Brazilian Biodiversity Information System is bringing Brazil’s biological diversity to the internet

March 18, 2019 by  
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As one of the most biologically diverse countries on Earth, Brazil is taking steps to consolidate all of the nation’s biodiversity data and information into one place to support scientific research , as well as decision-making and creation of eco-friendly public policy. In an effort to achieve those goals, the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovations and Communications (MCTIC) has created the Brazilian Biodiversity Information System (SiBBr), which is an online platform that gives free access to a collection of the largest amount of data and information on biodiversity in the South American nation. What is Megadiversity? In 1998, Conservation International made a list of 18 megadiverse countries, which meant that those nations harbored the majority of Earth’s species, as well as a large number of endemic species. The term megadiversity defines an area that features a significant amount of biodiversity . According to the UN’s Environment Program, Brazil is at the top of their list of the 18 most megadiverse countries in the world. With more than 120,000 species of invertebrates, 9,000 vertebrates and 4,000 plant species, Brazil hosts nearly 20 percent of Earth’s biological diversity. These natural assets can be a significant factor in Brazil’s future economic growth, but to avoid losing their biodiversity, the country wants to monitor conservation efforts and make sure their natural resources are sustainably used. Related: Biodiversity decline puts food supply at risk On average, “700 new animal species are discovered every year in Brazil,” says UN Environment. Considering how large Brazil is— as well as the numerous institutions researching the country’s biodiversity— putting all of that information in one easily-accessible place is a formidable challenge. “When the information is spread around different institutions, one is less able to find it, judge the quality of the data and understand how it can be used. Besides, the time needed to compile the data can make its use inefficient, as is the case in public policies,” explains Andrea Nunes, general coordinator of biomes of the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology , Innovations and Communications, and national director of the Brazilian Biodiversity Information System project. To illustrate her point, Nunes talked about Brazil’s special map that highlights the areas of the country that are a top priority for conservation and sustainable use. The map is a tool for public policy decision-making that takes two years to develop and is updated every four to five years. Nunes says that in terms of “territory dynamics and land use changes,” five years is a long time. However, SiBBr can change all of that. How SiBBr works Currently, the SiBBr gathers information and data from 230 Brazilian institutions, like state agencies, research centers, museums, and zoos. It has more than 15 million records about different species in the country published by those institutions. Researchers can use the database to find information on different species, as well as share their findings. Farmers can use the platform to calculate environmental compensation credits and get information about endangered animals and plants. There is also a way for Brazilian citizens to contribute their own information, like pictures and documentation on biodiversity in their area. There is also a tool called Biodiversity and Nutrition, which is a nutritional database of native Brazilian species. But, they aren’t just keeping all of this information to themselves. The SiBBr is also part of the Global Biodiversity Information Platform, which is “an international network and research infrastructure” that provides free biodiversity data from hundreds of institutions across the globe. Related: Cargill announces plan to reduce deforestation from cocoa This is the largest global initiative aiming to give people virtual access to free biological information, and it currently spans 60 countries and has more than 570 million species records. Conservation and sustainability is a top priority, and knowing Brazil’s biodiversity is key to achieving those goals. With SiBBr, anyone from government organizations to students and educators can access this vital information. According to their website, SiBBr is an accessible platform filled with tools to help with the “organization, publication, and consultation” of: Occurrences of species A catalog of species Ecological data Biodiversity projects The use of biodiversity Registration of the country’s biological collections The database continues to grow, and in the coming months SiBBr will switch to a new platform to make using the data even easier. BaMBa Connected to SiBBr is BaMBa, the Brazilian Marine Biodiversity database, which has the same goal for collecting data about the country’s marine life as SiBBr does for species on land. The information comes from sources like integrated, holistic studies and fish surveys which can be used for governmental policies related to the use and management of marine resources. Via U.N. Environment , SiBBr Images via Shutterstock

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Brazilian Biodiversity Information System is bringing Brazil’s biological diversity to the internet

