Arkansas schools save millions by adopting solar power

October 22, 2020 by  
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Schools in the U.S. are using solar energy to cut down on expensive electricity bills. With funds freed up, schools can then improve the quality of education. As a  report by Generation180  shows, over 7,300 schools use the solar power approach to save on utility bills.  Generation180 is a non-profit organization that champions green energy . The group’s 2019 report indicates that about 16% of U.S. school districts had installed solar panels with a capacity to generate 1,337 megawatts of power.  One little-known Arkansas school district leads the way in adopting green energy. Once a cash-strapped area, the district has been able to generate surplus income by using solar energy. Batesville School District includes six schools that serve about 3,200 students. Just a few years ago, the school district struggled to retain its teachers due to high power bills. In 2017, the schools faced a possible shutdown due to an annual power bill of over $600,000. However, the school district managed to overturn its fortunes by adopting a solar power project.  After conducting an audit, the district realized it could save up to $2.4 million in 20 years if they installed 1,400 solar panels and energy-efficient lights/gadgets. According to Superintendant Michael Hester, the district chose this approach in a bid to increase teachers’ salaries. “Let’s use that money to start pumping up teachers’ salaries,” Hester said “It’s the way we’re going to attract and retain staff. And it’s the way we’re going to attract and retain students in this day and age of school choice.” Adopting the new initiative allowed the schools to transform their $250,000 annual deficit to a $1.8 million annual surplus. As a result, teachers’ salaries have increased by $2000 to $3000. According to Generation180, if all public schools in the U.S. adopted green solar energy, the education sector could reduce emissions equivalent to that produced by 18 coal power plants. However, many factors stand in the way of such a feat. Some factors that make the process complicated include lack of proper policy and financing. In some cases, the problem comes from communities reluctant to take steps in adopting non-conventional energy sources.  + Generation180 Via Energy News Image via Pixabay

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NYCs Bronx 1 charter school achieves LEED Silver

October 20, 2020 by  
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New York City-based CTA Architects’ sustainable renovation and expansion of the Bronx Charter School for Excellence (also known as Bronx 1) has earned the high-performing school LEED Silver certification. In addition to renovating an existing 10,000-square-foot, two-story building, the architects added a new seven-story, 35,000-square-foot tower, a 4,500-square-foot, two-story annex and a 4,7850-square-foot, double-height gymnasium to better accommodate the charter school’s growing student enrollment. Local sourcing, recycled materials and energy-efficient fixtures were all incorporated to help the school achieve LEED Silver while staying within a relatively modest construction budget. Located at 1952-1960 Benedict Avenue in the Parkchester neighborhood, the Bronx Charter School for Excellence serves over 800 students from kindergarten to eighth grade. The renovated existing building — a two-story, brick-clad, wood-and-steel structure — as well as the new two-story annex are used primarily by the younger students, while the middle school-age students use the new seven-story tower. Eighteen classrooms were added to the new tower and five in the two-story annex to bring the school’s total to 35 classrooms. Related: Energy-neutral school in Utrecht enhances biodiversity In addition to expanding the building’s footprint and making several layout changes, the architects optimized the school’s energy efficiency. Low-flow bathrooms and LEDs reduce energy use, as does the emphasis on daylighting through large expanses of glazing that are shielded from unwanted solar gain by a sunshade system on the south elevation. Recycled and low-carbon materials are used throughout, from the recycled content poured-concrete floor in the lobby to the FSC-certified wood floors in the gymnasium. Bronx 1 has also earned LEED points for integrating LEED sustainability concepts into its teaching curriculum. For example, kindergarten students will be taught to collect old crayons and melt them into new ones in a lesson about recycling. Sixth graders will grow herbs indoors that will be used by eighth graders in cooking projects to learn the benefits of home gardening and the farm-to-table movement.  + CTA Architects Photography by Edward Menashy and Pericle Gheorghias via CTA Architects

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Add the timeless, minimalist Sage furniture collection to your home

