How Perdue, Smithfield and Silver Fern Farms are reducing packaging waste

June 17, 2020 by  
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How Perdue, Smithfield and Silver Fern Farms are reducing packaging waste Heather Clancy Wed, 06/17/2020 – 02:00 Food companies have a dual responsibility when it comes to waste reduction aspirations: optimizing their operations to minimize food waste while reducing the amount of other materials — especially the waste associated with packaging — sent to landfill. The aspiration for a growing number of them is “zero waste.” But meat companies that raise animals such as poultry, pigs, cattle and other livestock for protein also must take into account something else few widget, gadget or electronics makers need to worry about — how to manage water and materials contaminated by organic, biological waste. This work continues amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has rocked the meat supply chain and forced closures of facilities across the United States, according to the executives interviewed for this article. It also has complicated matters, as procedures around the expanded use of personal protective equipment were embraced to protect the health of workers and consumers. More precautions have meant more PPE, which usually has come in contact with biological matter that causes management challenges for recycling facilities. “The one thing that is difficult — and it’s difficult for all companies but especially, I think, in the protein industry — there’s just certain materials you can’t recycle or reuse,” said Steve Levitsky, vice president of sustainability for well-known chicken purveyor Perdue Farms. Another vivid example: plastic that has been used to wrap meat, which cannot be sent to traditional facilities without first being decontaminated. “That’s the one material that we have not found the perfect solution for at this point, whether it be at a plant or at your home,” he said. That’s why the recent GreenCircle zero waste certification for Perdue’s harvest operation (industry parlance for a slaughter and processing facility) in Lewiston, North Carolina is noteworthy. The designation indicates that 100 percent of the waste stream at the facility is reused, recycled or incinerated for energy. That includes packaging scraps, chicken litter (which includes bird excrement, feathers and materials used for bedding), oils and personal protective equipment worn by the workers. For this particular facility, that translated into 8.3 million pounds of waste diverted during 2019, according to the company’s press release about the achievement. The zero waste certifications granted by some other certification bodies allow for up to 10 percent of waste to go to landfill — and still earn that label, Levitsky said. “We wanted to make sure if we go through this process …  it’s rigorous enough and that people feel when we say ‘zero waste to landfill’ that we’re doing every effort to get to that higher standard,” he said.  Perdue’s corporate-level waste goal calls for it to divert 90 percent of solid waste from landfills by 2022; it plans to have five more facilities certified by the end of 2022 (of about 20 meat production operations in total). The one thing that is difficult — and it’s difficult for all companies but especially, I think, in the protein industry — there’s just certain materials you can’t recycle or reuse. Some measures Perdue uses to divert waste in Lewiston include composting for all the organic matter such as litter or shells from the hatchery and food waste from the cafeteria; refurbishing end-of-life equipment by sending things such as engines back to the original manufacturer; sorting of plastics, cardboard, metals and glass; turning spent grain into animal feed or feed additives; and sending some organic matter to an anaerobic digester for energy applications. A GreenCircle certification isn’t simply a matter of filling out a survey. It requires on-site auditing not just of the company hoping to earn the recognition but also of all third-party waste management organizations hired to reduce waste, said Tad Radzinski, certification officer at GreenCircle. (When GreenBiz spoke with him in early May, his team was sorting out how to accomplish this using virtual tools.) “The one thing we always do is push for continuous improvement,” he said. Perdue made changes over the past year about how to handle damage or broken pallets, based on information gathering during the GreenCircle auditing process, Levitsky said. Specifically, it discovered that the company it was sending them to wasn’t remanufacturing them as Perdue believed and instead was sending certain damaged ones to landfill. Using that knowledge, the Lewiston team now sorts those materials into its waste-to-energy dumpster. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Perdue Farms Close Authorship Generally speaking, zero waste strategies for animal protein companies don’t cover the meat, organs or bones of the slaughtered animals. Finding partners that can use those items is embedded into the core business strategy. Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor, for example, created the Smithfield BioScience division in 2017 to come up with solutions for using meat production by-products such as mucosa, glands and skin for medical applications.  From a corporate perspective, Smithfield’s commitment is to reduce overall solid waste sent to landfills by 75 percent by 2025. In the U.S., it plans to certify at least three-quarters of its facilities as zero waste by that time frame. (It has 35 of them.)  The designation calls for it to recycle or reuse at least 50 percent of the waste at a given facility. So far, Smithfield has certified 30 percent of its U.S. sites including its largest facility in Vernon, California, according to the company’s 2019 sustainability report released this week. The site required a proprietary solution for treating peptone waste associated with its production of heparin, used for pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and medical device applications. The packaging conundrum One of the most difficult processes for any animal protein company is reducing the impact of packaging while complying with health considerations and the requirements of recycling organizations.  “Packaging is one valuable component within our supply chain where we are focused on reducing waste,” said John Meyer, senior director of environmental affairs for Smithfield Farms, in responses emailed for this article. “Smithfield has partnered with packaging suppliers to ideate, research and test emerging recyclable and sustainable product materials for future development and implementation.” Three examples of ideas that already have found their way into practice:  It changed the packages for its Prime Fresh line of pre-sliced delicatessen meats to look like the bags a consumer would receive from someone cutting them on the spot; these packets use about 31 percent less plastic than traditional offerings. It’s using product trays for the Pure Frame plant-based products made from 50 percent recycled materials. Its Omaha facility moved away from paper labels to printed film, saving more than four tons of waste annually. Silver Fern Farms, a New Zealand meat purveyor that specializes in beef, lamb and venison, permanently has removed close to 80 tons of plastic from its supply chain annually through a combination of measures, according to Matt Luxton, director of U.S. sales for the company. Silver Fern is New Zealand’s largest red meat producer; it started exporting to supermarkets in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York in 2019.  One of the biggest changes was the shift to “consumer-ready” packaging that includes pre-trimmed portions, a process intended to help minimize food waste both at the retail point of sale (where meat is traditionally butchered and repackaged) and with consumers concerned about portion control.  “We have done a lot of research into what a consumer wants and what volume meals they are consuming,” Luxton said. Silver Fern is also using vacuum-sealed packaging that extends the shelf life of the meat for an additional 25 days, while maintaining health and hygiene standards, and it also has eliminated some plastic liners and opted for thinner gauge plastics for export. While the company is studying ways of using recycled plastics, it hasn’t been able to find a material that duplicates the shelf life it can achieve with options already available, Luxton said. Perdue also has been studying ways to package chicken in recyclable trays, an idea it borrowed from Coleman Natural, an organic meat company it acquired in 2011. While the idea works well for the organic brand, cost considerations kept the company from introducing it for the broader Perdue product lines.  “The problem with it is it’s more than double the cost of a foam tray,” Levitsky said. “And to put that cost into a conventional chicken product just would not be feasible … We’re trying to drive that cost down and are looking at other companies that can maybe produce that tray. But right now, the price is just so high for those recyclable trays that we have not done it.” Pull Quote The one thing that is difficult — and it’s difficult for all companies but especially, I think, in the protein industry — there’s just certain materials you can’t recycle or reuse. We have done a lot of research into what a consumer wants and what volume meals they are consuming. Topics Food Systems Circular Economy Packaging Zero Waste Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Smithfield Farms Close Authorship

