Plastic pollution is causing reproductive problems for ocean wildlife

March 5, 2019 by  
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Plastic pollution is becoming a major problem for ocean wildlife. Organisms that ingest plastics are subject to hormone disruption and issues with reproduction that affect their overall health, a new study finds . Wildlife around the world is exposed to plastic pollutants called endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Not much is known about how these chemicals affect marine environments, though scientists have been studying them for years. According to The Guardian , killer whales, for instance, have been found with large amounts of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in their systems. These chemicals were a common ingredient in plastic products until a global ban in 2004. Scientists monitored a group of killer whales on Scotland’s coast and found PCBs in their system. This pod did not have any children over the course of the 25-year study. Related: Toxic bacteria found in microplastics on 3 different coastlines around Singapore Scientists estimate that the population of orcas around the world will be cut in half over the next 100 years because of high levels of PCBs in marine environments. Although these chemicals have been banned, they still reach the ocean via landfills and other waste sites. Marine life is susceptible to PCBs because of the amount of fat in their tissues, which absorbs the toxic chemicals at a high rate. “We are looking at the possible exposure [of marine life] and evidence of toxicity is still developing,” the Zoological Society of London’s Paul Jepson explained. Once whales have ingested these harmful chemicals, they pass them on to their offspring through the production of milk and extended lactation periods. The cycle is then repeated until the levels of PCBs reach a point where they affect reproduction. Some orcas have been discovered with more than 100 times the safety limit of PCBs, which build up in their lipid tissues. Although EDCs clearly have a negative impact on wildlife , the overall effects of these chemicals remain unknown. Researchers also have not studied how EDCs affect human populations. Scientists believe more research is needed to determine exactly why these harmful substances found in plastic pollution are affecting reproduction systems in ocean wildlife. Via The Guardian Image via Mike Charest

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Plastic pollution is causing reproductive problems for ocean wildlife

The Refill Shoppe enforces zero-waste packaging, provides bulk refill solutions for myriad household and beauty products

March 5, 2019 by  
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With the nearly constant conversation about zero waste and minimization in general, single use packaging is a hot topic. For many consumables, customers don’t seem to have many options in avoiding packaging waste. Think about the liquid products in your home and you’ll know what we’re talking about here. Shampoo bottles, hand soap containers, dish soap, cleaners, bubble bath and massage oils are just a few commonly-used items that come to mind. One company has taken a stand against single-use packaging and now provides a refill service so you can use your favorite containers again and again…and again, without the waste of individual bottles. The Refill Shoppe opened their flagship store in Ventura, California in 2010 with the idea that customers should have a place to refill regularly-used products. Think of it as a bulk section for household liquids. The founder, Michelle Stevens admits that she wasn’t sure people would buy into the business model. After all, it was a relatively new idea in this era of convenient consumables. But it didn’t take long for people to find out about the business and begin frequenting the location. Related: Oregon initiates first modern statewide refillable glass bottle system in the US The idea took off and now the company offers an online, mail-order options so you can order refills from the comfort of your home, even if you don’t live near the store. The process is as simple as any other form of online shopping. After scouring the website, customers choose the products they want and select their favorite scents. Up to six scents can be combined for variety. If you don’t already have an adorable bottle that you’re looking to refill , you can choose one from the site. Otherwise, you order will be refill pouches filled with your favorite product. Whether you bring your own container into the store or request a mail order, all ingredients are charged by the ounce. In-store, you can even bring a partially-full bottle . You simply weigh it with the contents before adding more and then weigh it again to calculate the amount of product you’re buying. For mail order, all per-ounce prices are listed on the site. Shipping fees are a flat rate $7 or free for orders over $100 throughout the continental U.S. They also ship to Hawaii, Alaska, Canada and Mexico for an additional charge. The website offers hundreds of products you likely use daily. Bathing and beauty products include face wash, shampoo, scrubs, salts and lotions, but they also offer sponges, brushes and mitts to apply the products. For the home you can find dishwashing liquids, laundry products and even yoga mat sanitizer, alongside reusable containers and other zero-waste products. They also stock cleaning products and eco-friendly supplies like wool dryer balls and burlap gift wrap. They even have men’s care, perfume and baby products. The Refill Shoppe realizes that no business model is perfect for the environment but they focus on doing everything they can to operate with a low-carbon footprint . All refill pouches are reusable , so after you’ve emptied the contents into your favorite container at home, simply drop it back into the pre-paid envelope and send it back, where it is sterilized and refilled for the next customer. All packing materials are reused and they try to use paper products exclusively. For packaging glass bottles, however,  they do employ pre-used bubble wrap. Because transportation emissions are a major eco-no-no in general, the company relies on USPS in an effort to deliver using regular, already-traveled routes. This avoids sending trucks out on special routes that increase emissions . Another way the company reduces transportation issues is with domestic production. With the exception of Himalayan bath salts, all items are produced in the United States. Related: Some of the largest manufacturers are going green with the milkman model   In addition to reducing waste, the company aims to provide products that are eco-friendly , cruelty-free, mostly vegan (with the exception of honey and beeswax in a few products), mostly gluten free, although items are manufactured in a facility that handles gluten, 99.7 percent GMO free, and proudly void of a host of toxins commonly used in other cleaners and beauty products. For their efforts, The Refill Shoppe has passed the qualifications to become a Certified B Corporation. This stamp of approval means they’ve passed rigorous standards of environmental and social responsibility up and down the supply and customer chain. In fact, the company has been recognized with awards and accolades by many notable agencies such as the Ventura County Reporter, Ventura County Board of Supervisors, California Air Resources Board, State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and the California Resource Recovery Association. In a country a long way from leading the planet in sustainable practices, companies like The Refill Shoppe not only offer an alternative for those aiming to live more sustainably, but also bring awareness to an industry currently guilty of significant plastic waste . + The Refill Shoppe Images via The Refill Shoppe