October 20, 2020 by  
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The best designs incorporate functionality alongside visual appeal and garner added points for sustainability. It’s no surprise, then, that a new furniture collection called Sage stands the test of time by incorporating each of these elements. The Sage Collection is a furniture assortment that caters to both the home and office environments. In a partnership between American architect David Rockwell and renowned English furniture craft studio Benchmark, the Sage Collection features streamlined, functional design with multifaceted appeal. Related: HoekHome gives furniture a sustainable makeover For example, the credenza is made from solid oak or walnut and features sliding doors with patinated copper handles. It can be used as a room divider, media center or bar. The collections’ table options range from side tables to coffee tables to work surfaces. Each solid-wood piece stands as an example of the ever-present Benchmark focus on sustainable design by meeting the standards required for WELL-certified buildings.  Sean Sutcliffe, founder of Benchmark said, “Working together with David and his team, we have created a collection that we can all feel very good about. In a world that is full of plastic solutions , we think that the Sage collection brings a very fresh look using the most modern of materials — solid wood. We hope that its users will benefit not only from its aesthetics but also the inherent wellness it will bring.” For the office, the collection offers round, oblong and rectangular meeting tables with rounded corners and copper detailing. An adjustable sit-to-stand desk further represents the signature style and is available in a variety of woods and finishes. For the home environment or casual office, the collection includes a lounge chair and bench, with or without a backrest, which are all made from natural materials . This dedication to plastic-free materials extends to the upholstery fabric, made from coir, latex, sheep’s wool and recycled cotton. In fact, the entire collection has earned a DECLARE label, a certification that ensures humane worker treatment and material transparency for each product. David Rockwell, founder of Rockwell Group, said, “My team and I were inspired by the simplicity of Benchmark’s approach and their passion for finely wrought craft and honest materials to create a collection that is visually calming and intuitive. With productivity, healthfulness, and comfort in mind, we wanted to create a vibrant collection for what people want today.” + Benchmark Furniture + Rockwell Group Via Dezeen Photography by Petr Krejci via Rockwell Group

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Add the timeless, minimalist Sage furniture collection to your home

5 buildings on this Missouri campus just achieved LEED Platinum

October 8, 2020 by  
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The Danforth Campus at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri has just reached a major sustainable building milestone. This year, five separate buildings on the campus achieved LEED Platinum certifications, making it the only higher education institution to do so in 2020. The new accolades bring the total number of buildings with LEED Platinum designation to seven on the Danforth Campus. According to the school, the university’s green building design is part of an overall sustainability masterplan that aims to lower greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels through a combination of onsite energy efficiency and renewable energy. Related: LEED Platinum Sonoma Academy building takes cues from California’s landscape Four of the buildings can attribute their sustainable features to the East End Transformation, a $360 million reimagination project; the fifth building, January Hall, celebrates the heritage of a structure originally built in 1922 with a green renovation to upgrade environmental performance. This January Hall project went a step further by becoming certified under LEED v4, a brand new version of the sustainable rating system. The East End Transformation includes buildings designed to be 30% more efficient than standard structures, with heat recovery chillers to harvest waste heat, a living wall and a green roof over an underground garage. Additionally, the park’s landscape features rain gardens with bio-retention and diverse, native plants and trees. The school encourages low-carbon transportation methods with new pathways and a bike commuter facility that holds showers, lockers and electric vehicle charging stations. Thanks to envelope improvements, including a second layer of interior glazing to windows, wall insulation and additional roof insulation, January Hall has already achieved a 35% increase in energy savings compared to similar projects. Construction materials and finishes were selected based on environmental reporting and eco-friendly sourcing, while over 60% of the furniture and paneling in the hall’s East Asian Library was either preserved or reused to help minimize the project’s carbon footprint. + Washington University in St. Louis Images via Washington University in St. Louis

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5 buildings on this Missouri campus just achieved LEED Platinum

Maven Moment: School Bags

October 7, 2020 by  
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My sister and I went to a Catholic elementary school, … The post Maven Moment: School Bags appeared first on Earth 911.

