A modular classroom for environmental education pops up in a Barcelona park

February 21, 2019 by  
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Flexible, transportable and cost-efficient, the modular classrooms created by local design studio Baena Casamor Arquitectes BCQ offer a sustainable new way to activate Barcelona’s public parks. Inspired by timber cabins, the prefabricated pop-up classroom is a multipurpose space sheathed in wood and crafted with a focus on environmental education for school groups and families. The architects recently installed a classroom prototype, AULA K, in the Parc de Can Zam with a built area of nearly 1,200 square feet. Constructed primarily of timber, the prefabricated classroom is designed to blend into the park surroundings with the future aim of providing habitat to certain species of animals, including insects, birds and bats. “It is a pavilion destined to give more life to the parks, complementing the offer of leisure, recreational and sports with the educational dimension,” the architects said in a statement. “It must be a space open to the outside; it is necessary that one could see the trees from the classroom, to perceive the light and feel the climate.” To create flexibility in the design, the classrooms can comprise any combination and configuration of three modules — a service module, classroom module and pergola module — so as to best meet the needs of each site. The modular architecture is prefabricated in a factory and can be installed on site in just a few weeks. The prototype at Parc de Can Zam consists of the service and classroom modules and is topped with sloped roofs optimized for solar panel installation and rainwater collection. Related: Modscape installs a prefab school building that stays comfortable year-round The use of prefabrication helps reduce the time and cost of producing the classrooms, which share a uniform wooden envelope and a large opening on the facade to let in natural light and views of nature. The classrooms can be modified to generate energy, return rainwater to underground aquifers, reuse stormwater runoff as garden irrigation or provide habitat for local fauna. + Baena Casamor Arquitectes BCQ Photography by  Marcela Grassi via Baena Casamor Arquitectes BCQ

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A modular classroom for environmental education pops up in a Barcelona park

Verizon pledges $1 billion for programs that help the environment

February 15, 2019 by  
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Verizon is fulfilling its promise to better the environment. Keeping true to its commitment to corporate responsibility , the telecommunications company has allocated $1 billion to spend on programs that have a positive impact on the environment. Last year, Verizon committed to convert 50 percent of its energy consumption to renewable sources over the next six years. To that end, Verizon borrowed $1 billion worth of funds from green bonds to pay for projects that invest in renewable energy sources at its production facilities. This includes hydrogen fuel cells, solar technology and wind farms. “This is now a real game changer,” Verizon’s chief sustainability officer Jim Gown explained. “The whole goal of this new bond was to focus on a new, unique funding source.” Related: Denmark to build 9 renewable energy-producing islands south of Copenhagen Verizon would not have been able to fulfill its promise of renewable energy without the new bonds. According to Fortune , the bonds were a major success because more people were purchasing the low-cost bonds than they had to sell, which resulted in a low borrowing rate. The company did not reveal how low the rate sank. Green bonds have become a popular way to fund environmental projects over the past five years. Last year, these types of bonds raised more than $167 billion across the world, and experts believe that number could reach as high as $200 billion in 2019. Verizon is on a growing list of companies that are using green bonds to fulfill their promise of corporate responsibility. Apple , for example, previously borrowed $2.5 billion to fund projects, while Telefónica, a cell phone company based out of Spain, took out $1.1 billion this year. Along with funding renewable energy projects, Verizon plans to use the bonds to increase efficiency in its facilities. Most of the $1 billion the company borrowed will be used to better the environment, but some of it will go toward installing LED lighting and smart sensors to reduce energy use when employees are gone. The company is taking its commitment to corporate responsibility a step further by also spending money on its reforestation program, which seeks to plant new trees in Miami and Puerto Rico, areas that have recently been devastated by hurricanes. + Verizon Via Fortune Image via Shutterstock

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Historic hotels in Spain switch to renewable energy in the new year

