A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for family

December 11, 2018 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

When it comes to family, we want to offer the best of the best. The smartest way to gift high-quality gifts to your loved ones is by shopping sustainably. Eco-friendly products (and experiences) are made with love and care for people and the planet. Here are some of our top picks for everyone in your family. For mom: Eco-friendly yoga mats Mom deserves some ‘me’ time. Whether she is an avid yogi or is just getting started, this plant-based yoga mat is made with cork . It’s also free of harsh chemicals, antibacterial and odor-free. The cork is sustainable and helps provide a stronger grip. Hobby classes Does your mom love to cook? Maybe she could spend hours making pottery , or perhaps she enjoys painting. No matter her preferences, buy a pass or certificate for classes that interest her. This is a thoughtful gift of experience, which will leave her with lovely memories for years to come. Sweaters Who doesn’t love a snuggly sweater? We love the various options from Patagonia — the company is a champion for the environment, plus their products are built to last whether Mom likes to sit on the couch in her sweater or explore the great outdoors. Sustainable jewelry Add a little extra bling to your mom’s envy-inducing jewelry box with eco-friendly, ethical accessories. There are many beautiful, unique options from 31Bits , which works with women artisans in Uganda, Indonesia and the U.S. to provide fair working conditions and wages as well as healthcare, mentorship, counseling and more. For dad: Organic skincare There is no better way to show your love for someone than by giving them the gift of healthy skin. Whether it is something to moisturize the rough patches under a beard, something to soothe cracked knuckles or a myriad of products, gift Dad with organic skincare that will allow him to pamper himself daily. We love this line , which is made from recycled coffee grounds and only uses plant-based packaging. Watches Adorn Dad’s wrist with a new watch that will keep him punctual and stylish. Be sure to choose a brand with the environment in mind, like WeWood . WeWood offers wood watches free of toxic, artificial materials. Plus, WeWood plants a tree for each watch sold, and these wooden watches are sure to stand out among a sea of their metallic counterparts. Related: Inhabitat test drives a gorgeous WeWood watch Wool shirts Wool is incredibly durable with the ability to withstand the coldest of temperatures and wick away moisture with ease. Add a sleek wool shirt to Dad’s closet with options like Ramblers Way , a family-owned business in the U.S. that is dedicated to respecting the sheep, the environment and the people. The company uses 100 percent wool and donates time and money to local causes ranging from environmental conservation to human need to arts and education. Vegan or recycled leather jackets The jokes might be lame, but Dad can at least look cool in an environmentally responsible leather jacket. There are many vegan options on the market, or you can embrace reuse with a jacked from Better World Fashion . These jackets are made from recycled leather and the buttons are made with recycled metal. The certified B corp also relies on responsible production methods, uses zero water or chemicals and creates zero waste. For siblings: Eco-friendly subscription boxes Subscription boxes are the gift that keeps on giving, but it is important to find ones that advocate for the environment. Surprise your siblings month after month with a subscription to companies like the Bloomin’ Bin , Feeling Fab , KloverBox , MightyFix  and more. Everlane clothing With a commitment to ethical, sustainable fashion, Everlane offers eco-friendly unisex clothing, shoes and accessories that are sure to please. Be sure to browse the ReNew collection , which offers puffer coats, pullover sweaters and parkas all made from recycled water bottles. Zero-waste kit Help your siblings lower their carbon footprints (truly the best gift of all) by gifting them a zero-waste kit. Specifically, we recommend the {Zero} Waste Kit , which includes a glass jar with a leak-proof, organic bamboo lid; a sustainable cork sleeve for mugs; a reusable, ethically-sourced bamboo dual utensil; a stainless steel straw with an eco-friendly cleaner; a napkin made from upcycled fabric scraps; a knife with a ceramic blade and a bamboo handle; and organic cotton produce bags. Whew! That’s a lot of bang for your buck, and everything your loved ones could need to really embrace the zero-waste lifestyle. Indoor garden With a snappy indoor garden , your siblings can grow their very own food for weeks, months and years to come. We love Click + Grow , which is energy-efficient, small space-friendly and easy to use. In our own tests, we had sprouts from seed in just two days! It’s a great gift for those who would love to grow their own food, but might not have a lot of time or space to do so. For grandparents: Natural candles Nothing beats visiting your grandparents and taking in the comforting scents that fill their home (especially if they love to bake!). Add to the aroma with natural candles. Standard, store-bought candles can be toxic, so be sure to find sustainable candles made from responsibly sourced soy, coconut or palm wax. Also, ensure the wick is lead-free and made with cotton. Check Etsy for a wide range of handmade, eco-friendly candles. Related: Making soy candles for the holidays Birdhouses We all get a bit of joy from hearing birds chirp and watching as they soar above us. Gift this joy to Grandma and Grandpa by giving them a beautiful, handcrafted birdhouse that will spruce up their yard and bring cheerful birds around each day. Reading subscriptions Another gift that continues long after the holidays are over, a subscription for books, magazines or newspapers are an excellent present for grandparents who love to read. If they are open to going digital, it’ll save paper — otherwise, encourage them to recycle or upcycle the products when they have finished them! Choose their favorite media and topics, or introduce them to some reading that focuses on sustainability. Family photos Most grandparents would love to receive pictures of their family to place around their homes. Have your images printed with eco-friendly ink on sustainable paper , and then frame it in reclaimed wood or recycled materials. If you really want to go all out, organize a photoshoot with the whole family, and then frame those photos for a sweet sentiment. Images via George Dolgikh , Urbivore , Cally Lawson , Rocknwool , Artem Bali , Grums Aarhus , Ramblers Way , Franklin Heijnen , Kloverbox , Everlane , Alex Mortensen / {Zero} Waste Kit , Click + Grow , Joanna Kosinska , Nora Vellinga , Jonas Jacobsson , Shutterstock and Inhabitat