This Brazilian beach house is made from locally-sourced natural materials

March 13, 2019 by  
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The architects at MNMA Studio have created a natural beachy oasis made of eco-friendly elements in the region of Pontal do Cupe, Pernambuco of northeastern Brazil. Head architects Andre Pepato and Mariana Schmidt used natural materials such as eucalyptus, certified wood, calcium carbonate rocks and even twigs to complement the concrete structure. The people of the Pontal do Cupe region have limited access to building materials and methods, so the beach house helps to symbolize an innovative and rewarding new period of architecture for the area. The building site is located on an old coconut farm, and construction was completely primarily by workers from the surrounding communities. Not only did the architects use environmentally-friendly materials for building, but they also gave the local area an opportunity to learn about sustainable building since some of the project workers (a portion of which came from families of fishermen) had never used cement or concrete before. Related: Minimalist tiny cabin is a secluded retreat in a Brazilian forest It’s clear that the entire project revolved around choosing eco-friendly materials that would reduce the need for environmental energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. For example, a portion of the structure was designed in certified eucalyptus wood. Perhaps one of the most unique and striking portions of the home is the ceiling, which is made from reused twigs and brings a particular brightness into the interior. The furniture and interior decoration are by Sergio Rodrigues and Cariri Fair. The designers used whitewash to add pigment to the concrete, a natural painting process using a non-toxic solution of calcium carbonate rocks, slaked lime and water . The whitewash on the walls and stairs make an eco-friendly statement and fight humidity while adding a textured bright-white color to the open-aired interior and exterior. As a result, the entire beach house is presented with beautiful natural colors. A dark mustard-colored concrete slab serves as a base for the home and contrasts nicely with the light brown wooden columns that help to hold up the roof terrace. The roof patio was fitted with lovely stone slab flooring of faded natural colors and opens up with an unobstructed ocean view. Via Archdaily Images by Andre Klotz 

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This Brazilian beach house is made from locally-sourced natural materials

These marbled Bluetooth speakers are made from non-recyclable plastic waste

March 13, 2019 by  
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This plastic was said to be incapable of being recycled, but U.K.-based company Gomi found a way nonetheless. Each Gomi speaker is made from about 100 non-recyclable plastic bags of multiple colors, creating a unique, individualized look. The sustainable design company won a 10,000-pound grant from the Environment Now Programme in January 2018 to kick-start the project and were funded further by the Santander Big Ideas Competition later that year. Co-founded by Brighton-based sustainable designer Tom Meades, Gomi’s intention is to use plastic waste that would otherwise be considered non-recyclable (and therefore would end up in a landfill) to create electronic products. The U.K. throws away 300 kilos of flexible plastics that are not accepted for recycling by local councils each year. This includes plastic bags, pallet wrap and bubble wrap. Meades said the company was inspired to target the challenge of flexible plastics to show that these types of materials can be made into usable objects. Related: Simple tips to reduce single-use plastic Because the design is modular, every piece of the speaker can be taken apart and recycled into a new one, so the company urges consumers to return the products for free recycling after use instead of throwing them out. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that these speakers won’t sound good because of their unconventional materials, either. “Our components are made from 100 percent non-recyclable plastic ,” Meades said. “We have worked with audio professionals and electronics engineers over the past 12 months to ensure the product is not only aesthetically desirable but also sounds great.” The company intends to only grow from here. Gomi is planning strategies to increase storage capability and produce on a larger scale in the future. It also unveiled a portable power bank and charger for smartphones made from the same material back in January. Check out the  Kickstarter page to support the project or learn more. + Gomi Via Dezeen Images via Gomi

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These marbled Bluetooth speakers are made from non-recyclable plastic waste

Green-roofed NY home taps into passive solar with contemporary style

March 13, 2019 by  
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New York-based design firm Slade Architecture has reconciled a client’s need for privacy with their desire for connection with the landscape in the Link Farm House, a contemporary home that splits the public and private areas into two perpendicular volumes. Located on a 220-acre organic farm in Dutchess County, New York, the expansive home engages the bucolic surroundings with a glass public-facing volume balanced atop a grassy knoll and a lower, private-facing volume built of locally sourced stone. The two volumes are optimized for passive solar benefits and heavily insulated, from the lower volume’s thermal barrier-like stonewalls to the upper volume’s triple-glazed facade. Built for a couple with three children, the Link Farm House serves as a family retreat from Manhattan. The home’s two perpendicularly intersecting volumes are positioned so that the lower volume is hidden from view in the entry sequence and only reveals itself in close proximity. The conspicuous upper volume is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glazed walls and topped with a flat roof with overhangs that shield the walls of glass from unwanted solar heat gain in summer. Geothermal wells power the home’s heating and cooling and are complemented with radiant floors heated with a geothermal heat pump-driven forced-air system. Remote solar cells are tapped for electricity.   “The building uses the site and the unique characteristics of the two volumes opportunistically maximizing the passive benefits of the two conditions as well as the active potential of the site for energy conservation,” the architects explain. “In terms of passive thermal strategies, the upper volume engages the exterior conditions and the lower volume insulates against the exterior environment. The triple insulated glass walls and roof overhang of the upper volume leverage summer and winter sun angles to shade the interior in summer and maximize solar penetration and heat gain in winter. The lower volume uses super-insulated walls and windows to create a thermal barrier. In addition, the stone flooring throughout this lower volume creates a thermal flywheel, stabilizing the temperature.” Related: LEED Gold home celebrates Utah’s brilliant light and beauty To reduce the home’s embodied energy footprint, the architects sourced wood from the client’s farm property for use throughout the house from the solid cherry paneling in the mudroom and study to the locally sourced timber used for the cabinetry and ceiling of the master bathroom. The lower volume, which contains the private areas, consists of five bedrooms, a family room, mudroom, and a study. The upper level comprises an open-plan living room, dining room, kitchen and family room that opens up to a green-roofed terrace. + Slade Architecture Images via Tom Sibley

