Deciphering wine labels: the differences between organic, natural, biodynamic and sustainable wines

November 15, 2019 by  
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‘Tis the season for holiday celebrations, cocktail parties and family gatherings. But before you pop the corks on those bottles of wine, take a moment to understand what you are about to drink. If you are hoping to serve wine made with sustainably grown, organic grapes , read the label carefully before committing to the purchase, or you might not be getting what you expect. With words like “natural,” “organic,” “biodynamic” and “sustainable,” it can be hard to decipher which wine is truly best for the planet. Here are some tips to understand sustainable wine labels. Marketing is a powerful tool, and companies will advertise characteristics of their wines that they think will appeal to the consumer. However, the terminology can be so confusing that a winery might misguide you without meaning to. Some words are so similar that you (and they) might even assume they all mean the same thing. Related: This is how climate change will impact wine Fortunately, steps have been taken to standardize the verbiage on these labels so you can better understand what’s in the bottle. But there is still variation throughout the food and beverage industry, especially for wine. Here is the terminology you are likely to see and exactly what it all means for the wines you imbibe. Organic or 100 percent organic wine In the U.S., the term organic is regulated and must fit into specific criteria. However, even within that criteria, you will find different wording. For example, wines made from organically grown grapes are grown without the use of pesticides , fungicides, herbicides, etc., and these wines do not contain sulfites added during wine production. (Organic wines do contain naturally occurring sulfites.) Note that the standards for “organic” classifications in Canada and Europe allow for a small amount of sulfites to be used during production. Biodynamic wine Biodynamic wines are organic, and these wines also follow farming ideologies dating back to the 1920s, when Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and academic, presented scientific support showing that in order for a grape to reach its potential, the entire vineyard must be taken into account. In addition to growing grapes without chemicals or common additions such as yeast, the lunar and astrological cycles are often considered when making decisions about the health of the vineyard . These wines are also produced without interference to adjust for acidity. For example, instead of making changes during fermentation and flavor development, the focus is on healthy roots, soil and the atmosphere of the vineyard as a whole. Like the term “organic,” “biodynamic” wines have earned certification by meeting specific requirements. The governing board that approves the label is the Demeter Association, a branch of an organization dating back to 1928 during Steiner’s efforts to bring societal awareness about biodynamics in agriculture. Sustainable wine This label is fairly subjective and typically refers to the way the vineyard is managed more than the way the wine is produced. A vineyard (or farm) that aims to grow crops sustainably is concerned with the impact on the planet. This means using natural methods of balancing the soil, such as crop rotation. It can also mean using energy or water-saving practices . If your wine is made “sustainably,” it likely means it was made organically in accordance with the typical goals of sustainable farming, but don’t assume it’s organic without the label identifying it as such. Natural, all-natural or 100 percent natural wine When you see the word “natural” on a label, be aware that there are limited regulations surrounding the use of this term. There is no distinction between “natural,” “all-natural” or “100 percent natural.” Manufacturers of all types of food can slap this wording on labels. But most producers in the wine industry see the “natural” classification differently. For wine-making, a natural wine is the result of a natural process, meaning that process involves as little intervention as possible throughout the stages. In other words, the wine is fermented grapes in their most natural form. That means that a natural wine is organic and sometimes biodynamic, but organic and biodynamic wines are not always natural. Furthermore, any of these wines may or may not be sustainably produced. Because there is no oversight committee for a “natural” label, selecting a wine is all about getting to know the winemaker and asking questions at the tasting room. If you live in a wine region, buy locally so you can see the vineyard and know the source of your bottle. If you don’t live near a winery, do you research online. Most wineries are proud to share their growing practices and provide transparency if they are using sustainable, organic, natural or biodynamic methods. Via Wine Spectator , Eating Well and The Guardian Images via Shutterstock

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Deciphering wine labels: the differences between organic, natural, biodynamic and sustainable wines

