Rwanda hopes to increase energy efficiency with new cooling initiative

February 14, 2019 by  
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Rwanda has big plans for a more sustainable future and is launching a new cooling initiative that will increase energy efficiency within the country’s booming electricity sector. As part of the new plan, Rwanda hopes to provide a cooling solution for food storage and indoor spaces without adding to the world’s greenhouse gas problems. The new initiative, called Rwanda’s National Cooling Strategy, assessed the current need for cooling products as well as the future market. Although countries traditionally meet cooling needs with the use of modern refrigeration, Rwanda is looking towards more sustainable methods that do not use as much electricity . “Through the Rwanda Cooling Initiative, we have conducted a cooling market assessment, developed a national cooling strategy and minimum energy efficiency standards, and created financial tools to support businesses investing in clean cooling,” Rwanda’s Minister of Environment, Dr. Vincent Biruta, explained. Rwanda is currently witnessing some of the fastest growth in the electricity sector in all of Africa. With 12 million people to serve, the East African Country is already looking for energy efficient options to meets those needs. Related: Top 10 states for LEED green buildings in 2018  Fortunately, Rwanda has been a leader in adopting sustainable practices. In fact, the country was one of the first to ban the use of plastic bags. A few years ago, Rwanda hosted a global treaty that agreed to an amendment to the Montreal Protocol. The initiative decreased the use of certain chemicals that are popularly used in air conditioners and refrigerators. But combating the use of harmful chemicals is only half the battle. As part of the National Cooling Strategy, Rwanda hopes to boost energy efficiency by regulating how much electricity can be used by modern air conditioners and refrigerators. The country also plans to raise awareness about other cooling techniques, including natural ventilation and shading. The new plan is the first phase of Rwanda’s larger cooling initiative. If other countries follow Rwanda’s lead, a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions could be cut over the next decade. Some experts predict that we can curb global warming by as much as 0.4C if countries increase their energy efficiency. Via United Nations Environment Image via Tumisu

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Rwanda hopes to increase energy efficiency with new cooling initiative

An auditorium uses translucent ETFE panels for a surreal look

February 14, 2019 by  
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Spanish design firm SelgasCano has completed the surreal Plasencia conference center and auditorium in Spain . Shaped like a giant boulder, the multifaceted building is wrapped in a translucent skin of ETFE panels that floods the interior with natural light during the day and glows like a lantern when illuminated from within at night. In contrast to its pale exterior, the interior is dominated with vibrant colors — from a bright orange entry hall to a deep red auditorium — that heighten the structure’s ethereal feel. Evocative of a futuristic spaceship, SelgasCano’s design of the Plasencia conference center and auditorium was selected in a 2005 competition. However, financing issues severely delayed the project’s completion to 2017. Now in operation, the building spans 7,500 square meters and includes an entrance lobby, a flexible 300-person secondary hall that can be split into three 100-person halls, the exhibition halls and the restaurant area. Set on a steep hillside straddling the border between urban development and the rural landscape, the conference center and auditorium was also designed to sit lightly on the land. Rather than fill in the site, the architects created a cantilevered shape to hover over the rocky terrain. They placed the entrance at the roadway, located 17 meters above the terrain, while inserting ramps and stairs that descend down to the various rooms. Related: SelgasCano’s incredible glass office gives employees a bug’s eye view of the forest floor “The building will be visible in the distance from an entire western perspective, from north to south,” the architects said. “It will be seen when passing by at high speed in a car, which is why we have planned it as a snapshot or a luminous form, acting as a sign for passengers by day and by night, playing at being a correspondence between sensation and reality, between the position it seems to be heading for and the position from where it will move.” + SelgasCano Images by Iwan Baan via SelgasCano

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An auditorium uses translucent ETFE panels for a surreal look

