The worlds tallest wood building was just completed in Norway

April 10, 2019 by  
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In March 2019, the Mjösa Tower became the tallest wooden building in the world at 18 floors (for a total of 85.4 meters tall), followed closely by the HoHo Wien building in Austria (84 meters) and the Peri-S?pân?a Monastery in Romania (75 meters). Because it was made in part with Kerto LVL wood that is both sustainable and green, the building is eco-friendly as well. While both the skeleton and the facade of the building are made of wood, the decks on the upper floors (apartments) utilize concrete to prevent swaying. The bottom 10 floors contain the majority of the Kerto LVL wood and are comprised of hotel facilities and offices. Because the wood is such high quality and lightweight, construction is faster and, in turn, uses less resources. Related: Peek inside the tallest cross-laminated timber building in the US Being a wood building, the Mjösa Tower was designed with fire safety in mind. In addition to a building-wide sprinkler system, each floor is built compartment-style with materials (such as Kerto LVL and glulam timber) with 90-minute fire resistance capability. According to Metsä Wood, when exposed to fire, the untreated, solid wood chars on the outside and provides its own fire-resistant surface. Kerto LVL wood is a laminated veneer lumber, made using thin rotary-peeled softwood glued together to form a continuous chunk of wood. It’s super strong, durable and doesn’t warp, making the wood ideal for adding substantial strength to floors and beams. Additionally, the Finnish company Metsä Wood produces the material using 100 percent bioenergy with little to no waste. The unusable segments of the wood left after the manufacturing process are either used for pulp production or for bioenergy to run the mill. Even better, there is a bio-heating plant next to the mill that’s used to power the wood production, and the remaining energy is used to help power the neighboring town of Lohja. The Metsä Wood company is certainly a large contributor to Finland’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2030. Mjösa Tower is a symbol of changing trends in the construction community. It proves that massive structures can be produced using sustainable materials without compromising quality. The building’s designers at Voll Arkitekter hope the the tower will inspire other architects to build using sustainable materials like wood. + Metsä Wood + Vol Arkitekter Images via Metsä Wood

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The worlds tallest wood building was just completed in Norway

London becomes the first city to have an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)

April 10, 2019 by  
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London is officially the first city to have an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). The zone, which is active all hours of the day and night, will improve air quality in the city by cutting down on pollution caused by vehicle emissions . Any vehicle traveling inside the ULEZ will have to meet strict emission codes or be subject to fines. Scientists believe that vehicle emissions, specifically nitrogen oxide, account for the majority of air pollution in London and are a serious threat to public health. These harmful chemicals have been known to increase risks of dementia and cancer. Related: Teens exposed to air pollution more likely to experience psychotic episodes, new study says “This is a landmark day for our city. Our toxic air is an invisible killer responsible for one of the biggest national health emergencies of our generation,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan shared. The ULEZ was activated on April 8 and any vehicles traveling inside the zone that do not meet emissions standards will face charges of around $16 per day. Larger vehicles, such as trucks and buses, will have to pay heftier fines upwards of $130. The zone currently covers an area roughly four miles in size and will be expanded to a much larger area by the fall of 2021. The ULEZ is part of a larger plan to discourage high-emission vehicles from travelling around London. The first stage of the plan initiated what was called a T-charge, which went into effect in the winter of 2017. In the two years since, London has witnessed a drop of around 11,000 vehicles every day from the targeted area. The plan has also increased the number of vehicles becoming compliant with emissions standards in the area. The city’s famous fleet of red double-decker buses, for example, is being upgraded to comply with the new ULEZ.  There are approximately two million residents who live inside the ULEZ, and officials hope the new plan will improve the quality of air so that it meets standards enacted by the European Union. London may be the first city to enact an Ultra Low Emission Zone, but other locations, like New York City, are looking into similar plans. Via CNN Image via  Shrinkin’ Violet

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London becomes the first city to have an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)

