The past decade has probably seen the worst environmental damage humans have ever caused in history. However, it is also probably witness to the best human efforts in reversing the tragic situation and working towards accountability. Chile will create five new national parks in a preservation effort, China will reforest an entire area as big as Ireland (6.6 million hectares!), and announced most recently, Australia will spend 500 million dollars to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
If we are to continue these attempts at environmental preservation, then financial support from the government has to be accompanied by cultural efforts. By which I mean we need education. And who else can we educate more than those who will inherit this earth? To continue our environmental progress, it is children who foremost need to understand how nature works.
That’s exactly the objective of this magical wooden classroom designed by Studio Weave for Belvue School.
[T]he building was created to help reconnect students with nature and it opens up to an adjacent woodland recently acquired by the school to serve as an educational nature reserve . . . Constructed from a low budget originally allocated for a cargotecture school expansion, the 1,600-square-foot Wooden Classroom comprises a “cozy lounge” informal teaching space and a “sociable kitchen” student-run school cafe next to the woods.
With curved ceilings and clerestory windows, the wooden classroom is entirely provided with natural lighting and ventilation. Students may appreciate the neighbouring woodland through large window walls. To constantly check in with the nature aspect, a forest management specialist was consulted by Studio Weave throughout the construction process for Belvue School.
“We identified that the boundary between the playground and woods marks the border between familiar school territory and the magical, mysterious world of trees,” said Studio Weave. “This very important threshold, symbolising the entrance to another world, like the gate to the secret garden, or the cupboard to Narnia became a focal point and we consequently designed the woodland classrooms to act as a gatehouse between one world and another.”
If that doesn’t sound magical, I’m not sure what does. It makes me want to be a child and rediscover the earth with fresh eyes again. Maybe that’s what we all need to really care for nature. Then again, bringing back the past is totally impossible. So here’s to hoping the children retain the wonder and magic they experience in this gorgeous wooden classroom to the bigger world once they themselves grow bigger in the future.
Bee populations are known to be on a steep decline. And it’s worrisome because the many benefits given to us by the cutesy bugs (please click at your own risk, lest you faint of cuteness) are no secret to our generation, to environmental activists and non-activists alike. Some people already act of their own volition, like communities turning empty lots into bee homes and repairing beekeeping equipment. The UK has even banned pesticides that are harmful to bees.
Another stint in the bee-saving movement comes from ice cream company Häagen-Dazs, as they give away free ice cream cones to promote the advocacy.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Häagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees campaign . . . Since starting 10 years ago, Häagen-Dazs has donated over $1 million to bee research and planted over 11,000 plants. If you want to help the bees too, the ice cream company asks that you donate to the Xerces Society—they have a goal of planting 1 million acres of habitat for bees.
A third of Häagen-Dazs products apparently depend on the honey bees, and so does a third of our entire food intake, which makes their decreasing population truly alarming.
The annual Free Cone Day serves as a recognition of whom Adam Hanson, President and General Manager of the food company, calls “pollinators that make our ice cream possible.” Of course, the event doesn’t stop at recognition of the hard-working bees. It is, more than anything, a call for help.
“With this year marking the 10th anniversary of the brand’s honey bee support, we wanted to build on that information and encourage everyone to band together for this important cause.”
Many people want to save the honey bees, not just for their general cuteness, but for their steadfast role in our food supply. And come on, let’s just be honest here. Who wouldn’t want to help in the name of free ice cream?
Time and again, elephants have proven that they are worth more than just their tusks. Back in August, they rescued hundreds of tourists from a flood in Nepal. And while some, like war veteran Col. Faye Cuevas, are doing their best to protect them, it seems the efforts are not enough. Last year, the U.K. has taken a favorable — albeit small — step towards banning almost all sales and exports of ivory products.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced a consultation to end the trade in ivory of all ages — previous attempts at a ban would have excluded antique ivory produced before 1947.
The government says there will be some exemptions, for musical instruments and items of cultural importance.
