Norwegian expedition cruise line Hurtigruten aiming to convert six of its 17 ships to use biogas

November 28, 2018 by  
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The Norwegian expedition cruise line Hurtigruten is going to do their part to help the environment. The 125-year-old company is aiming to convert six of its 17 ships to use biogas , liquified natural gas, and large battery packs by 2021. The biogas will be generated with waste fish parts – leftovers of fish processed for food – and mixed with other organic waste to use green energy to power their polluting cruise liners. Biogas is the result of speeding up the natural decomposition process and capturing the methane produced. Liquified natural gas is a fossil fuel, but it is cleaner than many alternatives. Battery power is also a promising technology for ocean transport. It has been difficult building batteries that are powerful enough to last an entire voyage, but advances in battery manufacturing are starting to make it possible. Related: Invasive soft rush weed turned into sustainable packaging materials “Norway is a large shipping nation, but fishery and forestry are also large sectors. They create jobs and produce income, but they also produce a lot of waste products. The steady access to high volumes of organic waste gives the Nordic countries a unique position on the biogas market. We are pushing for more innovation, more investment. I believe we have just seen the beginning of what in a few years will be a huge sector,” says Daniel Skjeldam, the chief executive of Hurtigruten. Ocean transport vessels currently use heavy fossil fuels , and it is an ever-increasing problem because they pollute more than fuels used by land vehicles and they emit sulfur and other contaminants. The daily greenhouse gas emissions from the largest cruise liners in the world are more than the emissions of a million cars. The cruise ship fuels are contributing to air pollution and climate change . But, this change to biogas will cut down the number of pollutants, plus it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Related: The Netherlands will spend 150 million Euros to turn cow poop into biogas Hurtigruten is also banning single-use plastics as part of their plan to be more environmentally sustainable. The company is also currently building three new hybrid-powered ships that will be delivered over the next three years. According to The Guardian, the company operates its cruises in the Arctic and Antarctic , which are both highly sensitive environments. Via The Guardian Images via michaelmep

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Norwegian expedition cruise line Hurtigruten aiming to convert six of its 17 ships to use biogas

Invasive soft rush weed turned into sustainable packaging materials

November 23, 2018 by  
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Soft rush is a plant, however, it recently has been transformed into furniture and packaging materials. Born from the idea that fibers could be cultivated from the weed, Don Kwaning has designed a line of products using varying parts of the grass-like plant. Throughout the Netherlands, the plant is invasive enough that thousands of pounds are pulled from ditches, wetlands, and marshes every year and turned into biogas. Although it is also used to improve overly-sandy soil, soft rush is widely recognized as an unwanted weed. Related: IKEA eyes mushroom packaging to replace nasty polystyrene With sustainability in mind Kwaning uses both the pith and the fibers of the plant to create paper, corrugated cardboard, a foam-like substance, and a pressed fiber used to make furniture. As a Design Academy Eindhoven graduate, Kwaning had seen the plant in its whole form processed into Japanese tatami mats. He then took the design a step further with the realization that separating the pith from the fibers opened up entirely new applications. In the packaging realm, the soft rush pith is turned into a light foam-like material that offers excellent protection both in block form and as long noodles. The natural components of the pith allow the substance to be pressed into a material similar to the widely-produced MDF, without requiring any sort of binding agent. This offers versatility through a range of density options so Kwaning has used it to make both packing and storage boxes. Related: Reebok develops plant-based sneakers made of cotton and corn The fibers are equally useful as a building material for another type of packing box and Kwaning asserts it can be made into rope and textiles. The boxes made from the fibers can be dual purposed into a side table by stacking them together. Through a focus on eco-friendly materials, Kwaning has not only created useful sustainable products from a pesky weed, but opened the door for an entirely new material option for a range of manufacturing markets. +Don Kwaning Via Dezeen Images via Don Kwaning

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Invasive soft rush weed turned into sustainable packaging materials

