California approves rule to require solar panels on new houses

December 12, 2018 by  
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The California Building Standards Commission has given its final approval to a new housing rule that is the first of its kind in the United States. Starting in 2020, the commission is requiring that all new homes built in the state include solar panels. “These provisions really are historic and will be a beacon of light for the rest of the country,” said commissioner Kent Sasaki. “[It’s] the beginning of substantial improvement in how we produce energy and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels .” Related: California waters could open soon to offshore wind farms In addition to the solar panel requirement, the new standard also includes an incentive for homeowners to add a high-capacity battery to their electrical system to store the sun’s energy. The rule does have an exemption for homes that are built in locations that are often in the shade. California has a history of setting trends across the country, and this new rule is the next step in the state’s progressive environmental policy. The state has a goal of sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions and drawing all of its electricity from renewable energy sources. The California Energy Commission first endorsed the solar panel rule back in May as part of California’s Green Building Standards Code. This past week, the Building Standards Commission added the requirement with a unanimous vote. Drew Bohan, executive director of the energy commission, said that the homes built under the new rule should use about 50 percent less energy compared to previous standards. The new solar power requirement is for single-family homes and multi-family buildings up to three stories high. It will add about $10,000 to the upfront cost of a home, but the lower electricity bills should balance that out over time. Bohan said that over the course of a 30-year mortgage, a homeowner should save about $19,000. Homeowners will have the option of buying the panels outright, leasing them or taking part in a power purchase agreement with the home builder. Via NPR Image via Ulleo

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California approves rule to require solar panels on new houses

Winter ticks are responsible for New England’s moose massacres

October 18, 2018 by  
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The changing climate felt in recent years has proven deadly for moose populations in the northeastern United States. Longer fall seasons and warmer winters have caused winter tick populations to thrive at the expense of their majestic hosts. Experts, who have been alarmed by the unfolding ravaging on New England moose, warn “we’re sitting on a powder keg” as calf survival has fallen to an all-time low of 30 percent while blighted adults — barely recognizable from the onslaught — are now referred to as “ghost moose.” The recent pestilence and its chilling physical effects have been studied by scientists at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) who  published a report on the findings in the Canadian Journal of Zoology. Professor Pete Pekins, wildlife ecology specialist at UNH and study co-author, explained the importance of this “powder keg” by saying, “The iconic moose is rapidly becoming the new poster child for climate change in parts of the Northeast.” Related: Video footage of rare all-white moose in Sweden The researchers monitored tick infestations, which have been prominent in areas of northern New Hampshire and western Maine, over the course of three winters. Between 2014 and 2016, 179 radio-marked moose calves were screened for parasites and monitored for changing physical conditions. Among these, a total of 125 had died by the end of the third winter. “Normally anything over a 50 percent death rate would concern us, but at 70 percent, we are looking at a real problem in the moose population,” Pekins said. While adult populations did not face a similar wreckage in numbers, those who survived the winters were severely mangled, coat-less and devitalized. “Most adult moose survived but were still severely compromised. They were thin and anemic from losing so much blood,” the university reported. “The ticks appear to be harming reproductive health , so there is also less breeding.” Since winter tick epidemics commonly last only one to two years, researchers are blaming climate change for the pest spikes, which have subsisted throughout five of the last 10 years. “The changing environmental conditions associated with climate change are increasing and are favorable for winter ticks, specifically later-starting winters that lengthen the autumnal questing period for ticks,” Pekins explained. But just how favorable are these warmer periods for questing? An average of 47,371 ticks were found on each of the exterminated calves. The calves perished from extreme metabolic imbalances and emaciation caused by blood loss. This razing is more fitted to a vampire novel than a natural symbiosis; the images better attributed to a trip into Chernobyl than the New England-Acadian forests. While many might be inclined to call the “ghost moose” a haunting reminder of climate change disasters, they still live. Not fully a casualty, they are the disfigured innocents on the sidelines of an ongoing environmental war. + University of New Hampshire Via TreeHugger Image via Dan Bergeron, N.H. Fish and Game Dept.

