Applying rock dust to farms could boost carbon sequestration

July 10, 2020 by  
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A report in the journal Nature has revealed that enhanced rock weathering (ERW) could help slow climate change by sucking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This process involves spreading rock dust on farmland to help absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide. When rocks, such as basalt and other silicates, are crushed and added to the soil, they dissolve and react with carbon dioxide, forming carbonates and lock carbon dioxide. Although this is the first time that scientists are proposing this approach in dealing with carbon dioxide, it is not a new concept. Normally, farmers use limestone dust on the soil to reduce acidification. The use of limestone in agriculture helps enhance yield. If the proposed enhanced rock weathering technique is adopted, farmers could incorporate other types of rock dust on their land. Related: Eos Bioreactor uses AI and algae to combat climate change According to the study, this approach could help capture up to 2 billion metric tons of CO2 each year. This is equal to the combined emissions of Germany and Japan. Interestingly, this technique is much cheaper than conventional methods of carbon capturing. The scientists behind the study say that the cost of capturing a ton of CO2 could be as low as $55 in countries such as India, China, Mexico, Indonesia and Brazil. For the U.S., Canada and Europe, the cost of capturing one metric ton of CO2 with ERW would be about $160. The scientists propose using basalt as the optimal rock for ERW. Given that basalt is already produced in most mines as a byproduct, adding it to farmland soils can easily be instituted. Further, the countries that contribute the highest amounts of carbon dioxide are the best candidates for the ERW technique. Countries such as China, India and the U.S. have large farmlands that can be used to capture excess CO2 from the atmosphere. Given that carbon emissions are a big problem for the entire world, this technique might just be the light at the end of the tunnel. The enhanced rock weathering technique is affordable and practical, making it a win-win. + Nature Via The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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PICO microgarden lets you grow anywhere from home to car

April 22, 2020 by  
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Indoor gardening offers all the same benefits as a garden in the ground outside. Namely, fresh food and a  low environmental impact . But not everyone has the natural space for a garden, which is where indoor planting comes in for the win. While there are many systems and techniques you can implement inside the home, PICO stands out as a versatile option that you can place anywhere and still achieve growing success.  Most plants need to be located near a window for light. Often this means taking up limited tabletop or bookcase space. PICO is different because, while setting it on a tabletop is an option, it will also mount to vertical surfaces. In fact, it comes with a magnetic mount, which could be used on a refrigerator or desk, plus a standard wall mount and Velcro option for mounting to windows, mirrors and other surfaces. There are also three color options to match nearly any decor. The unit comes fully assembled. All you have to do is add a bit of soil and a few of your favorite seeds. There is no membership or seed pod to purchase. Watering is stable and consistent with a water reservoir and easy fill spout. A transparent window in the front allows you to easily see when more water is needed, typically about once each week. From there, the system automatically wicks water from the reservoir through the soil, using an on-demand system that replenishes moisture as the soil dries out.  With location and watering figured out, the last major component for successful indoor growth is proper lighting. PICO is equipped with a multi-spectrum growing light that conveniently extends from the compact planter design. As your plant grows, the light extends up to one foot higher for consistent light.  PICO is the newest addition to the  urban gardening product line from Altifarm Enverde, the company that previously released two larger versions of in-home garden systems. While PICO is not intended to provide high quantities of food, it’s automatic functions and placement versatility make it an option for growing readily available herbs, visually pleasing succulents, or fragrant mini roses. PICO is currently trending on a Kickstarter campaign that will close on May 17th. Shipments are expected immediately following the end of the campaign.  + Altifarm Enverde  Images via Altifarm Enverde

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PICO microgarden lets you grow anywhere from home to car

