Disney World McDonald’s to be first net-zero fast food restaurant

October 7, 2020 by  
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Chicago-based  Ross Barney Architects  has given the iconic McDonald’s at Walt Disney World Resort a sustainable makeover. This revamp aims to make McDonald’s Disney flagship the first net-zero energy quick-service restaurant. Topped with a canopy clad in solar panels, the energy-efficient building takes on a new, contemporary form that strategically responds to Orlando’s hot and humid climate. In addition to generating renewable energy on-site, the restaurant reduces its energy footprint by using natural ventilation and operable windows that open and close in response to outdoor humidity and temperature sensors.  “We were really interested in taking advantage of the climate in Florida , which is most of the year is fantastic,” said Carol Ross Barney, design principal at Ross Barney Architects. Completed earlier this year, McDonald’s new solar-powered Disney location represents the company’s commitment to building a better future through “Scale for Good,” an initiative that seeks to minimize McDonald’s building impact and embraces the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. As one of the world’s largest restaurant companies, McDonald’s operates over 37,000 restaurants in over 100 countries around the world and serves 69 million people every day. The company has pledged to prevent 150 million metric tons of carbon emissions by 2030 — a reduction of 36% from a 2015 base year.  Related: Cantilevered Green Shield Protects McDonalds’ Customers from Adjacent Fuel Station The renovated McDonald’s Disney restaurant serves as an inspiring sustainable steward with its thoughtful architectural design and educational focus. Interior wall graphics, interactive video content and games unique to McDonald’s Disney World location help teach visitors of all ages how to become more dedicated environment stewards at a variety of levels. To meet  net-zero  energy targets, the eatery features 18,727 square feet of photovoltaic panels, 4,809 square feet of glazing integrated photovoltaic panels (BiPV) and 25 off-grid parking lot lights that, in total, provide more energy than the restaurant uses. The building and kitchen systems have also been optimized for energy efficiency, while natural ventilation is prioritized for roughly 65% of the year.  + Ross Barney Architects Images by Kate Joyce Studios

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Disney World McDonald’s to be first net-zero fast food restaurant

Miami Beach Convention Center receives a stunning LEED Silver makeover

October 7, 2020 by  
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Global design firm Fentress Architects and Arquitectonia have given the 1950s-era Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC) a sustainable and modern redesign — that has also recently received LEED Silver certification . Located in the heart of Miami Beach, Florida, the convention center has long been internationally known as the host for annual events such as Art Basel Miami Beach and eMERGE Americas. With the recent renovation and expansion, the energy-efficient venue is not only better equipped to withstand hurricanes but is now recognized as one of the most technologically advanced convention centers in the U.S. Completed earlier this year, the 1.4-million-square-foot redesign of the Miami Beach Convention Center takes cues from the regional context for both its exterior and interior design. The eye-catching exterior facade features more than 500 unique aluminum solar fins that, when seen from afar, mimic the movement of nearby ocean waves. Inside, colors and patterns were used to emulate receding water, sea foam and local coral reef patterns. Satellite images of nearby ocean waves, coral and sandbars were even used to create custom carpet patterns. Related: BIG weaves green roofs into a mixed-use development on stilts in Miami In addition to providing contextual cues, the exterior angled fins help to mitigate solar gain while filtering dappled light to the indoors. Glazing and connections were selected for resistance to projectiles and hurricanes to comply with FEMA code. Critical building systems have also been elevated to the second floor to allow the building to remain operational in the event of flooding or rising sea levels. The project’s resiliency to storms extends to the outdoor landscape as well. Together with West8, Fentress Architects transformed the existing 6-acre surface parking lot into a vibrant public park that includes a tropical garden, game lawn, shaded areas and a veterans’ plaza. In total, 12 acres of green space have been added along with over 1,300 new trees to increase the previous acreage of the 25-acre campus by 245%. + Fentress Architects + Arquitectonia Photography by Robin Hill, Craig Denis and Tom Clark via Fentress Architects and Miami Beach Convention Center

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Wisdom is replacing plastic with zero-waste school supplies

