Celebrate the season with this guide to sustainable fall activities

September 28, 2018 by  
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As the leaves and sunsets transition to an autumnal palette of yellows, oranges and reds and a chill fills the air, you’re probably dragging the boots and sweaters from the back of the closet. But the end of summer doesn’t mean the end of outdoor fun. In the midst of temperatures dropping and the smell of pumpkin floating around, fall is the ideal time to plan nature-based activities. When considering your options, think about the potential impact on the environment , and create an earth-friendly itinerary for the coming months. Here’s a list of sustainable fall activities to help you savor the best season of the year. Celebrate fall harvest Fall is an amazing time for produce , and the season brings plenty of sustainable opportunities to preserve and enjoy the delicious food that nature provides. Head to a local farm to pick apples or pumpkins, then bake pies for friends and family or host a cider press party to use up the abundance of crisp apples. Harvest the last of the summer squash and zucchini, and get ready to enjoy fall veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Collect juicy plums and pears for your kitchen fruit basket. To preserve summer and autumn produce for the colder months, can and pickle fruits and veggies or toss them in the freezer. Now is also an excellent time to bake fresh breads to store in the freezer. Remember to enjoy garden fresh food, too. Related: 5 mouthwatering plant-based fall recipes Create DIY gifts and decor It’s not too early to be thinking about the holidays, and fall is the perfect time to make sustainable presents with gifts from nature herself. Concoct herb-infused cooking and massage oils, vinegars and liquors, and be sure to dry any leftover herbs for fragrant satchels or to use in winter recipes. The vibrant hues of the season also make excellent decor for your home. Make fall wreaths with autumn foliage, or create festive tablescapes with homemade pumpkin, pinecone or gourd centerpieces. Related: DIY fall decor using upcycled items from thrift stores Immerse yourself in nature The falling leaves of autumn beckon for company, so lace up your boots and grab a jacket. Go for a hike while the weather is still pleasant, or head out for some final bike rides before it is too cold and snowy to tolerate such activities. Take the kids (or yourself!) out to hunt leaves, and embrace the opportunity to learn and teach about different types of trees and plants. Enjoy a weekend camping trip or an afternoon picnic. Challenge yourself with a visit to a corn maze, or enjoy a breezy day flying kites. Visit a local farmers market, and take time to learn about the food you are eating. Tour a nearby winery. Get active by playing catch with a football or baseball, or throw a Frisbee around the backyard. After a day at the pumpkin patch, enjoy the chill evening air by carving pumpkins on the porch — just be sure to use the guts and seeds, rather than tossing them into the trash! Related: How to cook a whole pumpkin (seeds, guts and all) Prepare your yard and garden for winter If temperatures in your area allow it, plant fall and winter crops in the garden, or plant bulbs for spring. Remember to feed your compost bin during the fall months with scrapped fruit and vegetable peels, cores and rotting pumpkins — compost will help your garden soil and any planted bulbs stay healthy through the colder months. Make a pinecone and peanut butter bird feeder and bird houses to hang on the porch or in the trees for winter. The fall season is full of opportunities to get into nature , so grab a basket, pull on your boots and wrap up in a scarf. The great outdoors await! Images via Ricardo Gomez Angel , Dei R. , Christopher Jolly , Patrick Fore and Lukas Langrock

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Peek inside the BIG-designed garden village for one of the world’s best restaurants

September 24, 2018 by  
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After over three years of planning, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has completed the new home for Noma, an award-winning, Michelin-star restaurant that was named four times as the best in the world by the ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ rankings. Opened February 2018, Noma’s new restaurant location is just outside of Copenhagen’s city center on a lakefront site near the Christiania neighborhood. The 14,000-square-foot building is modeled after a garden village that consists of 11 single-story pavilions, each specially designed to realize chef René Redzepi’s vision for seasonal and local New Nordic cuisine. Last year, chef René Redzepi closed his original two-Michelin-starred Noma after 14 years of operation in a 16th century harborside warehouse. During the one-year closure of his restaurant, Redzepi worked together with architect Bjarke Ingels to sensitively reimagine a new property and an existing ex-military warehouse into “an intimate garden village” made up of a series of interconnected, agrarian-inspired structures centered around the restaurant’s heart: the 600-square-foot kitchen. “The new noma dissolves the traditional idea of a restaurant into its constituent parts and reassembles them in a way that puts the chefs at the heart of it all,” Bjarke Ingels explained. “Every part of the restaurant experience — the arrival, the lounge, the barbecue, the wine selection and the private company — is all clustered around the chefs. From their central position, they have a perfect overview to every corner of the restaurant while allowing every single guest to follow what would traditionally happen behind-the-scenes. Each ‘building within the building’ is connected by glass-covered paths that allow chefs and guests to follow the changes in weather, daylight and seasons — making the natural environment an integral part of the culinary experience.” Related: “The world’s best restaurant,” Noma, to close and reopen as an urban farm The historic, 100-meter-long concrete warehouse was renovated to house all of the restaurant’s back-of-house functions, including the prep kitchen, fermentation labs, fish tanks, terrarium, ant farm and breakout areas for staff. Three of the new structures are built of glass, with one serving as a greenhouse, another as a bakery and the last as the test kitchen. The dining spaces are located in other buildings constructed from a minimalist and natural materials palette that includes oak and brick. + BIG + Noma Images © Rasmus Hjortshoj

