PlasticWaste Labyrinth is a stunning look inside our plastic waste problem

July 20, 2017 by  
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Much of our trash is hidden from our daily lives, which is why design collective Luzinterruptus is shining the light on wastefulness in their latest environmental art installations. Located at the heart of Madrid’s popular tourist attraction Plaza Mayor, PlasticWaste Labyrinth is a massive maze constructed from the thousands of plastic bottles that had been consumed in and around the plaza in the past month. The Madrid City Council commissioned the installation, built in June for the fourth Centennial Celebration of Plaza Mayor within the “Four Seasons” city art program. The PlasticWaste Labyrinth design developed out of Luzinterruptus’ desire to create a large-scale interactive installation befitting the historical plaza. The giant plastic bottle maze is intentionally claustrophobic so as to make the public feel disoriented while exploring the intricate path and narrow passages flanked with three-meter-tall walls. Wrapped around the King Philip III statue, the 300-square-meter maze features corridors measuring 170 meters in length and takes three minutes to pace. “The idea was to graphically visualize the amount of plastic we generate in our daily lives which we don’t often recycle accordingly,” said Luzinterruptus. “As a consequence, all this plastic is dumped in nature and ends up floating in the ocean, forming huge plastic islands that are destroying the marine ecosystem and will not ever decompose. Bearing all this in mind, we thought it was paramount that the piece didn’t look friendly.” Related: Glowing circle made from thousands of recycled notebooks celebrate Bilbao’s book festival Around 15,000 plastic bottles, inserted with lights and placed in bags, were used for the walls of the PlasticWaste Labyrinth. The plastic bottles were collected from businesses surrounding the square as well as from local residents and visitors who could dispose of their plastic waste in two giant containers placed in the square. The maze was open day and night for four days. + Luzinterruptus Photography: Lola Martínez © 2017

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PlasticWaste Labyrinth is a stunning look inside our plastic waste problem

Give goods, find goods, and do good on National Thrift Shop Day

July 13, 2017 by  
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If you’re the type of shopper that lives for finding hidden gems in vintage stores, mark August 17th on your calendar. That’s when National Thrift Shop Day returns to encourage everyone to support their local thrift shops and score secondhand goods. New York City is taking this initiative a step further by bringing awareness to the day’s charitable component and reminding us why it would do a world of good if we went the thrift store route instead of buying brand new. Through its donateNYC program, the New York City Department of Sanitation helps New Yorkers “give goods, find goods, and do good” for their community – and they’re making it really easy for everyone to do their part. Read on for 10 great things you can find on Thrift Store Day – and where you can go to pick them up. Thrift stores have long been a place where anyone can hand off items that are no longer wanted or needed instead of throwing them in the trash. In this way, others who can’t afford these items at their original prices have a chance to own them at a lower price. Necessities like clothes, housewares, books, electronics and furniture are just some of the goods people can buy. Related: Sweden opens an entire mall full of reclaimed goods Oftentimes, these thrift shops are run by charitable organizations that use the money collected from purchases to fund initiatives that further help those in need. Goodwill , for example, backs “programs that provide education, skills training and career development that help people earn jobs in communities nationwide.” Not to mention, this practice of donating, upcyling, and buying secondhand goods reduces the amount of garbage that ends up in landfills, the energy and resources consumed by waste management, and the amount of money flying out of our pockets. It’s a win all around. If you’re not sure where to drop off your unneeded goods, donateNYC eliminates that hassle for you. A directory of participating shops and a map of your nearest drop-off locations can be found online, as well as through the free donateNYC app for Apple and Android . The program is part of NYC’s 0X30 initiative , which aims to send zero waste to landfills by 2030, and it’s an excellent resource on National Thrift Shop Day and every other day of the year. Below are some of the cool items you can find in thrift shops around NYC, courtesy of donateNYC. Vintage Clothing St. Luke’s Thrift Shop Council Thrift Shop Vintage Thrift Housing Works Goodwill The Salvation Army Handbags Housing Works Purses for Nurses Goodwill Vintage Thrift Bicycles Recycle-A-Bicycle Building Materials/Appliances Big Reuse Rebuilding Together NYC Salvage Store Habitat for Humanity NYC ReStore Electronics Lower East Side Ecology Center Jewelry CancerCare Arthritis Foundation Vintage Thrift Housing Works Hour Children Goodwill Textile Scraps FABSCRAP Furniture Refoundry Housing Works Habitat for Humanity NYC ReStore Big Reuse The Salvation Army Vintage Thrift Hour Children Housewares/furnishings St. Luke’s Thrift Shop Council Thrift Shop Vintage Thrift Housing Works Goodwill The Salvation Army Hour Children Habitat for Humanity NYC ReStore Books/Records Big Reuse Goodwill The Salvation Army Hour Children Housing Works Council Thrift Shop St. Luke’s Thrift Shop Cancer Care + donateNYC Images via Depositphotos and donateNYC

