Passive solar home makes the most of a difficult, triangular site in Sydney

July 17, 2019 by  
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When asked to renovate and expand a home on a challenging triangular lot in Sydney, local architectural practice studioplusthree decided to build upward to make the most of the awkward site. By elevating the home’s new addition into the canopy of a large existing fig tree, the architects maximized access to natural light and city views while taking advantage of the tree’s shade. Dubbed the Platform House after its “new living platform,” the updated house also boasts increased energy efficiency thanks to the use of passive solar strategies as well as the installation of solar hot water panels and a rainwater collection system. Completed over the span of 36 months on a tight budget, the Platform House has been enlarged to cover an area of 2,131 square feet with a 753-square-foot basement. The existing ground floor was retained but reconfigured to house four bedrooms, a sitting room and an outdoor courtyard, while most of the attention was given to the new elevated extension. In contrast to the all-white ground floor volume, the new “platform” is clad in blackened timber and cantilevers out to provide shelter to the courtyard below. Related: A prefab home in Sydney celebrates indoor-outdoor living “Responding to the triangular site, the diagonal cut of the first floor volume is manifested in elements throughout from window reveals to planter boxes and outdoor seating,” the architects explained in the press release. “Acting as both cladding and screen, the upstairs volume is wrapped in a charred cypress , all of which was undertaken by hand, on-site. The design aims to integrate functionality into the details to enrich family living — such as the northern edge of the elevated deck, expressed in a continuous element that incorporates planting, outdoor seating, privacy screen, benchtop and storage.” For added privacy, the new living platform is partially sheathed in a series of sliding perforated bronze screens that protect against solar heat gain yet still let in natural light when closed. Deep eaves and recessed blinds shelter glass openings, while the fig tree provides additional protection against the western sun. The open-plan living spaces also open up to a north-facing outdoor terrace. + studioplusthree Photography by Brett Boardman via studioplusthree

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Rag pasta sauce pulled from shelves for possible plastic contamination

June 19, 2019 by  
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This week, “America’s favorite pasta sauce” was pulled from shelves and home kitchens across the country for fear that it contains plastic fragments. Mizkan American, the corporation that owns Ragú, announced a recall over the weekend for its Chunky Tomato Garlic & Onion (45 ounce and 66 ounce jars), Old World Style Traditional (66 ounce jar) and Old World Style Meat (66 ounce jar). Grocery stores and retail outlets have pulled the items from the shelves, and customers are encouraged to check their kitchens and dispose of any of the above-mentioned jars if they were produced between June 4 and June 8. Related: Have your plastic and eat it, too — The average American ingests 50,000 microplastic particles a year “Mizkan America also asks consumers to examine their refrigerator and pantry inventory for the specific jars affected by this recall,” the company said in a press release. “Any recalled sauce should be discarded and not consumed.” Customers can also call the Ragú hotline at 1-800-328-7248 for a replacement. According to Mizkan American, no customers have been hurt, sick or reported any injuries; however, the recall is “out of an abundance of caution.” The company also wrote, “This recall is at the retail level, and all impacted retailer customers have been notified of this voluntary recall prior to this press release.” The Ragú recall comes after a string of similar recalls by major processed food corporations. Last week, Tyson Foods also recalled more than 190,000 pounds of chicken as a precaution for potential plastic contamination. In April, Tyson recalled beef patties for similar issues. Many health inspectors and worried consumers believe that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration are not strict enough on food recalls. In fact, as mentioned in the Ragú press release, the pasta sauce recall is voluntary. In 2015, there were 12 cases of food recalled for foreign particles. In 2018, that number rose to 23 recalls, the majority of which were plastic fragments. Via EcoWatch Image via Mike Mozart

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The environmental secrets the fashion industry does not want you to know

