Air pollution climbing back to pre-pandemic levels

June 5, 2020 by  
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Last month, news media around the world heralded cleaner skies as a byproduct of the pandemic-induced quarantines. Alas, as lockdowns are lifted, air pollution is climbing back to pre-COVID levels in  China . Several European countries may soon follow suit. Concentrations of fine particles and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are back to where they were a year ago, according to data from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (Crea). In early March, when China was suffering the worst of the  pandemic , the particle count was down by 34%, while nitrogen dioxide levels had fallen by 38%. Related: Air pollution could make COVID-19 more dangerous “The rapid rebound in air pollution and coal consumption levels across China is an early warning of what a smokestack industry-led rebound could look like,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, Crea’s lead analyst, in an article from  The Guardian . “Highly polluting industries have been faster to recover from the crisis than the rest of the economy. It is essential for policymakers to prioritise clean energy.” Wuhan, the pandemic’s ground zero, is still experiencing lower than usual nitrogen dioxide levels — 14% lower than last year. However, Shanghai’s NO2 level has soared to 9% higher than in 2019. Wood Mackenzie, an energy consultancy group, expects that the second quarter of 2020 will see China’s  oil  demand recover nearly to its normal level. European cities are still enjoying significant dips in air  pollution . The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (Cams) shows that 42 of the 50 European cities it tracks had below-average NO2 levels in March. This pollutant, which is largely produced by diesel vehicles, dropped by 30% in Paris and London during the pandemic. How fast and how much European air pollution will rebound depends on the decisions of citizens, companies and government officials. “We do not know how people’s behaviour will change, for example avoiding public transport and therefore relying more on their own cars, or continuing to work from home,” Vincent-Henri Peuch, the director of Cams, told  The Guardian . Environmentalists hope that people will choose to  walk  and cycle more and drive their cars less. + The Guardian Images via Pexels

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Air pollution climbing back to pre-pandemic levels

Air pollution climbing back to pre-pandemic levels

June 5, 2020 by  
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Last month, news media around the world heralded cleaner skies as a byproduct of the pandemic-induced quarantines. Alas, as lockdowns are lifted, air pollution is climbing back to pre-COVID levels in  China . Several European countries may soon follow suit. Concentrations of fine particles and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are back to where they were a year ago, according to data from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (Crea). In early March, when China was suffering the worst of the  pandemic , the particle count was down by 34%, while nitrogen dioxide levels had fallen by 38%. Related: Air pollution could make COVID-19 more dangerous “The rapid rebound in air pollution and coal consumption levels across China is an early warning of what a smokestack industry-led rebound could look like,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, Crea’s lead analyst, in an article from  The Guardian . “Highly polluting industries have been faster to recover from the crisis than the rest of the economy. It is essential for policymakers to prioritise clean energy.” Wuhan, the pandemic’s ground zero, is still experiencing lower than usual nitrogen dioxide levels — 14% lower than last year. However, Shanghai’s NO2 level has soared to 9% higher than in 2019. Wood Mackenzie, an energy consultancy group, expects that the second quarter of 2020 will see China’s  oil  demand recover nearly to its normal level. European cities are still enjoying significant dips in air  pollution . The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (Cams) shows that 42 of the 50 European cities it tracks had below-average NO2 levels in March. This pollutant, which is largely produced by diesel vehicles, dropped by 30% in Paris and London during the pandemic. How fast and how much European air pollution will rebound depends on the decisions of citizens, companies and government officials. “We do not know how people’s behaviour will change, for example avoiding public transport and therefore relying more on their own cars, or continuing to work from home,” Vincent-Henri Peuch, the director of Cams, told  The Guardian . Environmentalists hope that people will choose to  walk  and cycle more and drive their cars less. + The Guardian Images via Pexels

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Air pollution climbing back to pre-pandemic levels

