A tour of Seattle Chocolate elicits a deep appreciation for cacao

October 23, 2019 by  
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In 1900 BCE, Mesoamericans used cacao beans to make a bitter, fermented drink. By 1400, Aztecs traded cacao as currency. Spaniards later thought to add sugar. Nowadays, we just go to the store when we want to buy chocolate, divorcing the exquisite substance from its historic origins. But a tour of the Seattle Chocolate factory helps visitors deepen their appreciation of one of the world’s favorite treats. This woman-owned, Rainforest Alliance-certified company has put decades of thought into how to make its treats both delicious and sustainable. A tasty tour Seattle Chocolate started in Seattle in 1991. But the Nisqually Earthquake of 2001 destroyed the original factory. One of Seattle Chocolate’s investors, entrepreneur Jean Thompson, took over as owner and CEO. The company found a new, 60,000-square-foot factory in Tukwila, a town just south of Seattle. Visitors go to this nondescript building for the tour. It is hard to believe that something so plain on the outside turns out more than 30,000 colorfully wrapped chocolate bars per day. Our tour starts in the chocolate classroom, where guide Chris Hardwick talks to us about the history of chocolate in general and Seattle Chocolate in particular. In class, we learn it takes three to five years to grow cacao. Nigeria, Ghana and the Ivory Coast produce 70 percent of cacao beans. Midges pollinate chocolate, answering that age-old question, what are midges good for? Related: Fueled by chocolate — Ghana’s newest biofuel Hardwick explained that Seattle Chocolate has two directions, the line with the original name, and Jcoco, more of a culinary experimental brand. “Seattle Chocolate is a fruit-forward, acidic chocolate,” he said in the assured language of a wine expert. Jcoco is more likely to include ingredients like edamame or cumin. Hardwick passes around jars of cacao beans and nibs, so we can smell the terroir of beans grown in different countries. Because every good factory tour requires a hairnet, we don blue netting before continuing on to the next part of the tour: the factory floor. As well as chocolate bars, Seattle Chocolate is known for its 20 truffle flavors in bright metallic wrapping. High on the catwalk, we look down at workers bent over enormous boxes of truffles, scooping armloads into smaller containers. It’s a chocolate-lover’s fantasy come to life. The tour ends with a chocolate tasting. We sit at placemats with six chunks of chocolate to compare. The regular tasting includes varieties of white, milk and dark chocolate. The vegan version offers several types of dark chocolate. Hardwick guides us through a more mindful tasting process, rather than a simple devouring. The experience changes how visitors interact with this sweet treat — it makes them more appreciative of it. Tours are offered year-round. But if you visit on certain days in October, you can experience an exciting bonus — a haunted factory . The company website explains, “A troublesome spirit has escaped and is creating havoc for the Seattle Chocolate Factory! Help repair the damage while gathering clues to speak with Ixcacao, the Goddess of Chocolate. With her help, you’ll brave the dark factory and cast the fell spirit out.” Hardwick assured me this family-friendly tour is fun, not gory. Sustainability measures Seattle Chocolate carefully addresses social responsibility throughout the entire chocolate life cycle. It uses Rainforest Alliance Certified cacao to ensure just labor practices and good environmental measures in the countries the cacao is grown. In the factory, workers compost 25,000 pounds of chocolate scraps annually. They use non-GMO ingredients in the bars and truffles. Wherever possible, Seattle Chocolate sources ingredients like fruits, spices, mint and honey from local partners. Packaging is especially problematic for environmentally conscious companies. Seattle Chocolate has recently developed cellulose truffle twist wraps made from sustainably harvested eucalyptus trees . This is significant, as it churns out 12.5 million truffles a year, wrapped in about 8,000 pounds of bright truffle twist wraps. By mid-2020, all truffle flavors will be wrapped in the new cellulose material. Customers can throw the truffle wraps into their home compost piles, where they should break down in six to eight weeks. Giving back While the ordinary chocolate fan might question the presence of edamame beans in a chocolate bar, the Jcoco line isn’t just for foodies. Thompson created the line in 2012 with an underlying goal of feeding hungry families. The company donates a fresh serving of food to those in need every time somebody buys a Jcoco bar. So far, Seattle Chocolate has donated nearly 4 million servings of food to food banks in Washington, California and New York. In addition to tours, Seattle Chocolate invites the public in for events like tastings of new seasonal chocolate flavors or classes on pairing beer with chocolate. It hosts the haunted chocolate factory in October, and a large holiday party in December. + Seattle Chocolate Images by Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat and Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority

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A tour of Seattle Chocolate elicits a deep appreciation for cacao

Designer invents self-testing HIV kit made out of recycled plastic

October 23, 2019 by  
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One of the largest obstacles in HIV prevention is the lack of clinics and resources in developing countries around the world. Now, British product designer Hans Ramzan has unveiled a solution that could potentially save thousands of lives. CATCH is a low-cost, self-testing HIV kit, partly made from recycled plastic, that is designed to help individuals check for HIV in their own homes, reducing the need to travel miles to the nearest clinic. As a leading cause of death around the world, HIV infected about 1.7 million individuals in 2018 alone , and nearly 40 million people are living with HIV globally. Despite these massive numbers, early detection is nearly impossible for many who live in rural areas that don’t have clinics nearby. Due to the lack of resources that would otherwise help patients detect HIV in its early stages, many people develop AIDS, which often leads to death. The situation is dire and has been for years, but CATCH might be able to change that. Related: New study claims climate change could be linked to heart defects in newborns CATCH is a low-cost testing kit that allows individuals to face fewer long trips to the nearest clinic. The innovative finger kit is extremely intuitive and can be used by anyone. In just three simple steps, people can check their status. The first step is to slide the disinfectant sleeve over the finger. Then, push down on the pipette/needle-top. and finally press the button to see the result. Made partly out of recycled plastic , the design is eco-friendly and affordable. The production price of one CATCH kit is £4 (approximately $5). According to Ramzan, the innovative design was inspired by his own experience of losing someone. “After witnessing my aunt pass away due to a life-threatening illness, it was heart-breaking,” Ramzan said. “If she had her illness caught earlier, perhaps her chances of survival would have been greater. That’s when something clicked — too many people are dying due to late diagnosis.” + Hans Ramzan Images via Hans Ramzan

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Designer invents self-testing HIV kit made out of recycled plastic

How to have a plastic-free Halloween

October 21, 2019 by  
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Reducing plastic waste in a world that seems to be wrapped in it is no easy task, and that challenge is multiplied when it comes to holidays. From gift giving to decorations, plastic is everywhere. To avoid it takes a conscientious effort and a plan. With Halloween festivities on the horizon, we’ve put one together for you. When planning for a plastic-free Halloween, remember to encompass all aspects of the event to eliminate the greatest amount of waste. Costumes Trick-or-treating is an important element of the holiday for most kids. Even those that don’t head out for the door-to-door ritual find themselves needing a costume for a school dance, community event or house party. Even adults participate in the fun. Costumes create an opportunity to invite plastic into your home, especially ensembles that are store-bought. Order one online, and you’ll likely see additional plastic in the packaging. Related: Light your pumpkins the EEK-o-friendly way this Halloween The best way to avoid plastic in your costume is to make it yourself . Focus on cloth designs, especially those with organic cotton and other natural fibers . Also, look for ways to use paper or cardboard instead of plastic. Watch those accessories, too: plastic belts, pistols, staffs and hats. If you can’t go entirely plastic-free to complete the look, at least avoid new plastic by borrowing or buying secondhand. Decorations Decorations are to blame for massive amounts of plastic. Skip the giant inflatable ghost or skeleton on the front lawn in favor of a more eco-friendly wood or metal option. Build a haunted house out of a giant cardboard box, or pull together those wood scraps to carve out a black cat. Old pallet boards make fun and easy decor a possibility. You can create single signs or stack boards of different sizes on a stake for a spooky or friendly front porch decor option. Inside the home, Halloween wreaths will last for many years if they are made from burlap, straw or hemp . Accessorize with mini pumpkins, berries, fall leaves or wood cutouts for a look that incorporates the elements of fall. For the mantle and other surfaces, look to the natural options around you. Carve a pumpkin or decorate the outside with a cloth hat and a painted-on face. Similarly, carve out apples and use them as candle votives. Glass is another fantastic decor material that produces light and color in fun ways. Use paint to decorate canning jars, or fill them with LED lights to use as centerpieces or hanging decor around the pergola. Use glass platters or bowls to display your spooky collection of ceramic witches combined with pine cones. If you already have plastic items in your home, get as much life out of them as you can. It’s more damaging to trash them while they’re still useful than to reuse them. Just replace items with plastic-free options when the time comes. Party items Halloween parties are a fun and festive way to celebrate the holiday. But make sure your celebration honors the planet with plastic-free options that everyone can enjoy. Pass on the plastic cups in favor of regular glassware, and provide dishware and silverware. If you don’t have enough dishes, elect for paper plates over Styrofoam or plastic. For a silverware shortage, try planning your meal around finger-foods instead. Serving delectable, utensil-free meals saves on both garbage and cleanup. For games, go with the traditional bobbing for apples or pinning the (paper) hat on the (cardboard) witch. Food and candy A quick visit to Pinterest will provide a ghastly number of finger-food appetizers that require no plastic to make or serve. But you might find it challenging to purchase food without the plastic component. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always a good option. Create hot dog or sausage mummies by wrapping them with strips of croissant dough. Make a scary taco dip with a spider web designed out of sour cream and use chips as your utensils. Of course, just about any sandwich or tortilla can be cut into the shape of a bat for an easy treat. Related: This year, dish out these eco-friendly Halloween treats For dessert, dish up brownies or pumpkin-shaped cookies, or fill candy bowls with bulk options rather than individually-wrapped treats. Trick-or-treating When it’s time to canvas the neighborhood, bypass the plastic pumpkin or bag. Instead, employ a reusable shopping bag or even a standard pillowcase to haul treats. You won’t be able to avoid the plastic that others hand out in their homes, but you can take charge in deciding what treats you give the goblins and superheroes that appear at your door. Stay away from plastic trinkets and give out wooden pencils, small books, reusable straws or friendship bracelets instead. Look for individually paper-wrapped candies to skirt the plastic waste. You can also offer homemade goodies, although many parents will pass on accepting them as a safety precaution. Small apples also make a waste-free option. Of course, you could avoid the “treat” portion altogether and perform your best joke, imitation or magic gag to fulfill the offered “trick” option instead. Halloween is a fun season full of parties and festivities. With a little forethought, it can be free of plastic, too. Images via Shutterstock

