Study finds 90 percent of table salt contains microplastics

October 18, 2018 by  
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According to a new study that observed sea, rock and lake salts, 90 percent of the table salt brands sold around the world contain microplastics. Several years ago, researchers discovered that microplastics were in sea salt, but no one was certain just how extensive the problem was until now. National Geographic reported that researchers in South Korea and at Greenpeace East Asia tested 39 salt brands, and 36 of them contained microplastics. This study — published in this month’s journal of Environmental Science & Technology — is the first of its kind to look at the correlation between microplastics in table salt and where we find plastic pollution in the environment. Related: Study suggests the average person consumes 70,000 microplastic bits every year “The findings suggest that human ingestion of microplastics via marine products is strongly related to emissions in a given region,” said Seung-Kyu Kim, a marine science professor at Incheon National University in South Korea. The salt samples came from 21 countries in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. The three brands that did not contain microplastics were refined sea salt from Taiwan, refined rock salt from China and unrefined sea salt produced by solar evaporation in France. The density of microplastics in salt varied among the different brands. The study found that the tested Asian brands of salt contained the highest amounts, especially in the salt sold in Indonesia. An unrelated 2015 study found that Indonesia suffered from the second-worst level of plastic pollution in the world. Researchers found that  microplastic levels were highest in sea salt, followed by lake salt and rock salt. This latest study estimates that the average adult consumes about 2,000 microplastics each year through salt. But how harmful that is remains a mystery. Because of knowledge gaps and a mismatch of data in more than 300 microplastic studies, there is limited evidence to suggest that microplastics have a significant negative impact. Microplastics could be detrimental to our health and the planet, or the focus on microplastic could be diverting attention from worse environmental problems. + Environmental Science & Technology Via National Geographic Image via Bruno

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Clean energy-producing Light Up wins the 2018 LAGI competition in Melbourne

October 18, 2018 by  
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New York-based NH Architecture and Seattle architectural practice Olson Kundig placed first and second respectively in the 2018 Land Art Generator Initiative design competition in Melbourne, Australia. Sponsored by the State of Victoria’s Renewable Energy Action Plan with clean energy targets of 25 percent by 2020, the international competition sought large-scale works of public art that generate renewable energy in visible ways for St. Kilda Triangle in the City of Port Phillip. NH Architecture’s winning proposal, named ‘Light Up,’ harnesses solar, wind and microbial fuel cell technologies to produce 2,200 MWh of energy annually — enough to power nearly 500 homes. NH Architecture’s winning Light Up proposal consists of a lightweight tensile shade structure topped with 8,600 efficient, flexible solar photovoltaic panels envisioned over Jacka Boulevard. Designed with the aim of “maximizing the public realm” without compromising views, the design makes use of tested components available on the market. The clean energy power plant was also designed to harness wind energy and uses microbial fuel cells to tap into energy from plant roots. Olson Kundig’s second-place submission ‘Night & Day’ also taps into the power of solar with 5,400 square meters of solar panels. The solar system is combined with two Pelton turbines and a hydro battery to operate 24 hours a day and produce 1,000 MWh annually. As an ideas competition, LAGI 2018 has no plans of realizing the winning submissions. The Light Up team will receive $16,000 in prize money while the runners-up will receive $5,000. Related: Olson Kundig solar sail proposal could power up to 200 Melbourne homes with clean energy “LAGI 2018 is a window into a world that has moved beyond fossil fuels — a world that celebrates living in harmony with nature by creating engaging public places that integrate renewable energy and energy storage artfully within the urban landscape,” said LAGI co-founders Elizabeth Monoian and Robert Ferry. “Light Up and Night & Day are power plants where you can take your family for a picnic. They both show how beauty and clean energy can come together to create the sustainable and resilient infrastructure of the future city. These artworks are cultural landmarks for the great energy transition that will be visited by generations in the future to remember this important time in human history.” + LAGI Images via LAGI

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Clean energy-producing Light Up wins the 2018 LAGI competition in Melbourne

