First-of-its-kind device prototype harnesses renewable energy from ocean waves

October 16, 2019 by  
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Our planet is a water world, covered with 70 percent oceans. For centuries, it’s been widely known that the high seas can generate energy, if harnessed appropriately. With today’s renewables market rapidly expanding, it’s no wonder then that wave energy has recently gained traction as a contemporary, clean energy source. Two companies have jointly completed a marine hydrokinetic convertor, the OE Buoy, to leverage wave power as a renewable, green energy source. The city of Portland, Oregon is corporate headquarters to Vigor, a marine and industrial fabrication company that has had a long-standing record of cutting edge engineering projects. For this endeavor, Vigor teamed up with Irish wave-power pioneer Ocean Energy in a collaborative effort to push marine hydrokinetic technologies forward. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) helped to fund the $12 million design project. Related: Renewable energy surpasses fossil fuels in the UK Weighing 826 tons, the OE Buoy wave device measures 125 feet long, 59 feet wide and 68 feet tall. It will be deployed at the U.S. Navy Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) on the windward side of the Hawaiian island of Oahu, off the coast of Naval Base Pearl Harbor. The buoy has the potential to generate up to 1.25 megawatts of electrical power. In other words, it has enough utility-quality electricity supply to support marine-based data centers, desalination plants, naval autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) power platforms, offshore fish farming and off-grid applications for remote island communities. Besides that, the buoy has the capacity to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, making it a cleaner, more sustainable source of renewable energy . “This first-of-its kind wave energy convertor is scalable, reliable and capable of generating sustainable power to facilitate a range of use-cases that were previously unimaginable or just impractical,” said John McCarthy, CEO of Ocean Energy. “This internationally significant project will be invaluable to job creation, renewable energy generation and greenhouse gas reduction. Additionally, technology companies will be able to benefit from wave power through the development of OE Buoy devices as marine-based data storage and processing centers. The major players in Big Data are already experimenting with subsea data centers to take advantage of the energy savings by cooling these systems in the sea. OE Buoy now presents them with the potential double-benefit of ocean cooling and ocean energy in the one device.” + Vigor + Ocean Energy Via OPB Image via Tiluria

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First-of-its-kind device prototype harnesses renewable energy from ocean waves

Self-sustainable childrens center in Tanzania harvests water like a baobab tree

October 16, 2019 by  
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In northern Tanzania, a Swedish team of architects, engineers and a non-profit collaborated with local workers to complete the Econef Children’s Center, a self-sustaining facility for orphans in the King’ori village. Asante Architecture & Design , Lönnqvist & Vanamo Architects , Architects Without Borders Sweden, Engineers Without Borders Sweden and Swedish-Tanzanian NGO ECONOF created the center to provide sleeping quarters and classrooms to orphaned children, as well as to also increase ECONEF’s independence by reducing building maintenance and operation costs. The off-grid buildings are powered with solar energy and harvest rainwater in a system inspired by the African baobab tree. Built to follow the local building vernacular, the Econef Children’s Center uses locally found materials and building techniques to keep costs low and to minimize the need for external construction expertise. The new center provides sleeping quarters and classrooms for 25 children. “The aim of the Children’s Center Project is to increase ECONEF’S independence and reduce its reliance on private donations,” explains the team in a project statement. “To help achieve this goal the new buildings are planned to be ecologically and economically sustainable and largely maintenance free. The center produces its own electricity through the installation of solar panels. Systems for rainwater harvesting and natural ventilation are integrated into the architectural design.” Related: Timber-clad waterfront house in Norway epitomizes modern Scandinavian design Inspired by the African baobab tree that can retain up to 120,000 liters of water in its trunk to survive in the desert, the building’s rainwater harvesting system draws rainwater from the roof’s spine through a central gutter that funnels the water into two water tanks tucked beneath the two of the inner courtyards. The collected rainwater is used for showers and laundry. + ECONEF Images by Robin Hayes

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Self-sustainable childrens center in Tanzania harvests water like a baobab tree

