Endangered black-footed ferret is successfully cloned

February 22, 2021 by  
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The birth of Elizabeth Ann, a black-footed ferret, on December 10, 2020, marked a major achievement in the recovery of the species. Elizabeth Ann is the first black-footed ferret to be cloned with the aim of increasing the genetic diversity of the species. The now 2-month-old ferret was created from frozen cells of a black-footed ferret that lived over three decades ago. Black-footed ferrets were once considered extinct , but a family of seven was discovered in 1981. The ferrets were captured to be protected by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Having been recovered from only seven ferrets, the current population of the species lacks genetic diversity. The recent cloning is important given that the clone parent, Willa, was recovered from the last wild black-footed ferrets and did not belong to the line of the recovered seven. Samples of the wild ferret were preserved at the San Diego Zoo Global’s Frozen Zoo from 1988. Related: San Diego Zoo successfully clones an endangered Przewalski’s horse To improve the species’ resilience to diseases, several organizations have come together. Among the partners involved in the process include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Revive & Restore, San Diego Zoo Global, ViaGen Pets & Equine and the Association of Zoos and Pets. “The Service sought the expertise of valued recovery partners to help us explore how we might overcome genetic limitations hampering recovery of the black-footed ferret, and we’re proud to make this announcement today,” said Noreen Walsh, director of USFWS, Mountain-Prairie Region. “Although this research is preliminary, it is the first cloning of a native endangered species in North America, and it provides a promising tool for continued efforts to conserve the black-footed ferret.” The journey to cloning has been long and with many obstacles, according to Ryan Phelan, executive director of Revive & Restore. “We’ve come a long way since 2013 when we began the funding, permitting, design, and development of this project with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” Phelan said. “Genomics revealed the genetic value that Willa could bring to her species .” According to Walsh, while cloning is one of the ways to improve the genetic diversity of the species, the organizations are also paying attention to habitat-based threats in their efforts to recover the black-footed ferret population. + U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Images via USFWS

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Endangered black-footed ferret is successfully cloned

Climate change increases pollen and worsens allergies

February 11, 2021 by  
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If you feel like you’re going through hankies faster than ever, you’re not just imagining it. Climate change is making allergy season even worse, according to a new study. Researchers concluded that pollen and planetary warming are closely tied in a study published on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . Allergy season is both beginning sooner and generating more pollen overall, thanks to a sneeze-inducing mixture of warmer air and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The study’s authors found that pollen season in North America now starts about 20 days earlier than it did in 1990 and produces about 21% more pollen. Research predicts that this trend will accelerate. Related: Avoid allergies this spring with these 7 natural remedies The study used attribution science techniques to estimate the degree to which wildfires, rainfall during hurricanes, and other extreme weather events are worse than they’d be if the planet wasn’t getting toastier. “It’s a great piece of work,” Kristie Ebi of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington said of the study. “There has been very little research on the application of detection and attribution analysis to the health risks of a changing climate.” By examining data from 60 pollen-monitoring stations around the U.S., the researchers found the runniest noses and most watery eyes in Texas, the Southeast and the Midwest. Less pollen-driven mucous production was happening in the northern states. The greatest increase in pollen is coming from trees, not the more traditional culprits of grasses and weeds. While a runny nose is annoying enough, allergies can have serious effects on public health. Asthma and respiratory diseases are life-threatening and can increase the severity of respiratory viruses like COVID-19 . + PNAS Via The New York Times Image via Magda Pawluczuk

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Climate change increases pollen and worsens allergies

Tools of the Trade: Circular Standards, Metrics and Measurements

September 14, 2020 by  
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Tools of the Trade: Circular Standards, Metrics and Measurements What standards, metrics and tools exist to measure circularity, and which is best for your company? To progress circularity, it is critical to transition from theoretical intentions to tactical, number-based goals. This discussion explores the emerging landscape of metrics, standards and tools currently measuring institutional circularity. The panel covers how to use these tools in practice, discussing effective applications and ideal business fit. Speakers Alyson Genovese, Director, North America, Global Reporting Initiative Jarkko Havas, Lead of Data and Metrics, Ellen MacArthur Foundation Christina Raab, Vice President, Strategy & Development, Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute Carolien van Brunschot, Manager, Circular Economy, World Business Council for Sustainable Development Holly Secon Mon, 09/14/2020 – 11:08 Featured Off

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Tools of the Trade: Circular Standards, Metrics and Measurements

