Urban Composting: How To Turn Food Scraps Into Fresh Produce

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For most people, the word “compost” probably conjures up images of farmland, giant stinky piles of banana peels, and someone in a pair of overalls wielding a pitchfork. But recycling food scraps into nutrient-rich soil is surprisingly adaptable to city life — even somewhere as urban as the Big Apple.

To prove it, two design students created Hello Compost, a new non-profit that offers low-income populations throughout New York City the opportunity to exchange their leftover food scraps for fresh produce. The program is slated to launch a trial-size group of 60 households in September.

Hello Compost is an exciting development for NYC’s communities, and it also sheds some light on the growth of urban composting throughout the country in recent years. More than ever, people in a variety of living situations are thinking about food waste and how to change our food system from the bottom (of the trash can) up.

WHAT’S THE DEAL?

Luke Keller and Aly Blenkin, students at Parsons The New School for Design, dreamed up the Hello Compost concept as part of an academic thesis earlier this year. Right off the bat, they got in touch with Project EATS, a well-established NYC non-profit dedicated to enriching working-class areas via community-owned urban farms, farmers’ markets, and arts and cultural events. In March, the New York City Housing Authority granted Project EATS permission to temporarily store food waste at their farm site in Harlem. After a few meetings with Project EATS’ founder Linda Goode Bryant, Keller and Blenkin realized they were striving after the same goals: One, to create an urban composting system, and two, to invent some kind of community-based, non-monetary currency that would promote local farms and healthy eating.

Sounds great on paper, but compost is dirty, stinky, and kind of unsanitary in a tight apartment, right? Wrong: Hello Compost gives each participating household a freezable, odor-blocking bag (they come in small and large sizes to accommodate different lifestyles) that keeps your scraps in one place and odor-free. Each participant also gets a detailed set of instructions so they know what can and can’t be composted.

Full bags are brought to Project EATS, where the contents are weighed and exchanged for credits that can be used to purchase fresh produce from Project EATS’ farms and markets (The Hello Compost team is still figuring out the exact conversions of compost-to-credits and credits-to-dollars.).

The result is a win-win: Community members receive social support and healthy produce and local farms receive valuable compost with which to enrich their crops. Even beyond these benefits, Keller’s number-one priority is the environment. He wants to get food waste out of rapidly-filling landfills and help NYC communities participate in environmentally-friendly eating practices.

WHY IT MATTERS

Every week, many of us are probably guilty of looking in the fridge, opening up a container, giving the contents the “sniff test,” and deciding to toss the leftovers. It seems like no big deal, but every year our country produces over 35 million tons of food waste. According to 2011 statistics, 96 percent of those funky leftovers and scraps end up in a landfill or incinerator. And while most of us are throwing out food willy-nilly, a whopping 14.5 percent of American households are food insecure, meaning they don’t know where their next meal will come from. There’s clearly a disconnect between our food supply and the food we waste, but how can we recalibrate our food system?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the best way to reduce food waste is to prevent it from happening in the first place: Buy less, store correctly, and use leftovers wisely. The next best thing is to use food waste — and one of the easiest ways to do so is through composting, which creates nutrient-rich soil that can be used to grow more food. The natural compounds derived from compost can also remove chemicals from runoff water and help restore wetlands and other habitats, among many other uses.

When it comes to food waste, New York City acts like a microcosm for the entire country. The concrete jungle produces up to 36,000 tons of trash each day, and more than 20 percent of that is food waste. Last year alone, the city government spent $336 million hauling and burying 1.2 million pounds of food waste in landfills throughout the Northeast United States. But NYC deserves some credit for working to reorganize its food systems: The NYC Department of Sanitation launched the city’s first composting program in 1993, and it’s been growing in leaps and bounds ever since. Today, the program has drop-off sites in four of New York’s five boroughs.

The Hello Compost program seems like a good way to test how composting programs can help stem food waste and provide food security to low-income families in New York. By providing working-class households with access to local crops and a way to dispose of food waste responsibly, Hello Compost and Project EATS are tackling two of the most difficult and persistent problems (excess waste and insufficient access to healthy food, a.k.a. “food deserts”) that plague the American food system. With any luck, these programs will serve as models that can be implemented throughout the country.

IS IT LEGIT?

