Tag Archives: sustainability

How the Ski Industry is Working to Save Winter

The outdoor industry is upping its sustainability game, and the ski industry is no exception. Downhill skiing is notoriously known for its environmental impact?anywhere large amounts of people flock is bound to be a recipe for excessive waste. But?hitting the slopes may arguably be the?most carbon-intensive outdoor sport.

In particular, ski slopes use incredible amounts of electricity, from slope-side lighting?and fuel-intensive snow-making to keeping things toasty inside for patrons drinking their apr?s hot cocoas. But?energy isn’t the only hungry environmental monster. In the French Alps, it is estimated that yearly artificial snow production requires the same amount of water as would be used by 1,500 people. That’s a lot of water waste for just a little fake snow. And that’s not to mention the impacts of fake snow on the natural environment, which requires immense energy to produce, causes water displacement, and melts 2 to 3 weeks later in the season than natural snow, which postpones snowmelt. Scientists are still unsure about the ramifications of this.

No one can argue that ski resorts have a lot to lose when it comes to climate change and warming global temperatures. They rely primarily on a cold, snowy winter season, so it is in the industry?s best interests to do all it can to thwart a complete environmental meltdown. And that?s why ski resorts nationwide are looking to seriously green up their acts.

Many ski areas have pledged to do all they can to keep up with Paris Climate Accord goals, even though the US government has pulled out. Green building policies are being implemented for new condominiums in order to protect nearby animal habitats. Ski California has already set goals for water conservation, land preservation, increased clean public transit options and general increased efficiency and sustainability all around.?There are?plenty of?ways to reduce?the skiing industry?s carbon footprint, and that’s great for both skiers and the industry at large.

But the ski industry is looking to?get even greener.

Resorts across the country are working to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and make the move towards renewable energy. Jiminy Peak in Western Massachusetts runs one third of its energy needs (two thirds in winter) off of wind power, and they are looking to reduce their carbon footprint more and more each year.

Even more impressive, California ski resort Squaw Valley has just released its plan to go 100 percent renewable by as early as December 2018. The move from fossils to renewables by the ski industry is hopefully the first step in a larger shift in outdoor recreation towards renewable energy. After all, in order to play outdoors you need a healthy, clean environment to do it in.

If you love skiing but have a green conscience, it is important to choose your resort destinations carefully. Factor in airline travel, the resort’s sustainability practices,?the gear and food you buy, weather and anything else to make sure you aren?t adding to the problem. And if your local slope isn?t greening it up, talk to the manager, show them what some other resorts are doing and discuss ways you think?cleaner practices?could increase their slope?s economic and environmental viability in tandem. Let’s be real: increased environmental consciousness will pay off for all of us?on the long run.

Do you love skiing? What do you think you could do on your own to make your season pass less carbon intensive? Share your best ideas below!? ??

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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How the Ski Industry is Working to Save Winter

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Can You Really Power Your Phone from a Solar Panel?

At approximately 4pm on Oct 18, my phone died. In our modern age, those words fill people with dread, as they mean your constant connection to the world’s information has been severed without your approval. Fortunately, I was near plenty of other computing devices, so I wasn’t entirely cut off, and I had ample access to power for recharging it. Whew, disaster averted!

Putting aside the argument of whether or not we’re too dependent on this type of technology, having a backup for charging your phone seems like a good idea. In my case, I had a small 6-watt solar panel available that I set up on a table outside. The setup was started at 4:25pm and less than an hour later, at 5:05 pm, I was able to power the phone up. It reported only 16 percent power, but it’s not a bad electricity haul for a partially overcast day and only 40 minutes of charging.

From this short trial, it was evident that one of these panels could be quite useful if normal grid power was unavailable. Another great use case could be mounting one of these to a backpack while hiking in order to keep your communication equipment active during a long trek.

Besides simply knowing that you can revive your phone in an emergency, another way to measure this type of unit’s effectiveness would be to calculate how long it would take to pay for itself and the power you’ll save using it. However, in the case of a phone at least, it would be a long, long time. According tothis on ZDNet, it takes only 84 cents per year to charge an iPhone 6 Plus, which has the biggest battery of the Apple phones. Similarly-sized Samsung phones would cost about the same, with older models costing less. My own very rough estimate of my phone’s power cost was .125 cents per charge, given a yearly cost of 46 cents per 365 days if charged every day.

