How TerraCycle’s safety and cleaning practices can be adopted across industries

May 22, 2020 by  
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How TerraCycle’s safety and cleaning practices can be adopted across industries Deonna Anderson Fri, 05/22/2020 – 00:05 The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the safety of reuse into question. But Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle, thinks when the crisis is over there will be even more opportunity for reusable packaging and containers to become more commonplace, if done right. “Recycling is going to take a real punch to the face, to be quite fair,” Szaky said during GreenBiz Group’s Circularity 20 Digital event this week, pointing to the continued decrease in oil prices and the pressure that’s putting on the economics of using recycled plastics. “That’s disastrous for the recycling industry, which creates its revenue by selling recycled plastics, which are hedged against, in many ways, the price of oil.” Many recycling activities have been paused as the pandemic has raised health and safety concerns, which could lead to a waste crisis post-pandemic, he said. Recycling centers have closed temporarily or indefinitely, across California and in parts of Ohio, Oregon and Alabama. “That, I think, will benefit waste innovations,” said Szaky, whose company is in the business of recycling and eliminating waste. “It will especially benefit the reuse movement because that is sort of the next step up in waste innovation.” Szaky acknowledged that reuse is not a silver bullet solution to addressing the waste problem, but if life cycle assessment is considered , he said that reuse can be better than single-use options in a significant number of cases. It plays a role in reducing waste and TerraCycle’s e-commerce program Loop  — which features items in reusable containers — plans to be part of that, while being affordable and convenient. We’re still very focused on trying to create a reusable system that has the same convenience as disposability … “We’re still very focused on trying to create a reusable system that has the same convenience as disposability because [while] disposability has a lot of negatives, it is the gold standard, by far, for convenience,” he said. “That is our holy grail, to get to the exact same convenience you get when you throw something in the garbage, with no thinking, no thought and off you go.” While Loop is still working toward the convenience factor, it’s also working toward building trust with consumers outside of its core following. As Szaky wrote in a piece for GreenBiz recently, “Reusable packaging is faced with proving its trustworthiness alongside disposables in a world that is standing six feet apart in the grocery aisle.” In the time that comes after COVID-19, TerraCycle’s Loop and other companies that are working on launching or improving their reuse models must do it right. That means consumers need to be able to know that the reusable packaging they are using was thoroughly cleaned and doesn’t pose a health risk to them. During the Circularity 20 Digital conversation, Szaky described the cleaning process for the packaging in the Loop program, between when it leaves one consumer’s possession and ends up with another. First, the customer either will drop off their Loop tote at a retailer or have it picked up and shipped. (TerraCycle recently announced that it would expand its reuse platform Loop across the contiguous United States including in physical retail stores.) Earlier this year, the company announced partnerships with Walgreens and Kroger that would allow consumers to drop off totes in bins within their stores, starting this fall.  Once the tote reaches a Loop distribution center, it is checked in and the packages inside it are sorted based on the contents and type of packaging material. Then each type of packages is stored until there are enough to start cleaning, which takes place in a proper cleanroom where people are in full gear. “The process to clean — which is what chemistry is used, dwell times both in drying and washing and temperatures, and all those different types of knobs and dials on the cleaning protocol — are set to be specific to that content and the type of material that content was in,” said Szaky, noting that both factors have meaningful effects on the cleaning process. Once the packages are cleaned, it is immediately shipped to the manufacturer, which has protocols for maintaining cleanliness for the packaging. Szaky noted that each time the cleanroom is used it is reset — pipes flushed for potential allergens and air vented — for the next batch of cleaning. Lauren Phipps, GreenBiz Group’s director and senior analyst for the circular economy, who led the conversation with Szaky, asked if there was an opportunity for retailers and restaurants to implement similar practices for their reusable items and how they could communicate their practices with consumers. Szaky responded by sharing that he’s been working with the group Consumers Beyond Disposability — which is housed under the World Economic Forum and includes the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, City of Paris and PepsiCo — to develop guidelines for companies that want to put reuse in play. The group plans to share those guidelines during the Davos gathering in January. But for now, Szaky gave an example of how safe reuse could work in a coffee shop. “I would recommend that there’s some process that when you give your cup to the barista, maybe the barista looks at the cup and only accepts certain types of cups … then has some process that is consumer-facing, that you can see and that you can be proud that that process is strong and you can trust it,” he said. “Trust is a critical commodity that we have to build with individuals right now, or in fact almost re-earn.” Pull Quote We’re still very focused on trying to create a reusable system that has the same convenience as disposability … Topics Circular Economy Circularity 20 Circular Packaging Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock warut pothikit Close Authorship

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How TerraCycle’s safety and cleaning practices can be adopted across industries