October 7, 2020 by  
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“Waste is a design flaw.” That’s a quote from a start-up company in California that believes as guardians of the planet, it’s never too soon to take action nor too thoughtful to consider how our actions affect the environment our children will inherit. Wisdom Supply Company , a women-owned B-Corp based out of San Francisco, consists of two activists who found a way to take action against plastic waste by creating environmentally friendly supplies for the classroom. As students head back to school in whatever form 2020 brings, this duo has released a completely zero-waste solution to the typical pile of plastic and vinyl folders, binders and pencil boxes that are produced, used and tossed across the country each year. How it all began Seeing the amount of debris that cluttered the waste stream as school let out for summer, founder Heather Itzla took action by donating waste-free supplies to her local school. Knowing one school was merely a hatch mark on the long trail of establishments that rely on standard-yet-wasteful products, the self-proclaimed plastic waste activist started a business, “for the sole purpose of stopping the insane amount of plastic and vinyl waste coming out of schools every year.” Related: A guide to going green for the back-to-school season Itzla’s co-founder and fellow environmentalist Nicole Kozlowski was eager to jump on board with the idea after committing to protect “the ocean and wilderness by addressing disposable culture.” Kozlowski was already taking action as an ocean advocate by participating in ocean pollution events, where she continuously crossed paths with Itzla. Seeing their common passion unfold, the pair launched Wisdom with a focus on setting a good example for the very children that will inherit the current plastic pollution crisis without education, action and change around the topic. They hope to show the upcoming generation that there are alternatives to standardized and mass-produced plastic. Sustainable school supplies Plastic has, in fact, been an exponentially growing problem across the planet, with debris making its way into nearly every corner of the environment, including the oceans, where it is ingested by marine life. This is not only unhealthy for the animals but comes full circle in animals we rely on as food, like fish. With this in mind, Wisdom’s mission is to “disrupt what we call the shelf-to-shore pipeline” by eliminating the waste where it begins. The Wisdom Supply Co. products are all conscientiously made, packaged and shipped. Examples include cardboard binders that can be replaced for a few bucks, allowing you to reuse the metal pieces from the inside, an action that merely requires a screwdriver and a few minutes of time. This is more than a product, it’s a mindset, and one example of how a single act can significantly reduce the amount of supply waste. Other products available are plastic-free folders, paper-only planners, colored and unpainted pencils and a yellow highlighter. The company also provides a recyclable aluminum pencil tin set lined with wool that includes a pencil, metal sharpener, highlighter and natural rubber eraser. Some products are still working toward 100% plastic-free , like the Stabilo markers, which act as a regular marker, dry erase marker and watercolor all in one. The down side, as the company points out with its petition to the manufacturer, Staedtler, is a small amount of plastic film on the top of the marker as well as a plastic sharpener that, so far, is the most effective tool for the job. In addition, Wisdom Supply Co. has put together two zero-waste kits for easy shopping. One targets the elementary-age classroom and the other is appropriate through college or even the adult home office. The kits make a great end-of-year teacher’s gift, too. By signing up for the rewards program, your gift purchases will pay you back. For every $25 minimum purchase made using the shared link, you’ll earn $5 toward a future purchase, and you can redeem multiple rewards within the same purchase to earn free items. A certified B-Corp Making wise choices is only part of the reason for the company name, Wisdom Supply Co. The primary inspiration actually came from the animal world, appropriately. In 1951, a wild female Laysan albatross hatched. Five years later, she was tagged for study and released back into the wild. According the the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Wisdom is the oldest wild bird ever recorded. Even more astonishing is her consistent hatching of eggs, even at the ripe age of 69. Nearly every species of albatross is listed as threatened, making Wisdom the ideal mascot for a company dedicated to improving animal habitats. Wisdom Supply Co.’s commitment to all things environmental has earned it the coveted B-Corp certification, a designation gained by only around 3,000 companies worldwide. In addition, Itzla and Kozlowski have been acknowledged as a Best For the World honoree in recognition of their environmental performance and sustainable business practices. This places them in the top 10% of all B-Corps globally in the “Environment” category. We put Wisdom Supply Co. to the test The team at Wisdom reached out to offer a zero-waste kit for me to enjoy and review. It’s always easier to write about products I can touch and feel, and these are samples I’m proud to have in my home. There’s no greenwashing here. The tin pencil box is everything it needs to be: solid, durable, sturdy but still easy to open and close. The yellow highlighter/marker is nothing short of impressive. No plastic in sight and sans the cringe-inducing squeak from typical highlighters. I’m ridiculously excited about the metal pencil sharpener, because the electric one I used to have no longer has a cord. It’s a welcome replacement to the box knives I’ve been using as a pencil sharpener. The binder is easy to put together and will be fun to personalize with stickers or markers. Ditto for the recycled and recyclable folders. They are thick enough that you don’t have to worry about tearing with regular use.  The 2021 planner is full-size with adequate space to put multiple appointments on each date. Plus, it includes a calendar in the front for easy reference. It’s made from 100% post-consumer recycled materials, is FSC-certified and is chlorine- and ink-free. While the thoughtful products and packaging are a breath of fresh air, what I love most about this company is the transparency. It is upfront about where product(s) fall short on the 100% plastic-free pledge and educate about companies it does business with. I love that the founders have taken action to solve a problem by implementing a viable, long-term solution. They’ve removed the design flaw. That’s Wisdom. + Wisdom Supply Co. Images via Wisdom and Dawn Hammon / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by Wisdom Supply Co. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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Key phase of Everglades restoration project starts in November

