Seattle permanently closes 20 miles of street

May 18, 2020 by  
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Seattle recently made bold moves to put pedestrians and cyclists first as the pandemic-induced stay-at-home order creates a new normal. Up to 20 miles of roadways in the “Stay Healthy Streets” program shall remain permanently closed to nonessential through traffic to encourage people to exercise safely while social distancing.  Environmentalists  are praising the move because curtailing vehicular traffic means a reduction in  carbon emissions . “Our rapid response to the challenges posed by COVID-19 have been transformative in a number of places across the city,” Sam Zimbabwe, Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Director, told  The   Seattle Times . “Some of the responses are going to be long lasting, and we need to continue to build out a transportation system that enables people of all ages and abilities to bike and walk across the city.” Related:  COVID-19 and its effects on the environment Quarantine fatigue has been a major motivation towards more citizen safety measures to sustain  public health  through exercise. Not only were 20 miles of Stay Healthy Streets permanently closed to encourage walking, jogging, skateboarding, scootering and cycling, but  Seattle’s Office of the Mayor  also announced plans for enhanced bike infrastructure and additional protected bike lanes. The news has garnered praise from the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board. Mayor Jenny Durkan further explained, “We are in a marathon and not a sprint in our fight against COVID-19. As we assess how to make the changes that have kept us safe and healthy  sustainable  for the long term, we must ensure Seattle is rebuilding better than before. Safe and Healthy Streets are an important tool for families in our neighborhoods to get outside, get some exercise and enjoy the nice weather. Over the long term, these streets will become treasured assets in our neighborhoods.” According to SDOT, the streets that have become pedestrianized were selected because they have few open spaces, lower rates of car ownership and are located in routes open to essential services as well as takeout meals. Of course, postal services, deliveries, garbage and recycling trucks, plus emergency vehicles are still permitted on these “closed” streets. SDOT will also be reprogramming traffic signals to reduce pedestrian wait-times at crosswalks so that crowd formations at intersections can be avoided. Pushing buttons to request walk signals will no longer be needed for 75% of Seattle’s densest regions as walk signals there will become automated to minimize the touching of surfaces. An estimated $100,000 to $200,000 will be used for these safety measures, which include helpful new signs and barriers. The  SDOT blog  has documented that ever since Washington state’s Governor Jay Inslee issued stay-at-home orders, vehicular traffic has dropped by 57% in Seattle. It is hoped that permanently closing almost 20 miles of street will lead to fewer idling cars and limit traffic even after the lockdown lifts. In so doing, reductions in  air pollution  will continue for the Evergreen State’s Emerald City long after the lockdown lifts. + City of Seattle Office of the Mayor + Seattle Department of Transportation Images via Pexels

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Seattle permanently closes 20 miles of street

City of Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego: Building a thriving city

March 9, 2020 by  
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City of Phoenix Mayor, Kate Gallego discusses her efforts to make Phoenix a leading city for its businesses and residents. With a focus on job creation, public safety, medical care, transportation planning and sustainability, Mayor Gallego is passionate about building a Phoenix that works for everyone. From GreenBiz 20.

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ASU’s Mark Bernstein on desert urban living in a hotter world

March 9, 2020 by  
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As the planet warms, our cities are heating up even faster, and it is especially true for desert cities. Solving heat, pollution and water problems will be key to the future of our growing cities. What is the role of technology, data and community involvement in solving these problems? Arizona State University has been a leader in looking for these solutions and Dr. Mark Bernstein highlights some of the opportunities. He is joined on stage by a team of middle-school students who are working to solving water problems. From GreenBiz 20.

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Water Street Tampa hits major sustainability milestone

February 12, 2020 by  
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Back in June 2019, Inhabitat did a story about Florida’s Water Street Tampa and its goal to become the  world’s healthiest neighborhood . Fast forward to January 2020, and the ambitious 56-acre neighborhood in the heart of Downtown Tampa is making headlines again with its new cooling plant, one of the first buildings to open. The District Cooling Plant will produce and distribute cold water to provide sustainable air conditioning to most of the buildings that make up Water Street Tampa .  Tampa Mayor Jane Castor attended the new plant’s ribbon-cutting ceremony and said, “As our city continues to grow, we have to make sure we’re doing so in a thoughtful way. This district cooling facility will play a big role in reducing our energy consumption while we work to create a more sustainable and resilient city. This is a big step forward in the right direction as we continue transforming Tampa together.” The project was designed by Florida-based architect Baker Barrios and spans 12,500-square feet of space constructed and installed by Tampa Bay Trane. It was built using 8,500 linear feet of insulated underground steel piping infrastructure and will concentrate noise pollution into a single building rather than separate individual buildings while it cools. Even better, the system is 30 to 40 percent more efficient than most traditional air conditioning systems while consuming less energy. The way that the plant is set up also frees up rooftop space that would normally be dedicated to housing individual air conditioners, making the neighborhood roofs available for use as shared amenity spaces for the residents. The concrete masonry design combined with structural steel and brick pattern is a nod towards the historic cigar factories in Ybor City, a nearby iconic district northeast of Tampa’s downtown. + Water Street Tampa Photography by Nicole Abbott

