100-year-old Buda Mill & Grain Co. has new life as a community gathering spot

October 16, 2020 by  
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Often, culture and community are so intertwined that one defines the other, as is the case with a rural town in Texas, where the residents embraced a dilapidated historic site, called the Buda Mill & Grain Co., and brought it back to life. The Buda Mill & Grain Co. was a landmark in Buda, Texas dating back to 1890, when members from the Farmers Alliance founded a cotton gin to counter the rising costs of freight and lack of control of the market system that left farmers feeling out of control. Later, following a change of hands, the site was home to the first brick gin, built in 1914, which supported the Buda Gin Company. With the fall of cotton prices in the 1930s, the company was sold again and converted into a milling company for grinding dairy feed. Grain elevators and silos were added as the business grew. Related: Heatherwick Studio updates 90-year-old grain silo in South Africa with pillowed glass windows In more recent decades, the buildings housed grain for the U.S. government and were leased out to private hobbyists. Nearly every Buda citizen from any generation has memories of working the mill or picking up grain at the complex, catching up with neighbors in the process. With this common interest, the community enlisted the help of architecture and engineering firm Cushing Terrell in nearby Austin, Texas with the goal of repurposing the existing structures while converting the site into a modern community space. The result is a compound that offers more than 27,000 square feet of retail, restaurants and community-oriented spaces for the citizens to gather like they have for the past century. The three new buildings meld with the conversion of the old in a complex made up of five structures. The largest of the buildings, nicknamed the Big’un, is a 6,000-square-foot steel-framed equipment barn that measures roughly 120 feet long by 60 feet wide. The simple aspects of the structure allowed designers to remove walls in the first bay, creating a massive covered porch that faces the main street. This area is partitioned from the rest of the building with a glass wall and future plans to incorporate retail space, a restaurant and a brewery. The historic, 3,000-square-foot brick cotton gin building was left largely intact with a focus on improving structural support and creating a small addition to the back of the building. Steel, concrete and brick were used throughout the preservation and construction to honor the original architecture. Throughout the process, some items were removed, but most were blended back into the design in another location. For example, when a load bearing wall in the cotton gin building required repair, each brick removed was labeled and reused in repairs on other sections of the building. “A number of artifacts of the buildings past were kept and repurposed like the auger system, which was converted into the mill’s entry signage,” said Alex Bingham, architect and lead designer at Cushing Terrell. Bingham stated that the biggest challenge was updating the property while maintaining the priority of maintaining the historical relevance, a goal the architects accomplished when they, “kept the rusty metal bits and framed them with black steel and glass.” The result is a center that preserves the past while paving a path forward for the community. + Cushing Terrell Photography by Peter Molick via Cushing Terrell

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Vegan apple recipes for fall