The Seasonal Food Guide helps you store, cook and enjoy seasonal produce

October 18, 2018 by  
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When you cook at home, there is nothing better than using fresh, seasonal produce as ingredients in your recipes. But it can be difficult to remember what is in season near you throughout the year. Luckily, there is an app for that, thanks to GRACE Communications Foundation, a non-profit organization aiming to boost awareness and support for sustainable food initiatives. Last year, the foundation launched its Seasonal Food Guide app (available for Android and iOS) just before National Farmers Market Week (in August each year). When you download it, the app will update you on the seasonality of everything from apples to zucchini in your own state. The guide is free, and it uses data from the Natural Resources Defense Council as well as the USDA and state departments of agriculture. When using the app (or the website), you can search for what is in season at any time of the year in every state. It is billed as the “most comprehensive database of seasonal food available in the U.S.” Related: Everything you need to know about online farmers markets “Today, people want to know where their produce is coming from, how long it will be in season and available at their local farmers market or grocery store, and what’s in season at other times of the year or in other neighboring states,” said Urvashi Rangan, GRACE’s chief science adviser. “We built the Seasonal Food Guide app to put those answers right at your fingertips.” This app will help you in your efforts to eat as much local produce as possible, which not only helps you increase your fruit and veggie consumption, but it also helps local growers and the local economy. The money you spend on local produce stays in your community, and it is reinvested with other local businesses. Why should you eat seasonally? If you haven’t had a lot of experience with eating fresh produce, it is definitely worth a try — it is ripe and flavorful and less bruised and handled, because it is transported locally. You can often taste it before you make a purchase, so you know what to expect. During peak harvest times, there is usually an abundance of fresh produce, and that means lower prices. You can also get “seconds,” which are slightly blemished fruits and veggies, for a major discount, and you can eat them right away or preserve them for a later time when they aren’t in season. This is an extremely frugal way to help you eat healthy all year long. Related: 5 mouthwatering plant-based fall recipes When you purchase seasonal food, you get a fresher, tastier and more nutritious product compared to the foods you would buy in the store. The best time to eat produce is shortly after harvest, and the only way to do that is to buy your produce from a local grower. Plus, when purchasing your produce from local farmers , you can talk to them about how they grew the food and the practices they used to raise and harvest their crops. Another benefit of eating seasonally is that it tends to lead you to cook at home more often, which is a great thing to do for your health. Taking control over what you put in your body — from what oil you cook with to how much sugar you add — helps you to consciously make better choices. Cooking is also a great way to bond, and it is a fun activity to do with your family and friends. Eating seasonally will also challenge you to be creative and come up with new ways to use your local produce. Buying local food is a benefit for the environment, because it helps to maintain local farmland and open space in your community. Direct-to-consumer produce is also less likely to have pesticides or herbicides. Eating seasonally can be intimidating. What is at its peak this month? How do you use that strange-looking vegetable you spied at the market? How do you store your abundance of fruits and vegetables so they do not go bad before you use them? This is when the Seasonal Food Guide comes to the rescue. Recipes, storage tips and more If you need some help with what to do with your local produce, the Seasonal Food Guide has a “ Real Food Right Now ” series to give you tips on cooking with food from your local grower. There are ideas for everything from asparagus to okra, and there are also tips for which seasonings and oils will complement your produce. The Seasonal Food Guide also explains the history of each item, giving you a chance to learn more about the food you are enjoying. Each fruit, vegetable, nut and legume is also broken down into its nutritional value and its environmental impact, meaning you can see how your produce is affecting the land. The guide also aims to curb food waste by teaching users how to properly store produce and how long it typically remains edible before it needs composted. The comprehensive app teaches users a wealth of information about the foods they eat, while also making it easy to experiment with new, unknown produce items. Get the Seasonal Food Guide app Check out the Seasonal Food Guide on your phone or computer, and get the best information about what is available in your state this month. You’ll find information and tips for about 140+ veggies, fruits, nuts and legumes. You can also set a reminder for your favorites, so you don’t miss them when they are available. Because the app provides photos of each item, you can also quickly identify that strange fruit or vegetable you passed at the market and learn more about it. This guide makes it incredibly simple to eat local, seasonal foods you love as well as find new favorites to experiment with in the kitchen. To see the web version click here , or download the iOS or Android apps here . + Seasonal Food Guide Images via Seasonal Food Guide , Caroline Attwood and  Maarten van den Heuvel ; screenshots via Inhabitat