March 25, 2019 by  
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The fashion industry has grown in leaps and bounds over the past few decades. Having greater access to the latest trends in fashion is great, but the industry as a whole could do a lot better lessening its environmental impact on the world. Some of the biggest issues with the fashion industry are microplastics used in production, child labor violations and new disposable fashion trends— which put more waste into landfills around the world. If you are curious about how the fashion industry is affecting the environment, here’s an inside look at the industry’s biggest hidden secrets. Related: The sustainable wardrobe: it’s more accessible than you think Fashion’s Environmental Impact Mass-producing clothing items for the fashion industry has massive implications on the environment. The industry as a whole contributes greatly to water waste and has a large carbon footprint – and that is only considering production. Discarded items of clothing end up in landfills around the world, further polluting waterways and oceans. When it comes to clothing production, it takes thousands of liters of water to produce a single cotton shirt. Farms that grow cotton also use a quarter of the world’s insecticides. Around a trillion gallons of water are used to die fabrics, which further contributes to water waste . Child Labor Laws Aside from environmental concerns, the fashion industry also violates child labor laws in certain locations around the world. Areas most impacted by child labor violations include Bangladesh, Argentina, China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia. In Bangladesh, for example, child workers – most of whom are women – only take home around $96 every month. The country’s government, however, says that its citizens need at least $336 a month to meet basic living requirements. Given how the country has little regulations on labor and environmental practices, the situation is unlikely to change in the near future. Related: Faux fur or real fur, which one is better for the planet? Plastic Microfibers One of the biggest issues with the fashion industry is the use of plastics in garments. Synthetic materials such as nylon, polyester and acrylic are used in over 60 percent of clothing. Plastics are used in fashion because they are long-lasting, budget-friendly, pliable and light. The problem with incorporating synthetics in the production of clothing is that they leach plastic microfibers into the environment. These microfibers eventually make their way to the ocean, where marine organisms ingest them. Once eaten, the plastics can lead to digestive blockages, growth issues, problems in the endocrine system and even starvation. “One of the problems is plastic ingestion at all levels of the food chain, which may pass plastic to larger animals and humans. The question is ‘is it acceptable to us to end up eating plastic?’” Heidi Savelli, an expert with the UN Environment, explained. Discarded Clothing Fashion sales have skyrocketed over the past few decades. The industry has seen a growth of around 60 percent since 2000, which is partly because clothing does not last as long as it used to. On average, people retain a piece of clothing for about half the amount of time as they did in the late ‘90s. This trend of discarding and buying clothes has been profitable for the fashion industry, but it has led to disastrous effects on the environment. With production steadily increasing, more and more water is being used in cotton farming while excess materials are overcrowding landfills . Industry Solutions With the fashion industry causing a major concern for the environment , there are a few things it can do to become more eco-friendly. For starters, companies can make changes to the manufacturing process, which will reduce the amount of plastic that ends of polluting the environment. The primary issues in clothing are the density of the material and the length of fibers. If these two problems are addressed, then there will be a lesser chance of plastic microfibers shedding in the wash. Companies can also incorporate better finishing techniques when making clothing, which can also reduce microfiber issues. There also needs to be an improvement in the way microfibers are captured, both in efficiency and scale. There are capturing devices on the market, but they are not geared towards large-scale operations. What Can You Do? There are a number of different things you can do to lessen the fashion industry’s impact on the environment. For starters, you can repair clothing items instead of replacing them whenever possible. When it comes to laundry, washing less is the best way to reduce microfibre shedding. You should also look into investing in a front load machine, as they are better at handling plastic microfibres. If you want to go the extra mile, there are special bags that catch plastic debris in the wash and reduce these particles by over 80 percent. At the end of the day, doing your part to help curb disposable fashion will only go so far, and unless the industry makes some major changes, these environmental concerns will continue to grow. Via UN Environment , The Progressive Images via Shutterstock

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The environmental secrets the fashion industry does not want you to know

