Iceland supermarket commits to eliminating plastic within five years

January 17, 2018 by  
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Iceland Foods has committed to removing all plastic from its brand-name products within the next five years and replacing it with recyclable materials such as pulp and paper. The UK-based supermarket chain is the first major retailer in the country to commit to a complete elimination of plastic. “The world has woken up to the scourge of plastics. A truckload is entering our oceans every minute, causing untold damage to our marine environment and ultimately humanity – since we all depend on the oceans for our survival,” Iceland managing director Richard Walker told the Guardian . “The onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waste, to take a stand and deliver meaningful change.” Iceland acknowledges that it is now practical to make the switch to plastic-free products, thanks to technological advancements in alternative packaging . “There really is no excuse any more for excessive packaging that creates needless waste and damages our environment,” said Walker. The supermarket chain has already removed plastic straws from its stores and products and will soon switch to paper-based food trays. Related: Britain’s first zero-waste store is packaging-free and only sells ethical goods The move by Iceland has been praised by environmental activists like John Sauven, executive director for Greenpeace UK , who acknowledged the “bold pledge” while pressing “other retailers and food producers to respond to that challenge,” according to the Guardian . “Iceland’s commitment to go plastic-free by 2023 shows that powerful retailers can take decisive action to provide what their customers want, without the environment paying for it,” added Samantha Harding of the Campaign to Protect Rural England . Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has committed to eliminating all avoidable public waste within the next 25 years. May has also supported anti-plastic policies such as the expansion of a plastic bag tax, encouraging supermarkets to add plastic-free aisles, and funding research and development of plastic alternatives and support for developing countries as they seek to shift to away from plastic and its pollution . Via the Guardian Images via Iceland Foods

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Iceland supermarket commits to eliminating plastic within five years

Iceland makes it illegal to pay women less than men in world first

January 3, 2018 by  
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Iceland has been making headlines lately – first by electing a 41-year-old environmentalist as prime minister , and now by becoming the world’s first country to legalize equal pay for men and women. Al Jazeera reports the tiny Nordic nation first introduced legislation last March to help close an existing wage gap, but the law did not come into effect until the first day of 2018. “The legislation is basically a mechanism that companies and organisations … evaluate every job that’s being done, and then they get a certification after they confirm the process if they are paying men and women equally,” Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a board member of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, told Al Jazeera. “It’s a mechanism to ensure women and men are being paid equally”. She adds that existing legislation designed to close the wage gap had failed to do the job, although the World Economic Forum (WEF) has consistently rated Iceland as one of the world’s most progressive countries when it comes to gender equality. Related: Iceland elects 41-year-old environmentalist as prime minister This new law will require companies that have at least 25 employees to obtain certification proving that men and women receive the same pay for their jobs. Failure to comply will result in fines. “Women have been talking about this for decades, Aradottir Pind told Al Jazeera, “and I really feel that we have managed to raise awareness, and we have managed to get to the point that people realise that the legislation we have had in place is not working, and we need to do something more”. In a WEF post , Magnea Marinósdóttir and Rósa Erlingsdóttir with the Equality Unit of Iceland’s Ministry of Welfare says their fight for gender parity did not happen by accident: “What is the secret to Iceland’s success? What are the lessons learned? In short, it is that gender equality does not come about of its own accord. It requires the collective action and solidarity of women human rights defenders, political will, and tools such as legislation, gender budgeting and quotas.” The United States failed to make it into the top 10 of WEF’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Index , which includes Nicaragua in 6th place and the Philippines, led by “The Punisher” President Rodrigo Duterte, in 10th. Via Al Jazeera Images via DepositPhotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Iceland makes it illegal to pay women less than men in world first

512-year-old Greenland shark may be the oldest living vertebrate on Earth

December 14, 2017 by  
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A recently identified 512-year-old Greenland shark may be the world’s oldest living vertebrate. Although scientists discovered the 18-foot fish in the North Atlantic months ago, its age was only recently revealed in a study published in the journal Science .  Greenland sharks have the longest lifespan of any vertebrate animal, so it is perhaps unsurprising that the species would boast the oldest living individual vertebrate as well. Nonetheless, the fact that this creature may have been born as early as 1505 is remarkable. “It definitely tells us that this creature is extraordinary and it should be considered among the absolute oldest animals in the world,” said marine biologist Julius Nelson, whose research team studied the shark’s longevity. To determine the shark’s age, scientists used a mathematical model that analyzes the lens and cornea of a shark’s eye and links size of the shark to its age. Greenland sharks grow at a rate of about 1 centimeter per year, which allowed scientists to estimate a particular shark’s age. The ability to measure the age of this mysterious shark is relatively new. “Fish biologists have tried to determine the age and longevity of Greenland sharks for decades, but without success,” said Steven Campana, a shark expert from the University of Iceland. “Given that this shark is the apex predator (king of the food chain) in Arctic waters, it is almost unbelievable that we didn’t know whether the shark lives for 20 years, or for 1,000 years.” Related: Airbnb is offering a night in an underwater bedroom surrounded by 35 sharks The Greenland shark thrives in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. Despite its considerable size, comparable to that of a great white shark, the Greenland shark is a scavenger and has never been observed hunting. Its diet primarily consists of fish, though remains of reindeer, polar bear , moose, and seals have been found in the species’ stomachs. To cope with life in deep water, the living tissues of a Greenland shark contains high levels of trimethylamine N-oxide, which makes the meat toxic. However, when the flesh is fermented, it can be consumed, as it is in Iceland as a dish known as Kæstur hákarl. Via International Business Times Images via Wikimedia and Julius Nelson

