Monday, March 30, 2009

China counts down to Copenhagen

Greenpeace China projected a giant ticking clock on Beijing's old city gate in a bid to bring climate change back onto the nation's agenda. The glowing projection, which spread across the giant gate, read: "Time is Running Out to Stop Global Warming."

Ticking down the minutes to the UN climate meeting in Copenhagen at the end of this year, the clock was displayed for just one night on Yongding Gate in southern Beijing.

The main message of the evening was to call on China to play a strong leadership role at the UN meeting in Copenhagen in December.

“We urge President Hu Jintao to personally attend the Copenhagen climate meeting," Greenpeace China Climate and Energy campaigner Li Yan told media at the press event.

"As the largest global greenhouse emitter, China can and must take a leadership role in tackling global warming,” she added.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Earth Hour, Saturday 8:30-9:30 Worldwide


Take part in an amazing global event tomorrow. Earth Hour is asking everyone around the world to turn off their lights for just one hour. From 8:30-9:30pm local time people of all ages, nationalities, race and background have the opportunity to use their light switch as their vote – Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming. WWF are urging the world to VOTE EARTH and reach the target of 1 billion votes, which will be presented to world leaders at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009.

Sustainability in Metro Vancouver – how do we measure up?

This past Wednesday Metro Vancouver hosted another Sustainability Breakfast entitled: “Sustainability in Metro Vancouver – how do we measure up?“

The breakfast hosted three speakers discussing the current state of sustainability in the greater Vancouver area. The featured speakers include:
Johnny Carline, Commissioner/CAO of Metro Vancouver on the 2009 Metro Vancouver Sustainability Report;
David Marshall, Executive Director of the Fraser Basin Council on the 2009 State of the Fraser Basin Report - Sustainability Snapshot 4; and
Lidia Kemeny, Director, Partnerships & Projects, Grants & Community Initiatives of the Vancouver Foundation on the Vancouver Foundation’s Vital Signs for Metro Vancouver 2008.

The main concerns about sustainability in the region centered around transport and social sustainability - namely homelessness and affordable housing.

Other interesting statistics emerged surrounding environmental sustainability. Although people in Vancouver use significantly more water on average than other Canadians and even Americans, the per capita water use has been dropping since 1986. While the amount of waste that is recycled continues to grow, so does the amount of disposed solid waste. The trend in the weight of solid waste generated reflects the growing population and the economic prosperity of the region.

One of the interesting statistics that emerged from the Vancouver Foundations report surrounded the question that was asked, "Give an example of a specific event, action, or other thing that has improved the quality of life in metro Vancouver over the past 12 months?" 55% of respondents could not think of anything that had improved their lives in that time:

While all the reports are a bit lengthy, they do provide a number of interesting statistics surrounding sustainability in both greater Vancouver and the Fraser Basin.

Learn more about upcoming community breakfasts here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Amphibious Community/Health Center

The Hope Floats Initiative- Amphibious Community/Health Center is currently in the design process in Atlanta. It is hoped that if the prototype of the floating community center/clinic is successful it will then move to Makoko - a slum settlement of about 30,000 on the Atlantic coast within the city of Lagos, Nigeria

The team is currently in the process of finalizing all necessary permits. However, since the project is located within an illegal slum settlement, formal consent from the government may not be necessary. This shoreline slum includes some 30,000 diverse inhabitants most of which are illegal immigrants or the working poor. At present there is only one other known public health facility operated by a non-governmental organization (NGO) in the area.

This project is the next phase of Holcim Awards 'Next Generation' 1st prize 2008 Africa-Middle East entry 'Amphibious Dwellings in informal Settlements, Lagos Nigeria' The anticipated outcome of this project will be not only a free healthcare facility but also a clear demonstration of alternative means of developing informal settlements. With the joint effort of all stakeholders the module will thus become a catalyst for overall redevelopment of similar settlements which will utilize the energy and creativity of people to produce healthy and ecologically sound solutions to the housing crises in Lagos.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Solar clothing

The Guardian has a new slideshow called Best in show: Solar Clothing. The slideshow tracks the history of solar fashion so far. From bags that provide enough juice to power a laptop to umbrellas that gather solar power while you're enjoying a picnic. Innovative and creative ways to incorporate solar power into everyday wear.

Safeguarding Fresh Water - the Apu Pachatusan

March 22 is World Water Day. Water is essential for life and as such, the world's unique biodiversity and human communities both depend on water’s continued availability. However, only 1% of the Earth’s fresh water flows freely, and burgeoning human populations are making unsustainable demands on this vital resource that are already outstripping supply in many regions around the world. An estimated 1 out of every 6 people on Earth has no access to clean drinking water, 2 out of 6 people lack adequate sanitation and 4 out of six afflicted by water-borne illnesses.

