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Happy, Healthy Cows, and More Milk


Photo via Daily Mail, credit SWNS

Swinging Cow Wash Means Happy, Healthy Cows, and More Milk

The cow wash is a free-swinging brush that starts rotating when a cow rubs up against it. The cow can move around the brush as it pleases, getting rubbed wherever it wants – along its sides, back, and head.

The Daily Mail writes that the cow wash increases milk production by about 3.5% through improving blood circulation and decreasing the likeliness that cows will suffer disease. The company has already sold 30,000 cow washes in Sweden, and is moving on to the UK.

The cows definitely seem to enjoy it!

Though there are serious environmental issues with raising cows for milk (let alone beef), it’s not likely that we’ll see an end to dairy farming. So hats off to the dairy farmers who are doing all they can to make sure their cows are happy, healthy, and treated humanely.

Photo via Daily Mail, credit SWNS

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Football is green. Waka! Waka!


2030 Vision of Urban Transport



Our Cities Ourselves is on view from June 24 to September 11, 2010

Center for Architecture
536 LaGuardia Place, NY, NY 10012

Our Cities Ourselves: The Future of Transportation in Urban Life explores the creation of better cities through better transportation and demonstrates what is possible when we design our cities for ourselves.

By 2030, sixty percent of the world’s population will live in cities. As cities become increasingly dense, personal automobiles will become less and less feasible transport options. Sustainable transportation will be the key to the health of our cities, our own health, and the health of the environment.

In honor of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy’s 25th anniversary, Our Cities Ourselves envisions sustainable urban futures for ten major global cities: Ahmedabad, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Dar es Salaam, Guangzhou, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Mexico City, New York City and Rio de Janeiro. In each city, ITDP field offices and international architects propose ideal transportation futures grounded in current conditions. The proposals present safe, vibrant streets that promote social and economic equality, privilege mass transit, bicyclists and pedestrians, and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Exhibition Architects:
Ahmedabad, India | HCP Design and Project Management
Budapest, Hungary | Varos-Teampannon and Kozlekedes
Buenos Aires, Argentina | PALO Arquitectura Urbana
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania | Adjaye Associates
Guangzhou, China | Urbanus Architecture & Design
Jakarta, Indonesia | Budi Pradono Architects
Johannesburg, South Africa | Osmond Lange Architects and Ikemeleng Architects
Mexico City, Mexico | arquitectura 911sc
New York City, United States | Terreform and Michael Sorkin Studio
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | Fábrica Arquitetura and CAMPO

Source : AIANY |  OurCitiesOurselves

Solving Problems With Sustainable – and Beautiful – Design



‘Why Design Now?’, a new exhibition in NYC, explores ways to solve problems with innovative design

Timothy Prestero designed a baby incubator for hospitals in the developing world that could be made cheaply from Toyota truck parts. Mallory Taub and fellow students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created an inexpensive, easy-to-build dome using locally made bricks. John Todd’s Eco-Machine, in use in more than 100 locations, provides a sustainable alternative to traditional wastewater treatment, a natural system that’s not only practical but beautiful.

Visitors exploring the wide-ranging “Why Design Now?” exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City are likely to come away in awe of how designers such as these are employing their creativity to become 21st-century problem-solvers.

This year’s triennial, the fourth in a series that appears every three years at the museum, breaks new ground by going beyond the work of US designers, highlighting 134 projects from 44 countries.

IN PICTURES: Designs from “Why Design Now?” at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum

The show, which opened May 14, focuses on the way design can help solve pressing world needs.

“I think design is going to be the major tool of this century to help solve many of these problems,” says Cara McCarty, curatorial director at the Cooper-Hewitt and one of four curators who pulled the enormous project together. “Good design can push people’s thinking. This show is tackling issues that go way beyond our borders.”

Organized around eight themes – energy, mobility, community, materials, prosperity, health, communication, and simplicity – “Why Design Now?” gives a passing nod to the innovative design expressed by a few iconic consumer items launched in the last three years – the multitasking iPhone; the Kindle wireless reader; and Twitter, the online social network.