Heimplanet celebrates 9 years of innovative inflatable tents

June 5, 2020 by  
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For almost a decade, Heimplanet has offered adventure-seekers an option for quick and easy tent set up in a variety of environments. The company first released a line of inflatable tents in 2011; now, with summer 2020 approaching, Heimplanet is reminding  outdoor  enthusiasts that there has never been a better time to go camping. Founders Stefan Clauss and Stefan Schulze Dieckhoff got the idea for the inflatable tents while on a trip to Portugal in 2003. Traveling along the coast to surf, the two often found themselves setting up their  camp  late at night and experiencing the inconveniences of conventional tents, such as fussing with poles in the dark and the rain. Related: The North Face unveils a geodesic tent that can withstand 60 mph winds The company offers four regular tent models that sleep one to six people and are built to tolerate 80 mph winds. The four models include Fistral, The Cave, Backdoor and Nias. Those seeking a  tent  developed for more extreme use can also splurge for the Maverick, which features room for up to 10 people and the capacity to handle wind speeds up to roughly 111 mph. The inflatable tents incorporate an “Inflatable Diamond Grid” consisting of an inflatable,  modular  cage-like structure that works as a geodesic dome and says goodbye to traditional tent poles. This design allows for high stability even in volatile weather conditions — the company’s Maverick model has even protected researchers and equipment in Antarctica. Thanks to the patented multi-chamber system, the tent’s entire frame is inflated and divided into separate chambers with one easy step that takes under one minute. This multi-chamber system gives the tent its stability, while also ensuring that if one air chamber is damaged the other chambers will keep the rest of the tent erect. Separate chambers can also be replaced or repaired individually, prolonging the life of the whole structure. Resistant double-layer construction combining an airtight thermoplastic polyurethane bladder on the inside and strong polyester fabric on the outside keeps the tent  insulated  and protected. Heimplanet is also part of the 1% For the Planet community, pledging 1% of sales to environmental preservation and restoration. The company has also recently implemented a “re-store” program that  restores  and repairs used models. + Heimplanet Images via Heimplanet, Luca Jaenichen, Sondre Forsell, Kevin Ellison, and Thibault Bevilacqua

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London creates massive car-free zones as the city reopens

May 19, 2020 by  
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How do you simultaneously discourage people from riding public transportation, avoid automobile gridlock and maintain social distancing? By designating bike- and pedestrian-only streets. At least, that’s the approach London is trying as it eases its lockdown restrictions. Last week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced one of the world’s biggest car-free initiatives. Main streets between London Bridge and Shoreditch, Old Street and Holborn and Euston and Waterloo will be reserved for bicycles, walkers and buses. The network of car-free streets may expand, and trucks and cars might be banned from London Bridge and Waterloo Bridge. Related: Meet the urban planner responsible for San Francisco’s car-free Market Street Khan said in a press release that the pandemic is “the biggest challenge to London’s public transport network in Transport for London’s history. It will take a monumental effort from all Londoners to maintain safe social distancing on public transport as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased.” Officials hope that millions of journeys will instead be made on foot or two wheels. To further discourage motorists, London is reinstating and increasing “congestion charges” for drivers in heavily trafficked zones during weekday business hours. Certain essential workers who must drive private vehicles will be reimbursed. The mayor’s office emphasizes that for now, public transport should be a last resort. Some populations who ordinarily get to travel for free or at reduced rates — such as children, seniors and people who have disabilities — will have to pay fares as part of a large government bailout deal for Transport for London (TfL), the city’s transportation system. TfL has kept trains and buses running to transport essential workers while losing 90% of fare revenues and much of its advertising in tube stations as well as furloughing 7,000 members of its workforce. Doug Parr, chief scientist and policy director at Greenpeace U.K., endorsed the car-free plan. Parr said, “Not only will transforming our streets in a way that prioritizes pedestrians and cyclists, and makes it safer for people to move about as lockdown restrictions are eased, but by permanently restricting car use we can keep toxic pollution from filling our air once again.” Via The Guardian Image via Aron Van de Pol

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Now is the best time to build a home you never want to leave

