Improving air quality in Europe could reduce asthma cases for children

August 9, 2019 by  
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Asthma among children — close to 67,000 new cases — is hitting home in 18 European countries because of small particulates contaminating the air , according to a new report. But a number of those cases could be prevented yearly if the particulates were reduced to appropriate levels. This study is one of many about how air pollution affects human health. An important landmark study published in April revealed 4 million new asthma cases a year worldwide among ages 1 to 18 were because of levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air. Related: Air pollution may decrease eggs in women’s ovaries The new research examined asthma diagnoses among more than 63.4 million children ages 1 to 14 and looked at components of toxic air, like fine particulates or PM2.5. Researchers also took note of nitrogen dioxide released by vehicles and other sources. “A considerable proportion of childhood asthma is actually caused by air pollution, particularly PM2.5,” said co-author Mark Nieuwenhuijsen from the Barcelona Institute of Global Health. Overall, the study suggests 66,600 new cases of asthma could be prevented annually by following World Health Organization guidelines: levels of PM2.5 should not exceed an annual average of 10 ?g/m3, and levels of nitrogen dioxide should not exceed an annual average of 40 ?g/m3. But the report said even this might not be enough. The authors believe there is no starting point to the impact of air pollution on human health . “What is clear from our analysis is that current WHO standards are not strict enough to protect against many cases of childhood asthma,” Nieuwenhuijsen said. WHO guidelines are currently under review. Susan Anenberg, a co-author of the related study published in April, said the latest research showed how damaging air pollution can be on public health. “Almost no one on planet Earth breathes clean air,” Anenberg said. “The good news is that there are many ways to prevent children from getting asthma because of their air pollution exposure. Making it easier to cycle , walk or run to get places, for example, has many benefits for society — including improved air quality, increased physical activity and less climate-warming pollution.” + European Respiratory Journal Via The Guardian Image via David Holt

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Beyond’s ‘Meatless Marinara’ sub coming to Subway

August 8, 2019 by  
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Fast food franchise Subway is jumping on the plant-based meat bandwagon with a meatless meatball sub coming to you soon. Using Beyond Meat’s plant-based meat, which is said to resemble beef in taste and appearance when cooked, Subway will begin selling The Beyond Meatball Marina sub at 685 restaurants throughout the U.S. and Canada in September. Beyond Meat and Subway have joined forces to create the forthcoming Meatball Marinara sub, made using the new Beyond Meatball, and it will be exclusive to Subway restaurants. Related: Alternative meats — are they actually healthier than the real thing? The sandwich institution isn’t the only fast food chain experimenting with meat alternatives to attract those who prefer staying off meat for their health and/or for environmental reasons. Dunkin’ Donuts said it’s testing out a Beyond Meat sausage in Manhattan, while Burger King is offering a meatless version of its popular and longstanding menu item, the Whopper. It is comprised of a patty made by Beyond’s competitor, Impossible Foods, and as of August 8 is available nationwide. Other restaurants opting to offer meatless options include White Castle , Del Taco, Carl’s Jr., Tim Hortons and Qdoba. Many fast food chains are trying to attract flexitarian eaters versus just strict vegans. For example, Subway’s Beyond Meatball sub will be sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, while Burger King’s Impossible Whoppers are cooked alongside the restaurant’s meats. Going meatless is big business as U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods have increased 11 percent in the past year, according to a July report from trade group Plant Based Foods Association and the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit supporting plant-based companies and businesses. Banking institution Barclays is forecasting the alternative meat industry could reach about $140 billion in the next decade. As for Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, the two companies have witnessed gigantic increases in demand. Beyond Meat’s revenues reached $67.3 million in the second quarter, up from $17.4 million during the same period last year — a 287 percent jump. + Beyond Meat + Subway Via CNN Image via Beyond Meat

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Beyond’s ‘Meatless Marinara’ sub coming to Subway