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Green-roofed NY home taps into passive solar with contemporary style

Rammed earth ties a contemporary home to the rocky New Zealand landscape

March 8, 2019 by  
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Emerging out of the landscape like a series of boulders, the Kanuka Valley House set into a lush valley in Wanaka, New Zealand mimics the large schist rocks that punctuate the pristine landscape. Wellington-based architectural practice WireDog Architecture designed the angular home for a winemaker and his family, who wanted the house to respect the beauty of the natural landscape. To that end, the architects not only modeled the building off of local rock formations, but also used a natural materials palette and rammed earth construction to visually tie the home to the land. Spanning an area of 3,390 square feet, the Kanuka Valley House consists of three northwest-facing volumes carefully positioned to maximize indoor-outdoor living . Floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding pocket doors create a seamless flow between the indoors and out while framing stunning vistas of the Kanuka trees, Lake Wanaka and the snow-capped mountains in the distance. The outdoors are also pulled in through the abundance of timber surfaces used indoors, from the reclaimed native rimu wood used for floors and ceilings to the cabinetry built of bamboo and OSB. The appliances and other materials, such as the steel counters, also follow the earthy and muted aesthetic. Related: Eco-friendly guesthouse in Brazil sports a green roof and rammed earth walls The beautiful rammed earth walls, which have been left exposed and unpainted, not only tie the building to the landscape, but also have the added benefit of thermal mass. During the daytime, heat is absorbed in the walls, which then slowly dissipate the stored warmth at night when temperatures are cooler. This advantage of energy-efficient construction is strengthened with the addition of  triple-glazed windows and deep roof overhangs that mitigate unwanted solar heat gain. The architects said, “The design engages passive house principles , with attention to insulation detailing, materials, ventilation and heating.” + WireDog Architecture Via Dwell Photography by Matthieu Salvaing via WireDog Architecture

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Rammed earth ties a contemporary home to the rocky New Zealand landscape

The Refill Shoppe enforces zero-waste packaging, provides bulk refill solutions for myriad household and beauty products

