The Wzai 2.0 smart plant can give anyone a green thumb

January 18, 2021 by  
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Have you ever found yourself with a struggling houseplant, demanding to know why it won’t thrive? Let the Wázai 2.0, the world’s smartest bonsai , turn you into a master home gardener. Finally, you can have a plant that tells you exactly what it needs and when. This smart bonsai plant comes with its own monitoring app to update you on the plant’s needs. The app monitors and provides real-time information about your plant. This includes monitoring how many hours of sunlight your plant gets, so you know when to make changes to keep your plant healthy and happy. Wázai 2.0 will even alter how frequently the plant gets watered and monitor the soil for optimum moisture levels. As the product’s Kickstarter page explains, “Unlike other automatic watering pots, Wázai doesn’t water on a set schedule but will adjust its watering frequency according to the soil moisture rate, making sure your plant gets what they need.” The bonsai also includes a huge water tank that holds 1.8 liters and gives you notifications when the tank needs refilling. Additionally, a vacation mode allows the app to more carefully regulate the water to keep your plant alive while you’re gone. You can even start using the app before you pot your plant. Wázai will monitor the average sunlight in the area for three days and recommend ways to keep your new plant healthy and happy. Equipped with an enormous plant database, the app can find the specific water and light needs for more than 80 different types of plants. Wázai works both indoors and out, due to waterproof and anti-UV features. All you need to keep it powered is four AA batteries , which can last for up to six months. Though still a burgeoning startup, Wázai 2.0 has already earned accolades in the form of an iF Design Award. To support the project and secure your own Wázai, check out the Kickstarter page here . + Wázai 2.0 Images via Wázai 2.0

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The Wzai 2.0 smart plant can give anyone a green thumb

Seagrass purges 900M plastic bits from the Mediterranean yearly

January 18, 2021 by  
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Recent research has found that underwater seagrass collects up to 900 million plastic items in the Mediterranean Sea each year. Seagrass is vital in collecting and purging plastic waste into what are known as Neptune Balls. These balls of plastic pollution form naturally as the seagrass collects and traps plastics before releasing them in clumps, some of which wash back to shore. The study, which was published in Scientific Reports  was lead by Anna Sanchez-Vidal, a marine biologist at the University of Barcelona. In a statement, Sanchez-Vidal confirmed the findings, saying that they have proved the extent to which seagrass can trap plastic waste . Related: SeagrassSpotter app empowers ocean lovers to become citizen scientists “We show that plastic debris in the seafloor can be trapped in seagrass remains, eventually leaving the marine environment through beaching,” Sanchez-Vidal told AFP. The findings of this study now add yet another benefit of seagrass. Seagrass has long been known to balance its ecosystem. The seagrass absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen into the water, improving the water quality in the process. Further, it plays the role of a natural nursery for hundreds of species of fish, and seagrass is the foundation of the coastal food web. The research team has only studied the building up of plastic within seagrass in the Mediterranean Sea. In 2018 and 2019, the scientists managed to count the number of plastic bits found in Neptune balls that had been washed to the shore in Mallorca, Spain. They found plastic debris in half of the loose grass leaf samples collected, with a kilogram of the grass found to contain approximately 600 pieces of plastic. As for the denser balls of seagrass, only 17% of the samples collected were found to contain plastic. However, the balls had plastic at a higher density, with nearly 1,500 plastic bits per kilogram of Neptune ball. Using the findings, the researchers were able to estimate the amount of plastic collected by seagrass in the Mediterranean. The good news is that the grass can help collect plastic waste. But researchers aren’t sure where all of the waste goes. The only waste that has been traced includes the Neptune balls and loose grasses that remain stuck on the beach. “We don’t know where they travel,” Sanchez-Vidal said. “We only know that some of them are beached during storms.” + Scientific Reports Via The Guardian Image via Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble

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Seagrass purges 900M plastic bits from the Mediterranean yearly