These marbled Bluetooth speakers are made from non-recyclable plastic waste

March 13, 2019 by  
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This plastic was said to be incapable of being recycled, but U.K.-based company Gomi found a way nonetheless. Each Gomi speaker is made from about 100 non-recyclable plastic bags of multiple colors, creating a unique, individualized look. The sustainable design company won a 10,000-pound grant from the Environment Now Programme in January 2018 to kick-start the project and were funded further by the Santander Big Ideas Competition later that year. Co-founded by Brighton-based sustainable designer Tom Meades, Gomi’s intention is to use plastic waste that would otherwise be considered non-recyclable (and therefore would end up in a landfill) to create electronic products. The U.K. throws away 300 kilos of flexible plastics that are not accepted for recycling by local councils each year. This includes plastic bags, pallet wrap and bubble wrap. Meades said the company was inspired to target the challenge of flexible plastics to show that these types of materials can be made into usable objects. Related: Simple tips to reduce single-use plastic Because the design is modular, every piece of the speaker can be taken apart and recycled into a new one, so the company urges consumers to return the products for free recycling after use instead of throwing them out. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that these speakers won’t sound good because of their unconventional materials, either. “Our components are made from 100 percent non-recyclable plastic ,” Meades said. “We have worked with audio professionals and electronics engineers over the past 12 months to ensure the product is not only aesthetically desirable but also sounds great.” The company intends to only grow from here. Gomi is planning strategies to increase storage capability and produce on a larger scale in the future. It also unveiled a portable power bank and charger for smartphones made from the same material back in January. Check out the  Kickstarter page to support the project or learn more. + Gomi Via Dezeen Images via Gomi

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These marbled Bluetooth speakers are made from non-recyclable plastic waste

Designer creates algae-sourced alternative for plastic packaging

February 27, 2019 by  
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Food packaging has a become a target in the world of sustainability and environmentalism. Walk down the aisle of any supermarket or look in your own shopping cart, and you’re likely to see package after package made from petroleum-based plastic. A few resourceful scientists and engineers have chosen to tackle the problem, including designer Margarita Talep, who has developed an algae-based alternative to plastic. With the short lifecycle of most packaging, Talep wanted to create a material that would stand up to the task of holding food and other products but break down quickly once it hit the waste stream. Related: Nuatan is the bioplastic that could answer the plastic pollution crisis Agar, a gel-like substance sourced from seaweed, is not new to the food world, as it is commonly used as a food thickener. With that understanding, Talep heats the agar to create a polymer and then adds water as a plasticizer and natural dyes for color. To achieve the goal of all-natural ingredients, natural dyes are sourced from fruits and vegetables such as beets, carrots, blueberries and purple cabbage. After the mixture of agar and other ingredients is heated, it is cooled, a process that transforms it into a gel. At this point, the mixture is turned into thin plastic or poured into molds to cool. By adjusting the ingredients, Talep has created a firm material that will mold into shapes, such as the trays that a package of donuts sit in. The technique is versatile enough that it can also create a replacement for plastic bags, like those pasta is sold in. With the overarching goal of replacing single-use , disposable packaging, the algae packaging breaks down naturally within two to three months during warm summer months, depending on the thickness of the material. In the colder winter months, the material still breaks down, but requires a few extra weeks. + Margarita Talep Images via Margarita Talep

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Hong Kong welcomes Veda, the first vegetarian restaurant inside upscale hotel Ovolo

