Discarded face masks now threatening wildlife habitats

March 16, 2020 by  
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The worldwide outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) prompted many to purchase face masks for protection. Unfortunately, these protective masks have been harming the environment. Why is that? The masks are made of the plastic polypropylene, which is not easily biodegradable. No surprise then that the accumulation of discarded face masks litters the environment and poses serious risks to the equilibrium of  habitats  and the health of wildlife, especially marine organisms. Environmental groups are now sounding the alarm on how cast-off coronavirus masks are escalating the  litter  and plastic pollution predicaments. Related:  The Ocean Cleanup has first success collecting plastic from Great Pacific Garbage Patch “We only have had masks for the last six to eight weeks, in a massive volume…we are now seeing the effect on the environment,” explained Gary Stokes, founder of Oceans Asia, a marine  conservation  organization. Stokes elaborated with the example of the Soko Islands off Hong Kong. On one 100-meter stretch of beach, Stokes discovered 70 masks, then an additional 30 the following week.  Hong Kong’s dense population means that its citizens have struggled with plastic waste.  Single-use plastic  makes matters more challenging. What’s more, Hong Kong does not effectively  recycle  all its waste. Instead, roughly 70% of its garbage ends up in landfills. That 70% is equivalent to approximately 6 million tons of refuse. Conservationists have been attempting to remove these masks from the environment through beach clean-ups. “Nobody wants to go to the forest and find masks littered everywhere or used masks on the beaches . It is unhygienic and dangerous,” added Laurence McCook, head of Oceans Conservation at the World Wildlife Fund in Hong Kong. Jerome Adams, the United States Surgeon General, has also  advised people to stop purchasing medical face masks , as they are ineffective at preventing COVID-19. Scaling back public purchasing of the masks would not only keep more masks available for medical professionals, but could also reduce the amount being discarded and its impact on the environment. Via Reuters Images via Pixabay

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Discarded face masks now threatening wildlife habitats

How Scotts Miracle-Gro uses community gardens to grow neighborhoods, markets

February 27, 2020 by  
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Empowering communities to design their own gardens amplifies the company’s corporate responsibility impact, plus boosts its customer base.

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How Scotts Miracle-Gro uses community gardens to grow neighborhoods, markets

Methane, manure and a net-zero pledge

February 27, 2020 by  
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By addressing a gas that can super-charge warming, Dominion Energy is breaking new ground. And its plans hinge on an unusual source of power.

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Methane, manure and a net-zero pledge

Leading states have designed new ways to help utilities fight climate change

February 27, 2020 by  
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An inside look at innovations afoot to manage energy demand in at least 13 states.

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Leading states have designed new ways to help utilities fight climate change

Animal rights groups work to "Open Cages" of animals on fur farms

December 24, 2019 by  
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The fashion industry has recently experienced a rise in fur bans , thanks to successful pressure by animal rights advocacy groups and heightened consumer awareness. But these fur-free policies also need to extend beyond the haute couture sector to change the agriculture industry as well. This is where the work of organizations like Tušti Narvai and Open Cages come into play. In 2014, Tušti Narvai, which translates from Lithuanian as Empty Cages, was founded in Vilnius. Its English branch, Open Cages, was then established in the U.K. four years later. As their names symbolize, both sister nonprofit organizations strive to “change the world for animals” by strengthening the protection of farmed animals , improving animal welfare and preventing their suffering. In fact, one of the key projects by Tušti Narvai and Open Cages is to end fur farms. The groups do so by mobilizing the public through education and legal change. Related: Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s to be fur-free by 2021 But who are Tušti Narvai and Open Cages? These organizations are members of Anima International (AI) , a coalition of European animal protection advocacy groups that “envisions a world where animals are not treated as products.” Both sister organizations have been conducting several campaigns to better the situation of farm animals by minimizing animal cruelty and demanding compelling change. These campaigns include the improvement of chicken welfare, the elimination of cages in industrial farming, the ban on foie gras and fur bans. Learn more about these campaigns here . The fur ban has been gaining traction within the fashion industry , in many ways due to the ongoing and very visible anti-fur movement by various animal rights groups. Tušti Narvai and Open Cages have jointly added to that momentum. In Great Britain alone, Open Cages has implemented the #FurFreeBritain campaign, together with the Humane Society International (U.K.). It is projected that the ban on fur will adversely alter the supply chain, therefore reducing incidences of unnecessary animal torture and mortality that stem from cramped living spaces, malnourishment, neglect and even brutality. For instance, Open Cages shared an exposé on a fox that was recently saved from a fur farm. “Now he lives happily in a sanctuary and is an ambassador of this cruel industry,” says the Open Cages website. Scientific American and the International Fur Trade Federation (IFTF) have stated that the majority of the fur industry’s pelts are now sourced from farm-raised animals, specifically mink, fox, chinchilla, lynx, muskrat and coyotes. Moreover, most of the remaining fur farms in the world can be found in Europe. These facts are what motivate the work of Tušti Narvai and Open Cages. From now until December 31, for every 10 euros in donations to the fur ban initiative, an anonymous sponsor will match them by $100. The campaign efforts are all to help in the fight against fur farms. In the words of Tušti Narvai, “Together, we can change the fate of animals kept on farms.” + Tušti Narvai + Open Cages Image via Clem Onojeghuo

