Investigators close in on cause of Colorado wildfire

January 5, 2022 by  
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Investigators are moving closer to determining the cause of the recent Colorado wildfire that destroyed nearly 1,000 buildings. Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle told reporters on Monday that investigators have narrowed the fire’s origin to an area near Boulder. Pelle declined to give out more information, saying that the full report will come later. The inferno broke out late last year, following months of drought that included a dry fall and snowless winter months. According to investigators, the area they have narrowed it down to did not have any fallen powerlines or evidence to suggest the fire was caused by power problems. Related: California fires killed nearly 20 percent of the world’s Sequoias Investigators say that a burning shed was captured on video by a passerby in the area identified one day before the fire began. Dozens of people have been interviewed over the matter, allowing investigators to narrow the region. The FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Forest Service officials aided the investigation. At the moment, experts are still searching the fire scene for more evidence, and rescue efforts are still underway. Two people are still missing, and survivors are still searching their charred homes to salvage whatever can be saved. The sheriff told reporters that the area of Boulder known as Marshall Mesa near the base of the Rocky Mountains was the main source of the deadly fire. The region overlooks heavily populated suburbs in the east, where the fast-moving fire caused the worst damage. Pelle says that the stakes are high at the moment, and it is in everyone’s best interest to wait until investigations are over to find out the real cause of the fire. He told reporters that everyone will have to wait for the investigators “to announce some progress — perhaps that may be a week, perhaps that may be a month.” He added that getting it right is “more important than the urge for speed that a lot of folks are feeling right now.” Although experts say that the winter fire was a rare occurrence, they have warned that similar situations should be expected in the future. They say as climate change warms the planet, extreme wildfires are likely to break out, especially considering local droughts . The fire is no longer considered an immediate threat. Temperatures have dropped, and snowfall covered most of the affected areas. However, fire experts are still on the ground working to get everything under control. Via AP News and CNN Lead image via Pixabay

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Adaptive reuse to transform LA’s Cecil Hotel for a good cause

December 20, 2021 by  
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Six hundred unhoused Angelenos will soon have their own small apartments in downtown Los Angeles. Adaptive reuse will transform the historic Cecil Hotel into very low-income single-room occupancy rental housing. The eco-conscious practice of adaptive reuse includes repurposing existing structures instead of using resources to build new developments. For the Cecil, this means turning hotel rooms into small studios ranging from 160 to 176 square feet. Most units will share bathrooms. Residents can also use communal kitchens and gathering spaces. Related: Los Angeles builds justice through building decarbonization To qualify, single renters need to earn less than 60% of L.A.’s median income. The project especially wants to serve extremely low-income renters who earn 30% or less of the median income, which is $24,850 a year in  Los Angeles . Publicly-funded housing vouchers will help tenants make the $900-1200 per month rent — that’s pretty darn steep for a tiny studio. The  hotel  could be a stable residence for “those that have maybe been in shelters for quite some time, who went through programs and have vouchers, but were unable to find suitable housing,” said Sierra Atilano, chief real estate officer at the Skid Row Housing Trust, as reported by LAist. The trust will manage the building. While unhoused people often qualify for Section 8 housing vouchers, many landlords don’t want to rent to them. In 2011, the Cecil was renamed Stay on Main, though much of the old signage remained, so it went by both names. New York-based development company Simon Baron bought the hotel in 2015, planning to turn the property into a combo of apartments, affordable housing and a hotel. Thwarted by the  pandemic , the developer approached Skid Row Housing Trust about dedicating the building to very low-income renters. Whenever the Cecil comes up in the news, tales of its dark past resurface. The hotel first opened in 1927. Percy Ormond Cook shot himself in the head that same year, the first of a long string of Cecil suicides. Throw in the murder of a baby, two serial killers who were short-term residents, and the mysterious 2013 drowning death of a Canadian student in the hotel’s rooftop cistern, and you can see how the hotel got the nickname Hotel Death. There was even a  Netflix  show called “Crime Scene: The Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel.” “This is the best use possible for this particular space, and really can bring a lighter side to the darkness that the  building  had originally,” Atilano said. Via LAist , Elle Australia Lead image via Jim Winstead

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Trashpresso is the first mobile plastic upcycling platform