February 27, 2019 by  
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Hong Kong’s vegan and vegetarian scene has proliferated in the last few years, and now the autonomous territory of China has its first vegetarian restaurant within a hotel. Veda, inside the freshly revamped Ovolo Central Hotel, is open for business. Well-known Australian vegetarian chef Hetty McKinnon devised the menu, and MALE and KplusK Associates designed the space. Despite an upsurge in the availability of veg foods, Hong Kong is still the world’s third largest per capita beef consumer, according to Beef2Live . McKinnon isn’t necessarily trying to convert everybody. She’ll be happy to reduce consumption. “I remain undaunted in my vision to win diners over with the other major food group: vegetables!” she told afoodieworld.com . “I think it’s a matter of communication — even though the food I create is vegetarian, I want people to understand you don’t have to be a vegetarian to eat it. My food is inclusive, it’s for everyone — carnivores and herbivores alike. My recipes are not centered around the ‘without’; rather they are 100 percent focused upon the ‘with’ — with food, with flavor, with texture, with creativity, with thought.” Related: These are the world’s top vegan cities Diners will find lots of Asian influences on the menu, from Nepalese momos made with ricotta, spinach and smoked chili to a congee featuring shitake mushrooms, quinoa and kale chips. Desserts include dark sponge cake and a vegan fig cheesecake with caramel sauce. While everything on the menu is vegetarian, the many vegan options are clearly marked. The Ovolo Central has a modern look. Its façade boasts a glazed black metal grid that invites ventilation and natural daylight. The hotel describes the décor of its 41 rooms as having an “edgy, rock-n-roll vibe” with many commissioned artworks. The 700 square foot Radio Suite, designed by award-winning firm ALT-254, takes up the hotel’s entire top floor for unbeatable Hong Kong views. Ovolo is a private, Hong Kong-based, family-owned hotel brand with properties in Hong Kong and Australia. McKinnon has high hopes for Veda. “Hong Kong is a sophisticated, food-loving city with truly international people, so I strongly believe that they will embrace this new, healthier way to eat,” she told afoodieworld.com. “I applaud Ovolo for their forward-thinking approach to the future of food. A predominately plant -based diet is the way of the future — without getting too political, eating meat-free is one of the single biggest ways to reduce your impact on the earth . Frankly, it’s the smarter way to eat, for your body and the planet.” + Ovolo Central Images via WEILL

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‘Single-use’ is announced as the Word of the Year 2018

November 8, 2018 by  
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Collins Dictionary has announced its choice for 2018 Word of the Year — single-use. This term describes items, often plastic, that are made to be used just once before they are thrown away. The frequent use of these items has been blamed for damaging the environment and negatively affecting the food chain. Since 2013, use of the word has increased fourfold with a rise in public awareness thanks to news stories, images of plastic items adrift in oceans and the global campaign to reduce the proliferation of single-use items, including the infamous plastic straw. Collins Dictionary selects the word of the year after its lexicographers monitor the 4.5-billion-word Collins Corpus, which is an analytical database that contains written material from websites, newspapers, magazines and books published around the world. The Collins Corpus database also includes words from spoken material on TV and radio, plus everyday conversations. Related: Plastic straws are a thing of the past, but which reusable straw is best for the future? After the lexicographers monitor the Collins Corpus, they create a list of new and notable words that reflect our ever-changing culture. Things that rose to the top this year included environmental issues, political movements, dance trends and technology. Other words on the shortlist included ‘floss,’ a dance where you twist your hips in one direction while swinging your arms with fists closed in the opposite direction, made popular by the game Fortnight; ‘VAR,’ or video assistant referee, which became popular in 2018 after being used in the FIFA World Cup; ‘gammon,’ a red-faced, angry person who is the opposite of a “snowflake”; and ‘plogging,’ or picking up litter while jogging, which has become successful following the increase in awareness of humanity’s impact on the environment. Collins ended up choosing single-use because of the global movement to kick the addiction to disposable products and the increase in awareness of how people’s habits and behaviors impact our world. + Collins Dictionary Image via Jonathan Chng

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‘Single-use’ is announced as the Word of the Year 2018