6 ways to save energy while sheltering in place

April 21, 2020 by  
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Now that millions of Americans are isolated in their homes, everyone is using more energy during off-peak hours. Americans are getting more concerned with paying their growing electricity bills. Combined with the obvious environmental tolls of changing and increased at-home energy usage, paying a larger bill during times of economic uncertainty is enough to weigh on anyone’s heightened nerves. Inhabitat has rounded up some tips and tricks to help readers save energy (and money) at home during this time. The good news is that energy usage outside the home is at a 16-year low in the United States. The novel coronavirus has caused a huge drop in energy consumption throughout the country since stay-at-home measures have been implemented. Entire businesses have shut down, and most industrial activity has come to a grinding halt. According to the World Economic Forum , the demand for electricity fell by 5.7% from the week of April 14, 2020 compared to the same week in 2019 — the lowest since 2004. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projected that the combination of this economic slowdown and ongoing stay-at-home orders would help further reduce electricity and natural gas consumption in the coming months as well. The administration expects power consumption in the country to decline by 3% in 2020 before rising 1% in 2021. Related: How to volunteer during COVID-19 Still, while you are at home, you can further reduce energy consumption and minimize your energy bill by following these simple tips. Utilize natural light and open windows This pandemic is coming at a time of unpredictable spring weather. Some places around the country are beginning to warm up, but others are still feeling the effects of a longer winter with cold, rain and even snow. Something as simple as letting the light in during sunny days can not only raise your spirits but also lower your energy bill. If it is warm enough, open the windows to bring in fresh air. Even simply opening the blinds or curtains provides natural light, which is essential for working and your mental health. Daylighting also negates the need for artificial energy-using overhead lights or desk lamps. Swap electronics for creative activities It is easy to spend hours binging a new TV series or get sucked into playing video games when you’re stuck at home all day. Give your eyes a rest by swapping your nightly TV marathon for non-electrical activities such as reading, drawing or solving puzzles. It is no secret that our phones and computers are most people’s only link to the outside world right now, so start small with a couple of hours a day without electronics, adopt no-tech days or practice phone-free Sundays. Check in with your thermostat With more people staying at home 24/7, thermostats that are usually lowered or even switched off while everyone is normally at work or school are now running at higher capacities for longer amounts of time. Don’t forget to check in with yourself and adjust the thermostat accordingly. Fluctuations in temperature during this season mean that a smart thermostat could particularly come in handy, as it can learn your home’s heating and cooling patterns. Smart thermostats have the ability to adjust the temperature automatically instead of manually, so you will have a more optimal at-home climate as well as a reduced electricity bill. Only plug in devices when needed According to the U.S. Department of Energy, standby power from electronic devices accounts for about $100 of the average American’s electricity bill each year. If you’re working from home, chances are you’ve borrowed computers, printers, scanners or phones from your work office to make the transition to remote employment a bit easier. If you’ve become unemployed, you may be spending more time catching up on your favorite shows or surfing the internet, or maybe school closures have led to full-time homeschooling. Regardless, that means there are more devices plugged into your home’s outlets than there were a few months ago, and they are all consuming power even when they are not being used or are on standby. Be mindful of unplugging as much as you can at the end of your remote work or school day. You might consider investing in a smart power strip or two around the house, which can help you pick and choose which items to keep on or make it easier to turn everything off when not in use. Turn off the lights in unused rooms This may seem obvious, but the simple act of turning off lights in empty rooms does wonders for your electricity bill. Switching off the lights whenever possible will extend the life of your lightbulbs , too. If you’re not used to hitting the light switch whenever you leave the room, take this time to be more mindful of it. It is good practice for the future! Practice an energy-efficient laundry routine Household appliances make up a massive portion of energy use in American households. Remember to wait until your washing machine or dishwasher is full before running it — your washer will use almost the same amount of energy no matter the size of the load. Wool dryer balls help separate clothes, absorb moisture cut drying time and reduce static (no need for dryer sheets). While using cold water in your washing machine saves the largest amount of energy, even using warm water instead of hot water can cut energy use in half. Plus, you will not only save energy, but also detergent, dish washing soap and time! If the weather is nice, consider hanging laundry on a line outside to dry. Via Consumer Energy Alliance and Energy.gov Images via Pixabay and Unsplash