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Peek inside the BIG-designed garden village for one of the world’s best restaurants

Starbucks ditches plastic straws for the environment

July 10, 2018 by  
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Coffee drinkers around the world can soon sip their daily latte in peace, knowing it is getting better for the environment. Starbucks has announced it will eliminate single-use plastic straws from more than 28,000 company-owned and -licensed stores by 2020. The company will replace them with compostable straws (for blended drinks) and recyclable, strawless lids. Plastic pollution from single-use products is a major concern. The United Nations’ Environment Program estimates as many as eight million tons of disposable plastic products end up in the oceans each year, where it ultimately harms aquatic ecosystems. Related: This British café is serving to-go coffee in ceramic mugs to combat waste To reduce its overall reliance on plastics, the coffee giant is introducing strawless lids for the majority of its beverages — including cold coffee drinks. For its blended offerings, the company will move to paper or compostable plastic straws. The new lids were approved for global distribution after testing in 8,000 North American stores, as well as select Asian countries. Starbucks’ home stores in Seattle and Vancouver will be the first to fully transition to the lids starting in the second half of 2018, followed by transitioning in Europe. Its goal is to completely remove the single-use plastic items over the next two years. “For our partners and customers, this is a significant milestone to achieve our global aspiration of sustainable coffee ,” Kevin Johnson, Starbucks president and CEO, said in a statement,“served to our customers in more sustainable ways.” The change to drinkable lids and straws made out of paper or biodegradable plastic is part of a larger goal set for the company. Starbucks is also expanding a paper cup surcharge to 950 stores in the United Kingdom by the end of July 2018 to discourage their use, while offering discounts to those who bring in reusable cups . In addition, the company wants to include 20 percent post-consumer recycled fiber in its cups by 2022 and have achieved 99 percent ethical sourcing of its coffee. However, government reports suggest the coffee industry has a long way to go before going completely green. The British parliament discovered the coffee industry adds 2.5 billion disposable cups to the nation’s landfills annually. + Starbucks

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Dairy farmers’ excess milk gets a second life feeding the hungry

July 3, 2018 by  
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Automation may have caused a significant surplus of dairy products and a corresponding price drop, but one non-profit has stepped up to ensure food – and farms – don’t go to waste. Philabundance , a food bank in Philadelphia, is working with cow ranchers to help sell their foods while also keeping hungry families fed in the city. After shifting their farming focus away from traditional milk packaging and sales, Pennsylvania’s dairy farmers struggled to keep family businesses afloat. According to a study by the Center for Dairy Excellence , 120 Pennsylvania dairy farms closed their gates for good in 2016. Related: Transfernation volunteers will deliver your leftover party food to homeless shelters That’s where Philabundance came into the picture. Working with farmers across the state, the organization wanted to purchase excess dairy products to feed hungry families in Philadelphia. Traditionally, extra skim milk was dumped because farms didn’t have the equipment to turn the surplus into cheese or yogurt. In 2016, Pennsylvania farmers alone discarded 43 million gallons of excess milk. But with state funds provided by the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System and the cooperation of dairy farms, Philabundance and other food banks purchased over 60,000 gallons of excess milk destined for waste and turned it into cheese. The result was a new food source for food banks and $165,000 in revenue for farmers. This partnership quickly turned into a much bigger idea: turning excess milk into artisan cheese. Philabundance took the lead by buying even more milk to produce the same food products , then selling them under the name “Abundantly Good.” The products went on sale through three retail partners, a direct-to-restaurant seller and an online shop . One dollar from each sale goes back to farmers, subsidizing the milk set aside for food donations. In one year, farmers sold $9,000 worth of products each and prevented further food waste. With the success of the cheese sales and donation programs, Philabundance is testing other products for retail shelves, including drinkable yogurt. The group is also expanding its line to include foods like spiced tomato jam. Much like the dairy program, portions of the sales go back to farmers who turn their crops into soup and sauces for people in need. This partnership closes the loop in agricultural waste. Instead of destroying products or sending food waste to the garbage, farms produce more food that goes to people in need. In turn, the farms’ bottom lines increase, keeping them sustainable well into the future. Which is something that everybody – from farm to table – can celebrate. Via NPR

