What big bets by Bezos Earth Fund say about climate action in 2021

November 19, 2020 by  
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What big bets by Bezos Earth Fund say about climate action in 2021 Heather Clancy Thu, 11/19/2020 – 01:00 A group of 16 nonprofits dedicated to inspiring climate action has much to give thanks for this week. With little fanfare other than a lengthy Instagram post, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pledged $791 million in donations from the Bezos Earth Fund — his $10 billion commitment to funding scientists, nonprofits and “others” that have made it their life’s work to fight climate change. For those of you keeping score, Bezos created the fund in February, although not much is known about who is behind the scenes running things — there’s isn’t even a public-facing web site. This is the first batch of grants bestowed by the organization.  Many of you will be familiar with the organizations that made the cut, and I see no reason not to list them all because they deserve as much attention as possible these days: The Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund , ClimateWorks Foundation , Dream Corps Green For All , Eden Reforestation Projects , Energy Foundation , Environmental Defense Fund , The Hive Fund for Climate and Gender Justice , Natural Resources Defense Council , The Nature Conservancy , NDN Collective , Rocky Mountain Institute , Salk Institute for Biological Studies , The Solutions Project , Union of Concerned Scientists , World Resources Institute and World Wildlife Fund . The big green NGOs — EDF, NRDC, The Nature Conservancy, WWF and WRI — made out really big, each snagging $100 million. For perspective, EDF’s budget is usually about $230 million annually, so this is not an insignificant sum of money for any of these organizations. Poking more specifically into where the money is dedicated tells us a lot about where we can expect big corporations to prioritize climate action during 2021. With that in mind, here are three of my takeaways from Bezos’s big bets. 1. Climate equity and environmental justice is getting much-needed funding   Five organizations chosen for the grants this week are explicitly focused on addressing climate change through the lens of environmental justice. Three of them — the Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund, The Solutions Project and The Hive Fund — are receiving $43 million each. I love that all of these groups are laser-focused on local communities and people of color. The Solutions Project, for example, has pledged 95 percent of its funding to the BIPOC community, with 80 percent designated for women-led organizations.  An organization I’ll be researching more closely next year is NDN Collective, an Indigenous-led group that received $12 million. I should also mention that climate justice also permeates the other grants. NRDC, for example, will be using its grant to help advance climate solutions at the state and community level that “strengthen equity and justice at the heart of climate advocacy.” And The Nature Conservancy is using a big chunk of its fund to protect the Emerald Edge old-growth forest in the United States and Canada in collaboration with Indigenous and tribal communities there.   I have to be honest, I’ve been somewhat discouraged over the past few months when I’ve asked corporate sustainability professionals how they’re embedding racial justice considerations into their strategies. While there have been some really meaningful commitments — including Microsoft’s vow to include environmental justice as part of its renewable energy strategy or Apple’s Racial and Equity Justice Initiative — the vast majority of companies I’ve asked outright are struggling with blending justice into their environmental strategies. That needs to change, and these investments have me greeting 2021 with newfound optimism. 2. Anticipate more attention to the potential of ocean carbon sequestration Nature-based solutions for removing atmospheric carbon dioxide were the rage this year, and that sensibility is scattered across the press releases issued by the recipients. The Salk Institute, for example, is getting $30 million for its Harnessing Plants Initiative, focused on the soil sequestration of the world’s six biggest food crops, including soybeans and corn.  But it isn’t all about the land. The money is also supporting a big WWF program to protect and restore mangroves, small trees that grow in the brackish waters along coasts, in Colombia, Fiji, Madagascar and Mexico. What’s more, it includes funds for another solution that is capturing more attention as we stare into 2021: seaweed farming. According to advocates , kelp beds sequester five times more CO2 than terrestrial leafy greens such as kale or lettuce. There’s a movement brewing to use seaweed as a feedstock for fuel alternatives; it’s also finding a place on menus, including at fast-casual restaurant chain Sweetgreen, and a role in packaging (such as Loliware, which is making seaweed straws). Note to self: Learn more about seaweed and mangroves. 3. Don’t underestimate the potential of satellites in the fight against climate change  EDF’s grant is largely focused on launching the MethaneSAT , a network for locating and measuring methane pollution around the world and sharing it to ensure accountability.  It should not be lost on any of us that aside from being the CEO of one of the world’s largest retailers and tech companies, Bezos is behind Blue Origin, one of the private space companies that hopes to put people back onto the moon. It’s only natural that he’d explore extraterrestrial climate solutions. EDF isn’t the only organization benefiting here: WRI will be using its grant to develop a satellite-based network for monitoring carbon emissions as well as changes to forests, grasslands, wetlands and farms.   Here’s hoping that all of these initiatives find it much easier to get off the ground under the Biden-Harris administration, which has made addressing climate change — and cultivating clean economy jobs — one of its four priorities. And just think, “only” $9 billion more to allocate from the Bezos Earth Fund. That’s an inspiring sum of money. Topics Innovation Social Justice Climate Tech Equity & Inclusion Carbon Removal Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Emerald Edge, the largest intact coastal rainforest on Earth, spans 100 million acres through Washington, British Columbia and Alaska. It will benefit from the first set of grants by the Bezos Earth Fund.