It remains to be seen. Keller intends to use Hello Compost’s first 60-household cohort (which launches in September) as a trial run for the program. As of right now, Keller, Blenkin, and their friends at Project EATS don’t know exactly how communities will react to composting and the waste-for-credits currency system. But there’s hope in previous experiments: Keller mentioned already-established programs like CompostNow in North Carolina and the Food for Waste Programme in South Africa as inspiration.

The biggest challenge will be how to tie together the program’s many moving parts. For Hello Compost to succeed, it must create incentives for people to compost, promote the benefits of purchasing fresh produce, and connect those two activities to building a strong, healthy community. These aren’t easy tasks in the first place, and they’re compounded by challenges (such as size and expensive living costs) unique to New York City. On the bright side, Hello Compost and Project EATS are thinking ahead, which is a rarity in today’s culture of immediate gratification. All signs show that responsible waste management and local, fresh food are essential to maintaining healthy bodies and, equally importantly, a healthy planet.

Source: Greatist

That’s Outrageous! Over 24,000 Chemicals Found In Bottled Water

Which Ones of these Chemicals, Are Harming You?

German researchers have discovered endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), that could adversely affect development and reproduction, to be contained in 18 different bottled water products. Of the 24,520 suspect chemicals found to be present in bottled water, the one that showed consistent results and illustrated anti-androgenic and anti-estrogenic activity is di(2-ethylhexyl) fumarate (DEHF). Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can interfere with the hormone system, they can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, cardiovascular disorders, metabolic disorders and as mentioned earlier,  other developmental disorders.

This study comes from Martin Wagner and Jorg Oehlmann of the Goethe University Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, and Michael Schlusener and Thomas Ternes of the German Federal Institute of Hydrology. They determined that bottled water could contain serious amounts of EDCs that should be a cause from concern.

Researchers used spectrometric simulation to narrow down their findings to DEHF as the only possible EDC giving rise to harmful activity. DEHF is also known as an anti-estrogenic compound, which means that another unidentified EDC must be present in the samples that showed anti-androgenic activity.

The authors employed a sensitive in vitro bioassay to characterize the total estrogenic burden leaching from plastics, including potential mixture effects and unidentified EDCs. Using a similar approach, a series of studies reported a widespread estrogenic contamination of commercially available bottled water.  Here, we combine biological and chemical analysis to identify putative steroid receptor antagonists in bottled water. Most of the products were potently antiestrogenic and antiandrogenic in the bioassays. Nontarget high-resolution mass spectrometry pointed towards maleate and fumarate isomers as promising candidates and subsequently enabled the identification of di(2-ethylhexyl) fumarate. Because its concentration is too low to explain the observed activity, other compounds must contribute. However, further maleate/fumarate isomers are not only biologically active but structurally highly similar to phthalates. Hence, we speculate these compounds might represent a novel, so far overlooked group of EDCs. An increasing number of in vitro studies reports the presence of EDCs in bottled water. With previous studies focusing on estrogenicity, the present work provides evidence for an additional contamination with steroid receptor antagonists. We detected antiestrogens and antiandrogens in the majority of analyzed bottled water products. Moreover, the antagonist activity was very potent. An equivalent of 3.75 ml bottled water inhibited estrogen and androgen receptor by up to 60 and 90 percent. Bottled water from six different countries has been found to contain estrogenic, antiestrogenic, as well as androgenic, progestagenic, and glucocorticoid-like chemicals. This demonstrates that a popular beverage is contaminated with diverse-acting EDCs.

What Can You Do?

The answer is simple, don’t drink bottled water!

Apart from that, you can purchase water filters that take out the chlorine and fluoride from your water if you choose, they aren’t that hard to find and if you do your research you can find some fairly inexpensive ones. If you’re interested, shoot us an email and we can help you out in your search. 24,000 chemicals is a lot of chemicals to be putting into your body. I’m not saying all of them are harmful, but who would want to take that chance? It’s not uncommon for us to taste some of these chemicals within the water that come from the plastic, especially if you leave the bottle in the sun for a short period of time.

Here is a very informative video that shares a lot more of what needs to be known about bottled water:

Source: CS Globe

Become A Green Driver, It’s Easy!

Vehicles are one of the most polluting entities that aids us,  even the Greenest ones pollute. From production to use, our cars degrade the world. They require mass amounts of material and energy to manufacture, and they expel carbon dioxide and fluid when they run. The drilling for oil disrupts the eco-system and the refineries pollute the air. And, even though the “Greener” vehicles are the lesser of the two evils, they still require water and energy to run. Nevertheless, our vehicles have become an almost necessity in our commute – they allow us to travel farther and quicker, and to be more efficient in our schedules and organized in our chores, and all it’s costing us is the environment. However, there are tiny practices that we can implement in our daily travels to help us lessen our footprint, below are ten.

