Solar Farm In China Proves That Sustainability Can Be Fun

Solar power, despite its benefits, doesn’t usually get the attention it deserves. While we don’t normally consider sustainability ‘fun’, China seems to think it can prove otherwise. Datong hosts the Panda Power Plant, which–you guessed it!–is shaped adorably like a panda.

There’s a new contender for the cutest solar farm in the world: the Panda Power Plant, which will have an aggregate installed capacity of 100 MW. The black parts of the panda… will be comprised of monocrystalline silicone solar cells, with the grey and white tummy and face composed of thin film solar cells.

The power plant does not only provide clean energy. Its activity center hopes to educate schoolchildren on the benefits of sustainable development. When I was a kid, it was simply lights off, or else!

The 100 MW Panda Power Plants will be able to offer 3.2 billion kilowatt-hours of green power in 25 years… saving 1.056 million tons of coal and reducing carbon emissions by 2.74 million tons.

Over the past year, China has become a new contender in clean energy, also providing its citizens with air-purifying bikes. Perhaps pandas (and humans) will get the breath of fresh air they so desperately deserve!

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Smoggy China Gets Air-Purifying Bicycles

It’s time for China to kiss face masks goodbye, because ofo has just come up with an even better solution for the smog-infested country. Partnering up with TEZIGN, ofo has developed a high-tech bicycle that cycles and purifies air, soon to be available to 20 million people.

The bicycles work similarly to Roosegaarde’s Smog Free Tower by providing “a healthy and energy-friendly solution for urbanites, combatting both traffic congestion and pollution issues in the city.” Both the Smog Free Tower and the smog-free bicycles are part of Roosegaarde’s larger vision to fill cities with fresh air.

The project is currently being productized in China and the Netherlands. The eco-bike is not only a huge breakthrough in China’s air pollution problem–it is also reviving a centuries-old bicycle culture.

“Beijing used to be an iconic bicycle city. We want to bring back the bicycle as a cultural icon of China and as the next step towards smog free cities.”

Looks like China can now bid jars of air adieu.

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Walk Smart On These Power-Generating Streets

Society is becoming increasingly more sustainable each year, which means there are always new (and interesting!) methods of saving and producing energy. Most recently, Pavegen has heralded the world’s first energy-harvesting smart street, an innovation that could easily shake up the nation.

Pavegen installed a 107-square-foot array in Bird Street to harness and convert the power of footsteps into electricity, which will supply energy for lights and bird sounds in the area. Bluetooth Low-Energy transmitters are also part of this array, so that users can interact with the array via apps. People can see their steps on the energy-harvesting pavement translate into discounts, vouchers, and clean electricity.

The technology’s interactive feature will surely have shoppers making rounds on Bird Street.

Pavegen CEO Laurence Kemball-Cook said in a statement, “Being able to demonstrate how our technology can bring to life the retail shopping experience is a vital step for us. As retailers compete with online, technologies like ours make being in the busy high street more exciting and rewarding for people and brands alike.”

Bird Street also fashions Airlite air-purifying paint, making it one of the U.K.’s most trendy and sustainable avenues.

Technology never fails to amaze me.

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Take A Walk With These Eco-Friendly Shoes

I’ll admit–while I’m all for recycled fashion, I am useless with a needle and thread. That being said, I am always on the hunt for sustainable pieces I can add to my wardrobe. As a huge fan of Clarks footwear, I was quick to jump on pre-orders for their new Vivobarefoot Ultra Blooms, which are made from biomass algae.

The soft, super-light running shoes use the same design as Vivobarefoot’s regular Ultra line. They’re flexible enough to scrunch up into a ball, with a thin white sole that’s topped by a perforated upper. They’re built for use on dry land and in rivers and oceans, where the Swiss-cheese holes flush water out.

Algae, which, in excess, damages marine habitats and reduces drinkable water supply, is a practical and affordable material for production.

Clark says the foam in each pair of Ultra Blooms will recycle 57 gallons of filtered water back into natural habitats while saving 40 party balloons worth of carbon dioxide by removing the excess algae from the environment.

According to Clarks, with the amount of algae available worldwide, billions of pairs of shoes can be easily manufactured.

Would you run a marathon in these shoes?

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Trash Photography Project Sends An Important Message

I was in the fourth grade when my class was asked to participate in a recycled art project. Sifting through our bins that afternoon was easy. Majority of what we had tossed were things that were still fairly useful–bottles, various containers, and the like. I had built a house of mostly plastic. It was fitting, seeing as households are dumpsites in themselves. Just to show the public how much we waste in a few years time, French artist Antoine Repessé collected his recyclables for four years and produced stunning trash-inspired photographs.

Antoine Repessé stopped throwing away recyclable waste like plastic bottles, toilet paper tubes or newspapers back in 2011, storing it in his apartment, instead.

Over the four-year period of his project, Antoine collected 1,600 milk bottles, 4,800 toilet rolls, and 800 kg of newspapers, among other things, which he later used as props for a powerful photo series on modern consumerism, called #365 Unpacked.

Repessé’s reasons for embarking on such an ambitious project were hardly personal. He needed to educate viewers.

“I was interested into seeing how an object can lose its singularity when it becomes a part of something massive. We’re often told about the amount of waste we produce, but I think a picture can be more powerful and impactful than a ton of words,”

Many large companies have taken on the responsibility of minimizing waste through various methods. However, it’s households that have yet to participate.

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Printing Paper Is Saving Trees

Have you ever attended a paper-free lecture class where subject readings were circulated online to ‘protect the environment’? My university career consisted of printing on both sides, because saving more paper meant saving more trees. If you are anything like I was in university, HP thinks you may be wasting your efforts, as there doesn’t seem to be a correlation between printing and saving trees.

