A forgotten railway takes on new life as a new cultural destination in France

December 9, 2019 by  
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In the Alsace region of eastern France, Oslo-based architectural firm Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter and French design studio Parenthèse Paysage have teamed up to transform the historic, 11-kilometer-long Rosheim-St Nabor railway into a new landmark celebrating local history, culture and the landscape. Redeveloped with curving, ribbon-like sheets of weathered steel, the area takes on new, artistic life while the dismantled tracks have been adapted for the enjoyment of cyclists and pedestrians alike. The adaptive reuse project was completed this year. Opened in 1902, the 11-kilometer-long Rosheim-St Nabor railway was originally created to serve the quarries in the sub-Vosges hills and to transport passengers between five communes. To share the history of the landscape, the designers retraced the existing track and used each train stop as an opportunity to highlight different characteristics of the landscape. Related: Old Paris railway site will transform into a carbon-neutral “ecosystem neighborhood” “Ominous, sometimes hidden, the vestiges of the railway still mark the reading of the site,” the architects explained. “The journey to discover forgotten landscapes or to take a different view on everyday landscapes is addressed to both local users and tourists. Like the old track that offered a dual function (industrial and passenger transport), the route has a double vocation where the functional must rub shoulders with the imaginary of travel.” At the first stop at the French commune Rosheim, the designers created a labyrinthine pavilion ringed by curved sheets of weathered steel with carefully sited openings that frame select views of the landscape. To “tell the story of the past,” the train tracks are conserved in that area and viewing platforms are complemented with benches. At the next stop of Boersch, focus is placed on the river; the riverbed has been enlarged, and a large open-space amphitheater was built alongside the water. After a long, green tunnel is Leonardsau, where the designers “tell the story of the land” with two weathered steel plates that frame views toward Mont St. Odile and emphasize the transition from the forest to the open landscape. At Ottrott, a former train station has been renovated to relay the history of the railway. Lastly is the train stop for Saint-Nabor, which has been redeveloped to tell “the story of luck.” The quarries at this last stop have been gradually overtaken with nature, the views of which can be enjoyed from a dramatic weathered steel promontory with sweeping views of the landscape. + Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter Photography by Florent Michel 11h45 via Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter

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A forgotten railway takes on new life as a new cultural destination in France

Timber Woody office in France embraces Paris’ largest park

November 29, 2019 by  
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In a bid to reduce the carbon footprint of construction, French architecture firm Atelier du Pont has created an office for Santé publique France, the French public healthcare agency. The new office is built almost entirely from wood and is free of solvents and plastics . Nicknamed “Woody” after its timber build, the office is located on the eastern edge of Paris right next to the Bois de Vincennes, the largest public park in the city. The architecture responds to the neighboring landscape with its branching design that embraces the surroundings “like open, protective arms.” Inspired by the Bois de Vincennes, Woody features an all-natural material palette of timber, which is used for everything from the cross-laminated timber structural components and oak flooring to the shingled facades and wood furnishings. Large, furnished terraces jut out from the building to overlook beautiful views of the wooded park, while expansive walls of glass bring those views and natural light indoors. The connection to nature is also referenced in the shape of the building, which resembles a bundle of sticks placed on the ground. Related: Railway enclave in Paris is transformed into a solar-powered mixed-use eco-district “This design symbolizes the mission of this institution, which oversees the health of everyone who lives in France ,” the architects explained in a press release. “The aim is to be exemplary in terms of its impact on the environment and the health. The project has created a pleasant space that takes its users’ wellbeing fully into account.” To create a healthy work environment, the architects have emphasized natural daylighting and a connection to nature. The neutral color palette and unpainted timber lend a warm and tactile feel to the interior. In addition to the nearby park, occupants can enjoy the three gardens around the building, each organized around a theme of beneficial, healing or harmful plants. + Atelier du Pont Photography by Takuji Shimmura via Atelier du Pont

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Foie gras ban to take effect in New York