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Animal rights groups work to "Open Cages" of animals on fur farms

How zip lining impacts tree health, according to experts

December 24, 2019 by  
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Outdoorsy people have long enjoyed hiking on remote trails or rafting on rivers. But aerial views have been harder to come by, until the recent popularization of zip lines. Although varieties of zip lines have existed for hundreds of years, they have become widespread in recent years. It’s a popular outdoor activity, but how does it impact trees? Zip lines originated 2,000 years ago in mountainous areas of China , India and Japan, where people first used them to transport supplies from one place to another and to traverse dangerous areas. Later, European mountaineers navigated between high points with zip lines. In the 1970s, wildlife biologists built zip lines in the Costa Rican rainforests to cause minimal environmental disturbance during their studies. These Costa Rican ziplines soon caught the attention of tourists, and entrepreneurs latched onto the idea, opening recreational zip lines in Costa Rica and then other parts of the world. Related: Inside the Mohicans — an Ohio treehouse empire The United States’ first recreational zipline, the Haleakala Skyline Tour in Maui , launched in 2002. Fewer than 20 years later, commercial zip lines operate in at least 72 countries on six continents, with more than 400 zip courses in the U.S. alone. Obviously, zip lining is popular with people. But what effect does it have on trees and forests? Inhabitat spoke with four zip-line experts to get their views on the subject. Designing a zip course When planning a zip course, designers look at topography, using hills, valleys and water features to their advantage. “People like to zip line because it makes them feel like they’re flying,” said Jon Johnson, owner and builder of Zipline Utah in Deer Creek State Park. “So, if you think about a bird flying through the air, you don’t want to fly over a parking lot. That’s no fun. You want to find some piece of ground that has unique features and aspects to it.” In Ohio, Larry Gerstner, co-owner of Hocking Hills Canopy Tours , had some advantages when he designed their second zip course. “I’m a civil engineer by trade,” he said. “When we had our first course built, it was built by Bonsai, which is maybe the leading [zip course] builder in the country. I worked with them when they built it and picked up a lot of information to go with my engineering background.” Since Gerstner already owned the property, he was familiar with its features when he designed the second course. “It’s more taking the terrain and the trees and using them to the best advantage. You need to start out high and end up low. We don’t have enough fall to do the whole thing. So all of our courses have a walk in the middle where you gain some elevation, so that you double-use the elevation.” Gerstner took advantage of the unusual Hocking Hills topography to end one zip line inside a shallow cave and cross a river several times. Attaching cables to trees The biggest danger to trees comes from attaching cables and bolts to them in order to hold up platforms. According to a report by the engineering firm Robson Forensic , “Drilling any hole into a tree creates a wound that makes the tree more susceptible to infection and decay.” So trees need to be chosen carefully. They should be healthy , sizable and of a species that can compartmentalize damage and limit the spread of decay around a wound. “We need to protect them as much as we can, and we do love our trees,” Gerstner said. Hocking Hills Canopy Tours hired an arborist to evaluate its trees and pick the best candidates for platforms. Gerstner explained that when attaching platforms to trees, they stack bolts on top of each other so that the cambrium, or growth tissue of the tree, is only disturbed in one spot. “You’re only taking a little bit of the tree that you’re using out of commission for a brief period. It does grow back around that.” Other attachments to the tree use oak blocks to minimize damage. “We cut oak blocks and put them around the tree, and put our cable through the oak blocks so that it never touches the tree and the tree can grow.” Putting a cable all the way around a tree would kill it. “We also ‘guy’ the trees, so that