MVRDV breaks ground on Pixel, a mixed-use development that embraces indoor-outdoor living

August 23, 2019 by  
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MVRDV has started construction on Pixel, a mixed-use development in Abu Dhabi that promotes an innovative building typology very different from the prevalent style of disconnected towers in the United Arab Emirates. Designed to encourage community building and enjoyment of the outdoors, Pixel will comprise seven mid-rise towers of varying heights grouped around a central plaza. The 85,000-square-meter development will be located in Abu Dhabi’s new Makers District and will emphasize the neighborhood’s values of creativity, learning and sharing. Named after the pixelated appearance of the building facades, Pixel will include 525 apartments of varying sizes — ranging from studios to spacious three-bedroom homes — shops, flexible office space suitable for startups and established companies, restaurants and a range of amenities such as a pool, gym, community spaces and a children’s playroom. Related: MVRDV designs a Dutch office building covered in potted plants Staggered building heights have been informed for optimal shade conditions and views. The public plaza at the heart of the development will form part of “The Artery,” a continuous pedestrian public space that cuts through the Maker’s District and connects Pixel to the nearby beach. “The weather in Abu Dhabi is very pleasant for about eight months of the year, yet most housing there doesn’t really encourage people to spend time outside,” said Jacob van Rijs, a founding partner of MVRDV. “With Pixel, we wanted to show that a connection with the outdoors is not only possible in this city, but beneficial.” In addition to the creation of outdoor spaces and connection with neighboring Makers District spaces, the design of the towers encourages social engagement as well. The facades “break down” into balconies and bay windows that face the lively plaza below. Ceramic screens with a shimmering pearlescent finish — a nod to Abu Dhabi’s pearl diving heritage — help create a comfortable outdoor environment. + MVRDV Images via MVRDV

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MVRDV breaks ground on Pixel, a mixed-use development that embraces indoor-outdoor living

Trump administration moves to weaken Endangered Species Act amid global extinction risks

August 13, 2019 by  
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It’s no secret that endangered species around the globe continue to face extinction, and the dilemma could get worse with the recent revamp of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) . On August 12, the Trump administration unveiled new changes to the ESA, which was first passed in 1973. The new ESA rules will change how federal agencies implement portions of the conservation law, making it easier to remove recovered species from the protected list and allow for more drilling and development. First proposed in July 2018, the changes will allow federal agencies to weigh economic factors into decisions on assigning species protections. The law previously prohibited this. The administration believes the new changes will  “modernize” and “improve” the law, lifting regulatory burdens while continuing to protect species . Karen Budd-Falen, the Interior Department’s deputy solicitor for fish, wildlife and parks, said the changes will “ensure transparency” in the ESA process and “provide regulatory assurances and protection for both endangered species and the businesses that rely on the use of federal and private land.” However, environmentalists have a different view and believe the new rules only help industry and will continue hurting ecosystems , ultimately resulting in their downfall. Alarmingly, a three-year United Nations study found up to 1 million species wildlife are at risk of extinction by human actions if current trends continue. The changes to the ESA could speed up the process. Related: 1 million species are at risk of extinction, says new UN report Today, the ESA protects more than 1,600 plants and animals, as well as the habitats important to their survival, according to one report. The ESA has prevented 99 percent of listed species from becoming extinct . “The best way to uphold the Endangered Species Act is to do everything we can to ensure it remains effective in achieving its ultimate goal ? recovery of our rarest species,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, an ex-oil and gas lobbyist, said. “The Act’s effectiveness rests on clear, consistent and efficient implementation.” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra promised to battle the new ESA changes in court. “I know that gutting the Endangered Species Act sounds like plan from a cartoon villain, not the work of the president of the United States, ” Healey said during a call with journalists. “But unfortunately, that’s what we’re dealing with today.” Via Huffington Post Image via Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren

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California partners with UN on climate insurance

