Pacific nation Vanuatu is the first to ban disposable diapers

June 25, 2019 by  
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The mothers of Vanuatu will shoulder the Pacific island nation’s dream of a pristine future with the recent announcement of a ban on disposable diapers. Despite backlash by parents in the country of about 250,000 people, the government announced that a ban will roll out by the end of the year. Vanuatu is believed to be the first country in the world to prohibit disposable diapers and has one of the strictest bans on single-use plastics , including plates, cups, drink stirrers, egg cartons, plastic flowers and food containers. Related: New study finds harmful chemicals, including glyphosate, in disposable diapers Although the government admits it was a difficult decision that will disproportionately impact mothers, ministers argue that they had no choice. The low-lying islands of Vanuatu are already drowning in plastic pollution and the rising sea levels. “Vanuatu is safeguarding its future,” said Mike Masauvakalo, Minister of Foreign Affairs. “Eventually, plastics find their way into the water and the food chain and at the end of the day, the people of Vanuatu end up consuming [them].” A study by the Commonwealth Litter Program indicated that compostable waste and disposable diapers constituted nearly 75 percent of all plastic waste in the country. So, in addition to composting programs, a ban on diapers was an obvious target. “It is a long road ahead,” Masauvakalo said. “But knowing my country, we will work it out. Vanuatu is very vocal about the climate emergency. It is visible, we are living it. It is affecting our food supply and our fish populations.” Thomas Maes from the Commonwealth Litter Programme said , “Although Pacific islands produce a fraction of the waste of other countries, bad waste management practices may be contributing to the problem of microplastics in the oceans.” Meanwhile, in the U.K., the outcry was so vocal after a government official mentioned banning disposable diapers that he was forced to retract his mere suggestion. Via The Guardian and RNZ Image via Shutterstock

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Pacific nation Vanuatu is the first to ban disposable diapers

Rag pasta sauce pulled from shelves for possible plastic contamination

June 19, 2019 by  
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This week, “America’s favorite pasta sauce” was pulled from shelves and home kitchens across the country for fear that it contains plastic fragments. Mizkan American, the corporation that owns Ragú, announced a recall over the weekend for its Chunky Tomato Garlic & Onion (45 ounce and 66 ounce jars), Old World Style Traditional (66 ounce jar) and Old World Style Meat (66 ounce jar). Grocery stores and retail outlets have pulled the items from the shelves, and customers are encouraged to check their kitchens and dispose of any of the above-mentioned jars if they were produced between June 4 and June 8. Related: Have your plastic and eat it, too — The average American ingests 50,000 microplastic particles a year “Mizkan America also asks consumers to examine their refrigerator and pantry inventory for the specific jars affected by this recall,” the company said in a press release. “Any recalled sauce should be discarded and not consumed.” Customers can also call the Ragú hotline at 1-800-328-7248 for a replacement. According to Mizkan American, no customers have been hurt, sick or reported any injuries; however, the recall is “out of an abundance of caution.” The company also wrote, “This recall is at the retail level, and all impacted retailer customers have been notified of this voluntary recall prior to this press release.” The Ragú recall comes after a string of similar recalls by major processed food corporations. Last week, Tyson Foods also recalled more than 190,000 pounds of chicken as a precaution for potential plastic contamination. In April, Tyson recalled beef patties for similar issues. Many health inspectors and worried consumers believe that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration are not strict enough on food recalls. In fact, as mentioned in the Ragú press release, the pasta sauce recall is voluntary. In 2015, there were 12 cases of food recalled for foreign particles. In 2018, that number rose to 23 recalls, the majority of which were plastic fragments. Via EcoWatch Image via Mike Mozart

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Study reveals mass plant extinction rate since Industrial Revolution

June 12, 2019 by  
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New research suggests that even by conservative efforts, the number of plants that have gone extinct in the last three centuries is 500 times higher than before the industrial revolution, and the rate of extinction is skyrocketing. According to the survey, at least 571 plants have become extinct since 1750, which should be a “frightening” concern to anyone who eats or breathes. “Plants underpin all life on Earth. They provide the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat, as well as making up the backbone of the world’s ecosystems ,” said study author Eimear Nic Lughadha from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew . The scientists also believe that their confirmed list of 571 plants is only the tip of the iceberg. In most cases, it can take years to declare a species officially extinct because of the landscapes that have to be scoured for any last survivors. “How are you going to check the entirety of the Amazon for your lost plant?” Maria Vorontsova, also from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, told The Guardian . Furthermore, there are thousands of species that are functionally extinct, meaning there are so few remaining plants that the chances of reproduction and survival are nearly — if not entirely — impossible. Despite their conservative tally, the researchers’ estimate is still four times higher than what is officially recorded on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List . “It is way more than we knew and way more than should have gone extinct,” said Vorontsova. “It is frightening not just because of the 571 number, but because I think that is a gross underestimate.” According to the United Nations, another 1 million species are currently at risk of extinction. Many scientists believe that extinction and biodiversity should be in the news and keeping us up at night just as much as climate change , but that it is often a less acknowledged, and less funded, crisis. Financing and support for plants is especially challenging within the conservation field, because they just aren’t as cute as their endangered animal counterparts. Scientists often collect and save DNA samples from extinct plants in labs at places such as the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in hopes that innovative discoveries could help save other plants or one day bring back old ones. Via The Guardian Image via Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

