As mass timber takes off, how green is this new building material?

May 21, 2019 by  
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Climate-positive mass timber construction is on the rise — but will producing the new material outweigh its benefits?

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As mass timber takes off, how green is this new building material?

5 ways multi-use trail systems transform communities

May 21, 2019 by  
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Multi-use trails are an infrastructure asset for cities and communities — why aren’t we prioritizing them?

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5 ways multi-use trail systems transform communities

Fueled by chocolate: Ghana’s newest biofuel

April 26, 2019 by  
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Researchers in Ghana are testing a system that will turn cocoa into biofuel  — but don’t worry — it uses the green waste produced during harvest, so you can still eat all of the chocolate! The project is funded by the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom and will be tested in Ghana, one of the world’s largest producers of cocoa. Chocolate is a multi-billion-dollar international industry, with the bulk of cocoa coming from Africa. “Every ton of cocoa beans harvested generates 10 tons of cocoa pod husks,” says Jo Darkwa , professor of energy storage technologies at Nottingham and one of the project team leads. Husks are typically discarded during harvest after the beans are extracted. Usually, the husks are left to decompose on the cocoa plantation while the beans head to fermentation and drying facilities before they are turned into chocolate. Now, researchers have developed a system that will use the husks as feedstock to generate biofuel. The husks are processed into pellets, or bricks, that can burn in generators and produce “green” electricity. Related: Cargill announces plan to reduce deforestation from cocoa “Feasibility studies indicate that cocoa pod husks could be converted into valuable biofuels and become an important energy supply for rural areas that only have 15 percent coverage at present,” explained Professor Darkwa. The many benefits of cocoa fuel This initiative is not only an innovate green technology, it also has other secondary benefits: Increase access to electricity If successful, the project could contribute to the Ghanaian government’s pledge to ensure 100 percent of Ghanaians have access to electricity by 2030. Reduce deforestation and improve climate and human health Currently, 80 percent of households in Ghana use wood as their main source of fuel for cooking and heating water. This practice not only leads to widespread deforestation in order to harvest wood, but indoor air pollution from wooden stoves is one of the top four leading risk factors for death worldwide. Create jobs If successful, the biofuel system would need workers to collect, transport , treat and process cocoa pod husks, which would create additional jobs and provide income for rural communities. Cocoa as chocolate, cocoa as compost Since it is the beans that are used to make chocolate, the husks are simply bio-waste, and therefore the biofuel system would not take away from farmers ’ profits in any way— in fact it would augment the profitability of the entire cocoa pod. However, cocoa pod waste is an important source of nutrients for cocoa trees. During harvest, ripe cocoa pods are collected and piled throughout the plantation. When the farmers are ready to extract the beans, the pods are cracked open and usually left in a heap to decompose. When husks biodegrade, they are an incredibly rich source of nutrients that help trees grow, improve soil quality and reduce plant disease. Studies show that the decaying pods host beneficial fungi and microbiotics, so will farmers and their crops be losing out on natural fertilizer if they ship their husks off to biofuel systems? Farmers with the capacity to do so might collect and bring the husks to an on-site composting location, but most small farmers do not have the capacity to process or evenly distribute the nutrients from the pile of decomposing husks and rely on nature to take its course. Farmers who do maximize the use of the compost may prefer to continue to do so, however those without that ability now have the option to profit from electricity generation instead. Testing the system in Ghana and the world “Undoubtedly, provision of sustainable energy services through cocoa pod husks would go a long way towards improving the quality of lives and thus alleviate poverty in rural communities as well as fight against climate change,” Professor Darkwa told Climate News Network . The project team is expected to test a prototype of their system at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in July 2019. The plan is to design, build and operate a small-scale bio-power electricity generation unit that burns husks in a gasification system. Each system includes a gasifier, small generator, solar drier and pelletizer and costs approximately US $50,000. If the prototype is successful, the system could be replicated in other countries following additional feasibility studies. Via Climate News Network Images via Flickr ,  dghchocolatier

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Fueled by chocolate: Ghana’s newest biofuel