The farm-to-food-bank movement rescues pandemic-related food waste

May 18, 2020 by  
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Farmers are burying onions, destroying tomatoes and grinding up heads of lettuce to return to the soil. Dairy workers are dumping milk. These images of food destruction have horrified Americans during the pandemic . Farmers shouldn’t have to destroy the crops they’ve poured their money, energy, time and strength into. Hungry people shouldn’t witness the destruction of food that they could cook for their families. But farmers and organizations are working to save this food and bring it to those in need. COVID-19 has hurt people in many ways, but the food supply chain has been hit especially hard. Since restaurants, hotels, schools and cruise ships have shut down, farmers have lost about 40% of their customer base on average. Some farms have lost their main outlets. For example, RC Hatton Farms in Florida has had to disk — that is, grind up and recycle into the soil — hundreds of acres of cabbage since the crop has lost its future as KFC slaw. Related: How to volunteer during COVID-19 Meanwhile, with the U.S. unemployment rate stretching toward 15% , more Americans could make use of those crops. The question is, how can the food supply chains be rerouted before all of the vegetables and milk spoil? Worldwide food insecurity may double this year because of COVID-19. In relatively affluent America, people are waiting in line for hours to get to food pantries. Fortunately, the world is full of clever and helpful people. From individuals to large organizations, people are devising ways to redistribute food to those who need it. From farms to food banks Food banks are nonprofit organizations that store food donated from retailers, restaurants, grocery stores and individuals. This food is then distributed to food pantries, where people can take home food to eat. Food pantries provide millions of free meals per year. With their restaurant and institutional clients closed by COVID-19, more farmers are trying to donate crops straight to food banks. But donation doesn’t come free. While most farmers would vastly prefer to donate their vegetables than to let them rot in fields, those crops don’t harvest themselves. Nor do they pack themselves for shipping or drive to the nearest food bank. Some states are working hard to facilitate getting crops to the people. At the end of April, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a $3.64 million expansion to the state’s Farm to Family program. By the end of the year, he expects this campaign to reach $15 million. The Farm to Family program is a partnership between the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the California Association of Food Banks. The USDA has approved redirecting $2 million in unused Specialty Crop Block Grant funds to the California Association of Food Banks. This will help cover costs of picking, packing and transporting the produce to food banks. “Putting food on the table during this pandemic is hard for families on the brink,” Newsom said in a press release. “It’s in that spirit that we’re expanding our Farm to Family program while also working to connect low-income families with vital resources and financial support. We thank our farmers for stepping up to donate fresh produce to our food banks . And we want families struggling to access food to know we have your backs.” In New Mexico, the state chapter of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) launched its own Farm to Foodbank program. The group will fund farmers to continue producing organic produce, which will be routed to food pantries. AFSC is also helping farmers buy supplies, such as seeds, masks, gloves and irrigation systems. In return, the farmers sign contracts promising produce to community members suffering from food insecurity. For example, farmers at Acoma Pueblo requested seeds and promised to donate a part of their crops to the senior center. Help from private companies Some companies are also assisting in moving surplus crops to food banks. Florida-based Publix Super Markets has long been donating food to Feeding America’s member food banks and other nonprofits. In the last 10 years, Publix has donated about $2 billion worth of food, or 480 million pounds. Now, the supermarket chain is stepping up its efforts and buying unsold fresh milk and produce from Florida and regional producers and donating these goods to Feeding America food banks. “As a food retailer, we have the unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the needs of families and farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” Todd Jones, chief executive officer of Publix, told NPR . Other supermarket chains have announced large monetary donations to food banks during the pandemic, including $50 million from Albertsons. Kroger Co. set up a $10 million Emergency COVID-19 Response Fund. To celebrate Earth Day , Natural Grocers donated $50,000 in gift cards to food banks. Individual giving Some farmers have taken direct action to get their crops to families. Idaho potato farmer Ryan Cranney invited the public to help themselves to his millions of unsold potatoes. “At first I thought we’d have maybe 20 people,” Cranney said in an interview . He was amazed when thousands of people drove to his town, with a population of 700, and hauled away potatoes. “We saw people from as far away as Las Vegas, which is an 8-hour drive from here,” he said. Of course, most of us don’t have millions of potatoes to spare. But we can still help food banks. In better times, food banks appreciate shelf-stable foods like peanut butter and tomato paste. But right now, the best thing you can do as an individual is to give money. Feeding America, the biggest hunger relief organization in the U.S, has about 200 member food banks. If you’re able to spare a few dollars, you can donate to its COVID-19 Response Fund . Via CBS 8 , Santa Fe New Mexican and Politico Images via Philippe Collard , Hai Nguyen , U.S. Department of Agriculture and Dennis Sparks

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The farm-to-food-bank movement rescues pandemic-related food waste