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The Seasonal Food Guide helps you store, cook and enjoy seasonal produce

How to choose the healthiest, most sustainable milk alternative

October 1, 2018 by  
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Scientists agree that the dairy industry has an overall negative affect on the environment. For starters, it takes a lot of land, fertilizer and water to grow food for the cows. It also takes a lot of energy to process raw milk , package it and deliver the goods to supermarkets around the world. Then, there is the fact that cows generate loads of methane, which is more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide. With the dairy industry disrupting the environment, more people are turning to alternative sources to meet their dietary needs. There are a variety of milk alternatives on the market these days, including almond milk, rice milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, oat milk, soy milk and pea protein milk — each with its pros and cons. If you are considering ditching cow’s milk for something more sustainable, here is a quick guide to the best milk alternatives and how they impact the environment . Related: Vegan diets deliver more environmental benefits than sustainable dairy or meat Almond Milk Almonds feature a plethora of health benefits, including good fats, flavonoids and protein. Almond milk, on the other hand, does not include the same amount of nutrients. In fact, many of the benefits found in almonds are not present in almond milk, because it only contains about 2 percent of almonds. While it might not compare to regular almonds, this milk does not have a lot of calories and is usually fortified with additional calcium and vitamins. That said, you have to be careful when purchasing almond milk, because many products are not fortified and provide little nutritional value. Although almond milk seems like a great milk alternative, its environmental impact is fairly high. The biggest problem with almonds is that they require a lot of water to produce. On average, it takes a little over a gallon of water to grow a single almond. Even worse, many almond growers are located in California , which has suffered extreme droughts over the past few years. Related: DIY vegan almond feta cheese Coconut Milk Like almond milk, coconut milk does not feature as many nutritional benefits as you might think. Aside from being low in calories, coconut milk features little on the vitamin and protein front. It also has a watery texture and does not pair well with other foods. Fortunately, companies fortify coconut milk to make it healthier, making it a viable milk alternative. Another positive aspect of coconut milk is that it has a very low environmental impact. The farms are eco-friendly and use small amounts of water to produce coconuts. Coconut trees can also filter out carbon dioxide, which is great for combating greenhouse gases . The transportation and processing are the only environmental impacts to consider in the production of coconuts. Rice Milk Rice is farmed all over the globe and requires a lot of water to produce. The plus side is that there are new varieties that make farming rice less damaging to the environment. The downside is that a lot of modern varieties are genetically modified, which many countries have deemed unsafe. There is also the risk of arsenic contamination in rice paddies. When it comes to taste and texture, rice milk is about as close as you can get to cow’s milk. It is naturally sweet and pairs well with cereal or cookies. It is a little more watery than traditional milk, but its sweet flavor makes it a good milk alternative. Rice milk is also good for people who suffer from lactose or nut allergies, and it can be fortified to include more vitamins and calcium. It is, however, low in protein. Related: DIY gluten-free flours with a coffee grinder Hemp Milk There are a lot of health benefits associated with hemp milk. This milk contains plenty of protein and important fatty acids. These fats are good for improving the cardiovascular system, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and fortifying skin. The one downside to hemp milk is that a lot of the nutrients are stripped away in the production process, although plenty still remain to make this a healthy milk alternative. As far as the environment is concerned, hemp production is actually quite eco-friendly. This plant is hardy, meaning less pesticides and sprays are needed to combat weeds. Hemp also helps fight global warming by filtering out carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Just about every part of the hemp plant is usable, resulting in less waste than other plants on this list. Oat Milk Oats have long been used to fight bad cholesterol, and these same nutrients are present in oak milk. The only catch is that you have to consume a handful of servings every day to get the benefits. While oat milk also contains B vitamins, it does not have as much protein and minerals as other milk alternatives. There are companies, however, that fortify oat milk, which adds in extra vitamins. Like most plant-based milks, it takes a lot of energy to turn oats into milk. Oats, however, contribute less carbon to the atmosphere than other plants and require less water to grow. For example, it takes six times as much water to grow almonds than it does oats. This lessens the environmental hazards in the oat industry, making it a sustainable milk alternative. Soy Milk The nutritional value of soy milk is close to cow’s milk. It has plenty of macronutrients, carbohydrates and fat. The main difference is that it does not have large concentrations of iodine, B vitamins, calcium or lactose. Soy is a plant product, so sugar is added to make it sweeter (there are unsweetened options on the market). The main downside to soy, however, is its negative environmental impact. Soy requires massive chunks of land and pesticides to produce. This crop is also genetically modified to better withstand various growing conditions and combat pests. There are large areas of the Amazon rainforest that are being destroyed in order to grow soy. If you think soy is a viable alternative to traditional milk in your diet, consider purchasing organic brands that are produced only in the U.S. Pea Protein Milk With the amount of protein per glass matching cow’s milk, pea protein milk is a healthy alternative to dairy. It also boasts enough omega-3s and calcium to rival traditional milk. Unsweetened options contain a fraction of the sugars found in milk, but the chalky, flour-like taste of pea protein milk will leave many choosing a sweetened option. Still, this amount of protein in an alternative milk is hard to come by. Better yet, pea protein milk is a great option for eco-conscious consumers. Peas can often grow without irrigation and are easily rotated by farmers, naturally fixing nitrogen in soil and reducing the need for artificial fertilizers. Growing peas requires up to six times less water than almonds, and this milk alternative has a much smaller carbon footprint than dairy. Via Sierra Club , Grist , Huffington Post  and NPR Images via  Adrienne Leonard , Nathan Dumlao , Vegan Feast Catering , Raw Pixel ,  Nikolai Chernichenko and Shutterstock