December 20, 2021 by  
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Plastic pollution is a major climate threat and now there’s a unique solution. The World Design Organization named Trashpresso, designed by Miniwiz, a World Design Impact Prize Winner for 2021. It is the world’s first mobile industrial-grade plastic trash upcycling platform. The Trashpresso unit is only the size of two industrial refrigerators and is designed to help with the collection, sorting and upcycling of plastic waste with a minimal air and water footprint . “This year’s World Design Impact Prize submissions enabled us to shed light on the effectiveness of design, as an agent of change, to address a vast array of issues such as water sanitation, hygiene, homelessness , education and maternal health,” said World Design Organization President Srini Srinivasan. “We are proud to support the work of designers everywhere as they continue to innovate, create and collaborate in pursuit of a better world. Our sincere congratulations to the team behind Trashpresso for their contributions towards improving communities around the world.” Related: These portable factories are solving plastic pollution As the recipient of the World Design Impact Prize 2021, Trashpresso hopes to “continue promoting and evangelizing upcycling around the world,” said Jarvis Liu, Trashpresso’s co-founder and chief technology officer. “This stamp of approval from the World Design Organization will not only enable us to build on our credibility, but also help to further our social, economic, environmental and community cause,” Liu said. Trashpresso units consume only seven kilowatt hour of electricity and can service a community of up to 10,000 people, processing 500 kilograms of plastic waste per day. It works by creating sustainable building materials out of recycled products. The Trashpresso unit can turn single-use plastic, metal and glass into building materials, fabrics, furniture and fixtures. It took 15 years of research to create, but now creator Miniwiz is focusing the results of this work on making a difference in the construction and building industries. Better yet, this unique and mobile platform only takes three minutes to do its job transforming input into reusable building materials. Miniwiz is creating new programs for upcycling local waste in Tibet and participating in beach cleanup of ocean plastic in Sardinia, where the recovered plastics are turned into floor tiles. Materials from Trashpresso units are now being used in 300,000 square meters of commercial retail space, hotels and offices across international cities. Brands such as Nike , Philip Morris and Jackie Chan use Trashpresso materials for their work. + Miniwiz Images via World Design Organization

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Trashpresso is the first mobile plastic upcycling platform

Make sex planetary with these eco-friendly products

December 20, 2021 by  
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“Let’s talk about sex, baby; Let’s talk about you and me…” If you’re a product of the 90s, you’ve got Salt-n-Pepa’s hit song stuck in your head now. You’re welcome. Let’s talk about all the good and bad things: sex is part of everyday life. It has the potential to help or hinder the planet as much as anything else we spend our time doing. While it might not be the primary thought on your mind while enjoying the act, sex may have unintended effects on climate change , so it’s worth considering the products and procedures you’re using. Condoms Billions of male latex condoms end up in the landfill each year. At least that’s where they should go after use, rather than flushing them down the toilet. The problem is, most condoms are petroleum-based, which means it’s unfriendly to the environment and can’t be recycled . While it hasn’t been widely studied, we know that petroleum can take years, if not centuries, to degrade. Not only are they made of latex, but they also include chemicals and other ingredients no one should be eager to put on or inside their body.  Related: Cariloha luxury textiles use organic, sustainable bamboo The original condoms were, and still are, made out of lambskin. They’ve been used since the days of the Roman Empire to minimize risk of pregnancy. The good news is they are completely natural and biodegradable. The bad news is they are made from an animal product (the lining of sheep intestines) and they do not protect against STIs. If you’re not vegan and are in a monogamous relationship with a partner who’s been tested, it might be an option for you.  There are several natural condom brands you can feel good about using while you feel good using them.  Sustain Natural Ultra Thin Latex Condoms are made out of materials that come from a Fair Trade Certified rubber plantation. Hanx is another brand with Fair-Trade Certified rubber . They’ve also earned a vegan label since they don’t use a common animal protein found in many condoms called casein. Glyde condoms are free of glycerin, parabens, talc and other harmful chemicals. They’re certified vegan and use Fair Trade materials. Lovability condoms are another option. They are made from natural vegan latex and are free of dyes, fragrances, irritating chemicals and spermicide. If you have a latex allergy or prefer to go latex free for any reason, Unique condoms are thin, strong and come in ultra-thin packaging for less waste .  Lubes While shopping online or in stores, flip the bottle around and check out the ingredients of your favorite lube. You likely do the same thing with shampoo , deodorant and lotion, so consider what you’re applying to your body during sex too. You may be surprised to find out that many lubes are petroleum-based. The good news is water-based options are on the rise. There are organic brands you can rely on to feel good about in more than one way. A search of the internet can even give you recipes for homemade lubes that rely on ingredients like cornstarch. Packaged brands also use natural ingredients like aloe vera, agar agar, a natural thickener or coconut oil. Safety first Now that we’ve discussed condoms and lubes, it’s important to talk about condoms with lubes. Since some ingredients , oil for instance, can degrade the effectiveness of condoms, take special caution when making your selections. Using the wrong combination can result in condom breakage.  Sex toys When considering your sex toys, there might be some obvious products that clearly don’t put the environment first. Avoid plastic and other petroleum-based products. Instead, look into bioplastics, polished wood, glass, ceramic and steel alternatives. Use scarves as hand ties, use a wooden spoon as a paddle and engage a bandana for a blindfold. For battery-powered toys, swap out your existing batteries with rechargeable ones. Better yet, buy a rechargeable toy equipped to handle the pleasure play. There are even solar-powered sex toys on the market. Enjoy them at home or when you go off grid.  If you already own some toys that are ready for the trash, or if you decide to upgrade, make sure to think of the environment before you toss it. Check out LoveHoney and other companies that offer recycling services for those items you can’t, or choose not to, recycle at home. Packaging The product itself can make or break your eco-friendly goals. But the packaging can really set you back in your mission. Look for plain boxes that can be recycled, bio-based tubes and containers that skip the bubble wrap and molded-plastic protection ubiquitous in the retail world. Also consider what you can do to reduce packaging waste from condoms and birth control pills.  The hidden factors Even if you don’t need contraception and have the sex toys figured out, there are a host of products you may not be thinking about that also contribute to pollution . For example, buy or make soy candles, not only to ensure they’re made from natural ingredients, but also to limit the amount of energy you use lighting the space. Check ingredients in your sheets and lingerie. Also skip costumes with plastic parts and get creative with what you have on hand instead.  Global impact of pregnancy Finally, remember that a few condom wrappers or one package of birth control pill waste a month creates a much smaller impact on the environment than an unplanned pregnancy. When weighing your options, do your best in your product selections, but put protection for yourself and your partner first. And remember: consent is sexy! Via BBC , Well and Good and The Verge   Images via Pexels

