Cameron Sinclair joins Airbnb to provide housing for 100,000 displaced people

April 25, 2017 by  
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Airbnb wants to provide temporary housing for 100,000 displaced people, and to help reach that goal, the home-sharing service has put together a team lead by designer and Architecture for Humanity co-founder  Cameron Sinclair . Sinclair heads architecture firm Small Works , which focuses on building for communities in need, making him the perfect fit for Airbnb’s temporary housing project. Sinclair has been working with Airbnb over the past year on various pilot projects, with the official project launching this summer. The ultimate goal is for one million Airbnb users to register as “hosts for good,” signaling that they will provide housing for people impacted by natural disasters or otherwise displaced. Related: INTERVIEW: We Talk with Architecture for Humanity Founder Cameron Sinclair Airbnb announced its ambition to host displaced people during this year’s Super Bowl with a commercial tagged #weaccept. In addition to working on the commercial, Sinclair also worked on Airbnb’s Yoshino Cedar House . via Dezeen images via Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Cameron Sinclair joins Airbnb to provide housing for 100,000 displaced people

Elon Musk’s latest company aims to make us cyborgs within the next four years

April 21, 2017 by  
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Elon Musk must not be busy enough with his Boring company , Space X and Tesla , because he just became CEO of another company, and this one has a goal of turning us all into cyborgs .  Neuralink,  a  San Francisco -based startup says they are “developing ultra high bandwidth brain -machine interfaces to connect humans and computers ” and Musk says he hopes to start delivering by 2021. Musk hinted that he was working on neural lacing last year , though details were scant, but he has never been shy about his opinion that we should be connecting our brains to computers. According to TechCrunch, Musk wants to make that leap with Neuralink. He wants to integrate our brains and computers, or allow us to connect cloud-based artificial intelligence computing with our selves. This could allow humans to communicate directly with each other, instead of having to compress thoughts into language. Related: Elon Musk says new company will start drilling under LA next month It sounds like science fiction. Musk explained it in detail to Tim Urban of Wait But Why . Musk said we already are cyborgs; we’ve “already kind of merged” with smartphones and laptops. He added, “You’re already digitally superhuman. The thing that would change is the interface – having a high-bandwidth interface to your digital enhancements. The thing is that today, the interface all necks down to this tiny straw, which is, particularly in terms of output, it’s like poking things with your meat sticks, or using words – either speaking or tapping things with fingers. And in fact, output has gone backwards. It used to be, in your most frequent form, output would be ten-finger typing. Now, it’s like, two-thumb typing. That’s crazy slow communication. We should be able to improve that by many orders of magnitude with a direct neural interface.” Neuralink’s product probably won’t be ready for the public any time soon – it could be eight to 10 years for people without disabilities, according to Musk, who said the timeline depends both on regulatory approval and how well the devices could work for disabled people. If you want to dig more into the project, Urban wrote a 36,000-word explanation . About the piece, Musk said on Twitter , “Difficult to dedicate the time, but existential risk is too high not to.” Via Wait What Why ,  The Next Web and TechCrunch Images via OnInnovation on Flickr and Max Pixel

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Tel Aviv’s Gran Mediterraneo Tower blooms with with a lush vertical garden

April 21, 2017 by  
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This curvy new skyscraper envisioned for Tel Aviv is a lush oasis that combines modern, sustainable living with plenty of nature. The skyscraper is filled with Mediterranean and Dead Sea flora and features an automated car park, farms, electric charging stations and public gardens. The mixed-use Gran Mediterraneo tower, designed by French architect David Tajchman , is wrapped in mirrored glass and white concrete conceived using the latest construction and digital technologies. Gran Mediterraneo combines different programs, including apartments, a hotel, an automated car park , a public charging station, farming and public gardens , co-working spaces and spas. The automated public car park will operate as the first induction charging station for public and shared electric driverless vehicles in the city. Related: Bordeaux’ Canopia tower will be one of the tallest timber frame structures in the world The tower aims to renew Tel Aviv’s skyline with its vertical form, generated using state-of-the-art digital tools . “Innovative with its topological geometry giving a spiral effect to the high-rise, the Gran Mediterraneo breaks with the global and usual stacking of horizontal slabs wrapped with mirrored glass ,” said Tajchman. + David Tajchman Via Archdaily

