Interview: Activist lives off food that he grows and forages for an entire year

October 9, 2019 by  
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Rob Greenfield is a self-described “adventurer, environmental activist, humanitarian and dude making a difference.” Since this Wisconsin native had an eco-epiphany at the age of 24, he’s dedicated himself to spreading a positive environmental message by accomplishing heroic, sustainable deeds. These include things like riding across the U.S. three times on a bamboo bicycle, diving into more than 2,000 dumpsters and traveling internationally with no money. Inhabitat caught up with this pro-humanity, anti-materialism activist to find out about his current foraging project. His answers have been edited for space. Inhabitat: Tell us a little bit about your life right now — where you live and what you do in a typical day. Greenfield: I currently live in Orlando, Florida. I’m spending two years there. My current project is to grow and forage 100 percent of my food for a year. So, no grocery stores, no restaurants. Not even a drink at a bar or going over to a friend’s potluck to eat food from there. Literally growing and foraging everything for an entire year. Related: Incredible edible landscape map shows you where to find free food It’s an extremely immersive project, where I’m diving deep into food and really understanding my connection to it. Largely removing myself from the globalized, industrialized food to explore the alternatives, ways of producing food that work with the environment instead of against it and showing those alternatives to people. My day-to-day right now is very food-oriented. Inhabitat: What are your regular daily activities right now? Greenfield: Well, it does vary a lot. Like today, for example, is a work day, so I’m on the computer and on the phone for much of the day. But I had mostly run out of food, so I had to delay my last call to go for a mile-and-a-half bike ride to go to an apple tree that I know about to go pick a bunch of apples. [Note: Greenfield was in Wisconsin visiting family and friends when we talked — hence the apple tree.] So my life is very much revolving around food this year. But with that being said, I still manage to do a lot of other things, and of course have a social life, and still of course talk and spread the message, because that’s the purpose. Some days are just morning to night going out and gathering food and then processing it, whether it’s fishing or going out and picking fruit and making applesauce and pear sauce, for example, or canning . Other days, when I’ve done really well, I’ve prepared lots of food, I get to be a little more leisurely, and do other work or just spend time with friends. Inhabitat: When did you start your foraging project, and when will it end? Greenfield: I started on November 11, 2018, so today is day 320, which means I have just 45 days left of the year [at the time of the interview]. So it is winding down. I’m in the home stretch, which is feeling great. I wouldn’t say I can let my guard down; I’ve still got to stay on top of things. But I could see a bar of chocolate in the near future. Inhabitat: Is dumpster diving allowed? Greenfield: No dumpster diving at all, because what I’m exploring for this year is living outside of the globalized, industrialized food system. Seeing if I can work with nature , work with the earth to produce my food. So dumpster diving, I’ve proved through my other projects in the past that I can live purely off the waste of our society, and really use that as a way to raise awareness about waste. This is taking it to another step. Now I can show that it’s possible in 2019 for us to actually grow and produce our food and improve our communities at the same time, and take power back from the big food corporations and put that power back into the hands of us, the everyday people. Inhabitat: So, what are some of the things you forage? Greenfield: So far this year, I’ve grown and foraged over 250 different species. I’ve probably foraged 30 or 40 different species of greens. Fruits . There’s many species of cherry: pin cherry, black cherry, sand cherry, just to name a few. Apples, pears, plums. Then, there’s all sorts of new plants that I’m learning. Aronia is a berry that I’ve been foraging over the last couple weeks in Wisconsin. In Florida, one of my favorite things to forage is wild yams. That is an invasive species , so it’s actually beneficial for me to harvest it, which is always nice to be harvesting in a way that actually improves the environment. The biggest one I’ve harvested so far weighed 157 pounds. I had a wheelbarrow and I wheelbarrowed it out chunks at a time to the car to bring it back to my place. Related: An explanation on wild yams I mostly chopped it up into cubes, like you cube up potatoes. Then I froze a lot of it. I make flour from it. I dehydrate it, and then blend the dehydrated chunks to make a powder, and that powder’s a yam flour. Then, I make bread with it. It’s actually a really nice bread. Well, it’s really nice for me. It’s not like a wheat bread or something like that that you’d buy at the store. But I make muffins and tortillas and things like that, and I make sourdough bread. It makes some pretty nice stuff. This project has really taught me to do a lot of things from scratch. Because if I want something, I have to figure out how to grow it or forage it and turn it into that thing that I’m wanting. It’s the opposite of that globalized food system, where we can get anything we want without really having to think about it. Inhabitat: What’s your living situation in Florida? Greenfield: Well in Orlando, I live in a 100-square-foot tiny house that I built out of about 99 percent secondhand materials with the help of a bunch of friends. I have an outdoor kitchen set up, a compost toilet, rainwater shower. I do have electricity there to run my food processor and dehydrator and things like that. But it’s a largely close-looped system, demonstrating how you can live in a more sustainable manner. Inhabitat: Do you have advice for anyone who wants to dumpster dive? Greenfield: Well, it’s pretty easy. You look at the front door. You walk past that, you walk around to the back, you look in the dumpster and you get your food from there instead. It really is not hard or complicated. The main thing is you just have to do it. You have to go to the dumpster and you have to look for the food. Then, what you do is you practice common sense. You should practice common sense wherever you’re getting your food from. So with dumpster diving, a lot of people have these preconceived notions about what’s in a dumpster and what it looks like. At a grocery store, it’s mostly food and is emptied fairly frequently. They’re actually a lot cleaner than people would expect. You just take out the good food. An easy way to start is, for example, bananas have a wrapper on them already. Oranges, also. Whereas strawberries and raspberries, they’re more delicate and more likely to get something spilled on them. But a banana, you can take the peel right off. There’s also packaged, processed food. If you get a bag of potato chips, that is still sealed, or even crackers where there’s a box on the outside and then there’s the crackers inside a plastic bag inside the box. You can start there, with those easy things. One note with dumpster diving is just to make sure that you always leave the place cleaner than you found it, and you’re courteous to everybody that you come across. [Greenfield reiterated that dumpster diving is not a part of his current project.] Inhabitat: Do you have any tips for others to live more sustainably? Greenfield: The good news is you don’t have to do these sort of huge projects that I do by any means. It’s all stuff we can adapt into our daily lives. A big one is to go local. Support local business. Try to get as many of your products produced locally rather than things from big corporate stores and stuff that’s shipped around the world, where you don’t know the people and the impact that it has had or the conditions that they are working in. Shop at the local farmer’s market and support local farmers. Eat more unprocessed foods. You can bring your own container and fill up at the bulk food section. Riding a bike more and driving a car less is a really great way to not only save a lot of money and reduce your impact, but also get good exercise. Most people are a lot happier on a bike than they are driving a car. Bikes make people smile. Related: 7 of the biggest eco-friendly and green living myths Eat your food. The average person wastes about 20 percent of all the food they purchase. Anything that can’t be eaten can be composted. There are hundreds of great changes that we can make. But those are some that are at the top of my list that generally make you happier, healthier and help you live in a way that’s more sustainable. Inhabitat: How can Inhabitat followers get involved with your work? Greenfield: Get involved in other things like community projects, such as the Community Fruit Trees project. That is a project where you can plant fruit trees that are publicly accessible to anyone in their community. Gardens for the People , which is where we build gardens for people that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it or build one on their own. The Free Seed Project is where we send out free seeds to help people start their own organic, healthy gardens. The mission is to get people living happier, healthier and more sustainable lives . We think food is a great place to start. These are all ways people can get involved, and they’d find information about those projects on my website. + Rob Greenfield Images via Rob Greenfield and Sierra Ford