But most of the exhibits will surprise, perhaps startle, and in some cases delight viewers.

“Design is about optimism,” Ms. McCarty says. “Design is finding solutions. This is not a doom-and-gloom show.”

Labels for each work answer why it is in the show – what makes it unique and useful in the world. While most of the objects are in production and available to buy, some are still prototypes. Many express a combination of both beauty and utility – while also embracing the need to be environmentally responsible.

“Today, as designers strive to simplify production processes and consume fewer materials in smaller amounts,” notes the exhibition catalog, “the quest for simplicity is shaping design’s economic and ethical values as well as its sense of beauty.”

For example, when in use, the Power Aware Cord glows a soothing ice blue. But it also reminds the user that whatever device it is attached to is consuming electricity. The Cobi office chair combines elegant design and comfort with the ultimate in reuse: It can be completely recycled.

The bioWAVE Ocean-wave Energy System, a prototype from Australia shown only on video, looks to the motion of the natural world for inspiration. Attached to the seabed, it would rock gently in tune with ocean currents, mimicking swaying sea grass and seaweed. Each unit could produce up to 2 megawatts of power. A field of such machines would become a sizable undersea power plant.

Among other places, the Eco-Machine cleans the wastewater at the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, N.Y., two hours north of New York City. Dr. Todd’s system passes dirty water through naturally occurring enzymes, fungi, bacteria, plants, and animals (insects and fish) in a series of pond and greenhouse settings.

“We go into the local environment and literally bring in hundreds of thousands of forms of life and let them sort themselves out” inside his Eco-Machine, he says. “It’s called ‘seeding.’ ”

Part of the Eco-Machine even grows flowers for display in the centers. Eventually the water returns to the aquifer, “cleaner than water from a conventional wastewater treatment plant”, says Laura Lesniewski, a principal at BNIM, an architectural firm in Kansas City that designed the building. “This whole system doesn’t cost any more than if they replaced it with a traditional septic system.”

Demonstrating a modern twist on an ancient technique, the MIT Masonry Research Group used 720 bricks made from 30 percent raw sewage and postindustrial waste to build a 16-foot-wide undulating arch inside the Cooper-Hewitt. The student team took three days to complete the structure.

The bricks are only 1-1/2 inches thick, yet the arch is so strong that two MIT students have stood atop a similar structure built on the campus.

“We’re trying to show that bricks can do more than make a wall,” Ms. Taub says. “Bricks can span surfaces. They can do that in a very beautiful, innovative way.”

Special computer-designed curves within the arch add to its strength.

“It’s very strong, even though it’s very thin,” she says. It can be built by unskilled laborers who lay the bricks over a simple wooden form.

The design for the Neonurture Car-parts Baby Incubator rested on a simple fact.

“Think of it,” says Mr. Prestero, founder and CEO of Design That Matters in Cambridge, Mass. “There are three things you can buy anywhere in the world: a Coke, cigarettes, and car parts.”

Most medical equipment donated to the developing world breaks or is abandoned for lack of parts within a few years, he says. But major automakers such as Toyota already extend their parts supply lines into the remotest corners of the world.

Incubators are used to keep infants warm for the first 24 hours after birth. “There are 1.8 million infant deaths per year because of hypothermia,” Prestero says. Having a working incubator at a local hospital or clinic could save many lives.

A Toyota truck has about 17,000 parts, he says. His team’s design objective was to “take away all the parts that aren’t an incubator.” The result looks a bit like a street vendor’s cart or baby carriage hiding a car battery for generating heat. At first Prestero thought parents would want something designed to look comfortable and friendly. But instead, he found, they wanted the reassurance of a high-tech look – “NASA, not IKEA.”

Creating a “warm box” for the infant isn’t hard, he concedes. But keeping the design simple can be. “We want to make it easy to do the right thing and hard to do the wrong thing,” he says. As a result, the incubator has a single knob to control the temperature and requires minimal training to operate.

