London tree rental service solves a Christmas quandary

December 9, 2020 by  
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People who like to decorate their houses for Christmas often face a tree dilemma: should they buy an artificial, plastic tree or a real, dead one? Now, a new U.K. business saves Londoners from that choice. London Christmas Tree Rental delivers a real, pot-grown tree, lets customers enjoy it for a few weeks, then picks it up in January and takes it back to a farm, where the tree can continue to grow. The tree rental service has enjoyed a roaring success this year. By the first week of December, it was sold out of all four tree sizes, from the three-footer to the six-footer. Related: Amazon’s Christmas trees are hurting the environment It’s a lucrative side business for owners Catherine Loveless and Jonathan Mearns, who co-founded the company in 2018. “It all started when walking the streets of London in January and weaving between the Christmas tree graveyards that Jonathan decided enough was enough,” the company’s website reads. “With 7 million trees going into landfill each year for the sake of 3 weeks of pleasure there must be a better way to do Christmas trees.” Rental prices range from about 40 to 70 British pounds, or about $53 to $93 in U.S. dollars. Add in 10 pounds (about $13) each way for delivery and pickup, plus a 30 pound (about $40) deposit, and the rental tree can cost more than many cut or artificial trees. Still, it is a more sustainable option, plus trees that are well-cared for will result in a deposit refund. Customers also have the option for free tree pick-up and drop-off. Tree rental lets consumers feel good about the sustainability of their choices. While artificial trees may be reused for many years, they have a significant environmental cost. “In the U.S., around 10 million artificial trees are purchased each season,” according to the Nature Conservancy. “Nearly 90 percent of them are shipped across the world from China, resulting in an increase of carbon emissions and resources. And because of the material they are made of, most artificial trees are not recyclable and end up in local landfills .” Real, cut trees are a better environmental choice, as only a fraction of the trees grown at tree farms are cut down each year. Growing real trees doesn’t involve the the intense carbon emissions necessary for producing their faux brethren. But psychologically, many people balk at ending the life of a beautiful tree just so it can stand in a living room for a few weeks. It seems like selfish, flagrant domination over nature. And millions of these trees go to landfill after they spend less than a month adorning living rooms. London Christmas Tree Rental urges customers to name their trees, so that these plants feel more like family. If a customer grows attached to their tree, they can arrange to have the same one again next year — up to a point. At seven feet, the trees are transferred from their pots to retire in a forest . + London Christmas Tree Rental Via Upworthy Image via David Boozer

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House passes Big Cat Public Safety Act

December 9, 2020 by  
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The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a landmark legislation that will see big cats protected from human mistreatment. The Big Cat Public Safety Act (BCPSA) prohibits individuals from owning big cats in their homes or in roadside zoos. The act was passed by 272 votes, compared to 114 members who voted against the legislation. The bill, which was introduced by Michael Quigley and Brian Fitzpatrick in 2012, has been in the pipeline for a long time. Due to public outcry, the legislation has now been passed, prohibiting exploitation of big cats such as lions, leopards, and tigers . “After months of the public loudly and clearly calling for Congress to end private big cat ownership, I am extremely pleased that the House has now passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act,” Quigley said. “Big cats are wild animals that simply do not belong in private homes, backyards, or shoddy roadside zoos.” Related: ‘Tiger King’ drama overshadows abuse of captive tigers in U.S. The success in passing this legislation in the House has been attributed to the exposure of animal exploitation on the Netflix series “Tiger King.” Following the show’s popularity, in April 2020, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released footage showing the abuse that tigers and other big cats suffer at the hands of Joe Exotic, one of the leading personalities in “Tiger King.” The footage of Joe Exotic and other zoo workers routinely abusing big cats lead to public outrage, which resulted in varying levels of discipline for several people featured in the show. Joe Exotic himself is currently in prison for wildlife violations. The case of Joe Exotic’s mistreatment of wildlife is but one among many. Due to such incidences, multiple states have been implementing rules to control human-wildlife interactions. Currently, only five states, Nevada, Alabama, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, have no laws protecting big cats. As such, it has become necessary to have a federally recognized law to protect these animals. Keeping big cats in roadside zoos and homes also poses a public health threat. Since 1990, over 400 dangerous incidences, including 24 deaths, have been reported in 46 states and Washington, D.C. According to HSUS CEO Kitty Block and Sara Admunsen, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the only way to end these incidences is by introducing federal legislation. “But to wipe this problem out for good, we need strong federal laws that will prevent unscrupulous people from forcing wild animals to spend their entire lives in abject misery while creating a public safety nightmare,” they said in a joint statement.  The Big Cat Public Safety Act now moves to the Senate floor for voting. Via VegNews Image via Sherri Burgan

