DNC votes to ban fossil fuel company donations

June 14, 2018 by  
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The Democratic National Committee (DNC) recently adopted a ban on donations coming from fossil fuel companies, HuffPost reported . The executive committee voted unanimously on a resolution proposed by political strategist Christine Pelosi that doesn’t allow the organization to accept contributions from corporate political action committees (PACs) connected to the oil and gas industry . The text of the resolution says, “…fossil fuel corporations are drowning our democracy in a tidal wave of dark oily money; they have deceived the public about the impacts of climate change , fought the growth of clean renewable energy , and corrupted our political system.” Oil and gas companies in 2016 spent $7.6 million on Democratic races, compared to $53.7 million in direct donations to Republicans . In 2018, Republicans have taken 89 percent of the oil and gas industry’s donations thus far. The DNC confirmed the recent vote to HuffPost but did not comment on the record. Related: Climate change video directed by James Cameron heats up the DNC The resolution’s text says “hundreds of individual Democratic political candidates for office across the country have pledged not to take money from the fossil fuel industry.” Former president Barack Obama prohibited contributions from corporate PACs after winning the Democratic party’s nomination, but former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz lifted that ban before the 2016 election. HuffPost reported the DNC might consider a second resolution in August at a Chicago full board meeting to ban contributions greater than $200 from people working for the fossil fuel industry. Co-author of the recent resolution RL Miller told HuffPost, “So if Eddie Exxon is your college buddy and a frat-boy friend of yours and he’s employed at an Exxon gas station and wishes to donate $25 to have a barbecue and a beer with you, fine. But if Edward J. Exxon in Exxon’s middle management thinks you’re worth contributing $2,700 to out of his own salary, that is much more concerning to us.” + (((sfpelosi))) on Medium Via HuffPost Image via Depositphotos

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DNC votes to ban fossil fuel company donations

Eco-group faces imprisonment after reviving an abandoned Spanish village

June 8, 2018 by  
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Like many countries around the world, Spain is struggling to address the problem of rural inhabitants abandoning villages to migrate to urban areas. However, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for Fraguas. Nearly 50 years after residents left the small area in northern Castilla-La Mancha, an eco-minded group of people decided to revitalize the village. Since 2013, the community has managed to breathe new life into Fraguas by rebuilding dilapidated homes, installing solar panels , planting vegetable gardens and restoring the area’s natural forest growth. By most accounts, it is a heart-warming story of the reformation of a once-beloved village — that is until the Spanish government decided to start legal proceedings to kick the new residents out of town. After decades of urban migration, the Iberia Peninsula is currently teeming with hundreds, if not thousands, of extinguished communities, many of them up for sale . While most of the villages were left abandoned, the previous residents of Fraguas were bought out by the government in the late 1960s to make way for a planned reforestation program . The village had only a handful of full-time inhabitants and became overgrown by nature’s creep. At one point, it was being used as a military training camp for Spanish soldiers, who took to blowing up the remaining buildings. Related: This revolutionary sustainable community in Atlanta is still thriving 15 years after its founding When the group arrived at the derelict site, they were set on bringing the land back to life through sustainable principles . The members began by clearing out the mass plant growth that had taken over the buildings and streets. Then, they started to reforest the area in and around the village, clear out roads and walking paths and plant orchards and large crops of vegetables. To restore the many dilapidated buildings and homes, the group researched as much as they could about the village’s original layout. As they created their master plan, the team started to draw up plans for installing various green technologies such as  solar panels and a communal gray water system. When the group began to revitalize as an eco-village , they met with various former residents, most of whom gave the group their blessings. One such supporter, Rafael Heras, was born in the village 71 years ago, but left at 19 to work in Madrid. Heras helped the team by describing life in what he calls a simple and self-sufficient area. “There was no electricity and no proper road; we used to keep it clear so that cars could come through,” he said. “It wasn’t a prosperous place, but I had a happy childhood here and people got by quite well.” Another former resident, Isidro Moreno, was also instrumental in the village’s rebirth by providing maps, plans and photos of the area as it was when he was growing up. In his guidebook, he addressed a heartfelt letter to the group. “To the new residents of Fraguas,” it reads. “Let’s see if you can recover this village’s history once more … I want to remind you to treat these stones with the love and respect they deserve, even if today they’re dead and lost among brambles and weeds. In another time, they were alive and were part of the story of the people who struggled so hard to live and who went through so many calamities.” Despite the support of many, there are some powerful adversaries that want to put a stop to the group’s hard work. The regional government recently said that the new residents can no longer stay in the village. In fact, not only is the government trying to evict the collective, but it is going through legal channels to punish the members for their “invasion” of the area. Currently, six members face more than four years imprisonment each along with a fine of up to $30,000 that will be used to demolish and destroy all of the effort that the group put into rebuilding the village over the last five years. According to  The Guardian , the regional government’s representative in Guadalajara Alberto Rojo has suggested that the group would had been better off rebuilding a village on the brink of extinction. He explained that there are more than 200 villages in the same area that have fewer than 50 inhabitants and would love to welcome new neighbors. “Of course we agree that there needs to be re-population initiatives in the province – and let’s hope there will be many – but only in the right kind of places,” he said, adding that the area of Fraguas is part of the Sierra Norte natural park, which is protected by law. Rojo also claimed that the village is in a danger zone for forest fires. Jaime Merino, one of the new residents, dismissed Rojo’s argument about the potential fire danger, insisting that the group has significantly reduced the risk of fire by cleaning up the overrun vegetation, and they have even offered to dig firebreaks around the village. He explained that the government says one thing, but does another. “There’s a certain resistance to this kind of project in this country,” Merino said. “They always say they’re going to take steps to tackle depopulation and find ways to get people back into rural areas, but this is an example of that. That’s the paradox: it’s Guadalajara’s department of agriculture, the environment and rural development that wants to demolish the village.” At this time, the Fraguas collective is going on the offensive to protect the home that they have spent years rebuilding. A Change.org petition has already attracted more than 76,000 signatures, and the group has launched an appeal for contributions on their website to fund legal bills. The group regularly posts updates on their Facebook page as well. + Fraguas Revive Via The Guardian Images via Fraguas Revive