Mining in Tasmania raises water pollution concerns to a new high

February 14, 2019 by  
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Tasmania’s water pollution is becoming a major problem for local residents and wildlife. A new study discovered that metal contamination in the state’s lakes are about as high as they get, raising concerns about the quality of water and food obtained from the region. The majority of the contamination can be traced to historic mining operations in Rosebery and Queenstown. The new study, which was conducted by the Australian National University, looked at six lakes in Tasmania, including Perched Lake, Lake Cygnus, Lake Dobson and Dove Lake, and found levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium and copper. Basin Lake and Owen Tarn had the highest levels of water pollution. The levels of contamination are bad enough to equal some of the highest contaminated waterways in the world, including Iran’s Shur River and Pakistan’s Kurang River. “The levels of contamination are really, really high,” the lead scientist on the study, Larissa Schneider. “They need to do research to know what is happening to the fish and if it’s really high… people should not be eating it.” Schneider compared the level of water pollution to what the United States has encountered in some areas of the country. In those cases, local fish populations were severely harmed by the pollutants, which is a major concern because the contamination levels in Tasmania are much higher. Related: California teen finds golf balls are a major source of plastic waste in our oceans Scientists, for example, discovered an alarming amount of lead contamination in Dove Lake, which could affect native organisms. The new research argues that the contaminates were spread via atmospheric transport. Mining operations in the 1930s used open cut mining, a popular practice until it was outlawed by the Environmental Protection Act in the 1970s. Metal contaminates were discovered over 80 miles away from old mining locations, and some of the lakes are in mountainous regions. This suggests that they reached these bodies of water by passing through the air. Will Hodgman, the premier of Tasmania, discussed the new findings and suggested a form of remediation on the part of government and private industries. The entity that looks after waterways, the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment , has not commented on Tasmania’s water pollution levels. Via The Guardian Image via Wikipedia Commons  

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Mining in Tasmania raises water pollution concerns to a new high

Deforestation could wipe out over 50 percent of species in Haiti

January 16, 2019 by  
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According to new research from Temple University scientist Blair Hedges, the Caribbean island nation of Haiti is undergoing a mass extinction event, and the country is close to losing its rich biodiversity. Hedges — who has spent decades in Haiti’s rain forests — says that the results of his latest study are shocking. In a paper recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Hedges and his co-authors revealed that Haiti , which was once full of lush trees and teeming with wildlife, has now lost almost all of its virgin forests because of deforestation, and is at risk of loosing more than half of its species by 2035. “Up until this analysis, nobody had any idea it was that bad,” Hedges said. “Haiti is in the middle of a mass extinction, and it’s already lost a large number of species because entire areas where unique species exist are no longer present.” Hedges and his colleagues used NASA satellite imagery to analyze Haiti’s current landscape and found that the country has about one percent of its primary forest left since people have resorted to cutting trees down in order to make way for farming and charcoal production needed for cooking. Related: Deforestation in South America causes extinction of 8 bird species He also explained that no one on his research team expected the forest to disappear so quickly. The team of researchers realize that Haiti is at a forefront of a global mass extinction as the country’s species are disappearing at the alarming rate of 100 to 1,000 times the normal rate. Haiti’s loss of wildlife and forestry is largely due to habitat destruction (cutting down trees), but that is just one component in worldwide mass extinction. Other factors across the globe include climate change , invasive species and other human-related activity. Hedges says people often associate deforestation as just removing plants and trees, but in reality everything is being removed. Stuart Pimm, professor of conservation ecology at Duke University, says that Hedge’s study is a “tragic and brutal” instance of the lengths of human destruction. Primm added that Haiti’s story should resonate, and should be a lesson that everyone should heed when managing wild areas, watersheds and rivers. Via Whyy.org Image via 753tomas

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Deforestation could wipe out over 50 percent of species in Haiti

