A small Swedish town becomes home to urban development experiments

September 18, 2020 by  
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Stockholm-based architecture firm Anders Berensson Architects has unveiled designs for the Tibro Train Tracks , an ongoing urban development project to transform an abandoned track area in the Swedish town of Tibro into an innovative hub for urban planning experiments. Commissioned by the municipality of Tibro with support from the ArkDes Swedish Center for Architecture and Design, the practice-based research project explores the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11, which calls for sustainable cities and communities. Under the direction of SDG 11, the Tibro research project aims to find new ways of sustainably revitalizing small, rural towns. Located in southern Sweden, the small town of Tibro is best known for its furniture industry and local manufacturing. As a result, the architects opted to highlight the town’s history by taking an inventory of the machines and industrial features that could be adapted into site-specific projects and interventions. Related: A forgotten railway takes on new life as a new cultural destination in France The project has created 60 fast photomontages, 16 inventories of local producers, 17 urban projects and proposals and one urban planning proposal for the abandoned train track in the heart of the town. The one-year project comprised three phases. Phase 1 consisted of community meetings that began with 60 fast photomontages to stimulate discussion among locals, who have created over 300 proposals. In Phase 2, the architects visited 16 local companies, schools and associations to figure out what elements in their site-specific projects could be locally produced. For Phase 3, the discussions and inventories were combined to create a “smorgasbord” of 17 proposals, prototypes and projects for the abandoned train track area. The 17 proposals span small and large interventions, from increasing tree coverage by the train tracks to the creation of the Tibro Market Hall. “The site itself as an abandoned yet central site with a small interest to invest and develop fast can be seen as a disadvantage but with a focused strategy over a long time it can be turned into the opposite,” the architects explained. “With more time experiments can be done, tested and evaluated. Small projects, tests and prototypes can be built and removed or kept. Things can grow organically in a focused plan with a resilient strategy.” + Anders Berensson Architects Images via Anders Berensson Architects

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Amazon hands Mercedes-Benz its biggest electric vehicle order to date

August 28, 2020 by  
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Amazon hands Mercedes-Benz its biggest electric vehicle order to date Katie Fehrenbacher Fri, 08/28/2020 – 00:00 German auto giant Mercedes-Benz announced its largest order of electric vehicles to date Friday: 1,800 electric delivery vans for retail giant Amazon to use across Europe. The deal shows how companies are increasingly paying attention to ways to decarbonize transportation including buying more zero-emission commercial vehicles. In particular, the market for electric last-mile delivery vehicles is starting to grow quickly as logistics companies such as FedEx and Amazon, as well as retailers such as IKEA, set and strive to hit climate goals.  Mercedes-Benz, a subsidiary of Daimler, has been a longtime partner of Amazon, as well as global shipping companies. Two years ago, Amazon bought 20,000 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans to launch its local franchised shipping program in the United States. However, those were internal combustion vehicles. The world’s largest automakers have been relatively slow to build and market electric trucks and buses, citing a lack of demand from customers and technology that isn’t ready for prime time. That’s left an opening for startups such as Rivian, which has a deal to sell Amazon 100,000 electric trucks.  But Mercedes-Benz appears to be making up for lost time. The automaker also announced Friday that it’s joining the Climate Pledge, an initiative coordinated by Amazon and firm Global Optimism that commits signatories to achieving the objectives laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement by 2040, a decade earlier than the agreement’s 2050 goal. Mercedes-Benz says it will become net carbon-neutral by 2040.  Amazon plans to use the 1,800 electric delivery vans — 1,200 e-Sprinter vans and 600 e-Vito vans — to deliver goods in countries in Europe. European countries including England, Germany, Spain, Denmark and Sweden are acting aggressively to decarbonize transportation emissions and are more swiftly adopting electric trucks compared to the U.S. Mercedes-Benz says by the end of the year it will offer five electric vehicle models and 20 plug-in hybrid vehicle editions. Its vehicle and battery production also will be carbon-neutral, using clean energy. Amazon is adding 1,800 electric delivery vehicles from Mercedes-Benz as part of our journey to build the most sustainable transportation fleet in the world, and we will be moving fast to get these vans on the road this year. Transitioning to electric vehicles after decades of making gas and diesel-powered ones won’t be easy. The German auto industry is losing jobs and profits as it refashions its factories to make electric vehicle drive trains, and reduces production of the traditional engine and gas tank.  At the same time, big companies such as Amazon increasingly are making global climate commitments in an effort to stay competitive, protect their brands, meet mandates and retain employees. Amazon plans eventually to have all of its shipments to customers become net-zero carbon, with 50 percent of all shipments net-zero by 2030. Electrification of its fleet will play a large role in those goals. In the release, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said that Amazon is buying the electric vans from Mercedes-Benz in an effort “to build the most sustainable transportation fleet in the world.” Pull Quote Amazon is adding 1,800 electric delivery vehicles from Mercedes-Benz as part of our journey to build the most sustainable transportation fleet in the world, and we will be moving fast to get these vans on the road this year. Topics Transportation & Mobility Daimler Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Amazon Close Authorship