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A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for family

10 tasty and easy vegan dinner ideas

November 21, 2018 by  
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Choosing to live a healthy, vegan lifestyle can be an easy choice to make, but when it comes to actually following through and cooking those meals every day, it can seem like a complicated, time-consuming task. Not to mention, recipes can easily become repetitive. Cooking plant-based meals doesn’t have to be difficult. With a little planning and a smart grocery shopping strategy, you can make quick and easy vegan dinners every day of the week. Here are 10 dinner ideas to help keep your diet full of nutrients and flavor that won’t require you to spend hours in the kitchen. Creamy vegan one-pot pasta This Asian-style recipe from Vegan Heaven is perfect for a quick weeknight dinner. Loaded with veggies and seasoned with red curry paste, garlic cloves and coconut milk, this one-pot recipe is super easy to make, and it takes less than a half-hour to prep and cook. This dish is packed with flavor and will save you a ton of time. Vegan Philly cheese sandwich Red bell peppers, sweet onion, chilies, black pepper and spices, along with some vegan cheddar and seitan strips on a hoagie roll create a perfect vegan Philly that you will crave. This recipe is from Healthy, Happy, Life, and it is easy and fun to make. Related: 12 plant-based recipes for a vegan or vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner Vegan Swedish meatballs Just because you are a vegan, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy meatballs! This recipe from Rabbit and Wolves makes a super quick weeknight meal and takes about 20 minutes to throw together. Vegan grilled burritos with black beans, rice, avocado and salsa crema This may seem like a gourmet meal , but you can put it together super-fast, and it is loaded with flavor. The recipe comes from Veggies Don’t Bite, and when your family takes their first bite, they will think you spent hours in the kitchen. Spicy chickpea veggie burgers It can be difficult to make a veggie patty that sticks together, but this recipe from Running On Real Food does the trick. They take about ten minutes to prepare, and you can mix up the spices in the recipe to get the flavor you want. Hearty white bean vegetable soup Who doesn’t love a bowl of hot soup on a cold day? With just a few ingredients, you can make a ton of soup with this recipe from Hello Glow, and it will fill your tummy with veggies. You can also easily mix things up and experiment with different flavors. Related: 10 vegan sources of protein you can grow at home Easy vegan Alfredo pasta This creamy recipe from Rainbow Nourishments features cashews, garlic and onion, and you can use raw zucchini noodles or gluten-free pasta. Just remember to soak your cashews the night before. Hummus pizza with veggies Another recipe from Vegan Heaven, this pizza uses hummus instead of tomato sauce, and has toppings like cherry tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, and artichokes. The dough is also super easy to make and has just four ingredients – flour, instant yeast, salt, and olive oil. However, you can also opt for a ready-made crust if you are running short on time. If you are a pizza lover and would like a vegan option with tomato sauce, try this simple vegan pizza from The Minimalist Baker. Vegan no-bake peanut butter energy bites If you need a boost of energy to start your day, or a good snack during the afternoon, try these three ingredient energy bites from Beaming Banana. This sweet and salty snack is addictive and easy to make. Vegan potato pancakes This recipe has simple ingredients like potatoes, onions, flour, and a little jalapeno to spice things up, and they are perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, these potato cakes from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken take just a few minutes to make, and they are potato perfection. Via Vegan Heaven , Healthy Happy Life , Rabbit and Wolves , Veggies don’t bite , Running on Real Food , Hello Glow,  Beaming Banana , It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken and Rainbow Nourishments Images via Lars Blankers , Stevepb , Nadya Spetnitskaya , MootikaLLC , agamaszota , PDPics , gate74 , JESHOOTScom , rawpixel and coyot

