Fukushima on track to become a renewable energy hub

November 14, 2019 by  
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In hopes of reinventing its image, new life is breathing into Fukushima, the Japanese northeastern prefecture that was devastated by a 2011 tsunami and consequent nuclear power plant meltdown. Fukushima, which is Japan’s third largest prefecture, is revitalizing and transforming into a renewable energy hub. Eight years ago, in March 2011, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake triggered a massive tsunami, overwhelming the Fukushima reactors and causing the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl incident. Decontamination of Fukushima’s nuclear plant and surroundings are ongoing. Related: Global renewable energy is projected to rise by 50% in the next 5 years, IEA finds Since 2011, both the Japanese state and Fukushima local governments have ramped up the prefecture’s renewable energy production. To meet the entire region’s needs with 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, endeavors are underway to cultivate and integrate clean energy sources like biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind. There are already investor plans to construct 11 new solar farms and 10 wind power plants on under-utilized farmlands and hillsides tainted by radiation. Development of these new solar and wind power plants will take place in the next five years, with the first solar plant being a 20-megawatt (MW) installation planned for Minamisoma. Estimated costs for all the green energy construction runs upward of 300 billion Japanese yen, or $2.75 billion in U.S. dollars. Financiers and stakeholders supporting the renewable energy hub construction include the state-run Development Bank of Japan and the private lender Mizuho Bank. The Japanese are optimistic about the electrical power that will be generated, given the region’s current trajectory. Back in 2012, Fukushima only generated 400 MW of electricity, then increased to 1 gigawatt (GW) in 2016. By 2018, Fukushima region’s combined electrical power generation from renewables reached 1.5 GW. The 21 new plants under construction are expected to bring additional 600 MW to Fukushima’s energy output, the equivalent to powering 114,000 average American households. A new, 50-mile wide grid is similarly in the works. Via the power transmission network of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the grid will connect and feed power from Fukushima into metropolitan areas of Japan’s capital, Tokyo, about 155 miles south of the prefecture. Cost projections for the grid are 29 billion yen, or $267 million. This new clean energy action plan is aligned with the Fukushima prefecture’s goal of having renewables supply 40 percent of its electricity demand by 2020, two-thirds by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040. The end goal for 2040 is that the entire Land of the Rising Sun will be completely powered through renewable energy. Via Yale360 , Japan Times and Nikkei Asian Review Image via Andreas

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Fukushima on track to become a renewable energy hub

BIGs LEED Gold-seeking school in Arlington features a cascade of green terraces

November 14, 2019 by  
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After five years in the making, BIG has completed The Heights, a new public school building in Arlington, Virginia that not only offers a unique and energy-efficient take on school architecture, but also helps maximize density and open space. Located along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, The Heights combines two existing secondary schools into a new 180,000-square-foot building that opens like a fan with a cascade of green-roofed terraces to provide an indoor-outdoor learning landscape. An emphasis on natural daylighting, green space, material reuse and energy efficiency has put the building on track to achieve LEED Gold certification . Completed on a $100 million budget, the dynamic new school building houses two programs: the H-B Woodlawn Program that offers visual and performing arts-focused curricula for grades 6 through 12, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Program that serves students aged 11 to 22 with special needs. The school can accommodate an expected enrollment of up to 775 students. Related: Rammed earth Kopila Valley School is the “greenest school in Nepal” To make the most of a compact urban site bounded by roads on three sides, BIG organized the school as a stack of five rectangular floorplates rotated around a fixed pivot point to create a series of outdoor green-roofed terraces connected with a rotating central staircase. The spacious first terrace can be used for special events while the upper terraces are more suitable as classroom and study areas. The classroom “bars” have also informed the interior layout, which is anchored by a central vertical core containing the elevators, stairs and bathrooms as well as a triple-height lobby with stepped seating on the ground floor. For easy accessibility and to encourage public interaction throughout the school, the lobby is directly adjacent to many of the school’s common spaces, such as the 400-seat auditorium , main gymnasium, library, reception and cafeteria. Intuitive wayfinding is also extended to the classroom spaces in that each classroom “bar” is defined by its own color used to paint the walls and lockers. In contrast to its colorful interior, The Heights’ exterior is clad in white glazed brick to unify its fanned-out massing and to respect the surroundings, including the historic architecture of Old Town Alexandria. Select materials from the former Wilson School, which The Heights was built to replace, have been salvaged and reused in the new build. + BIG Photography by Laurian Ghinitoiu via BIG

