Ecology

What’s On Tap? 5 Sustainability Trends For 2019

In 2019, global sustainability trends are taking shape in a meaningful way. Some you may not notice right away, but others will be impossible to miss since they will not only be emphasized in the media, but also in our everyday lives.

Here are 5 sustainable trends to keep an eye on in 2019.

1. Sustainable Vehicle Automation

As climate concerns continue to grow, so does the attention being paid globally to carbon emissions. Because cars and trucks are large contributors to these emissions, a great deal of progress continues to be made regarding the restructuring of the vehicle industry. Low to zero-emission vehicles, self-driving cars, and fully electric options are gaining in popularity – a trend that will only gain strength in the coming year.

According to GreenBiz several countries are working to actively ban fossil fuel cars within the next 25 years and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has projected that self-driving vehicles could remove up to 90% of vehicles on the streets of urban cities.

2. Consumers and technology will make headway in reducing plastic pollution

Addressing our plastic problem is something that many organizations, corporations, activists, environmentalists, governments and individuals have been doing for years – so what is going to be the new trend in the 2019 plastic battle? The answer lies with the informed consumer and changes in plastic technology.

Because plastic is an affordable material with an extensively wide range of uses, it isn’t likely that plastic waste will become a thing of the past by December 31, 2019. What is likely to happen is a change in the way consumers use plastic and the pressure they will continue to exert on their elected officials to make single-use plastics less accessible overall. 

3. Sustainable Farming 

If there is one area in 2019 that sustainable efforts can have a huge impact, it’s agriculture. The past few years have shown increased attention to the way we produce food, and efforts have been growing to ensure that the process of growing is as beneficial for the earth as it is for our tables.


According to James Goodman, director of futures and projects at Forum for the Future, “The internet of things, remote sensing, artificial intelligence and a revolution in robotics are coming together to make low-input, data-driven automated agriculture at scale a real possibility.” This is good news for more efficient use of water, decreased waste overall, and better crop production in the coming years.

4. Increase in sustainable building materials

The years 2016 – 2018 showed us that if it can be made in an eco-friendly way there is likely someone out there who will make it so – 2019 will be no different. While packaging and everyday materials have been making responsible shifts to biodegradable, compostable, and fully recyclable options in recent years, there is one industry that will continue to strive for new sustainable heights in 2019. That is the construction industry.

According to Marc Spiegel, Construction and Demolition Sector Lead and Co-Founder of Rubicon Global, “When looking at the construction and demolition industry, it will be critical to leverage technology to deal with the massive challenge of cleaning up, waste and recycling.  Today there are better ways to deal with construction clean up, other than doing what we did 50 years ago and calling the garbage company. Educating the public and private sectors on modern possibilities is vital to change old habits.

In addition, the lack of dedicated construction and demolition material recycling facilities means that each commodity being recycled must have its own container to prevent cross contamination. This scenario makes coordination and logistics more important for users and vendors, which is why embracing technology could be a catalyst for change in 2019 and beyond.”

5. Increased social action and education around sustainability

With so much at stake globally, 2019 could be the year when the effects of our increasingly ultra-connected behavior as a society rises to a new level and leads to meaningful positive change. Change can be hard but we are proving more and more that it doesn’t have to be a four-letter word. In the past, we have achieved great things as a society when we have worked together and in 2019 we expect to see big changes.

For example, we expect to see a growing number of organizations doing the hard work needed to gain B Corporation status, an increase in green building LEED Certifications, more cities instituting single-use plastic bans, and global policy changes intended to make polluting nearly impossible. 

We also expect to see sustainability commitments increase for small business and individuals through more responsible recycling practices, efforts toward becoming more energy efficient, and efforts to become more educated about sustainable initiatives in local communities.

7 reasons why plants are valuable and important 🌱#HumanSpaces

Everyday, we encounter plants whether it is in parks, the wild outbacks of nature, or in the simple pleasure of plantscaping the inside and outside of our homes. But do we truly understand the vital role plants have in this world? The very thought should cause us to pay more attention to the beautiful botany that surrounds us.

Here are 7 reasons why plants are valuable and important:

FOOD 

The sun is provider of all energy. We eat plants to gather the energy stored in their cells. And we are here because our ancestors foraged plants for food. They learned the ways of agriculture to make it easier and grew plants that produced products such as wheat and corn to eat. Approximately 7,000 different plant species have been cultivated and used as food for people. Though humans can live on the consumption of animal products, it is just a step away from plants since cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, rabbits and other animals eat plants to live.

