Why natural stone is the best choice for your fireplace

September 26, 2017 by  
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Now that fall has started to settle in, there’s nothing better than getting cozy next to a roaring fire. And when it comes to fireplace design, natural stone is simply the most elegant, durable, and efficient material around. Natural stone retains heat better than just about anything out there, it’s practically maintenance-free, and it’s incredibly resistant to wear and tear. On top of that, it can handle extremes in temperature and doesn’t suffer from rot and mold like other materials. Whether it’s time to update your old brick fireplace or build something new, read on to find out why natural stone is the greenest choice. Zebrino marble fireplace – Image courtesy of Aria Stone Gallery Heat retention Natural stone absorbs, stores and radiates heat, so it can actually improve the efficiency of your home as the the warmth of a fire radiates throughout your space. Marble and limestone are particularly good at absorbing heat, while granite is particularly good at conducting heat. Basalt and soapstone are particularly good at storing heat and releasing it slowly over a long period of time. Stacked stone fireplace – Image courtesy of Eldorado Stone Low maintenance Natural stone is exceptionally easy to maintain – simply give it a wipe with a cloth every now and then to keep it looking new. That said, some stones, like marble, are porous so you may want to consider sealing them to help prevent dirt or soot from settling in. Regardless of the type of stone you use, you’ll be able to spend your time enjoying it rather than trying to maintain it. Image via Deposit Photos Longevity Natural stone is one of world’s oldest building materials – and it’s extraordinarily long-lasting. Just look at ancient buildings around the world – stone survives while other materials fade and rot away. Some stone surfaces can last many lifetimes without losing their luster, while others like limestone will weather beautifully over time. Stacked stone fire pit – Image courtesy of Marmiro Stones Durability Natural stone is known for being practically indestructible. It can handle wear and tear without falling apart, and it’s extremely resistant to water damage and mold. That’s why people use stone in areas that take the most beating – like countertops, floors, bathrooms and fireplaces. Related: How stone can help you create a more sustainable home Types of stone While you can choose just about any natural stone for your fireplace, there are a few options that are particularly well suited for the space. Limestone and soapstone are clean and simple, with a more modern feel, while slate is incredibly durable with a rustic vibe. Marble has a rich beauty that is impossible to replicate – and it can be honed or polished if you want a more formal look. Granite is a great choice for any contemporary space, and it’s one of the hardest and strongest stones available. If you prefer something dramatic, you can’t go wrong with a richly textured stone like quartzite. + Use Natural Stone Thanks in part to the Natural Stone Institute for sponsoring this post

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Why natural stone is the best choice for your fireplace

Volcanic eruption of Bali’s Mount Agung will cool Earth’s temperature

September 26, 2017 by  
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When Bali’s Mount Agung erupts in the near future, which could come at any moment, climate watchers may notice a slight shift from the seemingly endless global temperature rise . Ever so slightly, global temperatures will drop in the wake of the eruption. While this may sound like good news, it will only serve to temporarily cool down the planet. If Mount Agung’s most recent eruption offers any insight, the global temperature drop from the imminent volcanic activity should be approximately 0.1-0.4 degrees Celsius, as it was in 1963. Although this may not seem like much, even a small change in global temperature can make a significant difference on climate. For example, during the most recent Ice Age, the planet’s global temperature was only 5 degrees Celsius cooler than it is today. The significant cooling that should follow Agung’s eruption is the result of its spewing ash and sulfur dioxide into the air. When the sulfur dioxide reacts with the water vapor in the atmosphere, it becomes sulfuric acid. Accumulation of these droplets creates an atmospheric haze, which blocks the Sun’s ultraviolet rays from reaching the Earth, which causes the global cooling. Though the haze can remain in the atmosphere for years, its effects are short lived. “They’re small enough that they can stay up there for a while … but eventually they get rained out,” said Richard Arculus, Emeritus Professor in geology at the Australian National University. “These are short-term effects, not like the enduring, year after year injection of carbon dioxide by burning fossil fuels — which keeps accumulating.” Related: NASA considers puncturing Yellowstone supervolcano to save life on Earth Though the cooling effects may be significant, and brief, you are unlikely to notice any major temperature change on the ground. However, it is not unheard of for volcanic eruptions to cause disruptive changes to the planet’s climate. For example, the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia resulted in what has become known as the Year Without Summer, during which Europe and the Northeast United States suffered from major crop losses due to unseasonable frost and lack of sunlight sufficient for plants . Via Australian Broadcasting Corporation Images via Martin Garrido , Jonathan Lin , and Flickr/unukorno