March 5, 2019 by  
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With the nearly constant conversation about zero waste and minimization in general, single use packaging is a hot topic. For many consumables, customers don’t seem to have many options in avoiding packaging waste. Think about the liquid products in your home and you’ll know what we’re talking about here. Shampoo bottles, hand soap containers, dish soap, cleaners, bubble bath and massage oils are just a few commonly-used items that come to mind. One company has taken a stand against single-use packaging and now provides a refill service so you can use your favorite containers again and again…and again, without the waste of individual bottles. The Refill Shoppe opened their flagship store in Ventura, California in 2010 with the idea that customers should have a place to refill regularly-used products. Think of it as a bulk section for household liquids. The founder, Michelle Stevens admits that she wasn’t sure people would buy into the business model. After all, it was a relatively new idea in this era of convenient consumables. But it didn’t take long for people to find out about the business and begin frequenting the location. Related: Oregon initiates first modern statewide refillable glass bottle system in the US The idea took off and now the company offers an online, mail-order options so you can order refills from the comfort of your home, even if you don’t live near the store. The process is as simple as any other form of online shopping. After scouring the website, customers choose the products they want and select their favorite scents. Up to six scents can be combined for variety. If you don’t already have an adorable bottle that you’re looking to refill , you can choose one from the site. Otherwise, you order will be refill pouches filled with your favorite product. Whether you bring your own container into the store or request a mail order, all ingredients are charged by the ounce. In-store, you can even bring a partially-full bottle . You simply weigh it with the contents before adding more and then weigh it again to calculate the amount of product you’re buying. For mail order, all per-ounce prices are listed on the site. Shipping fees are a flat rate $7 or free for orders over $100 throughout the continental U.S. They also ship to Hawaii, Alaska, Canada and Mexico for an additional charge. The website offers hundreds of products you likely use daily. Bathing and beauty products include face wash, shampoo, scrubs, salts and lotions, but they also offer sponges, brushes and mitts to apply the products. For the home you can find dishwashing liquids, laundry products and even yoga mat sanitizer, alongside reusable containers and other zero-waste products. They also stock cleaning products and eco-friendly supplies like wool dryer balls and burlap gift wrap. They even have men’s care, perfume and baby products. The Refill Shoppe realizes that no business model is perfect for the environment but they focus on doing everything they can to operate with a low-carbon footprint . All refill pouches are reusable , so after you’ve emptied the contents into your favorite container at home, simply drop it back into the pre-paid envelope and send it back, where it is sterilized and refilled for the next customer. All packing materials are reused and they try to use paper products exclusively. For packaging glass bottles, however,  they do employ pre-used bubble wrap. Because transportation emissions are a major eco-no-no in general, the company relies on USPS in an effort to deliver using regular, already-traveled routes. This avoids sending trucks out on special routes that increase emissions . Another way the company reduces transportation issues is with domestic production. With the exception of Himalayan bath salts, all items are produced in the United States. Related: Some of the largest manufacturers are going green with the milkman model   In addition to reducing waste, the company aims to provide products that are eco-friendly , cruelty-free, mostly vegan (with the exception of honey and beeswax in a few products), mostly gluten free, although items are manufactured in a facility that handles gluten, 99.7 percent GMO free, and proudly void of a host of toxins commonly used in other cleaners and beauty products. For their efforts, The Refill Shoppe has passed the qualifications to become a Certified B Corporation. This stamp of approval means they’ve passed rigorous standards of environmental and social responsibility up and down the supply and customer chain. In fact, the company has been recognized with awards and accolades by many notable agencies such as the Ventura County Reporter, Ventura County Board of Supervisors, California Air Resources Board, State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and the California Resource Recovery Association. In a country a long way from leading the planet in sustainable practices, companies like The Refill Shoppe not only offer an alternative for those aiming to live more sustainably, but also bring awareness to an industry currently guilty of significant plastic waste . + The Refill Shoppe Images via The Refill Shoppe

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The Refill Shoppe enforces zero-waste packaging, provides bulk refill solutions for myriad household and beauty products

This Cradle to Cradle certified outdoor furniture raises the bar on sustainability

February 21, 2019 by  
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It’s no secret that single-use plastic has caused massive worldwide pollution . While some companies have embraced the technology behind turning single-use plastic into fabrics and other materials as a way to remove it from the waste stream, they often only include a percentage of the recycled material, still relying heavily on virgin materials. They often are still producing waste during the process and after consumption of the product. Meanwhile, one company, Loll Designs, has taken the  plastic  recycling method to the top level by maximizing the percentage of recycled materials in its outdoor furniture line as well as ensuring that the products are recyclable at the end of their usable lifespan. Loll Designs’ durable, all-weather outdoor furniture is made from 100 percent  recycled materials, such as single-use milk jugs. This has resulted in recycling more than 95 million milk jugs into modern furniture. In addition to responsibly sourcing materials, the company understands the impact of manufacturing, so 95 percent of manufacturing waste heads directly to local recycling plants to be used again. Even better, at the end of the life cycle, all components of the products, from the plastic to the brass inserts and steel fasteners, are recyclable. Related: Interview with green architect and Cradle to Cradle founder William McDonough As a manifestation of this dedication to sustainable practices in the sourcing of materials and throughout the manufacturing process, Loll Designs recently earned the coveted Cradle to Cradle certification for its efforts. With the highest level of transparency and required third-party verification, this is a pinnacle achievement in the industry. Cradle to Cradle certification is measured through an intense review of five categories including material health, material re-utilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship and social fairness throughout the organization as well as the supply chain. C2C certification is an empowering way for consumers to know their purchasing dollars are supporting sustainable practices. As a further marker of the company’s investment in sustainability and human health, it participates in 1% for the Planet, makes its furniture in the U.S. to support local economies and reduce transportation emissions  and regularly plants trees as well as participates in community trash pick-up events. + Loll Designs Images via Loll Designs