Shellfish farmers push to use pesticides in oyster beds

February 12, 2019 by  
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Pesticide use for oyster beds is once again threatening Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay. Shellfish growers are making another push to allow for the spray of pesticides on clam and oyster beds in the region, which environmentalists and state officials say is a major risk to invertebrates, like the Dungeness crab. Oyster growers claim they need the pesticides to kill burrowing shrimp that harm oyster beds and prevent them from harvesting their product. The companies are looking to reverse a current ban on the use of pesticides such as the neurotoxic imidacloprid. They area also supporting three bills in the state legislature. If passed, these initiatives would make it legal for the companies to spray pesticides in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. The Ecology Department has already put measures in place that prevent the use of pesticides on oyster and clam beds. Related: France is the first country to ban all 5 pesticides linked to bee deaths Officials with the state and federal government claim that there is strong evidence that suggests these pesticides are harmful to the environment . While the chemicals are effective against burrowing shrimp, they also kill other forms of ocean life that include the Dungeness crab. Fortunately, there are a variety of groups that are fighting the oyster growers and the newly proposed laws. This includes the Western Environmental Law Center, the Center for Food Safety, the Center of Biological Diversity and the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat, all of which are filing appeals to keep the pesticide ban in place. The appeals will be heard at the Pollution Control Hearings Board over the next few weeks. It is unclear if the oyster growers will be successful in their attempts to lobby for legislation that makes it legal to spray pesticides in oyster beds in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. Via Capital Press Image via SeahorseDigital

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Shellfish farmers push to use pesticides in oyster beds

The PACT Act hopes to ban animal cruelty at the federal level

February 4, 2019 by  
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Even though it has been a federal crime to create and distribute animal torture videos for nearly a decade, the actual act of animal torture has not been banned at the federal level. Now, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) are trying to change that with the re-introduction of the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act (PACT Act). If passed, the PACT Act would prohibit “intentional acts of crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, impaling or otherwise subjecting animals to serious bodily harm,” according to a press release . The law would also make it easier for U.S. attorneys to prosecute the horrible acts, and those convicted would face seven years in prison plus fines. Related: New Jersey first state to ban wild animals in circuses Currently, all 50 states have separate laws against animal cruelty . However, according to CNN , the federal statute would allow authorities to go after criminals who cross state lines or torture animals on federal property. Rep. Buchanan said that animal torture is “abhorrent,” and we should be punishing people who commit this act “to the fullest extent of the law.” Buchanan added that protecting animals from cruelty is one of his top priorities. Rep. Deutch said the legislation is “common sense,” and animal welfare is an important issue for many Americans. He explained that Congress should build on current state and local laws to guarantee animals a level of protection throughout the entire country. According to the press release, there are exceptions included in the law, such as “normal veterinary care, hunting and conduct necessary to protect life or property from a serious threat caused by an animal.” Multiple groups have endorsed the legislation, including The National Sheriffs Association, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Humane Society of the United States. In a petition to garner support for the bill, the Humane Society wrote that even though every state has felony penalties for malicious cruelty, we need a federal law to close the gap for when it occurs on federal property or in interstate commerce. + PACT Act Via EcoWatch Images via Kimdewar0 and Timur85

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The PACT Act hopes to ban animal cruelty at the federal level

Historic warehouses transformed into a swanky boutique hotel in New Orleans

July 12, 2018 by  
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New York City-based architecture and interior design firm Stonehill Taylor tapped into New Orleans’ storied past for its design of The Eliza Jane , a new boutique hotel a few blocks west from the city’s iconic French Quarter. The unique hotel was created from seven centuries-old warehouses that were combined and renovated to form a variety of elegantly dressed spaces including 196 guest rooms with 50 suites, a fitness center, garden courtyard, lounge, restaurant, and lobby. Created as part of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, the Eliza Jane hotel was named after Eliza Jane Nicholson, the first woman publisher of a major metropolitan newspaper in the United States. In the late 1800s, Eliza Jane had worked as the publisher of ‘The Daily Picayune,’ which was one of the original warehouse occupants. Moreover, Stonehill Taylor wove references to ‘The Daily Picayune’ and the buildings’ other original occupants—like the Gulf Baking Soda company and the Peychaud Bitters Factory—throughout the adaptive reuse design. The ‘Press Room’ lounge on the ground floor, for instance, is decorated with typewriters and other antiques referencing a 19th-century newsroom. “The intent was to create a quintessentially New Orleans setting, a sophisticated blend of old and new, that pays homage to the building’s past,” says Stonehill Taylor in a statement. “The hotel is built within seven historic warehouses that stand distinct on the outside but have been internally conjoined to create the luxury accommodations with a 2,000-square-foot open-air interior courtyard .” Related: Abandoned NYC warehouse is reinvented as LEED Gold-certified apartments The arrival sequence is anchored by a 60-foot-tall light-filled atrium surrounded by lush greenery and the original exposed brick and slate-colored plaster walls. Repurposed materials can also be found throughout the interior, while new custom wall coverings reference the different historic uses in each building. The opulent material palette is combined with vibrant patterns and rich colors to create a setting that feels luxurious and uniquely New Orleans. + Stonehill Taylor Images via The Eliza Jane