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Volcanic eruption of Bali’s Mount Agung will cool Earth’s temperature

Man builds ultra-efficient green home as a love letter to the environment

September 26, 2017 by  
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Many people may be in love with our beautiful earth, but Maryland resident, Ed Gaddy is straight up infatuated. Recently featured in the Baltimore Sun , the eco-warrior has spent seven years fulfilling his dream of building an ultra-efficient home. Designed in collaboration with friend and architect Miche Booz , the home’s many sustainable features were hand picked by Gaddy to reflect his fervent commitment to environmental preservation , creating an architectural “love letter to the environment” in the process. Gaddy first purchased the 1.22-acre lot located in Clarksville, Maryland in 2010. The property is just a mere 10-minute walk to his office, eliminating the need for a car. Gaddy told the Baltimore Sun that his initial objective was to build a beautiful three-bedroom home that was self-sustaining . Before breaking ground however, he and Booz decided to shoot for the impressive goal of achieving all three of the major sustainability certifications: LEED , Living Building Challenge , and Passive House . Related: This stunning passive home in Seattle is 51% more energy-efficient than its neighbors “The three certifications reflects his commitment and passion for this particular subject,” Booz said. “I would say it bordered on a fixation, and a good one. It’s his way of contributing to what he considers a crisis on the planet. He was all in — financially, emotionally and intellectually.” To start the project, the home had to be orientated to take advantage of optimal sunlight during the day, warming the interior in the winter months and shading the interior during the summer heat. High-efficiency windows were installed throughout the home to avoid air loss. All of the construction materials in the design were selected for their zero or low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Additional finishings like paint and tiles, along with the flooring, were chosen for their durability or potential for future recycling such as the kitchen’s stainless steel countertops. The appliances in the kitchen and bathroom are the highest rated in terms of efficiency. For water conservation , the bathrooms were equipped with toilets that use less than a gallon per flush and waterless urinals were also installed. Point-of-use water heaters in both the bathrooms and the kitchen reduce the time it takes to run hot water to the faucets. As far as energy generation, the home is equipped with a solar array and there’s a heat recovery ventilator that transfers heat and cold throughout. According to Gaddy, they also installed top-of-the-line heat pumps, but the structure’s 18-inch thick, three-layer insulation ensures they are rarely necessary. Outside, almost as much detail was put into landscaping as was the home design itself. The lot was landscaped to reduce runoff and a collection system directs rain to a large underground cistern for greywater use . Native plants were planted in the raised garden beds, and they put in a vegetable garden, along with cherry, apple, walnut and peach trees. Thanks to this amazing sustainable profile , Gaddy’s dream home has achieved two of the three green certifications so far. It has been certified as LEED Platinum, as well as a Net Zero Energy Building by the International Living Future Institute. They expect to receive the Living Building Challenge certification soon. The Passive House classification has been denied to Gaddy due to a small hitch concerning a failed airtightness test. Gaddy is currently working on fixing the issue and will hopefully achieve that certification soon. So, what is your love letter to the environment? + Miche Booz Via Baltimore Sun Photography by Algerina Perna via Baltimore Sun  

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Pentatonic launches new brand of modern furniture made with nothing but trash

September 8, 2017 by  
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Trash never looked so good. Pentatonic has launched a new brand of modern, modular furniture made with nothing but repurposed waste materials . But – unlike similar brands – their commitment goes beyond simply recycling . Hit the jump for a closer look. Pentatonic is launching their brand with AirTool Chair and AirTool Foil Table , as well as glassware made from smartphone glass. Their website lists the trash that went in to each piece; for example, 96 plastic bottles and 28.4 aluminum cans went into an AirTool Chair with a plyfix felt seat, along with some old food containers and industrial waste. 1,436 aluminum cans and 190 CDs or DVDs were used for an AirTool Foil table. Pentatonic says they do not use additives, toxins, glues, or resins. Related: Eco-friendly DIY modular furniture can be reassembled over and over into different pieces Pentatonic, which has offices in London and Berlin, sourced 90 percent of their trash locally; the remaining 10 percent came from places like Taiwan, which is home to the world’s largest concentration of wasted smartphone glass, according to the company. Users don’t need any tools to put together the modular Pentatonic products. The company also sells the individual components online in case a consumer loses a piece or wants to design their own furniture with Pentatonic pieces. Consumers also become part of the supply chain when they return old, used pieces to the company: Pentatonic lists a buy-back value on their website which they describe as a guaranteed sum customers will receive if they want to get rid of a product. Pentatonic will transform those used goods into new pieces of furniture. Pentatonic’s products are available to buy on their website . If you’re in London , you can check out their products in person at a popup store in Shoreditch East London at 2 Chance Street from September 15 to October 12. They’ll also be present at the London Design Festival , September 18 to 24, in the Design Frontiers exhibition at Somerset House. + Pentatonic Images courtesy of Pentatonic