U.S. loses 24 million acres of natural land

August 7, 2019 by  
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Mother Nature might be ticked, because the United States is losing land fast. If you’ve ever visited the glorious Grand Canyon, you already know how vast it is. Imagine what a combined nine Grand Canyons would look like, and you have the equivalent of the amount of natural land the U.S. has lost from 2001-2017. That’s 24 million acres if you do the math. The reason? According to a recent study conducted by the Center for American Progress, “How Much Nature Should America Keep,” it’s all because of agriculture, energy expansion, an increase in housing build-outs and other human-made developments, making the U.S. more susceptible to climate change . Related: Scientific consensus reaches beyond 99% on human-caused climate change The study calculated the country’s land degradation by adding up the impact of all the above factors to come to an assessment. Bottom-line, the center said that the “U.S. needs to set a goal to protect 30 percent of land and oceans by 2030 to stem the rapid decline of natural areas, which will protect the country from the worst impacts of climate change and wildlife extinction .” The report also found that presently, 12 percent of the country’s land area has been saved as national parks , wilderness areas and other kinds of protected areas, while 26 percent of the country’s ocean area is protected from drilling for oil and gas. The report continued, “The United States is entering an era in which it will rely more than ever on the integrity and stability of the natural world to provide economic prosperity, safeguard the health of communities and weather the effects of a changing climate.” As for the sharpest losses of natural areas, these took place in the southern and Midwestern U.S. as the carbon footprints of cities, farms, streets, power plants and other developments increased from 47 percent and 59 percent of land area, respectively. To turn things around — and hopefully protect 30 percent of land by 2030 and avoid even more land degradation — the U.S. must increase its current land conservation blueprint at both the federal and local levels. + Center for American Progress Via Reuters Image via Tony Webster

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U.S. loses 24 million acres of natural land

Google promises carbon neutral shipping and recycled plastic products

August 6, 2019 by  
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In an attempt to keep up with customer demands and industry competitors, Google announced a loose plan to reach carbon neutral shipping and incorporate more recycled plastics into their Made by Google products. These gadgets include Pixel phones and Pixelbooks as well as Google Home speakers, phone cases and charging devices. Google did not give a specific timeline for carbon neutral delivery but plans to increase their use of cargo ships instead of air vessels. The company committed to include recycled plastic in 100 percent of their devices by 2022. Related: Athlete and activist runs across the US to raise awareness of plastic pollution Apple and Samsung are out-competing Google for sustainability pledges. Apple, for example, has at least 50% recycled plastic in some of their gadgets and at least 11 products with recycled aluminum. Samsung also recently pledged to increase their use of sustainable packaging. According to Anna Meegan, head of sustainability for Google, the company’s transportation-related carbon emissions decreased by 40% between 2017 and 2018. Google also promised to purchase carbon offsets for the emissions that they will not be able to reduce through strategies such as using more ships. “We are fundamentally looking to build sustainability into everything we do. It’s going to take us time to demonstrate progress,” said Meegan. Since cargo ships take longer than planes, Google will need to find ways to streamline their development and production processes so they do not lose customers due to longer wait times. Currently, only a third of all google products with public material disclosures contain recycled plastic. For example, Google Home speakers contain approximately 20 to 40% recycled plastic in their casing. Google also has a Recycling Partnership program where they provide a free shipping label to previous customers who have devices they no longer use. Google is able to collect and recycle components of the devices for future gadgets. Interested customers can check out the Partnership information here . Via CNBC Image via Andres Urena

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FDA approves Impossible Burger sales at grocery stores

August 5, 2019 by  
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Fake meats have had a great year. Sales for artificial, plant-based and lab-grown meats have skyrocketed, and they are even predicted to surpass the meat industry in the next 20 years . But there’s one fake burger that shines above the rest: the Impossible Burger. Already sold at high-end restaurants around the world as well as major fast-food spots like Burger King and White Castle, the Impossible Burger tastes the most like real meat. It even has a blood-like substance called soy leghemoglobin, which received Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approval on July 31, which means Impossible Burgers are approved for sale in grocery stores starting September 4. The soy substance, generally called heme, was thought to be an allergen, but the FDA just deemed it safe for sale to customers in raw burgers. Meat products also contain an animal-based heme, which gives red meat its juicy flavor, texture and feel. The scientists behind the Impossible Burger have mimicked animal heme so closely that customers claim this burger is the closest thing to the real thing. Related: Impossible Foods tests a fish-less fish protein Impossible Foods, the creator of Impossible Burgers, will have to significantly ramp up its production to meet the demand of grocery stores around the country. Critics argue that the fake meat trend is just a fad and that it has yet to impact animal-based meat sales, but the expansion of the Impossible Burger and other Impossible Foods products might make enough waves to actually impact and disrupt the meat industry. Ninety-nine percent of all animal-based meat products consumed in the U.S. originate from factory farms with abusive animal conditions. The livestock and meat industry is also a major contributor to carbon emissions. Artificial meat products offer a solution for animal lovers and environmentalists. Impossible Foods also believes that with its top-notch recipe, it can even convert meat-lovers who want a guilt-free product without sacrificing taste. + Impossible Foods Via Gizmodo and Vox Image via Impossible Foods

