Second Nature transforms abandoned fishing nets into 3D-printed seashells and bowls

May 2, 2019 by  
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Did you know that ghost nets are considered among the deadliest ocean debris in the world? The term refers not to haunting specters in the water, but discarded synthetic fishing nets that pollute the seabed and trap fish, mammals and other sea creatures. To raise awareness about these abandoned fishing nets and marine plastic pollution, Rotterdam-based research and design studio The New Raw has launched a new initiative called Second Nature that’s transforming the deadly ghost nets into 3D-printed seashells, bowls and other beautiful objects. The Second Nature project begins with the collection and sorting of the ghost gear depending on material type: nets, ropes, floaters or weights. The plastic waste is then processed in a grinder to create colorful and textured filament for the  3D printing projects. Second Nature currently operates out of a mobile lab located in the small Greek village of Galaxidi. Related: Ghost gear is haunting our oceans “ Plastic is a major contributor to the pollution of the seas,” said Panos Sakkas and Foteini Setaki, founders of The New Raw. “However, living in urban regions, we tend to forget about our dependence on the sea, which is crucial to our food and oxygen supply. With Second Nature, we want to give plastic a second life.” The project also draws inspiration from five edible species of Mediterranean seashells — Mitra Zonata, Pecten Jacobeaus, Pinna Nobilis, Strombus Persicus and Tonna Galea — that are currently protected due to their intensive fishing. In giving the ghost nets a second life, Second Nature has created shell-shaped ornaments as well as a series of colorful tableware as part of its ongoing research project promoting a circular economy . The team plans to launch a new collection of objects in summer 2019 and have documented their process in a 10-minute short film by award-winning filmmaker Daphne Matziaraki, viewable here . + The New Raw Images via The New Raw

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Second Nature transforms abandoned fishing nets into 3D-printed seashells and bowls

Ocean plastic waste has been a problem since the 1950s, reveals 60-year plankton study

April 19, 2019 by  
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A 60-year study on plankton has revealed the dark truth about the history of ocean plastic waste . The study shows how plastics have been polluting our oceans since at least the 1950s and how the problem has steadily gotten worse in the six decades since. The first documented case of ocean plastic waste was fishing twine discovered in the 1950s. The next mention is a carrier bag in 1965. From there, the data shows that plastic waste significantly increased between 1970 and the early 2000s, with fishing lines being the main source of recovered waste. Related: Microplastic rain: new study reveals microplastics are in the air The study, which spanned 60 years, was published in an edition of Nature Communications . Researchers used a device to gather pelagic plankton in the ocean and covered an area over 6.5m nautical miles in the process. The plankton are an important source of information on water quality and serve as a primary food source for whales. As they towed the device across the ocean, the scientists recorded whenever their equipment encountered ocean waste . The depth at which they towed the device was around 7 meters, which is where many marine organisms reside. A good portion of the plastic waste was uncovered in the North Sea, though the researchers say the problem is widespread. “The message is that marine plastic has increased significantly and we are seeing it all over the world, even in places where you would not want to, like the Northwest Passage and other parts of the Arctic,” marine biologist Clare Ostle shared. While the numbers are alarming, there are some positive trends in the data. Ostle noted that the frequency of plastic waste has leveled off in recent years. This is likely due to an increased awareness on behalf of the public. It should be noted, however, that the numbers do not represent how much plastic is in the ocean at a given time and simply give us an insight into broader trends. While the numbers are down, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done if we want to make a lasting impact on ocean plastic waste . Via The Guardian Image via Flockine

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Ocean plastic waste has been a problem since the 1950s, reveals 60-year plankton study