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A couple converts an old prison bus into a criminally beautiful tiny home

October 1, 2018 by  
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Riding on a prison bus is probably not something most people would like to do for an extended period of time, but when Ben and Meag Poirier saw a retired 1989 Chevy B6P for sale, they knew they could turn it into their dream home. The ambitious couple worked on the 31-foot-long, retired prison bus for two years, resulting in an ultra cozy, solar-powered tiny home on wheels lovingly named The Wild Drive . When the Poiriers purchased the prison bus , its dilapidated state clearly demonstrated its past as a prison vehicle. Complete with three locking prison cage doors and bars on the windows, the bus even had a 12-gauge shotgun shell hidden in one of the walls when the couple purchased it. After gutting much of the interior, they turned to Ben’s experience as a former manager of a reclaimed lumber company for design guidance. Using as many repurposed materials as possible, they began to renovate the space from top to bottom. Most of the flooring, paneling, countertops and furnishings were made out of reclaimed wood. Related: Family of five moves from a 2,100-square-foot-house to a beautifully renovated school bus According to the couple, their proudest DIY project was the bathtub/shower installation made from a single reclaimed southern yellow pine floor joist found in an old shipyard. Ben removed all of the metal from the joist, cut it into two lengths and used a wood mizer to split it into boards. The panels were then kiln dried and put together using pocket screws and waterproof adhesive epoxy. The interior design shows the couple’s love of DIY projects, but their favorite feature of the tiny home is the miniature wood-burning stove. At the heart of the living space, the stove warms up the entire bus, creating a cozy atmosphere during the winter months. Although they managed to save on the renovation by using reclaimed materials wherever possible, they did allow for a few practical indulgences. They spent more than $3,000 on an off-grid system, which is comprised of solar panels , an inverter and a battery. The lights, refrigerator, fans, charging station and kitchen appliances all run on solar power. The couple knew that they would be living on the road for extended periods of time in remote areas, so having energy independence was an invaluable investment. Ben and Meag Poirier are currently traveling in their solar-powered bus, and they post updates of their adventures on their Instagram page . + The Wild Drive Via Apartment Therapy Photography by Rachel Halsey Photography and Meagan Poirier

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A couple converts an old prison bus into a criminally beautiful tiny home

