Lights Out for Halogens in Europe

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Image source: The Guardian

A new light display is illuminating Europe – one that is more energy efficient. As of today, no new retail orders will be possible for directional halogen bulbs in EU countries and therefore the last halogens left in stores will not be replaced with new stock.  Halogen bulbs can waste up to 10 times more energy that LEDs and the first targets of the halogen bulb ban, which will go into full effect in 2018, are GU10 spotlights and PAR30 floodlights.

Which? magazine last month advised its readers to switch to LEDs, which can cut lighting electricity bills by up to 90%, according to the cool products efficiency campaign.

“With bulb purchase costs included, British homes on the average tariff will pay £126 per socket over a 10-year period for halogen lights, compared to £16 for LEDs,” said Jack Hunter, a coolproducts spokesman.

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The Good Race Against Food Waste

Claus Holm, a Danish celebrity chef, demonstrates at a festival on the Danish island of Fyn how expired products lurking at the back of the fridge can still be delicious. PHOTO: Sidsel Overgaard for NPR

Claus Holm, a Danish celebrity chef, demonstrates at a festival on the Danish island of Fyn how expired products lurking at the back of the fridge can still be delicious. PHOTO: Sidsel Overgaard for NPR

By 2050, the world will need 60 per cent more calories per year to feed a projected population of 9 billion. Cutting the rate of global food loss and waste could help bridge this food gap while creating environmental and economic benefits. And the people of Denmark are already well ahead in the race to cut food waste. While the Stop Wasting Food movement is the national embodiment of a collective consciousness, the need to cut back on waste has seeped through the consumer chain, as NPR finds.  Continue reading

Witnessing (and Separating) Color

One must always be camera-ready at Xandari; otherwise one might miss the unexpected beauties that present themselves. On Friday I postponed my dinner (despite my grumbling stomach) in order to take a picture of the breathtaking sunset that was slowly sinking behind the mountains. I had to get to the sunset pool to capture this marvel, and believe it or not, I actually ran. Every second spent getting to the pool meant one less streak of vivid color highlighting the darkening sky. Not to mention, it also meant one second less of battery life on my camera phone with 4% battery left. The stakes were high.

I had not yet witnessed nightfall from the sunset pool, and as soon as I reached my destination I drew in a quick, shallow breath and let out long whispered ‘wooow.’ I was paralyzed with wonder. Birds were swooping down to drink some water from the pool, dodging and weaving one another with such swiftness that I’d lose track of which one I was looking at, all the while the sunlight retreated in the background. It was the ‘bleep’ of my “dying” phone that woke me to my senses and reminded me why I had run here in the first place. I took my pictures quickly and then observed the fleeting moment in stillness. Continue reading

Goodbye Styrofoam

Dunkin’ Donuts is debuting a new cup made of polypropylene, and is slowly being rolled out in New York city’s more than 500 stores. PHOTO: New York Daily News

The city still runs on Dunkin’, just a little bit differently now. Dunkin’ Donuts is debuting an eco-friendly coffee cup in New York that will keep their steamy java hot, but won’t violate the Styrofoam ban that took effect on July 1. The new cup is made of polypropylene and is slowly being rolled out in the city’s more than 500 stores. It features a slimmer-looking design and — unlike the old containers — can be recycled in the city’s system with plastics.

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Where is the US’ Water Going?

In the U.S, about 42 percent of irrigated agriculture depends on groundwater, and the depletion of major aquifers will affect not only future food production but also urban areas that need freshwater from these sources. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

Freshwater in the United States is really on the move. Much of the water pulled from underground reservoirs called aquifers gets incorporated into crops and other foodstuffs, which are then are shuttled around the country or transferred as far away as Israel and Japan, according to a new study. It shows how reliance on a finite supply of groundwater for agriculture threatens global food security. More than 18% of the U.S. supply of so-called cereal grains like corn, rice and wheat depends on a limited supply of groundwater found deep below the earth in aquifers, researchers found.