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What big bets by Bezos Earth Fund say about climate action in 2021

Shooting for the moon: 3 radical innovations to remove atmospheric CO2

November 10, 2020 by  
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Shooting for the moon: 3 radical innovations to remove atmospheric CO2 Tali Zuckerman Tue, 11/10/2020 – 01:00 Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere may be as difficult as getting to the moon.  That’s because every day, human activity pumps out 38 tons of CO2 into the air. Currently, our atmosphere is saturated with around 415 parts per million (ppm) CO2, a number we urgently need to reduce to 280 ppm to avoid the most devastating climate impacts.  But to take out just one ton of CO2, we must first filter one Roman colosseum’s worth of air. Several pioneers in the field are developing revolutionary systems to do just that. During the “Carbon Removal Moonshots” session in late October at VERGE 20, co-founders from innovative carbon removal initiatives Project Vesta, Charm Industrial and IdeaLab joined moderator Tito Jankowski, co-founder of the online community Air Miners, on the virtual stage to share the stories and missions behind their innovations. 1. Project Vesta: Enhancing natural weathering to capture CO2 in ocean-bound volcanic sand Launched on Earth Day 2019, Project Vesta aims to enhance natural weathering processes to accelerate carbon capture and storage in the world’s oceans. The nonprofit organization plans to do this by accelerating Earth’s carbonate-silicate cycle, in which volcanic rock is weathered by rain and creates a chemical reaction that sequesters CO2 from the air. Over time, this carbon turns into limestone on the ocean floor and melts back into the Earth’s core.  During the session, co-founder Kelly Erhart explained the natural inspiration for the project: “This [process] has been working for millions of years and slowly locking up trillions of tons of carbon dioxide into the earth over geologic time scales. We looked at this and we asked: How can we speed this up?” Specifically, Project Vesta has developed a way to take olivine, a naturally abundant, green volcanic rock, and grind it into sand to be distributed over beaches around the world. After the olivine sand is set in place, ocean waves, tides and currents will be left to do the rest.  If we want to create a world that we know is possible, we have to be able to imagine it. Erhart believes that the process is not only feasible, but scalable. Olivine is found on every continent, and makes up over 50 percent of Earth’s upper mantle. The solution does not compete for land use or other economic activities, and only requires that 2 percent of global shelf seas are covered with a few millimeters of olivine sand to sequester one year’s worth of human CO2 emissions, Erhart said. Of the three innovations presented, Project Vesta comes in at the lowest estimated price point. The organization aims to reach $10 per ton of CO2 equivalent, which is five to 10 times cheaper than direct air capture (DAC) or other techniques. So far, Project Vesta has raised $2.5 million in philanthropic and corporate donations (including a large purchase from Stripe) and is deploying its technology on a few heavily instrumented pilot beaches to monitor the rate of weathering and any effects on ocean life. The team believes that any impact will be beneficial, as olivine deacidifies the ocean and therefore helps support the life and health of marine ecosystems. Ultimately, the project’s goal is to advance this technology all over the world. It hopes to establish an open-source integrated algorithm and protocol that will enable governments, nonprofits and companies to deploy this solution with predictable results. The Charm Industrial team. 2. Charm Industrial: Turning biomass waste into CO2-dense bio-oil Charm Industrial is working to reverse the process of crude-oil production — that is, to take the carbon stored in biomass, turn it into CO2-dense biofuel through fast pyrolysis (superheating) and inject it back into the Earth’s crust. The startup is on a mission to “return the atmosphere to 280 ppm” through its technology, which it claims is more permanent and cost-effective than traditional nature-based offsets and direct air capture (DAC) methods.  Currently, Charm makes its bio-oil from excess sawdust and wood, but it plans to use agricultural residues such as corn stover, rice straw, sugar cane and almond shells in the future. Its aim is for the process to have additionality, meaning that if the feedstock was left unused, such residues would be left in fields to rot and emit CO2 back into the air.  The bio-oil Charm produces has properties similar to crude oil but with half the energy content and a very high carbon content. This, along with its tendency to form a solid over time, make the product safe for injection into existing oil wells, according to the company. Further, the oil is less likely to leak back into the atmosphere or groundwater than CO2 gas (or CO2 dissolved in water) when injected into the same wells, according to Charm, and the oil also can better help prevent seismic activity in large underground caverns created by past mining activities.  “What’s interesting about sequestration of bio-oil is that it sort of closes the carbon cycle that started about 200 years ago with the initial removal of oil from these formations,” said Charm co-founder Shaun Meehan. “There’s enormous infrastructure that exists to get oil out of the earth, and we just need to run it backwards.” Charm says its model is unique because it plans to use small-scale facilities. Meehan explained that previously, large biomass facilities have been unsuccessful because they quickly depleted nearby biomass stores and caused prices to skyrocket. By opening multiple smaller plants, Charm hopes to have a more stable quantity of biomass to work with. What does it cost for this form of sequestration? Charm’s current projections are around $475 per ton of CO2 equivalent for the first few years — a number it hopes to get down to $200 by its 10th plant and eventually to $50 per ton of CO2 equivalent.  Like Project Vesta, Charm believes its solution is scalable. The company already has received regulatory approval for its first injection site in Kansas. “As far as scale, there is about 140 gigatons per year of global biomass availability,” Meehan said. “If we are even able to take a small subset of that biomass, then we are able to have a meaningful impact on negative emissions.” Bill Gross, founder of Heliogen, said every acre of land served by the technology would remove 1 ton of CO2 per day, a rate of capture equivalent to that in roughly 100 acres of forest. Courtesy of Heliogen 3. Heliogen (IdeaLab): Capturing carbon with solar-powered, desert-based DAC plants Bill Gross , founder and chairman of the IdeaLab technology incubator and company Heliogen, began his presentation with several eye-opening statistics and visuals about humanity’s emissions. These included the fact that humans emit 31 times (by weight) the amount of CO2 into the atmosphere as they do garbage into their trash cans, and that to remove 1 ton of carbon from the atmosphere requires capturing a volume of air equivalent to the Colosseum in Rome.  Gross then described the solar-powered DAC process his team at Heliogen has designed. The process involves first funneling air through a desiccant (a hygroscopic substance that absorbs water), then moving it through zeolite, a mineral that effectively takes up any CO2 in the air, Gross said. Water is then removed from the desiccant and CO2 from the zeolite using solar-powered thermal energy. Ideally, this technology would be situated in desert environments so as not to compete for land and harness the brilliant power of the sun. According to Gross, every acre of land of this technology would remove 1 ton of CO2 per day, a rate of capture equivalent to that in roughly 100 acres of forest. Multiplied over 390 acres (a rectangle that fits well within the Sahara desert) this technology theoretically could neutralize all 38 gigatons of CO2 humans produce every year. Of course, this is a big ask. Actually achieving it would require that the technology be cheap enough to set up and account for any emissions created during its installation. At the moment, the estimated price of this technology is $100 per ton of CO2, according to Gross. He hopes to reach $50 per ton and dreams of getting to $25. When asked about plans for the use of CO2 after it is captured and compressed, Gross reckoned that he focuses solely on the removal of CO2, several startups will emerge to find creative uses for the gas once it can be captured at a low price. Like the previous two technologies, Gross stressed that the success of this solution relies on the global shift towards valuing CO2 emissions.  Although private players are increasingly taking responsibility for their emissions (tech companies such as Shopify, Square and Microsoft were mentioned) the public sector must move to put a price on carbon to drive change on a larger scale. Once global regulations mandate that corporations pay for their emissions, companies will look towards such innovations for cheaper ways to offset their emissions, he said. To the moon and beyond  Ultimately, a real solution to the global CO2 crisis necessitates collaboration between sectors and individual innovators, something Jankowksi’s online community Air Miners is working to facilitate. As each speaker stressed, no one solution is big enough to bring us back to 280ppm — we need several of them to go to work at once.  As Gross put it, “We need the same diversity of ideas to take [CO2] out as the people who put it up there.” The time to act is now, the speakers urged: Spread the message, get people excited and, as Jankowski said, believe that even this trip to the moon can succeed.  “If we want to create a world that we know is possible,” Erhart echoed, “we have to be able to imagine it.” Pull Quote If we want to create a world that we know is possible, we have to be able to imagine it. Topics Carbon Removal VERGE 20 Innovation Carbon Capture Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Olivine, the focus of Project Vesta’s carbon removal approach. 