Since my particular 6-watt panel cost nearly $70 with tax, this would mean a payback of roughly 150 years. If a good return on investment is your goal, perhaps putting your money into a savings account would be a better idea. Although things can always be better, it’s nice to step back once in a while and realize just how good we have it. The power for something that would have been considered a supercomputer 20 years ago can now fit in the palm of your hand and access a seemingly infinite amount of information. Each of these can be powered with roughly two quarters worth of power per year.

So a portable panel is a poor investment money-wise, but could be a good option if the power grid goes out. I did a little more testing at my house in the generally sunny region of Tampa, Florida. Tests are summarized in the following results:

Test 1 10/18/2016

My phone (Android Moto G) died. It was put out around 4:25 pm, with the panel pointed roughly toward the sun. I checked it at 5:05pm and was able to power it up. It was reading at only 16 percent at the time, and soon dropped to 15 percent, reporting a low battery.

Test 2 10/20/2016

I set up the charger on the table at 10:10am; it was collecting power within five minutes. Power initially read at 46 percent. It was placed on roughly the same spot as before, in a semi-shaded area, not really aimed towards the sun.

I checked my phone at 12:10pm. It was very bright at that moment and the charger was hot. The phone was resting under the charger to shield it and was warm. The phone read at 44 percentlower than before, but a two percent drop over two hours seems better than normal. The charging icon showed up immediately. Perhaps the charger did not give sufficient (or any) power to charge the panel during the earlier time, but the phone did start to charge later.

Test 3 10/21/2016

I set my phone on the same table at 12:50pm with a 53 percent charge. The panel was facing up, but it was not aimed toward the sun. I checked my phone at 2:21pm; it read at 72 percent power. It was still sunny out at the time, though a partial cloud cover was seen while checking. I checked again at 2:55pm and the phone read at 79 percent. It was sunny when the final check was made.

Test 4 10/24/2016

Hooked up an iPad 3 to the charger at 11:50am with a five percent charge. The sun was fairly bright, and when plugged in, I noticed that it read at six percent almost immediately after panel attachment, but the iPad didnt show as charging.

When I checked again at 4:52pm, it was in the shade from our house. Power read at 28 percent. The device had charged significantly, but it was definitely not at full power.

As you can see from these tests, charging from your house’s electrical grid is normally the best way to keep your electronics functional. On the other hand, though more costly, a home solar system can produce a much shorter payback period and give you some power backup options. If you just want a backup for your phone or tablet, perhaps one of these small panels would be a good fit!

Jeremy Cook is obsessed with tech and creating DIYs. He likes to test new gadgets, like the solar panel phone charger mentioned here, and gives some great advice on how to use them. To see a selection of Home Depot solar panel options,click here.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Can You Really Power Your Phone from a Solar Panel?

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10 Crazy Facts About Holiday Waste

The sustainability-minded junk removal service,Junk King, created an infographic detailing the embarrassing excess of waste we Americans conjure up over the holidays. We are terrible! Although really it comes as little surprise to anyone who has ever watched footage of the national bloodsport of competitive shopping known as Black Friday.

We love the holiday junk and all its trappings and wrappings. How much? Well put it this way: Between Thanksgiving and January 1, we gift the landfills with an additional one million tons of waste per week. (Note: I don’t normally condone making nouns into verbs, as in gifting, but find it oddly soothing when describing something that rankles me so.)

Anyway, back to the facts, graphic-style:

Credit: Junk King

Junk King also came up with these tips to help combat the waste many of which you may have heard before (some things can’t be mentioned enough):

Wrap creatively:Wrapping paper and gift bags arent the only way to wrap presents. Try using a different material that you already have around your house. Newspaper, sheet music, and old maps are fun choices and are much more unique than commercial wrapping paper. You could also use scarves, t-shirts, or other fabric to wrap gifts. That way, the wrapping could be a gift as well!