AIR  

The air we breath mainly consists of 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. But it is oxygen that is vital for our cells to produce energy, energy that originated with the sun. When the sun shines down, plants absorb the sunlight to produce energy and end up releasing oxygen into the air as a by-product of their metabolism.  We in turn inhale the oxygen for our survival and exhale the carbon dioxides plants require. Breath deeply and drink in the oxygen-laden air and realize it’s because of plants we are alive.

WATER 

Where there is water, there is life. Plants regulate the water cycle by distributing and purifying the planet’s water supply. Through the act of transpiration, plants move the water from the soil up their roots and out into the atmosphere. Moisture accumulates into clouds and eventually the water droplets are returned back down as rain to revitalize life on earth.

MEDICINE 

Many of prescription medicines come from plant extracts or synthesized plant compounds. Aspirin comes from the bark of the willow. Mint leaves have mentha that is used in throat lozenges, muscle creams and nasal medicine. The malaria drug ingredient quinine is from
the bark of the Cinchona tree. About 65% – 80% of the world’s population use holistic plant-based medicine as their primary form of healthcare according to the World Health Organization.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE SILL.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE SILL.

WELLNESS 

The implementation of LEED and WELL Building Standard shows that society is learning the value of incorporating nature or biophilia into man-made environments, both inside and outside for psychological and physical health. Plants advance health, happiness, mindfulness and productivity when weaved inside buildings and throughout the communities. Including living plants inside a home or business revitalizes the air, humidity and lowers stress levels for better wellness.

HABITAT and CLOTHING 

Plants make up the backbone of earth’s diverse landscape that provide hundreds of unique habitats necessary for life. Flowers dance in the fields while grasses on a hill sway in the wind. Trees strut tall in their habitat and act as the earth’s dynamic lungs, powering life everywhere. Birds pick up straw, leaves, bark, along with feathers, hairs and other items to make a comfy nest in a tree, bush or even tall grasses. Our ancestors used thatched roofs made of grasses or palm fronds, and wood to secure their homes. Industrial hemp was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber 10,000 years ago. Plants in all their diversity keep the cycle of life moving.

CLIMATE

Excessive carbon released into the environment has been blamed for the current climate change we are experiencing. But rarely is it explained that plants store carbon by pulling it from the air. Plants help keep much of the carbon dioxide produced from our burning of fossils fuels out of the atmosphere. We owe our temperate climate to the perpetual landscape of green that blankets our world.

Bal Harbour Village to Ban Single-Use Plastics Beginning in October 🍃 #Glocal

There's really no valid argument against the idea that single-use plastics are ruining the planet. About 40 percent of plastic products are used only once, and as a result, almost 700 species have been harmed by this trash, according to National Geographic. The European Union recently banned ten types of single-use plastic items, including polystyrene cups, citing reports that 80 percent of marine litter is made of the stuff.

In South Florida, Bal Harbour will take a similar approach. Last week, the village council voted unanimously to ban most single-use plastics, including straws, utensils, and shopping bags.

Environmentalists say single-use plastics pollute the oceans, causing damage to ecosystems.  Photo by  Bo Eide / Flickr

Environmentalists say single-use plastics pollute the oceans, causing damage to ecosystems.

Photo by Bo Eide / Flickr

"This is something that I don’t think anyone’s doing across the state... so we’re feeling our way through and seeing what the reaction is and how it works," Mayor Gabe Groisman said at the April 16 council meeting where the vote took place. "We actually don’t know how it’s gonna fly, but we think it’s the right kind of statement to make."

The ordinance prohibits the use, sale, or distribution of single-use plastics in commercial establishments, including restaurants, hotels, retail stores, and condo and apartment buildings. Officials in Bal Harbour, a ritzy, oceanfront community best known for its luxury shopping mall, say they crafted the regulations to address plastic pollution in public areas.

"Bal Harbour Village is a major and internationally recognized tourist destination that continues to encounter discarded plastic items on the Village’s beaches, waterways, and streets, as a result of the improper disposal of these single-use plastic items," a council memo states.

The ban comes as the Florida Legislature debates bills that would preempt municipalities such as Bal Harbour from prohibiting plastics. Councilman Buzzy Sklar says he recently visited Tallahassee to talk to lawmakers, who suggested it was "very favorable that [Bal Harbour's] ordinance will stand up." The village's attorney has also crafted the ordinance in such a way that it can be amended to abide by state law.

As currently written, the warning period for the ban begins October 1. On December 1, businesses that flout the rules will be fined $250 per infraction. Individuals can be fined $25 per infraction.

In addition to applying to commercial establishments, the ordinance also pertains to all Bal Harbour-owned facilities and village-approved events. A person who books a pavilion at a village park for a birthday party, for example, could be fined for using plastic utensils, but a person on a spontaneous picnic would not.

