Recycled plastic to soon pave Los Angeles roads

October 18, 2019 by  
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To better manage plastic waste , Los Angeles is in talks with Technisoil, an innovative manufacturing company, to viably incorporate plastic into the city’s roads. Typically viewed as an ecological scourge, plastic waste can also be seen as a valuable resource when repurposed. Substituting asphalt road materials with upcycled plastic waste could spell cost savings for both road construction and waste management endeavors. Because plastic does not degrade easily, it has now become a significant environmental threat, often entering our oceans and harming marine life. At the same time, road maintenance can be a costly enterprise. To address the two key global issues of excess plastic waste and sustainable road maintenance, Los Angeles and Technisoil are jointly piloting the use of recycled plastic in road construction plans. Related: $87M wildlife bridge in California will be a haven for mountain lions The innovative method will be tested at the corner of West First Street and North Grand Avenue. First, plastic waste will be fragmented into pellets. These pellets will next be melted into a type of oil-based material, called bitumen. Bitumen is the petroleum-based binding agent in asphalt. Thus, the “plastic oil” will then be mixed in with other paving materials to create a type of plastic-infused asphalt. What are some advantages to these plastic roads? First, they are a less expensive alternative when compared to bitumen or traditional asphalt. Because plastic-suffused asphalt reduces the amount of petroleum in asphalt, these roads require less time to assemble, making them a more financially feasible choice. Similarly, these roads have a lower carbon footprint because the repurposed plastic produces less emissions. These plastic roads are durable, have a longer lifespan and are seven times stronger than regular asphalt, translating into less need for road maintenance. Environmentalists worry that the plastic will leach into waterways. But both the city of Los Angeles and Technisoil claim they’ve performed tests that prove otherwise. The timing is opportune for Los Angeles to leverage recycled plastic because China has ceased accepting recyclables from the City of Angels. Rather than having plastic accumulate in Southern California landfills, this venture promises to effectively utilize plastic while concurrently alleviating waste management and road construction costs. Should this process prove successful, it will be a model that other cities across the U.S. can implement as well. Doing so will bring the nation closer to mitigating plastic pollution while simultaneously helping to improve the country’s vast network of roads that have yet to be repaired or updated. “This is an exciting technology and a sustainable technology,” said Keith Mozee, assistant director at the Department of Street Services. “And it’s something that we believe going forward could be game-changing if we deploy on a large scale.” Via The Architect’s Newspaper Image via Giuseppe Milo

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Recycled plastic to soon pave Los Angeles roads

Proposed Florida bill could require prescription for sunscreens in effort to save coral reefs

October 18, 2019 by  
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In a bid to protect the Sunshine State’s reefs from coral bleaching , a new legislative bill has been proposed that requires a physician’s prescription for sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, on grounds that these chemicals are harmful to marine coastal environments. The two ingredients are found in roughly 80 percent of all commercially available sunscreens. Discouraging their widespread use can help protect Florida’s fragile coral ecosystems. Following in the footsteps of Hawaii and Key West , all over-the-counter sunscreens will need to be free of both oxybenzone and octinoxate to be deemed safe enough for use, because both chemicals contribute to coral reef bleaching and the compromised health of reef aquatic life. If approved, the bill will take effect in 2020. Related: Pacific heat wave threatens coral reefs in Hawaii and other regions Coral reefs are a valuable asset to the Sunshine State. They are beneficial for environmental and economic reasons, such as protecting coastal communities from wave action and storm surges, providing ecosystem biodiversity, serving as a food resource and offering commercial tourism opportunities. What’s more, Florida is “the only state in the continental United States to have extensive coral reef formations near its coasts. These reefs extend over 300 miles,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) . Coral reef activities promote tourism and businesses that “generate $3.4 billion and support 36,000 jobs in the region each year.” Reputed to be the third-longest coral barrier reef in the world, Florida’s celebrated reefs, sadly, have not been faring well in recent years due to a combination of factors: warming ocean temperatures, acidification, rising sea levels, erosion, pollution, coastal development, offshore oil and gas drilling, dredging, boat groundings, propeller and anchor damage, unsustainable fishing activities, invasive species and infection and disease. Because the coral reefs are left at a delicate tipping point, a patchwork of restoration efforts, largely from marine conservation groups, have attempted to revitalize them. It is hoped this bill can help save the fragile ecosystem. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are harmful to corals. As documented by a NOAA study published in the journal Environmental Contamination and Toxicology , they damage coral DNA, beget aberrant growth and defective development in young coral, exacerbate coral bleaching vulnerabilities and ultimately prevent the coral from reproducing properly. Because both oxybenzone and octinoxate accumulate in coral tissue, the coral become highly susceptible to infection and disease, likewise culminating in reef degradation. Critics complain the new legislation will increase skin cancer risks; however, the bill’s proponents argue for a shift toward “reef-friendly” alternative sunscreens. The National Park Service , for instance, recommends “titanium oxide or zinc oxide, which are natural mineral ingredients.” Neither titanium oxide nor zinc oxide have been found to be harmful to coral reefs, making both appealing as eco-friendly substitutes. Via CNN Image via Shutterstock