10 Easy Ways to Be a Greener Driver:

  1. Drive safely: Avoid frequent stops and starts, speeding and acceleration – driving recklessly emits more CO2s than safe driving does.
  2. Cruise baby: Get better gas mileage by setting your cruise control on the highways.
  3. Clean your car: Remove unnecessary items from your car as the extra weight means more fuel use.
  4. Plan before you drive: Plan out your day and determine the quickest routes to get your chores done. Planning is a excellent way to save money and gas.
  5. Eco accessories: There are more sustainable options to almost all of the accessories you keep in your car. Seek out greener car matswheel coverssolar car battery chargers and natural car fresheners.
  6. Less air conditioning: Avoid using your air conditioner if possible, instead, use sun reflectors when your car is parked and roll down the windows to feel the breeze, or use solar powered car fans.
  7. Maintain your car: Use more eco friendly car oil and be certain that your engine is properly tuned and that your air filter is upgraded.
  8. Upgrade your gas sucker: Upgrade your older car to a newer one that gets better gas mileage. The greener cars are more sustainable and economical.
  9. Sell or donate your old car: There is value in old cars as many parts can be salvaged – tires can be recycled and metal components can be reused. The accessories can also be salvaged.
  10. Drive less: The best way to be a green driver is to drive less. Walk the shorter distances, car pool with your workmates or take public transportation if you can.

Source: Hug a Tree with Me

Yellowstone Takes On Another Sustainability Project

The National Park Service is tackling another Yellowstone sustainability project and seeking public input on changes to the existing energy conservation and renewable energy production systems at historic Lamar Buffalo Ranch.

Sustainable energy infrastructure improvements at the ranch are being proposed to conserve energy and water, reduce waste, replace and expand the existing photovoltaic (solar energy) system including storage batteries and related control equipment, and to install a new micro hydro turbine. Energy monitoring equipment would also be installed to monitor energy use and provide information for education purposes. The project will also provide for the ability to explore additional renewable energy technologies in the future.

The Lamar Buffalo Ranch is located approximately 10 miles from the nearest electric service and the existing solar energy system was installed in 1996.  Many of the components are at the end of their useful life and buildings are not energy efficient.  This project would increase the renewable energy available for use at the ranch and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of the current fossil fuel-powered generator currently in operation. The project would also create a model for off-grid environmental stewardship and education in Yellowstone National Park.

Though frequently overlooked, the Lamar Buffalo Ranch is one of the oldest and most historic areas in Yellowstone National Park. The Lamar Buffalo Ranch Historic District consists of five structures including a barn, two residences, a bunkhouse, and corral constructed between 1915 and the 1930s. It began life as a stagecoach stop between Cooke City and Gardiner, and converted in 1907 to house the remaining Yellowstone bison herd — all 28 of them — and remained in that use until 1955. The building were constructed in 1915 and the 1930s (the bunkhouse was built at Soda Butte and moved in 1938. The facility is currently used by the Yellowstone Association for programs.

An EA will be prepared in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).  Comments may be submitted on the NPS’ Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) Web site at parkplanning.nps.gov/LamarEA.  They may also be hand-delivered during normal business hours to the Mailroom in the park’s Administration Building in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming, or mailed to: Compliance Office Attn: Lamar Buffalo Ranch Sustainable Energy EA, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, WY, 82190.  Comments will not be accepted by fax, e-mail, or in any other way than those specified above.  All comments must be received by midnight MDT, May 9, 2014.

Source: Yellowstone Insider

Hacks For a More Sustainable And Fun City!

Sometimes all it takes is imagination, some stealth, and a little elbow grease to turn the mundane into something playful. Rotten Apple, an anonymous art project based in New York City, turns ordinary and forgotten city objects into usable, sustainable mini-hacks. Here’s how they describe where they land:

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Rotten Apple

So, how does that look on the ground? They added a seat on a hinge to a bicycle rack for a pop-down chair:

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Rotten Apple

They turned a forgotten newspaper kiosk into a cold weather clothing bank:

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Rotten Apple

And they left instructions on how to make a functional composting bin out of wood pallets left lying on the street:

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Rotten Apple

Although we don’t know who is behind Rotten Apple (the NYPD might not look too kindly upon mini chalkboards in subway stations or chessboards on fire hydrants), they do draw inspiration from eco-designer Victor Papanek, whose quote is included on their website:

Design, if it is to be ecologically responsible and socially responsive, must be revolutionary and radical in the truest sense. It must dedicate itself to … maximum diversity with minimum inventory … or doing the most with the least.

