Patagonia donates its $10 million in tax cuts to save the planet

December 4, 2018 by  
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Last year, President Trump said that his tax bill would be an incredible Christmas gift for millions of hard-working Americans, but it also resulted in billions of dollars of tax savings for businesses — especially those in the oil and gas industry. But one outdoor retailer has opted to donate its tax savings to the planet instead of putting it back into the business. Patagonia announced last week that it would be giving away the $10 million the company made as a result of the Republican tax cut. “Based on last year’s irresponsible tax cut, Patagonia will owe less in taxes this year — $10 million less, in fact. Instead of putting the money back into our business, we’re responding by putting $10 million back into the planet,” CEO Rose Marcario wrote in a LinkedIn blog post . “Our home planet needs it more than we do.” Related: Patagonia strikes back at Trump over public lands policies Marcario also wrote that taxes protect the most vulnerable in our society as well as our public lands and other resources. In spite of this, President Trump still initiated a corporate tax cut that threatens those services at the expense of the planet. In addition to cutting taxes for individuals and businesses, the bill also lifted a 40-year ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Patagonia will donate the money from its tax cut to various conservation organizations. The money will also go toward the regenerative organic agriculture movement, which, according to the company, could help slow or reverse the climate crisis. Marcario cited the recent National Climate Assessment Report, compiled by 13 different federal agencies and 300 scientists. The report found that climate change is impacting people all over the globe and will cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars. She wrote that far too many people have suffered from the consequences of global warming, and the political response has been “woefully inadequate.” Patagonia has been a long-time champion of grassroots environmental efforts, and the company has also been vocal in its criticisms of the Trump administration. + Patagonia Via EcoWatch Images via Yukiko Matsuoka and Monica Volpin  

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Patagonia donates its $10 million in tax cuts to save the planet

Striking home in Greece uses bioclimatic features to be energy-efficient year-round

December 4, 2018 by  
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Tucked into a sloping hillside looking out over the Aegean Sea, the TRIF House designed by Sergey Fedotov boasts a gorgeous, contemporary design with massive floor-to-ceiling windows to take in the breathtaking sea views. In addition to its striking aesthetic, the private residence also includes a number of passive features that insulate the home and reduce energy use throughout the year. Located in Porto Heli, Greece, the massive home, which spans over 3,800 square feet, sits on a naturally sloped landscape spotted with olive trees. To appreciate the gorgeous sea views, the front facade is a series of frameless, floor-to-ceiling windows that can slide open and shut at just the push of a button. The glazed exterior not only creates a seamless connection between indoors and out but also allows for natural sunlight to illuminate the interior. Related: A modern, energy-efficient home is built around a beloved madrone tree Alternatively, the home’s north facade was embedded into the natural slope of the hillside. Burying part of the house into the landscape was another passive feature that helps provide the structure with a strong thermal envelope. The main floor houses a kitchen, dining and living room, all of which open up to an expansive veranda with a swimming pool. The top floor, which is enclosed in a large white rectangular volume that cantilevers just slightly over the ground floor, is home to the master bedroom and two guest rooms, all of which enjoy stunning panoramic views. The interior boasts a minimalist design with custom-made furniture. Surrounding the home, the landscape was left in a natural state. Large olive trees and shrubs dot the sloping hillside, which has various walking paths that wind through the home’s beautiful surroundings. + Sergey Fedotov Via Archdaily Photography by Pygmalion Karatzas via Sergey Fedotov

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Striking home in Greece uses bioclimatic features to be energy-efficient year-round

The National Butterfly Center is threatened by Trump’s border wall

November 2, 2018 by  
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The National Butterfly Center is a 100-acre wildlife preserve and botanical garden in South Texas. Not only is it the habitat of more than 100 different species of butterflies, but it is also home to several endangered plants and threatened animals. It happens to be located directly in the path of the Trump administration’s proposed border wall, and that means its future is in question. In September, Congress approved a federal spending bill that included $1.6 billion to fund the wall’s construction, and last month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a waiver of 28 different laws that protect public lands, wildlife and the environment in order for construction. If the planned wall actually becomes a reality, it could cut the privately-owned center in two, leaving up to 70 percent of the preserve’s land between the wall and the Rio Grande. “It’s going to be a no-man’s land, Border Patrol’s enforcement zone,” Marianna Trevino Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center, told NPR . “They will clear everything. So it’s not like all of this habitat is going to become Garden of Eden, undisturbed. It is going to be eliminated.” Related: Trump’s border wall threatens Texas plants and wildlife A group of scientists published a paper this summer outlining the proposed wall’s negative environmental impacts, and more than 2,700 scientists signed the paper to call on the Trump administration to rethink its border strategy. They would prefer the DHS follow existing environmental laws and avoid physical barriers. There are also multiple lawsuits pending against the Trump administration arguing that the DHS doesn’t have the authority to waive environmental laws to build the wall. But in the past, similar lawsuits in California and New Mexico have been unsuccessful. Wall construction could begin in February 2019. In the meantime, the butterfly preserve will continue to use its property as though the wall will not be built. “We have long-term plans for this place,” Trevino Wright said. “We’re not going to just pack up and abandon that.” + National Butterfly Center Via NPR Images via Alan Schmierer ( 1 , 2 )