How COVID-19 can shape the response to climate change

May 13, 2020 by  
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How COVID-19 can shape the response to climate change Terry F. Yosie Wed, 05/13/2020 – 02:31 Part Two of a four-part series. Part One can be found here . As the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to unfold, insights are emerging on how to repurpose what’s been learned for the benefit of climate change mitigation. To date, most of the focus on the pandemic-environment nexus has been short-term. A number of environmental activists, for example, have recommended that temporarily reduced air pollution levels be made permanent through regulatory controls. Conversely, the Trump administration has used the pandemic as an argument to issue an open-ended suspension of the enforcement of environmental laws. These examples reflect the battle lines being drawn for an even larger conflict that is emerging over climate change policy.  Three key facts Three key facts highlight the growing stakes in play for climate change decision making. First, many parallels exist between arguments that deny the existence of climate change and the assertion that COVID-19 is a large-scale hoax designed to reduce personal liberty, confiscate the purchase and use of weapons and alter the traditional American way of life. Using Facebook and YouTube as principal social media organizing platforms and Fox News as a megaphone to broadcast their views, “denialists” have proven their ideology to be adaptable across multiple issues, including climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion and vaccinations against communicable diseases. Recent Washington Post investigations have reported linkages among groups that organize and financially support denialist demonstrations. Some of these groups also fundraise in behalf of the Trump re-election campaign. As the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to unfold, insights are emerging on how to repurpose what’s been learned for the benefit of climate change mitigation. Second, a principal argument used against greenhouse gas controls — that they rely upon data and protocols developed by scientific experts — has garnered substantial public support when applied to combating the COVID-19 pandemic. This result occurs because individual citizens understand that their personal well-being is at risk. Thus, they are more receptive to receiving guidance on how to mitigate this risk from medical professionals that they know of and trust. Also, the medical advice provided is both direct and practical — shelter-in-place, wear a mask, maintain social distancing. A similar opportunity exists to provide more specific climate change mitigation advice from independent scientists and professional bodies directly to citizens whose awareness of climate risks continues to grow. Third, there is overwhelming evidence that both the coronavirus pandemic and climate change damage were knowable and preventable. Numerous scientific reports, intelligence community assessments and public pronouncements from well-known public health or technology authorities such as Bill Gates warned, over a period of years, of the probability of a pandemic. The inability to respond to these warnings represents a system-level failure on the part of those responsible for protecting public health. A similar failure towards a system-level set of risks is unfolding with accelerating climate change. Over the past three decades, an elaborate evidence-based system has been in place for evaluating scientific data, modeling temperature changes and effects as varied as the melting of polar ice caps, sea level rise, heat waves and droughts and the spread of disease vectors. Unlike their health scientist counterparts, climate scientists have encountered a longstanding, organized campaign of skepticism and denial — funded by dark money business interests — about their peer-review procedures and their conclusions. This has resulted in direct harassment of both Individual climate scientists and established scientific bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and has directly slowed policymakers’ and civil society’s ability to respond to life-threatening climate risks. COVID-19 outcomes for climate change planning At this juncture of managing the COVID-19 crisis, three significant outcomes have emerged that can inform responses to the climate crisis: People have connected their personal well-being to expectations of government action. They expect the institutions of government (and civil society organizations) to act on their behalf by defining essential economic activities, providing needed medical infrastructure (hospital capacity, critical supplies and tests) and maintaining civil order. Governmental officials, medical professionals and citizens have embraced the need to “bend the curve” for COVID-19 incidence and mortality. Citizens believe they have a responsibility to each other by sheltering in place, frequently washing their hands, maintaining appropriate distances, limiting their mobility and wearing masks outside of their homes. This has occurred for reasons of self-interest but also stems from moral and ethical values and notions of good citizenship. Actions to bend the climate curve Public support for a goal to “bend the climate curve” can be built but will require national and International efforts to limit/reduce future greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and contain a worldwide temperature increase to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius over the next few decades (the two pre-eminent metrics for measuring success in bending the curve).  