Designer Lucas Couto joins Precious Plastic for recycling project

March 25, 2021 by  
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Lucas Couto, Senior Industrial Designer at EGGS Design in  Norway , is focused on turning plastic pollution into innovative recycled designs. The designer has teamed up with plastic recycling company Precious Plastic to help reveal the potential of plastic waste in the design space. According to Precious Plastic, the world produces about 300 million metric tons of new  plastic  each year. And since plastic has one of the slowest decomposition rates — close to 500 years — all of that waste has the potential to stick around for generations to come. The company is on a mission to show the world the opportunities of plastic waste, reduce the demand for virgin plastic and create a circular economy based around plastic recycling. Related: KALO’s PVC Bench is made from plastic waste and wood scraps Precious Plastic teaches everyday people how to create their own plastic  recycling  company and turns almost any type of plastic waste into large colorful sheets of new material that can be used to make different types of products (such as furniture and construction pieces). Upcycled plastic sheets come in a variety of colors based on the plastic products used in manufacturing. The community develops tools and machines that recycle plastic and share it with others around the world. Now, the company is collaborating with designer Lucas Couto on a project aimed at engaging the community in designing recycled plastic products. Over three weeks in July 2020, the Recycled Plastic Product series focused on challenges centered around different Precious Plastic Machines. Each week highlighted a different plastic recycling  technology : injection molding, beam extrusion and sheetpress. For example, a stool designed by Couto used extruded beams made from sheets of recycled plastic made up of four separate pieces that fit together. Another  stool  design helps to visualize the sheet press materials. After becoming inspired by the nursery pots around his home, the designer also created flower pots that highlighted the looks of mixed color injection molding while providing a product that would benefit from recyclability. + Lucas Couto Images via Lucas Couto

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Designer Lucas Couto joins Precious Plastic for recycling project

50 countries pledge to conserve 30% of land and water

January 12, 2021 by  
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The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People has made a pledge to protect 30% of the land and water on Earth by 2030 to slow destruction of nature and species extinctions. The pledge was made public last Monday during the One Planet Summit in Paris. HAC is a coalition of more than 50 countries that was formed in 2011 to encourage internal action on the climate crisis prior to the Paris Agreement. The coalition is currently co-chaired by three countries: France, the U.K., and Costa Rica. It was formed in Durban in 2011 and has been at the forefront of encouraging international action on the climate crisis. The coalition is promoting actions against biodiversity loss and hopes that the pledge will lead to a successful conservation agreement during the Cop15 2021 summit in China. Related: Polar bears could go extinct in 80 years if global warming persists In their pledge, the countries have agreed to reserve at least 30% of the planet’s land and water as natural habitats. While making the announcement, HAC noted that protecting 30% of the planet by the turn of the decade is necessary to prevent mass extinction of plant and animal species. On Monday, several world leaders met at the One Planet Summit in Paris to discuss the biodiversity crisis and promotion of archeology as well as to examine the relationship between human health and nature . The event was addressed by various world leaders, including UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Besides the pledge to protect 30% of the planet, several countries in the coalition also made pledges to fund nature conservation projects. The coalition has pledged to invest billions of pounds in the  Great Green Wall of Africa  project and the launch of the new  Terra Carta  by Prince Charles. The coalition’s pledges have been applauded but also met by some criticism from various environmentalists. Many emphasized that the commitment needs to be met with actual efforts and delivery. Greenpeace U.K.’s head of politics Rebecca Newsom explained that there are also concerns about the source of funds being pledged by countries such as the U.K. Newsom argued that the funds should not be cut from budgets already allocated for other environmental projects. “Increasing funds to protect and enhance nature is critical to help secure success at the global biodiversity conference in China this year,” Newsom said. “Siphoning off cash from funds already committed to tackling the climate crisis simply isn’t enough.” Via The Guardian Image via Pauline Bernfeld

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Bee-killing pesticide approved for emergency use in the UK