Deforestation in tropical countries linked to European diets in new study

April 16, 2019 by  
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New research shows that European diets are linked to deforestation  in tropical countries. Scientists from Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology tracked carbon emissions that are produced from tropical deforestation and found that one-sixth of the harmful emissions are related to European diets. “In effect, you could say that the EU imports large amounts of deforestation every year,” lead researcher Martin Persson shared. Related: Cargill announces plan to reduce deforestation from cocoa Persson noted that the European Union needs to address the issue of deforestation if it wants to meet previously announced climate goals. The study showed that deforestation contributed around 2.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide over a four-year span, from 2010 to 2014. Most of the cleared land was used for crops and pastures, with cattle and oilseed farming leading the way in production. A good portion of the deforestation was driven by international demand. The researchers estimated that anywhere between 29 to 39 percent of the carbon emissions could be traced to trade, which is directly linked to consumption in several EU nations. Fortunately, some countries in the EU are cracking down on imports tied to deforestation. France, for example, initiated a plan to discourage such imports over the next 10 years. Investors have also issued warnings to companies that produce soy, criticizing them for participating in deforestation for the sake of making money. Although some countries are fighting back, Persson and his team do not believe the efforts will stop companies from clearing land. Part of the issue is that there are few regulations that actually prevent countries from importing products that are linked to deforestation. Persson also believes that nations should provide better support for local farmers who are practicing sustainability . Moving forward, Persson hopes more studies will be done that expand on his work and show stronger links between imported products and deforestation. With more data to support their conclusions, Persson believes that countries can work together to put an end to deforestation before it is too late. The study will be published in the journal Global Environmental Change in May 2019. Via Mongabay Image via Shutterstock

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Deforestation in tropical countries linked to European diets in new study

MAD Architects unveils an organic skyscraper piercing Manhattans skyline

April 16, 2019 by  
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Beijing-based architectural studio MAD Architects has unveiled an alternative vision for the skyline of New York City with the introduction of East 34th, a nature-inspired high-rise proposed near the Empire State Building. The conceptual renderings for the glass-clad building were recently released alongside the launch of the “MAD X” exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Designed as a visual counterpoint to the Empire State Building and the skyline’s hard lines, MAD’s sinuous skyscraper is “planted like a seed” and takes cues from living architecture. Conceived as a mixed-use building, East 34th is envisioned for a 5,231-square-foot site and spans nearly 120,000 square feet of floor space with a building height of 761 feet, about half the height of the Empire State Building. The high-rise would include a commercial podium at street level with retail and public amenities, while luxury residences with double-height communal spaces occupy the upper floors. In keeping with MAD Architects’ philosophy of bringing nature into all aspects of architecture, East 34th would also include a spacious multi-floor atrium with an expansive green wall as an “escape into nature” from the concrete jungle. “Located adjacent to the ‘Empire State Building’ — which held the title of the world’s tallest building for almost 40 years — ‘East 34th’ is planted like a seed, sprouting within the grid, rising with a soft, undulating surface that suggests a more organic, living architecture,” the architects explained in a press release. “Thus, the design opposes the traditional towers that demonstrate the cultural impact of power and capital in our cities. Defying the stacked floor plates and authority of a bygone industrial era that has come to characterize the city’s horizon, ‘East 34th’ softens the hard skyline and introduces a dialogue between New York’s modernist landscape and nature.” Related: MAD Architects’ curvaceous Himalayas Center nears completion in Nanjing Wrapped in a deep-colored glass curtain-wall facade, the slender and sinuous skyscraper is topped with a rounded cap. The model of East 34th is one of 12 architectural models created by MAD Architects currently exhibited at Centre Pompidou in Paris. + MAD Architects Images via MAD Architects

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MAD Architects unveils an organic skyscraper piercing Manhattans skyline

Planting trees only works if the restored forests stand for more than 10 or 20 years

March 19, 2019 by  
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Ecological resoration is supposed to help damaged and deforested ecosystems recover — but early-stage forests aren’t the same as mature ones.

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Planting trees only works if the restored forests stand for more than 10 or 20 years

Planting trees only works if the restored forests stand for more than 10 or 20 years

March 19, 2019 by  
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Ecological resoration is supposed to help damaged and deforested ecosystems recover — but early-stage forests aren’t the same as mature ones.

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Planting trees only works if the restored forests stand for more than 10 or 20 years

Nature: the one partner every company should work with

March 14, 2019 by  
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Natural capital stewardship like restoring forests could deliver almost one-third of the emissions cuts needed to stave off global temperature increases.

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Nature: the one partner every company should work with

Corporate action takes root on deforestation

March 11, 2019 by  
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The planet is increasingly marked by bald spots, but

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Corporate action takes root on deforestation

With clock ticking on 2020 deforestation pledges, 5 ideas for sourcing palm oil sustainably

February 27, 2019 by  
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Time-bound commitments and better ways to monitor suppliers will play a central role

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With clock ticking on 2020 deforestation pledges, 5 ideas for sourcing palm oil sustainably

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