Architects want to transform an old Dutch bridge into zero-energy apartments

November 21, 2018 by  
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In a bid to save, rather than tear down, a historically significant bridge in the Netherlands, Delft-based cepezed architects unveiled an adaptive reuse scheme for turning the defunct bridge into a base for energy-neutral dwellings and a conference center. Created in collaboration with Expericon, Hollandia Infra, Mammoet and the IV-Group, this innovative proposal was the result of a consortium that sought to sustainably redevelop the structure, which spans the river Lek near Vianen. Although the plan did not pass planning approval, the team hopes that its designs will serve as inspiration for similar adaptive reuse projects in other locations. Originally built in 1936, the arch bridge over the river Lek was once one of the most important connectors between the north and south sides of the Netherlands. Starting in 2004, however, the historic bridge was rendered obsolete after the completion of the larger Jan Blanken-bridges. The consortium was put together in hopes of restoring and reusing the bridge so as to avoid the cost and labor of dismantling and removing the existing structure. The plan — informed by the consortium’s focus on “ sustainability , circularity and uniqueness” — proposed turning the ramps of the bridge into zero-energy apartments that would bookend a centrally located catering and conference pavilion. The design would use efficient and lightweight materials for the new construction; an abundance of glass would also be installed to take advantage of impressive landscape views and to bring ample natural light indoors. The industrial heritage of the bridge would be celebrated through the preserved architecture. Related: Urban Nouveau proposes to turn a historic Stockholm bridge into housing and a park “With the inevitable further modernization, beautiful old constructions on a variety of locations frequently go out of use,” said cepezed director Jan Pesman in a project statement. “With smart solutions, we can often think up and design unique new destinations for them. We really love such challenges; reuse provides the historical settings with new layers of meaning and the new functions with an enormous added value. Moreover, it is plainly sustainable, of course.” + cepezed Images via cepezed

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Architects want to transform an old Dutch bridge into zero-energy apartments

Minimalist cabin in the Netherlands allows glampers to relax in style

November 16, 2018 by  
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From fancy safari tents to futuristic pods , there are various levels of glamping these days. But for those looking to get back to basics without sacrificing style, the De Grote Beer cabin located on a remote island in the Netherlands is right up your alley. Designed by Depot Rotterdam , the minimalist cabin is clad in black-washed wood with large glazed facades that allow guests to immerse themselves in the stunning nature that surrounds the site. Located on the breathtaking Terschelling Island, the two-bedroom, one-bath cabin  is a serene retreat that lets people disconnect while reconnecting with nature. The interior has a fully-functioning kitchen space and a welcoming dining and living area that opens up to an outdoor deck via large sliding glass doors. The interior design features a modern, minimalist color and materials palette, and the entire cabin runs on green electricity. Related: Gorgeous “glamping” eco-cabins help you reconnect with nature in luxury The two bedrooms are designed with simple wood walls, white ceilings and large windows that not only provide natural light but also stunning views. There is a master bedroom with a double bed and a second bedroom with bunk beds. The second bedroom also has a fabulous dome that allows guests to enjoy a bit of stargazing as they drift off to sleep. From the living space, guests can easily walk out onto the large, open-air deck. Wrapping around the front of the cabin with an exterior wood-burning fireplace, this deck is the heart of the retreat . A large sitting area with a table can be used for dining, playing games, reading or simply taking in the fresh air. The De Grote Beer cabin, which can be rented through Boutique Homes , starts at €87 per night. + De Grote Beer + Depot Rotterdam Via Dwell Photography by  Claudia Otten Photography via De Grote Beer

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Minimalist cabin in the Netherlands allows glampers to relax in style