January 12, 2021 by  
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The U.K. government is reversing a ban on a dangerous pesticide. The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and British Sugar lobbied hard to get a product containing neonicotinoid thiamethoxam sanctioned for emergency use on sugar beets. Not only is this chemical thought to kill bees, but rainwater will wash it from fields into rivers. Last we heard, fish weren’t requesting neonicotinoid thiamethoxam any more than were insects, many of which already face serious declines. Matt Shardlow, chief executive of the conservation group Buglife, was one of many environmentalists unhappy with the decision. “In addition, no action is proposed to prevent the pollution of rivers with insecticides applied to sugar beet,” Shardlow said . “Nothing has changed scientifically since the decision to ban neonics from use on sugar beet in 2018. They are still going to harm the environment .” Related: Flea treatments are poisoning England’s rivers Beet yellows virus is carried by aphids and has a ruinous effect on sugar beet crops. The U.K. has tracked this disease with national surveys since 1946, charting the effects of chemicals, farm hygiene and other factors on the changes and developments in virus yellows disease. Treating sugar beet seeds with neonicotinoid thiamethoxam is one approach used to control this disease . “Virus yellows disease is having an unprecedented impact on Britain’s sugar beet crop, with some growers experiencing yield losses of up to 80%, and this authorization is desperately needed to fight this disease,” said Michael Sly, chairman of the NFU sugar board. “It will be crucial in ensuring that Britain’s sugar beet growers continue to have viable farm businesses.” He emphasized that pesticides would be used in a limited and controlled way. In 2018, the EU decided to protect bees by banning outdoor uses of thiamethoxam. But now 11 countries, including Spain, Denmark and Belgium, have signed emergency authorizations to use this controversial chemical. Via The Guardian and Pest Management Science Image via Kurt Bouda

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Bee-killing pesticide approved for emergency use in the UK

Serif + Sero modular furniture is made of 100% upcycled cardboard

November 9, 2020 by  
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Australia-based design studio SODO – SOPA has introduced a furniture set made completely out of upcycled cardboard that is also modular and customizable. The series, called Serif + Sero, helps promote waste repurposing and consumer awareness for a more sustainable future. The furniture set features a series of coffee tables that can be modified to become stackable storage units, the studio’s way of introducing flexibility in function and form. Pieces are available in square or circular versions and assembled through interactive cuts, scores, flips and folds to lock into place. Assembly ranges in difficulty depending on the set. Related: Parent shares process of making life-size board game from cardboard Inspired by the studio’s award-winning project where it constructed a 100% upcycled cardboard installation using 1,800 hand-cut modules sourced from waste, Serif + Sero advocates for inclusive upcycling. The previous project allowed the public to shape and mold cardboard themselves to create unique designs, proving that every type of household has the ability to reduce its waste in imaginative ways and contribute toward a circular economy. A common shipping material often used by electronic companies to protect products, thick, corrugated cardboard boxes don’t get recycled nearly as much as they should due to size and weight. Especially among average households, these boxes are routinely discarded as waste in landfills, or they end up in the oceans. Even worse, as certain types of cardboard decompose, they can generate methane, a greenhouse gas that pollutes the environment. SODO – SOPA’s designs are minimal and practical, and the ability for the furnishings to convert into modular , stackable storage units provide an additional perk. Once stacked, storage towers may be used inside closets or as a decorative bookshelf in the home, and the neutral, organic color is attractive in a range of décor themes. In an effort to get the community to embrace the power and accessibility of upcycling in everyday life, the studio plans to release the design as an open-source project available to the public after prototyping additional designs with fabricators. + SODO – SOPA  Images via SODO – SOPA

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Serif + Sero modular furniture is made of 100% upcycled cardboard

10 Ways To Reuse Coffee Grounds and Tea Bags

August 7, 2020 by  
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If Jack Frost is nipping at your nose this winter, you’re probably reaching for that favorite hot beverage to warm your bones on frigid days. But what to do with all those spent coffee grounds and tea bags? From cleaning your furniture to shining…

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Natural pink walls make up this eco-friendly hotel in Oaxaca

