The high environmental cost of popular holiday gifts

December 24, 2020 by  
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As we scramble around gathering up last-minute Christmas gifts, we often worry more about hurting somebody’s feelings if we don’t get them something compared to how much we consider that gift’s impact on the environment. But the societal pressure of all this gift-giving has many bad consequences for the planet. The top 10 types of Christmas gifts given in the U.K., in order, are: clothes and shoes, food and drink, health and beauty products, toys and games, books, jewelry, vouchers, music, movies and computers. Each of these items has its impact on the environment. Related: 10 eco-friendly holiday gift ideas for friends Pajamas are one of the most popular holiday presents. Many gift-givers and recipients would be shocked to find out that those cute cotton pajamas took 20,000 liters of water to produce — enough water to keep a U.K. household of two running for 2.5 months. Then there’s the pesticides . While cotton only represents 2.4% of the world’s croplands, about 24% of the world’s insecticides and 11% of pesticides are used for growing this crop. About half of the usable cotton ends up as waste product. Then, consider health and beauty products. Half a million animals die every year in makeup and toiletry tests . When it comes to packaging, those little plastic containers can take a millennium to break down. So what are we to do if we don’t want to be the Grinch around Christmas? Be a little choosier. Think of a gift the recipient will actually use, preferably for a long time. When possible, buy secondhand. Do a little research — at least read the labels or look at the company website — to ensure that ingredients are vegan and sustainably sourced. If this is too much work, shop where somebody else has already done the research for you, such as Shop Like You Give a Damn . Maybe it’s too late this year, and your presents are already wrapped and under the Christmas tree, or you already exchanged them at Hanukkah or on the solstice. But there’s always next year, and the many holidays, birthdays and other occasions in between. Each gift is a choice; choose wisely. Image via Kari Shea

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The high environmental cost of popular holiday gifts

New Urban Park in Portugal gets eco-conscious renovation

December 24, 2020 by  
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Community gathering spaces for indoor and outdoor use are central to the idea of shared land. As such, parks should be structured to maximize these benefits, though sometimes this comes at the cost of the surrounding landscape. However, the new Urban Park and Environmental Interpretation Center in construction for the Portuguese city of Oliveira de Azeméis offers over roughly 12 acres of public-use area designed with special consideration for the ecosystem.  The project began with the winning bid submitted anonymously to the city . A design by Ad Quadratum Arquitectos earned the support of decision-makers for its comprehensive and holistic outline. Related: French housing project “I Park” has a double-skinned green facade The first goal centers on creating a usable space for the community and its visitors. Citizens and tourists alike will enjoy the walkways and sitting areas scattered through the five hectares. Architects constructing the space aim to better the physical and mental health of the entire community . The outdoor arena will include a slide, tree-climbing structures, circuits and maintenance sports equipment, and rest areas, among many other recreational and leisure features. Additionally, the project will repurpose an existing building to  minimize site impact . When complete, the building, coupled with the surrounding infrastructure, will house the park café and café concert terrace, along with the provision of areas for the Interpretative Center and Pedagogical Center. The building renovation in the area commonly referred to as “old” Quinta dos Borges will also include restaurant spaces. Indoors and out, the project promises energy efficiency and environmental neutrality. Lead architect José António Lopes insists on respecting the history, culture, and materials by lifting the building up to new uses, rather than tearing it down. In addition to the preservation of the building, the team stresses the need to protect the surrounding ecosystem. They will retain as much of the existing  vegetation  as possible and also introduce new specimens to round out a self-sustaining ecosystem for long term success. + Ad Quadratum Arquitectos Images via Ad Quadratum Arquitectos

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New Urban Park in Portugal gets eco-conscious renovation

