First paper straw factory in decades to open as UK bans plastic

June 19, 2018 by  
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As the United Kingdom moves forward with its planned ban on single-use plastic products, the first paper straw factory in decades is opening in Wales to meet the consumer demand. Transcend Packaging, the owner and operator of the new plant, has already reached out to 1,361 McDonald’s restaurants throughout the U.K. , as well as other restaurants, to provide them with more environmentally-friendly straws. “We spotted a huge opportunity, and we went for it,” Transcend Packaging sales and marketing director Mark Varney told The Guardian . “When the BBC’s Blue Planet II was on the telly and the government started talking about the dangers of plastic straws, we saw a niche in the market.” Because of the change in British plastic policy, that niche may soon grow into a national industry. Even before the national plastic ban, companies were moving to use more eco-friendly products, though the acquisition of these products was not necessarily sustainable. “It is great that all these businesses are phasing out plastic straws, but the problem for them was where to get paper ones from,” Varney said. “Everyone is having to import them from China , and when you look at the carbon footprint of that it kind of defeats the exercise.” Thus, Transcend Packaging’s factory was born. Varney continued, “We set up this company to give the the customers what they actually want: biodegradable paper straws made in the U.K.” Related: India plans to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022 While paper straws are marginally more expensive than plastic straws, there are numerous benefits not captured in the numbers. For example, “ McDonald’s , bless them, understood the massive difference to the environment,” said Varney, and embraced the paper straw for the company’s public image and the good of the environment. Via Gizmodo and The Guardian Image via Depositphotos

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First paper straw factory in decades to open as UK bans plastic

RepAir T-shirt cleans the air while you wear it

June 11, 2018 by  
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Italian fashion company Kloters has created a T-shirt that cleans the air through a specially designed insert capable of capturing and disintegrating pollutants and foul odors. Called RepAir, the shirt was designed to be both comfortable and environmentally friendly. “RepAir is born from the desire to go beyond the traditional concept of sustainable fashion,” said Kloters co-founders Federico Suria, Marco Lo Greco and Silvio Perucca in a press release. “[We] want to make fashion a vehicle to raise awareness and to think of new solutions to the pollution problem through nice, comfortable and, most of all, virtuous clothing .” The company is currently raising funds for the new product through a Kickstarter campaign . RepAir’s unique anti-pollutant features are made possible by the Breath , a patented absorbent fabric. “The company that produces it, Anemotech, has been very enthusiastic about the project and our collaboration started immediately,” De Greco said. “Our dream has become a reality.” The material is capable of absorbing pollutants that could contribute to health problems such as respiratory illness or cancer. The Breath has undergone extensive testing at the Università Politecnica delle Marche, which demonstrated the fabric’s ability to absorb up to 97 percent of volatile organic compounds, 92 percent of sulfur dioxide and 86 percent of nitrogen oxides. The Breath fabric insert is contained within a pocket on the T-shirt , which can be removed and replaced when necessary. Related: This startup is turning air pollution into art In addition to its pollutant fighting qualities, RepAir keeps  sustainability in mind throughout the production process. Produced in Italy, RepAir is manufactured with the support of suppliers that focus on making sure that no workers are exploited, which often occurs in the production of clothing for global consumption. The T-shirts are made from high-quality cotton and are designed to last, reducing the amount of waste created in its production. Kloters hopes that its shirts can start a conversation and a movement to improve air quality around the world. As its motto goes, “a single T-shirt may not save the world, but many can.” + Kloters Images via Kloters

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RepAir T-shirt cleans the air while you wear it

The net-zero Frick Environmental Center is officially one of the worlds greenest buildings

