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10 Coolest Eco Products of 2015

EcoWatch featured many innovative products this year that help consumers reduce their impact on the Earth. Here are the top 10 coolest eco products of 2015:

1. Solar-Powered Beach Mat

This solar-powered beach mat charges your phone and keeps your drink cold. Photo credit: Beachill Mattress

Powered by a five-watt solar panel and a built-in thermal fridge, the Beachill waterproof mat lets beach-goers keep their drinks cold and their portable devices charged while making minimal impact on the environment.

2. Athletic Shoes Made From Ocean Waste

Adidas unveiled the concept for a shoe made from ocean waste and 3D-printed recycled polyester in conjunction with the COP21 Paris Climate Talks. Photo credit: Adidas

The athletic clothing company Adidas announced the concept for a shoe wherein the upper part is made with ocean plastic and the midsole is 3D-printed using recycled polyester and gillnets, a wall of netting used to catch fish. The concept was unveiled in conjunction with the COP21 Paris climate talks. A company spokesperson said there's no timeline for when the shoe will be mass-produced.

However, another one of their concept shoes, which contains yarns and filaments reclaimed from ocean waste and illegal deep-sea gillnets, will be available for purchase in select stores in April 2016.

3. Solar-Powered "Farm From a Box"

Farm from a Box is a modified shipping container with a built-in WiFi, irrigation system, solar panels, weather tracking devices, batteries and more. Photo credit: Farm from a Box

Farm from a Box is a complete, small-scale farming toolkit that includes everything you need to produce your own food.

Each box comes in 10-, 20- and 40-foot units and includes a photovoltaic system, off-grid inverter, a transformer and distribution box, and deep-cycle batteries for energy storage. The array is backed up by a 3,000-watt generator.

The kit is equipped with high-efficiency LED lighting, secured storage, a mobile charging area, Wi-Fi and a remote monitoring solution. Oh, and seeds and farming tools of course. Each unit is capable of producing crops for one hectare of land (about 2.47 acres).

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4. Electric Bike That Folds Into a Backpack

Small but strong, this tiny bike has a 15-mile range with a top speed of 12 mph. Photo credit: A-Bike Electric Kickstarter

At 26 pounds, the A-Bike Electric claims to be the lightest and most compact e-bike in the world. With its tiny wheels and a battery that’s the size of a thermos, the bike is so small it can tuck inside a backpack or under a desk.

With lazy commuters in mind, this updated version to the non-electric A-Bike simply adds a motor in the front wheel and a 24-volt battery. Although it’s small and light, the electric bike is made with aircraft-grade aluminum and high-strength glass-reinforced polymers. The designers also claim that the bike can fold in 10 seconds.

5. Indoor Vegetable Garden

When the "farm" is only 3 feet away, it’s not just local, it’s hyperlocal. Photo credit: Grove Labs

The Grove Ecosystem allows you to grow fresh lettuce, tomatoes, herbs and even raise fish—right from home. Designed and built by engineers from MIT, this cabinet-sized indoor garden has LED lighting to induce photosynthesis so that the plants do not need exposure to the sun, much like the way many indoor vertical farms are designed.

The WiFi-enabled system has its own Grove OS mobile app so you can track growth and tinker with settings such as water levels, temperatures, lighting, microbe levels and more. And yes, this means you don’t have to worry about your system while you’re away from home.

The app also helps you optimize the conditions for whatever you choose to grow. If, for example, you’re growing cherry tomatoes, it recommends the best ways to promote growth, such as proper temperatures and water needs.

6. Yoga Mat Made From 100 Percent Recycled Wetsuits

Süga is giving a second life to old wetsuits by turning them into yoga mats. Photo credit: Süga

Yoga mats are often made with chemicals that can be hazardous to human health. That's where Süga comes in. It's a company turning non-biodegradable wetsuits, which would otherwise end up in the landfill, into “highly functional instruments of yogic bliss,” founder Brian Shields explained.

Yoga mats made from neoprene wetsuits don’t absorb bacteria, sweat, dust and dirt from yoga studio floors like many other mats. And they don't contain azodicarbonamidepolyvinyl chloride or other questionable materials like phthalates, lead and cadmium, which have found their way into most standard yoga mats.

The project is currently raising money on Kickstarter. Large-scale production will begin January 2016.

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7. Solar-Powered Bike

Solar cells on the wheels send renewable energy directly to the bike’s battery. On a full charge, it can go up to 40 miles at a top speed of 30 mph. Photo credit: Solar Bike

The Solar Bike, designed by Danish engineer Jesper Frausig, is powered by the clean, green energy from the sun.

It has highly efficient and "shadow optimized” solar cells on the wheels that deliver power directly to the battery when it’s standing still. When in motion, the solar cells and the battery also provide energy for the motor.