A 1905 home reborn as greenery-filled office in Mexico City

December 24, 2020 by  
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Mexican architecture firm  Gabriel Beas Arquitectura  has transformed a 1905 building in the historic  Mexico City  neighborhood of Colonia San Rafael into Corporativo BNS, a contemporary office space surrounded by lush landscaping. Completed in phases over four years, the adaptive reuse project recovered much of the carved stonework, iron windows, carpentry and tiled floors original to the 1905 construction while introducing a new contemporary aesthetic that welcomes the outdoors in.  Oriented east to west on a long and linear site, the 1,095-square-meter Corporativo BNS consists of office spaces, meeting rooms, storage and other service spaces. In remodeling the structure, the architects learned that the building was converted into an  office  in the 1970s. After this, a series of added extensions covered up the original patios. To reconnect the new office with the outdoors, the architects restored the original patios and — taking advantage of the building’s walkable location in the city center — removed the sheltered parking areas. Those spaces were replaced with lushly planted  courtyards  that serve as waiting and meeting areas as well as the main circulation pathways through the various parts of the building. The open patio is also connected to the ground-floor kitchen and dining room for employees.  Related: Midcentury warehouse becomes a community-building asset in Mexico City The original structure has also been reinforced with two new steel-framed extensions sympathetic to the architectural design of the ground floor and fitted with partition walls and floor-to-ceiling glass. Vegetation introduced on the upper levels and along the parapets, roofs and terraces appears to immerse the  adaptive reuse  building in a jungle-like environment. “The result is a homogeneous group of buildings in which the different times of construction coexist with the vegetation, generating a space of calm between the chaos of the city,” the architects noted in a project statement.  + Gabriel Beas Arquitectura Photographrapy by Onnis Luque

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Sustainable holiday gift ideas for siblings

December 11, 2020 by  
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You grew up with them and have probably known them your whole life. So why are some siblings so hard to shop for? We’ve scoured the internet for fun, thoughtful and sustainable  gifts  which even the most discerning sib will be thrilled to receive. Zero-waste cocktail kit This  zero-waste cocktail kit  lets your siblings stir up a gimlet or  French  75 anywhere. The mason jar cocktail shaker, two stainless steel mini straws and sphere ice tray travel well in their own special tote. Related: Gift loved ones with classes that teach and build nature skills Organic soaps Okay, people often use soap as a sort of fallback gift when they don’t know what else to give somebody. But  Birch Ridge ‘s handmade soaps are something special. These soaps are vegan,  organic , synthetic-free and, best of all, come in delicious fragrances with cool names. Blood Moon is a combo of citrus notes — blood orange, tangerine, lime, sweet orange, tangerine and lemongrass. Collins pairs lemongrass with sage, patchouli, lime and bergamot. Hemp socks Want  hemp socks  without the hippie look? These unisex machine washable crew socks use a cotton, nylon and  hemp  blend. They come in three patterns: mustard with a mountain pattern, tan with bison and rust with a geometric pattern. The socks are also responsibly made in China (a self-reported label meaning a company aims to treat workers fairly and reduce environmental impacts). Sustainable wireless charger For the electronically-inclined sibling, try these  chargers  made from hemp and recycled plastic. Go Nimble offers several options, including a wireless travel kit and a dual pad for simultaneously charging two devices. A safe bet for your bro who is always wearing down his phone battery at  family  dinners. EcoVibe gift set EcoVibe  has done the work of putting together cutesy gift sets for you. The company has lots of choices depending on your sib’s favorite activity. An Icelandic bath kit includes a special  Icelandic  kelp soap, stone soap dish and matching tiny Icelandic kelp candle. The bike buff gift set includes shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream and lip salve to clean up post-ride, plus a cyclist kit and a pocket bicycle multi-tool. The air plant wall mounting kit will help up your sib’s botanical game with a natural cork backdrop for their air plant collection. Includes step-by-step instructions. Vegan jams by Trade Street Jam, like soap, is a classic gift because the recipient can enjoy a special flavor without leaving behind an artifact to clutter their house forever. We want to try all of  Trade Street Jam’s  interesting  vegan  blends, like strawberry chipotle and fig or plum and rose. Or maybe sour cherry ginger. Or smoke peach. Whichever you choose, be sure to order some of Trade Street’s darling mini wooden jam spoons to go with your gift. Wellness app membership Is wellness a gift you can give? Sure. Help your anxious sib learn to slow down with a gift of  Calm , the leading meditation app.  Headspace  is another meditation app that promises to change lives with an investment of only a few minutes a day. Or you could give a gift of Zoom classes with your sibling’s favorite  yoga  teacher. Vegan, biodegradable juice masks Is your sibling into clean living? This  masking and juicing set  brings the raw juice trend into skincare with biodegradable sheet masks. We especially like the set’s included sprout headband to secure your hair while the raw juice cleanse mask is on your face. This set is, of course, vegan, organic, eco-friendly and cruelty-free. I+I Botanicals For the CBD-inclined sibling,  I+I Botanicals  offers expertly crafted feel-good formulations to solve skincare issues. I+I Infused Bath Teas blend CBD and essential oils into bath salts. I+I Dry Oil Body Mist will leave your sib glowing, not greasy, and smelling of citrus and sandalwood. This women-owned company uses only American -grown, lab-tested CBD in its products. Artsy reusable water bottle People may not leave the house as often during the pandemic, but when your sibling goes out, they’ll want to be toting an eye-catching  water bottle . This cute retro  water  bottle comes in mint, coral, dark gray and indigo, each with a contrasting top. It’s vacuum-sealed and has a double-walled construction that keeps cold drinks cold for up to 24 hours and hot drinks hot for up to twelve. Plant-based milk maker If your sibling is part of the global trend against dairy, they’ll benefit from this  plant-based milk maker . Instead of buying premade and processed faux milk from the store, this gadget turns  nuts , grains and seeds into fresh dairy-free milk at home. Your sibling can even devise their own custom blends. Compostable phone case Alas, every good thing comes to an end. Even a trusty and beloved phone case.  Compostable cases  for your iPhone and Airpods can help pare down the global waste stream. These cases made from a bamboo-based proprietary blend can decompose and return to the earth. When your sibling’s phone case must meet its maker, we prefer to think dust to dust than permanent burial in a landfill . To make these cases even sweeter, you can customize them with your sib’s name or initials. Cases come in colors like mint and French raspberry. These work great with wireless charging or a lightning cable. Images via Package Free Shop, Birch Ridge, United by Blue, Go Nimble, EcoVibe, Trade Street Jam, Calm, ESW Beauty, I+I Botanicals, The Grommet, Pexels, and Casetify

