How to volunteer during COVID-19

April 14, 2020 by  
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In times of crisis, many people feel the desire to help their communities. But the current stay-at-home orders prevent taking action. Right now, unless you are an essential worker, the most helpful thing to do is stand down. Still, everyday heroes are finding social distancing-approved ways to be of service to their communities . If you are inspired to help, here are some safe ways to volunteer your time and skills to those in need during COVID-19. Deliver groceries Everybody needs food , but a trip to a grocery store has suddenly become dangerous, especially for older folks or those with underlying health conditions. In Portland, Oregon, Meals on Wheels closed its dining centers last month, increasing the need for drivers to deliver meals to seniors. In CEO Ellie Hollander’s April 9 newsletter, she reported the local Meals on Wheels branch was serving 1,396 more people than it had the month before. But because more than 1,800 new volunteers answered the pandemic-related call, the meals will go on. Many cities might not be so fortunate, so check with your local branch to see if you’re able to donate time or money. In Washington, Kirkland Nourishing Network (KNN) has been providing food boxes to families in need for 7 years. This month, it expanded to provide gift cards. “We’ve solicited donations and then purchased and handed out 500-plus Safeway gift cards to families with school kids,” said Lynette Erickson Apley, KNN’s north site manager. “We’ve done two rounds and are slated for a third round in a few weeks.” More informal grocery services are also popping up. In my own neighborhood, I’ve seen flyers tacked up to telephone poles recruiting volunteers to go shop for groceries and deliver them to people in the area. This is happening around the country. Of course, if you know neighbors who are older, have illnesses or have weakened immune systems, you could offer to pick up a few items when you brave the trip to the store and leave some groceries on their porches. Make masks for essential workers Crafters have already been busy sewing masks for essential workers since March. But because the CDC issued new guidelines recommending everyone to wear a mask when venturing out in public, home seamstresses have upped their efforts to protect their communities. Related: How to make your own face masks “I got involved with Mask Match after my classmate heard about it on a podcast,” said Briana Corkill, a medical student in Phoenix. Mask Match solicits donations of filtration, surgical and homemade masks for healthcare workers. “It seemed like a great way to be helpful from home. For me, volunteering comes with the territory of learning to be a doctor, but it’s especially important now, while humans figure out how to support each other through this pandemic.” Corkill found the process easy and fast. “Zero skill was needed, they teach you how to do everything and it’s super straightforward and easy! The time from my friend telling me about it to me actually matching healthcare providers with equipment was less than a day.” Provide mental health support Those with proper training can offer mental health support over the phone. Erica Aten, an Oregon-based licensed clinical psychologist, is volunteering her services with the national group Reloveution as part of its pandemic response. “This volunteer program matches mental health providers with emergency personnel, first responders and health professionals nationwide,” she said. “The purpose of this program is to support professionals dealing with stress associated with COVID-19.” Volunteers can give what they are able to, whether that’s a single support session or multiple sessions per week. “Mental health providers are in a unique situation given we are holding others’ anxiety, crises and pain while also experiencing similar emotions and circumstances ourselves,” Aten said. “When it comes to volunteering during a time of crisis, I think people should be mindful of their own mental health and well-being before over-extending themselves to help others.” If you don’t have the training to volunteer with mental health support services, you can still provide wellness checks for friends, family and neighbors just by calling and checking on them. Miscellaneous volunteer efforts People are finding creative ways to help others during the pandemic. In Seattle, Megan Delany’s rugby team is using the time off from their sport to help stuff care bags for Lifelong , which supports people who have HIV. In Kirkland, chef Dave Holthus and his wife, Laura, started a Lunch to the Rescue campaign on GoFundMe. The idea is to deliver delicious, chef-made lunches for employees at Evergreen Hospital. They have far exceeded their fundraising goal. “They are not part of a larger organization,” said Virginia Andreotti, a family friend. “[They are] just a couple good people who wanted to do a nice thing.” Several skills can be of help right now. If you have experience writing grants, many organizations could use your assistance to stay afloat. Love animals? I met one man who walks his neighbor’s dog three times a week while the neighbor works overtime at a hospital. Additional opportunities include donating blood; donating time, money or food to food banks; and creating hygiene kits for people experiencing homelessness in your community. Volunteering is good for morale and helps people feel more connected and optimistic. “Basically tons of people need help with tons of things right now,” Corkill said. “So if you can think of a way to get involved, you should do it.” Images via Pixabay and Adobe Stock

