The crisis formerly known as climate change

June 5, 2019 by  
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Here’s why the Guardian is wrong about re-branding the concept.

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The crisis formerly known as climate change

The future of ferries is electric, too

June 5, 2019 by  
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New hybrid tour boats are finding ways to cut diesel use, reduce pollution and operate silently for passengers and tourists.

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The future of ferries is electric, too

Sustainability consultants have the perfect skill set for serving in political office

June 5, 2019 by  
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Three reasons that sustainable professionals know how to get things done.

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Sustainability consultants have the perfect skill set for serving in political office

Can Florida save its prized Everglades from climate change destruction?

March 19, 2019 by  
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Half of all Floridians will live underwater by the end of the century, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s predictions . In her disheartening article in The Guardian , researcher and author of Rising, Elizabeth Grant instructs Floridians to flip a coin – tails and your home is headed under the sea. Overpopulation, unsustainable development and sea level rise also threaten to destroy Florida’s famous Everglades, but the newly elected Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, is an unexpected champion of its restoration. The Everglades are an expansive wetland preserve in Southern Florida that originally spanned millions of acres. Since European settlers arrived, the wetlands were rapidly drained and filled to make way for farms, roads and housing. Now, 1.5 million acres remain protected in the Everglades National Park, which is home to incredible biodiversity, such as “mangrove forests and cypress swamps, alligators, orchids, storks and ibises, as well as threatened species such as the Florida panther,” according to  The Guardian Related: Meet Squid: Key West’s solar-powered boat for dolphin tours Florida’s history of wetland destruction Changes to the landscape, including draining, paving and building, as well as carving out agricultural lands, have damaged the wetland’s sensitive ecology. The amount of water flowing into the wetland had already been cut in half by the 1960’s and is currently a third of what it used to be. Fresh water from Lake Okeechobee, its main source, has largely been rerouted to irrigate farms and re-enter the wetlands full of agricultural chemicals. Steve Davis, senior ecologist from the Everglades Foundation explained to The Guardian , “We only get about a third of the water in the eastern Florida Bay that we received historically. A national park, a world heritage site, an international biosphere reserve, and we’re starving it of fresh water.” These changes in water circulation not only introduce synthetic nutrients that kill wildlife and produce toxic algae blooms, but an overall decrease in water, exacerbated by drought and sea level rise, also changes the water salinity. In 2015, a decline in rainfall caused the water to be twice as salty as the ocean, leading to rapid die-off of its expansive sea grass, which caused a domino-effect die-off of the hundreds of species that live and breed in sea grass beds. Recent changes to a fragile ecosystem In 2017, Category 4 Hurricane Irma tore through and uprooted the mangroves – an ecosystem typically celebrated for its fortitude and ability to protect infrastructure during storms. Without mangrove roots and sea grass beds to stabilize the sediment, what used to be a mecca for birdwatching, fishing and buggy tours is now what The Guardian’s Oliver Milman calls a “mud pit.” “The water used to be so clear you could see the seagrass move back and forth. Now you can’t see the bottom. The dead water sort of moves around the bay and you think ‘I’ve just gotta get out of here,’” a seasoned fisherman lamented to Milman . Related: Can the Cayman Islands save the Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs? An unexpected green champion – for some In January 2019, Florida elected a new governor: Ron DeSantis, a self-proclaimed “conservative warrior” and Trump bestie . In just two months in office, DeSantis released a progressive $250-billion plan to restore the Everglades and invest in water quality remediation infrastructure. Though DeSantis’s predecessor, Rick Scott, set the bar pretty low in terms of green policy (he reportedly banned the phrase “climate change” ), environmentalists are generally hopeful about DeSantis’s commitment. “Our water and natural resources are the foundation of our economy and our way of life in Florida,” Governor DeSantis said in a news release . “The protection of water resources is one of the most pressing issues facing our state.” The four-year plan, “Achieving More Now for Florida’s Environment ,” designates $625 million per year to address water pollution, restore ecosystems and raise the Tamiami Trail, a highway that traverses the Everglades and cuts off water circulation. Annual Budget Breakdown: $360 million for Everglades restoration, such as creating a reservoir and raising the highway to allow water to flow beneath it $175 million for targeted water quality remediation infrastructure, monitoring and treatment $50 million to restore natural springs $40 million to develop alternate water supplies and reduce water drawn from Everglade sources Many Democrats, however, believe the proposed budget is still too modest and needs to be reassessed. In 2000, a similar “Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan” passed Congress with ambitions to redirect freshwater and reduce sea water incursion. In the nearly 20 years since the bill passed, the crisis of sea level rise had become far more serious. The Guardian reports that the sea level is now three inches above the 1993 average and future levels are a “moving target.” A more comprehensive restoration plan, conservationists argue , would need to consider the worst-case predictions. Still, the new plan provides one billion dollars more than the budget from previous years, which is a welcomed, albeit insufficient, increase in much needed investment. “This is not a partisan issue,” DeSantis said in a news release . “This is something that Floridians from all walks of life and political persuasions think needs to be done. I look forward to working with the Legislature on bringing this into fruition and getting the job done for the people of this state.” Via The Guardian Images via Shutterstock 