November 1, 2019 by  
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Fancy feasters in the Big Apple will have to acquire new tastes because New York will soon follow California’s example in legislating for a foie gras ban. Earlier this week, the New York City Council passed a bill calling for the ban, and Mayor Bill de Blasio will soon sign it into law. Animal activists have been rejoicing, calling the new legislation a win, although it won’t take effect until 2022. Those not in compliance by then will face a $2,000 penalty fine per violation. Foie gras is a rich, extravagant dish that has been appreciated since Ancient Roman times. The French have even defended it via article L654 of France’s 2006 Rural Code, which states, “Foie gras is part of the protected cultural and gastronomic heritage of France.” Related: Foie gras ban in California stands after court battle But foie gras production has met with criticism from animal welfare advocates. Foie gras is produced by forced overfeeding of ducks or geese to fatten and enlarge their livers. Feed volume is in excess of a bird’s normal voluntary intake, making the process unnatural because it overrides a bird’s typical preferences and homeostasis. The Canadian Veterinary Journal , for instance, has documented that this unnatural overfeeding process spans a two-week period and involves “repeated capture, restraint and rapid insertion of the feeding tube” that causes discomfort and increased risks for esophageal injury and associated pain. All of this produces a duck or goose liver that is “seven to 19 times the size of a normal liver with an average weight of 550 to 982 grams and a fat content of 55.8 percent,” while a normal liver is just “76 grams with a fat content of 6.6 percent.” In 1998, The European Commission recognized that these force-fed birds were up to 20 times more likely to reach mortality than their normal counterparts. If the same fatty cell buildup would occur in humans, it would be likened to alcohol abuse or obesity. New York’s ban follows at the heels of California’s foie gras ban. The Golden State’s legislation, however, has met some choppy waters. Initially passed in 2012, it was later overturned in 2015, then upheld by a circuit court judge in 2017, followed by further support earlier this year when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of California’s ban. On the other hand, Chicago’s ban on the delicacy was not so successful. Passed in 2006, it was repealed by 2008 via concerted efforts from foie gras producers, celebrity chefs and high-end restaurants that pushed back to sway public opinion. Their lobby strategies centered around the argument that if the foie gras ban persists, then other delicacies like lobster and veal might be in jeopardy, too. Chicago’s former mayor, Richard Daley, eventually called the ban “the silliest ordinance” his city’s council ever had, making the Windy City “the laughingstock of the nation.” It remains to be seen whether New York’s foie gras ban will succeed like California’s or be overturned like the ban in Chicago. Via Time and Fast Company Image via T.Tseng

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Foie gras ban to take effect in New York

Prefab alpine shelter boasts phenomenal views and a small footprint

October 31, 2019 by  
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On the border between Italy and France, a new alpine shelter with breathtaking views has been gently placed atop a remote landscape. Paolo Carradini and his family tapped Michele Versaci and Andrea Cassi to craft an all-black mountain hut to honor the memory of their son, Matteo, a passionate mountaineer. Named the Bivacco Matteo Corradini, the sculptural dwelling was prefabricated off-site in modules, transported by helicopter and reassembled on the construction site to minimize site impact. Located a few meters from the Dormillouse summit in the upper Valle di Susa, the Bivacco Matteo Corradini — also known as the black body mountain shelter — is placed at an altitude of nearly 3,000 meters. The hexagonal dwelling is wrapped in a black metal shell engineered to protect the alpine building from extreme weather conditions, shed snow and absorb solar radiation, while insulation ensures comfort in both winter and summer. Its angular form also takes inspiration from the landscape and mimics the shape of a dark boulder. The interior is constructed from Swiss pine , a material valued for its malleability and scent that is typically used in Alpine communities for crafting cradles and surfaces in bedrooms. The compact interior is organized around a central table with three large wooden steps on either side. These steps serve as sleeping platforms at night and function as seating during the day. Two large windows frame views of the outdoors and funnel light into the structure.  Related: This Norwegian alpine cabin fits together like a 3D timber puzzle “The volume rests on the ground for a quarter of its lower surface so as to adapt to the slope, while limiting soil consumption,” explain the designers of the prefab shelter in a press release. “Reversibility and environmental sustainability are key points of the project: a light and low-impact installation. The optimization of weights and shapes made assembly at high altitudes quick and easy and minimized helicopter transport.” + Andrea Cassi + Michele Versaci Images via Andrea Cassi and Michele Versaci

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Brazil turns down international aid for Amazon wildfires