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How Perdue, Smithfield and Silver Fern Farms are reducing packaging waste

Organic vegan restaurant named to raise awareness for deforestation in Brazil

June 9, 2020 by  
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Recently opened in the Brazilian city of São Paulo and designed by local architecture and design practice VAGA, the Cajuí Restaurant offers a menu of vegan , organic and natural ingredients supplied by small farmers from different regions of Brazil. Cajuí was named after the native species of cashew found in the Cerrado biome grasslands in central Brazil. Lesser known yet right next door to the Amazon rainforest , the Cerrado biome encompasses almost 800,000 square miles of savannas and grasslands — roughly the size of Alaska and California put together — and is one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth. It is home to 5% of the planet’s biodiversity, and many of the country’s indigenous people who live there rely on the ecosystem’s resources for sustainable livelihoods. According to the World Wildlife Fund , deforestation in the Cerrado is responsible for an estimated 250 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year; this is the same amount that 53 million cars would emit in one year. Related: Modular materials make up an eco-friendly restaurant in Taiwan Cajuí Restaurant is the brainchild of plant-based chef and São Paulo-native Natalia Luglio, who wanted to open an accessible restaurant in her hometown that prioritized organic , local ingredients. The unique biome of Cerrado serves not only as inspiration behind the name but also as an inspiration behind both the menu and the ambiance. Because of this, the designers wanted to pay special attention to the vibrant interaction between color, light and material in ways that alluded to the Cerrado. The architects concentrated on creating ample natural light in between the exterior and the interior spaces by attaching an additional wooden structure to the body of the main building, which had been renovated. VAGA also added translucent roof tiles lined with organic jute on the ceiling so that the sunlight could shine through and influence the color depending on the time of day. The red pigment in the cement floor of the restaurant mirrors the color of the Cerrado soil. Large plant beds were added to the staff area to hold some of the ingredients used on the menu. To keep the construction as sustainable as possible, almost all of the waste generated from the renovation was reused for additional projects, such as the waiting area deck, floor leveling and the bamboo ceiling in the back of the building. + VAGA Photography by Pedro Napolitano Prata via VAGA

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Organic vegan restaurant named to raise awareness for deforestation in Brazil

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’

This Napa Valley winery has been farmed organically since 1985

May 5, 2020 by  
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Nestled on a gently sloping segment of land on the quiet, western end of St. Helena, California, Spottswoode Estate contains a remarkable piece of environmental history. The property became one of the first vineyards in the Napa Valley to farm 100%  organically  in 1985, eventually evolving into a leader in sustainable farming for the famous wine-growing region. In addition to being organic, the property is also solar-powered and biodynamic, all while producing world-class and sought-after vintages year after year. The family-run business has continued to inspire its peers to explore the sustainable farming practices it helped shape in the 80s. Related: LEED Gold eco hotel in the Wine Country was built using reclaimed wood The Napa Valley estate vineyard at Spottswoode was first planted in 1882. Just like many other historic vineyards and wineries in the area, Spottswoode survived Prohibition throughout the 1920s by selling grapes for use in sacramental wine. In 1985, the St. Helena property became the first winery in the valley to  farm  without the use of chemicals, pesticides or fertilizers, long before sustainability became popularized in wine marketing. In 1992, Spottswoode made history again by becoming one of the first wineries to earn CCOF organic certification. Since 2007, Spottswoode has committed to donating 1% of its gross annual revenue to supporting environmental causes with 1% for the Planet; it also became one of the earliest members of International Wineries for Climate Change. The 46-acre estate has added owl boxes, bluebird boxes, green-winged swallow boxes, bee boxes and year-round insectaries to maintain wildlife conservation  on property. The company works hard to ensure that the Spottswoode land works as its own living ecosystem while continuing to produce award-winning wine. In 2007, Spottswoode began installing solar arrays to offset its energy usage. Today the system has grown to offset 100% of its annual production and office-related energy needs and generates about 75% of its agricultural energy needs. In 2010, biodynamic farming through the use of cover crops and composting was introduced to the vineyard. The Spottswoode Winery was founded by Mary Novak in 1982, exactly 100 years after the original planting of the property’s vineyard. At the time, Mary was one of the first women to manage a major winemaking estate in Napa Valley. Since her passing in 2016, her two daughters have followed in her footsteps to run the winery as a female-led company, playing an important role in the environmental and  sustainable  practices that their mother instilled in the Napa wine industry. In 2017, Spottswoode was honored with the Green Medal Environment Award by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, California Association of Winegrape Growers, Wine Institute and Napa Valley Vintners. Mary’s daughter Beth Novak was named chair of the Napa Valley Vintners Environmental Stewardship Committee in 2019. + Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery Images via Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery

