7 ways to conserve water and reduce your water footprint

January 17, 2019 by  
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When it comes to conserving water , making small changes can have a huge impact. But many of us don’t really think about water shortages unless we are in the middle of a heatwave, when temperatures are consistently at 85 degrees or more. Extreme heat or not, the water system is overstretched, and with climate change , we can expect to put even more pressure on the depleting water supply. Here are some ways to do your part in conserving water. According to Friends of the Earth , 97.5 percent of the world’s water is locked in oceans and seas, which means it is too salty for humans to use. The remaining 2.5 percent is mostly in the ice caps, so we are all relying on a tiny amount of freshwater to survive. Water isn’t just for drinking. We use it for bathing, cleaning and producing everything from crops to clothing. It’s time to save water, and we need to do it fast. Here are seven ways that you can start conserving water now. As an added bonus, these ideas can also save you money. Change your diet It takes a lot of water to grow, process and transport food. Raising animals for meat and dairy products is also incredibly water-intensive. To reduce your water footprint , reduce your meat and dairy consumption, switch to shopping local and grow food in your own garden. If more people do these things, they will not only lead to a reduction in total water usage but also in less food waste . Related: Vegan diets deliver more environmental benefits than sustainable dairy or meat Have a plan for your garden If you do have a garden , water your outdoor plants early in the morning or at the end of the day, so the water doesn’t immediately evaporate in the sunlight. Also, make sure to water the soil, so the roots get the much-needed liquid. If you water your plants manually instead of with automatic sprinklers, it can cut your water use by 33 percent. American lawns consume a large amount of water, so reduce how much you are watering your lawn. Installing rain barrels to capture rainwater can also be a huge help and can save you up to 1,300 gallons of water every year. Related: New study suggests it’s time to replace modern, grassy lawns Turn off the tap When you let the water run while you brush your teeth, you are wasting over 1.5 gallons of water. If you have leaky taps, you could be letting up to 15 gallons a week go down the drain. Every minute you spend in the shower burns 4.5 gallons of water. So turn off the tap water when you are brushing your teeth, set a timer on your shower to keep it short and fix those leaky faucets. Don’t forget about the outside of your home. Leaky outdoor faucets, pipes, hoses and broken lawn sprinklers can waste water, too. Also, monitor your water bill for unusually high usage so you can discover leaks. Save your dirty clothes When you wash two half-loads of laundry, it uses more water and energy than washing a full load of clothes. Wait until you have enough dirty clothes to fill up the washing machine. This will not only save water and electricity, but it will also lead to lower utility bills. Related: 10 money-saving tips for a green home Use the dishwasher It may be hard to believe, but if you fill up the dishwasher every time you use it , you will use less water than if you washed the dishes by hand — even if you fill up your sink and clean your dishes without the water running. If you use water- and energy-efficient appliances, you will save even more. When you have extra-dirty pots and pans, let them soak first instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean. Wash your car at home Instead of going to a car wash, wash your vehicles at home on the lawn, so you can water your grass at the same time. Use a hose nozzle or turn off the water while you are scrubbing your car so you can save up to 100 gallons of water each time you give it a wash. Recycle ice cubes When you have leftover ice cubes in your drink, toss them into a houseplant instead of pouring them into the sink. When you are washing fruits and veggies , save that water as well to use for watering your plants. Via Friends of the Earth Images via RayMark , Jerzy Gorecki , Pierre Gilbert , Charles Deluvio , Steve PB , Conger Design , Sasin Tipchai and Hans Braxmeier

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7 ways to conserve water and reduce your water footprint

Can vegan pet food be good for the planet and your pet?