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The Refill Shoppe enforces zero-waste packaging, provides bulk refill solutions for myriad household and beauty products

California approves rule to require solar panels on new houses

December 12, 2018 by  
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The California Building Standards Commission has given its final approval to a new housing rule that is the first of its kind in the United States. Starting in 2020, the commission is requiring that all new homes built in the state include solar panels. “These provisions really are historic and will be a beacon of light for the rest of the country,” said commissioner Kent Sasaki. “[It’s] the beginning of substantial improvement in how we produce energy and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels .” Related: California waters could open soon to offshore wind farms In addition to the solar panel requirement, the new standard also includes an incentive for homeowners to add a high-capacity battery to their electrical system to store the sun’s energy. The rule does have an exemption for homes that are built in locations that are often in the shade. California has a history of setting trends across the country, and this new rule is the next step in the state’s progressive environmental policy. The state has a goal of sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions and drawing all of its electricity from renewable energy sources. The California Energy Commission first endorsed the solar panel rule back in May as part of California’s Green Building Standards Code. This past week, the Building Standards Commission added the requirement with a unanimous vote. Drew Bohan, executive director of the energy commission, said that the homes built under the new rule should use about 50 percent less energy compared to previous standards. The new solar power requirement is for single-family homes and multi-family buildings up to three stories high. It will add about $10,000 to the upfront cost of a home, but the lower electricity bills should balance that out over time. Bohan said that over the course of a 30-year mortgage, a homeowner should save about $19,000. Homeowners will have the option of buying the panels outright, leasing them or taking part in a power purchase agreement with the home builder. Via NPR Image via Ulleo

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California approves rule to require solar panels on new houses

Minimalist TRIPTYCH house pulls the Quebec outdoors in

December 12, 2018 by  
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Nestled in the Laurentian Mountains about a hundred kilometers from Montreal is TRIPTYCH, a crisp and contemporary home that blurs the boundaries of indoor and outdoor living. Designed by Montreal-based architecture firm yh2 , the residence was built in the image of three interconnected pavilions fitted out in a natural material palette as well as full-height glazing to pull the forested landscape indoors. Envisioned as a “theatrical stage for the surrounding nature,” the sculptural abode was carefully situated and angled for optimized views accentuated by the roofs that slope upwards in three directions. Constructed over the span of two years in Wentworth-Nord, Quebec, TRIPTYCH includes 2,500 square feet of living space spread out across two floors. The main living spaces—comprising an open-plan kitchen, dining room, and living room—are centrally located on the first floor in addition to an office, spacious outdoor terrace, and a guest suite located in the west wing. The master bedroom, on the other hand, is found on the ground floor’s east wing beneath the living room and is separated from the interior parking garage on the east end by centrally located storage and utility rooms. “The architects designed this building with a classical triptych in mind,” explains the firm in their project statement. “It features a central piece, with direct views of Lac St-Cyr, and two side pavilions meant to be in more intimate contact with the nearby trees. The project is about the idea of fragmentation; it evolved from the desire to integrate three discrete shapes among existing trees on naturally sloping grounds.” The three pavilions are connected with two glassed-in passageways. Related: Decrepit lumberjack shack transformed into a beautiful retreat with minimal site impact Natural materials were predominately used in construction. Eastern cedar planks clad the exterior facade and continue into the entrance area to blur the line between the indoors and out. The interior walls and ceiling are mainly gypsum board or white cedar while the floors are white oak or polished concrete. Black aluminum casings on the wide patio doors and windows provide a pop of contrast against the light-colored wood. + yh2 Photo credit: Maxime Brouillet