Three types of actions are required to achieve this goal: policy initiatives that can acquire sufficient political support to be enacted within the next two years; interventions by investors on climate governance; and behavioral change through moral and ethical appeals to individuals and groups. Policy actions Policy actions should be guided by the “Bill Gates Principle”: People should not waste idealism and energy on a policy that will not cause any reduction in the use of fossil fuels. Policy actions should encompass regulatory, tax and budgetary actions. They include: Rejoining the Paris Climate Accord , with the objective of renegotiating more ambitious climate targets and timetables with added transparency. Setting a U.S. objective of decarbonizing the economy through a policy of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 across all major industry sectors. Appropriate interim objectives also should be established. For example, the U.S. government and the utility industry should establish a goal for phasing out coal-fired power plants by 2030. The Obama administration’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards should be maintained and periodically updated. Removing all energy subsidies , including those for solar and other renewables. The latter have achieved a level of market competitiveness and will succeed in gaining expanded access to various energy markets. Fossil fuel companies, a growing number of which are heavily indebted or experiencing reductions in their customer markets, should compete in the future only on a market-clearing basis and not as rent-seeking enterprises. Avoiding transfer of public funds to large, carbon-intensive companies. Innovation potential is higher when funds are directed at new technology development rather than larger, more heavily capitalized firms with existing access to credit markets. Investor actions Investors have become increasingly active in engaging multinational companies on their environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments. Their influence is greatly strengthened by the performance of ESG or sustainability fund investment portfolios when compared against traditional benchmarks such as the S&P. Moving forward, investors should be: Intensifying engagement with CEOs and corporate boards on climate governance and commitments. Increasing synergy involving Climate Action 100+ (and allied partners) advocates, ESG-focused investment firms, individual analysts and shareholders have achieved some impressive gains in recent years and should accelerate. Shell Oil Company’s April 16 declaration to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, followed shortly thereafter by a similar announcement by French oil giant Total, are examples of such engagement. Investors should espouse that all Fortune 500 companies achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 with interim, transparent reporting benchmarks established for 2030 and 2040. Advocating the elimination of deferred carried interest. This refers to the preferred tax treatment received by hedge fund and private equity fund managers. Current rules treat carried interest income as a long-term capital gain (taxed at a U.S. rate of 23.8 percent) rather than as ordinary income (subject to a rate of 39.6 percent). This favored tax treatment is completely artificial, and benefits investors primarily interested in accumulating short-term gains rather than longer-term focused portfolios such as investments in sustainable energy. Carried interest deferral also contributes greatly to social inequality. Recommending that the financial transaction tax (FTT) be raised . Presently, each stock transaction is taxed at a rate of 2 cents per $1,000. Raising the FTT to $1 for each $1,000 of transactions will disincentivize high-frequency trading, create fairer markets, encourage longer-term possession of stocks and lessen inequality. Mobilizing citizens Persuasive facts directly engaging citizens must accompany policy and investor actions if a growing public awareness of climate change is to mobilize an aggressive movement to support greenhouse gas reductions. A citizen mobilization strategy should include: Expanding philanthropic support for grassroots citizen participation to distill climate change science into usable, actionable knowledge. This can be done by establishing academic fellowships, research centers and grants to develop position papers and other content; training citizens to participate in government decision making; and multiplying citizens’ voices at the grassroots levels and through social media. Leading philanthropists should pool their resources, using nonprofit, tax-deductible organizations, to invest at least $1 billion annually within the next two years and subsequently. Unlike the “dark money” contributions of foundations, whose aim is to weaken health and environmental protections and sow political divisions, the sources of pro-climate change philanthropy should be completely transparent. Convening community climate risk commissions to evaluate risk scenarios, the resilience of current infrastructure (drinking water systems, the electricity grid, subways and bridges). The outcome of this effort — ideally a collaboration of local governments with universities, nongovernmental organizations, progressive businesses and interested citizens — would be the development of a community climate plan to identify key local risks and recommended priorities and budgets for their resolution. Expanding the moral and ethical rationale for climate actions. The moral basis for reducing climate risks includes: self-preservation of humans and ecosystems that sustain all life forms; expanding economic opportunities that broadens the middle class, expands the social safety net and rewards investors; creating a fair and more equitable society; and protecting the earth for future generations. Coupling moral arguments with expanded economic opportunities (job creation, purchase of newer and cleaner products, investing in companies with highly rated environmental, social and governance portfolios) can unleash powerful incentives at market scale to transform enterprise management and consumer behavior to better manage climate risks. Contemporary society already has entered the era of system-level risk from climate change. By way of context, scientists evaluating the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have concluded that mitigation measures taken in January-February were far more effective in avoiding disease incidence and mortality than later initiatives to self-isolate and shut down non-essential economic activities. In a similar fashion, delays in implementing climate mitigation and adaptation measures across the globe will result only in more draconian setbacks to life as we’ve come to know it. Leadership consists of mobilizing governments, businesses and citizens to support initiatives that can begin to bend the climate curve in the next two years. Pull Quote As the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to unfold, insights are emerging on how to repurpose what’s been learned for the benefit of climate change mitigation. Topics Climate Change COVID-19 Policy & Politics Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Catherine Zibo Close Authorship

