Google promises carbon neutral shipping and recycled plastic products

August 6, 2019 by  
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In an attempt to keep up with customer demands and industry competitors, Google announced a loose plan to reach carbon neutral shipping and incorporate more recycled plastics into their Made by Google products. These gadgets include Pixel phones and Pixelbooks as well as Google Home speakers, phone cases and charging devices. Google did not give a specific timeline for carbon neutral delivery but plans to increase their use of cargo ships instead of air vessels. The company committed to include recycled plastic in 100 percent of their devices by 2022. Related: Athlete and activist runs across the US to raise awareness of plastic pollution Apple and Samsung are out-competing Google for sustainability pledges. Apple, for example, has at least 50% recycled plastic in some of their gadgets and at least 11 products with recycled aluminum. Samsung also recently pledged to increase their use of sustainable packaging. According to Anna Meegan, head of sustainability for Google, the company’s transportation-related carbon emissions decreased by 40% between 2017 and 2018. Google also promised to purchase carbon offsets for the emissions that they will not be able to reduce through strategies such as using more ships. “We are fundamentally looking to build sustainability into everything we do. It’s going to take us time to demonstrate progress,” said Meegan. Since cargo ships take longer than planes, Google will need to find ways to streamline their development and production processes so they do not lose customers due to longer wait times. Currently, only a third of all google products with public material disclosures contain recycled plastic. For example, Google Home speakers contain approximately 20 to 40% recycled plastic in their casing. Google also has a Recycling Partnership program where they provide a free shipping label to previous customers who have devices they no longer use. Google is able to collect and recycle components of the devices for future gadgets. Interested customers can check out the Partnership information here . Via CNBC Image via Andres Urena

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See the forest for more than the trees why reforestation isn’t working

