This plastic-free, organic personal care kit is ‘All Good’

December 25, 2020 by  
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When they say it’s All Good, this ethical body care company means it’s good for you and the planet. In addition to the company’s notable organic products previously highlighted in a variety of publications, All Good has now taken the extra step to remove all plastic from the products and shipping packaging in its newest two releases. All Good began in 2006 with the mission to do good. Since its inception, the company has become a member of 1% for the Planet, the J.E.D.I Collaborative and many other industry partnerships for environmental and social justice. Plus, All Good has earned the coveted B-Corp Certification. Related: How your beauty routine might be killing sharks All Good’s newest products Recently, All Good unveiled the Plastic Free Body Care Set, a set of organic body care products packaged with zero waste . It features All Good Goop Skin Relief Balm, reef-friendly SPF 50 Tinted Mineral Sunscreen Butter, nourishing Coconut Hand & Body Lotion and a hydrating Coconut Lip Balm. Each item is housed in glass, paper or metal containers and presented in an unbleached canvas travel pouch, making everything reusable, recyclable and biodegradable. While the switch to sustainable outer packaging is a direct response to requests from consumers, the company’s product ingredients are plant-based and organically grown, some harvested from All Good’s own farm. The brand’s commitment to staying away from harmful ingredients means no oxybenzone, gluten, phthalates or parabens. Ingredients grown on the company’s farm rely on regenerative agricultural practices in alignment with sustainable practices. Many products are made in a solar-powered community kitchen. A second product release, called the Get Glowing Lip and Cheek Tint collection, is equally botanically and organically formulated with a focus on ingredients like shea butter and avocado oil, as well as calendula harvested from the same organic farm near Morro Bay, California. The kit includes four colors of blush: rosy beige, coral golden pink, jam berry and shimmer to match any mood. They are packaged in recyclable glass jars. Each of these products is reef-friendly and provides broad spectrum SPF 15 protection. Is All Good really all good? All Good offered to send me a sample kit for review and promptly shipped the Plastic Free Body Care Set. I should start by saying I’m not much of a skincare aficionado and would go so far as to say that my lack of a skincare routine makes my skin health-conscious daughter cringe. However, I am dedicated to sun protection in the form of sunscreen and lip care, so I was excited to dig into my kit. The packaging the kit was sent in was minimalistic , plastic-free and recyclable as expected. The canvas bag is really cute in a very natural way. The statement is clear with the plain earthy colors, and the adorable little turtle is a nice touch and personal favorite of mine. I first grabbed for the Goop Skin Relief Balm. This was my favorite product for a very simple reason — I love the scent. Made with organic herbs and olive oil, I wouldn’t really call it scented. It just smells nourishing, and it is. Since I had just spent the weekend hauling wood for my home’s fireplaces, I had plenty of battle wounds to nurture. The compound is buttery without being greasy. It made my rough knuckles and scraped arms soft and a bit shimmery. Even though I liked the aroma, it was a bit strong for me. However, I’d put myself in the category of extremely scent-sensitive, so the power of the product’s scent might not be a problem for everyone. Next, I reached for the Coconut Body Lotion. I found the consistency luxurious. Although it’s made with cocoa butter and rosehip oil, it doesn’t leave an oily residue. My dry skin (remember aforementioned fireplaces) drank it in willingly, and the results were immediate. The hand and body lotion is high-quality. A little goes a long way, and a single application left my hands feeling soft and looking supple for hours — even with all the handwashing. Unfortunately the coconut smell was a little strong for me, although I imagine most people would find it to be subtle. If you like coconut, you would probably describe it as pleasant. My daughter immediately rehomed it as a favor to my senses, or so she says. I moved on to the reef-friendly, SPF 50 Tinted Mineral Sunscreen Butter. While the lotion and Goop came in glass jars, the sunscreen is housed in a tin. It’s recently been 36°F and cloudy, so I wasn’t able to test it at the beach; All Good reports it is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. The tint looks dark but was subtle when applied to my off-season pale skin. It is a butter, so it has a slightly heavy feel. Although I would say it felt a bit greasy, I can see how that is beneficial for the sunscreen protection requirements. Lastly was the Hydrating Coconut Lip Balm. Admittedly, I am obsessed with lip-moisturizing products. What I lack in skincare products, I make up for in readily-available lip balms in every corner of my home and car. This lip balm lives up to the name. It’s hydrating, nourishing and unequivocally coconut. I loved the texture and moisturizing aspects, but, again, the scent was too much for me. My teenage son quickly adopted it and reports he loves the way it smells and feels on his lips. The packaging is unique to any roll-up lip balm I’ve used, and I deeply appreciate the design away from plastic. In addition to the products, the kit came with a nice message from the company, printed on a seed paper you can plant and watch grow into wildflowers. I thought this was a lovely touch and dynamic way to show the All Good commitment to a sustainable business model. + All Good Images via All Good and Dawn Hammon / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by All Good. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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This plastic-free, organic personal care kit is ‘All Good’

Embracing the stylish, sustainable cottagecore trend

December 17, 2020 by  
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It’s the birthright of every generation to rebel against its forebears. So how can young people today define themselves as different from their phone-obsessed, digital-native parents? By donning Little House on the Prairie dresses, baking pies and cavorting with fairies. The cottagecore aesthetic has become popular with Gen Z, but what many don’t realize is how this trend actually finds its roots in sustainability. According to the Urban Dictionary, cottagecore is “a niche aesthetic based around the visual culture of an idealized life on a Western farm. Common themes include sustainability, gardens , farm animals, rural living and nature.” That makes this trend a good way to embrace an eco-lifestyle, learn some new skills, breathe fresh air and have fun. Related: What is cottagecore? “During the worldwide pandemic and long periods of stay-at-home orders, the movement accelerated rapidly as people looked for an escape from our dark reality,” said Amelia Ansink, accessories editor for Fashion Snoops, as reported by Today. “Cottagecore unintentionally represents the ideal quarantine life, where isolation in nature is strived for and everything we need can be produced at home and by our own hands.” Cottagecore apparel When the world is in lockdown and people are working from home (if at all), choosing clothes can feel like a game of dress-up. Who are we dressing for right now? Mostly ourselves. So if you’ve ever yearned to dress like a Holly Hobbie doll, this is your fashion moment. Whether you’re baking muffins, embroidering on the porch swing or picnicking in a field, prairie-inspired dresses of seersucker, faded denim, cotton and linen fit the aesthetic. Think ruffles and soft colors, paired with straw hats, jute bags and a wicker picnic basket. Gingham checks and floral prints are top choices. Hair is worn long and natural, topped with flower crowns or wrapped in a bandana. If you’re doing something a little dirtier — say, cleaning up after the chickens — striped overalls may be a better wardrobe option. Courtney Fox, 27, runs the cottagecore Instagram account @thefoxandtheivy . “I grew up in rolling farmland in rural Pennsylvania, not too far from Lancaster County, which has a large population of Amish, so this landscape and way of living helped to inspire me,” she said, as reported in Today. Her fashion role models include literary heroines like Anne of Green Gables and the characters in Little Women. The trend has helped Fox live in a more eco-friendly manner. “For me, cottagecore has meant trying to reduce my waste production and purchase things more sustainably, including my clothing,” she said. “There was a time when I was buying fast fashion , but I realized it didn’t really align with my values.” While cottagecore fashion tends to be femme, anyone can join in. Flat caps, tweed, knitted sweaters and walking sticks all help you dress the part. Bonus points if you take up beekeeping and baking. Your cottagecore home Because cottagecore makes the old new again, that means upcyling , thrifting, garage sales and flea markets are all part of the lifestyle. No need to contribute to the manufacturing of new goods and the accompanying emissions. If you picture a stereotypical grandmother’s cottage — lace curtains, floral tablecloths, vintage baskets and antique vases — you’ve got the right idea. Related: Unpacking the cottagecore home decor trend You may be able to tweak existing household accessories for the cottagecore look. Tone down brightly colored wood furniture with white chalk paint, which gives a rustic, shabby-chic feel, or use other muted paint colors like cream, light pink, yellow or green. If you’re lucky enough to live close to your mother or grandmother, raid their garage or attic — with their permission, of course — for cottagecore finds. They’ll probably be thrilled you can use something that’s just gathering dust and taking up space. Your cottagecore home needs a soundtrack. The Irish artist Hozier is at the top of the playlist, with Bon Iver, Florence and the Machine and any kind of romantic dark folk rock right behind. Taylor Swift has even joined in on the act with her new albums folklore and evermore. Cottagecore hobbies Cottagecore is about more than the way you and your house look. It also involves reviving wholesome hobbies of yesteryear. Gardening has become very popular during the pandemic and is directly tied in to other sustainable activities like baking and canning. Nothing beats growing your own rhubarb then serving it in a pie. Lockdown is the ideal time to improve your needle skills by sewing or embroidering. Top embroidery subjects are natural things like mushrooms , foxes and woodland fairies. Then there’s gaming. Cottagecore aficionados who can’t give up their technology can play rural- and nature-inspired games like Animal Crossing and Farmville. Everybody needs a break from the pandemic right now. Of cottagecore, popular British Instagrammer Keri-Anne Pink who runs @ gingerlillytea says, “I think it gives people a little bit of escapism from their own world and busy life.” Images via Bertrand Bouchez , Lê Tân , James DeMers and Lexi T