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Digital technology, green finance in vogue among fashion’s sustainability trendsetters

August 5, 2020 by  
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Digital technology, green finance in vogue among fashion’s sustainability trendsetters Phylicia Wu Wed, 08/05/2020 – 01:00 The key to long-term success in the fashion industry is to start trends and continually push the envelope — a philosophy that also applies to its ESG priorities. The $2.5 trillion industry accounts for about 8 percent of the world’s carbon emissions when considering the entire value chain — higher than the entire iron and steel manufacturing industry combined, for comparison. Without any intervention, that figure is projected to increase more than 60 percent by 2030. However, there is a growing and collective awareness of environmental impact across the industry. Companies are discovering sustainability is not just a fad, but a new standard that is here to stay.  A proliferation of greening initiatives from industry players has emerged with public announcements of policies to tackle this issue, measures to address their supply chain footprints, promotion of circular economy practices and encouragement for sustainable brands growing increasingly popular. However, despite these various green initiatives from several early trendsetters in the fashion industry, formidable challenges lay ahead on the path to scaling up sustainability — especially when it comes to supply chain strategies. The lack of environmental impact information and outdated technology are two ubiquitous issues plaguing industrial supply chains in general, but they are especially significant in the context of the fashion industry.  Due to highly price-competitive environments, upstream supply chain participants have little motivation to invest in improvements. Downstream supply chain participants that rarely have a personal stake, such as powerful brands and retailers, hardly encourage prioritization of sustainability upstream. These dynamics have led to the development of stagnant supply chains largely unable to respond to the urgency of the fashion industry’s significant carbon footprint.  Given that most emissions are produced along the supply chain, companies’ inability to monitor and track this data means that there is not a starting point to begin improving their environmental footprints. In particular, inadequate data collection infrastructure along the supply chain has resulted in a shortage of environmental data and information transparency. According to the 2020 Fashion Transparency Index survey, while 78 percent of brands have policies on energy and carbon emissions, only 16 percent publish data on the annual carbon footprints of their supply chain. Given that most emissions are produced along the supply chain, companies’ inability to monitor and track this data means that there is not a starting point to begin improving their environmental footprints.  The reluctance to upgrade to new technology can be partly attributed to thin operating margins of fashion supply chains leading to inefficiencies along the entire chain. One of the most candid illustrations of inefficiencies caused by antiquated technology is in the manufacturing process, where conventional practices still take 2,700 liters — or three years’ worth of drinking water — to make a typical cotton T-shirt.  Traditional manufacturers abide by the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage, while the ultimate retailer of the shirt has no direct ties to the manufacturer. Thus even if the manufacturer had a sustainability policy, it would be difficult to enforce. When both upstream and downstream participants of the supply chain are at odds with modernization, it prevents the changes needed to respond to the climate impact of the industry.  But it is not all doom and gloom. This is where green finance and technology come in. Their dual adoption can begin to address the environmental data gaps and also boost efficiency for production processes in the supply chain that would usher along a much-needed evolution of the fashion industry towards greater sustainability.  Digital technology will play a pivotal role in addressing information transparency and environmental reporting in the fashion industry by facilitating data collection along the supply chain. Using blockchain and cloud-based technology, a number of startups are already laying the groundwork.  For example, blockchain platform Provenance helps trace and certify supply chains to enable ethical procurement decisions. Another startup, Galaxius, offers a cloud-based system that tracks supply chain activity from fabric orders to garment delivery. Beyond startups, fashion luxury giant Kering Group launched an app called My EP&L that tracks carbon emissions, water consumption and air and water pollution along its supply chain to educate designers and students on sustainable design principles. Recently, Stella McCartney and Google Cloud announced a partnership to determine the environmental impact of various types of raw materials. All of these efforts contribute to advancing data collection at different points along the supply chain and have the potential to provide unprecedented levels of transparency for the industry. Dated technology in the production phase of the supply chain creates significant challenges in two ways. The first is in more eco-friendly product material innovation. New textiles, alternative raw materials and sustainable dyeing methods are made possible through scientific and technological ingenuity.  