July 7, 2020 by  
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Designed by studios Taller Lu’um and At-te, the Monte Uzulu boutique hotel in Oaxaca, Mexico has doors made from  local wood  and walls crafted with a combination of concrete, earth and natural lime. The name comes from the word gusulú, meaning “beginning” in the region’s indigenous Zapotec language. As the hotel resides in the small fishing village of San Agustinillo, the designers wanted to honor the land surrounding the site by modeling the hotel to be close to nature. The  Pacific Ocean  can be found just a short walk away from the property, and construction kept as many trees as possible intact to make less of an environmental impact. According to the architectural team, a roughly 1,000-year-old jungle surrounds the hotel, so respecting the trees became a pivotal part of the design plan. Related: Ancient Mayan-inspired Casa Merida operates off the grid in Mexico Monte Uzulu’s balance with nature shows in its construction materials, which include natural elements such as locally-sourced wood,  soil  and dried palm leaves. A pink rendering of earth, lime and natural pigment covers the concrete walls, applied by hand and palette knife. The open-sided structure, moveable wood walls and thatched roof are modeled after the palapa design that is native to this part of western  Mexico . This design promotes natural ventilation and less sun exposure, making it perfect for the area’s hot weather. Six rectangular structures with gabled roofs connect with a series of stairs, making up 11 guest suites and about 7,782 square feet of total area. Each room has a terrace overlooking the jungle and ocean, with interior  concrete  walls left exposed to match the concrete floors and fixtures. Local artisans crafted the furniture, such as shelves and bed frames, using local wood. Sustainability measures, including a  rainwater collection system , water recycling system, natural water pools and a biodigester to convert organic waste, are implemented to reduce the hotel’s environmental impact even further. + Monte Uzulu Via Dezeen

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Natural pink walls make up this eco-friendly hotel in Oaxaca

COVID-19 disrupts recycling programs across the US

July 7, 2020 by  
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The pandemic is impacting yet another part of our world: recycling programs. The recycling industry is being riddled by budget shortfalls, an increase in single-use items and a shortage of centers open to receive reusable items. Since people have become more cautious about person-to-person transfer of COVID-19, single-use items are increasing. Many stores have banned reusable bags, and places, like Starbucks, aren’t refilling customers’ personal coffee cups. Restaurants have upped their use of plastic takeout packaging. Related: Starbucks suspends personal cup use because of coronavirus But most people are staying home, where they generate more garbage . The Solid Waste Association of North America noted a 20% average increase in solid waste and recycling in March and April, and some cities have reported even higher increases. Chicago’s waste has gone up by almost 50%. People are suddenly finding it harder to recycle and reuse. Spring cleaning became a popular pandemic activity, but charity stores weren’t open to accept donations of household goods. Meanwhile, many municipalities responded to severe budget shortfalls by axing their recycling programs. The U.S. recycling problems predate the pandemic. Since 2018, when other countries stopped buying poorly sorted recyclables and dirty food packaging from the U.S., recyclers have been strapped for customers. China used to buy up to 700,000 tons of scrap from the U.S. every year. Compounding that, oil prices are at the lowest they’ve been in decades, pushing the cost of virgin plastic down and making it less profitable to recycle plastics like PET (#1) and PE (#2 and #4). COVID-19 has also changed waste collection. Waste companies have come up with new procedures to protect workers from disease exposure while handling trash and recyclables. Recycling requires hands-on sorting, because machines aren’t as skilled as people at making sense of the collection stream. As companies try to minimize germ contact, they’re slowly improving automation. While recycling is down, the full picture of the pandemic and waste is not yet clear. “Historically, waste output from the commercial and industrial sectors has far outweighed the municipal stream,” co-authors Brian J. Love and Julie Rieland, a professor of materials science and engineering and a PhD candidate in macromolecular science and engineering, respectively, wrote on EcoWatch . “ With many offices and business closed or operating at low levels, total U.S. waste production could actually be at a record low during this time. However, data on commercial and industrial wastes are not readily available.” Via EcoWatch Image via Manfred Antranias Zimmer

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Appalachian Trail spared from Atlantic Coast Pipeline

July 7, 2020 by  
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Duke Energy Corp. and Dominion Energy Inc. have canceled the controversial 600-mile-long Atlantic Coast Pipeline that the companies planned to build under the Appalachian Trail. The  energy  giants called off the $8 billion project “due to ongoing delays and increasing cost uncertainty which threaten the economic viability of the project.” This news comes as a win for the environmentalists who have spent years fighting this disruption to the Appalachian Trail in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. The pipeline’s route was supposed to start in the gas fields of Harrison County,  West Virginia , then travel southeast through Virginia, ending in Robeson County, North Carolina. This route would have crossed both the Appalachian Trail and Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway. Related: Dakota Access Pipeline placed under environmental review Anti-pipeline activists took their battle to the Supreme Court, striving to preserve nature and protect local  endangered species . In June, the court ruled in favor of the utility companies. So, the pipeline cancellation announcement came as both a surprise and cause for celebration. “Its effective defeat today is a huge victory for  Virginia’s  environment, for environmental justice, and a testament to the power of grassroots action, the hundreds of driven, determined, frontline advocates who never stopped fighting this misguided project,” Michael Town, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement. Greenpeace also weighed in. “Duke and Dominion had hoped to carve up beautiful mountains, ignore catastrophic climate change, and delay a just transition to renewable energy to build this pipeline, but, thanks to the courageous activists who stood up to them, they have failed,” the organization said. But not everybody was rejoicing. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) issued a statement of regret, insisting the pipeline would have been safely constructed and that the surrounding areas would have been protected. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce also lamented that the estimated 17,000 jobs the  pipeline  project would have created will not come to fruition. “Unfortunately, today’s announcement detrimentally impacts the Commonwealth’s access to affordable, reliable energy,” the chamber said in a statement. “It also demonstrates the significant regulatory burdens  businesses  must deal with in order to operate.” + Huffington Post Images via Fibonacci Blue