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How to volunteer during COVID-19

Evaporative off-grid toilets don’t need plumbing, water or electricity

April 20, 2018 by  
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2.6 billion people around the planet don’t have access to safe toilets . Not only does this impact health , but empowerment as well: women and girls “face high rates of violence when they don’t have access to safe and dignified sanitation ,” according to protein biochemist and entrepreneur Diana Yousef, CEO of change:WATER Labs . She’s working on a solution: a portable, off-grid toilet. “80 percent of disease around the world is attributable to poor sanitation,” Yousef said in a Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards YouTube video ; she’s a 2018 finalist . Indigenous groups, people living in poverty, or refugees don’t have many options to deal with an absence of proper sanitation, according to change:WATER. So they’re working on a low-cost, off-grid, compact, environmentally safe toilet able to evaporate 95 percent of sewage sans energy with the help of a simple polymer membrane. Users wouldn’t need plumbing or water to flush the toilet. Related: Ergonomically-correct ‘Wellbeing Toilet’ Helps You Poop the Right Way Cartier Women’s Initiative says that membrane acts like a sponge, “soaking up and accelerating the evaporation of liquid contents without the use of power or heat…The vapors released are pure clean water, while the dried solids left behind are safely contained inside the membrane.” This volume reduction means toilets only have to be serviced once or twice in a month. Yousef said in the video the toilet sends waste water back into nature “in its purest form” in an attempt to promote a “cycle of use and re-use in a more efficient, sustainable, low-carbon way.” Field deployment could happen later this year; Yousef has three pilot partnerships in the United States, Central America, and in the Middle East and North Africa, according to the initiative. change:WATER is up for potential funding from the Chivas Venture (you can vote for them on the Chivas website ). Yousef said funding would allow change:WATER to get working toilets to 10,000 families by 2019. + change:WATER Labs Via the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards and Chivas Venture Image courtesy of change:WATER

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Evaporative off-grid toilets don’t need plumbing, water or electricity

The Cornelia tiny house is a peaceful writer’s studio built with reclaimed wood

April 20, 2018 by  
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One of the best things to come from the tiny home  trend is the peace of living in a quiet atmosphere – which is especially important for writers. At the request of renowned children’s author Cornelia Funke,  New Frontier Tiny Homes  created The Cornelia — which is just 24 feet in length and 8.5 feet wide. Funke’s tiny house is a serene three-in-one space that can be used as a writing studio, a guest house and a library. The Cornelia’s high vaulted ceilings provide the tiny house with plenty of vertical space. Abundant windows provide plenty of natural light and stunning views of the surrounding forest. Reclaimed barn wood covers the walls and ceilings, giving the home an inviting cabin feel. A small deck is covered with a wooden awning, creating a serene spot to enjoy the outdoors. Related: Firefighter’s self-built tiny house is an earthship on wheels The designers customized the layout of the compact space  to fit Funke’s needs. High ledges span the length of both walls to provide ample space for storing books. Minimal furnishings open up the space and keep it safe from clutter. The desk, which is located under a large window, can be folded down when not in use. A small, incredibly space-efficient kitchen is located on one end of the home and the bathroom is located in a corner of the living space. The loft, which fits a king-size bed, is accessible by a movable ladder. The efficient, modern design and lush surroundings offer plenty of inspiration for the tiny home’s creative inhabitant. + New Frontier Tiny Homes Via Apartment Therapy Images via New Frontier Tiny Homes

