More pieces of IKEA’s sustainability puzzle come together

November 25, 2020 by  
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More pieces of IKEA’s sustainability puzzle come together Deonna Anderson Wed, 11/25/2020 – 08:00 Black Friday is upon us. For IKEA, that marks the expanded launch of a program to buy back furniture in an effort to curb consumption . “We don’t want to encourage people to overconsume. That’s one of the challenges we’ve identified that we feel like we can make a big impact on within our whole strategy,” said Jenn Keesson, sustainability manager at IKEA U.S.  As part of the program, the home furnishings company, widely known for its flat-pack packaging and ready-to-assemble furniture, will be taking back a range of IKEA products: bookcases and shelf units; small tables; chairs and stools without upholstery; and chests of drawers. When a customer returns an item, they’ll receive a voucher to use for future purchases. If IKEA can’t resell an item, the company plans to recycle it or donate it to community organizations.  The effort, which will be running in 27 countries (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia are on the list), is temporary for now, running from Nov. 24 through Dec. 3. But it is part of a larger circular approach being pioneered by the company.  While the U.S. is not on the list of countries for this year’s Black Friday buyback initiative, IKEA U.S. has done some experimenting with such a program in the past, in partnership with Goodwill. And Keesson said the company is working to get a buyback program launched in the country. There are 374 IKEA stores in 30 countries around the world. “We just have a few other complexities when it comes to legislation and around different municipalities that we’re in,” she said about developing the plan to launch in the U.S. Here are a few of IKEA’s other recent waste reduction and circular economy efforts: The retailer plans to remove all non-rechargeable alkaline batteries from its global home furnishing offerings by October 2021. For context, IKEA calculates that if all its customers switched to its rechargeable batteries and charged them 50 times, its global waste could be reduced by as much as 5,000 tons on an annual basis. Earlier this month, IKEA opened its first secondhand IKEA store in Sweden. The store initially will be open for six months, and it is a sort of experiment. According to the news release about the collaboration with ReTuna Shopping Center , a recycling mall, the initiative “will help IKEA understand why some IKEA products are turned into waste, what condition they are in when thrown away, why do people choose to donate or recycle products, and if there’s an interest in buying the products that have been repaired.” And in June, IKEA announced a strategic partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation , which will build on the company’s commitment to become fully circular by 2030. What would it mean for IKEA to be fully circular? “I think in a dream world, it is that every product that you would buy is coming from recycled materials that are closed-loop in our own supply chain. And that [with] everything we’re utilizing in a store, there is no waste going to landfill,” Keesson said. “We’re finding alternate ways to reuse it or we have partners that we’re working with who can reuse the materials or recycle materials in some way. But getting there is a long journey.” But getting there could make a big impact because of how large the company is. There are 374 IKEA stores in 30 countries around the world. Aerial view of IKEA Baltimore location and Maryland solar car park. Photo courtesy of Distributed Solar Development. Beyond circular Over the years, IKEA has made a number of bold commitments to address the impacts of its operations on the environment, outside of its recent circular economy efforts. In 2018 , for example, the retailer pledged to having electric vehicles complete the last-mile portion of delivery to its customers by 2025.  In IKEA’s 2019 fiscal year, its e-commerce sales grew by 46 percent, according to website for Ingka Group, its parent company. And based on current trends — e-commerce revenues are projected to grow to $6.54 trillion in 2022 from $3.53 trillion in 2019, according to Statista — IKEA’s growth is likely to increase.  Ingka announced in September that it was investing more than $715 million over the next 12 months for IKEA to become ” climate positive” by 2030 , in addition to past investments . “We believe it’s good business to be a good business. Despite the significant challenges we’re facing in the world, we still have it in our own hands to change the direction of the climate crisis. We want to be part of the solution, which is why we will continue to focus our future investments to ensure a cleaner, greener and more inclusive recovery,” said Juvencio Maeztu, deputy CEO and CFO of Ingka, at the time of the announcement. Despite the significant challenges we’re facing in the world, we still have it in our own hands to change the direction of the climate crisis. In recent years, Ingka has invested in companies such as Optoro , a software startup that provides reverse logistics for retailers; RetourMatras, a company that makes it possible to recycle more than 90 percent of the materials in a mattress; and Winnow, a company that has developed an artificial intelligence-enabled food waste tracking solution to help reduce food waste in commercial kitchens. Tangentially related to food, this week, the company announced several food-related commitments . One goal: By 2025, IKEA plans for 50 percent of the meals offered in its restaurants to be plant-based and 80 percent to be non-red meat. Because it touches everything from furnishings to food, IKEA’s reach is wide. And with all the commitments the company has set, it still has a lot of work to do to continue its work as a corporate sustainability leader. “We have a lot of goals by 2030. We have the ambition to be climate positive and fully circular,” Keesson said. “We’re super excited and energized to see how we can continue to make impacts and continue to be this leader.” Pull Quote There are 374 IKEA stores in 30 countries around the world. Despite the significant challenges we’re facing in the world, we still have it in our own hands to change the direction of the climate crisis. Topics Circular Economy Retail IKEA Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off IKEA Baltimore location. Photo courtesy of Distributed Solar Development.