January 7, 2019 by  
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A state-owned chain of historic hotels in Spain is  going green in 2019  and setting an example for the rest of the country (and the world). The Paradores hotel brand — which includes grand hotels housed in ancient castles and monasteries — has announced that starting this year, all 97 of the chain’s properties will use electricity from renewable energy sources. “Paradores is a company that supports sustainable tourism in every sense of the word,” said company chair Óscar López Águeda. “What’s more, as a public company, we also want to set an example when it comes to investments that encourage energy saving and responsible consumption.” Related: Blue dye could be the next key to harnessing renewable energy The 90-year-old hotel chain signed a deal with Spanish utility giant Endesa to make sure that all electricity used in the hotels will come from green sources starting on January 1; however, the chain has no plans to stop using natural gas . Head of hotel communications Sonia Sánchez Plaza said that natural gas is less polluting compared to traditional sources the hotel has used in the past, but it is gradually eliminating its reliance on fuel oil. Sánchez Plaza added that the company has an ambitious plan to bring renewable energies like biomass, solar and geothermal into Paradores. Founded in 1928, Paradores has more than 10,000 rooms in its hotel chain, and it employs more than 4,000 staff members. Sánchez Plaza said that the company needs to protect the environment , because many properties are close to national parks and biosphere reserves. Environmental group Ecologists in Action has applauded Paradores’ decision and believes that others should follow in its footsteps. Group coordinator Paco Segura said that getting public bodies to switch to renewable sources of energy has a transformative effect. The Spanish government has a goal of switching the country’s entire electricity system to renewable sources by 2050, and it also wants to decarbonize the economy. Its draft climate change and energy transition law aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent from 1990 levels, and it also bans new licenses for fossil fuel drills, hydrocarbon exploitation and fracking wells. In October 2018, the government also struck a deal with the unions to shut down the majority of Spanish coal mines, and in return, the country will invest 250 million euros into mining regions over the next decade. Via The Guardian Image via Mr. Tickle and Paradores

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Historic hotels in Spain switch to renewable energy in the new year

9 sustainable living tips to take from our grandparents

January 7, 2019 by  
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Our grandparents and great-grandparents lived in a simpler time, and we aren’t just talking about technology . During the Great Depression, many rural areas didn’t have running water or electricity, and things like proper refrigeration, freezers and air conditioning were a luxury. What’s more, big-box chains and massive supermarkets didn’t exist, and you didn’t have the option of throwing a pre-packaged meal into a microwave or hitting a drive-thru for lunch. Many modern conveniences are great, and in many ways, living in 2019 is much more enjoyable than 1935. But there are a lot of things we can learn from older generations to help live a more sustainable life. Here are some things our grandparents and great-grandparents did to live a simpler life that was a lot more eco-friendly. Make meals from scratch For the first time in American history, people are eating at restaurants more than they are cooking at home . In 2016, sales in restaurants passed grocery sales, meaning that people are spending more on eating out than eating in. Cooking from scratch is starting to become a skill that fewer and fewer of us know how to do, and that is resulting in people not knowing where their food comes from or how it was prepared. Related: 10 tasty and easy vegan dinner ideas Not only is cooking a survival skill that everyone should have, but preparing food at home makes you more self-sufficient, and it leads to a healthier diet. Plus, it saves your family a ton of cash, and it is much more environmentally friendly. You will use less packaging when you buy fresh ingredients, and when you skip the restaurant, you can reduce your food waste . If it breaks, fix it We admit that things are made differently than they used to be. With the strategy of planned obsolescence , products aren’t designed to last as long and can break rather easily. From fashion to cars to appliances to electronics, things break, go out of style and become obsolete faster than ever. This can lead to spending money on the newest gadgets and trends, even though we could easily fix what is broken or alter what we have to fit our needs. Our grandparents knew how to mend their clothes and fix broken items, or at least knew where to go to get things fixed. Instead of tossing things out the moment they aren’t perfect, take the time to fix or mend them. Bring your lunch Remember when having a sweet lunchbox was an important part of your life? I loved my old-school metal Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox when I was in first grade, and I didn’t even realize that I was eco-friendly while being stylish. Instead of hitting a vending machine or drive-thru for lunch, avoid the single-use plastic packaging and pack your own sandwich and sides at home, or brown-bag last night’s leftovers. For our grandparents, eating out was a special occasion, not something you do every day. Plant a garden Now this is one popular trend that is rooted in the past. Buying local or growing food in your own garden was a staple of life for our grandparents and great-grandparents. Growing veggies and herbs is something you can easily do, no matter if you live in a rural or urban area, and it is friendly to the environment and your wallet. Related: How to grow a lush garden in your tiny kitchen windowsill Shop smart Those who lived through the Great Depression knew what it meant to be smart with their purchases. If they couldn’t afford it, they didn’t buy it, and they never bought more than they needed. Buying in bulk and using up everything that you buy is a much more sustainable way to live. Buy less and use it all. Go to the store with a specific plan, and reduce those impulse buys. Downsize Less stuff means less worry, and that is what minimalism is all about. That doesn’t mean you have to get rid of every modern convenience, but saying no to some things will help reduce your waste and make life tidier. Huge homes, closets full of clothes you don’t wear and cupboards full of food you won’t eat were foreign concepts to our grandparents. Those things would just give you more things to pay for, service and clean. You don’t have to downsize absolutely every aspect of your life, but simply getting rid of excess clutter can make a big difference in your quality of life and environmental impact. Use a clothesline One of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to give your dryer a rest and hang up your clothes to dry. This option will keep your clothes from shrinking, and your sheets, blankets, shirts and tees will smell clean and fresh. Start sewing During the Great Depression, nearly every household had at least one person that knew how to full-out sew . But now, it’s hard to find people that even know how to sew a button. Get the most out of your clothes and shoes by learning how to patch a hole, replace a zipper or fix a hem. We aren’t saying you have to make all of your own clothes, but knowing how to fix basic problems can lead to more a sustainable lifestyle with less waste. Related: How to sew buttons onto pants and shirts Rethink disposables Ziploc bags didn’t show up until the 1960s, so our grandparents and great-grandparents would store things in jars. After they were done using them, they would wash and reuse. Instead of using single-use plastics to store food or pack your lunch, use containers that you can use over and over again to help reduce waste. Images via Oldmermaid ,  Bruno Glätsch , Maxmann , Priscilla Du Preez , Maria Michelle , Monika P , Monicore and Shutterstock

