Butts Out of the Ocean

November 5, 2018 by  
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Butts Out of the Ocean

SodaStream deploys an ocean-sweeper to clean up plastic waste in the Caribbean Sea

October 25, 2018 by  
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SodaStream has announced the launch of its massive ocean-sweeper, a contraption designed to dismantle booming plastic waste patches in marine waters.  The “Holy Turtle” has already started cleaning up plastic in the Caribbean Sea; the specially designed model is stationed off the shores of Roatán, Honduras for its pilot project. Enlisting the aid of local youth and government, as well as environmental NGOs, experts and artists, SodaStream’s multifaceted mission is a four-day feat with a hopefully long-term impact. SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum heads the ambitious assignment alongside a formation of international executives who have refocused their energies into acquiring the technology and partnerships they need for the bold initiative. Seven local schools in Honduras have also teamed up with the nearly 150 company execs. While the students are charged with providing a helping hand with the clean-up, their longstanding potential is even more significant. The kids will participate in educational courses alongside their clean-up duties, learning about the environment from international experts. Birnbaum and collaborating NGO Plastic Soup Foundation hope that the students’ involvement will influence them to become environmental ambassadors for their communities in the future. Related: Only 13% of Earth’s oceans remain untouched by humans — for now Having spent his life side-by-side with water , Birnbaum is no stranger to how influential interacting with nature can be. Before leading SodaStream, the philanthropist was a naval officer and an experienced skipper. Birnbaum’s project was inspired by a 2017 BBC feature that brought to light the devastating stretch of synthetic trash floating off the Honduran coastline through the lens of videographer Caroline Powers. More than a clean-up job, Birnbaum became determined to dismantle the marine decay, regarding the plastic waste as both a somber byproduct of human consumption as well as an invasive force in its own right. “More than 8 million tons of plastic goes into the ocean every year. This plastic doesn’t disappear. It breaks up into tiny particles, floats in the ocean, endangers marine life and ends up in our food chain,” he explained. “We must all put our hands together to reduce the use of single-use plastic and commit ourselves to changing our habits and go reusable. It’s in our hands.” Related: Point Nemo, the most remote spot in the ocean, is plagued with plastic The company is the first known commercial entity to attempt a marine clean-up project, at least with this rank of potential and — true to its cause — the recovered debris won’t simply be trashed. The waste, gathered by the 1,000-foot-long “Holy Turtle” contraption, will be transformed into an exhibition aimed at raising awareness about single-use plastics and educating people on why adopting reusable cups, straws, bags and bottles is paramount in saving the environment. The one-of-a-kind vessel was developed by Florida-based company ABBCO, specialists in oil spill containment. Two marine vessels tow the extensive gathering unit that is able to cover vast portions of open water. Most remarkably, the “Holy Turtle” features specially engineered vent holes to protect wildlife while still gathering up significant amounts waste. “We can’t clean up all the plastic waste on the planet, but we each need to do whatever we can,” Birnbaum said. “The most important thing is to commit ourselves to stop using single-use plastic.” + Roatan 2018 Via Nasdaq Image via SodaStream

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SodaStream deploys an ocean-sweeper to clean up plastic waste in the Caribbean Sea