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More pieces of IKEA’s sustainability puzzle come together

Climate change is leading to increased winter drownings

November 24, 2020 by  
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A new study, published in the journal PLoS One , has revealed that there is a significant relationship between increased drownings in the winter and climate change. According to the study, regions that have experienced a sharp increase in average winter temperatures are also experiencing more drownings. The study, which was published last Wednesday, analyzed data collected in 10 countries in the Northern Hemisphere: U.S., Canada, Germany, Sweden, Japan, Italy, Russia, Finland, Latvia and Estonia. Many of the drownings that were studied happened when temperatures were just below freezing point. It was also observed that many increases in drownings occurred in Indigenous communities, where the people depend on the ice for their customs as well as for survival. Related: Danger looms as world’s largest iceberg heads toward a critical wildlife habitat The research showed that those affected by the drownings varied demographically. For instance, the most affected were children under 9 years old followed by teenagers and adults from ages 15 to 39. People who are accustomed to walking on icy landscapes may assume that the ice is stable enough without thinking about recent temperature fluctuations. One of the lead authors of the study, Sapna Sharma, explained that people may not think about how climate change is already impacting their everyday lives. Sharma, who is also an associate professor of biology at York University, said that we no longer have to just think about polar bears when we talk about climate change. The drownings are evidence enough that this crisis can affect anyone in any part of the world. “I think there’s a disconnect between climate change and the local, everyday impacts,” Sharma said. “If you think about climate change in winter, you’re thinking about polar bears and ice sheets, but not about these activities that are just ingrained in our culture.” According to Sharma, colder temperatures can be deceiving, especially at a time when the temperatures keep fluctuating. “It might be minus 20 Celsius today and tomorrow and the weekend, but last week it was 15 Celsius,” Sharma said. “Well, we might have forgotten as individuals that it was warm and sunny last week on a Tuesday, but the ice didn’t forget.” If the temperatures are milder than usual, the ice will not be as thick as one might expect. Robert McLeman, a professor of geography and environmental studies at Wilfrid Laurier, explained, “Milder temperatures mean that the ice is not as thick, or not as solid as it would otherwise be. And so people are going out onto it and not realizing that the ice is rotten.” + PLoS One Via The New York Times Image via Pixabay

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Climate change is leading to increased winter drownings

Prime Roots offers ready-made, plant-based holiday meals

November 17, 2020 by  
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The pandemic is obviously creating many downsides for Thanksgiving this year. But one overlooked upside is that it will be much easier to eat what you really want to for the holidays without judgment. If you’re vegetarian, vegan or just cutting back on animal products, this is the perfect year to experiment with vegan meats without any hassle from the family. Plant-based meat producer Prime Roots is offering some special choices. If you’re craving plant-based versions of traditional foods like garlicky mashed potatoes or balsamic and bacon Brussels sprouts, Prime Roots will send them to you all cooked and ready to reheat. The Prime Roots Turkey Special even has something most vegan turkeys lack: legs. Yep, Prime Roots has fashioned little legs onto your mock bird so it looks much like its traditional meaty cousins. Related: 7 tips for a sustainable Thanksgiving celebration The secret to all Prime Roots’ flavor is koji, a substance sometimes called Japan’s national mold . Even if you’ve never heard of it, you’ve almost surely consumed some. The mold is added to cooked grains like barley or rice, then paired with a second product to become substances such as soy sauce, miso or sake. The result is a satisfying umami flavor. If you’re having a holiday away from your most carnivorous family members, this is the best year to try this. Remember when they were skeptical about that tofu dish you brought to the family party? You really don’t want to explain koji. Although this turkey does look and sound delicious enough to tempt meat-eaters, too. The folks at Prime Roots have a lot of goals, including making the food system more equitable and inclusive, educating people about decreasing their meat consumption and manufacturing nutritious, protein-filled products without the greenhouse gas emissions or cholesterol of real meat . “At Prime Roots, we make meals that matter for our planet, and for our connection to each other and food ,” co-founder Kimberlie Le says on the Prime Roots website. “I hope that one day we’ll be able to feed millions if not billions of people our delicious and sustainable foods. We’ll know that we are successful when every person on the planet has access to clean water and delicious and nutritious foods.” Check out the Prime Roots website for the new, seasonal meals, side dishes and limited-time holiday specials. + Prime Roots Images via Prime Roots