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Canada to ban single-use plastics by 2021

June 11, 2019 by  
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Canada is the latest country to follow the European Union’s ambitious ban of single-use plastics, which will go into effect by 2021. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the upcoming ban, which still has details to iron out, in an attempt to address the marine litter crisis. The announcement also comes months before the election this fall, during which political experts expect climate change to take center stage. Less than 10 percent of all plastics in Canada are recycled, with 300 million tons thrown out every year. This recycling rate is similar in the United States, the largest plastic consumer in the world, where about 9 percent of plastics are recycled. In every corner of the globe, plastic waste is reaching the ocean and wreaking havoc on marine species from sea turtles to fish and whales. Related: Have your plastic and eat it too – average American ingests 50,000 microplastic particles a year To put it into perspective for citizens, Prime Minister Trudeau explained, “As parents, we’re at a point when we take our kids to the beach and we have to search out a patch of sand that isn’t littered with straws, Styrofoam or bottles. That’s a problem, one that we have to do something about.” Legislators have yet to announce exactly which single-use plastics will be banned, but the list could include cutlery, straws, plates, stir sticks and bags. Throughout the European Union, plastic bags, cutlery, cotton balls, stir sticks and balloon sticks will be outlawed in 2021, with a reduction in plastic cups and other food-related plastics also going into effect. The ban legislation is also expected to detail regulations for companies that produce significant plastic waste . The policy will hold companies accountable and mandate they develop targets and responsible waste management plans. Prime Minister Trudeau’s environmental policy may help his chances for re-election this fall, as voters are increasingly concerned about the environment and climate change . Via The BBC Image via Fotoblend

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Here’s how you can recycle and upcycle your yogurt containers

June 4, 2019 by  
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We all want to do the right thing when it comes to recycling. After all, it makes us feel good to know we’re diverting materials from the already-overflowing landfills . But sometimes we inadvertently cause more problems than we solve when we toss items into recycling that contaminate the rest of the goods in the bin. For example, when a material that has come into contact with food rolls down the conveyor belt at the recycling plant, workers have to pull other perfectly acceptable recyclable items from the line simply due to cross-contamination. Yogurt containers are one such item that leave us feeling a little helpless in our efforts to do the right thing. While they do come into contact with food, they may still be recyclable. Then again, they may not. Even if you understand the policy regarding single-use food containers in your area, you have the added ongoing conflict surrounding those little numbers on the bottom of plastic containers. Can you recycle a number 4? Are the containers of one yogurt brand recyclable while others are not? The answer is not black and white. In fact, almost no two recycling centers have the same standards when it comes to what they will or will not accept. The good news is that you can erase the question mark regarding the best way to deal with yogurt containers in your area. Related: DIY: Make delicious homemade yogurt in your slow cooker Step 1. Know your plastic The first step in the process is to investigate the identifying number on the bottom of your container. Yes, these are likely different from one brand to another. Beyond that even, some brands have more than one plastic type for different products. Numbers one and two are commonly recyclable. Number three is rarely recyclable. Number four is commonly recyclable, but perhaps not via curbside pickup. Number five is hit and miss for mainstream recyclability. Number six is rarely recyclable or recycled and is bad for the environment . Finally, number seven is a mixture of plastics that is rarely recyclable. Yogurt containers are most commonly number 5 or 6 plastic, which does nothing to answer the question as to whether you can recycle it or not. Step 2. Contact your recycle center The most accurate answer to your query will come directly from your local curbside recycling provider. While some will accept packaging labeled one to seven, some will only take non-food plastic . Yet, others only commit to the cleaner numbers one or two. Check out the website or send them an email. You can also give them a call, but note that many times the centralized call center won’t have reliable information about the recycling in your area. Facilities vary widely from one location to the next. Plus, protocol is constantly changing based on many factors, most recently the limitations implemented by China. Step 3. Alternatives The short answer here is that there is no easy answer, and it depends on both the capabilities of the facility and the plastic used in the production of the yogurt container. If your curbside service doesn’t allow it, look for a local facility that does accept lower grade plastic. If you have a Whole Foods in your area, look for Gimme 5 drop boxes near the front of the store or mail your clean, empty yogurt cups back to Preserve . Step 4. Other alternatives If you don’t find a viable way to recycle your plastic yogurt containers, it might be time to switch to a brand that serves it up in glass instead. Alternately, you can easily make your own yogurt with recipes that allow it to sit in the oven overnight. Or you can rely on a yogurt maker or Insta-pot for the same effect. Of course, yogurt containers can be useful around the house, too. Here are just a few ways you can put them to work: If they have a lid, use them to store paper clips, thumb tacks, hair bands, buttons, cotton balls, jewelry when you travel and any number of other small items throughout the house and garage. Used yogurt containers can also be used for other food items. Pack your nuts, berries or Goldfish in them, or take your dressings, sauces and dips on the road. Due to the size and shape of yogurt containers, they’re great for pantry items like flour and also cleaning products like the bucket of Oxy-clean or dishwasher detergent . For gardening , poke a few holes in the bottom, fill with soil and add seeds. Yogurt cups make a great small and available planter when you’re starting out plants prior to transplant. If you have children, yogurt containers might be the only bath toy you need. Prepare for endless filling and dumping or drill holes in the bottom so your child can watch it run through. They are also great in the sandbox when building a castle or just watching the sand cascade to the earth. Crafting— yogurt containers can reign in small supplies like tiny clips, stickers or googly eyes. Plus, they make great containers for Play-doh or fingerpainting when the kids are looking for an artsy outlet. Even without a clear cut answer as to whether your yogurt containers are recyclable, you can have a plan to make conscientious purchases (avoid number 6 and buy glass if you can), locate more information about local recycling resources and find ways to upcycle your containers to provide more than a single use. Via Preserve , LifeHacker Images via Shutterstock