RISD student designs a micro-algae farm for home use

July 29, 2019 by  
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Rhode Island School of Design student Hyunseok An has created a prototype indoor micro-algae farm in a bid to sustainably and beautifully integrate algae into our everyday lives. Dubbed The Coral after its coral pattern, the micro-farm takes on the shape of a four-by-four gridded bioreactor that can be mounted on the wall like artwork. The algae that grows inside each square component is rendered visible through transparent containers so that owners can watch as the algae grows and changes color. In 1974, the U.N. World Food Conference declared algae “the most ideal food for mankind” for its rich nutritional makeup; however, popular opinion often dismisses the superfood as nothing more than pond scum. Hyunseok An, who is pursuing a master’s degree in industrial design at RISD , wants to change our perception of algae and promote its health and environmental benefits. Algae, which grows quickly with few inputs, is also lauded for its ability to sequester carbon at an absorption rate that’s estimated to be 10 times greater than typical plants. Related: Soil Algae aims to improve soil quality through algae cultures The Coral comprises 16 cells arranged in a grid pattern with two grams of algae in each culture cell — the recommended daily intake amount. Each cell replenishes its stock on a biweekly cycle so that users will always have access to the sustainable food. As the algae grows and replenishes its stock, the cell changes color from clear to varying shades of green. The coral pattern printed on the transparent cells symbolizes the reversal of “coral bleaching,” a global phenomenon where coral is irritated — the causes can be varied from sea temperature fluctuations or pollution — and expels algae, thus turning the coral completely white. “Through its use and indoor experience, The Coral aims to change the preconception of algae, suggesting a socially acceptable way of reconnecting with algae and bringing it into our everyday lives,” Hyunseok An explained in a project statement. “By doing so, The Coral can help us take one step forward to a better, more sustainable way of living for us and for our world.” + Hyunseok An Images via Hyunseok An

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RISD student designs a micro-algae farm for home use

Study calls budding octopus farm industry unethical and unsustainable

May 14, 2019 by  
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A new study by an international group of scientists denounces the up-and-coming octopus farming industry as both detrimental to fragile marine ecosystems and unethical given their high intelligence. As countries like Japan announce they will start selling farmed octopus in 2020, researchers call on companies and governments to discontinue funding the new industry, claiming there is still an opportunity to prevent the same unethical and destructive mistakes that have already been made with land-based industrial farming. Currently, there are  550 marine and aquatic species farmed in nearly 200 countries. Aquaculture is detrimental to coastal environments in the following ways: Clearing critical habitat, such as mangroves, to make space for farms Polluting water with fertilizer, algaecide, disinfectant, antibiotics and herbicides Depleting oxygen and releasing nitrogen and phosphorus from decomposing fish feces In addition, octopus larvae only consume live fish and shellfish, requiring farmers to harvest significant amounts from other vulnerable fisheries. Related: Plastic pollution is causing reproductive problems for ocean wildlife Even if the industry was sustainable, however, the study’s authors argue that captivity is unethical for a creature with such a large brain, long memory and sophisticated nervous system. “We can see no reason why, in the 21st century, a sophisticated, complex animal should become the source of mass-produced food ,” study author, Professor Jennifer Jacquet of New York University, told the  Observer . “Octopus factory farming is ethically and ecologically unjustified.” Despite animal welfare and environmental concerns, octopus farms spark a separate set of ethical issues dealing with limiting development and economic growth. The unrestricted and untouchable scale of destructive industrial farming, for example, brings up concerns of who can prohibit other entrepreneurs from capitalizing on the same profitable disregard for animal life and environmental sustainability . Professor Jacquet of the study, however, believes that because the industry is just launching, there is a unique opportunity to limit its growth before it takes off. “Mass producing octopus would repeat many of the same mistakes we made on land in terms of high environmental and animal welfare impacts and be in some ways worse because we have to feed octopus other animals,” said Jacquet. Approximately 350,000 tons of octopus are harvested every year, however, octopus fisheries are in decline. Without aquaculture , octopus may become more rare, expensive and only available to high-paying customers. The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Study calls budding octopus farm industry unethical and unsustainable