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10 tasty and easy vegan dinner ideas

How to cook and enjoy 10 types of squash other than pumpkin

October 26, 2018 by  
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‘Tis the season for pies, soups, breads and fall produce. Whether you roast, puree, bake or sauté it, squash is one of the few fall/winter options for cooking with fresh produce , thanks to its tough outer skin that shields it from cold temperatures. While pumpkin steals the show this time of year, there are many other options from which to choose. From butternut squash to sweet dumpling squash, there are endless varieties of this amazing vegetable, and even more delicious ways to prepare it. To help you add squash to your cooking repertoire, here is a guide that will allow you to incorporate several types of squash into your diet all winter long. Butternut squash One of the most popular and common types of winter squash, butternut squash is ideal for roasting. This foot-long, bell-shaped squash has a thin, butterscotch color with a sweet, nutty flesh. It is great for creamy soups, ravioli filling and sauce for gnocchi and risotto, and it pairs well with flavors like cinnamon, balsamic vinegar and smoky bacon. There are so many ways to cook butternut squash  that you could use it in a different recipe every day. Spaghetti squash This type of squash is oval and yellow. When you cook it, spaghetti squash has a stringy flesh that looks like, well, spaghetti, and you can use it as a substitute for pasta . They typically weigh between 4 and 8 pounds, and those that are larger will have the best flavor and thicker “noodles.” If you are trying to reduce your carb intake, spaghetti squash is a perfect addition to your diet. It absorbs cheese and sauce and can easily be enhanced with butter and herbs. Sweet dumpling squash This type of squash tastes like a sweet potato and is the perfect size to be used as a soup bowl or to stuff with rice and veggies . You can also use sweet dumpling squash the same way you would use a sweet potato — bake, roast or mash it for soups. Because it is one of the sweetest varieties of squash, it is perfect for a puree . Related: How to cook and serve pumpkin soup in a tureen made from its own shell Hubbard One of the largest and thickest-skinned squash varieties, you can use hubbard in the dead of winter with no problems. Because it weighs between 8 and 20 pounds, hubbard squash does require longer cooking times, but it is a fantastic substitute for pumpkin in pie. They vary in color from orange to grayish blue, and beneath the tough skin is a savory and sweet yellow flesh. Hubbard is high in sugar, and that means it is best mashed or pureed as a pie filling. Banana squash Named after the fruit because of its color and shape, banana squash has a sweet, orange, meaty flesh perfect for soups or thinly shaved in salads. You can even use it as a substitute for butternut squash in a stew. Acorn squash Ideal for roasting and stuffing , acorn squash is mild in flavor and features a dark green exterior with a firm, yellow flesh. You can use it as a natural bowl for fillings like apples and chestnuts. Just remember, peeling acorn squash is difficult, so cut it in half or slice it for roasting. Carnival squash Because it is a combination of acorn and sweet dumpling squash, you can use carnival squash as a substitute for either one. The flesh is sweet and great for soups, or you can spice it up and bake it for a side dish. Calabaza Also known as West Indian Pumpkin , calabaza squash has a sweet, juicy, golden-orange flesh with a similar taste and texture to butternut squash. Perfect for baking , calabaza does have a tough rind, so you will need to use a cleaver to cut up a whole squash. Kabocha New to the American market and sometimes called a Japanese pumpkin, kabocha is an Asian winter squash that has a sweet flavor with strong nutty and earthy elements. It has a moist and fluffy texture, with a taste often compared to chestnuts. Puree kabocha to add a buttery richness to a thick and creamy soup . You can also bake or steam it with delicious results. Delicata Another squash that is similar to sweet potatoes because of its creamy flavor and texture, delicata can be baked, roasted, steamed, sautéed  or stuffed . You can even eat the skin, so peeling isn’t necessary. Delicata is long and thin, and has an incredible umami flavor that makes for an excellent  side dish . There are definitely more members of the squash family, but these 10 are versatile and can be used in many different recipes. So the next time you hit the grocery store, try incorporating at least one of these types of squash into your meal planning — you will be happy you did. Via Food Network , Real Simple and Plated Images via Blair Fraser , Ulleo , Alberto Trevino , Aaron Burden , Linda N. , Gennie Bee , Amy G ,  Rafael Saldaña , Green Mountain Girls Farm and Shutterstock

