Warming trends: New rules for California litter, decline of koalas, and designs meant to help the planet


In the neighborhoods, doing what is “necessary”, not just possible

What if neighborhoods were built to be more climate-friendly in their natural ecosystems and more diverse in the people who live there, with all incomes and ages represented?

That’s the vision behind a new housing development near a park in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The 14-acre community, called Veridian in County Park, aims to be fully electric by 2023, when residents start moving in. Houses and apartment buildings will be surrounded by fruit trees and gardens, where residents can harvest their own food. Pedestrian and bicycle routes will be lined with native plants that create habitat for wildlife and insects. Rainwater and snowmelt water will flow through the landscape, in the same way as before land use planning. Locally sourced foods will be sold at an on-site grocery store.

Construction is expected to begin next month in the development, where many homes will be fitted with solar panels that power electrical appliances and energy-efficient heat pumps. Garages will be designed to store bicycles, recharge electric vehicles and have compact household batteries that can store unused solar energy.

“We’re trying to look at designs in a systemic and holistic way and define that goal not of what is politically possible, but of what is technically necessary for all future neighborhoods,” Matt Grocoff, founder of Thrive Collaborative, the real estate company behind Veridian, mentioned.

What makes Veridian unique, said Grocoff, is its focus on serving all demographics and income. Its 160 homes are designed for everyone, including young people, families and retirees, he said. The more expensive floor plans are priced at $ 937,000 for 2,500 square feet, while other units run for $ 185,000 for 400 square feet. Veridian has also partnered with Avalon Housing, a local charity, to provide 50 affordable townhouses to people earning less than 60% of the region’s median income.

Too often, neighborhoods are segregated based on income and age, Grocoff said, and Veridian aims to break that trend.

“We could put solar panels on the roof and put a battery in the garage and just sell these houses for a higher price and come away big and happy,” he said. “But that’s not our goal. This is not why we do this. We are doing this to find real climate solutions.


A big change for California waste

California will soon experience the biggest change in its waste management system since recycling began in the 1980s, state officials say.

By January 1, all state jurisdictions must show that they are on track to reduce organic waste by 75 percent by 2025. Each jurisdiction must have programs in place to collect organic waste from residents and residents. companies separately from recyclables and landfill waste, to ensure edible food is not wasted but rather diverted to those in need.

If the state succeeds in meeting its target, CalRecycle, the state agency overseeing the implementation of the new rule, estimates that the climate impact will be equivalent to taking 1.7 million cars off the road for a year.

The new regulations are part of a law signed in 2016 by the government of the day. Jerry Brown, who set targets for reducing emissions of climate super-pollutants like methane, which is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period at warming the atmosphere. According to CalRecycle, organic waste that decomposes in landfills is responsible for 20% of California’s methane emissions. Regions are therefore responsible for diverting organic waste from landfills through composting, reusing edible foods and transforming waste into energy through anaerobic digestion.

CalRecycle estimates that organic waste accounts for half of the waste that goes to state landfills.

“It’s the simplest and easiest thing we can do,” said Rachel Machi Wagoner, director of CalRecycle. “If I just take this banana peel and throw it in my organic trash which ends up being composted instead of being in a trash can, I’m preventing climate change.”


Can a vaccine stop a koala’s decline in Australia?

A sexually transmitted disease is spreading rapidly in a segment of the Australian koala population, causing a rapid decline. Scientists say climate change is to blame.

Koalas in northwest New South Wales have declined by at least 50 percent over the past two decades as chlamydia, a disease caused by the chlamydia bacteria, has infected more than 80 percent of people in the region, said Mark Krockenberger, a professor at the University of Sydney who specializes in infectious diseases in koalas. The disease causes infertility, which makes it difficult for the population to recover from the decline. But a vaccine against the disease could be on the horizon.

This segment of the koala population was healthy and growing in the early 2000s, but experienced extreme heatwaves and drought in 2009, Krockenberger said, with several days exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat waves and drought are expected to increase in frequency in the region as the climate changes, according to the 2019 Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Prior to the 2009 heatwaves, Krockenberger said, chlamydia was likely present in this koala population but was not causing disease. As the lack of water increased the stress of the animals, it may have resulted in a weakened immune system.

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The extreme climate is likely to have “tipped the balance” between koalas and the Chlamydia bacteria, resulting in a “massive impact on the entire population,” Krockenberger said.

He said he and his team were working on a vaccine to reduce the spread of chlamydia in the population. Immunization could be given when a koala is brought to a veterinary hospital.

“I think we envision a further decline for a while,” Krockenberger said. “I just hope we can deploy this vaccine in a way that allows them to bounce back.”


Designs for the future, aimed at helping the planet

An annual “social impact innovation” showcase presents projects created by design students in 70 countries around the world. Several of them are intended to solve environmental and climatic problems.

The Global Grad Show, now in its seventh year, highlights 150 projects this year and will help students take their ideas to the next level through entrepreneurial training.

Here are some innovations to watch out for:

An anti-greenwashing browser extension

When shopping for clothing online, this browser extension will automatically blur the product images of companies known to tout their environmental initiatives without evidence to back up their claims.

Students from the UK’s Royal College of Art built the extension, known as ‘Shade’, which uses a database of clothing brands compiled by Australian company Good On You. The database rates brands based on their impact on people, animals and the planet, to show online shoppers the products of sustainable brands.

“We are really trying to make sustainable fashion shopping very convenient for you so that you don’t have to spend time and effort trying to figure it out on your own,” said co-designer Fatimah El-Rashid. “It’s a way to educate but also to empower the end consumer so that he really struggles with the voting power of his purchasing decisions. “

Coral saver robots

The Coral Reef Rescuer is a system that uses robots to monitor and repair coral reefs damaged by overfishing and the effects of climate change. The project, designed by Yihan Liu at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, uses a “mother” robot that monitors the reef for damage and then instructs a “child” robot, which then repairs the reef with it. a nutrient-rich, oyster-based. Equipment.

“We are using new materials and technologies to create and restore coral reefs by 3D printing bio-cement,” said Liu, “which can improve the damage condition to a certain extent and protect the ecological balance of the ocean”.

Plastic packaging that dissolves in the washing machine

Made from the same type of plastic that wraps a laundry detergent scoop, The Disappearing Package, used to ship clothes purchased online, can be tossed in the washing machine with a load of laundry, where hot water will dissolve soluble matter, helping to reduce plastic pollution. The packaging even comes with a strip of laundry detergent attached.

Designed by Amelia Sjöberg from Lund University in Sweden, the goal of the project, she said, was to “rethink clothing packaging and find a material that doesn’t last as long in the environment. and which is also easy to recycle ”.

The product is still in the early stages of design, but Sjöberg hopes it will one day be adopted by online thrift stores.

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