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Hannah Franco and Nancy Taylor celebrate sustainable fashion with poque volution

June 25, 2019 by  
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Friends Nancy Taylor and Hannah Franco were traveling together in Morocco when they got the idea. Nancy couldn’t help but notice that Hannah could fit everything she needed into one backpack, whether they were traveling, trekking or going out to dinner. The result was époque evolution , a sustainable fashion company focused on creating eco-friendly, versatile clothes made from organic, upcycled, deadstock and post-consumer waste recycled fibers. They work with mills and factories that are committed to ethical practices and a smaller collective carbon footprint. To top it all off, the clothes are beautifully low-maintenance (goodbye, dry cleaning and toxic chemicals ). A review of the époque évolution clothing I got a chance to try the best-selling Orion Leggings and the Go To Tank for myself, and let me say I have found my new wardrobe staples. These pants have the power to turn the humble legging from what was previously a simple, lazy solution to a dependable companion for really any activity ( yoga class , traveling, grabbing some dinner and so on). The slit on the bottom gives it an added fashion appeal as well as the ability to show off your footwear in a trendy way. The Go To Tank has a slight opening in the back, which isn’t totally noticeable but provides some much-needed breathability if you’re wearing it to hike or work out. You could easily dress it up, as the merino wool fabric is antimicrobial and thermo-regulating (meaning going straight from the gym to anywhere else is completely doable). Even better, it’s made from deadstock material, meaning the fabric would have otherwise ended up in the landfill . Related: The sustainable wardrobe — it’s more accessible than you think The leggings are crafted from econyl®, a 100 percent recycled nylon fiber made from old fishnets and carpets, and the tank is made from a deadstock wool blend of 80 percent wool merino and 20 percent polyester. Both are machine washable and quick-drying. What’s more, my Orion Leggings and Go To Tank came packaged in a biodegradable mailer from The Better Packaging Co . At $98 and $68 respectively, the leggings and tank may take a chunk out of your paycheck, but once you consider the quality, eco-consciousness and ethical ramifications, you’ll be happy you’ve made the investment. They go with practically everything, so you’ll spend less time choosing what to wear and more time living your life, enjoying the outdoors or exploring. An interview with the founders Check out our interview with the founding members, Nancy Taylor and Hannah Franco, below. Inhabitat: What was the inspiration behind creating a line of clothes using sustainable fabrics? Nancy Taylor: I am incredibly passionate about changing the fashion industry and disrupting its outdated practices. After spending years of my career working in the corporate fashion world and traveling overseas to visit factories, I was hopeful that there was a different model for doing business. Since then, I’ve been focused on trying to be part of the solution, rather than contributing to an already toxic industry. Hannah Franco: It’s time. The industry needs a change, and we wanted to offer a unique take on sustainability. We believe eco can be chic, easy-care and impressively functional. Incorporating these elements, we set out to create products that make shopping sustainably an obvious choice for customers. Inhabitat: What are some of your favorite fabrics that the company works with? Taylor: I’m a huge fan of merino wool in general and am particularly obsessed with our perennial wool fabrication. It’s blended with a recycled poly and it’s also machine washable, which means no dry cleaning! Franco: Nancy took the words out of my mouth — I’m addicted to merino wool. It’s quick-drying and antimicrobial — in other words, it doesn’t stink — and anything that makes my life easier is considered a win in my book. Our new organic cotton is creeping up as a favorite now, as well. Our Oeko-Tex certified Standard 1000-certified finish keeps the cotton looking perfectly crisp all day, and I do love a breezy white shirt. Inhabitat: Fashion is one of the most environmentally damaging industries. Can you talk about the sustainable practices, factories and ethical treatment of workers you implement in your production process? Taylor: It was a big topic of discussion when we first launched — identifying and implementing our parameters for what we have called “responsible” production. This encompasses our raw materials, the factories and the people that produce our clothes, all the way down to our packaging . The hard part was that these choices weren’t always black and white. For example, our evolve soft fabric is not a recycled raw material, but the production mill’s best practices are really amazing and include using state-of-the-art, eco-compatible technologies in a fully solar-powered facility. In the end, it was a better choice than working with a large mill using only recycled raw materials without carefully taking into account their entire environmental footprint. We aim to look at the complete picture and tell that story, educating the customer on why her choices matter. Inhabitat: With fast fashion , another practice negatively impacting the environment, what is the importance of investing in high-quality clothes like your products and moving away from the cheap stuff? Taylor: Investment pieces that last and key staples that women will wear again and again are the focus of our brand. You don’t need more clothes, just the right clothing that functions well. We share this narrative with our customers and show them how to style a piece season after season. Franco: There are already enough clothes out there. We wanted to contribute in an area where we felt the industry could be moved forward — clothing produced more sustainably and offering greater function. When you invest in quality pieces that you wear season after season, you have more time to live your life and focus on better things (e.g., spending time with family and friends, pursuing boss lady career goals) than stressing over a wardrobe. Plus, packing for travel is a breeze when you rock minimalist style. Inhabitat: What is the significance of your clothes being low-maintenance as well? Taylor: We all live incredibly busy lives, and a woman’s clothing should never slow her down. The easier a wardrobe is to care for, the more time this gives her back in her day. Franco: The low-maintenance and versatility of our products go hand in hand. For example, our jet set trouser is a perfect work pant, but it’s also ideal for any travel destination, and you can even hop on the yoga mat in them. Just because a piece of clothing is low-maintenance doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style. You can have both! + époque évolution Images via époque évolution

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Hannah Franco and Nancy Taylor celebrate sustainable fashion with poque volution