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The National Butterfly Center is threatened by Trump’s border wall

KOGAA creates an energy self-sufficient City Cell in response to climate change

November 2, 2018 by  
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Galvanized by the growing debate on climate change , Brno-based KOGAA Architectural Studio and NEXT Institute Research Platform have teamed up to create the City Cell Prototype (CCP), a pop-up installation that serves as a testing ground for ways cities can combat climate extremes. Completed this year, the temporary pavilion of nearly 300 square feet is presently located at Malinovsky Square in Brno, Czech Republic’s second-largest city. Built of timber and powered by solar energy, the City Cell Prototype is a multifunctional design that includes rainwater reuse, urban greenery, human shelter and educational opportunities. The City Cell Prototype is primarily constructed from pre-dried KVH timber, a material that has the added benefit of not requiring any additional protective coatings. Elevated off the ground on footings, the wooden structure is centered on a tree set inside a “biofilter.” To make the pavilion look inviting to the public, KOGAA inserted low-slung seating and made the all-timber envelope as transparent as possible using slatted wood screens and two entrances. In addition to the tree, planters have been installed on both ends of the structure, with one wall comprising rows of street-facing planters. Despite the pavilion’s minimalist appearance, the structure features multiple systems that work together to ensure energy self-sufficiency. The sloped roofs, which are made from a translucent material to let light through, are angled to channel rainwater into the centrally located biofilter, where the runoff is then filtered through settling and phyto-processes. Once filtered, the rainwater is stored in tanks and then pumped up to a drip irrigation system connected to the pavilion’s planters. The water pump is powered by solar energy harvested from photovoltaic panels mounted to the roof; solar power also provides electricity for the LED lighting system. Related: An experimental greenhouse pops up at a busy Copenhagen intersection “Together with the vertical greenery, the biofilter allows water retention and evaporation, allowing the surrounding microclimate to cool down,” the architects explained. “Its shape develops from the need to provide shading, collect water and the intent to create a spatial communication between the new object and the existing square, also achieved through the two-sided openness.” After the testing period, the CCP could be included in more permanent projects. + KOGAA Architectural Studio Images via Boys Play Nice

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KOGAA creates an energy self-sufficient City Cell in response to climate change

California plans to launch its own satellite to monitor air pollution

September 17, 2018 by  
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California has promised to launch its own satellite to track air quality in the fight against air pollution. Governor Jerry Brown announced the major initiative amid President Donald Trump’s bid to decrease NASA’s part in monitoring climate change. Brown has not announced when the state will launch the satellite or how much it will cost taxpayers. Brown has long stood in opposition to Trump’s administration, which has fought California’s tough emissions standards. Following the effort to cut NASA funding for climate research, Brown hopes that the satellite will ensure that California has independent access to data gathering in the long term. “We’re going to launch our own satellite — our own damn satellite to figure out where the pollution is and how we’re going to end it,” Brown explained. Related: Striking, solar-powered LA roundabout manages stormwater runoff with art NASA has its own climate change program called the Carbon Monitoring System (CMS). The system gathers data from a collection of satellites and high-altitude aircraft to keep track of carbon emissions around the world. The program came under fire in the latest rounds of White House budget cuts, which were directly aimed at climate change initiatives. Fortunately, the appropriations committee did not cut CMS funding, but the threat left many scientists worried about the program’s future. Brown is collaborating with a company based out of San Francisco called Planet Labs to launch the satellite. The company will work with California’s Air Resources Board to build the satellite and track carbon emissions throughout the state and the world. So far, Planet Labs — backed by companies like Google and DCVC — has a fleet of 150 satellites, all of which take photographs of the earth and transfer the data to various governments, private companies, journalists, agriculture business and hedge funds. Brown hopes the program will lead to better climate monitoring, despite the efforts from the Trump administration. Via Earther and Huffington Post Image via Prayitno