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Pentatonic launches new brand of modern furniture made with nothing but trash

Kenyan activists are using human poop to make affordable cooking fuel

August 15, 2017 by  
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Resources are scarce in Kenya, and nearly half of the population lives below the poverty line , but they do have poop. Activists with Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services Company are providing clean fuel for local residents in the form of small balls of human feces. The group takes in truckloads of sewage from septic systems and pit latrines and transforms the waste into safe, economical briquettes that burn cleaner and longer than coal. And don’t worry: they are odor-free. Ordinarily, human feces can pose various health problems if left untreated or if disposed of improperly. Sometimes, it can even lead to cholera outbreaks or other sanitation -related diseases. However, because it is the most abundant and widely available human resource, Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services Company developed a method to turn it into an affordable, clean-burning fuel. To create the briquettes, the company slowly sun-dries the feces. Then, it treats it at a high temperature of 300 Celsius (572 Fahrenheit) in a kiln via a carbonizing process where sawdust is added to it. TreeHugger reports that the resulting product is then mixed with a small amount of molasses to act as a binder. It is then rolled into balls and dried. One kilo of the briquettes is said to cost just 50 cents USD — a very reasonable price for Kenyan citizens. John Irungu, the site manager at Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services Company, describes carbonization as “a process whereby we increase the carbon content of your materials.” He added, “In this case we are using the drum kiln whereby the sludge is fed, the drum has some holes at the bottom, these holes allow the oxygen to come in, in a controlled manner, that oxygen will only support combustion but to a certain level so that it doesn’t burn completely into ash. In this way, you are able to eliminate all the volatile matters, all the harmful gasses, and it is at this point that you ensure that your sludge doesn’t smell it is safe for handling when you are carrying out the other processes which is milling and briquette production.” Related: First-ever dog poop composting program in NYC comes to Brooklyn park It took some time to overcome the stigma that surrounds the use of human feces, but the company succeeded by informing residents that they could obtain a cleaner-burning cooking fuel for a fraction of the cost. (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = “//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.10”; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’)); Turning poop into fuel These Kenyan entrepreneurs built thousands of special toilets to turn poop into sustainable fuel. Posted by Al Jazeera English on Saturday, July 15, 2017 Every month, Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services Company produces about two tons of the human waste briquettes. By the end of the year, the goal is to produce 10 tons per month. This will occur once additional de-watering and carbonization equipment is procured, as it will scale up and optimize the present production methods. The company is also invested in the construction of more than 6,000 toilets that can collect waste. Someday, the company will expand its offerings elsewhere in Kenya, Africa. + Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services Company Via TreeHugger Images via  Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services Company

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Mexico’s gorgeous Sunset Chapel looks like a gigantic boulder

August 15, 2017 by  
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Through several contrasting features, this striking chapel in Acapulco, Mexico embodies feelings of both hope and sadness. Mexico City-based Bunker Arquitectura constructed the Sunset Chapel on top of a hill and gave it an appearance of a huge boulder that blends into the natural environment. Bunker Arquitectura combined contrasting materials – glass and concrete – to embody elements of transparency and solidity, merging opposing ideas and religious contexts. The chapel mimics the large granite rocks piled up on the hill to blend into the surrounding landscape. Related: BNKR Arquitectura Reveals Plans for an Incredible Underground Skyscraper in Mexico City A triangular aperture functions as the main entrance into the small interior, while smaller slits in the walls provide views of the surroundings and allow natural light inside. A fully glazed wall on the upper floor features a crucifix which dominates the space. + Bunker Arquitectura Via Ignant Photos by Esteban Suárez

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Mexico’s gorgeous Sunset Chapel looks like a gigantic boulder