Atolla combines technology with design to customize sustainable skincare

January 21, 2019 by  
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The skincare market has exploded with so many options that sometimes it feels like you need a PhD just to pick the right moisturizer. Costs seem to be rising right along with the breadth of product lines, so the pressure is on to find the right skincare in order to save yourself from money wasted on products that don’t perform for your skin type, not to mention the enormous amounts of packaging waste left behind from trial-and-error purchases. One entrepreneur feels your pain. Meghan Maupin, MIT grad and CEO of Atolla skincare, has taken a new approach to the entire skincare dilemma by bringing technology into the mix. The process begins with an at-home skin analysis via a kit and phone app. Based on the results, Atolla then formulates a custom serum. Each month, factors such as weather , oil production and changes in your skin during the month are taken into account, and a new serum is formulated. Atolla even evaluates the interaction with other products you use as well as age, diet, skin sensitivities and prior issues such as eczema or psoriasis. Computers evaluate the data based on skin imagery, allowing algorithms to calculate what is working and what is not. Related: Can drinkable sunscreen protect your skin from the inside out? Almost as important as effective skincare  is the customer’s satisfaction with the product they are using, so consumer preferences are also considered in the formula. For example, if the customer prefers a lightweight feel or doesn’t care for a particular scent, Atolla will adapt to those preferences. While working on her thesis, Maupin realized there is an extraordinary amount of waste in the beauty industry. From jars and squeeze tubes to products tossed out after a trial to the ingredients that end up in our waste stream, she feels that the best action we can take toward sustainability is to buy fewer products. She wants to accomplish this by ensuring the customer buys the right product the first time around. Related: Bambu Earth’s responsible soap & skincare is packaged with seeded paper To meet this goal, Atolla takes a different approach to skincare production. Maupin’s philosophy is to use quality ingredients to make fewer products in contrast to mass-producing standardized products that sit on the shelf before ending up in the waste stream. Along with creating effective, personalized products, the company strives to empower their customers with information about their skin, such as what ingredients to watch out for and how to create a skincare system that will help them meet long-term goals at an acceptable price point. Tests start at $10 and systems run up to $50 monthly. Customers report that the system is easy to use, which checks another box off everyone’s skincare goal list. + Atolla Via Core77 Images via Atolla

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Atolla combines technology with design to customize sustainable skincare

Essential old-fashioned tools and practices to make your kitchen more sustainable

January 21, 2019 by  
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Between planning meals , dragging home groceries, cooking and clean up, the kitchen is the hub of activity in most homes. That means it can also be a significant source of waste. However, there are lots of ways to make your kitchen more sustainable. If you’re looking for ways to cut back on disposables and instead invest in products that will serve you for many years, we have some ideas for you to consider. Cast iron skillets and Le Creuset If you have ever used heavy-duty cast iron, you know that a single seasoned pan will last for generations. With proper care, your children and their children will be using the same pans a hundred years from now. Related: 10 ways to use up mushy, overripe bananas Peppermill Off the vine, peppercorn is round and looks like a tiny grape. Once dried, the freshest way to enjoy peppercorn is ground directly onto your food. Avoid the waste from the myriad containers your ground pepper comes in and use a traditional peppermill instead. Buy your peppercorns in bulk and bring your own jar to eliminate packaging altogether. Mortar and pestle All things worth enjoying require a bit of effort, and a mortar and pestle is the perfect example of that. Although it means manually mashing your herbs and other ingredients, a mortar and pestle eliminates the needs for other gadgets in your kitchen and produces a fresh result in your cooking. Stainless steel When it comes to sustainability, stainless steel is a good product to reach for. Not only does it consume limited resources during production, but it is a long-lasting material and completely recyclable at the end of its functionality. To make your kitchen more eco-friendly , skip the petroleum-based plastic products and reach for stainless steel measuring cups and spoons, microplanes, ice trays if you still use them, mixing bowls, strainers, shakers and compost bins. Knives This is one area of your kitchen worth the initial investment. Good chef’s knives will pay you dividends for a lifetime. As a bonus, this means less waste from cheaper alternatives that don’t make the cut. Ceramic, stone or glass Once again, it’s important to incorporate materials made from the earth and both ceramic and glass are great options. Think ceramic ginger grater, glass or ceramic pie dish and stoneware cooking sheets. Manual tools In the long-term, sticking with traditional tools in the kitchen will save electricity costs. Plus, you’ll gain added satisfaction in the simplicity of cooking with a metal potato masher, non-electric hand mixer, manual can opener, food mill (applesauce maker) and an old-fashioned knife instead of a food chopper or garlic press. Wood Wood is another material sourced from nature and eco-friendly. Shop for wooden salad bowls, wood spoons for stirring, bamboo steamers, cutting boards and serving bowls. Storage containers We all like to hang on to those leftovers and that’s a great way to reduce waste , but plastic and foil are both problematic for the environment so consider other options for your storage needs. For the refrigerator, purchase glass or stainless steel containers with interchangeable lids. While you’re at it, replace plastic wrap with bowl covers or beeswax sheets that mould around the container. Also consider your staple products and find see-through glass jars to house your flour, cereal, pasta, beans and sugar. Spices are easy to organize and use in matching glass jars. Mason jars are another great option for storing nuts, seeds, homemade salad dressing and much more. Towels and napkins We have become accustomed to the disposable society around us, which means you may not think about reaching for a paper towel to wipe up the spill on the floor. When you consider the chemicals and water usage required to turn trees into paper products though, an earth-friendly alternative is to use cloth napkins and towels. With a little practice you’ll realize why humans got by just fine on these options, sans the single-use waste. Beverage containers A few carefully-chosen beverage containers can replace thousands of disposable cups. Grab a high-quality stainless steel coffee mug and one of the many non-plastic options for your water to make a quick and powerful contribution to the health of the planet. Cleaning tools Kitchens are messy, so consider tools that will allow you to clean it up without having an adverse effect on the environment. Purchase natural dish brushes that decompose in the landfill instead of plastic options or sponges that both end up clogging the waste stream. There are very few things that some combination of baking soda and vinegar alone can’t clean. Also look into glycerin, salt and citrus as powerful aids in cleaning without the toxic chemical contribution. Related: How to decode confusing labels on common household cleaners Shopping Remember that perhaps the biggest impact you can make toward a green kitchen starts with your purchasing decisions. It seems that everything these days is wrapped in plastic so seek out alternatives. It’s best to grow your own food, but another option is to attend local farmers’ markets. Bring your own reusable shopping and produce bags to the store. Select produce that has not been bundled in plastic bags and hunt down stores that offer compostable produce bags as an option. Also bring your own containers directly to the bulk section to further eliminate waste. Cooking practices Another fabulous way to cut waste is to make your own foods rather than buying pre-packaged options. Breads are quick and easy to make. Make granola bars and protein balls for school lunches. Cook up your own yogurt and ditch the individual plastic containers. Turning your kitchen into a simplified oasis of earth-friendly food production begins with evaluating the supplies you need and making decisions about the best options to fulfil those needs. Focus on conscientious purchases that combine wholesome food along with sustainable tools and you have a recipe for a long-term low-carbon-footprint kitchen. Images via Shutterstock