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Wedge-shaped Sideyard champions CLT construction

April 21, 2020 by  
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When Portland, Oregon reconfigured the roadways in the Central Eastside community, a 20,000-square-foot berm space was leftover from the move. To make the most of the small and oddly shaped site, Key Development teamed up with local architecture firm Skylab and Andersen Construction to use cross laminated timber (CLT) in the construction of Sideyard, a mixed-use development. The CLT components were prefabricated in a factory and then transported on-site for final assembly, a modular process that streamlined the building process and boasts environmental benefits. Located on a busy intersection next to the YARD apartments, the 23,202-square-foot Sideyard comprises a mix of retail and offices across five floors with retail located on the ground floor and workspaces placed on the top levels. Conceived as a “working class” building and gateway to the Portland Eastside community, Sideyard also emphasizes public transportation connectivity as well as pedestrian and bicycle accessibility, which has been enhanced with the addition of a ground-floor bike bar and pedestrian-friendly plaza extended from the city sidewalk. A pedestrian stair has also been integrated down from the Burnside Bridge level to Third Avenue. Related: First CLT Passive House project in Boston breaks ground The use of cross-laminated timber was critical to the project’s success. Because of the site’s tight footprint, construction materials could not be stored on-site for long; the modularity of the CLT panels and glulam members allowed for quick assembly of the building atop a post-tensioned concrete foundation. The interior features an industrial feel thanks to exposed concrete and timber throughout, while floor-to-ceiling glazing creates a constant connection with the surrounding neighborhood. “Cross-laminated timber is a new and sustainable building material that celebrates the inherent structural qualities of wood,” said Jill Asselineau, project director for Skylab Architecture. “This material was championed by the general contractor for its regional relevance, availability and simplicity of assemblage. Employing this mass timber system saved on both time and labor expenses. The project also used mass plywood for the interior stair structure, landings and treads. This project is one of the first to employ and elegantly demonstrate the potential of this wood product.” + Skylab Architecture Photography by Stephen Miller via Skylab Architecture

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Wedge-shaped Sideyard champions CLT construction

These adorable fish lamps raise awareness of plastic pollution

April 2, 2020 by  
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Single-use plastics are everywhere. No matter how small they are, these plastics often end up in either landfills or the oceans , taking hundreds of years to decompose. When Heliograf designers Jeffrey Simpson and Angus Ware realized just how many single-use soy sauce packets went into a single sushi meal, the idea for Light Soy lamps was born. In Japan, a packet containing one single serving of soy sauce often comes in the shape of a small fish made of polyethylene. Similar to plastic straws and other single-use plastics, the packets are too small to be easily recycled . The irony that these single-use plastic containers created to look like fish would later become ocean pollution with the potential to harm marine life was not lost on the designers. Related: This lamp is a work of art that cleans the air Heliograf decided to find a fun way to highlight this issue, creating something both beautiful and functional. The resulting design took about three years to develop, including two years that the designers spent learning how to perfect the glass-blowing technique. Light Soy is a borosilicate glass lamp in the same shape as the iconic, fish-shaped soy sauce packets that have been used in Japan since the 1950s. It features an energy-efficient LED light and powder-coated aluminium accessories, with a frosted glass design that creates a soft glow when illuminated. There are two models available: The Light Soy Table Lamp and the Light Soy Pendant Light. The table lamp is portable and USB-C rechargeable with an aluminum base and a touch-controlled dimming feature, and the pendant version comes with a bespoke aluminium ceiling canopy. The modular components in the lamp make it simple to either repair or replace individual parts as needed.  The lamp packaging is free of plastics; it is made using a recyclable and biodegradable bagasse sugarcane pulp and cardboard. To negate the need for a plastic carrying bag, the packaging also comes equipped with a cotton cord as a handle. Heliograf is a member of 1% For the Planet, with 1% of the Sydney-based design studio’s revenue going toward nonprofits aimed at preventing plastic pollution from entering our oceans. + Heliograf Photography by Daniel Hermann-Zoll via Heliograf

