California becomes the first state to ban animal-tested cosmetics

October 1, 2018 by  
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A new California law banning the sale of animal-tested cosmetics is the first of its kind in the U.S. The California Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act was signed by California Governor Jerry Brown on Friday soon after its inception by colleague and Senator Cathleen Galgiani. The regulations will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020, restricting manufacturers wishing to “import for profit, sell or offer for sale” all cosmetics produced with animal testing. Violators will incur a base fine of $5,000, plus $1,000 for each day they continue their illicit activities. Currently, several  animals are manipulated in the cosmetics industry including mice, rats, rabbits and guinea pigs. A large proportion of these test subjects are killed after experimentation, but not before they have been exposed to possibly irritating or even deadly substances. Susceptibility to hazards is determined by force-feeding or causing the animals to inhale chemicals in order to evaluate toxicity levels. Related: LA City Council unanimously agrees to ban the sale of fur The new California law makes the Humane Cosmetics Act, a federal bill that would eliminate the practice of animal testing in the cosmetics industry, all the more significant. The vital legislature was introduced to Congress last year, but has yet to be passed. Unfortunately, the greatest loophole that remains in the groundbreaking law is an exception for products for which no alternative experimentation procedures exist. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been very lax thus far, simply asking companies to “employ whatever testing is appropriate and effective” to eliminate adverse effects for consumers. California joins a list of governments, such as the EU, India, Israel and Norway, that have already adopted such a ban. But some countries, including China , require animal testing on all imported cosmetics. These animal-tested products could also funnel through the California legislature’s loopholes — as long as animals weren’t used to determine the safety of a product for sale in California specifically. While there has been a push in China to move away from animal testing, there is also greater incentive for companies to stop animal testing. Companies hope to avoid having to pay for two sets of testing, one set of animal tests for China and another to be able to sell the same products in the EU or California. “It gives greater impetus for [the cosmetics] industry to push for changes in other countries,” said Vicki Katrinak, program manager for animal research issues at the U.S. Humane Society. “We’re hoping that California will just be the start of resolving this issue.” + The California Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act Via The Huffington Post Image via Siora Photography

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California becomes the first state to ban animal-tested cosmetics

The ground under a West Texas oil patch is moving ‘at alarming rates’

March 23, 2018 by  
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Local residents, infrastructure, and oil and gas pipelines could be at risk from the ground heaving and sinking in West Texas after years of fossil fuel production, according to a new study from Southern Methodist University (SMU) scientists. In an SMU statement , research scientist Jin-Woo Kim said, “This region of Texas has been punctured like a pin cushion with oil wells and injection wells since the 1940s and our findings associate that activity with ground movement.” Two large sinkholes around Wink, Texas, may just be the start, according to Kim and SMU professor and geophysicist Zhong Lu. Scientific Reports published their research online earlier this month: Kim and Lu drew on radar satellite images revealing significant ground movement in an area of 4,000 square miles. One spot saw movement of up to 40 inches in two and a half years. Lu said the ground movement isn’t normal. Related: Massive sinkhole opens up in the middle of a Brazilian farming town Imagery and oil well production data from the Railroad Commission of Texas helped the researchers connect the ground movement to oil activity. Pressurized fluid injection into what SMU described as “geologically unstable rock formations” in the area is one of those activities; the scientists discovered ground movement corresponded with “nearby sequences of wastewater injection rates and volume and CO2 injection in nearby wells.” And, outside the 4,000 square mile area, more dangers may lurk. Kim said, “We’re fairly certain that when we look further, and we are, that we’ll find there’s ground movement even beyond that.” SMU said the region is vulnerable to human endeavors because of its geology , including shale formations and water-soluble salt and limestone formations. Lu said, “These hazards represent a danger to residents, roads, railroads, levees, dams, and oil and gas pipelines, as well as potential pollution of ground water . Proactive, continuous detailed monitoring from space is critical to secure the safety of people and property.” + Southern Methodist University + Science Reports Images via Nicolas Henderson on Flickr and Zhong Lu, Jin-Woo Kim, SMU

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The ground under a West Texas oil patch is moving ‘at alarming rates’