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9 sustainable living tips to take from our grandparents

Recent figures reveal Spain’s human population is now outnumbered by pigs

August 23, 2018 by  
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Environmentalists are alarmed by recent data that reveals Spain’s pig population now outnumbers its human one by 3.5 million. This is the first time the number of pigs in Spain has exceeded that of humans, and the discrepancy is adding to concerns about the environmental impact of the pork industry. This impact stems primarily from greenhouse gas emissions , nitrate discharges, and water consumption. The number of pigs in Spain has increased by nine million in the last five years; in 2017 alone, Spain’s pork industry produced about four million tons of pork products. Environmentalists are calling on producers to slow down, and for good reason. Each pig in Spain drinks close to four gallons of water per day, and the total amount consumed is enough to satisfy the water needs of Spanish cities Zaragoza, Seville and Alicante combined. Pig farming also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions from livestock overall, which is the fourth-largest emissions generator in the country. Related: Muscle-packed pigs in Cambodia raise alarms The enormity of the industry also makes it difficult to regulate. “When you don’t control an industry in which traditionally there’s a lot of fraud, because there’s a lot of demand but not a lot of product, this is what happens,” said Francisco Espárrago, a  jamón ibérico de bellota producer in Extremadura, in reference to numerous quality control issues that have plagued Spain’s pork industry. It appears that stricter – or perhaps better enforced – regulations would benefit Spain’s longstanding pork traditions that have existed since Roman times, protect local producers, and alleviate environmental infractions which are cause for national concerns. Via The Guardian  

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Recent figures reveal Spain’s human population is now outnumbered by pigs

Electric scooter networks charge up as Scoot drives into Barcelona

May 30, 2018 by  
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San Francisco’s home-grown e-scooter startup is headed over to moped-loving Spain.

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Electric scooter networks charge up as Scoot drives into Barcelona

Incredible glass home stays comfortably snug even in extreme temperatures

March 6, 2018 by  
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OFIS Architects tackles the ultimate indoor-outdoor living experience with Glass Pavilion, a retreat with full-height glass structural walls that provides total comfort even in extreme desert conditions. Initiated by Guardian Glass , this thermally efficient prototype home will operate off-grid and offer lucky guests stunning and uninterrupted views of Spain’s Gorafe desert. Completed this year, the compact 215-square-foot Glass Pavilion is part of OFIS Architects’ ongoing collaboration with AKT II structural engineers , where the firms test the structural possibilities of glass and timber in extreme climates. “This project is a response to the local, desert climate conditions,” wrote OFIS Architects of Glass Pavilion. “Instead of focusing only in ‘a glass as a window element’ the concept explored its advanced potentials, e.g. transparent but shading element, a thin but thermally efficient envelope that is also the sole structural support.” Related: Exceptional prefab alpine shelter overlooks mind-boggling mountain views Triple-glazed walls create a thermally efficient envelope, while near-invisible coatings, operable shades, and roof overhangs protect the interior from solar gain . The Y-shaped interior is evenly split between a living area with a kitchenette, a bedroom with storage, and the bathroom. All three rooms open out to a wraparound terrace deck. “The Glass Pavilion will be the setting of a 1-week retreat for a single person or a couple,” added the architects. “The guests will be selected from different tourist sharing platforms.” + OFIS Architects Images @ Jose Navarrete

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Neanderthals, not homo sapiens, responsible for 64,000-year-old cave art

