These 5 animals are being consumed into extinction

March 12, 2019 by  
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Humans have a long history of wiping out animal populations, and we continue to do so even to this day. According to a new study published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, people around the world are eating hundreds of animal species into extinction. If we don’t make some changes, the authors of the study warn that the food security of hundreds of millions of people could be threatened. Currently, we are in the middle of mass extinction that rivals the wiping out of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. But this time, it isn’t a giant meteorite doing all the damage — it’s humans. Over the past century, we have accelerated extinction rates 100 hundred times greater than what would naturally occur without human impact. As we continue to destroy habitats with construction and invade wild areas for hunting, 301 species of land mammals are now critically endangered and have made their way to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. The list includes 168 primates, 73 hoofed animals, 27 bats, 26 marsupials, 21 rodent species and 12 carnivores. There are also 1,414 species of fish on the Red List. “There are plenty of bad things affecting wildlife around the world, and habitat loss and degradation are clearly at the forefront, but among the other things is the seemingly colossal impact of bushmeat hunting,” said David MacDonald, professor at the University of Oxford and part of the international research team. Bushmeat is a traditional food source for rural people in societies across the globe. That is starting to change because of large-scale commercial hunting and road construction in remote areas. MacDonald said that the number of hunters continues to increase, and the roads are being built in the most remote places, so there is no place left for wildlife to go. Not only does this mass extinction threaten food security, but it also upsets ecosystems. To reverse this problem, the researchers in this new study have a few ideas. They recommend greater legal protection for the endangered species, empowering local communities to prioritize wildlife conservation , providing alternative foods and family planning to reduce the rate of population growth. The list of endangered animals is long, but here are a few highlights. Bluefin tuna One of the fastest fish on Earth, bluefin tuna can hit speeds around 40 miles per hour when they are hunting, can grow up to 15 feet long and weigh as much as 1500 pounds. However, with the growing demand for sushi, overfishing is becoming a huge problem, and the bluefin tuna numbers are dropping. Related: Endangered bluefin tuna sold for $3.1 billion to sushi tycoon Whale shark The largest fish in the sea, the whale shark has been on the critically endangered list for three years, because the population has dropped more than 50 percent in the last 75 years thanks to both legal and illegal fishing. According to National Geographic, fishing for whale sharks is extremely lucrative, because they can be “harvested for their meat, fins and other parts used in traditional medicinal products.” Of course, they are also in great demand for shark fin soup. Pangolin These nocturnal mammals have keratin scales, emit a harmful chemical like skunks and eat ants and termites. In Africa, they are a major source of food and medicine, but in China and Vietnam, they are a delicacy. This has led to the pangolin becoming the most trafficked animal in the world. Related: Zimbabwe hopes to bring attention to trafficking endangered species with the Pangolin Project There is an international trade ban on all pangolin species, but this has only resulted in rising prices as the population declines. Chinese giant salamander As the largest amphibian on Earth, the Chinese giant salamander has been around for more than 170 million years, and it can grow to be 6 feet long and weigh over 100 pounds. The species is currently on the critically endangered list, because it is a Chinese delicacy. It is also used in traditional Chinese medicine. In just three generations, the population has plummeted by 80 percent. Sturgeon With fossil records dating back 200 million years, we know that sturgeon have survived two — maybe three — mass extinctions . This time, the species might not be so lucky. The beluga sturgeon is being overfished, because the eggs are needed for caviar. They take 20 years to reach maturity, but we are killing them to harvest the eggs at massive rates. You can learn more about the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species on the organization’s website. Images via Danilo Cedrone / UN Food and Agriculture Organization , Aruro de Frias Marques , A.J.T. Johnsingh / WWF-India , Petr Hamerník , USFWS and National Marine  Sanctuary

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These 5 animals are being consumed into extinction