The law makes exceptions for medical and dental offices, as well as for schools.


The Problem With Plastic ♻️ #Glocal

Plastic isn’t just a problem when it enters the environment as waste. Rather, plastic pollutes at every step of its life.

Extraction

Plastic is made from fossil fuels like oil, natural gas, and even coal. As demand for fossil fuels as an energy source declines relative to production, plastic production represents a lifeline for the fossil fuel industry. All of the problems of fossil fuel extraction and transportation – from oil spills to groundwater pollution – come along for the ride.

Production

Converting fossil fuels into plastic feedstocks requires large chemical processing plants which emit a variety of pollutants into the air. These plants tend to be situated in low-income communities, which lack the resources or political capital to fight back. These communities face higher rates of disease as a result of their exposure to pollutants from nearby plants.

Consumption

Many plastics contain chemical additives which can leach back out of the material, getting into our food, our water, and ultimately our bodies. For example, BPA, an endocrine disruptor that can cause big problem particularly for young people, is found in many types of plastic commonly used for food storage.

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Disposal

Plastic stays around for hundreds of years or more. Unfortunately, only 9% of the plastic every produced gets recycled; the majority ends up in landfills or in the environment. In fact, 8 million tons of plastic enter our waterways each year. All that plastic is starting to show up in unexpected (and unwelcome) places, from our tap water to our food. The “smog” of microplastics in our ocean is smothering the small organisms that make up the base of the food chain, and could have serious implications for our food systems.

In addition to this wholistic view of plastic’s impact on people and the planet, our campaigns and communications are founded on four key understandings:

There is too much plastic in the system. Half of all plastic ever produced was made in the last 13 years. Plastic production globally continues to increase, with the plastic industry projecting 75% growth in the production of polyethylene (one of the most common types of plastic) in the US by 2022. Much of that growth is in single-use plastic with no recycled content. At this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. To reduce the consequences of plastic production and disposal, we must reduce the amount of plastic being produced.

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Not all plastic is created equal. Some plastic is used to create long-lasting, durable goods. Some plastics have a high recycling value, making them far more likely to be recycled again and again. But much of the plastic in our economy has low or no value, meaning that it can’t be economically recycled and is therefore far more likely to end up in landfills or the environment.

Producers are bear ultimate responsibility for plastic pollution. We have been led to think that plastic pollutions is the product of careless litterbugs. While that may be true in certain countries with developed waste and recycling infrastructure, the majority of plastic waste entering the environment comes from developing nations in the global South. Despite the lack of established systems to manage plastic waste, multinational corporations like Nestlé, Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, and Johnson & Johnson continue to dump huge volumes of low-value plastic into this region despite knowing full well where that plastic will end up. While they pocket the profits, we are all left to deal with the waste.

Solutions exist, and groups around the world are fighting for and implementing them. Although there is no singular magic bullet or one-size-fits-all solution, a growing movement of change-makers from around the world are building and scaling strategic, culturally-responsive solutions to the plastic problem. From local bans on no-value plastic like plastic bags and styrofoam take-out containers, to brand audits that identify problematic products for redesign, a rich tapestry of solutions hold the promise of a future free from plastic pollution.

Five Incredible Buildings Inspired By Nature 🌱 #Biomimetic

Biomimetic architecture uses nature as a model, measure and mentor to solve problems in architecture. It is not the same as biomorphic architecture, which uses natural existing elements as sources of inspiration for aesthetic components of form. Instead, biomimetic architecture looks to nature as a model to imitate or take inspiration from natural designs and processes and applies it to the man-made. It uses nature as a measure meaning biomimicry uses an ecological standard to judge the efficiency of human innovations. Nature as a mentor means that biomimicry does not try to exploit nature by extracting material goods from it, but values nature as something humans can learn from.

  1. Milwaukee Art Musem

Credit: Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Credit: Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The elegant Milwaukee Art Museum’s most eye-catching feature is its huge sunscreen roof – the Burke Brise Soleil – which is reminiscent of great white wings thanks to an open and closing mechanism controlling the 90 tonne screen.

Architect Santiago Calatrava wanted to incorporate both the urban and natural features of Lake Michigan, which the building overlooks, and took into account the “culture” of the lake front including boats and sails.

Gabriel Tang, an architect and senior lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK, describes why this US building is among his favourites: “Although expensive and technically complex, this is a delightful way in which architecture can be inspired by observations and ideas from nature to create pieces which are interestingly functional, functionally practical, and practically beautiful.”

He adds: “I love the direct and straight-forward legibility of the building. The opening or closing mechanism is gracefully poetic, but yet performs a function – that of protection.”

