This plant-based ski wax keeps nasty chemicals off the snowpack

October 1, 2019 by  
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For those looking to hit the slopes as the weather cools down, a new eco-friendly ski wax will not only help you glide through the fluffy snowpack but will also help keep the environment free of the dangerous chemicals found in most ski waxes. In a world where nearly all ski wax is made from petroleum, the innovative MountainFLOW eco wax is made entirely from plants. The sight of white snow-covered hills is enough for most skiers to call off of work and hit the slopes, hopefully in a sustainable retreat . But whatever we put on our skis quickly enters the snowpack, eventually making its way into local streams and rivers. Considering that most ski wax is made out of petroleum, this means that pollution during the ski months increases substantially for these water systems. Related: Top 6 sustainable winter resorts for snowboarding and skiing in the US Thankfully, the eco-conscious team at MountainFLOW has kicked off a new Kickstarter campaign to announce the launch of North America’s only line of plant-based ski wax . Designed to keep harmful chemicals out of the environment, this eco-friendly product is rapidly catching the attention of the ski world. Over the years, the team has worked to develop a petroleum-free wax that offers the same hydrophobicity, durability and ease of application that most traditional petroleum-based waxes offer. Not only have they created a product that does just that, but they have created a ski wax that is much better for the environment. Other plant-based ski waxes have been made with soy. Although the MountainFLOW wax does include a little bit of soy, the eco-friendly product uses a high-quality combination of other plant-based waxes that offer a faster, more durable product. The MountainFLOW packaging is also made from 100 percent recycled materials and is completely biodegradable. + MountainFLOW Images via MountainFLOW

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This plant-based ski wax keeps nasty chemicals off the snowpack

Student designs a chic wooden stand mixer that requires zero electricity

September 25, 2019 by  
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Look into any typical kitchen, and you’re likely to discover cupboards full of gadgets, utensils and devices aimed at making food prep more convenient. Manuel Immler, a German design student, cringed at the lack of sustainability in owning multiple electronic kitchen tools and instead designed an electricity-free mixer as a prototype that changes the norm. Not only did Immler identify the wasteful practices of mass production but also noted the consumption of energy in manufacturing and using electronic kitchen devices. In what has become a consume-and-dispose society, Immler aimed to create a product that was durable and sustainable from start to finish. Related: Essential old-fashioned tools and practices to make your kitchen more sustainable On his master’s thesis at the Free University of Balzono, the stated theme was, “Development of a sustainable food processor with focus on regional materials and circular economy .” To achieve this goal, he tapped into his passion for eco-social design, evaluating the full product cycle. “For my master’s thesis, I asked myself how products and goods have to be designed so that their harmful effects can be minimized through resource and energy consumption but also through transport, waste and rebound effects,” Immler said. The result of this effort is a kitchen appliance called Pino that is sourced from local materials, minimizing the need for transport and providing local jobs. The device does not require electricity thanks to a manual hand crank. Pino is built to last to avoid the need for frequent replacement. Plus, it can do multiple functions to replace the need for numerous different kitchen gadgets. The design itself is not only aimed at sustainability but visual appeal as well with its natural wood exterior. These pieces are timeless but still interchangeable when you’re ready to update the look. For durability, the base is cast iron, and the inside components are made from steel. Using a series of available gears, Pino can vary from 50-1000 revolutions per minute to provide more power. This allows the machine and its attachments to grind, stir, mix, squeeze, scrape, plane, whisk or grate. + Manuel Immler Images via Maita Petersen and Manuel Immler

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Student designs a chic wooden stand mixer that requires zero electricity