Ireland plans to ban single-use plastics

September 18, 2019 by  
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In a move that has environmentalists cheering, Ireland recently overhauled its waste sector by announcing a ban on single-use plastics, including cutlery, straws, cups, food containers and cotton bud sticks. The initiative also called for doubling the rate of recycled material and is considering new levy requirements for non-recyclable plastics, such as those found in food packaging at groceries. Richard Bruton, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, explained that the new policies are part of the Irish government’s improved climate action campaign to eliminate unnecessary packaging, reduce food waste by 50 percent, improve plastic recycling by 60 percent and cut landfill disposal by 60 percent. Related: Ireland will plant 440 million trees in 20 years In recent years, single-use plastic pollution has skyrocketed, prompting dismal reports that project an Earth of 2050 where our oceans are filled with more plastic than fish. Many people are realizing the urgency, and government officials are being pressured into addressing the plastic waste dilemma. Accordingly, the European Union has proposed banning single-use plastics — and Ireland is the latest EU member to join the bandwagon. That the campaign to remove single-use plastics has already taken hold on the Emerald Isle is a profound step in the right direction. To date, it is estimated that every person in Ireland annually generates more than 400 pounds of waste packaging, of which 130 pounds are plastic, and these per capita statistics are above the EU average. Implementing this single-use plastic ban is expected to bring promising results to Ireland’s ongoing war on plastic pollution . Bruton said, “All along the supply chain we can do better — 70 percent of food waste is avoidable, half of the material we use is not being segregated properly, two-thirds of plastic used is not on the recycling list and labels are confusing.” For those sectors unable to readily comply with the ban, heavy environmental taxes will have to be paid. These tax levies are a further measure designed to deter the widespread use of single-use plastics, especially non-recyclable ones. Conservation and ecology advocates are supportive of Ireland’s ban, confirming that plastic consumption must be reduced to safeguard the environment. Supporters also uphold that the cost of the added tax should reflect the dire impact single-use plastic has on the environment. Of course, the issue is not without its critics, some of whom claim the tax would do little to alleviate environmental conditions but would instead disproportionately affect lower-income consumers. Nonetheless, optimists assert that the Irish ban on plastic waste will mobilize a shift in industrial, business and consumer behavior that can ultimately contribute to a cleaner, greener Ireland, perhaps bringing the country closer to a sustainable Emerald Isle ideal. Via EcoWatch , RTE and Irish Times Image via Flockine

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These works of art record and provide shelter to urban wildlife

September 18, 2019 by  
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The Interaction Research Studio at Goldsmiths, University of London is proving that you don’t have to leave the city to experience wildlife. Inspired by both art and nature, the studio has created a series of habitats that use hidden cameras to capture images of wildlife. The habitat structures use My Naturewatch wildlife cameras, easy-to-find materials and simple electronics and are designed to be used by even the most novice of nature-lovers. The structures are also built with natural materials to make the animals feel more at-home, with the potential to serve as both shelters or food. The natural materials include things like wood, coconut shells, stones and branches, in combination with recycled materials such as plastic water bottles (used as a waterproof protective casing around the camera lens). Related: IKEA teams up with London artists to upcycle old furniture into funky abodes for birds, bees ?and bats This marriage of natural and human-made components not only benefits the animals but also serves as an important metaphor for the intricacy of urban environments and the problems that city animals face on a daily basis. The habitats are a welcomed sight to the animals; they provide the creatures with an acting shelter, feeding station, watering station and a spot to mingle with other wildlife . The studio is calling the project “ Nature Scenes ” and is presenting it as part of the Brompton Biotopia expedition taking place in September during the London Design Festival. Along with a series of similar projects showcasing sustainable shelters for animals by fellow designers, Nature Scenes will serve as an inspiration for others to build their own animal shelters using recycled or natural materials as well as the My Naturewatch cameras. Most residents don’t realize how many animals they share their surroundings with: rats, squirrels, falcons, foxes, mice and more. The ability to watch these animals living their lives without the interruption of human interaction is a great way to connect with nature — especially for those living in city environments. + Interaction Research Studio + Naturewatch Via Dezeen Images via Interaction Research Studio at Goldsmiths, University of London

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These works of art record and provide shelter to urban wildlife