July 31, 2019 by  
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California is the first state to work directly with the United Nations on a natural infrastructure insurance program that could help protect communities from wildfires and other disasters. The California Department of Insurance is working on a year long initiative with the United Nation’s Environment Program to develop insurance practices that manage and reduce risks, specifically related to wetlands and forests. Related: Every year, humanity ‘overshoots’ the natural resources earth can replenish “We have a historic opportunity to utilize insurance markets to protect Californians from the threat of climate change, including rising sea levels, extreme heat and wildfires,” says Insurance Commissioner for California Ricardo Lara. “Working with the United Nations, we can keep California at the forefront of reducing risks while promoting sustainable investments.” In 2018, California experienced the state’s deadliest wildfire, which cost $12 billion in insurable losses and killed 85 people. According to experts, the increased severity of wildfires is likely due to climate change . Insurance services can offer compensation for risk reduction strategies, such as effective forest management or protecting utility infrastructure from possible disasters. “A sustainable insurance road map will enable California to harness risk reduction measures, insurance solutions and investments by the insurance industry in order to build safer, disaster-resilient communities, and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon, sustainable economy,” said the U.N. lead, Butch Bacani. Other countries have initiated similar natural infrastructure insurance programs, including protections for coral reefs and mangroves, which reduce coastal flooding and erosion. Via LA Times Iamge via Flickr

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California partners with UN on climate insurance

The ultimate guide to eco-friendly period products

July 31, 2019 by  
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If you’re a person who is serious about protecting the environment, you’re probably conscious of how much trash you generate every time you have a period. In addition to being chock-full of plastics sent straight to landfills, pads and tampons also contain harsh chemicals that are toxic . Yet most people continue exposing their bodies to these products month after month. Luckily, there are better options out there for both you and the planet — here’s a guide to help you find what might work best for you. “Anything coming in constant contact with your skin will land in your bloodstream for distribution throughout your body,” Dr. Joseph Mercola wrote in an alarming Huffington Post article about the dangers of menstrual products. Despite the potential dangers, the chemical ingredients in tampons and pads are an industry secret, protected by nondisclosure policies that favor corporations, manufacturers and innovators but put consumers at serious risk. So if you want to cut down on polluting nature and your body, consider this comprehensive guide on more sustainable product options available right now. As always, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider to help determine the best options for you. Menstrual cups Menstrual cups are one of the most eco-friendly options out there. If you can get over the initial learning curve, they are easy and convenient to use. Why we love them Although the up-front sticker price is higher, when you calculate how much you spend every month on tampons or pads, the savings are obvious. The cups are comfortable and barely noticeable once they have been inserted — the same way you might get used to a tampon and hardly realize it is there. They are especially easy for travelers who want to save precious space in their luggage and say goodbye to last-minute, emergency trips to the convenience store. Most cup brands come in multiple sizes and some even come in varying levels of firmness, depending on your preference, flow, age and whether or not you have had a vaginal birth. The cups are capable of handling even heavy flow days, with most users reporting minimal — if any — leaks. Below is a brief review of a few popular brands. Diva Cup ($35) The Diva Cup is the most recognized and popular brand. It has three sizes (including one for teens), lasts up to 12 hours and is made from medical-grade silicone. Sustain Natural Period Cup ($39) These cups are flexible, compact and made entirely of medical-grade silicone . They claim to hold three tampons-worth of liquid and are available in two sizes. This is also the only brand that currently offers a microwave case for cleaning the cup. Peachlife Menstrual Cup ($22) Also made of medical-grade silicone, this cup uniquely comes in a variety of firmness levels (soft, medium-firm and extra-firm). Unlike other brands that come to a point, the Peachlife cup has a silicone ring at the bottom for easy removal (but remember, you still have to break the suction of the cup; you cannot just tug on the ring!). Cups are not without challenges Menstrual cups cannot be recycled at the end of their lifecycles, but when you calculate how many pads and tampons you averted from landfills, this product is worth it. The cups can also be difficult to maneuver at first. Once you have practiced and get the hang of folding the cup, inserting it and then breaking the seal to remove, it’s just as easy as any other option. It typically takes about three periods to fully adapt to using a menstrual cup. Because of cultural and religious beliefs, some people do have objections or hesitations to using a cup. Related: Study shows menstrual cups are safe and just as effective as tampons, pads A new spin on ‘period underwear’ Absorbent underwear brands like THINX and Lunapads are increasing in popularity and market share. They are simply underwear that you wear during your period that are specially manufactured to absorb menstrual blood. Why they’re so easy If you know how to put on your undies, then you know how to use these — they have all other products beat in terms of ease of use. They are also eco-friendly, because you wash and reuse them each time you have your period. That means they do not produce landfill trash every month. The downside of absorbent underwear Period underwear is more expensive than your typical pair of underwear because of their patented absorption technology . You will also need a few pairs depending on the length and flow of your period and how often you’re able to wash and dry them. Like the cups though, when you tally the cost of underwear against lifetime tampon expenses, they’re a smart economic choice. The horrors of tampons and better options “The average American woman uses 16,800 tampons in her lifetime — or up to 24,360 if she’s on estrogen replacement therapy,” said Dr. Mercola. That’s a lot of trash , but it is also a lot of time that your body is exposed to toxic chemicals. Cotton is better; organic cotton is best You may have heard health experts say that cotton underwear is best for promoting vaginal health — the same goes for tampons. Look for brands that specifically say they are made from organic cotton, but assume that most conventional brands are now made from plastics and synthetic materials. These materials are not breathable, can get fragmented and left behind and might encourage health problems like yeast and bacterial growth. Most tampons are also bleached with substances linked to abnormal tissue growth, abnormal cell growth and immune system suppression. Americans use 7 billion tampon applicators every year; the chemicals in the applicator, phthalates, have been generally linked to organ damage, lower I.Q. and asthma. What to try instead Using tampons without applicators will significantly cut down the plastic waste you generate. Brands like o.b. offer tampons that can be inserted with just your finger. Seventh Generation offers a chlorine-free, organic cotton tampon that reduces your exposure to chemicals. Organyc also offers a 100 percent organic cotton tampon. What about pads? Many people prefer pads for comfort or cultural reasons; however, the average sanitary pad contains “the equivalent of about four plastic bags, and this doesn’t include the other chemicals like BPA , BPS, phthalates and toxic dioxin created by the bleaching process.” Even though they have plastic in them, pads are never recyclable because they have been contaminated with bodily fluid. Because pads have a bigger volume than tampons, they produce even more waste. The average person throws away between 250 and 300 pounds of pads or tampons in their lifetime. What to use if you prefer pads There are reusable sanitary pads online that significantly reduce the amount of trash produced. Simply place the pad in your underwear; when it is dirty, rinse it with cold water and then add it to the laundry. You can buy reusable pads from Gladrags or find cute designs via Etsy. You can also try your hand at sewing your own . Disposable tampons and pads dominate the menstrual care market, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With small personal changes, you can protect your health, wallet and the planet. Images via Shutterstock