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Outdoor adventures in Hot Springs, Arkansas

December 9, 2020 by  
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If you look at an aerial view of Hot Springs, Arkansas , you see a few rows of buildings squeezed in between wild, green mountains. This resort town, about an hour southwest of Little Rock, is an unusual place where you can walk out the door of your downtown hotel and within minutes be shopping at boutiques, taking the waters in a historic bathhouse or hiking a national park trail. I visited in October, as COVID-19 ramped up nationwide and everybody seemed to be seeking outdoor activities. I found plenty in Hot Springs. Outdoors fun in Hot Springs Hot Springs National Park encompasses both the cultural assets of Bathhouse Row and the natural resources, such as many miles of trails in the Ouachita Mountains. Because bathhouses aren’t as popular as they were in 1900, the park has to think of new strategies to maintain its rank as the 18th most-visited U.S. national park . “It’s a lot of work to keep the park relevant to the American public,” said park ranger Ashley Waymouth. She’s preparing programming for 2021, the park’s centennial. Some of the plans revolve around that magic number 100, such as rallying people to donate 100 hours of volunteer work to the park in 2021 or walk/bike/paddle 100 miles in Arkansas. There will even be a special ‘bark ranger’ event for dogs. Related: This modern art museum was once a cheese factory in Arkansas Early Hot Springs medical practitioners prescribed walks of various distances and altitude gains as part of their patients’ health regimens. Today within the national park, the Hot Springs and North Mountain Trails and the West Mountain Trails offer hiking options ranging from short, scenic loops to the 10-mile Sunset Trail. Many of the trails are interconnected. A short walk from downtown, the Peak Trail leads you to the Hot Springs Mountain Tower. You can take an elevator or walk 300-plus steps up the 216-foot tower to get a panoramic view of the surrounding forest. Once you reach the open-air observation deck, you’re 1,256 feet above sea level and can admire 140 square miles of park and mountain views. For a more cultivated outdoors experience, venture about 8 miles from town to Garvan Woodland Gardens . Now run by the University of Arkansas’ Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design, the garden started out as the personal project of philanthropist and lumber heiress Verna Cook Garvan. Now, visitors wander 5 miles of paved pathways through an ever-changing landscape, be it an explosion of daffodils in spring or fall color in October. The garden also attracts architecture buffs, especially to see the spectacular Anthony Chapel, a light-filled structure of glass, wood and stone. In 2018, a gorgeous and innovative treehouse opened within the Evans Children’s Adventure Garden, delighting adult visitors as well. Hot Springs is also a mountain biking destination. The Northwoods Trail System has 26 miles of single-track, multi-track and other types of trails, plus a bike skills park, to keep beginning to advanced riders entertained for days. Northwoods hosts the annual Gudrun MTB Festival each November. Trail runners and hikers can also use this trail system. Wellness The city of 37,000 was founded on wellness, and you’ll still find options along those lines. Some visitors expect natural hot springs like you find in the west. But Hot Springs’ water is protected. Springs are covered, and their flow is directed. You can still experience the water at two of Hot Springs’ historic bathhouses. The Buckstaff is a bit more old-school, while the Quapaw operates more like a modern spa. When I visited in October , public bathing was still happening despite COVID-19. Bathers were asked to social distance in the Quapaw’s multiple pools of varying temperatures. The water felt good, but not as relaxing as it would’ve been in pre-pandemic times. Hot Springs has several yoga studios, including Om Lounge Yoga and The Yoga Place . For the safest options during the pandemic, check out Garvan’s schedule of outdoor classes, such as yoga and tai chi in the garden. Dining out During my October visit, I found a couple of places for excellent vegan food. The best meal I had was lunch at the Superior Bathhouse : hot, salty, blistered shishito peppers followed by a Vietnamese-inspired veggie and noodle bowl. The tofu was so good, I suspected it was from an obscure Arkansas soy artisan, but it turned out to be the magic of the Superior’s chef. For breakfast or a caffeine fix, Kollective Coffee + Tea is the place to go. Owner Kevin Rogers’ family has long been into coffee, including a Christmas tradition of sending each other unusual coffees . “We’d try to one-up each other every year,” he said. Rogers was surprised when he found the best cup of coffee close to home. Onyx Coffee Lab , an award-winning roaster in Northwest Arkansas, supplies Kollective with its coffees. I had to agree it was one of the best soy cappuccinos I ever had. Kollective draws local and visiting vegans from around the country. “It’s pretty significant for us based on how rare it is in town,” Rogers said of the demand for the restaurant’s vegan dishes. In addition to a changing assortment of vegan pastries and mini cheesecakes, Kollective offers a couple of plant-based full breakfasts, including vegan frijoles rancheros. SQZBX is open for takeaway during the pandemic. This pizzeria offers vegan cheese, which is not exactly widely available in Arkansas. Where to stay I stayed at The Waters, which afforded a lively view of Hot Springs’ main drag. George Mann, best known for designing the Arkansas State Capitol, was the building’s main architect. It was called the Thompson Building when it was built in 1913 and originally housed doctors’ offices catering to visitors taking the healing waters. After a huge renovation in 2017, The Waters offers perfectly modern and spacious hotel rooms. But my favorite part was the lovingly restored tile work in the hallways. A popular rooftop bar provides beautiful views of Bathhouse Row and the mountains beyond. Hotel Hale , which just opened in 2019, is a boutique hotel inside a restored bathhouse. The owners incorporated exposed brick walls, original pine floors and arched windows into plush and comfortable rooms. If I ever visit again, I’d love to stay here. But I’d probably never leave the bathroom; the Hale pipes in hot spring water so you can take the waters in your own private bathtub. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: Like the author, we recommend taking the utmost care to keep those around you safe if you choose to travel. You can find more advice on travel precautions from the  CDC  and  WHO .

