Heat wave in Australia kills 23K flying foxes

April 15, 2019 by  
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A historic heat wave in Australia killed off thousands of flying foxes late last year. In Australia’s northern coast, temperatures reached over 107 degrees for several days, leading to the deaths of around 23,000 flying foxes, which are some of the largest bats on the planet. The flying foxes did everything in their power to beat the heat. This includes panting, using their wings as fans and coating their bodies with saliva. Unfortunately, the heat proved to be too much, and many of the bats fell to their deaths. A few hundred were also taken to rehab facilities in the region. Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 “We have never seen die-offs in this species before,” David Westcott, who works for the National Flying-Fox Monitoring Program, explained. “Indeed, across the species’ range, we have rarely, if ever, seen temperatures like this before.” The large bats are not the only wildlife affected by such temperatures. The record-breaking heat wave killed camels, wild horses and fish over the past few months. The temperatures have climbed so high that hanging fruit cooked on trees. Although 23,000 bats is a lot, this is hardly the first time such huge numbers of species have died because of heat waves. In 2014, a devastating heat wave led to the death of more than 45,000 bats in Queensland. Dating all the way back to 1791, there have been around 39 similar events , although 35 of them have happened after 1994. What makes last year’s die-off unique is that it happened to a type of bat that is on the endangered species list. Prior to November, scientists estimated that there were around 75,000 spectacled flying foxes in the world, spread out among  Australia , New Guinea and Indonesia. That means the latest heat wave killed close to a third of their population, which could have devastating results on the future of the species. In light of the situation, conservationists are doing their best to prevent future die-offs. Scientists working out of Western Sydney University have created a warning system that alerts local residents ahead of a heat wave , giving them enough time to provide the bats with life-saving water sources. Via EcoWatch Image via Lonely Shrimp

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Heat wave in Australia kills 23K flying foxes

Car-free Sundays are the norm in Colombia’s capital city, Bogot

April 15, 2019 by  
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Imagine your city without cars — every single Sunday. At first, you might be frustrated by the inconvenience and inability to complete errands, but once you embrace the throngs of bikes, recognize your friends and neighbors among the people out for a stroll or attend a Zumba class at what was once a congested intersection, it’s likely to become one of your favorite traditions. For 45 years, the Colombian city of Bogotá has closed its major roads for Ciclovía, a weekly event where cyclists and pedestrians reclaim the street. The world’s most successful mass recreation event Vox calls the weekly event “the world’s most successful mass recreation event,” and more than 400 cities around the world look to Bogotá as a model for replication. In Spanish, Ciclovía means “Bicycle Way,” but the roads are open to bikes , roller skates, scooters, wheel chairs, skateboards, runners, walkers and all other types of physical activity, recreation and relaxation. Since its launch in 1974 , the event has expanded to include juice bars, fruit stands and exercise classes at various stops along the now 76 miles of designated roadway. Related: France moves to reshape infrastructure and promote bicycle transportation Ciclovía occurs from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every single Sunday and on major holidays, a frequency that sets it apart from similar events in other cities and is credited for its long-term success. Pulling off such a large-scale event is no easy feat in Bogotá , a major Latin American city that normally moves 1.5 million cars, 50,000 taxis and 500,000 motorcycles on any given day. “The Ciclovía is the moment when motor vehicles make way for human beings,” a director for the event, Bibiana Sarmiento, told National Geographic . In fact, nearly 1.5 million Bogotanos take over the public space every Sunday, which is approximately a quarter of the city’s entire population. Statistics show that the average participant is out there for about three hours, which has significantly helped residents reach widely recommended levels of physical activity. Bogotanos, like most city-dwellers, face limited space for recreational activities and soaring rates of chronic diseases linked to sedentary lifestyles. Although Ciclovía is only once a week, the city-wide emphasis on physical activity and community access to exercise classes and bike routes has caused a marked difference in health indicators. Street closures are good for your health In addition to improved air quality and a palpable decrease in stress and aggressive behaviors, the city of Bogotá is also attempting to analyze specific public health benefits. Program analysts studied savings on medical costs and found that Ciclovía saves between $3.20 and $4.30 in direct medical costs per every dollar invested, which is approximately $6 per participant. General analyses also indicate that public health benefits are more profound and long-term when such recreational events are reoccurring, something that sets Ciclovía apart from other cities with similar programs. To date, more than 400 cities worldwide have implemented similar mass recreation and street closure events, including 122 U.S. cities. A major roadblock (pun intended) to hosting such events is the logistical nightmare of acquiring permits for road closures and the cost of paying traffic staff. The benefits can outweigh the costs According to Vox, researchers recommend establishing reoccurring events to streamline permitting, staffing and signage and to ensure that residents are aware of the event and familiar with the detours.  Researchers argue that if made more frequent, “the cost of coordinating the event could come down and it could ‘help thousands to meet weekly recommended levels of [150 minutes of] physical activity.’” Related: How to make American cities bike-friendly “Over time the system has been perfected in terms of minimization of costs and of making the public aware of the road closures,” Marcela Guerrero Casas, managing director of Open Streets Cape Town in South Africa, told Vox. “When you do this consistently (in terms of time and location), people accept and embrace the program.” In addition to onerous permitting procedures, planners cite overtime for police officers as one of the largest and prohibitive expenditures. As part of the success, Ciclovía and a similar event in LA (called CicLAvía) utilize volunteers for traffic assistance. The city also pays for the program through sponsorships and a tax on phone bills, made possible because the program is so longstanding and beloved by all types of people that it is an accepted part of Bogotano culture and government spending. Going car-free can bring together the community Although the specific health and urban planning benefits aren’t always easy to quantify, there is resounding, worldwide interest in events like Ciclovía and a multitude of examples of its uniting , cross-cultural success. “No one cares about the clothes you’re wearing or what social class you’re from,” director Bibiana Sarmiento explained to National Geographic. “Everyone is welcome, and everyone is equal.” Via National Geographic and Vox Images via Saúl Ortega ( 1 , 2 , 3 ), Cidades para Pessoas and Carlos Felipe Pardo

