Tag Archives: sustainability

European Scientists Insist GMO Debate not over Yet

October 25, 2013

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European unionThe European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility has come out to strongly criticize the assertion that genetically modified crops are now safe. This is after the biotech giants Syngenta and Monsanto were awarded the 2013 World Food Prize.

The coalition brings together over 90 academics, scientists and physicians. In a statement, the network seeks to address widespread claims in circulation purporting that the GMO debate is now over. [...]

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Augusta’s Master Plan for Revitalization

October 14, 2013


Lee Epstein, attorney and land use planner working for sustainability in the mid-Atlantic region, recently discussed Augusta’s master plan for revitalization, on the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) Staff Blog. Below is a summary and highlight of the key points covered. 

augusta streets

The city of Augusta has many faces: some see the sweet green golf courses with fiendish sand traps, while others see it as their home, a heart of the South and third-largest city in the state.

Distressingly, the city has begun to lose its luster, in tune with many other great cities in the United States. These cities are fading due to a combination of empty downtown areas and an increase in suburban sprawl.

The neighborhoods could definitely do with some renovation. Not all is lost, however; the Augusta Sustainable Development Implementation Program has come up with intensive plans to revitalize this old Southern belle of a city.

The Augusta Sustainable Development Implementation Program (ASDIP) has paired up with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to use one of their challenge grants to revitalize Augusta and its empty neighborhoods. The project’s main goal is to upgrade Augusta, injecting sustainable economic development, enhanced transportation, and improved neighborhoods to bring the city back to life. The program is focused on results, not just plans.

regency mallThey hope to work wonders on Downtown Augusta – ranging from the 4.5 mile long Dean’s Bridge Road, to the Regency Mall and through the neighborhoods near the rail yards. Like many malls in America, Regency Mall slowly faded and then died, becoming an abandoned relic. With the ASDIP program in place, it would become a village center, while the neighborhoods leading to the mall would offer the basic amenities needed to sustain a bustling community. These would include farmer’s markets, grocery stores, medical clinics, and small restaurants – all the ingredients needed to create a successful neighborhood. During the rebuilding process, they will also add some mixed-unit and higher density housing, though older neighborhoods will likely remain untouched.

Another large focus of the project would be transportation. Without accessibility, the revitalized sections would never flourish. Many elderly or mid-to-lower income residents don’t have cars or do not drive, so a renewed public transport system will be required to ferry them to the rejuvenated sections of Augusta. The program will also create better walking areas, with repaved sidewalks and more sitting areas in shady sections, as well as pedestrian walkways and crossing areas. Bike lanes will also be implemented and made safer.

The hub of the transport reform would be a new transit center to replace an old bus transfer station. At the same time, a nearby building will be rebuilt to become a pedestrian shopping and commercial village.

They hope to improve the number of parks and playgrounds, as well as renew previously existing ones. The program looks to acquire more land for public parks in strategic neighborhood locations, as well as improve storm water management and other green projects. The public areas would be enriched by public art and mixed-use centers for everyone, creating a welcoming, friendly neighborhood feeling.

Most impressively, this project has been meticulously planned for and articulated, with required costs enumerated and accounted for. Specific proposals have also been evaluated, together with potential funding sources – both public and private. The Augusta Sustainable Development Implementation Program members appear to have spared no effort to make this program successful, identifying all possible ways of fulfilling their plans for urban development as well as managing vacant housing. All in all, this project stands to be one of Augusta’s best chances for revitalization – restoring its former glory as well as propelling it towards the future.

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Trends in Green Home Design

September 18, 2013


When you opt for an eco-design home, you will not only be living up to your environmental ideals but saving yourself money too. Green homes incorporate renewable resources and concepts which reduce the amount of water and electricity you consume. With their environmentally friendly design, you are assured of reducing your family’s carbon footprint and ultimately, you will have more money in your wallet and in the bank.

Select eco-friendly door and window designs


Maybe there is an argument for a front door fitted with a glass window as it helps light up the entryway. However, this design also allows warmth from the interior to escape. Contrast this with a door made of environmentally friendly and recyclable wood (without a window) which keeps your house energy efficient at all times.

Homes without eco-friendly window designs lose, on average, about 30% of air conditioning and heating energy a month. As different climatic zones have different energy efficiency requirements, look for window designs with an Energy Star rating for your region.


Opt for eco-friendly siding

For the best results, go for stucco, wood or aluminum siding. Avoid siding made of PVC as these are infused with toxins not to mention they are neither biodegradable nor reusable.

Go for a natural gas fireplace

Traditional wooden fireplaces may satisfy your nostalgia but burning wood releases harmful pollutants and also encourage deforestation. A natural gas fireplace is a more eco-friendly choice.

Choose green roofing materials

Again, opt for roofing materials with a fitting Energy-Star rating, preferably made of recycled resources. Aluminum metal roofs are highly recommended as they offer excellent heat resistance and can be reused again and again.

Opt for renewable energy to run your HVAC system

Solar panels are a sensible choice for anyone looking to cut their energy bills. While the cost of installing a solar panel system at home may be high, the system begins paying for itself immediately with lower (sometimes even eliminating) energy bills. Moreover, homes with solar installations have a higher resale value.

Natural gas is also comparatively energy efficient when it comes to running heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment. Just be certain that the equipment you go for has the relevant Energy Star rating.

Go for bamboo flooring

Bamboo is by far the most eco-friendly and resilient flooring material you can find. Being a type of grass, bamboo is quick to grow and therefore is sustainable and renewable. Best of all, the material is as sturdy and durable as oak and other hardwood flooring materials.

Use a tank-less water heater or solar thermal heater

Tank-less water heating systems are more energy efficient than traditional heaters fitted with tanks. Solar thermal water heaters, while a trifle more costly, are even more eco-friendly. You will reduce your energy bill by at least half and your house will never run out of hot water.

Use natural paints for your walls

Paints made from natural materials such as plant extracts, oils and minerals are not only safer but also eco-friendly. Such paints are free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a well known pollutant.

Ensure your plumbing is green

Clay pipes are highly recommended for underground pipes in place of PVC, a form of plastic infused with harmful toxins. For pipes above the ground, alternatives such as galvanized steel, zinc and aluminum are highly recommended eco-friendly options.

Go for furniture made from recyclable and renewable materials

It is prudent to take time in choosing furniture that complements the look and appearance of your entire home. When it comes to eco-friendly furniture materials, you will be spoilt for choice from alternatives such as bamboo, rattan, teak and recycled wood.

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