Scientists invent graphene paint that makes your house super efficient

May 30, 2017 by  
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Graphene – the strongest material known to science – is used to create everything from condoms to night-vision contact lenses. Now, thanks to the ingenuity of  The Graphene Company , paint containing the world’s “thinnest, strongest and most conductive” substance is hitting shelves in the UK. The new lime-based paint is incredibly thin, beneficial for the environment and capable of making your home, or any building, more efficient. Because  Graphenstone is composed of a lime-base with a hexagonal lattice of carbon atoms one atom thick thanks to the inclusion of graphene , the lime-based paint has superconductivity , which means it can improve the thermal regulation of buildings. As Dezeen reports , this means the invention lowers the necessity for heating and air conditioning. According to The Graphene Company director, Patrick Folkes, ”When used on interior wall surfaces, rather than heat being radiated through the walls, the graphene within the paint captures the heat. It then conducts the heat through the paint, and across the whole Graphenstone-painted surface of interior walls. This enhances the insulation measures used in buildings by slowing heat conduction through walls and out of buildings.” Because graphene is one atom thick in the paint, less is required to achieve a durable finish that is resistant to corrosion. One liter of paint would cover two eight-meter-square coats, says The Graphene Company. An additional benefit is that the paint is extremely eco-friendly . With a base made from 98 percent pure lime, the paint purifies the surrounding air as it absorbs carbon dioxide. For this reason, the company boasts it is “the most sustainable and eco-friendly paint in the world”. “Sustainability is becoming more and more important as people realise the damage that acrylics do to the environment throughout the manufacturing process and its use on walls,” said Folkes. “Graphene’s inclusion in paints, coatings and other building materials exponentially enhances hardness, durability, compression, tensile strength, elasticity, and coverage.” Related: New graphene super batteries charge up in seconds and last virtually forever After the paint is applied, a hard shell forms as the lime hardens up in the carbonization process. According to Folkes, the initial consistency is a “little bit watery.” Over a period of 10 days, however, hard coverage is provided. The best part? No fumes are released in the process. Already, the product has been used to coat the walls of hospitals , hotels, and schools. As demand for the graphene paint increases, it will likely be sold elsewhere in the world. + The Graphene Company Via Dezeen Images via The Graphene Company

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NYC’s first WELL-certified office boasts a host of health-boosting features

March 16, 2017 by  
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Structure Tone , one of Manhattan’s largest construction firms, isn’t giving “sick building syndrome” a chance. Its new headquarters at 330 West 34th Street is the first in New York City to be certified WELL , meaning that it’s deliberately designed to boost the wellbeing of the people inside it. The 82,000-square-foot office space received a Silver rating for a host of prescriptive features, including flooring, soundproofing, furniture, paint, and sealants that have low or no volatile organic compounds—that is, toxic gas emissions that frequently contribute to indoor pollution. Other pro-health elements include scrupulous air and water filtration, circadian-attuned lighting that promises to foster alertness in the day and better rest at night, and sit-and-stand desks so employees can keep their bodies limber and moving. Structure Tone even brought in acoustic consultants to dampen ambient noise and minimize distractions. Related: Foster + Partners aims to be first WELL-certified NYC tower Nutrition-wise, the company has its staff covered, as well. An on-site café serves up plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, along with beverages that contain less than 25 grams of sugar. There is also an automated system that allows employees to “customize their own health profile” and learn to make more nourishing choices. “Targeting WELL certification for our new office was important to us not only for our employees’ health and wellness, but also to ensure as construction managers that we understand what it takes to build these kinds of spaces,” said James Donaghy, chairman of the board at Structure Tone. “We have already seen our clients incorporating wellness into their built environments and firmly believe WELL will play a strong role in the workplaces of the future.” Related: Tour the WELL-certified building where Leonardo DiCaprio recently purchased an apartment Although less widely known than programs such as LEED , the WELL Building Standard offers a new paradigm for our built environment, chiefly by incorporating features that promote the mind and body. It’s not meant to supplant environmental building certifications, according to the International WELL Building Institute, but rather augment them. And the captains of industry had best pay attention. “Having Structure Tone achieve the first WELL certification in New York for its headquarters is indicative of its global leadership,” said Rick Fedrizzi, chairman and CEO of IWBI. “This is a company that at its core deeply understands the connection between the health of people and the importance of designing and constructing spaces that enhance health and wellness. We congratulate them on this significant achievement.” + WELL Building Institute

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NYC’s first WELL-certified office boasts a host of health-boosting features

5 No-Fail Solutions to Get Started Going Green

March 6, 2017 by  
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Making changes can be hard. We human beings are creatures of habit, wearing the same clothes, treading the same paths and eating our favorite foods week after week. Disrupting these habits takes effort, and sustaining change over a long period of…

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4 Creative Eco-friendly Transportation Options

August 19, 2016 by  
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I’ve always wondered about alternative modes of transportation. If I can go on a road trip and don’t drive and maybe take a train and maybe have an adult beverage, I am going to choose that option. But a lot of times trains are more expensive than…

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