Africa’s first sustainable chocolate brand plans to sell in the US

October 7, 2019 by  
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While Africa grows 70 percent of the world’s cacao, very little chocolate is made on the continent. Instead, most of the raw material is shipped to other countries that then produce delicious chocolates. But De Villiers Chocolate is now working on becoming the first African-made, sustainably sourced chocolate brand available in the U.S. “Once we discovered the cocoa beans of the vibrant Bundibugyo region in Uganda , we began to realize the potential of the journey we had embarked upon,” said Pieter de Villiers, CEO and master chocolatier at De Villiers Chocolate. “It became our mission to create a chocolate brand true to its origin and the exotic taste of Africa .” Related: Cargill announces plan to reduce deforestation from cocoa De Villiers Chocolate currently sells its products at its studio on a historic Cape Dutch estate, online and through an upmarket grocery chain in South Africa. Now, De Villiers Chocolate has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $10,000 to help bring its chocolate to the U.S. From humble origins in a garage 10 years ago, De Villiers Chocolate has now grown into a Capetown, South Africa-based business producing chocolate, ice cream and coffee in South Africa’s Cape Winelands region. The cocoa and coffee qualify for three voluntary sustainable standards: Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ . De Villiers ethically sources all ingredients. It does not use palm oil, for the health of rainforests and the planet in general. It does not add artificial flavors, colorants, stabilizers, preservatives or hydrogenated vegetable oils to its chocolate. The company uses unrefined brown sugar as a sweetener, and the De Villiers dark chocolate is vegan. In a press release, De Villiers noted that Africans have not historically profited much from chocolate, despite the fact that most of the world’s cacao crop is grown there. “So how does Africa achieve sustainability ? Not by charity; charity to Africa is not sustainable. The only truly long-term endeavor is to facilitate and allow Africans to do it for themselves,” the press release reads. Through its sustainable sourcing and mission-driven products, De Villiers Chocolate is trying to put Africa on the map as a home to world-renowned chocolate artisans. + De Villiers Chocolate Image via De Villiers Chocolate

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Ecosistema Urbano designs a digitally integrated eco-campus for the University of Malaga

October 7, 2019 by  
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The University of Malaga in Spain will soon be home to a high-tech campus that will redefine the urban fabric with digital connectivity and renewable energy systems. Designed by Ecosistema Urbano to regenerate the underused Louis Pasteur Boulevard area, the project will not only enhance the city’s infrastructure, but it will also create new spaces where everyday university activities, including classes, can take place in public areas. Spanning a total surface area of 52 acres, the Malaga University Campus planning project will improve the climatic comfort and digital connectivity of currently underused public spaces. The plan targets four main strategies: a Connected Campus strategy for opening the university to its urban surroundings; a Green Campus strategy that seeks to create, restore and enhance existing green space; an Interactive Campus strategy that will allow users to visualize real-time information and manipulate physical aspects of public space with technology; and an Open Campus strategy to make educational meeting spaces and devices in the public areas available for use by both students and local citizens. Using a network of sensors and interactive technologies, the outdoor spaces can be manipulated to support both educational and playful programming, as well as improved outdoor comfort that can be enhanced with solar-powered climate conditioning systems. Related: Ecosistema Urbano’s amazing LED Energy Carousel is powered by play “One of the key aspects of this project is its commitment to using technology as a way of improving the interaction between people and the environment,” explained the architects, who were inspired by the smart cities approach. “It will be the first public space that users can control through an application. In parallel with the construction of the project, the official UMA app will be extended with open source modules that will allow access to an augmented environment of interactivity and information.” To reduce the environmental footprint of the project, the architects have proposed installing photovoltaic panels to power the campus’ bioclimatic conditioning systems, such as evaporative cooling and geothermal air circulation. Passive bioclimatic strategies will also be used, including shading elements like green walls and sculptural canopies. The first construction phase, which covers 17 acres, is planned for December 2020. + Ecosistema Urbano Images via Ecosistema Urbano

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Ecosistema Urbano designs a digitally integrated eco-campus for the University of Malaga

Cutwork proposes innovative just add water housing for refugees

September 23, 2019 by  
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In a bid to alleviate the global refugee housing crisis, Paris-based design studio Cutwork developed a conceptual housing proposal that it says will only take one day and, at minimum, two people without special construction skills to assemble. The concrete textile exterior can harden into a protective shell within 24 hours after water is added — a quick process that gives rise the project’s nickname, “Just Add Water.” According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are approximately 25.9 million refugees in the world. To help address the humanitarian crisis in refugee housing, Cortex Composites teamed up with Cutwork to design a self-built and low-cost housing solution that can last for more than 30 years with minimal maintenance. The Cortex Shelter combines Cutwork’s bendable metallic tube construction system with Cortex Composites’ rollable concrete technology to create a conceptual, flat-pack housing unit that can be easily assembled without the need for heavy equipment or machinery. Related: Temporary lantern-like housing for refugees could slot beneath bridges Each housing unit would feature a frame of metallic tubes, easily bent by hand, with waterproof and washable insulation sheets “snapped and locked” into place. Finally, Cortex Composites’ rollable concrete textile would be laid over the top of the exterior frame and combined with water to cure and harden into a protective shell. Topped with a simple gabled roof, the conceptual refugee shelter measures 22.6 feet in length and 11.8 feet in width to offer enough room for a private kitchen and bathroom area in addition to living space. Solar panels can be installed on the roof to power mobile phones and internal lighting. Operable windows would let in natural light and ventilation. “Built to last for over 30 years, the Cortex Shelter by Cutwork is cheap to build and maintain, vastly more so than the current temporary tent options,” reads the press release from Cutwork. “Weatherproofed for all seasons and climate conditions, its secure and strong walls are fire-, knife- and attack-proof, and there is a strong, key-operated door for further security.” + Cutwork + Cortex Composites Images via Cutwork

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Cutwork proposes innovative just add water housing for refugees

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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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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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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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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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

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