Eco-resort in Finland charges guests based on their carbon emissions

October 21, 2019 by  
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A Finnish hotel is changing the tourism industry by showing that sustainability can really pay off. When guests consume less energy, attend ecological activities and make sustainable dietary choices during their visit, the price tag of their stay can be discounted by up to 50 percent. Benefiting the environment means guests can save more at Arctic Blue Resort. Set to open in 2022, Arctic Blue Resort will raise customers’ awareness of their environmental impact by encouraging guests to follow more sustainable lifestyles . It helps that the hotel will be located in the rural town of Kontiolahti, famous for its natural landscape and rich ecosystem of forests and estuaries. Related: Disney’s American parks will now offer hundreds of vegan menu items Some of the green gestures guests can take to reduce their bills include mindfully observing electricity usage, food choices and water consumption. Even planting a tree in the resort’s nearby forest garners another 5 percent off the hotel tab. Designed to be self-sustaining, Arctic Blue Resort will be constructed from natural materials, installed with its own water treatment system and powered by renewable energy sources. Guests can expect accommodations close to nature, with a choice of either enjoying a 360-degree view of the forest or sleeping beneath a star-filled night sky or the Northern Lights. Transportation throughout the resort’s region will be via electric vehicles to assist with the curbing of emissions . “We want to offer people a world-class eco-vacation and encourage them to make sustainable choices by having emission-based pricing for their stay,” explained Mikko Spoof, the vice president and founder of Arctic Brands Group. “We want the resort to be a place of true tranquility and thus encourage our guests to be more present in the moment and embrace digital detox.” Arctic Blue Resort will partner with local farmers to supply its food . The hotel menu will understandably reflect the wonders of the Finnish countryside’s seasons. The hotel will also plan plenty of nature-inspired excursions. Visitors can expect to grow their appreciation of nature with activities such as ice-swimming and snowshoeing in winter, or berry-picking and rowing in high summer. Tourism that centers around eco-friendly awareness and green living responsibility is likewise the goal of Kontiolahti Mayor Jere Penttilä, who said in a statement, “With Arctic Blue Resort, we want to lead an example by putting emphasis on environmental responsibility and by creating solutions to minimize the negative impact of tourism.” + Arctic Blue Resort Image via Arctic Blue Resort

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Eco-resort in Finland charges guests based on their carbon emissions

Supermarket happy hour reduces food waste

September 10, 2019 by  
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A Finnish supermarket chain is fighting food waste by offering steep discounts during a “happy hour.” Every night at 9, food with a midnight expiration date is discounted 60 percent off already reduced prices. Shoppers are flocking to S-market’s 900 stores to avail themselves of bargains on meat and other food that has reached its sell-by date. S-market’s initiative is part of a much larger movement to decrease food waste. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations , nearly one-third of food made for humans winds up lost or wasted. This unused food weighs in at 1.3 billion tons annually, with a value of almost $680 billion. Related: New York is curbing food waste and helping people in need with a new initiative Not only is this a terrible waste, given that 10 percent of the world’s population is undernourished, but all that food rotting in landfills worsens climate change. As food decomposes, it releases methane . This gas is about 25 times as dangerous to the environment as carbon dioxide. Wasted food also requires a ridiculous amount of unnecessary transportation. Food is transported from where it is grown to stores all over the world. Then, after its expiration date, unsold food gets a final ride to the landfill . That’s a huge waste of water and fossil fuels. But S-market wants to help reduce food waste while also minimizing its own losses from thrown-out, expired foods. The chain will sell hundreds of items that are already reduced in price by 30 percent for an additional 60 percent off after 9 p.m. until closing time at 10 p.m., and many customers are enjoying the happy hour. “I’ve gotten quite hooked on this,” shopper Kasimir Karkkainen told the New York Times . Karkkainen scored pork mini-ribs and two pounds of pork tenderloin for US$4.63. While this is happening in Finland, U.S. grocers could benefit from adopting a similar initiative as Americans can be especially wasteful. “Food waste might be a uniquely American challenge because many people in this country equate quantity with a bargain,” said Meredith Niles, an assistant professor in food systems and policy at the University of Vermont. “Look at the number of restaurants  that advertise their supersized portions.” Via New York Times Image via Nina Friends / S-Market

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Student designs an ecotourism hot-spot for the Iranian desert