2. The Gherkin

Credit: Getty images

Credit: Getty images

“This was one of the first environmentally progressive buildings in the UK city of London,” says Tang of 30 St Mary Axe, the UK’s iconic skyscraper more commonly known as “The Gherkin”.

Completed in 2004, the 180m tower has an air ventilation system similar to sea sponges and anemones, Tang points out.

These creatures feed by directing sea water to flow through their bodies. And similarly, The Gherkin is supported by an exoskeleton structure, and is designed so ventilation flows through the entire building.

3. The “algae house”

Credit: Novarc Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Credit: Novarc Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Germany’s extraordinary “algae house” or BIQ building in Hamburg actually incorporates living matter – microalgae – into its design.

One side of the green-hued tower’s largely transparent surface contains tiny, growing algae which can control light entering the building and provide shade when needed.

It’s the world's first example of a “bioreactor façade”.

Algae produced within the transparent shell are continuously supplied with nutrients and carbon dioxide by a water circuit which runs through the building’s surface.

The algae creates a sun filter, explains Cruz: “In winter for instance, when there’s hardly any light and Hamburg is pretty grey for a long period, then the algae will not propagate and the façade screens will be very transparent, and so light comes through.”

When enough algae have grown they can be harvested and used to make biogas (a renewable energy source made from raw materials) to supply the building.

The ingenious design was completed as a prototype for the International Building Exhibition in Hamburg in 2013.

4. Eden Project

Credit: Caitlin Mogridge / Redferns via Getty Images

Credit: Caitlin Mogridge / Redferns via Getty Images

The Eden Project, nestled in a clay pit near the hamlet of Bodelva in Cornwall, UK, houses an extraordinary collection of plant species from tropical rainforest and the Mediterranean.

But the domed building itself is a large part of the spectacle: its “curvilinear” shape is an example of “softer edge” geometries which fascinate architects today, says Cruz.

Architect Nicholas Grimshaw’s huge transparent semi-spherical creations were inspired by the shape of soap bubbles, and the building’s “Core” education centre mimics the Fibonacci spiral pattern found in many natural objects such as pinecones, pineapples, sunflowers and snail shells.

5. Downland Gridshell Building

Credit: Steve Speller - Alamy Stock Photo

Credit: Steve Speller - Alamy Stock Photo

The light and airy Downland Gridshell Building, part of the Weal & Downloand Open Air Museum in Singleton, Chichester, UK was completed in 2002 and uses oak laths bent into shape to create the double-curvature, lightweight shell structure.

“This is perhaps not a building that was inspired by natural observations but with its timber cladding on the outside and being located within the woods, this building strikes a very close relationship to its natural setting and has been described by critics and architects themselves as an armadillo,” says Tang.

Tang, having worked extensively with gridshell design, explains lightweight shells such as those seen in the Downland Gridshell Building, are typically made with timber or steel. “Imagine how a bird creates a nest from separate pieces of straw. These structures usually have light-filled interiors but because of the number of connections, can be difficult to make weather-tight.”

Design is a human ritual of understanding.
— Maggie Macnab, Design by Nature: Using Universal Forms and Principles in Design

10 Exceptional Earth Photos 🌎 #EarthDay

Celebrate Earth Day With The Greatest Images Of Our Planet.

The Earth remains humanity's only home in all the Universe, and the only planet that we know of capable of supporting human beings. Today, Earth Day, it's more important than ever to appreciate it. Below are some of the most impressive images of our home planet ever captured with a camera.

Northern Outburst by   Oystein Lunde Ingvaldsen

Northern Outburst by Oystein Lunde Ingvaldsen

The Great Blue Hole – Belize

The Great Blue Hole – Belize

Terraced Rice Field, China by   Thierry Bornier

Terraced Rice Field, China by Thierry Bornier

Eyjafjallajökull Volcano, Iceland by   Sigurdur Hrafn Stefnisson

Eyjafjallajökull Volcano, Iceland by Sigurdur Hrafn Stefnisson

Cave of Crystals, Mexico by   Carsten Peter, Speleoresearch & Films

Cave of Crystals, Mexico by Carsten Peter, Speleoresearch & Films

Camel, Socotra Island by   Sergei Reoutov

Camel, Socotra Island by Sergei Reoutov

Yellowstone Park by   Tom Clark

Yellowstone Park by Tom Clark

All This Blue Ice

All This Blue Ice

Serengeti, Tanzania by   Amnon Eichelberg

Serengeti, Tanzania by Amnon Eichelberg

Arizona Butte by   Rex Naden

Arizona Butte by Rex Naden