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Tiny timber cabin opens up to the French countryside

April 7, 2020 by  
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Kyoto-based architecture 2m26 used locally sourced materials to build a peaceful tiny timber cabin tucked into the French countryside. At just 376 square feet, La Petite Maison is compact, but floor-to-ceiling glass panels, multiple sliding glass doors and an open courtyard strategically connect the home’s interior to its quaint surroundings, making it feel vast. Located in the picturesque countryside of Guitinières in southwestern France, the tiny cabin was built onsite. From the onset, the architects were inspired to create a small, minimalist living space that blended seamlessly into its natural surroundings. Related: Transparent, prefab tiny cabin offers the best views of the Italian Alps La Petit Maison boasts a strategic design that makes it feel much more open and spacious than its square footage would lead one to believe. Made out of locally sourced materials , the square frame is crafted from light Douglas fir. The frame is elevated off the landscape with small concrete piles to reduce its site impact as much as possible. In order to open up the tiny home, which is designed to be a guest house, the architects decided to use multiple massive panels of glass to usher in views of the idyllic countryside. Several sliding glass doors and floor-to-ceiling windows flood the interior with natural light and blur the line between the indoors and outdoors. Additionally, guests can enjoy spending time in the open-air courtyard that sits between the living space and the exterior. The minimalist interiors feature sparse furnishings. Made out of the same locally sourced wood as the structure, the furniture inside the tiny timber cabin is completely utilitarian, with just enough pieces for seating, dining and sleeping. Although the interior design is completely free of any sort of frivolous amenities, the guest house provides visitors with a relaxing, no-frills place to disconnect from stress while reconnecting with nature. + 2m26 Images via 2m26

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Tiny timber cabin opens up to the French countryside

Marc Thorpe designs live/work buildings built from earth bricks

February 20, 2020 by  
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New York-based architecture studio Marc Thorpe Design has unveiled renderings for the Dakar Houses, a series of live/work spaces for the artisans of furniture brand Moroso, located on the outskirts of the Senegalese capital of Dakar. Designed with compressed earth bricks, a common building material in western Senegal, the multipurpose units take inspiration from the local architectural vernacular. The economical earth bricks also have the advantage of thermal mass to provide comfortable indoor temperatures without artificial heating or cooling.  Created to house Moroso’s Dakar-based artisans, the Dakar Houses will consist of two apartments that flank a central workshop for manufacturing the furniture brand’s decade-old line of handcrafted and brightly colored outdoor furnishings. In echoing the furniture line’s celebration of local craftsmanship, the Dakar Houses also pay homage to building materials and techniques common to the West African region.  Related: Ancient green building technique helps ease West Africa housing crisis “The intention was to create a work-based community allowing a village to develop around a central economic constituent,” Marc Thorpe Design explained. “The units are designed to house the workers as well as various parts of the manufacturing process of M’Afrique’s furniture , such as the handicraft work of welding and weaving. The apartments would be designed based on the required space for each individual family.” Each unit comprises three volumes — two apartments and a central workspace — that are staggered to create favorable solar shading conditions. Steeply pitched roofs top the minimalist units, which are left unadorned to emphasize the earth bricks. Made from local soil, the bricks are cured over several weeks. Next, they are soaked in water each morning, then baked in the sun beneath a tarp until they are ready for construction. During the day, the earthen walls absorb heat to provide a cool indoor environment; at night, that heat is slowly dissipated and warms the air.  + Marc Thorpe Design Images via Marc Thorpe Design

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