Plastic pollution is causing reproductive problems for ocean wildlife

March 5, 2019 by  
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Plastic pollution is becoming a major problem for ocean wildlife. Organisms that ingest plastics are subject to hormone disruption and issues with reproduction that affect their overall health, a new study finds . Wildlife around the world is exposed to plastic pollutants called endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Not much is known about how these chemicals affect marine environments, though scientists have been studying them for years. According to The Guardian , killer whales, for instance, have been found with large amounts of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in their systems. These chemicals were a common ingredient in plastic products until a global ban in 2004. Scientists monitored a group of killer whales on Scotland’s coast and found PCBs in their system. This pod did not have any children over the course of the 25-year study. Related: Toxic bacteria found in microplastics on 3 different coastlines around Singapore Scientists estimate that the population of orcas around the world will be cut in half over the next 100 years because of high levels of PCBs in marine environments. Although these chemicals have been banned, they still reach the ocean via landfills and other waste sites. Marine life is susceptible to PCBs because of the amount of fat in their tissues, which absorbs the toxic chemicals at a high rate. “We are looking at the possible exposure [of marine life] and evidence of toxicity is still developing,” the Zoological Society of London’s Paul Jepson explained. Once whales have ingested these harmful chemicals, they pass them on to their offspring through the production of milk and extended lactation periods. The cycle is then repeated until the levels of PCBs reach a point where they affect reproduction. Some orcas have been discovered with more than 100 times the safety limit of PCBs, which build up in their lipid tissues. Although EDCs clearly have a negative impact on wildlife , the overall effects of these chemicals remain unknown. Researchers also have not studied how EDCs affect human populations. Scientists believe more research is needed to determine exactly why these harmful substances found in plastic pollution are affecting reproduction systems in ocean wildlife. Via The Guardian Image via Mike Charest

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Plastic pollution is causing reproductive problems for ocean wildlife

The Refill Shoppe enforces zero-waste packaging, provides bulk refill solutions for myriad household and beauty products