September 10, 2019 by  
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A student finalist in this year’s Radical Innovation competition has found a possible solution for conserving Iran’s deserts while also promoting ecotourism in the region. Sharareh Faryadi’s Nebka Protective System could be applied to both residential and tourist accommodations in deserts. Radical Innovation “mobilizes disruptors from around the world with the ideas to propel the industry forward,” according to its website. A jury of design and hospitality experts judged the competition on design, creativity and potential for impacting the industry. Nearly 50 people entered from more than 20 countries. The judges chose three professional finalists, one student winner and two student honorable mentions, with the Nebka Protective System earning a student honorable mention. Related: Experimental design-build festival takes over Californian desert The Iranian desert faces problems like air pollution , inaccessibility and, well, a huge mass of sand. But it’s also a hauntingly beautiful place of great interest to desert researchers and with potential for increased tourism. Almost a quarter of Iran’s land is desert. The Lut Desert is the most famous and is a UNESCO-registered natural phenomenon. While the shifting sands make for a magical landscape, desert wildlife benefits from some stability — that’s where nebkas come in. A nebka is a little, wind-blown accumulation of sand anchored by a bush or a tree. Nebkas help desert animals survive and help control evaporation and shifting sand sediments. Having more nebkas in deserts close to developed areas could protect cities from shifting sand. Faryadi’s Nebka Protective System is an elaborate but intriguing way to increase the number of nebkas over a 12-year cycle. Imagine a circular area in the desert that’s free of nebkas; Faryadi proposed placing a round observatory building in the center of the circle, with a long, arm-shaped hotel reaching out from that center like a clock hand. The circle is divided into 12 sections. During the first year, the long walls of the hotel would act as a dam against wind-blown sand. Each tourist and researcher staying inside would plant a seed. Some of these would sprout, spawning nebkas to stabilize the sand. After a year, the whole hotel would be lifted into the second section, and the nebka development would begin all over again. Twelve years later, the hotel would make a full circle, and the empty desert would turn into a jungle of young nebkas. The round, central area would include a glass elevator for watching the desert, and people would be able to walk around it for 360-degree views. Faryadi also planned for lots of common space, restaurants , cafes, a museum and desert research institute and areas for sand therapy, said to ease muscle and joint pain. The design incorporated traditional Iranian architecture, such as a large, open space to serve as the central yard in the family suites. Solar and wind would provide power, including that required for moving the structure every year. + Radical Innovation Images via Radical Innovation

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Near net-zero energy Helsinki Central Library boasts an award-winning, prefab design

July 25, 2019 by  
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Helsinki has entered a “new era of libraries” with the completion of Oodi, the Helsinki Central Library that not only serves as a new central point for the city’s public library network but also an award-winning public space with a movie theater, multipurpose hall and more in the heart of the Finnish capital. Designed by local architectural practice ALA Architects, Oodi is the largest public library in the Helsinki metropolitan area and marks the celebratory project of the 100th anniversary of the independence of Finland when it opened in December 2018. In addition to an eye-catching, undulating design, the library follows passive energy principles for extreme energy-efficient performance that reaches near Zero Energy Building (nZEB) status. Spanning an area of 17,250 square meters, Oodi consists of library facilities, meeting rooms, group working spaces, a maker space, a living lab, recording studios, a photography studio, editing rooms, offices, a cafe, restaurant, movie theater, auditorium, multi-purpose hall, exhibition facilities and information booths. Related: Urban waste is upcycling into an adorable, beetle-shaped micro library on wheels The library is divided into three distinct levels: an “active” ground floor, a “peaceful” upper floor that houses the “Book Heaven” and an enclosed in-between “Attic” volume with more specific functions housed inside flexible, irregularly shaped rooms, nooks and corners. To accommodate a large volume of people — the library is expected to attract 10,000 visitors per day and 2.5 million visitors per year — the ground floor has been engineered as a column-free public space. To ground the contemporary building into its surroundings, the architects constructed Oodi with locally sourced materials, including the 33-millimeter-thick Finnish high-quality spruce cladding used in the prefabricated wooden facade. Algorithm-aided parametric design models guided the design and manufacturing of the complex curved geometry. Passive solar design principles, highly efficient building systems and building information modeling has helped keep the library’s energy demands to a minimum. “The library will enliven and diversify the new urban environment created in the Töölönlahti area,” ALA Architects said. “It will offer activities and experiences for all ages. There will be plenty of spaces that enable people to gather and spend time together, free of charge. The role of the library’s clients will evolve from passive media users to active agents, participants and content producers. As a non-commercial open public space, the new Central Library will act as Helsinki residents’ common living room, work space and learning environment.” + ALA Architects Photography by Tuomas Uusheimo and Iwan Baan via ALA Architects