COVID-19 disrupts recycling programs across the US

July 7, 2020 by  
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The pandemic is impacting yet another part of our world: recycling programs. The recycling industry is being riddled by budget shortfalls, an increase in single-use items and a shortage of centers open to receive reusable items. Since people have become more cautious about person-to-person transfer of COVID-19, single-use items are increasing. Many stores have banned reusable bags, and places, like Starbucks, aren’t refilling customers’ personal coffee cups. Restaurants have upped their use of plastic takeout packaging. Related: Starbucks suspends personal cup use because of coronavirus But most people are staying home, where they generate more garbage . The Solid Waste Association of North America noted a 20% average increase in solid waste and recycling in March and April, and some cities have reported even higher increases. Chicago’s waste has gone up by almost 50%. People are suddenly finding it harder to recycle and reuse. Spring cleaning became a popular pandemic activity, but charity stores weren’t open to accept donations of household goods. Meanwhile, many municipalities responded to severe budget shortfalls by axing their recycling programs. The U.S. recycling problems predate the pandemic. Since 2018, when other countries stopped buying poorly sorted recyclables and dirty food packaging from the U.S., recyclers have been strapped for customers. China used to buy up to 700,000 tons of scrap from the U.S. every year. Compounding that, oil prices are at the lowest they’ve been in decades, pushing the cost of virgin plastic down and making it less profitable to recycle plastics like PET (#1) and PE (#2 and #4). COVID-19 has also changed waste collection. Waste companies have come up with new procedures to protect workers from disease exposure while handling trash and recyclables. Recycling requires hands-on sorting, because machines aren’t as skilled as people at making sense of the collection stream. As companies try to minimize germ contact, they’re slowly improving automation. While recycling is down, the full picture of the pandemic and waste is not yet clear. “Historically, waste output from the commercial and industrial sectors has far outweighed the municipal stream,” co-authors Brian J. Love and Julie Rieland, a professor of materials science and engineering and a PhD candidate in macromolecular science and engineering, respectively, wrote on EcoWatch . “ With many offices and business closed or operating at low levels, total U.S. waste production could actually be at a record low during this time. However, data on commercial and industrial wastes are not readily available.” Via EcoWatch Image via Manfred Antranias Zimmer

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COVID-19 disrupts recycling programs across the US

Why Nature’s Path went ‘regenerative organic’

May 21, 2020 by  
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Why Nature’s Path went ‘regenerative organic’ Heather Clancy Thu, 05/21/2020 – 00:46 The term “regenerative agriculture” has become two of the biggest buzzwords in nature-based climate solutions. But how many farms and food companies can say they follow both regenerative and organic practices? Canadian cereal and snack company Nature’s Path — the largest organic breakfast and snack company in North America — hopes to get more agricultural organizations focused on the nuances of those adjectives.  In March, its 5,000-acre Legend Organic Farm in Saskatchewan became the largest yet to be certified as part of the Regenerative Organic Certified program, organized by the Regenerative Organic Alliance . It’s one of just 30 farms operating with that label. The company created a limited edition oatmeal to draw attention to the certification, which it started selling on Earth Day. Because Legend follows organic farming principles, it already practiced many processes often mentioned as regenerative. The main change the farm made over the past two years to receive Regenerative Organic Certified recognition was stepping up its planting and investments in cover crops such as legumes to improve soil fertility and carbon capture, according to Nature Path founder and chairman Arran Stephens.     The idea, at least in part, is to set an example that other farms can follow. “My hope is our farm will become highly successful and will spawn others that want to get in on it,” Stephens told me in late April.  Nature’s Path made the decision to seek the Regenerative Organic Certified designation two years ago, both to enrich its soil for the future and to continue differentiating its brand.  My hope is our farm will become highly successful and will spawn others that want to get in on it. Legend is the only farm that the company owns outright; it is supplied by hundreds of independent farms, who should be able to command a premium from customers such as Nature’s Path for following these practices in the future, according to Dag Falck, the company’s organic program manager.  “It’s a great way to communicate that your organization is practicing on the highest level of organic,” he said. Some investments it took While it takes just one growing season to earn the Regenerative Organic Certified label — unlike the core organic certification, which takes three years to earn — a series of steps are required to participate, notably expanded soil testing capabilities. As part of the program, farms are required to measure levels of Soil Organic Carbon, Soil Organic Matter and Aggregate Stability. Nature’s Path is testing for all of those metrics, along with Active Carbon, Total Soil Carbon and the Microbial Respiration of CO2. While organic farming shuns the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, it doesn’t preclude the use of new technologies or tools. Indeed, Nature’s Path is using a number of new information technologies as part of the program that could offer ideas for others. Among the tools that are playing a role: Tractors that are autosteered using global positioning satellite (GPS) data Satellite maps to monitor growth through the growing season Farming implements such as tine weeders and rotary hoes that help with weeding in preemergent phases while keeping the life within the soil; this allows the farm to reduce its tillage frequency and intensity A new recordkeeping system that can track specific crops back to the field; this is part of the traceability requirements for the certification The company doesn’t currently use precision agriculture technologies, but it eventually could play a role in mapping its soil carbon results, according to the company. According to the World Economic Forum, the average soil carbon level of most farmland is just 1 percent — far below the 3 percent to 7 percent levels they nurtured before being cultivated. It estimates that raising those levels to the low end of that range could sequester 1 trillion tons of CO2. Nature’s Path hasn’t disclosed its current soil levels, but is using this first season to establish a baseline. “We can’t say at this point what we have achieved,” Falck said.  Currently, soil has to be sent to a lab for test — a “fairly costly” process, Falck said, that can take from five to 10 days. The hope is to make more accurate in-person testing available as quickly as possible. Nature’s Path, based in Richmond, British Columbia, was founded in 1985 and became the first organic cereal production in North America five years later. The company is on track to achieve climate neutral status by September.  Pull Quote My hope is our farm will become highly successful and will spawn others that want to get in on it. Topics Food & Agriculture Regenerative Agriculture Organics GreenBiz Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off One requirement of the Regenerative Organics Certified label is a series of tests to gauge soil carbon content. Courtesy of Nature’s Path Close Authorship