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Prime Roots offers ready-made, plant-based holiday meals

Brussels train station transformed into wooden shopping and event center

November 17, 2020 by  
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The Gare Maritime railway station in Brussels has seen a huge transformation. The building, formerly one of Europe’s largest railway stations for goods, has been renovated into a new city district shopping and event development made of cross-laminated timber. Reimagined as a multi-purpose public space for companies and events, the building is covered entirely in  wood  and highlights sustainable architectural practices such as solar energy and rainwater collection systems. According to the architects at Neutelings Riedijk, the structure is the largest  cross-laminated timber  project in Europe. Architects added a series of 12 new building volumes to accommodate a new program of 45,000 square meters. Along with the existing halls, roofs and side aisles, the new design creates a structure that mimics a small city with streets and parks. Related: Sweden’s tallest timber building could save 550 tons of CO2 The choice of wood came down to sustainability and weight, as a concrete construction would have been five times heavier. Cross-laminated timber with a facade finishing in oak offered the perfect solution to create a prefabricated and dry construction method with shorter building time. As a result, the design features demountable connections and modular wooden building elements to promote sustainability. The central space is reserved for public events and contains a green walking boulevard on both sides. Routes measure 16 meters wide, giving pedestrians plenty of room to enjoy the spacious inner garden complete with a hundred trees. Overall, the space includes a total of 10 gardens based on four themes: woodland, flowers, grass and fragrance. As Brussels enjoys a Mediterranean climate, designers chose plants that adapt to the specific growing conditions. The Gare Maritime also remains completely energy neutral and fossil-free thanks to glass facades and solar cells, with a total area of 17,000 square meters of roof space dedicated to  solar panels . The building uses geothermal energy and a rainwater collection system to water the massive gardens. + Neutelings Riedijk Architects Via ArchDaily Photo: Filip Dujardin/Sarah Blee/Tim Fisher | © Neutelings Riedijk Architects

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Companies in Japan launch edible single-use bags to save Nara deer

October 23, 2020 by  
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Local companies in Nara, Japan have developed single-use bags made from milk cartons and rice bran that are safe if ingested by the city’s iconic deer. In 2019, multiple deer accidentally swallowed trash , namely plastic bags, that were littered by tourists. Several of the deer died, including one that had consumed nearly 9 pounds of waste. This prompted concerned entities to create a safer alternative to plastic packaging that can be digested without harm to the deer. The newly developed bags have been instrumental in saving the lives of the hundreds of deer that roam Nara. The bags are safe for deer, because the milk cartons and rice bran used to make these bags contain easy-to-digest ingredients. While there has been a decline in tourists and their plastic waste during the pandemic, the single-use bags still stand as a positive change to continue into the future. Related: Climate change is killing reindeer in the Arctic Tourists in Nara can purchase treats to feed the deer, and signs are posted warning visitors to only feed the deer approved treats that do not come in plastic packaging. Still, many tourists left behind waste that was consumed by the animals . After hearing of the deer that died from ingesting plastic , Hidetoshi Matsukawa, a local businessman, reached out to other firms with the interest of creating bags and packaging that would be safe in the event that they were eaten by the deer. “We made the paper with the deer in mind,” Matsukawa said. “ Tourism in Nara is supported by deer so we will protect them and promote the bags as a brand for the local economy.” The efforts to market the bags as a safe option for visitors to the city have been fruitful. About 35,000 bags have already been sold to local businesses and Nara’s tourism bureau. Since 1957, Japan has deemed the deer in Nara as national treasures that are protected by law, as they are considered divine messengers in the area. Via The Guardian Image via Matazel

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Companies in Japan launch edible single-use bags to save Nara deer

Design experiment examines safety of food grown in urban vertical gardens

October 23, 2020 by  
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Interior architecture firm Annvil has brought together a team of urban planners, designers, environmentalists and natural scientists to study the interaction between the urban environment and horticulture. The project, called G(U)ARDEN, is a vertical garden experience set in Latvia aimed at exploring the safety of growing food in urban gardens. Urban agriculture has already been proven to reduce air pollution, collect and use runoff, increase productivity of space and aid in urban cooling, but it is still lacking in substantial scientific research in the safety of these plants being used for food. The G(U)ARDEN project will measure the biochemical composition of vegetables and fruits grown in urban environments, especially in places with intense traffic and air pollution.  Related: Snøhetta to revitalize Midtown Manhattan with vibrant garden The primary urban vertical garden of this project is located in Riga, Latvia and is made up of local plants from the city’s horticulture centers and nurseries. Researchers chose to use endemic plants to inspire residents to grow and conserve locally as well as to encourage sustainable and effective urban environmental development discussions. “Today we live in a digital world where everything is instantaneous. In answer to that, we want to stimulate people’s interest in real life — interest in the physical world and in being close to nature,” said Anna Butele, author of project G(U)ARDEN and the founder of Annvil. “We can do that by creating even more green environments in the city — meeting places that bring together different groups of society. This way we can also bring attention to neglected environments in the city.” The pilot program has started with the team studying the garden’s vegetable and fruit harvest in a scientific laboratory. Crops are measured for the presence of heavy metals, while the air and water is measured for microbiological composition to help identify all possible risk factors associated with the impact of the urban environment on edible plants . The data obtained from the experiment will aid in continued projects to help create a series of urban gardens in Latvia’s largest cities next year. + Annvil Photography by Ingus Baj?rs via Annvil