August 28, 2019 by  
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Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is busy tweeting and arguing with French president Emmanuel Macron while enormous Amazon fires burn. The Group of Seven rich countries, otherwise known as the G7, has offered $22 million to combat fires raging throughout the rainforest. But Bolsonaro says he won’t accept the money unless Macron says he’s sorry. While at the G7 summit in France early this week, Macron urged his fellow leaders to action, calling the Amazon wildfires a world environmental crisis and accusing Bolsonaro of making it worse. He also called the Brazilian president a climate change skeptic. Bolsonaro was insulted and accused Macron of treating Brazil “as if we were a colony or no man’s land,” he said in a tweet. Related: Wildfires are decimating the Amazon rainforest at unprecedented rates Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, further dissed Macron by saying if the French president can’t “avoid a predictable fire in a church,” he might not have much to offer Brazil. This remark referred to the recent tragic blaze at Notre Dame . Fortunately for Bolsonaro, he can fall back on support in his mutual fan club with President Trump. “He is working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil — Not easy,” tweeted Trump. Bolsonaro thanked Trump and accused Macron et al. of building a fake news campaign against him. Meanwhile, a football field and a half of the Amazon continues to burn every minute. Brazil could well be facing permanent changes to its ecology, such as former rainforest turning into arid landscape. “The Amazon is extremely fundamental for the water system all over the continent,” said Rosana Villar from Greenpeace. “So, if we cut off the forest, we are some years not going to have rain on the south of the country.” Critics say the $22 million offered by the G-7 countries including the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.K. wouldn’t be enough to stop the fires . But it would certainly go a lot farther than a juvenile tweet fight. Via NPR and CNN Image via NASA

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Brazil turns down international aid for Amazon wildfires

How Garfield Became an Environmental Mascot

July 16, 2019 by  
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Here’s the story of Garfield the cat, who became France’s … The post How Garfield Became an Environmental Mascot appeared first on Earth911.com.

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The World Surf League is pledging to eliminate single-use plastics and become carbon-neutral by the end of 2019

June 27, 2019 by  
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The World Surf League (WSL)  is known for being the authority for all things surfing, famous for showcasing the most talented professional surfers to the rest of the world. Now, they’ve decided to use that powerful platform to set an example for sports organizations everywhere by committing to substantial environmental initiatives. Earlier in June, the WSL announced a series of pledges that will apply to all WSL Championship Tour and Big Wave Tour events. They include becoming carbon neutral globally by the end of 2019, eliminating single-serve plastics by the end of 2019 and leaving each place better than they found it. The WSL runs more than 230 global surfing events each year. Considering the WSL’s millions of passionate fans, and the organization’s plan to hold competitions throughout Australia, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa, Tahiti, France, Portugal, California and Hawaii in 2019 alone, these public commitments are bound to inspire others to address critical issues about the state of our environment. Related: Kin Travel is offering unique vacation ideas that benefit destinations through conservation and sustainability Along with the announcement came an expansion of the WSL’s already-active ocean conservation efforts by their launch of a global campaign to “ Stop Trashing Waves ” with its non-profit arm, WSL PURE (“Protecting Understanding and Respecting the Environment”). WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt spoke of breaking new ground in the world of sports when it comes to the “urgent battle against climate change and ocean pollution,” saying, “We believe it’s our responsibility to be ‘all in’ with our efforts to protect the ocean and beaches amid the devastating climate crisis we all face. We invite everyone who cares about the ocean to join us.” So how does the WSL plan on carrying out these goals? For starters, the organization is offsetting its carbon footprint by investing in REDD+ and VCS (Verified Carbon Standard) certified carbon offset projects. These projects are focused on restoring and protecting natural and renewable energy ecosystems based in each of the WSL’s operating regions. The WSL will also be making an effort to limit non-essential travel and implement policies to reduce carbon emissions within its offices. 11-time WSL Champion and surfing legend, Kelly Slater, spoke of the announcement with enthusiasm. “I think it’s a great stance and an important message to send to people around the world. The ocean is vital to everyone, for food, for oxygen and especially to us surfers. I think everyone should make it their priority to care about this issue and make changes in their lives to help.” + World Surf League Images via World Surf League

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The World Surf League is pledging to eliminate single-use plastics and become carbon-neutral by the end of 2019