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Impossible Foods is testing revolutionary plant-based milk

October 26, 2020 by  
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What Impossible Foods has done for veggie burgers — created something that looks, tastes and bleeds like meat — the food technology company is now doing for milk. Impossible Foods has unveiled that it is developing a plant-based milk that mimics the taste, texture and functionality of dairy milk. When plant-based milks already fill multiple shelves in health food stores across America, why do we need more? “The plant-based alternatives that are out there are inadequate,” said Impossible Foods CEO Patrick O. Brown, as reported by CNBC . “The reality is that if they weren’t, there wouldn’t be a dairy market.” Consumers want milk that doesn’t separate when stirred into hot coffee. The new Impossible Foods plant-based milk won’t separate, as demonstrated by the company’s food scientists in a press conference. Related: Impossible Foods debuts plant-based pork at CES That dairy market is shrinking, while plant-based products are on the rise. Last year, non-dairy milks brought in $1.8 billion. But Brown won’t rest until there’s no meat or milk market left at all. His goal is to substitute plant-based alternatives for all animal-derived foods by 2035. Brown has called animal agriculture “the world’s most destructive technology” and is on a mission to save the world from global warming by providing faux products to please mainstream tastes. Because as we all know by now, people aren’t going to change their habits just because they’re destroying the planet. A launch date has not yet been announced for the product, which is still in the development stage. Since its founding in 2011, Impossible Foods has raised $1.5 billion in investment capital. Its next R&D goals include creating life-like fish, steak and bacon. Brown is not skimping on a smart workforce. In a press conference last week, he invited engineers and scientists to join the company’s Impossible Investigator Project. “Whatever else you may be doing, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the impact you can have here with our project,” he said. “Leave your stupid job and come join us.” + Impossible Foods Via VegNews and CNBC Image via Pixabay

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Hothouse installation grows tropical plants in the middle of London