September 21, 2020 by  
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Federal and Florida state authorities are working together to complete the Tamiami Trail Next Steps Project, an important part of restoring the Everglades. The state was just awarded a $200 million contract, meaning the last step of this plan, which Congress approved in 2009, will finally begin in November. “Phase 2 of the project will focus on raising and reconstructing the remaining 6.7 miles of the eastern Tamiami Trail with features to further improve water conveyance, roadway safety, and stormwater treatment,” according to an official statement. “Construction on Phase 2 is scheduled to begin in November 2020.” Related: Can Florida save its prized Everglades from climate change destruction? The Tamiami Trail is the 275 miles of U.S. Highway 41 that join Tampa and Miami. Politicians in Tallahassee came up with the idea to link Florida’s west and east coasts with this route in 1915. But in the last 105 years, traffic has increased more than anybody could have foreseen, straining local ecosystems . Before the highway and other human interference, more than 450 billion gallons of water per year easily flowed southward into what is now Everglades National Park. By 2000, that figure was only about 260 billion gallons of water per year, resulting in a deteriorating ecosystem. That year, Congress authorized the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), which aimed to “restore, preserve, and protect the south Florida ecosystem while providing for other water-related needs of the region, including water supply and flood protection.” With a 35-plus-year timeline and a $10.5 billion budget, this was the largest hydrologic restoration project in the country’s history. The restoration project is important for both wildlife and the state’s economy. Routing more freshwater to the Everglades will keep salt water at bay, providing drinking water for humans and animals and helping to restore wetlands for wading birds. A better water flow will also boost recreational activities and agriculture and help maintain real estate values. Everybody from the Florida panther to the alligator to the Midwestern tourist will benefit from this investment in the Everglades ecosystem. “The granting of this award is an exciting milestone in the completion of such a critical project for Everglades restoration,” said Margaret Everson, acting director of the National Park Service, according to CBS Miami . “This step is a wonderful example of how collaboration and coordination with our partners sets the stage for long-term restoration efforts.” + National Park Service Via CBS Miami Image via Pixabay

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How your beauty routine might be killing sharks