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How to cook and enjoy 10 types of squash other than pumpkin

10 sustainable Halloween decorations for your green home

October 17, 2018 by  
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Halloween is just around the corner, but when it comes to decorating your home for the spooky holiday, it can be a challenge to keep things eco-friendly. Most store-bought decorations are made with non-recyclable plastic and covered in toxic paint or synthetic fabrics. But there is no need for frivolous spending and waste when it comes to decorating for Halloween. There are some great DIY ideas that you can use to upcycle things that are already lying around your house, allowing you to keep your environmental impact to a minimum. Egg carton bats Upcycle your egg cartons by using them as bat decorations. With some non-toxic black paint, ribbons, glue and googly eyes, you can make these cute egg carton bats from Crafts By Courtney. Bed sheet ghosts This idea is extremely easy, and all it takes is some old white bed sheets, leaves or newspaper and some string. Simply stuff your old sheets with leaves or newspaper and tie some string around the sheet to make the head. Then, hang them from  trees  to add a spooky effect to your front yard. Related: 6 DIY Halloween decorations made with upcycled materials Milk jug skeleton Dairy containers can come in handy when it comes to making sustainable Halloween decor. Save your old milk jugs and turn them into skeletons with string, scissors, a craft knife, glue and a hole punch. This idea from the Recycle Guys is a fun project to do with your kids, and it won’t cost you any more than the price of the milk you already drink. Yarn spider webs This simple Halloween decorating idea comes from Instructables , and all you need is yarn and scissors. Start by laying out a basic horizontal and vertical frame from the yarn, and then start weaving more yarn to make a web. You can find the step-by-step instructions here . Giant trash bag spiders If you put spider webs on your front porch, then it makes sense to add some giant spiders . According to Money Crashers, you will need some large black trash bags, leaves or newspaper, zip ties and a glue gun to make this creepy crawly. Mad scientist lab With some mason jars — or old baby food, pickle, olive or sauce jars — you can turn your home into a mad scientist’s laboratory. Put animal toys, eyeballs or other strange objects into each jar with some water and non-toxic or natural food coloring, and fill a shelf (or a window) with some crazy Halloween experiments . Mummy cereal boxes Who doesn’t have some old bed sheets lying around that don’t fit any bed in the house? I know I do, and white ones make the perfect Halloween craft item. Cut the fabric of an old sheet into thin strips, and cover a cereal or cracker box with the sheet pieces to make it look like a mummy . Then, add some googly eyes to make the perfect mummified decoration. Front yard cemetery With some used cardboard boxes, non-toxic paint, scissors and wood stakes, you can turn your front yard into a cemetery for Halloween. Make tombstones to place all over your yard, and if you add some artificial moss from a craft store, it will make it look even more authentic. For something you can use year after year, create your own tombstones from concrete . Ghostly lights Yet another idea for used milk jugs , you can make ghost lights with black construction paper, string LED lights , some googly eyes and a little glue. You can light up your walkway or front porch with these little ghosts. Gourds This is an obvious eco-friendly choice, but you don’t have to limit yourself to carving pumpkins for Halloween. Instead, you can wrap gourds in bows or paint them with non-toxic paint to create environmentally friendly decorations. If you want to keep things really simple, use plain gourds and pumpkins to decorate your dinner table, add some color to your front porch or line your steps or walkway. Then, compost your pumpkins and gourds after Halloween to help fertilize your garden. It is possible to go green at Halloween, you just have to look around the house for items that you can reuse to help reduce the problem of holiday waste. The options are endless when it comes to DIY  eco-friendly Halloween decorations. When you opt to make a few instead of buying plastic items at the store, the environment will thank you. Via  Care2 and Apartment Guide Images via Gurney Halleck , Quazie , Lenore Edman and Shutterstock