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The Cornelia tiny house is a peaceful writer’s studio built with reclaimed wood

New pay-what-you-can restaurant opens in Fort Worth, Texas

March 21, 2018 by  
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A Texas couple have opened a new restaurant that offers a pay-what-you-can model. Taste Community Restaurant targets middle class people struggling to get by who still deserve excellent food at a price they can afford. “Specifically,” Taste Community chef and co-founder Julie Williams told Dallas Morning News , “the missing middle 90 percent of the hungry who are not homeless and don’t qualify for government assistance. They might be choosing between food and medical bills or medication, be a single parent trying to make ends meet, be between jobs.” To serve this community, Julie and her husband Jeff founded the Taste Project , the 501(c)3 nonprofit that supports the restaurant. Guests at the Taste Community Restaurant are greeted with a warmly lit space, a friendly staff, 80 percent of whom are volunteers, and a menu that has no prices listed. Guests are not given a check at the conclusion of the meal and are instead encouraged to donate what they can to support the restaurant ‘s mission. Julie and Jeff Williams were inspired and informed in their work by  One World Everybody Eats , which helped pioneer the community cafe model in the United States .  While it is still early in the restaurant’s history, the staff are encouraged. “We measure success in number of patrons who come through the door, percentage of folks in need, number of volunteer hours served, and program revenue,” explained Julie Williams. “We need to increase the number of folks who can pay what they typically pay or a little more in order to reach those in need.” Related: The free grocery store fighting food waste and hunger Taste is particularly appreciated for its shrimp and cheese grits, rib-eye steak chili and butternut squash risotto. There are exciting options for vegetarians and vegans as well. A celery root-green apple vegan soup is popular, as is a farro dish with cauliflower, snow peas and broccolini, all covered with a poached egg and lemon vinaigrette. The menu is seasonal, with winter’s pimento cheese bruschetta giving way to spring’s sweet pea bruschetta. Taste Community Restaurant is currently serving lunch from Tuesday through Sunday. Via Dallas Morning News Images via Taste Project

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New pay-what-you-can restaurant opens in Fort Worth, Texas

Stricter climate regulations could save 150 million lives worldwide

March 21, 2018 by  
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Researchers have calculated that stronger climate regulations across the globe could help prevent up to 150 million premature deaths. Much of the public health benefits of strictly regulating greenhouse gases would be concentrated in South Asia, with nearly 13 million lives spared in large Indian cities alone if air pollution is curtailed. Cairo, Egypt and Lagos, Nigeria would also experience more than 2 million fewer deaths under strong international greenhouse gas regulation. While the Clean Air Act has improved public health outcomes in the United States, hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved in the cities of Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta , Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Washington if stricter greenhouse gas regulations were implemented. “Americans don’t really grasp how pollution impacts their lives,” study lead author Drew Shindell told the Washington Post . “You say, ‘My uncle went to the hospital and died of a heart attack.’ You don’t say the heart attack was caused by air pollution, so we don’t know. It’s still a big killer here. It’s much bigger than from people who die from plane crashes or war or terrorism, but we don’t see the link so clearly.” Related: Despite Trump’s rhetoric, US officials are still working to stop climate change To determine the public health benefits of stricter greenhouse gas regulations, the research team created computer simulations of future emissions and pollutants. According to a statement , they then “calculated the human health impacts of pollution exposure under each scenario all over the world — but focusing on results in major cities — using well-established epidemiological models based on decades of public health data on air-pollution related deaths.” However promising the benefits of strong climate change regulations may be, time is running out, says Shindell. “There’s got to be a significant amount of progress within the 2020s or it’s too late.” Via the Washington Post Images via Depositphotos   (1)

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Stricter climate regulations could save 150 million lives worldwide

