As microfibers infiltrate food, water and air, how can we prevent future release?

August 16, 2018 by  
Filed under Business, Green

Scientists and manufacturers are looking for ways to keep the synthetics from getting into the environment in the first place.

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As microfibers infiltrate food, water and air, how can we prevent future release?

A beer crisis is brewing in Germany as bottle recycling slows amid heatwaves

August 15, 2018 by  
Filed under Green, Recycle

With summer still in full swing and heatwaves gripping countries around the world, breweries across  Germany have been scrambling to keep up with the beer demand from hot and thirsty customers. The brew masters have enough of the bubbly beverage to go around, but companies are running out of containers to distribute their goods as people continue drinking  beer without returning the bottles for reuse fast enough. While there are approximately 4 billion beer bottles in circulation within Germany, the demand for beer is higher than the return rate of the glass bottles. Germany is very proactive in recycling , having one of the highest recycling rates in the EU at around 50 percent, according to a Eurostat data report . Customers pay a small deposit on bottles when they buy beer from the store, which they get back when they return the empty cases. This small incentive, and a high regard for the environment, encourages customers to reuse and refill the glass bottles up to 30 times. Related: France plans to make recycled plastic bottles less expensive Greif Brewery recently told its customers to return their empty bottles, or they would have to go without beer. “We’ve had a beer bottle shortage since the middle of May,” said Christian Schuster, employee of Greif Brewery. “We can’t get hold of used ones fast enough, and ordering new ones takes time. I’m having to send my delivery guys out to look for old, empty bottles.” According to master brewer Thomas Tyrell, who heads up the Berlin plant for California’s Stone Brewing, German attitudes toward aluminum cans are contributing to the problem as much as the heat is. Most Germans believe that cans are not environmentally friendly, so they prefer glass bottles. This is not the case, he pointed out, and the cans hold the same small deposit fees as their glass counterparts. Many Germans also see drinking beer out of a can as being crass and ill-bred, but soon they may not care as many breweries struggle to put fresh beer on the shelves. Related: The world’s largest beer brewer invents low-carbon beer bubbles Meanwhile, Stone Brewing may have found the only solution to the problem. Stone opened its first brewery in Berlin two years ago — with canned beer. Manners aside, Tyrell added, “We think it’s best for the beer… there is no light ingress and, over time, there are some oxygen permeations through the lid of a bottle, which the can doesn’t have.” Any beer is good beer when there is none to be had, but with crisp and refreshing beer, Stone seems to hold a sustainable recipe for success. Via NPR Image via Kaktuslampan/Flickr

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A beer crisis is brewing in Germany as bottle recycling slows amid heatwaves

Brazil meets a major emissions goal two years ahead of schedule

August 13, 2018 by  
Filed under Green

Brazil has just announced that it has cut 2017 greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation to levels far below its 2020 goal. The country originally aimed to reduce emissions from this source by 564 million tons in the Amazon and by 170 million tons in the Cerrado savanna by 2020, in keeping with the 2009 Copenhagen Accord . However, this past Thursday, Brazil’s Environment Ministry reported that CO2 emissions from deforestation in these areas have already been reduced by 780 million tons, in a major win for Brazil and, of course, the Earth. Related: 73 million trees to be planted in largest reforestation project ever Brazil has even higher goals for emissions reduction under the 2015 Paris Agreement . According to Thiago Mendes, the Environment Ministry’s secretary of climate change, “The policy message is that we can and should remain in the Paris Agreement (because) it is possible to effectively implement the commitments that have been made.” The Amazon is the largest tropical rainforest on the planet, and Brazil’s Cerrado is the biggest savanna in South America. As such, both absorb high amounts of CO2, making their preservation  paramount in the battle against climate change. Thankfully, Brazil is already exceeding expectations in this battle, and one can only hope it continues to do so as it strives to meet its Paris Agreement goals. Via Reuters

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Brazil meets a major emissions goal two years ahead of schedule

This modular family home has its own indoor pond

August 13, 2018 by  
Filed under Green

When a young family shops for a home , they often want a simple floor plan and open spaces for kids to play and for parents to relax and entertain. This low-profile home, designed by Adolfo Mondejar Arquitectos and located in an outer neighborhood of Cordoba, Spain , is logically configured and easily adaptable to the ever-evolving requirements of a family over the years. The design caters to the natural sunlight and cool breezes of the area, with windows all around and a spacious yard, decks, and balconies for fun and play. The home connects to the surrounding outdoor spaces, which are are wide open and ideal for residents who want to experience the environment, whether through bike riding, picnicking or simply taking a stroll. Related: This striking, bright-red modular home connects to its surroundings through contrast The interior flows from one space to the next, with long hallways flanked with bedrooms and bathrooms. Playful colors and names on the bathroom doors add whimsy and and a personal touch to the atmosphere. Rich brown paneling in the hallways gives the interior a warm, inviting feeling. A large terrace at the top of the staircase, built from two concrete walls and topped with a rustic slab of exposed concrete , provides an ideal venue for large parties as well as small family gatherings. Walls covered with quebracho wood add warmth to bathrooms and pivotal use spaces. All the rooms are comprised of an aesthetically balanced combination of wood , concrete and glass, with smooth, finished concrete floors. The home relies on sunlight for natural heat and daily breezes to cool it down . In a unique twist, the minimalist home includes a pond in the master bedroom, which further brings the outdoors in and promotes feelings of peace and tranquility. A particularly sunny spot in the living room has vines sprawling in all directions, another feature that gives the home a feel of nature, energy, life and sustenance. + Adolfo Mondejar – Estudio de Arquitectos Images by Gonzalo Viramonte

