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

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

Metal-clad Eco Cottage puts a modern spin on Irish rural architecture

January 15, 2019 by  
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Ballymoney-based sustainable architecture firm 2020 Architects has completed a new contemporary and low-energy home that offers a refreshing and sustainable take on the typical rural architecture found across Northern Ireland . Located in the coastal fishing village of Ardglass, the Black Cottage (also known as the Eco Cottage) champions low-cost construction and energy efficiency with its simple material palette and highly insulated timber frame. The project is clad in cost-effective black corrugated metal panels and offers a bright and welcoming environment indoors. According to the architects, the stereotypical Northern Irish cottage consists of simple forms, white render and a slate roof. The Black Cottage references the local vernacular with its gabled shape, yet departs from the norm with a black facade; the fiber cement corrugated cladding installed on the timber frame muffles the sounds of rain and wind. Moreover, the dark exterior material helps recede the building into the landscape and protect it from the coastal elements while fulfilling the client’s desires for a building that “challenged the stereotypical contemporary representation of the Irish cottage.” Inside, the building features white walls, large triple-glazed windows  and double-height vaulted spaces that make the interior feel bright and airy. Natural light and perfect views of the marina from the south fill the home, which is set on an elevated and exposed plot on the north shore. In addition to highly effective insulation, the Eco Cottage is equipped with a direct air intake stove and a mechanical heat recovery and ventilation system. Related: Sleep beneath the Milky Way in these amazing Bubble Domes in Ireland “The design draws on a basic vernacular form alongside a very simple palette of material that not only hark back to the agricultural and industrial heritage of the area but would also provide a low cost and low tech solution to the construction,” 2020 Architects said in a project statement. “The palette of dark external materials also helps to settle the building and reduce the impact of an additional building visible from the many vantage points in the harbour.” + 2020 Architects Images via 2020 Architects

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Metal-clad Eco Cottage puts a modern spin on Irish rural architecture

Lume Traveler offers panoramic sky views from an open roof

August 23, 2018 by  
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Just when you thought campers couldn’t offer any more incredible features, along comes Lume Traveler , an inconspicuous aluminum trailer with a simple 6-foot-long retractable roof that lets you gaze at the sky while lying in bed. It’s the icing on the cake for a camper that already offers many modern amenities, including an outdoor kitchen and solar panels . Imagine lying on your back in a comfy double bed and simply retracting a 6-foot by 3.6-foot fabric panel that covers most of the camper’s roof, revealing a sweeping view of the sky, day or night. Gaze at constellations, count falling stars or soak up some rays as you get lost in the reverberating orchestra of nature’s sounds. It even has a built-in screen to keep out bugs and other unwanted creatures. When you’re ready to come down to earth, Lume Traveler is just as comfortable and stimulating. The enhanced interior boasts a leather wall, teak floors and a place specially designed to house an optional audio system and 32-inch flat screen TV. Upscale trims include oak, linen, convenient roll-up curtains and gray wool felt wall coverings that repel dirt. Related to: Sleep beneath the Milky Way in these amazing Bubble Domes in Ireland Cooking al fresco is another feature that adds an adventurous aspect to Lume Traveler’s charm. Just open the trailer’s rear hatch to reveal two gas burners perched atop a stainless steel counter. For larger meals, fire up the grill with the extra gas connection. Under the kitchen counter is a 40-liter fridge that slides out for easy access. Meal preparation is a snap with a sink and cutting board combo, and there is ample lower and upper cabinet space for dishes, pots, pans and dry goods. All indoor power is generated by a 100-watt solar panel . All in all, the Lume Traveler combines the joy of the great outdoors, the security of a sound shelter and the basic amenities of home. This innovative trailer is a development inspired by campers who long to convene with nature while still enjoying some modern conveniences. + Lume Traveler Via Curbed Images via Lume Traveler

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Google will be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2018

