Amazon’s Christmas trees are hurting the environment

November 29, 2018 by  
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Earlier this year, Amazon announced it would be selling and shipping fresh, full-size Christmas trees this holiday season. But there is an environmental issue with the e-behemoth’s new plan — the shipping process will leave a giant carbon footprint. Back in September, Amazon said that it would be shipping 7-foot-tall live Douglas firs, Fraser Firs and Norfolk Island pines to customers’ front doorsteps, a process that is extremely eco-unfriendly. Char Miller, professor of environmental analysis and history at Pomona College said that Amazon’s new Christmas-Tree-in-a-Box program will bring some unwelcome surprises because of the fossil fuels required to get the tree from farm to front door. The long-haul trucking will result in a major carbon footprint, plus there could be more waste in landfills because of the box and packing materials required for a tree of this size. On the positive side, Amazon will most likely get the trees quickly from farm to home, and that means they could last longer. The company said that it will ship the trees within 10 days of cutting them down — maybe even sooner — and the trees will have no trouble surviving the trip. Amazon started selling the trees this month, with some qualifying for Prime free shipping, making the deal more enticing. Customers can also pre-order their trees and select their desired delivery dates. According to the Associated Press , last year the company only sold trees shorter than 3 feet, but it did have some other merchants selling bigger ones on its platform. Amazon decided to jump into the market itself, because the full-size trees are popular with customers. The Amazon holiday preview book revealed that the 7-foot Fraser fir option will come from North Carolina and costs $115. It also offers $50 wreaths and $25 red-leafed plants with a decorative candy cane. While the deals might be intriguing, don’t forget the impact of shipping and packaging this program has on the planet — plus, what better way to celebrate the season of giving than by supporting your local pick-your-own farms? Via AP and TreeHugger Images via Annie Spratt and Kieran White

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Amazon’s Christmas trees are hurting the environment

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

Girl Rescues River

October 30, 2018 by  
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Science is not strictly the domain of academics in white … The post Girl Rescues River appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Adorable prefab nursery in Greece mimics a tiny urban village

July 18, 2018 by  
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For design collective KLAB Architecture (Kinetic Lab of Architecture), one of the biggest challenges with public buildings in Greece is the lack of architect involvement in the construction process. To circumvent the problem, KLAB Architecture turned to prefabrication for its design of a public nursery in the Athens suburb of Glyfada. Drawing inspiration from a child’s archetypal drawing of a house, the modular gabled structures are clustered together to form the appearance of a tiny urban village. Organized around an open landscaped courtyard , the prefabricated nursery comprises a series of repeating modules of three differing sizes and shapes for visual interest. Each module was constructed in a factory and then transported via truck to the site for quick installation. The nursery follows a minimalist and modern aesthetic with its clean geometric lines and all-white exterior. Timber slatted pergolas provide shade and help mitigate solar gain; once they mature, planted shade trees will also help cool the buildings. Related: WeWork and BIG design innovative new school in NYC “We attempted to employ rather common materials and construction methods in order to create a more complicated structure with a small energy footprint,” KLAB Architecture said. “The exterior walls were constructed 10 centimeters thick, allowing us to maximize the available interior area, and were cladded, along with the roofs, with exterior wall insulation. Thus, by taking also into consideration the construction of wooden pergolas along the careful placement of the windows on the exterior walls, the building is sustainable providing comfort to the children.” Related: Lego-like kindergarten sparks creativity with a playful brick facade The energy-efficient nursery is also filled with natural light and warm natural materials to create a healthy and welcoming environment for the children. In contrast to the white exterior, the interior features bright and colorful wall treatments and furnishings that inject life into the various classrooms. All classrooms are open on three sides to engage the outdoors. + KLAB Architecture Via ArchDaily Images by Mariana Bisti

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NET Power’s zero-emissions natural gas plant could change the game

June 4, 2018 by  
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Last week, NET Power officially began operations at its 50-megawatt, emissions-free  natural gas power plant in La Porte, Texas . If all goes well, the plant’s design could pave the way to a cleaner energy future. Instead of using air to drive a turbine and generate electricity, the plant uses heated carbon dioxide; the pure carbon dioxide emissions are then captured and stored rather than released into the atmosphere. Testing thus far has proven to be positive. “We’re still smiling,” lead designer and chemical engineer Rodney Allam told Nature . The goal is for NET Power’s technology to be as effective and affordable as conventional, emissions-producing natural gas production, but with added benefits for the environment and the company. Designed by Toshiba, the plant’s innovative turbine and carbon capture system is capable of storing carbon long-term or for use in other industrial applications. For example, nitrogen and argon captured in the process could be contained and transferred elsewhere. NET Power claims that its plant is so efficient that it will become profitable before it even starts to sell captured gases. Related: Nuns build open-air chapel to protest natural gas pipeline on their land “If the plant does everything they say, it’s hard to imagine why you would want to build a traditional power plant,” atmospheric scientist Daniel Cohan told Nature . “But there are still a lot of ifs ahead.” The major imminent challenge is refining the combustion process for oxygen and methane , which must contend with carbon dioxide, typically an inhibitor of combustion. The company is otherwise on track to deliver, with a 300-megawatt power plant potentially being built by 2021. The company’s plan is to achieve clean, profitable natural gas energy without the assistance of subsidies, which can be subject to the whims of changing governments in Congress and the White House.” We don’t like to rely on policy around here, we like to rely on science,” NET Power CEO Bill Brown told Nature . Via Nature Images via NetPower