How to mend and repair your clothes

May 14, 2019 by  
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There are many benefits to clothing repair. Fixing a hole in your favorite jeans or re-attaching a broken button can extend the life of the piece, which is better for the environment and your wallet. From hemming jean bottoms to fixing zippers, here is a quick look at all of the ways you can repair your own clothes . Sewing kit If you are serious about clothing repair, you should have a sewing kit on standby. A good kit includes items like needles and thread, scissors, a tape measure, a seam ripper, spare buttons and sewing pins. You can even put together a traveling sewing kit for whenever you are on the road and face a clothing emergency. Buttons Repairing a button on your favorite shirt can seem daunting at first, but it is actually a fairly straightforward process. According to The Spruce , there are two basic styles of buttons that are commonly used on shirts. The trick is picking the right type of button and the right size. Fortunately, you can usually reference other buttons on the shirt when selecting the perfect fit. The first type is called flat buttons. These are, well, flat and have exposed threads. These are the most commonly used buttons on shirts. The other type is called a shank button, which hides the thread. These are typically used in heavier pieces of clothing. Jean repairs Denim requires a substantial amount of water just to make one pair of jeans, so you should treat all of your jeans with care to keep them in top shape for many years. Rips Jeans often develop holes after extended use. Before you toss your favorite pair of pants, you can extend their life by repairing those rips and tears. All it takes is a patch of fabric  similar in color to the jeans and some thread. You can use a fusible patch, though you will likely need to sew it in place if you want it to last. Related: How to sew together ripped jeans Zippers Broken zippers are another common issue with jeans. Replacing a zipper is a little tricky, but it can be done. You will need a replacement zipper that matches the old fabric and some thread. Start by removing the old zipper entirely. Then, cut the new zipper to fit, and sew it in place. Belt loops Hardy belt loops are a requirement for a good pair of jeans , but they can fail after constant tugging. To repair a belt loop, you will need some denim thread, scrap fabric and a sewing machine. Start by patching the hole where the loop broke off. Once that is done, simply sew the old loop back into place, making sure you use plenty of thread to keep it strong. Mending Most clothing mends you will need to make are either for the seams or hems of your favorite clothes. Seam mending Seams are the most integral part of a piece of clothing . Seams can be curved or straight, or they can run into each other at intersections. The issue with seams is that they frequently rip, especially in areas you do not want exposed. Luckily, you can easily repair seams with some thread or by using fusible fabrics . Fusible alternatives remove the sewing element and are a great option for those less experienced in mending. There are a variety of fusible options on the market, so make sure you shop around for the right type before you start a project. Hem mending There are many reasons why people choose to hem clothing. The most common hem is done on jeans and helps prevent the bottoms from dragging on the ground. Jeans that are too long can trip people and will result in frayed ends. Hemming is also used to make pieces of clothing, like skirts, fit better and look more custom-made. Related: 11 ways to be more self-sufficient Common stitches By learning some simple, common stitches, you can easily repair a variety of fabrics. Running stitch If you only learn one sewing technique, it probably should be a running stitch. According to Life Hacker , the running stitch is a fundamental technique and one of the most basic stitches out there. By learning a running stitch, you can easily sew patches, fix hems and mend holes in clothing. This type of stitch basically runs in and out of the fabric without ever doubling back on itself. Back stitch A back stitch is basically a running stitch with a slight twist. This type of sewing technique is ideal if you need something that is both strong and flexible. This includes attaching zippers or fixing tears in fabrics in areas that take a lot of stress. When sewing a back stitch, you always take one step back with every stitch you make. This results in a line of thread on the backside of the item and a running stitch on the front. Whip stitch A whip stitch is slightly more advanced than the previous two techniques but still easy to perform. These stitches can repair torn seams, pockets that have come undone and split hems. A whip stitch is ideal whenever you are sewing two pieces of fabric together, like the opening of a pillow case. The threads will be visible in a whip stitch, so make sure you select a color that closely matches the original fabric. With these basic stitches and methods in mind, you are on your way to becoming an ace at basic clothing repair. Best of all, this will save you money and the planet’s resources. Images via Shutterstock

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California restaurants add carbon emission surcharge