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How to have a plastic-free Halloween

Earth911 Podcast, Oct. 21, 2019: A More Sustainable Halloween!

October 21, 2019 by  
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Earth911 Podcast, Oct. 21, 2019: A More Sustainable Halloween!

Architects use simple, low-cost and efficient materials to create spectacular home with ‘flying roof’ in Chile

October 17, 2019 by  
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Modern homes come in all shapes and sizes, but it seems that architects are opting to take a simpler route these days when it comes to creating amazing designs. Case in point is the beautiful BL House by Mas Fernandez Architectos . Located in a coastal area in Chile’s Valparaíso region, the gorgeous home was built using prefabricated and modular materials, then topped with an eye-catching, origami-inspired metal roof. Tucked into a hilly landscape covered with trees and vegetation, the almost 2,000-square-foot home was designed to embrace its idyllic, quiet setting. Using the surrounding nature as inspiration , the team at Mas Fernandez used simple, cost-effective materials to create a design that would offer the homeowners a peaceful respite away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Related: Breezy, prefab home stays naturally cool in tropical Costa Rica The single-level home is gently nestled into the topography of the land in order to minimize impact. Using concrete pillars, part of the home is elevated over a gentle slop. The home is topped with a fun, origami-inspired aluminum roof that gives off the impression that it is about to take flight at any moment. The roof juts out over the home’s frame, shading the interior from harsh sunlight during the hot summer months. The roof also has two triangular cutouts that allow for natural light to filter into the two interior courtyards. The house was built using prefabricated materials that allowed the architects to keep construction costs down and minimize construction time. The project is clad in a dramatic, dark pine cladding with some walls made of glass panels. The five-bedroom home features an open-concept living, dining and kitchen area that is filled with simple, rustic decor reminiscent of a contemporary cabin. Massive, floor-to-ceiling glass walls provide a seamless connection between the outdoors and indoors. Additionally, the walls and ceilings are lined with native treated pinewood, adding warmth to the atmosphere. For outdoor space, the home has an enviable, open-air deck with plenty of space for seating and dining. + Mas Fernandez Arquitectos Via Dezeen Images via Mas Fernandez Arquitectos

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Architects use simple, low-cost and efficient materials to create spectacular home with ‘flying roof’ in Chile