October 26, 2020 by  
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London-based architecture practice Studio Weave has filled a greenhouse with tropical plants in London to highlight the reality of climate change. Known as Hothouse, the large-scale installation project is located at International Quarter London, a business development built in a subdivision of Stratford and close to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The design is inspired by a Victorian glasshouse, and at 7 meters tall, the installation is held up using a galvanized steel frame and cables. The structure provides a controlled environment specifically for cultivating warm-weather plants that are unsuitable to the U.K.’s climate. It is reminiscent of the 20-mile stretch of land across the Lee Valley corridor, which once housed more than 1,300 acres of greenhouse in the 1930s. These greenhouses of the past famously facilitated the production of ornamental flowers and tropical crops like grapes and cucumbers that wouldn’t normally grow in the region. Related: Student designs inflatable bamboo greenhouses for sustainable farming Poised to be on display for at least a year, the new Hothouse will be expertly regulated to help these same types of plants thrive once again. Working with garden designer Tom Massey, the architects at Studio Weave developed a cultivation plan to include plants from all over the world: guava, orange, squash, chia, avocado, pomegranate, quinoa, mango, sweet potato, lemon, sugarcane, chickpea, loquat and pineapple. It’s not just about growing tropical crops; the Hothouse is also designed to highlight the rapidly changing climate . The project serves as a warning to the idea that, should global warming continue to accelerate as some scientists predict, the U.K.’s climate could potentially become warm enough to grow these tropical plants outside by 2050. “Amid the strangeness of the COVID era of the last few months, reduced human activity has produced what feels like a profound shift in the environment, progressing a much-needed dialogue that will hopefully translate into sustained action and change,” said Je Ahn, founder of Studio Weave. “We hope this little hot house acts as a continual reminder of our fragile relationship with nature, while allowing us to rediscover the simple and enriching pleasure of looking after beautiful plants.” + Studio Weave Via Dezeen Images via Studio Weave

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Can robot dolphins replace real ones in marine parks?

October 19, 2020 by  
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Proponents of swimming with dolphins cite the thrill of feeling a human-animal connection that verges on spiritual and even claim health benefits like reducing stress and boosting T cells. Animal rights supporters claim that promoting dolphin swims is cruel, unnatural, unsafe for people, and ruins dolphin family life. But what if you could swim with robot  dolphins ?  U.S. engineering company Edge Innovations has designed an animatronic dolphin that just might satisfy people’s urge to interact with the marine mammal. The faux dolphins are remote control-operated, cost between 3 and 5 million dollars and are surprisingly lifelike. Related: Free at last: Canada passes Act to prohibit dolphin and whale captivity “When I first saw the dolphin, I thought it could be real,” said a woman who swam with an animatronic dolphin in Hayward,  California . Walt Conti, CEO of Edge Innovations, hopes that animatronic creatures could stand-in for the real thing in theme parks; dolphins are just the beginning. Swimmers could safely  swim  with robotic great white sharks or even recreations of deadly prehistoric sea creatures. Edge has a proven track record for such creations. The company built the animatronic stars of “Anaconda,” “Free Willy” and “Deep Blue Sea.” “There are like 3,000 dolphins currently in captivity being used to generate several billions of dollars just for dolphin experiences. And so there’s obviously an appetite to love and learn about dolphins,” said Conti. “We want to use that appetite and offer kind of different ways to fall in love with the dolphin.” He suggests that people opposed to the treatment of captive dolphins might return to a theme park to see  robots . This animatronic initiative could have worldwide appeal. Twenty  European  countries that have limited or banned the use of wild animals in circuses could welcome robotic dolphins and other critters. Will an encounter with a fake dolphin satisfy people’s desire for interspecies connection with  wildlife ? It obviously won’t be the same. But keep in mind, captive dolphins aren’t really smiling. Their faces are just made that way. Via Reuters Image via Pexels

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Win a National Park tour for 2 from Inhabitat!