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Water Street Tampa hits major sustainability milestone

Foie gras ban to take effect in New York

November 1, 2019 by  
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Fancy feasters in the Big Apple will have to acquire new tastes because New York will soon follow California’s example in legislating for a foie gras ban. Earlier this week, the New York City Council passed a bill calling for the ban, and Mayor Bill de Blasio will soon sign it into law. Animal activists have been rejoicing, calling the new legislation a win, although it won’t take effect until 2022. Those not in compliance by then will face a $2,000 penalty fine per violation. Foie gras is a rich, extravagant dish that has been appreciated since Ancient Roman times. The French have even defended it via article L654 of France’s 2006 Rural Code, which states, “Foie gras is part of the protected cultural and gastronomic heritage of France.” Related: Foie gras ban in California stands after court battle But foie gras production has met with criticism from animal welfare advocates. Foie gras is produced by forced overfeeding of ducks or geese to fatten and enlarge their livers. Feed volume is in excess of a bird’s normal voluntary intake, making the process unnatural because it overrides a bird’s typical preferences and homeostasis. The Canadian Veterinary Journal , for instance, has documented that this unnatural overfeeding process spans a two-week period and involves “repeated capture, restraint and rapid insertion of the feeding tube” that causes discomfort and increased risks for esophageal injury and associated pain. All of this produces a duck or goose liver that is “seven to 19 times the size of a normal liver with an average weight of 550 to 982 grams and a fat content of 55.8 percent,” while a normal liver is just “76 grams with a fat content of 6.6 percent.” In 1998, The European Commission recognized that these force-fed birds were up to 20 times more likely to reach mortality than their normal counterparts. If the same fatty cell buildup would occur in humans, it would be likened to alcohol abuse or obesity. New York’s ban follows at the heels of California’s foie gras ban. The Golden State’s legislation, however, has met some choppy waters. Initially passed in 2012, it was later overturned in 2015, then upheld by a circuit court judge in 2017, followed by further support earlier this year when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of California’s ban. On the other hand, Chicago’s ban on the delicacy was not so successful. Passed in 2006, it was repealed by 2008 via concerted efforts from foie gras producers, celebrity chefs and high-end restaurants that pushed back to sway public opinion. Their lobby strategies centered around the argument that if the foie gras ban persists, then other delicacies like lobster and veal might be in jeopardy, too. Chicago’s former mayor, Richard Daley, eventually called the ban “the silliest ordinance” his city’s council ever had, making the Windy City “the laughingstock of the nation.” It remains to be seen whether New York’s foie gras ban will succeed like California’s or be overturned like the ban in Chicago. Via Time and Fast Company Image via T.Tseng

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Foie gras ban to take effect in New York

New York allows students to miss class for the climate strike

September 19, 2019 by  
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Tomorrow, on September 20, a global climate strike is scheduled to bring awareness about the need for transformative action against the growing climate crisis . The strike will take place three days before the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City. Unlike other strikes, this one invites New York City minors to participate, thanks to the event coinciding with efforts already begun by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg. In support of Thunberg’s efforts, the New York City Department of Education recently announced via Twitter that it will excuse any of the city’s 1.1 million students who are interested in attending the scheduled September 20 climate strike . But they must provide parental consent, per their school’s attendance protocols, to be formally excused from class. Related: Can’t make the climate strikes? Here are a few tips on how students can live sustainably New York Mayor Bill de Blasio similarly tweeted his stamp of approval, saying, “We have 10 years to save the planet. TEN YEARS. Today’s leaders are making decisions for our environment that our kids will have to live with. New York City stands with our young people. They’re our conscience. We support the 9/20 #ClimateStrike.” Thunberg will be speaking at the NYC event, as will climate activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez. The event is supported by organizations such as Fridays for Future, National Children’s Campaign, OneMillionOfUs, 350.org, Zero Hour and many more. Participants in the New York City climate strike are asked to assemble on Foley Square at noon Eastern Time, then head southward toward Battery Park, where the rally is to take place between 2:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. local time. Meanwhile, students and adults alike will be striking around the world, with strikes taking place in cities from September 20 to September 27. You can join in by using this map to find an event near you. + Global Climate Strike Via CNN Image via Jasmin Sessler

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New York allows students to miss class for the climate strike