The Cooper-Hewitt’s four curators spent three years searching for innovative and world-changing designs. A museum website solicited ideas from the public, many of which were included.

The design of the exhibition itself tries to “walk the walk” of sustainability. The furniture, for example, is made from 100 percent postindustrial recycled wood. At every step of the way, efforts were made to reduce waste and choose materials that took little energy to manufacture and ship and were recyclable. It’s all meant to inspire visitors.

“This [exhibition] is about how can we solve the world’s problems together,” McCarty says. “Hopefully people will walk out asking, ‘What can I do? What difference can I make?’ ”

• “National Design Triennial: Why Design Now?” runs through Jan. 9, 2011, and is expected to travel to venues both within the US and abroad.

Source : CSMonitor

How Green Is My iPad?


By DANIEL GOLEMAN and GREGORY NORRIS

With e-readers like Apple’s new iPad and Amazon’s Kindle touting their vast libraries of digital titles, some bookworms are bound to wonder if tomes-on-paper will one day become quaint relics. But the question also arises, which is more environmentally friendly: an e-reader or an old-fashioned book?

To find the answer, we turned to life-cycle assessment, which evaluates the ecological impact of any product, at every stage of its existence, from the first tree cut down for paper to the day that hardcover decomposes in the dump. With this method, we can determine the greenest way to read.

(A note about e-readers: some technical details — for instance, how those special screens are manufactured — are not publicly available and these products vary in their exact composition. We’ve based our estimates on a composite derived from available information. It’s also important to keep in mind that we’re focusing on the e-reader aspect of these devices, not any other functions they may offer.)

One e-reader requires the extraction of 33 pounds of minerals. That includes trace amounts of exotic metals like columbite-tantalite, often mined in war-torn regions of Africa. But it’s mostly sand and gravel to build landfills; they hold all the waste from manufacturing wafer boards for the integrated circuits. An e-reader also requires 79 gallons of water to produce its batteries and printed wiring boards, and in refining metals like the gold used in trace quantities in the circuits.

A book made with recycled paper consumes about two-thirds of a pound of minerals. (Here again, the greatest mineral use is actually gravel, mainly for the roads used to transport materials throughout the supply chain.) And it requires just 2 gallons of water to make the pulp slurry that is then pressed and heat-dried to make paper.

FOSSIL FUELS The e-reader’s manufacture, along a vast supply chain of consumer electronics, is relatively energy-hungry, using 100 kilowatt hours of fossil fuels and resulting in 66 pounds of carbon dioxide. For a single book, which, recycled or not, requires energy to form and dry the sheets, it’s just two kilowatt hours, and 100 times fewer greenhouse gases.

HEALTH The unit for comparison here is a “disability adjusted life-year,” the length of time someone loses to disability because of exposure to, say, toxic material released into the air, water and soil, anywhere along the line. For both the book and the e-reader, the main health impacts come from particulate emissions like nitrogen and sulfur oxides, which travel deep into our lungs, worsening asthma and chronic coughing and increasing the risk of premature death. The adverse health impacts from making one e-reader are estimated to be 70 times greater than those from making a single book.

If you order a book online and have it shipped 500 miles by air, that creates roughly the same pollution and waste as making the book in the first place. Driving five miles to the bookstore and back causes about 10 times the pollution and resource depletion as producing it. You’d need to drive to a store 300 miles away to create the equivalent in toxic impacts on health of making one e-reader — but you might do that and more if you drive to the mall every time you buy a new book.

If you like to read a book in bed at night for an hour or two, the light bulb will use more energy than it takes to charge an e-reader, which has a highly energy-efficient screen. But if you read in daylight, the advantage tips to a book.

If your e-reader ends up being “recycled” illegally so that workers, including children, in developing countries dismantle it by hand, they will be exposed to a range of toxic substances. If it goes through state-of-the-art procedures — for example, high-temperature incineration with the best emissions controls and metals recovery — the “disability adjusted life-year” count will be far less for workers.