A lack of clear restrictions is corroborating the fears of environmentalist groups, who are unsatisfied by the ban. They argue that the UK still leads in exporting legal pre-1947 ivory antiques even in the past few years, and though the transactions are technically not punishable by law, the high amount of sales stimulates demand and encourages poaching in Africa.
Nonetheless, pressures from conservationists and Prince William himself — a long-time campaigner against the trade — are pushing the government to impose a total ban. If I were being encouraged by English royalty to head towards a certain direction, I’d probably start walking.
At a wildlife conference in Vietnam, [Prince William] said: “Ivory is not something to be desired and when removed from an elephant it is not beautiful.
“So, the question is: why are we still trading it? We need governments to send a clear signal that trading in ivory is abhorrent.”
Well said, Prince William. I toot my horn (or tusk?) in your favor. While waiting for further updates this 2018 from the government of the UK, perhaps we could share a toast to the greatness of elephants.
In the food industry, nothing is what it seems. At Ava Winery, wine is grape-less. Popular distillery Misadventure and Co. is producing vodka made with food waste. Ripple is not far behind, introducing an entire line of dairy products made with yellow peas.
“The food system represents 20 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, and dairy is one-quarter of that,” said [co-founder Neil] Renninger… “The impact is massive. More than beef, more than chicken, dairy is actually the largest contributor to emissions by volume. That challenge scratched my sustainability itch.”
Since its launch, Ripple has sold a healthy 2.5 million bottles of plant-based products. Renninger and partner Adam Lowry admitted that most plant food “sucks” because the industry doesn’t spend enough time doing research to create better food items. To be honest, I couldn’t agree more.
“Their idea of innovation is a brand extension . . . We saw huge potential for impact—a lot of white space in the world of food innovation through technology.”
Yellow peas, Ripple’s ingredient of choice, isn’t strongly flavored and is relatively inexpensive to grow. It also provides a sufficient amount of protein, significantly more than almond milk does. Eliminating 3.5 pounds of carbon emissions per 48-ounce bottle, Ripple has a lot to brag about.
“It’s not that we have the only pea milk on the market; what makes us unique is that, thanks to technology, we have the purest plant protein in the world,” says Renninger.
And with its pea milk currently coming in five different flavors, I can’t imagine Ripple is going out of business anytime soon.
As oceans fill to the brim with discarded plastics, communities are doing what they can to manage the destructive material. While independent brand Eco Connect is finding ways to make plastic reusable, places like Kenya are simply banning the medium entirely. In the U.K., environmentalists are taking a less radical but highly effective step towards cleaner oceans. Daycares in southern England are officially banning glitter to prevent microplastics from contaminating water.
“Glitter is absolutely a microplastic and has the same potential to cause harm as any other microplastic…” [said research associate Alice Horton.]
Considering glitter is purely ornamental, there truly is no use for the material. Effective in only 19 Tops Day Nurseries, the ban won’t make a significant impact, but it sends a clear message.
“On a small scale, one nursery banning it is unlikely to have any environmental impact, but it’s a good environmental statement to make, like one person choosing not to buy bottled water to reduce plastic bottle waste. [It is] not going to change the world but [it] sets a target for others.”
Sometimes, change isn’t all about results — making a difference can arise from how one inspires another.
To minimize ocean pollution, nations are campaigning against single-use plastics in the hopes of replacing them with more eco-friendly options. While Costa Rica is steadily approaching its goal of going plastic-free in 2021, Kenya has banned the material altogether. To further the cause, U.K. chancellor Philip Hammond is calling to consider plastic tax.
“The Treasury’s announcement is only a statement of intent, but it recognises the significance of the problem and the urgent need for a solution. There is a long way to go, but hopefully this is the beginning of the end for single-use plastic.” [said Greenpeace campaigner Tisha Brown.]
To stunt the growth of an annual 12 million tons of plastic waste, U.K. stores began pricing plastic bags at 5p. In just 6 months, the move reduced usage by 85%. Suddenly, the tax proposal makes a lot more sense.