This sleek lamp provides light and grows food

March 12, 2019 by  
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As the population of the planet continues to grow, the ability to produce enough food is a continual discussion. Not only are we busy finding ways to make enough of the right kinds of foods to sustain the masses, but we’re simultaneously investing in opportunities for the backyard (or living room) gardener to grow their own foods. With an urban lifestyle in mind, start-up Benditas Studio has created a lamp that doubles as a vegetable garden. Brot, a dual functioning lamp and garden, made its inaugural appearance at the Stockholm Furniture Fair in February in the “Greenhouse” category as a debut piece from duo Caterina Vianna and Ferran Gest, self-proclaimed food and design lovers. Related: This hexagonal indoor farm grows more food in less space with 90% less water “We love food, and we love design, and this is how Benditas Studio came up,” shared Vianna. “When we say we design furniture for food, we mean that we create objects/services, not only for persons but for the food itself. We wanted to play with the meaning of furniture because we saw projects of ‘furniture for public spaces,’ ‘furniture for the living area’ or ‘furniture for the contract sector’ … but we never heard about a furniture for food. We design products and services that dialogue with food; merge them in a way to spread a new message.” The terracotta material of the lamp brings a natural feel to the space and a supportive element for the growth of the seeds inside. The bottom of two pieces contains a stainless steel tray to hold the plant. Different seeds are available, but the process is the same for them all. Simply soak the seeds for the specified amount of time, and then place them into the tray and moisten them two to three times per day. Produce like sprouts are ready to eat in as little as four to six days. The heat and light from the lamp in the upper piece furnishes warmth for the seeds while providing ambient light for the surrounding space. The Brot is not yet for sale, but the company hopes to find a production facility soon. + Benditas Studio Via Core77 Images via Benditas Studio

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This sleek lamp provides light and grows food

Add this all-in-one natural skincare to your bathroom counter

March 7, 2019 by  
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Imagine having silky smooth, intensely hydrated skin, even in the dead of winter . This dream can be a reality with Lalicious, a brand we discovered earlier this year at the Indie Beauty Expo . We instantly fell in love with the company’s whipped sugar scrubs, body butters and our personal favorite, a magical product known as the “velour body melt.” With a passion for luxurious, cruelty-free skincare at an accessible price point, Lalicious has made a permanent home in our daily skincare routines. Many scrubs and moisturizers on the market come with a host of problems: parabens and other unsavory ingredients, animal testing or animal-derived ingredients, excessive oils or prices that are just out of the question for a majority of people. After coming across these problems, Jessica Kernochan set out to create her own natural beauty products. Related: These are our favorite beauty retailers from the Indie Beauty Expo Since then, Lalicious has continued to create dreamy skincare products made from some of our favorite natural ingredients: macadamia nut oil, cucumber, sweet almond oil, honey, shea butter, lavender and so much more. The company is also committed to skipping the typical parabens, sulfates and animal testing found in conventional cosmetics and skincare products. These products are the real deal. We tested the company’s top product — a brown sugar scrub — at IBELA, and we were blown away at how soft it left our skin. After the event, we decided to test the velour body melt at home — it is just as soothing as it sounds. This oil-based moisturizer “melts” right into your skin (we applied it after hopping out of the shower) and leaves it softer than velour for about two days after just one application. The smell lasts, too. We first tested the sugar coconut , which we liked for its beachy scent. Since our tests, our team has collectively bought several sets of the velour body melts (we really are obsessed with this product!) — we highly recommend the lavender, which smells quite similar to fresh laundry. Not to mention this mystical moisturizer can be used for a multitude of purposes, from removing eye makeup to soothing frizzy locks to healing tough cuticles. It’s an all-in-one miracle worker that is likely to work better than all the bottles taking up precious space on your bathroom counter. While the packaging is unfortunately plastic, one jar lasts a long time and can replace several other skincare products. We strongly believe a company should be green to its core, and Lalicious delivers. The company is headquartered in Los Angeles in a former wind tunnel building, which is now a shining example of adaptive reuse done right. Just like the products, the Lalicious HQ is built from natural materials. It also depends primarily on natural light. If you’re looking to add a fortifying natural moisturizer to your skincare routine, take the time to check out the velour body melts as well as the entire Lalicious bath and body products. + Lalicious Images via Inhabitat Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by Lalicious. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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Add this all-in-one natural skincare to your bathroom counter