August 6, 2019 by  
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We can all agree planting a tree is good for the environment — right? According to a recent study in Nature , the global crusade for reforestation as a remedy for climate change is largely missing the mark. So where did it go wrong? The new evidence reveals that most of the countries with large-scale tree-planting programs are actually developing tree plantations, which might help the economy but fail to sequester the carbon that the countries originally pledged to. The Bonn Challenge promises 350 million hectares of trees In 2011, the international Bonn Challenge was announced as an ambitious plan to plant 150 million hectares of trees by 2020. In 2014, more than 100 nations signed on under the New York Declaration of Forests, increasing the target to 350 million hectares by 2030. Unlike many lofty development goals, most countries are actually on track to exceed their promises, at least at first glance. In fact, the world actually has more forest cover now than it did in 1982. So, what’s the problem? Related: The ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ is transforming northwestern Pakistan Well, the majority of countries have been using the incentives and global momentum to back monoculture farms and counting trees that will be logged within years in their Bonn Challenge totals. According to the assessment, 45 percent of trees planted were species that will be quickly harvested for paper production. Another 21 percent were tree farm species, like fruits, nuts and cocoa . Only 34 percent of trees planted were part of so-called “natural forest,” even though the original intention of the Bonn Challenge was that all hectares planted should be natural forest. “Policymakers are misinterpreting the term forest restoration [and] misleading the public,” argued the study authors, Simon Lewis of Leeds University and Charlotte Wheeler from Edinburgh University. While agroforestry trees do provide important benefits to the environment and economy, monoculture plantations (especially when farmers clear natural forests for crops) fail to provide anywhere close to the same benefit in terms of sequestration and biodiversity . The value of natural forest A general definition of a natural forest is a “multilayered vegetation unit dominated by trees, whose combined strata have overlapping crowns, and where grasses are generally rare.” In general, a natural forest will store up to 40 times more carbon than a plantation that is harvested every decade. Related: How forest bathing can profoundly improve your health and well-being More than just trees , forests are important and intricate ecosystems. They are home to incredible biodiversity and provide sanctuary and habitat for thousands of species. They are also critical to the climate, because forests maintain rainfall and prevent desertification. Because clouds accumulate over forests, places that have destroyed all of their major forests often experience low rainfall, drought, desertification and other climate-related issues. Reforestation pledges around the world Even before the Bonn Challenge, China launched a massive reforestation program in response to flooding along the Yangtze River. Despite over two decades of reforestation, the report claims that 99 percent of all trees planted have been within monoculture plantations. Related: Philippine students must plant 10 trees to graduate, new law says In Niger, after years of complying with foreign and government extension officers who advised farmers to remove trees, farmers have finally argued that native trees serve an important purpose right where they are. Trees stabilize soil, produce nitrogen, buffer strong wind and improve organic matter in the soil. As a result of the farmers’ knowledge, deforestation has decreased, although the majority of farmers now wisely plant trees that will supplement their incomes rather than simply sequester seemingly abstract carbon. Yale Environment 360 reported that in Brazil, up to 82 percent of the forest restoration work is developing monoculture plantations and not natural forests. How to plant a forest? “Get out of the way.” According to National Geographic’s investigative article, “ How to regrow a forest: Get out of the way ,” even specific efforts by the U.S. Forest Department to plant natural forests have not worked the way they were intended to. For ease of planting and eventual use as lumber, the Forestry Department had a long-term tradition of planting native trees in neat rows at 12-foot gaps. Though the majority of trees were then left to develop into natural forests, the meticulous spacing has since exacerbated fire risk. The Department now opts for more irregular spacing and species biodiversity. Although it is more time- and cost-intensive, it ends up saving the department in firefighting costs later. Similarly, in Canada, a study found that a government campaign to drain wetlands thought to be smothering spruce trees caused a fire that destroyed 2,400 homes in 2016. Under the pretense of growing larger trees to store more carbon, peatlands were systematically destroyed. However, it is now recognized that peatlands ultimately store enormous amounts of carbon naturally and were more resilient to fires. “If you take the perspective that no matter what, more trees are better, that’s going to have unintended consequences,” said Sofia Faruqi from the World Resource Institute. “In the case of the West Coast, restoration may mean removing trees from the landscape.” Turning over a new leaf on reforestation pledges According to Faruqi, policies must acknowledge both what kind of tree is planted and how the tree “jibes with the larger health of the forest, the amount of water available or the needs of local people.” As we approach the start of the United Nation’s declared Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, many forestry experts agree that reforestation solutions must be localized — both at a national level and at the individual forest level. While the need for income, especially sustainably sourced income, is paramount, cash crop trees should be planted in addition to the 350 million acres of natural forest. Tropical forests are particularly important, because they have the potential to capture more carbon than any other forest type in the world. In many equatorial regions, where there are large amounts of land available and a high need for economic stimulation, healthy tropical forests can provide jobs, support indigenous traditions and capture an estimated 3 billion tons of carbon annually. That’s the equivalent of taking 2 billion cars off the road every year. Blanket pledges of specific tree planting targets have not worked and leave the door open for damaging misinterpretation. More research and awareness is needed to understand the importance of different ecosystems and more priority given to protecting and keeping natural ecosystems intact. The idea that any tree planted helps is simply outdated and misleading. A quote by American poet, environmentalist and farmer Wendell Berry sums it up nicely: “Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest.” + Nature Via Yale Environment 360 and National Geographic Images via Michael Benz , Marc Pell , Jesse Gardner , Janusz Maniak , Steven Kamenar and Zoer Ng

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See the forest for more than the trees why reforestation isn’t working

Indian cafe offers food for trash, then turns the waste into roads

July 29, 2019 by  
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The city of Ambikapur in India’s Chhattisgarh state is launching a “garbage cafe” where anyone can eat healthy meals in exchange for collecting trash. The cafe will be centrally located in the city’s busiest bus terminal and is owned by the Municipal Corporation. Although such cafes exist in other cities around the world, the plastic trash collected for Ambikapur’s cafe is unique, because it will go directly into asphalt to pave the city’s roads. The practice of melting plastic and incorporating it into paving materials is not new in India. In fact, the government mandated that all urban areas utilize plastic waste in their roads in 2015, but most have yet to follow orders. The city of Ambikapur has one such road so far, and there are an estimated 100,000 kilometers of plastic roads throughout India . The innovative chemical process is led by professor Rajagopalan Vasudevan, but it has also been replicated and modified by engineers around the world, including the plastic-producing giant Dow Chemical . “At the end of the day, plastic is a great product. It lasts for long, which is a problem if it’s a waste product, but not a problem if we want it to last,” said engineer Toby McCartney, whose company produces recycled plastic pellets that are mixed into roads. According to McCartney, plastic roads last three times longer than conventional roads and need less maintenance. They are more resistant to flooding and less likely to get potholes. McCartney also promises his prototype does not break down into microplastics or enter ecosystems. With an initial budget of just about $7,000 USD, the cafe is a triple-win for the government’s goals to address food insecurity , clean up the roads and improve infrastructure. Via Vice Image via Rajesh Balouria

