New report reveals 70 million metric tons of plastic burned worldwide each year

May 21, 2019 by  
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A new report reveals the scale of the world’s plastic problem and the alarming amount of plastic that is burned. Despite the grave and well-documented consequences for human health, about 12 percent of all plastic in the U.S. is burned. In middle- and low-income countries without the infrastructure to recycle, plastic is burned at a much higher rate. According to the report , published by Tearfund, Fauna & Flora International, WasteAid and The Institute of Development Studies, a double-decker bus full of plastic is burned or dumped every single second. When calculated annually, that is equivalent to 70 million metric tons. Burning plastic releases toxic chemicals into the air that have been linked to heart disease, headache, nausea, rashes and damage to the kidney, liver and nervous system. In low- and middle-income countries without garbage facilities, the majority of trash is burned near homes — such as in the backyard — and poses direct threat to the inhabitants. In many cases, repeated exposure to the chemicals can lead to respiratory problems such as asthma and emphysema. Related: Microplastic rain — new study reveals microplastics are in the air In wealthier countries, new incinerator technology claims to burn trash with fewer direct health concerns. The negative health impacts of plastic are not new; in fact, this month the United Nations voted to list plastic as a hazardous waste material . Since the 1950s, 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced, and nearly half of that is only used once . This number is enormous but hard for many people to truly understand. According to National Geographic , this will be equivalent to the weight of 35,000 Empire State Buildings by 2050. But do these abstract numbers really help us put our problem into perspective? The first step is understanding the world’s addiction to plastic, but then specific actions must be taken. The American Chemistry Council, which contested the report’s results, argues that governments and companies need to enforce stricter requirements for packaging. Last year, major plastic producers formed the Alliance to End Plastic Waste , inclusive of Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil, Formosa Plastics Corp. and Procter & Gamble. The Alliance promised to invest $1.5 billion into the effort to reduce plastic’s impact on the environment. Via HuffPost Image via Stacie DePonte

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New report reveals 70 million metric tons of plastic burned worldwide each year

Ioncell technology creates eco-textile clothing fibers from birch trees

April 9, 2019 by  
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With clothing production leading the world as one of the highest-polluting industries, a new fiber contradicts the earth-damaging qualities of traditional materials. Ioncell technology , developed at Aalto University and the University of Helsinki, uses a range of materials, including wood, recycled newspaper, cardboard and old cotton to make fabric. This is good news for an environment scarred by cotton production and the development of synthetic fibers. The new and improved material can also be recycled at the end of its life cycle, significantly reducing clothing waste . In a country already acutely aware of sustainable practices in forest management, the trees sourced from Finland offer a much lower carbon footprint than traditional clothing. Ioncell materials also protect the water supply by using ionic liquid in place of harsh chemicals. Related: The convenience of “highway fitting” your clothes is hurting the planet While the designers focus on sustainable sourcing and manufacturing, the clothing also avoids contributing to a massive post-consumer waste problem. That’s because the fibers are biodegradable. Additionally, the fibers do not contain any harmful microfibers now associated with massive ocean pollution and damage to sea life. Sourced from birch trees , the wood is responsibly harvested as part of a forest management program that grows more trees than they harvest. Once cut into smaller logs, the wood is sent through a machine that turns it into large chips. At this phase, the chips are sent to the cooker and then turned into sheets of pulp. The pulp is then mixed with the ionic liquid that results in a cellulose material. Fibers are then spun into yarn and turned into fabric. Designers and researchers involved in the project report that the resulting material is soft and drapes naturally, making it a good choice for formalwear, coats, scarves, gloves and other products. It also accepts dye well. The process for making Ioncell fibers is still in the research and development phase and they currently only produce it on a small scale, but they are hoping to unveil a preliminary product line as early as 2020. + Aalto University Via World Economic Forum Images via Aalto University

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Ioncell technology creates eco-textile clothing fibers from birch trees