December 20, 2018 by  
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Does your pup hover at your feet when the smell of bacon or steak wafts in his direction? It’s no surprise, considering the ingredients dogs are used to receiving and the evolution of the species. Every bag of food at the pet store promotes meat as its main ingredient. From chicken to lamb to bison, meat reigns supreme in the pet food world. Now it is coming to light that maybe it would benefit the planet and our pets if we moved to vegan food to fulfill their dietary needs. But is a plant-based diet both good for your pup and our Earth? Many companies are jumping into the plant-based pet food market. Celebrities are shining a light on the irony of providing shelter for animals and then feeding them animal-based foods. More and more people are beginning to question whether feeding meat-based foods is an unnecessary form of animal cannibalism. Does it make sense to rescue animals like rabbits in one effort and then raise them for slaughter in another? Related: A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for pets A potential issue with meat-based pet food is the consumption of meat in a world already stressed by the burdens that cattle and other livestock industries contribute to the planet. When you consider that animals drink water and also consume foods that require water to grow, the effects are staggering, and it explains why many vegans have chosen a meat-free diet. In addition to gouging water resources, animal production requires massive amounts of land. Opponents of the meat industry argue that all forms of fruits and vegetables produce more consumable food per acre and use significantly fewer resources. Some estimates report that eliminating meat from the pet food market could reduce the environmental impact by over 25 percent. Of course, there is also the ethical component in the mix. Ask any PETA member and they will scream out that raising animals entirely for the purpose of butcher is inhumane. Plus, there are well-documented issues about how these animals are treated during their short life cycles with little room to move, limited access to the outdoors and an inability to follow their instincts. Related: This sustainable dog house has a green roof and solar-powered fan to keep cool Many animals are already vegan . Think cows, hamsters and elephants, for starters. So we know that humans and some animals can survive without meat. But does that apply to our domestic friends, too? The question has been asked, “Is it healthy for animals to go vegan?” This is where science and veterinarians weigh in. In short, the answer is yes, cats and dogs can be perfectly healthy eating a vegan diet. Like humans, the key is acquiring the right nutritional balance. We associate meat with protein , but vegetables can fill that requirement just as well in many ways. There are exceptions, however. For example, some vets argue that cats and dogs do not absorb vitamin D from the sun and need to get it from their food. Specifically, dogs and humans can absorb D2 from foods, but cats need D3, only available in animal proteins. An inadequately balanced diet can result in a deficiency of minerals, nutrients, vitamins, amino proteins (especially taurine) and essential fatty acids. A shortage of these dietary needs can lead to irreversible medical issues. As the premium pet food market explodes, manufacturers are finding ways to make sure that food meets the nutritional needs of our pets. That means that many products spend time in a lab before being added to food. This food technology is not new. Scientists have worked toward meat substitutes in our food markets for many years. The advantage of transferring this technology over to animal products is that the consumer is a whole lot less picky. Where humans require a smell and texture similar to the meat variety, pets don’t care about tactile pleasure. That means that pet food produced with the help of a lab is faster and less expensive to make. It also means that scientists can carefully balance the nutrients in the food, even if the ingredients don’t provide them upfront. The bottom line is that pets need specific nutrients, regardless of what form they come in. These needs are well-backed by science, so everyone can agree that if the nutritional profile is being met, then it’s absolutely healthy for your pet to sustain a vegan-based diet. The problem is getting a guarantee that your pet food selection in fact meets those needs. Pet owners should not make the decision lightly. After all, modern day pets are members of the family, and we want to provide them the best care we can. When considering the switch to vegan pet food, there are several things to keep in mind. Make sure the food has been thoroughly tested through trials and has met the requirement outlined by the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials). Discuss the switch with your veterinarian; not only are they trained in animal diets, but they’ve seen the results of a poor diet and can guide you toward the best combination for your pet. Get a preliminary or baseline blood test for your pet, and take them back in for another test after six months. Never feed a vegan diet to puppies or kittens, or any animal that you plan to breed, as these groups have additional nutritional needs. While many see this as an opportunity to significantly reduce the carbon footprint from meat production and offer an alternative to the use of animals in animal food, others maintain the believe that there is no substitute for the real thing. Either way, the market is providing options for consumers on both sides of the aisle. Via Popular Science Images via Ish Ka , Mimzy and Shutterstock

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Can vegan pet food be good for the planet and your pet?