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Why Nature’s Path went ‘regenerative organic’

"FORGO" plastic packaging with powder to liquid hand wash

April 8, 2020 by  
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Plastic containers  line nearly every shelf of any health and beauty aisle. To tackle this earth-endangering practice, Stockholm-based design studio Form Us With Love set out to make personal care more sustainable with their first product in this endeavor, FORGO powdered hand soap. Although the design company has launched other product campaigns, including furniture in conjunction with notable icon IKEA, FORGO targets making an impactful change to the personal care industry.  The name FORGO, meaning “to do without,” captures the essence of the hand wash, the first product in what Form us With Love hopes will be an entire line of personal care products. This hand wash is made using the bare essentials, from the ingredients list to the packing materials, embracing minimalism  throughout the process for all the right reasons. Related:  This skincare and natural deodorant is made from apple cider vinegar FORGO is a lightweight and compact powder you mix up at home. During your initial order, the company sends a glass jar with a fill line mark for easy measuring. Your job is simply to open the package, dump the powder into the glass jar, fill with water and shake. In less than a minute, you have a full bottle of foaming hand soap ready to go. When you run low, you can have three more packages sent directly to your home with free shipping throughout Europe and North America. For the initial run, FORGO is only available for these areas, but they hope to expand to other countries in the future. FORGO is produced in a partnership with a Montreal-based lab specializing in natural cosmetics. The result is a product that uses only six essential ingredients over 1%. All ingredients are naturally derived , and all are considered safe by EWG Skin Deep®. Five are COSMOS certified (COSMetic Organic and natural Standard). The scents for the foaming soap are also natural, with the wood scent distilled from timber yard scraps in Canada and the citrus scent distilled from leftover peels and pulp from organic citrus in the Caribbean.  The packaging is also mindful, using only recycled and recyclable paper to contain the powder and ship it, along with the glass jar, which can be recycled and is non-toxic should it end up in a landfill. The steel pump can be returned to the company for proper recycling . The compact packaging reduces waste and produces significantly fewer transport emissions, with 18 packets of FORGO equaling approximately one plastic bottle of a premixed solution. A now fully-funded Kickstarter campaign boosted the initial launch, with the first round of shipments expected summer 2020. + FORGO Images via Jonas Lindström Studio, Fredrik Augustsson, and Anna Heck & Yujin Jiang

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"FORGO" plastic packaging with powder to liquid hand wash