Eco-friendly replacements for common bathroom products

April 9, 2019 by  
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Common bathroom products, like toilet paper, cotton swabs and baby wipes, are a convenience for people around the world, but they come at a cost to the environment. These products take centuries to biodegrade and contribute to our growing problem of carbon emissions. Luckily, there are great eco-friendly alternatives to these common  bathroom  products that will not break your budget. Here is a quick list of the most common bathroom products and suggestions on how to find sustainable alternatives. Toilet paper The issue with toilet paper is that the majority of it is manufactured from boreal forests in Canada. These forests are crucial in absorbing carbon and cleaning the air. According to Quartzy , people in the United States use far more toilet paper per year than anywhere else in the world. This is creating a dangerous situation for trees , as the demand is reaching an unsustainable pace. Related: The environmental problem with toilet paper and what to use instead The solution to the toilet paper problem is to use single-ply paper sourced from recycled wood pulp. The key here is to find brands that are using recycled pulp instead of just looking for single-ply products. Many companies that make single-ply options do not use recycled wood . There are also tree-free options, such as those made from bamboo. Consider installing a bidet in your home. You can purchase a bidet lid that is easy to install and affordable to boot. This might not eliminate the need for toilet paper, but it will significantly reduce its use and save you money. Feminine care products Like other products on this list, tampons and sanitary pads clutter our landfills and can do a number on plumbing. The biggest problem is that these products are essential for daily living, but fortunately there are eco-friendly alternatives if you look carefully. If you want to improve your impact on the environment, buy tampons that do not feature an applicator. In 2017, the Clean Ocean Action group cleaned up over 4,000 applicators from shores in New Jersey. Also, choose feminine care products made from unscented organic cotton. You can look for underwear companies that make more absorbent products, such as Thinx, Luna and Knix. The downside to this alternative is that they can get pricey. If you are interested, try a menstrual cup, which can safely last for up to 10 years. Dental products Most dental floss is made from synthetic fibers, which makes it hard for these products to biodegrade within a reasonable time. This means that the floss either ends up in landfills or gets flushed down the toilet, where it can create problems for marine  wildlife . Related: 8 ways to make your bathroom more eco-friendly Fortunately, there are companies out there who make plastic-free dental floss. According to Household Wonders , Dental Lace’s dental floss is mostly made of silk and is free of plastics. The company also offers refillable floss. Instead of plastic toothbrushes, find a bamboo option that will biodegrade. As far as toothpaste goes, try making your own or find a tooth powder or tooth tablets sold in glass jars for zero-waste alternatives. Cotton swabs Cotton swabs often end up in undesirable places after they are discarded. Some people flush them down the toilet, leaving them to end up in waterways and ultimately in the bellies of aquatic life. Because of these disposal problems, some countries have banned cotton swabs altogether, especially the ones that have plastic stems. The good news is that you do not really need to use cotton swabs. In fact, doctors do not recommend using them to clean ears, as they are easily the biggest source of ear-related trauma. Instead, simply wash out your ears with warm water and let the wax do the rest. If you cannot give up cotton swabs, consider purchasing ones that have paper or bamboo stems. These are better for the environment and break up more easily after they are thrown away. Baby wipes There are a lot of problems with baby wipes. Not only are they primarily made out of cotton — which is one of the worst crops for the environment — but they are also comprised of plastic polymers, which are added for extra strength. These wipes can lead to multiple plumbing issues and have been known to clog up water treatment facilities. Related: New study finds harmful chemicals, including glyphosate, in disposable diapers If you have to use baby wipes, avoid flushing them down the toilet, even if the packaging says they are safe to do so. Instead, try using burp cloths or washcloths for daily cleaning . Speaking of wipes, you should also avoid all types of disposable cleaning and makeup-removing wipes, just as a general rule of thumb. For best practices, consider investing in reusable wipes. You can even use an old wipes container to house them. Make your own wipes out of old T-shirts or towels; all you need is something that is absorbent and soft. Deodorant Deodorant may be great at keeping smells at bay, but this product comes at a cost to the planet and your health. Most deodorant on the market is actually antiperspirant and contains chemicals, toxins, BPA and aluminum. This combination of chemicals usually leads to harmful reactions after extended use, not to mention that sourcing the material is hazardous to the environment. The best eco-friendly alternative to conventional deodorant is purchasing products that are completely organic and free of those harmful toxins. Images via Shutterstock