Jaden Smith launches Water Box to aid with the Flint water crisis

March 8, 2019 by  
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For the past three years, the First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church has been battling the Flint water crisis by handing out clean water to locals. Volunteers with the organization started giving out bottled water every day of the week, but as donations decreased, they now distribute water over the course of three days. To assist, rapper Jaden Smith has just donated a portable water filtration unit called the Water Box, which can supply upward of 10 gallons of filtered water every minute. During donation days, the church usually runs out of supplies within a few hours, leaving many residents without access to clean water . The situation is disheartening to the volunteers and residents alike, but all of that is about to change. Related: Clothing made from recycled water bottles highlights the ongoing crisis in Flint Smith’s family, including Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, own a company in Glens Falls, New York, called JUST Water , which use large filtration systems to produce bottled water. The Water Box is a smaller version of the filtration system used at the JUST Water plant. The system removes harmful contaminants such as lead, and it will allow residents to fill their own water receptacles throughout the week. Church officials have been testing the Water Box for several weeks and have sent samples to a nearby lab to ensure all harmful contaminants have been removed. The tests will continue to be administered as long as the Water Box is in use. Residents in Flint can also view the weekly results on the company’s website. So far, there is only one Water Box installed at First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, although Smith’s mom, Jada, has already committed to purchasing another unit for the city. Flint’s water problems began back in 2014. Corrosion in the water lines caused lead to leach into the water supply, potentially harming thousands of residents. Although the Flint water crisis is still a major concern, state officials stopped issuing bottled water in 2018 because the lead levels were not above federally mandated limits. Via Huffington Post Images via JUST Water

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A circular home in Germany produces biogas for self-sufficiency

March 8, 2019 by  
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When a German pioneer in the field of biogas technology commissioned Korbach-based Christoph Hesse Architects , he had an unusual request: a round house . Drawn to the shape of a circular room, the client also found that a round form had the optimal proportions for supporting biogas production, which he would use to power his home. Dubbed Villa F, the project was envisioned as the “first link of a local heat grid” powered by biogas to encourage widespread adoption and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Located in the central highland town of Medebach, Germany, Villa F stands out from its gabled farmhouse neighbors with its cylindrical form. To knit the building’s appearance in to the landscape, the architects used locally sourced materials, such as stones from the nearby creek, for exterior cladding and based the sloped roofline off the surrounding mountainous terrain. Loggias and balconies also reinforce a connection with the outdoors. The home is split into two floors. The ground floor consists of an office with technical rooms used for biogas production. The loft-like upper level houses the living areas with a centrally located living space, dining area and kitchen as well as a bedroom, bathroom, sauna and outdoor loggia with a heated circular pool overlooking the landscape. A close connection with nature was stressed as a reflection of the client’s agricultural background and his environmental values. Related: Why our ancestors built round houses — and why it still makes sense to build round structures today “Energy efficiency and protection of the environment are the main elements of the design,” the architects added. “The supply and disposal of the building are due to the biogas system self-sufficiently — therefore ‘ off-the-grid .’ Biogas has gained enormous traction in recent years, as biomass from forestry, agriculture and waste is used in a bioenergy village to generate electricity and heat. At the global scale, its substantial energy content could reduce the dependence on fossil fuels.” As a model biogas-powered home, Villa F has inspired the other villagers to adopt the technology with the goal of creating a self-powered community. + Christoph Hesse Architects Via ArchDaily Images by Christoph Hesse Architects, Deimel + Wittmar

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Essential eco-friendly fixtures to incorporate into your home