October 13, 2020 by  
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October is the heart of apple season, so now is the time to pick or buy fresh apples and get baking. Did you know that apples are part of the rose family, and that more than 7,000 varieties are grown around the world? Maybe 2020 is the year to expand your repertoire of vegan apple recipes . Picking the best baking apples What makes a good baking apple? You need a variety that keeps its structure while baking and retains a bit of the acidity, which lends tartness. Otherwise, you wind up with a soft, flavorless dessert. Bon Appetit recommends six top varieties: Granny Smith, Jonagold, Honey Crisp, Braeburn, Mutsu, Winesap and Pink Lady. Granny Smith is a top option because it’s widely available and affordable in most ordinary grocery stores. Related: How to make your own organic caramel apple treats for Halloween Spicing up your apple desserts Cinnamon is the most common spice to pair with apples. But you can get creative with your fall flavors. To spice up your pies and muffins, try adding extra nutmeg, ginger, cloves or cardamom to the recipes below, depending on your taste preferences. Adjusting the spice levels let you make these recipes your own. Vegan apple recipes Here are some of the most popular ways to make the most of the season’s harvest. Apple fritters Cooking apples instantly gives your home a delicious autumnal smell. And when you’re frying apple fritters, this is doubly so. School Night Vegan has an easy fried fritter recipe that combines nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom with apples for a breakfast or brunch treat. You don’t need special equipment to make these vegan apple fritters — an ordinary high-sided saucepan works fine. Ice them with cinnamon- or maple-flavored frosting for extra decadence. Vegan apple cobbler The fewer the dishes, the easier the cleanup. This apple cobbler recipe from My Darling Vegan requires a single skillet and features a caramel sauce. In case you’re wondering about the differences between a cobbler, a crumble and a crisp, here’s how Chef Sarah McMinn, creator of My Darling Vegan, explains it. All three involve sugary baked fruit and pastry. But the difference comes down to toppings. Crisps and crumbles are both topped with streusels. A crisp’s streusel contains oats and a crumble’s doesn’t. Cobblers, on the other hand, are covered with a sweet drop biscuit. The biscuit rises as it cooks, creating a bumpy look reminiscent of a cobbled road. Vegan apple cake What’s even better than vegan apple cake? Apple gingerbread cake. This simple recipe from Minimalist Baker requires one bowl and only about an hour before you’re eating a delicious dessert. Oats lend it a hearty texture. Eat it unfrosted for breakfast, or add a thick layer of vegan cream cheese frosting for dessert. Vegan apple pie As every American has heard a million times, apple pie is the quintessential dessert. No autumn is complete without a few. The trickiest thing about apple pies is making the crust. If you’re a serious baker, you’ll pride yourself on the flavor, flakiness, consistency and aesthetic quality of your dough lattice work or other artistic flourishes. For those of us who aren’t up to making a crust from scratch, store-bought crust or a crumble-top pie are easier and still delicious. If you’re going for store-bought, read the ingredients to be sure the crust doesn’t contain butter or lard. Connoisseurus Veg offers this vegan apple pie recipe featuring a coconut oil crust. Vegan apple muffins Eating a couple of vegan apple muffins can be a healthful way to start the day. Chunks of tart, diced apple will give your muffins more texture. Or if you prefer a smoother, more uniform kind of muffin, use applesauce. This recipe from Lazy Cat Kitchen includes healthy ingredients like oat flour, almond flour and cardamom pods. For extra taste and beauty, top each muffin with a fresh blackberry. Vegan apple crisp This vegan apple crisp recipe can be made with several different types of flour, so it’s easy to adapt for your friends and family members who follow a gluten-free diet. Walnuts give the crisp extra protein and flavor. Top it with a few apple slices and it looks festive enough to bring to a holiday brunch . Applesauce Sometimes, the simplest desserts are the best. If you’ve come into a small fortune of apples, why not make applesauce? According to this recipe from The Stay at Home Chef , the best applesauce relies on a mixture of apple types. Golden Delicious, Fuji, Granny Smith, McIntosh and Jonathan all work well and are easy to find in most supermarkets. You can use the conventional stovetop method of cooking applesauce in a saucepan, or you can put the apples in a slow cooker or pressure cooker with some lemon juice, water and a cinnamon stick. Your refrigerated applesauce will stay fresh in an airtight container for up to two weeks, but the sooner you eat it, the better it will taste. If you don’t think you’re going to eat all that applesauce that fast, freeze it in freezer bags. Images via Joanna Sto?owicz , Sarah Gualtieri , Pixel1 , Conger Design ( 1 , 2 ) and Rachel Loughman

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ASOS launches first circular fashion collection

September 28, 2020 by  
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This fall, online retailer ASOS is launching its first collection of circular fashions . A collaboration with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion , the 29 women’s, men’s and unisex styles aim to prove that eco-friendly clothing can also be chic. Circular design refers to a constant recycling loop, with no materials ending up in the landfill. Instead of waste, ASOS aims to create an endless series of new fashions. According to ASOS, each style from the autumn collection meets at least two of these three goals: designing out waste and pollution; keeping products and materials in use; and regenerating natural systems. Related: The Redress Design Award is making sustainable fashion an industry standard To create the new Fall 2020 collection, ASOS designers put together a set of goals. First was to attain a zero-waste collection, or at least to minimize waste. When possible, they chose materials that were already at least partially recycled, yet still durable. The designers also aimed for versatility, so that each garment could be styled in multiple ways. The collection also makes use of upcycling , or turning something old into something new. Using one recyclable material for the entire product, called a mono-material approach, means that at the end of each garment’s life, it will be easier to recycle. The fashions were also created with eventual ease of disassembly in mind. Some of the new collection’s items include oversized dresses, pants, blouses, shoes and denim. Black, white and lavender are some of the line’s recurring colors. The new line is a direct response to ASOS’ promise at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in 2018 to train its designers in circular design by 2020. In the last two years, ASOS has started a training program in conjunction with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, which is part of London College of Fashion, to educate all ASOS designers on sustainable fashion principles. + ASOS Image via ASOS

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The durable Solo New York backpack can accompany all of your adventures