March 5, 2019 by  
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With the nearly constant conversation about zero waste and minimization in general, single use packaging is a hot topic. For many consumables, customers don’t seem to have many options in avoiding packaging waste. Think about the liquid products in your home and you’ll know what we’re talking about here. Shampoo bottles, hand soap containers, dish soap, cleaners, bubble bath and massage oils are just a few commonly-used items that come to mind. One company has taken a stand against single-use packaging and now provides a refill service so you can use your favorite containers again and again…and again, without the waste of individual bottles. The Refill Shoppe opened their flagship store in Ventura, California in 2010 with the idea that customers should have a place to refill regularly-used products. Think of it as a bulk section for household liquids. The founder, Michelle Stevens admits that she wasn’t sure people would buy into the business model. After all, it was a relatively new idea in this era of convenient consumables. But it didn’t take long for people to find out about the business and begin frequenting the location. Related: Oregon initiates first modern statewide refillable glass bottle system in the US The idea took off and now the company offers an online, mail-order options so you can order refills from the comfort of your home, even if you don’t live near the store. The process is as simple as any other form of online shopping. After scouring the website, customers choose the products they want and select their favorite scents. Up to six scents can be combined for variety. If you don’t already have an adorable bottle that you’re looking to refill , you can choose one from the site. Otherwise, you order will be refill pouches filled with your favorite product. Whether you bring your own container into the store or request a mail order, all ingredients are charged by the ounce. In-store, you can even bring a partially-full bottle . You simply weigh it with the contents before adding more and then weigh it again to calculate the amount of product you’re buying. For mail order, all per-ounce prices are listed on the site. Shipping fees are a flat rate $7 or free for orders over $100 throughout the continental U.S. They also ship to Hawaii, Alaska, Canada and Mexico for an additional charge. The website offers hundreds of products you likely use daily. Bathing and beauty products include face wash, shampoo, scrubs, salts and lotions, but they also offer sponges, brushes and mitts to apply the products. For the home you can find dishwashing liquids, laundry products and even yoga mat sanitizer, alongside reusable containers and other zero-waste products. They also stock cleaning products and eco-friendly supplies like wool dryer balls and burlap gift wrap. They even have men’s care, perfume and baby products. The Refill Shoppe realizes that no business model is perfect for the environment but they focus on doing everything they can to operate with a low-carbon footprint . All refill pouches are reusable , so after you’ve emptied the contents into your favorite container at home, simply drop it back into the pre-paid envelope and send it back, where it is sterilized and refilled for the next customer. All packing materials are reused and they try to use paper products exclusively. For packaging glass bottles, however,  they do employ pre-used bubble wrap. Because transportation emissions are a major eco-no-no in general, the company relies on USPS in an effort to deliver using regular, already-traveled routes. This avoids sending trucks out on special routes that increase emissions . Another way the company reduces transportation issues is with domestic production. With the exception of Himalayan bath salts, all items are produced in the United States. Related: Some of the largest manufacturers are going green with the milkman model   In addition to reducing waste, the company aims to provide products that are eco-friendly , cruelty-free, mostly vegan (with the exception of honey and beeswax in a few products), mostly gluten free, although items are manufactured in a facility that handles gluten, 99.7 percent GMO free, and proudly void of a host of toxins commonly used in other cleaners and beauty products. For their efforts, The Refill Shoppe has passed the qualifications to become a Certified B Corporation. This stamp of approval means they’ve passed rigorous standards of environmental and social responsibility up and down the supply and customer chain. In fact, the company has been recognized with awards and accolades by many notable agencies such as the Ventura County Reporter, Ventura County Board of Supervisors, California Air Resources Board, State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and the California Resource Recovery Association. In a country a long way from leading the planet in sustainable practices, companies like The Refill Shoppe not only offer an alternative for those aiming to live more sustainably, but also bring awareness to an industry currently guilty of significant plastic waste . + The Refill Shoppe Images via The Refill Shoppe

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The Refill Shoppe enforces zero-waste packaging, provides bulk refill solutions for myriad household and beauty products

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

UK’s Guardian switches to biodegradable wrapping for newspapers

January 17, 2019 by  
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The Guardian — a national newspaper in the U.K. — has ditched its polythene packaging and replaced it with a compostable wrapper in an effort to reduce plastic waste. The newspaper and its inserts are now packaged in a clear, biodegradable material made from potato starch that will completely compost in just six months. The choice to scrap the plastic packaging makes The Guardian the first national newspaper in the U.K. to make such a switch, following publications like the National Trust members’ magazine and the New Internationalist. The switch to biodegradable packing will increase the paper’s production costs, so the price of print editions of The Guardian and its sister paper The Observer will go up. However, this is what their customers wanted. The weekday edition will rise in cost by 20p, and the Saturday edition will increase 30p. The Observer will also go up 20p. Related: UK’s Co-op to ditch single-use plastic bags for biodegradable bags This past weekend, The Guardian subscribers in London, Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk received the new packaging with their Sunday edition. The newspaper will gradually implement the packaging change across the entire country over the next few months. Guardian to be first national newspaper with biodegradable wrapping https://t.co/Yh88bMEXXD — The Guardian (@guardian) January 11, 2019 Readers in the Greater London area who use The Guardian’s home delivery service will also receive their weekday editions in the potato starch packaging. Related: 100% biodegradable, edible packaging is so much better than plastic The new biodegradable packaging on The Guardian includes instructions for customers to not to recycle the material but to instead dispose of it on a compost heap or in a food waste bin. + The Guardian Via Dezeen Image via Andrys

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UK’s Guardian switches to biodegradable wrapping for newspapers

