LEGO runs into stumbling blocks on its path to greener bricks

August 2, 2017 by  
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LEGO wants to make everything awesome for the planet. In 2015 , the Danish toy-maker pledged to spend $150 million and hire more than than 100 extra staffers to research and develop sustainable alternatives to the petrochemical-based plastics it uses to make its signature building blocks. The goal, the company said then, was to transition to either a bio-based version of acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene, its current primary raw material, or a polymer with a lower environmental footprint by 2030. Finding a suitable replacement, however, has proven thornier than anticipated. “We want any bio-based material to be capable of being precisely molded, or to mold to just a few microns,” Tim Brooks, vice president of environmental responsibility for the LEGO Group, told Quartz . “And we want it to be shiny.” Manifesting that gleam has proven to be a stumbling, well, block . Next to a traditional plastic brick, a prototype brick made from wheat sugar appears dull and matte. Related: BIG’s LEGO House tops out with opening date in September Not that LEGO is going to give up, of course. Climate change is real, and the world’s leading companies will have to rein in their fossil-fuel use if the human race wants a fighting chance at survival. “We know that making bricks has an impact on the planet, and we want it to be a positive one,” Brooks said. + LEGO [Via Quartz ]

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LEGO runs into stumbling blocks on its path to greener bricks

Honda unveils new 2017 Clarity Electric car

August 2, 2017 by  
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Over the past few weeks electric car news has been overtaken by updates about the Tesla Model 3, but another new EV also recently went on sale – the 2017 Honda Clarity Electric. While the Clarity Electric won’t be a direct rival to the Model 3, it does represent the newest Honda EV following the Fit EV, which is no longer available. The 2017 Clarity Electric is the second model in the new Clarity lineup, which includes the Clarity Fuel Cell and upcoming Clarity Plug-in hybrid. The main reason why the Clarity Electric isn’t a direct rival to models, like the Model 3 or even the Chevy Bolt, is because of its driving range. Both the Model 3 and Bolt can travel over 200 miles on a single charge, while the Clarity Electric only has 89 miles of driving range. Related: Honda steps up with new green car strategy Although the Clarity Electric’s driving range is at the lower end of the segment, it does offer room for five passengers with its spacious interior. It’s a bigger car than the Chevy Bolt , so if you want something that will be a replacement for the conventional midsize sedan, the Clarity Electric is ideal. The Clarity Electric can be fully recharged in about three hours and up to 80 percent in thirty minutes with a DC fast charger. The Clarity Electric also won’t hurt your bank account, since Honda has announced that the Clarity Electric can be leased for only $269 a month for 36 months, if you live in California or Oregon. The lease terms also allow you to drive up to 20,000 miles a year. Sadly the only downside is that, just like the Fit EV, Honda will only let you lease the Clarity Electric. Images @Honda + Honda

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Honda unveils new 2017 Clarity Electric car

Off-grid Tent House takes the roughing-it out of camping in New Zealand

August 1, 2017 by  
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For those that are looking to go  off-grid , but don’t want the fuss that comes with setting up camp, Architect Chris Tate ‘s Tent House is just the thing. Located on New Zealand’s remote Waiheke Island, the black A-Frame retreat was built into an area of undeveloped wetland on the island, letting guests get back to nature in contemporary style. The Auckland-based architect began to create the Tent House as personal studio for himself, but with a little tweaking of the design, the project developed into an unconventional space for anyone looking for an off-grid escape hidden deep in the forest. With all of the basic amenities of a swanky hotel, the space lets guests enjoy the beauty of nature without the hassle of setting up camp. Related: Tent cabin cluster blends perfectly into a Californian forest The A-frame structure is clad in black slats, blending it seamlessly into its natural surroundings. Inside, the one-bedroom, one-bathroom, 753-square-foot space is a beautiful minimalistic design. An all-glass entranceway leads into the open living area and the sleeping quarters are located on the mezzanine level. The glass facade floods the interior with natural light . In order to further connect the design into its surroundings, the front deck juts out into the vegetation. After the construction process was finished, the area around the house was carefully landscaped by planting hundreds of plants native to New Zealand. Since the project was completed, many native birds have returned to the area. The Tent House can be rented out for short-term rentals. + Tent House + Chris Tate Via Dwell Photography by Simon Devitt