Sustainable tech powers the Corten steel-clad Cube in Denmark

September 18, 2019 by  
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When Danish architectural firm Christensen & Co. Architects was asked to design the new headquarters for the Helsingør Power Plant, they felt it would be fitting if the project serve as an extension of the client’s commitment to sustainable supply technologies. Clad in Corten steel as a nod to the surrounding industrial architecture, the sustainably powered Forsyning Helsingør Operations Center has been dubbed The Cube after its geometric shape. For a reduced energy footprint, the office complex draws excess heat from a nearby wood-chipping plant, while rainwater is collected from the roof and reused in the building. Spanning an area of 6,000 square meters, the Forsyning Helsingør Operations Center includes the five-story Cube as well as an Operating Facilities complex that contains storage space, garages, and all the operations equipment. The ground-floor of the public-facing Cube is organized around a central light-filled atrium that connects to administrative rooms, a customer service center, as well as an exhibition area. Large skylights and full-height windows also let in ample amounts of natural light and are shielded with Corten steel solar fins . “The design for Helsingør Power Plant´s new HQ supports the narrative about the municipality’s sustainable supply technologies – from wastewater treatment to energy and waste handling,” explains Christensen & Co. Architects in their project statement. “The project comprises the Cube and Operating Facilities, two buildings that will stand adjacent to the power plant with its distinctive architecture. The facility forms a protective shield around the central working area while screening the surroundings from noise.” Related: Danish city becomes world’s first to power water treatment plant with sewage Information about the sustainable technologies used in the building and by the municipality are made available to visitors in the Cube. Visitors can also enjoy views from the ground-floor customer center to the entire building thanks to the large atrium .  + Christensen & Co. Architects Via Dezeen Images by Niels Nygaard

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Sustainable tech powers the Corten steel-clad Cube in Denmark

Ireland will plant 440 million trees in 20 years

September 4, 2019 by  
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Ireland is about to get a whole lot greener. The 84,431-square-kilometer country is determined to fight climate change by planting 440 million trees by 2040; 70 percent will be conifers and the remainder broad-leaf. The initiative is part of Ireland’s larger goal to become carbon-neutral by 2050. Ireland has the lowest forest cover of all European countries — about 11 percent compared to an average of more than 30 percent. Some say planting additional trees could be the answer, while others aren’t completely sold. Related: Scientists confirm tree planting is our best solution to climate change In June, the Irish government said it was going to start planting more trees in its fight against climate change and to reduce carbon emissions, but it never said how many trees it would plant. Now, the government has come up with a specific number. “The target for new forestation is approximately 22 million trees per year,” a spokesperson for the Department of Communications Climate Action and Environment said . “Over the next 20 years, the target is to plant 440 million.” In order to make the tree planting initiative work, Ireland needs farmers to plant more trees on their properties. The problem is that this is not a popular idea among farmers . The government hopes to try to change these opinions by offering local meetings to garner support for reforestation. Other people in Ireland are also against planting more trees. For instance, Pádraic Fogarty of the Irish Wildlife Trust is not on board. “People are not good at planting trees, and trees do not like being planted. They prefer to plant themselves,” Fogarty told The Irish Independent . Rather than handing out around 94 million euros ($103 million) in forestry grants, the government should pay farmers to plant nothing and let their properties regrow on their own, Fogarty suggested. An earlier study explained that planting more than 500 billion trees was the “most effective” solution to combating climate change. Those opposed to the tree planting initiative say reforestation will not reduce greenhouse gases enough, and other ideas should be implemented. Planting trees is not a foreign concept when trying to address the climate crisis, as other countries have grabbed their shovels and dug in. For example, Ethiopia and Scotland have been successful in their efforts to plant more trees for reforestation and fight global warming . Via EcoWatch , The Irish Times and The Irish Independent Image via KML

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Ireland will plant 440 million trees in 20 years

McDonald’s new paper straws: thick, soggy, hard to recycle

August 7, 2019 by  
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Looks like the shakes at some McDonald’s restaurants aren’t the only things that are thick. Word is the fast food chain’s paper straws introduced a year ago to keep in tune with “protecting the environment” are hard to recycle , because they are too thick and become soggy in drinks. The new paper straws were introduced in 2018 after a trial basis to 1,361 McDonald’s franchises located throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland. Related: McDonald’s creates McHives to raise awareness of the world’s decreasing bee populations. The problem with these straws was first reported by the U.K.’s The Sun newspaper, which published an internal McDonald’s memorandum stating the fast food chain’s paper straws “are not yet recyclable and should be disposed of in general waste until further notice.” “While the materials are recyclable, their current thickness makes it difficult for them to be processed by our waste solution providers, who also help us recycle our paper cups,” a McDonald’s spokesman told the U.K.’s Press Association news agency. Although the original plastic straws could be recycled more easily, the European Union along with the British government has opted to move to banning plastic straws by 2020 and wants chains like McDonald’s to halt using such products. “The government’s ambitious plans, combined with strong customer opinion, has helped to accelerate the move away from plastic , and I’m proud that we’ve been able to play our part in helping to achieve this societal change,” Paul Pomroy, CEO of McDonald’s U.K. and Ireland, said in a press release at the time. Not surprisingly, the new paper straws haven’t been much of a hit from the get-go, according to other reports. For example, many social media users have been busy commenting that the paper straws get too soggy in drinks. Additionally, a formal petition asking McDonald’s to return to its former plastic straws has garnered more than 50,000 signatures. Via CNN Image via Meghan Rodgers