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Satellites show hope for Brazil’s disappearing Atlantic forest

August 2, 2019 by  
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While international media focuses on the important and devastating losses in the Amazon rainforest, an extensive forest biome along Brazil’s eastern coast is rapidly disappearing. The Mata Atlântica biome hosts incredible biodiversity and is critical for fighting climate change through its massive contribution to carbon sequestration. It is considered one of the most threatened large tropical forest ecosystems, but a new study finally reveals a glimmer of hope — the area of deforestation is bad, but not as bad as it used to be. According to the joint report by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research and Fundação SOS, heavily deforested areas have nearly 10 percent more forest cover than previous years. Their findings are based on innovative satellite mapping. Related: Deforestation and climate change combined may split Amazon in two “Just as important as analyzing the loss of Mata Atlântica in the last [most recent] period is to look at the historical series and think about prospects going forward,” said André de Almeida Cunha, an ecology professor at the at the University of Brasília. The forest used to stretch down Brazil’s eastern coast and through Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. Now, it has been reduced to small, fragmented protected areas. The majority of deforestation is because of cattle grazing and land clearing for other agribusiness as well as real estate development. “Mata Atlântica is still the most threatened biome,” explained Pedro Brancalion, a researcher at the University of São Paulo. “The [deforestation] process we see in the Amazon began 500 years ago in Mata Atlântica. There is still deforestation [underway] in Mata Atlântica [today] where biodiversity losses have not been offset by reforestation initiatives.” While the report shows that some reforestation efforts have been successful, not all reforestation is equal. Throughout Brazil and much of the world, some reforestation initiatives have focused on planting monocrop trees for agriculture, such as eucalyptus or palm oil. While these trees are better than nothing, they are eventually harvested and do not provide the benefits of biodiversity . Via Mongabay Image via ICLEI América do Sul

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Greta Thunberg will sail across Atlantic to attend UN Climate Summits

August 1, 2019 by  
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Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, is faced with a dilemma: how will she get to the U.N. Climate Summit in New York City with out leaving a carbon footprint ? Enter Boris Herrmann and Pierre Casiraghi, professional sailors who offered the young activist a ride on their high-speed, zero-emissions sailboat the Malizia II . The sailboat journey will take two weeks to reach the New York Climate Summit. After New York, the group will venture on another trip to Santiago, Chile for the U.N. Framework Convention. Related: New report warns of extreme heat of 127 degrees or more in the US “This is pretty much where our future will be decided. By the year 2020, next year, the emission curve must have been bended steep downwards if we are to have a change to stay below 1.5 or 2 degrees of warming,” said Thunberg of the U.N. events. The crew has warned Thunberg the trip will not be glamorous, including no access to showers, air conditioning, refrigeration or fresh meals. There is also a chance that the seas could be rough. “I asked her if she was scared and she explained in a very analytical way that she thinks this voyage is safe, the boat has a lot of safety systems and is capable of sailing around the world in a race and therefore it’s a strong boat,” says Herrmann. The sailboat, Malizia II is one of only a few zero-emissions sailboats of its size in the world. It has solar panels and underwater turbines that generate electricity while the ship is sailing. Thunberg’s father will also be aboard the ship for the journey, along with a filmmaker to document their adventure. Thunberg has taken a year off from school in order to focus on her work as an outspoken climate activist. Via TreeHugger Image via Flickr

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UNStudio designs terminal for worlds first cross-border cable car connecting Russia with China

