If Starbucks isn’t your go-to for mocha frappuccinos, you’re probably living on another planet. Known for its wide range of flavors and misspelling names, the coffee chain is the largest in the world. With coffee moguls inventing edible coffee capsules, Starbucks still needs to step up its sustainability game. At GeekWire’s annual summit, protesters demanded recyclable cups from the food giant, creating a Cup Monster made with Starbucks products.
“If Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson is serious about transforming his company into a tech leader, he must first solve his company’s biggest environmental liability: the 8,000 [plus] cups that go into landfills every minute of every day,” said Stand.earth spokesperson Ross Hammond.
What makes Starbucks cups mostly un-recyclable is its inner plastic lining. While the company claims to incorporate post-consumer fibers into its cups, recycling methods vary among different states.
“It’s important to note that what is recyclable varies significantly by municipality and sometimes even by store. We pay local private haulers across the country to collect and recycle hot cups along with our other recyclable products, compost and trash.”
Extremely recyclable? Sort of recyclable? Regardless of how recyclable Starbucks thinks its products are, there is always room to be more eco-conscious.
Following the success of solar power, developers have been harvesting clean energy from other sources. Now that we can accumulate electricity through passing vehicles and even cow excrement, nothing else seems far-fetched. Wind power may be nothing new, but these floating offshore turbines are the first of their kind.
The 30MW installation… will demonstrate that offshore wind energy can be harvested in deep waters… where installing giant turbines was once impractical or impossible. At peak capacity, the wind farm will produce enough electricity to power 20,000 Scottish homes.
The irony behind the nautical wind farm is its contractor — Statoil. The company is a corporate giant notorious for oil drilling. It’s somewhat of a paradox, but I’m a fan. Statoil claims that the wind farm’s offshore location is also beneficial.
The farther out you can place offshore turbines, the steadier and faster the wind is. It also comes with the added benefit of avoiding any community arguments over clean ocean views… [also] unimaginably large rotor components can be delivered by sea rather than by land, where roads have weight limits.
In the end, Statoil is living proof that you can easily give back what you take from nature. While we’d rather leave Mother Nature alone entirely, compensation is better than nothing.
“Trashion”, or trash fashion, is taking over as one of the biggest trends of the year. It isn’t only unique — it’s inspiring many to build sustainable closets. Taking the lead from smaller brands, fashion giants are beginning to shrink their carbon footprints. Italian fashion house Gucci promises to go fur-free by 2018.
[Marco] Bizzarri said: “Being socially responsible is one of Gucci’s core values, and we will continue to strive to do better for the environment and animals.”
The ban will eliminate the use of mink, coyote, raccoon, fox, and rabbit fur. The brand’s remaining fur items will be auctioned off. Proceeds will be donated to animal rights groups.
Gucci will become part of the Fur Free Alliance – an international group of organizations which campaigns on animal welfare and promotes alternatives to fur in the fashion industry.
Imaginably, leaders of the global fur trade are appalled by the decision, claiming that “fur is the most natural fashion item.” Unfortunately for them, Gucci is realizing that being sustainable is a tad more vogue.
If all it takes to generate energy nowadays is a walk and a bit of sweat, it should come as no surprise that it’s also possible to create electricity out of thin air. Or, rather, air that is slightly humid.
[Biophysicist professor Ozgur Sahin’s] laboratory has developed one kind of ‘evaporation engine’, which works by using the movement of bacteria in response to changes in humidity.
Shutters either opened or closed to control moisture levels, prompting bacterial spores to expand or contract. This motion is then transferred to a generator and turned into electricity.
With technologies to convert wind, water, and heat into energy, it seems anything has the potential to do the same. As with anything in its early stages, researchers are treading carefully so as not to affect water resources. However, the machines may be a saving grace to drought-prone areas, as they reduce water loss.
“Some… regions suffer from periods of water stress and scarcity, which might favour implementation of these energy harvesting systems due to the reduction of evaporative losses.”
According to recent calculations, the technology could save 25 trillion gallons of water a year. It’s a godsend, considering how many people aren’t willing to give up hot, hourlong showers. It’s also a harsh reminder that we ought to do our part as consumers.
Since Margot Krasojevic’s conceptualization of the dragonfly bridge, it was only about time that flying vehicles came to light. Dubai is fast-tracking this reality, test-flying a two-seater taxi drone that transports passengers autonomously.
The [Autonomous Air Taxi] is environmentally friendly, powered by electricity, and the prototype version has a maximum flight time of 30 minutes, at a cruising speed of 50 km/h (31 mph), and a maximum airspeed of 100 km/h (62 mph).