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Give goods, find goods, and do good on National Thrift Shop Day

New stacked solar cell absorbs energy from almost the entire solar spectrum

July 13, 2017 by  
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Most traditional solar cells aren’t able to convert long-wavelength photons into electricity . A team of researchers led by Matthew Lumb at The George Washington University is hoping to change that in order to capture more power. They’ve designed a solar cell that can harvest just about all of the energy in the solar spectrum – and could become the world’s most efficient solar cell with an efficiency of 44.5 percent. The scientists created a prototype of their solar cell that differs from most others: they stacked multiple solar cells to create a single device that can capture nearly all the solar spectrum’s energy. And as opposed to the solar panels that adorn many rooftops , this new solar cell utilizes concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) panels that concentrate sunlight onto micro-scale cells using lenses. Related: SunPower nabs record for world’s most efficient rooftop solar panel The cell works something like a sieve for sunlight, as each layer absorbs a certain set of wavelengths, to capture nearly half of available energy – most traditional cells only capture around one quarter. Efficiency is one of the main goals of any researcher working on solar cells, and these scientists obtained what could be the highest efficiency in the world using materials based on gallium antimonide (GaSb) substrates. A technique called transfer-printing allows the tiny cells to be constructed with great precision. But this groundbreaking solar cell wasn’t cheap. Still, though the materials utilized were expensive, the scientists think the technique to build the cells is promising to show how efficient a solar cell could be. In the future they think a similar product could hit markets “enabled by cost reductions from very high solar concentration levels and technology to recycle the expensive growth susbtrates.” The journal Advanced Energy Materials published the research this week. 12 scientists from the United States Naval Research Laboratory and other American institutions collaborated with Lumb on the paper. Via Newswise Images via Matthew Lumb and Pixabay

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New stacked solar cell absorbs energy from almost the entire solar spectrum

Water-purifying tower could heal landscapes scarred by acid mine drainage in South Africa

July 3, 2017 by  
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Johannesburg , South Africa was built on mining . The gold mining industry began there in the late 1800s , and the city still feels the impact of acid mine drainage, which pollutes the local water supply and scars the environment . Architecture For a Change has a solution: a dam and water purification plant that could help heal the landscape – and in the future, it could even provide housing . Acid mine drainage can pollute drinking water and soil. Johannesburg – near where some of the world’s biggest gold reefs are located – is suffering from the issue. Architecture For a Change says chronic exposure to acid mine drainage can cause cancer, skin lesions, and cognitive impairment. But they’ve found a potential solution through design . Related: Modern recycled container house in South Africa operates 100% off grid They envision a network of purification stations to heal the landscape. A skyscraper would house laboratories and the purification plant, which could draw on Trailblazer KNEW Ion Exchange technology to treat contaminated water. The treatment process would not only yield clean water, but minerals and substances like dolomite, gypsum, and salt that could be used in fertilizers or building. Re-mining Johannesburg doesn’t just clean up water, but could be integrated into the city’s urban fabric. Architecture For a Change envisions three phases for the project. First, water will be pumped from a mining void and purified, creating a large body of water that could become a waterfront held in by a dam. Second, as the land recovers water levels will go down, and the walls of the dam can be turned into housing. In phase three, in the far future, when the landscape is restored, the empty dam will be turned into a park fertilized with the byproducts of the treatment process, and surrounded by housing in the dam walls. The purification plant could be turned into a solar power station to provide energy for the homes. The main building could also have room for a hotel, restaurants, offices, or retail spaces in the future. The skyscraper design is inspired by mining headgear to connect the new buildings to the city’s past. Re-Mining Johannesburg also incorporates sustainable design : the building’s geometry means there is no roof or southern facade, minimizing heat loss. Heat from the purification process could be reused to warm the building in the winter. + Architecture For a Change Images courtesy of Architecture For a Change

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Water-purifying tower could heal landscapes scarred by acid mine drainage in South Africa