May 19, 2020 by  
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Whether you are still sheltering in place or your area’s lockdowns are just lifting after months indoors, right now is the perfect time to contemplate what you like about your home and what you’d like to change. Thankfully, Deltec Homes makes it easy to plan your future legacy home. This North Carolina-based builder is known for producing distinctive, resilient round houses and was also featured on ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”. Now, it can make your own dreams come true by offering extensive support, from planning to payment, in the home-building process. Many people are taking advantage of Deltec Homes’ tools to remotely design their eco-friendly dream homes. A small deposit gives you access to Deltec Homes’ full resources, including a wealth of experience building houses around the world and start-to-finish support for designing and building a new, sustainable home. Related: Building homes that fight against climate change How to design a home you never want to leave If you’ve never designed your own house — and many people haven’t — you might wonder how on earth you do this remotely, without an architect sitting by your side. Deltec Homes clearly explains its 360 collection of round homes and its Renew collection, which is designed to make it easy to reach net-zero energy goals. The company will work with you every step of the way to create a home better than you could ever imagine. The round houses in the 360 collection are incredibly fun to customize. Now that you have been spending more time at home than ever, you’re probably thinking a lot more about how you want your space to work for you. How many bedrooms do you need? Would you like designated space for a home office? Do you want flexible spaces that can serve as a study room during the day and a child’s playroom or craft room in the evenings? Perhaps you would love a deck, where the family can get together for a breath of fresh air. Do you want your home to embrace biophilic design? Renew has three basic designs: Balsam, a contemporary take on a mountain cabin; Solar Farmhouse, which is a modern farmhouse with solar capabilities; and Ridgeline, the most modern looking of the three. Each of these options allows you to customize features such as windows, siding, air ventilation and porches to make your home as comfortable and eco-friendly as possible. Thankfully, the Deltec Way strives for each home to be a sanctuary that seamlessly blurs the line between indoors and outdoors; think large, beautiful windows and uninterrupted sight lines. At every step, Deltec Homes will help you and your home embrace nature and sustainability — it is just the Deltec Way. Once you decide on your exact floor plan, Deltec Homes prefabricates your house in its factory, then ships it to the building site. Your own builder takes it from there, assembling and finishing your dream home. Deltec Homes has more than 5,000 homes in every state in the U.S. as well as over 30 countries and five continents, so no matter where you choose to call home, you are joining thousands of other people who love their unique Deltec homes. What’s more, Deltec Homes isn’t just helping you build your next house — it helps you build your legacy home. These high-quality, resilient homes are built to last and actually reduce the total cost of ownership over time. Deltec Homes are often comparable to custom homes, but they are built to last much longer by following stringent, precise standards to significantly reduce your energy costs and total ownership costs. Saving energy and designing legacy homes isn’t just good for you — it’s great for the planet and future generations, too. Deltec Homes embraces sustainability and resilient design — it’s the Deltec Way Deltec Homes prides itself on following the Deltec Way, which means connecting customers to nature and our planet while also protecting them from the elements. The planet will thank you for buying a net-zero energy home, which is one of many green design options offered by Deltec Homes. The company’s homes aren’t just sustainable — Deltec Homes embraces this green philosophy in its own factory, which runs on 100% renewable energy and diverts about 80% of its construction waste away from the landfill. In addition to connecting homeowners with nature and the planet, the Deltec Way also emphasizes connecting our homes with the planet. From using only the best materials to working with nature, rather than against it, Deltec Homes ensures each house can withstand extreme weather while also embracing all of the beauty Earth has to offer. Deltec Homes implements a unique, 360-degree design to ensure that wind diverts around the home. This prevents wind pressure from building up on a traditionally flat side of the home — this wind pressure typically leads to damage such as collapsed walls. The added benefit of the 360-degree design is the light-filled, panoramic views of nature that can include dreamy sunrise-to-sunset views. Of course, the round layout is just part of the equation to Deltec Homes’ hurricane-resistant designs. The company uses a comprehensive approach to make its homes more resilient , including special attention to engineering, construction and materials. This approach has resulted in a 99.9% survival rate for these hurricane-resistant homes. In fact, there have been Deltec Homes that have withstood some of the most devastating hurricanes of our time, including Hurricanes Dorian, Michael, Katrina, Harvey, Hugo, Irma, and Sandy. Deltec Homes is actually considered “the original green builder” and has been working on creating high-quality homes since 1968. Along the way, it recognized the need for sustainability to be central to its core mission — Deltec Homes are designed to stringent sustainability standards. Last year, one of its homes even won a Department of Energy (DOE) Zero Energy Ready Home housing innovation award . These homes have been designed to stand the test of time and look good doing it. Luckily, these experts are ready to give you a helping hand in designing and building a sustainable legacy home for your family. Deltec Homes offers financial peace of mind Despite the pandemic, right now is a smart time to start planning the house of your dreams, thanks to Deltec’s homeowners assurance plan. Deltec Homes is offering financial peace of mind through its new refund flexibility policy. Any deposit placed in the first half of 2020 is fully refundable if the homebuyer loses their job or has a COVID-19-related health issue during this time. Deltec Homes is honoring those on the front lines of the pandemic by extending its usual 7% military discount to all healthcare and other essential workers who place a design deposit by June 30. Whether homebuyers are working in a hospital, delivering packages or keeping the electric grid or public transportation systems in operation, Deltec Homes recognizes these essential workers. These difficult times have also prompted Deltec Homes to increase its customer service support by extending hours and offering more remote consultations. If spending more time at home has made you yearn for a house that is designed exactly the way you want it, there’s no better time than right now to contact Deltec Homes . + Deltec Homes Images via Deltec Homes