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Dairy farmers’ excess milk gets a second life feeding the hungry

Arctic shipping routes could threaten "unicorns of the sea"

July 3, 2018 by  
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Narwhals, or the “unicorns of the sea,” could be at risk from additional Arctic shipping routes as polar ice continues to recede. A peer-reviewed study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests as many as seven marine mammal species may face new threats and uncertain consequences from increased ship traffic. The Arctic Ocean is home to hundreds of animals, like narwhals, polar bears and whales. However, as the polar ice caps retreat, more shipping companies are taking advantage of open waters to reduce travel time. To determine how the increase of ships could affect marine mammals , the research team from University of Alaska Fairbanks and University of Washington studied wildlife during the fall shipping season. The group looked at 80 different subpopulations among the seven species to determine if they were directly exposed to the ships and how much these ships could affect the wellbeing of the marine life. Related: The melting Arctic is already changing the ocean’s circulation During the study period, over half of the subpopulations were impacted by ships, with narwhals inheriting the highest amount of risk. In addition to an increased risk of injury or death from collisions,  toothed whales also face communication challenges because of their audio sensitivity. Like dolphins, the ocean unicorn “talks” with a language of buzzing, clicking and calling. While narwhals could have the most to lose, polar bears and seals have the least risk because of the time they spend on land. But researchers note their populations also come with high long-term uncertainty, and the team concluded more data is required to determine how shipping affects their livelihood. The news wasn’t entirely bad for wildlife populations. The scientists noted through additional data collection, shipping companies could plan for environmentally-sustainable transportation options. “Regions with geographic bottlenecks, such as the Bering Strait and eastern Canadian Arctic, were characterized by two to three times higher vulnerability than more remote regions,” the researchers wrote in their study abstract. “These pinch points are obligatory pathways for both vessels and migratory [ocean mammals], and so represent potentially high conflict areas but also opportunities for conservation-informed planning .” Arctic planning groups are aware of the wildlife threats and are working out plans to balance shipping with environmental concerns. The Arctic Council instituted regulations on transport companies in January 2017, with the goal of making shipping safer for both crews and marine mammals. + Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Via Earther

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Arctic shipping routes could threaten "unicorns of the sea"

This edible, plastic-free packaging is grown from kombucha starter

June 26, 2018 by  
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Polish design student Roza Janusz has created Scoby, an eco-friendly alternative to plastic packaging that is easily grown with the same methods used to make kombucha . Created from fermented bacteria and yeast, the organic membrane can be used to store a variety of lightweight foods like seeds, nuts, or even salads. The zero-waste food packaging is completely biodegradable and can also be eaten after use. Developed as part of her graduate project for industrial design at the School of Form in Poznan, Poland, Roza Janusz’s Scoby was created to help farmers grow their own zero-waste packaging. Using bacteria and yeast as a base for kombucha, Janusz then uses the liquid to grow the biodegradable membrane in a shallow container. After about two weeks of adding sugars and other agricultural waste to ferment the material, a membrane forms on the surface and can be harvested. “Scoby is grown by a future farmer not only for the production of packaging , but also because of the valuable by-product, which is, depending on the concentration, natural fertilizer or probiotic drink,” says Roza Janusz. “So maybe the packaging production will no longer litter the environment, and it will even enrich it.” Related: DIY: How to brew kombucha at home The lightweight and translucent material is easily malleable and can be shaped to fit a variety of foods to prevent spoilage. Thanks to the edible packaging’s low pH, Scoby has a long shelf life that can even be extended if it’s used to store acidic food products like nuts. The material can also absorb the flavors of the food it stores. Roza Janusz plans to explore Scoby’s commercial possibilities in the near future and recently submitted her design for the Golden Pin Concept Design Award 2018 . + Roza Janusz

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This edible, plastic-free packaging is grown from kombucha starter