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Shooting for the moon: 3 radical innovations to remove atmospheric CO2

Shooting for the moon: 3 radical innovations to remove atmospheric CO2

November 10, 2020 by  
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Shooting for the moon: 3 radical innovations to remove atmospheric CO2 Tali Zuckerman Tue, 11/10/2020 – 01:00 Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere may be as difficult as getting to the moon.  That’s because every day, human activity pumps out 38 tons of CO2 into the air. Currently, our atmosphere is saturated with around 415 parts per million (ppm) CO2, a number we urgently need to reduce to 280 ppm to avoid the most devastating climate impacts.  But to take out just one ton of CO2, we must first filter one Roman colosseum’s worth of air. Several pioneers in the field are developing revolutionary systems to do just that. During the “Carbon Removal Moonshots” session in late October at VERGE 20, co-founders from innovative carbon removal initiatives Project Vesta, Charm Industrial and IdeaLab joined moderator Tito Jankowski, co-founder of the online community Air Miners, on the virtual stage to share the stories and missions behind their innovations. 1. Project Vesta: Enhancing natural weathering to capture CO2 in ocean-bound volcanic sand Launched on Earth Day 2019, Project Vesta aims to enhance natural weathering processes to accelerate carbon capture and storage in the world’s oceans. The nonprofit organization plans to do this by accelerating Earth’s carbonate-silicate cycle, in which volcanic rock is weathered by rain and creates a chemical reaction that sequesters CO2 from the air. Over time, this carbon turns into limestone on the ocean floor and melts back into the Earth’s core.  During the session, co-founder Kelly Erhart explained the natural inspiration for the project: “This [process] has been working for millions of years and slowly locking up trillions of tons of carbon dioxide into the earth over geologic time scales. We looked at this and we asked: How can we speed this up?” Specifically, Project Vesta has developed a way to take olivine, a naturally abundant, green volcanic rock, and grind it into sand to be distributed over beaches around the world. After the olivine sand is set in place, ocean waves, tides and currents will be left to do the rest.  If we want to create a world that we know is possible, we have to be able to imagine it. Erhart believes that the process is not only feasible, but scalable. Olivine is found on every continent, and makes up over 50 percent of Earth’s upper mantle. The solution does not compete for land use or other economic activities, and only requires that 2 percent of global shelf seas are covered with a few millimeters of olivine sand to sequester one year’s worth of human CO2 emissions, Erhart said. Of the three innovations presented, Project Vesta comes in at the lowest estimated price point. The organization aims to reach $10 per ton of CO2 equivalent, which is five to 10 times cheaper than direct air capture (DAC) or other techniques. So far, Project Vesta has raised $2.5 million in philanthropic and corporate donations (including a large purchase from Stripe) and is deploying its technology on a few heavily instrumented pilot beaches to monitor the rate of weathering and any effects on ocean life. The team believes that any impact will be beneficial, as olivine deacidifies the ocean and therefore helps support the life and health of marine ecosystems. Ultimately, the project’s goal is to advance this technology all over the world. It hopes to establish an open-source integrated algorithm and protocol that will enable governments, nonprofits and companies to deploy this solution with predictable results. The Charm Industrial team. 2. Charm Industrial: Turning biomass waste into CO2-dense bio-oil Charm Industrial is working to reverse the process of crude-oil production — that is, to take the carbon stored in biomass, turn it into CO2-dense biofuel through fast pyrolysis (superheating) and inject it back into the Earth’s crust. The startup is on a mission to “return the atmosphere to 280 ppm” through its technology, which it claims is more permanent and cost-effective than traditional nature-based offsets and direct air capture (DAC) methods.  Currently, Charm makes its bio-oil from excess sawdust and wood, but it plans to use agricultural residues such as corn stover, rice straw, sugar cane and almond shells in the future. Its aim is for the process to have additionality, meaning that if the feedstock was left unused, such residues would be left in fields to rot and emit CO2 back into the air.  The bio-oil Charm produces has properties similar to crude oil but with half the energy content and a very high carbon content. This, along with its tendency to form a solid over time, make the product safe for injection into existing oil wells, according to the company. Further, the oil is less likely to leak back into the atmosphere or groundwater than CO2 gas (or CO2 dissolved in water) when injected into the same wells, according to Charm, and the oil also can better help prevent seismic activity in large underground caverns created by past mining activities.  “What’s interesting about sequestration of bio-oil is that it sort of closes the carbon cycle that started about 200 years ago with the initial removal of oil from these formations,” said Charm co-founder Shaun Meehan. “There’s enormous infrastructure that exists to get oil out of the earth, and we just need to run it backwards.” Charm says its model is unique because it plans to use small-scale facilities. Meehan explained that previously, large biomass facilities have been unsuccessful because they quickly depleted nearby biomass stores and caused prices to skyrocket. By opening multiple smaller plants, Charm hopes to have a more stable quantity of biomass to work with. What does it cost for this form of sequestration? Charm’s current projections are around $475 per ton of CO2 equivalent for the first few years — a number it hopes to get down to $200 by its 10th plant and eventually to $50 per ton of CO2 equivalent.  Like Project Vesta, Charm believes its solution is scalable. The company already has received regulatory approval for its first injection site in Kansas. “As far as scale, there is about 140 gigatons per year of global biomass availability,” Meehan said. “If we are even able to take a small subset of that biomass, then we are able to have a meaningful impact on negative emissions.” Bill Gross, founder of Heliogen, said every acre of land served by the technology would remove 1 ton of CO2 per day, a rate of capture equivalent to that in roughly 100 acres of forest. Courtesy of Heliogen 3. Heliogen (IdeaLab): Capturing carbon with solar-powered, desert-based DAC plants Bill Gross , founder and chairman of the IdeaLab technology incubator and company Heliogen, began his presentation with several eye-opening statistics and visuals about humanity’s emissions. These included the fact that humans emit 31 times (by weight) the amount of CO2 into the atmosphere as they do garbage into their trash cans, and that to remove 1 ton of carbon from the atmosphere requires capturing a volume of air equivalent to the Colosseum in Rome.  Gross then described the solar-powered DAC process his team at Heliogen has designed. The process involves first funneling air through a desiccant (a hygroscopic substance that absorbs water), then moving it through zeolite, a mineral that effectively takes up any CO2 in the air, Gross said. Water is then removed from the desiccant and CO2 from the zeolite using solar-powered thermal energy. Ideally, this technology would be situated in desert environments so as not to compete for land and harness the brilliant power of the sun. According to Gross, every acre of land of this technology would remove 1 ton of CO2 per day, a rate of capture equivalent to that in roughly 100 acres of forest. Multiplied over 390 acres (a rectangle that fits well within the Sahara desert) this technology theoretically could neutralize all 38 gigatons of CO2 humans produce every year. Of course, this is a big ask. Actually achieving it would require that the technology be cheap enough to set up and account for any emissions created during its installation. At the moment, the estimated price of this technology is $100 per ton of CO2, according to Gross. He hopes to reach $50 per ton and dreams of getting to $25. When asked about plans for the use of CO2 after it is captured and compressed, Gross reckoned that he focuses solely on the removal of CO2, several startups will emerge to find creative uses for the gas once it can be captured at a low price. Like the previous two technologies, Gross stressed that the success of this solution relies on the global shift towards valuing CO2 emissions.  Although private players are increasingly taking responsibility for their emissions (tech companies such as Shopify, Square and Microsoft were mentioned) the public sector must move to put a price on carbon to drive change on a larger scale. Once global regulations mandate that corporations pay for their emissions, companies will look towards such innovations for cheaper ways to offset their emissions, he said. To the moon and beyond  Ultimately, a real solution to the global CO2 crisis necessitates collaboration between sectors and individual innovators, something Jankowksi’s online community Air Miners is working to facilitate. As each speaker stressed, no one solution is big enough to bring us back to 280ppm — we need several of them to go to work at once.  As Gross put it, “We need the same diversity of ideas to take [CO2] out as the people who put it up there.” The time to act is now, the speakers urged: Spread the message, get people excited and, as Jankowski said, believe that even this trip to the moon can succeed.  “If we want to create a world that we know is possible,” Erhart echoed, “we have to be able to imagine it.” Pull Quote If we want to create a world that we know is possible, we have to be able to imagine it. Topics Carbon Removal VERGE 20 Innovation Carbon Capture Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Olivine, the focus of Project Vesta’s carbon removal approach. 