The Refill Shoppe enforces zero-waste packaging, provides bulk refill solutions for myriad household and beauty products

March 5, 2019 by  
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With the nearly constant conversation about zero waste and minimization in general, single use packaging is a hot topic. For many consumables, customers don’t seem to have many options in avoiding packaging waste. Think about the liquid products in your home and you’ll know what we’re talking about here. Shampoo bottles, hand soap containers, dish soap, cleaners, bubble bath and massage oils are just a few commonly-used items that come to mind. One company has taken a stand against single-use packaging and now provides a refill service so you can use your favorite containers again and again…and again, without the waste of individual bottles. The Refill Shoppe opened their flagship store in Ventura, California in 2010 with the idea that customers should have a place to refill regularly-used products. Think of it as a bulk section for household liquids. The founder, Michelle Stevens admits that she wasn’t sure people would buy into the business model. After all, it was a relatively new idea in this era of convenient consumables. But it didn’t take long for people to find out about the business and begin frequenting the location. Related: Oregon initiates first modern statewide refillable glass bottle system in the US The idea took off and now the company offers an online, mail-order options so you can order refills from the comfort of your home, even if you don’t live near the store. The process is as simple as any other form of online shopping. After scouring the website, customers choose the products they want and select their favorite scents. Up to six scents can be combined for variety. If you don’t already have an adorable bottle that you’re looking to refill , you can choose one from the site. Otherwise, you order will be refill pouches filled with your favorite product. Whether you bring your own container into the store or request a mail order, all ingredients are charged by the ounce. In-store, you can even bring a partially-full bottle . You simply weigh it with the contents before adding more and then weigh it again to calculate the amount of product you’re buying. For mail order, all per-ounce prices are listed on the site. Shipping fees are a flat rate $7 or free for orders over $100 throughout the continental U.S. They also ship to Hawaii, Alaska, Canada and Mexico for an additional charge. The website offers hundreds of products you likely use daily. Bathing and beauty products include face wash, shampoo, scrubs, salts and lotions, but they also offer sponges, brushes and mitts to apply the products. For the home you can find dishwashing liquids, laundry products and even yoga mat sanitizer, alongside reusable containers and other zero-waste products. They also stock cleaning products and eco-friendly supplies like wool dryer balls and burlap gift wrap. They even have men’s care, perfume and baby products. The Refill Shoppe realizes that no business model is perfect for the environment but they focus on doing everything they can to operate with a low-carbon footprint . All refill pouches are reusable , so after you’ve emptied the contents into your favorite container at home, simply drop it back into the pre-paid envelope and send it back, where it is sterilized and refilled for the next customer. All packing materials are reused and they try to use paper products exclusively. For packaging glass bottles, however,  they do employ pre-used bubble wrap. Because transportation emissions are a major eco-no-no in general, the company relies on USPS in an effort to deliver using regular, already-traveled routes. This avoids sending trucks out on special routes that increase emissions . Another way the company reduces transportation issues is with domestic production. With the exception of Himalayan bath salts, all items are produced in the United States. Related: Some of the largest manufacturers are going green with the milkman model   In addition to reducing waste, the company aims to provide products that are eco-friendly , cruelty-free, mostly vegan (with the exception of honey and beeswax in a few products), mostly gluten free, although items are manufactured in a facility that handles gluten, 99.7 percent GMO free, and proudly void of a host of toxins commonly used in other cleaners and beauty products. For their efforts, The Refill Shoppe has passed the qualifications to become a Certified B Corporation. This stamp of approval means they’ve passed rigorous standards of environmental and social responsibility up and down the supply and customer chain. In fact, the company has been recognized with awards and accolades by many notable agencies such as the Ventura County Reporter, Ventura County Board of Supervisors, California Air Resources Board, State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and the California Resource Recovery Association. In a country a long way from leading the planet in sustainable practices, companies like The Refill Shoppe not only offer an alternative for those aiming to live more sustainably, but also bring awareness to an industry currently guilty of significant plastic waste . + The Refill Shoppe Images via The Refill Shoppe