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Mealworms can serve as protein source, research says

September 10, 2020 by  
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A new study published in the Journal of Insects as Food and Feed has revealed that yellow mealworms can serve as an alternative protein source for animals and, possibly, humans. The study comes at a time when global food demands keep rising. Spontaneous population growth in developing countries has led to a shortage of protein sources, prompting researchers to look for alternative options. The new research, conducted by Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), proposes yellow mealworms as a food source. Christine Picard, associate professor of biology and the director of the Forensic Investigative Sciences Program at IUPUI School of Science, led the research. The study focused on analyzing the genome of a mealworm species known as tenebrio molitor. “Human populations are continuing to increase, and the stress on protein production is increasing at an unsustainable rate, not even considering climate change ,” Picard said. Findings explain that the yellow mealworm can offer several agricultural benefits. Fish and domestic birds can use the worms as an alternative source of protein. The worms can also help produce organic fertilizer, with their nutrient-rich waste. The mealworm genome research employed a 10X Chromium linked-read technology. Researchers now say that this information is available for use by those seeking to utilize DNA to optimize mealworms for mass production. According to Picard, IUPUI’s research has dealt with the challenging part, opening doors for interested stakeholders. “ Insect genomes are challenging, and the longer sequence of DNA you can generate, the better genome you can assemble. Mealworms, being insects, are a part of the natural diet of many organisms,” Picard said. Since fish enjoy mealworms as food , the researchers propose adopting these worms for fish farming. Researchers also say that pet food industries can use the worms as a supplemental protein source. In the future, mealworms could also serve as food for humans. “Fish enjoy mealworms, for example. They could also be really useful in the pet food industry as an alternative protein source, chickens like insects — and maybe one day humans, too, because it’s an alternative source of protein,” Picard said. To facilitate the yellow mealworm’s commercialization, the IUPUI team continues researching the worm’s biological processes. + Journal of Insects as Food and Feed Via Newswise Image via Pixabay

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Mealworms can serve as protein source, research says

Wildfires have burned 2.3M acres across California this year

September 10, 2020 by  
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Over 2 million acres of land have burned in California this year alone, according to the U.S Forest Service. Unfortunately, fires are still breaking out and more destruction is expected. The state is bracing for the worst as summer comes to an end. Normally, the period preceding fall is the most dangerous in terms of fire outbreaks, and California has already witnessed more acres burned so far this year than ever recorded in a similar period. Currently, two of the state’s largest fires in history are still underway in the San Francisco Bay Area. More than 14,000 firefighters are deployed to handle these fires and others around the state. During the Labor Day weekend, a three-day heatwave aggravated the situation. Triple-digit temperatures and dry winds are making it hard for firefighters to control the flames. Related: Redwoods, condor sanctuary are damaged in California wildfires The continued increase in temperatures and forest fires is affecting services for the residents of the state. Pacific Gas & Electric, the largest utility company in the state, said it might cut power to 158,000 customers this week. According to the company, this move would be taken to reduce the risk of its powerlines and other equipment starting more wildfires . According to Randy Moore, regional forester for the U.S Forest Service in the Pacific Southwest Region, the state will close all eight national forests in southern California to prevent further damage. He said that the closures will be re-evaluated each day, based on the available risks. The service is monitoring daily temperatures and other weather aspects that are likely to lead to fire outbreaks. This decision consequently means that all campgrounds within national forests remain closed. “The wildfire situation throughout California is dangerous and must be taken seriously,” Moore said. “Existing fires are displaying extreme fire behavior, new fire starts are likely, weather conditions are worsening, and we simply do not have enough resources to fully fight and contain every fire.” Via Huffington Post Image via Steve Nelson / Bureau of Land Management

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Wildfires have burned 2.3M acres across California this year