This year, dish out these eco-friendly Halloween treats

October 25, 2018 by  
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October kicks off the holiday season with Halloween decor and candy lining the shelves of every store. While porches fill up with carved pumpkins, spiders and cobwebs, parents and children across the country begin planning their Halloween costumes. The tradition of neighborhood trick-or-treating holds strong in nearly every area of the country. With an estimated 40 million trick-or-treaters hitting the streets, the potential environmental impact is huge. If you are looking for ways to make Halloween more sustainable, there are several steps you can take. Trick-or-treat close to home to minimize transportation emissions. Avoid single-use plastic in decor and costumes, and invest in long-lasting options or shop secondhand to extend the life of products already in the consumption stream. Perhaps the biggest impact you can have is to carefully consider eco-friendly options when it comes to the Halloween treats you’ll hand out to Little Red Riding Hood and the superheroes that appear at your door. Provide nutrition bars Protein and granola bars are a healthier option than candy laden with sugar . Plus, there is more product per package over individually-wrapped candies, which results in less waste. Look for organic ingredients and rely on companies like Clif, winner of the 2017 Climate Leader award by the EPA, for its efforts in promoting climate action and implementing green power up and down the supply chain. Related: 6 tips for crafting an eco-friendly Halloween costume Offer natural candies There is no dispute that candy isn’t notable for its health benefits. However, not all ingredients are created equal. When reading the ingredient labels for your Halloween treats, see if you can even pronounce them all. Probably not. Instead of handing out artificial candies made in a lab, reach for a more natural option. Choose candies made with original recipes that date back to a time when foods weren’t made by someone wearing a lab coat. Natural candies are made using natural sweeteners such as sugar cane, agave and honey. Instead of coloring that has a number, natural candy is dyed using beet, cabbage and carrot juices. Check out your local market or jump online to order from the Natural Candy Store . Choose fair trade chocolate The fair trade movement guarantees certain rights across industries. From clothing, to coffee, to chocolate, products certified as fair trade ensure that workers are given a voice. Other fair trade practices include attention to working hours, equal gender pay, child labor laws and safe working conditions. With this in mind, look for chocolate made with fair trade cocoa when choosing your Halloween candy. One example is Justin’s brand of peanut butter cups, which are made with fair trade chocolate, plus the company donates a percentage of its profits toward ending world hunger. Look for sustainable manufacturing Take a look at companies like Mars, which is working toward sustainability through renewable energy at nine of its factories, water conservation practices and conscientious sourcing of ingredients. Most companies practicing sustainability in the material acquisition, manufacturing, packaging and transport segments of their businesses are quite transparent about their efforts, so hit up Google for more information. Take, for example, Equal Exchange’s fair trade, organic chocolate, which lists its certifications and ingredients right on the website. Consider packaging Tens of millions of trick-or-treaters, each scoring a bucket- or pillowcase-full of individually-wrapped candies, creates massive waste. With this in mind, think about the packaging of your chosen treat. Choose paper or cardboard packaging over plastic . Look for companies that package in biodegradable or recyclable materials. Go Organic fruit chews reportedly come in compostable bags. Alternatively, Yum Earth fruit snacks’ packaging is produced in a facility powered 100 percent by wind energy . Yum Earth also makes an organic lollipop that comes in a reusable and resealable bag. Consider Glee gum, made without artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners. The packaging is recyclable, so you can feel good about avoiding the individual plastic surrounding most Halloween treats. Related: 10 sustainable Halloween decorations for your green home Another option is to hit up the bulk section at your favorite store. Because individual packaging is an unavoidable side effect of generously handing out treats, look for foil-wrapped chocolate balls and similar items that allow the packaging to be recycled . Of course, you could also go with cardboard boxes that can be recycled or will biodegrade 1,000 years sooner than plastic bags. Some candies (think Nerds) are packaged this way, along with things like raisins. If you want to take the natural route, fresh fruit comes in its own packaging, so small apples and mandarin oranges are an option, too. Understand the teal pumpkin Not long ago, families with children who have  food allergies had few options for traditional trick-or-treating. Instead of finding other activities or hunkering down to a movie with the porch light off, parents passionate about being able to celebrate the Halloween holiday like other families have come up with a solution called the teal pumpkin. Any family that puts a teal pumpkin on their porch on Halloween night is announcing that they offer food-free options for trick-or-treaters. In fact, there is a even a website where you can register your house or find participants in your area. To participate, keep non-food options available, such as Play-Doh, soap bombs, face paint, craft paint, tattoos, stickers, puzzles, markers (especially Crayola, which offers a recycling program), pencils, paper bookmarks, bubbles, playing cards, spinning tops, wooden yo-yos, small word games or puzzle books. Don’t forget to put a teal pumpkin on your porch as well. Holidays are full of opportunities to spend time with loved ones and create special memories. When it comes to providing treats for the little ghosts and goblins in your neighborhood, you can enjoy the holiday vibe and still feel good about helping create a cleaner planet that they will inherit. Via Yoga Journal , TreeHugger and Going Zero Waste Images via Marco Verch , Photo AC , Charisse Kenion , Mars , Incase and Shutterstock

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This year, dish out these eco-friendly Halloween treats

Study finds 90 percent of table salt contains microplastics

October 18, 2018 by  
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According to a new study that observed sea, rock and lake salts, 90 percent of the table salt brands sold around the world contain microplastics. Several years ago, researchers discovered that microplastics were in sea salt, but no one was certain just how extensive the problem was until now. National Geographic reported that researchers in South Korea and at Greenpeace East Asia tested 39 salt brands, and 36 of them contained microplastics. This study — published in this month’s journal of Environmental Science & Technology — is the first of its kind to look at the correlation between microplastics in table salt and where we find plastic pollution in the environment. Related: Study suggests the average person consumes 70,000 microplastic bits every year “The findings suggest that human ingestion of microplastics via marine products is strongly related to emissions in a given region,” said Seung-Kyu Kim, a marine science professor at Incheon National University in South Korea. The salt samples came from 21 countries in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. The three brands that did not contain microplastics were refined sea salt from Taiwan, refined rock salt from China and unrefined sea salt produced by solar evaporation in France. The density of microplastics in salt varied among the different brands. The study found that the tested Asian brands of salt contained the highest amounts, especially in the salt sold in Indonesia. An unrelated 2015 study found that Indonesia suffered from the second-worst level of plastic pollution in the world. Researchers found that  microplastic levels were highest in sea salt, followed by lake salt and rock salt. This latest study estimates that the average adult consumes about 2,000 microplastics each year through salt. But how harmful that is remains a mystery. Because of knowledge gaps and a mismatch of data in more than 300 microplastic studies, there is limited evidence to suggest that microplastics have a significant negative impact. Microplastics could be detrimental to our health and the planet, or the focus on microplastic could be diverting attention from worse environmental problems. + Environmental Science & Technology Via National Geographic Image via Bruno