7 simple designs that solve modern problems – and don’t cost a fortune

February 22, 2018 by  
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Clean water . Affordable housing. Renewable energy . These are just a few of the pressing needs that can be met by design . All around the world, people have come up with innovative solutions to life’s problems using affordable, readily available materials and technologies. Read on for a look at seven simple designs that meet these challenges and more. Recycled laptop batteries power houses You might think the Tesla Powerwall has home renewable energy storage under control, but a few creative people have decided to do it themselves, drawing on recycled laptop batteries to make their own home storage devices that cost less than the Tesla option – solving an issue and reducing waste at the same time. They’ve shared their designs online so others can also benefit. Related: 6 urban farms feeding the world Plastic bottle air conditioner uses no electricity Climate control is an issue people worldwide face, but those living in rural areas don’t always have access to the air conditioners we may have. In Bangladesh, inventor Ashis Paul repurposed plastic soda bottles to design the Eco Cooler : a cooling system that requires no power. His company has already installed them in around 25,000 homes. 3D printing homes out of clay and mud Humans will probably always need affordable, sustainable housing . The World’s Advanced Saving Project is working to meet these needs with their BigDelta, a massive printer that 3D prints houses for almost zero cost out of mud and clay. The organization draws inspiration from the mud dauber wasp, which builds its homes from mud. Ceramic Cool Brick cools homes with simply water 3D printing innovators Emerging Objects created a home-cooling solution called the Cool Brick. The ceramic device only needs water to cool down a house in a dry, hot climate – and works based on evaporative cooling systems utilized all the way back around 2,500 BC. Ceramic filters help bring clean water to Cambodia When you can switch on a tap and water gushes out, it’s easy to take clean water for granted. But people around the world lack access to clean drinking water , and UNICEF and the Water and Sanitation Program teamed up to bring it to people in Cambodia . Their ceramic water filters , manufactured and distributed by Cambodians, resulted in a 50 percent fall in diarrheal illness after they were implemented. The ceramic water purifiers cost around $7.50 to $9.50 per system, according to a report from both organizations , and replacement filters cost around $2.50 to $4. Zero-energy air conditioner made of terracotta tubes Evaporative cooling was also put to work in India in an artistic, energy efficient cooling solution designed by Ant Studio for a DEKI Electronics factory. Conical terracotta tubes comprise the installation , and when water is run over them – once or twice a day – evaporation helps lower the temperature. DIY solar generator for the people of Puerto Rico Remember those creatives who design their own Powerwall-like devices? Business owner Jehu Garcia is one, and he also put his technological know-how to work to try and combat Puerto Rico’s electricity crisis in the wake of Hurricane Maria . He posted a YouTube video detailing his design for a solar generator costing around $550, including the cost of a solar panel and light bulbs. He teamed up with a contact in Puerto Rico, asking people to build the generators and send them or parts. Images via Pixnio , Jehu Garcia , Grey Bangladesh , World’s Advanced Saving Project , Emerging Objects , UNICEF and Water and Sanitation Program , Ant Studio , and Jehu Garcia on Instagram

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7 simple designs that solve modern problems – and don’t cost a fortune