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Eco-group faces imprisonment after reviving an abandoned Spanish village

India plans to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022

June 6, 2018 by  
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Big news from India : the country aims to abolish single-use plastic in about four years. Prime minister Narendra Modi announced the goal on World Environment Day , and The Guardian said it’s the most ambitious commitment out of the actions to combat plastic pollution happening in 60 nations. The move could dramatically reduce the flow of plastic from 1.3 billion people. India is resisting plastic pollution with what United Nations Environment head Erik Solheim called a phenomenal commitment. The country’s Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Harsh Vardhan said single-use plastics will be banned in all of the country’s states by 2022. Solheim said the move would inspire the planet and “ignite real change.” Related: Kenya introduces world’s harshest law on plastic bags “It is the duty of each one of us to ensure that the quest for material prosperity does not compromise our environment ,” Modi said. “The choices that we make today will define our collective future. The choices may not be easy. But through awareness, technology and a genuine global partnership, I am sure we can make the right choices. Let us all join together to beat plastic pollution and make this planet a better place to live.” UN Environment released  a report providing “the first comprehensive global assessment of government action against plastic pollution,” including case studies from over 60 countries. The report included a list of states and cities in India that have banned plastic bags or disposable plastic products, and the selected case study in the country highlighted beach cleanup efforts in Mumbai; Inhabitat covered the initiative started by local lawyer Afroz Shah earlier this year. Volunteers have cleaned up around 13,000 tons of trash, largely plastics , according to the case study, and this year people spotted Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings on the beach for the first time in more than 20 years. + United Nations Environment Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos and Juggadery/Flickr

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India plans to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022

