The Defense Department is worried about climate change — and it’s a huge carbon emitter

June 13, 2019 by  
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Cutting Pentagon emissions will help save lives in the United States and could diminish the risk of climate conflict.

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The Defense Department is worried about climate change — and it’s a huge carbon emitter

Canada to ban single-use plastics by 2021

June 11, 2019 by  
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Canada is the latest country to follow the European Union’s ambitious ban of single-use plastics, which will go into effect by 2021. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the upcoming ban, which still has details to iron out, in an attempt to address the marine litter crisis. The announcement also comes months before the election this fall, during which political experts expect climate change to take center stage. Less than 10 percent of all plastics in Canada are recycled, with 300 million tons thrown out every year. This recycling rate is similar in the United States, the largest plastic consumer in the world, where about 9 percent of plastics are recycled. In every corner of the globe, plastic waste is reaching the ocean and wreaking havoc on marine species from sea turtles to fish and whales. Related: Have your plastic and eat it too – average American ingests 50,000 microplastic particles a year To put it into perspective for citizens, Prime Minister Trudeau explained, “As parents, we’re at a point when we take our kids to the beach and we have to search out a patch of sand that isn’t littered with straws, Styrofoam or bottles. That’s a problem, one that we have to do something about.” Legislators have yet to announce exactly which single-use plastics will be banned, but the list could include cutlery, straws, plates, stir sticks and bags. Throughout the European Union, plastic bags, cutlery, cotton balls, stir sticks and balloon sticks will be outlawed in 2021, with a reduction in plastic cups and other food-related plastics also going into effect. The ban legislation is also expected to detail regulations for companies that produce significant plastic waste . The policy will hold companies accountable and mandate they develop targets and responsible waste management plans. Prime Minister Trudeau’s environmental policy may help his chances for re-election this fall, as voters are increasingly concerned about the environment and climate change . Via The BBC Image via Fotoblend

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Canada to ban single-use plastics by 2021

As more developing countries reject plastic waste exports, wealthy nations seek solutions at home

June 10, 2019 by  
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Malaysia sent the United States back its scrap material. Here’s what that means for curbing plastic waste.

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As more developing countries reject plastic waste exports, wealthy nations seek solutions at home

New York could become the first state to ban cat declawing

June 7, 2019 by  
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On Tuesday, New York lawmakers voted to ban cat declawing. If New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the bill, cats may be packing their little suitcases and moving to the first state to protect their claws by law. “Cat declawing is a horrific, yet often practiced surgery that leads to a lifetime of pain and discomfort for thousands of cats,” Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal of Manhattan told NPR . “Today, though, every cat and kitten in New York state lands on its feet as we prepare to make New York the best state for cats to live in the United States.” When cats are declawed, the vet removes part of the cat’s toe bones as well as the claws. Usually the surgery is only performed on the front feet, but sometimes claws are removed from all four paws. Pet owners often order this painful surgery to protect their furniture, and many command declawing as a requirement if the cat wants to live indoors. Adverse effects from declawing include back and joint problems, personality changes and litter box issues due to painful paws. Once their claws are removed, cats are unable to defend themselves nor to climb trees to escape predators, so they must stay inside forever. If the bill becomes law, the declawing procedure will still be performed for medical issues including injuries or infections. While many people and most cats were jubilant at the NY news, the bill is not without controversy. The New York State Veterinary Medical Society opposed the bill, arguing that pet owners who are diabetic, hemophiliac, immune-compromised or on immune suppressing medication are at great medical risk from cat scratches. They might be forced to relinquish their cats if declawing becomes illegal. According to the American Humane Society, about 71 percent of cats that enter shelters are euthanized. However, many other vets supported the bill, which passed on June 4, the annual New York State Animal Advocacy Day . This annual event is described on its Facebook page as “a bi-partisan event to further protect our companion pets from cruelty.” People who care more about couches than cats might consider adopting a pet rock instead. Via NPR Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat and Flensshot

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New York could become the first state to ban cat declawing

Renewable energy surpasses coal for the first time in U.S. history

May 6, 2019 by  
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This April, for the first time in U.S. history, the renewable energy sector is expected to have generated more total electricity than coal. According to an initial report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, this achievement is partially because of increased investment and awareness, but might also be due to seasonal changes in electricity consumption. “Five years ago, this never would have been close to happening,” Dennis Wamstead, research analyst at IEEFA, said in the report. “The transition that’s going on in the electric sector in the United States has been phenomenal.” Americans demand more renewable energy According to the IEEFA report, there has been increased investment in the wind and solar field, making the technology less expensive and more widely accessible. Increased awareness about climate change and the role of carbon emissions has also led local governments, businesses and residents to demand renewable energy policies and services. Related: Coal prices continue to rise, becoming more costly than solar and wind alternatives Renewable energy sources include hydro, geothermal , solar, wind and biomass energy, although solar and wind are the two sectors that have seen the most rapid upsurge. In fact, even major power companies are turning to renewable energy. Power giant Xcel Energy shut down 25 percent of its coal plants and plans to deliver zero-carbon electricity by 2050. Coal still reigns in the summertime Although this record-breaking achievement is exciting, energy experts also said that it could be partially explained by seasonal electricity demands. Many companies temporarily shut down coal plants for seasonal maintenance in the springtime, when electricity demands are lowest. There is also an abundance of wind and hydro energy during that time. However, once people start turning on their air conditioners around June, electricity production is expected to be dominated by coal and natural gas again. Despite the current federal government’s attempts to boost the coal industry, coal consumption has been steadily declining. In 2016, natural gas surpassed coal as America’s biggest source of electricity, with coal contributing 27 percent of electricity and natural gas contributing 35 percent. Although it is cleaner than coal, natural gas is still a fossil fuel and therefore contributes to climate change. The report also predicts that renewable energy will outshine coal in May, and going forward will sporadically compete with coal on a monthly basis. However, coal and natural gas are expected to dominate annual consumption patterns for several more years. + IEEFA Via CNN Images via   Zak Zak and Jeff Hitchcock