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Can Florida save its prized Everglades from climate change destruction?

Coca-Cola rewards recycling in the UK with half-priced theme park tickets

July 26, 2018 by  
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Many theme-park visitors in the U.S. are familiar with using bottles or cans of soda they’ve purchased to score a discounted entry to their favorite attractions. Now, the U.K. is joining in with “reverse vending machines” to reward visitors instantly for recycling . Merlin , owner and operator of several U.K. resort theme parks, has teamed up with Coca-Cola to boost recycling and combat litter pollution in the U.K. As part of Coca-Cola’s rewards program, visitors may now deposit their finished 500 ml beverage containers into “reverse vending machines” and obtain 50 percent off vouchers in exchange for their environmental contribution. “We want to reward people for doing the right thing by recycling their bottles and hope to encourage some people who wouldn’t otherwise have done so,” Jon Woods, general manager of Coca-Cola U.K. and Ireland,  told The Guardian . The machines are installed at four Merlin-operated attractions: Chessington World of Adventures, Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and  LEGOLAND . But those who are rewarded with discounts can use their prizes at any of the 30 attractions operated by Merlin in the country. The promotion is planned to continue until mid-October, when most of the parks will shut down for the winter season. Related: This floating park in Rotterdam is made from recycled plastic waste Of the 13 billion plastic bottles sold yearly in the U.K., only 7.5 billion are recycled, according to a report by the Guardian . This initiative is hoping to shift these statistics more favorably while also eliminating the 700,000 bottles that are littered daily. “All of our bottles can be recycled, and we want to get as many of them back as possible, so they can be turned into new bottles and not end up as litter,” Woods said. According to research by Coca-Cola, 64 percent of people in the U.K. would be more inclined to recycle more if they were instantly compensated for their actions. The move to encourage recycling at theme-parks comes after Co-op , the first retailer in the U.K. to launch deposit return trials with the reverse vending machines, reported positive feedback from its partnership with popular summer music festivals. This recycling movement will help tackle the stresses government officials face in light of growing land and marine pollution. + Coca-Cola Via  The Guardian and  BusinessGreen Image via Shutterstock

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Coca-Cola rewards recycling in the UK with half-priced theme park tickets

‘Plastic Free Trust Mark’ helps customers dodge plastic packaging

May 28, 2018 by  
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New labeling will assist shoppers in buying food  and drinks that aren’t packaged in plastic . Campaign group A Plastic Planet is behind what’s called the Plastic Free Trust Mark, adopted thus far by some supermarket chains and a tea company. The campaigners are hoping that the labeling will inspire more retailers to jump on the plastic-free bandwagon. The Plastic Free Trust Mark has been launched to support retailers which have made pledges to phase out plastic packaging. Early adopters are Tea brand @teapigs , Dutch supermarket chain @Ekoplaza and @IcelandFoods https://t.co/wmbTqQybMF — A Plastic Planet (@aplastic_planet) May 17, 2018 Sometimes it’s obvious that the food item you’re about to buy is wrapped in plastic — other times, not so much. For example, the discovery that most of the tea bags in Britain contained plastic shocked consumers. A Plastic Planet co-founder Sian Sutherland told The Guardian , “Our trust mark cuts through the confusion of symbols and labels and tells you just one thing — this packaging is plastic-free and therefore guilt-free.” The new Plastic Free Trust Mark could help shoppers discern whether or not there’s plastic in packaging with a quick glance. According to U.K.-based tea brand Teapigs , one of the early adopters of the new labels, there are several alternative materials to use in accredited packaging: glass, metal, wood pulp, compostable biomaterials  and carton board. Sutherland said she hopes the move helps slash plastic waste , saying, “Finally shoppers can be part of the solution, not the problem.” Related: First plastic-free supermarket aisle opens in Amsterdam Along with Teapigs, U.K. grocery store chain Iceland is adopting the label and plans to roll it out this month on some of their own label products. They’ve already set a goal to remove plastic packaging from their label products by 2023 . Iceland managing director Richard Walker told the Guardian, “With the grocery retail sector accounting for more than 40 percent of plastic packaging in the U.K., it’s high time that Britain’s supermarkets came together to take a lead on this issue.” Netherlands-based grocery store chain Ekoplaza is also introducing the label in 74 outlets. Earlier this year, the company launched the world’s first plastic-free supermarket aisle at an Amsterdam location. + A Plastic Planet Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos

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‘Plastic Free Trust Mark’ helps customers dodge plastic packaging

The growing wine industry is threatening California’s Napa Valley

May 28, 2018 by  
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Napa Valley , a world-famous symbol of American excellence in wine, is threatened by too much of a good thing. Ever-increasing wine production has inflicted damage on the region’s economy and ecology.  The industrialization of Napa has resulted in the loss of 95 percent of the oak trees that once covered the valley, and now locals are organizing to protect the area. “With great success came great money and outsiders,” Napa expert and journalist James Conaway told the Guardian . Only a few decades ago, the region was home to fruit orchards and livestock farms as well as vineyards. “Now it’s monoculture with a vengeance,” said Conaway. “Hundreds of miles of steel trellising holding up the vines from one end of the valley to the next. It has an industrial sheen.” Napa County contains California ‘s densest concentration of oak forests, a source of pride for residents that provides invaluable ecological services to the living things that call Napa home. The oak trees sequester carbon, capture rainwater and prevent erosion through their thick roots. The majority of Napa’s oak trees are found in the surrounding hills. However, one-third of the remaining oaks are standing on what is considered to be potential agricultural land. Related: 100% solar-powered winery keeps naturally cool with cork-insulated roofs  In response to the rapid expansion of the area’s  wine industry, local residents have organized around Measure C, an upcoming ballot initiative that would guarantee protection to much of the remaining oak woodland. While the measure would limit the potential growth of the wine industry, those in favor of it say that they are motivated not by opposition to the wineries, but by an understanding that the valley needs sustainable growth . “Something’s very wrong with the way we are thinking about our resources,” said Warren Winiarski, whose Napa cabernet sauvignon won an upset 1976 taste test victory in Paris and put Napa on the map. “They are finite. And yet we go on with development as though we could do that indefinitely.” Via The Guardian Images via Stan Shebs on Wikimedia Commons (1, 2)

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The growing wine industry is threatening California’s Napa Valley

UK smashes days-old record, goes without coal for 76 hours

April 26, 2018 by  
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Just over a week ago, the United Kingdom set a new record: almost 55 hours without using coal . It didn’t take them long to shatter that record. CleanTechnica reported the country just went 76 hours without the polluting fuel — “for the first time since the 1880s,” according to a National Grid Twitter account . For the first time since the 1880s the UK electricity network has clocked up over 72 hours without the need for coal generation. This new record comes days after the first ever 48 hour period of no coal on the network. — National Grid Media (@Grid_Media) April 24, 2018 The country started their coal-free streak on Saturday, April 21, and went into Tuesday, April 24, ultimately going for 76 hours and 10 minutes, according to the UK Coal Twitter account . This may not be the last record the United Kingdom sets this year; Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit analyst Jonathan Marshall told The Guardian , “Ever rising renewable capacity in the UK will see these records fall more and more frequently, clearly showing progress made over the past decade or two.” The final length of this record #coal free run was 76 Hours 10 minutes. Coal units are now back generating. pic.twitter.com/OauJREXzxN — UK Coal (@UK_Coal) April 24, 2018 Related: The UK just went for a record 55 hours without using coal What did the UK run on in the absence of coal? The Guardian put out a graphic showing the electricity mix from April 21 at 10 AM to April 24 at 10 AM; during that time 30.3 percent of power came from gas , 24.9 percent from wind , 23.3 percent from nuclear , 15.3 percent from biomass or other sources, and 6.2 percent from solar . Electrical engineer Andrew Crossland, who operates MyGridGB , cautioned against replacing coal with gas, telling The Guardian, “Shifting to gas is likely to make our electricity market more volatile as our energy price becomes increasingly locked to international gas markets. That will only hurt consumers.” More coal stations are shuttering — two plant owners in the country have said they’ll close this year, according to The Guardian. What will happen to those brownfield sites? The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit explored that question in a recent blog post from Marshall, who said one old power station could be transformed into a cruise ship terminal, another into housing, and others as logistics centers. At the time of writing, the UK was on another streak and had already gone 39 continuous hours without coal — could another record be over the horizon? Via CleanTechnica and The Guardian Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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UK smashes days-old record, goes without coal for 76 hours