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Car-free Sundays are the norm in Colombia’s capital city, Bogot

Ioncell technology creates eco-textile clothing fibers from birch trees

April 9, 2019 by  
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With clothing production leading the world as one of the highest-polluting industries, a new fiber contradicts the earth-damaging qualities of traditional materials. Ioncell technology , developed at Aalto University and the University of Helsinki, uses a range of materials, including wood, recycled newspaper, cardboard and old cotton to make fabric. This is good news for an environment scarred by cotton production and the development of synthetic fibers. The new and improved material can also be recycled at the end of its life cycle, significantly reducing clothing waste . In a country already acutely aware of sustainable practices in forest management, the trees sourced from Finland offer a much lower carbon footprint than traditional clothing. Ioncell materials also protect the water supply by using ionic liquid in place of harsh chemicals. Related: The convenience of “highway fitting” your clothes is hurting the planet While the designers focus on sustainable sourcing and manufacturing, the clothing also avoids contributing to a massive post-consumer waste problem. That’s because the fibers are biodegradable. Additionally, the fibers do not contain any harmful microfibers now associated with massive ocean pollution and damage to sea life. Sourced from birch trees , the wood is responsibly harvested as part of a forest management program that grows more trees than they harvest. Once cut into smaller logs, the wood is sent through a machine that turns it into large chips. At this phase, the chips are sent to the cooker and then turned into sheets of pulp. The pulp is then mixed with the ionic liquid that results in a cellulose material. Fibers are then spun into yarn and turned into fabric. Designers and researchers involved in the project report that the resulting material is soft and drapes naturally, making it a good choice for formalwear, coats, scarves, gloves and other products. It also accepts dye well. The process for making Ioncell fibers is still in the research and development phase and they currently only produce it on a small scale, but they are hoping to unveil a preliminary product line as early as 2020. + Aalto University Via World Economic Forum Images via Aalto University

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Ioncell technology creates eco-textile clothing fibers from birch trees

