Deciphering wine labels: the differences between organic, natural, biodynamic and sustainable wines

November 15, 2019 by  
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‘Tis the season for holiday celebrations, cocktail parties and family gatherings. But before you pop the corks on those bottles of wine, take a moment to understand what you are about to drink. If you are hoping to serve wine made with sustainably grown, organic grapes , read the label carefully before committing to the purchase, or you might not be getting what you expect. With words like “natural,” “organic,” “biodynamic” and “sustainable,” it can be hard to decipher which wine is truly best for the planet. Here are some tips to understand sustainable wine labels. Marketing is a powerful tool, and companies will advertise characteristics of their wines that they think will appeal to the consumer. However, the terminology can be so confusing that a winery might misguide you without meaning to. Some words are so similar that you (and they) might even assume they all mean the same thing. Related: This is how climate change will impact wine Fortunately, steps have been taken to standardize the verbiage on these labels so you can better understand what’s in the bottle. But there is still variation throughout the food and beverage industry, especially for wine. Here is the terminology you are likely to see and exactly what it all means for the wines you imbibe. Organic or 100 percent organic wine In the U.S., the term organic is regulated and must fit into specific criteria. However, even within that criteria, you will find different wording. For example, wines made from organically grown grapes are grown without the use of pesticides , fungicides, herbicides, etc., and these wines do not contain sulfites added during wine production. (Organic wines do contain naturally occurring sulfites.) Note that the standards for “organic” classifications in Canada and Europe allow for a small amount of sulfites to be used during production. Biodynamic wine Biodynamic wines are organic, and these wines also follow farming ideologies dating back to the 1920s, when Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and academic, presented scientific support showing that in order for a grape to reach its potential, the entire vineyard must be taken into account. In addition to growing grapes without chemicals or common additions such as yeast, the lunar and astrological cycles are often considered when making decisions about the health of the vineyard . These wines are also produced without interference to adjust for acidity. For example, instead of making changes during fermentation and flavor development, the focus is on healthy roots, soil and the atmosphere of the vineyard as a whole. Like the term “organic,” “biodynamic” wines have earned certification by meeting specific requirements. The governing board that approves the label is the Demeter Association, a branch of an organization dating back to 1928 during Steiner’s efforts to bring societal awareness about biodynamics in agriculture. Sustainable wine This label is fairly subjective and typically refers to the way the vineyard is managed more than the way the wine is produced. A vineyard (or farm) that aims to grow crops sustainably is concerned with the impact on the planet. This means using natural methods of balancing the soil, such as crop rotation. It can also mean using energy or water-saving practices . If your wine is made “sustainably,” it likely means it was made organically in accordance with the typical goals of sustainable farming, but don’t assume it’s organic without the label identifying it as such. Natural, all-natural or 100 percent natural wine When you see the word “natural” on a label, be aware that there are limited regulations surrounding the use of this term. There is no distinction between “natural,” “all-natural” or “100 percent natural.” Manufacturers of all types of food can slap this wording on labels. But most producers in the wine industry see the “natural” classification differently. For wine-making, a natural wine is the result of a natural process, meaning that process involves as little intervention as possible throughout the stages. In other words, the wine is fermented grapes in their most natural form. That means that a natural wine is organic and sometimes biodynamic, but organic and biodynamic wines are not always natural. Furthermore, any of these wines may or may not be sustainably produced. Because there is no oversight committee for a “natural” label, selecting a wine is all about getting to know the winemaker and asking questions at the tasting room. If you live in a wine region, buy locally so you can see the vineyard and know the source of your bottle. If you don’t live near a winery, do you research online. Most wineries are proud to share their growing practices and provide transparency if they are using sustainable, organic, natural or biodynamic methods. Via Wine Spectator , Eating Well and The Guardian Images via Shutterstock

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Electric bus fleets are the latest tool for improving air quality

October 8, 2019 by  
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And both North America and Europe are primed for market growth over the next decade.

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Electric bus fleets are the latest tool for improving air quality

Verbund in the fall: a week with Europe’s sustainability leaders

October 2, 2019 by  
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From BASF to BMW to PRI, Europe holds major innovation in sustainability.