How to make milk alternatives at home

April 8, 2020 by  
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Milk alternatives have become a booming industry. More and more people are choosing plant-based milk alternatives because they can be healthier. These options are also cruelty-free and better for the planet. Plus, in these times when grocery store offerings are sparse, non-dairy milks — or at least the ingredients to make them — are often more readily available and shelf-stable. Here are some tips for making your own milk alternatives , such as oat milk, almond milk, coconut milk and more. Types of plant-based milk Grocery stores typically carry a wide variety of milk substitutes: soy, almond, cashew, hazelnut, oat, rice, coconut, pea-protein and even flax seed. But homemade varieties can be healthier, and during a pandemic when it is hard to come across any milk — vegan or otherwise — making your own plant-based milk could be your only option. Related: How to choose the healthiest, most sustainable milk alternative Advantages of making your own plant-based milk Despite the popularity of brand names, sometimes making homemade non-dairy milk is preferred over store-bought. Consider how COVID-19 has made shopping in the age of social distancing a challenge. Besides, making homemade plant-based milk can save money. You can also control the consistency, flavor and sweetness of the non-dairy milk you make, avoiding unnecessary additives, like oils, thickeners and xantham gum. Homemade milk alternatives also allow you to tailor your recipes for any dietary restrictions. How to make most milk alternatives First, choose your ingredient. If you prefer soy milk, select organic , non-GMO soybeans, as suggested by One Green Planet . For nut milk, select your organic, non-GMO nut of choice, making sure they are raw. The same can be applied to oat, rice, coconut, pea and seeds (sesame or sunflower). These ingredients can all be sourced either online, at stores like Whole Foods or Sprouts or from a local farmer. Thoroughly rinse 2 cups of your ingredient of choice, whether dry soybeans or raw nuts, for example, then let them soak overnight in 5 to 6 cups of water. The next day, remove them from soaking. Discard the water and rinse off the soybeans (or nuts). Next, remove the skins (skip this step if the ingredient of choice has no skins). Add the soybeans (or nuts) to about 6 cups of water in a blender, and blend until smooth. Related: Is almond milk bad for the environment? After blending, strain the blended mixture via a muslin, cheesecloth or fine nut milk bag. Note that twisting permits the squeezing out of more milk from the pulp. After ringing out as much milk as you can, either discard the soybean pulp (in a compost bin) or save the nut pulp. Nut pulp can be frozen for later use in smoothies, pancake batters, oatmeal or granola. Next, place the strained milk in a pot or saucepan. Remember, adding more water determines the thickness and consistency of your milk. For instance, you may add about 1 cup of water to the mixture, or more if you prefer a thinner milk. Bring the mixture to a boil, while frequently stirring to avoid sticking. When at a boil, reduce to medium heat and continue heating or cooking the milk for up to 20 minutes. Make sure to continue to stir often. After the 20-minute span, cool the milk to room temperature. For added taste, stir in cocoa powder, honey or cinnamon while serving. If you want your entire batch of milk to have added flavor, place all of the liquid into a blender and mix in vanilla extract, honey, dates, berries or other fruit. How to make oat milk For oat milk , there is no need for overnight soaking. Rather, you can choose to either soak for just 30 minutes before draining and then blending, as recommended by the Simple Vegan Blog . Or, you can just immediately blend together 1 cup of rolled oats in 4 cups of water for about 30 to 45 seconds before straining. Why under 1 minute? Over-blending can make the oat milk seem slimy in texture, as observed by the Minimalist Baker . Another important adjustment is not boiling nor heating the milk mixture after straining from the pulp — heating will lead to a slimy texture, too. Note that nut milk bags might not work for oats, so try a fine mesh strainer instead. Some folks even go so far as to use a towel or clean T-shirt to strain the milk out of the pulp. How to make coconut milk For coconut milk, the Minimalist Baker recommends using 2 cups of shredded unsweetened coconut. Once you’ve acquired your coconut, blend it in 3 to 4 cups of water, noting that for thicker, creamier milk, less water is best. You’ll still strain the milk with a thin cloth, cheesecloth, nut milk bag or fine mesh strainer. Again, the pulp can be saved for future baking purposes. No need for heating of the strained milk either, just seal in a tight container in the refrigerator. Should you see separation after removing this milk from the refrigerator, simply shake it before use. How to make pea or seed milks For pea milk, Nutramilk follows the same basic methods described above, except there’s no need to boil or heat the strained milk, either. Moreover, pea pulp can be saved for soups or as an added ingredient in just about any dinner recipe. Regarding seeds, Nest and Glow says they must be soaked overnight, but there’s little need to extract skins or boiling the milk. Because they are smaller, their blend time need only be 2 to 3 minutes until finely ground. How to store homemade milk Store your homemade soy, nut, seed or oat milk in an airtight bottle within your refrigerator. It should be good for up to 3 days. Hoping to preserve the milk for longer? Your homemade, plant-based milk can be kept in the freezer for 3 to 5 months. After thawing it, you can choose to also use this homemade milk as a dairy substitute for cooking or baking. Images via Unsplash and Adobe Stock