where we have the force of a zip line on the tree, we’ll have a guy that goes the opposite direction that holds that force, so there’s nothing really pulling on the tree,” Gerstner said. “The tree has to be able to move back and forth some, but we limit that moving back and forth to keep it strong.” Ongoing tree health Once a course is in use, staff and arborists frequently inspect trees to ensure health. Adventures on the Gorge in West Virginia operates Tree Tops Canopy Tours, a 10-zip course with five sky bridges that wind through an ancient hemlock forest. According to Roger Wilson, CEO, its Bonsai-constructed course uses the block-and-cable system. “As trees grow, the blocks and cables can be readjusted with minimal impact on these ancient trees.” In Trinidad, ZIP-ITT Adventure Tours operates a course including an 800-foot line with a stunning view of Macqueripe Bay. “We would like to think that we have enhanced many of the trees in our area as we continue to look after them, including regular spraying for termites,” said Matthew Devaux, ZIP-ITT’s director. Gerstner watches his Ohio forest closely for sick or dead trees. “So it’s not quite a natural thing. We take better care of it. It’s a managed forest.” In Utah, the way local wildlife interacts with zip lines has surprised Johnson. Unlike canopy courses that are built in trees, Johnson’s platforms are all on constructed towers. “We get a lot of hawks and a lot of bald eagles,” Johnson said. “We’ll see them swoop down and catch a fish in the lake. We’ll find half-eaten fish on our towers. They use our towers as perches.” Getting in touch with forests Zip lines are more than just an adventure. They can be a powerful way for people to connect with forests. “We would like to think we have brought an awareness to the green environment and that feeling of being one with nature as you zip around our course,” Devaux said. “Moving into Macqueripe 6.5 years ago, we brought such an awareness to our staff, who now understand the effects of littering and the impact it has on the environment. They are now like ambassadors for the area, which is a great achievement for ZIP-ITT. The team has embraced keeping the forest clean and educating those who come about the area and the flora and fauna we enjoy because of it.” Many zip guides make sure to slip some education into the adventures. Gerstner said that most of the Hocking Hills guides are ecology majors who talk about tree characteristics during the tour. “We get a lot of people from the city, and they’ve never been in the forest,” Gerstner said. “They get a bird’s eye view of being up in the trees. Most people never get that in their life.” Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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How zip lining impacts tree health, according to experts

Social media: the new capital markets activism

December 10, 2019 by  
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Increasingly, consumers and social media users are voicing their concerns — and companies are listening.

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Social media: the new capital markets activism

Looking at climate from the social angle

November 27, 2019 by  
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An NFL fullback, teen activists, a National Geographic photographer and others provide provocative talks about critical equity-climate connections.

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Looking at climate from the social angle

Is 3D printing part of the future for meat alternatives?

November 27, 2019 by  
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A new report shows how some companies and academic research labs are applying extrusion, 3D printing and cellular agriculture to produce meat alternatives.

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Is 3D printing part of the future for meat alternatives?

Fight or switch? How the low-carbon transition is disrupting fossil fuel politics

November 27, 2019 by  
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Global fossil fuel and overall energy consumption are still rising. But the new focus on them shows that the end is near.

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Fight or switch? How the low-carbon transition is disrupting fossil fuel politics

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