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Coca-Cola Thinking Plants

BUSINESS THE BITE Coca-Cola debuts 100% plant-based bottle as companies go eco-friendly (+video)  csmonitor icon Latest News MORE EMAIL Subscribe Coca-Cola has unveiled a bottle made entirely of plant-based materials. The new Coke bottle is the latest sign of the company's growing shift toward more environmentally friendly practices. By Ellen Meyers, Staff writer JUNE 4, 2015 About video ads Coca-Cola to release plant-based recyclable bottles WSBTV - Atlanta Coca-Cola to release plant-based recyclable bottles Coca-Cola debuted an updated version of its PlantBottle, its first bottle made from 100 percent plant materials at the Expo Milan 2015 on Wednesday. The Atlanta-based beverage giant did not specify when the 100 percent plant-based bottles would be available to consumers. However, the company said it wants its current version of its PlantBottle, made of 30 percent plant-based materials, to be used in all of its products by 2020. “Our vision was to maximize game-changing technology, using responsibly sourced plant-based materials to create the globe’s first fully recyclable PET plastic bottle made entirely from renewable materials,” Nancy Quan, the company’s global research and development officer, said in a press release. Recommended: Who owns Gatorade: Coke or Pepsi? Take our 'parent company' quiz! Since the 2009 launch, Coca-Cola has distributed more than 35 billion bottles in nearly 40 countries using its current version of PlantBottle packaging, according to the release. The company estimates that the packaging helped save the equivalent annual emissions of more than 315,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE Who owns Gatorade: Coke or Pepsi? Take our 'parent company' quiz! PHOTOS OF THE DAY Photos of the day 06/16 In 2011, Coca-Cola licensed the technology for making PlantBottles to H.J. Heinz to use in its ketchup bottles. In 2013, Ford Motor Company said it plans to use the same material found in PlantBottle packaging in the fabric interior in certain test models of the Fusion Energi hybrid sedan. Coca-Cola says the new bottles will be the world's first entirely plant-based PET bottles. PET, known as polyethylene terephthalate, is a plastic resin and the most common type of polyester, according to the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR). It was discovered and patented in England in 1941, but it was not until the late 1990s when more companies and manufacturers started to make and use PET containers for products. NAPCOR says PET is appealing for both consumers and manufacturers for its low weight, strength, and recyclability, and its use in packaging materials, like bottles, has ticked up over the past few years. However, PET has its drawbacks. It can be an expensive packaging material to produce, according to a 2004 report from the Recycling Operators of New Zealand. RONZ also found that “PET acts as a gas ‘sieve,’ slowly allowing oxygen in and carbon dioxide out. This means the shelf life of beverages can be limited by the reduction, over time, in carbonation and oxygen degradation of flavours.” In other words, the carbonation in soda could go flat faster.  In terms of recycling, quality and quantity of supplies are also still major concerns. For reclaimers – professional recycling centers – PET packaging can be harder to clean than other plastics, Reclaimers still reported high levels of contamination in PET containers in 2013, according to NAPCOR’s 2014 report on recycling activity for PET containers. That complication can mean less PET materials are actually reused. In fact, only 22.6 percent of recycled PET containers in the US went on to be used in other products.   NAPCOR also reported that domestic collection of PET containers in the US is growing, but it is not enough to meet current and potential demand from reclaimers. That's led them to import PET from places like Canada, Mexico, and Latin America. While PET recycling has a long way to go, Coca-Cola's latest move highlights a long withstanding trend: the importance of businesses being more envronmentally conscious

While PET recycling has a long way to go, Coca-Cola’s latest move highlights a long withstanding trend: the importance of businesses being more envronmentally conscious

Coca-Cola has unveiled a bottle made 30% of plant-based materials. The new Coke bottle is the latest sign of the company’s growing shift toward more environmentally friendly practices. Can it be sustained? That remains to be seen.

Since its introduction in 2009, PlantBottle packaging has been distributed in a variety of packaging sizes across water, sparkling, juice and tea beverage brands—from Coca-Cola to DASANI to Gold Peak. Today, PlantBottle packaging accounts for 30 percent of the Company’s packaging volume in North America and 7 percent globally, some 6 billion bottles annually, making The Coca-Cola Company a large bioplastics end user.  In 2011, the company licensed PlantBottle Technology to H.J. Heinz for use in its ketchup bottles. In 2013, Ford Motor Company announced plans to use the same renewable material found in PlantBottle packaging in the fabric interior in certain test models of the Fusion Energi hybrid sedan. And in 2014, the first reusable, fully recyclable plastic cup made with PlantBottle Technology rolled out in SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks across the United States. More.