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Eco-friendly replacements for common bathroom products

International Women’s Day Spotlight: Meet the 8 women leading the change for a better world

March 8, 2019 by  
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International Women’s Day is just one of the 365 days per year that it is important to recognize and celebrate the contributions and advancements female leaders have bestowed onto the environment, society and culture from around the world. While there are thousands of women who are fighting to help conserve and preserve our planet, below we highlight eight brave women from across the globe who are making headlines for their innovative impact in the environmental, conservation and sustainability fields. Melina Laboucan Massimo Indigenous Rights & Clean Energy Campaigner (Canada) Massimo , a member of the Lubicon Cree First Nation, grew up in a small community where the only jobs were in the oil and gas industry. Following a devastating oil spill that contaminated the water and land that her community depended on for generations, Massimo was inspired to take action. She is a Climate and Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace, journalist, film producer and an indigenous rights activist. She advocates for a equitable transition to clean and renewable energy sources that prioritize local jobs, ownership and environmental protection. Related: Women are essential to climate resilience in the Caribbean — here’s why Vandana Shiva Food Sovereignty Advocate (India) Shiva is an eco-activist and agroecologist who focuses on sustainable agriculture , local food systems and the working conditions of farm workers in India. She is a vocal opponent of genetically modified organisms and her work has helped preserve and prioritize indigenous seed diversity and traditional knowledge. Forbes named Shiva one of the Seven Most Powerful Women on the Globe. Christiana Figueres U.N. Leader and Climate Optimist (Costa Rica) Christiana Figueres was the driving force behind the monumental Paris Agreement of 2015, in which 195 nations signed on to legally-binding, time-bound commitments to reduce carbon emissions and limit global warming . After serving as the Executive Secretary for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change from 2010 to 2016, Figueres turned her attention to speaking, writing and advising major companies on climate sustainability. Figueres also leads Mission 2020 and Global Optimism, organizations focused on making the world’s ambitious climate visions into a reality. She recently won the prestigious US$1 million Dan David Prize for her work in combating climate change. Paula Kahumbu Elephant Conservationist (Kenya) Kahumbu is the Executive Director of WildlifeDirect in Kenya and leader of a muti-year campaign to both raise awareness about elephant poaching and pass conservation legislation. Her local and international efforts to stem poaching from all angles have won her numerous awards, including the Whitley Award and the National Geographic Howard Buffet Award for conservation leadership in Africa. Basima Abdulrahman Green Re-Building Pioneer (Iraq) Abdulrahman is the Founder and CEO of Iraq’s first green design and construction consulting company. Her goal is to help her war-torn country build back in a way that is “sustainable, inclusive and economically productive through making buildings and infrastructures healthy, environmentally responsible, and resource-efficient.” Abdulrahman was the co-chair of the World Economic Forum in Davos, in January 2019. Related: Permaculture feeds and empowers refugees in Uganda Amy Jadesimi Sustainable Business Leader (Nigeria) Jadesimi is the CEO of a 100 percent Nigerian-owned Industrial Free Zone in Lagos. She is a trained medical doctor, entrepreneur and advocate for sustainable business as the only viable business model for progress. In 2018 she spoke at the U.N. about “the potential for private sector to take a lead in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.“ Jadesimi is confident that market growth in Africa, guided by the Sustainable Development Goals, is essential to provide jobs and improve environmental and social problems at the scale needed for a successful and sustainable future. Greta Thunberg Teen Climate Crusader (Sweden) In 2018, 15-year-old Greta Thunberg sat outside the Swedish Parliament for three weeks, demanding national leaders radically prioritize climate change . Since then, her example has launched a ripple-effect of youth protests in over 270 cities around the world. Faced with living out the impacts of climate change, young people are taking the lead to speak out for stronger commitment and follow-through from world leaders. The New Yorker called Greta a “voice of unaccommodating clarity.” Heba Al Farra Women in the Environment Sector Connector (Palestine) Al Farra was recognized as a UN Young Champion of the Earth  for her organization, Women in Energy & Environment at MENA Region (WEE), which is building a professional network for Middle Eastern and North African women working in environmental fields. WEE connects women with resources and a supportive community. An environmental engineer, Al Farra left Palestine for Kuwait when the violence in Gaza disrupted her studies and is dedicated to linking women from her home country with the skills they need to succeed professionally. Images via David Suzuki Foundation , Frank Schwichtenberg , UNclimatechange,   Pop Tech , World Economic Forum , Danish Maritime Days , UNEP , bones64 , Molly Adams , Shutterstock

