Tag Archives: eco


Tech Spotlight: Vending Machine Bottles Water Right Before It’s Served



Run by Eliza Becton and co-founders Sean Grundy and Frank Lee, Refresh Water Technologies is a startup formed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop the eco-friendly vending machine Refresh.

Refresh is a water vending machine that filters and bottles water from the tap on-site instead of carrying pre-filled bottles that come from a bottling plant.


The Refresh kiosk filters, flavors, carbonates, and bottles water at the point of use, instead of in a bottling plant. We cut vending
operators' variable costs and CO2 emissions by 80%.

Read More @ PSFK

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The Greenest Office Building In The World Is About To Open In Seattle

The Bullitt Center is made from totally clean materials, has composting toilets, and catches enough rainwater to survive a 100-day drought. And it’s 100% solar-powered, in a city not known for its sunny days.

eattle’s Bullitt Centeris being heralded as the greenest, most energy-efficient commercial office building in the world. It’s not that the six-story, 50,000-square-foot building is utilizing never-before-seen technology. But it’s combining a lot of different existing technologies and methods to create a structure that’s a showpiece for green design--and a model for others to follow.

A project of the Bullitt Foundation, a Seattle-based sustainability advocacy group, the Bullitt Center has an incredibly ambitious goal. From the website:

The goal of the Bullitt Center is to change the way buildings are designed, built and operated to improve long-term environmental performance and promote broader implementation of energy efficiency, renewable energy and other green building technologies in the Northwest.

Ready Full Article @ FastCompany

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Fully compostable coffee pack launched

Canadian coffee roaster Pistol & Barnes offers its Fair Trade, organic Farmer First coffee brand in a compostable pack made of paper laminated to a wood pulp-based film.

Leading Canadian coffee roasting company Pistol & Burnes has introduced a fully compostable package for its Farmer First brand. The Fair Trade, organic coffee is packed in a paper bag laminated to transparent NatureFlex™ film from Innovia Films. According to Pistol & Burnes president Roy M Hardy, “Most roasted coffee sold in the world is packaged in either foil bags (coated in plastic) or paper bags (with a plastic liner). These usually end up going straight to landfill, as they can prove difficult to recycle. However our enviro–friendly coffee bag can be organically recycled (composted), which means it breaks down in a home compost bin.” NatureFlex films are certified to meet the American ASTM D6400, European EN13432, and Australian AS4736 standards for compostable packaging. The wood pulp is sourced from managed plantations. The renewable biobased content of NatureFlex films is typically 95% by weight of material, according to ASTM D6866. NatureFlex begins life as a natural product—wood—and breaks down at the end of its life cycle in a home compost bin or industrial compost environment within a matter of weeks. It is also confirmed as suitable for emerging waste to energy techniques, such as anaerobic digestion.  The bags were developed by Canadian converter Genpak.

 Says, Genpak technical manager Bill Reilly, “We recommended NatureFlex to Pistol & Burnes for several reasons. First and foremost, the film performs well technically, having high barrier properties and good seal integrity that enhance shelf life, keeping oxygen out and aroma in—very important for packaging coffee. Secondly, NatureFlex is perfectly aligned with the ethos of their Fair Trade, organic Farmer First brand.” According to Innovia, NatureFlex films offer advantages for packing and converting, such as inherent deadfold and anti-static properties, high gloss and resistance to grease and oil, good barrier to gases, aromas, and mineral oils, and a wide heat-seal range.
Full Article @ PW

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New Method soap bottles partially sourced from ocean plastic

Eco-conscious household/personal care products maker Method offers limited-edition soap in bottle made from ocean-recovered and PCR HDPE plastic.

Method has launched its latest innovation in sustainable packaging: bottles made from a blend of plastic recovered from the ocean and post-consumer recycled plastic. This limited-edition packaging is for a new Method product, a two-in-one hand and dish soap, available exclusively at Whole Foods Market stores nationwide.

Scientists estimate that several million tons of plastic make its way into the oceans every year, polluting the environment and hurting marine populations. Through this new use of recovered ocean plastic, Method says that it is demonstrating how a business can tackle environmental problems, and that there are smarter ways to make plastic than using virgin material. Nearly all of Method's packaging is made from PCR material, which helps keep additional plastic out of landfills and oceans.