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BIGs LEED Gold-seeking school in Arlington features a cascade of green terraces

Brazil turns down international aid for Amazon wildfires

August 28, 2019 by  
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Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is busy tweeting and arguing with French president Emmanuel Macron while enormous Amazon fires burn. The Group of Seven rich countries, otherwise known as the G7, has offered $22 million to combat fires raging throughout the rainforest. But Bolsonaro says he won’t accept the money unless Macron says he’s sorry. While at the G7 summit in France early this week, Macron urged his fellow leaders to action, calling the Amazon wildfires a world environmental crisis and accusing Bolsonaro of making it worse. He also called the Brazilian president a climate change skeptic. Bolsonaro was insulted and accused Macron of treating Brazil “as if we were a colony or no man’s land,” he said in a tweet. Related: Wildfires are decimating the Amazon rainforest at unprecedented rates Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, further dissed Macron by saying if the French president can’t “avoid a predictable fire in a church,” he might not have much to offer Brazil. This remark referred to the recent tragic blaze at Notre Dame . Fortunately for Bolsonaro, he can fall back on support in his mutual fan club with President Trump. “He is working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil — Not easy,” tweeted Trump. Bolsonaro thanked Trump and accused Macron et al. of building a fake news campaign against him. Meanwhile, a football field and a half of the Amazon continues to burn every minute. Brazil could well be facing permanent changes to its ecology, such as former rainforest turning into arid landscape. “The Amazon is extremely fundamental for the water system all over the continent,” said Rosana Villar from Greenpeace. “So, if we cut off the forest, we are some years not going to have rain on the south of the country.” Critics say the $22 million offered by the G-7 countries including the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.K. wouldn’t be enough to stop the fires . But it would certainly go a lot farther than a juvenile tweet fight. Via NPR and CNN Image via NASA

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Brazil turns down international aid for Amazon wildfires

Japan relaunches its whaling industry

July 2, 2019 by  
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Japan has officially relaunched its commercial whaling industry, sending the first vessels out to sea this month for the first time in 30 years. Animal rights and marine conservation defenders have condemned the relaunch of the whaling industry as a loss for whales and marine ecosystems, but the Japanese argue that it is a traditional part of their culture and that it will not negatively impact whale populations. The first vessel returned with a 26-foot-long minke whale, but the ships will also hunt Baird’s beaked, sei and Brydes whales. In total, the Japanese Fishing Agency will allow 227 whales to be slaughtered and sold legally to restaurants and markets. Related: Russia to release hundreds of illegally captured orcas and belugas from ‘whale jail’ According to Reuters, whales make up 0.1 percent of the total meat consumption in Japan , and the industry supports only about 300 jobs. Though it is seemingly insignificant as food stock, it does hold cultural importance for many Japanese who grew up eating whale. “It’s part of Japan’s food culture,” Sachiko Sakai, a taxi driver in Kushiro, Japan, told Reuters . “The world opposes killing whales, but you can say the same thing about many of the animals bred on land and killed for food.” Much of the momentum for the relaunch has been initiated by the prime minster, who received considerable election support from constituents from a whaling city. In 1986, Japan announced that it would allow whaling for scientific research, purportedly to quantify the populations and the impact of whaling. Many conservationists believed that commercial whaling continued under the guise of scientific exploration. Nicola Beynon of Humane Society International said, “The word ‘research’ may have been removed from the side of the factory ship, finally ending Japan’s charade of harpooning whales under the guise of science , but these magnificent creatures will still be slaughtered for no legitimate reason.” Via Reuters Image via Rob Oo

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Japan relaunches its whaling industry