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International Women’s Day Spotlight: Meet the 8 women leading the change for a better world

Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100

February 11, 2019 by  
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Asia’s Himalayan mountain range is about to undergo some major changes. New research predicts that global warming will melt at least one-third or up two two-thirds of the glaciers in the region by the year 2100, significantly affecting the 2 billion people who call the mountainous area home. The alarming prediction will come to pass if global carbon emissions continue at their current rates. Even more disturbing is that one-third of the glaciers in the Himalaya and Hindu Kush range will still disappear, even if governments far exceed expectations and dramatically cut emissions. Related: NASA finds cavity the size of Manhattan underneath Antarctic glacier According to The Guardian , the threatened glaciers are a life source for the millions of people in the region. They also provide water for around 1.65 billion people who live in China , Pakistan and India. Once these glaciers start melting, communities along the Indus river and waterways in central Asia will experience heavy flooding. “This is the climate crisis you haven’t heard of,” Philippus Wester, who works for the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development, explained in the report. “In the best of possible worlds, if we get really ambitious [in tackling climate change ], even then we will lose one-third of the glaciers and be in trouble.” The new report predicts that the majority of flooding will occur between 2050 and 2060. After that point, the excess water will run out, and the rivers in the region will experience a decrease in water flow. This will have severe impacts on the hydrodams in the area, which use water to generate electricity for millions of residents. The melting glaciers also affect the monsoon season, which makes it hard to predict rainfall and water supplies. Farmers are already facing issues as water levels are starting to fall during the time they traditionally plant crops. Monsoons are also becoming more frequent, and the resulting flooding is threatening crop growth. Unfortunately, there is no way to stop the glaciers from melting over the next 80 years. Even if carbon emissions are significantly cut over the next 50 years, a large portion of the ice cap will still disappear, leaving billions of people dealing with what could be a global climate crisis. That said, curbing carbon emissions could help preserve over half of the glaciers, which is still a goal worth pursuing. Via The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100

Shipping container food halls slated to revitalize Southern California neighborhoods

December 10, 2018 by  
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Californian firm  Studio One Eleven has unveiled a massive new project that includes using various shipping containers to install modern versions of traditional food halls throughout various neighborhoods in Southern California. The food hall project will see a number of shipping containers being converted into vibrant social areas, where locals can enjoy a variety of small-scale food venues, breweries, organic gardens, playgrounds and entertainment spaces. In Orange County, Studio One Eleven — in collaboration with developer Howard CDM — is just about to complete the SteelCraft Garden Grove. Slated to open in 2019, the Garden Grove will be a multi-use complex built out of 10 shipping containers that will house various food and beverage options with ample seating located on a second level. Within the 20,000-square-foot space, a working organic farm will provide fresh produce for the chefs on site. Related: A sustainable campus is built from 22 recycled shipping containers Another project, Leisuretown, is also slated to open next year in Anaheim. In collaboration with developer LAB Holding, the architects are currently building a 32,000-square-foot complex comprised of two levels of shipping containers that will house a Modern Times craft brewery, a coffee roaster and a vegan Mexican food restaurant. LAB Holding Founder Shaheen Sadeghi explained that one of the project’s main goals is to preserve local structures while breathing new life through community-driven urban design . “When communities tear down history and build all new products, it takes away the soul and the heartbeat of the city,” Sadeghi said. “By preserving as many of these buildings as possible and blending with new products built in the area, we hope to create an even better-balanced neighborhood.” Last but not least, downtown Santa Ana will also be getting a vibrant new community area. The Roost is an existing complex made up of several renovated pre-war buildings. By adding shipping containers to the development, the Roost will have a new central beer garden and outdoor dining space. As one of Orange County’s first shipping container complexes, the food hall will serve as a new social center for the area. + Studio One Eleven Images via Studio One Eleven