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Renewable energy surpasses coal for the first time in U.S. history

Cepezed completes the first self-sufficient bus station in the Netherlands

May 6, 2019 by  
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Delft-based architectural firm cepezed has completed the Netherlands’ first self-sufficient bus station in the southern city of Tilburg. Designed to generate all of its own energy, the new transit facility features a massive solar panel -topped awning that provides shade and gives the bus station its modern and sculptural appearance. The Tilburg bus station was completed as part of the large-scale revitalization of the city’s public transit hub and offers easy access to the neighboring train station and bicycle parking in the railway zone. The new bus station at the west side of the Tilburg train station was designed to prioritize user comfort and safety. To that end, the architects topped the structure with a spacious awning that not only fully covers the bus platforms but also part of the buses, so travelers can be protected from the rain while boarding and deboarding. The steel-framed awning is fitted with lights and covered with ETFE-foil so as to let in filtered sunlight during the day and illuminate the space at night. For inclusivity, the station is equipped with wheelchair-accessible ramps and handrails with braille signing. As a symbol of smart development, the station adopts a contemporary and minimalist design with highly efficient detailing. Built of steel plates and strips, the thin columns that support the large awning also contain water drainage and electric cabling. The S.O.S. button and intercom have also been integrated into one of the columns. In addition to the raised black concrete sitting edges, the architects included backed seating made with strip steel with heating. Related: Architects want to transform an old Dutch bridge into zero-energy apartments Solar panels spanning 2,691 square feet top the awning and power all of the bus station’s needs, from the lighting and digital information signs to the staff canteen and public transport service point. Certain solar-powered lights are triggered by energy-saving motion sensors integrated into the steel edge of the awning. For greater sustainability, the architects ensured the longevity of the structure with a low-maintenance material palette and minimized the edges and corners to reduce costs and resources for cleaning. + cepezed Photography by Lucas van der Wee via cepezed

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Cepezed completes the first self-sufficient bus station in the Netherlands

Washington becomes the first state to allow human composting

April 26, 2019 by  
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Washington is officially the first state to offer human composting as a substitute for cremation or burial. The state’s legislature just passed a bill that makes it legal for companies to offer composting of human remains. Lawmakers hope the new initiative will cut down on waste and carbon emissions typically associated with traditional burials . Funeral homes in the United States have few options when it comes to burials. Traditional burials use steel and wood, which often leaches harmful chemicals into the soil. There is also cremation, which results in carbon emissions and is not energy efficient. The bill is currently being reviewed by Governor Jay Inslee, who has yet to sign it. Related: Bios launches modern funerary urns that grow plants with loved ones’ remains Inslee, who plans to run for president in 2020, has been touting himself as an advocate for the environment , so not signing the initiative would go against his platform. If everything goes to plan, the new bill will become law on May 1 of 2020. Although it may sound strange, human composting could be a viable alternative to traditional burials in cities across the United States where grave spaces are limited. People have been practicing human composting, also known as natural organic reduction, for a long time. There are also a few states that currently allow aquamation, which uses water to swiftly decompose the body. Some businesses are starting to offer more eco-friendly caskets as well, most of which are made from bamboo. Farmers, of course, have been composting bodies of dead animals for years. Recompose, who supports the state bill, is a human composting company based in Washington that offers results in as little as one month. Once a body is turned into soil, the families of the deceased can use the remains however they please. If Inslee signs the bill, lawmakers hope other states will follow suit and pass similar legislation related to human composting . Via Grist Image via Shutterstock

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Washington becomes the first state to allow human composting

Taichung Discovery Pavilion champions biodiversity in new "Half Earth" multimedia art installation