This summer sneaker is completely biodegradable

July 2, 2019 by  
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Earlier this month, Native Shoes showed its true sustainability colors with the unveiling of 100 percent biodegradable, plant-based shoes that are completely free of animal products, not to mention stylish and perfect for wearing all summer long. The natural-tone sneaker is a culmination of plant materials including a midsole composed of 90 percent cork and 10 percent sisal backing. The outsole material is produced from natural lactae hevea through a 50-stage process that takes up to two weeks to complete. An organic linen sockliner with kenaf originating in Africa and corn felt make up the insole. Rather than the toxic glues that hold together most shoes, the Plant Shoe is held together with olive oil-soaked jute thread and natural, latex-based glue. For the main upper, the material is formed from otherwise discarded pineapple husks along with eucalyptus and organic cotton fibers. The laces are 100 percent organic cotton as well. Related: SAOLA offers sustainable sneakers sourced from algae and recycled plastic This plant-based and biodegradable design is in sharp, and much-needed, contrast to typical sneakers made from petroleum-based products, plastic , leather and other chemical-laden fabrics. Americans alone dump more than 300 million shoes into landfills every year, almost none of which will break down in a timely manner. Aimed at a completely sustainable model for shoe manufacturing, use and disposal, now and in the future, the Plant Shoe can be commercially composted at the end of its lifecycle. “The Plant Shoe was inspired by Native Shoes’ mission to become 100 percent lifecycle managed by 2023,” said Michael Belgue, creative director of Native Shoes. “The next step beyond our current recycling initiative was to create something that wouldn’t need to be reused or recycled but instead generates zero waste . Something that was born from the earth and could go back into it.” Although each component was scrutinized for the most sustainable options, the sneaker was designed to be stylish yet classic enough to outlast short-term trends. Unisex by design, Plant Shoes can be ordered directly from the company online or found at a brick and mortar location. They retail for $200 and are available in sizes 8-13 for men and 5-10 for women. Founded in 2009, Native Shoes is a footwear company headquartered in Vancouver, Canada with the goal of producing shoes that are light on you and the environment. Taking charge in the fight against post-consumer shoe waste, “Live Lightly” is the company motto and the Plant Shoe is here to prove Native Shoes’ dedication to that mindset. + Native Shoes Images via Native Shoes

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This summer sneaker is completely biodegradable

Study calls budding octopus farm industry unethical and unsustainable

May 14, 2019 by  
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A new study by an international group of scientists denounces the up-and-coming octopus farming industry as both detrimental to fragile marine ecosystems and unethical given their high intelligence. As countries like Japan announce they will start selling farmed octopus in 2020, researchers call on companies and governments to discontinue funding the new industry, claiming there is still an opportunity to prevent the same unethical and destructive mistakes that have already been made with land-based industrial farming. Currently, there are  550 marine and aquatic species farmed in nearly 200 countries. Aquaculture is detrimental to coastal environments in the following ways: Clearing critical habitat, such as mangroves, to make space for farms Polluting water with fertilizer, algaecide, disinfectant, antibiotics and herbicides Depleting oxygen and releasing nitrogen and phosphorus from decomposing fish feces In addition, octopus larvae only consume live fish and shellfish, requiring farmers to harvest significant amounts from other vulnerable fisheries. Related: Plastic pollution is causing reproductive problems for ocean wildlife Even if the industry was sustainable, however, the study’s authors argue that captivity is unethical for a creature with such a large brain, long memory and sophisticated nervous system. “We can see no reason why, in the 21st century, a sophisticated, complex animal should become the source of mass-produced food ,” study author, Professor Jennifer Jacquet of New York University, told the  Observer . “Octopus factory farming is ethically and ecologically unjustified.” Despite animal welfare and environmental concerns, octopus farms spark a separate set of ethical issues dealing with limiting development and economic growth. The unrestricted and untouchable scale of destructive industrial farming, for example, brings up concerns of who can prohibit other entrepreneurs from capitalizing on the same profitable disregard for animal life and environmental sustainability . Professor Jacquet of the study, however, believes that because the industry is just launching, there is a unique opportunity to limit its growth before it takes off. “Mass producing octopus would repeat many of the same mistakes we made on land in terms of high environmental and animal welfare impacts and be in some ways worse because we have to feed octopus other animals,” said Jacquet. Approximately 350,000 tons of octopus are harvested every year, however, octopus fisheries are in decline. Without aquaculture , octopus may become more rare, expensive and only available to high-paying customers. The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Study calls budding octopus farm industry unethical and unsustainable