If your book ends up in a landfill, its decomposition generates double the global warming emissions and toxic impacts on local water systems as its manufacture

………………………………………………………..

Some of this math is improving. More and more books are being printed with soy-based inks, rather than petroleum-based ones, on paper that is recycled or sourced from well-managed forests and that was produced at pulp mills that don’t use poisons like chlorine to whiten it. The electronics industry, too, is trying to reduce the use of toxic chemicals, and to improve working conditions and worker safety throughout its far-flung supply chains.

So, how many volumes do you need to read on your e-reader to break even?

With respect to fossil fuels, water use and mineral consumption, the impact of one e-reader payback equals roughly 40 to 50 books. When it comes to global warming, though, it’s 100 books; with human health consequences, it’s somewhere in between.

All in all, the most ecologically virtuous way to read a book starts by walking to your local library.

Source : The New York Times

Improving Transportation Through New Media


While cities and citizens have used new media tools and strategies to provide information and help improve a variety of public services such education and crime, the issue that most often seems to exhibit the most interest and experimentation is transportation. One reason is for this is probably that data about transportation systems – be it bus and train schedules, traffic counts, or pedestrian and bicycle accidents – is often readily available and is (at least potentially) less controversial to release. Another reason is likely that the transportation system is so ubiquitous in cities, and directly impacts the vast majority of residents on a daily basis, that there is a naturally broad constituency interested in its operation and improvement. And as transportation as a professional discipline has always been interested in technology, the two go hand in hand.

To explore the issue further, EMBARQ, the sustainable transportation arm of the World Resources Institute, organized a panel discussion and roundtable at its headquarters in Washington, D.C this past Tuesday. Part of a week-long citywide festival focused on technology and innovation, the event brought together citizen activists and representatives from government agencies and non-profits to discuss open data, online citizen engagement and collaboration – while looking at the nation’s capital as a case study.

While the local city government has been at the forefront of releasing its municipal data for the public and developers to utilize, most of the region’s transportation falls under the jurisdiction of WMATA, the regional transit agency. Even so, Bryan Sivak, the city’s CTO, presented some of the latest transportation oriented projects – including an API for real-time location data for the city’s small fleet of circulator buses, the utilization of QR codes on buses and shelters to assist both passengers and transit managers, and plans for location-based social networking games aimed at promoting a community among riders.

In the same spirit, Lance Schine, the newly hired Director of Innovation for the DC Department of Transportation announced the agency’s launch of a crowdsourcing application to help planners locate stations for the city’s growing bikesharing network. To help spread the word (and reach citizens that may not have access to the Web at home), the department partnered with the city’s libraries to display notices at branch computer workstations (along with the library’s main website).

Aside from government initiatives, the panel included a presentation from David Alpert of the Greater Greater Washington blog, which has served as a powerful example of how online citizen activism can influence policy. In addition, Justin Jouvenal, a Web editor with the Washington Post, highlighted its effort to integrate SeeClickFix reporting into its locally focused online section, and engage the public in reporting issues.

Outside of D.C., Nick Grossman, Director of Civic Works for OpenPlans, highlighted efforts to develop an open source trip planner in partnership with Portland’s TriMet and a number of other agencies, and an upcoming collaboration with New York’s Department of Transportation to pilot online civic engagement and planning tools. Related to this effort, he stressed the importance of focusing on content and processes, and less on technology – adding that many suitable tools already exist, and just need to be deployed in the appropriate context.

Certainly, as our society has become increasingly urbanized, the importance of transportation policy and planning has grown dramatically. Facilitating the efficient movement of people and goods within and between cities and regions is essential for economic growth. At the same time, transportation systems require large investments and can have significant negative impacts on humans and the environment. Maximizing the benefits derived from enhanced mobility while minimizing its costs and externalities is the fundamental challenge facing modern day transportation policymakers and planners.