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The ultimate guide to eco-friendly period products

The Defense Department is worried about climate change — and also 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 also a huge carbon emitter

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

Prada announces a ban on fur

May 24, 2019 by  
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Prada has announced that it will finally ban the use of all fur in future fashion lines. The major fashion company joins a growing list of designers who have been successfully pressured by animal rights advocates to ban fur from their products. Starting in 2020, the company will no longer introduce items with fur, but those currently in circulation will still be available for purchase. Prada’s decision comes as interest in ethical and sustainable fashion mounts among consumers. “The Prada Group is committed to innovation and social responsibility, and our fur-free policy — reached following a positive dialogue with the Fur Free Alliance, in particular with LAV and the Humane Society of the United States — is an extension of that engagement,” head of Prada Miuccia Prada said in a statement . “Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design while meeting the demand for ethical products.” Related: Burberry vows to stop burning unsold clothes and using real fur With this major victory, animal rights groups now plan to focus their attention on urging Prada, as well as other companies, to ban exotic skins, such as alligator and snakeskin items, from future lines. PETA has already purchased enough stock in the fashion company to suggest shareholder resolutions that would allow a vote on the use of exotic skins. Prada has experimented with fur alternatives, including using materials from teddy bear manufacturer Steiff; however, environmentalists also argue that many fur alternatives utilize microplastics , which do not biodegrade and wreak havoc on waterways and marine ecosystems. Via EcoWatch Images via Shutterstock

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Power and publicity trump protection in large marine protected areas