September 28, 2020 by  
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Back in July, Inhabitat introduced readers to the Solo New York brand, a sustainable fashion company making bags out of recycled plastic water bottles. Since then, we have had the opportunity to use the popular Re:vive Mini Backpack ourselves, testing it out on more than a few outdoor adventures. With the environmental tolls of fast fashion becoming more and more apparent, sustainability has certainly become a buzzword in the textile and fashion industries. Solo New York’s recycled fabric production starts with discarded plastic bottles. Through an environmentally friendly process, the plastic bottles are finely shredded and re-spun into durable and lightweight recycled PET polyester yarn. According to Solo New York, this recycled material reduces energy use by 50%, water use by 20% and air pollution by 60%. Related: Each purchase of this bag made from recycled plastic helps plant trees The Re:vive Mini Backpack is just the right size for a day trip. We took one on a hike down to McClures Beach in Point Reyes, California in the height of summer. Despite its seemingly small size, it easily held a small beach towel, a large water bottle, keys, wallet, sunglasses and a tube of sunscreen with room to spare. The short fabric key clip built into the top of the bag helped keep us from digging around in the bottom for keys (always a plus), and the bag itself was so lightweight that it was easy to forget it was even on. When a sandwich mishap produced a small stain on the outside of the backpack , a simple dose of spot-cleaning made it good as new — a great characteristic if you plan on using the backpack in your everyday life. Another feature we noticed was the versatility of the design; the heathered gray material on the outside and the subtle black camo on the inside are just as appropriate for a big city subway or the office as they are for exploring a national park. Apart from aiding our fight against plastic pollution, this backpack also proved itself as a great conversation starter. Once people found out that it was made from recycled plastic bottles , most couldn’t believe that the fabric could be so soft and similar to other popular textiles like cotton or polyester. The sturdiness of the plastic fiber is apparent in its durability as well, so it is easy to tell that the bags are designed to last a long time. The mini backpack measures 14″ x 9″ x 4″ and weighs only 0.57 pounds. Priced at $24.99, it is affordable, too. Along with the aforementioned key clip, there are also adjustable shoulder straps and a front zippered pocket to hold more quick-grab items like cellphones and wallets. According to the company, the first run of the Re:cycled Collection was responsible for recycling more than 90,000 plastic bottles, and the line is still continuing to expand with new bags. As of September 2020, the collection features four backpack versions priced from $24.99 to $64.99, a laptop sleeve, two carry-on-size luggage pieces, a briefcase, a tote and a duffel. Solo New York was founded by John Ax, who arrived to the U.S. in 1940 with his family. They only had $100 and the clothes on their backs. As a skilled craftsman, he began rounding up leather pieces and scraps that were destined for the trash from local tanneries to turn into sellable goods. His small company, which eventually became known as the United States Luggage Company, thrived for decades before rebranding as Solo New York. Today, the company has already set solid, transparent goals to become even more sustainable in the future. The goal is to eliminate plastic from all packaging by the end of 2020. Hang tags are already printed on 100% recycled and biodegradable material with a recycled cotton string and a completely biodegradable clasp. The Solo New York headquarters on Long Island takes advantage of New York’s average of 224 sunny days per year with 1,400 rooftop solar panels (producing enough energy to power 87 homes). Plus, the company has a zero-tolerance plastic water bottle policy for its employees, instead offering filtered smart fountains and water dispensers throughout its locations. Solo New York has also partnered with the United States National Forest Foundation, pledging to help aid in reforestation by planting one tree per every bag purchased from the Re:cycled collection. Customers also have the option of taking the “Green Pledge” and promising to say no to plastic bottles for the following 30 days. For every pledge signed, Solo NY will plant a second tree. Overall, we think any of the bags from this sustainable collection would be a great gift option for the Earth-lover in your life, especially for the upcoming holiday season. Even for someone who hasn’t found their stride in sustainability quite yet, the gift of a Re:cycled Collection bag or backpack is sure to be pretty eye-opening as to how far recycling can really go. Even better, if more people pivot to eco-friendly bags, that means we can help cut down on the number of plastic items being manufactured and distributed globally, leading to fewer toxic chemicals released into the atmosphere, less resources spent and less waste produced overall. + Solo New York Images via Katherine Gallagher / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by Solo New York. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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10 fun and fascinating facts about sharks