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Nonprofit plants 80,000 trees in Kenya and Rwanda

March 30, 2020 by  
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The name of global environmental charity One Tree Planted seems excessively modest now, as they’ve just finished planting 80,000 trees in Africa.  Rwanda  got 60,000 new trees, and Kenya got 20,000. In Rwanda, One Tree Planted aimed to boost local farmers’ harvests and incomes by planting coffee seedlings in the Kayonza and Gakenke districts. One Tree partnered with Kula Project to train local farmers in agronomy, technical skills and sustainable practices. Once the  coffee  Arabica seedlings mature, they should provide a sustainable income for up to three decades. This program fits in with a country-led effort to restore 100 million hectares of land in Africa by 2030. One Tree’s work in Kenya aimed to restore part of the Kijabe Forest, which suffers from overgrazing, fires and illegal harvesting. Trees native to this highland mosaic forest, also called Afro-alpine forest, include the African olive and the East African pencil-cedar. Charcoal burning and logging have damaged the forest, eroding soil and frightening people with impending mudslides. Nearly 200,000 people living in the surrounding areas depend on the forest for  water , grazing and wood. Resident wildlife includes leopards, monkeys, dik-diks and buffalo. This work in  Kenya  is part of an ongoing project which uses enrichment planting, avoided  deforestation  and assisted natural regeneration. Enrichment planting means introducing valuable species to degraded forests while retaining existing valuable species and is commonly used in forest management. Avoided deforestation is when “countries receive funding in exchange for literally avoiding and preventing deforestation.” Assisted natural regeneration happens when humans speed up natural processes by planting seedlings and protecting them as they grow. Since its founding in 2014, One Tree Planted has worked in Africa, Asia, North America and South America to restore forests, create jobs and protect  biodiversity . In 2018, the nonprofit planted 1.3 million trees. + One Tree Planted Images via One Tree Planted

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Nonprofit plants 80,000 trees in Kenya and Rwanda

Startup creates compostable, single-serve coffee bags for your busy mornings

February 12, 2020 by  
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Worried about the environmental costs of single-use coffee pods? Steeped Coffee has a game-changing solution for that. The startup has innovated coffee brewing by making it as convenient and simple as steeping a tea bag, only it’s coffee you’re tasting. And once you’ve finished your mug of coffee, you can simply compost the bag and recycle the packaging, which is already made from recycled materials as well. Steeped Coffee’s coffee grounds are nitro-sealed in bags. Because they are nitro-sealed, the coffee grounds stay fresh for months. What’s more, these bags are sustainable, plant-based and dressed in recyclable, compostable packaging. Rather than starting up an energy-intensive machine to brew one cup of coffee, you can steep a Steeped Coffee bag, like one does with tea, to get a quick cup of Joe. The bag needs to steep for just 5 minutes. Related: Biodegradable coffee pods are now available for composting According to the company’s founder and CEO, Josh Wilbur, “Premium coffee roasters have shied away from offering their specialty beans in single-serve packaging because it’s been nearly impossible to keep ground coffee fresh, which quickly ruins the taste. With our nitro-sealed bags, oxygen is replaced with nitrogen, so the coffee stays fresh as if it was ground moments ago.” The startup’s signature specialty coffee is also ethically sourced directly from farmers, and the flavor has earned excellent reviews. With Steeped Coffee bags, there is no need for any machines. That eliminates the noise of traditional coffee-making and minimizes cleanup and waste considerably. While it will certainly work for quick cups of coffee at home, the coffee bags could also work well as single-serve options at hotels and offices as well as an easy way to make coffee while camping. Wilbur was motivated to produce the renewable and compostable nitro-sealed Steeped Coffee bag when he realized that “10 billion unrecyclable coffee pods accumulate in landfills each year — enough to wrap around the Earth more than 110 times if placed side-by-side. Steeped Packs are the easiest way to make a delicious cup of coffee,” devoid of wasted energy and wasted materials. Headquartered in Santa Cruz, California, Steeped Coffee has been gaining recognition for its revolutionary “brewing” method and sustainable packaging. Last year, the company even earned the Best New Product accolade at the Specialty Coffee Expo, the largest annual coffee trade show in North America. + Steeped Coffee Image via Steeped Coffee

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Startup creates compostable, single-serve coffee bags for your busy mornings

10 takeaways from Circularity 19

June 25, 2019 by  
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A few sips from the firehose of insights that spewed from three days of North America’s largest circular economy event.

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10 takeaways from Circularity 19

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