Plumen Hive shade is 3D-printed and biodegradable

September 11, 2019 by  
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Light bulbs and lamp shades go together like peanut butter and jelly so when Plumen had an idea for a natural looking shade, they turned to designer Luke Deering with very specific goals in mind: make it elegant and make it sustainable . The Hive shade is the result of a vision to use biomorphic design to make a shade look like a natural honeycomb . Shadowing the design after well-sculpted art of the hive not only brings natural elements inside the living space, but also gives a nod to some of nature’s best architects — the bees. The woven material allows light to filter through while defusing the bright light of the bulb. Related: Benjamin Spöth weaves leftover birch plywood into beautiful Upcycle lamps While the design elements are striking as an idea and on paper, the finished product raises the bar above typical design with a unique production that is a result of the newest 3D printer technology. This process streamlines the manufacturing and supports the sustainability goals of the project too. That’s because the shade is printed from PLA bioplastic, a material that is made up of 90 percent recycled plastic and plant products. The U.K.-based company wanted to create a closed loop with the Hive shade and began by sourcing the manufacturing nearby to alleviate transport emissions. In addition, the shades are printed on demand to avoid unnecessary waste . To complete the circle, the Hive shade is commercially compostable and will biodegrade in about six months at the end of its usable life cycle. Like any good home decor, the Hive shade comes in a variety of options to suit your needs. The two available sizes fit over two of the most common bulb options from Plumen. There’s a choice of six colors: White, Black, Moss Green, Gold, Orange and Blue. Plus, you can submit special color requests. The shades fit neatly into the neck of the Plumen pendant, available in black or copper so you can make your selections and put together your desired look without worrying about the effect on the planet . It’s a bright idea! + Plumen Images via Plumen

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Plumen Hive shade is 3D-printed and biodegradable

The ultimate guide to eco-friendly period products

July 31, 2019 by  
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If you’re a person who is serious about protecting the environment, you’re probably conscious of how much trash you generate every time you have a period. In addition to being chock-full of plastics sent straight to landfills, pads and tampons also contain harsh chemicals that are toxic . Yet most people continue exposing their bodies to these products month after month. Luckily, there are better options out there for both you and the planet — here’s a guide to help you find what might work best for you. “Anything coming in constant contact with your skin will land in your bloodstream for distribution throughout your body,” Dr. Joseph Mercola wrote in an alarming Huffington Post article about the dangers of menstrual products. Despite the potential dangers, the chemical ingredients in tampons and pads are an industry secret, protected by nondisclosure policies that favor corporations, manufacturers and innovators but put consumers at serious risk. So if you want to cut down on polluting nature and your body, consider this comprehensive guide on more sustainable product options available right now. As always, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider to help determine the best options for you. Menstrual cups Menstrual cups are one of the most eco-friendly options out there. If you can get over the initial learning curve, they are easy and convenient to use. Why we love them Although the up-front sticker price is higher, when you calculate how much you spend every month on tampons or pads, the savings are obvious. The cups are comfortable and barely noticeable once they have been inserted — the same way you might get used to a tampon and hardly realize it is there. They are especially easy for travelers who want to save precious space in their luggage and say goodbye to last-minute, emergency trips to the convenience store. Most cup brands come in multiple sizes and some even come in varying levels of firmness, depending on your preference, flow, age and whether or not you have had a vaginal birth. The cups are capable of handling even heavy flow days, with most users reporting minimal — if any — leaks. Below is a brief review of a few popular brands. Diva Cup ($35) The Diva Cup is the most recognized and popular brand. It has three sizes (including one for teens), lasts up to 12 hours and is made from medical-grade silicone. Sustain Natural Period