For example, Tencel, a super-absorbent fiber made from wood pulp, offers a great alternative to synthetic activewear. Lenzing Group, producer of Tencel, also uses a closed-loop production process and sustainable dyeing technology in which solvents needed to make the fiber are recycled over and over again to produce new fibers. But the higher costs associated with upgrading machinery to produce more eco-friendly materials typically associated with such innovations hinders their wider acceptance.  The second challenge relates to upgrades and updates to the supply chain that boost efficiency, promote better resource allocation, identify potential cost savings, predict demand and provide other benefits that mitigate the industry’s environmental impact.  Startups such as Optoro and ShareCloth use artificial intelligence, machine learning and other emerging technologies to digitize processes to lower excess inventory and reduce textile waste. However, similar to the cost barriers that impede wider adoption of eco-friendly materials, these new technologies depend on customized machinery or entirely new production facilities, which may be more capital-intensive and require considerable new capital expenditures when compared to traditional manufacturing processes.  Just digital technology for supply chain improvements will not be enough. Fashion will need green finance to drive large-scale transformation. The Boston Consulting Group estimates that commercializing and scaling these innovations will require $20 billion to $30 billion of financing per year.  The Boston Consulting Group estimates that commercializing and scaling these innovations will require $20 billion to $30 billion of financing per year. Promising green finance developments in the fashion industry already are underway. Traditional lenders have begun to ink green bonds and sustainability-linked loans. In November, Prada became the first fashion company to sign a $59 million sustainability-linked loan with Crédit Agricole.  Under the terms of the loan, Prada can pay a reduced interest rate if it achieves targets related to the number of LEED Gold or Platinum-certified stores, the number of training hours employees receive, and the use of Prada Re-Nylon (regenerated nylon) in the production of goods. In February, VF Corporation closed its $591 million green bond, marking the first green bond issued in the industry.  Private equity investors are also paying attention to startup fashion brands. Just last year, The Carlyle Group made its first foray into the industry by acquiring a stake in Jeanologia, and Permira acquired a majority stake in the ethical fashion brand Reformation. In September 2019, the $30 million Good Fashion Fund launched, representing the first investment fund focused solely on driving the implementation of innovative solutions in the fashion industry.  Brands also have started to form corporate venture capital arms to create opportunities for green finance. Examples include Patagonia’s Tin Shed Ventures, launched as a $20 million fund in 2013, and H&M’s CO:LAB, which has made investments ranging from $1 million to $20 million in sustainable fashion.  Prada, by scaling and incentivizing its regenerated nylon technology through its green finance partnership with Credit Agricole, serves as a pioneer for the industry. However, the solutions offered by advancements in technology and green finance admittedly will need more buy-in from companies across the fashion world.  Some ideas that can move fashion in a greener direction include establishing long-term business strategies that incorporate plans for sustainable solutions, employing creative approaches to applying sustainability across supply chains and developing best practices for environmental data monitoring and reporting.  A recent press release from Google and WWF Sweden announcing plans to create an environmental data platform, the latest green financing deal by Moncler for up to $472 million that is tied to its environmental impact reduction targets and a similar arrangement by Salvatore Ferragamo for up to $295 million are welcome steps in the right direction, even in the midst of a global pandemic.  The future is indeed hopeful as sustainability continues to be championed across the industry and its supply chain. Green finance and digital technology will be increasingly critical drivers for the development of greener and more sustainable supply chains. The fashion industry always has been creative, innovative and bold in its designs; now is the time to channel these qualities to secure a fashionable future that is green and sustainable. This article was adapted from the Paulson Institute’s three-part series on sustainability in the fashion industry. Pull Quote Given that most emissions are produced along the supply chain, companies’ inability to monitor and track this data means that there is not a starting point to begin improving their environmental footprints. The Boston Consulting Group estimates that commercializing and scaling these innovations will require $20 billion to $30 billion of financing per year. Topics Corporate Strategy Supply Chain Fashion Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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3XN unveils LEED Platinum-seeking Forskaren innovation center in Stockholm