February 23, 2018 by  
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Researchers have discovered that Neanderthals, not  homo sapiens , created a series of 64,000 year-old cave drawings in Spain . Published in the journal  Science , this study marks the first time that Neanderthals have been credited as cave painters – and it deems the works of art the oldest known cave paintings. Utilizing advanced radioactive dating, the scientists determined that paintings made in three separate caves are far older than originally thought – they were created 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in the area. The Neanderthal’s reputation as a bulkier, dumber kind of human seems to be misinformed. “It’s impossible to say that one is more clever than the other,” archaeology professor Marie Soressi told the Verge . An earlier theory speculated that Neanderthals only developed a culture after the arrival of modern humans in Europe between 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. The Neanderthal cave artwork proves that the species were creative and maintained their own culture and accompanying art. Neanderthals are also known to have used eagle claws and shells in their clothing as well as pigments to add color. Related: Incredible fossil discovery rewrites the history of human migration out of Africa Previous efforts to determine the age of cave art were complicated by dating technology limitations. The most common method works exclusively with organic matter; using uranium ‘s radioactive decay as a metric requires a great deal of material to be dated, something that is not possible in rare, delicate discoveries like early human cave art. The scientists used a new method of dating in which they scrapped off only the crust of the cave painting, samples which are then dated in a laboratory. Via The Verge Images via D.L. Hoffman, C.D. Standish, et al.

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Neanderthals, not homo sapiens, responsible for 64,000-year-old cave art

IKEA renewable electricity plan could save customers 300 per year

February 23, 2018 by  
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IKEA has set a goal of running on 100 percent renewable energy by 2020 — and they want their customers to live more sustainably too. That’s why they’ve partnered with Big Clean Switch to help people transition to clean power. Using a collective switch model, they’ve secured “an exclusive tariff on 100 percent renewable electricity” — which could save households more than £300 each year . IKEA aims to help people make the change to a renewable electricity provider. According to Big Clean Switch , renewable electricity tariffs work like this: “When you’re on a renewable electricity tariff, your supplier promises to match the amount of electricity you take out of the National Grid by ensuring the same amount of renewable electricity is put in. The more this happens, the greener the Grid should get.” Related: IKEA plans to cut food waste in half by 2020 — here’s how The deal is just for the United Kingdom — but if you live there, you could save hundreds of pounds on your electricity bill each year. Big Clean Switch said making the change is easy; they estimate it will take under five minutes, with no engineer visits necessary, and supply won’t be disrupted. IKEA UK sustainability manager Hege Sæbjørnsen said in a statement, “At IKEA, our commitment to sustainability goes beyond minimizing the impact of our own operations to having a positive impact on the world around us. We want to provide our customers with innovative solutions that will help them live a more sustainable life at home and save money in the short and long term.” IKEA UK started offering solar panels and battery storage for homes last year — we’d love to see the products in the United States! If you live in the UK and want to sign up for the IKEA renewable electricity offer, you can express your interest here . Suppliers will compete to offer their best value tariff, and when the campaign goes live on March 6, IKEA and Big Clean Switch will get in touch with people who expressed interest to let them know the cost. The tariff will only be available from March 6 through March 26. + IKEA + Big Clean Switch Images via Depositphotos and Karsten Würth on Unsplash

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Nissan to debut its self-driving taxis in Japan

February 23, 2018 by  
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Nissan will begin testing its Easy Ride self-driving taxi service in Yokohama , Japan on March 5, 2018, with plans to launch the full service by the start of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. In collaboration with Tokyo-based mobile app developer DeNA, Nissan will run the trial service on a 2.8 mile-route running from their headquarters to the Yokohama World Porters shopping center. While limited to start, the opening of Nissan’s Easy Ride service marks an significant step forward into the future of autonomous vehicles and urban transportation. The Easy Ride system is designed to incorporate user interests into its presentation, offering helpful information on points of interest, events, and shops. To build further ties between the self-driving taxi and local business, Easy Ride will offer coupons for recommended restaurants and businesses for users to exchange after they’ve departed their self-driving taxi. Easy Ride will also record feedback from users regarding their ride experience and their opinion on what a fair fare should be. Related: Dubai tests the world’s first autonomous mobility pods Nissan’s initial trial is planned to run for only a few weeks. However, the company plans to conduct further, more extensive tests. Recognizing the need to serve an Olympic -sized constituency as well as Japan’s aging population, the automaker plans to add more routes, implement a multi-lingual interface, and refine arrival and departure procedures over the next two years. To assuage any concerns regarding the safety of the self-driving taxis, Nissan will link each taxi to a remote monitoring center, where workers observe each ride and could take the wheel from afar if necessary. Via Engadget Images via Nissan and aotaro/Flickr

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