Meatless Mondays are coming to public schools in New York City

March 14, 2019 by  
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Public schools in New York City are starting a meatless Monday program for student lunches. School officials hope the eco-friendly initiative will boost health among the student population and serve as an example for other districts to follow. “People are going to look at this, and they’re going to start to emulate what the New York City schools are doing,” NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio shared. The new program will be implemented in 1,800 schools in the city and was originally tested in 15 schools in Brooklyn in 2018. The school chancellor, Richard A Carranza, says that students and parents reacted positively to the initiative, giving them the green light to move forward. Related: 14 vegan and vegetarian Valentine’s Day dinner ideas Carranza also talked about the advantages of eating meat-free meals. This includes a lower risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Vegetarian diets, of course, are also good for the environment because they reduce water use and lessen our carbon output. In fact, the head of the city’s Office of Sustainability, Mark Chambers, argued that eating less meat is one of the best ways people can improve the environment . New York City has the largest school district in the country, and Chambers believes introducing its large student population to the idea of meatless Monday could lead to significant diet changes. This is not the first time New York City has started a program to improve eating habits. In 2017, public schools handed out free breakfast to all of its students throughout the school year. In the summer, NYC public schools continued the program and extended it to anyone who was 18 years old or younger. In addition to meatless Monday, public schools in New York obtain produce from local farmers every Thursday. The school district is also recycling more than ever and has started a program that teaches students how to sort recyclable goods. Given all of the eco-friendly programs coming out of New York, like meatless Monday, we can only hope that other schools across the country will follow their lead. Via Huffington Post Images via Shutterstock

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Meatless Mondays are coming to public schools in New York City

A historical 16th-century building in Austria gets a green makeover

March 4, 2019 by  
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When architectural studio Peter Ebner and friends was tapped to design a building with two residential units in Salzburg, Austria , the firm not only had to contend with an abandoned historic property onsite but also the challenge of pushback from the local community. Although the existing 16th-century building had been neglected for years, fear of change to the building’s historic appearance sparked anxiety among the community and drove the architects to take an especially sensitive approach. The resulting renovation and expansion includes two new floors strategically stacked above the historic part of the building to echo the roofline of the medieval Hohensalzburg Fortress. The design also integrates energy-efficient technologies to dramatically reduce the building’s power consumption. Peter Ebner and friends has dubbed the adaptive reuse project “a hidden treasure” after its secluded location and its unusual design, which merges historic and modern architecture. The original building was built in the 16th century under Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Reitenau. Despite being used for a variety of purposes over the years, the building still retains the original Prince-Archbishop’s coat of arms on one of its facades. Romanesque columns from Salzburg Cathedral can also be found on the ground floor. In contrast to the ivory-colored stucco facade of the renovated historic building, the two-story contemporary addition is wrapped in a reflective metal facade that the architects compare to an “iridescent water surface.” With two owners, the residential building features a flexible interior with rooms of various sizes and shapes that can be closed off or combined depending on intended use. “[We] wanted to create a likeness of the historical city, with its alternation of squares and lanes, open and intimate spaces,” said the architects, who were inspired by the urban planning principle of diversity championed in Vincenzo Scamozzi’s treatise ‘The Ideal of Universal Architecture.’ Related: Minimalist timber home gracefully blends into the Austrian landscape Moreover, the Hidden Treasure Gestüthalle project also boasts a reduced energy footprint. Compared to similar residential buildings in Austria, the building consumes 90 percent less power thanks to green technologies , such as an underground heat pump. + Peter Ebner and friends Via ArchDaily and Elizaveta Klepanova Images by Paul Ott via Peter Ebner and friends

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Kengo Kuma suspends a cocoon-like timber dwelling for minimal site impact