Global population buys one million plastic bottles every single minute

July 3, 2017 by  
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We’re drowning in plastic bottles . You already know plastic water bottle use – and their disposal or lack thereof – is a worldwide dilemma, but new statistics released by The Guardian reveal just how staggering the issue has become. Every minute humans purchase one million plastic bottles, consuming nearly 500 billion a year. And while it’s true many of these bottles can be recycled , it’s becoming harder for us to keep up with the sheer volume of trash that needs recycling, and a great deal of it lands up polluting our oceans . In 2016 humans bought over 480 billion plastic water bottles. But that’s only the beginning of the bad news. Less than half of those 480 billion bottles were collected for recycling. And a mere seven percent of those found a second life as new bottles. What happened to the rest? You guessed it: they’re littering our oceans and landfills . And estimates from Euromonitor International indicate their use will only increase, to 583.5 billion by 2021. Related: Plastic waste pop-up pavilion rethinks recycling in the Netherlands Surfers Against Sewage chief executive Hugo Tagholm told The Guardian, “The plastic pollution crisis rivals the threat of climate change …Current science shows that plastics cannot be usefully assimilated into the food chain . Where they are ingested they carry toxins that work their way on to our dinner plates.” Plastic is already showing up in our food, according to recent studies. Scientists at Belgium’s Ghent University found people who eat seafood unwittingly consume 11,000 tiny plastic pieces yearly. Researchers at Plymouth University in England discovered plastic in one third of fish caught in the United Kingdom. According to The Guardian, plastic was first popularized in the 1940’s – but much of the material manufactured then is still around today because plastic takes hundreds of years at best to break down. These bottles could be comprised of 100 percent recycled plastic , but many brands haven’t made the switch because they prefer the shiny look of traditional plastic. And many companies have fought against a tax on single-use bottles. But a similar tax on plastic bags has been quite successful: England’s five pound plastic bag tax has resulted in usage of the polluting bags plummeting by 85 percent . Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons and Emilian Robert Vicol on Flickr

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Global population buys one million plastic bottles every single minute

This high school in California embodies sustainability at every possible level

June 28, 2017 by  
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The new Center for Environmental Studies (CES) at Bishop O’Dowd high school in California is one of the greenest classrooms we’ve ever seen. Siegel & Strain Architects designed the building to support sustainability at every level while providing a flexible space for learning. It paid off – the classroom has achieved both Zero Net Energy and LEED Platinum certification. The new facility is located at Bishop O’Dowd, a college preparatory high school in the Oakland Hills in California . Its goal is to prepare students for careers in renewable energy, resource management and environmental engineering and inspire them to become innovators in tackling environmental challenges. Related: Sprout Space is an Award-Winning Prefab Modular Classroom by Perkins + Will Passive design strategies minimize the building’s energy use. A deep overhang and low-emissivity dual glazing protect south-facing clerestory windows from unwanted solar gain , while a large porch wraps around the building and shades its west side. Related: Project FROG’s Zero Energy Modular Classrooms Rainwater is collected in a series of large cisterns for use in toilets and irrigation, while low-flow water fixtures reduce the use of potable water by 60% over USGCB-estimated baseline water usage for a building of similar type and size. In order to create a healthy environment, the architects used natural, non-toxic, renewable, recycled and environmentally friendly building materials. + Bishop O’Dowd High School + Siegel & Strain Architects Photos by David Wakely

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This high school in California embodies sustainability at every possible level

Recycling Mystery: Is Bubble Wrap Recyclable?

June 23, 2017 by  
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I remember one of the most fun parts of unwrapping packages as a kid was seeing how many bubbles I could pop in the protective plastic packaging. I obviously wasn’t too concerned about reusing this material, let alone whether it could be recycled….

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Recycling Mystery: Is Bubble Wrap Recyclable?

Recycler Builds Electric Vehicle Out of Discards

June 14, 2017 by  
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Seeking a splashy way to display the impressive potential of trash, a recycling executive rescued a scrapyard sedan, rebuilt it as a recycled electric vehicle and equipped it with battery power from old laptops and other electronics discards. Then,…

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Recycler Builds Electric Vehicle Out of Discards

Australia’s amazing Upcycle House is made from the ruins of an old home

June 9, 2017 by  
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Australian architecture firm Alexander Symes has given an old building a new lease on life by repurposing its materials into a beautiful new home. Although the old structure was completely demolished, the architect – inspired by a “closed-loop zero-waste” ethos – decided to rescue the materials and implement them in the a house. Located in Blackheath, Australia, the 1,100-square-foot Upcycle House is a three-bedroom, two-bath family home with a large living area. The design team worked on the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and if it is broke, fix it” to sustainably build out the home’s exterior and interior with upcycled materials . Related: Lendager Arkitekter Unveils Incredible House Made Entirely From Recycled Materials The home is reinforced with insulated brick, and a solar pergola installed over the entrance pulls double duty as a sun shade and energy generator. Repurposed railway sleepers were used to create a walkway to the home’s sculptural entrance, where unique tile work gives the impression of an open, broken gap in the wall. The home’s interior is heavily influenced by Scandinavian design with clean simple spaces with a touch of whimsy throughout. The layout was strategically optimized to take advantage of the building’s East-West orientation, which gives the home optimal daylight, and reduces energy consumption . The living space floors feature colorful recycled tile mosaics that contrast nicely with the all-white walls. Ample bookshelves and hidden storage areas help residents avoid clutter. + Alexander Symes Architect Photography by Barton Taylor

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Australia’s amazing Upcycle House is made from the ruins of an old home

The simple way big brands can evangelize recycling

June 8, 2017 by  
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Why consumer packaged goods giants General Mills, Kellogg’s, P&G and Unilever are using How2Recycle label.

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