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Historic warehouses transformed into a swanky boutique hotel in New Orleans

Go glamping with views of the Statue of Liberty on NYCs Governors Island

July 12, 2018 by  
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A new glamping destination has popped up in an unlikely location — a 172-acre island just across the river from New York City’s Statue of Liberty. Launched by Denver-based Collective Retreats on Governors Island , the Collective Governors Island retreat offers luxury tents with modern amenities in a verdant setting just a quick ferry ride from Manhattan. The experimental campsite is the first time camping has been allowed on Governors Island, which has recently undergone dramatic changes from a military base to a beloved summer escape for New Yorkers and tourists alike. Glamping — short for “glamorous camping” — at Collective Governors Island offers an all-inclusive experience with a variety of high-end dining options, amenities and activities available. Currently, the 100-person campsite includes two luxury tent types: the Summit Tents and the Journey Tents. The Outlook Shelters, a series of full-service suites housed in repurposed shipping containers , are coming soon as well. Both the Summit Tents and the Journey Tents are outfitted with comfy beds and linens as well as electricity, however, the former is a larger, more luxurious option that includes added amenities like a private en suite bathroom; the Journey Tents are connected to a shared bathroom. Related: Luxury facilities let campers enjoy nature with no hassles Although Governors Island is less than a 10-minute ferry ride from Manhattan , the naturalistic setting makes the island feel miles away and is ideal for a relaxed glamping experience. This area is mainly owned by the city and state, while 22 acres are controlled by the National Park Service. Related: Inspiring urban farm teaches kids how to grow their own organic food A recent push to open the car-free island to the public has seen the addition of movie nights, community gardens , and public art installations. However, a curfew and the ferry’s limited schedule meant visitors had been previously barred from staying overnight. Although guests at Collective Governors Island will not have free reign over the island at night, there are more than enough activities to keep families entertained, from the new The Hills Park to biking paths. A stay at the Collective Governors Island starts at $150 a night. + Collective Governors Island Images by Patrick Chin

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Go glamping with views of the Statue of Liberty on NYCs Governors Island

Flint representative’s staff barred from attending EPA chemical summit

May 24, 2018 by  
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been trying to keep certain people out of a toxic chemical summit, according to reports. Some journalists were barred from entry on Tuesday, and representative Dan Kildee (D-Michigan), who represents Flint , said on Twitter  that his staff wasn’t allowed to attend the EPA’s summit on Wednesday. Kildee said EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s “lack of transparency and willingness to deny access to Members of Congress and the media is deeply troubling.” My staff was not allowed to attend today's @EPA #PFAS summit, and I represent communities affected by drinking water contamination. @EPAScottPruitt 's lack of transparency and willingness to deny access to Members of Congress and the media is deeply troubling. https://t.co/TK6ojDQ77o — Rep. Dan Kildee (@RepDanKildee) May 23, 2018 Several sites in Kildee’s district are contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Kildee’s district, according to Earther — and those substances were the focus of the National Leadership Summit on PFAS. So, it seems like it would have made sense for Kildee’s staff to attend an event on the chemicals. Pruitt said in an op-ed piece published by the Detroit Free Press that, at the summit, representatives “from more than 35 states — including Michigan — more than 20 federal partners, several tribes, dozens of industry, non-governmental groups and other national organizations will share valuable recommendations for how EPA should deal with PFAS in communities and communicate the risks associated with PFAS.” Related: The EPA wants to limit what science can be used to create regulations Tuesday’s attendee list included Kildee’s staff, and they were told Wednesday sessions were “limited to federal agency folks and states.” A spokesperson for Kildee said that was accurate but the “larger issue, in the Congressman’s opinion, is the EPA limiting or denying access to the taxpayer-funded PFAS summit, either to Members of Congress, the media, or the general public.” Pruitt said Michigan is to spend $1.7 million on testing water supplies — “including in 1,380 public water systems and 461 schools” — after finding PFAS in drinking water and lakes. Michigan stopped providing bottled water to Flint residents in April and said the water is safe. Many Flint residents don’t buy that; local LeeAnne Walters, a 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize winner , and other residents launched an ongoing Chuffed campaign to get water to the housebound, elderly, and disabled. + White House Via ThinkProgress and Earther Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Flint representative’s staff barred from attending EPA chemical summit