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Sustainable holiday gift ideas for siblings

Human-produced mass now outweighs the Earth’s biomass

December 11, 2020 by  
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Research published in Nature revealed that human-made matter now outweighs the earth’s biomass. The research further shows that, on average, every person on Earth is responsible for creating matter equal to their own weight each week. The study, carried out by a team of researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, determined the overall impact of human activities on the planet. Researchers accounted for human activities such as the production of concrete , plastic, metals and bricks. The study also determined that the production of such materials has been on the rise due to increasing urbanization. According to the researchers, the mass of human-made products at the start of the 20th century was about 3% of the Earth’s biomass . However, due to increased urbanization and product consumption, human-produced weight now outweighs the overall global biomass. Researchers say that Earth is already at a tipping point, with the human-produced mass at 1.1 tetra-tons. This increase in human-produced mass means negative consequences for Earth. In fact, the study shows that an increase in human-produced mass correlates with a decrease in biomass. “Since the first agricultural revolution, humanity has roughly halved the mass of plants,” the authors wrote. “While modern agriculture utilizes an increasing land area for growing crops, the total mass of domesticated crops is vastly outweighed by the loss of plant mass resulting from deforestation, forest management, and other land-use changes. These trends in global biomass have affected the carbon cycle and human health.” The paper now suggests that this epoch should be named Anthropocene , implying that the earth is shaped by human activities. They say that the 21st century has been squarely shaped by human activities. Production of human-made objects has transformed Earth in a few centuries. Human activities continue shaping the Earth, with an increase in human-generated mass each year. “The face of Earth in the 21st century is affected in an unprecedented manner by the activities of humanity and the production and accumulation of human-made objects,” the researchers said. Today, human mass is produced at a rate of about 30 gigatons per year. If this rate continues, the weight of human-created mass will exceed 3 tetra tones by 2040. + Nature Via The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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Eco-Friendly Holiday Gift Guide: Men’s Edition

December 8, 2020 by  
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The men on your gift list may not always be … The post Eco-Friendly Holiday Gift Guide: Men’s Edition appeared first on Earth 911.