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Why people should be at the heart of sustainability goals

October 2, 2019 by  
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The case for using human-centered design to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.

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Climate fears affecting meat, bottled beverage and plastic production industries

September 16, 2019 by  
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The growing apprehension surrounding climate change is altering consumer behavior. Kantar, a data analytics firm, recently published a report documenting that environmental conscientiousness is shifting consumption choices, particularly on sales of meat and single-use plastic items. Of the 65,000 people surveyed in 24 countries across Asia, Europe and Latin America, one-third expressed worry about the environment. Roughly half of those people, or 16 percent of total respondents, actively take steps to decrease their environmental impact . “We’re already seeing small reductions in spending on meat , bottled drinks and categories such as beauty wipes,” Kantar revealed. “As markets get wealthier, the focus on issues of environmentalism and plastics increases.” Related: Germany proposes a meat tax increase to improve animal welfare and curb climate change The poll further disclosed that Western European respondents were more engaged in reducing environmental impact compared to their Asian and Latin American counterparts. Austrian and German shoppers ranked as the most ‘eco active,’ followed closely by British consumers. But 37 percent of the Chilean respondents proved to be eco-conscious, thus making Chile the environmental nonpareil of Latin American countries. Kantar asserted, “Our study shows there is high demand for eco-friendly products that are competitively priced and readily available.” Just last month, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conveyed the urgency that global meat consumption must decrease to help reverse global warming . Furthermore, the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions can be accelerated by the rise of plant-based food consumption and production. Consequently, there has been market expansion in plant-based protein and other alternative offerings to meat. Companies like Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat and even London-based Moving Mountains Foods have become more mainstream with many of their flexitarian , vegetarian and vegan products appearing on restaurant menus as well as wholesale and retail grocery store shelves. Because meatless protein is still a fledgling industry, competitors are likely to emerge in the near future as a response to the call for cutbacks to meat and dairy. Meanwhile, recent legislative bans against single-use items such as bottles, straws, carrier bags and other plastic packaging have helped. Surging global awareness of the environmental damage wreaked by plastic has hiked restrictions, in turn, denting demand for their production. With recycling efforts and sustainability initiatives gaining momentum in today’s world, both the meat and plastics industries are being called upon to adapt to the changing consumer landscape. + Kantar Via Reuters and TreeHugger Image via Beth Rosengard

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Improving air quality in Europe could reduce asthma cases for children

August 9, 2019 by  
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Asthma among children — close to 67,000 new cases — is hitting home in 18 European countries because of small particulates contaminating the air , according to a new report. But a number of those cases could be prevented yearly if the particulates were reduced to appropriate levels. This study is one of many about how air pollution affects human health. An important landmark study published in April revealed 4 million new asthma cases a year worldwide among ages 1 to 18 were because of levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air. Related: Air pollution may decrease eggs in women’s ovaries The new research examined asthma diagnoses among more than 63.4 million children ages 1 to 14 and looked at components of toxic air, like fine particulates or PM2.5. Researchers also took note of nitrogen dioxide released by vehicles and other sources. “A considerable proportion of childhood asthma is actually caused by air pollution, particularly PM2.5,” said co-author Mark Nieuwenhuijsen from the Barcelona Institute of Global Health. Overall, the study suggests 66,600 new cases of asthma could be prevented annually by following World Health Organization guidelines: levels of PM2.5 should not exceed an annual average of 10 ?g/m3, and levels of nitrogen dioxide should not exceed an annual average of 40 ?g/m3. But the report said even this might not be enough. The authors believe there is no starting point to the impact of air pollution on human health . “What is clear from our analysis is that current WHO standards are not strict enough to protect against many cases of childhood asthma,” Nieuwenhuijsen said. WHO guidelines are currently under review. Susan Anenberg, a co-author of the related study published in April, said the latest research showed how damaging air pollution can be on public health. “Almost no one on planet Earth breathes clean air,” Anenberg said. “The good news is that there are many ways to prevent children from getting asthma because of their air pollution exposure. Making it easier to cycle , walk or run to get places, for example, has many benefits for society — including improved air quality, increased physical activity and less climate-warming pollution.” + European Respiratory Journal Via The Guardian Image via David Holt