August 10, 2020 by  
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Sharks are the apex predators of the oceans, but they’re more than movie monsters and beach horror stories. There’s a lot that most people don’t know about sharks and plenty more that scientists are still learning about them. More than 500 species of sharks swim the ocean depths, making up a diverse and endlessly fascinating group of animals who have been hunting the waters for millions of years longer than humans have been walking around on Earth. We’re still learning Sharks are ancient creatures who inhabited the Earth at the same time as the dinosaurs . But that doesn’t mean we know everything there is to know about them. In fact, we’re still making discoveries. The megamouth shark was only discovered in 1976, and fewer than 100 of these rare sharks have ever been seen. It grows to an average of 16 feet , we think, and siphons plankton out of the water to feed. Even more recently was the discovery of the pocket shark, a 5-inch shark found in the Gulf of Mexico. It glows under the water to attract prey. Related: How your beauty routine might be killing sharks Their teeth are healthier than yours Shark teeth are totally resistant to cavities . The teeth of sharks are covered in fluoride, an enamel known as fluorapatite. This material is resistant to acid created by bacteria. Sharks also go through several sets of teeth in their lifetimes, shedding and growing new teeth periodically. An average shark mouth will see about 30,000 teeth in one lifetime. Shark teeth are much healthier than human teeth, which need constant care and maintenance. They can clone themselves Through a process that has been observed in many animals , sharks can clone themselves through parthenogenesis , a type of external fertilization. This has been seen in female sharks being kept in captivity. Sharks aren’t that dangerous Humans are a far greater danger to sharks than they are to us. Though it makes for a pretty good movie, there are fewer than 200 shark-human interactions globally every single year. Meanwhile, humans kill about 100 million sharks annually, mostly through hunting. Sharks have a variety of feeding habits. Many species of sharks are filter feeders that eat small marine life , such as clams, and many are bottom feeders who use suction to gather food. Only some species of sharks are hunters that attack seals, dolphins and other large sea creatures. They’re resilient Not only did sharks survive the extinction event that brought an end to the dinosaurs, but they’ve also survived five total mass extinction events on planet Earth. Sharks first appeared in the planet’s oceans over 400 million years ago. That makes them even older than trees. Sharks were swimming in the oceans before dinosaurs roamed the planet. They survived a mass extinction event that killed 75% of all living species on Earth , including many ocean-dwelling species. Then, they survived an event that killed 96% of all marine life on the planet. This is why sharks are often referred to as “living fossils.” The great white isn’t the biggest shark Movies have made the great white shark famous as a predator, but it’s not the biggest shark in the ocean. That honor goes to the whale shark, which grows up to 60 feet in length . Though it has the size, the whale shark doesn’t have the terrifying look that makes the great white shark so distinct. This giant of the water feeds on small fish , plankton and invertebrates. That means whale sharks don’t have those razor-sharp teeth and huge jaws that make the great white shark such a perfectly terrifying villain. By comparison, the great white shark grows up to 20 feet at most. They have a sixth sense Sharks have the same five senses as human beings — plus one more. Sharks have an organ in their snouts, ampullae of Lorenzini, that allows them to sense electrical fields in the water emitted by other fish and marine life. Lion vs. shark? In the battle of lion against shark, if such a battle was possible, sharks would win pretty easily. A lion bite is weaker than you might imagine, about 650 PSI (pound-force per square inch). A shark bite is much more powerful. In a single snap, a great white shark can produce up to 4,000 PSI. They don’t vocalize Despite what you may have seen in “Finding Nemo,” sharks definitely can’t talk, even to other fish. Sharks have no vocal cords; therefore, they make no vocal sounds whatsoever. Instead, they communicate through body language. A mega shark was once real “Jaws” isn’t just a movie, it’s reality. Well, kind of. There once was an enormous shark that swam the ocean depths. The megalodon inhabited the Earth’s oceans 20 million years ago , becoming extinct about 3.6 million years ago. This monster was the largest shark to ever swim the oceans and the largest fish the planet has ever known, up to three times the size of the longest great white shark. Sharks are truly fascinating creatures, and they have much more to fear from us than we do of them. They’ve managed to survive on a planet that’s known for being rocked by massive extinction events, living long enough to see the rise and the fall of the dinosaurs and the evolution of plant life on the planet. Now, they swim the same waters as human beings. The more you research about these hunters of the deep, the more you’ll find that learning about sharks is pretty fun. Via NOAA and WWF Images via NOAA ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 )

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How tree-planting startup Propagate Ventures monetizes land conservation