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Two ways P&G is working toward its packaging goals

May 5, 2020 by  
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Two ways P&G is working toward its packaging goals Deonna Anderson Tue, 05/05/2020 – 11:33 Procter & Gamble’s Tide laundry detergent brand first introduced in January 2019 its “Eco-Box,” which has been compared to a wine box because of its design made from paperboard with a tap for dispensing, in an effort to reduce the plastic in its packaging. In mid-May, the Eco-Boxes are becoming available for other fabric care product lines, including Tide purclean, Downy, Gain and Dreft. The initiatives are related to P&G’s current sustainability goals introduced in 2018, Ambition 2030, which include a commitment to make its packaging 100 percent recyclable or reusable by 2030.  Each business unit within P&G has its own approach, and the Eco-Box was one way P&G’s Fabric Care division set out to meet its packaging goal.  To be clear, the Eco-Box package still includes plastic — with the bag that holds the liquid detergent itself — but uses 60 percent less of it than the traditional packaging for P&G’s detergent brands. I think perfection is [figuring] out the technologies to make this so that that bag and tap are also just easy curbside recycling. “We’ve moved to a huge reduction in plastic, but [the plastic bag] not curbside-recyclable,” said Todd Cline, section head for P&G Fabric Care’s research and development team. “I think perfection is [figuring] out the technologies to make this so that that bag and tap are also just easy curbside recycling,” he continued. “But there’s just not technologies for that yet today, to create bags to hold liquids that are puncture-resistant and will survive all of the shipping.” In the meantime, P&G has a stopgap solution for collection and end-of-life processing in place. When the Tide Eco-Box launched, P&G partnered with TerraCycle to offer a recycling option for the inner bag. That program will continue, now including the full Eco-Box portfolio. Cline said P&G uses life cycle assessment (LCA) to guide its work, “particularly as it comes to sustainability,” noting that from an LCA standpoint, P&G is making a huge reduction in its carbon footprint and amount of plastic that’s going to landfills through the Eco-Box packaging effort.  “For us, that’s a technical trade-off at the start. But it’s one of those that if we waited for perfection … we would be sitting on this technology that could have a really great benefit from a sustainability standpoint, but holding it until it’s perfect,” Cline said, referring to the need to engage TerraCycle on collection.  When the new Eco-Box detergents hit the market — the products will be available online only from major U.S. retailers — Cline said they will continue to test and iterate on the packaging to improve it. All paper, no plastic In a different part of the company, P&G Beauty, the packaging strategy is likewise taking another turn away from plastic: toward all-paper packaging. Indeed, these are just two recent examples of how P&G is working to meet its 2030 goal. “This is just one of many innovations that P&G is working on to address the problem of plastic waste. This is an important step forward, and there is much more to come,” wrote Anitra Marsh, associate director of global sustainability and brand communications with P&G Beauty, by email. Two of those beauty and personal care brands are Old Spice and Secret, which will launch all-paper packaging for their aluminum-free deodorants this month at 500 Walmart stores in the U.S. “As the largest retailer in the world partnering with the largest deodorant and antiperspirant brands in the U.S., we know this new paperboard package has the potential to have significant positive impact and lay the groundwork for even broader impact,” said Jason Kloster, senior buying manager for body care and grooming at Walmart, in a press release. Marsh said P&G co-designed the all-paper deodorant packaging for its Secret and Old Spice products with consumers interested in cutting back on plastic waste. The package format contains 90 percent post-consumer recycled content and 10 percent new paper fibers. P&G developed package prototypes then shared the designs with consumers to see which options were “most appealing and easy to use.” P&G isn’t the only company trying to eliminate plastic packaging for deodorant. Across the pond in London, a company called Wild raised $621,775 in seed funding for its refillable no-plastic deodorant packaging — made from durable aluminum and bamboo pulp — after a successful pilot launch in 2019. Marsh said it took less than a year to bring P&G’s all-paper, plastic-free deodorant packaging to market. During the development process, the first package design did not pass a key recyclability test because the glue used for the label diminished the quality of the recycled paper pulp. “We quickly went back to the drawing board to find another label glue that doesn’t impede recycling, and this is what we are using now in our Old Spice and Secret paper tube packages that are launching in May,” she said. The deodorant hit the shelves May 1, and P&G will continue to evaluate the recyclability and repulpability of the packaging this summer, according to Marsh. “We are aiming for 100 percent recyclability,” she said. Pull Quote I think perfection is [figuring] out the technologies to make this so that that bag and tap are also just easy curbside recycling. Topics Circular Economy Design & Packaging Circular Packaging Packaging Recycled Paper Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Tide, Dreft and Gain detergents in eco-box packaging