The latest champion in the battle against climate change: fast food burgers

June 6, 2018 by  
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Swedish fast food chain Max Burgers (MAX) made headlines around a decade ago when it started labeling menu items with carbon footprints. Now, the company is launching what it describes as climate-positive burgers . MAX says it  plants trees to absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than the total emissions of its products. MAX CEO Richard Bergfors said in a statement, “We know that we are part of the problem and together with our guests, we can now be part of the solution.” Climate-positive burgers will pop up this month in just over 130 restaurants around the world — MAX, founded in 1968 in Sweden , now boasts joints in Norway, Denmark, Poland, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. Here’s how the company plans to make its menu offerings good for the environment . First, it measures all product emissions, including waste from meals and emissions generated when employees and guests travel to and from MAX restaurants. The company then works in various ways to lower emissions, such as recycling frying oil into biodiesel , recycling heat in restaurants and introducing a Green Family of burgers made with vegetables, beans or Halloumi cheese. Finally, MAX says it captures at least 110 percent of its emissions by planting trees. Related: Swiss grocery store chain will be the first to sell insect burgers “The reasoning behind the launch of climate-positive burgers is simple: climate change on our planet is out of control, and we need to stabilize it,” Bergfors said. “To meet the two-degree climate goal set out in the Paris Agreement , the world needs to work harder at cutting emissions and start the work of clearing greenhouse gases that have already been emitted into the atmosphere. Just going carbon neutral is not enough anymore.” One out of three of MAX meals sold today don’t have red meat , according to the company, and the goal is that by 2022, every other meal won’t have red meat. The chain thinks that hitting this target could allow it to reduce emissions by 30 percent in seven years. MAX is also behind an initiative called Clipop , with New Zealand car-sharing company Mevo , to register climate positive products from around the world. The team hopes more companies will get on board. + MAX Climate-Positive + Rethink Burgers + Clipop Images courtesy of Max Burgers

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The latest champion in the battle against climate change: fast food burgers

Chinas first Slow Food Village will promote local foods and traditions

May 24, 2018 by  
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Rural-urban migration in China is at an all-time high, with experts estimating an influx of 243 million migrants to Chinese cities by 2025 . In a bid to combat this wave of migration and raise living standards for farmers, Stefano Boeri Architetti  designed Slow Food Freespace, China’s first Slow Village that follows the philosophy of the Slow Food Movement. The Slow Village pilot project will be presented this week at the 16th Venice Biennial. Founded in Italy in 1986, the Slow Food Movement has grown into a worldwide campaign that promotes local food, traditional cooking and sustainability in agricultural economies. Inspired by this vision, Stefano Boeri Architetti created a Slow Village program for China that comprises three cultural epicenters — a school , a library and a small museum — that would be built in each village and serve as hubs for disseminating farming knowledge and celebrating each area’s unique cultural characteristics. “We easily forget that the rural areas provide sustainability to our daily lives,” Stefano Boeri said. “It is an inevitable necessity of architecture to confront the speed of evolution while also feeding it with the richness of the past. For this reason, we have proposed to enhance the agricultural villages with a system of small but precious catalysts of local culture, able to improve the lives of the residents.” Related: NYC Design Collaborative Shows Communities How To Cook with Ingredients from the Sidewalk The first Chinese Slow Village will be located in Qiyan, in the Southwest province of Sichuan. Stefano Boeri Architetti China will provide its services pro-bono for the design and construction of the first pilot system, including the library, school and museum. Likened to a “single organic accelerator,” the three buildings will teach about the preparation, consumption and supply of food, as well as ancient and deeply rooted food traditions. The Slow Villages are also expected to spur and accommodate tourism. The Slow Food Freespace presentation will take place at the Venice Biennial  on May 25, 2018. + Stefano Boeri Architetti Images via Stefano Boeri Architetti

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Zero Waste Bistro offers four days of sustainable food and design in NYC