July 9, 2020 by  
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How tree-planting startup Propagate Ventures monetizes land conservation Heather Clancy Thu, 07/09/2020 – 01:30 Earlier this year, when I was chatting with venture capitalist Nancy Pfund of DBL Partners about which new areas of climate solutions were intriguing to her, she pointed to business models that had the potential to monetize land conservation. The example we discussed that day wasn’t one I would think of immediately: Better Place Forests, which is creating what it calls “conservation memorial forests.” It’s a different model for saving trees that takes a cue from the end-of-life industry.  Instead of buying a cemetery or mausoleum plot for cremated ashes, you or your family can pay toward the preservation of a tree —  the fee starts at $2,900. The ashes are mixed with soil at the base, along with a memorial marker. Currently, the company is protecting forests in Northern California and Arizona. But that’s not all: For every person and tree it memorializes, it plants at least 25 impact trees in collaboration with the nonprofit One Tree Planted . And as of July 2019, the company had raised $12 million in early-stage venture funding (led by True Ventures ) to help with its mission. When I started poking around to identify other for-profit ventures in the business of land conservation, two other organizations that have been working with Microsoft jumped to mind, both of which provide technology for mapping and measuring forests : Pachama and Silvia Terra .  In May, I spoke with another intriguing agroforestry startup, Propagate Ventures , part of the fall 2018 cohort at Elemental Excelerator. The company, which recently raised $1.5 million in seed funding from the Grantham Environmental Trust, is focused on helping agricultural operations figure out how to profit from planting trees.  How do we improve the pasture but make sure it isn’t a sink on the wallet? Like Pachama and Silvia Terra, Propagate’s competitive edge is analytics and information. It analyzes the costs of the investment, the potential revenue, the labor implications and the anticipated yield. Co-founder and CEO Ethan Steinberg said the concept is similar to the analysis tool a developer might use to assess the viability of a solar energy project.  “It’s focused on both the economics and the ecological value that is driven,” he told me. That includes formulating plans specific to keeping ownership of the investable assets (trees) separate from the real estate; that’s an important consideration for farmers who lease the land they are working. The idea is to help agricultural operations use land that is otherwise fallow or unused to plant trees, usually intended for fruit, nut or timber cultivation.  When I spoke with Steinberg, the company had more than 20 projects on the books — ranging from livestock producers looking for a source of shade for animals to those growing specialty grain crops who are looking to diversify their income. Most of these organizations so far are in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States, where Propagate is proposing the most ecologically approach options for their particular region. “Farmers shouldn’t transition to something that isn’t viable for their land,” Steinberg said. What’s more, these arrangements generally are structured with a buyer or cultivation partners in place. “We are not having to recreate those relationships from scratch,” he noted. One organization testing out this model is Handsome Brook Farms , a network of pasture-raised egg farms in states including Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Chickens raised in this manner are free to roam in pastures — generally there are 400 birds to an acre. The farmers sell their eggs to Handsome Brook, which handles the processing and distribution. They have the autonomy to run their own operations, provided they meet the requirements for the pasture-raised model — the network farms are both certified and humane organic. Kristen Wharton, director of strategic planning and development for Handsome Brook, said the idea of incorporating nut trees on certain properties is appealing and it’s testing the idea over the next year with a limited number of farms, starting in Kentucky. The main concern is cost, but many farmers are also leery of managing a secondary project. “How do we improve the pasture but make sure it isn’t a sink on the wallet?” she mused. One possible option is a cost-sharing model, in which Handsome Brook would share some investment or investigate participation in grant programs that support soil health and water quality improvement projects, Wharton said. The top goal is to get the chickens to roam across a larger portion of the property, a habit that would counteract compacted soil and erosion around the barns where the hens take shelter. One question Handsome Brook hopes to answer: “How might this model set us apart?” What other for-profit agroforestry ventures have caught your attention? Share ideas with me at heather@greenbiz.com . This article first appeared in GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, VERGE Weekly, running Wednesdays. Subscribe  here . Follow me on Twitter: @greentechlady. Pull Quote How do we improve the pasture but make sure it isn’t a sink on the wallet? 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How TerraCycle’s safety and cleaning practices can be adopted across industries