Total field ban on bee-harming neonicotinoids likely after new EU assessments

March 1, 2018 by  
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A total ban on pesticides that harm bees is highly likely in the European Union, according to The Guardian . The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published new assessments Wednesday confirming the risks of neonicotinoids for bees. Countries will vote next month, and a total field ban is likely. EFSA just put out new assessments, releasing conclusions updating ones from 2013 on the neonicotinoids clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam. The assessments cover honeybees , as well solitary bees and bumblebees for the first time, according to The Guardian, which also said the authority scrutinized over 1,500 studies to come to their conclusions. EFSA finalized them after consulting with pesticide experts in the European Union , whom they said supported their conclusions. Related: Over 700 North American bee species are heading towards extinction EFSA’s Pesticides Unit head Jose Tarazona said they were able to arrive at very detailed conclusions as there’s an ample amount of data, saying in a statement, “There is variability in the conclusions, due to factors such as the bee species, the intended use of the pesticide, and the route of exposure. Some low risks have been identified, but overall the risk to the three types of bees we have assessed is confirmed.” Many environmentalists and scientists welcomed the news, according to The Guardian. Friends of the Earth campaigner Sandra Bell said in a statement , “We have been playing Russian Roulette with the future of our bees for far too long. The UK government has already said it will support a complete ban on the outdoor use of these three bee-harming chemicals — a move that is fully justified by this report. Other EU countries must now back a tougher ban too.” The EU passed a partial ban in 2013, according to The Guardian, following EFSA’s first assessment finding unacceptable risks for bees from neonicotinoid pesticides. + European Food Safety Authority Via The Guardian Images via Danilo Batista on Unsplash and Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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Total field ban on bee-harming neonicotinoids likely after new EU assessments

Dutch villa smartly taps into solar energy and optimal site conditions

March 1, 2018 by  
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EVA Architecten took the long view when designing Villa IJsselzig, a modern home optimized for energy efficiency and durability. Set next to the river Hollandse Ijssel, the villa respects the neighboring buildings by adapting a similar form but also quietly stands out with its distinctly contemporary design. Renewable energy including solar and a heat pumps power the home while the carefully positioned openings reduce unwanted solar gain. Topped with a dark copper roof and reddish-brown bricks, Villa IJsselzig was built to appear as a singular sculptural mass. The river-facing facade to the north is left mostly transparent with full-height glazing that wraps around the communal areas while the home’s opposite side on the south is mostly closed off from view and protected by a garden for privacy. The placement of these openings and orientation also mitigate solar gain , particularly unwanted heat build-up from the south, and are supplemented by extra-insulated walls. Related: Solar-powered M House is a light-filled modern Dutch villa In contrast to its dark facade, the interior, designed in collaboration with NEST architects , features a lighter palette. The interior is organized around a wooden core surrounded by white walls. The wooden core contains the staircases, storerooms, and other facilities thus opening up the other rooms to flexible open-plan use. The living spaces are located on the ground floor whereas all the bedrooms are placed on the upper floor and overlook the river. + EVA Architecten Via Dwell Photos by Sebastian van Damme

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Dutch villa smartly taps into solar energy and optimal site conditions

GM unveils new self-driving car with no pedals and no steering wheel

January 12, 2018 by  
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You won’t need a steering wheel in the autonomous cars of the future. General Motors (GM) just brought us a little closer to this bold new reality with the Cruise AV. It lacks that apparatus along with pedals and manual controls – and they’d like to see the driverless cars on the roads next year. GM’s Cruise AV could hit the streets as soon as 2019. They’ve filed a safety petition with the Department of Transportation for their fourth-generation of the car. The company says the Cruise AV is the “first production-ready vehicle built from the start to operate safely on its own, with no driver, steering wheel, pedals, or manual controls.” Related: Toyota’s ultra customizable self-driving vehicle can transport people, goods, or services GM said they spent hours of real-world testing to develop the Cruise AV. The car company acquired LIDAR technology company Strobe last fall, with Strobe’s engineers joining GM’s Cruise Automation team to develop the technology for self-driving cars. The car is equipped with advanced sensor systems and has two main computer systems, so if the primary computer fails the secondary system can jump in. A crash-imminent braking system also serves as a backup, ready to hit the brakes if needed. “Our Cruise AV has the potential to provide a level of safety far beyond the capabilities of humans,” GM said in their 2018 Self-Driving Safety Report . GM says all their autonomous vehicles will be electric . They paint a vision of a world free of car crashes – since human driver error is “the primary cause of 94 percent of crashes,” according to GM , their driverless cars could help pave the way for safer road travel. They’re also marketing self-driving cars as offering mobility no matter a person’s age or physical capabilities. You can read GM’s 2018 Self-Driving Safety Report here . Via General Motors ( 1 , 2 , 3 ) Images via General Motors ( 1 , 2 ) and Jeffrey Sauger for General Motors

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GM unveils new self-driving car with no pedals and no steering wheel