Student designs inflatable bamboo greenhouses for sustainable farming

September 1, 2020 by  
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University of Westminster Master of Architecture (MArch) (RIBA Pt II) student Eliza Hague has proposed an eco-friendly alternative to the plastic-covered greenhouses commonly found in India. In place of the polythene sheeting that is typically used to cover greenhouses , Hague has created a design concept that uses shellac-coated bamboo. If applied, the weather-resistant and durable bamboo-shellac material would give the greenhouses a beautiful, origami-like effect and cut down on the excessive plastic waste generated by polythene sheeting. Created as part of her school’s Architectural Productions module that emphasizes biomimicry in designs, Hague’s shellac-coated bamboo greenhouse proposal follows her studio’s focus on challenging unsustainable architectural structures with nature-inspired alternatives. Polythene sheeting is currently the most popular greenhouse covering material in India. However, it needs replaced every year, which leads to excessive plastic waste. Related: 3-hectare desert farm in Jordan can grow 286,600 pounds of veggies each year Hague minimizes the environmental footprint of her design proposal by using locally sourced bamboo and natural resins extracted from trees. The paper-like bamboo covering is coated with shellac resin for weather-resistance. Hague also took inspiration from the Mimosa Pudica plant in redesigning the greenhouse structure, which would be built with collapsible beams and “inflatable origami hinges” so that the building could be flat-packed and easily transported. Once on site, the greenhouse would be inflated with air, covered with the bamboo-shellac material and fitted with expandable black solar balloons that would sit between the infill beams and cladding for the hinges to promote natural ventilation.  “The tutors in Design Studio 10 encourage you to analyse what it means to be truly sustainable in architecture, rather than integrating sustainability as a generic requirement which is often seen throughout the industry,” Hague said to the University of Westminster. “This helped to develop my project into something that challenges the suitability of widely used materials and current lifestyles.” + University of Westminster Images via University of Westminster

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7 easy science experiments for kids at home

August 28, 2020 by  
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Many kids will be spending more time learning from home as the school year ramps up during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without the beakers and test tubes of the science lab, it may seem difficult to provide hands-on learning. But have no fear, we’ve put together a list of easy (and fun!) home science experiments to entertain and educate youngsters at the same time. Lava lamp This experiment is sure to produce oohs and aahs from the smallest scientists. Prepare a clear plastic bottle; inside, fill the bottle one-quarter of the way with water. Then fill the rest of the space (nearly to the top) with vegetable, mineral or baby oil. Wait for the oil to settle above the water, then add a few drops of food coloring. Related: This DIY algae kit is an easy science experiment for kids The food coloring carries the same density or weight as water, so it will pass through the oil and color the water below. Now comes the fun part. Add a fizzy tablet, such as an Alka-Seltzer, to the container. It will plop to the bottom and then begin to release colorful bubbles as the carbon dioxide it produces finds its way to the top of the container. The experiment highlights the laws of science where lighter objects, such as gases, will float to the top while heavier substances will sink to the bottom. Water cycle in a jar The water cycle on our planet is a complex phenomenon to explain. After all, we don’t see water vapor rise. To create a visual expression, place about two inches of boiling water into a canning jar. Parents should handle this part. Then place a ceramic plate right-side up over the opening of the jar, sealing it. Wait about three minutes for steam to accumulate. Put several ice cubes on the top of the plate outside the jar. The warm air in the jar will condense and create water droplets, like rain falling from the sky when moist air from the Earth’s surface meets cold air from the atmosphere. Ocean in a bottle With a clean bottle, water, oil and food coloring, make an ocean in a bottle by replicating waves. Fill a plastic bottle one-third to halfway with water. Use blue and green food coloring to create the ocean color you desire. Of course, you can add a primary, secondary and tertiary color lesson at this time by allowing your child to mix blue and red to create purple or yellow and red to create orange. Leaving a few inches at the top, add vegetable or baby oil and tightly replace the cap. Now rock and roll the bottle to create waves. Volcano There are many ways to create your own volcano at home. You can get creative with papier-mâché or simply use a bottle or upturned box. Better yet, make a simple volcano shaped dome out of dirt, leaving a hole in the top to add ingredients. This is a messy project, so it’s best to create your eruption outdoors. Inside the homemade volcano of choice, place a container near the top to hold your ingredients. Support it from below if necessary. Add two spoonfuls of baking soda to the inside of the volcano. Follow that with a spoonful of dish soap (bubbles!) and about 10 drops of food coloring. Red and yellow make a nice orange color, but let the kids experiment. That’s what it’s all about! Now get ready for your eruption with the addition of one to two ounces of white vinegar. The idea is to replicate the pressure that builds up in nature, so play around with different amounts of ingredients . For a more explosive volcano, you can use a two-liter bottle. Place two teaspoons of dish soap, 6-7 tablespoons of water, a few drops of food coloring and 1 ½ cups of white vinegar. Add about ½ cup of baking soda quickly and step back! This experiment shows how pressure builds the need for carbon dioxide to escape. Create a sundial There was time before there were watches and clocks. Show kids how to monitor time using the age-old sundial technique, right from your yard. Simply find a long stick and insert it vertically into the ground. Begin on the hour, say 8 a.m. Use chalk or small pebbles to mark the shadow created by the stick. Come back each hour to mark the new shadow spot. Do this throughout the day to complete your sundial. Explain to children how the Earth’s rotation around the sun causes the shadow to move. Solar oven Heat from the sun on a hot day can cook lunch with the aid of a solar oven. To show kids exactly how powerful solar energy is, simply line the lid of a pizza box with foil from top to bottom. Line the lower portion of the box with black paper. Cut a window out of the lid, hinging it with about two inches remaining around the border. With the hinged portion open, adhere plastic wrap to the top and bottom of the remaining lid, creating a double pane “window” between the foil wrapped lid and the pizza box bottom. Ensure the plastic is sealed all the way around using tape to hold it in place. Once complete, take your box outside. Put food inside the box and angle the foil-lined lid to reflect light and heat through the clear plastic and onto the food. Prop your lid into place using a stick or straw and check frequently to make adjustments as the planet moves. Bon appétit! Grow veggies and compost While setting up a lab in the kitchen is fun, science is all around us in nature. Observe the changing of the seasons through leaves and plant cycles. Start with seeds and grow some pea plants. Also use your organic food scraps to show kids the magic of composting . + Science Fun Images via Adobe Stock, Adriel Hampton , Oliver Lyon and Jonathan Hanna