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3 Simple Earth-Friendly Summer Recipes

May 30, 2019 by  
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Summer is almost here! One of my favorite things about … The post 3 Simple Earth-Friendly Summer Recipes appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Inside The Mohicans: an Ohio treehouse empire

May 22, 2019 by  
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Waking up in a tree 30 feet off the ground with no noise but birdsong, you might not think you were halfway between Columbus and Cleveland. But The Mohicans is a collection of treehouses and cabins in the quiet woods of Ohio’s Amish country. The treehouses are situated off the road and far enough apart that you can spend a night or two and never run into your human neighbors. Kevin Mooney began building treehouses on his property in 2012. Now, he’s a treehouse addict— with seven completed and a couple more nearly done. “When I hit 20, I might slow down,” he said. Building a Treehouse Empire Mooney was in junior high school when he first visited this area of woods, Amish farmhouses, rolling hills and the canoe-friendly Mohican River. A friend’s family owned 300 acres and Mooney and his classmates spent many weekends in an old farmhouse . Mooney loved the area at first sight. As an adult, he bought land near his old friend’s house. When he left his work as a banking entrepreneur 15 years ago, Mooney decided to share his land with visitors. He started building cabins. Related: Futuristic treehouse in Arkansas is designed to inspire imagination Then a friend showed Mooney a book by master treehouse builder Pete Nelson. “I looked at the treehouse book and I had one of those ‘ah’ moments.” Immediately he saw treehouses in his future. “I really believed in treehouses. I thought, people are going to come here to stay in treehouses.” Mooney was already working closely with an Amish builder named Roman Hershberger. The two men studied Pete Nelson’s treehouse books and began figuring out how to construct them. Mooney then decided to contact Nelson, who eventually visited Ohio and built a treehouse on Mooney’s property for the first season of his Animal Planet/Discovery Network show,  Treehouse Masters. The show introduced The Mohicans to a worldwide audience. Meet the treehouses The Little Red Treehouse Nelson built for his show is the most immediately striking. Its bright red exterior and gothic faux stained glass windows make it look like a cross between a chapel and a one-room schoolhouse. The neutral colors of the other treehouses blend into the forest . The Old Pine Treehouse was built inside the property’s only pine stand from reclaimed barn siding. Inside, the feel is rustic, with hand hewn beams and vintage touches. White Oak Treehouse, suspended from oak and hickory trees, is the most spacious, with two full bedrooms. The romantic Moonlight Treehouse boasts a crystal chandelier. The Octagonal Nest treehouse, designed by the famous treehouse builder Roderick Romero, includes cathedral windows and is popular with honeymooners. The more modern Tin Shed Treehouse has a corrugated metal exterior, big windows and a rolling garage door that opens onto a deck. Other treehouses are coming soon, including an aerial Airstream trailer. Each treehouse has its own staircase and suspension bridge, which is part of the fun of staying there. How many hotel rooms come with a private bridge? Eco measures  Standing in a cabin at The Mohicans, it seems like the lights are on. But that’s the clever placement of skylights .  Since the Amish don’t use electricity, they are masters at maximizing passive light and energy. They’re firm believers in insulation and even take advantage of the earth’s seasonal tilt. “We built our overhangs about three feet out from the structures,” Mooney said, “so in the wintertime the sun comes in the structure and in the summertime it doesn’t.” Buildings at the Mohicans that sit on the ground, rather than in the trees,  such as the cabins and the wedding venue, are heated through hot water lines on the floor. In summer, these structures are 20 degrees cooler inside than out. “We do a lot of repurposing,” Mooney said. Whether it’s buying two thousand dollars’ worth of repurposed insulation or disassembling four old barns from Toledo, Ohio and Erie, Pennsylvania, it’s likely that parts of Mooney’s treehouses had a previous life. Weddings Mooney soon discovered that brides and grooms were drawn to The Mohicans’ rustic charm and beauty, so he began to dream up a central building. His Amish crew built the grand barn wedding venue without a drawn plan. The builder stood on the site, calling out to his assistant the size of