Cup ($39) These cups are flexible, compact and made entirely of medical-grade silicone . They claim to hold three tampons-worth of liquid and are available in two sizes. This is also the only brand that currently offers a microwave case for cleaning the cup. Peachlife Menstrual Cup ($22) Also made of medical-grade silicone, this cup uniquely comes in a variety of firmness levels (soft, medium-firm and extra-firm). Unlike other brands that come to a point, the Peachlife cup has a silicone ring at the bottom for easy removal (but remember, you still have to break the suction of the cup; you cannot just tug on the ring!). Cups are not without challenges Menstrual cups cannot be recycled at the end of their lifecycles, but when you calculate how many pads and tampons you averted from landfills, this product is worth it. The cups can also be difficult to maneuver at first. Once you have practiced and get the hang of folding the cup, inserting it and then breaking the seal to remove, it’s just as easy as any other option. It typically takes about three periods to fully adapt to using a menstrual cup. Because of cultural and religious beliefs, some people do have objections or hesitations to using a cup. Related: Study shows menstrual cups are safe and just as effective as tampons, pads A new spin on ‘period underwear’ Absorbent underwear brands like THINX and Lunapads are increasing in popularity and market share. They are simply underwear that you wear during your period that are specially manufactured to absorb menstrual blood. Why they’re so easy If you know how to put on your undies, then you know how to use these — they have all other products beat in terms of ease of use. They are also eco-friendly, because you wash and reuse them each time you have your period. That means they do not produce landfill trash every month. The downside of absorbent underwear Period underwear is more expensive than your typical pair of underwear because of their patented absorption technology . You will also need a few pairs depending on the length and flow of your period and how often you’re able to wash and dry them. Like the cups though, when you tally the cost of underwear against lifetime tampon expenses, they’re a smart economic choice. The horrors of tampons and better options “The average American woman uses 16,800 tampons in her lifetime — or up to 24,360 if she’s on estrogen replacement therapy,” said Dr. Mercola. That’s a lot of trash , but it is also a lot of time that your body is exposed to toxic chemicals. Cotton is better; organic cotton is best You may have heard health experts say that cotton underwear is best for promoting vaginal health — the same goes for tampons. Look for brands that specifically say they are made from organic cotton, but assume that most conventional brands are now made from plastics and synthetic materials. These materials are not breathable, can get fragmented and left behind and might encourage health problems like yeast and bacterial growth. Most tampons are also bleached with substances linked to abnormal tissue growth, abnormal cell growth and immune system suppression. Americans use 7 billion tampon applicators every year; the chemicals in the applicator, phthalates, have been generally linked to organ damage, lower I.Q. and asthma. What to try instead Using tampons without applicators will significantly cut down the plastic waste you generate. Brands like o.b. offer tampons that can be inserted with just your finger. Seventh Generation offers a chlorine-free, organic cotton tampon that reduces your exposure to chemicals. Organyc also offers a 100 percent organic cotton tampon. What about pads? Many people prefer pads for comfort or cultural reasons; however, the average sanitary pad contains “the equivalent of about four plastic bags, and this doesn’t include the other chemicals like BPA , BPS, phthalates and toxic dioxin created by the bleaching process.” Even though they have plastic in them, pads are never recyclable because they have been contaminated with bodily fluid. Because pads have a bigger volume than tampons, they produce even more waste. The average person throws away between 250 and 300 pounds of pads or tampons in their lifetime. What to use if you prefer pads There are reusable sanitary pads online that significantly reduce the amount of trash produced. Simply place the pad in your underwear; when it is dirty, rinse it with cold water and then add it to the laundry. You can buy reusable pads from Gladrags or find cute designs via Etsy. You can also try your hand at sewing your own . Disposable tampons and pads dominate the menstrual care market, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With small personal changes, you can protect your health, wallet and the planet. Images via Shutterstock