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512-year-old Greenland shark may be the oldest living vertebrate on Earth

Tesla’s all-electric semi truck has a bold new competitor

December 14, 2017 by  
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Just one month ago, Elon Musk made headlines with the debut of his revolutionary Tesla Semi Truck . The super-sized electric marvel is able to get 500 miles on a charge, reach 60 mph in five seconds without a trailer (or 20 seconds with one), and boasts regenerative braking able to recover 98 percent of kinetic energy to the battery. Impressive? Yes. But there’s another kid in town with designs to beat Musk to the market with an electric rig of his own. Dakota Semler, the 25-year-old founder and chief executive officer of Thor Trucks , has developed with his team an all-electric semi that’s been dubbed the ET-One. The ET-One is the first product from the company and Semler hopes it will be the flagship model in a robust, customizable line that will also eventually include delivery vans and work vehicles. The goal, Semler relayed to Bloomberg, is to “work on a one-off basis, customizing clients’ fleets per their specifications.” Related: Revolutionary Tesla Semi Truck arrives with a whopping 500-mile driving range Like Musk’s model, the ET-One boasts a sleek, futuristic aesthetic, an all-electric motor that ditches dirty diesel in whole, and the ability to haul up to 80,000 pounds of cargo—something currently only the industry’s highest class of trucks can tow. The Thor version also uses a 22-inch touchscreen on its dashboard which communicates with the vehicle’s electric motor and battery packs, which can carry the truck 300 miles on a charge. Thor is hoping to bring the ET-One to market in 2019 at an estimated starting price of $150,000; the Tesla Semi is expected to sell for $150,000 with a 300-mile range, and $180,000 with 500 miles of range. The prices are more than that of comparable gas semis which range from $100,000 to $125,000, but wholly competitive over the long term when factoring in the cost of fuel over the life of the truck as well as maintenance.  Electric engines require far less regular maintenance than their diesel counterparts. While Thor has a ways to go before it scales—its team is just 17 employees—it is diligently making plans to make the ET-One more widely available for demos in 2018, and hunting down the capital needed to grow (currently, the project is funded by founder Semler who also has Malibu Wine Safaris and multiple real estate companies in his portfolio). With that said, the inevitability of stricter emission rules in the coming years will surely give Thor the boost it needs. Via Bloomberg Images via Thor Trucks

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Denmark just opened the "worlds most humane" maximum security prison

December 14, 2017 by  
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The Danish island of Falster is now home to the world’s most humane maximum security penal institution, Storstrøm Prison. Designed by Danish architects C.F. Møller , the building has been hailed for its strategic features that create a vibrant community for the inmates, in lieu of the severe living conditions typically found in prisons around the world. Storstrøm, which can hold up to 250 people, is designed to be a mini-community where inmates can spend their time in an environment that is as “normal” as possible. Working with the Danish Prison Service, the architects created a vibrant community where the inmates would be reminded of a life they once left behind, therefore encouraging an eagerness to leave the system and return to society. Related: C.F. Møller is building a garden-filled vertical village in Antwerp The prison layout spans the size of 18 football fields and is centered around social activities. There are ample options for the inmates to spend their time exercising, studying, creating art , or praying in the onsite church. Additionally, inmates buy their own food at the grocery store. “We have concentrated all buildings around a center for joint activities. Here we have a square with, for example, an activity house, a grocery store, a school, a church and a devotional room. We have also made an effort to promote communication between inmates and staff,” architect Mads Mandrup of C.F. Møller told the Danish newspaper Berlingske. The cell conditions are also designed to provide a bearable lifestyle while incarcerated. The cells are 13 square meters and come equipped with a refrigerator, closet, and a 22-inch television. The cell’s floor-to-ceiling windows flood the interior with natural light , but are angled in a way to protect privacy. Although being hailed as a strategic design to help prisoners adjust to prison life, the various amenities have caused some to criticize the design as being too lofty for lawbreakers. However, officials claim that despite the decent living conditions on the inside, the prison is still a high-security fortress with a six-meter high wall and tension steel wires around the perimeter of the complex. + C.F. Møller Photography by Torben Eskerod via C.F. Møller