Stefano Boeri Architettis iridescent tower breaks ground in Tirana

September 18, 2018 by  
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Stefano Boeri Architetti , the Italian architecture firm behind the vertical forest towers , has unveiled designs for the Blloku Cube, a mixed-use high-rise marked by its distinctive energy-efficient cladding. Located in the heart of Albania’s capital of Tirana, the Blloku Cube is a multifunctional center instrumental in the Tirana 2030 master plan — also designed by Stefano Boeri Architetti — that aims to breathe new life into one of the most prestigious districts in the city. Construction on the Blloku Cube recently broke ground in July 2018. Covering a project area of approximately 12,000 square feet (1,117 square meters), the Blloku Cube is currently being constructed on the intersection between the streets of Pjeter Bogdani and Vaso Pasha. The eye-catching cuboid structure was designed to enhance the vibrant district, which was reborn from a former military zone with restricted access into a major city hub flush with shops, bars and restaurants. Blloku Cube will comprise office space stacked atop multiple levels of retail. A Roof Garden Restaurant will occupy the seventh floor. “The identity of the building is strongly characterized by a special cladding, a standout feature that makes it recognizable and unique in the city skyline and, at the same time, highly performing in terms of thermal efficiency, thanks to a ‘double skin’ technological system,” the firm said in a project statement. Energy-efficient glass curtain walls are considered the first “skin,” and the second “skin” consists of a shimmering “sophisticated technological shielding system” made up of anodized aluminum modules carefully angled to filter the sunlight and optimize natural light indoors. Related: The world’s first vertical forest for low-income housing is coming to the Netherlands Francesca Cesa Bianchi, Stefano Boeri Architetti project director, added, “This particular cladding solution, specifically designed for our first Albanian project, plays an essential role in defining the uniqueness of the building and contributes to underlining its importance as a new landmark of this urban district.” + Stefano Boeri Architetti Images by Stefano Boeri Architetti

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Stefano Boeri Architettis iridescent tower breaks ground in Tirana

Germany premieres the first hydrogen-powered train in the world

September 18, 2018 by  
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At last, the world’s first hydrogen-powered trains have made their global debut in the northern countryside of Germany . As of Monday, two Coradia iLint locomotives have been transporting passengers back and forth to the towns of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervoerde and Buxtehude, just west of Hamburg. The efficient trains were produced by French transportation engineers at Alstom, the same manufacturers who amazed the world in the early 1980s with the world-record-setting bullet train. While the TGV captured many people’s attention as the fastest locomotive in production, its true feat was providing a solution to the 1973 oil crisis in France by featuring an electric — not gas — fueled transmission. Nearly four decades later, Alstom has come to the rescue again as European cities continue to struggle with pollution. Replacing diesel powered engines that are stagnating Germany’s fight for the green is the first push. Related: New photosynthesis machine is twice as efficient at creating hydrogen fuel Alstom CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge inaugurated the pair of novel trains at an unveiling ceremony in Bremervoerde, where the trains will undergo routine hydrogen refueling. The company leader said, “The world’s first hydrogen train is entering into commercial service and is ready for serial production.” The bright blue Coradia iLint trains currently operate on a 62-mile (100-kilometer) course. However, in equal capacity to their gas-gulping counterparts, the hydrogen-powered vehicles can travel the span of 600 miles (1000 kilometers) on one tank of hydrogen. The trains rely on fuel cells that can produce electricity from a combined mixture of hydrogen and oxygen. The models are extremely efficient in the conversion — excess electricity can be siphoned into ion lithium batteries stored on board. The only byproducts emitted by this process are steam and water. Many German states have expressed interest in adopting the models to their own transportation lines. The company announced it will be delivering a set of 14 trains to the Lower Saxony region of the nation by 2021. While the zero-emission alternatives are attractive because of their quieter, eco-friendly nature and ability to run without electrified railways, they are not without a high initial price. Stefan Schrank, Alstom’s project manager, said, “Sure, buying a hydrogen train is somewhat more expensive than a diesel train, but it is cheaper to run.” It’s a price many countries are willing to pay for cleaner air . France plans to rail its first hydrogen train by 2022, with the U.K., the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Italy and Canada eager to follow suit. + Alstom Via The Guardian Image via René Frampe / Alstom