Heavenly Organics uses honey to foster peace in conflict zones across India

February 20, 2018 by  
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Amit Hooda hopes to eliminate conflict with sustainable honey harvesting. He started Heavenly Organics , a company selling honey with the goal of providing ethical jobs , to foster peace . The company supports almost 600 family farmers in conflict zones across India, selling raw, organic honey they describe as the “cleanest sourced honey you can find.” Hooda discussed with his agronomist father, I.S. Hooda, how he might help people living in conflict zones. His father had spent 35 years building relationships with farmers to preserve traditional organic farming practices, according to Heavenly Organics , and help them earn money from their products. Amit grew up near a conflict zone in India during the Punjab Insurgency, and that experience inspired him to figure out a way to help others. Together, the Hoodas envisioned a company that could provide people with ethical job opportunities as a way of defeating conflict. Over a decade later, Heavenly Organics supports hundreds of farmers and sells cane sugar, chocolate honey patties, and honey. Related: Vacant lots are being transformed into urban bee farms in Detroit They don’t sell just any honey, but raw, organic honey sourced from wild beehives in the forests of Central and Northern India and the Himalayas. They say the free-range bees that create their honey and their hives have never been exposed to antibiotics, pollutants, genetically modified crops, or pesticides . Farmers harvesting honey draw on smoke-free methods to conserve wild bee colonies. Happy Fathers Day! Fathers inspire us to be our best selves and to make a real difference in the world. Amit Hooda's father is the living embodiment of this effect in action. #HeavenlyOrganics #OneSweetWorld A post shared by Heavenly Organics® (@heavenlyorganics) on Jun 18, 2017 at 9:24am PDT Heavenly Organics enables displaced people to find markets for their products and earn a reliable income, according to the website. The company says, “Our goal is to increase the number of farmers we work with to 5,000 in the next five years and to extend this business model into other countries to help create long-lasting sustainable economies in other isolated areas and conflict zones.” Our honey harvesting methods are as pure as our products. Our harvesters use a bee-friendly and smoke-free way of honey collection to protect wild bee colonies and prevent forest fires and deforestation. These sweet methods keep our honey and environment clean and harmonious. #HeavenlyOrganics #OneSweetWorld #SaveTheBees #HoneyHarvest2017 #HoneyHarvester #India #Sustainable #PeacefulProfits A post shared by Heavenly Organics® (@heavenlyorganics) on May 12, 2017 at 3:13pm PDT Like the Native Americans in the US, there’s an indigenous population within India known as the Adivasis. Unfortunately, they have been poorly treated. As a result, they are more easily convinced to join a growing movement of insurgents looking to take up arms against the Indian Government. This conflict is known as the Naxalite Insurgency. It is rarely talked about in the West, but it is a significant source of strife throughout India. The good news is, when you purchase a jar of Heavenly Organics honey, you help put an end to this conflict by supporting families caught in the crossfire. #HeavenlyOrganics #OneSweetWorld #Honey #RawHoney #Organic #FairTrade #USDAOrganic #Neem #SustainableHarvesting #SmokeFree #GlyphosateFree A post shared by Heavenly Organics® (@heavenlyorganics) on Sep 21, 2017 at 12:55pm PDT Find out where Heavenly Organics products are sold near you here . You can also read more of the company’s story in this recent Wired article . + Heavenly Organics + Heavenly Organics Story Image via Pixabay

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Heavenly Organics uses honey to foster peace in conflict zones across India

YouTuber designs a DIY solar device to help power Puerto Rico

January 5, 2018 by  
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Swaths of Puerto Rico still lack electricity . Jehu Garcia, film-making equipment company owner and YouTuber , wondered how he could help. He’s built his own do-it-yourself version of a Powerwall , and tackled the Puerto Rico power issue with his technical know-how by building a solar generator , and providing information for others to also build the DIY generators. Garcia created a solar generator , which he explained in his video is “essentially a small, lightweight, portable Powerwall .” The solar generator is a box “containing batteries , an inverter, a solar charge controller, and all kinds of different connectors to get the power in and out.” His 13-minute video details how to make the device, and the text below includes links to the various components a builder would need – costing around $550, a figure which includes the cost of a solar panel , an extension cord to connect the device to the panel, and around six light bulbs. “This is a complete system ready to deploy in Puerto Rico to light up a home and to give at least power communications or medical devices,” Garcia said in his video. The device can be equipped to offer around one kilowatt-hours worth of battery. Related: More than 20 organizations launch Solar Saves Lives to power clinics and food markets in Puerto Rico Garcia called for people to build the solar generators, and send completed devices or parts to Javier Camacho, a contact of Garcia’s in Puerto Rico. Camacho recorded a video sharing his experience on the island, saying, “We are at the mercy of the people that can actually put the grid on – or, we could help them. We could make something.” Camacho has access to a maker space, according to Garcia, with people who could build the solar generators. OZY reported there have been 15 installations so far. + Jehu Garcia on YouTube Images via Jehu Garcia on Instagram ( 1 , 2 )