February 27, 2019 by  
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Prolific Japanese architecture firm Kengo Kuma and Associates recently worked its magic in the tiny Swiss village of Montricher at the foot of the Jura Mountains. There, the architects designed a contemporary family home that’s partly suspended from an existing concrete canopy and wrapped with timber inside and out. Created for the Jan Michalski Foundation, the cocoon-like dwelling — named Suspended Forest — is meant to further the organization’s mission of fostering literary creation and the practice of reading. Set close to the forest, the 120-square-meter abode takes inspiration from its nearby surroundings with an abundant use of timber. The architects collaborated with a local craftsman for the roof and facade system, which combines traditional techniques with contemporary style. Using locally sourced oak and larch, the architects cut out rectangular shingles of varying sizes and arranged them in a checkered pattern with an organic and random appearance to create an eye-catching exterior that doubles as a screen. The wood was left untreated so as to develop a natural patina over time. “It was our intention to organically relate the different spaces of the house,” the architects explained in a project statement. “We designed a cocoon-like, gradual and continuous space containing all the functionalities. A corridor runs from the entrance to the main living space, where the floating balcony connects the interior with the surrounding environment. Then, lateral apertures let the light come into the house.” Related: This spiraling sculpture can absorb the emissions of 90,000 cars An outdoor staircase, also suspended off of the main building, leads to the entrance, which opens up to a long hallway branching off to the home office, bedroom, technical room, master bedroom and finally the living area in the rear. The cocoon-like sensation created by the exterior cladding is echoed in the interior through the use of angular larch panels covering the ceilings and walls. Large windows let in plenty of natural light and views of the outdoors. + Kengo Kuma Photography by CAPimages via Kengo Kuma

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Kengo Kuma suspends a cocoon-like timber dwelling for minimal site impact

A tiny, 96-square-foot rustic pavilion brings the outdoors in

February 22, 2019 by  
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Small and portable, this tiny structure offers a versatile shelter for the artist, fisherman or weekend traveler. At only 96 square feet, it could make a micro home , but the space, now called a pavilion, is laid out for an effective work studio, storage shed or traveling gallery. When Danish architect Anders Hermansen designed the pavilion 10 years ago, he presented it as a movable art piece. Perhaps more widely known for his vast furniture line and work with audio-visual company Bang & Olufsen (B&O), the lifelong independent designer wanted to create something that encompassed his love for nature and an active lifestyle. Related: Recyclable art pavilion made of mesh pops up in Kolkata Inspired by that connection to the environment, Hermansen used discarded materials sourced from a construction project in Sydhavnen, Copenhagen to support the structure. The main wall hosts four built-in cabinets for storage and organization. Two of the sides are comprised of large double doors that open to the outdoors. The fourth wall incorporates an entrance and a huge floor-to-ceiling window that draws in natural light while protecting from the elements when Mother Nature is in a bad mood. The interior raw lumber creates a seamless transition from the surrounding natural elements and offers a place to mount supplies. The all-wood design adds to the rustic vibe of this tiny studio pavilion. With the idea that art and nature go hand in hand, the pavilion can be moved from place to place as the need arises by loading it onto a flatbed truck. Although tiny, the pavilion offers plenty of space for storage, work or living, and it is now for sale through Adam Schnack at a $38,000 price tag. It is currently situated in a scenic location at Værløse Flyvestation, near Denmark’s largest film studio. + Anders Hermansen Design Via Curbed Images via Adam Schnack and Lars Gundersen

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A tiny, 96-square-foot rustic pavilion brings the outdoors in