"Our goal with ocean plastic packaging is to show that the most viable solution to our plastic pollution problem is using the plastic that's already on the 55601-Ocean-Plastic-Hero-shot-72dpi-md.jpgplanet,” says Adam Lowry, co-founder and chief greenskeeper of Method. “Method's ocean plastic bottle demonstrates in the extreme that recycling is possible. By recycling and reusing plastic to make our bottles, we turn off the tap of plastic flowing into our oceans and take the first, most important step toward solving the ocean plastic problem."

Over the past year and a half, Method employees have worked with local volunteers from Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and the Kokua Hawai'i Foundation to hand-collect several tons of plastic from the beaches of Hawaii, where the kinds of rigid, opaque plastic needed to make this packaging are most abundant. A portion of the product's proceeds will go to these two Hawaiian organizations as part of Method's efforts to establish an ongoing business model and supply chain for collecting and sorting plastic marine debris.

Method partnered with recycler Envision Plastics to develop a new recycling process to make the bottles. The process allows plastics recovered from the ocean to be cleaned, blended, and then remanufactured into high-quality recycled plastic that is the same quality as virgin high-density polyethylene HDPE plastic.

The new two-in-one soap with odor-eliminating technology is now available exclusively at Whole Foods Market stores nationwide and on methodhome.com. It is available in two fragrances—Sea Minerals and Sweet Water—for the suggested retail price of $4.99.

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Concept Cellphone Uses Sugary Drinks For Energy Source

A concept phone utilizes sugary drinks as the power source for a cellphone, making the battery biodegradable

I’ve been trying to quit soda for the past few weeks thanks to too many hours on Reddit and constant streams of photos that displayed how much sugar was in a can of Coke. As a result, there are untouched cans of soda sitting my fridge with no one to claim them, but it felt irresponsible if I just gave them to the kids next door. If only this eco-friendly concept cellphone existed. The design, by China-based Daizi Zheng, claims that a Nokia phone could be powered solely on sugary drinks. Now there’s an interesting use of leftover Coke that’s much more excitable than cleaning the rust off my pennies.

According to Zheng’s thesis, the phone would contain a chemical board that can form a reaction to utilize sugar enzymes and carbohydrates and convert them into electric power. The phone would work with most sugary drinks; in fact, more sugar means longer battery life. When the sugar and carbs are all used up as battery, you’re left over with a liquid that’s biodegradable, and the phone can be cleaned, refilled, and reused once again.

“Bio-batteries are fully biodegradable and have, on a single charge, a potential life-span three to four times longer than conventional lithium batteries,” Zheng writes on his website. Keep in mind, however, this design would be used with a basic, barebone phone, so no sticky touchscreen and apps here.

Coke powered nokia phone leftover liquidSince the design aims to be environmentally-friendly, it’s probably better to use straight sugar water than Coke or other packaged sodas, considering how they tend come in plastic bottles or cans — both of which are already pretty expensive to recycle. Still, it would be cool if the phone doubled as a drink bottle so you can choose to either gulp your soda or conserve it for more phone battery. This rationale would force the user to pick between drinking an unhealthy beverage or forgo it for the sake of your gadget’s usability. However, since the sugar disappears as the phone uses up the battery, it is unlikely that the soda you do end up drinking from the phone would taste any good. We also have to wonder if the fizzy noise would interfere with your sugar high calls.

It’s an interesting approach at multi-purposing a notorious food item, and such a gadget would make a neat science experiment for kids to learn about the wonders (and potential harms) of what sugary drinks means to them, and the chemical world.

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Consumers face eco-label fatigue

As consumers increasingly vote with their wallets for sustainable goods and groceries, producers are doing more to signal the eco-friendliness of their wares. But amid the many different certification logos, package designs and environmental claims, experts warn that all that glitters is not green.

The glut of sustainability claims presents challenges both for consumers looking to “buy green” and green companies trying to stand out from the fray.

One of the problems with certification systems is that there is simply too many of them, experts say.

“Once you have too many different logos and certifications hinting at the same thing, it waters down the method,” said Fleur Gadd of Big Picture UK, a marketing firm that is conducting a study of consumer response to sustainability claims.