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Shooting for the moon: 3 radical innovations to remove atmospheric CO2

Project Lunark to test a prototype moon habitat powered by solar

April 30, 2020 by  
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“What does it take to live on the moon?” That was the question put forward by Sebastian Aristotelis and Karl-Johan Sørensen, the founders of SAGA Space Architects and the analog astronauts behind Lunark , a prototype moon habitat. Designed in collaboration with scientists, engineers and polar experts, Lunark will be tested over three months in northern Greenland as part of the first Arctic-simulated moon mission. In addition to its resilience to extreme temperatures, the habitat will be engineered for a zero-waste ecosystem and will draw power from solar panels. Currently in the research and prototyping stages, Lunark is scheduled for construction in Denmark over the summer of 2020. The expedition is expected to start in the fall of the same year, when Aristotelis and Sørensen will live in the prototype moon habitat for three months to carry out scientific experiments and evaluate the structural design. All of their research and analyses will be compiled in research papers and presented in a TV documentary. Related: SOM unveils designs for first-ever human settlement on the moon “The ultimate goal is to develop the best future moon habitat,” the duo said. “The experiment will develop and test a radically different moon habitat where architecture helps to counteract monotony, claustrophobia and psychological stress.” The designers have chosen northern Greenland as their testing grounds — and are looking at locations near Thule Air Base — because of the island’s extreme climate, remoteness, barren landscape and absence of normal circadian rhythms.  Inspired by origami, the Lunark habitat will be built from reinforced folding panels to allow for a unique expanding design that saves space during transport and expands by 560% by volume upon final installation. The exterior must be engineered to withstand temperatures of -40 degrees Celsius, wind speeds of 90 kilometers per hour and even polar bear attacks. Solar panels will be installed around the perimeter. In contrast to the tank-like exterior, the interior will attempt to follow the principles of hygge and will be equipped with systems that promote a zero-waste lifestyle. An algae reactor will be placed in the core of the habitat and provide highly nutritious food. + SAGA Space Architects Images via SAGA Space Architects

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Project Lunark to test a prototype moon habitat powered by solar

Earth911 Inspiration: Ed Mitchell — Look at That

October 4, 2019 by  
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“From out there on the moon, international politics look so … The post Earth911 Inspiration: Ed Mitchell — Look at That appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Inspiration: Ed Mitchell — Look at That

Glowing, celestial-inspired shelter communes with nature in Denmark

August 8, 2019 by  
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The Munkeruphus Art Museum on the coast of Denmark has recently gained a striking new addition — the Observatory, an organic pavilion by Danish designer Simon Hjermind Jensen . The commission, which was supported by the Danish Arts Foundation and Knud Højgaards Fond, marks the start of the museum’s long-term vision for integrating art and nature-related projects on its grounds. Crafted with 3D modeling and CNC technology, the curvaceous pavilion has a cave-like interior that encourages visitors to gather within and reconnect with nature. When Jensen received the commission for the project, he started the design process with a 24-hour stay on the site to observe the landscape conditions from dawn to dusk as well as the trajectories of the sun and the moon. The site-specific study inspired the placement of the Observatory as well as the architectural design, which began with a ceramic model he crafted on-site. Related: A mountain refuge in Spain is brought back to life with brickwork Back at his studio, Jensen refined his concept with additional ceramic models before overlaying a construction pattern on top that was 3D-scanned for computer modeling . Finally, the pavilion shell was CNC-cut from plywood and polycarbonate, bent into place and fastened together with custom, leaf-inspired joinery. Thanks to parametric modeling, the Observatory is optimized for strength and material use. Measuring nearly 19 feet in height, the Observatory features an asymmetrical teardrop shape topped with an oculus angled toward the south, framing views of the moon and creating more access to natural light . Inside, the curved interior is weighed down by a gravel floor and includes a built-in wooden bench that accommodates 25 people as well as a concrete podium. The central fire pit, when lit, makes the pavilion glow at night. “Like the characters of our surroundings changes and shift from day to night, the Observatory changes too, especially when a bonfire is lit after nightfall.” Jensen said. “The inside spatial experience changes with the light coming from the ground and, seen from the outside, the upper part glows in a pink color created from the light from the flames.” + Simon Hjermind Jensen Images via Simon Hjermind Jensen

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Glowing, celestial-inspired shelter communes with nature in Denmark

SOM unveils designs for first-ever human settlement on the moon

April 17, 2019 by  
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Just a few months ahead of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) released designs for the first full-time human habitat on the lunar surface. Created in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the conceptual settlement — dubbed the “Moon Village” — outlines ways humans could live in an otherwise uninhabitable setting through self-sufficient means. Envisioned with a series of inflatable living modules, the Moon Village would not only harness resources for sustaining life and industrial activities, but would also be able to conduct research for sustaining life on terrestrial planets other than Earth. Because the Moon Village would harness sunlight for energy , the rim of Shackleton Crater near the South Pole has been selected as the project site, as it receives near continuous daylight throughout the lunar year. In situ resource utilization (ISRU) experiments would generate food and other life-sustaining elements, such as breathable air, which would be created from water extracted from the crater’s water-ice deposits near the South Pole. “The project presents a completely new challenge for the field of architectural design,” said SOM design partner Colin Koop. “The Moon Village must be able to sustain human life in an otherwise uninhabitable setting. We have to consider problems that no one would think about on Earth , like radiation protection, pressure differentials and how to provide breathable air.” Related: Martian tiny home prototype champions zero waste and self sufficiency The settlement would comprise clusters of inflatable pressurized modules that could easily expand to accommodate future growth and programmatic needs. Designed for self sufficiency, each three- to four-story modular unit would not only include living quarters and workspaces, but also environmental control and life support systems within a regolith-based protective shell resistant to extreme temperatures, projectiles, regolith dust and solar radiation. The settlement would allow mankind to conduct a more thorough exploration of the moon for research and development purposes and help pave the way to potential human settlements on Mars and beyond. + SOM Images via SOM