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Tel Aviv’s Gran Mediterraneo Tower blooms with with a lush vertical garden

Dropping costs in renewable tech spurs rapid shift to clean energy

April 7, 2017 by  
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Welcome to the clean energy revolution – with or without Trump. A new report from the United Nations Environment Programme , Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), and Frankfurt School – UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance reveals plunging costs in renewable technology have generated a whole new world of power. Unsubsidized renewables in more countries are now the cheapest new form of energy . Renewable energy detractors love to claim it’s too expensive, but that criticism simply doesn’t hold up anymore, according to the new report. Per megawatt, the average dollar capital expenditure fell by more than 10 percent for wind and solar . The report also revealed worldwide solar generation costs fell by an average of 17 percent in one year. Onshore wind dropped by 18 percent, and offshore wind plummeted by 28 percent. Related: Average cost of solar and wind energy could fall by 59% in the next decade BNEF advisory board chairman Michael Liebreich said in the report, “The question always used to be, ‘Will renewables ever be grid competitive?’ Well, after the dramatic cost reductions of the past few years, unsubsidized wind and solar can provide the lowest cost new electrical power in an increasing number of countries, even in the developing world – sometimes by a factor of two. It’s a whole new world…instead of having to subsidize renewables, now authorities may have to subsidize natural gas plants to help them provide grid reliability.” 138.5 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable energy capacity came online in 2016, greater than 2015’s 127.5 GW, but the 2016 GW were built with investment 23 percent lower than 2015. Investors now get more bang for their buck, according to the report’s foreword. “Moving from fossil fuels to renewable sources such as solar and wind is key to achieving social, economic, and environmental development,” according to the report. Renewable energy creates jobs, provides electricity for people who didn’t have it before, and reduces air pollution , all at an increasingly low cost. Via ThinkProgress Images via TAFE SA TONSLEY on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Arctic Ocean undergoes ‘massive shift,’ becoming more like Atlantic

April 7, 2017 by  
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Increasing temperatures aren’t the only factor to blame for dramatic Arctic sea ice loss. An international team of 16 scientists led by the International Arctic Research Center in Alaska discovered warm currents from the Atlantic Ocean are snaking up to the Arctic and melting ice from below. They call this phenomenon the Atlantification of the Arctic. Scientists placed sensors in the Arctic seas in 2002, and the information they’ve gathered isn’t good. The Arctic Ocean’s behavior has undergone a massive shift, according to physical oceanographer Finlo Cottier of the Scottish Association for Marine Science, who was not part of the study. Related: Scientists hatch crazy $500 billion plan to refreeze the Arctic Warm Atlantic currents have a lot to do with this change, according to research published online by Science yesterday. The scientists looked at the Eurasian basin, or one of two basins in the Arctic Ocean divided by a ridge far beneath the surface. The Eurasian basin is north of Europe and Asia. Scientists have long known warm Atlantic currents prevent ice formation on the western side of the Eurasian basin north of Scandinavia . But now it seems those currents are working against ice on the eastern side north of Siberia too. Atlantic currents stream into the Arctic at depths of around 656 to 820 feet, with temperatures around four degrees Celsius higher than surface water. When they mix with surface water, which cools and falls in winter, the mixed water is a little warmer overall so the ocean has little sea ice. On the Eurasian basin’s eastern side a barrier known as the cold halocline layer (CHL) used to prevent much of that mixing. But now the eastern side is becoming more like the western side. Summer sea ice once helped form the CHL, but without that ice the ocean mixes more – and then not as much ice forms. Study lead author Igor Polyakov of the University of Alaska in Fairbanks told Science , “Previously this monster, Atlantic warm water, was well covered from the surface” by the CHL. “The new data show this layer has disappeared in winter.” Cottier told Science , “Here we’re seeing an ocean basin changing on a generational timescale – or less.” Via Inverse and Science Images via NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Arctic Ocean undergoes ‘massive shift,’ becoming more like Atlantic