Nissan unveils incredible solar-powered mobile workshop for woodworkers

February 15, 2019 by  
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Over the years, we’ve seen thousands of unique van conversions , but Nissan has taken the van-loving world by storm with its new NV300 concept van — a mobile workshop for woodworking professionals. The amazing design, which was a collaboration between Nissan and UK-based firm Studio Hardie , is fully-functioning mobile woodworking studio that can be taken off grid, letting wood-loving artisans find inspiration anywhere they choose. What’s more, the van runs on solar power and its tools are powered by an emissions-free, weatherproof power pack made out of recycled electric car batteries. Unveiled at the Brussels Motor Show in Belgium, the van’s incredible design was created to provide the average craftsperson with optimal flexibility to move regularly between jobs as needed, in a functional and sustainable way. Slated for a springtime launch in Europe, the van will come in various lengths and heights. Related: DIY kits help explorers transform Sprinter vans into rugged adventure vehicles By contrast to the dark exterior, the van’s bright interior space lit by LED lighting is a woodworker’s dream come true. Lined in “lightweight and strong” pale ash, peg boards, boxes, cabinets and cubbies were built into the walls, while the doors have been outfitted for optimal tool storage. A wheeled stool glides on on metal rails to keep it from sliding around. The open interior allows the woodworkers to use the portable workbench inside during inclement weather. As studio founder William Hardie explained to Dezeen , “We decided to create a grid which we could anchor desks, racks and boxes to; this gave the interior a strong and rational form. We then played with our three-dimensional lines, adding or taking away to create a functional Mondrian-esque grid,” he stated. “The designs for the tool storage came from years of site work, thinking about how we work, what tool you want where. We often work in far-flung parts of the country and having such a versatile refined workspace that you can use on site is the ideal solution.” As an energy source, the van conversion operates on solar power and can go completely off grid. All of the power tools run on an Energy Roam battery, an emissions-free, weatherproof power pack with a storage capacity of 700 watt-hours. The batteries are repurposed from Nissan’s Leaf electric vehicles. + Studio Hardy Via Dezeen Images via Nissan

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Compensation for conservation: water markets are economists’ answer to scarcity

February 15, 2019 by  
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As cites grow and put more pressure on water sources, scarcity is an increasingly important issue. More than two thirds of the world’s population experience a water shortage every year. Just because water continues to reach your tap does not mean your area isn’t experiencing a shortage. Instead, it could mean your town is forced to tap sources, such as rivers, faster than they can renew. Economists have introduced one solution, water markets, which assign a value to usage under the premise that when something has a dollar value, people are more likely to conserve it. What are water markets? When preserving nature for nature’s sake is not enough to get a company’s attention, sometimes the best strategy is through its bottom line. Related: 7 ways to conserve water and reduce your water footprint Water markets function similarly to the stock market or carbon trading markets, where water usage rights and quantities can be traded among voluntary stakeholders within a watershed. There are different types of trades and markets that vary based on local legislation, infrastructure and government regulation. Ultimately, one water user sells a portion of its predetermined water allotment to another user, meaning it reduces the quantity of water it uses (in exchange for compensation), while the buyer utilizes the agreed upon amount of water. Why would the seller engage in a water market? A farmer, for example, might sell a portion of their water access and use the funding to purchase more efficient irrigation or use it as compensation for reducing their yield. Why would the buyer engage in a water market? A metropolitan area, for example, might purchase water from farmers upstream and use it for urban residents. This enables more efficient use of the water available, without forcing the government to tap into reserves or build expensive infrastructure to reach far away sources. Environmental organizations might also purchase water and then not use it, simply to ensure that an optimum amount of water cycles through the watershed to support healthy ecosystems . Why do we need water markets? Most people consider water a human right and a shared resource; however, this means that people do not necessarily have tangible incentive to conserve . Agriculture is the largest water user, with more than 90 percent of all water going to irrigated farms . But nearly 75 percent of all irrigated farms are vulnerable to scarcity, and almost 20 percent of all irrigated crops are produced with nonrenewable groundwater. This means that a fifth of everything we eat taps the earth’s water supply beyond what the water cycle can naturally replenish. This rate is alarmingly unsustainable. As The Nature Conservancy reported , “Nature is the silent and unseen victim of water scarcity.” But with the rise in severe weather, including flooding and drought , those who are paying attention could argue that nature is not so silent. Not to mention the 844 million people living without adequate access to clean water who are also victims in plain sight. Have water markets been successful? Australia’s Murray-Darling river has one of the most widely cited examples of a successful water market. Established in response to a seven-year drought, the market provides farmers with an alternate revenue stream that helps them stay in business even during times of water crises. Currently, 40 percent of all water used within the extensive basin in southeastern Australia is traded water. Another example comes from San Diego, California , where the water authority pays farmers to reduce water and reroute it to urban areas. This traded water covers one third of the city’s water needs. Reducing water use on large farms — without destroying local economies and food supplies — inevitably has to be a major part of the solution. Unlike carbon trading, which many argue promotes “pay to pollute,” water markets offer “compensation for conservation.” According to The Nature Conservancy , water markets “offer a powerful mechanism for alleviating water scarcity, restoring ecosystems and driving sustainable water management.” Markets, however, are intended to be one solution within a more comprehensive conservation strategy. Other components include enforcing meaningful reductions in water usage —  forcing businesses to innovate more efficient operations, appliances and products. The concepts of trading and monetizing water access are complex, abstract and focus on major players. More research is continually needed to ensure that market approaches do not only benefit the loudest and highest bidders, but to ensure the equity of markets for small and nontraditional users. + ‘The Nature Conservancy’ Image via Diego Delso