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Study finds 90 percent of table salt contains microplastics

Kroger plans plastic bag phase-out by 2025

August 25, 2018 by  
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The Kroger supermarket conglomerate announced on Thursday that it is planning a phase-out of plastic bags at all store locations as part of its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste commitment . The company owns more than 2,700 stores throughout 35 states, including popular chains such as Harris Teeter, Fred Meyer and Ralphs. Related: UK bag tariff halves plastic bag marine litter, reduces sales of plastic bags by 86% Kroger is making a “bold move that will better protect our planet,” according to CEO Rodney McMullen. “We listen very closely to our customers and our communities, and we agree with their growing concerns,” added Executive Vice President and COO Mike Donnelly in a press release. Seattle’s QFC grocery stores will be the first of Kroger’s chains to fully eliminate plastic bags, achieving the goal as early as next year. “Starting today at QFC, we will begin the transition to more sustainable options. This decision aligns with our Restock Kroger commitment to live our purpose through social impact,” announced Donnelly. Between the Zero Hunger | Zero Waste and the Restock Kroger commitments, the company hopes to divert 90 percent of waste from landfills by 2020 and provide food to families and individuals in need. Last year alone, the conglomerate sent more than 91 million pounds of safe, nutritious food to local food banks and homes, providing over 325 million meals in total. In 2017, 66.15 million pounds of plastic and 2.43 billion pounds of cardboard were recycled. Kroger, however, wants to achieve more. Related: Starbucks ditches plastic straws for the environment Estimates suggest that less than five percent of plastic bags are recycled annually in America and nearly 100 billion are thrown away each year. Single-use plastic bags are the fifth most common plastic pollutant, harming waterways and marine ecosystems. Harmful microplastics result from the breakdown process and have made their way into soils, waters, air, and nearly everything we ingest. That’s why Kroger, rather than merely lessening the number of plastic bags, plans to eliminate them completely by providing reusable, recyclable multi-use bags. Kroger joins companies such as Starbucks, McDonald’s and the Marriot International Group in a stand to eliminate single-use plastics, which follows legislation banning them in states such as Hawaii and California. + CNN + Kroger + NPR Image via Pixabay

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Kroger plans plastic bag phase-out by 2025

Study: Microplastics Common in Bottled Water

April 30, 2018 by  
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Study: Microplastics Common in Bottled Water

Scientists call for a worldwide ban on the ‘global hazard’ of glitter

December 4, 2017 by  
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You know microbeads are terrible for the planet, but have you ever considered the environmental impact of glitter? The ubiquitous party supply is made up of tiny plastic particles , and are every bit as bad as microbeads, which have been banned in many places across the world. Now, scientists say that it’s time to ban the glittery stuff as well. Microplastics make their way from waterways and landfills into the ocean, where sea life consumes it. Fish have been found to actively seeking out plastics , mistaking it for food, and a third of fish in the UK contain plastics. This is not only deadly for wildlife, but it could be dangerous for humans who consume fish as well. Related: Microplastics are killing fish faster than they can reproduce Glitter has become more and more common, appearing in cosmetics , clothing, and bath products, (not to mention the trend of putting on beards and hair) in addition to the party supply aisle. Scientists say that it should be treated like microbeads since it is essentially no different when it comes to the environment, and are calling for a ban. Via Fox Images via Deposit photos and Unsplash

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Scientists call for a worldwide ban on the ‘global hazard’ of glitter

Antony Gibbon’s Helix House is a twisting tiny home that towers amidst the forest

December 4, 2017 by  
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Designer Antony Gibbon is known for his nature-inspired designs , each of which is more jaw-dropping than the last. His latest masterpiece is the Helix House – a beautiful twisting tower clad in wooden slatted beams that seamlessly blends into the forest. At just 100 square feet, the home is tiny, but the majestic design is straight out of a fairy tale. Like all of Gibbons’ designs, the Helix House was inspired by nature. The rising twisted form allows the structure blend in quietly with the surrounding forestscape. Clad in wooden beams, the home’s design is not only gorgeous, but the unique shape was also strategic to hiding all the structural support and access into the low-impact home. Related:Antony Gibbon’s Lucent House is a serene minimalist retreat made of glass and stone A tiny home in tower form, the one-bedroom home is less than 100 square feet. On the inside, the first floor has a kitchenette and a small bathroom. The second floor houses the bedroom, which has a beautiful glazed wall that provides natural light and stellar views of the surrounding environment. + Antony Gibbon Designs Images via Antony Gibbon Designs