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Winter ticks are responsible for New England’s moose massacres

Hurricane Florence could cause dangerous floods of toxic sludge and animal waste

September 12, 2018 by  
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Torrential rains are not the only thing Hurricane Florence will bring once it hits landfall. The massive storm is expected to dump record amounts of rain in the southeastern United States — rain that could overflow toxic chemical waste and animal manure sites along the coast, increasing danger to both public health and the environment. One toxic waste site in North Carolina is particularly vulnerable to the incoming storm. Two years ago, the state tasked Duke Energy Corp. with cleaning up coal-ash ponds in the area following a major spill, because the ponds posed serious hazards to nearby communities. Close to 40,000 tons of toxic waste was dumped near the town of Eden, North Carolina. State officials ordered the company to clean up the ponds by the summer of 2019. Although Duke Energy Corp. has started the cleanup process, it is nowhere near the finish line. The company is currently in the middle of cleaning up the sites and will not be finished by the time Hurricane Florence rolls in. Given the condition of the ponds, excess rain from the hurricane could lead to overflow, dumping the waste into the surrounding environment. Related: Climate change is expected to bring more intense storms like Hurricane Florence North Carolina is also home to lagoons that contain manure from the state’s hog and poultry industries. Hurricane Florence could overwhelm these lagoons with massive amounts of rain, which would dump the animal waste into surrounding waterways. If that happens, the state would be facing a major environmental disaster. That is, of course, if Florence stays on its current path and hits North Carolina. Hurricane Florence is growing in both strength and size as it prepares to make landfall. If the storm continues at its current pace, it could be the strongest hurricane to reach the Carolinas in the last 30 years. With Florence getting closer every day, about 1 million residents have already evacuated. Via Bloomberg Images via NASA and NOAA

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Hurricane Florence could cause dangerous floods of toxic sludge and animal waste

A 6-foot-tall man lives comfortably in this custom tiny home

September 12, 2018 by  
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We’ve seen tiny homes built for a number of distinct uses, such as homes for veterans , students and families. But one “large” group has been left out of the movement — until now. The Light Haus is a tiny home on wheels custom-built for a couple, including a man who is over six feet tall. Designed by Vina Lustado from Sol Haus Design , the light-filled home has an interior height of 6’8″. Going vertical didn’t mean sacrificing on space or style; the house has two separate offices, tons of storage space, a luxurious bathroom with a rainfall shower and even special access for the couple’s cat. Anna and Kevin approached Vina with their hopes of finding a tiny home on wheels that would be comfortable for Kevin’s height, but still provide the amenities of a traditional home. By creating a height clearance of 6’8″, there would be ample room for him to stand up, but that wasn’t sufficient when it came to creating a spacious living area. Therefore, the solution was to extend the structure horizontally to 24 feet long, which added much-needed space. The living space is flooded with natural light thanks to an abundance of windows, especially the multiple clerestory windows that wrap around the home’s upper level. The layout has a central living area with a compact kitchen on one side. On the adjacent wall, stairs with hidden storage lead up to the sleeping loft. Again, space efficiency was essential here, so there is a whopping 4’6″ of space above the loft. Related: This off-grid, prefab tiny cabin in Michigan fits a family of five A light color palette and custom-made, multi-functional furniture give the space a fresh, modern aesthetic. Ample storage in every nook and cranny helps keep the space clutter-free. Adding to the healthy atmosphere is the fact that the tiny home was built with non-toxic materials . + Vina Lustado Via Tiny House Talk Images via Vina’s Tiny House

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A 6-foot-tall man lives comfortably in this custom tiny home

Two design students build a charming, off-grid summer cabin in a remote Finnish forest