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This modular family home has its own indoor pond

Shanxi combats air pollution in China with smog curbs to 2020

August 9, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Shanxi province is China’s primary coal mining hub and a major industrial manufacturing region. The province is now planning to voluntarily curb production of its goods over the course of the next three winters in an effort to cut down on smog pollution and improve air quality. This is part of a 2018 to 2020 anti-pollution crackdown, which hopes to take proper measures in improving the environmental state and reputation of the world’s second-largest economy. Twenty-eight northern Chinese cities have been issued a draft guidance on pollution reduction during winter months, and four of these cities are in Shanxi. The province is home to about 36 million people, according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics of China , as well as a thriving coal mining industry. Related: Reforestation in China heralds the return of rare animals Local authorities in China are hoping to back their promises to the national and international communities by stepping up actions to reduce pollution and start protecting the environment. “Each level of officials must make anti-pollution tasks a significant stance in their work,” the Shanxi government said in a statement. “Those who neglect their duties, forge monitoring data or fail the targets will be punished.” In addition to production restrictions, efforts will include cutting down coal consumption by relying more on natural gas for heating as well as replacing some of the region’s coal-fired power plants. Local officials seem to be taking the mandate very seriously. “Each city [in Shanxi] should set up plans on production restrictions in steel, construction materials, non-ferrous and chemicals by the end of September each year,” officials announced. The province is hoping to go beyond the 15 percent reduction in emissions — compared to levels recorded in 2015 — that has been mandated by the national government, setting its own goal of a 20 percent decrease in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by 2020. Via Reuters Images via Kleineolive and Tim Quijano

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Shanxi combats air pollution in China with smog curbs to 2020

After three months, Kilauea eruptions might be over

August 8, 2018 by  
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After more than three months of continuous eruption, Mount Kilauea on Hawaii’s Big Island has finally stopped emitting lava. At the base of Kilauea, fissure 8 has been the longest lasting and most destructive of the two dozen fissures that formed throughout the eruption, and its lava flow is now coming to a halt. United States Geological Survey (USGS)  announced Monday, “This morning’s overflight crew saw a weak to moderately active bubbling lava lake within the fissure 8 cone, a weak gas plume and a completely crusted lava channel.” The Halema’uma’u crater deflations have also slowed down, and the Pu’u ‘O’o vent has reduced its sulfur dioxide emissions, revealing magma within the crater to be at very low levels. But it is still unknown whether activity from Kilauea has subsided completely. “In 1955, there was an eruption that went on for 88 days, and it did include two shutdowns of five and 16 days, so that’s a model for what might be happening,” said Tina Neal, chief scientist at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory . “It could be weeks or months before we feel comfortable calling the eruption and the summit collapse over.” Related: Mount Kilauea transforms Hawaii’s coastline with the birth of a new island The fissure has been responsible for spurts of deadly magma of over 200 feet and rare volcanic tornadoes of lava , fire, smoke and ash suspended in the air. All in all, the destruction has claimed more than 700 homes. Impending Hurricane Hector is expected to hit the Big Island next, where heavy rainfall could create a “white out” zone as the rain hits the molten lava and creates plumes of steam and sulfur dioxide. + USGS Via Reuters , New York Times and Maui Now Images via U.S. Geological Survey

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After three months, Kilauea eruptions might be over