May 12, 2020 by  
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Danish architecture firm 3XN has won a design competition for Forskaren, a new mixed-use innovation center for health and life science companies in Stockholm. Designed to achieve LEED Platinum certification, the rounded 24,000-square-meter building will draw power from renewable sources. Forskaren will also promote sustainable principles among its tenants with the inclusion of light-filled collaborative spaces and restaurants with eco-friendly fare. Forskaren was designed as part of Hagastaden, a 96-hectare district that is one of the city’s largest and most important urban development projects. The new building will be located between the Karolinska University Hospital and the old Stockholm city hospital to cement the district’s reputation as a world-class destination for research in health, life science and treatment. Hagastaden, which is slated for completion in 2025, also encompasses new housing, a subway station and green spaces. Related: Sculptural, energy-saving office boasts the “smartest building advances in Germany” Forskaren reflects the ambitions of the new district with an open and inviting design built largely of natural materials both inside and out. The building will comprise office space for both established companies and startups as well as restaurants, cafes and an exhibition area showcasing cutting-edge life science research. The light-filled building will be centered on an airy atrium with a distinctive spiral staircase. Along with its surrounding square, Forskaren’s amenities will be publicly accessible as part of a plan to make the building a natural gathering point in Hagastaden. To meet LEED Platinum standards, Forskaren will be equipped with rooftop solar panels and geothermal heat pumps. Graywater collected from rainwater harvesting systems will be used for irrigation and watering plants. Expansive glazing, timber solar shades and a series of other energy-efficient building systems will help keep energy use to a minimum. Forskaren is slated for completion in 2024. + 3XN Images via 3XN