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Minimalist TRIPTYCH house pulls the Quebec outdoors in

Freedom for 5 moon bears held captive for 21 years on a bile farm

August 31, 2018 by  
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This Monday, non-profit group Animals Asia saved five moon bears that had been captive for more than two decades on a farm in Vietnam . The animals were held for 21 years, receiving regular bile extractions until their rescue from the southern town of My Tho, according to the group. The NGO transported the “freedom five” 1,050 miles by truck over the course of the week to Vietnam’s Tam Dao National Park. They were eagerly awaited at the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre , an expansive and lush sanctuary dedicated to the animals’ conservation since 2006. The #FiveAlive bears have been given names for the very first time in their lives. LeBON, Kim, Mai, Star and Mekong were treated for injuries such as abdominal penetrations as well as dental decay from malnutrition and biting the cages in attempts to free themselves. Related: Montana judge to rule on first grizzly bear hunt in 40 years “We know that in more than 20 years of cruel incarceration, LeBON, Star, Mai, Mekong and Kim have never had proper nutrition or medical care,” Animals Asia Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen said. “They have known only rusty cages and a life of suffering. They were viewed as commodities and not treated as individuals. At the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre, they will finally experience freedom, play in grassy enclosures, forage for food and have the chance to behave like real bears.” The moon bear, also referred to as the Asiatic Black Bear, as well as sun bears and brown bears are often captured by bile farms who sell the compounds in the practice of traditional medicine. The bears are listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List and endangered by the  CITES list . The global nonprofit Animals Asia was founded by Jill Robinson MBE and is celebrating its 20 year anniversary this month. Since then, Robinson, a medical veterinarian who is recognized as the world’s leading authority on the cruel bear bile industry, has been devoted to ending the longstanding eastern tradition of bile farming. “We eagerly await LeBON, Kim, Mekong, Star and Mai’s arrival at their new home at Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre,” Robinson announced shortly before their arrival. “They will never suffer behind bars again. This is an important step in our work to remove all of the bears who remain on farms in Vietnam from their cages and bring them to sanctuary . It is a new day for these innocent bears who will now finally enjoy some of the freedoms they were denied so long ago.” Related: Polar bears could go extinct sooner than scientists previously thought The Vietnamese government has been compliant with the NGO’s efforts, even signing a groundbreaking memorandum in 2017 agreeing to the removal and relocation of approximately 800 bears from bile farms to sanctuaries such as the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre. Social media support of the #FiveAlive mission has been pouring in with growing encouragement to donate to the bears’ care for the remainder of their — now free — lives. + Animals Asia Images via Animals Asia

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Freedom for 5 moon bears held captive for 21 years on a bile farm

Rebuilding for resilience — lessons from Puerto Rico and beyond

June 27, 2018 by  
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Over the course of just a few hours, Hurricane Maria exposed how fragile Puerto Rico is. Years of underinvestment in infrastructure and the recent financial crisis let the island languish, making the devastation far worse than it would have been otherwise. The storm caused the island’s entire electric grid to fail, its network of roads and highways to be disrupted, and access to clean drinking water lost. With no shortage of ideas on how to rebuild using better, stronger and cleaner technologies, who decides what gets built? How will it all be financed?

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An 1820s Catskills manor gets a marvelous modern makeover

June 26, 2018 by  
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Just two hours outside New York City sits a stunning vacation rental that blends old-world charm with contemporary design. Completed by architectural designer Tom Givone , the property was dramatically reworked over the course of four years from a decaying manor into the Floating Farmhouse , a beautiful home that combines historic and modern elements. Crafted to embrace the outdoors, the light-filled home features a veranda that appears to hover over the edge of a pristine Catskills creek as well as a fully glazed gable end wall. Originally built in the 1920s, the Floating Farmhouse had fallen into a severe state of disrepair when Givone came across it in 2007. After a painstaking demolition process that involved careful preservation of original features like the cedar roof shakes, he began rebuilding the structure — 11 pine trees felled on the property were used for the hand-hewn ceiling planks and wainscoting — and inserting a mix of modern and vintage furnishings throughout. “The hope at the outset was to combine archaic and modern elements throughout the home in a way that enhances the innate beauty of each by virtue of its contrast with the other, and create tension between polished and raw, primitive and industrial, sophisticated and simple,” Givone explained. “The Floating Farmhouse is an experiment in how these opposites attract.” Related: Disconnect in these A-frame tiny cabins in the Catskills The grandeur of the spacious interior is emphasized through ample glazing that fills the home with natural light and offers serene views. The most dramatic of the rooms is undoubtedly the “cathedral-like” kitchen with polished concrete floors, a wood-fired pizza oven and a double-story fully glazed wall that frames views of the brook, gazebo, apple orchard and barn. French doors to the side of the living area open up to a shaded veranda that hovers over the creek, where a waterfall cascades over an ancient stone dam. Givone has made his spectacular retreat available for rent . + Floating Farmhouse Images via Tom Givone