Drought leaves Istanbul with just 45 days’ worth of water

January 14, 2021 by  
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Turkey’s capital Istanbul could run out of water in the next 45 days if rain does not fall. Other major cities in the country also face the risk of running dry in the next few months. These circumstances are due to poor rainfall in the past year, leading to the country’s severest drought in over a decade. Istanbul alone is home to over 17 million people but has very low levels of water. Akgün ?lhan, a water management expert at the Istanbul Policy Center, says that the country has been approaching the water scarcity issue the wrong way. Related: Thousands of farm workers face extreme conditions in California “Instead of focusing on measures to keep water demand under control, Turkey insists on expanding its water supply through building more dams … Turkey has built hundreds of dams in the last two decades,” ?lhan said. “The warning signs have been there for decades but not much has been done in practice.” Other cities facing major water scarcity include Izmir and Bursa. In Izmir, the dams are about 36% full while Bursa dams are approximately 24% full. Further, farmers in wheat-growing areas are struggling to retain their crops. Experts warn that if it does not rain soon, they risk losing a year’s yield. Turkey is a water-stressed country, with just 1,346 cubic meters of water available per person each year. The country has had to battle with severe droughts since the 1980s, but the situation has been getting worse. Droughts have now become recurrent and more severe due to climate change , which has been accelerated by industrialization and urbanization. To make the problem worse, population growth over the years continues to put pressure on the country’s water resources. Ümit ?ahin, who teaches global climate change and environmental politics at Istanbul’s Sabanc? University, said that government policies have not prioritized the conservation of water resources despite the fact that the country is water-stressed. “Yet in Istanbul, for instance, the most vital water basins, the last forests and agricultural land, [have been opened] to urban development projects … the new airport, the new Bosphorus bridge, its connection roads and highways, and the Istanbul canal project,” ?ahin said. “These policies cannot solve Turkey’s drought problem.” Via The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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Drought leaves Istanbul with just 45 days’ worth of water