Local, natural materials make up this eco-friendly jungle refuge in Tulum

March 28, 2019 by  
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Mexican architectural firm Jaquestudio recently completed a new boutique hotel nestled in a leafy paradise within Tulum, Mexico. Carefully sited to preserve nearly three-quarters of the existing jungle vegetation, the Jungle Keva is an environmentally friendly retreat that minimizes site impact and the use of plastics. Moreover, the hotel is built of locally sourced, natural materials that tie the building to the landscape. Designed to mirror the Tulum environment, Jungle Keva features five beautiful lodges with expansive walls of glass that pull views of the trees into the interiors. Each lodge includes double-height , open-plan spaces flooded with natural light. The communal areas and shared amenities are located in a building at the north of the property. The hotel draws water from an on-site well and includes a newly built, state-of-the-art septic treatment system. The five lodges vary in size, from 505 square feet to 600 square feet, and accommodate three to four guests. All accommodations include a private terrace with a hammock overlooking the jungle and an indoor-outdoor bathroom as well as Wi-Fi, natural bamboo sheets and organic toiletries. Guests also have access to on-site yoga classes, a pool, a restaurant and excursion activities. Related: This breathtaking Tulum art gallery was created by Peggy Guggenheim’s great-grandson The structures are built with low-maintenance and natural finishes that lend the buildings a sense of warmth. The distinctive earthy color found throughout the hotel is achieved with the “chum” finish, a Mayan stucco local to the region that’s made from tree resin. “The objective was to use materials that age with dignity, so that with the passing of time, the architecture acquires character and a deeper sense of belonging,” the architects explained. “The different volumes of the complex are scattered along the lot, between the trees and stone paths, which provide a sensation of being in a small village in the Mayan jungle.” + Jaquestudio Via ArchDaily Photography by César Béjar via Jaquestudio

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Local, natural materials make up this eco-friendly jungle refuge in Tulum

This passive house in the Czech Republic uses technology to recycle heat

March 28, 2019 by  
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A unique location and environmentally-friendly passive house design are what define this lovely home on the Czech Republic/German border. 750 meters above sea level and in the middle of a ridge within the Ore Mountains, it almost looks like a modern farmhouse from the outside. On the inside, however, you’ll find a sleek, clean design with light colors, glass and wood. The rustic home was built by Stempel & Tesar Architects and is a certified passive house . A passive house technique dramatically reduces a building’s environmental footprint by essentially reusing the heat generated by electrical and gas appliances (refrigerators, ovens, even computers) to heat the home. A ventilation system is used to supply fresh air from outside the house to keep the air quality clean, and an efficient heat recovery unit contains and exhausts the recycled heat. Related: Green-roofed NY home taps into passive solar with contemporary style Ultra tight insulation and advanced windows that don’t allow for the heat to escape is required to produce a passive house. Conversely, a passive house is also designed to keep your home comfortable in the warmer months. So rather than using a separate heating or cooling device like a heater or air conditioner that drains energy , a passive house can recycle the heat that is already being generated. The result is a low-cost, energy efficient design that reduces the ecological footprint of the home. Outside the home is a covered walkway leading to the front entrance and an exterior of dark wood. Using an environmentally-friendly method, the wood was colored using a heating technique that eliminated the need for synthetic varnishes. The wood was also used to match the two-car garage to the look of the main house, and the roof is made of simple ceramic tiles. The location of the property allows for plenty of sunlight to brighten the home through the large windows. The home is comprised of two levels and also features a living room with floor-to-ceiling windows and a sliding door that allows for the entire house to be opened to the garden in the warmer months. Though the summer is short in this part of the world, the designers still included a winter garden and a covered terrace outside. + Stempel & Tesar Architects Via Archdaily Images via Stempel & Tesar Architects

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This passive house in the Czech Republic uses technology to recycle heat

A post-earthquake home in Mexico is built of compressed earth blocks

March 28, 2019 by  
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In the aftermath of the Puebla earthquake that struck central Mexico in September 2017, Fundación PienZa Sostenible and Love Army México tapped Mexico City-based firm Francisco Pardo Arquitecto to design a home for a family who had lost their house in the disaster. Working in close collaboration with the Guzman family, the architects created a new and more earthquake-resistant dwelling that not only caters to the family’s needs but also offers improved living conditions. Named Casa Karina after the matriarch in the family of four, the home is built largely of compressed earth blocks , created in situ, along with pinewood used for the doors and windows. Located in the rural town of Ocuilan de Arteaga, the Guzmans’ 807-square-foot lot is located on family land split into five equal parts among the siblings. The Guzman’s original home was of poor construction: a single-story wood structure covered in metal sheets without insulation ; the floors were bare soil. In designing an improved home for the Guzmans, the architects decided to build a multi-story house with the communal areas and full bathroom on the ground floor, two bedrooms on the second floor and an open terrace on the third floor from where views of the town, the neighboring fields and the surrounding volcanoes can be seen. By building upward, the architects also allocated enough area on the grounds for a field for growing crops and space where the couple’s two daughters can play outdoors. The kitchen, located at the heart of the home, overlooks views of the field. Related: This Ecuadorian home uses the natural elements of rammed earth as a foundation The new construction is also far more robust than the previous house, with concrete foundations and polished cement floors. The compressed earth block walls are reinforced with concrete slabs. The architects said, “This is how we were able to entirely adapt the design to the needs and uses of the Guzman family and to build a new and more resistant home for them, providing better space conditions.” + Francisco Pardo Arquitecto Photography by Jaime Navarro, Pablo Astorga and Fernanda Olivares via Francisco Pardo Arquitecto