Depending on how sunny it is, a standard charge lasts between 1 to 15 miles. At peak hours, a fully charged battery can take a rider up to 40 miles at a top speed of 30 mph. When it’s overcast or night time and the battery is low, it presumably works like any regular bicycle.

8. Compact Anaerobic Digester

Not only does the HomeBiogas reduce landfill waste and pollution, it’s a renewable and local energy source which saves money on fuel. Photo credit: HomeBiogas

HomeBiogas, an Israel-based startup, has created an affordable and compact anaerobic digester that converts organic waste into cooking gas and liquid fertilizer. Home wastes like food scraps, kitchen trash and pet manure no longer have to go to the landfill.

Here’s how it works: After the HomeBiogas system is fed organic matter, microorganisms break down the biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. The end product is biogas and biofertilizer.

According to the company, you can input up to 6 liters of food waste or up to 15 liters of animal manure in HomeBiogas each day. Every liter of food waste produces about 200 liters of gas, or the amount needed to cooking over a high flame for one hour. On average, HomeBiogas produces 2 to 3 hours of cooking gas each day—enough for three meals.

The product’s built-in tank stores 400 liters of gas. Additional gas generated by the system gets automatically released and dissipates into the atmosphere. As for fertilizer, the HomeBiogas can produce between 5 to 10 liters a day.

9. Outdoor Solar Cooker

The GoSolar stove is ideal for environmentally friendly camping. Photo credit: GoSolar

After being featured on the hit TV reality show Top Chef, solar cooking has truly gone mainstream.

One company, GoSun, expanded its product line this year, rolling out the GoSun Grill and several other iterations of its solar cooker. The GoSun Grill comes with a thermal battery, so users can cook even on cloudy days.

Unlike a regular grill, food is “steam-fried” inside a tubed-shaped chamber that captures heat from the sun, making it perfect for roasting vegetables and meats, and even baking bread. It reaches temperatures of 550 degrees and can cook a meal in 20 minutes, depending on what’s being cooked and the amount of sunlight.

Though solar stoves are great for campers and outdoor adventurers, GoSun partners with organizations like the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves to underwrite the cost of these stoves. This partnership provides an alternative to unhealthy and dangerous kerosene stoves used in developing countries.

“Every GoSun sold subsidizes the sale of a GoSun to the people who can benefit the most in the developing world,” the company's solar designer and installer Patrick Sherwin said. “The GoSun solar cooking technology leapfrogs solid fuels completely, providing a safe, fast and affordable alternative to the status quo.”

10. Bike Phone Charger

Charge anywhere, anytime. Photo credit: Siva Cycle

The Ride-A-Long charges your electronics as you pedal, providing a portable renewable energy source for bike-enthusiasts.

Created by Siva Cycle, the product can juice up any USB-powered device such as smartphones and cameras whenever and wherever you’re biking. Simply mount the Ride-Along to any standard bicycle’s back wheel, and as you ride, the wheel delivers juice to the integrated generator and charges its 1,650 mAh battery, kind of like a hand-cranked radio.

The Ride-A-Long is detachable, which means you can use it as a spare battery pack when you’re no longer cycling. You can also charge the device through any power outlet at home or the office.

The product retails for $129 and is waterproof.

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Trump's Response to Climate-Related Disasters: Open America's 'Crown Jewels' to Oil Drilling

By Andy Rowell

You would have thought that after being battered by two devastating hurricanes in recent weeks, which experts believe were fueled by warmer seas caused by climate change, even the most die-hard climate denier would think again.

But you would be wrong.

You would have thought that as the cost of rebuilding after Hurricanes Irma and Harvey mounts, with an estimated bill of $150 billion so far, that politicians would press to move away from a fossil fuel economy.

But you would be wrong again. In fact the opposite is happening.

Instead of pushing for clean technology and to end our oil addiction, the Trump administration is quietly pushing to open up one of America's great last wilderness areas, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to oil drilling.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—or ANWR for short—has been described as "one of the largest intact ecosystems in the world," and "the crown jewel of the National Wildlife Refuge System and one of the most important protected areas on Earth."

Anyone who knows about contemporary American petro-politics will know that the fight over ANWR is not new. It is a 40 year "multi-generational" fight. The naturalist, Peter Matthiessen, once called the battle over ANWR the "longest running, most acrimonious environmental battle in American history."

The oil industry and its allies have long salivated over the prospect of drilling in the refuge's 19.6 million acres. They have long argued that the refuge, home to caribou, polar bears and many endangered species, also houses an estimated 10 billion of barrels of recoverable oil.

There could be more oil, there could be much less, there could be none—no one really knows for sure.

The industry has wanted to drill the refuge for decades, but have been stopped by a determined coalition of environmentalists, First Nations and conservationists.

But for how much longer? When Trump became president he said that opening up ANWR was a top priority. And it seems that despite the recent Hurricanes, Trump is pressing ahead to do this.