February 20, 2019 by  
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Being a steward of the environment means evaluating how many resources you and your family consume and consistently looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint. The good news is that it’s pretty easy to make small eco-friendly fixtures to your home that can have a huge impact towards those goals. Water costs WaterSense, a federal program sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency provides information about the most water-efficient fixtures for your home. Look for a label that indicates the device has met the strict restrictions certified by an independent testing facility for the best water conservation and lowest water costs. Related: 10 money-saving tips for a green home Faucets The bathroom and kitchen faucets provide a convenience water source for washing hands, brushing teeth and cleaning dishes. With the ability to crank out significant amounts of water, most of the water you pay for heads right down the drain. Instead of free-flowing the cash out of your wallet, look into aerating faucet heads. They work by forcing air through the system, which provides good water pressure while using significantly less water. Look for a model with WaterSense certification and replace each faucet as they begin to leak or as your budget allows. Toilets Standard toilets are a culprit for much of the water usage in the average home. By replacing standard toilets with low flow models, you will see the savings add up. Basically these devices work by providing two flush options: one for solid waste  and one for liquid waste that uses about ? the amount of water. Doing the math, that will save you 25-33% on your toilet flushes alone. With a standard flush requiring around three gallons, that’s some big savings. Showerheads Low flow showerheads work in the same way as other water fixtures. In addition to the aforementioned aerating design, there are other options for slowing the flow in your morning shower. Shower heads equipped with a laminar-flow shower head that feeds individual beads of water through the holes, allows less water flow over all. Other shower heads use a flow restrictor, which allow more or less water through depending on your water pressure preference. Whichever style you choose, look for a shower head with less than 2.5 gpm (gallons per minute) flow rate and a WaterSense certification. Bathtubs Bathtubs are notorious for requiring copious amount of water. After all, submersion in a hot bath averages a consumption of around 30-50 gallons. Showers with a standard shower head, by comparison, use about 10 gallons every four minutes so calculating your shower time will help you evaluate the best water savings. If you’re a disciplined sort, keeping it under ten minutes, than a shower is probably the way to go, especially if you invest in a water-conserving shower head. If you just can’t seem to shut it down in less than 20 minutes, than a bath won’t cost you any more. Lighting One of the best conveniences in a modern home is the ability to flip a switch and bring light to nearly any room in the house. But each flip of the switch costs you at the meter. One option to lower those costs is to replace the type of switch you use. For example, dimmer switches allow you to set the bulb at a lower output level. Lower output means lower consumption and therefore, a lower bill. Timers are another useful option if your family tends to leave lights on frequently. A device that tells your lights to turn off at a specified time will keep the meter from running all day when they are not needed. Motion sensored lights also save money by automatically turning lights on when you enter the room and turning them off behind you when they sense inactivity. Of course, the bulbs you use also make a huge difference in the amount of energy you’re consuming. Traditional incandescent bulbs suck up significantly more energy than the more modern halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs) that not only require less energy, but also last 3-25 times longer. Look for the Energy Star rating on the bulbs you select and be sure to responsibly recycle old bulbs that contain mercury. Electrical costs Your day to day activities are reflected in your electrical bill, whether your house is powered by electricity alone or a combination of sources such as natural gas. The costs of heating, cooling and providing power to the outlets in your home add up quickly, so any changes you can make to reduce your usage will pay you back in the wallet and environmentally. Related: A renovated Toronto home boasts energy savings of over 50% Heating and cooling Heating and cooling costs make-up the lion’s share of every home’s electrical bill. Air conditioners and furnaces should be maintained for the best performance and replaced when they fail or when convenient to you. As your budget allows, swap out old systems for new ones that are more efficient and, of course, Energy Star certified. Although the unit is an investment up front, the savings long term are worth it. In addition, there are often local, state and federal tax credits that help offset the cost. Insulated windows and doors are another investment that can add up to huge savings. Energy Star models are much more energy efficient than those made even ten years ago, keeping warm air in and cold air out, which also equates to lower heating and cooling costs. Another relatively inexpensive fixture that can save you on your heating and cooling bills is an automatic thermostat. These smart devices are easy to find and install. By programming your thermostat to keep the temperature of the home lower during the night and when nobody is home, you avoid paying unnecessary heating and cooling costs automatically. Water heaters Another mainstream fixture that uses both water and electricity for heating is the water heater. By switching over to tankless water heaters, the average homeowner can save up to $100 per year. You can either install a central unit that provides on-demand water for your entire house, or you can use individual units, installed in each bathroom , kitchen, laundry, and other areas that require a water heater. These units work by only heating water as the faucet requests it, rather than keeping a huge tank of water heated and at the ready constantly. Images via Skitterphoto , 955169 , Karishea , TBIT

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Cheap drainage nets keep water pollution at bay in Australia