We have come to rely on steady water flows for a significant portion of the world’s energy generation and food production. However, climate change represents a formidable threat, resulting in too much water in some places, and not enough in others. The degradation and decline of freshwater systems is now far too prevalent to be ignored. With the population expected to increase to 9 billion by 2050, and with much of that growth happening in poor developing countries, the global freshwater crisis is only going to get worse.

In the Peruvian Andes, the sacred valley of the Incas is witnessing a battle between climate change and human survival. The Apu Pachatusan is a seasonal glacier that rises over 15,000 feet above sea level (4,842 meters) and is one of the most important sites in the Inca religious world. It is currently in danger of vanishing as a result of climate change and deforestation.

Fortunately, the communities surrounding Apu Pachatusan have had the help of both the Machu Picchu Institute and Conservation International (CI) in Peru. The community has reforested over 74 acres (30 hectares) and is planning to plant over 190 acres (80 hectares) of native trees by the end of 2008.

Conservation International has an interactive website on Safeguarding Fresh Water where you can learn more about the Apu Pachatusan efforts as well as other communities around the world who are also trying to protect their water systems.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Water Footprint Calculator has developed a water footprint calculator to determine an individual's 'water footprint'. Your individual water footprint is equal to the water required to produce the goods and services consumed by you. The water footprint calculator was developed by the researchers at UNESCO-IHE to assess an individuals unique water footprint. The calculations are based on the water requirements per unit of product as in your country of residence.

The Water Footprint Network was developed with the recognition that human impacts on freshwater systems can ultimately be linked to human consumption and that issues like water shortages and pollution can be better understood and addressed by considering production and supply chains as a whole. It is increasingly acknowledged that local water depletion and pollution are often closely tied to the structure of the global economy. Many countries have significantly externalised their water footprint, importing water-intensive goods from elsewhere. This puts pressure on the water resources in the exporting regions, where too often mechanisms for wise water governance and conservation are lacking. Not only governments acknowledge their role in achieving a better management of water resources, also businesses and public-service organisations increasingly recognize their role in the interplay of actors involved in water use and management.

The Water Footprint Network works to develop standards (methods, guidelines, criteria) for water footprint accounting, water footprint impact assessment and the reduction and offsetting of the negative impacts of water footprints. In order to accomplish this they work at developing practical tools to support people and organisations interested in water footprint accounting, impact assessment and water footprint reduction and offsetting.

Monday, March 16, 2009

mstaps - Design from The Netherlands

Marieke Staps is a Dutch designer and creator of a number of innovative and beautiful pieces.

The Soil Lamp uses innovative design and is powered by environmentally friendly energy sourced from mud. The metabolism of biological life produces enough electricity to burn the LED light on the top. By adding a touch of water to the base of the lamp, the natural life force in the dirt conducts electricity through copper and zinc, powering the small bulb.

The Coat Rack works with turning parts. When needed to hang something, the parts turn out of the wall and act as hooks. If you flip them back you have a beautiful piece of art.

Explore more designs at

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Where's the Square?

The Vancouver Public Space Network is a grassroots collective that engages in advocacy, outreach and education on public space issues in and around Vancouver, British Columbia. This includes promoting creative, community-friendly urban design, fostering public dialogue and democratic debate, and devising creative ways to re-green the neglected corners, alleys and forgotten spaces of the city.

The Vancouver Public Space Network is currently running a Design Ideas Competition. The “Where’s the Square?” contest is open to anyone including city-lovers, planners, artists, philosophers, architects, urbanists, or anyone else who feels like they have an interesting and innovative plan for a grand gathering place inside the city boundaries.

The competition does have some parameters covering the size, accessibility, programming and utility of the square but most of it is up to the designer - there is no set location in mind, instead they are looking for entrants to come up with a plan for where the square could be situated.

The “Where’s the Square?” Competition runs until March 20, 2009 and is open to individuals or teams. There will be two prizes, based on a juried review of the entries as well as a “people’s choice award.”

For more information or to enter visit the VPSN's Where's the Square? website.

Recycled Lights and Lamps Designs

In WebEcoist's article Illuminating Reuse, they give 15 examples of lights made from recycled materials. Designers have taken advantage of egg cartons, Legos, ballpoint pens, blenders and plastic spoons and transformed them into into interesting light fixtures.

One of my favorites is the Light Bulb Lamp. The lamp creates a creative use for old incandescent bulbs. As everyone is making the switch to CFLs, it seems like a bit backwards to toss out your old lights. Bulbs Unlimited makes it easy to recycle them into a quirky light fixture with DIY kits that save old dead bulbs from an unpleasant fate in the landfill.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The power of green technology

From the 'zero watt PC' to a smart electricity meter that allows consumers to monitor their power consumption in real-time, Green IT is getting much attention at CeBIT - the world's largest trade fair showcasing digital IT and telecommunications solutions for home and work environments.

The number of vendors at Europe's largest technology trade fair has dwindled due to the global economic crisis but the environmental element of this show has branched out - growing six-fold over last year.