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SOM unveils designs for first-ever human settlement on the moon

Microplastic rain: new study reveals microplastics are in the air

April 17, 2019 by  
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A new study published in Nature Communications reveals alarming amounts of microplastic particles in the air, even in the most remote, mountainous areas. News about microplastics throughout the ocean, soil and every marine mammal studied has been widely documented and publicized in recent years. ‘Microplastic’ was even called the “2018 word of the year” for its number of mentions by the news media. However, very few studies have researched the abundance of microplastics specifically in the air we breathe. In addition to the recently published research, two previous studies analyzed airborne microplastics in France and China. Those analyses from 2016 and 2017 revealed a steady rainfall of microplastics in the air — findings that are unfortunately further confirmed by the results of this most recent study. Related: Microplastics have made their way into human poop The authors counted 365 plastic particles falling per square meter, every day, with comparable results from Paris to isolated areas of the Pyrenees mountains. The researchers concluded that the amount of microplastics is correlated with the strength of the wind, but not necessarily with proximity to major urban areas or even villages. The fact that plastic particles are found so far from urban areas and direct sources of pollution indicates that the world’s plastic crisis is not a localized issue, but a global problem that affects everyone, regardless of their location or sustainable habits. The new findings are a major public health concern. The vast majority of the plastic particles identified were polystyrene and polyethylene — toxic materials often used in single-use packaging and plastic bags. Microplastics have also been found in human lung tissue, but scientists are still unsure of exactly what impacts this could have on long-term human health. “When you get down to respiratory size particles, we don’t know what those do,” research team member Deonie Allen told The Guardian . “That is a really big unknown.” + Nature Communications Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Microplastic rain: new study reveals microplastics are in the air

These are our favorite beauty retailers from the Indie Beauty Expo

February 6, 2019 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

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The beauty world can be a complicated place, especially if you’re looking to ditch products with intimidating lists of ingredients and make the switch toward eco-friendly makeup and skincare. The return of the Indie Beauty Expo brought hundreds of independent retailers from around the world to showcase their amazing, one-of-a-kind products in the heart of Los Angeles . This year, our team of editors attended the IBE in Los Angeles and scouted the best beauty products from independent retailers that don’t compromise quality ingredients for their carbon footprint . Here are some of our favorite brands from IBELA. Little Moon Essentials The body care by Little Moon Essentials is “made by the phases of the moon” in Colorado. We love to spray the energizing mist at our desks when the climate news becomes too much to bear, and we enjoy the fun scent names (like Tired Old Ass). Kind Lips We always keep lip balm on hand, and our current go-to is Kind Lips . Not only are these hydrating and kind to the planet; the company also donates 20 percent of profits go toward anti-bullying organizations. Love Sun Body This is the world’s first sunscreen made using 100 percent natural ingredients. It is, of course, reef-safe and effective in protecting your skin from sun damage. Lunette Menstrual cups can be intimidating, but Lunette offers soft cups that hold for 12 hours and do not leak. Bare Me We love Bare Me’s reusable, dry sheet masks in a nod to waterless beauty. Plus, the packaging and masks can be recycled thanks to TerraCycle . Dirt Don’t Hurt From charcoal tooth scrubs and gum cleansing oils to a charcoal-based bath powder designed to soothe and relax, Dirt Don’t Hurt caught our attention with its natural products. Nature Lab Tokyo If you’re looking to really volumize your hair, try the clean, vegan hair products by Nature Lab Tokyo . As a lab, it has an array of specific formulas to fit your needs. IGXO IGXO prides itself on PETA-certified vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics. Lipsticks are the star of the show, and we were highly impressed with their staying power and non-drying formulas. Lalicious Lalicious’ line of natural , cruelty-free body washes, scrubs and lotions are truly delightful. We instantly fell in love with the velour body melt, which made our skin softer than ever before. Pure Mana Hawaii With products plucked right from the owners’ beautiful farm in Hawaii , these serums and body oils will transport you straight to paradise. Speak We love Speak’s natural, vegan, cruelty-free skincare, especially the cream deodorant and the cleansing powder, which smells exactly like our morning oatmeal. KIND-LY These Australian-based natural deodorants are vegan and cruelty-free , and guarantee your pits will be free of aluminum, parabens, alcohol and other nasties. KIND-LY also offers an armpit detox for the transition to natural deodorants. Sway Sway offers natural deodorant, an armpit detox and skincare that is good for you and the planet. Founder Rebecca So just launched skincare at the event, and we are raving over everything: toners, moisturizers, serums and all. Atar Atar offers luxurious, cruelty-free and vegan hair care products made from natural ingredients. Our hair has never been softer. Hum Hum’s products promote beauty from within as they are meant to treat blemishes, acne, dry skin, hair and nails. The best part? All supplements are gluten-free, non-GMO and sustainably sourced. Lather From the bamboo lemongrass scrub to the hand therapy cream to the muscle ease, we loved Lather’s eco-friendly products approved by PETA and Leaping Bunny. Plus, Lather is a carbon-neutral business and uses green packaging. Herbal Dynamics Beauty This plant-based beauty brand embraces nature with every product. Try the refreshing rose water face toner, which applies like a mist, or the overnight recover mask, which will leave the fragile skin on your face softer than ever. PYT Beauty This is beauty without the BS (bad stuff) . We were pleasantly surprised with the intense pigmentation of this natural cosmetics brand — we highly recommend the highlighters and lip duos! Spinster Sisters Co Spinster Sisters offers pure ingredients and reusable and recyclable packaging: we’re talking glass jars and plant-based plastics. milk + honey We love milk + honey’s plant-based, organic skincare, especially the products in scent profile No. 16, which blends pink grapefruit, bergamot and cardamom. *hype We’re obsessing over *hype , a line of plant-based nail polishes in a wide variety of colors. Even after several days, our nails have minimal chipping. Olive + M Olive + M’s skincare products are made using an olive oil base and U.S.-sourced ingredients. Each product repairs and protects skin from sun exposure, air pollution and other common problems. Northlore We fell in love with Northlore , as all its products are completely eco-friendly, from packaging to ingredients and even shipping. The glacier salt soak is all the rave for its detoxing and skin nourishing properties. + Indie Beauty Expo Images via Inhabitat