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Treat Fido and Fluffy with these eco-friendly holiday gifts for pets

December 3, 2020 by  
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Our  pets  constantly give to us, from a morning lick on the forehead to a bedtime purr. They bring out our best, most loving selves, and inspire us to get exercise in all types of weather. Even when they’re naughty — climbing the Christmas tree, zooming around the house when you’re trying to sleep, begging for a taste of your food — they’re so dang cute. They deserve to be number one on our gifting lists, so here are some eco-friendly gifts they’ll enjoy this holiday season. Wool toy Does your  dog  love a good game of tug-of-war? These 100% domestic wool  LooHoo Wooly Tug Toys  are soft enough not to hurt Spot’s teeth but easy to get a grip on. The 14- to 16-inch length gives you extra space between your hand and those powerful doggy teeth. Related: Keep your cat safe with these eco-friendly cat toys Zero-waste pet kit As those with canine companions know, walking Fido serves multiple purposes, not just exercise. In addition to quality time together, walks provide an opportunity for your dog to … um … let loose. With the  Zero Waste Fur Baby Kit , you won’t have to worry about  plastic  bags sitting in the landfill for the next few centuries. The kit includes biodegradable dog waste bags, plus a dog brush, conditioning dog shampoo bar and a toy. Fido will look his best while also saving the planet. Organic catnip During the recent election results, was Tigger showing signs of great cat interest — such as opening her eyes, or even blinking — when state measures on recreational marijuana passed? She’s clearly trying to tell you something. Sprinkle this USDA-certified  organic catnip  on toys or scratching posts, and your kitty will soon be rolling around on the floor in all sorts of silly positions. Dog shampoo bar Every dog owner believes (incorrectly) they have the world’s cutest dog (sorry, I do!). But we don’t always like to admit that sometimes our dogs can be a little smelly. This organic  natural shampoo bar  combines cedarwood and lavender with organic shea butter, castor oil, soap nuts and calendula. The castor oil and shea butter softly penetrate even the coarsest fur. Your dog will love the skin-soothing feel and anti-inflammatory benefits of calendula. Endorsed by cats that want the dog in the household to smell better. Cat basket Many people who live with cats notice that their little friends can get crabby if they aren’t allowed to sleep about 16 hours a day. All this sleeping should take place somewhere that befits your elegant cat. This  fair trade cat basket  is made of recycled saris , recycled plastic and hogla grass, which grows abundantly in Bangladesh, where this basket is made. The pillow and pillow cover are washable. At 13 inches in diameter and 11 inches high, this basket best fits the petite feline. Wood pet tags Rover can proudly wear this attractive  pet tag , and if/when he roves, it will be easy for somebody to direct him home using the tag’s info. Choose from natural, chestnut or black wood in various sizes of bones or circles. These tags are handmade in Palo Alto,  California and promise to be “water/drool and tear resistant.” Pet bowls These  bowls by Whom  artistically blend  wood  and metal in a way that will enhance the corner of your kitchen floor far more than an ordinary, plastic food bowl. As the website promises, “Each is manufactured to order and handmade by our expert craftsman. No warehouse full of these!” It’s kind of like getting Mr. Whiskers a bespoke suit instead of buying him something off the rack. There are even double and triple bowls for pets that enjoy eating next to each other. A word of warning, though — once you buy a beautiful custom bowl, Mr. Whiskers might expect you to fill it with filet mignon, not kibble. Paw rescue balm Do your hands dry out on those cold  winter  days? Well, dog and cat paws can, too.  Organic Winter Dog Paw Rescue Balm  eases the pain of chapped noses and rough paw pads. It uses natural ingredients like coconut oil, beeswax, shea butter, olive oil, calendula, vetiver and rosemary. While this treatment will feel divine for many pets, always check with your vet before applying any new topical products to your fur friends. Magical malachite Friendship Collar Paws down, this is one of the cutest  gifts  you can give this holiday season: matching vegan, cruelty-free, scratch-resistant bracelet and collar sets for human/canine duos. Buy a set for you and your dog, and extra sets to give as gifts to all your dog-loving friends. For every  Friendship Collar  set you buy, the maker will donate six pounds of food to shelter animals. Eco-friendly treats Is your best friend food-motivated? V-Dog makes  cruelty-free treats  that include pumpkin, carrots, broccoli and spinach in the ingredients list.  Pet Naturals of Vermont  has a whole line of treats that do double duty: tasting delicious while cutting down on Fluffy’s hairballs and easing hip and joint pain. Images via Unsplash, LooHoo, Package Free Shop, Pixabay, Eco Girl Shop, WoodLeon, Whom Home, BestFriendBeauty, Friendship Collar and V-Dog

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Treat Fido and Fluffy with these eco-friendly holiday gifts for pets

Europe’s wood pellet market is worsening environmental racism in the American South