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This Napa Valley winery has been farmed organically since 1985

Greenhouse gas emissions expected to hit record decline

May 5, 2020 by  
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While your home energy bill may have increased while you shelter in place, the planet’s overall energy use has taken a significant downturn. According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) first quarter report, global carbon emissions could be down by 8% this year, the biggest drop the agency has ever seen. In the first quarter of 2020, global energy demand decreased by 3.8%, thanks in large part to lockdowns in Europe and North America. The report collected data for 30 countries from January 1 through April 14. The analysis concluded that countries in full lockdown averaged a 25% weekly decline in energy demand, while countries in partial lockdown averaged 18%. While your own energy bill probably won’t reflect this trend, reductions in energy use by industrial and commercial concerns far outweigh upticks in residential demand. “For weeks, the shape of demand resembled that of a prolonged Sunday,” the report said. In short, the longer and more stringent the lockdown, the better for Earth’s atmosphere. Related: 6 ways to save energy while sheltering in place “This is a historic shock to the entire energy world. Amid today’s unparalleled health and economic crises, the plunge in demand for nearly all major fuels is staggering, especially for coal, oil and gas. Only renewables are holding up during the previously unheard-of slump in electricity use,” Fatih Birol, IEA executive director, said in a press release. “It is still too early to determine the longer-term impacts, but the energy industry that emerges from this crisis will be significantly different from the one that came before.” Global coal demand fell by nearly 8% compared with 2019’s first quarter. Analysts attributed this to a mild winter, the growth in renewable energy sources and the pandemic’s hard hit on China’s coal-based economy. Oil demand was also down, falling nearly 5%. The extreme aviation slowdown accounted for much of the oil decline, paired with global road transport activity dropping by half. “Resulting from premature deaths and economic trauma around the world, the historic decline in global emissions is absolutely nothing to cheer,” Birol said. “And if the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis is anything to go by, we are likely to soon see a sharp rebound in emissions as economic conditions improve. But governments can learn from that experience by putting clean energy technologies — renewables, efficiency, batteries, hydrogen and carbon capture — at the heart of their plans for economic recovery. Investing in those areas can create jobs, make economies more competitive and steer the world towards a more resilient and cleaner energy future.” + International Energy Agency Image via Marcin Jozwiak

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Greenhouse gas emissions expected to hit record decline