May 14, 2018 by  
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The Frick Environmental Center (FEC) in Pittsburgh just became the first municipally owned building in the U.S. to achieve Living Building certification — arguably the most rigorous proven performance green building standard in the world. Designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson , the FEC is among the world’s greenest certified buildings and it earned LEED Platinum certification last year. The 15,600-square-foot building produces as much energy and water as its consumes annually and it incorporates a wide array of other sustainable features including geothermal heating and cooling, locally sourced non-toxic building materials and daylight dimming controls and sensors. Conceived as the gateway to Frick Park, the city’s largest public park, the FEC serves as an experiential environmental education center. Locally and sustainably harvested black locust clads the building and — combined with the native landscaping on its nearly four-acre site — helps blend the project into its surroundings. The FEC comprises a public living room and gallery; K-12 classrooms for environmental education programs; and offices and facilities for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Education staff. Related: Man builds ultra-efficient green home as a love letter to the environment The FEC is one of only 21 buildings in the world to achieve Living Building certification and is the world’s first Living Building in the U.S. that’s municipally owned and open to the public. Designed as a “living laboratory,” the building makes its many sustainable technologies – such as its 650-kilowatt photovoltaic array and reclaimed water system – as visible as possible to the public as part of their commitment to hands-on environmental education. + Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Interior images by Alexander Denmarsh, outdoor walkway image by Elliott Cramer for Denmarsh Studios

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The net-zero Frick Environmental Center is officially one of the worlds greenest buildings

‘Game changing’ graphene-reinforced concrete is stronger and better for the planet

May 3, 2018 by  
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Add concrete to the list of things graphene can improve. Scientists at the University of Exeter ‘s Center for Graphene Science developed a new technique to incorporate graphene in concrete production with the help of nanoengineering technology — and the resulting material was not only over twice as strong as concretes we have today, but “drastically reduced the carbon footprint of conventional concrete production methods.” Is there anything graphene can’t do? It can boost both the strength and durability of concrete. The resulting University of Exeter composite material is four times as water resistant as existing concretes, and, according to professor Monica Craciun , “by including graphene we can reduce the amount of materials required to make concrete by around 50 percent — leading to a significant reduction of 446 kilograms per tonne of the carbon emissions .” Related: MIT just discovered a way to mass produce graphene in long rolls The research, published in late April in the journal Advanced Functional Materials , pioneers a novel, low cost technique that is, according to the university, compatible with requirements for modern, large-scale manufacturing. The composite material can be utilized right on building sites. Craciun described the new green concrete as an absolute game-changer. She said its strength, durability, and water resistance make it “uniquely suitable for construction in areas which require maintenance work and are difficult to be accessed.” Lead author Dimitar Dimov, a PhD student at the university, described the research as a first but crucial step “in the right direction to make a more sustainable construction industry for the future.” He said in the statement, “Finding greener ways to build is a crucial step forward in reducing carbon emissions around the world and so help protect our environment as much as possible.” + University of Exeter + Advanced Functional Materials Images via Depositphotos and Derek Torsani on Unsplash

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‘Game changing’ graphene-reinforced concrete is stronger and better for the planet

These colorful hexagonal wall tiles are made from sound-absorbing "wood wool"

April 29, 2018 by  
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These colorful hexagonal wall tiles by Form Us With Love strike a brilliant balance between sustainable materials, economy and functionality. The modular tiles are available in a variety of different colors and can be assembled in various patterns to create a gorgeous mural on your wall. The tiles are made from wood fibers mixed with cement and water, and they have sound-absorbing properties that can actually improve the acoustics of a room. Form Us With Love collaborates with different manufacturing companies to create everyday objects, furniture, and lighting products that challenge conventional design initiatives. For the production of these hexagons, they work with the only manufacturer of wood wool in Sweden – a 20-man traditional family business called Traullit . The tiles are made from wood slivers which are known primarily as excelsior or wood wool in North America. The material is mainly used for packaging, cushioning, insulation, and even stuffing teddy bears. The process of making wood wool cement is very simple: wood slivers are cut from local tree logs and then get mixed with some water and cement, which acts as a binder and provides strength. The mixture is then put into a mold and left to dry into shape. The result is a material that is environmentally friendly, moisture and sound absorbent, and fire and water resistant. + Form Us With Love