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Interview: Activist lives off food that he grows and forages for an entire year

Artist suspends a giant cube filled with images of ocean plastic inside a London museum

September 26, 2019 by  
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Architectural and design studio Sam Jacob Studio has unveiled a new installation that highlights the burgeoning threat that plastic waste poses to the planet. Suspended from the ceiling of London’s V&A Museum, Sea Things is a giant, mirrored cube that emits a cartoon-style animated video. The animation takes spectators on a poignant journey from the year the first commercial plastic products were launched to 2050, the year some scientists estimate that the volume of plastic will be greater than fish in the world’s oceans. As part of London Design Festival , Sea Life greets visitors as they enter the V&A Museum’s great hall. Suspended in the air, the massive, transparent cube was inspired by a Charles and Ray Eames textile pattern found in the museum that depicts a pattern of fish and other sea creatures. However, the artist has updated the Eames pattern to reflect today’s growing ocean pollution issue. Along with a bevy of fish, a variety of waste objects found in the ocean these days, namely plastic bottles , has been added floating around in the cube. Related: Artist submerges 24 portraits underwater to raise attention about our plastic waste The animation begins in 1907, the year that one of the first commercial plastic products (Bakelite) was launched. The animation continues through the years, showing how the ocean waters have become more and more polluted with massive amounts of waste. The animation ends in 2050, the year that the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has estimated that the volume of plastic waste in our oceans will be greater than the amount of marine life. During the inauguration of the eco-art installation , Sam Jacob explained his inspiration. “The Eames’ were working in a very optimistic time when consumerism was linked to freedom. For us, now, we’re working in a very different context. Our relationship to things, to production, to ecology is far more difficult and complex,” he told journalists. “So, what we’ve done here is to remake the Eames’ pattern from the perspective of 2019.” While Sea Things is located on the ground floor, Jacob is also exhibiting a collection of ceramic water vessels in the museum’s ceramics gallery. The series reimagines some of the museum’s most historic objects remade in modern materials. For example, a water pot from China’s Ming Dynasty is reproduced in recycled plastic, and a 4,000-year-old beaker from Scotland was remade using bioplastic made from sea shells. + Sam Jacob Studio Via Dezeen Photography by Ed Reeve via Sam Jacob Studio