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These adorable fish lamps raise awareness of plastic pollution

Fully circular office can be sustainably demounted and rebuilt in weeks

April 2, 2020 by  
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In its latest example of circular construction, Dutch architecture firm cepezed has completed Building D(emountable), a modern structure that can be fully demounted and is currently located in the heart of Delft. Designed as a building kit of prefabricated parts, the office raises the bar for sustainable architecture in the Netherlands, which aims to make all construction activities fully circular by 2050. Building D(emountable) was created as part of an office complex mostly housed in historic buildings on a centrally located site that cepezed purchased from Delft University of Technology in 2012. Over the years, the architecture firm repurposed the existing historic buildings into offices; however, it opted to demolish the site’s single non-historic structure due to its poor condition and to make way for new construction. Completed in late 2019, Building D(emountable) provides a modern counterpart to its historic neighbors. The building houses office space; the current tenants are app and website developer 9to5 Software and game developer Triumph Studios. Related: Amsterdam’s new circular archives building sustainably generates all of its own energy “Building D(emountable) has exactly the same footprint as the existing building that was no longer good and was demolished,” cepezed said of the four-story building, which encompasses nearly 1,000 square meters. “In addition to being demountable and remountable, the structure is also super lightweight: the use of materials is kept to an absolute minimum. The building is also completely flexible in its arrangement, has no gas connection and is equipped with heat recovery .” Apart from the concrete ground floor, all of the building components are modular and dry-mounted to allow for speedy construction, which takes a little over six months. The building structure — from the steel skeleton to the lightweight Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) floors — was assembled onsite in just three weeks. Double-glazed panels were mounted directly onto the steel structure to create walls of glazing that give the building the appearance of a large, glass cube. + cepezed Photography by Lucas van der Wee via cepezed

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Fully circular office can be sustainably demounted and rebuilt in weeks

This lamp is a work of art that cleans the air

February 28, 2020 by  
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The Guilin Lamp-scape by SUGO uses photocatalysis technology to clean and circulate the air you breathe, eliminating 99.9% of all bacteria, such as salmonella and E. Coli, as well as impurities including carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, formaldehyde, mold and odor particles. This lamp-meets-air purifier also gives off an artsy, ambient glow that can be altered to the user’s preferences. To top it all off, the Guilin Lamp-scape is made from recyclable materials. Low-voltage LED light shines through the rectangular, structural steel base of the lamp, bouncing off acrylic mountains made from 40% recycled plastic. The mountains are fashioned out of 5mm thick, glass fiber-reinforced photocatalytic panels placed inside three slots in the base. Switch the light on, and the acrylic mountains will absorb the illumination into laser-engraved lines. While it is designed to last, the entire lamp is 100% recyclable, and the paint covering the base is VOC-free . Related: This lovely lampshade is made from cabbage Consumers can shift the mountains to create unique landscapes that reflect their personal styles. More mountains can also be added to create different brightening effects, making the lamp both functional and customizable. The company suggests placing the “lamp-scape” on a reflective surface, so it resembles the feeling of looking at a mountain range behind a glossy lake. In addition to the classic Guilin, the company has also unveiled an upgraded model called the Guilin Dawn, which uses Italian nano-tech material to transition the lamp from a lit sunset palette to near-transparency when it is turned off. SUGO founders Kevin Chu and Giulia DiBonaventura got the idea for the lamp on a trip to the Guilin Mountains in northeastern China, where they became mesmerized by the scenery and felt compelled to pay tribute to the experience in some way. Their products are exclusively made in factories with low quantity production that follow international environmental regulation and worker’s rights unions. The Guilin Lamp-scape recently moved to INDIEGOGO In-Demand crowdfunding as well as a Shopify store for its remaining items and future purchases. + Guilin Lamp-scape Via Yanko Design Images via SUGO