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Off-grid Tent House takes the roughing-it out of camping in New Zealand

Couple buys 100% sun-powered home built for the Solar Decathlon

July 28, 2017 by  
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This 100% solar-powered home has been sitting in Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens for the past ten years – but the tiny aluminum structure will soon serve a new role as a permanent home. The net-zero MiSo House was built for the 2005 Solar Decathlon , however it will soon be home to Lisa and Matt Gunneson, who are moving the 660-square-feet green energy machine piece-by-piece to their property in north Michigan. Designed by architecture students and faculty from Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan , the compact, aluminum-clad home is completely powered by solar energy . The aluminum-clad exterior and rounded shape were inspired by the monocoque designs from the aircraft and automobile industries. After debuting in the 2005 Solar Decathlon, the MiSo House was installed as an exhibition in the university’s botanical gardens, but after ten years on-site the home is being shipped to its new location. The home features a number of solar energy systems including rooftop PV panels, solar thermal panels connected to radiant flooring, and even an energy recovery ventilator system. One unique feature is the home’s “solar chimney”, which heats air in glass spaces along the home’s south facade. The heated air is then circulated through the curve of the roof to provide heat for the interior in winter time. Excess energy is stored in batteries installed underneath the structure’s flooring. The MiSo’s solar systems provide enough power for 100% of the home’s electricity needs – from appliances and lighting to heating. Many of the home’s furnishings, such as the eco-friendly sunflower-board kitchen cabinets, were constructed using low-chemical processes , which further reduced the home’s overall footprint. After purchasing the home at auction, the Gunnesons hired remodeling contractor Meadowlark Design + Build to break down the home’s modular components in order to transport it to their home in Evart, Michigan. In a fun twist of fate, two students who worked on the home’s original design now work on the Meadowlark team. + The MiSo House + Meadowlark Design + Build Via Homecrux

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Couple buys 100% sun-powered home built for the Solar Decathlon

Light-filled Danish home with flexible interiors welcomes the forest indoors

July 28, 2017 by  
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Who needs wallpaper when you’ve got exquisitely framed forest views in almost every room? C.F. Møller Architects designed Villa Rypen, a 158-square-meter dwelling that blurs the lines between indoor and outdoor living. Built on the edge of a forest in Aarhus , Denmark, this light-filled home offers a lovely contemporary living environment with large glazed openings that offer front-row seats to nature’s changing seasons. Villa Rypen has a rectangular footprint with two roughly triangular outdoor terraces that extend to the garden in the southeast and the forest to the northwest. The single-story interior centers on an open-plan living, dining, and kitchen space that offers easy access to both terraces. Floor-to-ceiling glazing frames views of the garden and forest and allows ample amounts of natural light indoors. Sliding doors give the family the flexibility to change the living environment as they please. One such option is turning one of the living spaces into an extra bedroom for a maximum of three east-facing bedrooms. Related: C.F. Møller Architects designs Danish school that optimizes learning through design “Large window sections in a serrated design idiom ensure an inflow of light from several directions, and the view of the forest is exquisitely framed, to provide a unique backdrop to the living rooms in the house,” wrote the architects. The home is built with timber and a terra-cotta tilec screen facade to blend into the forested landscape. + C.F. Møller Architects Via ArchDaily Images © Julian Weyer

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Light-filled Danish home with flexible interiors welcomes the forest indoors