How to mend and repair your clothes

May 14, 2019 by  
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There are many benefits to clothing repair. Fixing a hole in your favorite jeans or re-attaching a broken button can extend the life of the piece, which is better for the environment and your wallet. From hemming jean bottoms to fixing zippers, here is a quick look at all of the ways you can repair your own clothes . Sewing kit If you are serious about clothing repair, you should have a sewing kit on standby. A good kit includes items like needles and thread, scissors, a tape measure, a seam ripper, spare buttons and sewing pins. You can even put together a traveling sewing kit for whenever you are on the road and face a clothing emergency. Buttons Repairing a button on your favorite shirt can seem daunting at first, but it is actually a fairly straightforward process. According to The Spruce , there are two basic styles of buttons that are commonly used on shirts. The trick is picking the right type of button and the right size. Fortunately, you can usually reference other buttons on the shirt when selecting the perfect fit. The first type is called flat buttons. These are, well, flat and have exposed threads. These are the most commonly used buttons on shirts. The other type is called a shank button, which hides the thread. These are typically used in heavier pieces of clothing. Jean repairs Denim requires a substantial amount of water just to make one pair of jeans, so you should treat all of your jeans with care to keep them in top shape for many years. Rips Jeans often develop holes after extended use. Before you toss your favorite pair of pants, you can extend their life by repairing those rips and tears. All it takes is a patch of fabric  similar in color to the jeans and some thread. You can use a fusible patch, though you will likely need to sew it in place if you want it to last. Related: How to sew together ripped jeans Zippers Broken zippers are another common issue with jeans. Replacing a zipper is a little tricky, but it can be done. You will need a replacement zipper that matches the old fabric and some thread. Start by removing the old zipper entirely. Then, cut the new zipper to fit, and sew it in place. Belt loops Hardy belt loops are a requirement for a good pair of jeans , but they can fail after constant tugging. To repair a belt loop, you will need some denim thread, scrap fabric and a sewing machine. Start by patching the hole where the loop broke off. Once that is done, simply sew the old loop back into place, making sure you use plenty of thread to keep it strong. Mending Most clothing mends you will need to make are either for the seams or hems of your favorite clothes. Seam mending Seams are the most integral part of a piece of clothing . Seams can be curved or straight, or they can run into each other at intersections. The issue with seams is that they frequently rip, especially in areas you do not want exposed. Luckily, you can easily repair seams with some thread or by using fusible fabrics . Fusible alternatives remove the sewing element and are a great option for those less experienced in mending. There are a variety of fusible options on the market, so make sure you shop around for the right type before you start a project. Hem mending There are many reasons why people choose to hem clothing. The most common hem is done on jeans and helps prevent the bottoms from dragging on the ground. Jeans that are too long can trip people and will result in frayed ends. Hemming is also used to make pieces of clothing, like skirts, fit better and look more custom-made. Related: 11 ways to be more self-sufficient Common stitches By learning some simple, common stitches, you can easily repair a variety of fabrics. Running stitch If you only learn one sewing technique, it probably should be a running stitch. According to Life Hacker , the running stitch is a fundamental technique and one of the most basic stitches out there. By learning a running stitch, you can easily sew patches, fix hems and mend holes in clothing. This type of stitch basically runs in and out of the fabric without ever doubling back on itself. Back stitch A back stitch is basically a running stitch with a slight twist. This type of sewing technique is ideal if you need something that is both strong and flexible. This includes attaching zippers or fixing tears in fabrics in areas that take a lot of stress. When sewing a back stitch, you always take one step back with every stitch you make. This results in a line of thread on the backside of the item and a running stitch on the front. Whip stitch A whip stitch is slightly more advanced than the previous two techniques but still easy to perform. These stitches can repair torn seams, pockets that have come undone and split hems. A whip stitch is ideal whenever you are sewing two pieces of fabric together, like the opening of a pillow case. The threads will be visible in a whip stitch, so make sure you select a color that closely matches the original fabric. With these basic stitches and methods in mind, you are on your way to becoming an ace at basic clothing repair. Best of all, this will save you money and the planet’s resources. Images via Shutterstock

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California restaurants add carbon emission surcharge