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The Refill Shoppe enforces zero-waste packaging, provides bulk refill solutions for myriad household and beauty products

Indonesia builds a resilient "living shoreline"

March 4, 2019 by  
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The Demak District on Indonesia’s most populous island of Java is four years into a five-year plan to restore its disappearing and degraded shoreline. In a collaborative and holistic approach to nature restoration and sustainable development, local and international partners successfully completed many integrated components to build back the shoreline. This “ Living Shoreline ” vision creates natural defenses against further erosion while increasing economic opportunities for coastal residents. Why is Indonesia vulnerable to climate change? Small islands around the world are experiencing erosion and sea level rise . In Demak, severe erosion is coupled with subsidence — the gradual sinking or caving-in of land. These risks have been attributed to three interrelated and man-made causes: Unsustainable development along the coast The island of Java and the district of Demak are important economic hubs for Indonesia, a country comprised of over 17,000 islands. As the city’s population grows, its urban footprint spreads into natural and coastal areas at unsustainable rates and with little time for developers to consider the ecological impact. Increased urbanization, in the pursuit of economic development, has led to a rise in emissions, pollution and degradation. Cutting down mangroves for shrimp farms Indonesia is the world’s second largest shrimp producer  and home to the largest mangrove forest in the world. In addition to logging and pollution, the Food and Agriculture Organization lists shrimp aquaculture as one of the major causes of mangrove loss in Indonesia. Despite the importance of this coastal habitat as a nursery and breeding ground for shrimp and other species, entrepreneurial farmers are rapidly cutting down mangroves to make way for more aquaculture ponds. Over-extraction of groundwater Rising urban populations and the construction of new development projects are using Java’s groundwater supply faster than it can be replenished naturally. Overdrawing of water has caused some areas of the coastal district to sink at alarming rates of up to 8 centimeters every year. Sinking causes serious risk for infrastructure such as roads, buildings and homes and puts lives in danger. See how the project vision compares to Wetland International’s prediction of flooding , erosion and evacuation along the same coast. Permeable dams build back the shoreline In response to these vulnerabilities, the Building with Nature Project installed resilience-building green infrastructure. First, the team of interdisciplinary partners and local groups constructed nearly 3 miles (4.7 km) of permeable dam structures with bamboo and brushwood. These partially submerged structures trap sediment from coastal erosion but allow water to pass freely. Over time, these structures collect and build back shorelines, which provides a stable coast for mangroves to regrow. The growth of new mangroves and their interconnected web of roots further fortifies the coast. Related: Indonesia unveils first zero-waste restaurant build with sustainably sourced materials In January 2019, the project partners officially handed over the maintenance of the permeable dams to local community groups. This hand-off is an effort to make the project sustainable and community-owned after the project funding runs out. Though project managers assisted community members with training and outreach to seek further funding from local and regional governments, it remains to be determined how the future maintenance of project infrastructure will be sustainably financed and managed. Shrimp farming sustainably The project also worked with shrimp farmers to introduce sustainable aquaculture  practices. According to the project website , over 422 hectares of ponds have benefited from environmentally friendly practices, and farmers surveyed reported that their income tripled as a result. Seventy hectares of damaged ponds have also been designated for potential mangrove restoration. Community and policy dialogues are underway to address persistent groundwater issues in an effort to integrate new development with the project’s living shoreline vision. The project is unique in its multi-year, multi-sector approach that integrates many environmental and economic approaches to sustainable development. While the longevity and sustainability of the project are still unknown, other cities and small islands are looking to the Building with Nature Project for examples of comprehensive coastal resilience strategies. The Building with Nature Project is a collaboration between an extensive collection of local and international partners, including EcoShape, Wetlands International, the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, the Ministry of Public Work and Human Settlement, Witteveen + Bos, Deltares, Wageningen University, UNESCO-IHE, Von Lieberman, the Diponegoro University and local community groups. The project is funded by the Dutch Sustainable Water Fund, The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), Waterloo Foundation, Otter Foundation, Topconsortia for Knowledge and Innovation and Mangroves for the Future. Images via Dion Hinchcliffe , Wave Haven Bali , Stephen Kennedy  and Shutterstock