Sourch: Reuters

6 gadgets that could help green our lives

The Power-Hog is one of the six gadgets that New Scientist has chosen as novel designs that could cut our environmental impact. Designed to teach children about the cost of energy, the device controls the power supply to toys. It only lets electricity flow when coins are fed into the piggy bank. While this is primarily a symbolic action – the Power Hog's electricity prices don't match real electricity prices – it could encourage children to question their energy usage, say the designers.

Other gadgets chosen by New Scientist include window blinds that collect solar energy, a hand-powered printer and a Standby Monster

Yuken Teruya's Everyday Objects

Yuken Teruya was bron in Okinawa, Japan. As an artist he manipulates everyday objects to transform their meanings to reflect on contemporary society and culture. Cutting trees out of paper bags and cardboard toilet paper rolls, he creates meticulous and intricate art works, small and enchanting worlds, which relate to broader concerns. In each bag and roll, the shape of a tree is created without adding or removing anything, just by cutting out and folding the paper from the bag itself. Teruya’s works explore issues such as the growing consumerism of contemporary society, depleting natural resources and other problems associated with globalism, including the threat it poses to localized cultural traditions and identities.

Pizza Boxes, a McDonald's bag, Flags, Desserts and Toilet Paper rolls... when these items become artworks, they also easily become political, maybe because they are taken from daily life. But if you find unexpected shapes and colors from the toilet rolls, they become something else. It's not about politics anymore, and you can take out the idea of toilet paper roll to your house.

Without criticizing the present, I prefer to find new clues to problems that are likely to polarize.

I feel that my work shouldn't only have the function of conveying the artist's message. My works have a right to simply be beautiful or offer any kind of attraction.

Rug'n'Roll Chair

The 2nd annual i-deco Istanbul Decoration and Design Fair this past weekend billed itself as "inspired by nature". While there was little green in evidence in many of the designs on display, there were some designers working with recycled and alternative materials who displayed their multi-purpose furniture creations for small spaces.

Semiha Kan, a recent graduate from Istanbul Technical University, made a chair out of carpet samples. Her Rug'n'Roll chair incorporates layers of recycled colorful floor coverings.

Source: Treehugger

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Dirty Lie

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Chairman of Waterkeeper Alliance, announced today the launch of the group’s first national anti-coal campaign. Called “The Dirty Lie,” the campaign is intended to create broader awareness of the destructiveness of coal—from its role in propping up an antiquated fossil-fuel-based economy to its adverse effects on the environment and the health of millions of Americans—and, ultimately, to bring about a change in national energy policy.

The coal industry and their lobbyists want you to believe coal is clean. The truth is that coal pollutes water, devastates communities, forests and mountains, kills wildlife and contributes to climate change. Coal has poisoned drinking water and fish, contaminating bodies and babies with mercury and other toxins. Coal causes a long inventory of serious illnesses, including asthma, kidney and heart disease, cancer and premature death. Coal kills its own workers through irresponsible mining practices.

Instead of taking responsibility for the devastation and death they’ve caused, the coal industry has spent nearly $40 million in a cover up promoting clean coal, something that simply doesn’t exist. And it never will.

The more we learn about the coal industry and their dirty lies, the more power we will have to fight for a clean and safe environment and a renewable future. Pull the lever to learn more about the coal industry and their dirty lies.

The campaign’s hub is a fantastic website that will house video and editorial content and provide visitors with interactive tools to become anti-coal activists. The campaign is reaching beyond the traditional environmental community by using the most up-to-date online viral marketing techniques, with the goal of galvanizing broad popular interest via the web. No other environmental organization taking on the coal industry has attempted something this innovative.

The website’s core is a list of lies propagated by the coal industry, including the dirtiest lie of all: that coal can ever be clean. The site exposes the lies through scientific studies, legal facts, videos, and graphics, revealing the shocking truths about the destructiveness of the entire coal life cycle.

Source: Causecast


The 8747 House located outside Springfield, Mo is a minimalist home built from shipping containers.

Marty Montgomery, the creative mind behind the house, wanted an affordable, sustainable home that would blend into the natural surrounding. By working with the architectural firm Workshop 308, she was able to put her idea into motion.

"I just wandered in there one day and said 'I would like to build a house that's modern and I have $150,000 dollars to spend. I'd like it to look like it fits with the surroundings and has concrete floors, a lot of glass and maybe metal siding,'" Montgomery recollects. "And they knew exactly what I was talking about."

The firm's initial design did not fit within Montgomery's strict budget. As a cost-saving measure, she and architects hit upon the idea of using shipping containers for the infrastructure of the house. Using the containers results in a 40% cost savings over standard stick-frame construction. The sturdiness of the containers is also an asset in a tornado-prone area like Missouri.

The unique dimensions of the containers had to be considered in the design. Through the use of natural light and ventilation the home is made to feel less industrial. Recessed lighting and spray-foam insulation help offset the low ceilings and thin walls. Sustainable features of the home include solar water heaters, hydronic radiant heat flooring and energy-efficient windows and skylights.

Source: Waste Age