September 12, 2018 by  
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Design students Timm Bergmann and Jonas Becker (now Studio Politaire ) decided to put their learned knowledge to the test by building an off-grid cabin in a remote area of Finland. Not only did they build the stunning 280-square-feet cabin from scratch with their own hands, but they stuck to a modest budget of just $14,000, proving once again that great design can be affordable. Bergmann and Becker were both halfway through their studies when they decided to build the off-grid cabin as a project for their dissertations. The determined duo found the perfect building location on an undeveloped forest plot in Finland. Before construction on the project started, they carefully studied the area and its terrain. “There was no electricity or water. No path led to the plot,” Bergmann explained. “We carried out a soil analysis and drew up a design based on the results, under the supervision of architect Jan Kampshoff.” The students scraped together just $14,000 to complete the project, obligating them to do 100 percent of the work — with a little help from their friends. Although the modest budget was seen as an obstacle at first, they soon realized that by doing the labor themselves , they were able to enjoy a certain flexibility when it came to making changes quickly. “As we built everything ourselves, we not only cut costs, but we were also able to make changes along the way,” Bergmann said. “As a result, we extended the terrace, built the roof ourselves after all — contrary to the initial plan — and made the stovepipes ourselves.” Because of the remote location, the young designers spent the first weeks building an elevated wooden walkway that stretched 650 feet in length. Building supplies were delivered from their base camp via tractor before carrying the rest of the materials by hand on the walkway. Related: Norwegian cabin weathers a harsh climate for breathtaking views The frame of the home was placed on a foundation of galvanized water pipes that a local contractor welded together. Apart from the pipes, the rest of the home was built using as many  natural materials as possible, keeping non-essentials to a minimum. The modular frame was built out of local lumber pieces, with walls built from plywood boards. Although it gives off a purely minimalist aesthetic at first glance, the design behind the 280-square-foot cabin is quite complex. The structure is comprised of four staggered volumes, strategically placed to provide distinct views from every angle. According to Becker, the cabin’s windows are double-paned and installed in solid wood frames to insulate the home during Finland’s harsh winters. Inside, the rooms are arranged for efficiency. The layout includes a small kitchen and living space with a bedroom and sauna in the back. Although the duo built many of the home’s features themselves, such as the bedroom cabinetry, most of the furnishings were taken from Bergmann’s grandparents’ home, giving an extra personal touch to the design. The house is 100 percent off-grid and has no electricity. A small, metal wood-burning stove and a sauna stove manage to heat the interior, and there is a detached outhouse with a composting toilet just steps away. Currently, the home is also without running water, but the ambitious builders are working on building a water filtration system that would use water from the nearby lake. + Studio Politaire Via Houzz Photography by Andre Boettcher Photography

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Two design students build a charming, off-grid summer cabin in a remote Finnish forest

Look out, meat industry – flexitarianism is on the rise

August 29, 2018 by  
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With all of the meatless options on the market, it’s not surprising that flexitarianism is on the rise. Unlike vegetarians , who completely exclude meat from their diet, flexitarians simply cut down on how much meat they eat on a weekly basis. This raises an important question: What are the benefits of eating less meat? Related: Vegetarian diets could help avert one-third of early deaths, new research finds Research has found a correlation between eating less meat and losing weight. Flexitarian diets can also help prevent certain health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes. Given these health benefits , adopting a flexitarian diet can be beneficial, especially if you’re concerned with gaining weight or have a history of diabetes and high blood pressure in your family. Flexitarianism is also easier to get into than vegetarianism. Cutting meat out of a few meals a week is much more doable than eliminating meat altogether. Although some vegetarians have a negative attitude towards flexitarianism – which they view as cheating – it is on the rise around the world. In fact, the amount of vegetarian products available in supermarkets has doubled since 2009, and that trend is not slowing down. Last year, the vegetarian industry sold over $3 billion worth of products, an eight percent increase from the previous year. Not everyone in the United States is convinced, however. While flexitarianism has many health benefits, the majority of people around the country believe meals should include meat in some capacity. People under 50 years of age are also more likely to follow a flexitarian or vegetarian diet, as are individuals who make $30,000 a year or less. People older than 50 and those who earn over $70,000 are not likely to follow a meat-less diet. Lastly, conservatives are less likely to adopt a meat-free diet or cut down on meat consumption than are liberals. Despite these challenges, flexitarianism is on the rise and we can only hope that that trend continues into the future. Via The Washington Post