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An 1820s Catskills manor gets a marvelous modern makeover

Iceberg-inspired cultural center celebrates Inuit traditions

June 26, 2018 by  
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When Montreal-based Blouin Orzes architectes was tapped to design a new Inuit cultural center for the arctic region of Nunavik, they knew that the project would be no easy task. Nunavik, which occupies the northern third of the province of Quebec, not only has a harsh climate, but also faces incredibly high construction costs due to its remote location and lack of materials, which can only be shipped during the brief summer season. Despite these challenges, Blouin Orzes architectes has the advantage of experience—the firm has worked in Nunavik since 2000 and tapped into its intimate understanding of the culture and people to design a Cultural Center that celebrates Inuit traditions in a striking, iceberg-inspired building. Located in the Northern Village of Kuujjuaraapik near the mouth of the Great Whale River, the new 680-square-meter Cultural Center was created in close collaboration with the community. Drawing inspiration from the shape of icebergs , the architects designed the building—which spans 1 1/2 stories—with a strong geometric shape. The facility is sheathed in steel panels and yellow-painted timber planks that reference the sand dune on which the village sits. “Despite living in extremely remote communities, Nunavik’s Inuit do not hesitate travelling long distances by plane to visit each other or to attend an important cultural event,” wrote Blouin Orzes architectes in a statement. “Since the fall of 2017, the 10,000 people living in one of Nunavik’s 14 communities can now gather in a new Cultural Centre located in the Northern Village of Kuujjuaraapik, north of the 55th parallel. Originally planned as a showcase for the highly popular Inuit Games, the facility lends itself to all sorts of events, from storytelling, singing and dancing to concerts, films, banquets and other types of gatherings.” Related: Tiny Alaskan village votes to abandon 400-year-old ancestral home because of climate change The facility is accessed via a concrete ramp that extends to form an outdoor gathering space. A deep south-facing overhang that echoes the portico of the nearby church, the oldest structure in the village, protects the entrance. Beyond the lobby is the main hall, which accommodates up to 300 people and is equipped with state-of-the art AV equipment. + Blouin Orzes architectes Aerial image by Heiko Wittenborn, all others by Blouin Orzes architectes

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Iceberg-inspired cultural center celebrates Inuit traditions

Damage report reveals LA methane leak is one of the worst disasters in US history

February 25, 2016 by  
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A week after the ruptured natural gas well in Aliso Canyon was finally declared sealed , we have a full account of the environmental damage — and it doesn’t look good. A new paper published in the journal Science declared it to be one of the largest environmental disasters in US history. In total, 97,100 metric tons of methane were released into the atmosphere over the course of 112 days, equal to the greenhouse gas emissions of over half a million cars. Read the rest of Damage report reveals LA methane leak is one of the worst disasters in US history

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James Cameron designs five huge flower-shaped solar arrays to power his wife’s sustainable school

May 24, 2015 by  
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Blockbuster director James Cameron has added a new entry to the code of the language of flowers . By gifting his wife, Suzy Amis Cameron, a “bunch” of five solar arrays shaped like giant flowers for her MUSE School in southern California, he not only demonstrated his love for her, but his love for the planet as well. Cameron designed the solar arrays himself over the course of three years. Just like sunflowers, they pivot to face the moving sun to maximize the solar energy they can absorb each day. At an unveiling ceremony for the Sun Flowers, as they are named, Cameron explained, “I thought we should try to do something that inspires because this is about kids. Once you capture their imagination and empower them, they can do anything.” READ MORE > Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: “solar energy” , flower-shaped solar array , green schools , james cameron , James Cameron gives flower-shaped solar arrays to school , Muse School , solar design , solar panels

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James Cameron designs five huge flower-shaped solar arrays to power his wife’s sustainable school

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