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Best practices for outdoor exercise during COVID-19

May 12, 2020 by  
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Now that states are starting to ease their lockdowns, outdoorsy and active people are eager to hit the trails or pick up their tennis rackets and golf clubs. But what do you need to know before getting active amidst COVID-19 ? Here are tips to stay safe while enjoying the great outdoors during a pandemic. Picking the safest activities The virus is still out there. So as you venture out of your home, remember to keep your guard up. The safest activities are those that let you maintain physical distance and congregate with as few people as possible — it’s still safest to stick with members of your own household. Related: COVID-19 and its effects on the environment If you must recreate with the population beyond your quarantine-mates, singles tennis is going to be safer than doubles, because there’s only one person on each side of the net and only one other person touching your tennis balls. You can probably golf safely, but a post-golf hang out in the clubhouse is a bad idea. For now, you’re better off avoiding sports that require close contact and lots of hands on the same equipment, such as soccer, basketball and volleyball. Hiking At first thought, hiking seems like the perfect pandemic activity. What could be more socially distanced than trekking through the wilderness? Well, nothing. Except that, depending where you live, half of your neighbors probably had the same idea. Plus, hiking trails are narrow. So what happens when one hiker wants to pass another? Choose your hiking trails carefully. Depending on where you live, trailheads might be blocked and parking lots could be closed. Try to check your local ordinances before you head out. This can be tricky, since websites may not be up to date and conditions can change rapidly. In Oregon, official guidelines currently say, “Be prepared for last minute changes to ensure the safety and health of others.” In other words, rangers may close trailheads or parking lots at any minute if folks fail to behave responsibly. Pick the less popular trails, go early and abort the mission if there are too many cars parked near the trailhead. Have a face mask handy so you can cover up and protect fellow hikers if you need to pass them. Avoid narrow trails on cliff edges, where there’s nowhere to step aside. If your dog wants to come along, plan to hike on a wide trail or in a remote area. If the trails are too crowded, and/or you can’t resist those puppy-dog eyes, consider looking for quiet country roads and going for a ramble rather than a hike. Running Since the gyms closed, the number of outdoor runners seems to have multiplied. It can be tricky to navigate your path as you stay 6 feet away from other humans. This might mean zig-zagging from one side of the street to the other, coming to a dead stop when a group of kids go by on trikes and being highly alert to avoid cars and bikes. You’ll need your wits about you. Either skip the headphones or only wear one. With regular routes suddenly too crowded for physical distancing, it’s also important to be vigilant when navigating less familiar terrain. Distance runners might need to plan their routes more carefully. Being 4 miles from home on city streets and suddenly realizing all the public restrooms are closed — well, that’s not a fun predicament. This isn’t a great time for public drinking fountains, either. So carry a reusable water bottle or plan your route so that you can stop by your house for a mid-run comfort break. Water sports As spring turns into summer , water lovers’ thoughts turn to their local beaches, rivers and lakes. Many water sports are a good option during COVID-19, but this isn’t a good time to take up anything extreme. You really don’t want to have to seek medical attention or be hospitalized right now. Instead, try activities like kayaking or paddle boarding on calm waters. But because even the calmest water can be dangerous, go with your household or a buddy. You can stay in close proximity with the people you live with, but if you meet up with a friend, you do need to continue to practice social distancing. Some outfitters are opening up now for contactless rentals and physically distanced group outings with well-sanitized kayaks. This is a good option if you don’t own the gear. Swimming and surfing can also be done while adhering to physical distancing guidelines. Adhere to local ordinances and, again, go with your household or a friend. Other outdoor exercise tips and etiquette As you venture outdoors, keep your safety and that of others in mind by following local ordinances and official guidelines. If you live in a place where face masks are optional, bring one along in case conditions turn out to be more crowded than expected. Stick a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your pocket in case you have to touch something. If you’re exerting yourself, watch where you are huffing and puffing. People going on a socially distant walk with family or housemates should go single-file if others are trying to pass. If other people fail to observe proper pandemic etiquette, stay calm. Move away from people breathing in your space. Also, remember why you’re going outdoors: fresh air, exercise and the uplifting effects of nature . This is a time to prioritize physical health and sanity, not athletic achievement or personal best race times. So get outside, be safe and try to be kind to yourself and others. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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ReGen Villages plans smart, circular communities in Sweden