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Two ways P&G is working toward its packaging goals

Sustainable infrastructure investments can aid the post-COVID recovery

May 5, 2020 by  
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Sustainable infrastructure investments can aid the post-COVID recovery Katherine Davisson Tue, 05/05/2020 – 04:23 The economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing governments around the world to come up with policies for stimulating the global economy. Many are considering a tried-and-true method to boost economies in the short term and provide wide societal benefits in the long term: infrastructure investment. Countries around the globe are set to launch the biggest round of infrastructure investment since the post-2008 financial crisis stimulus measures. It’s easy to see why: Demand is enormous. The world is on-trend to face a  $15 trillion gap between the infrastructure investment needed and the amount provided by 2040 . On the supply side, when 1 percent of GDP is invested in infrastructure,  economic output increases by about 0.4 percent in the same year and by 1.5 percent four years later . Building in a new world Before the shovels hit the dirt, it’s worth understanding how the world of 2020 is different from the world of 2008. The infrastructure sector, long a laggard in embracing innovation, has worked hard to close the technological gap with other industries, and disruptors have transformed the way we design, build and manage infrastructure systems. Attitudes toward the importance of addressing the climate crisis also have changed. For example, since 2008, the percentage of U.S. adults who say dealing with global climate change should be a top priority for the president and Congress  has risen 14 points . The ongoing coronavirus crisis has amplified the growing calls for resilient and adaptable infrastructure that effectively can operate during moments of crisis. Given this big opportunity, it is imperative that when the nations of the world look to embark on infrastructure investment programs, they strive to provide infrastructure that is sustainable, technologically advanced and resilient. It is the financially, environmentally and socially responsible thing to do for the world. The economic benefits Economically, the case for technologically advanced, resilient and sustainable infrastructure is clear. Low and middle-income countries alone could see  a net benefit of $4.2 trillion  from investing in infrastructure that prioritizes future-focused resiliency. That’s a $4 return for every $1 spent. Low and middle-income countries alone could see a net benefit of $4.2 trillion from investing in infrastructure that prioritizes future-focused resiliency. That’s a $4 return for every $1 spent. Integrating new technologies during the design, construction and operational phase of an infrastructure asset can significantly lower the cost while improving the functionality. Artificial intelligence (AI), advanced data analytics, fintech, cloud computing, 5G, new materials, renewable energy technology and 3D printing are just a few innovations changing the global infrastructure landscape. When used, they can decrease project cost, compress construction time, reduce community disruption, minimize environmental harm and increase safety. The benefits of using technology to plan, build and operate sustainable infrastructure systems have won over many decisionmakers, including in the United Kingdom, which is planning to implement a  national digital twin program  to connect all aspects of its infrastructure system onto one secure network. Digital twins are computer models that combine AI, data analytics and machine learning to produce a digital version of a physical object. They help optimize the planning and operation of infrastructure by providing valuable insights in near-real-time. The U.K. expects the program to produce $8.70 billion in value a year from cost savings and efficiency gains from more sustainable management of the country’s infrastructure. The environmental benefits Dividends for the environment are also apparent. In energy infrastructure, long a major source of global carbon emissions, renewable technologies have made enormous strides. Wind and solar power are the  most cost-effective modes of power generation  across more than two-thirds of the world, including in the United States, China, Brazil and India. But building infrastructure that encourages environmental stewardship