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Shipping container food halls slated to revitalize Southern California neighborhoods

Futuristic eco-city powered with renewable energy is unveiled for the Maldives

December 7, 2018 by  
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Beijing and New York-based design studio CAA Architects has placed first in the “Maldives Airport, Economic Zone Development” competition with their design of a futuristic, energy-producing eco-city on the east coast of the reclaimed island Hulhumalé, Maldives . Named Ocean’s Heaven after its nature-inspired design connecting the ocean with the city, the project features striking, sinuous buildings covered in green roofs and solar panels and will be capable of producing almost all of its own energy on-site. Commissioned by the Beijing Urban Construction Group Co. in partnership with the Maldives central government, the eco-city is yet another example of China’s increasing influence over the archipelago country. Global warming and rising sea levels are serious concerns for the Maldives, a tropical paradise famed for its pristine beaches and aquamarine waters. In response to the climate change threats and to celebrate the island country’s natural beauty, CAA Architects crafted Ocean’s Heaven with organically inspired buildings integrated with energy-producing systems to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. The mixed-use development will cover nearly two-thirds of the 100,000-square-meter site and include residences, an airport company service center, international trade center, convention center, island transport hub, shopping centers, a business hotel, dining, along with a centralized cultural center that will serve as the island’s “nervous system”. Ocean’s Heaven will promote high-density urban living and public transportation that includes both surface and water commuting. Ample green space, including sky gardens, will strengthen the community’s ties with nature. Related: This stunning underwater art museum is now open in the Maldives In addition to the solar photovoltaic arrays mounted on the buildings and the sculptural canopy elements along the boardwalk, Ocean’s Heaven will also draw power from tidal waves to generate over 70 percent of the electricity needed to power the development. Rainwater harvesting and passive cross ventilation are also woven into the design. The project, which will be carried out in two phases, is slated for completion in 2021. + CAA Architects Via ArchDaily Images via CAA Architects

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Futuristic eco-city powered with renewable energy is unveiled for the Maldives

A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for foodies

December 7, 2018 by  
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Food is an important aspect of our daily lives, but many of the treats we love are wrapped in single-use plastics or come from pesticide-ridden conventional farms . This year, show the foodies in your life how much you care with sustainable gifts that improve their cooking skills and make the planet a better place to live. Stainless steel straws After reviewing several types of reusable straws, we fell in love with the stainless steel variety. As the war on plastic straws wages on, give everyone you know a pack of stainless steel straws to keep on them anywhere they go. Related: Plastic straws are a thing of the past, but which reusable straw is the best for the future? Yogurt maker Many people love yogurt, but the individually packaged options on the market only contribute to the global waste crisis. Instead, create your own flavor combinations in reusable glass jars using this handy yogurt maker . Make yogurt-making part of your weekly routine, and you’ll see it is as easy as “set it and forget it.” Stasher bags Although quite wasteful, you have to admit that plastic, resealable baggies are incredibly handy for storing extra food and other miscellaneous items. Luckily, Stasher has taken this idea and made it even more useful and sustainable. These reusable , resealable bags are made with BPA-free silicone and can be boiled, frozen, baked in the oven, microwaved and more. They last much longer than their single-use counterparts, but when they reach the end of their life, Stasher will recycle them into playground pebbles. Beeswax food wrap Avid cooks and bakers can find many uses for plastic wrap, but unfortunately, it is a single-use item that goes straight to the landfill. Gift your favorite foodies these reusable food wraps made using beeswax. These are a natural, zero-waste alternative to plastic wrap, and they come in an adorable pattern for wrapping sandwiches, leftover produce, cheeses and more. Reusable water bottles If you’re friends or family still haven’t converted to carrying reusable water bottles over plastic, it’s time to make the change. With a wide variety of colors and patterns, these S’well bottles make a great gift for everyone on your list. CSA subscriptions For the most serious foodies, nothing is better than cooking with fresh, local produce . Get in touch with farmers in your gift recipient’s area to set up a CSA subscription, which will deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to your loved one’s door. Start your search here . Fair trade chocolate Chocolate always makes a great gift, but make sure your present is being harvested ethically and sustainably. Check out some of these brands to add to stockings this year. Metal tea strainer A hot cup of tea soothes the soul… or at least warms you up during these cold, chilly days. Put together a cute and functional gift for every foodie you know with a mug, some local and organic tea (packaged sustainably, of course!) and one of these metal tea strainers , which eliminate the need for single-use tea packets. Images via Amazon ,  Stasher , Abeego , S’well , Jill Wellington , Nawalescape , Drew Coffman , Pexels and Shutterstock