November 30, 2018 by  
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Water pollution is a growing crisis around the world, but one city in Australia is doing its part to tackle the huge surges of waste that come from stormwater drains. By using a somewhat obvious, simple and cost-effective system of nets, or “trash traps,” the City of Kwinana is moving to prevent waste from entering its waters. In Spring 2018, the City of Kwinana collaborated with supplier Ecosol to install two drainage nets in the Henley Reserve. The netting was simply attached to concrete drain pipes, and these nets have since collected 370 kg (about 816 lb) of waste, including plastic food wrappers and bottles. Related: Former businessman bicycles down the Thames River to stop plastic pollution The system, including manufacturing, installation and additional labor, cost the municipality about $20,000 — prior to the nets, city workers would collect debris in the water by hand. The new system is picked up and cleaned out using cranes when the nets become full of waste. Then, the waste is sorted in a designated facility. Here, green waste is transformed into mulch, and other materials are separated into recyclable /non-recyclable. The City of Kwinana has considered the drainage nets a huge success, with plans to install three more nets in the nature reserve area over the next two years. “We know that the Kwinana community is very passionate about environmental initiatives and rallies around actions with positive environmental impact, and if it was not for the drainage nets, 370 kg of debris would have ended up in our reserve,” Mayor Carol Adams said. “The nets are placed on the outlet of two drainage pipes, which are located between residential areas and natural areas … This ensures that the habitat of the local wildlife is protected and minimizes the risk of wildlife being caught in the nets. To date, no wildlife has been caught up in either of the City’s nets.” The system took off on social media, in a viral storm that Adams said shows the importance for all levels of government to focus on initiatives to save the environment . + City of Kwinana Image via Shutterstock

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Crude oil spill off Newfoundland coast deemed impossible to clean up

November 27, 2018 by  
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The SeaRose FPSO — a floating production, storage and offloading vessel in the White Rose oil and gas field near Newfoundland’s coast — spilled an estimated 66,000 gallons (250,000 liters) of crude earlier this month, making it the largest oil spill in the province’s maritime history. To make matters worse, according to Canadian provincial regulators, the huge spill cannot be cleaned up. The operator responsible for the incident is Husky Energy, and the spill happened when the vessel “experienced a loss of pressure” in an oil flowline. Husky Energy had halted production the day before due to bad weather , and the spill occurred when the company was preparing to restart production. Related: This magnetic wand cleans up oil spills in a snap Three days after the spill, the regulators reportedly did not see any signs of an oil sheen on the water . According to Scott Tessier, chief executive of The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB), the absence of a sheen means the oil has broken down so much that it has become impossible to clean up. EcoWatch reported that Husky Energy has shut-in and secured all of its wells , and the company has also halted production and drilling operations. C-NLOPB, which is the federal agency that regulates petroleum production, has launched a formal investigation into the spill, and will release its findings once they are available. The board noted that this recent spill shows that we cannot underestimate the risks in offshore oil activity. It also said that it had deployed four surveillance flights and an offshore support vessel to assess the extent of the spill and look for effects on wildlife . At the time of writing, 14 seabirds have been impacted by the spill. Via EcoWatch , The Canadian Press and The Guardian Image via Catmoz

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Crude oil spill off Newfoundland coast deemed impossible to clean up

Time to put the flame out scented candles can cause disease and poor air quality

November 27, 2018 by  
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Candle season is in full effect as winter days quickly approach. Candles are a great accent to incorporate into home decorations and also to photograph as the little flickering flames in the jar illuminate dark evenings at home. Scented candles are nice to look at and even nicer to breathe in, but your favorite candle can cause more damage than you imagine. In the age of social media influencers and luxury brands promoting their one-of-a-kind scents, it’s no wonder why  candle sales are soaring . But there is a dark truth hidden behind the feel-good aromas and warm coziness that candles convey — disease and  pollution . The majority of manufactured candles are made from paraffin wax, which is a byproduct in the petroleum refining chain. In a sense, it’s the bottom of the barrel or the worst of the worst. When certain candles are burned, they release toluene and benzene, both of which are known carcinogens . Related: Handmade fruit candles look realistic enough to eat In a study by Southern Carolina State University , researchers compared petroleum-based and vegetable-sourced candles to determine their emissions. Researchers let candles burn for up to six hours in a small box and collected and analyzed air quality . The study concluded that candles that are paraffin-based (the most popular kind) emitted toxic chemicals such as toluene and benzene. “The paraffin candles we tested released unwanted chemicals into the air. For a person who lights a candle every day for years or just uses them frequently, inhalation of these dangerous pollutants drifting in the air could contribute to the development of health risks like cancer, common allergies and even asthma,” said Ruhullah Massoudi, a chemistry professor at Southern Carolina State University. “None of the vegetable-based candles produced toxic chemicals.” Fragrance is also dangerous, because “over the past 50 years, 80 to 90 percent of fragrances have been synthesized from petroleum and some of the commonly found harmful chemicals in fragranced products include acetone, phenol, toluene, benzyl acetate and limonene,” according to a 2009 study,  Fragrance in the Workplace is the New Second-Hand Smoke by the University of Maryland. A 2001 EPA  report mentions that burning candles indoors can cause air pollution and “may result in indoor air concentrations of lead above EPA-recommended thresholds.” The lead found in the soot comes from the metal-core wicks that help keep the wick upright. If you must keep a candle or two in your home, the safest option is to purchase unscented organic soy or beeswax candles. Essential oil diffusers are also a great way to keep your home smelling fresh this holiday season or year-round. Via Treehugger Images via Tatlin