Eco-friendly geodomes provide a luxurious stay in an idyllic Quebec forest

November 8, 2018 by  
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Tucked into the picturesque countryside in a remote area outside of Quebec City, the Dômes Charlevoix are three dome-shaped eco-retreats that offer luxurious stays for guests wanting to reconnect with nature. In addition to their swanky accommodations, the geodomes, which were designed by Bourgeois / Lechasseur Architects , are open year-round thanks to the numerous passive features that make them resilient to Canada’s strong winters. Perfectly integrated into the quaint landscape of Petite-Rivière-Saint-François, the canvas-covered domes offer guests all the amenities of a top-rated hotel. The structures are set on large wooden patios, which are elevated off the ground on large supports to reduce their impact on the land. The decks are installed with hot tubs, offering a serene place to take in the incredible views. Related: Explore the world’s driest desert at these eco-friendly geodomes Erected on the sloped mountainside, the domes are orientated to make the most of not only the breathtaking vistas but to also offer maximum exposure to natural light . For a resiliency that withstands the bitterly cold months, the domes were built with radiant concrete floors, which help maintain a comfortable, uniform temperature indoors. The luxurious domes sleep up to four adults, with a large queen-sized bed on the ground floor and a second queen-sized bed on a mezzanine level. Guests will enjoy a full kitchen with a dining table, a spa-like bathroom and a large chimney with ample firewood supplied to keep the living space warm and cozy. Large windows enable guests to take in the views from the comfort of the interior, or on a nice day, they can enjoy the surroundings from the outdoor deck. All of the basic amenities such as linens are provided. Guests just need to bring their own food and plenty of energy for exploring this beautiful location. + Dômes Charlevoix + Bourgeois / Lechasseur Architects Photography by Maxime Valsan  

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Eco-friendly geodomes provide a luxurious stay in an idyllic Quebec forest

Plastic straws are a thing of the past, but which reusable straw is best for the future?