October 21, 2020 by  
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Europe’s wood pellet market is worsening environmental racism in the American South Danielle Purifoy Wed, 10/21/2020 – 00:45 This story was originally published by Southerly , in partnership with Scalawag and Environmental Health News for its Powerlines series, which looks at climate change, justice, and infrastructure in the American South. The series is supported by the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia University, and is part of their  POWER project .  In 2013, when Enviva Biomass opened a new plant near Belinda Joyner’s community in Northampton County, North Carolina, she already knew what to expect. As the Northeast Organizer for  Clean Water for North Carolina , she’d met with residents of a small, majority Black town called Ahoskie, 40 miles from her home. Enviva had built its  first North Carolina plant  there two years before.  The corporation, which manufactures wood pellets as a purportedly renewable alternative to coal, did what most industries do in prospective communities — they promised jobs, economic development, and minimal impacts. What Ahoskie got was approximately 50 direct jobs, local tree loss,  noise ,  heavy traffic, air pollution, and combustible dust  from wood drying and processing that threatens their health and enjoyment of their homes. On top of those impacts, as many scientists and environmental groups now say, wood pellets are not the hoped-for transition fuel championed just 11 years ago.  However, like Ahoskie, Joyner’s community wasn’t quick to organize against the plant.  “I made an announcement in my church that this plant was coming and I kind of gave them a gist of what it would entail and at first, you know how people just don’t kinda pay you any attention?” she said. “And then once [Enviva] start building it, then they were saying ‘oh this is coming,’ and I told them ‘this is what I tried to tell you all about.’”  In June, I interviewed Joyner and other members of her community in Northampton County, which is located in the Northeast corner of the state, close to the Virginia state line. The area is rural, and peppered with industries — including Westrock Paper Mill, a warehouse and distribution center for Lowe’s Hardware, an industrial hog farm, and Enviva. Until it was canceled in late July, the  Atlantic Coast Pipeline  was slated to run through the county, connecting to a newly constructed compressor station.  The county is also majority Black (57 percent), with 21 percent of residents living in poverty compared to 14 percent statewide,  according to the most recent data  from the U.S. Census. The county’s median household income is 38 percent lower than the state as a whole; it is classified by North Carolina as a  “Tier 1” county , meaning that it is among the 40 most economically distressed of the state’s 100 counties. From Northampton County to Alabama’s Black Belt, residents and activists say companies like Enviva exploit mostly communities of color with promises to build up busted local economies with a “green energy” industry. Joyner’s home sits in a cozy loop of houses in a small Northampton County town. As I pull up to her house, she’s sitting on her porch with her sister and neighbors, chatting with masks on. The community is tight; they’ve shared a lot of their lives in this place.  For seven years, they’ve also had to share the burdens and losses from Enviva. “I call Northampton County the dumping ground,” Joyner said. “Being that we live right here off I-95, and it’s easy access, they just feel like more or less they can just come in here and give us anything, and we’re supposed to be happy after we get it.”  Enviva is the world’s largest producer of industrial wood pellets and is part of a rapidly growing industry in the U.S. South, where companies find ample forests, lax business regulations, and ports along the Atlantic coast. Though there is some domestic demand for wood pellets for electric utilities — particularly in the Northeast — the majority of wood pellets manufactured in the region are  exported to the European Union  (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK), to fulfill global commitments to mitigate climate change by reducing reliance on fossil fuels.  Other wood pellet companies have flocked to the region, including  Drax , a major energy utility in the UK that now manufactures wood pellets in the U.S. South to burn them overseas in its power plants. Collectively, the region’s wood pellet industry exports more than 7.4 million tons of pellets per year. With facility expansions and several prospective plants on the horizon, that number is expected to climb in coming years. From Northampton County to Alabama’s Black Belt, residents and activists say companies like Enviva exploit mostly communities of color with promises to build up busted local economies with a “green energy” industry. Instead, communities hosting wood pellet facilities are not only further burdened by pollution and other local dangers, they are also entangled in yet another climate damaging trend — the destruction of biodiverse hardwood forests and the rise of monoculture tree plantations to produce energy that appears to pose climate threats similar to coal.  The rise of the wood pellet industry in the U.S. South can be traced back to 2009, when wood pellets were touted as a “transition fuel” that could be used to advance the  EU’s climate goals  — a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, and a 20 percent increase in renewable energy by 2020. Wood pellets were considered to be renewable energy because replanted forests could recapture carbon lost in the clear cutting and burning process. They were also coveted because unlike solar, wind, or water energy, wood pellets can be burned in the same incinerators as coal with some retrofits, thus eliminating the expense of new infrastructure. The U.S. South was targeted for sourcing wood pellets because of its status as the world’s “wood basket” — it is the largest producer of wood products, according to Emily Zucchino, Director of Community Engagement for the Dogwood Alliance, an environmental nonprofit committed to protect[ing] Southern forests across 14 [U.S.] states.  Enviva Biomass, headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, has a large foothold in the region, with nine wood pellet manufacturing plants across six states — North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Virginia and Mississippi — and two more facilities pending. A sign outside of the Ahoskie facility reads, “This is Enviva Country.” A spokesperson wrote that the company has a production capacity of 4.9 million metric tons of pellets per year.  Several other wood pellet production companies also operate in the region — Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc in Alabama, Highland Pellets in Arkansas, Mohegan Renewable Energy in Tennessee, and Drax, which manufactures wood pellets mostly near the Gulf Coast.  But even if the EU has met its 2020 climate goals — the region claims to have already  reduced emissions by 23.2   percent  in 2018  — the use of wood pellets raises important questions about the EU’s carbon accounting, [PDM1] and even more questions about public health and climate consequences for the U.S. South, which is already bearing the brunt of climate change effects.  “As more and more science came out about the industry… it became clear that this is not the green and carbon neutral energy it was made out to be,” Zucchino said. According to  a 2009 study  on climate accounting published in  Science Magazine , at the point of combustion, wood pellets put more carbon into the atmosphere than coal, despite generating less energy per unit than coal. Other studies, like one published in 2012 in  GBC Bioenergy , directly challenge the idea that wood pellets are renewable energy because forests can be replanted. The “carbon debt” generated when forests are cut and their stored carbon is burned into the atmosphere can take decades, if not more than a century, to “repay” through forest regrowth. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says humans must reduce carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030 to avoid the most catastrophic climate change impacts.  As more and more science came out about the industry… it became clear that this is not the green and carbon neutral energy it was made out to be. What makes the wood pellet strategy even more complicated is that,  due to loopholes in the EU climate policy , carbon emissions from burning wood pellets are often never counted.  Kenneth Richter, a Germany-based environmental policy consultant for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that the loophole is due to the disconnect in carbon accounting between the EU’s land use change policies and its energy policies. Carbon loss is measured only when trees are cut, and not when they’re burned for power. Another problem is that when pellets are imported, the EU counts no emissions at all. Though the theory is that the exporting nations would account for those emissions from clear cutting forests, the U.S. does not account for carbon loss from the wood pellet industry because it is no longer part of the Paris Agreement on climate change.  “You have massive amounts of carbon going into the atmosphere but everyone pretends they’re not there,” Richter said. “Everyone else says it’s someone else’s responsibility.”  The EU and UK also provide heavy subsidies to the industry because of the expense of importing wood pellets. Their reliance on the energy source to meet stringent emissions targets is now heavily political — and hard to correct — despite the growing scientific evidence against it.  “Energy companies in many European countries have obligations to produce a certain percentage from renewable sources,” Richter said. “It’s easiest to burn wood with coal, much cheaper than solar panels. They’re pushing the governments — if you don’t allow us to do this [burn wood pellets] and don’t subsidize us we’re going to fail. Drax is a prime example. It produces a large percentage of the UK’s electricity. If [the UK] took subsidies away from Drax, it would fail and cause difficulties in producing enough electricity in the short term.”  Northampton County residents like Joyner are more immediately concerned about the acute impacts of wood pellet manufacturing, from local clear cutting of privately-owned forests to the 24/7 production process.  “The noise… banging and during all hours of the night,” Silverleen Alston, who lives about a mile from Enviva’s plant in Northampton County, said in our interview at Joyner’s home. “I used to call up there [to Enviva] and tell them, why don’t they stop, lower the noise or whatever, till I stopped. I don’t even do it no more.”  In addition to the noise from grinding trees and truck traffic, Alston and others complain about a constant cloud of dust flowing from the plant onto their homes, cars, gardens, and into their lungs.  “The stuff is in the air, coming [in] all directions. I keep my car in a carport, and you can see the stuff on the car. So you know it’s not just coming down from above,” Alston said.  A  2018 report  by the Environmental Integrity Project found that 21 wood pellet mills exporting to the EU emit thousands of tons of particulate matter (fine dust), carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides (smog), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) per year, each of which are  associated with a range of illnesses , from respiratory and heart disease to cancer. These wood pellet mills also emit 3.1 million tons of greenhouse gases per year. The report also found that at least a third of wood pellet facilities violated their air permit limits in 2017. Fires and explosions have erupted in plants in five states largely from wood dust, which is combustible. In 2017, a wood pellet storage silo owned by German Pellets in Port Arthur, Texas,  caught fire  and burned unchecked for two months, sending many local residents to the hospital. Later that year, a  worker at the silo died  when pellets fell on the Bobcat machine he was operating. Many of Alston’s family members, who live together on a large plot of land they own, suffer from respiratory illnesses that have been exacerbated since Enviva’s arrival. Her father had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)   and died two years ago. Her aunt also has COPD, and her sister has to sleep on a breathing machine. Alston, her mother, and another sister all have breathing problems, though not as severe.  These wood pellet mills also emit 3.1 million tons of greenhouse gases per year. … Fires and explosions have erupted in plants in five states largely from wood dust, which is combustible. Other community members complain about not being able to spend as much time outdoors anymore.  “We have a gentleman that lives in the area, he said that he has to wash his car every three days and power wash his house every three months, and that’s the stuff that comes from Enviva,” Joyner said. “There’s a young man that lives out there that says he doesn’t cook out anymore because he can see the residue falling from the sky.” Richie Harding, a pastor of a local church in Northampton County, doesn’t live close enough to Enviva to experience the dust, but the private forest where Enviva sources its trees is near his house. When I interviewed him by phone, he told me that large swaths of the forest are now gone and listed the wildlife he’s observed in the area since the clear cutting.  “There’s been a high increase in the amount of animals,” Harding said. “Bobcats, black bears… coyotes… sightings more frequent in the Gaston area.”  In an email response Enviva’s director of communications and public affairs María Moreno wrote that Enviva follows all applicable environmental laws, including the U.S. Clean Air Act, and even exceeds regulation standards in controlling air pollution at its facilities.  “We use state-of-the-art, industry-proven air emission controls to reduce emissions from our manufacturing process with at least 95% destruction efficiency,” Moreno wrote. “We are going above and beyond what is required by the law as an industry leader to show our commitment to environmental stewardship in the communities where we live and operate.”  Despite installing additional pollution controls and obtaining an environmental justice (EJ) analysis approved by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) last year, Enviva’s claims do not reflect the daily experiences of residents living near the facility. In my interview with Alston, she told me that her husband still has to wash the dust from the plant off their car every other day. Further,  a 2018 study  of wood pellet mills in the U.S. South found that all wood pellet mills in North Carolina and South Carolina are located in low income communities of color typically overburdened by toxic industry. Across the region, the authors found that they are 50 percent more likely to be located in low income communities of color. Pine pellets in front a wall of fire wood. Photo by  tchara  on Shutterstock. As for the forest impacts, Moreno wrote that Enviva only takes “low grade wood,” which is a “by-product of a traditional timber harvest,” and that the higher demand for forest products like wood pellets leads to  more  forest growth.  But Richter, the EU-based environmental policy consultant, says the term “low-grade wood” is business jargon for otherwise healthy trees that are not valuable for the industry, but are very valuable for the planet. He says the increased forest growth that Enviva claims comes from higher demand for wood products is not the same kind of naturally occurring forests that people recognize.  “[O]ften these naturally grown forests are cut down and replaced with something that’s essentially a plantation,” Richter said. “Trees in rows, monoculture. One species, fairly fast growing, hardly any space between them. Sprayed with fertilizers [and] pesticides. It’s an agricultural crop. You lose the wildlife and biodiversity of what you previously had in a natural forest. Companies still call that a forest but it’s nowhere near what’s contained in an actual natural forest.” According to a 2018  Dogwood Alliance report , since 1953, the U.S. South has lost over 33 million acres of natural forest, and gained 40 million acres of pine plantations.  Black families like Alston’s and Joyner’s have owned land in Northampton County for generations, and experienced the closeness and safety of the communities, the freedom of living on the land. Joyner says the noise and pollution made some people in her community want to move away. She called one of her friends who moved an hour south to Zebulon, NC, “one of the fortunate ones.” According to a 2018 Dogwood Alliance report, since 1953, the U.S. South has lost over 33 million acres of natural forest, and gained 40 million acres of pine plantations. But many others can’t afford to move — and some don’t want to. “[Enviva] had mentioned to us, you know, had we thought about moving?” Alston said. “I’m on family earned land, that my grandaddy was invested in. To me, I really can say they couldn’t pay me enough to move.” Enviva got  support from Northampton County Commissioners  before opening the plant in 2013. They made the same promises that they made to Ahoskie — economic development and jobs. But according to Joyner, the public hearings for Enviva’s permit, organized by NCDEQ, were mostly publicized in newspapers and on posters tacked along the road. Not many knew they were happening, or understood what was at stake, so there was low attendance.  “If you really wanted to know what [the poster] was, you basically had to get out of your car and go and look at it,” Joyner said.  After the plant was built, and residents began experiencing the pollution and noise, they joined forces with Dogwood Alliance, which has been monitoring the growth of the wood pellet industry across the U.S. South, to advocate for improved environmental conditions at the plant. But after several meetings with the county commission, Enviva plant administrators and the company’s former public relations director, there were no improvements to the plant; the company has donated resources to local schools and meals to local residents.  Last year, NCDEQ granted Enviva a permit  to expand its Northampton plant , increasing its production capacity from 550,000 metric tons per year to 781,255 metric tons annually.  “We had a public hearing on the 20th of August last year,” Joyner said. “We had 40 or so people there opposed to the expansion and of course the only people who were for the expansion were people who worked for Enviva.”  Even if Enviva exceeds the requirements of its own air permit in its expanded facility, as Moreno wrote in our interview, there are still concerns about further deterioration of environmental quality in the community, and what it means for residents’ health.  “When I looked at the officer that was choking George Floyd, and he said I can’t breathe, this is the same thing that the industries are doing to our communities,” Joyner said. “It’s fine to have jobs, but give us some jobs that don’t kill us.”  As the wood pellet industry continues to grow across the South, Enviva has targeted Alabama and Mississippi for future expansion. The company is building facilities producing significantly larger quantities of wood pellets for export through a deep water  marine port and storage silo  currently under construction in Pasagoula, Mississippi. In each state, the company’s pitch remains the same: jobs and economic development.  “They go into these low wealth communities, promise opportunity, and a lot of residents bite on it,” said Rev. Michael Malcom, executive director of Alabama Interfaith Power and Light. “If we could get ahead of this, we could go in and tell them about the dangers of the wood pellet industry. But unfortunately, the way the system works in Alabama, ADEM keeps things under wraps until it’s time for the public hearing.”  Alabama has the third most timberland acreage in the contiguous 48 states, much of it in the form of pine plantations owned by  private absentee landowners  disconnected from local residents.  Enviva’s first Alabama facility  will be located in a small Black town called Epes, and is projected to open in 2021, with a production capacity of over one million metric tons of wood pellets per year. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) approved the permit last December, with additional  support from Alabama governor Kay Ivey .  Malcom said it is likely that Enviva spends as much as a full year making the case for a new manufacturing plant in a community, promising good jobs and low environmental impacts.  “When they announce [the facility], it’s already too late. [Enviva has] already gone in [to the community] and greased the wheel,” Malcom said.  Through mutual connections to the Dogwood Alliance, Malcom teamed up with Mississippi-based Katherine Egland, Chair of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Committee and Co-founder of the  Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate and Health Organization  to develop interventions for preventing the growth of the wood pellet industry in the Southeast. Their first chance was in Lucedale, Mississippi, a predominantly White rural community, where Enviva is now constructing a facility permitted last July. Malcom said Enviva had already convinced many people that the mill would be a good thing for the community, bringing much needed jobs.  “[ At the public hearing ] they were basically shooting our talking points back to us and saying, ’so what?’” Malcom said. “One guy literally said, ‘They [Enviva opponents] tell us we can get cancer. What’s wrong with that? Got to have something.” Industrial logging-dependent communities are some of the most poverty stricken places in the South … If industrial logging were the solution to these places, they’d be some of the wealthiest on earth. It’s just not true. After the hearing in Lucedale, Enviva  released a statement  saying that it was “proud to have the opportunity to create 90 direct jobs in Lucedale, 30 direct jobs in Pascagoula, and hundreds of additional indirect and construction jobs.” It also made a disclaimer that any ‘forward looking statements’ about its operations were estimated projections, and could not be assured. Regardless of the jobs projections, Zucchino said that the longer term impacts of the industry undermine other forms of economic growth.  “Industrial logging-dependent communities are some of the most poverty stricken places in the South,” Zucchino said. “If industrial logging were the solution to these places, they’d be some of the wealthiest on earth. It’s just not true.” Back in North Carolina, a predominantly Indigenous and Black community in Robeson County, were largely unswayed by the economic promise of the wood pellet industry. Already burdened with hog factory farms, coal ash waste sites, a landfill, a poultry litter burning plant, and increasing flood risk due to climate change, Robeson County residents mounted a long opposition campaign  against a new wood pellet facility  owned by London-based Active Energy Group (AEG),  including over 1000 public comments, substantial media coverage, and a public hearing  in which an overwhelming majority of speakers opposed the plant. Nevertheless, NCDEQ approved an  air permit for AEG in June . Construction is already in progress. Unlike the white wood pellets manufactured by companies like Enviva, which require energy utilities to retrofit their coal incinerators, AEG’s facility will manufacture  wood pellets called CoalSwitch , designed to be a direct substitute for coal, with no retrofits required.  “There’s a lot of moving pieces with this facility, and kind of a lot of confusion,” Zucchino said. “Not a lot of clarity [about whether] they have contracts for export, how big are they going to be. [AEG] is pioneering this [black wood pellet technology]; they’ve tried it in Utah without success… it hasn’t been done successfully anywhere as far as I know.”  Zaynab Nasif, public information officer for the Division of Air Quality at NCDEQ wrote via email that the agency provided additional avenues for community participation for the AEG site, and responded to concerns raised during that process by adding more stringent testing requirements for hazardous pollutants to the facility’s air permit.  But many residents of Robeson County, which is about 180 miles from Northampton County, are already suffering from high rates of respiratory illness, including COVID-19. Additionally, clear cutting more of the county’s forests for wood pellet production will likely exacerbate the region’s climate vulnerability.  “Enough is enough,” said Joyner, who travels frequently to Robeson County. “I’ve seen the damage that has been done there. It’s a shame to want to wreak havoc on a community in that way.”  In recent years, some new communities impacted by the wood pellet industry have begun organizing against it. Residents of the Netherlands,  who pay significant tariffs for the shipment of wood pellets from the U.S. , traveled to North Carolina and other parts of the South to understand the environmental impacts of the industry, and to fight for better climate policies in the EU.  “We have had people come here wondering, ‘why are you doing this to your land? We would not do this to our land,’” said Harding, who lives in Northampton County. “They see that America was destroying land just for a dollar, and that was really troublesome to them. They don’t understand pretty much like we don’t understand.” I am reminded with the wood pellet trade, if you look at the map of the wood pellet trade states and the former cotton trade states, they are the same. Since Egland started organizing with Malcom in Mississippi and Alabama a couple of years ago, she’s been struck by historic parallels of the wood pellet industry with other extractive legacies in the South and has been working locally and globally to motivate others to intervene.  “I am reminded with the wood pellet trade, if you look at the map of the wood pellet trade states and the former cotton trade states, they are the same,” she said. “The UK ignored the human rights abuses of the cotton trade, with slavery, now they are imperiling the descendants of that same population with the wood pellets. [The U.S. South] also happens to be the most climate vulnerable region in the nation.” There are some signs of progress, including European policies limiting wood pellet imports and decreased expansion of the industry in the U.S. South. Recently, North Carolina governor Roy Cooper and NCDEQ committed to  excluding wood pellets  from the state’s energy mix in its Clean Energy Plan.  Richter says an opening for change is on the horizon in the EU, as the government must revisit its existing climate legislation to prepare for new greenhouse gas reduction targets — a  55 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030  compared to 1990 levels. One piece of that legislation is the  Renewable Energy Directive (RED) , which he says is driving the demand for wood pellets as renewable energy. Kicking wood pellets out of the “renewables club” would kill existing subsidies for the industry, which he hopes can be diverted to pay for solar, wind, and water energy sources.  “[T]here’s also the  European Green Deal , the European road map for making economies sustainable. The person responsible for that is Franz Timmermans, the Vice President of the EU. He’s said that bioenergy needs to be reviewed. And we hope that he can become a bit of a champion for our demands.”  Zucchino also sees some momentum building against the wood pellet industry, from coalitions forming regionally, within states, and internationally.  “One of the things I’m proudest of in my time at Dogwood [Alliance] is the amount of movement building that we’ve accomplished around this issue,” she said. “We are seeing encouraging advances in the understanding of and policy around the wood pellet industry. But we need to see more and we need to see it happen quickly.”  Pull Quote From Northampton County to Alabama’s Black Belt, residents and activists say companies like Enviva exploit mostly communities of color with promises to build up busted local economies with a “green energy” industry. As more and more science came out about the industry… it became clear that this is not the green and carbon neutral energy it was made out to be. These wood pellet mills also emit 3.1 million tons of greenhouse gases per year. … Fires and explosions have erupted in plants in five states largely from wood dust, which is combustible. According to a 2018 Dogwood Alliance report, since 1953, the U.S. South has lost over 33 million acres of natural forest, and gained 40 million acres of pine plantations. Industrial logging-dependent communities are some of the most poverty stricken places in the South … If industrial logging were the solution to these places, they’d be some of the wealthiest on earth. It’s just not true. I am reminded with the wood pellet trade, if you look at the map of the wood pellet trade states and the former cotton trade states, they are the same. Topics Energy & Climate Pollution Prevention Human Rights Environmental Justice Racial Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A pellet factory, where pine wood shavings are moved on a conveyor belt. Photo by  Juan Enrique del Barrio  on Shutterstock.