Escape to the Redwoods in this recently renovated Sea Ranch timber cabin

August 8, 2018 by  
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If you’ve ever dreamed of staying in The Sea Ranch community, here’s your chance to spend the night in one of the original mid-century cabins recently restored by Oakland-based design practice Framestudio . Originally designed by San Francisco Bay area architect Joseph Esherick in 1968, the Timber Ridge Sea Ranch Cabin was created as part of Demonstration Homes, a project led by developer Oceanic to show how the local design guidelines could produce a beautiful and low-cost getaway. Renovated last year, the 684-square-foot timber cabin is available for short-term rentals on Esherick MiniMod . Set amidst a forest of towering redwood trees in the historic south end of The Sea Ranch, the compact timber cabin — dubbed the Esherick MiniMod — is a peaceful getaway. Framestudio sensitively modernized the three-level cabin while preserving its historic elements; the structure is one of the few remaining Demonstration Homes that’s still close to its original state. Priorities included an updated galley kitchen, increased capacity to sleep a total of six and secure storage areas. “Framestudio developed a scheme which restored many of the original details, hallmarks of Esherick’s design, using wood which had been reclaimed from alterations not original to the design,” the project statement reads. “New interventions were conceived to contrast in color from the historic framework of the home, but constructed from materials suitable for the age of the home.” Related: Wooden Sea Ranch Cabin is nestled in a Californian redwood forest The home’s open-plan nature was preserved, but the layout of the two adjoining bedrooms can be manipulated with a new full-height partition that divides the sleeping area into two separate sections and slides away when not in use. For extra storage, the bedroom alcoves were updated with blue laminate cupboards. Framestudio also added a built-in sofa that includes extra storage and a pullout queen-sized bed. Rates at the Esherick MiniMod begin at $120 per night . + Framestudio + Esherick MiniMod Images by Drew Kelly

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Escape to the Redwoods in this recently renovated Sea Ranch timber cabin

Can electrification short-circuit the Utility Death Spiral?

August 8, 2018 by  
Filed under Business, Green

What if utilities could rekindle their profits while protecting the environment?

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Can electrification short-circuit the Utility Death Spiral?

The warmest ocean temperature in a century was just recorded in California

August 7, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have recorded the warmest sea surface temperature in more than a hundred years near a pier in San Diego. The Institute, affiliated with the University of California, San Diego, has been collecting data on sea surface temperatures at the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier since 1916. The 2018 level surpassed an unusual 1931 record by 0.2 degrees, coming in at a whopping 78.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Related: Ocean heatwaves have risen by more than 50% since 1925 According to a press release from Scripps , “the ocean region off Southern California has been experiencing anomalously warm temperatures for the past week, and other observational networks farther off the coast have reported record or near-record temperatures as well.” The continuous rise in temperature will have serious implications for sea life and marine ecosystems. For example, it could help create a toxic algae bloom, such as the one that spread along the north Pacific coast in 2014, altering the biodiversity of the area indefinitely. This bloom had a devastating impact on sea lions and other marine mammal groups, closed fisheries, and pushed species of jellyfish and stingrays further inward to shore, causing a perilous domino effect of altered food chains. In 2015, El Niño significantly altered water temperature levels off the coast of California . However, after such environmental phenomena, seawater temperatures are supposed to return to historical averages. This time, it never happened. “It really is weird,” explained Scripps research scientist Clarissa Anderson in an interview with NPR. “We have different records going back decades and while [our ocean water] temperature is tightly connected with the equator, we’re now seeing [temperatures] stabilize at the equator while temperatures in southern California keep going up.” According to researchers, the record temperature is yet another sign of the mounting effects of climate change . + Scripps Institute Via NPR

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The warmest ocean temperature in a century was just recorded in California

The net-zero Lightbox 23 boasts sustainable features and stunning views

August 7, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Portland residents in search of an energy-efficient home need look no further than Lightbox 23, the new net-zero project from Lightbox Portland and Steelhead Architecture . A speculative development project in northeast Portland, Lightbox 23 has two units and numerous sustainable features, including super-insulated walls, high-performance ventilation systems, and two 10-kW solar arrays. But sustainablity isn’t the project’s only draw – it also boasts beautiful design and stunning views of Mt. St. Helens’ and Mt. Adams’ snow-capped peaks. A set of floating stairs, which provides access from each floor to the half-levels above and below, serves as the duplex’s backbone. A deck on the building’s north side can be accessed from the exterior. From this deck, residents can enjoy the open air and, on a clear day, the distant peaks of the two mountains. Related: Net-zero Acacia Avenue House saves up to 90% of heating and cooling costs While the solar array on top of the building provides the building with its energy, part of making the project net-zero included finding ways to reduce the energy load overall. To tackle this problem, Steelhead Architecture turned to affordable super-insulation. Each unit has two-by-eight walls filled with blown-in cellulose, along with two inches of rigid insulation affixed to the exterior of the plywood. The concrete slabs have 3 more inches of rigid insulation. The roof construction has a similar mix of insulation, which eliminates the need for any vents. The home’s mechanical system further supports the unit’s net-zero goals. All-electric ducted heat pumps, which are much more efficient than gas systems, provide heat for the apartments. Furthermore, nothing on the project uses gas at all. A heat recovery ventilator with its own ducts effectively controls air exchanges with zero energy loss. To ensure a low heat/cooling loss, the architects sought out leaks and used repetitive joint sealing, further reducing the project’s energy use. Lightbox 23 is an exploratory project of Lightbox Portland, which is devoted to high performance, high-density modern progress. There are three additional Lightbox Portland/Steelhead Architecture projects presently underway. + Steelhead Architecture Images via Josh Partee Photography

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The net-zero Lightbox 23 boasts sustainable features and stunning views

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