October 19, 2020 by  
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We’re all itching to get outdoors these days, and visiting National Parks is a safer travel option that allows you to take in the magnificent scenery that the U.S. has to offer. From the towering sequoia trees and granite cliffs of Yosemite to the snowy mountain peaks of Olympic followed by the rust-red canyons and Emerald Pools of Zion, there are many adventures that lie ahead. We’re giving away park passes to these three national parks plus $1,000 toward travel expenses to help you get to the great outdoors. Whether it’s your first trip to a national park or you’re a regular visitor to multiple parks across the country, the varying landscapes are enough to inspire awe in any explorer. On this trip, you can look up to the giant sequoias in Yosemite, then make your way to the dreamy Pacific Northwest for a visit to Olympic National Park. Round out the trip with a day at Zion National Park, where you can take in the otherworldly red cliffs as well as a hanging garden and waterfalls at Emerald Pools. If cabin fever is really setting in, this is a perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in nature all while staying socially distanced. If you’re ready for a breath of fresh air, you can check out our giveaway here . Enter by November 5, 2020 for a chance to win two park passes to Yosemite, Olympic and Zion National Parks plus $1,000 for travel expenses. Terms and conditions apply. The winner will be selected on November 7, 2020 and notified via email. So, what are you waiting for? Good luck, and happy exploring!

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Iconic Farnsworth House gets a conceptual, sustainable redesign

October 19, 2020 by  
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As a design exercise, California-based architecture firm Jeff Barrett Studio has reimagined Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Farnsworth House for the modern times with a sustainable redesign that includes onsite renewable energy and modular construction. Conceived as a case study for sustainability that would still pay homage to the original architectural style, the proposed design follows the same building footprint while introducing a new materials palette and energy-saving features. Located in Plano, Illinois, about an hour west of Chicago, the Farnsworth House is recognized worldwide as a masterpiece of International Style of architecture. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed and constructed the 1,500-square-foot structure between 1945 and 1951 as a country retreat for his client, Dr. Edith Farnsworth. Built with two slabs, a series of steel columns and expansive floor-to-ceiling glass throughout, the minimalist home was created to usher the natural landscape indoors. The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006 and currently operates as a historic house museum that welcomes over 10,000 guests from around the world annually. Related: Gorgeous Miesian-inspired glass pavilion floats above a natural dam Jeff Barrett Studios has revisited the structure with a conceptual redesign that features both low-tech and high-tech sustainable strategies. “How might this dwelling be reinvisioned [ sic ] today given current technologies, would the structure remain significant aesthetically, and how might it function as a case study for sustainability?” the architects said in a project statement. “The project has been developed with consideration to sustainable concepts and innovative technologies reaching high energy performance and constructability.” Instead of the original steel-and-glass palette, the architects propose building the structure with cross-laminated timber , more specifically acetylated wood (Accoya) for its durability and resistance to decay. The use of CLT would also allow for modular construction, which would reduce material waste. The iconic full-height windows would have low-E glazing, while operable skylights on the roof introduce an element of passive ventilation. The roof would be covered in photovoltaic panels and vegetation, and a natural swimming pool would round out the property.  + Jeff Barrett Studio Images via Jeff Barrett Studio

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How one company is planning to Redefine Meat