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Indonesia builds a resilient "living shoreline"

7 ways to be a sustainable and eco-friendly pet owner

February 28, 2019 by  
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Whether we realize it or not, every choice we make for our furry friends has the potential to impact the environment. While the biggest challenge that eco-friendly pet owners face is the balance between the needs of our animals and the needs of the environment, keeping our pets healthy and happy should always come first. After all, they’re part of the family. If you’re trying to stick to sustainable living, you don’t have to stop with your own footprint — keep your pet’s environmental paw print in mind as well. Adopt, don’t shop Seven million dogs and cats are euthanized each year in the United States, because there is no room for them in shelters. Even more alarming, there are 70 million stray animals living in the U.S. without regular food or shelter. Choosing to adopt a pet already in need of a good home rather than one from a breeder is not only more economically friendly; it also means that there is one less animal out there trying to make it on the streets. When you’re adopting from a shelter, you’re saving a life. Invest in sustainable pet food If buying sustainable pet food doesn’t appeal to you, make your own! Though time-consuming and somewhat controversial , raw diets are a huge fad right now (and they cut down on processed ingredients). You can even make your own dog treats so you know exactly what is going into their bodies. Related: Can vegan pet food be good for the planet and your pet? Just remember: your pet’s health comes first. Raw diets and homemade treats may not be what’s best for them, so make sure to consult your veterinarian before making a big change in your pet’s diet. Your vet may even be able to suggest some healthy, natural alternatives when it comes to packaged food brands. If you do choose to buy prepared or canned food for your pet, buy in bulk and make sure the packaging is recyclable. Limit plastic toys, or choose toys made of recyclable materials Especially if you have a particularly rambunctious pet who likes to chew and destroy, plastic pet toys can end up in the garbage or landfills where they’ll never decompose. Opt instead for toys made from recyclable materials or natural fibers. There are plenty of companies passionate about eco-friendly pet toys, like West Paw , which uses durable, non-toxic, recyclable plastic, and Harry Barker , which uses earth-friendly fabric like hemp and certified recycled materials. Use non-toxic pet shampoo Feel better about your pet’s least-favorite activity by using organic and natural shampoo during their baths. Make sure it is non-toxic and free of dyes and parabens — it’s not only better for your pet’s skin and hair, but it also it ensures that no excess chemicals end up going down the drain and into the environment. Do your research or ask your vet first, because many companies advertise their products as “all-natural” when they’re really not . Clean up waste properly You may think that leaving Fido’s waste behind after he goes to the bathroom is completely natural, but studies show it may be harmful to the environment if it leaks contaminants into the water supply. When it comes to cat litter, some brands use toxic ingredients or silica dust that can be harmful to humans and animals. Luckily, there are greener options out there. Purina has a kitty litter made from old newspapers, and Cedarific uses soft cedar wood chips that are eco-friendly and smell great. For animals that do their business outside, choose a bag made from plant-based materials that will actually decompose , and throw it away. Take more walks You probably already know that nothing makes your dog happier than a good walk. It’s also a great excuse to skip the carbon emissions from the car and walk your pup to the store instead. Even cats and other indoor pets could use some outside time once in a while, so get out there are enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Spay and neuter This one might seem obvious, but getting your animals spayed or neutered is one of the best gifts you can give to the environment. You never know what kind of mischief your pet might get into, and making sure that there aren’t any resulting baby animals ending up in a shelter or using up environmental resources is important. It will help control the pet homelessness epidemic and gives your animal a better chance of not catching diseases like testicular cancer, prostate issues, uterus infections and malignant breast tumors. ASPCA has an online service that finds low-cost or free spay-neuter programs in your area, so you can still be a responsible pet owner even on a budget. Images via Jowanna Daley , Luisella Planeta Leoni ,  Aqua Mechanical , Julita  and Shutterstock