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Buyers Guide: Clothes Washers

December 8, 2020 by  
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Home appliances like clothes washers are responsible for about 15% … The post Buyers Guide: Clothes Washers appeared first on Earth 911.

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Send your coworkers these sustainable holiday gifts

December 7, 2020 by  
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It’s the age-old question that manages to stump people in the workforce every year: what to buy coworkers for the holidays? With many people working from home this year, navigating what to buy for your teammates can be trickier than ever. Inhabitat has you covered with 11 thoughtful and eco-friendly gifts for the coworkers in your life. Fair-trade coffee For those who are unfamiliar, coffee that is certified as “ Fair-Trade ” has been vetted to ensure that the product has been produced to a certain set of ethical standards. When you buy Fair-Trade coffee, you’re not only supporting farmers who receive a fair price but supporting communities and their local environment as well. A gift of certified Fair-Trade coffee is the perfect present for the coffee-lovers in the office. Choose from some popular favorites like Cafedirect , which makes 90% of its farmers shareholders in the business, or Higher Ground Roasters , which has established partnerships with non-profits that protect important wild areas. Rok espresso machine Chances are, you have more than one coffee-lover in the office, so we just had to include this zero-waste and zero-energy espresso machine by Rok . The hand-operated machine produces a strong, double shot of espresso with no plastic pods or paper filters needed. Simply add coffee grounds to the steel portafilter, add boiling water and pull the steel arms of the machine down to produce either one double shot or two single shots at once. Its minimal design is perfect for an office kitchen or on top of a desk, and the device itself is light enough to carry around. Related: This zero-waste espresso machine is powered by human strength Zero-waste lunch kit Switching to a waste-free lunch box is one of the easiest ways to go green in the office. Package Free makes a zero-waste lunch kit complete with a silicone sandwich bag, organic cloth napkin, a bamboo cutlery set and an airtight stainless steel container. Everything inside the gift set is reusable and comes inside a handy drawstring produce bag to make it completely package free. At about $50 for everything, it won’t break the bank, either. Eco notebook Choose an eco-friendly or ethically sourced spiral notebook for meetings and conferences (in-person or virtual!), like this one from Marie Mae that’s designed, printed and packaged in the U.S. by family-owned production partners. All notebooks are fully recyclable , and a percentage of the paper composition is made from either post-consumer waste or sourced from certified sustainable and renewable wood. The Growing Candle It’s no secret that candles always make great gifts, no matter the occasion. Opt for one made from essential oil and sustainably sourced soy wax, coconut wax or beeswax for an eco-friendly flair and non-toxic fumes. The Growing Candle is made from 100% pure soy wax and a lead-free cotton wick with additive-, colorant- and phthalate-free fragrances. Even better, the candle comes in a beautiful ceramic holder and wrapped in paper embedded with wildflower seeds, so it can be repurposed as a flower planter after it has been used. ChopValue phone stand Give your coworkers a cute little home for their phones on their desks with this phone stand made from repurposed chopsticks. The ChopValue phone stand boasts 150 chopsticks recycled with 220 grams of carbon stored per product. With custom engraving available as well, this piece is sure to be a conversation starter. Welly tumbler  Featured everywhere from CNN and Vogue to Bon Appetit and Goop, this reusable bottle from Welly is made from bamboo and stainless steel . The company donates 1% of sales to charity:water to bring fresh water to those in need around the world. Choose from five different sizes and three different models plus various colors and patterns to accommodate everyone on your list. Biodegradable wood planters These biodegradable wood planters from Etsy shop MinimumDesign are 3D-printed using a sustainable blend of recycled wood and bioplastic made from corn. Available in a variety of shapes and sizes, choose the perfect style to sit on your coworker’s desk and add a little low-maintenance succulent or bonsai tree to top it off. Is your coworker lacking in gardening skills? The company also makes flower vases, coasters and even wall decorations. Upcycled circuit board supplies Another unique Etsy find (and who doesn’t love those?), these gifts from DebbyAremDesigns are made from recycled circuit boards. Perfect for the IT department or resident coworker who is always stuck fixing computer problems around the office, choose from budget-friendly bookmarks made from a recycled vintage circuit board or a more elaborate wall clock crafted from circuit board, vintage brass jewelry stampings and a recycled vintage vinyl record. Recycled plastic backpack Environmentally friendly and stylish, these $27 recycled plastic backpacks from Earth Easy come in three different colors and roll up into built-in pouches, making them lightweight, compact and convenient. The fabric is made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles and is machine-washable. With a zippable front pocket and a fold-over main compartment, it’s much more professional-looking than a standard school backpack. GoSili reusable straws Although plastic straws and single-use beverage cups are (hopefully) on their way out, there are bound to be one or two office mates who just haven’t gotten the memo yet. Along with cups and food storage containers, GoSili makes universal silicone straws tops that fit onto a wide range of different reusable cups, making them spill-proof and reusable. Kits even come with travel tins for sipping on the go. Images via S. Hermann & F. Richter , Inhabitat, Package Free, Marie Mae, The Growing Candle, ChopValue, Welly, MinimumDesign, DebbieAremDesigns, Earth Easy, GoSili and Freestocks