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Make sex planetary with these eco-friendly products

Indigenous land defender goes missing in Oaxaca, Mexico

November 18, 2021 by  
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Yet another brave land defender has disappeared in Mexico. Irma Galindo Barrios, a member of the Indigenous Mixtec group in Oaxaca, very publicly defended her people’s lands from illegal  logging . She hasn’t been seen since Oct. 27. Irma Galindo Barrios, Indigenous Mixteca defender of the Ñuu Savi Forest in Oaxaca, has been missing since October 27, 2021. Since 2018, the activist has faced “intimidation, harassment, persecution, smear campaigns & death threats” by public officials because of her work. ?? pic.twitter.com/lLh1PFSBUK — Voices in Movement (@VIM_Media) November 12, 2021 Earlier that day, Galindo was turned away when she tried to present a petition to President Obrador in  Mexico City . Then she was expected to attend a virtual meeting involving protecting environmental defenders and journalists. She didn’t show up. Related: There were 227 environmental defenders killed in 2020 Unfortunately, many environmental defenders disappear, are attacked or murdered in  Mexico . According to the Mexican Centre for Environmental Law, people attacked 65 environmental defenders in 2020 and murdered 18. This is up from the 2019 figure of 39 attacks. The law center’s report described “structural and generalised violence against those who defend nature, land and territory.” Just before Galindo disappeared, attackers terrorized her municipality of San Esteban Atatlahuca. From Oct. 21 to 23, individuals killed between two and seven people, depending on conflicting reports, disappeared approximately four and burned at least 90 homes. It’s all about logging. Those who stand in the way of loggers by defending the pine forests of Oaxaca’s mountains are mowed down. The powers-that-be don’t care about  Indigenous  people’s reliance on the forest for mushroom foraging and sustainable woodcutting. “The issue in Oaxaca is there is enormous complicity between groups with  political  power, who sometimes control an area, and people are supposed to benefit from these natural resources,” said Oaxaca human rights lawyer Maurilio Santiago Reyes, as reported by The Guardian. “Nobody ever responded to the complaints that were made.” Before her disappearance, Galindo expressed her frustration in a Facebook post. “There aren’t any  government  officials who will go and see how we live … They only send in money that is used to buy weapons that are used to kill us. If there are organizations or groups that want to help us, they end up being criminalized, threatened and harassed. Where does this end? What follows?” Via The Guardian , EcoWatch Lead image via Pexels

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Indigenous land defender goes missing in Oaxaca, Mexico