May 14, 2019 by  
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Sustainable restaurants in California are going a step further to stop climate change by adding a farm-to-table and back-to-farm-again surcharge that allows patrons to support climate smart farming practices within the state. This Fall, participating restaurants will begin adding the optional one percent surcharge intended to offset emissions by paying farmers to store carbon in healthy soil and vegetation . The initiative is a joint partnership by the Perennial Farming Initiative, the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the California Air Resources Board. So far, 25 restaurants have joined the program, with a total of 200 expected by the end of 2019. Related: Impossible Burgers are such a success, they might run out Globally, farms emit about 13 percent of all carbon emissions. In the U.S., California is an agriculture powerhouse and therefore has the potential to be a big part of the climate solution. In fact, one third of all vegetables in the U.S. come from California, as well as over two thirds of all fruits and nuts. “Farmers and ranchers have long been at the forefront of the battle against climate change ,” Karen Ross from the California Department of Food and Agriculture said in a press release . “This partnership is an opportunity for eaters and buyers to share in land-based solutions.” The primary concept of the fund is to support “carbon farming,” which encourages the storage of carbon in soil and vegetation. The fund would pay farmers $10 for every ton of carbon they successfully remove from the atmosphere. Examples of climate-smart practices include more gentle tilling, rotating crops, or composting . The surcharge is voluntary; however, customers have to explicitly ask their server to remove it from the bill– meaning that participating restaurants add it automatically. During the pilot at Mission Chinese in San Francisco, not a single customer opted out of the one percent surcharge. “This issue of climate change is obviously massive,” Chef Anthony Myint of Perennial Farming Initiative told KTVU , “future generations don’t have the chance to opt out.” Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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New library in Hanoi aims to show young children the benefits of aquaponics in an urban setting

January 14, 2019 by  
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While most libraries tend to be filled with nothing more than books, the new VAC library (an abbreviation of the Vietnamese words for Garden, Pond and Cage) in Hanoi is teeming with koi fish and greenery. Vietnamese firm Farming Architects has built the the new open-air library with an impressive aquaponic system to teach the kids about urban farming. Located in a Hanoi neighborhood, the VAC Library is an immense structure comprised of wooden frames with various cubicles filled with books. However, within the almost 600 square feet library is an integrated production system that was designed to teach kids about sustainable food production. Related: URBANANA is Vertical Banana Plantation That Would Bring Tropical Fruit Farming to Paris According to the architects, the library is designed to show children how energy from land, air, water and solar energy can be harvested in order to be completely self-sufficient even within an urban context, “The aim is not only to produce an effective use of natural resources but also favorite experimentation in using different types of plants and animals in the urban environment.” At the heart of its design, the VAC library relies on aquaponic systems to provide a sustainable model. The structure’s fish pond provide nutrients to the plants, which in return purify the water. Built with energy conservation in mind, the system runs on a few pumps powered by solar energy, which also provides the electricity for the lighting system as well. In addition to its impressive sustainable systems , the VAC library is a center of learning. Besides reading the many books on offer, local children enjoy learning about the way that the fish in the ponds are so vital to the vegetable planters and so on. There are also chickens on site whose eggs are used for meals and their waste used as fertilizer for the center’s gardens. + Farming Architects Via Archdaily Photography by Thai Thach and Viet Dung An via Farming Architects  

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New library in Hanoi aims to show young children the benefits of aquaponics in an urban setting

1-acre permaculture farm in Australia feeds 50 families

September 4, 2017 by  
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This family in Australia completely shifted the way they source their food – with remarkable success. When wife Nici suffered an illness, the Coopers decided to start growing their own produce at home in Newcastle, and now their one-acre Limestone Permaculture Farm supplies dozens of families with fresh food . They also offer permaculture education and internships, sharing what they’ve learned with the greater community . The Coopers have been farming at Limestone Permaculture Farm for close to a decade. They grow organic produce , and raise sheep, goats, and chickens. They also keep bees and build with recycled materials , and The farm is powered by energy from wood, water, and the sun – pretty much every greenie’s dream come true. TreeHugger said co-owner Brett suggested they can feed 50 families from the one-acre farm . Related: Man leaves rat race to grow dream permaculture farm – and it’s flourishing after 3 years Swales, a chicken tractor, and self-seeding edible ground cover are among the permaculture techniques the Coopers employ at Limestone Permaculture Farm. Brett discovered permaculture over a decade ago. He told the Newcastle Herald , “I was a builder and had done architectural drafting. When I found permaculture, it was less about one form and more about following nature’s design . It blew my mind.” The Coopers offer farm tours, workshops, internships, and a permaculture design certificate at their New South Wales farm. They still have jobs and only work the farm part-time, but are hoping to transition to permaculture farming full-time. “We feel there has been an awakening across our beautiful country, self-reliance is on the rise again; urban and rural homesteading has people taking their food and energy supply back into their own hands,” the Coopers say on their website. “With each passing day we are transitioning to a more wholesome life, creating a more fulfilling and positive future, not just for ourselves but also for our family, friends, and community.” + Limestone Permaculture Farm Via Happen Films and TreeHugger Images via Limestone Permaculture Farm Facebook