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These sustainable headphones are making a debut just in time for Earth Day

April 2, 2019 by  
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The Exodus headphones are The House of Marley’s first release in its new 2019 line of eco-friendly audio products, and trust us when we say they are everything you’d want in a pair of headphones. Made from materials like FSC-certified wood, stainless steel, recyclable aluminum and soft natural leather, the Exodus headphones allow you feel good about your purchase while having a comfortable listening experience. The House of Marley doesn’t stop at headphones, either — the company also creates turntables built from natural bamboo and outdoor speakers made using organic cork. Not to mention all of its packaging is produced from 100 percent recycled paper. Inhabitat recently had a chance to try out the new Exodus headphones and interview The House of Marley’s Director of Product Development, Josh Poulsen. Eco-friendly and sustainable materials The headphone casing is made from wood that is FSC-certified, meaning that the trees cut down to produce the wood are guaranteed to be replaced and regenerated sustainably. The stainless steel making up the headphone architecture and fasteners creates less environmental impact and is more durable; it can even be recycled. Not only is aluminum (used for the headphone housing) one of the most eco-consciously produced metals, there’s no limit to how many times it can be recycled. Lastly, natural leather adds a sense of warmth and style while remaining a biodegradable option. Related: This eco-friendly wooden laptop is designed to curb e-waste Inhabitat: “What was the inspiration behind building the Exodus headphones with such eco-friendly and sustainable materials?” Poulsen: “We strive to build all House of Marley products with eco-friendly and sustainable materials, not as an inspiration but as our mission. With the Exodus, we aimed to design an over-ear headphone that can be listened to for long periods without discomfort or acoustic fatigue, offers premium construction and incorporates  sustainable materials while focusing on heritage and retro-inspired design elements. In the case of the Exodus, sustainability means more than just the materials from which the headphone is constructed. The quality craftsmanship means product life is extended and the emphasis on comfort allows the user to sustain longer listening sessions.” Sound quality The media website CNET called these the “Best new headphones of CES [Consumer Electronics Show] 2019.” The Bluetooth LE technology was fast while pairing with our devices, meaning less time waiting for a connection and more time enjoying music. 50mm hi-def drivers ensure quality sound, regardless of unconventional materials. Inhabitat: “What steps does the company make to ensure that these non-traditional materials don’t compromise the sound quality?” Poulsen: “Sound quality isn’t negatively affected by the sustainable materials we choose to use. In fact, often times the choice of wood can enhance and add to the warmth in acoustic we strive for. Wood is a premier choice for materials in many musical instruments for thousands of years, so it seemed logical that it be incorporated into audio listening products as well. We take it one step further by ensuring the non-traditional materials such as bamboo , cork and FSC-certified woods not only contribute the sound quality of our products, but are a sustainable design choice in the manner in which they are harvested and incorporated.” Long-lasting Not only is the sound long-lasting (the headphones boast a 30-hour lithium polymer battery life, the longest-lasting in the company’s history), USB-C charging makes it easy to plug into any USB-compliant outlet. The company doesn’t just exercise sustainable materials but also helps ensure that its products last longer than other audio makers. Related: Artist upcycles discarded cassette tapes into eco-friendly MusicCloth® Inhabitat: “We covered The House of Marley earbuds a few years back. Has anything changed about your products since then?” Poulsen: “It is important to produce timeless designs and high-quality products. The House of Marley intends for products to last longer without the need for replacement — meaning less products being sent to landfills . In the past five years, The House of Marley has increased durability and quality, while the product return rate has been brought down significantly.” Helping to save the planet As if it could get any better than a product that’s both high-quality and eco-friendly, The House of Marley has also been working with One Tree Planted since 2017 to fight global deforestation. One Tree Planted is a non-profit organization that has been planting trees in North America, Latin America, Asia and Africa since 2014. To celebrate Earth Day, The House of Marley will be contributing to tree plantings in Colorado, Kenya and Rwanda. Inhabitat: “How did your partnership with One Tree Planted come about?” Poulsen: “The House of Marley was conceived around carrying on Bob Marley’s legacy, which includes the charitable philosophy of giving back to the Earth what we take from it. Given our history of using FSC-certified woods, bamboo and cork in the sustainable construction of our products, in 2017 we were introduced to One Tree Planted to contribute to tree plantings around the world. Since then, we have planted 168,000 trees in an effort to bring awareness to the consumption and waste of the plastics-driven consumer electronics market. Reforestation contributes to positive environmental, social and economic impact through carbon offsets, cleaner air , water filtration and greater biodiversity within the world’s forests. By donating to the planting of trees, we hope to encourage growth and begin changing the minds of consumers and our industry.” Bottom line The House of Marley is not kidding when it says 30-hour battery life; these headphones can be enjoyed all day and then some. Over-ear headphones can get clunky or uncomfortable, and plenty of music-lovers out there prefer the smaller earbuds for these reasons, but the memory foam ear cushions combined with the natural leather definitely squash those excuses. The over-ear speakers are super comfortable and can be used for hours without getting painful. Related: Dimension Plus turned Oreo cookies into edible records that play music One of the best parts is the hinge allowing the headphones to fold into each other to easily fit into the premium stash bag (included) made from the company’s signature REWIND organic cotton fabric, helping to take up less space while traveling. We loved the option for plugging the headphones directly into your device with the included aux cable (because let’s face it, sometimes we forget to charge things), but even if you do forget to charge, it only takes two hours to get fully juiced. Any outdoor-lover will enjoy how the Exodus headphones look. The certified wood is a light, natural color, which pairs really nicely against the black color of the plastic and ear cushions. The charging and aux cables are designed with the same sturdy, braided design (a godsend for those of us prone to breaking those skinny plastic cables on other headphones). You can also control the volume and playback from the headphones themselves rather than fumbling for your device. Finally, we couldn’t help but pump some Bob Marley through these headphones, and unsurprisingly, it did not disappoint. + The House of Marley Images via Katherine Gallagher / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by The House of Marley. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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These sustainable headphones are making a debut just in time for Earth Day