Solar-powered floating hotel room is designed to pop up anywhere on water

January 17, 2019 by  
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Valencia-based architecture firm Mano De Santo has proposed a plug-and-play hotel room that could be easily transported and installed thanks to its modular, off-grid design. Dubbed the Punta de Mar Marina Lodge, the conceptual floating pavilion is a sustainable tourism initiative that targets low environmental impact. Powered with solar energy , the Punta de Mar Marina Lodge would offer a private and luxurious experience on the water for two. Unveiled last year, the Punta de Mar Marina Lodge is envisioned to house two levels spanning a total of 74 square meters in size. The ground floor — approximately 40 square meters — includes a small front terrace that opens to the bedroom, which overlooks views of the water through full-height glazing. The bathroom, technical equipment and storage are tucked in a unit behind the bed, while a small outdoor terrace is located in the rear. Guests can also enjoy access to the roof, where an open-air lounge with seating is located. “Punta de Mar is a sustainable tourism initiative, since it does not generate waste because it is an installation of modules whose system is the ‘Plug & Go,’” the architects said in a project statement. The team also explained that the unit is integrated into its environment with low impact. The hotel can be easily relocated — it can be transported by land or sea — and can be enjoyed in an array of different settings for “unique and exclusive experiences.” Related: This modular outdoor swimming pool from Finland could make a splash near you In addition to the off-site prefabrication of the unit that minimizes waste, the Punta de Mar Marine Lodge was designed to follow passive solar principles to reduce energy usage. Moreover, the indoor temperature, lighting, alarm system and entertainment system can all be controlled remotely via the guests’ smartphones. + Mano De Santo Via ArchDaily Photography by Sergio Belinchon via Mano De Santo

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Solar-powered floating hotel room is designed to pop up anywhere on water

A London office boasts biophilic design for a healthier, happier workplace

November 12, 2018 by  
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A new experimental office on the 12th floor of The Shard in London offers a breath of fresh air … literally. Wrapped in bamboo surfaces and punctuated by living plants, facilities management company Mitie’s headquarters in London was created by local practice DaeWha Kang Design . The biophilic project — dubbed the Living Lab at The Shard — mimics nature from its natural materials palette to the circadian lighting system linked to an astronomical clock. As its name suggests, the Living Lab at The Shard will be used as a pilot study to measure the impact of biophilic design on worker wellness and productivity. In addition to the client, the project was created in collaboration with Dr. Marcella Ucci (head of the MSc in Health, Wellbeing and Sustainable Buildings at the University College of London). A post-occupancy study will compare daily surveys of Mitie employees who will work at the Living Lab desks for four weeks at a time followed by a four-week work period in a “control area” on the same floor with similar environmental conditions but without biophilic design. “Biophilia refers to human beings’ innate need for a connection with nature,” DaeWha Kang Design said in its press release. “Human physiology is wired to seek qualities of light, view, material and other factors common in the natural world. The Living Lab is fully immersive, with rich and intricate patternization, natural materials  and interactive and dynamic lighting.” Related: This dreamy cluster of cabins houses light-filled live/work spaces in Hokkaido The project comprises two main spaces: the “Living Lab” immersive work environment and two “Regeneration Pods” for short-term rest and meditation. Bamboo was used for the sculptural privacy screens that curve up at the ceiling; different textures and shades of bamboo were also used for the floor, desks and task lights providing a warm contrast to The Shard’s cool glass-and-metal palette. The Regeneration Pods, also built of bamboo, were created by combining digital fabrication with hand-finishing techniques and feature plush built-in seating that faces walls of glass for city views. A subtle circadian lighting system uses color-changing lights to mimic the sun — a cool blue is cast in the morning that changes to bright white in the afternoon and finally reaches a fiery orange near sunset. + DaeWha Kang Design Images by Tom Donald for Aldworth James & Bond and Kyungsub Shin via DaeWha Kang Design

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Passenger service Gett launches carbon-free travel in the UK