Celebrate the season with this guide to sustainable fall activities

September 28, 2018 by  
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As the leaves and sunsets transition to an autumnal palette of yellows, oranges and reds and a chill fills the air, you’re probably dragging the boots and sweaters from the back of the closet. But the end of summer doesn’t mean the end of outdoor fun. In the midst of temperatures dropping and the smell of pumpkin floating around, fall is the ideal time to plan nature-based activities. When considering your options, think about the potential impact on the environment , and create an earth-friendly itinerary for the coming months. Here’s a list of sustainable fall activities to help you savor the best season of the year. Celebrate fall harvest Fall is an amazing time for produce , and the season brings plenty of sustainable opportunities to preserve and enjoy the delicious food that nature provides. Head to a local farm to pick apples or pumpkins, then bake pies for friends and family or host a cider press party to use up the abundance of crisp apples. Harvest the last of the summer squash and zucchini, and get ready to enjoy fall veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Collect juicy plums and pears for your kitchen fruit basket. To preserve summer and autumn produce for the colder months, can and pickle fruits and veggies or toss them in the freezer. Now is also an excellent time to bake fresh breads to store in the freezer. Remember to enjoy garden fresh food, too. Related: 5 mouthwatering plant-based fall recipes Create DIY gifts and decor It’s not too early to be thinking about the holidays, and fall is the perfect time to make sustainable presents with gifts from nature herself. Concoct herb-infused cooking and massage oils, vinegars and liquors, and be sure to dry any leftover herbs for fragrant satchels or to use in winter recipes. The vibrant hues of the season also make excellent decor for your home. Make fall wreaths with autumn foliage, or create festive tablescapes with homemade pumpkin, pinecone or gourd centerpieces. Related: DIY fall decor using upcycled items from thrift stores Immerse yourself in nature The falling leaves of autumn beckon for company, so lace up your boots and grab a jacket. Go for a hike while the weather is still pleasant, or head out for some final bike rides before it is too cold and snowy to tolerate such activities. Take the kids (or yourself!) out to hunt leaves, and embrace the opportunity to learn and teach about different types of trees and plants. Enjoy a weekend camping trip or an afternoon picnic. Challenge yourself with a visit to a corn maze, or enjoy a breezy day flying kites. Visit a local farmers market, and take time to learn about the food you are eating. Tour a nearby winery. Get active by playing catch with a football or baseball, or throw a Frisbee around the backyard. After a day at the pumpkin patch, enjoy the chill evening air by carving pumpkins on the porch — just be sure to use the guts and seeds, rather than tossing them into the trash! Related: How to cook a whole pumpkin (seeds, guts and all) Prepare your yard and garden for winter If temperatures in your area allow it, plant fall and winter crops in the garden, or plant bulbs for spring. Remember to feed your compost bin during the fall months with scrapped fruit and vegetable peels, cores and rotting pumpkins — compost will help your garden soil and any planted bulbs stay healthy through the colder months. Make a pinecone and peanut butter bird feeder and bird houses to hang on the porch or in the trees for winter. The fall season is full of opportunities to get into nature , so grab a basket, pull on your boots and wrap up in a scarf. The great outdoors await! Images via Ricardo Gomez Angel , Dei R. , Christopher Jolly , Patrick Fore and Lukas Langrock

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‘Super pollutants’ such as methane, HFCs and black carbon were a hot topic at GCAS

September 17, 2018 by  
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Acting quickly to reduce relatively short-lived yet potent gases could have a big impact on human health and slow global warming.

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‘Super pollutants’ such as methane, HFCs and black carbon were a hot topic at GCAS

Talking climate change with voters

September 17, 2018 by  
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The awareness is there, now we need to get much more personal.

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Talking climate change with voters

Solar company powers up with employee-ownership program

September 17, 2018 by  
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The inclusive economy challenge can serve as a framework for business restructuring.

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World Bank renews U.N. Sustainable Development Goals bonds partnership

September 17, 2018 by  
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Collaboration between banking giants BNP Paribas and SYZ will see new equity bond offering that links returns to performance of companies advancing the SDGs.

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