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Finnish startup makes alternative protein from carbon dioxide

July 12, 2019 by  
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An innovative startup company from Finland has piloted a new alternative protein product made out of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This meat alternative has the potential to address the environmental evils of both the agriculture industry and climate change. The startup is confident it will be able to get the product on grocery store shelves by 2021. The product, named Solein, will likely be sold first as a liquid protein source via shakes or yogurt. This is different than alternative meat competitors, now including conventional meat giants like Tyson , that primarily sell alternative proteins as nuggets or burgers. Related: Vegan and lab-grown meats predicted to take over meat market in 20 years According to Solar Foods, Solein is “100 times more climate friendly” than all other animal- and plant-based proteins. In fact, the company also claims it is 10 times more efficient than soy production in terms of carbon footprint . How does it work? The company says it mixes water molecules with nutrients like potassium and sodium and then feeds the solution plus carbon to microbes. The microbes consume the nutrients and produce an edible substance that looks like flour and is 50 percent protein . Lab-grown meats are an expanding industry, but Solar Foods captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to feed to microbes instead of using sugar like most other companies. “Producing Solein is entirely free from agriculture — it doesn’t require arable land or irrigation and isn’t limited by climate conditions,” a Solar Foods representative told Dezeen . “It can be produced anywhere around the world, even in areas where conventional protein production has never been possible.” The company has big ambitions and believes that if the alternative meat industry is indeed going to overtake the conventional meat industry as predicted, leading corporations like Impossible Meat and Beyond Meat are going to need to experiment with and use innovative sources of protein beyond pea-based products. + Solar Foods Via Futurism Image via Solar Foods

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The worlds tallest wood building was just completed in Norway

April 10, 2019 by  
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In March 2019, the Mjösa Tower became the tallest wooden building in the world at 18 floors (for a total of 85.4 meters tall), followed closely by the HoHo Wien building in Austria (84 meters) and the Peri-S?pân?a Monastery in Romania (75 meters). Because it was made in part with Kerto LVL wood that is both sustainable and green, the building is eco-friendly as well. While both the skeleton and the facade of the building are made of wood, the decks on the upper floors (apartments) utilize concrete to prevent swaying. The bottom 10 floors contain the majority of the Kerto LVL wood and are comprised of hotel facilities and offices. Because the wood is such high quality and lightweight, construction is faster and, in turn, uses less resources. Related: Peek inside the tallest cross-laminated timber building in the US Being a wood building, the Mjösa Tower was designed with fire safety in mind. In addition to a building-wide sprinkler system, each floor is built compartment-style with materials (such as Kerto LVL and glulam timber) with 90-minute fire resistance capability. According to Metsä Wood, when exposed to fire, the untreated, solid wood chars on the outside and provides its own fire-resistant surface. Kerto LVL wood is a laminated veneer lumber, made using thin rotary-peeled softwood glued together to form a continuous chunk of wood. It’s super strong, durable and doesn’t warp, making the wood ideal for adding substantial strength to floors and beams. Additionally, the Finnish company Metsä Wood produces the material using 100 percent bioenergy with little to no waste. The unusable segments of the wood left after the manufacturing process are either used for pulp production or for bioenergy to run the mill. Even better, there is a bio-heating plant next to the mill that’s used to power the wood production, and the remaining energy is used to help power the neighboring town of Lohja. The Metsä Wood company is certainly a large contributor to Finland’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2030. Mjösa Tower is a symbol of changing trends in the construction community. It proves that massive structures can be produced using sustainable materials without compromising quality. The building’s designers at Voll Arkitekter hope the the tower will inspire other architects to build using sustainable materials like wood. + Metsä Wood + Vol Arkitekter Images via Metsä Wood

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The worlds tallest wood building was just completed in Norway

London becomes the first city to have an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)