September 14, 2018 by  
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The global, on-demand transportation service Gett is embarking on a new endeavor — implementing carbon-free and carbon-positive rides for all of its passengers. The company’s announcement features several initiatives to help accomplish this benchmark, and Gett’s success would make it the first major taxi app in the U.K. to attain a carbon-neutral status. With air quality continuously deteriorating to dangerous levels in several U.K. cities, the company is proud to become a first responder to the growing crisis. “Air quality is increasingly becoming more of an issue, not just in London, but across the U.K.,” Matteo de Renzi, CEO of Gett U.K., said. “By becoming carbon neutral, we’re incredibly proud to be helping cities achieve cleaner air and reduce pollution levels. By offsetting the CO2 our U.K. rides produce, we will positively impact multiple climate projects across the globe.” Related: Lyft is making all its rides carbon neutral In partnership with Carbon Clear, a global provider of energy and carbon sustainability solutions, Gett plans to ensure carbon neutrality by offsetting 7,500 tons of carbon dioxide — the amount of carbon dioxide emissions the company projects to release within the next 12 months — through various international programs. “The science tells us that carbon neutrality is necessary to protect the planet and sustain our livelihoods,” said Mark Chadwick, CEO of Carbon Clear. Together, the duo will be reducing pollution levels through a Wind Power Generation project in India that displaces the burning of fossil fuels. The team will also be supporting the Madre de Dios Project in Peru’s Amazon jungle to reduce deforestation. “The offsetting projects that Gett is supporting are subject to rigorous international standards to ensure they deliver the promised emissions reductions,” Chadwick said. “As well as this, these projects support sustainable development in international communities and have a tangible impact on people’s lives.” Related: Google Street View cars will map air pollution in cities worldwide Riders will also have the option to offer their own contribution of 20p ($0.26) to their Gett Green journeys if they wish, an action that will make each ride a carbon-positive experience on a long-term scale. The donations will be used to fund London schools that have been identified by the mayor’s school air quality audit program . This initiative is set on reducing emissions around London schools and mitigating youth exposure to heightened nitrogen dioxide levels. Gett will also continue to support electric and hybrid taxi conversions in cities such as Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London. The fully-certified electric taxis , made specifically to address growing pollution problems, are the first ever to be introduced on U.K.’s streets. Mindful to the core, Gett will not be adding extra vehicles to already-congested roads. Instead, the company wishes to continue its efforts in urban mobility improvement by reducing the amount of vehicles in circulation through its black car service gone green. + Gett + Carbon Clear Images via Gett

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19 mayors, thousands of buildings, zero carbon emissions by 2030

August 27, 2018 by  
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A coalition formed by 19 mayors of major U.S. cities including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington D.C. has proposed a plan to ensure that all new buildings be net-zero by 2030. The mayors are part of a group of cities, known as  the C40 , dedicated to climate action. The cities’ initiative is part of a larger plan to make both old and new buildings net-zero by 2050. Related: This revolutionary sustainable community in Atlanta is still thriving 15 years after its founding Net-zero buildings are extremely efficient and powered exclusively by renewable energy sources, often found on-site. Making new buildings net-zero would therefore have a massive impact on cities’ greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings account for over half of greenhouse gas emissions within large cities; for some older cities, such as London and Paris, buildings can account for almost 70 percent. The C40 mayors are committed to lowering these figures. “Ensuring Portland’s old and new buildings achieve net zero carbon use is an essential challenge I am ready to take on,” announced Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland, Oregon, one of the cities that signed the pledge. “Portland has been a longtime global leader in environmental initiatives and I look forward to continuing to advocate and fight for ambitious environmental strategies.” Related: SOM’s net-zero Paris skyscraper will be one of the most sustainable buildings in Europe The cities will join forces with the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), the organization that set the 2030 benchmark, to achieve their emissions goals. The mayors will meet again as part of the Global Climate Action Summit  in San Francisco. California has taken a strong stand for climate action, with the goal of making all new buildings net-zero by 2020, a decade earlier than the date in the C40 pledge. Many of the cities in the C40 group have pledged to create fossil-fuel-free streets and use zero-emission buses. This latest pledge to make new buildings net-zero is yet another step in the right direction. + WorldGBC Via Curbed