Kick your cold to the curb with these natural cold remedies

January 16, 2019 by  
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Have you ever wondered if natural cold remedies really work? When you catch a cold, chances are you are going to be sick for a week or two. But you don’t have to be miserable. There is no cure for the common cold, but there are natural ways to help yourself feel better faster. Here are some of the most common natural cold remedies that actually work, and what they do to help ease those cold symptoms. Vitamin C There is no proof that vitamin C prevents colds, but it does boost your immune system. Studies have shown that vitamin C can reduce a cold’s lifespan. The best way to get vitamin C is in your diet from fruits like oranges, cantaloupe, grapefruit and kiwi. You can also get a high dose of vitamin C from wild rose hips . One hundred grams of wild rose hips has more than 1,250 grams of vitamin C, which is 30 times the amount in citrus fruits. You can make a rose-petal infusion by immersing the plant in hot water and letting it simmer (or steep in a slow cooker), and it will soothe a sore throat and reduce swelling. If you opt for vitamin C supplements, be careful. They can upset your stomach or cause kidney stones. Related: How to make your own herbal tinctures Cinnamon Cinnamon has antifungal and analgesic properties, which makes it a fantastic natural cold remedy. Dr. Patrick Fratellone, a registered herbalist with the American Herbal Guild, said that cinnamon is warming for the body and dilates blood vessels, plus it lowers blood sugar concentration and improves insulin sensitivity. When you get a cold, try making a tea by putting the cinnamon into a mug and pouring boiling water over it. Drink the cinnamon tea two to three times a day. You can also sprinkle cinnamon on your food, or add a little bit to your morning coffee . Water, sleep and an extra pillow The best way to naturally recover from a cold is to drink a lot of water, get plenty of rest and sleep with an extra pillow. When you stay hydrated, it allows your body to naturally flush the germs out of your system, and drinking more water keeps the mucus thin and flowing.  Sleeping gives your body the chance to fight off the infection, and the extra pillow under your head helps your sinuses drain. Oregano Oregano is an antioxidant that is antibacterial and antifungal. The herb is perfect for treating a bad cough. You can take oregano capsules two times a day with a meal, or make an oregano tea. To make the tea, all you have to do is mix 8 ounces of boiling water with a teaspoon of dried oregano and let it stand for about 10 minutes before drinking. To make the tea sweeter, add a little bit of honey. If you can drink two cups a day, it will make a big difference. Related: Make your own simple herbal remedies Garlic Not only does this plant make your food taste way better, but garlic is also antibiotic, antimicrobial and antibacterial. Clinical herbalist Steve Sietos said that the perfect time to reach for garlic is when you have yellow or green phlegm. “It’s highly antiviral, immune stimulating, and it’ll kill any upper respiratory infections,” Sietos said. To make a garlic elixir, press or chop a clove of garlic and let it sit for 15 minutes. The chemical reaction of garlic hitting the air will allow the clove to become a powerful antibiotic. Another recommended remedy? Garlic bread. Spread garlic and olive oil on a piece of bread and enjoy to help ease an upper respiratory infection. Soups and hot liquids Hot soups and liquids will help reduce mucus buildup, and chicken soup in particular has anti-inflammatory properties, making it a natural weapon against colds. According to a study in the Chest medical journal , the ingredients in chicken soup (like onion and garlic) help reduce inflammation and reduce congestion, plus the hot liquid will keep you hydrated. Hot liquids will also relieve nasal congestion and soothe the inflamed membranes that line your nose and throat. A hot toddy, which is a cup of hot herbal tea with a teaspoon of honey (a natural cough suppressant) and a shot of whiskey or bourbon, will reduce severe congestion and help you sleep. Just be careful with the alcohol, because too much can inflame the membranes and worsen your symptoms. Nasal irrigation Dry and cracked nasal passages can inhibit the skin’s protective barrier against viruses. Nasal irrigation with a neti pot can help keep those nasal passages hydrated. There are a few things to remember. First, never use tap water; if it is contaminated, it could cause a rare but deadly brain infection. Instead, use a saline solution of 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 8 ounces of warm water (boil it first, then let it cool). Use a neti pot to pour the saline solution into one nostril and out the other. This will clean out your nasal passages and thin the mucus, which will reduce swelling, congestion and nasal irritation. Be sure to talk with your doctor before using the neti pot. Get well soon! Via Reader’s Digest , WebMD and Piedmont Images via Brooke Lark , Ulleo , Sylvie Tittel , Ariesa66 , Public Domain Pictures , Biopresto , Rawpixel and Shutterstock

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Kick your cold to the curb with these natural cold remedies

How do we feed the future without eating the planet?

December 19, 2018 by  
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Sponsored: The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association discusses why they believe animal agriculture has a key role to play in feeding the world’s growing population.

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How do we feed the future without eating the planet?

Federal judge blocks the Keystone XL Pipeline

November 12, 2018 by  
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In a major setback for President Trump and his administration, a U.S. district judge has issued an order to block construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline while the State Department studies its impact on the environment . Last year, the Trump administration approved the controversial 1,179-mile pipeline, but Judge Brian Morris’ 54-page order is preventing it from being built — for now. The decision does not permanently stop construction, but it is putting the development on hold until the State Department takes a harder look at the impact the pipeline will have on oil prices, the cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions, potential oil spills and cultural resources. Related: The Keystone Pipeline leak was nearly twice as big as we thought Under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, there is an obligation to protect the environment. Under the Obama administration, the State Department denied a permit to build the pipeline because of the environmental effects. But President Trump shifted the policy when he took office and invited TransCanada to re-submit its permit application just four days after he was sworn in. Then, in March 2017, the POTUS signed an executive order supporting the Keystone Pipeline’s construction. Judge Morris wrote in his decision that the president did not give a reasoned explanation or a fact-based determination for the course reversal. According to NPR , there has been a lot of backlash from environmentalists and indigenous peoples since the pipeline’s conception in 2008 because of the possible environmental impact and violations of historic treaties. “Today’s ruling is a decisive moment in our fight against the corporate polluters who have rushed to destroy our planet,” said Marcie Keever, legal director at Friends of the Earth. “Today, the courts showed the Trump administration and their corporate polluter friends that they cannot bully rural landowners, farmers, environmentalists and Native communities.” If the Keystone Pipeline does become a reality, it will run through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and Canada, and it will transport about 830,000 barrels of crude oil each day. Via NPR Image via Pax Ahimsa Gethen