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Artist suspends a giant cube filled with images of ocean plastic inside a London museum

This year’s ozone hole could be the smallest it has been in 30 years

September 17, 2019 by  
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For decades, scientists have closely observed the ozone layer , which protects Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This year, just in time for World Ozone Day, the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) announced the state of the ozone hole — its size is the smallest it has been in the past 30 years. Ozone is created in our atmosphere when the sun’s high-energy UV rays rupture the stable covalent bonds of atmospheric oxygen (O2) molecules, transforming them into free radicals. Free radical oxygen atoms, being charged particles, readily react with other oxygen molecules to form ozone (O3). In nature, ozone molecules continually cycle so that they form and re-form at equilibrium. Related: The ozone is finally healing and could be completely repaired by 2060 However, the late 1970s saw scientific acknowledgment that pollutants from industrial and consumer emissions of chlorofluorocarbons ( CFCs ) prevent the normal balanced reformation of ozone, foreshadowing a weakened ozone layer. By 1985, the first recognized “ozone hole” — a patch of thin ozone layer in the upper atmosphere — was detected, alarming scientists and policy makers alike. Two years later, in August 1987, the Montreal Protocol , a landmark international agreement, banned production and use of ozone-depleting substances. A few weeks afterward, the United Nations designated September 16 as International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer — more commonly known as World Ozone Day — to spread awareness for stewardship of our planet’s fragile ozone layer. Since then, scientists and researchers, like those at CAMS and the intergovernmental World Meteorological Organization (WMO), have meticulously tracked the ozone hole. Daily readings are documented thanks to a worldwide cooperative network of stations. Interestingly, the WMO projected that a recovery of the ozone layer to pre-1970s levels might be foreseeable around the year 2060. But this year’s findings could alter those projections. The 2019 hole is appearing to be the smallest size it has been in the past three decades, and its behavior has been intriguing. A polar vortex in early September affected the hole’s opening, then displaced the hole so that it was off-center and “far from the pole.” “This year, we have seen that the ozone hole has been particularly unusual,” said Antje Innes, senior scientist at CAMS. “Although it started growing relatively early, at the beginning of September, a sudden warming of the stratosphere disturbed the cold polar vortex that gives rise to the ozone hole.” The deputy lead at CAMS, Richard Engelen, shared that the small size of this year’s ozone hole is encouraging, but there is still a need for further study. “Right now, I think we should view this as an interesting anomaly,” Engelen said. “We need to find out more about what caused it.” + CAMS Via BBC Image via CAMS

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This year’s ozone hole could be the smallest it has been in 30 years

Robotic fish offer a solution to controlling invasive species

September 17, 2019 by  
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Invasive species have become a growing environmental challenge, causing serious harm to ecosystems. An interdisciplinary team from New York University (NYU) and the University of Western Australia is utilizing robotic fish to curb the damaging effects of invasive species by scaring the invaders enough so that they reproduce less. For the study, the invasive species in question are mosquitofish. The enormous environmental impact that mosquitofish have unleashed has led the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to list them amongst the world’s 100 most-harmful invasive exotic species. Related: Invasive longhorned tick could spread disease across the US What makes mosquitofish a successful invasive species? For one, in their new environments, they no longer contend with their primary predators, the largemouth bass. This allows mosquitofish populations to burgeon. Secondly, mosquitofish have high genetic variability, permitting them to acclimate and adapt quickly. They spread exponentially throughout their new environment, often displacing local fauna by out-competing for the same food or even preying on them. To address the challenge of invasive mosquitofish, lead researcher Maurizio Porfiri of NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, together with a team of collaborators, has conducted biomimicry experiments in the laboratory using biologically inspired robotic fish. The robot fish act as predators, simulating largemouth bass, to provoke mosquitofish stress responses. Stressing the invasive mosquitofish depletes their energy reserves and, in turn, disrupts their reproduction rates. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study using robots to evoke fear responses in this invasive species ,” Porfiri explained. “The results show that a robotic fish that closely replicates the swimming patterns and visual appearance of the largemouth bass has a powerful, lasting impact on mosquitofish in the lab setting.” Porfiri is no stranger to biomimetic robotics. For over a decade, Porfiri has designed and deployed robotic fish, studying their interactions with live fish to glean new insights into animal behavior. This recent research moves the scientific community closer toward realizing the potential of aquatic robots in assisting with environmental protection efforts. “Further studies are needed to determine if these effects translate to wild populations , but this is a concrete demonstration of the potential of robotics to solve the mosquitofish problem,” confirmed Giovanni Polverino, Forrest Fellow at the University of Western Australia’s Department of Biological Sciences and lead author of the paper. “We have a lot more work going on between our schools to establish new, effective tools to combat the spread of invasive species.” + Journal of the Royal Society Interface Image via NYU