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California plans to launch its own satellite to monitor air pollution

Trump Tower river violations incur a swift lawsuit by Illinois attorney general

August 15, 2018 by  
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Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed a lawsuit against the Trump International Hotel & Tower for alleged pollution to the Chicago River and threats to local wildlife. The lawsuit was filed in the Cook County Circuit Court in Illinois this Tuesday against the conglomerate, and the suit cites infringements of the EPA’s U.S. Clean Water Act of 1972 . The Clean Water Act protects the waters of the U.S. from being inundated with polluting discharges, and it also sets wastewater standards for industries and residential zones. According to Madigan, this is the issue, put simply, with the Trump Tower building. The structure releases millions of gallons of water from air conditioning and other cooling systems into the river on a daily basis. The residential tower is mandated by the EPA to run studies on the residual impact of its activities to the surrounding river, something it has not done, the attorney general said. Related: Urban Rivers designs a multiplayer Trashbot Game to clean the Chicago River The 92-story tower is posing a threat to aquatic life by destabilizing the ecosystem in the river. “Trump Tower continues to take millions of gallons of water from the Chicago River every day without a permit and without any regard to how it may be impacting the river’s ecosystem,” said Madigan, who has held her position in the Illinois legal system since 2003. Related: Chicago drinking fountains have been running non-stop for months, and the reason why is infuriating The affairs of the building are now under the leadership of President Trump’s two sons since he assumed office in 2016. “We are disappointed that the Illinois Attorney General would choose to file this suit considering such items are generally handled at the administrative level,” representatives of the Trump Organization stated. “One can only conclude that this decision was motivated by politics.” The Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club and Friends of the Chicago River groups have also recently stated plans to sue the Chicago Trump Tower for allegedly violating the Clean Water Act. Via Reuters Image via Daniel Huizinga

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Companies push to start oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

June 1, 2018 by  
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Following Congress’s move to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas production, a long-sought goal of the Republican Party, fossil fuel companies are moving forward with their plans to develop the wilderness and hope to survey the region by winter. Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation, two Alaska Native companies, as well as one oil company have applied for a permit to begin seismic surveying on the refuge’s coastal plain. However, despite promises that the process would be as environmentally sensitive as possible, documents obtained by the Washington Post indicate that the Fish and Wildlife Service rejected the initial plan as “not adequate,” noting its “lack of applicable details for proper agency review.” The area the companies hope to explore for oil is also the location of the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd, from which the local Gwich’in First Nation community finds food and cultural significance. In fact, the prospective area where two teams of 150 people are proposed to survey isn’t even visited by the Gwich’in people out of respect for its importance. The speed with which the companies have pushed to begin oil drilling has concerned the locals. “Why can’t they just wait to have more information?” Gwich’in Steering Committee executive director Bernadette Dementieff told Earther . “The oil isn’t going anywhere. There’s nothing wrong with waiting. It makes no sense to rush.” Perhaps the oil companies are concerned that the U.S. may, under a different Congress, return to its long-held status quo of banning oil drilling in the refuge. Related: Spending bill would open the world’s largest intact temperate forest to logging Although the nearby Native town of Kaktovik supported oil and gas drilling in 2005, more recently, the mayor sent a letter to Congress to oppose opening the land to industry. The process has moved forward so quickly since the bill opening the refuge to oil drilling was signed into law that Dementieff was not even aware of the drilling application until she was contacted by Earther. “That is completely insane and disrespectful,” she said. Dementieff believes that Native communities in Alaska will rally together to stop the drilling from ever occurring. “We’ll go to every courtroom. We’ll go to every community meeting. We’re not giving up. We’re not going to allow them to destroy the calving grounds.” Via Earther Images via  Depositphotos and Bob Clarke

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The Trump Administration just ended the program that lets us monitor carbon emissions