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Antony Gibbon’s Helix House is a twisting tiny home that towers amidst the forest

215 pterosaur eggs unearthed in biggest collection ever found

December 4, 2017 by  
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Scientists recently uncovered the largest group of fossilized pterosaur eggs ever. In a 10-foot-long sandstone block in northwest China , they came across 215 eggs – 16 of which have embryonic remains. Discoveries of pterosaur eggs are exceedingly rare. The only previous discoveries with an intact embryo and well-preserved 3D structure include three in Argentina and five in China , so researchers around the world are especially thrilled with this latest find. Pterosaurs may have been around on Earth up to 225 million years ago, but vanished with the dinosaurs around 65 million years ago. This new discovery of pterosaur eggs from the species Hamipterus tianshanensis reveals the reptiles – the first creatures following insects to evolve powered flight – actually couldn’t soar right away after they were born, requiring care from parents. Paleontologist Alexander Kellner of the Museu Nacional at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro told AFP, “Since these are extremely fragile fossils , we were very surprised to find so many in the same place. Because of this discovery, we can talk about the behavior of these animals for the first time.” Related: Ancient flying reptile was around the size of a small plane The eggs are an estimated 120 million years old, from pterosaurs that as adults would have been around four-feet-tall with an 11-foot wingspan. Researchers unearthed partial skull and wing bones , and even one entire lower jaw, filling in some of the gaps in our knowledge about the pterosaur life cycle. The baby pterosaurs would have had functional hind legs not too long after hatching, but weak chest muscles. Kellner said they “could walk but not fly…This is one of the biggest discoveries we have made.” Scientists also found some adult pterosaur bones in the vicinity, leading them to think adult pterosaurs may have come back to the same nesting spots. The journal Science published the work this month. 17 scientists from institutions in China and Brazil contributed; paleontologist Xiaolin Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences led the study. He said there could be as many as 300 eggs at the excavation site – there appear to be some buried beneath the exposed ones. Via Phys.org , EurekAlert! , and the Chinese Academy of Sciences Images via Xinhua/Wang Xiaolin/Chinese Academy of Sciences and Alexander Kellner (Museu Nacional/UFRJ) ( 1 , 2 )

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215 pterosaur eggs unearthed in biggest collection ever found

Scientists discover cheap method to identify "lost" 99% of ocean microplastics

December 1, 2017 by  
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The world’s oceans are awash with hazardous microplastics that are largely invisible to the naked eye. These tiny plastic fragments, which are less than 5 millimeters in diameter and originate from the breakdown of synthetic clothing fibers, polyester from disposable bags and bottles, and so-called “microbeads” from facial scrubs and other exfoliants, mostly go undetected, according to scientists. In fact, previous surveys suggest only 1 percent of marine plastic waste is identifiable. To suss out the “missing” 99 percent, researchers from the University of Warwick in England decided to shine a light on the problem—quite literally—by using fluorescent dyes. Gabriel Erni-Cassola and Joseph A. Christie-Oleza from Warwick’s School of Life Sciences, who spearheaded the research, claim that the new technique can detect microplastics as small as 20 micrometers—about the width of a single human hair. Because the dye they created binds only to plastic, the “tagged” microplastics show up easily among other natural materials when viewed under a fluorescence microscope. Related: Is synthetic clothing causing “microplastic” pollution in our oceans? Testing the method on samples of surface sea water and beach sand from the coast around Plymouth, the scientists said they were able to extract a far greater number of microplastics than they would have with traditional methods. “Using this method, a huge series of samples can be viewed and analysed very quickly, to obtain large amounts of data on the quantities of small microplastics in seawater or, effectively, in any environmental sample,” said Erni-Cassola in a statement.”Current methods used to assess the amount of microplastics mostly consist in manually picking the microplastics out of samples one by one—demonstrating the great improvement of our method.” Meanwhile, the team at Warwick discovered that the largest quantity of microplastics less than 1 mm in diameter was polypropylene, the ubiquitous polymer found in plastic bags and takeout containers. This finding proves that “our consumer habits are directly affecting the oceans,” the scientists said. Related: Which personal-care brands are still polluting the oceans with microbeads? The research is still in its early days, Christie-Oleza insisted, but it’s a beginning. “Have we found the lost 99 percent of missing plastic in surface oceans?” he said. “Obviously this method needs to be implemented in future scientific surveys to confirm our preliminary findings. It is important to understand how plastic waste behaves in the environment to correctly assess future policies.” + University of Warwick Top image by by Gaetano Cessati on Unsplash

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Scientists discover cheap method to identify "lost" 99% of ocean microplastics

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