“Any action to tackle single-use plastic is a good thing, but we must ensure any action is truly ambitious if we want to make the real difference needed to help save the planet.”
Plastic may be convenient, but the millions of marine animals killed each year will beg to differ. Plastic tax — two thumbs up from me!
In a salad, algae may not seem too appetizing, but it sure is a fashion statement. Clarks recently released a shoe made from biomass algae, which seems to have tipped off a trend. Designers now want in on the action, specifically Julian Melchiorri, who built a green chandelier that purifies air.
The green lighting piece is composed of 70 glass leaves filled with green algae, which absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. The transparent liquid filters through light, giving off a warm glow.
The display, called Exhale, is functional indoors and outdoors. It can also take on various forms depending on necessity. How, then, does the algae work its magic? Simple — photosynthesis. Melchiorri is all about function and the environment, and it’s not going unnoticed.
For his efforts, Melchiorri was awarded the Emerging Talent Award during London Design Week, which is given out to individuals who have made an impact within five years of graduation.
It may still be a prototype, but Exhale has surely left its mark on the design industry. With more people like Melchiorri, we may be able to restore the environment — one leaf at a time.
Though global efforts to counter climate change have been plentiful, greed remains on top of the food chain. Man has exploited nature to no end. While the earth is slowly recovering, not every starfish will save itself. Of the nations participating in oil explorations, little Belize has had enough. As the Trump administration opens more waters to drilling, Belize is placing a moratorium on its own.
“Belize is a small country making a mighty commitment to putting the environment first,” says Nadia Bood, a reef scientist with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
The developing country produces some 3,000 barrels of profitable oil per day, but its people know better. Despite a gleaming export income, the nation-that-could believes more in the value of its coral reefs.
“Ending oil activities will encourage other countries to follow suit and take the urgent action that is needed to protect our planet’s oceans,” says Chris Gee, a campaigner at WWF.
With a $200 million annual tourism cut that supports 190,000 livelihoods, banning excavations may not be a misstep after all.
Following India’s campaign against the use of wild animals in circus shows, China has caved to international pressures. In a giant leap forward, the mass ivory consumer is finally placing a near-total ban on the material. Things will definitely be looking up for 30,000 African elephants slaughtered by poachers each year.
China and the U.S. both agreed to “near-complete” ivory bans, which prohibit the buying and selling of all but a limited number of antiques and a few other items.
Ivory is in demand for intricate carvings, trinkets, chopsticks, and other items.
With no proven clinical use, ivory used as medication is purely based on superstition. Despite previous international bans, China has consistently managed to quietly condone black market trade — until now.
“The Chinese government’s ban on its domestic ivory trade sends a message to the general public in China that the life of elephants is more important than the ivory carving culture,” said Gao Yufang, a Ph.D. student in conservation biology.
With no means to curve laws, China is finally bound to the positively inescapable ban. There is no guarantee to a drop in poaching, but when society gets it, it seems everything falls naturally into place.
To salvage deteriorating resources, nations worldwide are setting ambitious eco-goals in a short span of time. By 2012, Costa Rica hopes to phase out single-use plastic products. For the first time in 70 years, Kazakhstan is reintroducing wild tigers into its cat-barren jungles. Not to be left out of the loop, St. Louis is swearing off fossil fuels in an attempt to go fully renewable by 2035.
“It can be a win-win for everyone. We can protect health. We can improve air, we can improve water. We can address climate change. We can save people money on their bills. Why wouldn’t we be moving in that direction?” said [Sara Edgar of Sierra Club.]
St. Louis is among just over 40 cities that have pledged to rely solely on wind and solar energy. For decades, the city has remained a top contributor to health issues caused by smog. It’s now clear that its local government is hoping to make a more positive name for the tourist spot.
“Some of the things that Donald Trump has done since he became commander in chief just goes against everything that I stand [for], that the people of St. Louis stand for,” [said St. Louis President Lewis Reed.]
Yikes. Trump better watch his back — it’s obvious St. Louis isn’t rolling back on its own environmental safeguards!