April 10, 2019 by  
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London is officially the first city to have an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). The zone, which is active all hours of the day and night, will improve air quality in the city by cutting down on pollution caused by vehicle emissions . Any vehicle traveling inside the ULEZ will have to meet strict emission codes or be subject to fines. Scientists believe that vehicle emissions, specifically nitrogen oxide, account for the majority of air pollution in London and are a serious threat to public health. These harmful chemicals have been known to increase risks of dementia and cancer. Related: Teens exposed to air pollution more likely to experience psychotic episodes, new study says “This is a landmark day for our city. Our toxic air is an invisible killer responsible for one of the biggest national health emergencies of our generation,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan shared. The ULEZ was activated on April 8 and any vehicles traveling inside the zone that do not meet emissions standards will face charges of around $16 per day. Larger vehicles, such as trucks and buses, will have to pay heftier fines upwards of $130. The zone currently covers an area roughly four miles in size and will be expanded to a much larger area by the fall of 2021. The ULEZ is part of a larger plan to discourage high-emission vehicles from travelling around London. The first stage of the plan initiated what was called a T-charge, which went into effect in the winter of 2017. In the two years since, London has witnessed a drop of around 11,000 vehicles every day from the targeted area. The plan has also increased the number of vehicles becoming compliant with emissions standards in the area. The city’s famous fleet of red double-decker buses, for example, is being upgraded to comply with the new ULEZ.  There are approximately two million residents who live inside the ULEZ, and officials hope the new plan will improve the quality of air so that it meets standards enacted by the European Union. London may be the first city to enact an Ultra Low Emission Zone, but other locations, like New York City, are looking into similar plans. Via CNN Image via  Shrinkin’ Violet

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Ioncell technology creates eco-textile clothing fibers from birch trees

April 9, 2019 by  
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With clothing production leading the world as one of the highest-polluting industries, a new fiber contradicts the earth-damaging qualities of traditional materials. Ioncell technology , developed at Aalto University and the University of Helsinki, uses a range of materials, including wood, recycled newspaper, cardboard and old cotton to make fabric. This is good news for an environment scarred by cotton production and the development of synthetic fibers. The new and improved material can also be recycled at the end of its life cycle, significantly reducing clothing waste . In a country already acutely aware of sustainable practices in forest management, the trees sourced from Finland offer a much lower carbon footprint than traditional clothing. Ioncell materials also protect the water supply by using ionic liquid in place of harsh chemicals. Related: The convenience of “highway fitting” your clothes is hurting the planet While the designers focus on sustainable sourcing and manufacturing, the clothing also avoids contributing to a massive post-consumer waste problem. That’s because the fibers are biodegradable. Additionally, the fibers do not contain any harmful microfibers now associated with massive ocean pollution and damage to sea life. Sourced from birch trees , the wood is responsibly harvested as part of a forest management program that grows more trees than they harvest. Once cut into smaller logs, the wood is sent through a machine that turns it into large chips. At this phase, the chips are sent to the cooker and then turned into sheets of pulp. The pulp is then mixed with the ionic liquid that results in a cellulose material. Fibers are then spun into yarn and turned into fabric. Designers and researchers involved in the project report that the resulting material is soft and drapes naturally, making it a good choice for formalwear, coats, scarves, gloves and other products. It also accepts dye well. The process for making Ioncell fibers is still in the research and development phase and they currently only produce it on a small scale, but they are hoping to unveil a preliminary product line as early as 2020. + Aalto University Via World Economic Forum Images via Aalto University

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Ioncell technology creates eco-textile clothing fibers from birch trees