Another issue is that many certification claims are not sufficiently transparent, according Anastasia O’Rourke, whose company Big Room curates a list of more than 400 eco-certification labels. She says there are thousands of labels and certifications for consumer products, ranging from the spurious to those that attest to the toughest standards.

Energy Star, a certification program initiated by the U.S. Environmental Protection agency, for instance, is perhaps the most ubiquitous on the North American market. The certification, which attests to low energy use in household appliances, certifies some 63,000 different household machines.

“Americans, with the help of Energy Star, saved enough energy in 2010 alone to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 33 million cars — all while saving nearly $18 billion on their utility bills,” the program claims on its Web site.

Any summer trip to the United States, though, will remind you that no air-conditioner is as low-energy as not using one. And air-conditioning is practically considered a right, hence Americans’ outsize share of global energy consumption. But at least the Energy Star label allows consumers to make an informed choice and choose the more “energy efficient” model.

An example of a less useful certification system is one that boldly proclaims a product to be CFC-free (if the acronym looks familiar, it is because chlorofluorocarbons’ contribution to ozone layer depletion were a major topic of discussion in the 1980s). The problem with this claim — and therefore the colorful label that producers stick onto their products — is not its veracity, but the fact that CFC has been banned for decades already.

UL TerraChoice, a Canadian marketing agency, released a study on the failings of eco-labeling some years ago. The report is entitled the Six Sins of Greenwashing.

Researchers at Big Picture found that when people shop for coffee and tea, certification can matter a lot. Fairtrade, one of the oldest and most venerable systems, certifies that local producers in the developing world are not exploited. It is among a few certifications clearly trusted by the consumer.

“It is easier with products where consumers are aware of the sourcing,” Ms. Gadd said.

Of course, the label does not certify that a product is made in a sustainable way, though it does attest that the product or produce is more equitably produced. Ms. Gadd said Fairtrade coffee and tea were exceptions, in that most people know the problems associated with commercial large-scale production and trust just a few certification programs to tell them what products to buy.

It is notoriously difficult to measure how many consumers buy green goods, in part because “sustainability” or “eco-friendly” are hard to define. The Big Picture study found that about 8 percent to 10 percent of British consumers they queried were “ethical elites,” consumers who are aware of environmental problems as well as their power as consumers to choose the right product.

Besides certification systems, the Big Picture study also looks at packaging and design, which can be effective ways to suggest that a product is green even if this isn’t really the case.

Their findings indicate that most consumers rely on emotive responses when choosing, say, laundry-detergent, a product whose environmental impact and sourcing is generally not well understood.

Clear and simple packaging can signal sustainability more easily than extensive claims, again whether those implications actually reflect the product or not.

The eco-friendly detergent Attitude signals its sustainability with a white bottle and images of animals (it also backs the claims with real certification). Researchers found that consumers responded to the simple message: buying this soap will help save these animals, ostensibly by keeping their water clean of chemicals from washing-machine effluent.

“Some brands can ‘seem’ more sustainable than they are by applying the ‘sustainable’ basics. In addition, consumers rarely read packs, and thus when shopping in autopilot, many are unlikely to interrogate a brand’s credentials (the small print!) closely. In that sense, if the packaging signals ‘sustainability’, this may well be the consumer’s lasting impression of the brand.”

When buying eco-friendly products, do you insist on eco-certification? Do you think you are ever swayed by packaging design? How do you find the sustainable products and producers you can trust?

via NYTimes

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Heineken WOBO, A Beer Bottle Brick For Building Eco-Homes

In 1963, Alfred “Freddy” Heineken visited the Caribbean island of Curaçao and noted two issues: the lack of building materials for the island’s lower class and the excess of bottles littering their beaches. In response, he connected with Dutch architect N. John Habraken and the Heineken WOBO (World Bottle) was invented. The WOBO is a Heineken-branded beer bottle that doubles as a stackable, self-aligning and interlocking brick made for building eco-homes. One thousand WOBO bricks would be needed to make a simple 10 X 10 foot structure. According to Wikipedia, almost every bottle has been destroyed and only two remaining WOBO structures exist “and they are both on the Heineken estate in Noordwijk, near Amsterdam…”

The first was a small shed which had a corrugated iron roof and timber supports where the builder could not work out how to resolve the junction between necks and bases running in the same direction. Later, a timber double garage was renovated with WOBO siding. Alfred Heineken did not develop the WOBO concept further and the idea never got a chance to materialize…

Heineken Shack

image via Centro Architecture


A WOBO exhibit at the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam

photo by Roberto Pla

Heineken WoBo Wallpaper

photo by Glenn Stark

WOBO wall

A WOBO wall exhibit at the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam

photo by Krzysztof Gutowski

In 2008, French design company Petit Romain came up with the Heineken Cube, a similar but cubed Heineken bottle designed to stack. However, it was developed to save space, not to build homes.