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Europe’s wood pellet market is worsening environmental racism in the American South

12 sustainable gifts to give Dad for Father’s Day

June 15, 2020 by  
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Father’s Day is just around the corner, so as you celebrate graduations, June birthdays and virtual weddings, keep an eye out for the perfect gift for Dad. While his favorite treat is always welcome, finding something more personal can be a challenge. We’ve come up with some ideas that not only express your love and gratitude for your father, but for the planet, too. Tools If your dad spends his spare time woodworking or tinkering on cars, there are many new gadgets on the market he would like to experiment with. He might also want to upgrade older tools. While shopping, avoid tools made with plastic and look for high-quality wood or stainless steel options that will last a lifetime. Many brands even include a lifetime warranty with your purchase. This will keep low-quality tools out of the landfill and keep Dad from having to shop for wrenches or hammers ever again.  Related: 15 essential woodworking tools Travel mugs and bottles Whether your dad must have his morning cup of Joe or always carries a water bottle with him, provide him with a long-lasting stainless steel option that will keep him from needing single-serve water bottles or to-go coffee cups. Watches Watches are a timeless gift. But, when choosing a design, seek out an eco-friendly model. Many watch manufacturers are now offering sustainable wood designs, like WeWOOD . Also check out the Veldt LUXTURE AARDE watch with a built-in Climate Action Reminder. Wallet By the time a good wallet gets broken in, it starts to break down and needs replaced, so Dad might appreciate something a little different. This year, go for a vegan leather wallet. Some unique options include these apple waste and wood leather wallets , or these wallets made from recycled banana trees . Plants Whether dad is the clear winner in the green thumb category or simply could use some bamboo luck in his office, both indoor and outdoor plants are great options this Father’s Day. Perhaps select a succulent or cactus, or if Dad is into novel gifts, pick up a Venus flytrap, tropical pitcher plants or sundews. Beer-making kit If your father enjoys a good brew at the end of the day, he may also enjoy making his own beer . Complete kits run around $200 and include all of the tools he’ll need, from a glass carboy to the instruction book. He can then add hops and yeast to perfect a recipe of his choice. Hobby class What does your dad love to do in his spare time? Has he shown an interest in gardening, pottery, knife-making, welding, golf, photography, playing guitar or learning another language? Whatever the hobby, get him a certificate for a local or online class to boost his learning on the topic. You could even take the class with him for a special, shared experience. Time outdoors Sometimes all Dad wants is to spend time with you, so set a date for some outdoor fun. Hike somewhere he’s never been, plan a camping trip or go fishing. Meet up for a road or mountain bike ride. Go for a round of golf or introduce him to disc golf at a nearby park. Whatever activity you choose, make sure to get a picture to memorialize the event. Backyard games If your father is the perpetual entertainer with the grill always ready for action, add some backyard games to the mix. Find or make a solid wood cornhole game for hours of family fun that won’t damage the planet. Horseshoes is another classic that requires little more than two metal poles and four metal horseshoes. Gardening supplies Whether he’s just recently shown an interest or taught you all you know about gardening while growing up, your dad might appreciate some new gardening supplies to add to his tool shed. If space is tight, get him one of the many new indoor gardening systems where he can grow veggies in the kitchen. For the outdoor gardener, invest in quality and sustainable gloves, organic skin protection and seeds. For yard decor, get solar path lights, a bird bath, bird feeder, bat house, butterfly house, bird house or beehive .  Park pass For the dad who enjoys spending time in nature, make sure he has the access he needs with a park pass. Most passes expire annually, so it could even be a tradition in the making to buy Dad an access pass. For the road-tripper, a national park pass will provide access to parks and monuments across the country.  Check out pass options here . Solar products The sun is a powerful tool for providing energy. Mount a solar panel to the RV or van for continual power on the road. On a smaller scale, get Dad a solar-powered lantern for nights under the stars. For cooking, invest in a solar oven and leave the propane and charcoal at home. Images via Aleksandra , Deborah Breen Whiting , Nicolas J. Leclercq , Gyae Min and Akiragiulia

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Why are toothbrushes so hard to recycle?

May 28, 2020 by  
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Even the remotest islands have no lack of used toothbrushes. Researchers studying  Cocos Keeling Islands  — 6 square miles of uninhabited land 1,300 miles off  Australia’s  northwest coast — found 373,000 toothbrushes among the mountains of plastic debris. Reading studies like this makes almost any thinking person wonder why we can’t recycle toothbrushes. Toothbrushes pose a problem, as no matter how much we care about the planet, most of us aren’t going to sacrifice our dental hygiene. So why is it so hard to recycle toothbrushes? Dental professionals and the American Dental Association recommend getting a new toothbrush every three to four months, or when the bristles fray. This means the average American — or at least one that follows dental advice — goes through three to four toothbrushes per year. Even if each American used only two toothbrushes annually, that’s roughly 660 million toothbrushes headed for the  landfill . Why? “Regular toothbrushes are hard to recycle because they are made from many components, including plastics derived from crude  oil , rubber and a mix of plastic and other agents,” explained Dr. Nammy Patel , DDS and author of  Age With Style: Your Guide To A Youthful Smile & Healthy Living.  “It takes the plastic toothbrush over 400 years to decompose.” Usually, the plastic handle would be the most desirable part for recycling. Nobody wants those grotty nylon bristles that spent the last several months poking between your teeth. And it takes a lot of effort to separate the bristles and the metal that keeps them in place from the  plastic handle. The  Colgate Oral Care Recycling Project  is one rare effort to recycle used dental gear. The project accepts toothpaste tubes and caps, toothbrushes, toothpaste cartons, toothbrush outer  packaging  and floss containers. Reusing your old toothbrushes Instead of recycling your toothbrush, it’s easier to find ways to reuse it. Patel suggests using your old toothbrush for coloring hair, cleaning car parts, or anything that can be accessed by the small bristles. “It can be used for cleaning mud under shoes,” she suggested. Toothbrushes are the best tools for cleaning grout on your kitchen counter or between your bathroom tiles. Just add baking soda or bleach. You can also use a dry or just slightly damp toothbrush to clean the sides of your computer  keys. It’s amazingly gross, the stuff that accumulates in a keyboard. Other places to use those tiny bristles to your advantage include cleaning grunge out of your hairbrush, scrubbing around faucets and reviving Velcro by removing the lint. Old toothbrushes even have  artistic  uses. Painters can use them for splattering paint on a canvas, or for adding texture. In another artistic application, toothbrushes are great for scrubbing crayon marks off walls. Sustainable alternatives Of course, the best way to avoid disposing of a non-recyclable item is by not buying it in the first place. “Toothbrushes made from more sustainable products are great,” said Patel. “They offer the same or better clean and are better for the environment.” Bamboo  is the most popular alternative toothbrush handle material. However, most still have nylon bristles. Some companies use compostable pig hair bristles, but this won’t be a happy solution for vegetarians. Still, the handle is the biggest part of the toothbrush, so using a bamboo toothbrush with nylon bristles is still a step in the right direction. Some companies even offer replaceable heads so you can use the same bamboo handle for years. If style is of paramount importance, check out  Bootrybe’s  pretty laser-engraved designs. You could also opt for a toothbrush that’s already been recycled. Since 2007,  Preserve  has recycled more than 80 million yogurt cups into toothbrushes. They partner with Whole Foods to get people to recycle #5 plastics, which is one of the safer yet least recycled types of plastic . And when your Preserve toothbrush gets old, you can mail it back to the company for recycling. Or ditch the plastic and go electric. “Electric toothbrushes are a better alternative than regular toothbrushes,” said Patel. “They give a great clean and they minimize the amount of waste.” She recommends eco-friendly brands like Foreo Issa and Georganics. “There are some brands like Boka brush which have activated  charcoal in its bristles to help reduce bacteria growth. Many companies also have a recycling program where you can send your toothbrush head and they will recycle it for you.” Better yet, she said, get the electric rechargeable brushes so there is no battery waste. “If you have to purchase a battery-operated one, make sure to use rechargeable batteries to decrease waste.” Some people like to further reduce waste by making their own toothpaste and mouthwash. While homemade toothpaste lacks the cavity-fighting power of fluoride, you might want to occasionally use homemade products to decrease packaging waste and save money, or just to tide you over until your next trip to the store. For a very simple and inexpensive paste, combine one teaspoon of baking soda with a little  water . + Dr. Nammy Patel Via Toothbrush Life Images via Teresa Bergen