Sweden opens an entire mall full of reclaimed goods

April 7, 2017 by  
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You’re familiar with thrift stores – maybe you shop at one from time to time. But have you ever seen an entire mall of reclaimed goods? Such a thrifter’s paradise exists in Sweden , about 1.5 hours west of central Stockholm. ReTuna Återbruksgalleria , or ReTuna Recycling Galleria, peddles reused or upcycled goods, pioneering the climate -friendly future of the shopping mall. How does ReTuna work? People can submit items worthy of reclaiming or restoring to the Return. Staff from the city of Eskilstuna’s Activity, Motivation, and Work unit sort the donated items, which are then fixed up, repaired, or transformed to be sold in the mall. The goods are assigned to the mall shops based on each one’s business plan. There are 14 shops inside ReTuna, along with a restaurant serving organic food . Related: 6 Places You Can Find Trash to Transform into Treasure The purpose of the creative mall is to explore a new way of shopping resulting in less harm to the environment . All businesses in the mall must operate in an environmentally friendly way, and if they must purchase new goods – such as the cafe – the items must be organic or climate-friendly. According to the mall’s website, “ Sustainability is not about holding back and living less – but achieving more with the resources we already have.” Mall manager Anna Bergström says on the website they envision customers stopping by to donate old furniture or clothing, and then entering the mall to find maybe a new jacket or a new lamp, and having a bite in the organic restaurant. She said, “When you leave here, you should feel that you did something good for the environment.” The ReTuna website says it is “perhaps the world’s first shopping mall that will take advantage of things that need new homes.” The recycling mall will host an information meeting on April 20, 2017. + ReTuna Återbruksgalleria Images via ReTuna Återbruksgalleria and ReTuna Återbruksgalleria Facebook

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Sweden opens an entire mall full of reclaimed goods

Tiny Scottish island powers itself with community-owned off-grid energy system

March 31, 2017 by  
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When you think of the future of electricity in the world, you probably don’t envision a small island off the coast of Scotland leading the way. But the 12-square-mile Scottish island of Eigg has become a shining example of how communities that aren’t connected to larger grids can do it themselves with clean energy . As the BBC reports, Eigg made the revolutionary move in 2008 to shed its noisy diesel-generated power in favor of an off-grid electric system that uses only wind, water and solar power . It was the first community in the world to make this bold move, and what’s more, the clearly self-reliant residents pretty much taught themselves how to build and run the system. Since the diesel generators they previously used only ran for a small part of each day, getting rid of them in favor of clean energy also meant the community had power available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the first time. The community-owned system, Eigg Electric , keeps energy flowing on a regular basis by integrating three power sources from wind, solar and hydroelectric. A set of four wind turbines feed up to 24 kilowatts into the grid, while a set of solar panels contribute an annual average of 9.5 percent of their rated output of 50 kilowatts. Shoring up the rather unreliable wind and solar power components are three hydroelectric generating stations spread throughout the island. One puts out up to 100 kilowatts, while the others generate 5 to 6 kilowatts each. Related: Australia announces massive $1B solar farm with the world’s largest battery Working together, these three power sources provide 90 to 95 percent of the island’s electricity. Occasionally they have to fire up their two backup generators when the weather doesn’t cooperate, and sometimes they produce more power than they need. In the latter case, the excess power benefits the community by automatically turning on heating systems in shared spaces like the community hall—so everyone benefits. Their system and public ownership model has already reached other communities around the world that a face the same challenge of not being connected to the grid. Community Energy Malawi , a sister organization to Community Energy Scotland , sent representatives to Eigg last year to study the system. They were encouraged by the fact that people with a non-technical background could learn to build and operate a reliable renewable energy system. Via BBC Images via W. L. Tarbert , Wikimedia Commons and isleofeigg , Flickr Creative Commons

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Polish village heals post-WWII blues with hand-painted homes