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Denmark just opened the "worlds most humane" maximum security prison

Iceland elects 41-year-old environmentalist as prime minister

December 5, 2017 by  
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Katrin Jakobsdottir, the 41-year-old chairwoman of the Left-Green Movement, has been elected Prime Minister of Iceland . One of the most well-liked politicians in Iceland, Jakobsdottir, a former education minister and avowed environmentalist, has pledged to set Iceland on the path to carbon neutrality by 2040. As Iceland’s fourth prime minister in only two years, Jakobsdottir will take office at a time when national politics have been tainted by public distrust and scandal. A democratic socialist, Jakobsdottir is viewed as a bridge-building leader that may lead the country towards positive, incremental change. “She is the party leader who can best unite voters from the left and right,” said Eva H. Onnudottir, a political scientist at the University of Iceland, according to the New York Times. “Because this coalition includes parties from the left to the right, their work will be more about managing the system instead of making ‘revolutionary’ changes.” Since forming its governing coalition, Jakobsdottir’s Left-Green party has already taken bold steps to assert its environmentalism . Rather than appointing a party member of parliament, the Left-Greens have picked Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson , environmental activist and CEO of Landvernd, the largest nature conservation and environmental NGO in Iceland, to serve as Minister of the Environment. The government’s new coalition is expected to continue the work to address climate change began under previous administrations. Related: Iceland’s “Thor” volcano power plant can generate 10X more energy than oil or gas wells While climate change has proven to be somewhat of a boost for Iceland’s tourism industry , which welcomed approximately 2.2 million visitors in 2017, the nation of just over 300,000 recognizes the importance of shifting to a clean energy economy and preparing for disruptive changes in the coming decades. Iceland’s climate change action plan involves shifting to clean energy in transportation by improving infrastructure for electric cars , planting more trees, and sourcing all energy for public institutions from renewable sources. Via The New York Times Images via Wikimedia and Depositphotos

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Iceland elects 41-year-old environmentalist as prime minister

This Swedish electric car comes with 5 years of free electricity

December 5, 2017 by  
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Uniti is on a mission to create an intelligent, small electric car designed for easy urban transportation . And they just partnered with energy company E.ON to ensure the source of electricity is clean, offering Swedish customers five years of free solar energy for charging . Uniti is just a couple days away from their worldwide debut of the vehicle. Sustainability drives Uniti, and they wanted to go a step further than manufacturing an electric car, considering that vehicle’s source of electricity as well. Uniti says on their website they aim to consider “the entire value chain and the entire life cycle of the vehicle.” Their partnership with E.ON means E.ON customers who buy a Uniti car in Sweden get a sweet perk: five years of free power guaranteed to be sourced via solar energy. Related: Uniti Sweden unveils super high-tech tiny EV for urbanites Uniti’s Innovation Manager Tobias Ekman said in a statement, “This is also a new approach. We know that most of the charging, especially for these types of cars, will take place at home. These kinds of solution are therefore particularly sustainable.” Uniti’s electric car is comprised of a recyclable carbon fiber body, with an organic composite interior. The company has worked to digitize the driving experience in many ways, describing their vehicle as the smartphone car. Inside there’s a heads-up display with navigation and safety features, and human drivers interact with the car more like they would with their phones using digitized interaction points. Electronic steering is designed to make driving more fun while increasing safety. The company plans to sell the car somewhat like a smartphone might be sold as well: either directly online for delivery to a customer’s home, or in consumer electronics retail environments. The worldwide debut will be December 7 in Landskrona, Sweden, and Uniti will be live streaming here . They’ve already received almost 1,000 pre-orders, and are still taking orders on their website . They expect to deliver in 2019. + Uniti Images courtesy of Uniti

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This Swedish electric car comes with 5 years of free electricity