isn’t merely limited to the green energy space. Infrastructure’s burgeoning technological revolution ensures that all aspects of infrastructure have the ability to contribute to ecological preservation. The fast-growing Port of Brisbane on Australia’s east coast found itself in dire need of a solution for accommodating ever-growing container ships. In past years, the operators likely would have simply dredged the seafloor, an expensive and environmentally damaging exercise. They instead chose to  use cloud-computing technology  that assesses currents, tidal levels, wind patterns and other data to provide forecasts that allow the port to guide larger ships into the harbor depending on environmental conditions. In use since 2017, this program has allowed the port to increase capacity without dredging, allowing for even larger ships to access the port, all while improving operational safety, planning ability, sustainability and future-readiness. The societal benefits Not to be forgotten are the benefits for our societies of building advanced, sustainable and resilient infrastructure. We must create social infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals, that use the latest innovations and techniques that can withstand the evolving challenges of our times, from natural disasters to pandemics. For example,  Nantucket Cottage Hospital , a small island hospital off the U.S. East Coast, is using the latest in technological and sustainability advances to create a medical facility that is adaptable to a variety of potential challenges in the coming years. This infrastructure revolution will not happen on its own. Although innovation has flourished, the sector lags behind others in technological sophistication. By focusing on environmental contingency planning, proper material use, emergency access to utility services and space adaptability, the hospital is protected against natural disasters and more long-term changes in environment and patients surges — crucial on an island whose population swells from 11,000 to 50,000 in the summertime. Similarly, the developers of the  Michael Tippet School  in the London borough of Lambeth set sustainable innovation and resilience as guiding principles. The project managers chose  laminated timber-an increasingly popular building component  as a primary construction material. Laminated timber is not only environmentally friendly compared to more carbon-intensive options such as concrete and steel, but it also can be assembled quickly and onsite, saving time and money. The result was an airy, adaptable space that easily could adjust to the changing requirements of this special needs school. The backbone of the economy This infrastructure revolution will not happen on its own. Although innovation has flourished, the sector lags behind others in technological sophistication. Existing innovations need to be more widely embraced, and new innovations need more nurturing — both areas where better cooperation with governments could yield positive results. Community engagement also needs to be increased. Working with local stakeholders to deliver updates and providing opportunities to receive community feedback at all stages of an infrastructure project greatly will increase the chances of success. Projects also should focus on adaptability and replicability. Finding and disseminating successful models can eliminate trial and error periods that cost time and money. It is often said the infrastructure is the backbone of the economy. We must ensure that that backbone is prepared to carry the weight of the future. Committing to using this opportunity to build advanced and resilient and sustainable will do just that. This article originally was published by the World Economic Forum. Pull Quote Low and middle-income countries alone could see a net benefit of $4.2 trillion from investing in infrastructure that prioritizes future-focused resiliency. That’s a $4 return for every $1 spent. This infrastructure revolution will not happen on its own. Although innovation has flourished, the sector lags behind others in technological sophistication. Contributors Joseph Losavio Topics Infrastructure COVID-19 Article Source World Economic Forum Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The fast-growing Port of Brisbane on Australia’s east coast is using cloud-computing technology  that assesses currents, tidal levels, wind patterns and other data to help guide larger ships into the harbor depending on environmental conditions.