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Proposed Florida bill could require prescription for sunscreens in effort to save coral reefs

Use texture, height and variety to create pizzazz in your small garden this fall

October 18, 2019 by  
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As the crisp, misty mornings of fall greet the day, autumn colors emerge across the landscape. Meanwhile, your garden and flower pots begin to look barren and colorless as annuals die off and perennials go dormant for the upcoming winter. In most areas, though, there is still plenty of life left in the fall, even in the smallest spaces around your home. With a bit of planning, you can bring a new season of life to your porch, patio or balcony, even during the short days of fall. To get started, follow these tips for color, variety, texture and height variation. Color Fall is synonymous with falling leaves and bare trees, leaving a trail of red, orange and yellow along the roads. You can match the colors associated with the season using pumpkin decor, rusty red or gold mums, plants that produce berries, ornamental grasses and plants that retain their colorful leaves until late into the season. Grab a journal and list some plants common to your area that offer complementary colors. Then, add in some accents, like prolific white mums, silver-leaved herbs such as sage and evergreens like boxwood for a stable green color. On that note, remember that evergreens are a delightful option for every season and make a nice backdrop to seasonal plants that you can swap out every few months. This gives you a lot of options year-round, even with limited space. Related: 11 unique edible plants for your garden Variety Along with the plan for color comes a blueprint for variety. Your preference might be to have window boxes full of a single varietal. If so, great! If not, choose plants that contrast each other throughout the space. Include plants with different types of leaves, heights and lifespans. Put some in the window box, but surround it with potted plants, shrubs, trees and even an ever-changing vase of fresh wildflowers. Just be sure to choose options that can be pruned to stay small or are naturally compact. Even your planters can add to the variety in texture and color. Use galvanized buckets or watering cans mixed with colorful ceramic pots and a miniature wheelbarrow. Insert a glass vase with bamboo , surround plants with an old tire or carve out a pumpkin for a naturally-compostable planter. Use bronze, terracotta or copper to add to the fall color palette, and make them really stand out by surrounding them with white rocks. Texture Plants in nature vary from each other as much as the human face or fingerprint. Embrace that diversity to feed the need for visual appeal. After all, your garden space, no matter how small, should bring you pleasure. Mix it up — bring in some spiky leaves and balance those with the dainty Sweet Alyssum. Throw in some curvy-edged flowering kale, and place it next to your Aster that still might be in bloom, attracting bees and butterflies well into the season. Height Nothing adds variety and depth like a display of flowers, plants and shrubs of varying heights. This can be accomplished using supports or props. For example, use a window box. Then, place a table beneath it with potted plants ranging from tiny succulents to larger herbs . On the ground, add another layer of potted or planted options. Mix in small trees and shrubs if your space allows. You can also choose plants that are all planted in the same bed with diverse heights. Just plant the tallest selections in the back, so they don’t obscure the view of the lower-to-the-ground superstars behind them. Depending on how much space you have, you might include a dwarf conifer, Dogwood or slow-growing Japanese Maple. For very small spaces , use pots to contain purple fountain grass, croton and other plants. Also, use those long-lasting summer climbers to your advantage. Create height with the hops over the pergola, grapes covering the arbor or ivy up the pillars in the front of the house. Placement Another planning consideration includes the placement of your plants. For a back patio or areas where you still spend a lot of time outdoors in the fall, create clusters of texture or color along the edges. Plant a tree just off the edge of the deck and surround it with seasonal potted plants that sit on the deck, creating a vignette of eye-catching cohesion. If you spend most of your time next to the window near the front porch, invest in color within the frame of the window. For an upstairs office, load up the window box. If you’re going for curb appeal, make sure to include border plants to pull the look together. A simple display of a few potted chrysanthemums with some decorative gourds can spice up the entrance to your home. Hanging baskets are another option that complement your decor in any season and work in any space, large or small. Small gardens might present some challenges, but with the right plant selections, you can create spaces that bring visual interest and life to your balcony or patio throughout the seasons. Images via Shutterstock