Spectacular rammed-earth dome home is tucked deep into a Costa Rican jungle

September 19, 2019 by  
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Costa Rica has long been renowned for its commitment to protecting its natural environment, but one home nestled into 2.5 acres of a permaculture farm is really setting an example for green building. Located in the idyllic area of Diamante Valley, the House Without Shoes is an incredible rammed-earth complex made up of three interconnected domes, which are joined by an open-air deck that looks out over the stunning valley and ocean views. Measuring a total of 2,000 square feet, the House Without Shoes is comprised of three domes that were constructed with bags of rammed earth. All of the domes feature custom-made arched windows and wood frames with screens. They also have skylights that allow natural light to flood the interior spaces. Related: Biophilic dome homes produce more energy than they consume The main dome , which is approximately 22-feet high, houses the primary living area as well as the dining room and kitchen. A beautiful spiral staircase leads up to the second floor, which has enough space for a large office as well as an open-air, 600-square-foot deck that provides spectacular views of the valley leading out to the ocean. The two smaller domes, which house the bedrooms, are separated by the main dome by an outdoor platform. The rammed-earth construction of the structures keeps the interior spaces naturally cool in the summer and warm in the winter. In addition to its tight thermal mass, the home operates on a number of passive and active design principles. The home’s water supply comes from multiple springs found in the valley. Gray water from the sinks and shower are funneled into a collection system that is used for irrigation. At the moment, the house runs on the town’s local grid but has its own self-sustaining system set up. The domes are set in a remote area, tucked into the highest point of a 60-acre organic, permaculture farm in the Diamante Valley. Not only is the house surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty and abundant wildlife, but it also enjoys the benefits of organic gardening. The vast site is separated into three garden areas that are planted with everything from yucca and mango to coco palms and perennial greens, not to mention oodles of fresh herbs. + SuperAdobe Dome Home Images via Makenzie Gardner

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As temperatures increase, so do rat populations

June 25, 2019 by  
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The warmer weather creeping into cities across America is cause for international concern, but there’s one group that loves it– rats. The impact of climate change on pests and disease is widely studied and cited as a reason to worry at the local level, but the rise in rat populations specifically is hard to quantify. While lab rats are studied ad nauseum , ‘wild’ urban rats are mostly taboo for the scientific community, however, scientists are confident that even without scientific studies the number of rats is climbing. Recent news headlines have even warned city dwellers about the coming “ratpocalypse.” In New York City, the rat population could be anywhere between two and 32 million , but warmer weather gives rats a longer time frame to reproduce and that number– whatever it is– will grow exponentially. Rats typically hibernate in the winter , but during warmer months a female rat can have up to 72 pups. Each of those pups reaches sexual maturity after just one month, which means one female rat can create over 15,000 rats in just a year. Related: Climate twins: which city will your city feel like in 2080? The longer breeding season and overpopulation aren’t the only problem with rats. They are carriers of many diseases and pests– including ticks, fleas, bubonic plague and E.Coli. Increased rat infestations will likely cause an increase in incidences of sickness among humans, especially since contact with rat urine or feces alone is often enough to spread the contagion. With rising urban populations, rats are likely to increase even without the additional help of the climate crisis , so cities around the country will have to get serious about rat control. Last year, New York’s Mayor de Blasio launched a $32 million project to exterminate rats. There’s finally something that liberals and conservatives can agree on– we don’t want the ratpocalypse. Via Grist Image via DSD

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Bring your reef-safe sunscreens when visiting Key West

February 11, 2019 by  
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Key West is taking steps toward promoting reef-safe sunscreens . Officials on the Key West City Commission just approved a ban on sunscreens that have ingredients that are harmful to coral reefs. The new law, which passed almost unanimously, is scheduled to be put in place by 2021. The motion outlaws sunscreens that feature octinoxate and oxybenzone in the city limits of Key West . These two chemicals are thought to be connected to coral reef bleaching. There is some research that suggests these chemicals damage the cellular structures in coral reefs, though several companies in the sunscreen industry have challenged those studies. Related: Maya Bay closes following extensive environmental damage from tourists Even if there is not a strong link between the chemicals and coral bleaching , the Key West City Commission believes banning these sunscreens is worth the price. After all, there is only one coral reef in North America. Keeping it safe is top priority, even if it means turning away business. “We have one reef, and we have to do one small thing to protect that,” Key West Mayor Teri Johnston explained. “It’s our obligation.” Unfortunately, there are few reef-safe sunscreens on the market. According to NPR , most sunscreen products in the U.S. contain octinoxate or oxybenzone. Companies like Aveeno, Johnson & Johnson, Coppertone and Neutrogena all have sunblocks that contain the banned chemicals . These corporations are also spearheading efforts to fight bans on octinoxate and oxybenzone, chemicals that they argue do not cause coral reef bleaching. Instead, they claim that a combination of climate change , ocean acidity and overfishing are the root causes of coral reef problems, including bleaching. Several companies even sent representatives to Key West in an attempt to fight the new ban. Key West is not the first municipality to enact a sunscreen ban, and it will probably not be the last. In 2018, Hawaii introduced a law that bans sunscreens that contain the chemicals in question. Officials hope the new law will protect coral reefs against bleaching, and they are urging companies to develop more reef-safe sunscreens that are better for the environment. Via NPR Image via Shutterstock

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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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