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Essential old-fashioned tools and practices to make your kitchen more sustainable

This tool measures children’s connection to nature

January 21, 2019 by  
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Scientists at the University of Hong Kong and the University of Auckland have created a 16-part questionnaire for parents called the CNI-PPC (Connected to Nature Index-Parents of Preschool Children) to identify how well children in Hong Kong are relating to nature. One of the densest urban areas on Earth, Hong Kong poses challenges for kids when it comes to connecting with nature , and the scientists are hoping to develop a tool to inspire policy changes and interventions that will help strengthen interactions between kids and their natural surroundings. The questionnaire, created by Dr. Tanja Sobko of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Hong Kong and Professor Gavin Brown of the University of Auckland, identifies four ways in which children usually develop a relationship with nature: “enjoyment of nature, empathy for nature, responsibility toward nature and awareness of nature.” Related: Solar-powered school will teach children how to grow and cook their own food Nearly 500 families with kids between the ages of two and five participated in the study, and they all responded to the 16 questions. After the families responded to the CNI-PPC, the researchers then measured the answers against a well-known child behavior measurement, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. The results told us something we already know — the more time kids spend in nature , the happier they are. “Parents who saw their child had a closer connection with nature had less distress, less hyperactivity, fewer behavioral and emotional difficulties and improved pro-social behavior,” the  University of Hong Kong press release said . “Interestingly, children who took greater responsibility toward nature had fewer peer difficulties.” When a child grows up in an urban environment, without access to parks and green spaces , it can have lasting consequences. Children who lack access to the natural world can develop “nature-deficit disorder” or “child-nature disconnectedness,” and this can lead to a deterioration of mental and physical health. The CNI-PPC is the first tool of its kind that “measures nature-related attitudes and awareness” for children in a highly urbanized Asian city. + University of Hong Kong Via TreeHugger Image via University of Hong Kong

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This tool measures children’s connection to nature

Century-old Japanese townhouse reborn as Blue Bottle Coffees first Kyoto location

