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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Endangered Canadian Orca births first calf in three years

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

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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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

Why human resources is your sustainability ally

April 18, 2018 by  
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Don’t overlook the department that’s on the frontlines in terms of advancing good jobs and an ethical culture.

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Why human resources is your sustainability ally

NASA debuts KRUSTY nuclear reactor for future Mars residents

January 19, 2018 by  
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Researchers at NASA , Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Department of Energy announced they have successfully tested a small nuclear reactor that may someday provide power to human habitats on Mars and beyond. Called Kilopower, or KRUSTY (Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology), the reactor comes in several versions to meet certain power needs, from 1 kilowatt (enough to power a small kitchen appliance) to 10 kilowatts, four or five of which would be required to provide power for a habitat on Mars. “Kilopower’s compact size and robustness allows us to deliver multiple units on a single lander to the surface that provides tens of kilowatts of power,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, during a press conference on Thursday . Kilopower could support manned missions to Mars in several ways. “We would need power on Mars for two primary reasons,” said Patrick McClure, Project Lead for Reactor Development at Los Alamos, in the video above . “The first is that astronauts need power for their habitat, so that they can make oxygen , purify water, but prior to their arrival, we need to make liquid oxygen and propellant so that they can get off the Martian surface.” Kilopower provides a fairly straightforward solution, requiring a minimal number of parts and thus lightweight, for the power needs of any planet-bound mission. Related: MIT’s winning solar-powered dome tree habitats for Mars mimic earthly forests The system works by incorporating steam-pipe technology, in which a sealed tube in a heat pipe circulates fluid throughout the reactor while generating heat . The heated fluid then travels to a Stirling engine, where it pressurizes gas to power a piston connected to a motor that generates electricity . Combining these parts makes for a reliable, simple device for providing power for all kinds of space missions. As for next steps, the research team intends to conduct a full-power test of their device in March. If all goes well, the sky may well be the limit for this compact powerhouse. Via Engadget and Space.com Images via NASA (1)

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Researchers develop self-healing concrete powered by fungus

January 19, 2018 by  
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Scientists at Binghamton University have developed the first application of fungi in self-healing concrete. In a paper recently published in the journal Construction and Building Materials , Binghamton University assistant professor Congrui Jin and her team outline the ways in which a special species of fungi,  Trichoderma reesei , may act as a sealing agent when mixed with concrete . “This idea was originally inspired by the miraculous ability of the human body to heal itself of cuts, bruises and broken bones,” said Jin in an interview at Binghampton . “For the damaged skins and tissues, the host will take in nutrients that can produce new substitutes to heal the damaged parts.” Jin and her team’s focus on concrete could not be more topical. In the United States , a crisis fueled by historic underinvestment in infrastructure has resulted in increasingly dangerous roads, bridges, and highways. While Washington struggles to fund the federal government and state governments lack the resources to tackle this multi-trillion dollar problem, citizens still want something to be done before a major collapse occurs. “Without proper treatment, cracks tend to progress further and eventually require costly repair,” said Jin . “If micro-cracks expand and reach the steel reinforcement, not only the concrete will be attacked, but also the reinforcement will be corroded, as it is exposed to water, oxygen, possibly CO2 and chlorides, leading to structural failure.” Related: How fungi made Earth’s atmosphere livable – new study If concrete were easier to repair, the cost of infrastructure maintenance would likely decrease. This is where T. reesei steps in. The fungus is mixed with concrete and lies dormant until the first crack in newly laid concrete appears. As water and oxygen permeate the crack, fungal spores will germinate, expand, and create calcium carbonate to fill the crack. While the technology is still in its early phase, its successful small-scale application demonstrates that fungal self-healing concrete may fit right in someday soon. Jin said , “In my opinion, further investigation in alternative microorganisms such as fungi and yeasts for the application of self-healing concrete becomes of great potential importance”. Via Binghamton University Images via Jonathan Cohen/Binghamton University and Congrui Jin/Binghamton University

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