Eco-friendly replacements for common bathroom products

April 9, 2019 by  
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Common bathroom products, like toilet paper, cotton swabs and baby wipes, are a convenience for people around the world, but they come at a cost to the environment. These products take centuries to biodegrade and contribute to our growing problem of carbon emissions. Luckily, there are great eco-friendly alternatives to these common  bathroom  products that will not break your budget. Here is a quick list of the most common bathroom products and suggestions on how to find sustainable alternatives. Toilet paper The issue with toilet paper is that the majority of it is manufactured from boreal forests in Canada. These forests are crucial in absorbing carbon and cleaning the air. According to Quartzy , people in the United States use far more toilet paper per year than anywhere else in the world. This is creating a dangerous situation for trees , as the demand is reaching an unsustainable pace. Related: The environmental problem with toilet paper and what to use instead The solution to the toilet paper problem is to use single-ply paper sourced from recycled wood pulp. The key here is to find brands that are using recycled pulp instead of just looking for single-ply products. Many companies that make single-ply options do not use recycled wood . There are also tree-free options, such as those made from bamboo. Consider installing a bidet in your home. You can purchase a bidet lid that is easy to install and affordable to boot. This might not eliminate the need for toilet paper, but it will significantly reduce its use and save you money. Feminine care products Like other products on this list, tampons and sanitary pads clutter our landfills and can do a number on plumbing. The biggest problem is that these products are essential for daily living, but fortunately there are eco-friendly alternatives if you look carefully. If you want to improve your impact on the environment, buy tampons that do not feature an applicator. In 2017, the Clean Ocean Action group cleaned up over 4,000 applicators from shores in New Jersey. Also, choose feminine care products made from unscented organic cotton. You can look for underwear companies that make more absorbent products, such as Thinx, Luna and Knix. The downside to this alternative is that they can get pricey. If you are interested, try a menstrual cup, which can safely last for up to 10 years. Dental products Most dental floss is made from synthetic fibers, which makes it hard for these products to biodegrade within a reasonable time. This means that the floss either ends up in landfills or gets flushed down the toilet, where it can create problems for marine  wildlife . Related: 8 ways to make your bathroom more eco-friendly Fortunately, there are companies out there who make plastic-free dental floss. According to Household Wonders , Dental Lace’s dental floss is mostly made of silk and is free of plastics. The company also offers refillable floss. Instead of plastic toothbrushes, find a bamboo option that will biodegrade. As far as toothpaste goes, try making your own or find a tooth powder or tooth tablets sold in glass jars for zero-waste alternatives. Cotton swabs Cotton swabs often end up in undesirable places after they are discarded. Some people flush them down the toilet, leaving them to end up in waterways and ultimately in the bellies of aquatic life. Because of these disposal problems, some countries have banned cotton swabs altogether, especially the ones that have plastic stems. The good news is that you do not really need to use cotton swabs. In fact, doctors do not recommend using them to clean ears, as they are easily the biggest source of ear-related trauma. Instead, simply wash out your ears with warm water and let the wax do the rest. If you cannot give up cotton swabs, consider purchasing ones that have paper or bamboo stems. These are better for the environment and break up more easily after they are thrown away. Baby wipes There are a lot of problems with baby wipes. Not only are they primarily made out of cotton — which is one of the worst crops for the environment — but they are also comprised of plastic polymers, which are added for extra strength. These wipes can lead to multiple plumbing issues and have been known to clog up water treatment facilities. Related: New study finds harmful chemicals, including glyphosate, in disposable diapers If you have to use baby wipes, avoid flushing them down the toilet, even if the packaging says they are safe to do so. Instead, try using burp cloths or washcloths for daily cleaning . Speaking of wipes, you should also avoid all types of disposable cleaning and makeup-removing wipes, just as a general rule of thumb. For best practices, consider investing in reusable wipes. You can even use an old wipes container to house them. Make your own wipes out of old T-shirts or towels; all you need is something that is absorbent and soft. Deodorant Deodorant may be great at keeping smells at bay, but this product comes at a cost to the planet and your health. Most deodorant on the market is actually antiperspirant and contains chemicals, toxins, BPA and aluminum. This combination of chemicals usually leads to harmful reactions after extended use, not to mention that sourcing the material is hazardous to the environment. The best eco-friendly alternative to conventional deodorant is purchasing products that are completely organic and free of those harmful toxins. Images via Shutterstock

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Eco-friendly replacements for common bathroom products

Finland plans to complete its coal ban one year early

March 12, 2019 by  
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Finland is following through with its coal ban initiative and making it a top priority over the next 10 years. The country promised to eliminate its reliance on coal by 2030, and Finnish Parliament just pushed through a motion to complete the ban a year earlier than the previous goal. One year may not seem like much, but moving the ban up means  Finland  will be completely coal-free in the next decade. The move also means that the country will have to increase its phasing out program by around 10 percent to meet the new goal. This might seem like a lot of pressure, but other companies have successfully switched to renewable energy faster than expected. Related: Renewable energy could overtake fossil fuels in Britain by next year According to TreeHugger , LEGO reached its goal of 100 percent renewable energy three years before its deadline, while Norway reduced its carbon dioxide emissions three years ahead of schedule. Sweden also changed to renewables about 12 years before the original goal, and both India and China have met their eco-friendly goals ahead of time. Coal currently comprises about 8 percent of Finland’s annual consumption. Even still, the country will have to move quickly if it wants to eliminate coal entirely. This includes pursuing long-term programs that will provide clean energy to residents while being cost-effective for businesses. Fortunately, Finland has already invested in these types of programs, and lawmakers are confident that the country will reach the newly proposed deadline. Finland’s coal ban initiative is a clear indication that the world is decreasing its reliance on non-renewable energy sources. Hopefully, other countries will follow Finland’s lead and move forward with their own coal-free programs in the near future. Many countries have voted in coal bans similar to Finland’s, but with climate change already having an impact around the world, the faster we implement coal bans, the better. Via TreeHugger and CleanTechnica Image via Ninara

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