“Printing by itself is actually a very environmentally friendly technology,” [said Enrique Lores, president of the company’s printing business]

“We have done a lot of work to understand where the paper comes from. It is coming from trees that were planted to become paper. It’s not coming from the forest in the Amazon.”

Have your notions of where paper comes from now been shattered? Mine certainly have. Printing more paper equals planting more trees. It’s far from deforestation. In fact, it’s referred to as sustainable forestry.

To meet the voluntary [Forest Stewardship Council] criteria, forest managers have to demonstrate that their land is ecologically intact and complies with conservation laws.

In addition to supporting sustainable forests, HP is also stepping up its efforts to recycle ink cartridges, including a new project to buy plastic from discarded bottles in Haiti.

However, while sustainable forestry has its benefits, not everyone is a fan. The Rainforest Foundation in the United Kingdom is advocating stricter government regulation on the use of forests.

Are you going on a printing spree?

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Living Green: The House That Produces Its Own Power

I’ll admit–every now and then I forget my recycling and leave the tap running while I’m brushing my teeth. I don’t use solar power and love my air-conditioning, but make a conscious effort to run errands on my bike. More often than not, the reason many people fail to live a more sustainable lifestyle is due to one thing–time, or a lack of it. But the HouseZero project is aiming to ease our load by making households ultra-efficient.

The performance goals set forth for HouseZero include: zero carbon emissions, including the materials; 100% natural ventilation and daylight autonomy; and near-zero energy use for heating and cooling.

Too good to be true? I hope not. HouseZero even claims that all its goals will be met without materially or visually affecting a house’s appearance.

There are more than 14 million homes like the one being retrofitted in this project across the United States, and the success of HouseZero will hopefully inspire more retrofits like it.

Ali Malkawi, director of the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities, suggests that the solution lies not in energy production, but in energy reduction.

To further diminish your carbon footprint, moderate your demands.

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Turning Trash Into Fashion

With a steady rise in global population comes an undeniable increase in waste. Seeing a rapid decline of resources, we are constantly on the hunt for a more sustainable lifestyle–and that includes recycled fashion! Eco-friendly firm “Miniwiz” is encouraging households and industries to ‘upcycle’, or reuse materials creatively.

Most of fashion’s assumed pollution problem comes from its supply chain and its materials. It can take more than 20,000 liters of water to produce a single kilo of cotton.

Recycling regular household and industry goods could offer another sustainable model for a broader range of fashion companies.

A plastic gown wouldn’t bother me if it made me look like a queen.

Exhibitionists of traveling show “Gardening the Trash” have also taken a new perspective on trash.

“We used to look at waste as a problem, but it actually is an opportunity, and it takes all the knowledge of the community. Trash is now the new medium to do things differently.”

“We want to shape and create the dimensional effect, to demonstrate trash is a material with a lot of possibilities,”

The fashion world is becoming more well-versed in the likes of renewable energy and recycling, without faltering in style. The H&M Conscious Collection, Freedom of Animals, and Kowtow are just a few brands that have hopped onto the sustainable train. So quit the fur and leather and opt for something more environmentally friendly. After all, rabbits are much cuter in action.

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Paw Pods: Eco-Friendly Pet Burials

The loss of a pet, no matter how prepared we think we are, is always more devastating than we’d expect. The feeling is often equivalent to coping with the death of a family member. While most pets are honored with the classic backyard burial, Paw Pods hopes to pave the way towards proper pet funerals–and in a sustainable manner, too.

The urns and pods from Paw Pods are all made from bamboo powder, rice husk, and corn starch, and are designed to be decorated with paint, markers, or other craft items as a way for grieving kids and adults to express their feelings through art, and then after burial, to fully biodegrade within 3 to 5 years.

What about fish? While a flush funeral is about as traditional as you can get, it might not do much good for your plumbing. But not to worry, Paw Pods has also considered pods for smaller animals.

Paw Pods offers the Fish Pod, which is fish-shaped, as a way for kids to “avoid the trauma of seeing a pet flushed down the toilet,” as well as a mini pod for small pets, medium pods for pets such as cats, birds, rabbits, and smaller dogs, and large pods for dogs and other bigger animals.

Also available are urns and memorial cards filled with perennial flower seeds for a nice garden touch.

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Want To Fight Climate Change? Here’s How You Can Help

Climate change has been a hot topic for years. As it continues to worsen, we seem to have surrendered to the idea that there isn’t much we can do to stop it. What we don’t know is that now, more than ever, individual actions are all we need to make a difference.

There are simple ways to contribute within your home:

A simple home energy audit can show how much energy your home consumes.

Quality LED lightbulbs can last 25 times longer, are more durable, and use at least 75 percent less energy than other bulbs.

Water management not only helps cities become more resilient in the face of… natural disasters, but also saves energy.

Adding insulation, weather stripping, and caulking around your home can cut energy bills by more than 25 percent.

Cutting out meat, or even reducing consumption and favoring fish and chicken, can seriously save carbon.

Don’t drink bottled water. Landfills already contain more than 2 million tons of plastic bottles.

Outside the comfort of one’s home, there are many options within your community:

Support publications reporting on climate change. Great journalism makes us all better citizens and helps us learn more about the issues.

If your company has [a corporate sustainability initiative], find ways to get involved.

Take steps to completely neutralize your carbon footprint.

Shop local. It’s simple, straightforward, and an easy addition to your routine that supports local businesses.

Every action you take matters.

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