Take your sustainable lifestyle to the next level in 2021

January 1, 2021 by  
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Are you already recycling? Carrying around a refillable water bottle rather than contributing to the ocean-bound plastic problem? Composting your food scraps? That’s all commendable, but there’s more to be done to achieve a net-zero lifestyle. If you’re ready to up your environmental commitment this year (and hold larger entities accountable along the way), here are a few ideas — some more dramatic than others — for sustainable resolutions in 2021. Get rid of your car If you have a car , sell or donate it. Once you’ve unloaded the gas guzzler, do your errands on foot or by bike. If you don’t have your own bike, join your city’s bike-share program. With proper COVID-19 precautions, take public transportation for longer distances. Related: The pros and cons of electromobility Ditch the plastic liners Do you know how long those kitchen trash bags take to decompose? Anywhere from 10 to 1,000 years. Instead, go au naturel and regularly clean your trash, recycling and compost containers. Change your laundering style Did you know that most of the energy it takes to run a washing machine comes from heating the water? Only 10% of energy is for working the machine, so switch to cold-water washing . Once your clothes are clean, hang them to dry. If you live somewhere sunny and have space for a clothesline, this won’t be too hard. If you live somewhere cold and rainy, see if you can hang an inside clothesline or set up a drying rack. But if this is impractical and you must run the dryer, make sure it’s fairly full so you make the most of the energy. Dryers are the third-biggest energy hogs in the average house, after the refrigerator and washer. Forget the lawn Lawns are a huge waste of space and resources. In the U.S., people spray about 3 trillion gallons of water on them every year, use 800 million gallons of gas in their lawnmowers and treat them with nearly 80 million pounds of pesticides . But who are we trying to impress with this golf course-looking terrain around our homes? Instead, go with xeriscaping or planting vegetables. Let clover take over, or fill your yard with pollinator-friendly plants. Control your climate Invest in ways to weatherize your home and lifestyle year-round. If you have the money and own a home, a heat pump can cut your energy use in half. Try low-tech solutions like wearing thicker socks and a fleece bathrobe over your clothes so that you don’t need to turn the heater up as much in winter. Add an extra blanket to the bed, and turn your thermostat down at least seven degrees at night. You use about 1% less energy per eight hours for every degree you turn it down. In summer, air conditioning is a massive energy hog. Three-quarters of U.S. homes have air conditioners, which use 6% of the total electricity produced in the nation, according to Energy Saver . Annual cost? About $29 billion dollars and 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide released. If you must use AC, don’t set it so low. Add insulation to your house. Wear a bikini. Eat more ice pops. Sweat a little, it won’t hurt you. Go vegan Yes, Meatless Mondays are a terrific start. But this year, try adding Tuesday. And Wednesday. Et cetera. A University of Oxford study concluded that cutting out meat and dairy could reduce your carbon footprint by 73%. “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” said lead author Joseph Poore, as reported by The Independent . Boycott new One way to stop supporting the constant addition to more junk in the waste stream is to boycott buying anything new (excluding food, prescriptions or emergency items). Perhaps you already enjoy thrifting and flea markets. If so, committing to buying nothing new might be a fun challenge. Make 2021 your year of browsing the free libraries, finding your new look at a garage sale and swapping useful items with other folks in your neighborhood. Set up regular donations to environmental organizations Just about every organization needs your help right now. Whether you prefer whales or bats, oceans or rivers, an environmental charity exists that would greatly appreciate your recurring donation, even if it’s just five bucks a month. Control your food waste The U.S. is one of the top countries for food waste in the world, tossing almost 40 million tons annually. Most of this food goes to landfills. In fact, food waste is the second-largest component of the average American landfill behind paper. This year, commit to only buy what you’ll eat and to eat what you buy. If you don’t already compost, get yourself a compost bin and throw in all your banana peels, coffee grounds, etc. Get political On the most basic level, vote. Beyond that, support causes you believe in by writing letters to your politicians or boycotting companies that are contributing to the global climate crisis. Attend town hall meetings with your local or state representatives. If you have the time, energy, resources and moxie, run for office. Images via Adobe Stock

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Save energy and money with these eco-friendly tips for winter

