Deforestation in tropical countries linked to European diets in new study

April 16, 2019 by  
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New research shows that European diets are linked to deforestation  in tropical countries. Scientists from Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology tracked carbon emissions that are produced from tropical deforestation and found that one-sixth of the harmful emissions are related to European diets. “In effect, you could say that the EU imports large amounts of deforestation every year,” lead researcher Martin Persson shared. Related: Cargill announces plan to reduce deforestation from cocoa Persson noted that the European Union needs to address the issue of deforestation if it wants to meet previously announced climate goals. The study showed that deforestation contributed around 2.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide over a four-year span, from 2010 to 2014. Most of the cleared land was used for crops and pastures, with cattle and oilseed farming leading the way in production. A good portion of the deforestation was driven by international demand. The researchers estimated that anywhere between 29 to 39 percent of the carbon emissions could be traced to trade, which is directly linked to consumption in several EU nations. Fortunately, some countries in the EU are cracking down on imports tied to deforestation. France, for example, initiated a plan to discourage such imports over the next 10 years. Investors have also issued warnings to companies that produce soy, criticizing them for participating in deforestation for the sake of making money. Although some countries are fighting back, Persson and his team do not believe the efforts will stop companies from clearing land. Part of the issue is that there are few regulations that actually prevent countries from importing products that are linked to deforestation. Persson also believes that nations should provide better support for local farmers who are practicing sustainability . Moving forward, Persson hopes more studies will be done that expand on his work and show stronger links between imported products and deforestation. With more data to support their conclusions, Persson believes that countries can work together to put an end to deforestation before it is too late. The study will be published in the journal Global Environmental Change in May 2019. Via Mongabay Image via Shutterstock

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Deforestation in tropical countries linked to European diets in new study

MAD Architects unveils an organic skyscraper piercing Manhattans skyline

April 16, 2019 by  
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Beijing-based architectural studio MAD Architects has unveiled an alternative vision for the skyline of New York City with the introduction of East 34th, a nature-inspired high-rise proposed near the Empire State Building. The conceptual renderings for the glass-clad building were recently released alongside the launch of the “MAD X” exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Designed as a visual counterpoint to the Empire State Building and the skyline’s hard lines, MAD’s sinuous skyscraper is “planted like a seed” and takes cues from living architecture. Conceived as a mixed-use building, East 34th is envisioned for a 5,231-square-foot site and spans nearly 120,000 square feet of floor space with a building height of 761 feet, about half the height of the Empire State Building. The high-rise would include a commercial podium at street level with retail and public amenities, while luxury residences with double-height communal spaces occupy the upper floors. In keeping with MAD Architects’ philosophy of bringing nature into all aspects of architecture, East 34th would also include a spacious multi-floor atrium with an expansive green wall as an “escape into nature” from the concrete jungle. “Located adjacent to the ‘Empire State Building’ — which held the title of the world’s tallest building for almost 40 years — ‘East 34th’ is planted like a seed, sprouting within the grid, rising with a soft, undulating surface that suggests a more organic, living architecture,” the architects explained in a press release. “Thus, the design opposes the traditional towers that demonstrate the cultural impact of power and capital in our cities. Defying the stacked floor plates and authority of a bygone industrial era that has come to characterize the city’s horizon, ‘East 34th’ softens the hard skyline and introduces a dialogue between New York’s modernist landscape and nature.” Related: MAD Architects’ curvaceous Himalayas Center nears completion in Nanjing Wrapped in a deep-colored glass curtain-wall facade, the slender and sinuous skyscraper is topped with a rounded cap. The model of East 34th is one of 12 architectural models created by MAD Architects currently exhibited at Centre Pompidou in Paris. + MAD Architects Images via MAD Architects

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MAD Architects unveils an organic skyscraper piercing Manhattans skyline