July 20, 2020 by  
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Even before Jaws , people were fascinated with sharks. But they are much more than the menacing villains they portray in movies. Their beauty is impossible to ignore. There’s a whole week of TV dedicated to sharks, because it’s so easy to celebrate these animals. Sharks are at the top of their food chain, so it’s hard to imagine these beautiful beasts could ever be in danger. But there’s an even more powerful hunter prowling the oceans and putting these animals at risk: humans. Every year, millions of sharks die for common makeup products. The secret life of shark oil Human skin naturally produces squalene, a hydrating oil. Many cosmetics companies add squalene to their products to supplement the natural squalene your skin produces. It’s a common ingredient in lipstick, sunscreen, eye shadow, lotion and foundation. Squalene is a popular addition to anti-aging creams. You can even find it in hair products. Related: Lather is the PETA-approved skincare that reminds us all to slow down There are many sources of squalene in plants. You can find it in yeasts, wheat germ, olives, sugarcane and rice bran. However, plant-based squalene is 30% more expensive to make than squalene found in animals. The cheapest source of animal-based squalene is found in sharks. Around 2.7 million sharks are killed annually for cosmetic industry products. That’s an even bigger problem as the number of sharks in the oceans is dwindling. Sharks 101 Sharks actually predate the dinosaurs — by more than 200 million years . They’ve survived major climate changes, possibly one catastrophic meteor impact and more than one massive extinction event. But now, shark populations are declining at alarming rates around the world. Almost one-quarter of all shark species are officially threatened with extinction . Compared to other marine animals , sharks produce very few offspring. This makes them even more vulnerable to human threats. In addition to being hunted by cosmetic companies, sharks are hunted by commercial fishers who hope to cash in on selling shark fins. The fins are a delicacy used in soup . The WWF has flagged several shark species for concern, including the hammerhead, because their numbers are dwindling so dramatically. The Shark Allies One company hopes to save the sharks. Since 2007, Shark Allies has been fighting for these finned swimmers of the deep. Shark Allies was started by Stefanie Brendl. She began scuba diving at 22 and started working with sharks in Hawaii. In an interview with Inhabitat, she spoke about how she came to love sharks and why she knew she had to help them. “I ran a shark diving operation in Hawaii for several years, photographing and diving with sharks of all shapes and sizes,” Brendl said. “Through that work, I came to realize that I had to do something to protect them, so I switched gears to focus on shark conservation .” Brendl was traveling in Indonesia and Micronesia in the 1990s. That’s when everything changed. “We actually saw first-hand a long line fishing vessel that had pulled into the harbor with dried fins hanging off the railings. This hit me particularly hard because this is a place that is famous for shark diving and [one] that was putting great efforts into protecting their sharks. It came as such a shock to me and it inspired me to learn all I could in the years that followed.” Shark Allies has been hard at work in the years since, sponsoring legislature aimed at protecting the oceans’ most famous predators. Shark Allies helped pass the Kristen Jacobs Ocean Conservation Act in Florida. “This bill bans the import, export and trade of shark fins in Florida, which is currently the biggest hub of the shark fin trade in the U.S. The bill unanimously passed both the House and Senate,” Brendl explained. Shark Allies is also part of the EU Citizens Initiative, a group that is working to bring the issue of the shark fin trade to the European Commission. How you can help Want to become one of the Shark Allies? Brendl says everyone is welcome. “Our mission at Shark Allies is to make it possible for every person to become a warrior for sharks and get involved with shark conservation. We have an entire page that helps people to ‘Take Action Now,’ from emailing your legislatures to putting pressure on manufacturers to stop using shark products.” Shark Allies is also working on its Shark Free Products campaign, aimed at spreading awareness about squalene in the cosmetics industry. For the record, Brendl’s favorite species of shark is the tiger shark — but only for diving encounters. When it comes to saving the sharks of the world, she has no favorites. Brendl hopes to save them all from cosmetics companies. PETA and many other websites offer up-to-date lists of cosmetics companies that do not test on animals, nor use animal-derived ingredients (such as squalene) to create their products. By not buying products made of shark squalene, you can send a strong message to the cosmetics companies that they need to change their production methods. + Shark Allies Images via Pixabay

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New hydrogen production tech could reduce CO2 pollution

July 20, 2020 by  
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A recent publication in the journal Angewandte Chemie brings attention to an improved way of generating clean hydrogen . For many years, hydrogen production has proven costly to the environment, as industrial hydrogen production uses partial methane oxidation and fossil gasification. Currently,  95% of the world’s hydrogen  is produced through such methods, leading to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. For example, producing one ton of hydrogen emits of seven tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In a recent experiment conducted by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia, photo-electrochemical cells showed potential for producing pollution -free hydrogen. These cells combine a photo-absorbing gadget such as the solar panels with an electrolysis system to split water atoms and produce hydrogen gas without causing CO2 pollution. Although the concept of electrolysis is not new to hydrogen producers, the cost has always hampered this method. The most advanced system of electrolysis available involves the separation of hydrogen from water molecules through a photovoltaic current. Although the photovoltaic system has proven effective in generating hydrogen, it is expensive to maintain compared to fossil fuel-based hydrogen production. As a result, many  scientists have researched  ways to advance photovoltaic technology and reduce the costs involved. The KAUST researchers’ recent experiment may provide a glimmer of hope for this endeavor. According to Professor Hicham Idriss, the lead researcher, this discovery will significantly lower the cost of producing hydrogen through electrolysis. Contrary to the traditional photovoltaic process, the photo-electrochemical cells can absorb light to produce power that will produce hydrogen without the need for control circuits, connectors and other auxiliary tools that make the process expensive. While the experiment points in the right direction for future hydrogen production, much work is still needed. Idriss admits that the research team faced many challenges in up-scaling the system for industrial hydrogen production. Although the team is in the initial stages of testing the new technology’s viability, the process is still more expensive than fossil fuel -based hydrogen production methods. Should this new technology be adopted, hydrogen producers will have to balance economic and environmental costs. + Angewandte Chemie Via Advanced Science News Image via Pixabay

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Tracking climate data in real time