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Robotic fish offer a solution to controlling invasive species

The 2019 Redress Design Awards showcased the very best of emerging eco-designers

September 17, 2019 by  
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Eco-fashion has come leaps and bounds in recent decades, but one environmental clothing organization has spent years addressing the global textile waste crisis through an annual fashion event showcasing emerging eco-friendly designers. Known for its work in reducing textile waste in the fashion industry, Redress has just hosted its 2019 Design Awards — the world’s largest sustainable fashion design competition. Let’s take a look at the winners! Launched in 2011 by founder Christina Dean, the Redress Design Awards aims to support emerging fashion designers who are striving to drive a sustainable, circular fashion system . Much more than just a fashion show, the months-long event includes an educational curriculum that aims to educate up-and-coming designers about the negative impacts of fashion’s manufacturing ways. At the end of the program, after learning about the principles of zero-waste design, upcycling techniques and reconstruction, the participants have the opportunity to show off their eco-collections at the swanky Redress fashion show. Related: Hannah Franco and Nancy Taylor celebrate sustainable fashion with époque évolution Held in Hong Kong this year, the 2019 Redress Design Awards, which drew more than 1,000 fashion industry experts, saw an inspiring collection of avant garde designs. The event was filled with various collections that showed a new wave of eco-designers might just be successful in changing the course of fashion by driving it into a more sustainable future. This year’s winner was British designer Maddie Williams, who will also have the opportunity to design a collection for the sustainable fashion brand REVERB . The runner-up of the 2019 event was Spanish designer Orsola de Castro. The People’s Choice winner was Moriah Ardila from Israel, and the Best Prize winner was Keith Chan from Hong Kong. Williams’ collection displayed vibrant, zero-waste pieces that were made out of reclaimed textiles, yarns and secondhand clothing. Williams said that she will use the Redress experience to further her part in making fashion a circular system. “Taking my catwalk competition collection into a commercial, upcycled collection will be a steep learning curve, and I’ll be trying my best to keep sustainable, circular principles at the core of what I do,” Williams said. “This is our time to tackle the environmental problems that we have inherited — we won’t get another chance!” + Redress Images via Redress

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The 2019 Redress Design Awards showcased the very best of emerging eco-designers

Here are the winners and losers on climate policy in 2019

September 13, 2019 by  
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State lawmakers this year made it easier to get renewables in some parts of the country, but others gutted clean energy expansion.

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Here are the winners and losers on climate policy in 2019

The top 10 stories to catch you up on the hottest sustainability news in 2019 — so far

August 9, 2019 by  
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Find out what the GreenBiz community has been reading this year with our roundup of 10 most-read stories.

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The top 10 stories to catch you up on the hottest sustainability news in 2019 — so far