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Use texture, height and variety to create pizzazz in your small garden this fall

Endangered Canadian Orca births first calf in three years

June 4, 2019 by  
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A small and endangered pod of orca whales primarily seen off the coast of British Columbia was seen with their first newborn calf since 2016. The calf has been called a “ray of hope” by whale researchers and conservationists and brings the total population up to just 76 whales. “Researchers at the Centre for Whale Research, have confirmed that the calf is a new addition, and based on its coloration and body condition was likely born sometime in the last one to three weeks…More field observations are needed to confirm the identity of the calf’s mother,” the research center said in a statement. Related: Russia to release hundreds of illegally captured orcas and belugas from ‘whale jail’ The whale was first observed and photographed by whale watchers on May 31, who noted its orange hue and fetal skin– evidence that it was born very recently. This subsection of endangered killer whales are unique to others of the same species because they primarily eat Chinook salmon instead of seals and mammals. The crash in salmon population in the Pacific Northwest contributed to a decline in whale population. Last year, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee released a plan to revive and protect salmon and whale populations. The newest calf belongs to the J-Pod, but there are two other pods of the endangered group– the L-pod and the K-pod. Just five months ago, the L-pod also successfully birthed a calf. “Southern resident killer whales , their population is small so any birth is huge,” a representative from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada told CBC News. Despite these recent celebrations, the survival rate for Orca calves is only 50 percent. The last successful Orca birth took place in 2016. However, last year after the death of the calf, the mother continued to carry the body for a heart wrenching 7 days, a story which received considerable media attention and drew sympathy for the vulnerable population. Via The Guardian Image via skeeze

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Tesla hit with $86K fine for violating emission standards in California

April 4, 2019 by  
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Tesla just had to shell out thousands of dollars after losing a lawsuit over air pollution. The car company was hit with an $86,000 fine for violating emission standards in a facility based in Fremont, California . The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) led the charge against Tesla , inspecting the manufacturing site with help from the Department of Toxic Substances Control and Bay Area Air Quality Management. The organizations found that Tesla failed to properly handle waste that should have been deemed toxic. Related: Greenhouse gas emissions rose during 2018 after three year decline According to Gizmodo , Tesla is now following proper protocols in the disposal of toxic waste. In the settlement, the car company agreed to pay off a $31,000 fine and purchase new equipment for local firefighters worth around $55,000. In total, Tesla forked over around $86,000 in fines. “The company has now corrected those violations and has provided training in hazardous waste management to more than 1,100 paint shop workers, technicians and supervisors,” the EPA explained. The settlement further revealed that Tesla failed to dispose of solvents and paints that were flammable. This includes not labeling waste and failing to properly secure containers. The company also did not adequately store and label waste that was toxic in nature. The EPA marked  Tesla for not having enough space in waste management areas as well. This is unfortunately not the first time Tesla has faced environmental violations. In 2010, the company received a $275,000 fine because of certification issues with the Tesla Roadster. Three years later, Tesla payed a $71,000 fine, because a few workers came in contact with molten aluminum. In 2019, the EPA issued the company a $29,000 fine for violating safety standards and a $139,000 fine for breaking pollution  laws. Because of the ongoing health and safety violations, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health just labeled Tesla among the most dangerous places to work in the United States. Although the company continues to face public scrutiny over its workplace standards, especially when it comes to toxic waste and air pollution , it refuses to allow workers to unionize. Via Gizmodo Image via FreePhotos

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Energy-efficient light bulb production could take a major hit