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These colorful hexagonal wall tiles are made from sound-absorbing "wood wool"

11 inspiring designs we loved at Milan Design Week 2018

April 26, 2018 by  
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Designers awed and inspired attendees at this year’s Milan Design Week with fresh takes on contemporary design. From unexpected uses for wood and recycled materials to advanced lighting technology , we spotted countless incredible projects throughout the event — read on for 11 of our favorite designs from Milan Design Week 2018. Sila lamp by Zsuzsanna Horvath Helsinki-based Hungarian architect Zsuzsanna Horvath developed the Sila lamp – an elegant lamp that emerges from a two-dimensional plane of laser-cut birch plywood. The lamp’s structure is made with thin, delicate slivers of plywood connected by a flexible OLED panel. With its soft light and delicate shape, this lamp is a perfect addition for quiet and cozy interiors. Bread chair by Mika Tsutai This Bread Chair by Japanese designer Mika Tsutai is definitely an object of good taste… and good humor. Inspired by the unpredictable shape of bread, Tsutai kneaded dough — real dough, made from flour — shaped it into a chair, and baked it. The baked piece was scanned, and a digital model was created. The designer used this model to carve the same shape from wood. The unique shape reflects the random swelling of bread after baking. Macaron seat by Kalo Kalo created the Macaron Seat by using locally-recycled bits of rubber. Each seat is crafted by pressing a mold onto a wooden frame. This seat catches the eye using juxtapositions: smooth wooden legs contrast with a textured seat and a shining brass element along the edges of the dark rubber. Halo lamp by Mandalaki Designed by the Milan-based Mandalaki office, the Halo lamp is a bold combination of art and technology. Unlike most lamps, Halo does not provide neutral white illumination. Instead, it dyes space with vivid, unexpected colors. The vivid colors are produced by analog optical decomposition instead of an RGB LED. Mandalaki developed a dichroic filter to divide the pure luminous flux, or the measure of perceived light, into a vast spectrum of colors. Sundial clock by YOY You don’t need sunlight to use this Sundial wall clock by Tokyo-based design studio YOY. Although at first sight it seems to be a real sundial, it is only an illusion. Part of the “Fictionality” collection, this clock has a regular bar as the minute hand and a “shadow” as the hour hand, which is imprinted on the clock’s face. Surprisingly, the entire clock rotates to show the correct time. Plug It by Studio Oberhauser Instead of discarding thousands of small wood scraps from the industrial production of furniture, Studio Oberhauser created Plug It to exemplify the beauty of recycling. The studio suggests that stacking the comb-shaped wood chips to craft pieces of furniture can be a fun and functional game for everyone. Sea of Plastic by EcoBirdy EcoBirdy’s main goal is to reduce the sea of plastic . To do this, the company crafted children’s furniture entirely from recycled plastic. Plus, each item can be easily recycled again. The Antwerp-based designers have also involved children in this socially- and environmentally-responsible act by designing a storybook and a school program that teaches children about sustainable living. D.01 bench by Davide Montanaro Wood appears to be a stiff and rigid material, but it can be made to bend with just the right touch. Dukta is a unique incision process that can make wood into a flexible, manageable material. Davide Montanaro used this process to design the plywood D.01 bench and ensured the piece had character with its smooth shape and distinct pattern. S-Lab clock by 4R 4R made the S-Lab clock using recycled plastic. The entire production process, from collection to melting and molding was completed in-house. The designers were able to control the color, pattern and texture of the clock. With this project, the team hopes to continue working and exploring with plastic in their designs. Woodencap by Rootpecker Rootpecker has made design history by creating the first wooden cap in the world. The hat is handmade in Germany and features a smooth, flexible wood surface and intricate stitching. The company aims to source only eco-friendly materials for their unique products. Paper and Light by Denis Guidone and Tomoko Fuse Designer Denis Guidone and origami artist Tomoko Fuse created Paper and Light to blend classic and contemporary techniques. This project includes a series of lamps made from folded washi, a traditional Japanese paper. The folded light installments illuminate the area and create playful shadows. + Milan Design Week Images via Maria Novozhilova for Inhabitat