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Fight food waste with these 11 ways to use leftover greens before they spoil

September 19, 2018 by  
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While they are chock-full of nutrients, greens such as spinach, kale, chard and romaine typically do not make for good leftovers. Luckily, there are plenty of uses for this tasty produce — even if it is soggy and nearly bad — that won’t make you feel like you’ve wasted money or contributed to the growing food waste crisis. Here are 11 different ways you can use leftover greens before they spoil. Sautéed Greens Certain types of greens, like arugula, kale , chard and spinach, are ideal for adding to a stir-fry or sautéing. Add these greens with shallots, peppers and garlic, and sauté them with a bit of olive oil. If you are making a traditional stir-fry, the ribs of romaine and iceberg lettuce are great for adding a crispy element to the dish. Kale Pesto Who knew kale could be incorporated into a spaghetti dish? Start by making a pesto with kale with a food processor. Then, boil some spaghetti noodles and combine them with the pesto. Add a few sun-dried tomatoes to the mix and top everything off with some goat or vegan cheese. Once you have mastered making kale pesto, you can use it in a number of different dishes, including raviolis and fish, such as tilapia. Lettuce Soup It might not sound good, but leftover greens actually make a great soup . You can make a delicious soup out of an assortment of leftover greens, including Boston, romaine, butter, Bibb and iceberg lettuces. You can also play with a variety of spices, like thyme, garlic and tarragon, until you find a flavor combination you like. Add in potato for a heartier meal. Lettuce Cups and Wraps You can put just about anything that you would put on a sandwich in a lettuce wrap, and it will taste good. If you are looking for something new, try wrapping a mixture of rice, spicy peppers and other veggies and proteins of your choice. Like wraps, lettuce cups are a great way to use leftover greens before they spoil. Romaine lettuce and iceberg are better for cups, because they have large leaves and are a little sturdier than their counterparts. There is an assortment of lettuce cup recipes on the internet, but our favorite combines pine nuts, tofu (or chicken, if you prefer) and peppers to create a tasty treat. Green Smoothies One of the quickest ways to use leftover greens is to incorporate them into a smoothie. Greens make excellent smoothies that are both tasty and nutritious. Add a bit of fruit plus ginger for extra flavor. You can also try your hand at making a detox smoothie. For this drink, use leftover kale, apples, ginger and lemon. Start by slicing six apples. Juice three of them, and add the juice to your blender. Then toss in the chopped kale, lemon and ginger. Once everything is mixed in, add the rest of the apple slices and blend. One tip for this recipe is to use apples that are crisp, which will help give the smoothie a good consistency. But if you are trying to use up nearly-expired apples, those will work fine, too. Mac & Cheese Leftover kale actually makes great mac and cheese and can help infuse nutrients into the dish. Just cook the dish as you normally would (we recommend homemade, not boxed!), and combine the chopped kale at the very end as you are mixing everything together. Place in the oven to soften the kale and you are good to go. If you prefer spinach, it also makes a great addition to this classic comfort dish . Rice With Greens Mixing rice, including fried rice, with greens is a great way to make a traditional dish healthier. Start by cooking the rice as you normally would. Mix in a cup or more of chopped greens and your preferred spices. Cook until the kale is soft and serve hot. Coleslaw Leftover greens are great for making a quick coleslaw. Hardier greens, such as kale, mustard, chard or turnip tops, are more ideal for coleslaw, because they generally stay fresher longer. If you notice some yellowing leaves, simply cut off these portions and cut the rest into small strips. Add a vinaigrette to the mixture and the result is a fresh slaw that is sure to please. Grilled Lettuce Grilling lettuce is a great way to use it up before it wilts away. Start by cutting lettuce into wedges and coat with olive oil, salt and garlic. The sugars in the lettuce, especially if you use iceberg or romaine, will caramelize in the cooking process. Once the greens are fully cooked, sprinkle them with some cheese of your choice and enjoy. Spinach Yogurt Dip Spinach and kale can be combined to create an amazing yogurt dip. Gather Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, honey, kale, spinach, green onions, red pepper, carrots, garlic and some paprika. The key to this dish is to make sure all of the ingredients are finely chopped so that they combine well with the yogurt. You can also add artichoke hearts or water chestnuts for a little more variety. Serve this dish with veggies or chips. Braised Lettuce Did you know that you can braise lettuce? Well, you can, and it is pretty delicious to boot. You can try different recipes with this dish, but braising lettuce in coconut milk and then adding some ginger, black pepper and garlic makes for an amazing appetizer. To braise lettuce, start by chopping it up and sauté it until the leaves are slightly brown. Then add some vegetable broth and bring everything to a boil. Cover and heat for around 15 minutes to finish the braise. Images via Chiara Conti , Tim Sackton , Alice Pasqual , Stu Spivack , Vegan Feast Catering , Kimberly Nanney , Jodi Michelle , Zachary Collier , Gloria Cabada-Leman and Shutterstock