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Why are toothbrushes so hard to recycle?

UK residents enjoying record low emissions

May 28, 2020 by  
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By now, almost everybody has heard about record low CO2 emissions brought on by  coronavirus  lockdowns. But new data shows not only that the U.K.’s emissions are the lowest they’ve been since the 1920s, but there’s reason to hope they might not shoot back up to pre-pandemic rates as soon as life returns to quasi-normal. A recent paper published in the scientific journal  Nature Climate Change examined six sectors known for their climate change contributions: electricity  and heat; surface transport; industry; home use; aviation; and public buildings and commerce. They found that surface transport was notably down, partially accounting for why the U.K. cut emissions by 31% during lockdown, compared to a global average of 17%.  “A lot of emissions in the UK come from surface transport – around 30% on average of the country’s total  emissions ,” said Professor Corinne Le Quéré, the paper’s lead author. “It makes up a bigger contribution to total emissions than the average worldwide.” Since the U.K. reached full lockdown, Quéré said, people were forced to stay home and not to drive to work. Mike Childs, Friends of the Earth’s head of policy, reminds us that our problems are far from over. “A 31% emissions drop in April is dramatic, but in the long run it won’t mean anything unless some reductions are made permanent,” Childs told HuffPost UK. “This lockdown moment is a chance to reset our carbon-guzzling economy and rebuild in a way that leaves pollution in the past, to stop climate-wrecking emissions spiking right back up to where they were before, or even higher.” Fortunately, British drivers appreciate the cleaner air and plan to permanently alter their driving style, according to a survey. In the Automobile Association’s poll of 20,000 motorists, half plan to walk more post- pandemic , and 40% aim to drive less. Twenty-five percent of respondents said they planned to work from home more, 25% intend to fly less and 20% to cycle more. The U.K. government plans to spend £250 million on improved infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. “We have all enjoyed the benefits of cleaner air during lockdown and it is gratifying that the vast majority of drivers want to do their bit to maintain the cleaner air,” said Edmund King, Automobile Association president. “ Walking  and cycling more, coupled with less driving and more working from home, could have a significant effect on both reducing congestion and maintaining cleaner air.” + Nature Climate Change Via HuffPost and BBC

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New map exposes secrets of Antarctica’s green snow

May 28, 2020 by  
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Antarctica’s peculiar green snow is spreading, according to researchers who have created the first large-scale map of microscopic algae growing on the chilly, southernmost continent. As the climate warms, snow algae is becoming a more and more important terrestrial carbon sink. “This is a significant advance in our understanding of land-based life on Antarctica, and how it might change in the coming years as the climate warms,” study leader Matt Davey, faculty member of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences, said. “Snow algae are a key component of the continent’s ability to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.” Related: Antarctica reaches record high temperature The study’s researchers, from University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey, explained the lay of the Antarctic land. “In the limited terrestrial ecosystems of Antarctica , all photosynthetic organisms will make a significant contribution to the ecology of their habitat,” the scientists wrote in their paper, which is published in Nature Communications . With only about 0.18% of Antarctica’s continental area ice-free, there’s very little exposed ground for traditional vegetation. Thus, evolution got creative and developed snow algae. Expeditions in the 1950s and 1960s first described the green and red patches on and below the snow surface. Since then, researchers have learned that Antarctica’s diverse algal species are important for nutrient and carbon cycling. “Considering that a single snow algal bloom can cover hundreds of square meters, snow algae are potentially one of the region’s most significant photosynthetic primary producers, as well as influencing nutrient provision to downstream terrestrial and marine ecosystems ,” the researchers wrote. Researchers combined their own measurements on the ground with satellite images taken between 2017 and 2019 to map the algae. They found that algae grows in “warmer” areas along the Antarctica coastlines and west coast islands, where temperatures in the continent’s summer months rise just a hair over 0 degrees Celsius. Marine birds and mammals also influence the algal distribution, as their excrement is a natural fertilizer. More than 60% of algal blooms were within 5 kilometers of penguin colonies. Lead author Andrew Gray explained, “As Antarctica warms, we predict the overall mass of snow algae will increase, as the spread to higher ground will significantly outweigh the loss of small island patches of algae.” + Nature Communications Via University of Cambridge Images via Gray, A., Krolikowski, M., Fretwell, P. et al. / Nature Communications (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License)

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New map exposes secrets of Antarctica’s green snow

UNStudio to transform Gyeongdo Island into a sustainable tourism destination

May 28, 2020 by  
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UNStudio has unveiled a masterplan to transform South Korea’s Gyeongdo Island into a new, 470,000-square-meter leisure destination that puts the spotlight on nature. The design celebrates the island’s natural beauty by orienting development around carefully framed landscape views — a design approach borrowed from ancient Korean garden design. The high-density development, which ranges from an affordable family resort to private villas, will follow passive solar and bio-design principles to minimize energy use. Commissioned by client YKDevelopment, the redevelopment of Gyeongdo is part of a plan to turn the island into “Asia’s number one marine and coastal tourism destination”. Located in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula, Gyeongdo sits 2 kilometers southeast of the city of Yeosu, the main tourist hub in the Namhae region that is renowned for beautiful, green islands and ocean views. UNStudio’s masterplan aims to highlight the island’s rich biodiversity by creating three developments along the island, each informed by a distinct garden concept with different trees, flowers and other vegetation. Related: UNStudio installs new energy-generating facade for solar producer Hanwha’s HQ Built on either side of a “green backbone” for conservation, the three developments will be nestled within areas of reconstructed forest. The three neighborhoods include the Gyeongdo Gateway at the island’s main entrance; the Sunrise Waterfront on the east side of the island; and Sea Breeze Coast at the island’s southern point. Gyeongdo Gateway will house the main port, a cable car station, marina and bridge, an entertainment center, shopping mall and a waterside boardwalk. The quieter Sunrise Waterfront will serve as the island’s “leisure heart” and will include a four-star hotel and condos. The Sea Breeze Coast neighborhood is located in the most secluded part of the island and will offer a five-star hotel and a series of private villas. All of the buildings will be thoughtfully embedded into the landscape to follow the natural terrain and passive solar principles. Visitors and residents will have access to a seamless public transportation system to easily and sustainably move about the island. + UNStudio Images by Plomp (NL) and Flying Architecture (CZ) via UNStudio