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7 ways to be a sustainable and eco-friendly pet owner

NYCs plant-filled Greenery Unlimited is worlds first Biophilic Design Store

February 28, 2019 by  
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An enormous green wall and a 12-foot ficus tree await visitors at Greenery Unlimited , a newly opened retail store that’s been billed by Greenery NYC owners Rebecca Bullene and Adam Besheer as the “world’s first Biophilic Design Store.” Located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn , Greenery Unlimited is the first brick-and-mortar location for the botanic design and installation company, which has a thriving online presence and an impressive client list ranging from the likes of TED Talks and Google to The New York Times and Netflix. The retail store will sell plants as well as more complex green installations aimed at improving human wellness indoors. Created as “an evolution of the traditional plant store,” Greenery Unlimited will sell plants in addition to growing systems such as grow lighting, irrigation systems, specialty vessels and tools. With a decade’s worth of experience installing large-scale botanic installations around the city, Bullene and Besheer have learned the best practices for plant cultivation and long-term management and have seen first-hand the restorative effect that indoor plants have on improving human health and comfort, a practice that Bullene and Besheer call “ biophilic design.” “As long time residents of New York, we know that the only way to deal with the chaos of the city is to make your home into a sanctuary,” Adam Besheer explained in a press release. “Plants are an unmatched aid to calm and relaxation, but there’s an inherent stress in trying to keep them alive in the suboptimal conditions of a New York City apartment. We want to provide New Yorkers with the tools and knowledge not only to keep plants alive, but to fully integrate them as part of their home environment.” Related: A London office boasts biophilic design for a healthier, happier workplace Greenery Unlimited will serve as a showcase for green installations and biophilic design concepts, such as a 120-square-foot green wall behind the reception desk and a central seating area integrated with a self-contained irrigation and fertilization system supporting a 12-foot-tall ficus tree. The indoor environment will mimic an outdoor setting with a cloud forest-like atmosphere using a pressurized misting hub and circadian lighting displays. + Greenery Unlimited Images via Greenery Unlimited

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8 sustainable innovations in construction materials