Architects create light-filled home extension clad in cork walls inside and out

April 16, 2019 by  
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London-based firm, Nimtim Architects have unveiled a beautiful and unique home extension to a family’s modest Victorian home located south of the city. Working closely with the home owners, the architects created a rear extension that is almost entirely clad in cork. Blending in nicely with the existing home’s brickwork on the exterior, the unique cork cladding provides a strong insulation while on the interior, the cork absorbs noise, is breathable, free from harmful materials and completely recyclable. The architects designed the building in complete collaboration with the family who were looking for additional living space. To create a seamless connection between the existing structure and the new extension, the designers created a simple box-like structure with a pitched roof and an extra large pivot door that frames an uninterrupted view of the garden. Subtle in its volume, the design managed to be both practical, sustainable and slightly whimsical– thanks to its interior and exterior cork cladding . Related: Two energy-efficient cork homes are elevated off the landscape in northern Spain Sustainable, chemical-free and recyclable, cork is a practical building material in that it is also naturally water resistant, something important in this particular design considering London’s wet climate. Additionally beneficial, cork naturally absorbs sound and is also thermally efficient, meaning that no additional insulation was necessary. In addition to its sustainable qualities , using cork allowed the new building to find its place without overshadowing the existing home. Project runner Allie Mackinnon told Dezeen , “The form is a playful response to the roof, openings and levels of the existing house. The materials were also chosen to respond to the existing house as a subtle counterpoint to the original brickwork. The pitched elevation needed a consistent material and the cork provided an unbroken, textured surface.” On the interior of the new building, the space is flooded with natural light , from the large windows to series of skylights on the roof. A two-level structure, the kitchen holds court on the top floor over an ample dining space and informal seating area. Throughout the space, dark cork walls contrast with the all white ceiling to create a modern, fresh aesthetic. + Nimtim Architects Via Dezeen Photography by Megan Taylor

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Architects create light-filled home extension clad in cork walls inside and out

EU moves forward with its plastic ban

April 1, 2019 by  
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The European Union is moving forward with its plastic ban initiative. The EU just signed off on a plan that will prohibit single-use plastics throughout participating countries by the year 2021. The law targets specific plastics while forcing companies to pay for any pollution their products may cause. “Today we have taken an important step to reduce littering and plastic pollution in our oceans and seas,” the European Commission’s Frans Timmermans explained. “Europe is setting new and ambitious standards, paving the way for the rest of the world.” Related: EU proposes plan to ban 90 percent of microplastics According to EcoWatch , the new law will eliminate around 70 percent of the plastics that pollute oceans. Banned plastics include single-use cutlery, plates, straws, cotton swabs (that feature plastic sticks), polystyrene cups and oxo-degradable plastics. The plan also requires that companies use at least 25 percent of recycled materials in plastic bottles over the next six years. When it comes to paying for pollution , the law will require companies to help in the clean-up efforts related to their products. For example, cigarette businesses will have to pay to pick up butts that are carelessly thrown away, while companies that make fishing gear will be required to help fund the removal of plastic nets from the ocean. Lastly, the new initiative will force companies to create better labels for products that contain plastic . More specifically, the EU wants companies to better inform customers when their products include plastics, especially when it is harder to discern. The revised labels will also encourage people to recycle the items if necessary. The European Commission originally announced the ban back in the spring of 2018. With full backing from Parliament, the ban is expected to be completed and sent to member states soon. If the law is followed by all of the countries in the EU, experts hope that it will significantly curb ocean litter , which is largely made up of single-use plastics. The law should also save the EU around 22 billion euros by the year 2030. The EU hopes that its plastic ban will become a model for other countries around the world to follow. + European Parliament Via EcoWatch Image via Matthew Gollop

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EU proposes plan to ban 90 percent of microplastics