Energy company ditches plan to install a possible tar sands oil facility in New York

May 24, 2018 by  
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Environmentalists celebrated a victory in New York state after an energy company tossed out a 5-year-old plan to install a facility that could have handled Canadian tar sands oil. The plan had clear environmental risks and posed a threat to area residents. After resistance from environmental groups and the public,  Global Companies  decided to abandon the plan. Erin Doran, senior attorney at Riverkeeper , an environmental organization devoted to protecting the Hudson River , said in a statement , “The proposal threatened the health of neighboring communities and would have placed the Hudson River at a greater risk for a disastrous oil spill .” Massachusetts-based Global Companies had requested boilers capable of handling heavy crude at the Port of Albany back in 2013 — Times Union pointed out the company did not indicate the facility would be used for tar sands oil, although it could have — and a legal battle ensued. Company spokesperson Liz Fuller told the Times Union, “We are withdrawing that request and plan to resubmit a renewal application with modifications later this year. The changes to the permit will include a reduction in the amount of crude oil handled through the terminal and will not include a system for the heating of crude oil.” Related: Extreme fossil fuel financing has surged to $115BN under Trump Doran said this is the second major victory in 2018 for Hudson River protection, “…coming after the defeat of industry’s request for new anchorage grounds to facilitate the transport of more crude oil.” She said since 2014, together with other partners, Riverkeeper had been battling the plan in court. She called on New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to approach Global Companies’ next submission “as a new application and to ensure that the operations at this facility finally undergo a comprehensive environmental review.” According to the Times Union, Global Companies sued that department back in 2015 for failing to issue a permit for the boilers, and DEC won an appeals court ruling earlier this year upholding its decision that the energy company’s permit application lacked sufficient information. This week, DEC said it was pleased that Global Companies withdrew its plan. Earthjustice lawyer Chris Amato described this development as “a huge victory for the families that live, work, and go to school in Albany’s South End…Global’s proposal would have spewed more toxic pollution into the air, endangering the health of South End residents, including hundreds of children who live and attend [Giffen Elementary] school in the shadow of the Global facility. This has been, and continues to be, a fight for environmental justice .” + Riverkeeper Via the Times Union Images via Bill Morrow and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Energy company ditches plan to install a possible tar sands oil facility in New York

Trump administration wants to allow "extreme and cruel" hunting methods in Alaska

May 23, 2018 by  
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Donald Trump’s administration is angling to amend hunting regulations for national preserves in Alaska , and not for the better. Announced this week, the proposed changes would reverse Obama-era rules that forbid hunting methods the Sierra Club described as cruel and extreme. Among these methods? Baiting bears with human food and shooting wolf pups and bear cubs in their dens. The National Park Service (NPS) announced the proposal this week, saying it would toss out 2015 regulatory provisions banning hunting practices that Alaska allows on state land. Their proposal would affect national preserves, but not national parks . The Associated Press reported that increasing hunting rights on federal lands has been among Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s priorities; the Washington Post said that the NPS’s proposal is in keeping with an order from Zinke to assent to states’ wishes to expand recreational hunting. Related: Trump fills his wildlife protection board with big-game trophy hunters These rules would allow Alaska officials to make the final decision about methods such as killing bear cubs with their mothers, shooting swimming caribou from a boat, targeting animals from snowmobiles or airplanes, hunting animals in their dens, baiting animals with sweets, or poisoning animals. “Targeting cubs and mothers through baiting and other extreme hunting measures has no place on our public lands ,” said Alli Harvey, an Alaska representative for the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign. “Zinke is undermining science-based wildlife management and the basic premise of public lands as places for wildlife conservation . This decision overrides fundamental national environmental safeguards in the name of narrow interests.” You can comment on the proposal on the Regulations.gov website until July 23. + Sierra Club + National Park Service Via The Washington Post and the Associated Press Images via  Depositphotos (1)

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