February 26, 2019 by  
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The construction industry is responsible for a large percentage of carbon emissions . From sourcing to design to material manufacturing to building construction, the carbon dioxide output from projects around the world has a significant environmental impact. This has led to sustainable construction innovations that not only reduce the production of carbon dioxide, but also improve a building’s longevity, reduce  energy  bills and increase the use of natural light. Here is a list of some innovative construction materials and ideas that could revolutionize the industry and help us build a more sustainable future. Transparent wood Swedish researchers have turned wood into a material that is 85 percent transparent by compressing strips of wood veneer and replacing lignin with polymer. This product is light but just as strong as natural wood. It can be an eco-friendly alternative to glass and plastic. When used to build homes, transparent wood will reduce the need for artificial lighting, plus it is biodegradable. Related: Potato peels offer a sustainable alternative to traditional building materials Bamboo-reinforced concrete As a natural replacement of steel for reinforcing concrete, bamboo is gentler on the planet without compromising on durability. Bamboo-reinforced concrete also allows for better earthquake resistance. Because bamboo grows so quickly, it can easily be regenerated while simultaneously absorbing CO2. Cigarette butt bricks Smoking cigarettes is still a big part of cultures around the world, despite the negative effects on personal health . The butts also make up a significant percentage of waste. But researchers at RMIT University in Australia have discovered that adding cigarette butts to bricks reduces the amount of time and energy needed to bake them compared to traditional methods, plus the cigarette butt bricks are better insulators. Using cigarette butts in the brick-making process reduces waste and lessens the number of heavy metals that make their way into water and soil. Hydrogel The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Barcelona is leading the way in reducing the use of air conditioning by using hydrogel to create walls that can cool themselves. The architects are placing hydrogel bubbles in between ceramic panels that can be installed into existing walls. Inspired by the human body’s ability to cool itself, the hydrogel can absorb water when the air around it gets hot and starts to evaporate. This can reduce the temperature by 5 degrees Celsius, so you don’t have to keep the A/C cranking non-stop during the summer. Super-hydrophobic cement Recently, scientists have found a way to alter cement’s microstructure in a way that makes it absorb and reflect light. This finding has led to the creation of super-hydrophobic cement, or luminescent cement, which could replace traditional street lights and the energy they consume. Related: Green foods could clean up the construction industry Plus, this form of cement is more durable than conventional cement and could last up to 100 years compared to just 30 to 50 years. Synthetic spider silk With spider silk being one of the toughest natural materials on Earth, scientists all over the world have been trying to duplicate it. 3D printing has changed the game in the world of synthetic spider silk, and it could create a product made from water , silica and cellulose that is “stronger than steel and tougher than Kevlar” according to Smithsonian Magazine . This could change multiple industries like textiles, construction, automobiles and medical devices. Breathe Bricks A few years ago, architect Carmen Trudell started researching the air quality problems in Cairo, and that resulted in the creation of the Breathe Brick. Inspired by the treatment her brother received for kidney failure, Trudell started wondering if she could produce a building component that filters toxins. Trudell and her team “came up with the idea of putting a cyclone inside of the exterior wall” by developing the Breathe Brick . When using Breathe Bricks to build a wall, the faceted surface of the bricks pulls outside air into ports, then the cyclone filter spins the air and gets rid of particulate matter that causes pollution. LED and OLED lighting Lighting a commercial or residential building takes a lot of energy. So, over the past decade, LED (light emitting diode) and OLED (organic light emitting diode) have entered the marketplace to drastically reduce the amount of energy used to light up structures. Not only do LEDs use just 10 percent of the energy used by incandescent lighting and 50 percent of fluorescent lights, but they also last 40 times longer. The advantages of OLEDs are the slim size and the transparent material, allowing for natural lighting during the day before they light up at night. As technology continues to advance and materials change, the cost of LED and OLED should fall, making them both affordable and energy-efficient. Via Protection Supplies Images via Shutterstock,  Abigail Gina and Michael Laut

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Former concrete factory is reborn as a unique music-inspired high school in Denmark

February 26, 2019 by  
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Dutch architecture firm MVRDV and Denmark-based COBE Architects have just finished construction on the Roskilde Festival Folk High School, an unconventional school built inside a former concrete factory in Roskilde’s Musicon creative district just outside Copenhagen. Created to further the “lifelong learning” values of the world-famous Roskilde Music Festival that takes place every year in the small town, the high school follows an immersive and “non-formal adult education” championed by the Danish system of folk high schools and is the first purpose-built school of its kind in Denmark in 50 years. The Roskilde Festival Folk High School marks the final phase of the 11,000-square-meter ROCKmagneten masterplan, also designed by MVRDV and COBE, and includes the school — set inside a former concrete factory — two new modular blocks of student housing, a building for staff housing and a series of adaptable shipping container-based structures that will host an ever-changing group of innovative startups, many related to the music and youth culture. To complement Musicon’s creative character, the buildings are fitted with playful geometric shapes and vibrant colors along with different materials inspired by the music festival. “Our design, just like the school itself, was inspired by the spirit of the Roskilde Festival . It is all about music, art, activism — but most of all, freedom,” says Jacob van Rijs, principal and co-founder of MVRDV. “The Roskilde festival combines ‘having a good time’ with innovation in an informal way, giving a special vibe that we wanted to capture in the design of the interior of the school.” Related: COBE Architects to transform Copenhagen’s Paper Island into a bustling cultural hub For the school, the architects used a “box-within-a-box” concept to divide the factory’s large industrial space into smaller usable spaces. The colorful modules can be used for a variety of programming including a 150-seat auditorium  — named the Orange Stage after the main stage of the Festival — a music studio, a workshop, and classrooms for dance, art and architecture. The recently completed school and housing joins the rock museum Ragnarock, completed in 2016, that’s wrapped in a striking facade of gold-colored aluminum in an expression of youth culture. + MVRDV + COBE Architects Images by Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST and Ossip van Duivenbode