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A post-earthquake home in Mexico is built of compressed earth blocks

This distillery helps you make delicious, carbon-negative cocktails

March 14, 2019 by  
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Do you ever think about how your happy hour is affecting the environment? Manufacturing alcohol in the United States creates harmful carbon dioxide that can wreck the earth’s system of natural resources, and a massive amount of the materials needed to package and distribute alcohol (bottles, plastic caps, etc.) end up in the trash. Los Angeles-based Greenbar Distillery , however, is changing the game entirely with its carbon-negative company model. One of the world’s largest selections of USDA-certified organic spirits can be found at Greenbar Distillery — that means no artificial fertilizers or synthetic pesticides seeping into the earth or your body. Additionally, the company only uses lightweight and eco-friendly packaging. By taking the environment into account with its manufacturing process and its commitment to planting one tree for every bottle of liquor that it sells, buying from Greenbar Distillery actually helps to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. According to the website, a standard cocktail made with 1.5 ounces of Greenbar Distillery spirits will make you carbon negative for the day . “By being efficient and careful in the manufacturing process and planting one tree a bottle sold, 1.5 ounces of any Greenbar Distillery organic spirits — about what’s in a typical cocktail — helps remove 46.6 kilograms of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” according to the website. Related: Grow your own cocktails — drink recipes from the garden Because the average American produces 45.2 kilograms of carbon dioxide every day, the 46.6 kilograms that Greenbar Distillery helps to remove daily means the drinks are not just carbon-neutral , but carbon-negative. You can even find a report on the company’s carbon footprint analysis on its website. So go ahead, celebrate Earth Day with a cocktail (or two). Another of the company’s impactful attributes? Its tree-planting program. It solidifies Greenbar Distillery’s enthusiasm and commitment to not only reducing its own carbon footprint with sustainable production techniques but educating the community and building awareness of the world’s environmental issues. Whenever you buy a bottle of Greenbar Distillery liquor, a tree is planted. Since beginning a partnership with Sustainable Harvest International in 2008, Greenbar has planted more than 766,000 trees in the Central American rainforest. These aren’t just any trees, either. They plant indigenous shade trees that can help protect locally-farmed, fair-trade crops like coffee and cacao. Sustainable Harvest International has also provided local training to rural farming communities throughout Central America since 1997, with programs in Belize, Honduras and Panama. Greenbar Distillery founders Melkon Khosrovian and Litty Mathew taught themselves how to make liquor through trial-and-error in 2004, completing each process start to finish themselves in the company’s early years. They started out using traditional methods and materials and didn’t make the switch to fully organic until 2009. Initially launching a spirits line called Modern Spirits Artisan, Khosrovian and Mathew put their focus on using locally-farmed ingredients and exotic flavors. The company thrived while winning awards from Wine Enthusiast and the Wall Street Journal, but when some of their local sources began switching to organic, Khosrovian and Mathew noticed a difference. Once they discovered the superior quality and taste of organic ingredients, the duo was completely inspired. This early discovery led to education on sustainable, eco-friendly farming practices and an overhaul of the entire company to focus on sustainability. Gone were the heavy glass bottles and plastic labels. Instead, Khosrovian and Mathew focused on lightweight bottles and recycled labels with water-soluble ink. Today, Greenbar Distillery uses glass bottles that weight 25 percent less than the average spirits bottle, meaning fewer resources used and less carbon dioxide emissions from production. The shipping boxes are designed to fold together and reduce the need for tape. The labels use 100 percent post-consumer waste recycled paper, and the ink is soy-based, which is more biodegradable than traditional inks. The company also eliminated the use of plastic , tamper-evident capsules on its bottles, a popular and modern practice that adds more non-recyclable plastic to the environment. While synthetic corks are gaining popularity in the alcohol industry, Greenbar Distillery only uses recyclable corks, which are biodegradable and naturally-sourced. The company seems to be constantly coming up with new, innovative techniques while simultaneously honoring the old-school methods. With enough variation to please any bartender or cocktail-enthusiast, Greenbar Distillery offers organic gin, rum, liqueur, amaro, tequila, whiskey, vodka and even bitters. Its Slow Hand whiskey uses organic malted barley and infused flavor from white oak, hickory, maple, mulberry, red oak and grape woods. Greenbar Distillery was the first to use this whiskey-making technique in the Los Angeles area since the Prohibition Period. It is also free from added sugars or artificial colors. Related: 12 delicious and crowd-pleasing vegan brunch ideas The Greenbar gin uses organic and hand-picked juniper berries from Bulgaria, and the Renaissance-era distilling process takes up to two months. When it comes to flavored liquor, Greenbar Distillery flavors its gluten-free, organic vodkas with natural ingredients like California lemons and pomegranate. Its Tru Garden Vodka is a unique blend of celery, dill, coriander, fennel, mint, thyme, pink peppercorn, cumin and vanilla beans (perfect for a morning Bloody Mary). Check out Greenbar Distillery website for more information on distillery tours and practices or to make a purchase. You can also find a whole arsenal of cocktail recipes and concoctions on the  recipes page . + Greenbar Distillery Images via Sustainable Harvest, Maker Walk LA, Marc Royce, Terreanea Resort and Greenbar Distillery