Stunning green-roofed home in Poland is embedded into the idyllic landscape

October 14, 2019 by  
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Lush green rooftops are becoming more and more common within the architectural world, but this gorgeous house in a remote area of Poland is truly an example of next level green goodness. Designed by architect Przemek Olczyk from Mobius Architekci , the Green Line is a stunning family home that has been almost entirely tucked into its landscape and covered with a thick layer of greenery. Located in the remote region of Warmia, in northern Poland, the 5,380 square-foot family home sits on an expansive landscape of rolling hills covered in wildflowers. The idyllic setting inspired the architect to create a home with a lush green roof and unique architectural form that follows the silhouette of the surrounding landscape. Related: Rural Italian home clad in lush greenery blends into its idyllic surroundings Hence, the Green Line home is embedded into the terrain, only leaving its pitched roof to jut upwards from the ground level. In addition to creating a beautiful home design that is respectful to its topography, the home’s unique design also pays homage to the vernacular found in the region. The gabled peaks of the roof , for example, are made out of wooden lamella detail, a nod to the traditional cottages found in the area, which often have decorated wooden boards arranged in various patterns. Another nod to the local traditions is the home’s unique L-shaped layout, which was inspired by the local farms in the area. However, more than just eye-pleasing aesthetics, the home’s many vernacular features pull double duty as sustainable passive tactics to reduce the home’s energy use. Just by embedding the home into the landscape increases the design’s thermal mass, reducing the need for air conditioning in the hot summer months or heat in the frigid cold winters. Additionally, the high pitched roof creates a light-filled double height space on the interior, opening up space for natural air circulation as well. The L-shaped design also helps protect the home from the heavy winds that kick up often due to the home’s proximity to a large lake. Although the home sits just slightly above the ground level, some strategic design savvy helped create a light-filled interior. Following the topography, the home’s main living area sits adjacent to a slight incline. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls allow for stunning views of the surroundings, as well as flood the living space with natural light . The home’s unique layout was also strategic to creating a comfortable living space. Within the layout, a large open-air courtyard was created to provide the family with plenty of space to entertain, dine and play. + Mobius Architekci Via Dwell Photography by Pawe? Ulatowski

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Stunning green-roofed home in Poland is embedded into the idyllic landscape

Using Reclaimed Materials in Your Home & Yard

October 3, 2019 by  
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Earth911 Quiz #73: Prepping the Yard for a Sustainable 2020

October 3, 2019 by  
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Earth911 Quiz #73: Prepping the Yard for a Sustainable 2020

All-bamboo retreat in Bali features all you need for a serene off-grid escape

September 30, 2019 by  
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If the hustle and bustle of every day life getting to you, perhaps it’s time for a little escape to paradise? Located in a hardy tropical forest in a remote area of Bali, the Hideout Falcon is an all-bamboo retreat with a massive pitched roof and floor-to-ceiling glass windows, all designed to help guests immerse themselves in the idyllic tropical landscape. And if the serene sustainable retreat isn’t enough to calm your nerves, the home, which was designed by Studio WNA , comes with an immense wooden deck with plenty of seating for when you’re not soaking your worries away in the large outdoor stone bathtub. The Hideout Falcon is one of three all-bamboo retreats offered by Hideout Bali. At just 538 square feet, the one-room Falcon definitely has a compact interior space. But this lack of interior space is completely by design so that the guests can truly take in the fresh air and nature of one of Bali’s most pristine forests. Related: Gorgeous bamboo hall welcomes visitors to a relaxing coastal oasis in Vietnam Tucked into a lush forest in the Karangasem regency region of Bali, the minimalist design of the idyllic lodging is meant to put the focus on the incredible surroundings. The most prominent feature of the bamboo structure is it’s large wooden deck. Set off the ground so as to reduce impact , this space is the living room of the home. There is plenty of seating, from a small dining space and comfortable lounge chairs, to a hanging chair under the palm trees. Of course, at the heart of the outdoor space, is the large bathtub, which is permanently filled and filtered as a swimming pool. But, rest assured that it can be heated to hot spring temps. The interior space of the tiny retreat houses the bedroom, which is large enough for a king-sized bed, covered with a romantic mosquito net. Additionally, there is a small lounge space, perfect for delving into a good book on a rainy day. The bamboo structure is meant to cater to those wanderers who look for sustainable lodgings on their adventures. Designed to be low-impact, the Hideout Falcon was built with locally-sourced building materials, mainly from the local forests in Karangasem. + Studio WNA + Hideout Bali Via Archdaily Photography by Drifters and Lovers , Gust Indra  and Valentino Luis, courtesy of Hideout Bali and Studio WNA

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All-bamboo retreat in Bali features all you need for a serene off-grid escape

Earth911 Podcast, Sept. 30, 2019: ISRI’s State of the Recycling System

September 30, 2019 by  
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Explore the state of U.S. recycling with Joe Pickard, chief … The post Earth911 Podcast, Sept. 30, 2019: ISRI’s State of the Recycling System appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Podcast, Sept. 30, 2019: ISRI’s State of the Recycling System

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