 40 percent of its power needs coming from renewable energy last year,” Webb said in a press release. “It is clear that modern economies can run on increasingly higher levels of renewable energy, and it is clear from South Australia’s example that other mainland states can go much further with no loss of reliability.” While “volatile” gas prices have led to increased power generation prices in South Australia, Webb said wind power helps keep energy prices down when the weather is windy. The state has pursued solar energy as well; ” cumulative installed solar capacity ” could soon hit five gigawatts, according to reports. Webb said renewable energies will help Australia meet the targets set as part of the Paris agreement , and will help slash pollution in the energy industry. She also pointed to new technologies such as battery storage as innovations that will help spur the movement towards clean energy. Via CleanTechnica Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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South Australia reaps 83% of electricity in one day from ‘wild’ wind

‘From Piss to Pilsner’ recycles urine to make beer

February 6, 2016 by  
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An estimated 100,000 visitors to the Roskilde Festival in Denmark this summer had the unusual opportunity to recycle their urine into beer . “From Piss to Pilsner” hopes to ignite a new movement called beercycling, transforming 25,000 liters of festivalgoers’ pee into kegs of frothy beer. The collected urine will be used to fertilize beer’s building block–barley. Read the rest of ‘From Piss to Pilsner’ recycles urine to make beer

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‘From Piss to Pilsner’ recycles urine to make beer

GreenBiz and WBCSD bring COP 21 event to a global audience

November 4, 2015 by  
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News release: Anupcoming livecast of Council meeting will present views of corporate climate leaders.

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Hitachi’s Barbara Dyer on how to build inclusive businesses

November 4, 2015 by  
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Viewing labor as an investment, rather than a cost to be minimized, is one key to balancing corporate social responsibility and the bottom line.

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