Eco-friendly prefab social housing in France is built from wood and straw

June 27, 2019 by  
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Earlier this year, the commune of Nogent-le-Rotrou in northern France gained a new social housing development that’s not only an inspiring example of beautiful affordable housing, but is also a model for eco-friendly architecture. Designed by Paris-based architectural firm NZI Architectes, the project comprises thirteen gable-roofed homes built from prefabricated timber wall components with straw insulation. Separated into three blocks, the houses are arranged in staggered rows and feature varying roof heights and finishes to create visual appeal. Spanning an area of 11,840 square feet, the homes in the social housing development were constructed in a factory off-site. Prefabricating the walls in a controlled warehouse environment not only minimized construction waste, but also helped save time and money. Since the panels were relatively lightweight, the construction team was able to forgo a heavy-duty crane and instead used light lifting equipment to assemble the homes. Related: Cambridge’s first co-housing development fosters sustainable living “By opting for the construction of wood & straw, biosourced construction is favored, which limits the use of unsustainable resources,” explain the architects, who also used straw for insulation due to the material’s durability and effectiveness. “The constructive advantage of wood and straw construction compared to the traditional wooden structure and MOB wood frame walls is the possibility of complete prefabrication of the wall. The low weight of the wooden structure and straw allows the production of large areas of factory walls.” The thirteen houses are grouped into three blocks—named Block A, Block B, and Block C—with four to five houses each. Blocks A and C are identical mirror images of one another while the central block B is slightly set back from the other two blocks. The houses in each block are arranged in staggered rows to create opportunities for green space. The minimalist , light-filled interiors embrace views of the green space with large windows and tall ceilings. + NZI Architectes Images © Juan Sepulveda Grazioli

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Eco-friendly prefab social housing in France is built from wood and straw

Power and publicity trump protection in large marine protected areas

May 15, 2019 by  
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Nations have just one more year to reach the global marine conservation goal to protect 10 percent of the world’s oceans by 2020. Although 7 percent is already legally protected, many new declarations are massive, offshore areas. Some conservationists argue these offshore achievements fail to protect more critical coastal waters and may even be aggressive ocean-grabs by colonial powers. The goal to legally protect 10 percent of the ocean was ratified under the Convention of Biological Diversity in 2010, and in 2015 it was added to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. According to the World Database of Protected Areas , although 7 percent of the ocean is protected, only 20 marine protected areas account for 70 percent of that area. Offshore areas have significantly fewer stressors than coastal areas, including fishing, tourism, development and mining and host considerably less biodiversity. By contrast, coastal coral reefs are home to 25 percent of all marine species. Related: Drones — the future of ocean conservation Because of the diversity in both uses and species, governments have a difficult time finding compromises to effectively declare and sustainably manage coastal areas, but they can easily make headlines and reach their targets by sectioning off large areas of deep sea. The colonization of marine protected areas Ecological concerns are not the only issue. Many critics also believe political — and colonial — power dynamics are behind these declarations. In recent years, the United States, Britain and France have declared large protected areas in their island territories, while declaring very few at home. The U.S. has less than 1 percent of continental waters under legal designation, while 43 percent of its colonial ocean territories are under protected status. England has just 2.9 square miles of marine protected areas but controls 1.5 million square miles around its territories. Control and displacement in the Indian Ocean In the 1960s, Britain maintained the Chagos Archipelago islands in the Indian Ocean, even after granting independence to nearby Mauritius. In order to make a naval base, the British forcibly removed 2,000 citizens who have spent decades demanding to be allowed to return to their homeland and continue their traditional fishing practices. In 2010, Britain declared the islands a protected area, and suddenly, peoples’ traditions became a crime. Despite official claims that the protected area had nothing to do with preventing displaced people from returning to their homeland, leaked documents revealed an explicit connection to this motive. In 2019, the International Court of Justice at The Hague declared Britain’s actions wrongful and ordered the island to be handed back to Mauritius. Why prioritize coastal areas? Larger protected areas are praised for their ability to preserve more space for migratory species like whales and tuna and for protecting deep sea areas from future exploitation. The problem, however, is when large offshore declarations distract attention from the harder work of protecting coastal zones. The declaration of protected or managed coastal areas requires compromise from many different stakeholders, including transportation, businesses, hotels, local fishers and coastal residents. Unsustainable development, pollution and competing interests exacerbate environmental degradation in coastal areas and require explicit management legislation and compliance — a feat that many governments lack the capacity to take on. In fact, only 5 percent of all marine protected areas have implemented management plans. Enric Sala, a marine ecologist with the National Geographic Society,  argues that protected area declarations that aren’t accompanied by management plans are “false and counterproductive” achievements that look good on paper but do nothing to protect the long-term sustainability of ocean resources. Money and management The lack of local government resources and investment means that the majority of marine conservation activities are funded and implemented by foreign conservation groups and private philanthropists — the majority of whom are American. According to Fred Pearch, a journalist with Yale Environment 360, “Some see such philanthropists as planetary saviors; others as agents of a creeping privatization of one of the last great global commons.” Again, foreign powers have jurisdiction and decision-making power over foreign waters and what indigenous communities can and cannot do. Many local groups are pushing back against this invasion. John Aini, an indigenous leader in Papau New Guinea explained in an interview with MongaBay about the decolonization of marine conservation: “I’ve basically given up working with big international nongovernmental organizations, basically given up networking with them. And we are doing our own thing now with funding that’s available, and funding from people that understand that we are in touch, that we own the land, the sea, we know the problems of our people better.” What is the right way to protect the ocean? There is no one-size-fits-all solution and no way to make all marine conservationists and ocean users agree, but positive examples of protected areas do exist. Last year, Honduras declared a marine protected area in Tela Bay, which includes 86,259 hectares of coral reef. Although it is relatively small at only 300 square miles, the coastal protected area is a model for its outreach strategy, local management committee and “managed-access fishery” program that supports coastal residents. Belize also became the first country to implement a nationwide, multi-species fishing rights program for small-scale local fishers that is incorporated into the country’s intricate network of protected and locally managed areas. The key to successful legal protections is more science- and community-based conservation, not what New York Times contributor Luiz A. Rocha calls “convenient conservation” to meet numbers, make headlines and ignore realities and power dynamics on the ground — and under the sea. Via Yale Environment 360 Images from Bureau of Land Management , Arnaud Abadie , Dronepicr , Drew Avery , USGS Unmanned Aircraft Systems , Daniel Julie and Fred