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Former concrete factory is reborn as a unique music-inspired high school in Denmark

5 key benefits of green buildings on the environment and your lifestyle

February 21, 2019 by  
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The importance of buildings in society and everyday human life can’t be underestimated. They are the center of just about everything we do — from work to play — and for most people living without them is unimaginable. However, traditional structures are damaging the environment and green buildings just might be one of the most powerful tools we can develop in the fight against climate change . According to National Geographic , by 2050 nearly 70 percent of the world’s population will be living in urban areas . Even though the cities of the world cover just two percent of Earth’s land area, they are responsible for 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions  — with nearly one-third of those emissions coming from buildings. Those numbers are the result of traditional construction, and the exciting thing is green buildings could drastically change things. Already, green buildings in the United States have reduced CO2 emissions by 34 percent. Related: 6 places to find the best recycled building materials What are green buildings? There is no specific standard for green buildings , but some of the features are energy efficiency, less water usage, better indoor air quality, improved acoustics and green roof systems. Those goals can be achieved via various methods including using alternative energy sources like solar panels, high-efficiency light fixtures and natural light, not to mention, incorporating sustainable and eco-friendly building materials into the design. But the benefits of green buildings are not just limited improving the environment, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to green buildings and their extensive benefits. Green buildings save money The initial construction costs for a green building might be a bit higher, but they are cheaper to operate and maintain, which ultimately makes them a good long term investment. According to the California Sustainable Building Task Force, a two percent investment in green design will save you more than ten times that investment in the long run.  So, if you have a $1 million building project and invested $20,000 in green design, it will lead to $200,000 in savings over 20 years. Using renewable energy sources significantly reduces the cost of power, heating and cooling, making maintenance costs 20 percent lower than traditional buildings. In general, the resale value of green buildings is higher because potential buyers know that their utility costs will be lower than normal. Federal tax incentives are also available for both residential and commercial green buildings, with many local and state governments following suit. Related: Potato peels offer a sustainable alternative to traditional building materials Extensive environmental benefits This is the most expected benefit of green buildings, but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked. The reduced energy consumption, water conservation, lower emissions and reduced waste from green buildings is invaluable to the fight against climate change. Physical and mental health At first, the green building concept was all about reducing environmental impact.  But now, studies have shown that working in a green building is good for both physical and mental health, and this has led to many building developers adding space for health and wellness activities. Many green buildings create an environment for better physical activity by using vacant areas for green spaces, yoga studios and gyms, making bike racks more accessible, or adding things like massage chairs and sleep chambers to reduce stress, boost job satisfaction and cut down on absenteeism. Another growing trend in green buildings is better use of staircases. For decades, architects have hidden staircases so well that you can’t even find them in some buildings. But now, staircases are coming back and this means workers are taking more steps every day. Employee perception of green buildings is that they are cleaner and better maintained, and the use of non-toxic chemicals and better ventilation has led to a reduction in sick building syndrome . According to the EPA, poor air quality and indoor pollutants in non-green buildings have caused some lung cancer deaths and many cases of asthma. Increased productivity A UCLA study showed that employees who work in green buildings were 16 percent more productive than those who work in traditional buildings. Study author Professor Magali Delmas says employees in green buildings and those who adopt green practices are “more motivated, received more training, and benefit from better interpersonal relationships.” A Harvard study also showed that employees in green buildings were better at making decisions and reaching goals. Also, including green elements in a building led to a higher level of perceived well being and better task completion. Happy employees Engineering consulting firm Cundall found during a survey that green elements like eco-friendly flooring, green views, improved acoustics and better air quality led to the attraction of more workers, improved employee retention and also made employees prouder of their workplace. In the previously mentioned Harvard study, it also found that better lighting design in a building — natural light, LED, task lighting, dimmers — has helped circadian rhythms, which means you sleep better at night. Ditching fluorescent lighting and opting for energy-efficient lighting in green buildings also made occupants happier and more productive. Via BigRentz Images via Shutterstock

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5 key benefits of green buildings on the environment and your lifestyle

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