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Time to put the flame out scented candles can cause disease and poor air quality

Valuable wetlands are disappearing 3 times faster than forests, new study warns

September 28, 2018 by  
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Wetlands around the world are disappearing at an alarming rate. New research shows that these valuable ecosystems are vanishing at a rate three times that of forests . Unless significant changes are made, the disappearance of wetlands could cause severe damage around the globe. The Global Wetland Outlook , which was completed by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, found that more than a third of the wetlands on Earth have disappeared over a 45-year period. The pace that wetlands are vanishing jumped significantly after the year 2000, and regions all over the planet were impacted equally. Unfortunately, there is a handful of reasons why wetlands are diminishing around the world. This includes climate change , urbanization, human population growth and variable consumption patterns, all of which have contributed to the way land is used. Related: Natural wetland in India filters 198 million gallons of wastewater a day with zero chemicals There are several different types of wetlands found on Earth, including marshes, lakes, peatlands and rivers. Lagoons, coral reefs , mangroves and estuaries also fall into the wetland category. In total, wetlands take up more than 12.1 million square kilometers, an area larger than Greenland. Wetlands are crucial, because they provide almost all of the world’s access to freshwater — something that is key to survival. Humans also use wetlands for hydropower and medicines. From an environmental perspective, wetlands help retain carbon and regulate global warming . They also serve as the ecosystems for 40 percent of living species on Earth, providing food, water, breeding spaces and raw materials for these animals to live. If the wetlands keep vanishing at the current rate, many species will go as well. “The Global Wetland Outlook is a wake-up call — not only on the steep rate of loss of the world’s wetlands but also on the critical services they provide. Without them, the global agenda on sustainable development will not be achieved,” said Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. “We need urgent collective action to reverse trends on wetland loss and degradation and secure both the future of wetlands and our own survival at the same time.” With wetlands in danger of disappearing, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has pledged to make saving these regions a top priority. The parties involved with the group have targeted 2,300 sites for protection and hope to expand that to include more wetlands around the globe. + Ramsar Convention on Wetlands Image via Jeanethe Falvey / EPA

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Valuable wetlands are disappearing 3 times faster than forests, new study warns

Flood frequency of the Amazon River has increased fivefold

September 21, 2018 by  
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New data suggest that flooding in the Amazon River has dramatically increased by as much as five times in both intensity and frequency in the last 100 years. Scientists analyzed data points from the past century and believe the increase in flooding is linked to global warming. Scientists have measured the river’s water levels for 113 years at the Port of Manaus in Brazil . Over time, they found that large flooding events and extreme droughts have gone up over the past 20 to 30 years. In the early part of the century, massive floods only happened about once in every 20-year period. That number has increased to one major flood every four years. Related: High tide coastal flooding in US has doubled in the past 30 years The researchers believe the uptick is related to an oceanic system called Walker circulation, which describes air currents created by temperature fluctuations and pressure changes in the ocean , specifically in tropical locations. The Pacific Ocean has been cooling while the Atlantic Ocean has been getting warmer, which creates these circulating air currents. These changes are affecting the surrounding environment, including precipitation in the Amazon basin. Scientists are not sure why the Atlantic Ocean has been warming up. They do, however, believe that global warming is contributing to the temperature changes, but in a more indirect way. They theorize that global warming has shifted wind belts farther south, which pushes warm water from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic. This creates an opposite effect of El Niño and results in more rainfall in the Amazon. Flooding along the Amazon River lasts weeks on end. Not only does it spread disease and contaminate water supplies, but it also destroys farms and homes. Right now, there is no indication that the flooding will decrease. This past year, water levels rose above the flood range, and scientists believe the water levels will only get higher as the years progress. Via EurekAlert! Images via Dave Lonsdale and NASA

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