September 21, 2018 by  
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The days where plastic straws and their wrappers litter the countertops of restaurants, coffee shops and fast food joints are nearing the end. With several governments, like Australia and the U.K. , banning and taxing single-use plastic items and companies like Starbucks, Disney and Hyatt taking their own environmental stand by rejecting plastic straws, sustainable and reusable varieties of the pipettes have been growing in popularity. Nowadays, it’s no longer about what color straw you’re sporting, but which reusable material you’ll choose. According to the research firm Freedonia Group , Americans reduced their previous consumption of plastic straws by 110 million units in the last year alone. As momentum gains, consumers may now be getting purchase paralysis because of the sheer number of options. Metal, bamboo, silicone, glass — there are many options available when selecting an alternative to single-use plastic straws. The question is, which one is the best? Related: Starbucks ditches plastic straws for the environment There are several factors to consider when selecting a more sustainable option for sipping energizing morning smoothies and indulgent midnight milkshakes. Between lifespan and durability, width and length, taste, feel, shape and cleanliness, there are many variables to reusable straws that could make the leap to convert challenging. Are straws necessary? Before even delving into these seemingly negligible details some may ask, “Are the liquid chutes superfluous altogether? Do I even need straws at all?” Considering the widespread pollution that has been caused by disposable straws, eliminating the meal accessories seems like the best overall option. According to a report by 4Ocean , an organization dedicated to repurposing marine plastics to clear the ocean of pollution, a plastic straw can take up to 200 years to decompose. In the meantime, the harmful microplastics eventually disintegrate and contaminate our planet’s air, water and soil, poisoning wildlife and finding their way into our food. As a result, many people are now swearing by a straw-free lifestyle. But there are many reasons, such as dietary restrictions and health issues, that still call for the existence of straws. Related: UK plans to ban the sales of plastic straws to tackle ocean plastic pollution Factors to consider when purchasing reusable straws It’s no surprise that size tops the list of considerations when purchasing reusable straws. Both length and width are important depending on what type of liquid one intends to drink and from which assortment of container. Standard straws measure approximately 7.5-8 inches in length. Those who prefer to drink out of small glasses and coffee mugs are better suited with cocktail-sized straws. The miniature varieties span between 5 and 6 inches, while the longest options settle around 10 inches, although more extensive models can be found for tumbler and thermos users. A stress of function over form has become the sustainable-straw-purchasing mantra. Smoothies, bubble teas and shakes warrant straws with wider diameters, while less viscous beverages like water, juice and soda that are not semi-solid or thick can be easily consumed through thinner straws. Popular diameters range from around 7mm to 15mm (between 1/4 and 1/2 inches). Shape also comes into play: straight, bent, retractable, flexible — all of these have become important in the straw trade. Ultimately, most individuals would see these factors as a matter of personal preference. Given that straight straws, short straws and wide-rimmed straws are much easier to clean than their counterparts, they are the most hygienic options for users. It is this quality that makes them the most sustainable choices for new consumers, simply because they have a longer lifespan. Otherwise, unkempt straws get thrown out, and a long-term solution to plastic pollution could turn into another mass consumption (and pollution) trend. Steel straws When considering materials, stainless steel has become the most popular go-to material for reusable straw fans. The metal has odor-resisting properties and is the most durable material available for straws. Steel options are also the most widely available on the market because of their heat conducting properties. A cold drink is best enjoyed through a metal straw, because it maintains a crisp and refreshing temperature for the drinker. Unless consumers are turned off by the metallic flavor that steel can sometimes add to beverages, have sensitive teeth that are disturbed by the hardness of the straw or drink many hot beverages, metal straws serve as the best possible option. Silicone straws Those who prefer softer, more flexible straws may turn to silicone. But according to  Life Without Plastic , this material, which is generally categorized as a rubber, is actually similar to a hybrid between synthetic rubber and synthetic plastic polymer. The organization cites Beth Terry, author of Plastic Free , who said, “First of all, silicone is no more ‘natural’ than fossil-based plastic. It is a man-made polymer, but instead of a carbon backbone like plastic, it has a backbone of silicon and oxygen … the hydrocarbons in silicone come from fossil sources like petroleum and natural gas.” If this isn’t enough of a deterrent, the same silky texture that makes many people gravitate toward the silicone models is also to blame for its difficulty to wash. Silicone can harbor mold-forming bacteria, and it takes on unpleasant odors after continuous use. Bamboo straws With bamboo, consumers may see a reduction in availability. While bamboo straws might not be breakable, they ultimately do not hold up to long-term wear and tear. In addition, bamboo straws are the most difficult to clean of all the materials. Being naturally made from bamboo shoots, there is not a lot of precision in the shape and width to which they are constructed, making it hard to find the right kind of brush to use on them. Sadly enough, because of the chalky texture they leave in the mouth, bamboo straws inevitably fall lower on the enjoyment scale — despite the tropical taste they can generously impart to beverages. Glass straws In the end, there is only one other material that can compete with stainless steel in terms of sustainability: glass . Layered and tempered, glass straws are surprisingly durable and will not break easily if dropped or accidentally mishandled. Glass is a close runner-up to metal’s conductivity, and interestingly enough, it is capable of transferring hot liquids without burning the user. Because the glass is clear, making sure the straw is well-cleaned between uses is as simple as it gets. With no odor and no funny tastes imparted to the drinker, glass straws are a viable alternative to metal straws for the socially-conscious sipper. In the end, whether plastic straws are replaced with metal, glass or any other alternative, this trendsetting movement is turning a new leaf for the environment on a historical scale. Via Time , Going Zero Waste , Get Green Now ,  4Ocean and Life Without Plastic Images via Osha Key , Mark Pazolli , Glass Dharma and Shutterstock

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Plastic straws are a thing of the past, but which reusable straw is best for the future?