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A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for foodies

Zaha Hadid Architects completes highly complex Nanjing International Youth Cultural Centre

December 6, 2018 by  
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Zaha Hadid Architects  completed the Nanjing International Youth Cultural Centre, a striking mixed-use facility that blends the firm’s iconic sinuous architecture with elements from traditional Chinese culture. Billed as China’s first completely top-down/ bottom-up tower construction, the entire center was constructed in just 34 months and is the largest glass-reinforced concrete development in the country. Sustainability is woven into the highly complex design from the optimization of natural ventilation and lighting to the use of a self-cleaning facade system. With gross floor area totaling over five million square feet, the Nanjing International Youth Cultural Centre boasts two tapering towers—Zaha Hadid Architects’ tallest completed towers to date—linked by a five-story mixed-use podium that contains the Cultural Centre. At 315 meters in height, the taller tower houses offices and the new Jumeirah Nanjing Hotel, while the shorter 255-meter tower includes a four-star hotel. The Cultural Center is divided into four main programs: a 2,100-seat Conference Hall, a 500-seat Auditorium, a Multifunctional Hall and Guest Zone; the independent volumes are organized around a central courtyard. Optimized for riverfront views, the development is located along the river in Hexi New Town as part of Nanjing’s new central business district. “The Nanjing International Youth Cultural Centre harnessed the energy of the 2014 Youth Olympic Games to create a project with a lasting legacy that has enhanced and also regenerated its setting—acting as both an anchor and a catalyst for future investment in Nanjing’s Hexi New Town,” says Zaha Hadid Architects in a press release. “The cultural centre’s design is a three dimensional calligraphic composition that resonates with Nanjing’s 1,600-year-old tradition of Yunjin— the name given to the intricate brocade threading used by local craftsmen to weave the region’s acclaimed gold and silver fabrics. Like Yunjin thread, a continuous line interweaves throughout the cultural centre connecting it with its earthquake-resistant towers and beyond to the new central business district, riverside park and Jiangxinzhou Island.” Related: Zaha Hadid unveils futuristic designs for “New Moscow” To reduce the development’s energy footprint, the architects optimized the layout to funnel natural light deep into the buildings. Passive design strategies were used, as were efficient cooling and heating systems and a flexible floor plan to maximize the project’s design life. + Zaha Hadid Architects Photography by © Hufton+Crow via Zaha Hadid Architects

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Zaha Hadid Architects completes highly complex Nanjing International Youth Cultural Centre

How Kickstarter is encouraging designers to consider circularity and other environmental factors

November 30, 2018 by  
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The crowdfunding platform is aiming to foster the development of products with positive impact.

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How Kickstarter is encouraging designers to consider circularity and other environmental factors

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