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18 states representing 140 million people sue the Trump administration to defend clean car rules

May 2, 2018 by  
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California is leading a coalition of states representing around 43 percent of the car market in the United States to sue Donald Trump’s administration . The 18 states say the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” in attempts to weaken Barack Obama-era car emissions rules. California governor Jerry Brown said in a news conference, “This is about health, it’s about life and death. I’m going to fight it with everything I can.” The states joining today’s lawsuit represent 140 million people who simply want cleaner and more efficient cars. This phalanx of states will defend the nation’s clean car standards to boost gas mileage and curb toxic air pollution. ? https://t.co/6t4sHygNT5 — Jerry Brown (@JerryBrownGov) May 1, 2018 New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, and the District of Columbia join California in suing the EPA and Administrator Scott Pruitt . The states seek to “set aside and hold unlawful” the EPA’s attempts to weaken fuel economy standards adopted in 2012 that take effect in 2022. They say the EPA violated the Clean Air Act and didn’t follow its own regulations. Related: EPA set to repeal Obama-era rules for cleaner cars “The federal standard the states are suing to protect is estimated to reduce carbon pollution equivalent to 134 coal power plants burning for a year, and save drivers $1,650 per vehicle,” the states said. The Trump administration said the standards were too stringent, according to The New York Times , and moved forward legally with the aim of reopening them. The EPA hasn’t offered proposed new standards but has drafted new regulations that would weaken the rules post-2020. The publication also said after executives from the Big Three — General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler — visited the White House to request emissions rules that were more lenient, Trump’s administration began to try and roll back the standards. Safe Climate Campaign director Dan Becker told The New York Times, “This is California saying: You really want war? We’ll give you war. It’s a signal to the administration that they’re not going to get away with anything in this space.” + Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. Via The New York Times Images via Depositphotos and Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

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Tipoon’s tiny home on wheels triples in size with the push of a button

May 2, 2018 by  
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Travel campers : they’re here to stay, and they’re becoming better than ever. Case in point? French startup Tipoon’s new mobile and modular camper pod triples its size with the push of a button. The startup says the easy-to-tow, lightweight, and expandable Tipoon Travel Machine can switch between three modes—closed, half open, and fully open—in mere seconds. Designed to sit atop a utility trailer , the Tipoon Travel Machine measures approximately 5.5 feet in height and 5.5 feet in width when closed for transport. When switched to the ‘open’ mode, both sides expand to increase the width to 10.5 feet and the height to 8.4 feet. The half-open position is designed for temporary stopovers. This remote-controlled expansion also comes with a manual crank backup. Tippon Travel Machine is crafted with an insulated poly-composite mono bloc shell with a galvanized subframe. It’s designed as a standalone pod that can be removed from the trailer and stored in a garage when not in use. The unit itself is between 13.5 and 14.8 feet in length. Related: Airstream launches its first-ever fiberglass camper for under $50K The interior is available in four configurations: single sleeper, two-bed sleeper, king-size sleeper, and dining area, as well as a bathroom with a shower, sink and toilet. Transforming and space-saving furniture make the most of the small footprint, as seen beneath the fixed bed, where a dining table, benches, and even storage slide out. With deliveries planned for this year, the company estimates a base price starting at €24,000 (approximately $30,000). Tipoon is finalizing its pricing and equipment lists and is accepting pre-launch reservations now. + Tipoon Via New Atlas

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Twisting infinity-loop roof tops this prefab bamboo pavilion