April 26, 2019 by  
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In Taichung , Taiwan, the recently completed Discovery Pavilion at the Taichung World Flower Expo explores what life could be like if humans returned half of the Earth’s habitable surfaces to nature — a concept known as “Half Earth” proposed by the “Father of Biodiversity” Edward Wilson in 2016. Taipei-based Cogitoimage International Co., Ltd designed the pavilion to advocate such preservation with a large-scale exhibition that covers the ecology of the Taichung Dajia River as it flows from high to low altitudes. In keeping with the eco-friendly ethos of the project, the main materials used in the project include recycled glass and cork, sustainably sourced timber and other natural materials. Created with the theme of “Viewing Half-Earth through Taichung’s Ecology,” the Discovery Pavilion uses mixed multimedia — from poems and crafts to art installations and new media — to promote environmental stewardship  and biodiversity preservation. Spanning an area of 31,861 square feet, the exhibition covers the vertical ecology along the Dajia River, the main river in Taichung city, as it morphs from the low-lying estuary to the snow-topped mountains at 12,740 feet above sea level. Endemic species are highlighted in the exhibition, from native flora to the endangered leopard cat and the Formosan Landlocked Salmon. “With the theme of “Viewing Half-Earth through Taichung’s Ecology”, Discovery Pavilion advocates to preserve half of our planet for other species and reinterpret the ecology of Dajia River,” read the Discovery Pavilion press release. “Edward’s “Half-Earth” concept has two main points. On the one hand, we should be aware that human beings are not the only masters and inhabitants of the earth. On the other hand, we need to think about how to reserve more spaces for other inhabitants of the earth, i.e. flora and fauna in the ecosystem .” Related: A disused railway will become a sustainable green corridor in Taiwan The Discovery Pavilion consists of nine exhibition areas that are independently crafted with different styles that come together as a cohesive whole. To create a multi-sensory experience, the designers used a variety of materials and technologies to reproduce different landscapes, from the pyramidal glass and hand-woven rice straw roof that evokes the low-lying rural areas in Lishan to the use of imaging technology that creates the sensation of being underwater with the Formosan Landlocked Salmon and reproduce the overall biodiversity of Taiwan. + Cogitoimage Images by Te-Fan Wang

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Taichung Discovery Pavilion champions biodiversity in new "Half Earth" multimedia art installation

Green roofs to take over NYC skyline by law

April 26, 2019 by  
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Moments before Earth Day, New York City passed a major Climate Mobilization Act with new regulations for reducing emissions and becoming a more resilient city — including requiring all new buildings to have green roofs . New York City’s Climate Mobilization Act has been likened to the Green New Deal for its progressive and holistic approach to reducing emissions and sparking a sustainable economy. Green buildings are a critical component to the act, because buildings are the city’s biggest contributor of carbon emissions. Related: New York City passes landmark bill to cut carbon emissions of big buildings by 80% According to the act, all new buildings will be required to incorporate vegetation, solar panels and/or small wind turbines into the roof design. This mandate also includes existing buildings that are undergoing major renovations. High-profile buildings have already set precedence in New York City for progressive green roof designs, including the Barclays Center, Javits Center and Brooklyn Steel. Critics of the act fear that the policies unfairly force landlords to pay for costly construction and retrofitting. The act includes loopholes for small buildings and places of worship as well as phasing options that spread out costs. There are also exemptions for buildings that include rent-stabilized apartments . This exception attempts to prevent evictions and rent spikes following major renovations — a familiar pattern in rapidly gentrifying areas. By 2030, according to the city’s estimates, the reduction in carbon emissions created by the mandated green roofs will be equivalent to taking one million cars off the road. The Climate Mobilization Act is also predicted to create thousands of jobs, including an estimated 3,600 construction jobs and 4,400 maintenance jobs. Council member Costa Constantinides said in a statement, “The Climate Mobilization Act is a down payment on the future of New York City — one that ensures we lead the way in the ever-growing fight against climate change .” Via Dwell Image via Javits Center

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Green roofs to take over NYC skyline by law

President Trump attacks wind turbines, claims the noise causes cancer

April 5, 2019 by  
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Speaking at an event for the National Republican Congressional Committee, President Trump took a shot at wind power as he continues his war against renewable energy. In a surprising statement, Trump claimed that having a wind turbine near your home will devalue the property and cause cancer. “If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down 75 percent in value,” Trump told his fellow Republicans. “And they say the noise causes cancer. You tell me that one, okay? Rerrrr rerrrr!” The allegation that wind turbines cause cancer is simply false. According to EcoWatch , some studies have looked into the issue but have found no link between wind turbines and health-related issues; this includes strokes and heart attacks. Simply put, the only real issue with wind turbines is that they might be a minor annoyance and create about as much noise as traffic. Trump also doubled down on his previous claims that wind power results in massive bird deaths. Although wind turbines do kill birds on an annual basis, they do so at a much lower rate than traditional energy sources. A study conducted in 2009 discovered that fossil fuel facilities kill almost 15 times the amount of birds as wind turbines. If wind turbines do not cause cancer or kill birds on a large scale, then why is Trump so against them? Turns out, Trump has a history with fighting wind turbines that dates back to 2006. At the time, Trump had purchased some land in Scotland that he intended to turn into a golf course. A nearby farm ruined those plans when it decided to put up a wind turbine. Trump sued the farmers but lost in court. Trump’s stance against wind power also sits nicely with the Republican party’s policy on energy. His administration has initiated plans to boost fossil fuel production in the United States and has made it clear that renewable energy is not high on its priority list. Exactly how this will affect the future of wind turbines in the United States is unclear. Via EcoWatch Image via Pixabay

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President Trump attacks wind turbines, claims the noise causes cancer

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