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This lamp is a work of art that cleans the air

This dynamic parking garage doubles as a public sculpture

January 13, 2020 by  
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In Denmark’s fourth-largest city of Aalborg, Copenhagen-based architecture firm Sangberg has designed a deceptively simple parking garage that offers much more than parking spaces. Dubbed the Parking House G2, the monolithic building features a dynamic and lightweight facade of extruded aluminum slats that “animates itself” in different ways depending on how and from where it’s viewed. The aluminum slats of the playful graphic facade were also engineered with reusability in mind and to encourage the growth of habitat for birds and insects.  Located in a part of Aalborg that’s currently being transformed from an industrial harbor to a new multi-use neighborhood, the Parking House G2 references the industrial heritage of its surroundings with its monolithic aluminum construction, while injecting new life with its sculptural appearance. “Whether you’re driving by in a car or you’re passing by as a pedestrian, your experience will differ as the facade animates itself in accordance to the speed travelled,” the architects said on the Sangberg blog . “The expression also changes whether it is viewed nearby or far away, from straight on or from the side – and with the light conditions and seasons.” The building’s facade gets its dynamic characteristics from the subtle variations in the profiles of the light gray aluminum slats that surround the concrete frame like a piece of cloth. In addition to creating a textural expression, the angled slats are spaced apart to let natural light and ventilation into the building. The facade also provides opportunities for greenery to take hold, a feature that was inspired by the master plan for the area that includes a green buffer zone along Nyhavnsgade, a major thoroughfare near the harbor. Related: Denmark’s first timber parking garage will be enveloped in greenery Completed over two years, the 15,200-square-meter building includes 590 parking spaces. The aluminum facade can be easily disassembled and recycled for use in other building projects. Its compact build, sustainable design, and its playful facade earned the project an Aalborg Municipality building award.  + Sangberg Images by Ramus Hjortshøj – COAST Studio

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This dynamic parking garage doubles as a public sculpture

This lovely lampshade is made from cabbage

January 10, 2020 by  
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Lighting can set the tone of a room, so a lamp with a natural and compostable lampshade can create a cozy, gorgeous and sustainable setting. In a partnership between Indian designer Vaidehi Thakkar and London-based Nir Meiri Studio, Veggie Lights are just that — lampshades made out of red cabbage leaves that lend a warm glow to any space. A testament to the duo’s dedication to exploring and highlighting sustainable options, Veggie Lights offer a useful and elegant decor option straight from the garden. To create the lampshades, Thakkar developed the process of converting vegetables into a paper-like substance called Fiber Flats. Meiri joined the project with a passion for using organic materials, as seen from previous successes in using both mycelium and seaweed to make lampshades. Related: Algae Lamps are a work of art and natural shade in one Each lampshade in the Veggie Lights line is unique, a result of the natural variations in the leaves. Cabbage leaves may not be in the spotlight for intrinsic beauty, but through the process of separating the leaves and soaking them in a water-based color preservative, the originality of each leaf begins to shine through. The leaves are then shaped and left to dry in high temperatures, so all of the moisture evaporates. At this point, the leaves are either left unfinished, or the edges are trimmed and contoured into a gentle downward curve. The design of Veggie Lights places the bulb and electrical parts in a simple and streamlined base. This allows the light to shine upward into the shade, illuminating the natural veins and color variations in the cabbage leaf. Because the lampshades are naturally biodegradable, they will age and are meant to eventually be replaced. However, the base is long-lasting, so you can replace the shade at the end of its life for a refreshed look without producing waste . + Nir Meiri Studio + Vaidehi Thakkar Via Dezeen Image via Nir Meiri Studios

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This lovely lampshade is made from cabbage