99.9% of scientists agree climate crisis is caused by humans

October 20, 2021 by  
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99.9% of scientists globally agree that burning fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal is the main cause of climate change. They also concur that climate change is caused by human actions, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The case for global action at the COP26 summit in Glasgow, where world leaders will meet to discuss the climate crisis , is strengthened by the study. In 2013, a survey since 1991 culminated in the conclusion that 97% of scientists viewed that climate change was caused by human actions. The other three percent were of a contrary opinion. Related: United Nations rejects youth activist climate petition This study has been expanded by a recent  Cornell University  paper that shows a significant decline in dissenting voices. Over the years, evidence continues to mount, showing that global warming is being caused by burning fossil fuels. In the latest paper of peer review literature, several scientific studies were examined to determine those with contrary opinions. From 2012 to 2020, 3000 random sample studies were reviewed. Only four papers published in little-known journals turned out to be skeptical of the fact that climate change was being caused by humans. Furthermore, the researchers searched the full database of case studies within the highlighted periods for skeptical keywords such as “natural cycles” and “ cosmic rays ,” and only found 28 papers published in minor journals. These publications account for less than 1% of all the papers published. “It is really case closed. There is nobody of significance in the scientific community who doubts human-caused climate change,” said Mark Lynas, lead author and visiting fellow at Cornell University. Although the scientific community seems to be in agreement, the general public remains misled on issues of climate change. Big oil companies have been running advertisements that allude to a lack of consensus on the issues of climate change. In a similar manner, politicians have also managed to confuse the public about the matter. As reported by The Guardian, “only 27% of US adults believed that “almost all” scientists agreed the climate emergency was caused by human activity.” Additionally, most senior Republicans cast doubt on the link between human action and the climate crisis. 30 U.S. senators and 109 representatives still won’t acknowledge that human actions have caused climate change. Via The Guardian Lead image via Pexels

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United Nations rejects youth activist climate petition

October 19, 2021 by  
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The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child declined to rule on a complaint filed by youth activists from twelve countries. The young adults claimed that Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey have violated children’s rights by failing to control carbon emissions, despite knowing about the perils of climate change. The panel told the activists that they should have brought their cases to national courts. The self-dubbed “Children vs. the Climate Crisis” insist there’s not time for lengthy court cases; they need to take their case to the top. The youth come from twelve countries: Argentina , Brazil, France, Germany, India, Palau, Marshall Islands, Nigeria, South Africa, Sweden, Tunisia and the United States. Some countries, such as the Marshall Islands , are especially pressed for time — their chain of ancient submerged volcanoes may be under the rising seas by 2035. Related: “Climate shocks” threaten over half of Earth’s children “The truth is that I’m doing this because I feel like I haven’t been left a choice and this is the only way for me to not feel guilty,” said 18-year-old French climate activist Iris Duquesne as reported by EcoWatch. “The shame of having the possibility to do something and not doing it is too big. This is the main motivation for all youth climate activists, this and anger. Anger to feel left behind, not listened to and simply left alone.” The petition in question was filed in 2019 by 16 activists who ranged in age from eight to 17 at the time. The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors 196 signatories of a 1989 convention declaring the civil, cultural, economic and political rights of children unassailable. Of these, 48 countries agreed to allow children to take action to fix violations. The five countries named in the petition are part of this subset. Environmental and human rights attorneys from Hausfeld and Earthjustice are representing the youth activists. The lawyers said in a statement that the committee’s decision, announced October 11, “delivered a rebuke to young people around the world who are demanding immediate action on the climate crisis. In dismissing the case, the Committee told children that climate change is a dire global emergency , but the UN’s doors are closed to them.” However, the kids had some wins. The committee acknowledged that states are legally responsible for emis s ions that cause harm beyond their borders, and that the youth are indeed victims of climate-related threats to their health, life and culture. These findings could significantly influence future litigation. Via Washington Post and EcoWatch Lead image via Pexels

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Multifunctional award-winning site built on underused land

October 19, 2021 by  
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Les Ateliers Cabot is the winning project for C40 Reinventing Montreal 2021, which is part of the Reinventing Cities project. It is a call for designers and architects to come up with project ideas that will create carbon-neutral urban areas in underused sites into great new developments. These projects are meant to inspire the rest of the world and Les Ateliers Cabot is a truly inspiring project. Several different firms came together to create this project. Sid Lee Architecture, Ateliers Creatifs Montreal, the Centre for Sustainable Development and Collectif Recolte all worked together to create the design. This is a multifunctional site, including an artist studios, office space, business space and facilities for food production . Related: Eco-friendly housing redefines Tanzanian urban architecture The project uses low-carbon solutions that can be produced on a city-wide scale. The new buildings will mostly be made of wood, including beams, columns and floors. The goal is to achieve zero-organic waste in three years. It’s a mix of new and restored buildings that includes the old sawmill — which will be part of the new public square. The site includes an interior courtyard, an event space and a pedestrian entrance and a public square. Existing industrial buildings will be reused, with the new buildings incorporated into the new design. The buildings will have sloping roofs part of rainwater collection systems. There’s also an urban forest nearby, which the southwest entrance offers a beautiful view of. The site is located between two large canals and surrounded by nature , like many other sites that aren’t being used out in the world. But, hopefully, projects like this will help change all of that. Through socio-financing, the project will be open to as many people as possible, allowing for contributions at all levels. This will truly make the project community-created . Les Ateliers Cabot is one example of how an underused site can become an amazing new urban development. + Sid Lee Architecture Images via Sid Lee Architecture