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Germany premieres the first hydrogen-powered train in the world

This 1970s Airstream is an off-grid oasis for a family of six

September 18, 2018 by  
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Moving from a spacious contemporary home into a tiny home would be daunting for anyone, but Jonathan and Ashley Longnecker made the huge life change for themselves and their four children. In just a few months, the ambitious couple renovated an old 1970s Airstream Sovereign into their dream off-grid home on wheels , or what they call their Tiny Shiny Home . The Longneckers long dreamed of traveling with their children, but it wasn’t until they were presented with an opportunity to renovate an old Airstream that they began to think seriously about living and working on the road. Once they bought the 1972 Airstream Sovereign, the couple took just six months to renovate the iconic body into a sustainable “adventure-mobile.” From the onset of the renovation process, Ashley and Jonathan knew that they had to make their new home as sustainable as possible. The roof is outfitted with solar panels , while the interior boasts a number of eco-friendly features, such as efficient appliances in the kitchen, a composting toilet and a 50-gallon fresh water tank that allows them to live completely off the grid. Related: Couple restores an old Airstream into a chic tiny home on wheels As for the interior, the 220-square foot trailer was designed to be ultra-functional thanks to custom-made flexible furnishings . The four kids have bunk beds that can be folded up to create two couches. The compact kitchen is fully equipped with all of the basics to prepare meals for a large family. The entire family of six fits comfortably in the dinette set, making it easy to enjoy meals together. The benches can be converted into a sleeping area. There is also a small office space for the family, so they can work from their tiny home. The design palette is modern and fresh with all-white walls that contrast nicely with the dark wood cabinets and flooring. An abundance of windows allow  natural light to brighten the interior of the Airstream, but the family often sits under the trailer’s exterior canopy to enjoy the beautiful sunsets and sunrises of wherever they might be. + Tiny Shiny Home Via Dwell Images via Jonathan and Ashley Longnecker

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France moves to reshape infrastructure and promote bicycle transportation

September 17, 2018 by  
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France plans to launch a major endeavor to triple the amount of cyclists on its streets within the next seven years. The action will include building better bike lanes, providing financial incentives for commuters to switch to bicycle transportation and cracking down on bike theft. The plan was announced by the French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe at a speech in Nantes, where he revealed that cycling accounts for only 3 percent of transportation in the country. Despite hosting the acclaimed Tour de France competition, France has fallen far behind other EU nations in bicycle transportation. In the Netherlands, cycling accounts for almost a third of all transportation, backed by a strong cycling culture as well as organized routes and laws that make Dutch riders feel safe on the roads. “Fifty million euros per year will not turn France into the Netherlands, but it is a start,” said Olivier Schneider, head of the French Bike Users Federation (FUB). Related: How to make American cities bike-friendly France’s total fund for cycling infrastructure over the next seven years amounts to 350 million euros ($410 million). “We plan to triple the share of cycling to 9 percent by 2024, when we host the Olympics,” Philippe said. “The discontinuity on the bike lane maps creates insecurity and discourages people from cycling.” Currently, bike lanes in French cities only run short distances and are not safely connected to one another at major intersections or heavy traffic zones. In addition to addressing these incomplete routes, the government will restructure one-way streets to include two-way bike routes, saving commuters inconvenience and time. Converters to cycling will be rewarded yearly with 200 euro ($233) tax-free stipends from the French government, and many private companies are looking to double that amount, providing their own 400 ($467) euro tax-free rewards each year for commuters. Companies are also being mandated by the government to allocate proper bicycle parking facilities for their employees, a feature that train hubs around the country will also boast. To deter bike thieves from suspending the country’s progress, new bikes will be subject to a mandatory identification engraving system, which will make it easier for burglars to be apprehended and fined. The French government will also introduce cycling lessons in all secondary schools by 2022 to ensure that future generations embrace the cycling culture and respect for a clean environment. Via Reuters Image via Veroyama