Buy a potted tree:Every year, nearly 33 million live trees are sold across North America. Considering how much paper that we waste, saving a tree is the least that we can do. Buy a potted tree this year instead of cutting one down. This way, after the holidays are over and its time to take down the decorations, you can plant the tree in your own backyard.

Regift:Around 35% of Americans have an unopened or unused gift collecting dust somewhere. Instead of taking up valuable space or throwing it away, find it a new home. If you dont know of anyone who would like the gift, take it to a donation center. During the holidays, there are plenty of organizations collecting gifts for those who are less fortunate.

Give sustainably:There are a number of small steps that you can take to make your gift a little bit more environmentally friendly. For example, if youre giving a battery-powered gift, consider gifting a reusable battery charger along with it! If youre giving someone something made from paper, like a journal, try to find one thats made from recycled paper. Buying a handmade gift from a local shop or online store, or even making a gift yourself, can also help reduce waste, as these products are not mass-produced.

Go digital:About 2.6 billion cards are given to people every year. That amounts to just about 50,000 cubic yards of paper — enough to fill a football field 10 stories high! And no matter how sentimental they may be, they usually end up stashed away in a box or thrown away. Instead of paying for overpriced, wasteful cardstock, send an electronic greeting card for free!

Donate your leftovers:Holiday meals are usually big ordeals, and its always better to have too much than too little, but most of the time the leftovers are too much to handle. Instead of wasting perfectly good food, consider bringing your leftovers to a local homeless shelter. There are plenty of people who go hungry during the holidays, and your donation could make a world of difference to someone in need.

Written by Melissa Breyer. This post originally appeared on TreeHugger.

Photo Credit: Jeff Egnaczyk/Flickr

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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10 Crazy Facts About Holiday Waste

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How Oyster Farming is Cleaning Our Water

American palates are becoming more and more refined these days, with trends like pescetarianism and the farm-to-table movement increasing the demand for locally raised fish and shellfish. Overfishing remains a huge problem and so do contaminated waterwaysbut there may be a simple, natural solution on the horizon: oysters.

Increased Demand for Local Shellfish

Oyster farming on the East Coast has doubled in the past six years, according to NPR, and its no mystery why. Americans who can afford to do so are becoming increasingly interested in where their food comes from. They want local, sustainable, organic, antibiotic-free food and this desire has made a big mark in both foodie culture and agriculture.

“As much food as possibly can go on my plate at the least amount of money I can spend used to be the way things were,” says Jimmy Parks, a chef and owner of the Butcher Station in Winchester, Virginia. “Now people are getting away from that, and they’re gravitating toward … cleaner sources.”

For some species, like salmon and tuna, this trend may be alarming. Fish farms are notoriously dirty and bad for the planet, with antibiotics, unnatural fish feed, overpopulation and huge amounts of waste putting a strain on oceanic and river ecosystems.

Oysters, however, are a different story.

Oysters as Natural Water Filters

For one thing, oyster farming has an extremely low carbon footprint. According to the environmental news blog Grist, oysters are one of the cleanest animal protein sources you can eat in terms of carbon emissions.

Additionally, oysters act as natural water purifiers. According to The Nature Conservancy, roughly 40 percent of U.S. waterways are currently considered too polluted for swimming or fishing. Oysters can help change that. Grist reports that a mature oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water every day. That means that just one acre of populated oyster territory can filter 140 million gallons of water per day.

The mighty bivalves are ocean filters, Grist reports. Oysters soak up nitrogen through their flesh, turning the nutrient into a benign gas. They absorb nitrogen into their shells, too, and can store it there for decades, or even centuries, long after the little creature inside its shell is dead. At their most plentiful, the Chesapeakes oysters were capable of filtering all 18 trillion tons of bay water in about a week, rendering it nearly crystal clear.

Gulnihal Ozbay, an oyster researcher at the University of Delaware, told NPR that oysters not meant for consumption could be added to polluted waterways to help purify them, hopefully making them more appropriate for swimming, drinkingand fishing down the road.

Rebuilding Ecosystems and Economies

Finally, oysters stand to improve the health of some very important ecosystems: those of local waterways and our own human economies.