Dairy farmers’ excess milk gets a second life feeding the hungry

July 3, 2018 by  
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Automation may have caused a significant surplus of dairy products and a corresponding price drop, but one non-profit has stepped up to ensure food – and farms – don’t go to waste. Philabundance , a food bank in Philadelphia, is working with cow ranchers to help sell their foods while also keeping hungry families fed in the city. After shifting their farming focus away from traditional milk packaging and sales, Pennsylvania’s dairy farmers struggled to keep family businesses afloat. According to a study by the Center for Dairy Excellence , 120 Pennsylvania dairy farms closed their gates for good in 2016. Related: Transfernation volunteers will deliver your leftover party food to homeless shelters That’s where Philabundance came into the picture. Working with farmers across the state, the organization wanted to purchase excess dairy products to feed hungry families in Philadelphia. Traditionally, extra skim milk was dumped because farms didn’t have the equipment to turn the surplus into cheese or yogurt. In 2016, Pennsylvania farmers alone discarded 43 million gallons of excess milk. But with state funds provided by the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System and the cooperation of dairy farms, Philabundance and other food banks purchased over 60,000 gallons of excess milk destined for waste and turned it into cheese. The result was a new food source for food banks and $165,000 in revenue for farmers. This partnership quickly turned into a much bigger idea: turning excess milk into artisan cheese. Philabundance took the lead by buying even more milk to produce the same food products , then selling them under the name “Abundantly Good.” The products went on sale through three retail partners, a direct-to-restaurant seller and an online shop . One dollar from each sale goes back to farmers, subsidizing the milk set aside for food donations. In one year, farmers sold $9,000 worth of products each and prevented further food waste. With the success of the cheese sales and donation programs, Philabundance is testing other products for retail shelves, including drinkable yogurt. The group is also expanding its line to include foods like spiced tomato jam. Much like the dairy program, portions of the sales go back to farmers who turn their crops into soup and sauces for people in need. This partnership closes the loop in agricultural waste. Instead of destroying products or sending food waste to the garbage, farms produce more food that goes to people in need. In turn, the farms’ bottom lines increase, keeping them sustainable well into the future. Which is something that everybody – from farm to table – can celebrate. Via NPR

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Dairy farmers’ excess milk gets a second life feeding the hungry

Arctic shipping routes could threaten "unicorns of the sea"

July 3, 2018 by  
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Narwhals, or the “unicorns of the sea,” could be at risk from additional Arctic shipping routes as polar ice continues to recede. A peer-reviewed study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests as many as seven marine mammal species may face new threats and uncertain consequences from increased ship traffic. The Arctic Ocean is home to hundreds of animals, like narwhals, polar bears and whales. However, as the polar ice caps retreat, more shipping companies are taking advantage of open waters to reduce travel time. To determine how the increase of ships could affect marine mammals , the research team from University of Alaska Fairbanks and University of Washington studied wildlife during the fall shipping season. The group looked at 80 different subpopulations among the seven species to determine if they were directly exposed to the ships and how much these ships could affect the wellbeing of the marine life. Related: The melting Arctic is already changing the ocean’s circulation During the study period, over half of the subpopulations were impacted by ships, with narwhals inheriting the highest amount of risk. In addition to an increased risk of injury or death from collisions,  toothed whales also face communication challenges because of their audio sensitivity. Like dolphins, the ocean unicorn “talks” with a language of buzzing, clicking and calling. While narwhals could have the most to lose, polar bears and seals have the least risk because of the time they spend on land. But researchers note their populations also come with high long-term uncertainty, and the team concluded more data is required to determine how shipping affects their livelihood. The news wasn’t entirely bad for wildlife populations. The scientists noted through additional data collection, shipping companies could plan for environmentally-sustainable transportation options. “Regions with geographic bottlenecks, such as the Bering Strait and eastern Canadian Arctic, were characterized by two to three times higher vulnerability than more remote regions,” the researchers wrote in their study abstract. “These pinch points are obligatory pathways for both vessels and migratory [ocean mammals], and so represent potentially high conflict areas but also opportunities for conservation-informed planning .” Arctic planning groups are aware of the wildlife threats and are working out plans to balance shipping with environmental concerns. The Arctic Council instituted regulations on transport companies in January 2017, with the goal of making shipping safer for both crews and marine mammals. + Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Via Earther

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Arctic shipping routes could threaten "unicorns of the sea"

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