December 30, 2020 by  
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Whether winter conjures thoughts of cozy fires and hot cocoa or trudging through snow and ice on the way to work, it’s essential to have a plan for coping with the season in a sustainable way. Here are some tips to saving energy, water and money while staying toasty and warm all winter long. Heat and electricity bills Not only will the bills add up as you bump up the heat, but so does energy consumption. Create a more Earth-friendly indoor environment by keeping your heating and electrical costs down. Remember the basics, like unplugging chargers and small appliances when not in use. Put your holiday and winter lights on a timer. Turn out the lights when you leave the room. Related: 7 eco-friendly insulation alternatives for a green home Add layers of clothing before heading to the thermostat. Bundling up can save you a bundle in heating costs. Also invest in a digital thermostat and set it to a lower temperature at night and while you’re away during the day. A simple way to spin more warm air into the living space is to flip the switch on the side of your ceiling fans. When they spin clockwise, they push warm air from the top of the room to the bottom. To really improve energy efficiency in your space, consider additional insulation around door and window openings, such rolled towels or a draft snake under door cracks, and an added layer of eco-friendly insulation in the attic, walls or basement. Maintain your furnace. Regular maintenance results in better efficiency and longevity for your home’s heat source. It’s always important to regularly replace your furnace filter, but make it a priority during the winter when the appliance is blowing more often. Snow and ice Depending on where you live, snow and ice may be part of your daily routine or only appear on occasion. When they do, avoid the chemical-laden deicers; use natural kitty litter or sand instead. Skip the gas-powered and polluting snow blowers. Instead, use an electric snow blower. Better yet, get the family out for a good old-fashioned snow removal with shovels and brooms. Water Many people focus on water savings during the summer, but few emphasize it during the winter when we’re not watering lawns. However, winter brings bulkier clothing that results in more laundry, the temptation for long showers or baths on cold days and the potential for broken pipes.  Check your water consumption by setting a timer for the shower and only run the washing machine and dishwasher when they are full. Turn off the water supply and winterize the automatic sprinklers, AC units and RV plumbing. Recycle the water you do use by cooling the pot of water after cooking pasta or by collecting water in the shower. Use this to water indoor plants. For an added layer of efficiency, add a water recycling system to your house where the laundry or shower can provide water for the toilet. Take advantage of rainy weather by having those rain barrels ready to collect and store water you’ll be using in a few months. Compost By the time gardening season rolls around, the compost from last summer will be ready to use. But you can continue to build your compost pile throughout the winter, too. It won’t break down as quickly as it does in the hotter months, but there’s no reason to trash tree trimmings, leaves or food scraps. If your compost pile is inaccessible, you can at least collect food scraps in a container in the freezer to add to the pile later. Transportation Slick roads and dangerous driving conditions make winter the perfect time to rely on public transportation. Dust off the bus pass or start using the subway and let someone else do the driving while reducing air pollution from carbon emissions.  If public transportation isn’t an option, do your part by ensuring your car is maintained. Change your oil along with cabin and engine air filters. Replace spark plugs, hoses and fuel filters at recommended intervals. Ensure that your tires are properly inflated. The more efficiently your car functions, the less gas it will require and the less emissions it will release. Waste When you’re ready to warm up with a hot cup of coffee or tea, opt to make your drinks at home in your reusable mugs. When you head for the store or if you shop online, be mindful of packaging. Find retailers that offer sustainable packaging options instead of plastic foam (like Styrofoam) and plastic . Remember your reusable produce and shopping bags when you head to the store or garden stand, so you can buy fresh fruits and veggies without the plastic waste . Efficient kitchens Keep your refrigerator running efficiently by vacuuming out the vents along the bottom. Deice your freezer if it doesn’t have an auto-defrost option. Keep the blender, coffee maker and toaster unplugged when not in use, and leave the oven door open after use to release the warm air into your home. Create a more sustainable coffee station by ditching the single-use plastic coffee pods in favor of a reusable version. Better yet, convert to a ceramic drip or French press, skipping the waste and composting the leftover coffee grounds. Winter is soup season , meaning it is the perfect time to use up a variety of vegetables and incorporate a meat-free dinner at least once each week. Stay cozy! Images via Pixabay and Unsplash

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Save energy and money with these eco-friendly tips for winter

This city park in Amsterdam could help purify local water

December 28, 2020 by  
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DELVA Landscape Architecture / Urbanism has revealed designs for Het Oog (Dutch for “The Eye”), a multifunctional “(under)water” landscape park that will connect the two neighborhoods of Strandeiland, a future residential area that will accommodate 8,000 homes in Amsterdam’s IJburg collection of artificial islands. The 22-hectare city park is part of Strandeiland’s urban plan developed in collaboration with the municipality of Amsterdam. In addition to providing recreational opportunities for local residents, Het Oog will also offer a rich variety of landscapes, diverse habitats for fauna and natural water purification systems. Located atop the historic primeval channel of Amsterdam’s River IJ, Het Oog is a large, humanmade inland waterway at the heart of Strandeiland. The waterway, which will be developed into a park, will link the two planned neighborhoods currently being developed in Strandeiland’s second development phase, which is expected to be completed in 2040 and will house approximately 20,000 residents. Related: Solar-powered Brink Tower is a sustainable solution to Amsterdam’s housing shortage “The distinctive identities of the Pampusbuurt (formal and urban) and Muiderbuurt (informal and natural) are reflected in the rich variety of landscape typologies that will work together to form the structure of the (underwater) landscape park,” the designers explained. “It is a place of residence, meeting and activity for local residents but is also comprised of diverse ecosystems, a natural purification system and a distinct urban environment. Thus, Het Oog forms a solid ecological stepping stone between the IJmeer and the Diemerpolder.” The design of Het Oog focuses on three main themes: water purification; water ecology with diverse habitats for fauna and flora; and water recreational activities that include walking, resting, swimming and more. Because about half of the rainwater on Strandeiland is diverted into Het Oog, DELVA — in collaboration with Sweco and the municipality of Amsterdam — developed a series of methods to naturally purify the water and guarantee safe water quality levels. The natural purification strategies include planting a large area of reed beds that will inject oxygen into the water; lowering the water level of the waterway to encourage growth of water-purifying aquatic plants; and shortening the bank length with artificial islands, wetlands and irregular landforms. + DELVA Images via DELVA and WAX