France is the world’s most sustainable food country

December 7, 2017 by  
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Thanks to proactive measures put in place to curb food waste, France now ranks #1 in the world when it comes to food sustainability . In 2016 , the country became the first globally to require supermarkets to donate unsold food to charity, and for restaurants to provide doggy bags when requested, or be subject to fines of up to €75,000 ($82,324) and two years in jail. The  Economist Intelligence Unit graded 34 nations based on food waste, environment-friendly agriculture, and quality nutrition as part of a newly launched Food Sustainability Index . Several other European countries broke the top five, including Germany, Spain, and Sweden, while Japan ranked second. Despite being a highly developed country (high-income countries tend to rank better) the U.S. sits in a much less desirable 21st place, thanks to its over-consumption of meat, sugar, and saturated fats. Poor management of soil and fertilizer in agriculture were additional reasons it was downgraded further. Related: Study finds that cutting food waste could feed one billion hungry people Interestingly, the very wealthy United Arab Emirates ranked last. Food waste in the country is nearly 1,000 kilos (2,205 lbs) per person per annum. The UAE is experiencing an increase in obesity rates and an agriculture sector that is straining water supplies. Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, called the waste “unethical and immoral” in a statement, especially since hundreds of millions of people go hungry each day. According to Reuters , 815 million people are afflicted by global hunger, which is more than one in 10 persons on the planet. Food waste also produces incredible amounts of greenhouse gases in landfills, making it the third largest source of emissions after China and the U.S. As Inhabitat previously reported , over 1.4 billion tons of food is thrown out across the globe each year, which the World Bank estimates to be  between one-quarter and one-third of all food produced . In France alone, 7.1 million tons were being trashed before the 2016 food waste bill was passed. Now it loses just 1.8 percent of its total food production annually, and there are plans to half that figure by 2025. Via Reuters Images via Pixbay

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France is the world’s most sustainable food country

Classic Eichler gets a tasteful renovation and expansion in the heart of Silicon Valley

December 7, 2017 by  
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Klopf Architecture has refurbished and expanded a classic Eichler home in the San Mateo highlands while keeping its mid-century modern charms intact. Working in collaboration with Outer Space Landscape Architects and Coast to Coast Construction , the updated single-family home was enlarged into a 2,285-square-foot dwelling with four bedrooms and two baths with the help of 3D modeling. Set in the heart of Silicon Valley , the Eichler renovation was commissioned by a young couple with two small children, who, as evidenced by their choice in furnishings, sought to maintain the modernist and minimalist look of their home in the upgrade. “The goals were to maintain the Eichler style while bringing in high quality, more current materials and updating what was already there,” wrote the architects. The clients also desired a new addition that would be used as an office and guest room. Using 3D modeling , the architects determined that the most suitable location for the addition would be in the side yard, rather in the rear due to set back limitations. “The addition needed to be transparent so it would not appear massive and take up the side yard,” added Klopf Architecture. Like the rest of the existing home, the addition features post-and-beam construction, Eichler profile siding, and dark bronze door frames. Related: Vintage Eichler home receives open and airy remodel that preserves its roots The bathrooms, entry, and storage were also enlarged. The interior is lined in timber paneling—some of which new to replace damaged paneling—all of which was re-stained to bring out the wood’s rich colors. The leaky steel radiant heating tubes were replaced with a new radiant floor heating system beneath concrete slabs and new flooring installed throughout the home. + Klopf Architecture Images ©2017 Mariko Reed

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Classic Eichler gets a tasteful renovation and expansion in the heart of Silicon Valley