Heineken Cube

Heineken Cube

Heineken Cube

images via Romain Petit

via Inhabitat, Archinect and DesignTAXI

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World’s first compostable toothbrush and travel case

We’ve already come across a slew of products redesigned to be fully biodegradable or compostable, from coffee cups to cooking pots and even shoes. Now, Canadian brand World Centric has created a Compostable Toothbrush designed for eco-conscious travelers.

Rather than being manufactured from petroleum-based plastics, as standard toothbrushes are, the World Centric product is made from Ingeo, which is a plant-based material. Once the toothbrushes are done with, users can break off the head and bristles – which are not compostable – and send the rest to a commercial composting facility, or back to the company, for recycling. The brushes come with a travel case that is also completely compostable. The seven-inch BPI-certified toothbrushes are available in blue, green or orange and are priced at CAD 4.55 each, or CAD 11.40 for a pack of three.

According to World Centric, some 450 million toothbrushes are sent to landfill in the US each year and the Compostable Toothbrush helps address this issue. The company are also working on replacing the nylon bristles with a compostable material in the near future. Manufacturers – what other everyday objects could be made more sustainable?

Website: www.worldcentric.org/biocompostables/toothbrushes
Contact: www.worldcentric.org/about-us/contact

via SpringWise

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Company Tests Environmentally-Friendly Airless Tires

Bridgestone  are developing an airless concept tire that could prove to be a more  environmentally-friendly alternative to conventional pneumatic tires in the  future. The tire features a band of rubber tread around of web of thermoplastic  spokes that radiate from the center aluminum wheel. The spokes are stiff enough  to avoid vibration (which wastes energy), yet soft enough to provide a  comfortable ride.

Bridgestone's Environmentally-Friendly Airless Tires

These airless tires have a lesser impact on the environment and would make  vehicles more efficient. They reduce rolling resistance (thus saving fuel),  require less maintenance (as there is no need to refill them with air), no worry  of punctures, and the materials used are 100% recyclable. Bridgestone is  currently testing eight-inch-diameter airless tires for vehicles like carts and  forklifts, while also developing a larger test version

via PSFK:

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Wean Green Cubes: Eco-friendly, safe, durable glass containers for lunchboxes

Our food blogger and her son put Wean Green tempered glass containers through their personal durability tests to see if they're lunchbox worthy

There’s a lot of noise going on in my house right now. The workers started on the demolition of our current bedroom about an hour and a half ago, and the banging is really loud. So, no one even noticed when my 10-year-old and I started throwing glass containers on our kitchen floor.

We were throwing Wean Green tempered glass food storage containers on the floor repeatedly to see if they would break. Why? Wean Green sent me their Back 2 School set of 3 glass containers with locking plastic lids, and we wanted to see exactly how lunchbox-friendly and kid-safe the containers are. If the glass isn’t able to stand up to the repeated abuse it takes being tossed around in a lunchbox and backpack, slammed onto the lunch table by a hungry kid, accidently dropped onto the lunchroom floor, or thrown into a ceramic kitchen sink at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how eco-friendly it is.
The containers passed our floor-dropping test. We also threw them into our ceramic sink a couple of times. They didn’t break. The final test was to see how leak-proof they are. We put salsa into the Wean Cube, locked the lid, and put it in a plastic bag. Then we swung the bag around and around. We jumped up and down with the bag. We threw the bag on the floor. When we opened it, none of the salsa had spilled out. Impressive. It’s hard to find lunchbox containers that will liquidy foods like salsa or dip without leaking.
According to WiseGeek, tempered glass is a type of safety glass that is four to five times stronger than standard glass. It does not break into shards when if gets broken. Instead it will break into small, pebble shaped pieces without sharp edges. If you’re going to be putting glass into your child’s lunchbox, tempered is a good choice

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