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1-acre permaculture farm in Australia feeds 50 families

Shanghai is planning a massive 100-hectare vertical farm to feed 24 million people

April 12, 2017 by  
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International architecture firm Sasaki just unveiled plans for a spectacular 100-hectare urban farm set amidst the soaring skyscapers of Shanghai. The project is a mega farming laboratory that will meet the food needs of almost 24 million people while serving as a center for innovation, interaction, and education within the world of urban agriculture. The Sunqiao Urban Agricultural District is composed of vertical farms that fit in nicely between the city’s many towers, adding a welcomed green counterpart to the shiny metal and glass cityscape. In a city like Shanghai, where real estate prices make vertical building more affordable, the urban farm layout counts on a number of separate buildings that will have various growing platforms such as algae farms , floating greenhouses, vertical walls and even seed libraries. The project incorporates several different farming methods including hydroponic and aquaponic systems. Related:Sasaki Architecture convert a former disco club into an office space with floating walls The masterplan was designed to provide large-scale food production as well as education. Sunqiao will focus on sustainable agriculture as a key component for urban growth. “This approach actively supports a more sustainable food network while increasing the quality of life in the city through a community program of restaurants, markets, a culinary academy, and pick-your-own experience” explained Sasaki. “As cities continue to expand, we must continue to challenge the dichotomy between what is urban and what is rural. Sunqiao seeks to prove that you can have your kale and eat it too.” Visitors to the complex will be able to tour the interactive greenhouses, a science museum, and aquaponics systems, all of which are geared to showcase the various technologies which can help keep a large urban population healthy. Additionally, there will be family-friendly events and workshops to educate children about various agricultural techniques . + Sasaki Via Archdaily

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Shanghai is planning a massive 100-hectare vertical farm to feed 24 million people

Sun Commune pavilion teaches urban kids about sustainable farming in China

April 4, 2017 by  
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For a country like China , where one-fifth of the farmland is contaminated, raising awareness about sustainable farming is more important than ever. That’s why design studio Superimpose teamed up with the local farming community in rural Hangzhou’s Tai Yang Valley to build an educational pavilion about organic food production. Created for the local initiative Sun Commune, the ring-shaped MICR-O pavilion serves as an educational platform to teach children from Hangzhou and Shanghai about nature and sustainable practices. Elevated on stilts and located between rice fields and bamboo forests, the MICR-O pavilion was built with a repetitive structural A-frame made of locally reclaimed pine. The low-cost yet elegant pavilion sits lightly on the land and is wrapped in white canvas, giving it a modern and simple appearance. The circular structure wraps around an open-air deck, accessible via three access points and used for group activities and events. Related: Smog-filled Beijing is building a ‘green necklace’ around the city to curb pollution Throughout the year, children from Hangzhou and Shanghai are invited to camp at MICR-O and learn about sustainable farming. Camp attendees can sleep overnight at the pavilion on mats laid overtop the pine floor. The architects write: “The structural A frame, a ninety-degree angled triangle, gives the design an externally pure shape, while internally the patio opens towards the sky and surroundings.” + Superimpose Via ArchDaily Images by Marc Goodwin

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10 landscape design projects that turned neglected spaces into incredible parks

January 16, 2017 by  
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Landscape architects frequently work to transform areas that contain industrial and toxic waste, infrastructure no longer in use, or land affected by war , natural disaster or disuse. These neglected places, while often having a negative impact on the environment and surrounding community, are simultaneously part of our cultural heritage. To highlight the significance of these spaces, and the potential that they hold to become something more than a blight, we’ve gathered up a series of projects that illuminate how designers use unlikely opportunities to transform landscapes into spectacular spaces—all while preserving their historic and cultural meaning. These 10 case studies showcase the creative approaches global city governments, preservationists, developers and the design community have taken to transform marginalized places into healthy and meaningful environments for everyone to enjoy.

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10 landscape design projects that turned neglected spaces into incredible parks

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