May 10, 2018 by  
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While the news media focuses its attention on the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and the scandals related President Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, the Trump Administration quietly ended the Carbon Monitoring System (CMS). With a $10 million annual budget and administered by NASA, CMS served to track the flow of Earth’s carbon, a particularly important mission as the United States and other nations confront climate change. “If you cannot measure emissions reductions, you cannot be confident that countries are adhering to the agreement,” Kelly Sims Gallagher, director of Tufts University’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy, told Science . Gallagher described the administration’s decision to end the program as “a grave mistake.” Much of the work done by the CMS since 2010 has focused on forests and the carbon that they contain. One such project involved a collaboration between NASA and the US Forestry Service, in which the organizations created an aircraft-based laser imaging device to quantify forest carbon stocks. “They’ve now completed an inventory of forest carbon in Alaska at a fraction of the cost,” CMS science team leader George Hurtt told Science . The CMS has also used its capacity to support other countries in their efforts to preserve and study their forest stocks, particularly in tropical locations. Related: Even NASA isn’t quite sure how to explain these holes in the Arctic Sea’s ice Though disheartening for those who work to combat climate change, the Trump Administration’s decision to end CMS fits with its previous policy making on climate change . However, this decision, like others, puts the United States outside of the global climate mainstream. “The topic of climate mitigation and carbon monitoring is maybe not the highest priority now in the United States,” said Hurtt. “But it is almost everywhere else.” The work of carbon monitoring will continue in Europe , though the United States has ceded leadership in the process. “We really shoot ourselves in the foot if we let other people develop the technology,” president of the Woods Hole Research Center Phil Duff told Science . Via ScienceAlert Images via IIP Photo Archive/Flickr and Joshua Meyer/Flickr

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The Trump Administration just ended the program that lets us monitor carbon emissions

California becomes the first US state to require solar energy for new houses

May 10, 2018 by  
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It’s official — California is the first state in America to mandate solar for new homes. Yesterday, the California Energy Commission voted unanimously to approve the building standards, which will go into effect on January 1, 2020. The New York Times quoted Sunrun CEO Lynn Jurich as saying, “There’s…this real American sense of freedom of producing electricity on my rooftop. And it’s another example of California leading the way.” Homes built in California in a couple of years will have to be equipped with solar energy systems. Called the 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards, the requirements “will increase the cost of constructing a new home by about $9,500 but will save $19,000 in energy and maintenance costs over 30 years,” according to a frequently asked questions document from the California Energy Commission. The New York Times quoted commission member Andrew McAllister as saying, “Any additional amount in the mortgage is more than offset. It’s good for the customer.” Related: California to become the first US state to require solar panels on new homes The commission said in a press release the standards would lower greenhouse gas emissions as much as if around 115,000 fossil fuel cars left the streets. They said the standards zero in on four areas; in addition to residential solar power, those areas are “updated thermal envelope standards (preventing heat transfer from the interior to exterior and vice versa), residential and nonresidential ventilation requirements, and nonresidential lighting requirements.” There are people who wonder if California’s new mandate is the best path forward to clean power. MIT Technology Review linked to an email from University of California, Berkeley economics professor Severin Borenstein to commission chair Robert Weisenmiller early yesterday morning; Borenstein said he, along with most energy economists, “believe that residential rooftop solar is a much more expensive way to move towards renewable energy than larger solar and wind installations.” + California Energy Commission Via The New York Times Images via Deposit Photos ,   Wikimedia Commons and mjmonty on Flickr

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A cluster of wooden cabins create a serene weekend retreat in Norway

May 10, 2018 by  
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Norwegian firm Stinessen Arkitektur built this cluster of wooden cabins that peer out over the picturesque fjords of Norway. The weekend retreat is designed to provide the ultimate in relaxation, and it features extra-large glazed facades, minimalist interior design, and a serene spa. The private vacation home is located on Malangen Peninsula and it overlooks a beautiful fjord. The main entrance leads through a sliding oak door into a covered central courtyard , which connects the main building and the annex. This courtyard serves as the heart of the home, and it comes complete with a fireplace and an outdoor kitchen. Related: Cantilevered holiday cabins boast stunning coastal views in Norway According to the architects, the courtyard “functions as a protected and semi-tempered zone (without particular heating) between the main part and the annex . . . It also provides an additional layer to the natural ventilation during summertime, even on windy or rainy days.” The main building consists of two living areas. The master bedroom and bathroom are on one side of the structure, and a bedroom and secondary living room are on the other. The open kitchen, dining and living areas are located between the bedrooms. Various “in-between” spaces, with concrete floors and wood-slatted ceilings, connect the individual cabins . In order to create a cohesive connection to the exterior wooden cladding , the interior walls are covered in knot-free oak panels. Minimal furnishings and bare walls put the focus on the incredible scenery that surrounds the home. Each room has a large glass wall that offers amazing views. + Stinessen Arkitektur Via Dwell Photography by Steve King and Terje Arntsen, via Stinessen Arkitectur

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