May 22, 2020 by  
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How TerraCycle’s safety and cleaning practices can be adopted across industries Deonna Anderson Fri, 05/22/2020 – 00:05 The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the safety of reuse into question. But Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle, thinks when the crisis is over there will be even more opportunity for reusable packaging and containers to become more commonplace, if done right. “Recycling is going to take a real punch to the face, to be quite fair,” Szaky said during GreenBiz Group’s Circularity 20 Digital event this week, pointing to the continued decrease in oil prices and the pressure that’s putting on the economics of using recycled plastics. “That’s disastrous for the recycling industry, which creates its revenue by selling recycled plastics, which are hedged against, in many ways, the price of oil.” Many recycling activities have been paused as the pandemic has raised health and safety concerns, which could lead to a waste crisis post-pandemic, he said. Recycling centers have closed temporarily or indefinitely, across California and in parts of Ohio, Oregon and Alabama. “That, I think, will benefit waste innovations,” said Szaky, whose company is in the business of recycling and eliminating waste. “It will especially benefit the reuse movement because that is sort of the next step up in waste innovation.” Szaky acknowledged that reuse is not a silver bullet solution to addressing the waste problem, but if life cycle assessment is considered , he said that reuse can be better than single-use options in a significant number of cases. It plays a role in reducing waste and TerraCycle’s e-commerce program Loop  — which features items in reusable containers — plans to be part of that, while being affordable and convenient. We’re still very focused on trying to create a reusable system that has the same convenience as disposability … “We’re still very focused on trying to create a reusable system that has the same convenience as disposability because [while] disposability has a lot of negatives, it is the gold standard, by far, for convenience,” he said. “That is our holy grail, to get to the exact same convenience you get when you throw something in the garbage, with no thinking, no thought and off you go.” While Loop is still working toward the convenience factor, it’s also working toward building trust with consumers outside of its core following. As Szaky wrote in a piece for GreenBiz recently, “Reusable packaging is faced with proving its trustworthiness alongside disposables in a world that is standing six feet apart in the grocery aisle.” In the time that comes after COVID-19, TerraCycle’s Loop and other companies that are working on launching or improving their reuse models must do it right. That means consumers need to be able to know that the reusable packaging they are using was thoroughly cleaned and doesn’t pose a health risk to them. During the Circularity 20 Digital conversation, Szaky described the cleaning process for the packaging in the Loop program, between when it leaves one consumer’s possession and ends up with another. First, the customer either will drop off their Loop tote at a retailer or have it picked up and shipped. (TerraCycle recently announced that it would expand its reuse platform Loop across the contiguous United States including in physical retail stores.) Earlier this year, the company announced partnerships with Walgreens and Kroger that would allow consumers to drop off totes in bins within their stores, starting this fall.  Once the tote reaches a Loop distribution center, it is checked in and the packages inside it are sorted based on the contents and type of packaging material. Then each type of packages is stored until there are enough to start cleaning, which takes place in a proper cleanroom where people are in full gear. “The process to clean — which is what chemistry is used, dwell times both in drying and washing and temperatures, and all those different types of knobs and dials on the cleaning protocol — are set to be specific to that content and the type of material that content was in,” said Szaky, noting that both factors have meaningful effects on the cleaning process. Once the packages are cleaned, it is immediately shipped to the manufacturer, which has protocols for maintaining cleanliness for the packaging. Szaky noted that each time the cleanroom is used it is reset — pipes flushed for potential allergens and air vented — for the next batch of cleaning. Lauren Phipps, GreenBiz Group’s director and senior analyst for the circular economy, who led the conversation with Szaky, asked if there was an opportunity for retailers and restaurants to implement similar practices for their reusable items and how they could communicate their practices with consumers. Szaky responded by sharing that he’s been working with the group Consumers Beyond Disposability — which is housed under the World Economic Forum and includes the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, City of Paris and PepsiCo — to develop guidelines for companies that want to put reuse in play. The group plans to share those guidelines during the Davos gathering in January. But for now, Szaky gave an example of how safe reuse could work in a coffee shop. “I would recommend that there’s some process that when you give your cup to the barista, maybe the barista looks at the cup and only accepts certain types of cups … then has some process that is consumer-facing, that you can see and that you can be proud that that process is strong and you can trust it,” he said. “Trust is a critical commodity that we have to build with individuals right now, or in fact almost re-earn.” Pull Quote We’re still very focused on trying to create a reusable system that has the same convenience as disposability … Topics Circular Economy Circularity 20 Circular Packaging Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock warut pothikit Close Authorship

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Why Nature’s Path went ‘regenerative organic’