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France moves to reshape infrastructure and promote bicycle transportation

Chicago snags green city spotlight for second year running

August 24, 2018 by  
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A new study has revealed Chicago to be the greenest city to work in within the U.S for the second consecutive year. About 70 percent of the Windy City’s office spaces are certified for energy efficiency, up from 66 percent last year. Other top cities include San Francisco, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Each year, the U.S. Commercial Real Estate Services (CBRE Group) surveys buildings in the 30 largest U.S real estate market areas and evaluates the results in collaboration with  Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Results depend on the amount of square footage of LEED – or Energy Star-certified commercial buildings constructed within a city. This year’s records show an extraordinary total of 4,700 green buildings in these 30 areas. The total square footage now accounts for 41 percent of all office spaces. CBRE Senior Vice President David Pogue revealed that green certification has “become a proxy for good building management,” in recent years. “Particularly in the services sector, a lot of their energy use and environmental impact is in the buildings they occupy, so the tenant base is demanding this, and institutional financiers also believe a sustainable building is a better building,” he said. According to the EPA, commercial buildings account for approximately 19 percent of total energy use in the country. As such, they are often the largest contributors of carbon emissions within cities. To combat this, LEED certification was established by The Green Building Council, which recognizes Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) through evaluation of aspects such as water systems and energy efficiency. Similarly, the EPA’s own Energy Star program focuses on strict performance standards in the energy category. “So many buildings have become dependent on this as a way of demonstrating quality to investors and corporate tenants,” Pogue added. “It’s going to cause every building to go back and reconsider what their energy use is — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” Chicago is well on its way to reaching its goal of 100 percent renewable energy in city-run properties by 2025. Close competitors include San Francisco, with 64 percent of its office spaces certified as energy-efficient. Also notable is Los Angeles, which has the most Energy Star buildings, 716 in total, compared to Chicago’s 339. Via Bloomberg Images via Alan Stark and Michel Curi

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Chicago snags green city spotlight for second year running

Bolivia creates a nature reserve for world’s rarest macaw

August 22, 2018 by  
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The blue-throated macaw is one of the most critically endangered species on the planet – only about 300 remain in the wild. However, the birds are getting some much-needed good news. Bolivian conservation organization  Asociación Armonía has partnered with the American Bird Conservancy , the International Conservation Fund of Canada , IUCN Netherlands and the World Land Trust to create a protected nesting area for the imperiled macaw. Related: Endangered green and loggerhead turtles make Mediterranean comeback This beautiful species of macaw has been declining in population for the past century – but thanks to a 1,680 acre (680-hectare) land purchase in Bolivia, which was made possible by the aforementioned organizations, the birds are making a slow recovery. “Increasing the Blue-throated Macaw population is more likely now that Armonía has secured this important site as a reserve,” said Rodrigo Soria, Executive Director of Asociación Armonía, of the land acquisition. Previously serving as a cattle ranch, the Laney Rickman Blue-throated Macaw Reserve was named after the late founder of the Texas-based nonprofit Bird Endowment. The nature reserve will help further Asociación Armonía’s artificial nest box program, which was launched in 2005 as a way to increase the macaws’ population. “The acquisition means that we can continue the successful nest box program without worry of changing land ownership and management,” added Soria. The site is located in central Bolivia’s Beni savanna and, in combination with the existing Barba Azul Nature Reserve, provides 28,862 acres (11,680 hectares) of protected land for its blue-winged inhabitants. Related: Lemurs are now the most endangered species of primate on the planet In memory of Rickman, the American Bird Conservancy and Asociación Armonía have pledged to match any contributions to the Laney Rickman Blue-throated Macaw Fund  by up to a total of $100,000 in 2018. The fund aims to provide vital support for reserve management and habitat conservation to ensure the continued success of the nest box program. + American Bird Conservancy + Asociación Armonía

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