February 4, 2019 by  
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Microplastics may appear small on the outside, but they take a major toll on the environment. Not only do these plastics ruin soil and jeopardize ocean life, but they also create health issues for people all around the world. Fortunately, a newly proposed ban on microplastics might offer a solution to this growing problem. This week, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) put forth a new law that seeks to ban over 90 percent of Europe’s microplastics. If countries in the European Union agree to the legislation, the prohibition could significantly lower the amount of microplastics on a global scale. “Microplastics are a growing concern to a number of human rights. The steps proposed by Echa are necessary to help ensure present and future generations can enjoy what is their human right: a clean, healthy and sustainable environment ,” UN reporter Baskut Tuncak shared. According to The Guardian, there are close to 400,000 tons of these small plastic particles that end up in European environments. These microplastics come from a variety of household sources, including fertilizers, detergents, paint products and cosmetics. The proposed ban would eliminate the vast majority of microplastics that are integrated into these products, many of which are not necessary. Related: Study finds microplastics in sea turtles around the world If passed, the law would not go into effect until 2020. By that time, companies would need to have made drastic changes in the production of goods. This includes removing microplastics from a variety of products, a move that would require a major change in design . The new ban is similar in nature to what the U.K. passed last year. The country prohibited the use of microbeads in certain personal products, such as shower gel and toothpaste. The new law, however, is much larger in scope and would eventually remove the vast majority of microplastics from production. The ban, of course, would only apply to countries that are still in the EU. Following Brexit, there is a chance that the U.K. will not adopt the law, though that has yet to be determined. In the meantime, the ECHA will continue to explore the proposed ban and will vote on the measure in three months. If passed, the law is not expected to go into effect until at least another eight months after the vote is tallied. Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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A new Polish film has exposed the illegal trafficking of sick cattle

January 31, 2019 by  
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After a film broadcast on Polish TVN 24 revealed that a slaughterhouse was illegally trafficking sick cattle , Polish police have launched an investigation into the matter. The film showed secret footage of cows too sick to stand being dragged into the plant, as well as slaughterhouse workers cutting carcasses at night “to avoid official supervision.” With no way of knowing where the meat went, the scandalous footage could end up being as serious as the 2013 EU horsemeat scandal that exposed Europe’s complex meat market and triggered product recalls. As first reported by the BBC, a statement issued just days after the movie premiered on TV, Poland’s chief veterinary officer said his inspectors and Polish police received a tip about the possible illegal slaughter at an abattoir in northeastern Poland near Ostrow Mazowiecka. On the night of January 14 eight sick cows were found at the facility and it was decided their suffering must come to an end and were ultimately killed. “During the check, the owners of the animals were identified, along with an animal dealer who transported cattle unfit for transport, and abattoir staff responsible for animal welfare there,” the statement said. Related: ChimpFace could help fight the illegal trade in chimpanzees The inspectors are continuing their investigation by attempting to identify buyers and sellers of meat from sick animals and are also checking other slaughterhouses in the region. According to Eurostat, an EU statistics agency, Poland is the EU’s seventh-largest producer of cow meat behind Ireland, Spain, Italy, the UK, Germany and France. In 2017, the country produced over 558,000 tons of beef and beef products, and each year they slaughter approximately two million head of cattle. However, just two percent of Poland’s meat consumption is beef, which means nearly all of Polish cow meat is exported. Data from UK Revenue and Customs (HMRC) shows that in 2018, the UK imported $85 million worth of Polish beef. Many are hoping that this latest revelation will lead to regulatory action that should have happened after the first scandal. The designated veterinarian for the slaughterhouse and his county supervisor have already been fired. “I think the police, which is at this moment already engaged in this issue, will be trying step by step to explain what has been the role of the supervisory authorities in this illegal, reprehensible, and downright criminal procedure,” says journalist Tomasz Patora of TVN 24’s Superwizjer. Via BBC Image via Shutterstock

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A new Polish film has exposed the illegal trafficking of sick cattle