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19 mayors, thousands of buildings, zero carbon emissions by 2030

Prefab open-air theater pops up with speed in a London park

August 6, 2018 by  
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Completed in just seven months, the Regent’s Park Open Air Theater in central London is yet another example of how prefabrication can be a fantastic solution for site-sensitive projects strapped for time. Local architecture firm Reed Watts Architects designed the theater using a lightweight cross-laminated timber (CLT) panel system. Set amidst protected Royal Parks trees, the cultural institution houses new rehearsal studios and a catering kitchen, marking the first time in the theater’s 86-year history that its operations have been brought together onto one site. Spanning an area of over 5,000 square feet on the far corner of the site, the Regent’s Park Open Air Theater is designed to host over 1,200 people every night during the summer season. The architects installed the building during the winter season, when the Theater was closed, atop relatively small foundations to minimize site impact. The building exterior is clad in dark-stained larch at its base with more textured cladding higher up; the overall effect helps the structure recede into the landscape and makes it look like a natural extension of the existing Theater buildings. “Reed Watts have succeeded in delivering a significant new rehearsal facility for the theatre, as well as a state of the art kitchen to support the commercial catering arm of our business,” said William Village, Executive Director of Regent’s Park Open Air Theater. “Efficiently utilising every inch of the available footprint, the sense of scale when entering the building is impressive, and yet the design is sympathetic to the magical ambience of the Open Air Theatre. Realised with an acute understanding of the natural environment and the importance of our location in the heart of Regent’s Park, one might be forgiven for assuming that these new buildings have always been a feature of the theatre’s infrastructure.” Related: A prefab chapel’s sculptural form amplifies the landscape in Uruguay Most of the programs are located on the first floor; however, a floor above provides extra room for rehearsal spaces and a green room. The new studio is double-height to provide added flexibility for dancers, actors and acrobats. The space is illuminated by roof lights and tall windows, heated with underfloor heating and mechanically ventilated (and cooled) from upper-level ductwork. + Reed Watts Architects Via ArchDaily Images by Simone Kennedy and David Jensen

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Prefab open-air theater pops up with speed in a London park

Former businessman bicycles down the Thames River to stop plastic pollution

July 31, 2018 by  
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Dhruv Boruah, a former management consultant turned environmental hero is cleaning up the Thames River in London on a floating bicycle. The endeavor, named The Thames Project , is more about striking up conversations with passersby and raising awareness than it is about removing all of the plastic waste from the canals — an impossible feat for the one man show that is Boruah. The self-constructed rig, made up of a bamboo bicycle with yellow floats on either side, a rudder and a pedal-powered propeller in the front, has retrieved thousands of kilograms of plastic waste since beginning the project in 2017. “It’s a great conversation starter, and then I can tell them about my work, the plastic and how it all starts here in the canals,” he told CNN while on one of his “off-road cycling” missions. Related: A massive five-ton plastic waste whale breaches in a Bruges canal The 35-year-old philanthropist was impassioned by a yacht racing expedition from London to Rio de Janiero that left him thinking a lot about the dangers of plastic pollution . It was on this undertaking that Boruah had learned of the fortunate rescue of two turtles who were tangled in plastic in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. “Plastic is now in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat,” he explained. “You have to care because it’s about you, your health and the health of your children. Why are we destroying this planet for them?” Boruah’s bicycle nets are often filled with single-use plastic items such as styrofoam containers and water bottles. These get broken down into tiny microplastics over time that not only pollute the oceans, but also affect our air and food. When he is not striking up conversations with curious onlookers, Boruah is working with councils, businesses and communities to educate and encourage them to take action against plastic pollution. + The Thames Project Via CNN Images and video via Dhruv Boruah

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