the lumber he needed; the assistant would go cut a tree and saw it to the correct length. The result is a fabulous rustic barn that incorporates 100-year old barn siding, hand hewn beams, re-purposed windows and doors, and endless vintage accents and details such as sliding barn shutters, hay loft ladders and solid pine trusses. Old wagon wheels have been turned into chandeliers. Despite the warnings of friends who told Mooney his rustic weddings would never catch on, lots of couples find treehouses romantic. He’s had many out of state couples, and some from as far as Norway and England. One couple from London got engaged there; the bride insisted they come back this June for the wedding. The Treehouse Experience Like many of the treehouses, the octagonal El Castillo is made from old barn wood. This treehouse is so new it isn’t even on the website yet. Red textiles and wrought iron light fixtures bolster its castle image. Downstairs is one good-sized room— large enough for a person to do yoga or two people to have a restrained dance party— which serves as the sitting area and kitchen, unless you pull down the Murphy bed— which takes up most of the downstairs room. The kitchen is well-stocked with pots, pans, a two-burner hot plate and a microwave. Related: This Costa Rican treehouse is built entirely out of locally sourced teak wood If you don’t want to drive five miles to the nearest restaurant, you need to plan ahead and bring all your food , including spices and cooking oil. This is especially important if you have special dietary restrictions. Vegans , take heed and buy provisions in Columbus before you drive into the woods. Also, bring your own soap. A gorgeous, rustic spiral staircase takes you to El Castillo’s upstairs bedroom. The king-sized bed is comfortable, so plan to sleep in. El Castillo has a small balcony off the bedroom and a larger one off the sitting room. A small bathroom is downstairs. There’s also an outside shower on the lower balcony. The amount of insulation inside these treehouses is surprising. Inside was cool, quiet and bug-free. The treehouses are an interesting combination of remote yet modern. There’s no Wi-Fi and you probably won’t have cell service, but there are tons of outlets for charging all your devices. While El Castillo technically sleeps four, most would find that crowded. however, couples, friends and especially families delight in the treehouse experience. Mooney’s favorite thing about running a treehouse empire? Without hesitation, he says, “Hearing the kids run across the bridge laughing.” Via The Mohicans Images via Inhabitat

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SAOLA offers sustainable sneakers sourced from algae and recycled plastic

May 22, 2019 by  
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Although admittedly late to the game, fashion is working towards cleaning up their act when it comes to corporate responsibility and sustainable sourcing of materials and manufacturing of products. But, consumers have to look for it. Fortunately, the shoe industry in particular is getting downright competitive in their efforts to bring sustainable footwear to the market. Unfortunately, for many manufacturers, the eco-friendly label means little more than incorporating an organic thread here or a renewable resource there. For newcomer SAOLA, though, sustainable fashion is front and center. The french company is not only new to the sustainable fashion realm, but has only been in business a few years. Rather than fighting the trends, they’re setting them with their eco-friendly sneakers, some of which are entirely vegan. The efforts can be seen in every component of the shoes, from top to bottom. Related: These sneakers are painted with cast-off blood from slaughterhouses Starting with the uppers made from 100 percent recycled PET, the company pours 3 to 4 plastic bottles into each shoe. The shoelaces are sourced from 100 percent organic cotton to avoid cotton grown using chemicals. A plant-based foam created from algae biomass makes up the insoles and outsoles that brings a wafer-light feel to the sneaker, skips the petroleum used in traditional shoe production and makes use of the unwanted algae in areas where it blooms. Renewable cork sourced without cutting down any trees makes up a removable liner inside the shoe. SAOLA is dedicated to the environment with a commitment to donate 3 percent of every sale to environmental conservation groups. The current product line offers styles for both men and women with suede-look tops and trendy color options including grey, chocolate, camel, olive and navy. They offer low cut and mid-height designs with styles costing about $100. + SAOLA Images via SAOLA