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New sensor precisely measures air pollution

June 21, 2019 by  
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Scientists agree that air pollution shortens the lives of many Europeans every year, but they have a hard time accurately measuring it. Now, thanks to new sensor technology developed at Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology , pinpointing air pollution and calculating its effects may become much easier. This new optical nano-sensor detects nitrogen dioxide concentrations down to the parts-per-billion level. The underlying concept is an optimal phenomenon called a plasmon, which has to do with plasma oscillation in physics. Scientists use the sensors to detect illuminated metal nanoparticles absorbing certain wavelengths of light— by which they can measure pollution. Related: Earliest human air pollution detected in glaciers The World Health Organization estimates that air pollution causes 550,000 premature deaths in Europe annually and 7 million worldwide. “Air pollution is a global health problem,” says Chalmers researcher Irem Tanyeli, who helped develop the sensors. “To be able to contribute to increased knowledge and a better environment feels great. With the help of these small, portable sensors, it can become both simpler and cheaper to measure dangerous emissions extremely accurately.” The university research team worked with the Gothenburg-based company Insplorion— co-founded by Christoph Langhammer, a Chalmers physics professor— to bring the sensors out of the lab and onto the streets of Gothenburg. “This is a great example of how a university and a company can collaborate. Both parties contribute with their expertise to create a new product, contributing to a more sustainable society,” said Langhammer. Sensors are already installed on the roof of a huge Gothenburg shopping mall and will soon be placed along a local railway tunnel construction project. The sensors can also be calibrated to measure other gases. “Nitrogen dioxide is just one of the many substances which can be detected with the help of optical nanosensors. There are great opportunities for this type of technology ,” said Langhammer. Companies and universities inside and outside Sweden have already been in contact to see if the nano-sensors could help their aims. Via mynewsdesk Images via Chalmers University of Technology

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Ingenious design sees two tiny homes connected by a light-filled sunroom

June 21, 2019 by  
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When a family of four moved from Hawaii to Portland, Oregon, they desperately missed the tropical climate that surrounded their previous home. To find a solution, they turned to architect Brian Crabb of VIVA Collectiv , who came up with the idea to connect two tiny homes with a warm, light-filled sunroom. The Ohana (which means “family” in Hawaiian) is comprised of two 176-square-foot tiny homes set on 24 x 8 trailers. The structures were placed side by side, separated by spacious, glass-enclosed sunroom that adds another 247 square feet to the design. Related: A micro home in one of Quebec’s regional parks offers a unique way to enjoy the outdoors Coming in at just 600 square feet of living space, the layout allows for something rarely seen in a tiny home — privacy. The right trailer holds the living room and the two children’s bedrooms, while the left trailer houses the kitchen and master bedroom. A surprisingly large bathroom is located adjacent to the kitchen and comes with a soaking tub and unique tile work. At the heart of the home, of course, is the bright sunroom. The glass-enclosed structure even has a pitched roof , which allows the family to feel as though they are enjoying the outdoors even if the weather isn’t favorable. Although the design is much larger than other tiny homes, the home was installed with a number of standard space-saving features. There is built-in storage found throughout, and the kitchen has plenty of counter space and cupboards. In the master bedroom, the queen-sized bed has a trundle bed tucked underneath. Architect Brian Crabb explained to TreeHugger that the incredible home design was inspired by the warm, Hawaiian climate. “The home was designed for a young family of four originally from Hawaii, but living outside of Portland, Oregon,” Crabb said. “Living in the Pacific Northwest, they found they really missed the tropical climate and all it affords, so their request was to create a home where they could enjoy the ‘outdoors’ year-round. The sunroom was designed as a communal space for the family to enjoy together, while the parents’ and children’s bedrooms are located in separate trailers. This separation allows for some semblance of privacy while still enjoying the fruits of going tiny.” + VIVA Collectiv Via Treehugger Photography by Craig Williams via VIVA Collectiv