World’s first zero-emissions fossil-fuel plant expected to go live in 2018

December 5, 2017 by  
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North Carolina-based NET Power is pioneering a novel approach to capturing carbon dioxide in its reportedly zero-emissions natural-gas pilot power plant in Houston, Texas . The company is investing $150 million in its innovative design, which is centered around turbine technology that is mostly unchanged since its invention over 150 years ago. The key difference is that NET Power’s turbine uses carbon dioxide , rather than a mixture of hot gases, to transfer heat, which is then converted into mechanical energy and, ultimately, electricity. NET Power hopes that its plant design will prove efficient enough to be mass marketed and installed at natural gas power plants around the world. The turbine technology used in NET Power’s demonstration plant is based on the Allam cycle , named after its creator Rodney Allam, who developed the system in collaboration with colleagues at 8 Rivers , an investment firm focused on innovative technology . “He did it old-school style—with just pen, paper, and a four-function calculator,” said Walker Dimmig, a principal at 8Rivers, according to Quartz . “We had to hire an engineering firm to redraw Rodney’s drawings on the computer, and verify whether what he claimed would be feasible.” The Allam cycle exploits the unusual qualities of carbon dioxide, which, under high pressure and temperature, becomes a “supercritical fluid,” a state of matter that shares characteristics of a liquid and a solid. In its supercritical fluid form, carbon dioxide has proven to be an efficient extractor of heat energy in a turbine . Related: World’s first ‘negative emissions’ power plant opens in Iceland In collaboration with Toshiba, NET Power modified turbines to be compatible with the Allam cycle. Because of their highly efficient design, NET Power’s turbines are one-tenth the size of normal turbines. After some final tests are conducted and minor problems are fixed, NET Power expects its plant to begin its operation in 2018. At full capacity, it will produce enough electricity to power 40,000 homes. NET Power plans to license its technology, rather than building its own plants, a practical move in response to a challenging market. However, if the natural gas boom is here to stay, NET Power hopes that its carbon capture technology may prove useful and popular as the world shifts towards a cleaner energy economy. Via Quartz Images via Depositphotos , NET Power via NPR , and NET Power

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World’s first zero-emissions fossil-fuel plant expected to go live in 2018

Red Mountain Retreat captures the essence of the rugged Icelandic landscape

November 13, 2017 by  
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The Red Mountain Retreat captures the mystique and mystery of the Icelandic landscape. Johanners Torpe Studios designed the proposal for a spa and wellness retreat that offers an escape from the stresses of everyday life and provides stunning views of a nearby glacier. The resort is located on the Western peninsula of Snæfellsness, where the river meets the sea. It faces a majestic glacier covered stratovolcano and references old Icelandic tales that celebrate the union between man and nature. The design explores the interplay between nature and architecture and aims to facilitate a journey of self-discovery. This is done by exposing the guest to nature in various ways, whilst maintaining a sense of protection and basic principles of shelter. Related: The world’s first 100% solar-powered five-star resort has opened The spa sits at the heart of the resort and captures several natural elements to create wind tunnels, fire baths and ice pools. The outdoor lagoon looks like a natural extension of the river and features shallow passages, areas with currents, and still water pools . Concrete reinterprets the rocky landscape of the surroundings, creating contrasting rough and smooth textures, as well as patterns inspired by those found in the layers of the turf houses. Green roofs references traditional building techniques and intensify the connection between the architecture and nature. + Johannes Torpe Studios [galley]

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Red Mountain Retreat captures the essence of the rugged Icelandic landscape

Bright blue trekking tents are designed to pop up with speed in Iceland

November 13, 2017 by  
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As if Iceland’s gorgeous waterfall-studded landscape wasn’t enough to draw the eye, Stockholm-based Utopia Arkitekter has designed a bright blue cabin for installation along the country’s most famous trekking trails. Created for a competition, the Skýli (“shelter” in Icelandic) is a rugged yet beautiful structure that takes after the classic tent shape. These off-grid shelters are designed for minimal landscape impact and are estimated to take two to three days for on-site assembly. Skýli was designed for high visibility with its four triangular gables and steel cladding painted bright blue, a hue reminiscent of Reykjavik’s colorful urban architecture. Each structure comprises four rooms: two bedrooms; a multipurpose kitchen area and first aid room; and a dining room with storage space. The cabin accommodates 15 people. Four triangular triple-glazed windows let in natural light and frame views, while the inner shell and furnishings are made from light-colored cross-laminated timber . Utopia Arkitekter designed Skýli for quick and easy installation anywhere on the landscape with efficient delivery via helicopter. A system of plinths would serve as stable foundation for the cabin’s weather-resistant steel shell painted with GreenCoat® , the only product on the market using Swedish rapeseed oil instead of fossil fuel-based oils. “Skýli is designed for pristine environments where sustainable development is of the highest importance. Materials need to be eco-conscious, while also resistant to extreme weather, which is one of the reasons we decided to choose GreenCoat steel for the roof,” said Mattias Litström, from Utopia Arkitekter. Related: Compact floating cabin pops up in extreme remote locations Each cabin would be equipped with a solar panel and battery for limited energy storage. Rainwater can be collected from the roof and can be purified for potable use. Liquified petroleum gas powers the kitchen appliances and can be used for heating when necessary. The Skýli trekking cabin was recently nominated for the World Architecture Festival Award 2017 in the category “Leisure-led Development – Future Projects.” + Utopia Arkitekter

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Bright blue trekking tents are designed to pop up with speed in Iceland

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