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Florida scientists are using a radar prototype in the Everglades

October 15, 2021 by  
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Florida scientists are working on a new way to identify greenhouse gas-emitting hot spots in the Everglades. The U.S. Department of Energy has just funded scientists from Florida Atlantic University. They are developing a new prototype of ground-penetrating radar that they’ll mount on an unoccupied aircraft. “Peat soils are large natural producers of biogenic greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide that accumulate in the soil matrix to subsequently be released into the atmosphere,” said principal investigator Dr. Xavier Comas. “Although there have been remarkable advances made in predicting these carbon fluxes at a variety of spatial and temporal scales in peat soils in the last few decades, there are still many uncertainties about the spatial distribution of hot spots for biogenic gas accumulation and hot moments for the rapid release of biogenic gases, which this drone-GPR prototype may help us identify more efficiently.” Related: Drones are the new cost-effective way to monitor the environment Florida Atlantic University and the U.S. Geological Survey will team up on the two-year project. The Department of Energy’s Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, an investigator from the University of Exeter and a facility at Pacific Northwest Laboratory, will round out the multidisciplinary team. Despite this massive collection of brainpower, the project only published a budget of $111,655. Because it’s hard to get clear images in Florida’s humid, swampy subtropical wetlands, scientists know little about atmospheric exchange of greenhouse gases in this environment. Their working theory is that collecting airborne data sets will yield more comprehensive data (and be less invasive) than tramping into the forested wetlands to take ground-based measurements. “We anticipate that an airborne GPR system could be used successfully to identify contrasts in relative dielectric permittivity associated with variable biogenic gas content within the soil,” Dr. Comas said. “As such, we think that the physical structure of the organic soil primarily dictates the distribution of hot spots and enables prediction of hot moments for gas release triggered by changes in certain environmental factors such as atmospheric pressure or water table elevation.”  If you followed all that, you might want to hurry up and apply to Florida Atlantic University. One lucky graduate and one undergraduate student will be trained in the project. Via Newswise Lead image via Pexels

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Florida scientists are using a radar prototype in the Everglades

Artist 3D-prints biodegradable agar floral lamps

October 15, 2021 by  
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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, although most people would agree there is beauty in nature. Artist and textile designer Yi Hsuan Sung has taken that common view of natural beauty and used it to create a varied line of products for the home. In addition to reflecting nature in her designs, her mission is to honor it through the use of sustainable and natural materials . Sung believes that the desire to bring elements of nature inside the home often comes with a host of unwanted and unnecessary petrochemicals.  Related: Netherlands’ massive vault of sustainability and art To create a cleaner home environment, she began experimenting with agar, which is an extract from red algae. She then combined it with glycerin and water to make a material for 3D printing that is natural, biodegradable and renewable. Once she was able to solidify the process, she began, and continues, experimenting with different products made from the same medium. Her wall art and faux flowers have a variety of finishes, including shimmery, metallic and foamy. The bioplastic also takes a variety of shapes, from wavy to curvy, and can be formed into sheets, filaments or cast units.  In the example of her floral pendant lamps made with agar, she makes the shade base by knitting agar yarn and decorating them with agar flowers cast from 3D-printed molds she designed. Her Agar Garden designs are an artistic endeavor into working with bio materials, while developing useful and pleasing interior design products. She’s also developed lamps and other products from silk and wool fabric samples, sequin scraps and lurex selvage yarns and mats made from a combination of agar, onion skins, spoiled milk and recycled saris. With an emphasis on protecting the environment in her material choices, Sung pays special attention to coloring through the use of fiber waste (wool), food waste and mica powder.  “As a textile maker who consciously integrates science and technology into art and design and a material creative who dedicates to healthy and sustainable solutions, I earnestly explore the relationship between digital, bio and recycling fabrication,” Sung said. “Through my work, I want to transform textile making into a system that is harm-free, slow and mindful.” + Yi Hsuan Sung   Images via Yi Hsuan Sung 

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