July 20, 2020 by  
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Climate TRACE, an alliance of climate research groups, is developing a new tracker using artificial intelligence that would allow the public to access international climate data in real time. They hope to have it ready to unveil at the COP26 climate change meetings in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021. The finished tracker will track all global greenhouse gases in real time. Third parties will verify the data, and the information will be available free to the public. Related: This sustainable luxury smartwatch monitors climate change “Currently, most countries do not know where most of their emissions come from,” Kelly Sims Gallagher, a professor of energy and environmental policy at Tufts University’s Fletcher School, told Vox . “Even in advanced economies like the United States, emissions are estimated for many sectors.” Gaining this information, she said, could help countries devise smart and effective policies to mitigate emissions and chart progress on their goals. The effort began last year, when U.S.-based WattTime , U.K.-based Carbon Tracker and some other nonprofits made a successful grant application to Google.org, which is Google’s philanthropic arm. Google gave them $1.7 million for their mission of using AI and satellite data for real-time tracking of global power plant emissions. Other nonprofits and environmental crusaders, including Al Gore, heard about the effort and became involved. Now, the Climate TRACE (which stands for Tracking Real-Time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions) Coalition includes a handful of niche organizations with important things to offer. For example, Hypervine employs spectroscopic imagery to chart blasting at quarries, and OceanMind tracks global movements of ships, extrapolating carbon emissions based on engine specs. For years, the lack of accurate climate data has caused friction between countries, who waste time arguing over monitoring, reporting and verifying data. Sometimes a country later reveals that they reported inaccurate data, such as when China admitted in 2015 to underestimating coal usage by 17%. Such revelations breed suspicion between countries who need to work together to solve our climate crisis. “It will empower the people who really are interested in reducing their emissions,” Gore said of the new climate tracker. “It is extremely important for this effort to be independent and reliable, and for it to constantly improve.” + Climate TRACE Image via William Bossen

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#degrowth art series exposes greenwashing in the food industry

July 20, 2020 by  
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While reaching for products with an “eco-friendly” label may seem like the better choice in any situation, well-intended consumers should always be aware of “greenwashing” — the process of conveying false or misleading impressions about how environmentally sound a product is (typically with the intention to overcharge). The presence of greenwashing often comes from a business’ PR or marketing team to persuade buyers that its products are eco-friendly. It doesn’t just apply to products, either; greenwashing tactics are sometimes used to convince the public that a company’s policies and procedures are sustainable, as well. Enter Quatre Caps, an image studio from Spain that aims to bring social awareness back to food. Quatre Caps’ new art series, #degrowth, reflects on consumer-projected concepts and habits, such as carbon footprints and local consumption. The two trendiest goals in the food market, healthier diets and environmentally friendly consumption, tend to be grouped under the same umbrella despite not pursuing the same objective, according to the studio. Related: Explore eerie wonders at the Museum of Underwater Art Eco-labels, mainly the labeling systems used for food and consumer products to determine levels of eco-friendliness, have increased rapidly in recent years. These labels can be quite misleading, Quatre Caps says. The studio believes the key to restructuring the buying process and becoming more aware of the negative externalities of choice in purchasing comes from being faster and smarter than offending advertising agencies. Doubting initial information and doing the research as to which companies and products are truly eco-friendly is one way to achieve this, and understanding that good intentions aren’t the same as good actions is another. This thoughtful art series is aptly named, as the term “degrowth” is based on critiques of the global system which pursues growth at all costs, regardless of human exploitation and environmental destruction. The #degrowth collection is a reflection of the different carbon footprints that certain consumer-based choices produce, depending on factors like origin, agricultural technique and packaging. + Quatre Caps Images via Quatre Caps

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Rocket Crafters creates safer, greener hybrid rocket engine technology