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This distillery helps you make delicious, carbon-negative cocktails

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

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

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

The Lantern is a portable home wrapped in a natural woven lattice

February 21, 2019 by  
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London-based firm Emulsion Architecture has designed a serene, portable home to serve as versatile lodging that can be installed in a variety of landscapes. Hosted by Land Stories , the first dwelling is The Lantern, a round structure with a translucent core, which is wrapped in ornate latticework made out of woven willow. The glamping suite is designed to be highly energy-efficient and have minimal environmental impact, leaving no lasting footprint on any of its locations. The portable home was designed to offer a contemporary but inviting sustainable lodging within a variety of landscapes. Whether surrounded by mountains, deserts or grasslands, guests staying in The Lantern will be able to immerse themselves comfortably in the surrounding nature. Related: KODA is a tiny solar-powered house that can move with its owners The round dwelling sleeps up to four, with one double bed and two singles as well as a kitchenette. The living space is surrounded by glass doors that swing open to a beautiful outdoor deck, which winds around the structure. Wrapped in the woven latticework, this area is the perfect spot to enjoy the panoramic views. As a nod to the design’s inspiration, lights on the roof will act as periscopes, reflecting glimpses of the landscape and environment directly onto the mirrored interior. According to the architects, the inspiration for the design came from the simple but ubiquitous lantern. “We were inspired by the simple idea of a lantern acting as a gentle beacon, which can sit sensitively in the landscape,” the team said. “A lattice of woven willow encases the dwelling space, the irregularity of the natural willow contrasting the glowing faces of the enclosure. It will be a very serene and beautiful place to stay in any landscape.” The portable home was originally slated to be built in the North Norfolk coast in the U.K., but the plans fell through at the last moment. Land Stories is currently looking for landowners that would like to collaborate on the project. + Emulsion Architecture + Land Stories Via World Architecture Forum Images via Land Stories

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The Lantern is a portable home wrapped in a natural woven lattice

Fake trees could help in the fight against climate change

February 6, 2019 by  
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One of the best ways to fight climate change is to invest in trees and plants. Branches and leaves help trap carbon dioxide, effectively reducing overall pollution in the atmosphere. The only hurdle is that trees take up a lot of land and resources to cultivate, which is why scientists are turning to an alternative source in the fight against carbon emissions. Scientists in Germany just published a new study about how artificial plant life can also cut down on carbon pollution . The team created an artificial system that absorbs carbon dioxide and turns it into a product that is rich in carbon, like alcohol. The system then releases oxygen into the air and captures any excess carbon byproducts for later use. Related: How to teach children about climate change The artificial system is actually more effective than what plants and trees do naturally. In fact, some experts believe this new technology is about 1,000 times better than its natural counterpart. This is significant, because there is not enough room on the planet for trees and plants to absorb the amount of carbon we are currently emitting into the atmosphere. Although artificial trees might be the answer to help curb carbon emissions, there is one catch to the system. According to The Guardian , the cost of installing artificial trees is beyond the reach of most communities. Starting a small forest of artificial trees costs close to a quarter of a million dollars, and that is just to get the ball rolling. Scientists hope to decrease that price point in the near future, but that will only happen once technology progresses and investors get more interested in funding research. If scientists can lower the cost of artificial trees, then it might be our best option for capturing  carbon emissions. But this technology is competing against other methods of removing carbon from the air, so only time will tell if artificial systems are the answer to the growing problem of climate change. Via The Guardian  and  Popular Science Image via Pixabay

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