Mars Australia to go to 100% renewable energy in just over one year

June 5, 2018 by  
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One of the largest manufacturers in Australia is going green. Food company Mars Australia recently announced it will match 100 percent of its  electricity use with clean power by 2020. The company’s goal is to completely eliminate greenhouse gases from its operations by 2040. Exciting news from down under – Mars Australia has entered the solar system! We’re proud to announce we’re now purchasing the equivalent of 100% of our electricity use from #renewable #solar energy! Learn more about our commitment to a #sustainable future: https://t.co/BZnJSuCLkb pic.twitter.com/vofAZea3ht — Mars, Incorporated (@MarsGlobal) May 31, 2018 Mars Australia signed a 20-year power-purchase agreement with renewable energy company Total Eren. The Sydney Morning Herald reported the deal will support the Kiamal Solar Farm in northern Victoria, which Total Eren is developing, as well as a second clean power project in New South Wales. Mars Australia said it has contracted for power to match electricity needs of six factories and two sales offices in Australia. The company’s electricity use in the country is around 100 gigawatt-hours a year; general manager Barry O’Sullivan told The Sydney Morning Herald, “We’ve got a pretty big footprint on this planet. Our energy usage in total is equivalent to a small country’s.” Related: Australia’s solar energy capacity could almost double in one year Solar power from the Kiamal Solar Farm, which is slated for completion in the middle of 2019, won’t go directly to Mars Australia’s operations. Instead, it will go to the country’s national grid. Mars Australia will receive Renewable Energy Certifications from the Kiamal Solar Farm and will support Total Eren in expanding the farm to a planned 200-megawatt capacity. Mars Australia said the energy generated at the solar farm could power 185 million 180-gram (around 6-ounce) bags of peanut M&Ms, 2.5 billion packets of EXTRA gum, 1.4 billion bottles of MasterFoods tomato sauce or 29 million 3-kilogram (around 6-pound) bags of PEDIGREE dog food. We’re thrilled to announce that Mars Australia is adding new solar power to the national grid equivalent to 100% of our electricity use! But how much is that? Here’s a taste… pic.twitter.com/5HQurC9oUK — Mars, Incorporated (@MarsGlobal) May 31, 2018 O’Sullivan said in a Mars press release  that rising electricity prices played a role in the company’s decision to switch to renewable energy. The move joins Mars sites in the U.S., U.K. and about nine other countries. O’Sullivan said the “price volatility of energy in Australia made renewables the best option for our business.” Total Eren CEO David Corchia said, “Partnering with manufacturing thought leaders like Mars Australia is essential and sends a strong message to the rest of the market that now is the time to capitalize on the opportunities offered by renewable power purchase agreements and to drive positive changes in the environment .” + Mars Australia Via The Sydney Morning Herald Images via Depositphotos

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Mars Australia to go to 100% renewable energy in just over one year

Trump orders Perry to take steps to curb coal plant shutdowns

June 4, 2018 by  
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It seems President Donald Trump doesn’t want to let coal die. Bloomberg reported he ordered Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to take steps to stem closures of nuclear and coal power plants. An emailed statement from White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders read, “Impending retirements of fuel-secure power facilities are leading to a rapid depletion of a critical part of our nation’s energy mix and impacting the resilience of our power grid .” Coal and nuclear plants are losing money as cheaper renewable energies and natural gas gain steam. Trump’s administration alleges that declines in nuclear and coal power jeopardize America’s security. According to the White House statement, the president told Perry “to prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources and looks forward to his recommendations.” The Department of Energy’s strategy, as detailed in a memo Bloomberg obtained , could be to draw on power given by federal laws to create a “strategic electric generation reserve” and compel grid operators to purchase power from plants that are at risk. The National Security Council was to meet last week to talk over the idea. Related: Biggest grid operator in US attacks Perry’s proposal to prop up coal One purpose of this draft plan, Bloomberg reported, is to buy time for a two-year study probing vulnerabilities in the country’s energy delivery system. Administration officials have already used up a year of this time. Following an Energy Department grid reliability study, Perry suggested a rule that would have compensated nuclear and coal plants — and federal regulators killed the proposal. Major grid operator PJM Interconnection said in a statement its grid “is more reliable than ever” and “there is no such need for any such drastic action.” The company said it has analyzed planned deactivations of nuclear stations and found no immediate threat to reliability. PJM said, “Any federal intervention in the market to order customers to buy electricity from specific power plants would be damaging to the markets and therefore costly to consumers.” Electric Power Supply Association president John Shelk said, “National security is being invoked by people who once favored markets. Everybody loses in a fuels war.” Via Bloomberg Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Gorgeous barn is built of reclaimed, century-old oaks from the site itself

June 4, 2018 by  
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In 2017, Dutch design firm HilberinkBosch Architects found out that seven of their century-old oak trees were in ailing health and would need to be cut down. Instead of sending the oaks to the paper mill, the architects decided to try their hand at building a timber barn using traditional construction techniques. The result—called the Sixteen-Oak Barn—was a stunning success that combines modern and rustic features with large panels of glazing and untreated timbers. The idea for a barn came from the local building vernacular in the Dutch region of Meierij van ‘s-Hertogenbosch, which features gabled farmhouses traditionally built from locally available materials . In a design the architects describe as “haphazard aesthetics,” the Sixteen-Oak Barn was constructed of the locally felled, century-old oak trees in addition to a couple of oaks sourced from the nearby Wamberg estate. The barn comprises a carport, storage room, and a workshop / meeting room for office use. There is also an addition loft space located above the storage room. A mobile sawmill brought on-site was used to cut the core sections of the felled oak tree trunks into structural timber for the frames, roof, and siding. The transverse-frame barn involves tie rod trusses and roof rafters to hold up an asymmetrical shingled roof clad in cleaved soft sapwood. Stanchions with bark serve as solar fins to shield the glazed facade from unwanted solar heat gain. Board-formed concrete complements the timber palette indoors. Leftover timber was chopped and stored as firewood in the barn’s recessed north facade. Related: Traditional barn raising techniques bring a modern cost-effective farm to life “The barn’s aesthetics have been strongly influenced by coincidence,” wrote the architects. “It lends this contemporary building a vital expression that merges old and new in a wonderful and extraordinary way. Untreated timber, concrete and glass have been intermingled in various ways. The irregular dimensions of the wood used to build the formwork resulted in far from perfect concrete surfaces.” + HilberinkBosch architects Images by René de Wit