“The coolest thing is within our cages we see these little shrimp-like creatures that actually eat the pseudofeces of the oysters, Tim Devine, a Maryland-based oyster farmer, tellsNPR. And then things like seahorses and crabs and other things eat those little guys, and then the food chain has begun.”

This helps create a reef-like ecosystem within the waterway, bolstering aquatic populations and filtering water to boot.

From a human population perspective, these mighty little mollusks also play a strong role in maintaining balanced local economies. For years, Chesapeake Bay fisherman survived on proceeds from oyster hunting and sales. When oyster populations collapsed due to overfishing, many oystermen considered making career changes.

I tell you, there was nothing left, fisherman Johnny Shockley told Grist. We knew every spot there was in this river that was a good oyster bottom, and they were all gone.”

Maryland only legalized aquaculture (oyster and clam farming) as recently as 2009. Since then, the economy around oysters and other shellfish has begun to recover, to the relief of many local fisherman and their families.

Oysters are small creatures, but they sure can make a big impact, and its tiny steps that could add up to big changes for our oceans and waterways.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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How Oyster Farming is Cleaning Our Water

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Eco-Friendly Passive Homes Don’t Need AC to Stay Cool

While Americans look for ways to make their homes more efficient, European designerscontinue building energy-sealed, so-called passive homes that make our Energy Star appliances look like minimal contributions to the cause. Passive architecture has caught on in the Pacific Northwest and abroad, but its yet to take hold in most of the United States. Have you heard about the passive home trend?

What is Passive Design?

Passive homes are extremely energy-efficient buildings that require no air conditioning or heating systems. They are sealed so tightly that no air can escape the interior of the home, leading to absolutely minimal heat transfer. As a result, the temperature in the home stays extremely comfortable year-round, resulting in a huge decrease in energy expenditure.

So how do builders make this happen? It all starts with very, very thick walls. According to the New York Times, a passive home built in a cold state like Minnesota wouldrequire walls that are up to 18 inches thick. Windows are also paned multiple times and are manufactured with a similar thick design.

Humidity is kept in check and air recycled through ventilators that mix fresh, outside air with inside air. These systems use only minimal energy and keep the air inside the structure feeling fresh and clean.

All of these factors result in huge energy savings, but owners of passive homes will tell you that even the reduced heating bill costs cant match the greatest benefit of living in a climate-controlled environment: comfort.

What matters is that I have never lived in such a comfortable house, Don Freas of Olympia, Washington, told the New York Times.

Why Hasnt the Trend Caught on in the US?

The U.S. is lagging behind other countries when it comes to implementing passive technology. The knowledge of how to build these structures has been around since the 1990s, but because gas and energy remain relatively affordable in the U.S.as opposed to in other countries, where they are much more expensive, incentivizing homeowners to make energy-efficient decisionsAmerican homeowners have been slow to jump on the bandwagon.

Nearly 30,000 of these houses have already been built in Europe, reports the New York Times. In Germany, an entire neighborhood with 5,000 of these super-insulated, low-energy homes is under construction, and the City of Brussels is rewriting its building code to reflect passive standards.

So far in the U.S., only 90 passive homes have been certified. Some builders argue that the reason for slow U.S. growth has been the countrys vastly varying climate. While passive homes are relatively popular in the Pacific Northwest where the climate is mild and comparable to that of Europe, they require different technologies to function in the humid Midwest, cold northern regions and hot Southwest.

If U.S. builders can learn to adapt for the countrys various climates, it could be a boon for the environment. Mother Earth News reports that while an Energy Star-certified home could save energy expenditure by about 20 to 30 perfect, a passive home would increase that efficiency to 90 percent. Well have to see how passive homebuilding stacks up to other energy-saving building practices in the U.S. moving forward.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Eco-Friendly Passive Homes Don’t Need AC to Stay Cool

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A Student of ‘Cultural Environmentalism’ Explores the Many Views of Earth’s Anthropocene ‘Age of Us’