February 6, 2017 by  
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The small village of Zalipie, Poland leaves a big, bright, and beautiful impression on travelers. Everywhere you look you will see hand-painted floral designs on homes, barns, bridges, wells, and chicken coops. The tradition began a century ago, but only within the last few decades was it transformed into an annual contest to turn the tiny town into a living piece of art, and heal post-WWII blues at the same time. 100 years ago, locals would touch up their homes for the holidays by painting over soot stains caused by their wood-burning stoves. Often, this would not completely cover up the marks, so people got creative. The practice of painting flowers began informally and blossomed into a town tradition over the years. And the designs spread outside the home to the exterior of buildings and even backyard and community structures. Related: Poland unveils glowing bright blue bike lane that’s charged by the sun The trend continued over the decades, and then a new annual contest was created to bring up the spirits of the local community after WWII . The Malowana Chata (Painted Cottage) competition officially became an event in 1965 and still continues today. The media have improved from cooking fat-based paints to more hardy materials and the villagers have worked hard to preserve as much of the original artwork as they can. Zalipie is only an hour and a half outside of Krakow, so visitors traveling by car can easily enjoy the breathtaking blooms. Via Mental Floss Images via Flickr  (CC BY-ND 2.0)  ( 1 , 2 , 3 ), Wikimedia ( 1 , 2 , 3 )

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Polish village heals post-WWII blues with hand-painted homes

China is now the largest producer of solar power in the world

February 6, 2017 by  
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One way China is working to battle climate change -causing carbon emissions is by developing a vast army of renewable energy projects. Even as the country struggles with pollution , it has made great strides on clean energy . They’re now the largest producer of solar energy by capacity in the world, adding 34.54 gigawatts of the country’s installed capacity of 77.42 gigawatts last year alone. The country’s National Energy Administration (NEA) announced over the weekend that in 2016, installed photovoltaic capacity in China more than doubled. Their data revealed the jump to 77.42 gigawatts after the country added 34.54 gigawatts. The provinces in which capacity increased most include Shandong, Henan, and Xinjiang, which is also one of the provinces with the largest overall capacity. Gansu, Inner Mongolia, and Qinghai join Xinjiang in that latter category. Related: China to spend $361 billion on renewable energy projects by 2020 And China’s not stopping here. Based on the NEA’s solar energy development strategy, between 2016 and 2020, they aim to add over 110 gigawatts of capacity. Solar power plants in China generated 66.2 billion kilowatt-hours in 2016, amounting to one percent of total power generation in the country, according to NEA. Currently 11 percent of generated power in the country originates from non-fossil fuel sources, but China hopes to bump that number up to 20 percent by 2030. To help attain that goal, they plan to pour over $360 billion into renewable energy projects, including solar, wind, nuclear, and hydropower. As the country still relies heavily on air-polluting coal , such an investment could help China work towards cleaner skies again. It will boost the economy too, creating more than 13 million jobs, according to the NEA. Engadget notes there are a few countries that edge China out in terms of solar energy relative to population size, such as the United States, Germany, and Japan. But with regards to capacity, China claims the prize. Via Reuters and Engadget Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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Chinese fishery installs immense floating solar farm for extra income

February 6, 2017 by  
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A fishery in eastern China now doubles as a solar power station. An immense array of photovoltaic panels has been installed across 300 hectares to generate not only clean electricity , but additional money for the fishery. Lines of solar panels stretch over the waters of a fishery in Cixi City, which is in the Zhejiang Province in eastern China . People’s Daily Online reports with a 200 megawatt (MW) capacity, it is the biggest solar power station constructed on a fish farm in the country. The panels will be connected to the state grid and will provide the fishery with an annual income of 240 million RMB, which is around $34 million. Fish should still be able to thrive in the waters underneath the panels; People’s Daily Online says the panels will provide shade, but PV Magazine also noted they were intentionally spaced out to allow sunlight to filter through, which is necessary for the fish to grow. Related: $11 million floating solar testbed in Singapore will be the largest in the world The huge station can generate enough power for 100,000 households, and could maybe even replace 7.4 tons of coal, according to People’s Daily Online. The solar panels should generate an impressive 220 million kilowatt-hours of electricity every year. PV Magazine reports there’s a similar 120 MW installation in China in the Jiangxi Province, but clearly the Cixi City project is much larger. The new solar system certainly wasn’t cheap; it cost 1.8 billion RMB, or $260 million. But Electrek reports the floating solar farm will pay for itself in about seven or eight years. The fishery turned renewable energy plant could offer a model for other fisheries or coastal areas around the world; PV Magazine reports construction just finished in late 2016, so it’s time to see how the fish farm functions with solar panels atop their pond. Via Electrek , People’s Daily Online , and PV Magazine Images via Max Pixel and screenshot

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