April 22, 2020 by  
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Silicon Valley-based  ReGen Villages  has teamed up with Swedish architecture firm  White Arkitekter  to develop ReGen Villages Sweden, a vision for smart, self-sufficient communities throughout the Scandinavian country. Developed to meet the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the proposal combines a wide variety of high- and low-tech environmentally friendly systems from organic gardens for local food production to the integration of artificial intelligence on a community-wide scale. The two firms hope to break ground on a ReGen Villages Sweden pilot project in 2020.  The ReGen Villages concept is based on five core principles: high-yield organic and ecological food production, mixed renewable energy and storage systems, water and waste recycling,  energy-positive  architecture and the empowerment of local communities. Each ReGen Village would measure approximately 250,000 square meters with only a quarter of the site occupied by buildings, including around 250 to 300 houses. The rest of the area will be used for farming and food production, energy production and water management.  Key to the design of ReGen Villages is the integration of Village OS, a ReGen Villages Holding-developed system based on AI technology and machine learning. Like the technology used in “ smart homes ,” Village OS will use computer systems to monitor all aspects of the community, from farming and recycling to residents’ energy and water usage. The local housing cooperative can use Village OS from a central hub to run the community’s daily operations, which will be optimized over time through collected data. Related: This train station which doubles as city hall in Sweden will function as an “urban living room” “Scalable, innovative solutions are the answers to the challenges of the future,” said James Ehrlich, founder of ReGen Villages Holding. “The collaboration with White will give  Sweden  and the Nordics the world’s first economically, ecologically and socially sustainable communities for ordinary people.” ReGen Villages has spent the past four years meeting with Swedish municipalities, landowners, property developers and stakeholders to push the project forward. White Arkitekter will handle the overall site planning and design of the community’s energy-positive architecture. + White Arkitekter Images via White Arkitekter

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15 ways to celebrate Earth Day 2020 at home

April 22, 2020 by  
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April 22, 2020 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day . While every day is the perfect day to honor Mother Earth, Earth Day is an opportunity to implement a new sustainable practice, create something beautiful or protect limited resources. So while you are hunkered down during COVID-19, here are some activities you can do to celebrate Earth Day at home. Establish rain barrels Water conservation is especially important, so why not start in your own yard by collecting rainwater ? In turn, you can use it to water the lawn and garden or provide a drink for pets and wildlife. Systems are easy to set up with a downspout diverter that you can incorporate directly into your gutter system. Related: Earth Day 2020 goes digital Pick up garbage Garbage is not only an eyesore, but it can hurt wildlife and pollute waterways , too. This Earth Day, head out on your own or with your household to pick up the neighborhood on your daily walk or even clean up your own yard. Just be sure to follow health precautions, including social distancing and wearing masks. Make planters For a fun Earth Day project, build your own planters. You can make them out of spare wood or concrete mix, or you can get creative with household items that make excellent planters, such as an old boot, a colander or a teapot. Create flower beds Because Earth Day lands in spring, it’s a great time to plan for planting. If you’re creating flower beds, use repurposed materials instead of buying new. Grab a pallet, upcycle some metal sheeting, stack rocks from around the property or line the space with upside-down bottles. The options for creating flower beds are only limited by your imagination, so get creative! Design an eco-friendly pantry  Earth Day is about giving thought to ways you can reduce consumption and waste and that idea works just as well inside the home as it does outside of it. With that in mind, tackle the pantry by moving food and spices into glass jars. Use a label-maker or attach chalk paint stickers to the front of each jar so you can identify the ingredients. Then, plan to purchase from bulk bins in the future to eliminate packaging waste with each grocery store trip. Plant a tree Few things are more ubiquitous than planting a tree on Earth Day, so join the movement by putting some of your favorites in the yard. Trees offer endless benefits, from providing animal habitats and shade to cleaning the air you breathe. Consider planting a fruit tree , so you can even harvest some sweet rewards. Provide bird feeders and baths Birds are pollinators , plus they are just fun to watch as they fly and sing around the yard. Take care of your feathered friends with clean bird baths and feeders full of fresh seeds for them to enjoy. Build a butterfly house In addition to selecting plants that attract fluttery friends, you can spend your Earth Day building a home specifically made for butterflies . Plans are fairly basic, and if you are inclined, a slight variation in the design can net you a bat house, too. Start an apiary Bees are essential for pollination and a healthy food and flower supply. With that in mind, why not manage your own apiary? There are some upfront costs and planning required, but if beekeeping is on your bucket list, Earth Day is the perfect time to start.  Make your own cleaning products To avoid washing toxic chemicals down the drain and into the water system, make your own natural cleaners. With a little practice, you can make laundry detergent , fabric softener, liquid soap and all-purpose cleaners. Natural cleaners don’t require very many ingredients, and you may already have these ingredients in your home. Spend your Earth Day making the switch from commercial to homemade. Related: DIY natural cleaners for every household chore Replace plastic Eliminating plastic from your house can take your Earth Day campaign from one room to the next. Although you don’t have to hit the internet to order all new containers, make a wish list and replace plastic items as you are able. Common examples include shampoo bottles, water bottles, laundry detergent jugs, grocery bags and food storage containers. Vow to make the switch to no packaging or glass and stainless steel reusable containers for every item on the list. Convert to online billing In today’s world, paper billing is rarely needed. Save mail delivery fuel emissions and reduce paper consumption by moving your bills online instead of receiving them in paper form. This can include mail relating to utilities, banking, credit cards, mortgages and more. Plan or plant a garden Providing fresh, farm-to-table food for your family or roommates is a fabulous way to spend Earth Day. The benefits are endless, from bountiful produce to a smaller carbon footprint. If it’s not quite planting time in your region, at least outline a plan for what plants you hope to grow, where you will locate them and when they will be ready for consumption. Start composting If you don’t have one already, composters are easy to start and maintain. You can buy a commercial composter, put together a basic wood box without a bottom or simply make a pile in the backyard. Position your compost pile in a sunny spot for best results, stir it occasionally and make sure it stays moist during very dry seasons. Layer ingredients with approximately equal amounts of brown materials, green materials and organic food scraps. Watch the Lyrid meteor shower Enjoy an exciting glimpse of our universe by watching the Lyric meteor shower , which is actually visible from about April 16 to April 25, just in time to celebrate Earth Day. You’ll have a chance to see up to 10 to 15 meteors per hour. + EarthDay.org Images via Manfred Antranias Zimmer , Barb Howe , Dieter G , George B2 , Crema Joe and Neon Brand