August 1, 2019 by  
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After completing cable car designs in Gothenburg and Amsterdam, UNStudio has won a competition to design the Blagoveshchensk Cable Terminal for the world’s first cross-border cable car that will connect Russia and China. Presumably powered by electricity, the new form of public transport has been described by UNStudio’s founder Ben van Berkel to be “sustainable, extremely fast, reliable and efficient.” The new cross-border cable car line will connect the northern Chinese city of Heihe with the Russian city of Blagoveshchensk. Separated by the Amur River that has formed a boundary between Russia and China since the mid-19th century, the two cities belong to a free trade zone and have historically been trading partners, particularly when the Amur River freezes over to allow passage by foot. The frozen Amur river as a platform for trade and commerce inspired UNStudio’s winning Cable Car Terminal design, which aims to build social connections between the two cultures. As a result, the terminal will feature diverse programming and curated views of both cities. The angular building will also comprise a series of landscaped terraces to create a new shared urban space — dubbed the Urban Tribune — that will serve as a cultural focal point on the waterfront for Blagoveschensk. Related: The “world’s first vertical cable car” will climb to a height of 138 meters in the UK “As it crosses the natural border of the Amur River, the Blagoveshchensk – Heihe cable car will be the first ever cable car system to join two countries and cultures,” van Berkel said in a project statement. “This context provided rich inspiration for the Blagoveshchensk terminal station, which not only responds to its immediate urban location but also becomes an expression of cultural identity and a podium for the intermingling of cultures.” The cable car line will comprise two lines and four cabins — each with a capacity of 60 passengers and extra space for luggage — and can whisk passengers from one city to the other in less than eight minutes. + UNStudio Images via UNStudio

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California partners with UN on climate insurance

July 31, 2019 by  
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California is the first state to work directly with the United Nations on a natural infrastructure insurance program that could help protect communities from wildfires and other disasters. The California Department of Insurance is working on a year long initiative with the United Nation’s Environment Program to develop insurance practices that manage and reduce risks, specifically related to wetlands and forests. Related: Every year, humanity ‘overshoots’ the natural resources earth can replenish “We have a historic opportunity to utilize insurance markets to protect Californians from the threat of climate change, including rising sea levels, extreme heat and wildfires,” says Insurance Commissioner for California Ricardo Lara. “Working with the United Nations, we can keep California at the forefront of reducing risks while promoting sustainable investments.” In 2018, California experienced the state’s deadliest wildfire, which cost $12 billion in insurable losses and killed 85 people. According to experts, the increased severity of wildfires is likely due to climate change . Insurance services can offer compensation for risk reduction strategies, such as effective forest management or protecting utility infrastructure from possible disasters. “A sustainable insurance road map will enable California to harness risk reduction measures, insurance solutions and investments by the insurance industry in order to build safer, disaster-resilient communities, and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon, sustainable economy,” said the U.N. lead, Butch Bacani. Other countries have initiated similar natural infrastructure insurance programs, including protections for coral reefs and mangroves, which reduce coastal flooding and erosion. Via LA Times Iamge via Flickr

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The ultimate guide to eco-friendly period products