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The Food Cart Just Turned Green

One hundred of the first carts will be funded by MOVE and reserved for disabled veterans, and the remaining 400 will go to vendors who sign up—at no cost to them, because the pilot program will be sponsored. PHOTO:  Today's the Day I

One hundred of the first carts will be funded by MOVE and reserved for disabled veterans, and the remaining 400 will go to vendors who sign up—at no cost to them, because the pilot program will be sponsored. PHOTO: Today’s the Day I

Food carts are an iconic part of New York City’s street life. NYC has over 5,000 licensed trucks and carts, and an estimated 3,000 unlicensed ones on the streets. Cart operators, representing diverse ethnicities and cuisines, serve approximately 1.2 million customers every day. A food cart can be started with little capital and improved with sweat equity. However, until now, this industry has had no choice but to rely on smoke-spewing carts and their antiquated technologies that are dirty and unsafe. But hold on, the MRV100 is here.

Most food carts run off a diesel generator that’s designed to run only a few hours. Vendors run them for stretches of up to 14 hours, leading to a high output of greenhouse-gas emissions such as carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, and particulate matter. You can see the smoke with the naked eye, but the hard facts are even more frightening: The research and consulting firm Energy Vision found that each cart produces the same amount of nitrous oxide as 186 cars on the road.

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Stepping Up to the Plate

Polystyrene lunch plates are being shown the door in some US cities. PHOTO: NRDC

Polystyrene lunch plates are being shown the door in some US cities. PHOTO: NRDC

New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Orlando, and Dallas. Six cities. 4,536 schools. 2,848,000 students enrolled. 469,000,000 meals served annually. And one organisation that unites them all and its plans to combine purchasing power and coordinate menu creation and food service in schools. Meet the Urban School Food Alliance. And here’s their latest idea: ditching polystyrene lunch trays and replacing them with compostable lunch plates. It’s a significant move since all together, the schools in the Alliance serve up 2.5 million meals a day.

But what’s most revolutionary about these new plates is what they’re made of. The polystyrene used in traditional lunch trays is a petroleum-based plastic that won’t break down for hundreds of years. When the trays end up in landfills — and 225 million of them do every year — they leech pollutants into the water and air, according to the group. The new plates, by comparison, are made of recycled newsprint and can break down within a matter of weeks in commercial composting facilities. They’re also only a tiny bit more expensive, at $0.049 apiece compared with $.04 apiece for the plastic trays.

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Fifty Shades of Black

Ivanpah, the world's largest concentrating solar power plant, located just southwest of Las Vegas,  can produce a whopping 392 megawatts of solar energy to power 140,000 California homes with clean energy

Ivanpah, the world’s largest concentrating solar power plant, located just southwest of Las Vegas, can produce a whopping 392 megawatts of solar energy to power 140,000 California homes with clean energy PHOTO: Inhabitat

So we’ve all learnt, at some time or the other, that black absorbs light the maximum. And that the sun is one of the best sources of clean and renewable energy. Now, put two and two together. Yes, we are definitely talking tapping the sun’s light and heat. And we need a black surface to do so. The catch: the color needs to be as black as black can get.

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WED 2013: Megawasted Opportunity?

WED 2013 - Raxa Collective

On June 5, we’ll celebrate World Environment Day. This year UNEP focuses on the theme Food waste/Food Loss. At Raxa Collective we’ll be carrying out actions and sharing experience and ideas. Come and join us with your ideas and tips to preserve foods, preserve resources and preserve our planet.

When I tell people that it’s possible to grow highly nutritional food on agricultural waste products with almost zero technology, I usually get a blank look. On a good day, someone will demand an explanation. Why would such a process, if existent, be so obscure if it could help solve malnutrition in underdeveloped communities? While I’m sure there is a logical explanation for this, it remains a mystery to me at present.

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WED 2013 : Learning To Finish That Meal…

WED 2013 - Raxa Collective

On June 5, we’ll celebrate World Environment Day. This year UNEP focuses on Food waste/Food Loss. At Raxa Collective we’ll be carrying out actions and sharing experience and ideas. Come and join us with your tips to preserve foods, preserve resources and preserve our planet.

As a child, I was always told to finish eating my meals because there were starving children in poor and faraway lands that would gladly trade places with me.  I could not exactly picture what that meant, and the rebelious part of me always wanted to stick a postage stamp on my plate and send it to these children.  No one who grew up with such abundance, I think, could trade the fresh memory of a full meal for a clear picture of hunger.