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Gorgeous barn is built of reclaimed, century-old oaks from the site itself

UK fracking measures could make exploratory drilling "as easy as building a garden wall"

May 17, 2018 by  
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The United Kingdom ‘s government has come under fire from fracking opponents after releasing measures that could fast-track shale gas projects. Under these measures, explorers could drill test sites without first applying for planning permission, The Guardian reported . Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said, “Britain’s fracking experiment was on life support and now the government is trying its best to shock it back into life.” Shale gas, a natural gas extracted via hydraulic fracturing or fracking, is a controversial energy source. On one hand, it produces less carbon emissions than oil or coal ; on the other, it’s still a fossil fuel polluting the planet more than renewable  resources like solar or wind. According to Greg Clark, the UK’s Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, gas has an important role in helping the country meet carbon budgets laid out in its Climate Change Act, as well as international obligations. In a written statement , he said, “Gas still makes up around a third of our current energy usage and every scenario proposed by the Committee on Climate Change setting out how the UK could meet its legally-binding 2050 emissions reduction target includes demand for natural gas” — but “recent decisions on shale exploration planning applications remain disappointingly slow.” Related: New study finds that fracking chemicals could harm the immune system In addition to allowing shale explorers to drill test sites, the measures would allow for the categorization of fracking sites as nationally significant infrastructure , which means approval would come from a national level instead of a local one. Clark also announced a £1.6 million shale support fund that would let planning authorities accelerate fracking applications in the upcoming two years. Fracking opponents were furious. Greenpeace said, “Exploratory drilling will be as easy as building a garden wall or conservatory.” According to MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, “Fracking should be banned, not promoted.” Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons (1)

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UK fracking measures could make exploratory drilling "as easy as building a garden wall"

Nico Nevolo quit his job at Tesla to live in his Model X – and he’s loving it

May 16, 2018 by  
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Van life can be a creative way to lessen one’s impact on the planet, but many van dwellers are still riding in gas-guzzling vehicles. Nico Nevolo, however, has broken away from that trend and become one of the pioneers of a new paradigm: EV van life. A former Tesla employee, Nevolo quit his job in March of this year to share his experiences living in his Tesla Model X under the name TeslaVanLife , and so far he says it’s been the best decision of his life. Inhabitat caught up with Nevolo to hear more about his journey and vision for TeslaVanLife. Nevolo worked at Tesla for just over three years, beginning in customer service and then moving to headquarters, where he worked as an analyst. He started living in his Model X last October, but the infamously expensive Bay Area rents were only one factor in his decision to live in his car. “It’s experiencing life in a different capacity, and a capacity at which I think is bringing me more happiness as I’ve grown older and seen how I want to live my own life,” Nevolo told Inhabitat. Related: Living out of a van has never looked this good He quit his job to take his Tesla love on the road. “I did love working behind a computer for Tesla, I really did love it, but there was something missing,” Nevolo said. “I hadn’t really seen anyone living in an electric vehicle , let alone a Tesla, and I recognized I had a very interesting experience…I’ve seen the electric vehicle industry grow before my eyes, so I wanted to tell that story.” In his Model X, he can store things in the front trunk and a rear compartment beneath his bed. He didn’t want the inside of his van home to look cluttered, so he doesn’t store anything on his bed. During the day, he folds up his bed and puts his seats up. Nevolo said people always expect him to say one of the hardest things about van life is bathing, but he’s found that facilities are readily available. What is tricky is food. He can keep food cold in an ice chest for around a week, but keeping it at a temperature where it won’t spoil is only possible for about two days. “Managing long term meals is definitely the most difficult thing I’ve encountered,” he said. “Something I’m really going to start experimenting with — and I used to do it even when I lived in an apartment — is buying food and cooking for a day or two. I would just buy enough food for a day or two, which unfortunately doesn’t save you the most money, but you’re getting fresh food.” Battery charging can be another consideration for EV van living, but Nevolo hasn’t found it to be too difficult in California , where he’s spent a large amount of his van life. Supercharging his Model X is free, and he said the Supercharger network is growing exponentially. Also, with the exception of some desolate areas, he found the network connected across the United States on a cross-country road trip to surprise his grandfather in New Jersey with a Tesla Model 3 . The flexibility of van living has opened up new possibilities for Nevolo. “The best thing is honestly being able to say yes to absolutely anything,” he said. “There is no one way of living.” Nevolo took his time taking the Model 3 to his grandfather and traveled around the country for about a month, so he could compare the experiences of living in a Model X versus a Model 3. “The technology in the Model 3: mindblowing,” he said. The Model 3 can charge more quickly because of advanced battery technology . But for long-term van life, the Model X seems to beat out the Model 3. “In the Model 3, you have to bend over like a normal car, it’s very low, and you’re like kinking your back,” Nevolo said. “With the X, I almost have a faux sense of being able to stand up in my home because the door opens up above my head and I actually have two inches of clearance when the door’s all the way up, and I’m six foot one. It feels like I’m in a bedroom.” You can stay tuned for his Tesla adventures by subscribing to TeslaVanLife . Nevolo said, “I want to shed light and entertainment and insight on a whole bunch of communities I’m very interested in, like van life, Tesla, or even music festival communities.” + TeslaVanLife YouTube + TeslaVanLife Patreon + TeslaVanLife Instagram Images courtesy of Nico Nevolo