May 21, 2020 by  
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Why Nature’s Path went ‘regenerative organic’ Heather Clancy Thu, 05/21/2020 – 00:46 The term “regenerative agriculture” has become two of the biggest buzzwords in nature-based climate solutions. But how many farms and food companies can say they follow both regenerative and organic practices? Canadian cereal and snack company Nature’s Path — the largest organic breakfast and snack company in North America — hopes to get more agricultural organizations focused on the nuances of those adjectives.  In March, its 5,000-acre Legend Organic Farm in Saskatchewan became the largest yet to be certified as part of the Regenerative Organic Certified program, organized by the Regenerative Organic Alliance . It’s one of just 30 farms operating with that label. The company created a limited edition oatmeal to draw attention to the certification, which it started selling on Earth Day. Because Legend follows organic farming principles, it already practiced many processes often mentioned as regenerative. The main change the farm made over the past two years to receive Regenerative Organic Certified recognition was stepping up its planting and investments in cover crops such as legumes to improve soil fertility and carbon capture, according to Nature Path founder and chairman Arran Stephens.     The idea, at least in part, is to set an example that other farms can follow. “My hope is our farm will become highly successful and will spawn others that want to get in on it,” Stephens told me in late April.  Nature’s Path made the decision to seek the Regenerative Organic Certified designation two years ago, both to enrich its soil for the future and to continue differentiating its brand.  My hope is our farm will become highly successful and will spawn others that want to get in on it. Legend is the only farm that the company owns outright; it is supplied by hundreds of independent farms, who should be able to command a premium from customers such as Nature’s Path for following these practices in the future, according to Dag Falck, the company’s organic program manager.  “It’s a great way to communicate that your organization is practicing on the highest level of organic,” he said. Some investments it took While it takes just one growing season to earn the Regenerative Organic Certified label — unlike the core organic certification, which takes three years to earn — a series of steps are required to participate, notably expanded soil testing capabilities. As part of the program, farms are required to measure levels of Soil Organic Carbon, Soil Organic Matter and Aggregate Stability. Nature’s Path is testing for all of those metrics, along with Active Carbon, Total Soil Carbon and the Microbial Respiration of CO2. While organic farming shuns the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, it doesn’t preclude the use of new technologies or tools. Indeed, Nature’s Path is using a number of new information technologies as part of the program that could offer ideas for others. Among the tools that are playing a role: Tractors that are autosteered using global positioning satellite (GPS) data Satellite maps to monitor growth through the growing season Farming implements such as tine weeders and rotary hoes that help with weeding in preemergent phases while keeping the life within the soil; this allows the farm to reduce its tillage frequency and intensity A new recordkeeping system that can track specific crops back to the field; this is part of the traceability requirements for the certification The company doesn’t currently use precision agriculture technologies, but it eventually could play a role in mapping its soil carbon results, according to the company. According to the World Economic Forum, the average soil carbon level of most farmland is just 1 percent — far below the 3 percent to 7 percent levels they nurtured before being cultivated. It estimates that raising those levels to the low end of that range could sequester 1 trillion tons of CO2. Nature’s Path hasn’t disclosed its current soil levels, but is using this first season to establish a baseline. “We can’t say at this point what we have achieved,” Falck said.  Currently, soil has to be sent to a lab for test — a “fairly costly” process, Falck said, that can take from five to 10 days. The hope is to make more accurate in-person testing available as quickly as possible. Nature’s Path, based in Richmond, British Columbia, was founded in 1985 and became the first organic cereal production in North America five years later. The company is on track to achieve climate neutral status by September.  Pull Quote My hope is our farm will become highly successful and will spawn others that want to get in on it. Topics Food & Agriculture Regenerative Agriculture Organics GreenBiz Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off One requirement of the Regenerative Organics Certified label is a series of tests to gauge soil carbon content. Courtesy of Nature’s Path Close Authorship

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Why Nature’s Path went ‘regenerative organic’

A clean-energy school in southern France draws power from the sun

March 10, 2020 by  
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The French city of Nîmes recently welcomed the Ada Lovelace Secondary School, Occitania’s first-ever clean-energy school that’s earned both BEPOS energy level certification and a sustainability rating of Silver-level BDM (Bâtiments Durables Méditerranéens). Opened in the fall of last year, the eco-friendly school is the work of French design firm A+ Architecture . In addition to its energy-saving and -producing features, the Ada Lovelace Secondary School features a bold and contemporary design to help boost the neighborhood’s ongoing urban revitalization efforts. Crowned winners of a 2015 design competition for the project, A+ Architecture was tasked to reconstruct the 400-student secondary school to a new site that would also include space for housing for half of the student population, sports facilities, a race track and three staff houses. The 5,898-square-meter school also needed to be held up as a positive sign of urban renewal in the Mas de Mingue district. Related: New BU academic tower will be 100% free from fossil fuels “Beyond the environmental basics, we have produced a contemporary, bold, powerful and dynamic architectural structure,” the architects explained. “We wanted people to be drawn to this place of education in this difficult neighborhood. Shapes collide, as stainless-steel panels make it seem as though the facades are empty, which are broken up by rows of windows.” Topped with 800 square meters of solar panels, the Ada Lovelace Secondary School is clad in locally sourced stones that vary in size for visual interest and to help give the volume a more human scale. For stable indoor temperatures, the architects insulated the walls with wood and hemp and installed wood boilers for supplemental heating. Students have also been invited to learn about the school’s energy-saving systems through a digital building model accessible through a game and website managed by Citae. + A+ Architecture Photography by Benoit Wehrle via A+ Architecture

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A clean-energy school in southern France draws power from the sun