Anti-pollution skincare products: Everything you need to know

April 1, 2019 by  
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Anti-pollution skincare products are the latest trend in the skincare industry. As people battle an increasingly toxic atmosphere, these products promise to combat harmful particles associated with pollution in major cities. These products work by cleansing the skin from nanoparticles that are absorbed from the air or by creating a protective barrier that acts as a shield against pollutants. But just how effective are anti-pollution skincare products? The need for pollution protection The call for beauty products that are anti-pollution has significantly increased as city dwellers around the world continue to battle poor air quality . The micro-particles present in pollution have been proven to age skin at a rate similar to the sun, leading many people to look for ways to protect their body. Online searches for skincare products that are anti-pollution have gone up some 73 percent this year alone. This shows how much people are concerned about the aging effects of pollution and how it harms skin. Related: Add this all-in-one natural skincare to your bathroom counter “We’re seeing an increasing global demand for skincare which counters pollution-related skin concerns including dull skin, inflammation, sensitized skin, blemishes, clogged pores and accelerated ageing,” Dr. Anna Persaud, the head of This Works makeup company, explained. Pollution causes skin issues Studies have shown that certain pollutants in the atmosphere can lead to skin-related problems. The University of British Columbia lead a study that connected nitrogen dioxide to dark spots on the skin. Nitrogen dioxide is a result of car exhaust and emissions from power plants. While people are more aware of the harmful effects of pollution, cities continue to battle poor air quality. In fact, the World Health Organization released a study in 2016 that showed how air pollution had increased eight percent over the previous five years. In densely populated cities around the world – such as Delhi and Beijing – the public is often warned about hazardous levels of air pollution. Indoor pollution is also a growing issue Air quality indoors is also something people need to be concerned about when it comes to skincare. Indoor pollution comes from a variety of sources, from cooking and heating to cleaning products that off-gas into the environment, all of which can damage the health of your skin. With people battling pollution at every turn, there is little wonder that the anti-pollution skincare industry has grown so much over the past decade. How does anti-pollution skincare work? Products that are marketed as anti-pollution help shield the skin from harmful dust particles, very similar to how sunscreens work. Other skincare products remove pollutants from the skin after you have been exposed. The most popular of these types of products are beauty masks, which cleanse the skin at a deeper level than traditional masks. Peach and Lilly , for example, offer a series of anti-pollution masks and other products that are aimed at reducing the effects of microparticles. While these products can remove harmful nanoparticles, there are no scientific studies to back up their effectiveness. The lack of data is largely due to the fact that anti-pollution skincare has not been around long. Another factor is that the products are only used once a day, and after the masks are removed the skin is once again open for exposure. Tips for choosing the best anti-pollution skincare products While masks can remove pollutants in the short-term, leave-on products are the best way to combat microparticles in the atmosphere. These types of products will protect you for longer durations of time and prevent your skin from coming into contact with harmful particles in the first place. You can also look for products that contain high levels of probiotics. These chemicals can help build up the skin’s natural defenses and form a barrier against pollution-related skin issues. That is not to say that anti-pollution masks are not beneficial, but they do leave the skin open to future attacks. The science behind anti-pollution skincare A lot of the anti-pollution skincare products feature vitamin C as the main ingredient. Vitamin C can lighten skin tone – which helps combat those dark spots linked to pollution – and decreases discoloration. Another common ingredient in these types of products are antioxidants, many of which are actually backed by science. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of studies that prove barrier products are effective at keeping particles from invading your skin. That does not mean they do not work, but more studies need to be done to prove just how effective they are in creating a pollution barrier. Given the popularity of these types of products , it won’t be long before additional research is completed. Fighting pollution While products that protect the skin are great, the bigger issue is fighting pollution at its source. Many cities are initiating eco-friendly policies to help curb emissions, but more work needs to be done if we are serious about combating the effects pollution has on our health. Unfortunately, companies that manufacture anti-pollution skincare products have little motivation to fight pollution at a large scale, as doing so would ultimately hurt their bottom line. Via The Guardian , Racked Images via Rawpixel , Moose Photos , Stux ,  AdinaVoicu ,  joiseyshowaa