May 21, 2018 by  
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Sustainability is on the menu at Zero Waste Bistro , a pop-up dining experience and installation that’s exploring how great design can drastically reduce the problem of restaurant food waste. Launched as part of NYCxDESIGN’s marquee event, WantedDesign Manhattan, the four-day Zero Waste Bistro — open May 19 through May 22, 2018 — is presented by the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York. The bistro introduces the philosophy behind Nolla, Finland’s first zero-waste restaurant in Helsinki. Recycled and recyclable elements are featured throughout the laboratory of food and design, from the construction materials to the tasting menu. Co-curated by Finnish designers Harri Koskinen and Linda Bergroth, the Zero Waste Food Bistro is helmed by Nolla chefs who have created a thought-provoking tasting menu. They use local and organic ingredients as well as commonly overlooked food byproducts, such as oyster mushrooms with doenjang miso and spent grain crumble. In addition to a dining experience, the pop-up event also includes workshops and talks centered on healthy materials, the circular economy and zero-waste fashion. “It’s time to rethink the way we live, the way we eat and the materials we use,” said Kaarina Gould, Executive Director of the Finnish Cultural Institute . “With Zero Waste Bistro, we’re proposing a future that reduces waste and helps to regenerate our natural environment, making it livable for generations to come; a future that’s already here if we make the right choices.” Zero Waste Bistro is constructed from high-performance recyclable components, including Durat surfaces and ReWall building materials, made entirely from upcycled packaging and industrial waste. All packaging is plastic-free, from Kotkamills’ takeaway cups made from plastic-free repulpable cartonboard to Sulapac packaging products constructed with sustainably sourced wood from Nordic forests. The bistro also prominently showcases iconic Nordic design with Alvar Aalto stools and lamps and Iittala tableware sourced from the Finnish Design Shop , the world’s largest online store for Nordic design. Related: Britain’s first zero-waste store is packaging-free and only sells ethical goods The Zero Waste Bistro’s tasting menu will be served at brunch, lunch and breakfast during the four-day event, which ends Tuesday. You can see a full listing of talks and workshops here . Reservations for the dining experience must be made in advance. + Zero Waste Bistro Images by Nicholas Calcott

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Is there enough water and land on Earth to meet global food demands?

May 21, 2018 by  
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According to the United Nations, there are 7.6 billion people living on Earth today. Of those 7.6 billion, 815 million people are already going hungry . And, on top of that, the UN expects the global population to jump to 9.8 billion by 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100. These figures raise a troubling question: will it be physically possible to feed the world’s population as it continues to grow? Do We Have Enough Resources? Currently, we already produce more food than we need to feed the existing global population. According to Gordon Conway, author of One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?, an equal division of all the food on earth would provide every person with 2,800 calories a day , which is more than enough for a healthy diet. In fact, recent analysis by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations indicated that it would be technically feasible to feed the 2050 population with available land and water. However, that prediction comes with significant caveats. Having enough food doesn’t mean no one will go hungry, as evidenced by the current global situation. And it certainly doesn’t mean we can feed the world sustainably. So, while it may be technically feasible, what needs to happen to truly meet global demand for food without destroying the planet? Overall, there are three main changes we should focus on. 1. Increasing Efficiency While we could potentially clear more land to use for agriculture, it would be better to avoid doing so. The tactics we’ve used to increase yields and farmland in the past have caused severe environmental damage, such as increased erosion and pollution. However, we now know more about farming practices’ environmental impacts and have developed new, high-tech ways to increase farm productivity without damaging the environment. For example, precision farming delivers water and fertilizer to plants much more efficiently. Advanced sensors, automated tractors and more can also help reduce crop loss and increase yield. Organic farming plays a vital role as well, as it reduces the use of harmful fertilizers and pesticides. Related: Less fertilizer, greater crop yields, and more money: China’s agricultural breakthrough These changes will likely have to be implemented in developed countries, since farmers in poorer countries typically have fewer resources and, as a result, focus primarily on their own operations. 2. Changing Diets Different diets require vastly different amounts of land, water and other resources. The most resource-intensive are those of wealthy nations, which tend to eat more animal products. For example, if the entire world followed the same diet as the United States, we would need 138 percent of the world’s habitable land to feed the global population. In other words, it would be impossible. We also tend to waste food by feeding livestock. Livestock consume 36 percent o f crops grown around the world, and their caloric intake far outstrips the calories that humans receive from the resulting animal products. For every 100 calories of grain that we feed to livestock, we can get 40 calories of milk, 12 calories of chicken or just three of beef. If developed countries around the world committed to reducing the amount of food they consume, or if more people removed meat and animal products from their diets, these actions could help save both food and resources. 3. Reducing Waste Reducing food waste is a simple yet crucial way to help feed the world. At present, approximately 25 percent of all of the food calories we produce  – enough to feed every hungry person in the world – is lost or wasted. Surprisingly, one of the most effective strategies for reducing food waste doesn’t have to do with food directly. Instead, it involves societal changes such as reducing poverty, improving access to education and promoting equal rights. In general, quantity of food isn’t the problem, but rather access to the food itself. When people can escape poverty, society as a whole can afford to pay farmers more for their crops, meaning farms can sell their produce domestically rather than export it. Increasing small farms’ profits also enables them to access the resources they need to farm sustainably and further increase yields. So, as it turns out, the earth likely does have enough natural resources to meet our growing demand for food, but it’s not quite as simple as just growing more food. We need to start making some fundamental changes in the way we think about food, agriculture, poverty and hunger to make sure everyone has enough to eat. Images via Unsplash and Pixabay (1) , (2) ,  (3)

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