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This city park in Amsterdam could help purify local water

Pandemic-inspired Dwelling on Wheels offers off-grid living anywhere

December 21, 2020 by  
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A pilot project inspired by the pandemic, Dwelling on Wheels is the newest  tiny home on wheels  designed by Seattle-based firm, Modern Shed. The home features 220 square feet of space, solar power and has off-grid capabilities, all starting at $129,000. Dwelling on Wheels (DW) is the first  portable  dwelling by Modern Shed, a company that has been building custom studios for almost two decades. “The DW captures the imagination of how we can conceive of our lives, offering agility in simple and intuitive form,” the company said in a press release. Related: The Denali XL is a spacious, rustic tiny home on wheels A classic gable form creates a recognizable home, with wall-to-ceiling window placements maximizing landscape views and sunlight. “The DW can do a lot–it’s great for enjoying nature short-term, for off-grid living, or as a second, remote home. Adjusting the floor plan even a little makes it a great home office that can move with people as their priorities move. I also think it’s a great ADU for someone looking to move closer to home, providing a way to have family close by,” said Ryan Smith, owner of Modern Shed. The interior includes a bright and spacious space constructed using wood and sustainable linoleum flooring. Fitting up to three persons comfortably inside, there is built-in storage to allow for  minimalist  living while the large bed is just a few inches shy of queen-sized. A window at the end of the hallway helps continue the line of sight outside to the natural surroundings, a tactic the company uses in its small buildings to keep inhabitants from feeling trapped. The windows are pulled all the way up to the ceiling for the same reason. With a  solar  array installed on the roof, a wood stove, accommodations for water tanks or a composting toilet, and two eclectic wall heaters as backup, the DW is more than equipped for off-grid living.  + Modern Shed Images via Modern Shed

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ZHA unveils a low-carbon Shenzhen Science and Technology Museum

December 21, 2020 by  
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Zaha Hadid Architects has unveiled renders for the future Shenzhen Science & Technology Museum, an organically inspired, U-shaped museum that will not only raise Shenzhen’s reputation as a global leader in innovation and technology but also serve as a sustainable benchmark for civic architecture in the southern Chinese city. Located within Guangming Science City in northwestern Shenzhen, the new museum will be connected with universities, schools and innovation centers across China to become an important center for youth education. Currently under construction, the low-carbon and energy-efficient museum is expected to achieve the highest Three-Star rating of China’s Green Building Evaluation Standard.  Conceived as a “pearl” in the Guangzhou- Shenzhen Science Technology Innovation Corridor, the Shenzhen Science & Technology Museum will span an area of approximately 125,000 square meters. The museum will offer a series of interconnecting public spaces, galleries and educational facilities clustered around an atrium courtyard at the heart of the building. Related: Green-roofed theater in Shenzhen raises the bar for civic architecture “Incorporating maximum adaptability as a basic design principle, the geometries, proportions and spatial experience of each gallery will offer visitors a rich and varied experience each time they visit,” ZHA explained. “While some galleries can remain familiar and unchanged, others will change according to the type of exhibition showing at the time.” The museum’s fluid lines and curvaceous form is informed by its program and open circulation as well as its immediate surroundings. The western end, for instance, is designed to frame the adjacent Guangming Park. The architects have also crafted the building’s form and orientation in response to results from computer modeling and wind tunnel testing for optimal thermal performance, natural lighting, wind levels and air quality. The energy-efficient museum will be fortified with high-performance thermal insulation along with high-efficiency glazing, HVAC, lighting and smart building management systems. The Shenzhen Science & Technology Museum is slated for completion in late 2023. + Zaha Hadid Architects Images via Brick, Slashcube and ZHA