Have an eco-friendly Halloween and aim for zero-waste this October

October 28, 2019 by  
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Holidays and celebrations can take a toll on the environment. Between waste and consumption, Halloween festivities leave behind a giant carbon footprint. But with a little purposeful planning, your holiday can be fun and eco-friendly at the same time.  Go plastic free Obviously plastic is problematic for the planet from the petroleum used in production to the lack of sustainable disposal options. With some foresight you can mostly avoid plastic in favor of alternatives. For costumes, shop local or make your own so you can see plastic parts and avoid shipping packaging. Make costumes from natural fibers such as organic cotton or hemp. Use accessories of metal or wood. Swap out plastic trick-or-treat buckets with pillow cases or reusable shopping bags. Related: Light your pumpkins the EEK-o-friendly way this Halloween Multi-purpose decor One way to cut back on the “stuff” you accumulate for the holiday is to think seasonally. Focus on decor that can serve throughout the fall season rather than just until Halloween. Hay bales, corn stocks, pumpkins, gourds and potted plants create a welcoming display at the front door that is both sustainable and inviting well past Thanksgiving. Inside the home, target the classic sights, sounds and smells of fall with pumpkin spice candles, reflective glass displays and wreaths from burlap, straw or herbs. Organic plant-based food Holidays are for celebrating with friends and Halloween is the perfect time to invite your favorite witches and demons over for a party. Since it’s always in season to be nice to the planet, plan your party around organic (no pesticides and other toxins in the water and soil), plant-based (sans the carbon footprint of meat production) food . Make taco dip with tortilla headstones, adorable pumpkin cookies, a veggie platter in the shape of a skeleton or individual spider pizzas. Save gas Reducing gas consumption avoids the need for more oil drilling and limits your contribution to air pollution. Pick up your party supplies in advance when you are already running other errands to avoid extra trips to the store. Also, stay in your neighborhood for trick or treating if possible. Zero waste Aim for zero waste during Halloween as a challenge to yourself and your family. Work together to brainstorm ways to keep trash from taking over the holiday. Using the real plates and utensils is a great start, but you can avoid the need for dinnerware altogether by creating a menu consisting only of finger foods. Drag out the cloth napkins, too. Avoid throwing out your costume at the end of the holiday by using recyclable materials such as cardboard or save the outfit for another occasion. Be sure to donate or resell when it’s time for the final goodbye. Go second hand If Halloween is really your season to shine and you enjoy widespread decorating, spend some time at the local thrift shop where holiday decor comes in year-round. While you might still end up with non eco-friendly materials like plastic , giving those items a second life keeps them out of landfills. This is also true for costumes, lawn decorations and clothing. Tricks and treats Candy has become an integral part of the holiday and you can enjoy a treat without contributing to wasteful consumption. Start by setting a reasonable limit. While it’s fun to be out with the kids on Halloween, the treats they gather shouldn’t last until Valentine’s Day. There’s not much you can do about the plastic you’ll acquire during your trip around the neighborhood, but you can do your part when it comes to making a conscience choice about what you hand out at your door. Shop from fair trade companies and look for sustainable packaging. Also consider non-candy items or offer up a trick instead. Cut the electric bill You can enjoy your party without a spike in electrical use by making a few simple changes. Skip the TV shows and music and consider cutting the electricity all together. Halloween is the perfect occasion to take the party outside to celebrate around a wood fire under the stars and the harvest moon. Drop some submersible LED lights in the bottom of the apple dunk barrel and use solar lights to create paths or designate gathering areas. If the weather in your area isn’t cooperating with a nature party, bring it inside for a blackout party instead. Grab the solar lights from the yard and further illuminate the space with beeswax candles displayed on reflective metal or glass plates. For entertainment, share spooky stories and explain the history of the holiday to the younger generations.  Halloween is a ghoulishly fun holiday, but it doesn’t have to have a gastly impact on the planet. Set an example for your kids, guests and neighbors with thoughtful decor, costumes and party ideas that just may inspire them to make Halloween a real treat for the planet, too. Images via Shutterstock

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