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Orca Running offers a Social Distance Run

April 9, 2020 by  
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Since putting on its first race in 2014, Orca Running has grown to organize 25 road and trail races per year in Washington State. But coronavirus decimated this thriving business — known for its green practices and dedication to partnering with nonprofits — in mere weeks. Owner Porter Bratten had to think fast to keep paying his employees and his own mortgage as well as to motivate the thousands of runners who participate in Orca Running events. So he dreamed up the Social Distance Run. “It came out of an ‘oh shit’ moment where everybody stopped signing up for all the races until there was no money coming in at all,” Bratten told Inhabitat. “Furthermore, everybody was very sad about all the races getting canceled and everything else going on.” He landed on the idea of a training program culminating in a virtual race, with a few fun twists to make it more interesting than your average virtual race. “I knew that I did not want to come across as trying to take advantage of the situation, but being upfront that this is a thing that you can participate in to keep you healthy and you can also keep the business going.” Billed as an eight-week running and fitness challenge, participants sign up to train for one of six distances, ranging from 5K to 50K. They can communicate through a lively Facebook group and enter their training runs on Strava. Bratten and his crew email training plans to people based on their chosen distance, sponsor weekly challenges with raffle prizes and keep up a steady stream of “Dad jokes.” As it says on the race registration page, “Like a pack of introverted hyenas, we keep our distance but still look out for one another.” Orca Running offers different packages, ranging from a $6 “Hermit in the Wild” membership that includes a training plan, access to the Facebook group and Strava run club and emailed jokes, to the $100 Benefactor level, which comes with a T-shirt, medal, race bib, discount for a future Orca Running race and a box of Pop-Tarts. Emotional support for runners in the Social Distance Run While people post their run times and cheer each other on, runners of all ages and abilities also find emotional support through the Social Distance Run Facebook group. Facebook group members talk about everything from what shoes to buy to which trails are open during the pandemic as well as their emotional struggles, physical injuries and their frustrations with people who fail to social distance when sharing trails. People frequently mention their gratitude for the group. “A lot of people are cooped up with their family, their spouse,” Bratten said. “This is an opportunity to have some alone time. Everybody feels better after they run, even if it’s a crappy run. And they can share about it, if their family doesn’t care, they can share it on the Facebook group and can celebrate the little things.” Orca Running’s fundraising efforts Fundraising has always been a part of Orca Running’s mission. “We’re hoping to donate at least $10,000 to GlobalGiving’s Coronavirus Relief Fund ,” Bratten said, through a combination of Orca Running’s donation plus additional runner donations through the company website. Related: Plogging — Sweden’s new fitness trend combines jogging and trash pickup Each of Orca Running’s races has at least one nonprofit partner. Its trail races, held under Orca’s Evergreen Trail Runs brand, all benefit the Washington Trails Association . The road races each have different partners, including Habitat for Humanity, Canine Companions for Independence and the Mt. Si Food Bank. Two races are whale-themed. The San Juan Half benefits the local Whale Museum, and the Orca Half supports the Whale Trail, a West Seattle-based nonprofit that posts interpretive signage about whales along the west coast from Canada to Mexico. Bratten, who lives in coastal Anacortes, Washington, has long felt an affinity for orcas . As a child, he remembers seeing orcas from his aunt and uncle’s sailboat. His elementary school had an orca mascot. When he was naming his race organization, orcas seemed like a good fit. “Even though they’re an international animal, they live all around the world, they feel like they’re a symbol of the Pacific Northwest because some of them live here year-round. It seemed like something that I have a lot of connection with, and that the region has a connection with, and it’s a good tie-in with the environment.” Eco-friendly racing practices and challenges Bratten and his crew are always working on ways to make Orca Running’s races more sustainable. “The trail races are generally a lot less waste per runner because so many more things get reused. There’s no shirt or medal that’s getting shipped from China,” he said. Trail racers can’t go as fast because of the hazards of roots, rocks, mud and lots of uphill and downhill, so they tend to focus less on speed. But road racers are often after a personal best time or are using a race to qualify for a more prestigious marathon. Road racers expect to keep running through an aid station, where volunteers typically hand them disposable cups of water. Stopping to fool around with refilling a water pouch consumes precious seconds. Orca Running has started using refillable hydropouches for some of its races, which work pretty well, Bratten said. But he’s still hoping the technology improves so that water stops take less time. Orca Running is also looking at more sustainable shirt production. “A tech shirt is made from oil , and a cotton shirt can use a lot of water.” He hopes to switch to recycled tech shirts next year. Trail runners love trees , so Evergreen Trail Runs sponsored a volunteer day to plant trees with King County Parks, in accordance with the county’s goal to plant a million trees by the end of this year. Bratten hopes to institute a sapling program, where runners can click a box at registration to take home a sapling to plant after the race. With races on hold, Orca can only dream of and plan for future greener practices. In the meantime, Bratten encourages people to get outside — at a safe social distance — and get some exercise . “Everybody should go out and go for a run. You’ll feel better.” + Orca Running Images via Orca Running

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Orca Running offers a Social Distance Run