3D-printed vegan steak could aid world hunger relief efforts

December 18, 2018 by  
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3D-printed food has arrived. With options coming to the marketplace from a variety of companies, those high-capacity printers from a few years ago that took eight hours to produce a small, basic shape have evolved into a viable, mass-produced food option. Giuseppe Scionti, Italian bioengineer with a PhD in biomedicine, has further advanced printed technology with the invention of a plant-based meat substitute. With this innovation in hand, he created Novameat, a company intent on commercialization of the product to make it available in all markets. Related: Elzelinde van Doleweerd transforms food waste into beautiful, 3D-printed snacks With plenty of meat substitutes on the market, Novameat focuses on texture. Where others have made a chicken nugget or hamburger patty alternative, Scionti has taken it a step further with tissue engineering and bioprinting to create the fibrous texture associated with steak and other meats. In addition to offering the chewy characteristic of meat, Novameat contains the same levels of protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals contained in red meat but stems entirely from natural, plant-based ingredients. These ingredients are formulated into a paste, which is fed through the printer to create the end product. The inspiration of Novameat is two-fold. Firstly, Scionti is concerned about the sustainability of the planet. With the newest research pointing fingers at the cattle industry, it’s relatively undisputed that the water and land consumption to support livestock production is resource-prohibitive. In short, Scionti believes that the earth needs an alternative to traditional beef products. Secondly, Giuseppe believes that 3D-printed meat substitutes can go a long way in the efforts to curb world-hunger and food-supply shortages. Novameat can be sterilized and packaged for long transports and does not require refrigeration, making it a food supply option for the deepest corners of the planet. One particularly sci-fi component of this technology is the potential to inject the food with medicines needed to treat endemic disease in those remote locations. The technology not only provides the opportunity to emulate steak, but other foods as well, such as chicken. In addition, the process is scalable, reaching production of 200 grams of meat an hour at a cost of 4 euros. + Novameat Via Dezeen Images via Novameat

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3D-printed vegan steak could aid world hunger relief efforts

Affordable low-maintenance home embraces the Brazilian landscape in style

December 18, 2018 by  
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Simple and low-cost materials combine in the Itaipu House, a contemporary family home that doesn’t compromise on looks despite its relatively modest construction budget. Architect Samuel Lamas, of the Brasilia-based architecture firm Equipe Lamas, designed the four-bedroom home within a condominium complex near Lago Sul, Brazil. Completed this year for a construction cost of approximately $189,000, the modern dwelling minimizes its energy bills through solar water heaters and passive solar design. Spanning an area of nearly 3,800 square feet, the spacious single-story home is centered on an open-plan living area, dining room and kitchen that open up to a large, south-facing covered terrace that looks towards the pool. The master bedroom and two secondary bedrooms are located to the east of the living spaces while the flex guest bedroom, service areas, storage and garage are to the west. Existing site conditions as well as the desire to preserve native trees informed the orientation of the house and the interior layout, which are also optimized for natural light and ventilation thanks to full-height operable glazing that promote indoor/outdoor living. The landscape also inspired the neutral color palette for the furnishings, from reddish suede upholstering referencing the local earth to the grass-inspired selection of the green Santa Helena rug. Architect Samuel Lamas designed many pieces, such as the iron-framed sofas and armchairs, to create a sense of continuity throughout the home. Related: This tiny timber cabin was built from construction waste for under $30K The furnishings are set against a neutral material palette of low-cost materials elegantly fitted together for an aesthetically pleasing appearance. The floors throughout are polished concrete while the masonry walls have been painted white to serve as a clean backdrop for the colorful, contemporary artworks that punctuate the home. Plywood paneling was installed for the ceiling and the cabinetry to lend a sense of warmth. + Equipe Lamas Via ArchDaily Images by Haruo Mikami

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Affordable low-maintenance home embraces the Brazilian landscape in style