8 attainable sustainability resolutions for 2020

January 1, 2020 by  
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Setting goals is a ubiquitous part of ushering in each new year. With a renewed vigor for healthy living, embrace the opportunity to incorporate more eco-friendly habits into your routine. This task can be achieved in a variety of ways, from changing your diet to reducing waste . Wherever you are on your sustainable living journey, we’ve got some ideas for how to lower your carbon footprint and enhance your sense of commitment to the planet. Commit to less driving Reducing miles equals reducing carbon emissions . To minimize personal auto usage, use public transportation for your daily commute. If subways and buses don’t take you where you need to go, set up a carpool to eliminate multiple cars going to the same location. Over the course of a year, replacing your 10-mile drive to work or school at least one day each week will greatly reduce emissions. If possible, skip the car altogether by walking or using a bike. Alternately, look into electric cars if you’re in the market for a new vehicle. Even if you must rely on your car daily, you can still reduce miles by combining errands when you head to town, organizing a carpool for kid drop-offs and pickups, sending the kids to school on the bus, eating your lunch in the office instead of driving to a restaurant and walking or biking to places in your neighborhood instead of jumping in the car. Related: People for Bikes is making cycling safer with Ride Spot Start a garden There’s nothing better than having fresh, organic vegetables at your disposal and no better way to achieve that goal than by starting a garden. If you have the space, plan for the seasons with cool weather leafy veggies and carrots in the spring, a salsa garden in the summer and squash in the fall. In a small space, prepare a container garden on your patio with cherry tomatoes, herbs and peas. If you don’t have space for your own garden, bring together like-minded people and start a community garden. As the saying goes, “Many hands make light work,” so having help with planting, maintaining and harvesting plants benefits everyone. If outdoor space isn’t an option, consider setting up a hydroponics system to grow indoors instead. Join an environmentally focused group Finding ways to help the environment can feel somewhat overwhelming, but when you join a group of like-minded people sharing in a common goal, you can achieve great things. Whether your passion is cleaning up the oceans or planting trees , find a local group that supports your cause. If there isn’t one in your area, set a goal to start one. Budget for the environment We are surrounded by prompts to constantly buy more stuff. Every billboard, bus and storefront is filled with enticing marketing meant to convince you that you need whatever they offer. But each product contributes to emissions from sourcing materials, manufacturing, transporting, maintaining warehouse and retail space and disposing of post-consumer waste. Of course, it’s important to make conscientious decisions about avoiding plastic and plastic foam, buying in bulk when possible and investing in durable products that will last many years rather than disposables, but avoiding the purchase in the first place is the best thing you can do for the planet. Boil purchases down to the essentials. Give experiences rather than physical gifts. Only buy in quantities you’re likely to use. Focus on multipurpose items that can suit alternate needs. Really evaluate whether you will use an item long-term. Set a goal to reduce unnecessary purchases, and do your budget a favor at the same time. Hint: Sharing or renting equipment, tools and supplies is another easy way to save money and reduce environmental impact. Take a class There are endless ways to lower your carbon footprint , so target a topic of interest and learn more about it. Some examples include beekeeping, preserving food, woodworking, sewing, gardening or learning how to build solar and wind technology. Become more self-sufficient by obtaining skills in homesteading, identifying edible plants or using plants in alternative ways. Reduce waste Becoming conscious of your waste is a huge step toward reducing it. Take a look at your typical waste. Do you fill a 64-gallon street container each week? If so, see if you can reduce that to a 32-gallon instead. If you don’t already, start recycling . Capabilities of local recycling centers vary widely across the nation, so educate yourself on the regional process. Most facilities accept glass, tin cans, large plastic containers and paper — at a minimum. Also, always return your bottles and aluminum cans for recycling or redemption. Related: Recycling Identifying Device takes the guesswork out of figuring out what is recyclable To repeat an earlier sentiment, the best way to reduce garbage is to keep it from entering the house in the first place. Look at the packaging when you make a purchase, and support companies that ship in recyclable or biodegradable containers. Set a tangible goal for yourself to reduce your waste production by half. Maybe next year, you can halve it again. Write a letter Believe it or not, companies want to know how you feel about their products. When you notice something you like, such as a commitment to carbon offsetting or sustainable material sourcing, let them know with your buying power and your word. Conversely, let businesses know when they miss the mark. Write a letter to the CEO or owner, and let them know you would be a loyal customer if they worked toward corporate responsibility. Near and far, make companies aware of changes they can make to be more sustainable. Offer suggestions to local restaurants to replace plastic straws or single-use plastic tablecloths. Ask if to-go containers are cardboard, and refuse them if an establishment only provides plastic foam. At a city, state or federal level, get your representative involved. Drop them a note each month of the year to let them know what is important to you. Educate them about issues they may not be aware of. Ask for representation around topics like reducing petroleum reliance, protecting nature and supporting organic farming. Make your voice heard by speaking out for what you believe. Clean your plate Feeding the planet’s population puts a burden on our limited resources, but there are many things you can do to lessen your individual impact. Start by buying as local as possible. Source food from the farmer’s market seasonally, and purchase directly from farms in your town. Buying organic produce supports farmers who make the extra effort to keep pesticides and other chemicals out of our waterways. You don’t want to eat chemical-laden food, anyway. Cut back on animal products, because animal farming is a major producer of methane. Skip meat a few days a week or altogether. Cut out dairy products where you can, too. Don’t buy more food than you need , and use up leftovers rather than throwing them out. Do most of your cooking at home. A commitment to home-cooked meals is better for your health, your budget and the planet. Setting resolutions for the new year is a healthy way to guide yourself toward your sustainability goals, which is a win for you and for Earth. Happy New Year! Images via Shutterstock

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