May 14, 2019 by  
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Sustainable restaurants in California are going a step further to stop climate change by adding a farm-to-table and back-to-farm-again surcharge that allows patrons to support climate smart farming practices within the state. This Fall, participating restaurants will begin adding the optional one percent surcharge intended to offset emissions by paying farmers to store carbon in healthy soil and vegetation . The initiative is a joint partnership by the Perennial Farming Initiative, the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the California Air Resources Board. So far, 25 restaurants have joined the program, with a total of 200 expected by the end of 2019. Related: Impossible Burgers are such a success, they might run out Globally, farms emit about 13 percent of all carbon emissions. In the U.S., California is an agriculture powerhouse and therefore has the potential to be a big part of the climate solution. In fact, one third of all vegetables in the U.S. come from California, as well as over two thirds of all fruits and nuts. “Farmers and ranchers have long been at the forefront of the battle against climate change ,” Karen Ross from the California Department of Food and Agriculture said in a press release . “This partnership is an opportunity for eaters and buyers to share in land-based solutions.” The primary concept of the fund is to support “carbon farming,” which encourages the storage of carbon in soil and vegetation. The fund would pay farmers $10 for every ton of carbon they successfully remove from the atmosphere. Examples of climate-smart practices include more gentle tilling, rotating crops, or composting . The surcharge is voluntary; however, customers have to explicitly ask their server to remove it from the bill– meaning that participating restaurants add it automatically. During the pilot at Mission Chinese in San Francisco, not a single customer opted out of the one percent surcharge. “This issue of climate change is obviously massive,” Chef Anthony Myint of Perennial Farming Initiative told KTVU , “future generations don’t have the chance to opt out.” Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Twin timber buildings draw inspiration from traditional Japanese shrines

April 1, 2019 by  
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Local architectural firm Yuji Tanabe Architects recently completed twin timber buildings on a historic street in the Japanese city of Kamakura. In deference to the existing street architecture and the city’s Great Buddha landmark, the buildings feature a double roof facade with proportions inspired by traditional Japanese shrines. The project, dubbed SASAMEZA, is built of locally sourced timber to reduce embodied energy. Built for commercial use, SASAMEZA occupies a commercial block facing Yuigahama Street, a major transit corridor that connects central Kamakura to the iconic Great Buddha statue. Because the developers wanted the option to divide and sell the site once construction was complete, the architects split the property and created two buildings around a central courtyard . Each building is approximately 970 square feet in size, and they are near mirror images of one another. Due to the nature of the plot, the building on the right has a slightly different shape. “By taking the water under the roof slope of each building on both sides, it creates a sense of unity like a single building,” the architects explained. “In addition, by setting the opening parts across the passage and the court in the same position on the plane, the connection and the spread to the next wing are created. With the visualization of the structural material (offset column + double beams) in the interior space, the aim is to maintain a sense of unity in the entire building even if different tenants move in.” Related: An angular timber cabin is hidden inside an ancient mountain forest Designed with the environment in mind, the architects used timber procured from a mountain forest in Kanazawa Prefecture’s Hakone area. Along with the client, a forester and a builder, the architects visited the forest in person and selected and harvested the trees that would later become the columns and beams, all which are exposed and unpainted. Japanese wood joinery and fastening methods were applied so that the timber elements can be reused . + Yuji Tanabe Architects Images via Yuji Tanabe Architects

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Twin timber buildings draw inspiration from traditional Japanese shrines

Oceans are dubbed the ‘ultimate sink’ for plastic waste

March 4, 2019 by  
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Plastic waste has officially reached the deepest levels of the world’s oceans, which are now being dubbed as the ultimate sinks for pollution. Scientists discovered organisms that had ingested microplastics at the bottom of the Mariana trench, which descends over 6,000 meters. The Royal Society Open Science journal published the findings of the study, concluding that all marine environments have now been affected by plastic waste. Many of these microplastics come from substances that do not biodegrade quickly and make their way to the ocean via landfills. Once they reach the ocean, the plastics break down even further and float to the bottom. Related: Point Nemo, the most remote spot in the ocean, is plagued with plastic Scientists are well aware of the impact plastics have on shallow marine environments, where the waste is a choking hazard for seabirds, whales and dolphins. But nobody thought the problem to be as widespread as the study showed. Scientists captured creatures from six different locations deep on the ocean floor. The researchers examined organisms from the Japan trench, Mariana trench , Izu-Bonin trench, Peru-Chile trench and the New Hebrides and Kermadec trenches. Microplastics were discovered in all six locations. Some of the plastics that were ingested included lyocell, ramie, polyvinyl, rayon and polyethylene. The deeper the scientists looked, the more contamination they found. This is largely due to the fact that the waste has nowhere to go once it reaches the bottom of the ocean and cannot be flushed out. “It is intuitive that the ultimate sink for this debris, in whatever size, is the deep sea,” the study concluded. It is unclear how much these microplastics are harming deep sea ecosystems. Scientists believe the waste is more harmful at lower depths, because organisms that thrive in these environments often eat whatever they come across. While scientists continue to do more studies, researchers admitted that it is depressing finding so much plastic waste in a place where humans have such little contact yet are making the biggest impact. Via The Guardian Image via TKremmel

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