March 28, 2019 by  
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The production of energy-efficient light bulbs could be hurt by a new proposal. The Trump administration is looking to get rid of Obama-era laws that encouraged companies to make energy-efficient bulbs. If the regulations are rolled back, experts warn that less-efficient bulbs will increase energy bills and lead to additional pollution. The bulbs in question were not originally included in President George W. Bush’s 2007 law, which pushed for more LED bulbs . These products include decorative globes, often put on display in bathrooms, three-way bulbs and candle-shaped light sources. In total, these products make up around 2.7 billion bulbs on the market today. Related: This high-tech LED lighting could grow veggies in space The Obama administration attempted to place these specialty items under the 2007 regulations. But companies objected to the move and sued the government. According to  NPR , President Trump hopes to reverse the Energy Department’s position on the matter by not requiring specialty companies to follow the same energy standards as other bulbs. Experts, like Alliance to Save Energy’s Jason Hartke, believe the move does not make sense. Not only do these energy wasting bulbs drive up utility costs, but they are also terrible for the environment. In order to produce these specialty items, companies will have to waste enormous amounts of coal-powered energy for products that are inferior. “I just don’t understand the rationale behind trying to turn back the clock,” Hartke shared. “There aren’t many people out there clamoring for outdated light bulbs that use four or five times as much energy.” At the end of the day, the issue will likely end up in court, where a panel of judges will decide if rolling back energy policies is legal. Opponents of the move argue that the Department of Energy cannot reverse policies when it comes to energy standards. While the government and environmentalists battle it out in court, people within the lighting industry claim that they have no interest in producing bulbs that are not energy-efficient. The industry knows that efficient light bulbs are the future and that consumers want products that are both good for the environment and their pocketbook. + Department of Energy Via NPR Image via Geoffrey A. Landis and Kotivalo

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Energy-efficient light bulb production could take a major hit

160-square-foot off-grid Elsewhere Cabin invites us all to live a little simpler

March 28, 2019 by  
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When it comes to tiny dwellings, we’ve seen everything from luxury homes to floating abodes, but when it comes to truly minimal living, the Elsewhere Cabin is the epitome of simple, functional design. Designed by Seattle-based architect Sean O’Neill , the Elsewhere Cabin is a 160-square-foot tiny cabin that is completely off-grid, and features a 10 inch folding wooden wall that allows the living space to expand out into an open-air porch. O’Neil designed the cabin at the request of Austin-based vacation rental company, Elsewhere. The company was looking to expand their property offerings with minimalist cabins for guests that were looking for a serene place to disconnect from urban life. As per Elsewhere’s request, the cabin can operate completely off-grid. Solar panels generate enough power for lighting, hot water and wifi. Related: A remote, off-grid cabin is elevated off the forest floor with log columns Using the company’s location as inspiration, O’Neil’s inspiration behind the cabin design was to recreate the feeling of sitting on a Texas porch. Long used to cool down during the searing hot days of summer or finding protection from the rain, porches are magnets for entertaining guests, dining al fresco or simply sitting and soaking up the beautiful views. To bring this inspiration to fruition, the architect created a 10 inch wall that folds out from the main structure to create a large open-air porch. The rest of the tiny cabin is a minimalist design. Clad in charred cedar siding, the jet black exterior blends into any natural habitat. On the inside, natural Chilean pine plywood line the walls, ceiling and flooring. Behind the folding wall is the main living space, comprised of custom-made furniture that was designed to be space efficient and multi-functional. For example, in the living room, one singular surface transitions easily from a desk to a sofa to a kitchen counter. The home has all of the basic amenities including a small kitchen that is equipped with all of the basics, a sink, countertop, stove top burners, etc. There is a bathroom, complete with a waterless toilet , as well as a shower and sink that draw water from an on-board water tank. The sleeping loft is located on the upper level, made possible by the pitched roof. + Elsewhere Retreats Via Dwell Photography by Sean O’Neill

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160-square-foot off-grid Elsewhere Cabin invites us all to live a little simpler

Can the Caymans save the Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs?