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UNStudio to transform Gyeongdo Island into a sustainable tourism destination

Planning a low-water garden with expert Guy Banner

April 28, 2020 by  
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For those fortunate enough to have some outdoor space, gardening has become a top  pandemic  activity. It gets people outdoors doing something constructive while maintaining social distancing. You might even grow something to eat. But as all eco-conscious people know, gardening requires water. Sometimes a lot of water. For low-water gardening tips, we asked horticulturalist Guy Banner of  Red Butte Garden  in Salt Lake City for some tips. Banner worked as a field botanist for federal agencies like the U.S. Geological Service and the U.S. Forest Service in Oregon before going back home to Utah. He now co-owns  Grand Prismatic Seed , which specializes in hardy organic seeds, and works as the assistant horticulturalist in Red Butte’s Water Conservation Garden. Red Butte is a gorgeous 100-acre botanical garden with display gardens, hiking  trails , walking paths, talks, outdoor concerts, flower shows and lots of educational displays for home gardeners. It’s definitely worth a trip once we can leave our houses again. Inhabitat: Could you tell us a little bit about the history and inspiration behind Red Butte’s Water Conservation Garden? Banner: The  Water Conservation Garden (WCG) had been a long-term goal for the garden as a response to our arid climate and regional projected population growth as well as an opportunity to create a garden space with a different feel and plant palette. Ten years of planning and preparation came before the grand opening in the spring of 2017. The hope was to create a water conservation garden that demonstrated low to no water use through design,  plant selection and gardening techniques without sacrificing high aesthetic value. I believe it has been a success. The WCG hosts plants from similar climates across the globe but there is a special emphasis on housing many examples of the beautiful and well-adapted native flora of the western U.S. Inhabitat: Any tips for people planning a low-water garden at home? Banner: There are many lovely dry shade plants, but the majority of the most colorful and structural low-water plants need full sun and warmth. They are great for sunny south and west facing garden beds.  Rocks , slopes, windbreaks, evergreens and structures can be used to create warmer sheltered spaces for more cold-sensitive plants. Low-water plants tend to need good drainage in the  soil , especially in non-arid climates. You can find out your soil’s drainage by doing a simple DIY soil percolation test, like this one from Tennessee State University Cooperative Extension:  Soil Perc. Test. To improve drainage, plant on a slope, use rock, gravel, sharp sand and coarse organic material to amend heavy clay soils and/or use plants adapted to those conditions. You can also build mounded beds with large rocks, cobble, cinder blocks, etc. inside to give height and good drainage. If you are lucky enough to have a naturally moist and/or cool garden site, ‘low-water’ plants for you can have higher water needs. Draw inspiration from your native upland flora . Those plants will indicate plant types that can thrive in your area without extra water. Newly planted and transplanted plants will have to be watered regularly until their roots can establish. Establishment can take between one and three years, depending on how slow-growing the plant is. Only the most low-water plants can establish with little to no water after initial planting. Rainfall should be considered. Plants that grow from seed or seedlings in your beds will create the best root systems most quickly, because the roots are free to grow to their fullest potential while seeking out the nutrients and moisture in your garden soil. Mulch is a great way to improve soil texture, moderate temperature, reduce weeds and retain moisture. Use well-draining inorganic rock or gravel mulches around very xeric plants that are prone to rot if their stems and crowns are surrounded by excess moisture. The spongy organic material, beneficial bacteria and fungi of healthy living soils help plants to better utilize available water and nutrients. The natural symbiosis of roots with beneficial fungi (mycorrhiza) in upwards of 90% of studied plant families help plant roots access much more of the soil’s water and nutrients than they can on their own. To improve sterile and impoverished soils use healthy compost or beneficial soil life inoculants. Be minimal and cautious with pesticides, toxic materials and repeated heavy tillage. Visit and support your local nurseries, botanical gardens, university extension programs and gardening clubs. They can be excellent resources. Inhabitat: What are the biggest water-related mistakes people make when planting a garden? Banner: One of the biggest mistakes in low-water gardening is to mix plants with high and low water needs in the same irrigation zones. This creates a lot of hand watering or drowned low-water plants. The key is to create ‘hydrozones’ of plants with similar water needs that receive the same irrigation. Another water-related mistake is to not maximize the water that naturally falls on your garden area. Unless you live in a heavy rainfall area, slow, spread and sink the water you receive by integrating passive rainwater harvesting into your landscaping . It can be particularly useful to integrate your rain gutter downspouts, create swales and basins and then hydrozone the plantings based on how much water is retained. Be mindful of rainfall patterns, leaks and potential flooding in your designs. Inhabitat: What have you learned from working at the Water Conservation Garden? Banner: It’s always teaching me new things of course but here are some of the most poignant lessons that I have learned. The amount of water used to establish many of our garden’s low-water plants is more than some of the most xeric or sandy soil adapted plants can handle; they establish better now with the lower water scheduling. The natural slopes of our foothill garden have helped significantly with drainage of our rocky, clay soils. The use of native annuals and summer drought-adapted bulbs in the garden can create a wonderfully lush landscape by taking advantage of natural seasonal moisture. People are very excited and often surprised to see the wide range of possibilities in low water gardening that we display, and it inspires me to continue to make the garden botanically interesting, aesthetic and approachable. Inhabitat: Can you recommend some low-water plants? Banner:  My current favorite low-water plants are Northern Blazing Star (Liatris scariosa var. nieuwlandii), Shasta Sulphur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum var. polyanthum), Long trunked Spanish Dagger (Yucca gloriosa), Palmer’s penstemon (Penstemon palmeri), Smoothstem blazingstar (Mentzelia laevicaulis), Pale stonecrop (Sedum sediforme), Silverleaf Oak (Quercus hypoleucoides), Yellowhorn (Xanthoceras sorbifolium), Texas beargrass (Nolina texana),  Arizona fescue (Festuca arizonica), New Mexico Agave (Agave parryii var. neomexicana), ‘Frazier Park’ Big Berry Manzanita (Arctostaphylos glauca ‘Frazier Park’), Canyon Liveforever (Dudleya cymosa), Saint John’s Chamomile (Anthemis sancti-johannis) Inhabitat: Anything else our readers should know about water conservation and gardening? Banner: There is a lot to explore in finding the best water- conserving garden for your unique situation. While there are many general guidelines and recommendations you will find special opportunities as you dig deeper in your gardening practice (pun intended). Don’t be afraid to experiment and make some mistakes. Have fun with it! For more information on what to plant for your climate zone, check out this EPA site . + Guy Banner, Red Butte Garden Images via Teresa Bergen

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Planning a low-water garden with expert Guy Banner

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