A writer who explores the meanings of nature takes a tour of the growing array of views of the proposed Anthropocene epoch of Earth history. View original article:   A Student of ‘Cultural Environmentalism’ Explores the Many Views of Earth’s Anthropocene ‘Age of Us’ ; ; ;

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A Student of ‘Cultural Environmentalism’ Explores the Many Views of Earth’s Anthropocene ‘Age of Us’

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While They Were Shouting – A Botanist’s Lament About Presidential Politics

A lifelong student and defender of biological diversity laments the lack of a broader view of issues in today’s presidential politics. Originally posted here –  While They Were Shouting – A Botanist’s Lament About Presidential Politics ; ; ;

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While They Were Shouting – A Botanist’s Lament About Presidential Politics

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10 Simple Things You Can Do to Save Money & Energy


10 Simple Things You Can Do to Save Money & Energy

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Sorry, But the Perfect Lego Brick May Never Be Eco-Friendly


Everything isn’t awesome. simone mescolini/Shutterstock Legos just click. If you’ve ever played with a competing brand of “interlocking plastic bricks,” you know that Lego’s big advantage is their solidity, their seemingly infinitesimal tolerances that make sure every piece fits just so with every other. The seams turn invisible. The secret to that tight connection (and how painful Legos are to step on): plastic. Specifically, a very tough plastic called ABS, or acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene, three polymers derived from petroleum. So last month, Lego announced that it would launch, later this year or next, a Sustainable Materials Centre—100 engineers, chemical engineers, and materials experts all trying to find an eco-friendly replacement for ABS and other ingredients in the company’s toys. Finding those replacements will be tougher than getting a one-by-one piece off a wide base plate. (That’s hard.) ABS is great. It’s precisely moldable; every Lego block has to be identical to others of its type to within 4 microns, from batch to batch, year after year. ABS also takes color well, so a wall of red bricks looks the same across its entire surface. You can print on it, it’s durable—important for a toy that gets passed down through generations—and, most of all, ABS can create what Lego calls good “clutch” power, the ability to stick to other bricks until kids pull them apart. Plus, what does “sustainability” mean in this context? Right now, companies can define that word pretty much however they want. No carbon emissions cutoff exists to qualify a material—and even if one did, it’s notoriously difficult to tally up those emissions. A sustainable material could be renewable or recyclable or both (or neither). Read the rest at Wired.

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Sorry, But the Perfect Lego Brick May Never Be Eco-Friendly

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Sorry, But the Perfect Lego Brick May Never Be Eco-Friendly

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You’re Wasting More Food Than You Think

Mother Jones

America wastes insane amounts of food. Pretty much everyone knows that. It turns out, however, that hardly anyone thinks they’re among those who trash perfectly edible food. In a new study from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) published this morning in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers surveyed 1,010 nationally representative Americans to better understand the public’s perception of food waste, and discovered that three-quarters of them believe they waste less food than the national average.

Despite the fact that as much as 40 percent of American food goes uneaten—primarily from homes, stores, and restaurants, and at a cost of more than $160 billion a year—”Americans perceive themselves as wasting little,” said study leader and director of the Food System Sustainability & Public Health Program at CLF, Roni Neff in a statement. “But in reality, we are wasting substantial quantities.” The average American family wastes between $1,365 to $2,275 worth of food and beverages annually.

We waste so much, in fact, that New York City’s Sanitation Department wants to require restaurants, catering companies, grocery stores, and others to start composting all of their wasted food by July 1, but is concerned that that the city may not have the capacity to handle it all. Currently, the nine facilities in the area can only compost a measly 100,000 tons of waste. (If all New Yorkers were to start composting, they’d produce an estimated one million tons of wasted food.)

More than a third of the survey’s respondents claimed they don’t throw away food at all or very little. The top reasons listed for wanting to throw out less food were to save money and set a positive example for children. Environmental reasons came in last—despite the profound environmental impacts of wasted food, which accounts for a quarter of the fresh water supply and 300 million gallons of oil a year.

The study, in addition to asking about individuals’ food waste habits, also covered general awareness, knowledge, and attitudes towards wasted food. Read the study to see how all the questions break down here.

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You’re Wasting More Food Than You Think

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