May 2, 2018 by  
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Archi-Union Architects combined traditional Chinese construction techniques with prefabrication technology in ‘In Bamboo,’ a pavilion located in Sichuan’s Daoming Town. Created as a multi-functional rural community cultural center, the project celebrates the town’s renowned bamboo weaving craftsmanship with a material palette mainly comprising bamboo and tile. An eye-catching Mobius-shaped roof tops the building and is finished with traditional ceramic tiles. The nearly 20,000-square-foot In Bamboo building is located on two adjacent plots of land of unequal size. The architects drew two circles—one large, one small—on each parcel and joined them together to form the beginnings of the infinity loop -shaped building. “These two circles came together determining the large contour for our building while still preserving the surrounding bamboo forest and trees,” wrote the architects. “Within this new boundary we sought to maximize the continuity, horizontality and ductility of the space.” Related: Robots construct an art gallery in Shanghai from recycled gray bricks An unexpectedly rushed timeline meant that the architecture, landscaping, and interior were completed in just 52 days. Thankfully, the use of a 70% light prefabricated steel frame and other prefabricated timber construction—completed previously in the span of a month—helped increase the speed of installation. Traditional bamboo weaving was used in the facades. The speedy and relatively low-waste project has encouraged Archi-Union Architects to promote prefabrication in more rural construction projects in China . + Archi-Union Architects Images ©??

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Twisting infinity-loop roof tops this prefab bamboo pavilion

Astronomers spot the most distant star ever seen 9 billion light-years away

April 2, 2018 by  
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The Environmental Protection Agency is poised to undo Obama -era greenhouse gas emission regulations and fuel economy standards that were designed to encourage the development of cleaner, more efficient vehicles. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt will likely describe the move as lifting burdensome regulations on automakers to support the production of cheaper vehicles, but it doesn’t account for the costs of increased air pollution and continued climate change. Left in place, the rules would have reduced oil consumption by about 12 billion barrels while reducing carbon dioxide pollution by about six billion tons over the lifetime of vehicles produced under the regulations. The rules that are set to be rolled back under the Trump Administration were created in 2012 as one of President Obama’s major initiatives to combat climate change . If allowed to be fully implemented, the rules would have required automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Some worry that the United States ‘s decision to step away from stricter emissions standards could set a dangerous precedent around the world. “The concern is that automakers will go around the world basically trying to lobby regulators, saying, look, because the United States has reduced the pace, everywhere else should too,” Anup Bandivadekar, a researcher at the International Council on Clean Transportation, told the New York Times . Related: Congress rejects Trump’s renewable energy budget cuts While American automakers had initially lobbied the Trump Administration for more relaxed standards, they did not expect to see a complete repeal of the rules. “We didn’t ask for that,” claimed Robert Bienenfeld , assistant vice president for environment and energy strategy at American Honda Motor. “The position we outlined was sensible.” In a blog post, Ford Motor Company chairman Bill Ford and CEO Jim Hackett wrote that “we support increasing clean car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback.” The relaxed standards proposed by automakers were viewed as less likely to cause a showdown with California and the dozen other states that follow its lead on strict environmental standards. Now, California is preparing for battle. “We’re going to defend first and foremost existing federal greenhouse gas standards,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told the New York Times . “We’re defending them because they’re good for the entire nation. No one should think it’s easy to undo something that’s been not just good for the country, but good for the planet .” Via the New York Times Images via Depositphotos and the White House

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Astronomers spot the most distant star ever seen 9 billion light-years away

Scientists create revolutionary ultra-white paint inspired by beetles

March 27, 2018 by  
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Researchers have unveiled what could be the whitest natural substance, composed of cellulose and inspired by the  Cyphocilus beetle native to Southeast Asia . The material, which has yet to be named, is lightweight, thin, and has the ability to effectively scatter light, resulting in an exceptionally bright white color. The coating is also edible and non-toxic and could change how we use paint. The secret to the coating’s success is its insect inspiration, whose thin chitlin scales are formed in a dense light-reflecting mat that causes the beetle to appear vibrantly white. In a new study published in  Advanced Materials , scientists at the University of Cambridge and Aalto University in Finland explain how they used fine strands of cellulose , or cellulose nanofibrils, to create a scale-like membrane through a process known as mechanical defibrillation. At only a few millionths of a meter, the subsequent membrane is one of the thinnest materials ever created that is capable of appearing white. “What is cool is that with a really low amount of material, you can achieve a high intensity of reflection and whiteness,” Cambridge University researcher Dr. Silvia Vignolini told Hyperallergic . “You don’t need to have thick material to have get 100% white, 100% reflection.” Related: Praying mantises wearing tiny glasses help researchers discover new type of 3D vision At the moment, the coating is still somewhat weak. However, researchers hope to develop a more hardy version for wider applications. “Ideally we would like to make a powder that can be readily used and applied directly as you would do with a standard pigment,” explained Vignolini. When this pigment is mixed with an organic solvent, it would then enable for the quick, one-layer application of white paint to most surfaces. The coating’s cellulose composition makes it an ideal replacement for other white products, most of which contain unsustainable materials such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Importantly, the ultra-white powder will likely be quite inexpensive. Via Hyperallergic Images via Olimpia Onelli/University of Cambridge

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