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McDonald’s new paper straws: thick, soggy, hard to recycle

A new mural in Italy addresses affordable, clean energy

August 7, 2019 by  
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Italian coffee company Lavazza has commissioned artists to paint murals based on sustainability. The latest, by Barcelona-based artist Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada, now graces a building in Turin, Italy. The eye-catching mural addresses the goal of affordable and clean energy. The United Nations ’ goal of transforming Earth by 2030 inspired Lavazza’s initiative, “TOward 2030 – What are You Doing?” As Lavazza’s website explains, “17 photographic portraits, 17 ambassadors, 17 Sustainable Development goals: the Lavazza calendar becomes an artistic megaphone for the U.N. 2030 planet safeguarding challenge.” Each artist will depict a different U.N. goal . Related: Recycled plastic art installation asserts that water is a human right in D.C. “I created this mural to bring awareness to the need of ensuring access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy for all,” he said in a press release. “The girl in the mural touches the icon button for the Toward 2030 goal No. 7 and lets loose a flow of clean energy . The piece alludes to the importance of acting now to assure a positive outcome. We must think toward our world’s future and the environmental conditions that our children will inherit.” The artist notes that three billion people — 41 percent of the global population — still cook with high-polluting fuel . One billion people lack electricity. “Electricity in the first world is still mainly obtained from polluting fuels,” Gerada said. “Our future energy sources must be clean and renewable.” Gerada has been an important artist for the last 20 years. As essayist and curator Ivan de la Nuez put it, “Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada has his own singular space in contemporary art .” De la Nuez has watched Gerada’s work evolve. “His work hasn’t left behind the classical arguments of the urban art practice, but he has moved away from some of its most common mistakes: the egotistical excess of graffiti, the loudness and the invasive aesthetics, to move into a calmer and more reflective space.” Over the last decade, Gerada has completed commissions around the world, from Morocco to Argentina to Texas and now Turin. Other international artists involved in the Lavazza project include Vesod, Zed1, Gomez, The Hula and Louis Masai. + Gerada Art Photography by Alessandro Genitori via Gerada Art

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These are the best tips to help you establish an eco-friendly laundry routine