Natures silent soldiers aiding in the fight against air pollution

July 19, 2019 by  
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Cities should be planting more trees, but the reasons why may be more complicated than you think. As it turns out, trees provide so much more than aesthetics and a way for humans to connect with nature. More and more research is emerging about how the proper implementation of tree planting in urban areas and cities could help solve growing environmental issues. We already know that nature can improve mental health . It can inspire positive engagement with community and provide the kind of groundedness one needs to live in the moment. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology examined the emotional effects of taking time to notice nature versus human-built objects by dividing participants into three different groups. The group instructed to pay more attention to nature had significantly higher levels of elevating experiences, a sense of connectedness and intent to help others. That means you don’t necessarily have to plan an epic week-long camping trip (though that sounds great!) to reap nature’s benefits. Something as simple as walking through a park on your morning commute or stopping to admire a tree at the bus stop can create positive effects. Related: The Akshar Foundation is creating sustainable schools to teach children important life skills A report published by the Nature Conservatory in 2016 found that investing $100 million annually in tree planting in cities could provide cooler temperatures for 77 million people and cleaner air for 68 million people. That’s a pretty important statistic, considering that a “vast majority” of humanity will be living in cities, towns and other urban areas by the year 2050. When it comes to pollution , the bulk of cities are most greatly affected by particulate matter, AKA the consequence of burning fossil fuels from cars and factories. Fine particulate matter inhalation into the lungs alone causes an estimated 3.2 million deaths per year from complications such as stroke, heart disease and respiratory illness. According to the report, by the year 2050 this number could almost double if something isn’t done. The good news is, the leaves of trees act as an absorber of these pesky pollutants, and the matter itself can get caught or retained on the tree surfaces. Fortunately, we already have some of the answers to these pressing problems. The Nature Conservatory studied 245 cities in 2016 to find that trees are already providing humans with benefits such as reductions in fine particulate matter and reduction in summer maximum temperatures , and that was just the trees that were already there. Significant tree cover in cities can also help reduce the need for air conditioning, reducing utility costs and lowering energy usage. Tree planting, when combined with other strategies, appears to be a cost-effective, simple way to improve the environment and soak up air pollution, all while beautifying the neighborhood. In order to make this approach most effective, the types of trees planted must be considered as well. Trees with larger leaves provide more sufficient shade and are more productive in absorbing pollutants. Species that are less susceptible to drought may also be considered in areas where water is more scarce. Maintenance is another factor to consider, as it may not cost much to plant the trees in the first place, but watering, pruning and protecting against diseases all require added costs and labor for city trees. Trees aren’t the only air purifiers in the natural world. Certain types of moss can produce oxygen while binding environmental toxins such as particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, which at high levels can damage the ozone layer and human lungs. Berlin-based company Green City Solutions is creating irrigated city park benches made of condensed moss. The benches have the ability to absorb air pollutants and use installed fans to create large area-covering air flow. In 2018, Goodyear released a tire design made with living moss that helps improve air quality as you drive. Air pollution was the theme for the 2019 World Environmental Day , held on June 5. Thousands of people took to social media to show their support with the hashtag  #BeatAirPollution and pledging to make lifestyle choices to support the fight for cleaner air. Officials from different countries made big announcements involving environmental issues such as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, revealing a ban on single-use plastics in national parks. Other politicians who joined were Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s who pledged to phase out coal-use in Canada by 2030 and Chilean President Sebastian Piñera’s plan for Chile to go carbon neutral by the year 2050. UN Secretary-General António Guterres was quoted saying, “My message to governments is clear: tax pollution; end fossil fuel subsidies; and stop building new coal plants. People everywhere are demanding action. On World Environment Day, let us heed their call.” Via UN Environment Images via Shutterstock

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Natures silent soldiers aiding in the fight against air pollution

Four U.S. states scoring under-the-radar clean energy wins

June 12, 2019 by  
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And they’re not the only ones advancing renewables in creative ways this year.

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Four U.S. states scoring under-the-radar clean energy wins

Earth Day 2019 wants to inspire you to protect endangered species

March 29, 2019 by  
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This year’s Earth Day theme is all about protecting the millions of species that call our planet home. The diversity of life on Earth is being increasingly threatened by human activity, which is causing the biggest extinction event since the dinosaurs died out around 60 million years ago. The global crisis in the animal kingdom is directly connected to causes largely created by human pursuits. This includes activities like deforestation, poaching, trafficking, agriculture, pesticides and pollution — all of which are leading to massive habitat loss. If something is not done quickly, the extinction of species across the globe will be our biggest legacy. Related: 10 awesome eco-activities to do this Earth Day Fortunately, there is a solution to prevent many species from going extinct in the near future. By working together, people around the world can get legislators, scientists, religious leaders, politicians and educators to act quickly to stop habitat loss and start protecting Earth’s many creatures. To that end, Earth Day has several goals in mind for this year’s worldwide campaign to protect the planet’s most endangered species . The Earth Day Network is encouraging educators to heighten awareness of the extinction issues facing our planet. The campaigners also want governments to enact policies that protect both animals and habitats. Related: How Earth Day began and how it helps the planet On a smaller scale, Earth Day hopes to get people around the world to start eating more plants and stop using herbicides and pesticides . If these goals are met on Earth Day, which is officially on April 22, then we can make great strides in protecting endangered species and habitats across the planet. This includes species like bees , elephants, insects, whales, giraffes and coral reefs. If you are interested in making a difference by participating in Earth Day, help spread the word by telling people about this year’s theme and how they can help make the planet a better place for all its inhabitants. + Earth Day Network Image via Sue Ashwill

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Earth Day 2019 wants to inspire you to protect endangered species

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