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Design experiment examines safety of food grown in urban vertical gardens

Tiny mobile dwelling celebrates local Shinshu larch in Japan

October 9, 2020 by  
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In only three months, eco-conscious Japanese architect  Tono Mirai  crafted a charming tiny timber structure that can be moved by truck. Dubbed the Red Container, the compact building was primarily designed as an exercise to promote Shinshu larch, a beautiful local larch species in the Saku area of Japan’s  Nagano Prefecture that had long been overlooked because of its tendency to warp and twist. However, due to advancements in drying technology, says Mirai, Shinshu larch can now easily work in construction projects — as demonstrated by the stunning Red Container project. Designed over the course of half a year and constructed in just three months, the minimalist Red Container dwelling can be moved by a four-ton truck. The prototype building, which measures just under 10 square meters (107 square feet), can adapt to a variety of functions, from a small mobile store to a  tiny house , and can be custom made to order. The working prototype includes electricity, light fixtures and air conditioning, while its large operable windows facilitate natural ventilation.  Larch  features prominently in the build — the project name is a nod to the natural reddish tones found in Shinshu larch — and shows up in the structural frame’s beams and columns as well as the walls, eaves and furnishings. The wood is left exposed so that users can appreciate the natural grain and craftsmanship from the local carpenter who used local, traditional methods to construct the timber interior.  Related: This rammed earth passive house in Japan is shaped like a shell “In addition, a new blue larch that tends to give a dark and smooth impression, I tried a different expression such as blue material (color change material due to fungi) that is not normally used as the floor material, and 30 mm wideness larch material with unevenness is used to the inner wall,” Mirai explained in a statement. He also added an accent wall to the interior built of  clay  sourced from the local Kita-Aika village in Nagano. A twisted asphalt shingle roof tops off the building. + Tono Mirai Photos by takeshi noguchi

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Tiny mobile dwelling celebrates local Shinshu larch in Japan

This unisex T-shirt is naturally dyed with Japanese cherry blossoms

December 30, 2019 by  
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Acutely aware of the massive waste in the textile industry, material development company PANGAIA (pronounced Pan-guy-ya) uses plants to make natural fabric dyes, skipping the need for harsh, synthetic additives. One of these natural dyes is sourced from the petals of the Japanese Sakura tree, which only blooms for a few days each year. The result is a gorgeous, light pink T-shirt made from organic cotton and dyed from the discarded cherry blossoms. Dozens of varieties of these cherry trees supply petals for specialty Japanese cherry blossom teas. These specially bred trees provide large quantities of blossoms that fall naturally following the brief annual bloom. Only petals that have already dropped are collected during this time, called sakura fubuki. The trees are never cut or harvested during the process. Related: Collection of plant-based shirts raise awareness of endangered species PANGAIA works in conjunction with the tea companies in Nagoya, Japan to collect the blossoms they reject. This gives the unwanted petals new life. In the lab, the petals are converted into a pink dye with bioengineering that uses no chemicals in the process. The waste- and chemical-free dye is then used to color the Sakura T-shirt, one of many clothing products the company has designed using natural or recycled products . The non-toxic, natural dye provides a subtle pink hue that enhances the GOTS certified organic cotton material. The Sakura T-shirt is made with a relaxed unisex design. The shirt is currently available for $85 and will be sent in biodegradable packaging. Similar products are available as part of the botanical dye T-shirt line, all of which are colored from dyes created from food waste and natural resources. Plants, fruits and vegetables are sourced to achieve the rich tones. PANGAIA reports its “supplier dyes textiles in a way that uses less water, is non-toxic and biodegradable.” To ensure transparency throughout the manufacturing process, each garment tag includes blockchain technology that shows the full history of the garment. A blockchain cannot be altered and provides a record of each stage of the journey, with complete traceability and authenticity. + PANGAIA Images via PANGAIA

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This unisex T-shirt is naturally dyed with Japanese cherry blossoms

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

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