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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

Cove launches the first 100% biodegradable water bottle

March 7, 2019 by  
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Officially launched in California on Feb. 28, 2019 and targeted to expand to new markets throughout the year, the Cove brand’s 100 percent biodegradable water bottles have become available as a sustainable plastic alternative. Cove offers an eco-friendly solution for water on the go at every phase of production and regardless of the disposal technique used. Single-use plastic water bottles have made the headlines in every fight for sustainability over the years for good reason — they are toxic for the environment. With the amount of plastic in the oceans as well as little hope of any plastic ever truly disappearing, it’s no wonder companies are looking for better ways to package our must-have water. While some companies have invested in plastic alternatives already, they each include metal, plastic or glass that needs to be separated out at the recycling stage. In contrast, the Cove water bottle sidesteps the recycling process altogether. Related: Everlane introduces long-lasting outerwear made from recycled water bottles Although it looks, feels and functions like regular plastic, the Cove water bottle is made from naturally occurring biopolymers called PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) that are biodegradable and compostable. These bottles break down into carbon dioxide, water and organic waste after being tossed into the compost or hauled to the landfill. They will even break down in the soil or the ocean with zero toxic byproducts. Construction of this innovative water bottle begins with a paper core. Attached to that is the PHA formed cylinder, cap and top dome. While the bottle might not last forever like its plastic counterparts, it is shelf-stable for six months. During that period, the bottle can also be reused . Currently, the Cove bottles are filled with natural spring water sourced from Palomar Mountain, California, for the initial launch. However, founder Alex Totterman believes that businesses have an environmental responsibility, so rather than shipping water across long distances, the company vows to source locally in each region as sales and availability spread across different markets. The idea behind the Cove water bottle is simple — produce an earth-friendly alternative to single-use plastic while keeping it convenient to the consumer. As we all know, people find it much easier to participate if the process is easy, and there is nothing easier than grabbing a bottle made from PHA instead of petroleum-based plastic. + Cove Via Packaging 360 Photography by Ryan Lowry and Sergiy Barchuk via Cove

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10 easy eco-friendly home decor tips