May 15, 2019 by  
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Nations have just one more year to reach the global marine conservation goal to protect 10 percent of the world’s oceans by 2020. Although 7 percent is already legally protected, many new declarations are massive, offshore areas. Some conservationists argue these offshore achievements fail to protect more critical coastal waters and may even be aggressive ocean-grabs by colonial powers. The goal to legally protect 10 percent of the ocean was ratified under the Convention of Biological Diversity in 2010, and in 2015 it was added to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. According to the World Database of Protected Areas , although 7 percent of the ocean is protected, only 20 marine protected areas account for 70 percent of that area. Offshore areas have significantly fewer stressors than coastal areas, including fishing, tourism, development and mining and host considerably less biodiversity. By contrast, coastal coral reefs are home to 25 percent of all marine species. Related: Drones — the future of ocean conservation Because of the diversity in both uses and species, governments have a difficult time finding compromises to effectively declare and sustainably manage coastal areas, but they can easily make headlines and reach their targets by sectioning off large areas of deep sea. The colonization of marine protected areas Ecological concerns are not the only issue. Many critics also believe political — and colonial — power dynamics are behind these declarations. In recent years, the United States, Britain and France have declared large protected areas in their island territories, while declaring very few at home. The U.S. has less than 1 percent of continental waters under legal designation, while 43 percent of its colonial ocean territories are under protected status. England has just 2.9 square miles of marine protected areas but controls 1.5 million square miles around its territories. Control and displacement in the Indian Ocean In the 1960s, Britain maintained the Chagos Archipelago islands in the Indian Ocean, even after granting independence to nearby Mauritius. In order to make a naval base, the British forcibly removed 2,000 citizens who have spent decades demanding to be allowed to return to their homeland and continue their traditional fishing practices. In 2010, Britain declared the islands a protected area, and suddenly, peoples’ traditions became a crime. Despite official claims that the protected area had nothing to do with preventing displaced people from returning to their homeland, leaked documents revealed an explicit connection to this motive. In 2019, the International Court of Justice at The Hague declared Britain’s actions wrongful and ordered the island to be handed back to Mauritius. Why prioritize coastal areas? Larger protected areas are praised for their ability to preserve more space for migratory species like whales and tuna and for protecting deep sea areas from future exploitation. The problem, however, is when large offshore declarations distract attention from the harder work of protecting coastal zones. The declaration of protected or managed coastal areas requires compromise from many different stakeholders, including transportation, businesses, hotels, local fishers and coastal residents. Unsustainable development, pollution and competing interests exacerbate environmental degradation in coastal areas and require explicit management legislation and compliance — a feat that many governments lack the capacity to take on. In fact, only 5 percent of all marine protected areas have implemented management plans. Enric Sala, a marine ecologist with the National Geographic Society,  argues that protected area declarations that aren’t accompanied by management plans are “false and counterproductive” achievements that look good on paper but do nothing to protect the long-term sustainability of ocean resources. Money and management The lack of local government resources and investment means that the majority of marine conservation activities are funded and implemented by foreign conservation groups and private philanthropists — the majority of whom are American. According to Fred Pearch, a journalist with Yale Environment 360, “Some see such philanthropists as planetary saviors; others as agents of a creeping privatization of one of the last great global commons.” Again, foreign powers have jurisdiction and decision-making power over foreign waters and what indigenous communities can and cannot do. Many local groups are pushing back against this invasion. John Aini, an indigenous leader in Papau New Guinea explained in an interview with MongaBay about the decolonization of marine conservation: “I’ve basically given up working with big international nongovernmental organizations, basically given up networking with them. And we are doing our own thing now with funding that’s available, and funding from people that understand that we are in touch, that we own the land, the sea, we know the problems of our people better.” What is the right way to protect the ocean? There is no one-size-fits-all solution and no way to make all marine conservationists and ocean users agree, but positive examples of protected areas do exist. Last year, Honduras declared a marine protected area in Tela Bay, which includes 86,259 hectares of coral reef. Although it is relatively small at only 300 square miles, the coastal protected area is a model for its outreach strategy, local management committee and “managed-access fishery” program that supports coastal residents. Belize also became the first country to implement a nationwide, multi-species fishing rights program for small-scale local fishers that is incorporated into the country’s intricate network of protected and locally managed areas. The key to successful legal protections is more science- and community-based conservation, not what New York Times contributor Luiz A. Rocha calls “convenient conservation” to meet numbers, make headlines and ignore realities and power dynamics on the ground — and under the sea. Via Yale Environment 360 Images from Bureau of Land Management , Arnaud Abadie , Dronepicr , Drew Avery , USGS Unmanned Aircraft Systems , Daniel Julie and Fred

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