July 27, 2020 by  
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Veggie burgers have been around for years. If you have any vegetarian or vegan friends, you’ve seen them eating their sprouts or maybe even tasted some of their flavored soy. If you hated it, you’re not alone. Lots of people have tasted those frozen veggie burgers and gagged, especially the ones made years ago. But changes are coming. The meatless market has exploded recently, and big changes have rocked this trend. Meat alternatives taste so good these days, you can even get them at restaurants and fast food chains. What’s the next step in this revolution? Steaks. One company is hoping to Redefine Meat…and it may just succeed. Is beef bad? Many people are turning to meatless options, because beef is incredibly bad for the environment. The huge cattle farms, slaughterhouses and related meat industry businesses create big problems for our planet. That’s why Redefine Meat hopes to change the game. Related: What do Americans think about fake meat products There are about 1 billion cows being raised for beef and dairy on the planet right at this moment. These cows drink more water than all the humans on the planet combined and produce more pollution than all of the cars on the roads. To gain 1 pound of meat, cows must consume about 7 pounds of feed — grains that could be used to feed humans. That’s not a very efficient use of food, is it? When you start to think about the environmental impact of the meat market, plant-based options are probably starting to look a whole lot better. Thanks to companies like Redefine Meat, those plant-based options are starting to taste much better, too. Redefining a favorite Redefine Meat is using 3D-printing to create plant-based “Alt-Steaks” that look and taste just as amazing as the real thing. It’s an ambitious undertaking. Mimicking the texture and taste of beef is so difficult, companies have only recently mastered the process well enough to get meatless options into fast food chains. Any meat-eater knows that there’s a world of difference between the taste and texture of steak as compared to ground beef. It’s way easier to fake ground beef than it is to fake a juicy steak — isn’t it? Steak is marbled with fat, which gives it that wonderful texture that meat-eaters love. It’s an entirely different texture and flavor profile than what you’ll get with a standard burger. But Redefine Meat is using 3D-printer technology to copy the texture and flavor of real, marbled meat. The company’s goal is to perfect and speed up the process of creating plant-based steaks so they will be even cheaper than real meat. The 3D-printing revolution 3D-printing is starting to be applied to all sorts of industries in amazing ways that were unthinkable just 10 years ago. This technology is already being used to manufacture athletic shoes, airplane parts and medical devices. Redefine Meat is using 3D-printing to recreate the muscles and fat found in real meats to give plant-based meats the same texture and taste as beef without all of the environmental problems that are associated with the meat industry. Redefine Meat’s Alt-Steak has no cholesterol and a 95% smaller environmental impact than the exact same amount of meat. “The importance of using precision 3D printing technology to achieve texture, color and flavor — and the combinations between them — cannot be overstated,” said Eshchar Ben-Shitrit, CEO and co-founder of Redefine Meat. “By using separate formulations for muscle, fat and blood, we can focus on each individual aspect of creating the perfect Alt-Steak product. This is unique to our 3D printing technology and lets us achieve unprecedented control of what happens inside the matrix of alt-meat. Collaborating with an industry-leader like Givaudan has led to the creation of an Alt-Steak product that is not only healthy and sustainable, but also offers the satisfying flavors, textures and aromas of eating actual meat.” Transforming plants into steak might sound like science-fiction, but it is an innovative approach to shaking up the meat industry. Companies like Redefine Meat are hoping to change the way people think about meat. Because when a steak from a plant can taste just as good as a steak from a cow, why not choose the option that is better for the planet? As the meatless revolution continues, options like this will become more and more available. Perhaps soon, the “meat” industry will be completely plant-based. + Redefine Meat Via Core77 Images via Redefine Meat , René Schindler and Lutz Peter

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Coca-Cola to offer Dasani water in aluminum cans and bottles to reduce plastic waste

August 14, 2019 by  
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Could green be the new blue? The Dasani bottled water brand hopes so. Owned by The Coca-Cola Co., Dasani wants to up the ante for more sustainable packaging with a product lineup including aluminum bottles and cans — available as early as this fall. The new changes are part of Coca-Cola’s Global World Without Waste efforts to make 100 percent of its packaging completely recyclable by 2025. It also plans to manufacture its bottles and cans with an average of 50 percent recycled material by 2030. Related: San Francisco airport bans all plastic water bottles “While there is no single solution to the problem of plastic waste , the additional package and package-less options we are rolling out today mark an important next step in our effort to provide even more sustainable solutions at scale,” said Lauren King, brand director of Dasani, in a news release Tuesday. Come fall, the company is releasing aluminum can options to the northeastern U.S. The canned water will expand to other areas in 2020 and will be joined by the addition of new aluminum bottles of water in mid-2020. The new HybridBottle, also released in 2020, will be made with a mixture of up to 50 percent of a renewable, plant-based material and recycled PET. Other innovations in the lineup include “lightweighting” across the Dasani package portfolio to help reduce the amount of virgin PET plastic acquired by the Coca-Cola system. Labels are also changing and will read “ How2Recycle ” on all Dasani packages in an effort to educate and encourage consumers to recycle after use. As mainstream consumers continue to focus on reducing plastic pollution , large companies like Coca-Cola say they want to reduce their waste. Incidentally, Coca-Cola produced 3.3 million tons of plastic in 2017, according to a recent report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Plenty of environmental activists have pointed the finger at companies such as Coca-Cola, too. For instance, a study published by Greenpeace referred to Coca-Cola as “the most prolific polluter” compared to other top brands. Why? During several beach clean-ups held around the world, Coca-Cola products were among the most collected. + The Coca-Cola Co. Via CNN Image via Coca-Cola Co.

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