Save money and energy this winter with these 7 sustainable home heating systems

November 14, 2018 by  
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When winter comes, utility expenses can destroy your budget, and most traditional heating methods are also bad for the environment. Fortunately, there are plenty of sustainable types of home heating systems that can also save you money in the long run. From solar power to hydronic systems, here are seven different types of sustainable heating available for your home. Geothermal Systems Geothermal heating is both eco-friendly and efficient. These systems work by using temperatures deep underground to heat your home. Temperatures are much warmer in the earth than outside, which means less energy is used to heat the air. Not only does this result in an efficient heating system, but it also lowers the monthly utility bill. The one downside to geothermal heating , however, is upfront cost. This type of heating is expensive to install, but it does pay for itself the long run. On average, it takes around eight years to pay it off. In addition to helping lower energy costs, geothermal systems also increase the value of your home, which is another consideration when calculating the investment. Solar Power Solar power is easily one of the best ways to power a home. Although the initial investment can be significant, you are basically getting free energy for the rest of the home’s life. The same is true with solar heating, which generally comes in two formats: hydronic collectors and air systems. Hydronic collectors heat liquid to warm up the house, while air systems work more like traditional HVAC systems. If you have forced air already installed, then a solar air heater is the best option. The opposite is true if your house features a radiant heater. Choosing a solar heating system that fits into your home’s current HVAC system can save you a lot of money in upfront costs. Pellet Heating Pellet stoves are set up similarly to their wood counterparts, only they burn pellets instead of wood. The pellets are created from a mixture of waste products and switch grass, both of which are friendly to the environment . These pellets are also affordable to purchase, especially when compared to wood. A typical budget for pellets is around $600 a year. You also do not have to worry about stacking, chopping or storing wood, as the pellets can be placed in a basement or garage with no issues. Apart from saving money on the fuel source, pellet stoves are easy to install and budget-friendly. The average cost to install a pellet stove system is around $2,500, depending on the size of the home and how the HVAC system is laid out. For houses that are larger than 1,500 square feet, two pellet stoves will likely be necessary for adequate heating. This might appear like a significant investment, but the money you save on pellets will pay for the additional units over time. Related: 10 money-saving tips for a green home Wood Burners Wood burners are one of the most popular methods of sustainable heating. While wood burners have received a bad reputation over the years, new models are more efficient and more eco-friendly than their predecessors. Even better, new wood burners are powerful enough to heat entire homes. You can even find some wood burners that can handle sawdust pellets, which are not too different from what pellet stoves burn. The one downside to wood burners is that you have to install an extensive system to properly ventilate the burner. This includes installing pipes and a chimney that vents to the outside. When the cold months come, of course, you also have to determine how you are going to chop and store your wood. It is usually recommended to keep the wood away from the house as pests are attracted to wood piles, which means you will have to go outside whenever you need more fuel. Masonry Heating Masonry heaters exist somewhere between wood burners and pellet stoves. These heaters work by trapping heat in a chamber of bricks and then distributing warm air over the next 24 hours. Masonry heaters burn wood but generate less pollution than traditional wood burners, because they do not burn as fast. This also makes them more efficient, as they are better at trapping heat, and you do not have to purchase as much wood each year. Like wood burners, masonry heating systems require a bit of an investment to get up and running. A typical setup can be as low as $2,000 or as high as $5,000, depending on the size of the home and the layout. Hydronic Heat Systems Hydronic heating works by running hot water in pipes under the floor, through base boards or via radiators that are distributed throughout the home. These systems usually feature a boiler that heats up the water — using geothermal or solar power — and a pump that sends the hot water throughout the house. At some point, the water runs through a heat exchanger, which transfers the energy into a usable form. With hydronic heating systems, there are three ways in which the heat is converted: radiation, conduction and convection. Each system has its pros and cons, and picking the right one depends on your home’s layout. Wind Power Wind power has been around for a long time, but many people do not know that you can also use wind to create heat — and you do not need a massive windmill to get the job done. These systems work in conjunction with a water heater, with the wind providing energy to run the heater. The catch with wind power is that you need to live in an area that gets a good amount of air flow to turn the turbine. You also have to set up your house like a hydronic system to pump the hot water through, which might add extra costs if your home features a traditional forced-air system. No matter how you choose to sustainably heat your home, be sure to consult with professionals when making your decision. This winter, you’ll be able to get warm and cozy knowing you are doing your part for the environment. Via Do It Yourself and Freshome Images via Mark Johnson , Vela Creations and Shutterstock

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Save money and energy this winter with these 7 sustainable home heating systems