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Community First! provides affordable, permanent micro-housing

August 28, 2020 by  
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Community First! Village in Austin, a 51-acre sustainable development, provides  affordable housing  to Central Texas’ chronically homeless. McKinney York Architects recently designed two new micro-house concepts inside the community. These tiny homes are changing lives by providing homes for hundreds of locals who have fallen on hard times. The program, developed by Austin-based non-profit  Mobile Loaves & Fishes , consists of 120 total units. The organization is a social outreach ministry that has worked with the local Austin  homeless  community since 1998 through prepared feeding programs, community gardening and more. Related: Modular, affordable housing project opens in Portland McKinney York Architects founder Heath McKinney and her team chose to design two pro-bono micro-houses inside the community. These homes showcase the firm’s creativity and attention to detail while contributing to a  sustainable  cause. “Being a good neighbor to our local community is an important part of our office culture,” said Aaron Taylor, project manager for the first micro-home . “This, coupled with the firm’s mission to provide quality design for everyone, really made working at CommunityFirst! Village a fulfilling experience.” This first  tiny home  features what McKinney York Architects’ website describes as “humble modular materials” that “lend dignity to the dwelling through a straightforward, logical aesthetic expression.” The home also includes a screen porch positioned to take advantage of summer breezes while providing shelter from winter winds. Openings encourage cross-ventilation, and a double roof creates shaded heat gain reduction during the warmer months. “We try to find opportunities for great design, despite the inevitable constraints, whether it’s the size and orientation of an existing concrete slab or the available construction budget,” said Navvab Taylor, leader of the second home design team. The second home includes a butterfly roof to catch breezes and  collect rainwater  for the garden. Pine paneling accents the interior, and a screened porch keeps mosquitoes away while creating an open public space for socializing. + McKinney York Images © Thomas McConnell

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