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Look out, meat industry – flexitarianism is on the rise

Infographic: Food Waste in the US

August 24, 2018 by  
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In the United States, we waste between 30 to 40 … The post Infographic: Food Waste in the US appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Infographic: Food Waste in the US

After three months, Kilauea eruptions might be over

August 8, 2018 by  
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After more than three months of continuous eruption, Mount Kilauea on Hawaii’s Big Island has finally stopped emitting lava. At the base of Kilauea, fissure 8 has been the longest lasting and most destructive of the two dozen fissures that formed throughout the eruption, and its lava flow is now coming to a halt. United States Geological Survey (USGS)  announced Monday, “This morning’s overflight crew saw a weak to moderately active bubbling lava lake within the fissure 8 cone, a weak gas plume and a completely crusted lava channel.” The Halema’uma’u crater deflations have also slowed down, and the Pu’u ‘O’o vent has reduced its sulfur dioxide emissions, revealing magma within the crater to be at very low levels. But it is still unknown whether activity from Kilauea has subsided completely. “In 1955, there was an eruption that went on for 88 days, and it did include two shutdowns of five and 16 days, so that’s a model for what might be happening,” said Tina Neal, chief scientist at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory . “It could be weeks or months before we feel comfortable calling the eruption and the summit collapse over.” Related: Mount Kilauea transforms Hawaii’s coastline with the birth of a new island The fissure has been responsible for spurts of deadly magma of over 200 feet and rare volcanic tornadoes of lava , fire, smoke and ash suspended in the air. All in all, the destruction has claimed more than 700 homes. Impending Hurricane Hector is expected to hit the Big Island next, where heavy rainfall could create a “white out” zone as the rain hits the molten lava and creates plumes of steam and sulfur dioxide. + USGS Via Reuters , New York Times and Maui Now Images via U.S. Geological Survey

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After three months, Kilauea eruptions might be over

Escape to the Redwoods in this recently renovated Sea Ranch timber cabin

August 8, 2018 by  
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If you’ve ever dreamed of staying in The Sea Ranch community, here’s your chance to spend the night in one of the original mid-century cabins recently restored by Oakland-based design practice Framestudio . Originally designed by San Francisco Bay area architect Joseph Esherick in 1968, the Timber Ridge Sea Ranch Cabin was created as part of Demonstration Homes, a project led by developer Oceanic to show how the local design guidelines could produce a beautiful and low-cost getaway. Renovated last year, the 684-square-foot timber cabin is available for short-term rentals on Esherick MiniMod . Set amidst a forest of towering redwood trees in the historic south end of The Sea Ranch, the compact timber cabin — dubbed the Esherick MiniMod — is a peaceful getaway. Framestudio sensitively modernized the three-level cabin while preserving its historic elements; the structure is one of the few remaining Demonstration Homes that’s still close to its original state. Priorities included an updated galley kitchen, increased capacity to sleep a total of six and secure storage areas. “Framestudio developed a scheme which restored many of the original details, hallmarks of Esherick’s design, using wood which had been reclaimed from alterations not original to the design,” the project statement reads. “New interventions were conceived to contrast in color from the historic framework of the home, but constructed from materials suitable for the age of the home.” Related: Wooden Sea Ranch Cabin is nestled in a Californian redwood forest The home’s open-plan nature was preserved, but the layout of the two adjoining bedrooms can be manipulated with a new full-height partition that divides the sleeping area into two separate sections and slides away when not in use. For extra storage, the bedroom alcoves were updated with blue laminate cupboards. Framestudio also added a built-in sofa that includes extra storage and a pullout queen-sized bed. Rates at the Esherick MiniMod begin at $120 per night . + Framestudio + Esherick MiniMod Images by Drew Kelly

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Escape to the Redwoods in this recently renovated Sea Ranch timber cabin

Recycling Mystery: Clothing

August 8, 2018 by  
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We have a clothing problem in the United States and … The post Recycling Mystery: Clothing appeared first on Earth911.com.

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