US DOI scientist claims he was reassigned for speaking up on climate change

July 21, 2017 by  
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Is the Donald Trump administration reassigning employees who speak out on the dangers of climate change ? Joel Clement, former Office of Policy Analysis director at the Department of the Interior (DOI), seems to think so. He penned an opinion piece for The Washington Post saying he was moved into an “unrelated job in the accounting office.” He said he’s a scientist and policy expert, not an accountant – “…but you don’t have to be one to see that the administration’s excuse for a reassignment such as mine doesn’t add up.” Clement said he began working in the DOI almost seven years ago, and worked with communities in Alaska to help them prepare for the impacts of climate change. On June 15, he received a letter informing him of his reassignment to “improve talent development, mission delivery and collaboration.” He was one of around 50 senior employees to receive a letter, and was shuffled to the role of senior adviser in the Office of Natural Resources Revenue – an office he said gathers royalty checks from fossil fuel companies. Related: Trump launches “witch hunt” for government employees who worked on climate change policy Clement’s background is not in accounting. He has a Master of Environmental Studies degree in Forest Sciences and Canopy Biology from The Evergreen State College . But he said he spoke out on the challenges stemming from climate change that Alaska Native communities face in the months before his reassignment, even bringing the threat up with White House officials. Clement said in his op-ed, “It is clear to me that the administration was so uncomfortable with this work, and my disclosures, that I was reassigned with the intent to coerce me into leaving the federal government.” Indeed, a few days following his reassignment, new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testified before Congress that reassignments might be used to eliminate employees. Clement suggested Zinke might think fed-up employees might quit, and said he has colleagues who are being moved to other locations in the country, at taxpayer expense, to jobs that don’t align well with their skill set. Clement said the Kivalina, Shishmaref , and Shaktoolik villages are “one superstorm from being washed away.” He wrote, “I believe that every president, regardless of party, has the right and responsibility to implement his policies. But that is not what is happening here. Putting citizens in harm’s way isn’t the president’s right…The threat to these Alaska Native communities is not theoretical. This is not a policy debate.” Read Clement’s full piece here . Via The Washington Post Images via Wikimedia Commons and screenshot

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US DOI scientist claims he was reassigned for speaking up on climate change

This boy accidentally found a 1.2 million-year-old fossil by tripping over it

July 21, 2017 by  
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Sometimes, there are benefits to being clumsy – so discovered 9-year-old Jude Sparks on a recent hike in New Mexico’s Orange Mountains. On a trip with his family, Sparks tripped over an object which he first thought was “just a big fat rotten cow.” Instead, it turned out to be a Stegomastodon fossil from 1.2 million years ago. The young boy told KVIA TV, “I didn’t know what it was. I just knew it wasn’t usual.” His family agreed, which is why they contacted Peter Houde, a professor at New Mexico State University, and returned to the site the next day. Sure enough, what Sparks had tripped over was a fossilized tusk belonging to an ancient Stegomastodon . According to The New York Times , the ancient mammal was a cousin to the wooly mammoth and modern-day elephants. Not only are the remains large, they are quite rare, considering prehistoric bones tend to disintegrate quickly after being exposed to the elements. “This is really very unusual to find,” said Houde. Elated to have made the find, the family set up a fundraiser for a formal dig. It took months to organize a team and secure a permit, but earlier this May, an entire skull made of delicate “egg-shell thin” pieces was discovered. Houde hopes to display the remains at the university. “We’re really, really grateful that they contacted us, because if they had not done that, if they had tried to do it themselves, it could have just destroyed the specimen,” he said. “It really has to be done with great care and know-how. Jude — now 10-years-old — says he isn’t as interested in fossils as he used to be but likes the attention that comes with discovering the fossilized remains of a mammal which is slightly smaller than the average African elephant . Related: World’s oldest fossils discovered in Canada – and they’re 4 billion-years-old Believe it or not, this isn’t the first Stegomastadon that’s been “accidentally” discovered. A hiking bachelor party found a 3-million-year-old skull in 2010 while hiking in New Mexico’s Butte Lake State Park. Via The New York Times , All That Is Interesting Images via Peter Houde

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This boy accidentally found a 1.2 million-year-old fossil by tripping over it