July 31, 2019 by  
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If you’re a person who is serious about protecting the environment, you’re probably conscious of how much trash you generate every time you have a period. In addition to being chock-full of plastics sent straight to landfills, pads and tampons also contain harsh chemicals that are toxic . Yet most people continue exposing their bodies to these products month after month. Luckily, there are better options out there for both you and the planet — here’s a guide to help you find what might work best for you. “Anything coming in constant contact with your skin will land in your bloodstream for distribution throughout your body,” Dr. Joseph Mercola wrote in an alarming Huffington Post article about the dangers of menstrual products. Despite the potential dangers, the chemical ingredients in tampons and pads are an industry secret, protected by nondisclosure policies that favor corporations, manufacturers and innovators but put consumers at serious risk. So if you want to cut down on polluting nature and your body, consider this comprehensive guide on more sustainable product options available right now. As always, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider to help determine the best options for you. Menstrual cups Menstrual cups are one of the most eco-friendly options out there. If you can get over the initial learning curve, they are easy and convenient to use. Why we love them Although the up-front sticker price is higher, when you calculate how much you spend every month on tampons or pads, the savings are obvious. The cups are comfortable and barely noticeable once they have been inserted — the same way you might get used to a tampon and hardly realize it is there. They are especially easy for travelers who want to save precious space in their luggage and say goodbye to last-minute, emergency trips to the convenience store. Most cup brands come in multiple sizes and some even come in varying levels of firmness, depending on your preference, flow, age and whether or not you have had a vaginal birth. The cups are capable of handling even heavy flow days, with most users reporting minimal — if any — leaks. Below is a brief review of a few popular brands. Diva Cup ($35) The Diva Cup is the most recognized and popular brand. It has three sizes (including one for teens), lasts up to 12 hours and is made from medical-grade silicone. Sustain Natural Period Cup ($39) These cups are flexible, compact and made entirely of medical-grade silicone . They claim to hold three tampons-worth of liquid and are available in two sizes. This is also the only brand that currently offers a microwave case for cleaning the cup. Peachlife Menstrual Cup ($22) Also made of medical-grade silicone, this cup uniquely comes in a variety of firmness levels (soft, medium-firm and extra-firm). Unlike other brands that come to a point, the Peachlife cup has a silicone ring at the bottom for easy removal (but remember, you still have to break the suction of the cup; you cannot just tug on the ring!). Cups are not without challenges Menstrual cups cannot be recycled at the end of their lifecycles, but when you calculate how many pads and tampons you averted from landfills, this product is worth it. The cups can also be difficult to maneuver at first. Once you have practiced and get the hang of folding the cup, inserting it and then breaking the seal to remove, it’s just as easy as any other option. It typically takes about three periods to fully adapt to using a menstrual cup. Because of cultural and religious beliefs, some people do have objections or hesitations to using a cup. Related: Study shows menstrual cups are safe and just as effective as tampons, pads A new spin on ‘period underwear’ Absorbent underwear brands like THINX and Lunapads are increasing in popularity and market share. They are simply underwear that you wear during your period that are specially manufactured to absorb menstrual blood. Why they’re so easy If you know how to put on your undies, then you know how to use these — they have all other products beat in terms of ease of use. They are also eco-friendly, because you wash and reuse them each time you have your period. That means they do not produce landfill trash every month. The downside of absorbent underwear Period underwear is more expensive than your typical pair of underwear because of their patented absorption technology . You will also need a few pairs depending on the length and flow of your period and how often you’re able to wash and dry them. Like the cups though, when you tally the cost of underwear against lifetime tampon expenses, they’re a smart economic choice. The horrors of tampons and better options “The average American woman uses 16,800 tampons in her lifetime — or up to 24,360 if she’s on estrogen replacement therapy,” said Dr. Mercola. That’s a lot of trash , but it is also a lot of time that your body is exposed to toxic chemicals. Cotton is better; organic cotton is best You may have heard health experts say that cotton underwear is best for promoting vaginal health — the same goes for tampons. Look for brands that specifically say they are made from organic cotton, but assume that most conventional brands are now made from plastics and synthetic materials. These materials are not breathable, can get fragmented and left behind and might encourage health problems like yeast and bacterial growth. Most tampons are also bleached with substances linked to abnormal tissue growth, abnormal cell growth and immune system suppression. Americans use 7 billion tampon applicators every year; the chemicals in the applicator, phthalates, have been generally linked to organ damage, lower I.Q. and asthma. What to try instead Using tampons without applicators will significantly cut down the plastic waste you generate. Brands like o.b. offer tampons that can be inserted with just your finger. Seventh Generation offers a chlorine-free, organic cotton tampon that reduces your exposure to chemicals. Organyc also offers a 100 percent organic cotton tampon. What about pads? Many people prefer pads for comfort or cultural reasons; however, the average sanitary pad contains “the equivalent of about four plastic bags, and this doesn’t include the other chemicals like BPA , BPS, phthalates and toxic dioxin created by the bleaching process.” Even though they have plastic in them, pads are never recyclable because they have been contaminated with bodily fluid. Because pads have a bigger volume than tampons, they produce even more waste. The average person throws away between 250 and 300 pounds of pads or tampons in their lifetime. What to use if you prefer pads There are reusable sanitary pads online that significantly reduce the amount of trash produced. Simply place the pad in your underwear; when it is dirty, rinse it with cold water and then add it to the laundry. You can buy reusable pads from Gladrags or find cute designs via Etsy. You can also try your hand at sewing your own . Disposable tampons and pads dominate the menstrual care market, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With small personal changes, you can protect your health, wallet and the planet. Images via Shutterstock

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The ultimate guide to eco-friendly period products

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