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ZHA unveils a low-carbon Shenzhen Science and Technology Museum

Water joins the commodities market

December 11, 2020 by  
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Water has now joined oil and gold on the commodities market. This week, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange launched the United States’ first water market tied to California water prices. “ Climate change , droughts, population growth, and pollution are likely to make water scarcity issues and pricing a hot topic for years to come,” said Deane Dray, RBC Capital Markets managing director and analyst, as reported by Bloomberg . “We are definitely going to watch how this new water futures contract develops.” Related: UN warns that humans will lose their war against nature For readers not familiar with how futures trading works, Nerd Wallet explains: “A futures contract is an agreement to buy or sell an asset at a future date at an agreed-upon price. All those funny goods you’ve seen people trade in the movies — orange juice, oil , pork bellies! — are futures contracts.” The new water market was announced in September as a reaction to the year’s unprecedented wildfires . Advocates say the new market will quell farmers’ and municipalities’ uncertainty about budgeting for water. People made two trades the first day the market went live. “Without this tool people have no way of managing water supply risk,” said Clay Landry, managing director at consulting firm WestWater Research. “This may not solve that problem entirely, but it will help soften the financial blow that people will take if their water supply is cut off.” But opponents of the new water market scheme say considering water a tradable commodity jeopardizes basic human rights. “What this represents is a cynical attempt at setting up what’s almost like a betting casino so some people can make money from others suffering,” said Basav Sen, climate justice project director at the Institute for Policy Studies, according to Earther . “My first reaction when I saw this was horror, but we’ve also seen this coming for quite some time.” Via Yale Environment 360 Image via Martin Str

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An old farmhouse becomes a hotel focused on indoor-outdoor living

December 11, 2020 by  
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Spanish architecture firm GANA Arquitectura has rehabilitated a historic cortijo — a type of traditional rural dwelling common in southern Spain — into a beautiful new hotel in the town of Villanueva del Rosario of Andalusia. The intervention pays homage to the local vernacular with its emphasis on indoor-outdoor living and preservation of the cortijo’s traditional materials while adding new life to the property with contemporary interiors. The boutique hotel, which was completed this year, had been created to take part in a growing tourist interest in Andalusia.  Located in the heart of a site filled with olive trees, the original cortijo was a large, whitewashed building topped with red, ceramic roof tiles. The architects kept the building’s structure and materials palette intact and added a simpler, gabled addition to the side — formerly a storage facility — to house 10 individual hotel suites that connect to a timber-lined outdoor patio with a pool. A new courtyard links the two buildings and was thoughtfully designed to protect the root systems of existing trees. Related: Niraamaya Retreat honors traditional design with local materials The old farmhouse spans two floors with common areas located on the ground floor and most of the hotel rooms placed on the second floor. The hotel rooms and shared spaces are designed to highlight the historic architecture. In contrast, the remaining hotel rooms in the new addition feature a deliberately contemporary style. A restrained palette of white walls, timber surfaces and concrete floors is used throughout to tie both buildings together and to keep the focus on the olive tree-studded landscape. Large windows, glazed doors and natural materials help achieve an indoor-outdoor connection. According to the architects, “The result of the intervention is nothing but the perfect harmony between traditional and contemporary architecture , over the amazing influence of nature in its purest form.” + GANA Arquitectura Images via Francisco Torreblanca Herrero and GANA Arquitectura

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