Being from Texas (and proud of it, so don’t mess with that), with its long “bigger and better” history and wonderful mythology of abundance and its can-do certainty, I did not “get it”.  Now, the hazy memories of those dinners and parental wisdom are coming into perspective with my ability to follow and understand news from around the world.

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Plan B

My past posts reveal my desire to be directly involved with sustainable farming.  I plan and hope to achieve this, but as both the global population and the demand for land, space, and food rise, I recognize that being flexible with this dream may minimize any potential disappointment.  Comparatively, as much as I seem to “fly by the seat of my pants,” I like to plan.  I come close to peace when I at least have some general structure to my life.  So with this in mind, I began to brainstorm back-up plans to having my own farm.

In this search and planning excursion, I read an article and learned of vertical farming.  Dickson Despommier of Columbia University and his students researched this urban farming phenomenon and hypothesized that such projects could solve our global food insecurity problems.

I am unsure of its feasibility, but in my characteristic optimism, I believe it has potential.  Continue reading

Optimism and Opportunity

Many of my posts reflect my outlook to err on the upside of life’s circumstances.  I try to drown out my inner (and often powerful) pessimism by surrounding myself with positivity and optimism.  I find that this is a careful balance of being hopeful while remaining realistic.  Today, when I was taking a break from my coursework, or the slightly negative part of my day, I watched an encouraging Ted Talk that I think demonstrates hopeful realism.

Johan Rockstrom suggests that the earth is at a point where major transformation must occur.  He optimistically recommends that we use and continue to use crises as opportunities and local initiatives to transform and sustain life.  Also, he makes a realistic statement that climate change is not our biggest problem only a symptom of our land use.

I found this talk engaging and thought-provoking.  I agree that I transformation is soon to happen and I look forward to being a part of it.

Needing Mr. Miyagi

Anyone who has ever been to ski slopes may have experienced small, pint-sized, infant skiers buzzing down the hills.  As a veteran skier of 18-years, I proudly proclaim that I was once one of these daring children.  However, I learned this past weekend that through the years I have lost this fearlessness when I was challenged to try snowboarding.  I would love to boast that my first run was very similar to this video, but the aching of my entire body keeps me truthful as if to say, “Ha!  You wish, Meg!”

Several times I met the side of the mountain and regardless of the many parts of my body that hit, the solid surface was resilient to my attacks; in fact, the bruises that continue to surface would argue that it fought back with increasing firmness.  The absence of soft, powdery snow brought my awareness to this season’s lack of typical winter weather, and it drew my attention to the resort’s snow-making cannons.  Continue reading

A Brief Overview of Sustainable Guestroom Attributes

A recent article from the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, titled “Hotel Guests’ Preferences for Green Guestroom Attributes,” caught my eye just a couple days ago. Written by Michelle Millar and Seyhmus Baloglu of the University of San Francisco and the University of Las Vegas, respectively (both institutions have well established programs in hospitality), the study analyzed a set of hotel room amenities/features and attempted to find out which ones guests thought were the most important. I was especially interested in this study—among the many studies on guestroom attributes—because I have some pretty strong opinions about the best things that hotels can do in their guestrooms to enhance sustainability.

Respondents ranked sustainable shampoo amenities among the most important attributes. Refillable shampoo dispensers, shown above, are widely used in cruise ships but have not yet gained traction in the majority of American hotels.

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They’re Real, Not Plastic

Earlier this year I would have thought blogging about plastic bags would be boring and quite redundant.  I have heard and read of the dire effects plastic bags have on the environment countless times.  And I am well versed in the “green tips” of bringing my own bag that are so prevalent.  Intellectually, I realize that plastic bags…well, suck.

I heard the implications and I pride myself to be eco-savvy yet I still would often be caught red-handed with those pesky plastic bags on a few desperate occasions. Continue reading

Cars for Children

Full disclosure: I feel sort of awkward drawing attention to this story. It describes one of the most unsettling and simply bizarre state initiatives I’ve heard of in a while, and I’m not entirely sure the matter merits space on this site. Alas, my provocative side gets the best of me sometimes and I am compelled to link to it, if only because it’s consistent with the problems I promised to raise yesterday, not to mention it’s pertinent to India and that it points to some of the truly hard questions we as a global population will have to ask ourselves in the coming century. These questions bear spiritual, physical, cultural, and ethical import, and how we answer them…well, that’s just more than I can deal with in this format.  Continue reading