May 13, 2019 by  
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The earth is a fragile place, a bit more so with each day that humans contribute to chemicals in the waste stream and overconsumption of resources. While it may seem like a benign daily activity, doing laundry traditionally pours toxins such as microplastics into the water stream and drinks up valuable freshwater in the process. Since it is an activity we all do, and one we aren’t able to overlook (no one likes smelly clothes), there is a great opportunity to reduce the cumulative impact that laundry has on the environment . Here are some ways you can lower your laundry footprint by adopting sustainable practices. Laundry accumulation The best way to keep your laundry practices “clean” is to not wash clothes when it’s not necessary. Overwashing clothing wears down the fibers, which is bad both for your clothing and the environment, especially those materials that shed microplastics into the waste stream. Limit your laundry accumulation by re-wearing clothing. For example, jeans can handle several wearings before washing. Also, rehang and reuse bathroom towels a few times rather than washing them daily. Avoid washing items just because they have laid on the ground or are wrinkled. Related: Cora Ball emulates natural filtering of coral to remove toxic microfibers from your washing machine Prewash Instead of reaching for the chemical-laden prewash from the store, go old school with a more natural option. Laundry bars, like Dr. Bronners, remove stains without adding unnatural ingredients into the water supply. Simply keep it near the washing machine and rub it on stains to pretreat. Also avoid the prewash setting that requires more water and energy . If you have a tough stain try soaking it with a stain remover before washing. Dish soap may also do the job. Detergent options Commercial laundry detergents are loaded with nasty chemicals that run down the drain into the rivers and eventually make their way out to sea . While many might think these chemicals are completely removed with water treatments, the truth is not all are. However, fabrics will come clean without all the mainstream added toxins— so select your detergent with this in mind. For store-bought convenience, look for natural ingredients and read labels carefully. If you have the time to spare, try making your own laundry detergent. There are recipes all over the internet. Once you find your supplies, it is quick and easy to make and you can make enough to last months at a time. Fabric softener/dryer sheet options Clothes dryers rank high on the energy consumption scale, but they also add to waste with dryer sheets and chemicals from liquid fabric softeners. Clean up your act with homemade liquid detergent using a combination of 1/8 cup food-grade glycerin, two cups of water and two cups of white vinegar. Use about 1/4 cup per load. Also soften your fabrics and shorten drying time with wool dryer balls in each load. Alternately, you can make a liquid fabric softener that goes into the dryer instead of the washing machine. Just moisten a rag with the mixture and dry with your load of clothing. You can reuse the same rag endlessly without dryer sheet waste . Water usage As mentioned, the best way to reduce water usage is to avoid unnecessary washing. Also, skip the prewash and select the best cycle for the task at hand. For example, override the extra rinse for whites and choose a lower soil level for regular washings. If you’re in the market for a new washing machine, select one with an energy star rating for low water and electrical consumption. Cold water It requires energy to heat water around the house, so save it for the shower. Your clothes will do just fine when washed in cold water and your pocketbook will thank you too. Line dry Another winning way to lower the electric bill is to skip the dryer all together. Instead, set up a clothesline and hang items to dry when the weather allows. If you don’t like the rough feel of sun-dried clothes, toss them in the dryer for a few minutes then take the clothes out. Trap the microplastics In the environmental realm, microplastics are making headlines around the globe. It’s said that they are found in nearly all tested fish, which means we’re literally eating our clothes . Because microplastics are minute, they are not filtered out at the the water treatment plant and instead travel right through to the ocean. There are now products, like the Cora Ball, designed to throw in your washer as a filter to capture the microplastics in your laundry. Newer washing machines are expected to have microplastics filters built in so keep an eye out for those to hit the market. Related: Cora Ball emulates natural filtering of coral to remove toxic microfibers from your washing machine The dry cleaner Dry cleaning is a chemical process, and therefore a foe of the environment. Avoid dry cleaning as much as possible by washing at home and being conscious of the fabrics you buy at the store. Doing laundry has become such a part of our daily routines that we might not notice how often we are tossing our barely worn clothes in the washer. It’s never too late to begin an eco-friendly lifestyle and incorporate new approaches to our routines. Follow these helpful tips and significantly reduce your environmental impact. Images via Shutterstock

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These are the best tips to help you establish an eco-friendly laundry routine

Poor air quality found at over 2,000 sites across the UK

March 1, 2019 by  
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A new study shows that close to 2,000 sites across the U.K. have poor air quality due to excess pollution. The cities most affected by high levels of toxic gas were in Wales, England and Northern Ireland, all of which were tested well beyond what is considered safe. One of the main culprits behind the alarming numbers is nitrogen dioxide, a gas that is considered one of the most harmful of urban pollutants. Kensington, Chelsea, Leeds and Doncaster all tested high in nitrogen dioxide in 2017. This gas irritates lungs and creates breathing issues. One of the main sources of nitrogen dioxide is vehicle emissions. Related: Toxic smog causes school closures in Bangkok Earlier this week, London’s mayor announced a pollution alert as residents in the country enjoyed a rare warm spell for February. The warning was the first of its kind since last summer and was precipitated by light winds and lack of storms, which usually help drive away harmful gases. While poor air quality is a major issue across the country, London is about to initiate a plan to help clean things up. The city is establishing an ultra-low emission area in central London that will vastly improve air quality. The initiative is expected to remove around 45 percent of emissions by this spring. The researches who conducted the study are part of a group called Friends of the Earth. Based on their findings, the group called for better emission standards throughout the country and are urging ministers to tighten up government control. “It’s unforgivable that across the UK there are nearly 2,000 locations over air quality limits, leaving millions of us breathing dangerously polluted air,” one of the researchers, Simon Bowens, explained. Air pollution has been previously linked to major health problems in human populations, including heart disease, dementia and even miscarriages. Children are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution, which can damage lungs and even impact intelligence levels. If London’s new program is successful, hopefully other cities will follow suit and start improving air quality before it becomes an even bigger problem. Via The Guardian Images via Foto-Rabe

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