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Nico Nevolo quit his job at Tesla to live in his Model X – and he’s loving it

Apple invests millions in a carbon-free aluminum smelting method

May 11, 2018 by  
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For over 130 years, aluminum , a material in many Apple products, has been produced in the same dirty, greenhouse gas -releasing way. That could all change soon: Apple is partnering with aluminum company Alcoa Corporation and metal company Rio Tinto to commercialize technology that, according to Apple , “eliminates direct greenhouse gas emissions from the traditional smelting process.” Fast Company reported the tech giant is investing $10.1 million in research and development. Rio Tinto and Alcoa are coming together to form Elysis, a joint venture company, with the goal of packaging the technology for sale in 2024. Not only is Apple betting big on the venture, the governments of Quebec and Canada are investing around $47 million. Elysis will be based in Montreal and will employ 100 people to work towards commercialization of what Alcoa called the world’s first zero-carbon aluminum smelting technology. Apple said they’d be offering technical support. Related: Apple’s new recycling robot can disassemble 200 iPhones in a single hour Alcoa said in Canada, “the technology could eliminate the equivalent of 6.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, if fully implemented at existing aluminum smelters in the country. That represents an amount roughly equal to taking nearly 1.8 million light-duty vehicles off the road.” Apple chose eight materials to zero in on to seek cleaner production methods, and aluminum is one of those. The company said back in 2015, three of their engineers started a search for an improved method of mass-producing aluminum, and they found it at Alcoa. The company’s founder, Charles Hall, pioneered the old method in 1886, but it uses a carbon material that smolders throughout the process, so greenhouse gases are released. But then Alcoa developed a new process that utilizes an advanced conductive material rather than carbon. The smelting process releases oxygen , not carbon dioxide. Rio Tinto brings smelting technology development experience to the joint venture, which will work towards larger scale production. Alcoa CEO Roy Harvey said in the company’s statement, “This discovery has been long sought in the aluminum industry, and this announcement is the culmination of the work from many dedicated Alcoa employees. Today, our history of innovation continues as we take aluminum’s sustainable advantage to a new level with the potential to improve the carbon footprint of a range of products from cars to consumer electronics.” + Apple + Alcoa Via Fast Company Images via Apple

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Apple invests millions in a carbon-free aluminum smelting method

Architects propose a giant circular park in the sky for Asti, Italy

May 11, 2018 by  
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This giant green-roofed ring designed for Asti, Italy pairs a car park with a beautiful public space. The project, designed by architects Angelo Salamone and Ilaria Filippi of AS-DOES , is an example of how green infrastructure can create a functional and attractive community space. AS-DOES presented this car park as a proposal for a competition organized by Asti Servizi Pubblici S.p.A. The contest called for solutions to tackle the redevelopment of Piazza Campo del Palio in Asti. Every project needed to address how to revitalize the area and make it safer and more functional for citizens. Related: Striking new footbridge rehabilitates formerly derelict area of French city The multi-story elliptical car park functions as a covered overpass with a large green roof. The project provides vast open spaces , areas for parking and space for commercial and cultural activities. The designers incorporated green space to make the location more appealing and to provide a place for recreation. The green roof gives visitors incredible city views, too. The roof is an ideal location for friends to gather and play ball or skate. The ground floor of the car park has a central square that can be used for a variety of purposes, including as a venue for performances, local events or markets. + AS-DOES

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Architects propose a giant circular park in the sky for Asti, Italy

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