"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

Where to order vegetable seeds online

April 2, 2020 by  
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My grandfather always liked to garden, but he ramped up his vegetable production during World War II. Many folks at the time grew what they called “ victory gardens ” to supplement food shortages and ration cards. Nowadays, with COVID-19 raging on, people are similarly starting pandemic gardens. If you’re thinking of starting a garden or adding to your existing plots, here are some tips on buying seeds online. “There’s a huge number of people looking for planting information right now,” Melody Rose, an editor at Dave’s Garden , told Inhabitat. “We’ve seen an uptick in members who have slipped away coming back.” Related: New gardener advice and suggestions So far, supply chains are holding. While toilet paper may be scarce, there’s still plenty of food. But why not start a garden? If you’re sheltering in place anyway and you have some outdoor space, this healthy habit will connect you with the earth, get you safely outside and provide food in the coming months. Rose talked with Inhabitat to share tips for starting a garden and finding the best places to buy seeds online. What to plant If you’re new to gardening , you might not know what to plant. My early gardening attempts involved grandiose dreams of winning county fair prizes with exotic vegetables, none of which wanted to grow in my yard, as it turned out. That’s because you have to know your turf. Thanks to a neighbor’s enormous oak tree, I get less than the ideal amount of afternoon sun. So after some trial and error, I know to stick to kale , peas, beans and lettuce. Lucky enough to have more sun? “Beginning gardeners will have good luck with squash and cucumbers if they have a sunny spot outdoors and the seeds can be planted directly in the ground,” Rose said. “Beans are easy to plant outdoors, you just need at least a dozen plants to do much good, and probably more. Lettuce and radishes are quick and easy, and you can plant seeds several weeks apart to ensure a crop for a longer time.” Vegetables grow best with at least eight hours of full sun every day, Rose advised. “Afternoon sun is preferable to morning sun. I plant my vegetables where they get full sun all day, but I know that isn’t an option for some. Lettuce, radishes and spinach will do okay with a little more shade, especially when the summer temps get really hot.” Some plants are more high-maintenance than others. “Tomatoes and peppers are a bit tricky to start since they require several weeks under lights indoors,” Rose said. If you’re new to gardening, it’s better to minimize start-up costs and see how your new hobby goes. If it turns out you constantly forget to water and weed, you’ll regret buying a bunch of lights. Garden choices also come down to taste and whether you have enough space to grow a sufficient number of plants. What good is a bountiful bean harvest if you hate beans? And what good is one plant if you can’t harvest at least a single meal’s worth of vegetables from it? “Being Southern, I like okra,” Rose said. “It needs warm summers, but grows well and few pests bother it. Each plant will provide one or two pods every day all summer . You’ll need between one and two dozen pods for a family of four, depending on how they like it.” Where to buy seeds online Toilet paper companies aren’t the only ones experiencing increased demand. Seed companies are feeling it, too. “Good companies are having a huge surge in mail orders,” Rose explained. “I know that Baker Creek had to shut their portal down over last weekend just to catch up with orders.” Rose recommended a few vendors she’s ordered from herself. “I have nothing but good things to say about them,” she said. “I think all of these companies are having a good sales year.” Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds , based in Missouri, began in 1998 and now offers about 1,200 varieties of heirloom vegetables, herbs and flowers. Try the purple lady bok choy and atomic orange corn. Iowa-based Seed Savers Exchange started with tomato and morning glory seeds brought by the founder’s grandfather from Bavaria. Johnny’s Seeds , which is 100% employee-owned, began in the attic of a New Hampshire farmhouse in 1973. Kitazawa Seed Company , founded in 1917, is the country’s oldest seed company specializing in Asian vegetables. People who start seed companies are a special breed. It takes a lot of passion and perseverance for small, organic companies to go up against huge, conventional seed growers. I recently ordered seeds from Wild Mountain Seeds in Colorado, after sharing an Uber Pool ride with the one of the owners, who was en route to an organic seed growers conference. Wild Mountain specializes in heirloom tomatoes and sturdy seeds that can withstand colder climates. Because of the pandemic-related upsurge in seed sales, keep in mind that these and other companies might be slower than usual in delivering, out of stock and/or might have to temporarily close ordering to catch up with demand. Rose recommended checking out any unfamiliar seed company in the Garden Watchdog rating database on Dave’s Garden. You can even narrow your search to specific plants. Beginner gardening tips Rose suggested starting small and properly preparing your soil . Too much ambition and too little knowledge could put you off gardening forever. “One of my husband’s employees decided that he and his family would plant a garden last year and he had a huge plot tilled up,” she said. “They battled weeds, bugs, raccoons, rabbits and deer. The ground wasn’t prepared properly and they chose a location that was shaded in the afternoon. Needless to say, it was a huge disaster.” If possible, test your soil before planting. The Old Farmers Almanac offers DIY testing advice . Otherwise, Rose recommended incorporating well-rotted manure or a commercial fertilizer with a 10-10-10 rating. Even if you don’t have a proper plot, you can still container garden. Just be sure not to pick containers that are too small or shallow. “A tomato plant needs the minimum of a five-gallon bucket and a gallon of water every day to produce,” Rose said. “A squash plant is similar.” Microgreens are an option for people who have no outdoor space and/or lack green thumbs. Microgreens are nutrient-packed plants that require only a tiny container, a handful of soil and a sunny windowsill . “I think microgreens would be an easy and nutritious option for lots of people,” Rose said. “Easy, very little equipment and fast turnaround.” Whether you’re an indoor urban gardener or have an acre of land, there’s never been a better time to get your hands in some cool dirt and grow something nutritious to eat. + Dave’s Garden Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat and Eco Warrior Princess