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Restaurant UNDERs handcrafted tableware celebrates natural materials

April 12, 2019 by  
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When Snøhetta designed the spectacular concept for UNDER, the world’s largest underwater restaurant located along a rocky Norwegian shoreline, the renowned architecture firm wanted to reference the local landscape in all aspects of design, including the tableware. That’s why the Norwegian brand MENT was chosen as the main supplier for the design and manufacturing of the tableware for the restaurant’s 18-course menu. Founded by sisters Ingvild and Sidsel Forr Hemma, the Fåberg-based design brand designed a unique series of bowls, plates, mugs and other items all crafted by hand from natural materials and Norwegian minerals. Since June 2018, MENT has worked in close collaboration with UNDER head chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard to design, research, test and produce products evocative of the restaurant’s overall concept of celebrating nature, craft and sustainable sourcing. “Getting to work with such a thought out concept — and implementing it further in our design has been incredibly inspiring!” the designers said in a press statement. “For this project, MENT have made items in porcelain, stoneware, wood and clay, and in most products the colors used are made from Norwegian minerals. All items are handmade in MENTs workshop at Fåberg.” For the 18-course menu, MENT created approximately 500 products with 17 different unique designs that include bowls, plates, water jugs, toothpick holders, coffee and tea mugs, a milk-and-sugar set and large snack bowls. Several of the designs also vary in size, material and color. The tableware gets its earthy colors from iron pigments processed from natural magnetite sourced from the area of Nordland in Norway. The color and shapes of the products take inspiration from the Norwegian coast — from the different seaweed, sand and coastal rocks — defined by beautiful textures and a color palette of browns, grays and greens. Related: Europe’s first underwater restaurant opens its doors in Norway Because all of the tableware is handmade and created with natural magnetite with techniques that “are impossible to control,” each product has its own unique features. Although UNDER has already opened to the public, MENT will continue to work in collaboration with the restaurant and the head chef. + MENT Images via MENT

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Nissan unveils incredible solar-powered mobile workshop for woodworkers

February 15, 2019 by  
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Over the years, we’ve seen thousands of unique van conversions , but Nissan has taken the van-loving world by storm with its new NV300 concept van — a mobile workshop for woodworking professionals. The amazing design, which was a collaboration between Nissan and UK-based firm Studio Hardie , is fully-functioning mobile woodworking studio that can be taken off grid, letting wood-loving artisans find inspiration anywhere they choose. What’s more, the van runs on solar power and its tools are powered by an emissions-free, weatherproof power pack made out of recycled electric car batteries. Unveiled at the Brussels Motor Show in Belgium, the van’s incredible design was created to provide the average craftsperson with optimal flexibility to move regularly between jobs as needed, in a functional and sustainable way. Slated for a springtime launch in Europe, the van will come in various lengths and heights. Related: DIY kits help explorers transform Sprinter vans into rugged adventure vehicles By contrast to the dark exterior, the van’s bright interior space lit by LED lighting is a woodworker’s dream come true. Lined in “lightweight and strong” pale ash, peg boards, boxes, cabinets and cubbies were built into the walls, while the doors have been outfitted for optimal tool storage. A wheeled stool glides on on metal rails to keep it from sliding around. The open interior allows the woodworkers to use the portable workbench inside during inclement weather. As studio founder William Hardie explained to Dezeen , “We decided to create a grid which we could anchor desks, racks and boxes to; this gave the interior a strong and rational form. We then played with our three-dimensional lines, adding or taking away to create a functional Mondrian-esque grid,” he stated. “The designs for the tool storage came from years of site work, thinking about how we work, what tool you want where. We often work in far-flung parts of the country and having such a versatile refined workspace that you can use on site is the ideal solution.” As an energy source, the van conversion operates on solar power and can go completely off grid. All of the power tools run on an Energy Roam battery, an emissions-free, weatherproof power pack with a storage capacity of 700 watt-hours. The batteries are repurposed from Nissan’s Leaf electric vehicles. + Studio Hardy Via Dezeen Images via Nissan

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