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YouTuber designs a DIY solar device to help power Puerto Rico

"It has totally changed how people feel:" new forest transforms former UK coal community

December 8, 2017 by  
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One UK organization is transforming an industrial landscape into a green, thriving woodland. The National Forest Company planted the first tree around 25 years ago, and today they’ve planted eight million trees in 200 square miles in the Midlands, creating the country’s first new forest in 1,000 years. Former coal miner Graham Knight told The Guardian , “It is quite difficult to put into words what’s happened here and the impact it has had on people. Perhaps the best way to think about it is that people seem…well, more happy somehow.” Many of the coal mines in the area were shuttered in the 1980’s. The local community took a hit – and then the trees started growing. Knight told The Guardian, “Twenty-five years ago all this was an opencast mine. Mud and dirt with hardly a tree to be seen. Now just look, people want to live here, they are proud to be from here – it has totally changed how people feel.” Related: Former coal miners receive training for renewable energy jobs The forest has revitalized the community. National Forest Company CEO John Everitt told The Guardian the project has had several side benefits, from creating jobs to improving health to offering a habitat for wildlife to sparking tourism. 7.8 million visitors venture there every single year, and the forest has led to around 5,000 new jobs with hundreds more forthcoming. There are hundreds of miles of trails for people to hike or bicycle, craft beer and food businesses in the area are thriving, and there’s a growing timber industry. One of Everitt’s goals is to have an outdoor woodland classroom and forest school teacher in every primary school. He told The Guardian, “Children who were maybe nervous of the outdoors are benefiting from being able to walk or cycle or simply play in the woods.” You can support the organization by joining in on one of their tree planting events or donating here . Head on over to The Guardian’s article for astonishing before and after pictures as well. + The National Forest Company Via The Guardian Images via The National Forest on Twitter ( 1 , 2 )

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"It has totally changed how people feel:" new forest transforms former UK coal community

18-year-old invents cheaper CO2 capture tech to fight climate change

December 8, 2017 by  
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Even with quick-paced developments in renewable energy , the world still produces the vast majority of its power via fossil fuels : over 80 percent . 18-year-old Ethan Novek is working on technology that could allow us to burn fossil fuels without climate change-inducing emissions , giving us time to install more renewable energy. His carbon dioxide (CO2) capture technology stands out from the rest because it could capture CO2 at about $10 per metric ton – around 85 percent less than the industry standard. Novek made the discovery that would lead to his potentially game-changing technology in his high school chemistry laboratory. CO2 capture technology has traditionally drawn on a substance such as amine that selectively reacts with just CO2 as other gases escape. The substance is then heated to break the chemical bond for a release of the greenhouse gas that can be converted into products. But the amines used are expensive, and it takes a lot of heat to break that bond. Novek’s discovery could overcome these issues. Related: World’s first commercial carbon-sucking plant goes live in Zurich In his high school laboratory, Novek was hoping to utilize a technique known as salting out to cheaply produce urea, a nitrogen-based fertilizer. He realized he could actually use the process to separate out and capture CO2 after fossil fuels are burned. Here’s how it could work: at a fossil fuel plant, exhaust gases could be piped into a mix of water and ammonia. Inert gases like oxygen would escape as ammonia reacted with CO2, forming a salt. A solvent could break the salt back into CO2 and ammonia. Distillation could separate the ammonia and solvent mix so each component could be recycled. And the CO2 could be transformed into chemicals like acetic acid or synthetic gas. The CO2 capture process needs 75 percent less energy than others. Novek attracted the attention of Yale University professor Menachem Elimelech, and with other Yale researchers they wrote a study published last year in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters . Novek started a company, Innovator Energy , and is working on a pilot plant that could use waste gas from a chemical factory or power plant to capture 1,000 kilograms of carbon emissions per day. + Innovator Energy Via Quartz Images via Carbon XPRIZE and Depositphotos

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