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Recycled shipping container cafe utilizes passive cooling in India

February 24, 2020 by  
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Southeast of New Delhi, in Greater Noida City, Rahul Jain Design Lab (RJDL) has transformed recycled shipping containers into a dynamic new cafe and gathering space for ITS Dental College. Named Cafe Infinity after its infinity loop shape, the building was created as an example of architecture that can be both economical and eco-friendly. The architects’ focus on sustainability has also informed the shape and positioning of the cafe for natural cooling. Cafe Infinity serves as a recreational space for ITS Dental College students, faculty and patients. The team deliberately left the corrugated metal walls of the 40-foot-long recycled shipping containers in their raw and industrial state to highlight the building’s origins. The rigid walls of the containers also provide an interesting point of contrast to the organic landscape. Related: Shipping container retreat in Brazil is inspired by tiny homes “The idea of using infinity was conceived to emphasize on the infinite possibilities of using a shipping container as a structural unit, regardless of the building type and site,” the architects explained of the building’s infinity loop shape that wraps around two courtyards. “The flexibility, modularity and sustainability makes shipping containers a perfect alternate to the conventional building structures, to reduce the overall carbon footprint while also being an ecologically and economically viable solution.” In addition to two cafe outlets and courtyards, Cafe Infinity also includes viewing decks, bathrooms, seating areas for faculty and visitors and a student lounge. To promote natural cooling , the architects turned the shipping container doors into louvers and installed them on the south side of the building to minimize unwanted solar gain while providing privacy. The building was also equipped with 50-millimeter Rockwool insulation, a mechanical cooling system, strategically placed openings and tinted windows.  + RJDL Photography by Rahul Jain via RJDL

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Recycled shipping container cafe utilizes passive cooling in India

10 holiday gifts for eco-friendly coworkers

December 16, 2019 by  
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If you have coworkers who are eco-conscious or you hope to encourage them to be, then a thoughtful gift will certainly convey that you appreciate everything they do as your teammates — all while helping the planet. Besides, showing gratitude for the people you work with is tremendously helpful for boosting morale, building rapport and cultivating a positive work environment. To spread the holiday cheer and the message of sustainability, here is a gift guide for eco-friendly presents for coworkers. Ecozoi stainless steel lunch box Stainless steel is better for the environment than plastic because it is meant to last. This stainless steel lunch box is free of BPA , PVC and phthalate. It also comes in recycled packaging that can be reused. A purchase comes with a bonus lunch pod for fruits, healthy snacks or dessert options, making it a great gift for your desk neighbor. Sustainable notebooks from ECO Imprints ECO Imprints has long been dedicated to social and environmental responsibility, often promoting positive change for greener merchandise that is recycled, reusable, reclaimed, organic, sustainable or ethically sourced . ECO Imprints has a wide range of notebooks from which to choose, and many of the notebooks are accompanied with eco-friendly pens for a complete gift set. Namaste water bottle from Yuhme Made from sugarcane, this water bottle is both BPA- and toxin-free. It is also 100 percent recyclable . The fun design will make everyone at work want one, in turn eliminating plastic bottles in exchange for stylish trips to the water fountain. HankyBook handkerchiefs These eco-friendly handkerchiefs are made of 100 percent certified organic cotton . HankyBooks are more sustainable and reusable than disposable paper tissues, thereby keeping our planet (and your work space) greener. Plantable Sprout pencils For a sustainable pencil option — made from 100 percent natural clay, graphite and PEFC-/ FSC-certified cedar wood — consider Sprout. Once you’ve finished with your Sprout pencil, you can plant the stub and watch it grow into herbs, flowers or vegetables. This is a truly unique and functional gift that you can give to everyone at work. Related: Sustainable pencil stubs Sprout into plants Living vertical wall garden from Portrait Gardens Available in three sizes — 4×6, 5×7 or 8×10 — this vertical wall garden allows its recipient to arrange plants (everything from succulents to flowers to herbs, vegetables and more) on a tray, pin them to a securing grid, then frame them, so the plants of choice will be ready for your coworker to display proudly. Abeego beeswax food wrap Abeego is renowned for saving honeybees. It is also a company that is sustainable, natural and zero-waste . This food wrap, made with beeswax, can be washed and reused. It’s a much better alternative for wrapping sandwiches or saving half of an avocado from lunch compared to single-use plastic wrap. Wooden tech accessories from iameco For more than 20 years, iameco has been crafting sustainable, ecological and high-performance computers, devices and accessories that are free from harmful chemicals. The company’s electronics do not harm the environment nearly as much as mainstream devices, especially given that they operate at a third less power. What’s more, iameco harvests the natural wood used for its electronics, devices and accessories from sustainable forests. As such, a fun wood keyboard or mouse from iameco makes an interesting gift for coworkers who love design, technology and the planet. Related: This eco-friendly wooden laptop is designed to curb e-waste Zero-Waste starter kit from Wakecup This kit has all the eco-friendly essentials: a vegan rucksack, a bamboo and stainless steel water bottle, a bamboo travel mug and two reusable bamboo straws. As Wakecup shares on its website, “Did you know that excluding food packaging, 90 percent of single-use plastic waste comes in the form of bags, bottles, cups and straws?” By giving these to your coworkers, imagine how much greener the Earth becomes as each person reduces their waste! Compostable phone case from Pela Pela is widely known as the company with the world’s first 100 percent compostable phone case. Phone cases are a simple way to show coworkers you appreciate them this holiday season, and a compostable phone case means less waste, too. Images via Shutterstock, Ecozoi, ECO Imprints, Yuhme, HankyBook, Sprout, Portrait Gardens, Abeego, iameco, Wakecup and Pela