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Maven Moment: After the Family Feast

May 22, 2019 by  
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Looking to make your mornings greener? Try these 7 tips for a sustainable morning routine

May 17, 2019 by  
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We all have our favorite ways to start the day, but how eco-friendly is your morning routine? You might be surprised to learn that most people waste a lot of energy and resources in the first few hours they are awake. Luckily, you can make your mornings more eco-friendly with a few easy steps. From drinking a more sustainable cup of coffee to saving on water, here are seven ways you can go green in the mornings. Sustainable Coffee A hot cup of coffee has become the staple of many morning routines. In fact, many people rely on the caffeine boost to help jumpstart their day. If coffee is something you cannot live without, there are ways in which you can make it more sustainable . A great idea is to start brewing your favorite beans in a thermal carafe. This will help keep the coffee warm for longer periods, which cuts down on the need to brew more later in the day. You should also consider investing in an efficient travel mug instead of disposable cups, even when you fill up at your local coffee shop. If you drink coffee on a regular basis, ditching the waste can really add up over time. You can also purchase coffee in bulk whenever possible. This will help cut down on packaging and is easier on your budget. Related: These are the best tips to help you establish an eco-friendly laundry routine Enjoy Some Sunlight Syncing your day with the sun is a great way to become more eco-friendly in the mornings. By getting up when the sun rises every morning, you are more likely to go to bed when the sun goes down. This allows you to use less energy at night because you are not relying on lights deep into the night. This, of course, is only applicable if you have a daytime work schedule and can easily adjust your mornings and evenings. If you do wake up with the sun, take advantage of the warmth by opening up the blinds and trapping the energy inside. Save Water It does not take much to waste water in the mornings, especially when it comes to showering. A lot of people wander off while they wait for the shower to warm up, which can waste significant amounts of water over time. Instead, stay close to the shower and jump right in as soon as the water is hot. If the water takes a bit to reach a desired temperature you can consider lowering the temperature of your water heater, as this will help save energy and is better for your skin. Healthy Breakfast Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day, so why not make it as healthy as possible? One way to eat healthier in the mornings is to go vegan or vegetarian. Sub out meat products with fruit and veggies, tofu or even cereal. When shopping for the perfect breakfast ingredients, consider choosing items that are completely organic. Non-organic food is bad for the environment and not as healthy as organic products. You can also find great deals on organic food and should not have to break your budget to eat healthier. Switch Up Your Commute If you live within a reasonable distance from your job, consider walking or riding a bike a few days every week. Walking or biking to your place of employment will get your daily workout out of the way and make you more alert throughout the morning. This also helps cut down on vehicle emissions and traffic, which are two of the biggest concerns for cities around the world. You can also consider carpooling with your co-workers to help curb harmful emissions . If you are looking to buy a new vehicle, take a look at an eco-friendly option, such as a hybrid or a small car. These vehicles are much better for the environment and can generate considerable gas savings on an annual basis, both of which will make your eco-friendly morning routine complete. Eco-Friendly Bathroom Bathroom products are one of the worst offenders to the environment . Not only do they contribute to the growing problem of plastic waste, but they are packed with harmful chemicals that eventually find their way into our water sources. You can help curb some of these issues by choosing products that are eco-friendly. The only downside is that these products tend to be a little more expensive than their counterparts. But considering how many of these chemicals are linked to poor health, you will probably save on medical bills down the road. Related: 8 tips to make your exercise routine more eco-friendly Reusable Living One of the easiest ways to go green in the mornings is to reuse whatever you can. From coffee mugs to water containers, having something you can reuse on a daily basis can really cut down on excess waste. Reusing containers can also save you a few bucks every month. If you pack your own lunch to work, you should also consider investing in a reusable lunchbox or bag and avoid single-use plastics . It may be tempting to throw everything in a grocery bag, but these types of plastics are terrible for the environment and are filling up landfills at an alarming rate. Via Livegreen Recyclebank , The Fun Times Guide Images via Shutterstock

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