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Indian cafe offers food for trash, then turns the waste into roads

Taste the future with IKEAs SPACE10 LOKAL hydroponic food pop-up in London

September 12, 2017 by  
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Ever wondered what the future of food looks like? IKEA’s SPACE10 lab believes food production will be smarter and more efficient, and they’re going to show us how with their LOKAL pop up in Shoreditch. Set to launch during the London Design Festival next week, the six-day LOKAL pop-up will be an interactive public event that lets the public “enjoy a taste of the future” with their high-tech hydroponics farm and gastronomic workshops that sustainably serve up delicious and nutritious food, right where it’s grown. Hydroponics is at the heart of LOKAL. The highlight of the pop-up will be a hydroponics farming system with artificial lights and computerized automation that grows food optimized for freshness, nutrients, and taste. SPACE10’s system can grow vegetables three times faster than traditional methods with 90 percent less water, less waste, and without the need for soil and sunlight in a much more space-efficient footprint. Modified LED lights allow for year-round indoor growing and the system will be run solely on renewable energy in the future. In addition, smart sensors on the system facilitate machine learning so that healthier food can be grown faster while the data is fed into Google Home. “People [can] basically talk to the plants and hear how they are doing, if they need anything or simply let kids and grownups learn about sustainable food,” said Simon Caspersen of SPACE10. Related: Incredible Algae Dome absorbs sun and CO2 to produce superfood and oxygen The six-day LOKAL pop-up program is open to the public and features five parts with a mixture of hosts starting with SPACE10’s LOKAL Salads, where visitors can find a futuristic salad bar that provides meals of hydroponic microgreens topped with delicious locally sourced ingredients. Hirsch & Mann will host the tactile Meet Your Greens section that playfully educates about the benefits of locally sourced food and hydroponics. Technology Will Save Us ’ Grow Your Greens Workshop is a hands-on activity for kids where they’ll learn to grow their own take-away plant hydroponically. The Food Preservation Workshop hosted by Farmdrop focuses on the latter half of the food cycle with lessons on reducing food waste and how fermentation preserves food. SPACE10 will also host SPROUT, an experiment to make local farming more accessible to people with voice technology. The LOKAL pop-up will run September 18 to September 23—you can find more details on their Facebook event page . + LOKAL Pop up + SPACE10 Images via SPACE10

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Rammed-earth walls clad an observation tower to blend into a Belgian nature reserve

September 12, 2017 by  
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Mother Nature has reclaimed a former gravel extraction area in Maasvalley Riverpark, a 2,500-hectare nature reserve straddling the Belgium-Netherlands border. To help visitors fully experience the revitalized area, De Gouden Liniaal Architecten designed a small observation tower that blends into the landscape with its rammed earth walls. Built of locally excavated materials, the Observation Tower Negenoord is the first public earthen building in the Benelux region. The 46-square-meter observation tower is located on a small hill in the heart of the former gravel mine, Negenoord. Although the tower features a sandblasted concrete core, it is clad in external walls built of locally sourced ochre-colored earth, clay, and gravel created with rammed earth building techniques and stabilized with mortar made of volcanic rock. Over time, the external walls will slowly erode away to reveal the gravel aggregate; the gravel content is also visible in the sandblasted concrete core. “To guarantee the quality of the construction, the design team was supported by an international team of experts: Cratterre/ Vessières&Cie/ BC Studies,” wrote the architects. “The earth-consultants analyzed different local materials, tried different mixes and evaluated them on compression force, abrasion, color and appearance. The chosen mix consisted of 20% gravel, 40% ochre-colored earth, and 40% clay , stabilized with Trasslime. Through its materialization, the building tells us about the location it’s built. and becomes strongly anchored in its environment.” Related: Giant timber periscope tower offers lakeside views to everyone — even those with disabilities Roughly triangular in plan, the observation tower features three staircases with landings that offer different views of the landscape. The rammed earth construction took seven weeks to complete, with about 20-meters-cubed of rammed earth finished every week. + De Gouden Liniaal Architecten Via ArchDaily Images by Filip Dujardin

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Rammed-earth walls clad an observation tower to blend into a Belgian nature reserve

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