June 6, 2018 by  
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Japanese architecture firm Schemata Architects has unveiled Blue Bottle Coffee’s first outpost in Kyoto  – and it’s housed in a century-old building. Following the aesthetic of the previous Schemata-designed Blue Bottle cafes in Tokyo, the newest location features a minimalist and modern design that takes inspiration from the surrounding urban fabric. The two-story structure was carefully overhauled to allow for new functionality while preserving and exposing historic elements. Completed in March this year, the Blue Bottle Coffee Kyoto Cafe is located near the base of Kyoto’s forested Higashiyama mountains and along the approach to Nanzen-ji Temple, a Zen Buddhist temple and one of the historic city’s top tourist attractions. The cafe was built inside a traditional Japanese townhouse (known as ‘machiya’) consisting of two separate buildings. Schemata Architects renovated the buildings into a ‘Merchandise building’ and a ‘Cafe building’ with a total floor area of nearly 3,500 square feet. As was typical of traditional Japanese architecture at the turn of the 20th century, the original floors of the machiya were raised nearly 20 inches off the ground. To create a seamless appearance and to accommodate patrons with special mobility needs, the Blue Bottle Cafe’s architects demolished the raised wooden floors and made them level with the ground. The new floors feature terrazzo containing the same type of pebbles used outside. The same terrazzo material was also used in the counters and benches. Related: Tokyo capsule hotel gets a Finnish-inspired refresh and sauna “The floor inside the counter is also level with the customer area to maintain the same eye level between customers and staff following the same concept as the other shops, while integrating Japanese and American cultures at the same time,” said the architects. “The continuous white floor is stripped of all unnecessary things and the structure is stripped of existing finishes to expose the original roof structure and clay walls, and one can see traces of its 100-year old history throughout the large, medium and small spaces in the structure originally composed of two separate buildings.” The second floor has been converted into an open-plan office with glass frontage. + Schemata Architects Images by Takumi Ota

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Century-old Japanese townhouse reborn as Blue Bottle Coffees first Kyoto location

California becomes the first US state to require solar energy for new houses

May 10, 2018 by  
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It’s official — California is the first state in America to mandate solar for new homes. Yesterday, the California Energy Commission voted unanimously to approve the building standards, which will go into effect on January 1, 2020. The New York Times quoted Sunrun CEO Lynn Jurich as saying, “There’s…this real American sense of freedom of producing electricity on my rooftop. And it’s another example of California leading the way.” Homes built in California in a couple of years will have to be equipped with solar energy systems. Called the 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards, the requirements “will increase the cost of constructing a new home by about $9,500 but will save $19,000 in energy and maintenance costs over 30 years,” according to a frequently asked questions document from the California Energy Commission. The New York Times quoted commission member Andrew McAllister as saying, “Any additional amount in the mortgage is more than offset. It’s good for the customer.” Related: California to become the first US state to require solar panels on new homes The commission said in a press release the standards would lower greenhouse gas emissions as much as if around 115,000 fossil fuel cars left the streets. They said the standards zero in on four areas; in addition to residential solar power, those areas are “updated thermal envelope standards (preventing heat transfer from the interior to exterior and vice versa), residential and nonresidential ventilation requirements, and nonresidential lighting requirements.” There are people who wonder if California’s new mandate is the best path forward to clean power. MIT Technology Review linked to an email from University of California, Berkeley economics professor Severin Borenstein to commission chair Robert Weisenmiller early yesterday morning; Borenstein said he, along with most energy economists, “believe that residential rooftop solar is a much more expensive way to move towards renewable energy than larger solar and wind installations.” + California Energy Commission Via The New York Times Images via Deposit Photos ,   Wikimedia Commons and mjmonty on Flickr

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California becomes the first US state to require solar energy for new houses

A cluster of wooden cabins create a serene weekend retreat in Norway

May 10, 2018 by  
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Norwegian firm Stinessen Arkitektur built this cluster of wooden cabins that peer out over the picturesque fjords of Norway. The weekend retreat is designed to provide the ultimate in relaxation, and it features extra-large glazed facades, minimalist interior design, and a serene spa. The private vacation home is located on Malangen Peninsula and it overlooks a beautiful fjord. The main entrance leads through a sliding oak door into a covered central courtyard , which connects the main building and the annex. This courtyard serves as the heart of the home, and it comes complete with a fireplace and an outdoor kitchen. Related: Cantilevered holiday cabins boast stunning coastal views in Norway According to the architects, the courtyard “functions as a protected and semi-tempered zone (without particular heating) between the main part and the annex . . . It also provides an additional layer to the natural ventilation during summertime, even on windy or rainy days.” The main building consists of two living areas. The master bedroom and bathroom are on one side of the structure, and a bedroom and secondary living room are on the other. The open kitchen, dining and living areas are located between the bedrooms. Various “in-between” spaces, with concrete floors and wood-slatted ceilings, connect the individual cabins . In order to create a cohesive connection to the exterior wooden cladding , the interior walls are covered in knot-free oak panels. Minimal furnishings and bare walls put the focus on the incredible scenery that surrounds the home. Each room has a large glass wall that offers amazing views. + Stinessen Arkitektur Via Dwell Photography by Steve King and Terje Arntsen, via Stinessen Arkitectur

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A cluster of wooden cabins create a serene weekend retreat in Norway

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