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11 inspiring designs we loved at Milan Design Week 2018

Elon Musk says he is building a cyborg dragon

April 26, 2018 by  
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If you’re running three companies and selling hats and flamethrowers in your spare time, why wouldn’t you then build a cyborg dragon? This sentence could only apply to Elon Musk — and that’s what he said he’s doing on Twitter . His statement naturally sparked a flurry of questions about whether or not he’ll actually construct the fanciful creature. Oh btw I’m building a cyborg dragon — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 25, 2018 Yesterday afternoon, Musk said some music sounded great riding his cyborg, capping off his tweet with a dragon emoji. About ten minutes later he followed up on that tweet with, “Oh btw I’m building a cyborg dragon.” Sounds great riding my cyborg ? — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 25, 2018 Related: Elon Musk warns AI could become an ‘immortal’ digital dictator Naturally, the Internet had a blast with that one. Twitter user @illbzo1 told Musk it was about time, and Musk agreed , saying the market was underserved. The Game of Thrones Twitter account commanded Musk to “ bend the knee to House Targaryen ,” signing off with the hashtag #Dracarys, and Musk was quick to fire back, saying, “Don’t make me use my space lasers.” Don’t make me use my space lasers … — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 26, 2018 So Musk is definitely kidding, right? Of course, he’s known to have a great sense of humor . And The Independent said perhaps he’s obliquely referring to SpaceX’s Dragon capsule. But they also pointed out Musk has a habit of making ridiculous concepts aired on Twitter into reality. A tweet about Los Angeles traffic morphed into a company that’s finished a segment of tunnel in LA and has verbal approval to build a Hyperloop between Washington, D.C. and New York City. After selling thousands of Boring Company hats, Musk said on Twitter they’d turn to flamethrowers and made good on that idea too . But a cyborg dragon? We can’t wait to see if Musk follows through on this one. + Elon Musk Twitter Via The Independent Image via arbitragery on Flickr

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This spiraling sculpture can absorb the emissions of 90,000 cars

April 25, 2018 by  
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Kengo Kuma just unveiled a spiraling, air-purifying sculpture that can absorb the emissions produced by 90,000 cars in a year. Kuma’s “Breath/ng” is made from a cutting-edge fabric with a nano-molecule activated core that separates and absorbs toxic molecules. Developed by Anemotech , this pollution-neutralizing material uses the natural flow of air to purify the surrounding environment. Created from 120 hand-folded origami “ Breath ” panels (each 1.2 meters by 1.2 meters), Kuma’s spiraling work is about six meters tall. The installation’s 175 square meters of fabric are enough to absorb the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from around 90,000 cars per year. The spiral is suspended from a single carbon fiber rod and fixed in place by 46 unique 3D-printed joints, which were made with a HP Multi Jet Fusion printer . Related: A giant, air-purifying “cloud” just popped up in the middle of Milan The entire “Breath/ng” structure was developed using advanced Dassault Systèmes software and tools. In fact, the French company — a leader in the 3D design world — invited and inspired Kuma to explore the theme, “Design in the Age of Experience.” Along with Kuma’s spiral, Dassault Systèmes presented other ecological works by Daan Roosegaarde and Wesley Goatley e Superflux at Milan Design Week 2018. The powerful aesthetics of Kuma’s air purifying installation offer a great zero-energy solution for contaminated cities. The installation boldly transforms the nearly-invisible problem of air pollution into a visible, tangible experience. + Kengo Kuma + Milan Design Week Images via Maria Novozhilova for Inhabitat