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10 holiday gifts for eco-friendly coworkers

This prefab weekend retreat made from shipping containers can be ordered online

December 16, 2019 by  
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Mexican architects Rodrigo Alegre and Carlos Acosta of the Mexico City-based firm STUDIOROCA have recently launched VMD (Vivienda Minima de Descanso), a new prefabricated housing system for delivering luxurious weekend retreats with reduced ecological footprints. Available to order and customize online, VMD can be fully set up and habitable in just 99 days. Each unit, which can be built as a one- or two-bedroom home, is constructed in a factory using shipping containers and outfitted with ecological materials, smart home technologies and high-end furnishings all created by Mexican designers. Created to answer the question, “What would you do with less?” the compact VMD was designed with a focus on sustainability and the “idea of retreating from noisy, polluted, stressful urban centers.” As a weekend getaway , the VMD also emphasizes low maintenance and an easy lock-up-and-go design. All technologies, from the interior lighting system to video surveillance, can be controlled remotely. Related: Solar-powered cliffside home is a hidden retreat with stellar ocean views The prefabricated homes are manufactured in a climate-controlled factory in Mexico using a shipping container structure clad in Viroc for a non-toxic facade that’s also resistant to fire and water damage. The interiors are dressed in eco-conscious materials, such as Bolon’s Elements Oak flooring made from up to 33 percent recycled materials , and appliances, like the low-flow bathroom fixtures by Helvex. Floor, wall, countertop and bathroom finishes can be customized to meet different style preferences. Customers will also have options to make their VMDs self-reliant by installing solar panels, rainwater harvesting systems and incinerating toilets. From order to delivery, the VMD should take just over three months to complete, along with a week needed for installation on site. Due to the strength of the structure, the house can be placed in almost any location accessible by a large trailer and crane, with no complex foundations necessary and minimal building permissions required. The VMD was launched at Inédito as part of Design Week Mexico in October. Fulfillment of VMD orders will begin next year. + VMD Images via Taller Escape

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This prefab weekend retreat made from shipping containers can be ordered online

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