As it would, the notion of a crew-less flying taxi may be somewhat petrifying. However, the AAT comes with emergency parachutes and batteries, so you can rest — or fly — easy. Developers also plan to create an accompanying booking app, much like Uber, but for the skies.
“Encouraging innovation and adopting the latest technologies contribute not only to the country’s development but also build bridges into the future,” Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed said in a statement.
Dubai hopes that by 2030, 25% of transportation methods will be autonomous. With many organizations working towards a more efficient traveling system, there is much to look forward to in the future.
Cosmetic brand Lush, known for its scrumptious bath bombs, is on a roll with its eco-initiatives. Since turning trash into packaging, it is also now funding permaculture farms at £1 million a year.
“For us, the work we focus on is often regenerative, as opposed to sustainable – we want to give back more than we take,”
The said permaculture farms provide the beauty brand with organic ingredients such as aloe and shea butter. While Lush can count on a stable supply of materials, it is also helping communities thrive.
“We started the fund in 2010, with the idea that there can be a different, more supportive way of doing business,” [says creative buyer Gabbi Loedolff.]
The initiative, called the SLush Fund, has reached out to groups in Ghana and Peru. It is creating jobs and providing new technologies while being mindful of the environment. On that note, I think a relaxing soak in the tub would be doing myself and Lush some good.
Unable to resist our sweet stripey friends — and of course, the danger to our food resource brought about by the dwindling of their populations — different sectors have already been participating in bee saving initiatives. There is the UK’s ban on harmful pesticides. There is the transformation of empty lots into bee farms by a group of Detroit locals. Recently, there is free ice cream from food company Häagen-Dazs to promote the bee saving advocacy.
The latest to join the hive is a Polish startup company that created a biodegradable paper from energy-rich glucose that may feed bees. Not only is it definitely usable for us humans because the material isn’t sticky at all, Bee Saving Paper is very nutritious and delicious for our pollinator friends.
The material is made by dissolving a special kind of sugar into water, making a paste that beekeepers use to nourish their hives during the winter. According to the paper startup’s website, only 0.5 kilograms of the substance is enough to feed several thousand bees.
The paper is also made with honey plant seeds, which means that once the bee eats up all the glucose, the paper’s biodegradation will grow another “rest stop” for bees in its place.
Now you might ask: why would any creature want to eat paper? What could make it seem sumptuous? Well, the designers have also come up with a solution to make the Bee Saving Paper look yummy.
Since bees see fields of flowers as circles of colored light on the ultraviolet spectrum, the engineers used water-based UV paint to cover the paper with colored circles that are only visible — and attractive — to bees.
Since last year, the startup has already successfully executed its first field test. They helped out a Polish beekeeper whose bee farm populations were rapidly decreasing. Now, the company aims to promote their bee saving products to large brands and businesses that need paper. Which could be every business out there, really.
[A]ny business or manufacturing company using paper can start making their products out of materials that are environmentally friendly and nourishing to pollinators — from paper bags to parking tickets and picnic plates.
I can’t imagine how exciting it would be to do everyday chores. Shop with a paper bag, read food labels printed on paper, drink from a paper cup, write love letters on paper… do pretty much everything as a bee saving hero!
Carbon calculators, among other methods, are helping individuals reduce harmful footprints on the planet. But due to the Trump administration’s motion to save hazardous coal plants, our own actions are becoming futile. As time goes by, more organized acts from influential players and institutions become necessary to address the apparent regression caused by important global figures such as Trump.
Of most concern are the political issues that have to do with the environment. In retaliation to the retraction of Obama-era environmental campaigns, for instance, Bloomberg has been fighting to retire coal factories since last year.
“The war on coal has never been led by Washington. It has been led by market forces that are providing cleaner and cheaper sources of energy,” Bloomberg told reporters… “The war on coal is saving tens of thousands of lives, and we won’t stop fighting until we save every last one.”
It seems the Clean Power Plan, which has worked towards regulating harmful substances, may be coming to an end. To say environmental groups are infuriated may be an understatement.
“Coal jobs aren’t coming back,” Bloomberg said. “Trying to force taxpayers to subsidize them back into existence will only lead to more death and disease.”
In the hopes of retiring 259 U.S. coal plants, Bloomberg is contributing $64 million to activist group the Sierra Club. In total, the company has provided $100 million to assist the country in finding carbon-free sources. Plus, nowadays, it’s hard not to find inspiration when alternative eco-friendly options like solar power and wind energy are becoming more widespread and accessible.
Cheap labor or breathable air? I think I’ll take the latter.
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?