European parliament bans Monsanto from entering

September 29, 2017 by  
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Monsanto recently refused to be present at a hearing in which the European parliament planned to dig into allegations the agrochemical company unduly influenced studies into glyphosate’s safety, according to The Guardian. The European parliament wasn’t too happy with that – and just banned Monsanto from entering parliament. The agriculture and environment committees of the European parliament had set up a hearing for October 11, at which academics, campaigners, and regulators were to be present – but Monsanto decided not to come. The hearing is expected to go over allegations the company influenced regulatory studies into the safety of a key ingredient in their best-selling product RoundUp . Angry, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) subsequently banned Monsanto lobbyists . The Guardian reports this is the first instance of MEPs utilizing new rules to withdraw access for businesses that disregard summons to hearings or inquiries. Related: California adds Monsanto’s glyphosate to list of chemicals known to cause cancer The leaders of major parliamentary blocks supported the ban in a vote, according to a spokesperson for European parliament president Antonio Tajani, who also said, “One has to assume it is effective immediately,” even as officials need to work through a formal process. Under the ban, Monsanto officials will not be able to go to committee meetings, meet MEPs, or use digital resources in Strasbourg or Brussles on parliament premises, according to The Guardian. Green Party president Philippe Lamberts said, “Those who ignore the rules of democracy also lose their rights as a lobbyist in the European parliament. U.S. corporations must also accept the democratic control function of the parliament. Monsanto cannot escape this.” The vote comes before a decision on whether or not to re-license glyphosate later this year. Philip Miller, Monsanto vice president, said in a letter to MEPs, “We have observed with increasing alarm the politicization of the EU procedure on the renewal of glyphosate, a procedure which should be scientific but which in many respects has been hijacked by populism.” One expert World Health Organization panel has linked glyphosate to cancer , while another said it was safe for public use. According to The Guardian, Monsanto spends around €300,000 to €400,000 – or around $354,690 to $472,920 – on lobbying in Brussels. Via The Guardian Images via Die Grünen Kärnten on Flickr and BUND Bundesverband on Flickr

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Evovelo unveils cute little solar car you can pedal like a bicycle

July 28, 2017 by  
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Today Evovelo unveiled a tiny solar-powered vehicle that combines the advantages of a car — such as safety, weather protection and stability — with the ease of a bicycle and the low energy consumption and space utilization of a light electric vehicle. The cute little trike is called Mö, and its practicality, customization, and sustainability make it a great fit for commuters looking to lower their environmental impact. Mö is perfect for short commutes, as it is made from sustainable materials and it has an all-electric range of up to 50 kilometers (31 miles). The vehicle has a top speed of 45 Km/h (about 30 mph), and a set of roof-mounted solar panels rapidly recharge the vehicle’s 1000Wh battery. A single hour in the sun will yield 5-10 kilometers of range, and the vehicle will fully recharge in 3-4 hours. The tricycle can also be propelled by pedal power to further extend its range, and a regenerative braking system stores energy as the vehicle slows down. Its dimensions of 140 cm wide, 200 cm long and 130 cm high means Mö doesn’t take up much space; however, it is large enough to seat two adults up front and two children in the back with optional kids seats. Because Mö has a full lighting system, turn blinkers, safety belts, a front crash crumple zone, side impact protection, and other safety features, one can feel comfortable commuting in the environmentally-friendly vehicle. The vehicle’s battery can be removed and charged at home, in the office, or in a garage – wherever one has access to an electrical outlet. Evovelo’s new prototype officially debuted today in Malaga, Spain, and more information — including its cost — will be released in the near future. + Evovelo

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Evovelo unveils cute little solar car you can pedal like a bicycle

Erin Brockovich helps Oklahoma Pawnee Nation take on fracking companies

July 11, 2017 by  
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Oklahoma has become an earthquake hotspot in recent years, and many are blaming companies that engage in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking . Last year, the state saw its largest earthquake ever recorded at a 5.8 magnitude, close to the town of Pawnee. The Pawnee Nation is suing over 25 oil and gas companies, with the help of famous consumer advocate Erin Brockovich . The amount of earthquakes with a magnitude of 3 or higher in Oklahoma was greater than in California for the first time in 2014. Many people blame the practice employed by oil and gas companies of injecting wastewater from fracking into the Earth. Related: Oklahoma earthquake activity up 4000%, locals sue oil and gas companies National Geographic explained the amount of earthquakes in Oklahoma spiked as did activity from fossil fuel companies. Once the state saw either none or a couple of magnitude 3 earthquakes every year. In 2009 that number escalated to 20. From there the situation only worsened: the state had 109 magnitude 3 or higher earthquakes in 2013, 579 in 2014, 903 in 2015, and 623 in 2016. That’s two or three of these quakes every day. Brockovich actually used to spend her summers in Oklahoma with her grandparents as a child. She told National Geographic, “The only thing I’d worry about growing up there was tornadoes. Now I’d be afraid not of a tornado, but an earthquake? That’s just bizarre.” She said it’s hard “to go back to Oklahoma, to see how on edge [the Pawnee people] are. The question they keep asking is, ‘When will it end?’ The Pawnee Nation is suing Eagle Road Oil LLC, Cummings Oil Company, and 25 other companies for damage to reservation property and historical buildings, with the help of Weitz & Luxenberg along with Brockovich. They say the companies were knowingly causing the earthquakes and their actions “constitute wanton or reckless disregard for public or private safety .” Via EcoWatch and National Geographic Images via Sarah Nichols on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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