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Florida Aquarium captures baby coral breakthrough on video

April 28, 2020 by  
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The Florida Aquarium announced a breakthrough that may help save America’s Great Barrier Reef. Scientists at the Tampa-based aquarium have successfully reproduced ridged cactus coral for the first time. A video captures the tiny baby  corals  looking like undersea fairy lights as they take their first and only swim beyond the reef. Since a major  disease  outbreak attacked Florida’s coral reefs in 2014, scientists from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and NOAA Fisheries have rescued corals and moved them into labs. Florida Aquarium scientists are caring for adult coral colonies, coaxing them to breed and reproduce in the hopes of eventually restoring the diseased reefs. In the course of this rescue mission, scientists are discovering new info on coral biology, including the timing of babies and what coral larvae look like. “This breakthrough is just really exciting; we’re still learning basic new things you’d think we’ve known for hundreds of years,” said senior coral scientist Keri O’Neil. “It’s just people never worked with this  species  before and now that we have the opportunity to work with these corals in the lab, we’re going to find out so much more about them.” Ridged cactus corals are a type of brooding coral. This means they reproduce by releasing sperm into the water. Eggs within the parent coral are fertilized, and larvae develop. When the coral babies are sufficiently formed, the parent corals spit them into the water. The babies swim until they find a good spot on the  reef . Then they settle down for life.  This video  shows the phenomenon. Florida has the world’s third-largest barrier reef ecosystem. Often called “America’s Great Barrier Reef,” it extends from St. Lucie Inlet, north of Miami, to the Dry Tortugas, west of the Florida Keys. About two-thirds of the reef tract is within Biscayne National Park and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Reproducing ridged cactus coral is the latest in a series of coral breakthroughs at the Florida Aquarium. Last year scientists at the aquarium had the world’s first success at making a group of coral reproduce two days in a row. The aquarium is partnering with London’s Horniman Museum and Gardens in Project Coral, a program aimed at repopulating the world’s reefs. “With the success of this project, as a scientist, I now know that every year for the foreseeable future we can spawn Florida pillar corals in the laboratory and continue our work trying to rebuild the populations,” said O’Neil. + CNN Images via Pexels

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Inspiring rammed earth hospital brings affordable care to rural Nepal