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Power and publicity trump protection in large marine protected areas

SCAD students fight food insecurity in Georgia with organic farming and beekeeping

May 15, 2019 by  
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For a break from schoolwork, students at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) have been swapping their laptops for shovels and seedlings at SCAD Back40, the university’s new one-acre “farm.” Created as a legacy project to celebrate SCAD’s 40th anniversary, the agricultural initiative features a wide range of seasonal, organically grown crops as well as a growing apiary with 16 beehives actively managed by students. Produce is regularly donated to America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia, with 1,000 units of leafy greens sent to the non-profit food back in the fall and winter quarters of 2018. Located in Hardeeville, South Carolina across the bridge from Savannah, Georgia, Back40 occupies rural land just a short drive from the bustle of cars and urban life. Back40 Project Manager Jody Elizabeth Trumbull oversees the agricultural initiative with the help of student volunteers from varying backgrounds, ranging from UX design to architecture. Because Back40 employs active crop rotation methods, soil management, companion planting and other natural growing methods —  organic certification is currently in progress — for producing seasonal crops, SCAD prefers to call the project a “farm” rather than a “garden.” The one-acre plot has the potential to grow up to five acres. While Back40 has yet to incorporate livestock and poultry, it does feature an apiary with 16 honey-producing hives and nearly 350,000 bees. Each hive can produce 80 to 100 pounds of honey. In addition to supporting the declining bee population, the apiary fits with SCAD’s image — the university’s mascot is the bee. To provide enough food for both managed and native bees, SCAD has planted a wide range of flowers to support both bee populations. When wild beehives are found on campus buildings, they are safely removed and relocated to the apiary. Related: SCAD artist turns recycled materials into giant puppets to revitalize a historic French village Back40 produced 1,000 units of kale, Brussels sprouts, radishes, shard, cardoon and three types of lettuce in the first two quarters of operation. Part of the yield is donated to America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia to help fight food insecurity, while the remaining produce is used at SCAD dining venues. As an educational tool for conservation, Back40 offers learning experiences not just for its students, but for local schools and organizations as well. In the future, the urban farm’s non-food commodity items will also be used in SCAD fine arts and design programs, such as the new business of beauty and fragrance program. + Savannah College of Art and Design Images via SCAD

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SCAD students fight food insecurity in Georgia with organic farming and beekeeping

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