Load up on Tabasco while you can – because the island it comes from is being swallowed by the sea

April 4, 2018 by  
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If your idea of the perfect Bloody Mary involves a dash of Tabasco, better stock up while you can. Over one hundred miles west of New Orleans , Avery Island, the birthplace of Tabasco sauce, is disappearing as its land slowly washes away with the sea. As with much of the American Gulf Coast, Avery Island is plagued by rising sea levels, erosion, and human-caused environmental damage. Despite Avery Island’s relatively high elevation at 163 feet above sea level, the island is losing 30 feet of wetland per year due to saltwater encroaching via canals dug by the oil and gas industry. Meanwhile, the island’s elevation is shrinking by a third-of-an-inch each year. Tony Simmons is the latest in a long line of McIlhenny family members to lead the company that has produced Tabasco sauce for 150 years. Simmons’s ancestor Edmund McIlhenny first began making Tabasco sauce after discovering a particularly well-suited pepper plant growing behind a chicken coop on Avery Island, a long-time refuge now retreating. “It does worry us, and we are working hard to minimize the land loss,” Simmons told the Guardian . “We want to protect the marsh because the marsh protects us.” Related: This Louisiana craft beer pioneer ‘went green’ long before it was cool Technically, Tabasco isn’t going anywhere. If Avery Island continues to shrink, McIllhenny may someday have to consider relocating away from its historic homeland. “We don’t think it will come to that, but we are working to do everything we can to make sure it won’t happen to us,” said Simmons. “I mean, we could make Tabasco somewhere else. But this is more than a business: this is our home.” If the island experiences an additional sea level rise of two feet, which is widely expected to occur, only the highest points of the island will be safe. Despite the resilience of the people who live there, the future of Avery Island and similar communities in Louisiana looks stormy. “It is a ripped-up rug. It would take decades to put it back together, even without sea level rise ,” Oliver Houck, an expert in land loss at Tulane University, explained to the Guardian . “Avery Island is going to become an actual island, there won’t be much left. The state has decided to put all its eggs into restoring the eastern part of the state. I hate to use the words ‘written off’, but those coastal communities are on their own.” Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos ( 2 ) and Paul Arps/Flickr

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Load up on Tabasco while you can – because the island it comes from is being swallowed by the sea

Incredible glass home stays comfortably snug even in extreme temperatures

March 6, 2018 by  
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OFIS Architects tackles the ultimate indoor-outdoor living experience with Glass Pavilion, a retreat with full-height glass structural walls that provides total comfort even in extreme desert conditions. Initiated by Guardian Glass , this thermally efficient prototype home will operate off-grid and offer lucky guests stunning and uninterrupted views of Spain’s Gorafe desert. Completed this year, the compact 215-square-foot Glass Pavilion is part of OFIS Architects’ ongoing collaboration with AKT II structural engineers , where the firms test the structural possibilities of glass and timber in extreme climates. “This project is a response to the local, desert climate conditions,” wrote OFIS Architects of Glass Pavilion. “Instead of focusing only in ‘a glass as a window element’ the concept explored its advanced potentials, e.g. transparent but shading element, a thin but thermally efficient envelope that is also the sole structural support.” Related: Exceptional prefab alpine shelter overlooks mind-boggling mountain views Triple-glazed walls create a thermally efficient envelope, while near-invisible coatings, operable shades, and roof overhangs protect the interior from solar gain . The Y-shaped interior is evenly split between a living area with a kitchenette, a bedroom with storage, and the bathroom. All three rooms open out to a wraparound terrace deck. “The Glass Pavilion will be the setting of a 1-week retreat for a single person or a couple,” added the architects. “The guests will be selected from different tourist sharing platforms.” + OFIS Architects Images @ Jose Navarrete

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Incredible glass home stays comfortably snug even in extreme temperatures

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