Renewable electricity could overtake fossil fuels in Britain by next year

January 28, 2019 by  
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A new report from British power analysts EnAppSys is predicting renewable electricity will overtake fossil fuels as the main source of Great Britain’s electricity generation by next year if current trends continue. In their annual market review report for 2018, EnAppSys says that the levels of power generation from coal and gas-fired power stations fell by 6.7 percent, while generation from renewables increased 15.2 percent. If renewables do pass up fossil fuels in Great Britain in 2020, it will be a first, and it will prove that renewable energy has staying power. “It’s clear that renewables will be generating most of our power in the years ahead, with wind playing the leading role,” said Luke Clark, RenewableUK’s Head of External Affairs, told Clean Technica. During 2018, a large number of offshore wind farms were commissioned or went into full operation and the increase of wind energy led the way in renewable energy generation. Since the cost of offshore wind continues to decrease this means it will likely become the primary source of renewable  energy generation, at least in the short term. Related: Greenhouse gas emissions rose during 2018 after three year decline Currently, offshore wind power generation has a 55.4 percent share of the renewables mix. Between the moratorium on onshore wind and the falling costs of offshore wind, that share should climb even higher. However, there are still some concerns about the UK fuel mix because of the suspension of their Capacity Mechanism— a measure designed to ensure the security of the electricity supply by paying for reliable sources. In November, the European Union ruled that the Capacity Mechanism was illegal. Those payments were going to old coal, gas , and nuclear plants, and some saw them as government subsidies. But, without that money, some of those plants may leave the market. If that happens, it will lead to “decreased security of supply.” Ultimately, the Capacity Mechanism payments will need to be reinstated or an alternative will need to be implemented to fill the gap created by the lost income. Via Clean Technica Image via Free-Photos

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This countertop dishwasher promises to wash your dishes in just 10 minutes

January 28, 2019 by  
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Living in a tiny apartment — or tiny home  — no longer needs to mean giving up the luxury of a dishwasher. Meet Tetra, an award-winning countertop dishwasher that’s not only compact and cute as a button, but is also easy to install (no plumbing needed) and affordable with a limited pre-order price of $299. Produced by Heatworks and designed by frog , the small-but-mighty Tetra is marketed with a 10-minute load cycle and was recently demoed at CES 2019 earlier this month. Winner of the CES 2019 Best of Innovation Award, the Tetra dishwasher is unlike its more traditional sibling in that it only requires an electrical outlet — no plumbing needed. As part of Charleston-based Heatworks’ commitment to energy-efficient and resource-saving products, this countertop dishwasher is also designed to save energy and comes with its own reservoir that allows control over the amount of water used, depending on the number of dishes inside. According to Heatworks, hand-washing dishes can use up to 10 times more water than dishwashers. The Tetra countertop dishwasher measures 18 inches in width, 16.75 inches in height and 14 inches deep, and it comes with an internal detergent compartment as well as colorful modular racks that can be swapped out depending on what items need to be washed. The appliance is powered with the Heatworks’ patented Ohmic Array Technology, which the firm said allows for “precise temperature control,” quick cycles and gentle cleaning or even sanitation of baby bottles. Related: Learn which appliances suck up the most energy in your home “Instead of having elements that get really hot and then transfer the heat to the water, we actually pass electrical currents through the water itself,” the firm explained of the technology’s tankless heating. “Using graphite electrodes and electronic controls, we increase the energy state of the water molecules, so they move faster. The faster they move, the more kinetic energy they have. This causes the molecules to begin to bounce off each other; that kinetic energy turns into heat. Through direct energy transfer, your water is heated instantly, within (+/-) 1 degree Fahrenheit of the temperature setpoint.” Pre-orders for the Tetra are slated to open in Q1 2019. + Tetra Images via Heatworks

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This countertop dishwasher promises to wash your dishes in just 10 minutes

Europe’s circular economy competitive advantage

December 7, 2018 by  
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Just look at the trajectory of the Finnish mobile company, Nokia.

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Europe’s circular economy competitive advantage

Why I went to work for the Swedish government

September 4, 2018 by  
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From entrepreneur to civil servant, in the name of sustainability.

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Why I went to work for the Swedish government

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