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Biofase has discovered a unique way to recycle avocado pits

February 15, 2019 by  
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A Mexico-based company has discovered a unique way to recycle avocado pits. Biofase, a startup founded in Michoacan, Mexico, is using discarded waste from the fruit to create biodegradable cutlery and straws in a bigger fight against single-use plastics and food waste. A biochemical engineer named Scott Munguia created Biofase in 2013. The company uses a technique that transforms avocado waste into bioplastics, which are then used to form materials. All of the products the company creates from the pits are fully biodegradable and decompose within 240 days. Related: How to grow an avocado tree from an avocado pit “Our family of biodegradable resins can be processed by all conventional methods of plastic molding,” Biofase explained in a tweet. According to EcoWatch , the organization processes around 15 metric tons of avocado waste every day. Not only is the operation proving profitable, but it is also good for the environment. Apart from the biodegradable utensils and straws, Biofase is preventing a significant amount of agricultural waste from ending up in Mexico’s landfills and surrounding bodies of water. Biofase claims to be the sole biopolymer supplier in its home country of Mexico . The company ships its biodegradable products to more than 11 countries in Latin America. Several chain restaurants also order cutlery and straws from Biofase, including Chili’s Grill & Bar, Fiesta Americana and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro. Although Biofase is leading Mexico in the production of biopolymers, new laws will likely create a need for more development in the industry. In fact, several municipalities in the region have passed laws against single-use plastics , emphasizing a growing need for eco-friendly alternatives. For example, Querétaro banned plastic bags in 2017, and Tijuana followed suit the following year. Ditching single-use plastics is a growing trend in Mexico. To date, there are more than 15 laws at city and state levels that are meant to discourage the use of disposable plastics. Biopolymers come with their own disadvantages, but these are a viable solution to the growing problem of plastic waste around the globe. If a company like Biofase can come up with an ingenious way to create biodegradable straws and biodegradable utensils, we can only hope that other forms of biodegradable plastics will follow. + Biofase Via EcoWatch Image via Julie Henriksen

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Sculptural wood cabin is an alpine retreat with magnificent views

February 15, 2019 by  
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Perched high on weather-beaten mountain is the Hooded Cabin, a sculptural wood cabin with a rugged exterior and a sleek interior. The contemporary building is the work of Arkitektværelset , a Norwegian architectural practice that embraced the many environmental and building challenges that the project posed. From the high altitude mountain conditions of Imingfjell, Norway to the strict building regulations, the limitations not only shaped the iconic form of the retreat but also encouraged “playful creativity” from the designers. Set at an altitude of 1,125 meters within an area close to, but not within, the danger zone of avalanche activity, the 73-square-meter Hooded Cabin is surrounded by a wild and windblown snow-covered landscape. The architecture team wanted to take advantage of the sublime landscape and oriented the little wood cabin to face panoramic views of the lake. A “hood” element was created to protect the glazed opening and comply with building codes, which stipulated gabled roofs angled at 22 to 27 degrees. “We kept the original idea of a ‘protecting hood’ from the initial project sketches,” head architect Grethe Løland of Norwegian studio Arkitektværelset said in a project statement. “The ore pine roof protects the ‘eyes’ of the cabin in the front and prevents rain to dribble down the main entrance in the cabin’s ‘neck’. The building becomes an understated iconic sculpture in an area that most cabins look alike, and our clients really liked its form.” Related: This Norwegian alpine cabin fits together like a 3D timber puzzle For a more striking visual effect, the cabin’s outer shell is built from angled unpainted pine paneling that contrasts with the black-painted main cabin “body.” Norway’s strict building codes also called for sectioned windows, standing wood paneling and triple bargeboards. Large windows bring nature and plenty of natural light into the sleek and modern interior, which is lined with oak floors and paneling. Built to sleep up to 12 people, the wood cabin houses a kitchen and living room at the view-facing front of the building, while the rear consists of the master bedroom, bathroom, a sauna that doubles as a guest room and an open attic that fits eight. + Arkitektværelset Images by Marte Garmann via Arkitektværelset