February 28, 2019 by  
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Decorating a home is intimidating enough without taking the environment into account, but choosing eco-friendly decor will be more beneficial in the long run. Here are some simple tips and rules for green alternatives in home decorating that will help reduce your  carbon footprint and even save you some money along the way. Perks of vintage The simplest way to positively affect the environment with your home decor choices is to buy pre-used. Some people even prefer a more wear-and-tear or “distressed” look. Not to mention, vintage decor is chic and costs way less than buying new. So head over to your local thrift store, estate sales or flea markets (you can even raid your grandma’s attic for forgotten treasures). If you still can’t find anything to your taste, Ebay and other media sites are a great place to explore pretty much anything vintage. Related: 9 ways to add more houseplants to your home Choose sustainably-sourced materials Work with companies that are focused on ethical labor standards and fair trade. There are some great globally inspired home products that give back to the artisans and communities who make their pieces and are passionate about eco-friendly decor. Obviously, one of the best material for furniture is wood, but making sure that you choose a wood that doesn’t contribute to the deforestation epidemic is just as important as choosing the style of furniture itself. Make sure all wood is FSC certified and sustainably-sourced. Donate When you absolutely do need to get rid of something in your home, choose to donate it or even sell it. Even if you don’t make much money off the sale, it still means that the item transferred its value to someone else (and more importantly, didn’t end up in a dumpster or landfill ). The Goodwill is an amazing organization that gives back to the community and ReStore by Habitat for Humanity has a free pick-up program that will help local families find homes. Most donations are tax-deductible as well. Don’t assume that just because it is used or old that no one will want it. Use non-toxic materials Whether you’re painting your walls or repurposing a piece of furniture, the type of paint you choose matters. Eco-friendly paints are free of volatile organic compounds or “VOCs,” which can be harmful to both the environment and to humans. Even carpet has been known to emit high levels of VOCs and contribute to accumulations of allergens . Houseplants A well-cared-for houseplant can give renewed life to any space. There are even some houseplants such as ferns or palms that can increase oxygen and help purify your home. Houseplants are a less-expensive decoration that adds a natural, fresh accent and can combat pollutants and chemicals produced from man-made materials. Thermal alternatives Even a plain thermal lining can drastically reduce how much hot or cold air is escaping from your home. This will also save money on your electricity bill and make your home that much more comfortable for your family and guests. For eco-friendly insulation, there are alternatives to fiberglass made from sustainable materials like wool or hemp. Related: 6 places to find the best recycled building materials Repurpose It may take a little more elbow grease, but DIY-ing your old stuff into new stuff is more rewarding and satisfying than buying new every time. Repaint wooden tables to match your new decor with an artsy pattern or reupholster your old chairs to make them look brand new. If your creative side refuses to come out, hire someone else to do the job. It will still cost less money than buying new while still feeling new to you. Look out for furniture made from reclaimed and salvaged materials like aluminum and recycled wood as well. Go with timeless styles One of the biggest problems with home decor is changing trends. A type of furniture or style may be in vogue one year and out of style the next. That leaves trendy homeowners with the options of either getting rid of their decor or repurposing it in order to keep up. Investing in sturdy, timeless designs will ensure that your home decor never goes out of style and you get plenty of use out of it before it needs to be altered or donated. Use nature Go wildflower picking or gather herbs from the garden to decorate. Add natural accents like citrus to elevate a vase or candle holder for a special effect, or use cranberries or holly during the holidays. Driftwood is also a wonderful alternative for doorstops or shelving and can be DIY -ed into wall art. Sometimes the most memorable and special decorations can be found in the most unlikely places. Redecorate If your home is feeling dull and in dire need of an upgrade, sometimes just a simple change of scenery can make all the difference. Try moving furniture or shelving around, switching out photos or re-arranging artwork onto different walls. You may save yourself a lot of unnecessary effort and stress just by finding new spots for your furniture in your home . Images via Shutterstock

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Net-zero Maine house is designed to blend into the forest with age

February 28, 2019 by  
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When the owner of a beautiful natural site in Falmouth, Maine tapped Portland-based architectural studio Kaplan Thompson Architects to design his house, it was clear from the beginning that the forested surroundings would play a major role in the design. Not only did the architects use a predominately timber palette to bring the woods indoors, but the two-story home was also engineered to produce all of its own energy to reduce impact on the environment. Dubbed the Blackwood House, the net-zero dwelling is fitted with a variety of renewable energy systems and low-maintenance materials for long-term sustainability. Topped with a slanted roof, the Blackwood House takes on a shed-like appearance with a utilitarian vibe that’s strengthened by the exterior surface materials. Combined in what the architects call a “complex textile pattern”, the low-maintenance and cost-effective facade includes weathering steel, fiber cement board (Viroc), and black-stained cedar (Maibec), all of which will develop a natural patina over time. An open timber-framed carport completes the utilitarian look while keeping the design within budget. “Unlike contemporary modern spaces that are cold and sterile, this house is modern and sleek yet roughhewn,” the architects say of the two-story house. “With fine woodworking alongside the clean lines of the interior structure, raw and cooked come together in harmony. Taking into consideration the beauty of the surrounding natural forest, this design places focus on exposed materials in their most basic form. Timber beams throughout the living areas bring the woods inside and provide structure to the rooms. Hidden storage and flowing spaces combine with large, strategically placed windows to allow the forest and natural light to take center stage.” Related: Kaplan Thompson Architects Unveil Super-Efficient Harborview Townhomes in Portland, Maine Completed in 2017, the Blackwood House spans an area of 2,775 square feet yet feels even larger thanks to full-height glazing that frames views of the outdoors, while a treehouse -like feel is achieved in the second floor balcony. Careful construction and triple-glazed windows ensure that the light-filled, open-plan interior maintains comfortable indoor temperatures year-round. Photovoltaic panels mounted on the roof of the carport power the energy-efficient home. + Kaplan Thompson Architects Images by Irvin Serrano via Kaplan Thompson Architects

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Net-zero Maine house is designed to blend into the forest with age

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