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Fight food waste with these 11 ways to use leftover greens before they spoil

How to make American cities bike-friendly

June 19, 2018 by  
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If you live in a city, riding a bike can be a great option to get you where you need to go. More and more people are opting for bicycles instead of cars, but most American cities are lagging behind when it comes to offering safe roads for bicyclists. Many cities ban cyclists from riding on the sidewalk and expect them to share the road with passing cars. What can we do to encourage American cities to be more bicycle-friendly? America’s best cycling cities Not all cities fall short when it comes to bike-friendly roads — some of the best cycling cities in the world are right here at home. Atlanta took some of its unused urban railways and created “The BeltLine,”  a 22-mile-long loop for pedestrians and bicyclists. City planners are extending it another five miles in the coming year, and more than a million people have used it since its opening. Chicago has dedicated bike routes to help keep cyclists safe and out of the way of passing drivers. Baltimore has an electric-assisted bike-sharing program to make it easier for riders to navigate the sometimes-hilly terrain. Related: San Francisco bike shop lets you trade in car for e-bike Moving away from car dependence Most people don’t think twice about hopping in a car and driving to work, even if work is only a few miles down the road. We need to change our underlying infrastructure to move away from car-dependent transportation. That’s not to say we all need to stop driving our cars — people who commute long distances, carry cargo or transport other passengers will find it difficult or impossible to do these things on a bicycle. Infrastructure changes give cities more control over traffic — both vehicles and bicycles — and allow them to separate or prioritize one or the other, depending on the conditions. Just adding bike lanes to the sides of existing roads isn’t enough — nor is expecting bicyclists to share the road with nothing to separate them from motorized vehicles. Related: 6 cycling accessories every bike commuter needs Separating cars and bikes When it comes down to it, a bicycle is never going to win in a fight with a car. In 2015, more than 800 cyclists were killed in accidents with vehicles. That’s more than two accidents every single day. The easiest way to prevent these collisions is to keep cars and bikes separate. Bike lanes with planters or plastic bollards provide a barrier between cyclists and drivers and may help keep people safe. Cities can install a temporary setup for a reasonable amount of money to study how well it works, and if it turns out to be a good option for the city, city planners and officials can move forward from there. Learn from cycling cities When transitioning American cities to be safer for cyclists, planners can turn to cities around the world for inspiration.  Europe has great ideas when it comes to making cities more cycling-friendly. For the Netherlands recently opened an 11-mile cycling highway that connects the cities of Arnhem and Nijmegen. This is a “fast path” for bicycling commuters between the two cities. There are slower roadside paths as well for intercity travel. It isn’t just the infrastructure that the Netherlands has changed — it’s the “ psychology of the commute .” By giving cyclists a direct and convenient route that keeps them separate from cars, it has allowed more people to ride bikes. The bicycling highway has even encouraged people to reconsider transportation for their regional trips. Cycling is one of the best things we can do to help reduce our carbon footprint , so it’s important to make crowded cities safer for people who choose to leave their cars at home and opt to use bicycles. It’s better for your health and better for the environment, as long as we can keep cyclists safe during their daily commutes. City planners should stop thinking about cars and start focusing on public transportation and cycling as the primary forms of transportation for their citizens. Via  Atlanta ,  Biz Journals ,  Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center ,  Wired  and  CityLab Images via Vishal Banik , Paul Krueger (1 , 2) , Daniel Lobo  and Jonny Kennaugh