February 13, 2019 by  
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A rehabilitation program for coral reef species has proven to be successful for an ongoing project to combat a massive disease spreading throughout the Cayman’s pillar coral species, according to the Department of the Environment in the Cayman Islands. The rapidly spreading disease, called “white band disease”, was first noticed on a famous dive site called the Killer Pillars in February 2018. It has ravaged pillar coral throughout the Caribbean and destroyed almost 90 percent of the species along the Florida coast. Scientists in the Cayman Islands removed diseased coral from the reef and selected healthy fragments to grow in a nursery. They later planted healthy coral back onto the reef, in hopes the fragments became resilient enough to resist the disease and build back the reef. Though the project is still an experiment, the results look promising thus far and can have wide implications on how other islands respond to this disease throughout the region. The Caribbean already lost 80 percent of all coral reefs Throughout the world, coral reefs are seriously vulnerable and rapidly dying. Reefs are thought to host the most biodiversity of any ecosystem in the world– even more than a rainforest . Despite their importance, reefs are critically vulnerable to small changes in the environment. Slight increases in ocean temperature cause widespread die-off throughout Caribbean and Pacific reefs. Additional threats include pollution, over fishing and run-off of nitrogen from farms that fertilize algae and causes it to smother reefs. Abandoned fishing gear also wreaks havoc on reefs and creates an opportunity for disease. “Fishing line not only causes coral tissue injuries and skeleton damage, but also provides an additional surface for potential pathogens to colonize, increasing their capacity to infect wounds caused by entangled fishing line,” says Dr. Joleah Lamb from the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Coral reefs are home to nearly 25 percent of all marine species and sustain the fishing industry. They are paramount to Caribbean economies and are an important defense for small islands and coastal communities during hurricanes . Evidence shows their structures reduce damaging wave energy by nearly 97 percent . Also, reefs attract dive tourists and help build beaches by breaking down into sand. Experiments such as the one in the Cayman Islands are critically important for ensuring the reefs that do remain, are healthy and functioning. How does the project in the Cayman Islands work? Along with marine scientists from the U.K. and U.S., coral experts from the Department of the Environment removed diseased coral from the reef in order to stem the alarming spread of the disease. They then cut segments of healthy coral to regrow in nurseries. Coral nurseries, a growing trend in coral restoration, are structures constructed in clean, sandy sections of the ocean floor. Scientists attach healthy coral fragments to the simple structures, often made out of PVC pipe, and monitor them as they grow in a safe environment. Once the corals are strong, healthy and considerably larger in size than the original fragments, the scientists plant them back onto the original reef or select new sites to start a reef. Related: Using nature to build resilient communities Coral nurseries are popping up around the Caribbean Impressively, 100 percent of the coral fragments in the Department of Environment’s nursery survived. Coral nurseries are a restoration technique popular throughout the Caribbean basin, including Bonaire, Curacao, Grenada, the Virgin Islands and many restoration and research laboratories in Florida. Disease is still a threat After their successful growth in the nursery, 81 percent of the fragments re-planted were still alive after five months. This is a considerable success rate given the threats these corals face. However, 23 percent of the planted fragments also showed signs of the relentless “white band disease” (Acroporid white syndrome). Researchers have not given up hope and recognize that if kept contained, disease can be a natural part of ecosystems. “We do know that diseases have their seasons, they come and go, they are vigorous for a while and then they die back, and at that point we have to see some kind of coral colony recovery,” Tim Austin, Deputy Director of the Department of Environment, told Cayman 27 News . “We are monitoring it and we are hoping to have a better handle on how this disease progresses.” In addition to techniques such as reducing marine debris, pollution and establishing protected conservation zones around reefs, coral salvage projects are an important technique to ensure that Caribbean’s the remaining corals survive. “If longer-term monitoring results prove equally successful, the salvage, relocation and restoration of actively diseased coral colonies could become an everyday tool in the restoration toolbox of coral reef managers,” the Department of Environment reported . Via Yale 360 Image via Shutterstock

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Can the Caymans save the Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs?

Ron Whitmore, Deputy Director of Research & Development, Hawai’i on sustainability and policy

June 29, 2018 by  
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Ron Whitmore, Deputy Director of the Department of Research and Development, County of Hawai’i, tackling big issues, collaboration, innovation, inter-agency, policy, climate change, sustainability, research, development, affordability.

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Ron Whitmore, Deputy Director of Research & Development, Hawai’i on sustainability and policy

Jon Nouchi, Deputy Director of Transportation Services, Honolulu, fleet electrification

June 29, 2018 by  
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Jon Nouchi, Deputy Director of Transportation Services, Honolulu, fleet electrification.

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Jon Nouchi, Deputy Director of Transportation Services, Honolulu, fleet electrification

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