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Yves Bhar designs compact, prefab homes to tackle the housing crisis

November 12, 2018 by  
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Yves Béhar has designed everything from high-tech wearables to voice-activated,  transforming furniture  — now, the prolific San Francisco-based designer is adding prefabricated homes to the list. Unveiled earlier this month at the Summit Festival in Los Angeles, the YB1 (Yves Béhar LivingHomes) is a line of prefabricated accessory dwelling units created in partnership with LivingHomes, the design studio of California-based prefabricated home producers Plant Prefab. The fully customizable homes are built with sustainable construction methods and materials, and they are aimed at increasing urban density while reducing the environmental impact of new construction. Designed with flexibility in mind, the modular YB1 can be fully customized to meet a variety of living requirements, climatic conditions and aesthetic desires. The first three available versions of YB1, for instance, include three different floor plans and roof systems thanks to a 4-foot grid system that allows for a range of 250- to 1,200-square-foot units. Depending on the footprint, the interiors can be outfitted with a full kitchen, bathroom with a shower, living room, a bedroom and an office. Homeowners will be able to choose the appliances, finishes, lighting and electrical systems ahead of time for pre-installation. “Following our work on efficient living with robotic furniture company ORI, I’m excited to extend the passion for tiny homes and prefab by partnering with LivingHomes. For me, the next frontier of design is to think of the entire home as a product that a homeowner can shape to their needs in terms of size, usage, aesthetic and lifestyle,” said Yves Béhar, founder and CEO of fuseproject . “This is why we’re interested in the customizable nature of prefabricated ADU’s: people want their living environment to be a reflection of their specific life needs. The design goal of the LivingHomes ADU is adding urban density with a range of sizes and home designs while providing a building system that delivers on sustainable and efficient living in urban areas.” Related: Yves Béhar’s shapeshifting Ori furniture transforms your home at the touch of a button To reduce the environmental impact of YB1, the designers will use Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood siding and cement panels as well as passive solar principles to inform the roof options. The houses will also offer Smart Home capabilities for measuring resource use and energy production. Plant Prefab’s efficient building system allows the homes to be constructed in just one month. Then, it takes only a day to install them on-site. Initial pricing for the YB1 starts at around $280,000; however, the designers hope to offer Yves Béhar LivingHomes for less than $100,000 in the future. + YB1 Images via Yves Béhar

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Yves Bhar designs compact, prefab homes to tackle the housing crisis

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

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

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

The National Butterfly Center is threatened by Trump’s border wall

November 2, 2018 by  
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The National Butterfly Center is a 100-acre wildlife preserve and botanical garden in South Texas. Not only is it the habitat of more than 100 different species of butterflies, but it is also home to several endangered plants and threatened animals. It happens to be located directly in the path of the Trump administration’s proposed border wall, and that means its future is in question. In September, Congress approved a federal spending bill that included $1.6 billion to fund the wall’s construction, and last month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a waiver of 28 different laws that protect public lands, wildlife and the environment in order for construction. If the planned wall actually becomes a reality, it could cut the privately-owned center in two, leaving up to 70 percent of the preserve’s land between the wall and the Rio Grande. “It’s going to be a no-man’s land, Border Patrol’s enforcement zone,” Marianna Trevino Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center, told NPR . “They will clear everything. So it’s not like all of this habitat is going to become Garden of Eden, undisturbed. It is going to be eliminated.” Related: Trump’s border wall threatens Texas plants and wildlife A group of scientists published a paper this summer outlining the proposed wall’s negative environmental impacts, and more than 2,700 scientists signed the paper to call on the Trump administration to rethink its border strategy. They would prefer the DHS follow existing environmental laws and avoid physical barriers. There are also multiple lawsuits pending against the Trump administration arguing that the DHS doesn’t have the authority to waive environmental laws to build the wall. But in the past, similar lawsuits in California and New Mexico have been unsuccessful. Wall construction could begin in February 2019. In the meantime, the butterfly preserve will continue to use its property as though the wall will not be built. “We have long-term plans for this place,” Trevino Wright said. “We’re not going to just pack up and abandon that.” + National Butterfly Center Via NPR Images via Alan Schmierer ( 1 , 2 )

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