Vertical farming startup raises $200M from Alphabet, Jeff Bezos

July 21, 2017 by  
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Indoor vertical farming is on the rise, if a recent funding round for San Francisco startup Plenty is any indication. The company just scored what they say is the largest agriculture technology investment in history. Plenty has attracted attention – and quite a lot of money – from well-known tech greats like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. Plenty is utilizing technology to improve agriculture. The startup draws on big data processing, micro-sensor technology, and LED lighting in an effort to make affordable, local food available for people around the world. Their system uses less water and space than conventional farms, and grows food more efficiently. Plenty says they can yield as much as 350 times more crops per square foot than a typical farm. Their recent Series B funding round, led by Japanese media corporation SoftBank ‘s Vision Fund, turned out to be quite fruitful at $200 million. Related: 40-foot shipping container farm can grow 5 acres of food with 97% less water SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said in a statement, “By combining technology with optimal agriculture methods, Plenty is working to make ultra-fresh, nutrient-rich food accessible to everyone in an always-local way that minimizes wastage from transport. We believe that Plenty’s team will remake the current food system to improve people’s quality of life.” Plenty will use the $200 million to start expanding, and plan to bring their first produce to market later this year. They plan to grow two to five acre indoor farms, which the BBC said is around the size of a Walmart or Home Depot. The company already employs 100 people working in three facilities in Wyoming and San Francisco. Initially, Plenty will provide mainly leafy greens and herbs for distributors that have already signed on, according to co-founder and CEO Matt Barnard. He said in a statement, “The world is out of land in the places it’s most economical to grow these crops. After a decade of development driven by one of our founders, our technology is uniquely capable of growing super clean food with no pesticides nor GMOs while cutting water consumption by 99 percent…We’re now ready to build out our farm network and serve communities around the globe.” + Plenty Via Plenty and the BBC Images via Plenty Facebook

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Vertical farming startup raises $200M from Alphabet, Jeff Bezos

16-year-old inspires U.S. city to pass law requiring solar panels on all new homes

July 20, 2017 by  
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More United States cities are taking strong measures to move the clean energy economy forward. This week, South Miami passed a law requiring new houses to be outfitted with solar panels . The law will even apply to some renovations. It’s the first of its kind in Florida , and passed four to one – and some of the inspiration for the law came from a high school student. High schooler Delaney Reynolds, who was 16 at the time, learned about San Francisco’s 2016 measure requiring solar panels on all new buildings of 10 stories or less. She thought cities in Florida could do the same. Reynolds, who started a nonprofit called The Sink or Swim Project to tackle climate change in South Florida, wrote mayors of around half a dozen cities in her area, according to InsideClimate News, and South Miami mayor Philip Stoddard was the first to reply. He asked Reynolds to help write the ordinance. Related: San Francisco approves measure to require solar panels on new buildings Under the law, new homes will have to have 175 square feet of solar panels per 1,000 square feet of roof area in the sun, or 2.75 kilowatts per 1,000 square feet of living space – whichever one is less. If the house is constructed beneath trees already there it may be exempt. If more than 75 percent of an existing home is being replaced by renovations , or if a home is being extended by 75 percent, the new law will apply as well. On Tuesday, the law passed, with only commissioner Josh Liebman voting against it. Liebman said he’s not against solar power but is for freedom of choice. The law will go into effect in September. Only around 10 new homes are built in the area a year, so Stoddard acknowledges the measure won’t change the world. But he said officials in other areas like Orlando and St. Petersburg have indicated interest, so the idea could spread. Via InsideClimate News and Miami Herald Images via Wikimedia Commons and The Sink or Swim Project Facebook

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16-year-old inspires U.S. city to pass law requiring solar panels on all new homes

Sprawling MW House blends into the Peruvian landscape with an undulating green roof

July 13, 2017 by  
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MW House by Riofrio+Rodrigo Arquitectos acts as an extension of the desert hills in Peru . Resembling the relief of the rocky landscape and featuring an undulating green roof, this seasonal house establishes a direct relationship with its surroundings and offers a series of rich indoor and outdoor spaces to its occupants. The house comprises two L-shaped blocks that house different functions. The first one is the main house which accommodates the living room, dining room, kitchen, wine cellar and a bedroom. This volume also features spaces that direct the view of the main rooms of the house towards the nearest hills. Related: Peru’s Chontay house was made using locally-sourced wood and clay to help it blend in with the surrounding mountains The second, smaller side houses service rooms and the entrance, laundry, bedrooms, car parking, kitchen and a storage space . An open courtyard connects the main house with secondary and guest bedrooms and allows occupants to enjoy a direct connection to nature. All of this is enclosed under a green roof that helps the home blend seamlessly with the landscape. + Riofrio+Rodrigo Arquitectos Via Archdaily Photos by Juan Solano Ojasi

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Sprawling MW House blends into the Peruvian landscape with an undulating green roof

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