Federal judge blocks the Keystone XL Pipeline

November 12, 2018 by  
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In a major setback for President Trump and his administration, a U.S. district judge has issued an order to block construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline while the State Department studies its impact on the environment . Last year, the Trump administration approved the controversial 1,179-mile pipeline, but Judge Brian Morris’ 54-page order is preventing it from being built — for now. The decision does not permanently stop construction, but it is putting the development on hold until the State Department takes a harder look at the impact the pipeline will have on oil prices, the cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions, potential oil spills and cultural resources. Related: The Keystone Pipeline leak was nearly twice as big as we thought Under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, there is an obligation to protect the environment. Under the Obama administration, the State Department denied a permit to build the pipeline because of the environmental effects. But President Trump shifted the policy when he took office and invited TransCanada to re-submit its permit application just four days after he was sworn in. Then, in March 2017, the POTUS signed an executive order supporting the Keystone Pipeline’s construction. Judge Morris wrote in his decision that the president did not give a reasoned explanation or a fact-based determination for the course reversal. According to NPR , there has been a lot of backlash from environmentalists and indigenous peoples since the pipeline’s conception in 2008 because of the possible environmental impact and violations of historic treaties. “Today’s ruling is a decisive moment in our fight against the corporate polluters who have rushed to destroy our planet,” said Marcie Keever, legal director at Friends of the Earth. “Today, the courts showed the Trump administration and their corporate polluter friends that they cannot bully rural landowners, farmers, environmentalists and Native communities.” If the Keystone Pipeline does become a reality, it will run through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and Canada, and it will transport about 830,000 barrels of crude oil each day. Via NPR Image via Pax Ahimsa Gethen

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Federal judge blocks the Keystone XL Pipeline

8 Ways to Reduce Your Impact Today

November 12, 2018 by  
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Make sure your daily routine is keeping the Earth in mind! The post 8 Ways to Reduce Your Impact Today appeared first on Earth911.com.

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8 Ways to Reduce Your Impact Today

Earth is on track for climate catastrophe — what if brands are our lifeline?

November 1, 2018 by  
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The stars are aligning to give businesses the incentive they need to nix practices that harm the Earth and win customer loyalty in the process.

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Earth is on track for climate catastrophe — what if brands are our lifeline?

Energy transitions are nothing new, but the one underway is unprecedented and urgent

November 1, 2018 by  
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Being on the powerful side of history matters.

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Energy transitions are nothing new, but the one underway is unprecedented and urgent

Stunning Costa Rican beach home uses passive features to stay cool

October 25, 2018 by  
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Located mere steps away from idyllic white sand beaches on one side and a coconut grove on the other, this beach house designed by Studio Saxe is giving us major home envy. Situated on Costa Rica’s Pacific coastline, the spacious 3,250-square-foot Villa Akoya’s beautiful aesthetic hides several passive strategies designed to reduce the home’s energy use and impact on the environment. The breathtaking location serves as the principal inspiration for the design. Built using traditional cinder block construction, the one-story home was was raised off the ground to create a continuous sight line with the ocean views. This feature also helped reduce the footprint on the landscape . Related: Triangular beachfront home is a dreamy retreat buried in the earth The beach house’s dimensions are divided into four separate horizontal roof planes that slant slightly upward, covering each of the three bedrooms plus the main living area. This strategy creates distinct volumes within the structure. Additionally, the flat wooden roofs extend out over the exterior walls to create large overhang extensions that shade the interior while creating several indoor-outdoor living spaces around the exterior. The interior layout includes several spaces that are open to the exterior, creating a seamless connection between the indoors and outdoors. All of the bedrooms have their own outdoor spaces, and an all-glass wall in the living room slides completely open, leading to a wooden deck and a swimming pool . Concealed within the design are several passive features to create an energy-efficient beach house. The “elevated” roof lines create a natural system of air ventilation, cooling the home in the hot summer months. The abundance of windows and glass doors brighten the interior during the day, further reducing the need for electricity. The home also operates on solar-generated hot water and has a gray water system. + Studio Saxe Via Archdaily Photography by Andres Garcia Lachner via Studio Saxe

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Stunning Costa Rican beach home uses passive features to stay cool

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