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This spiraling sculpture can absorb the emissions of 90,000 cars

MIT just discovered a way to mass produce graphene in large sheets

April 18, 2018 by  
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Scientists used to make graphene -based membranes in small batches in a laboratory. But a new breakthrough at MIT enables researchers to roll out large sheets of high-quality graphene. The continuous manufacturing process can produce five centimeters of high-quality graphene per minute. The longest run was nearly four hours, and it generated around 10 meters of continuous graphene. MIT is calling the development “the first demonstration of an industrial, scalable method for manufacturing high-quality graphene that is tailored for use in membranes that filter a variety of molecules.” These membranes could be utilized in biological separation or desalination , for example. The researchers drew from the common industrial roll-to-roll approach blended with chemical vapor deposition, a common graphene-fabrication technique. Related: Newly discovered property of graphene could lead to infinite clean energy Their system is comprised of two spools linked by a conveyor belt, which runs through a furnace. According to MIT, here’s how it works: “The first spool unfurls a long strip of copper foil, less than one centimeter wide. When it enters the furnace, the foil is fed through first one tube and then another, in a ‘split-zone’ design. While the foil rolls through the first tube, it heats up to a certain ideal temperature, at which point it is ready to roll through the second tube, where the scientists pump in a specified ratio of methane and hydrogen gas, which are deposited onto the heated foil to produce graphene.” MIT associate professor of mechanical engineering John Hart said, “In the end-to-end process, we would need to integrate more operations into the manufacturing line. For now, we’ve demonstrated that this process can be scaled up, and we hope this increases confidence and interest in graphene-based membrane technologies, and provides a pathway to commercialization.” The journal Applied Materials and Interfaces recently published the work; scientists from Vanderbilt University , the California Institute of Technology and the National University of Singapore contributed. + MIT News + Applied Materials and Interfaces Images via Christine Daniloff, MIT and courtesy of the researchers

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MIT just discovered a way to mass produce graphene in large sheets

A giant, air-purifying "cloud" just popped up in the middle of Milan

April 18, 2018 by  
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If you’re tired of breathing less-than-clean city air , Milan has a temporary respite for you. “Transitions,” a giant, cloud-like pod, has landed in the heart of the Brera Design District for Milan Design Week 2018 . As envisioned by Takehiro Ikeda, the enormous “water-drop pavilion” uses Panasonic ‘s cutting edge air-purifying technology to provide all those who enter with clean, cool air. Most cloud-like design installations create mist using gases, which aren’t exactly good for the visitors’ health. The Panasonic pavilion, however, employs only natural water to build an intangible and immersive experience: a walk through atmospheric, ultra-fine mist created with the company’s groundbreaking technology. Panasonic’s “Nanoe x” technology collects moisture from the air and uses high voltage to create nano-sized particles of water. Highly reactive components called OH radicals — which are generated in huge numbers and inhibit viruses and bacteria — remove odors and allergens and prevent mold. The pavilion utilizes compressed air to turn water into a “silky fine mist.” Unlike a conventional two-fluid nozzle model, this technology creates a fine mist using low-pressure air and eliminates the need for large compressors, making it an attractive option for city cooling technology. Takehiro Ikeda said the “Transition” installation is a preview of the latest air purification research, which will be used during the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo to guarantee a pleasant, cool atmosphere during the hot Japanese summer. Related: Kengo Kuma wins bid for Tokyo’s Olympic stadium, Zaha Hadid speaks out The project is also energy-efficient. Instead of using large amounts of natural resources to power the air conditioning system, the pavilion – which measures about 20 meters in diameter – needs only a few liters of water for each functioning cycle. With this installation, Panasonic is celebrating its 100-year anniversary and transitioning towards a new creative philosophy: designing products, services and experiences that go beyond physical products to address emotional and environmental well-being. + Milan Design Week 2018 Images via Maria Novozhilova for Inhabitat

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