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This Cradle to Cradle certified outdoor furniture raises the bar on sustainability

6 eco-friendly ways to incorporate hemp into your daily routine

February 19, 2019 by  
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After decades of “reefer madness”, the misinformation about Cannabis is finally starting to disappear, and the truth is coming out about the many benefits of the magical plant. However, many still don’t know the difference between cannabis, marijuana and hemp , and continue to believe they are one and the same — but, they are not. So, what are the many uses of hemp? Read on to find out. In a nutshell, cannabis is a family of plants that have two major classifications: Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa. Marijuana, which is what people consume to get the effects of THC, can come from either Indica or Sativa. While hemp only comes from Cannabis Sativa. Because marijuana and hemp come from the Cannabis Sativa plant, they definitely have a lot in common. But, there are significant differences. Without getting too detailed about the differences between plant structure, marijuana has THC — which is what gives it psychoactive properties — and people grow it for recreational and medicinal use. Hemp is grown for industrial purposes because it can be used to produce everything from clothing to biofuel. Hemp has minimal amounts of THC, so it doesn’t get you high. However, like marijuana, it does have CBD which can be used for medicinal purposes. Simply put, hemp is a Cannabis Sativa plant that is not a drug and doesn’t get you high. Instead, this amazing plant is used to make a variety of amazing products. Just last year, President Trump signed a bill legalizing hemp at the federal level, which means the industry is ready to explode. Here are the many uses for hemp. Related: Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport incorporates natural fibers into body design Clothing Not only is hemp fiber absorbent and lightweight, but it is strong, weather resistant, versatile, eco-friendly and extremely cost-effective. Hemp fiber is three times stronger than cotton, and the differences in farming cotton and hemp are extraordinary. Hemp crops require half the water, they don’t need fertilizers or pesticides  and there is almost zero waste because you can use every part of the plant. Hemp plants also absorb more CO2 than trees, and it grows so quickly that it one acre can produce tons of fiber in just four months. Before reefer madness started in the 1920s, “80 percent of clothing was made from hemp textiles .” Oral hygiene Swishing hemp oil around in your mouth for a few minutes every day can strengthen your teeth and gums, heal bleeding gums, prevent gingivitis and help with bad breath. Hemp oil is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and an antifungal agent. So, it can not only prevent cavities and tooth decay, but also repair damaged teeth . Body oil and lotions Hemp oil and lotions can give you soft skin , but that’s just the beginning. They can moisturize your skin without clogging pores, as they contain essential fatty acids like Omega 3 and Omega 6 to give your skin a healthy glow and the amino acids help prevent wrinkles. Hemp oil and lotion is loaded with anti-aging vitamins and minerals that boost skin elasticity, treat acne and keep the skin hydrated. Hemp products are also effective for skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Paper When hemp production was made illegal in the early 20th century, it put an end to the use of hemp paper, which was widely used throughout the 1800s. Hemp paper is high quality because of the high cellulose and low lignin content, and it is more eco-friendly than tree paper because it can be produced faster. In a 20-year cycle, one acre of hemp can produce just as much paper as ten acres of trees because trees take decades to grow, while hemp stalks take just four months. Hair products As good as hemp can be for your skin, it can also do amazing things for your hair. Shampoos and conditioners made from hemp oil will moisturize and nourish your hair and scalp, making it perfect for keeping dandruff away. Hemp oil can also strengthen your hair to prevent breakage and stimulate the production of keratin, which is the protein that makes up the majority of your hair . Wood finish Hemp oil can revive the wood in your home and give it an excellent finish. You can use it on wood floors, furniture, cabinets and molding, and the age of the wood doesn’t matter. It can revive old furniture or give an amazing, dark finish to new wood that is stained or bare. Hemp oil is also an excellent top coat for painted wood furniture. This list is just the beginning. Hemp can also be used for other products like biofuel, food  and even as a plastic alternative. Now that a major legal hurdle has been overcome in the United States, consumers will likely see more hemp-based products than ever before. Images via Shutterstock

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6 eco-friendly ways to incorporate hemp into your daily routine

Footprint by Footprint: Calculating Carbon

February 15, 2019 by  
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Every day of your life, across everything you do and … The post Footprint by Footprint: Calculating Carbon appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Footprint by Footprint: Calculating Carbon

How Can I Reduce the Cost of My Solar System?

February 15, 2019 by  
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Have you considered installing a solar power system on your … The post How Can I Reduce the Cost of My Solar System? appeared first on Earth911.com.

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