As the Washington Post reported at the end of last week: "The Trump administration is quietly moving to allow energy exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ... with a draft rule that would lay the groundwork for drilling."

Although the Trump administration is pushing for the move, the final say on whether drilling goes ahead lies with Congress.

But in the meantime, officials from the Interior Department—now stuffed full of pro-oil appointees—are quietly modifying a regulation from the 1980's that would allow the industry to undertake seismic surveys.

The Post acquired a leaked memo from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acting director, James Kurth, to prepare an assessment and a proposed rule to update regulations which go back to the eighties.

Kurth wrote: "When finalized, the new regulation will allow for applicants to [submit] requests for approval of new exploration plans."

Once the rule is finalized, companies could bid to undertake seismic testing in the refuge.

Environmentalists are naturally outraged. Defenders of Wildlife president, Jamie Rappaport Clark, who led the Fish and Wildlife Service under President Bill Clinton, told the Post: "The administration is very stealthily trying to move forward with drilling on the Arctic's coastal plain ... This is a complete about-face from decades of practice."

"This is a really big deal," adds Niel Lawrence, Alaska director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "This is a frontal attack in an ideological battle. The Arctic is the Holy Grail."

It looks like this battle will go to the courts. It could drag on for years. The stakes are huge. As Robert Mrazek, a former New York congressman and chair emeritus of the Alaska Wilderness League told a recent article in Fortune magazine: "ANWR is an American Serengeti. You can have the oil. Or you can have this pristine place. You can't have both. No compromise."

Sarah James, an ambassador for the Gwich'in First Nations, who lives close to the refuge and who opposes oil development, adds: "If you drill for oil here, you will be drilling into the heart of our people."

Manfred Bortoli

New Agreement Offers Brighter Future for Pacific Bluefin Tuna

By Amanda Nickson

The Pacific bluefin tuna is among the most depleted species on the planet, having been fished down more than 97 percent from its historic, unfished size. For years, this prized fish has been in dire need of strong policies that would reverse that decline, but the two organizations responsible for its management—the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC)—failed in their recent efforts, allowing overfishing to continue and further risking the future of the species.

Last week, however, at a joint meeting of the WCPFC Northern Committee and IATTC, Pacific bluefin received a much-needed respite when its primary fishing nations—Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Mexico and the U.S.—reached agreement with other member states on a long-term plan that would rebuild the population from its current status of 2.6 percent of pre-fishing levels to 20 percent by 2034. This agreement, if properly implemented, would start the species—and the fishing industry that depends on it—on a path toward sustainability.

After decades of inaction, why did these two fisheries management bodies agree to take the needed steps toward rebuilding? Because ignoring the problem became impossible for managers. In the past two years, three nations exceeded their catch limits. Amid increasing calls from The Pew Charitable Trusts and others for a complete fishing moratorium, and in a worst-case scenario, an international trade ban, the government representatives to the WCPFC committee and IATTC finally stepped up to make a change.

Perhaps most significant was the course reversal by Japan. By far the largest fishing nation for, and consumer of, Pacific bluefin, Japan had long resisted proposed rebuilding plans. This year, though, thanks in part to strong international pressure and growing media attention within the country on the plight of the species, the Japanese delegates dropped that opposition and helped make progress that just a few years ago seemed far out of reach.

Despite this commitment, the work to help Pacific bluefin recover has only begun. In the fishing season that ended on June 30, Japanese fishermen exceeded their catch limits by 334 metric tons, and with many reports of illegal fishing in Japan's waters, the real amount could be higher. The U.S., South Korea and Mexico also exceeded limits over the past two years. Rebuilding the species under the new quotas and timeline will be nearly impossible if such overages continue. All countries that fish for Pacific bluefin must pledge to strengthen their domestic controls and monitoring programs to guarantee that the commitments to rebuilding made this year are not squandered in the future.

The decision on Pacific bluefin made at the joint meeting could signal a move toward a greater focus on conservation at regional fisheries management organizations like the WCPFC and IATTC. This action by major fishing nations indicates that concrete action is possible. Fishermen and fleets now hold the key to a sustained recovery, and all countries must work together to uphold the new rules. If they can do that, real change on the water may come sooner than many of us expected.

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly. Climate change is expected to be high on the agenda at this year's gathering.

As the world leaders meet, another major storm—Hurricane Maria—is gaining strength in the Caribbean and following a similar path as Hurricane Irma. The current forecast shows Maria could hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm as early as Wednesday. The U.S. Virgin Islands, which were devastated by Irma, also appear to be in line to be hit by Maria.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that the Trump administration is considering staying in the Paris climate agreement, just months after the president vowed to pull out of it. The White House denied the report. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday signaled Trump may back away from the Paris accord, but National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster gave a different message on Fox News Sunday.

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