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Send your coworkers these sustainable holiday gifts

Eco-friendly holiday gifts for babies and kids

December 4, 2020 by  
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The holiday season is just around the corner. Gift-giving adds to the joyous celebrations, and with children, the festivities truly feel magical. But finding just the right present can be challenging, especially when making the effort to avoid plastic, seek out natural materials and skip wasteful packaging. Here are some ideas that are sure to delight kids of all ages without negatively impacting the planet. Happy holidays! Alf-Phi ethical children’s clothing Born out of a love for children and the environment, Alf-Phi targets the wasteful textile industry with children’s clothing and accessories made from salvaged materials. While the goal is to minimize fabric waste headed to the landfill, the result is quality, heirloom, handmade items. You can even submit your own special piece, such as grandma’s shirt, to be converted into a gift for the next generation. Related: Eco-friendly subscription boxes to gift this holiday season Eco Girl yo-yo There are few toys more classic than the yo-yo, an irresistible challenge generation after generation. Give the gift of tradition and leisure activity in one with a yo-yo handmade in Vermont. The Eco Girl yo-yo is made from natural materials, including locally sourced, native hardwood from a sustainably managed forest. The yo-yo string is 100% cotton. Jenga Ocean Everybody loves a sweat-inducing match of Jenga, and there are myriad forms of the game, from wooden blocks to life-size backyard versions. The Jenga Ocean on Bureo brings the additional gift of supporting ocean cleanup efforts with every game piece made entirely of recovered and recycled fishing net material. In addition to presenting a competition, the game educates about the dangers of discarded fishing nets and ways every citizen can help with the problem. Related: Ghost gear is haunting our oceans EarthHero green recycling truck toy The littlest tot on your list may not understand that this truck from EarthHero is made entirely from recycled milk jugs, keeping them out of the landfills and reducing the need for virgin plastics , but they will love the movable truck bed and back door that opens and closes. Plus, it starts the conversation about proper recycling practices at an early age to develop sustainable skills for the future. Blooming lollipops Sweet treats are a staple of the holiday season. These lollipops come with an added gift. Enjoy any of the eight all-natural botanical flavors, such as lavender and lemongrass, lemon and thyme or strawberry and basil. Once you or your recipient have finished your treat, plant the seed-filled stick and watch a plant grow ! It’s a fun and eco-friendly alternative to disposable lollipop sticks, plus the plants are edible. Beachwood kaleidoscope play camera Here’s another blast from the past that the next generation will admire all over again. This wooden camera lets kids use their imagination while mirroring the adults taking copious holiday pictures. The camera is available in two lens colors, each of which contains a kaleidoscope surprise when rotated. Sunwind solar car kit Understanding solar power , engineering and mechanics starts young with this SunnySide Up solar car kit . Youngsters can put together the solar panel, motor, motor mount, coroplast frame, motor pulley and driven pulley, elastic band drive-belt and wooden wheels in different ways, then race to the finish to see which design works best. Environmental books for kids Kids of all ages learn best when material is presented in an engaging way. Many books offer colorful and informative lessons on ways to protect our environment, conserve resources and make sustainable purchasing decisions. Here are a few options to consider adding to your little one’s bookshelves. Miranda Paul’s One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia explains the story of one woman’s dedication to turning waste into useful products. The Earth Book by Todd Parr offers useful insight for our youngest stewards of the planet. The Magic School Bus And The Climate Challenge by Joanna Cole presents climate change in the fun fashion for which The Magic School Bus is known. Miss Fox’s Class Goes Green by Eileen Spinelli is an educational book for school-aged children that packages environmental protection in a fun and engaging way. These are just a few examples of hundreds of similar books that inform without lecturing and make for great gifts. Green Sprouts Chime organic baby rattle Rattles engage and entertain babies. The soft organic cotton making up this rattle is Earth- and baby-friendly with no harmful chemicals or plastic. It’s easy to grasp, and the crocheted surface is perfect for teethers. Plus, the soothing rattle sound will spark curiosity; the effort to replicate this sound also facilitates motor development. PlanToys’ pretend play doctor’s kit Not only does it put the power of the doctor’s tools in your tot’s hands, but it does so without using up fossil fuels . Made from sustainably harvested rubberwood trees and surplus sawdust chips, the set is recommended for kids ages 3 and up. Each piece is finished using non-toxic glues and water-based dyes. Each purchase helps Plan Toys donate resources to a Children’s Museum in local Thailand, and a portion of the profits go toward reforesting nearby cities. The Ultimate Green Store Kid’s Big Bean Bag Chair When considering eco-friendly gifts, a bean bag chair likely doesn’t come to mind. But The Ultimate Green Store has redefined this classic furniture item using natural plant hemp cover. The filling is a signature blend of non-toxic beads and shredded natural latex foam dubbed EcoSuperfill. Images via Alf-Phi, Eco Girl, Bureo, EarthHero, Uncommon Goods, Kiko & GG, Sunwind Solar, Pixabay, The Ultimate Green Store and Thought Catalog