July 10, 2020 by  
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Rocket Crafters, an aerospace company based in Florida, is patenting its hybrid rocket engine technology . The engine, which the company described as throttle-able, affordable, reliable and 3D-printed, is said to be a milestone in the world of rocket science. For many years, rocket scientists have been trying to develop a hybrid engine — unsuccessfully. All of these attempts failed along the way due to fuel combustion issues. However, thanks to 3D-printing technology, Rocket Crafters has managed to develop a hybrid engine known as the STAR-3D. The engine has completed over 40 subscale engine tests and is now poised to engage in large-scale tests. What is a hybrid rocket engine? If you are not a fan of rockets or rocket science, you may not have a clue about the impact of developing a hybrid engine . In simple terms, a hybrid engine means that the rocket will be fueled by a combination of solid and liquid or gas fuel. This is a big achievement for the world, considering that the hybrid engine will be much greener. The combustion of rocket fuels has negative impacts on the environment, but this new technology tries to address these issues. Related: Studio Roosegaarde’s laser light art tracks floating space waste in the sky Rockets that are strictly solid-fueled cannot be throttled or restarted, while hybrid rockets can. This is one of the reasons why many scientists have been working on hybrid rocket technology. The hybrid engine is much faster and safer as compared to solid- or liquid-fueled counterparts. According to Rocket Crafters, the company can also scale rocket engines from 125lbf all the way to 5000lbf. Compared to the liquid-fueled rocket engines, the hybrid is much easier to develop and less expensive, too. Liquid-fueled rockets have been favored in the past for being environmentally safer than solid-fueled rockets; however, the cost of developing liquid-fueled rockets has proved to be the problem. Most aerospace companies have been striving to find a balance between the cost and sustainability of the rockets . Hybrid engines are less expensive in terms of maintenance. The engines by Rocket Crafters only have two movable parts, which means that they are less mechanical. They separately store fuel in two different states (solid and liquid), which helps safeguard against accidental detonation. But the attempt to shift to hybrid engines has been met by many challenges. According to a report in 3DPrint, both governments and industries have been unable to develop a safe hybrid engine for years. In previous attempts, the rockets were met with issues such as excessive thrust and unpredictable vibrations. Purpose of the hybrid engine In the initial stages of developing the engine, it was used to send small rockets into the Earth’s orbit. The company now plans to work with private businesses and governments that send small satellites to outer space. The 3D-printed hybrid engine makes launching rockets into space much easier and safer. Just as many other companies that have been using 3D-printing to make the world a better place, Rocket Crafters have managed to change the future of rockets completely. This means that rocket travel will be much more accessible. The new technology now seeks to bring the cost of more sustainable rocketing to a record low. Hybrid engines are greener The most impressive aspect of the new hybrid engines is that they are better for the environment. Traditionally, solid-fueled engines would emit heavy carbon waste into the atmosphere . Due to such effects of solid-fueled engines, there has been pressure for more rocket manufacturers to turn to liquid-fueled engines, which are greener. Liquid-fueled engines are propelled by liquid hydrogen, which produces water vapor exhaust. But the production of hydrogen itself can also cause significant pollution. The end game for rocket manufactures turns out to be hybrid engines — something that Rocket Crafters hopes to make as safe and sustainable as possible. + Rocket Crafters Image via Unsplash

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Effects of COVID-19 lead to increased deaths of Florida manatees

July 1, 2020 by  
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While many species are enjoying a break from humans during the pandemic, Florida’s manatee death rate is up this year. Increased boating activity, rollbacks on emission caps and delays in environmental improvements all put these defenseless giants in the crosshairs. “There are several troubling factors coming together during the pandemic,” Patrick Rose, an aquatic biologist and executive director of the nonprofit Save the Manatee Club , told The Guardian . “Manatees were already facing accelerated habitat loss, rising fatalities from boat collisions and less regulatory protection. With COVID, we’re seeing manatees at an increased risk, both from policies that undermine environmental standards and from irresponsible outdoor activity, such as boaters ignoring slow-speed zones.” Related: Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism Now with pandemic-related problems, manatee deaths were up almost 20% for April through May compared with 2019 figures. June exceeded the five-year death average. However, officials haven’t been able to establish causes for all manatee deaths because the Fish & Wildlife Commission isn’t doing necropsy — the word for “autopsy” when performed on animals — during the pandemic . Some manatees have undoubtedly been killed or injured by boat collisions. According to Rose, boat ramps remained open in March when other recreational options closed, leading to an uptick in dangerous boating activity. Slow-moving manatees often fail to get out of the way of boats. Injuries are so frequent that researchers tell the animals apart by their scar patterns. Regulatory changes also threaten manatee habitats. The marine mammals, which are most closely related to elephants, will reap the consequences of the EPA’s decision to suspend water and air pollution monitoring requirements during the pandemic. COVID-19 is also delaying environmental initiatives. In-person meetings have been postponed, including talks about providing more warm-water manatee habitat by breaching the Ocklawaha River dam. “We’ve lost tens of thousands of acres of seagrass over the past decade,” Rose said. “The power plants, which currently supply artificial warm water , will also be closing in the coming years, making our fight to protect natural warm springs habitat all the more critical.” Via The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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