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Michigan adopts most robust lead water rules in US

June 15, 2018 by  
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In the wake of the Flint crisis, Michigan is adopting new lead water rules — the strictest in the U.S., according to Reuters . Lead service lines will have to be replaced, and the lead concentrations allowed in drinking water will be lower than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s standard. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Michigan Senior Policy Advocate Cyndi Roper said in a statement , “There is no safe level of lead in drinking water, so despite some troubling loopholes, these rules set an example other states and the Environmental Protection Agency could follow to address an issue plaguing water systems across the country.” More than 18 million Americans received water through systems with lead violations in 2015, the NRDC said . Lead contamination of drinking water still troubles people across the U.S., and Michigan is taking some action. Their new Lead and Copper Rule, as laid out in a statement from Governor Rick Snyder, lowers the level of allowable lead to 12 parts per billion (ppb) in 2025. The EPA’s Lead Action Level is 15 ppb . Related: Flint activist and stay-at-home mom wins the Goldman Environmental Prize All public water systems will be required to replace lead service lines at a rate averaging 5 percent a year starting in 2021 during a 20-year period. The rules also require a second sample collection at locations that obtain water from lead service lines and the creation of a statewide water system advisory council. All public water systems will have to conduct asset inventory under the new rules as well. “The new Michigan Lead and Copper Rule is the most stringent in the world when applied to cities with lead pipes, yet it strikes a reasonable balance between cost and benefit,” Virginia Tech University engineering professor Marc Edwards said in the governor’s statement. “It provides the EPA  with a good exemplar to follow, if they ever begin to wage their long-promised war on lead in water.” + Office of Governor Rick Snyder + Natural Resources Defense Council (1 , 2) Via Reuters Images via Depositphotos (1 , 2)

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Michigan adopts most robust lead water rules in US

Solar power prices expected to drop further this year

June 12, 2018 by  
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The price of solar energy could further fall this year, experts say. A Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) analysis published by PV Magazine predicted a 34 percent drop in the price of multicrystalline solar modules in China, an event expected to influence prices around the world. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said a price drop could open up “further space for more ambition to tackle climate change , which is crucial to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement .” The 2018 solar panel price decline could be about the same as the drop in module prices in 2016, and would be exceeded only by 2011’s 40 percent drop in prices, PV Magazine said. BNEF’s benchmark monocrystalline module price was $0.37 per watt for 2017’s fourth quarter, and could be just $0.24 per watt by 2018’s close. BNEF experts predict module prices will drop another 10 to 15 percent next year. Related: The cost of high-efficiency solar panels fell 37% in 2017 The price decline is a result of withdrawn support for China’s photovoltaic market. Since China is the biggest solar market in the world, the price fall could emanate. PV Magazine cited a BNEF note saying, “Oversupply is universal.” The note predicted a market panic initially, and developers could halt installation in the third quarter and wait for cheaper module prices and release of new quotas. India and developing countries around the world could benefit from the panel price decline, according to the UNFCCC. The UNFCCC praised the International Solar Alliance (ISA), started by India and France in 2015 to focus on investment in large-scale solar power in developing countries. UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said earlier this year, “Our globally agreed goals in the Paris Agreement and the Agenda for Sustainable Development cannot be achieved without your [ISA’s] effort to scale up solar power generation and support countries with great solar potential … This is our moment to deliver on the promise of a better future agreed in Paris.” + Bloomberg New Energy Finance Via PV Magazine and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Solar power prices expected to drop further this year