April 28, 2020 by  
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An inspiring beacon of humanitarian architecture has arrived to one of the poorest and most remote regions of Nepal — the new Bayalpata Hospital in Accham. Opened earlier this month to replace an aged and overrun clinic, the new hospital is a model of sustainable rural health made possible through a collaboration between the government of Nepal and NGO Possible Health. New York City-based Sharon Davis Design crafted the 7.5-acre campus, which is built primarily from locally sourced rammed earth and powered by rooftop solar panels. Located on a hilltop surrounded by the terraced slopes of the Seti River Valley, the new Bayalpata Hospital is expected to provide low-cost, high-quality care to more than 100,000 patients a year from Accham and its six surrounding districts — a number that’s more than eight times its original capacity. The hospital comprises five medical buildings with outpatient, inpatient, surgery, antenatal and emergency facilities for 70 beds as well as clinical functions such as pharmacy, radiology and laboratory spaces. The campus also includes an administration block for offices, a 60-seat cafeteria and 10 single-family houses plus an eight-bedroom dormitory to house the hospital staff and their families. Related: Rammed earth Kopila Valley School is the “greenest school in Nepal” Because of the site’s remote and mountainous location, the hospital is primarily built from rammed earth using a low-tech construction method and local labor. Soil from the site was mixed with 6% cement content for stabilization and seismic resistance. This mixture was then formed into blocks with reusable plastic formwork and set atop foundations constructed from local stone, which was also used for pathways and retaining walls. Local Sal wood was used for built-in furniture, exterior doors and louvers. In addition to the thermal mass of the massive rammed earth walls, passive heating and cooling design strategies were used to keep the hospital comfortable year-round. The campus also includes a new water supply and storage, wastewater treatment facilities and bioswales to manage monsoon-driven erosion. The hospital’s south-facing roofs are topped with a grid-connected 100 kW photovoltaic array that is powerful enough to generate all of the campus’ electricity needs. “We see this project as a model of how rammed earth, and other vernacular materials, can be utilized to create modern architecture,” said Sharon Davis, principal of Sharon Davis Design. “Without local materials, this project may not have been possible because of its incredibly remote location — a 10-hour drive from the nearest regional airport and a three-day drive on narrow, mountainous roads from the nearest manufacturing centers around Kathmandu.” + Sharon Davis Design Photography by Elizabeth Felicella via Sharon Davis Design

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‘I Am a Plastic Bag’ is made from recycled single-use plastic bottles

March 2, 2020 by  
Filed under Eco, Green, Recycle

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Following the sold-out success of “I Am Not a Plastic Bag” in 2007, designer brand Anya Hindmarch has launched a new product, called “I Am a Plastic Bag”, aimed at recycling single-use plastic and leaving behind a net-zero carbon footprint from production. The initial “I Am Not a Plastic Bag” release was a campaign to raise awareness about disposable plastic bag usage. According to a press release from the company, “The British Retail Consortium estimated that in 2006, the U.K. alone used 10.6bn plastic bags, and this figure dropped to 6.1bn in 2010. Specifically, Sainsbury’s cut the number of bags they gave away by 58% in the two years that followed the campaign, giving out 312m fewer bags in 2008 than 2009 and saving 13,200 tonnes of virgin plastic over two years.” Related: Patagonia’s Black Hole Bags are made from recycled plastic bottles Thirteen years later, Hindmarch has decided to shift focus. Instead of centering the campaign around reducing plastic bag usage, the new “I Am a Plastic Bag” is made from a soft, cotton-like fabric constructed from recycled plastic bottles to spotlight the excessive waste generated from single-use plastic. The manufacturing process begins by washing and sorting the collected bottles before they are shredded and turned into pellets. The pellets are then converted into fibers that are spun and woven into fabric . To achieve the weather-resistant finish, the bags are coated in a recycled PVB made from old windshields. Anya Hindmarch partnered with a Taiwanese company for the finish, which appears to be the only one of its kind that has achieved Global Recycled Standard (GRS) certification. After considering faux options, the company decided the least impactful trim was real leather. It sourced the natural meat byproduct as a way to recycle the material. Collected from a tannery in Northern Italy, the leather doesn’t travel far to the manufacturing line. While Anya Hindmarch designers don’t believe that carbon-offsetting is the answer for an industry known for excessive waste and pollution , they also partnered with EcoAct, a global climate change consultant. EcoAct has been measuring the emissions from the I Am a Plastic Bag production in order to make the process carbon-neutral. As a statement of what the line stands for, Anya Hindmarch closed its doors for three days, completely filling the store with 90,000 discarded plastic water bottles and a post on the door explaining the cause. A limited selection of bags was pre-launched in February at London Fashion Week, and the complete four-color collection will be widely available in April. + Anya Hindmarch Images via Anya Hindmarch

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‘I Am a Plastic Bag’ is made from recycled single-use plastic bottles

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