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Is high-yield vertical farming the future of agriculture?

December 4, 2020 by  
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When people think of agriculture, they often picture rows of crops on flat lands stretching out to the horizon. But according to agtech start up Plenty , we should be thinking vertical for best yield. Stranger still, Plenty’s agricultural vision is indoors and populated by robots . “The reality is, there are five places in the world where you can grow fresh fruits and vegetables really economically, and all of that land is used up at this point,” said Nate Storey, Plenty co-founder and chief science officer, as reported by Forbes . “Vertical farming exists because we want to grow the world’s capacity for fresh fruits and vegetables, and we know it’s necessary.” Related: Student designs inflatable bamboo greenhouses for sustainable farming Plenty is talking about an exponentially better yield — 400 times more per acre — while using 95% less water . The system is also capable of thriving as an indoor farm in just about any terrain. In a Plenty farm, plants will hang on racks vertically from ceilings. Instead of the sun shining down on the crops, full-spectrum and fully controllable LED lights will beam from all sides. Giant robots will grab the racks of plants and move them as needed. Artificial intelligence will make decisions about temperature, light and water, constantly improving machine learning to maximize yield. The water management is genius, too. “When you think about water, you know, 90% of the water in the field that you put down is just lost to transpiration, right?” Storey told Forbes. “Or evaporation, it’s just evaporating from the soil surface, or the plants are transpiring that water. So it’s lost. And in our farm, the plants still transpire, but we capture that water vapor.” Once the produce is ready to eat, it won’t have to be shipped a thousand miles. It can feed people in the neighborhood. Right now, that means San Franciscans, as that’s where the startup is based. The company is currently constructing a second farm in Compton, California . But the agtech startup may soon grow even faster, as investors like Jeff Bezos from Amazon and former Google chairman Eric Schmidt have just added $400 million in capital to Plenty’s budget. Via Forbes Photography by Spencer Lowell via Plenty

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