October 13, 2017 by  
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After 10 years as a carbon-neutral company, Google has announced that all of its data centers and offices will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy , mostly from solar and wind sources. The corporate giant made quick progress towards meeting their goal, which was set in 2016 and will be fulfilled by 2018. In its 2017 Environmental Report, Google, self-described as the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy, declared that in making its big shift to clean energy, it had pioneered “new energy purchasing models that others can follow” and “helped drive wide-scale global adoption of clean energy.” “We believe Google can build tools to improve people’s lives while reducing our dependence on natural resources and fossil fuels,” said Google executive Urs Hölzle. Google’s rapid shift to clean energy is welcome not only for the influence it may have on other companies but also for its impact on Google’s energy consumption, which was estimated in 2015 to be as large as the city of San Francisco . In line with its sustainability focus, Google has also launched an initiative to add air quality sensors to Google Street View vehicles and plans to change its waste disposal systems to ensure that the company adds nothing to landfills. Half of Google’s 14 data centers have already reached that particular milestone. Related: Alphabet X to beam wireless service to Puerto Rico with a fleet of balloons Most of Google’s renewable energy is purchased from an outside provider. However, they are making important moves to provide some of their own in-house energy, including the company’s recent acquisition of the Tellenes wind farm in Norway. The 12-year deal to provide 100 percent of the energy produced will power Google’s data centers in Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland . Google expects to purchase power as soon as it is available, which is expected in fall 2017. Via Inverse Images via Wikimedia Commons   (1)  and Robbie Shade/Flickr

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Virgin Hyperloop One: Richard Branson invests in Musk-inspired high-speed transportation

October 13, 2017 by  
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A Hyperloop project just got a huge boost from none other than business magnate Richard Branson . Hyperloop One will rebrand as Virgin Hyperloop One, as the Virgin Group invests in the high-speed transportation effort. The investment follows a July full-scale test , which co-founder Shervin Pishevar described as their Kitty Hawk moment. Virgin Hyperloop One seems set to take on the world with help from Branson. He said in a blog post Virgin has always “been known for disruption and investing in innovative companies” and that he visited their test site, DevLoop, near Las Vegas during the summer, and was impressed with the tests. He’s now investing in the effort, and will also sit on the company’s board of directors. Related: Hyperloop One conducts first full-scale test of superfast transportation system Branson said during the second phase of testing, the Hyperloop team achieved a top speed of 192 miles per hour, and the longest test was 10.6 seconds. 436 meters, or around 1,430 feet, is the maximum distance traveled. The DevLoop tube length is 500 meters – around 1,640 feet – long, with a diameter of 3.3 meters, or around 11 feet. Hyperloop One said in their statement on the investment that the partnership “feels like a natural fit.” Their President of Engineering Josh Giegel once worked at Virgin Galactic. Branson said he invests in people, not simply technology . Hyperloop One said they already have projects afoot in the United States, United Arab Emirates, India, Canada, Finland, and the Netherlands, and hope to accelerate commercialization with the help of the Virgin Group. Both Branson’s blog and Hyperloop One’s statement mentioned the importance of clean transportation technology – the Hyperloop mode of transportation will be all- electric and efficient. Even though the Virgin name is now attached to the project, Hyperloop One said Virgin won’t be the sole operator. Around the world, they’ll work with many different operators, chosen by customers. Via Virgin Group and Hyperloop One Images via Greg Rose/Virgin and Hyperloop One

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Virgin Hyperloop One: Richard Branson invests in Musk-inspired high-speed transportation

Ireland set to ban fracking after both houses of Parliament pass bill

July 3, 2017 by  
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Ireland is one signature away from banning hydraulic fracturing, or fracking . After the country’s House of Representatives, the Dáil Éireann, passed a fracking ban the end of May, Ireland’s Senate, the Seanad Éireann, followed suit the end of June. Now the bill just needs Irish President Michael Higgins’ signature before Ireland bids farewell to the controversial practice. “We’ve made history,” said Fine Gael TD Tony McLoughlin, who introduced the bill, after the vote. President Higgins is expected to sign the bill “in the coming days,” according to the Fine Gael Party . France, Bulgaria, and Germany are the only other European Union states to have banned the practice onshore so far. Related: Ireland votes to be world’s first country to fully divest from fossil fuels “Fracking must be seen as a serious public health and environmental concern for Ireland,” McLoughlin said in a statement. “If fracking was allowed to take place in Ireland and Northern Ireland it would pose significant threats to the air, water, and the health and safety of individuals and communities here.” According to The Irish Times, politicians across the political spectrum in Ireland supported the bill. A public consultation earlier in 2017 drew 8,000 submissions, with just one opposing the ban. Environmental activists touted the bill as protecting people, the environment, and water quality in the country. There are large shale deposits in multiple counties in Ireland such as Sligo and Leitrim, the counties McLoughlin represents. Irish communities will be safe from the negative impacts of fracking seen in towns and cities in the United States, according to McLoughlin, where states are beginning to consider fracking bans . Earlier this year Maryland joined Vermont and New York to ban fracking , and they were the first state with gas reserves to do so. Via The Irish Times and EcoWatch Images via Friends of the Earth Ireland and greensefa on Flickr

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