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Sculptural wood cabin is an alpine retreat with magnificent views

Verizon pledges $1 billion for programs that help the environment

February 15, 2019 by  
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Verizon is fulfilling its promise to better the environment. Keeping true to its commitment to corporate responsibility , the telecommunications company has allocated $1 billion to spend on programs that have a positive impact on the environment. Last year, Verizon committed to convert 50 percent of its energy consumption to renewable sources over the next six years. To that end, Verizon borrowed $1 billion worth of funds from green bonds to pay for projects that invest in renewable energy sources at its production facilities. This includes hydrogen fuel cells, solar technology and wind farms. “This is now a real game changer,” Verizon’s chief sustainability officer Jim Gown explained. “The whole goal of this new bond was to focus on a new, unique funding source.” Related: Denmark to build 9 renewable energy-producing islands south of Copenhagen Verizon would not have been able to fulfill its promise of renewable energy without the new bonds. According to Fortune , the bonds were a major success because more people were purchasing the low-cost bonds than they had to sell, which resulted in a low borrowing rate. The company did not reveal how low the rate sank. Green bonds have become a popular way to fund environmental projects over the past five years. Last year, these types of bonds raised more than $167 billion across the world, and experts believe that number could reach as high as $200 billion in 2019. Verizon is on a growing list of companies that are using green bonds to fulfill their promise of corporate responsibility. Apple , for example, previously borrowed $2.5 billion to fund projects, while Telefónica, a cell phone company based out of Spain, took out $1.1 billion this year. Along with funding renewable energy projects, Verizon plans to use the bonds to increase efficiency in its facilities. Most of the $1 billion the company borrowed will be used to better the environment, but some of it will go toward installing LED lighting and smart sensors to reduce energy use when employees are gone. The company is taking its commitment to corporate responsibility a step further by also spending money on its reforestation program, which seeks to plant new trees in Miami and Puerto Rico, areas that have recently been devastated by hurricanes. + Verizon Via Fortune Image via Shutterstock

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Sleep in this restored WWII air control tower full of historic charm

February 15, 2019 by  
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A unique Airbnb listing in Scotland is inviting guests to stay at an amazing restored WWII air traffic control tower. Located in the Scottish Highlands area of Tain, the HMS OWL Air Control Tower dates back to the second world war, when it was used as an airbase for planes coming in and out of the country. Now, the tower has been renovated into a vibrant guesthouse with design features that pay homage to its military past. The old air tower is located in Tain, a former WWII air base that sits adjacent to the North Coast 500 Scenic Route. The former military structure was bought by Justin Hooper and Charlotte Seddon, who converted it into their family home. The family lives on the first three floors, but the top floor of the building is available for rent starting around $100 per night. Related: Sleep hundreds of feet in the air in this renovated air traffic control tower The five-year renovation process was extensive, but the couple went to extreme lengths to retain the military character of the building. To blend the tower into the expansive grassy landscape, Justin and Charlotte painted the exterior a jet black. They also left the original steel-framed Crittal windows that let in optimal natural light into the property. On the interior, large concrete pillars and exposed brickwork gives the living atmosphere a chic,  industrial feel. Large leather sofas and chairs, along with a wood-burning stove, make the living space extra warm and inviting. The top floor’s  unique guest room sleeps up to two people in a comfortable king-sized bed and beautiful en suite. The room has plenty of large windows to let in natural light as well as to offer the stunning views of the Scottish countryside. + HMS OWL Air Control Tower Via Curbed Images via HMS OWL Air Control Tower

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