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These are our favorite beauty retailers from the Indie Beauty Expo

Seeds on the moon started to sprout for the first time but quickly died

January 18, 2019 by  
Filed under Green

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China has taken a major step toward long-term space exploration. Earlier this month, the Chinese moon probe Chang’e 4 carried a container with cotton, mustard and potato seeds , yeast and fruit fly eggs to the moon’s far side (facing away from Earth), and early this week, the China National Space Administration said that those seeds started to sprout. Unfortunately, temperatures dropped and killed the plants. According to the BBC , the project was designed by 28 Chinese universities, and the experiment was contained within a canister 7 inches tall and weighing about 6.5 pounds. It was designed to test photosynthesis and respiration, which are processes that produce energy . For the first time ever seeds 🌱 are growing on the moon 🌑! China’s moon mission success means that astronauts 👩‍🚀👨‍🚀could potentially harvest their own food in space! Learn more 👉 https://t.co/S6dOB3p2Ym via @BBCNews #ZeroHunger #FutureofFood pic.twitter.com/TNssZBLG0R — FAO (@FAO) January 15, 2019 The plants  were in a sealed container on the lunar lander, and the hope was that the crops would form a mini-biosphere. Inside the container, the organisms had a supply of air, water and nutrients to help them grow. The scientists said that keeping it at the right temperature was a challenge, because of the wild temperature swings on the moon , which ultimately killed the first sprout. If the experiment worked, astronauts could potentially begin to harvest their own food in space. That would be incredibly useful for long-term space missions, because they wouldn’t have to return to Earth to resupply. Although the sprout died, the experiment is a move toward this goal. Related: China plans to launch the world’s first ‘artificial moon’ But could these experiments contaminate the moon ? Generally, scientists don’t believe this is something we need to worry about, especially because there have been containers of human waste on the moon for 50 years thanks to the Apollo astronauts. The consensus among experts is that the sprout was “good news.” Fred Watson, astronomer-at-large at the Australian Astronomical Observatory, said that it could be a positive development for future space exploration. “It suggests that there might not be insurmountable problems for astronauts in future trying to grow their own crops on the moon in a controlled environment,” Watson said. “I think there’s certainly a great deal of interest in using the moon as a staging post, particularly for flights to Mars , because it’s relatively near the Earth.” Via BBC and The Guardian Image via Jeremy Bishop

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Seeds on the moon started to sprout for the first time but quickly died

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