Some of the oldest and largest baobab trees are dying

June 12, 2018 by  
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A new survey of baobab trees throughout southern Africa has shown that most of the two dozen largest and oldest trees in the region have died in the past decade or are currently very ill. While human-caused physical damage to individual trees may explain specific die-offs, researchers believe that climate change, which is occurring faster in southern Africa than many places on Earth, may be the most significant factor in the trees’ poor health. “Such a disastrous decline is very unexpected,” chemist and survey organizer Adrian Patrut told NPR . “It’s a strange feeling, because these are trees which may live for 2,000 years or more, and we see that they’re dying one after another during our lifetime. It’s statistically very unlikely.” The iconic baobab are culturally important for many communities. A common myth explains the baobab’s unique shape as a result of gods punishing the tree for its vanity in its extraordinary size, with the baobab being uprooted and flipped upside down with its “roots” facing upwards. Baobabs can be cultivated for their nutritious leaves and fruit and may prove to be a source of economic development . The trees are also ecologically significant, providing habitat and food for a wide variety of mammals, birds, insects and reptiles. Related: Can this tree provide financial security for 10 million people in Africa? Because of their unique shape and growth patterns that distort their tree rings, accurate dating of a baobab is difficult. Despite some questioning of Patrut’s methods, researchers nonetheless recognize that baobab die-offs is an unsettling trend that deserves more study. As southern Africa likely faces intense temperature increases and drought , the urgency to understand and better protect the baobabs is clear. “The decline and death of so many large baobabs in recent years is so tragic,” ecologist David Baum told NPR . “It is heartbreaking that any should die — but even worse that we might be seeing the beginning of the end of all the giant baobabs on the planet.” Via NPR Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Some of the oldest and largest baobab trees are dying

Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects wins bid for carbon-neutral Solvay HQ in Brussels

June 12, 2018 by  
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Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects has won an international competition for the design of global chemical company Solvay’s new sustainable headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Created in collaboration with local firm Modulo Architects and VK Engineers, the winning proposal beat out designs from top firms including the likes of OMA, Valode & Pistre and Henning Larsen. The green campus is expected to be certified BREEAM Excellent and will be powered with a mix of renewable energy resources, including geothermal energy and solar energy, to reach carbon-neutral status. The new headquarters represents a shift for Solvay as it transitions towards a more open and sustainable business culture. Placed in a single compact structure, the zero-carbon and near zero-energy building will prioritize collaborative spaces and the outdoors. The new campus is located on a 22-hectare site, which has housed many of Solvay’s facilities since 1953. The property will be transformed to include a new dedicated forest, a reintroduced 18th-century stream connected to the Senne, and an open-air amphitheater. Rainwater across the campus will be harvested and reused wherever possible. “In the earliest stages, it became clear that one compact building with one common entrance into a sweeping atrium would allow everyone who passes through the headquarters to share the same unique experience of the building, and create a strong sense of belonging,” said Tiago Pereira, Partner at Schmidt Hammer Lassen. “We translated Solvay’s desire for a welcoming, innovative, sustainable headquarters into an architecturally bold statement that reflects its core values and creates a new identity.” Related: Henning Larsen to revitalize Brussels region with rooftop farming and co-housing The light-filled building will be wrapped in glazing and punctuated with a large atrium with a social staircase that visually connects the various floors and departments. The two lower levels will consist of laboratories and workshops, while the upper floors house offices. In between those floors will be the Meeting Center, which includes relaxing gathering spaces and terraces with panoramic views of the campus green. Geothermal and solar energy will power the Solvay headquarters. + Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects Images via Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

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Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects wins bid for carbon-neutral Solvay HQ in Brussels

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