How to stock a vegan pandemic pantry

April 7, 2020 by  
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As what used to be ordinary errands become brave forays into a coronavirus -paralyzed world, online grocery stores have seen a huge uptick in orders. People with dietary restrictions may be especially challenged. “When you’re vegan, it’s so much harder to find some of the things you need,” said Ryan Wilson, co-owner of Wisconsin-based Vegan Essentials. He and his wife Courtney Ernster, who founded the mail-order grocery in 1997, have been working around the clock to keep up with demand. Here are some tips from Wilson on what to buy for a vegan pantry, where to get these items and why getting groceries might take longer than you expect. What vegan pantry supplies to buy The first instinct is to stock up on dry goods and pantry staples: flour, sugar, vegetable oil, rice, dried beans and lentils. Ground flax seed makes an easy egg replacement in baked goods, and perhaps grab as much shelf-stable soy milk as you can carry. Related: Keep your pantry stocked with these staples for a plant-based diet But Wilson surprisingly said people are ordering “anything and everything.” Even items that usually sit for a while are now flying off the shelves. “It is truly a period where no matter what we have, every single thing is going, whether it’s frozen meals, refrigerated products, dry goods, even dog food and treats are going out at faster paces than usual.” What are Wilson and Ernster stacking in their own pantry? Turns out they’re thinking farther ahead and bringing home jerky, canned chili and heat-and-serve pouch meals. “Things that are easy if you want to tuck some extra stock on the shelf just in case there’s limited cooking abilities or anything of that sort,” Wilson explained. “Things that are just very easy to open up, grab, heat or just eat straight from the pack.” We’ve been avoiding thinking about grid failure, but he makes a good point. A can of chili won’t fail you like dried beans and rice will if you can’t turn on your stove. A few sweets can be comforting at a time like this. Dates and dark chocolate have some nutrients and can be eaten on their own or baked into delicious treats. Where to buy vegan food online Like many people, the pandemic finally eroded my resistance to Amazon Prime, partly because of the free delivery from Whole Foods. Alas, I filled up my online shopping cart only to find out there were no delivery windows available. This is a problem plaguing many grocery stores that deliver. As a warning, all of the stores in this section may let you down at times, as items continue to fly off shelves and stores remain understaffed. In addition to retail giants like Amazon and Instacart, many more specialty businesses appeal to vegetarians, vegans and health -conscious individuals. Bob’s Red Mill , beloved purveyor of whole foods, is a superstar when it comes to grains, cereals, flours, mixes, beans and seeds. Bob’s Red Mill also has a dedicated gluten-free production line. Related: The best sources for plant-based protein Vegan Essentials can fulfill your alternative meat and cheese needs, and this online grocery sells vegan treats such as white chocolate, caramels and snickerdoodle dessert hummus. It also stocks all the standard things a vegan household needs, from pantry staples to cleaners. Deja Vegan specializes in vegan snack foods, like cookies, crackers and bars. A business partner of PETA , Deja Vegan donates half of its profits to animal causes. Coronavirus-related complications to supply and demand When you’re ordering groceries during the pandemic, it helps to be patient and ready to substitute items. Vegan Essentials’ experience is probably typical of many online food businesses right now. “It went from being a normal volume we were very, very much able to handle to getting about three to five times our normal business almost overnight,” Wilson said. “Which of course is only exacerbated by the challenge of people being restricted and everybody kind of being stuck inside.” Supply chains have mostly been reliable, Wilson said, but he has encountered some shortages. At the lowest point, he was placing orders and only receiving half of what he needed for his customers. “But it seems that right now we’re getting about 75 to 80% of what we need,” Wilson said. “I’m hoping in the next few weeks as companies start to ramp up production and things smooth out, I’m hoping we can get that back to having everything on hand all the time.” There’s also the problem of quickly adding staff as demand soars. Vegan Essentials is relying on a network of family and friends who have suddenly lost their jobs. More than ever, trust among employees is paramount. Wilson said, “We try to keep self-contained where we kind of know everybody and everyone feels safe and doesn’t wonder, ‘Was that person going places they shouldn’t have gone?’” Vegan Essentials is getting more international orders than it has had in the past, including from new customers in Australia, France, Japan, Germany, Sweden and Finland. “We haven’t heard specifically why people are looking to order from the USA more than just sticking with the usual places in Europe that can get things to them a little bit sooner. But it could just be that now that people are confined, they’re looking for a little extra variety to have something different on hand.” Because grocers are essential businesses, the folks at Vegan Essentials will keep working to meet demand. “There’s not much else we can do right now but work and keep things moving,” Wilson said. “So we may as well just keep doing the best job we can.” Images via Maddi Bazzocco , Martin Lostak and Andrea Davis

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How to stock a vegan pandemic pantry

Swedens tallest timber building could save 550 tons of CO2

February 28, 2020 by  
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Scandinavian-based architecture firm C.F. Møller Architects has raised the bar for sustainable architecture with the recent completion of the Kajstaden Tower, Sweden’s tallest timber building. Located in Västerås, about an hour outside of Stockholm, the landmark building rises 8.5 stories in height and was built almost entirely from cross-laminated timber. The architects estimate that the use of solid timber instead of concrete for construction translates to 550 tons of carbon dioxide savings over the building’s lifetime.  Commissioned by Slättö Förvaltning, the Kajstaden Tower was constructed as part of a new central residential neighborhood near the waterfront of Öster Mälarstrand. Along with the record-breaking, solid-timber landmark, the new sustainably minded neighborhood includes an electric boat sharing system in the marina. Related: C.F. Møller’s Storkeengen tackles climate challenges in a Danish town In addition to reducing the building’s carbon footprint, the use of CNC-milled solid timber and glulam for all parts of the building — including the walls, joists, balconies, lift and stairwell shafts — results in an airtight and energy-efficient building envelope without added insulation. The timber frame was also fast to raise; each floor, which contains four apartments, took four craftsmen an average of three days to put together. Mechanical joints and screws were used so that the building can be later taken apart, and the materials can be reused.  “The building in Kajstaden constitutes a new chapter in the history of construction, as it is currently Sweden’s tallest solid-timber building,” said Ola Jonsson, associate partner at C.F. Møller Architects, which is also part of the Nordic Network for Tall Wood Buildings. “Through research projects and our other timber projects, we have focused on innovation and contributed toward developing ways of realizing high-rise buildings made of timber. Industrial timber technology also provides architects with better tools for designing beautiful houses that boast a high degree of detail.” + C.F. Møller Architects Photography by Nikolaj Jakobsen via C.F. Møller Architects

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Swedens tallest timber building could save 550 tons of CO2

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