While transportation policy and planning has historically been the domain of a small group of technical experts, there has been growing recognition that increased participation from a much wider range of stakeholders has the potential to improve the quality of transportation plans and projects. The last round of federal transportation funding designated money for research into online engagement strategies and the piloting of a number of projects, and hopefully the next federal transportation bill will support this further. Given the need to develop more sustainable urban transportation systems, and the significant interest for public involvement, transportation agencies have ample opportunity to adopt new media tools and strategies to communicate and collaborate with citizens.

Source: NextAmericaCity

Garbage is Getting a Makeover



Tons of waste are trucked here daily to a large industrial building. What can’t be recycled is burned and filtered for toxins. The ash is turned into building material, and the heat is converted into electricity — enough to power 55,000 homes.

The process saves landfill space. Air pollution is minimal. The 4-year-old firm, Tokyo Waterfront Recycle Power Co., will turn its first profit this year, said President Ikuo Onaka. But, he contends, the rewards aren’t purely financial.

“We’re making a social contribution,” said Onaka, whose business is one of nine firms operating on Tokyo’s waterfront to reuse the city’s garbage instead of burying it.

These private-sector companies are part of a very public push by Tokyo’s metropolitan government to turn this dense urban area, home to 13 million people, into the world’s most eco-friendly mega-city.

In addition to reducing solid waste, Tokyo over the last few years has unveiled a slew of environmentally conscious initiatives. Those include toughened environmental building standards, cash incentives for residents to install solar panels, and a plan for greening the city, including planting half a million trees and converting a 217-acre landfill in Tokyo Bay into a wooded “sea forest” park.

Last month Tokyo kicked off its most ambitious effort yet: a mandatory program for 1,400 of the area’s factories and office buildings to cut their carbon emissions 25% from 2000 levels by the end of 2020. The plan includes a carbon cap-and-trade system, the first ever attempted by a metropolitan area. The mechanism sets limits on emissions and requires those who exceed their quotas to buy pollution rights from those who are under their caps.

Tokyo’s strategy is reminiscent of California’s. The state’s landmark legislation, known as AB 32, requires polluters to curb their emissions significantly over the next decade. But while opponents, including large oil refiners, are bankrolling a campaign to stall that effort in the Golden State, Tokyo is hitting the gas.

More than half the world’s population now resides in cities. Metropolitan Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures have about as many people as the entire state of California. The way such teeming places respond to climate change will largely determine whether global warming can be slowed.

Masahiro Takeda, manager of sustainability for Mori Building Co., one of Tokyo’s largest commercial developers, said demand is rising for buildings that save energy and lower tenants’ operating costs. Large-scale recycling, greenery, rainwater reuse and waste heat recapture have become standard features in Mori developments.

At Roppongi Hills, a major shopping and office complex built by Mori in the heart of Tokyo, more than one-quarter of the 21-acre site is covered with trees and shrubs — including a rooftop rice paddy. The plants absorb carbon dioxide and lower roof temperatures, which in turn cuts heating and cooling bills.

Plants are essential in combating the so-called heat-island effect. Heat-trapping concrete and asphalt have raised Tokyo’s temperature by about 3 degrees Celsius over the last century, according to the government. Green roofs, along with tree planting and community gardens, are a way to build community support to fight climate change.

Tokyo rooftops are also sprouting solar panels. To spur adoption of photovoltaics, the metropolitan government offers its homeowners a subsidy of 100,000 yen (about $1,070) per kilowatt. (A typical system is about four kilowatts.) That comes on top of the federal subsidy of 70,000 yen (about $750) per kilowatt. The metropolitan government is also offering solar incentives to businesses.

Meanwhile, garbage is getting an afterlife. Tough recycling laws over the years have produced results such as a 99% reuse rate for asphalt and concrete and 72% for paper. What isn’t recovered is incinerated and the residue buried. But with landfill space in short supply, the metropolitan government in 2006 launched an initiative, Tokyo Super Eco Town, to get recycling to the next level.

Tokyo is well ahead of other major cities on many environmental issues. But environmentalists are particularly enthusiastic about its willingness to push ahead with a cap-and-trade program amid a sluggish global economy.

Source : BrandXDaily