Head over to the Rotten Apple site for more inspiration, including traffic cone planters and urban hammocks.

Source: Grist

Make Going Out In Nature a Family Affair

As a parent, worrying about our kids is part of our everyday – it goes hand in hand with parenthood. My worry list gets long, but my top two are their health and their happiness, and I bet it’s the same for you.

When it comes to your kids and nature, what worries you? If you’re like 65% of U.S. parents, it’s the fact that kids aren’t getting enough time outside.

The Nature Conservancy, with support from Disney, recently surveyed parents of kids between 3 – 18 in the U.S., Brazil, China, France and Hong Kong about kids and nature. This is the first global survey to capture how much time kids spend outside and parents’ perspectives on how much importance they place on nature.

My daughter Kareena enjoying some outdoor time at the beach. 

As it turns out, U.S. parents worry about getting their kids outside as much as they do about bullying, the quality of education and obesity. That is a big deal to me – nature is as important as these issues! Globally, this feeling is shared strongly by parents in Brazil and Hong Kong.  What’s more, 82% of U.S. parents view spending time in nature as “very important” to their children’s development – second only to reading as a priority. The message is clear; to parents, nature is not just “something to do,” it is a crucial part of growth.

So are parents right to worry about this? The answer – according to numerous studies – is a resounding yes. Fact: kids need nature. Studies repeatedly show that time spent outside in nature leads to better health and improvement in the classroom. Unfortunately, the time kids spend in nature declines as they get older. In the U.S., preschoolers spend 12 hours a week outside, but teens? Less than seven. In other countries except Brazil, the weekly average is far smaller. Admittedly, this winter has really been a challenge to getting outdoors. That said, my daughter Kareena probably spends about eight hours a week outside walking the dog, recess, playing in a lot of snow and playing sports.

So what’s keeping our kids indoors? Parents in all countries cite competing demands on their kids’ time, such as homework, time spent on electronic devices inside, or other after-school activities. Similar to study findings, homework and lots of activities including singing, swimming, basketball and playing with her dog, her friends and her devices take up Kareena’s time. With all that going on and all our daily responsibilities, it can be tough to make getting into nature a priority. 

But, connecting with nature is a critical part of Kareena’s development, so my husband and I work to fit it in where we can.   Working in the conservation field, I also think about the future. 

If kids don’t connect with nature now, who will care for the environment and support conservation in the future? Direct experience with nature is the most highly cited influence on conservation values and inspiring environmental stewardship.

What excites me about these findings is that parents want to do something about it – it’s risen in our consciousness to take action. So what can we do?

First, let’s recognize that we are the primary gatekeepers to nature. According to the survey, children are much more likely to be outside with a parent or guardian than a friend, teacher or extended family member. Nature is not just good for children – it’s good for everyone.

Second, get connected. 75% of parents use online resources to learn about nature and the outdoors. Our  Nature Rocks Activity Finder gives parents ideas on where to go and what to do with kids of all ages and in all types of weather, and it works great on any mobile device.

Finally, pledge to get outside! Walk to school. Hike at a nature preserve, or plan a weekend of camping as a family. Make sure your kids see how much fun you’re having.

Are you part of the 65% of American parents that worry that your child doesn’t spend enough time outside? Do you have any tips or tricks to share to work in more outdoor time to our family’s over-scheduled life? 

Source: Nature Rocks

Spider-Man 2 Honored For Environmental Efforts

Sony Pictures’ Environmental Efforts Recognized by Industry Standard

In advance of this summer’s highly anticipated motion picture The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the Environmental Media Association proudly announces the film earned the EMA Green Seal for the high level of environmental efforts that went into the making of the film.

Throughout pre-production and principal photography, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 focused on implementing environmental best practices on set while giving the public sneak peeks of the efforts on social media as the production became the most eco-friendly tentpole in the history of Columbia Pictures.  From script to screen, everyone involved in the making of the film contributed, and limited their impact both individually and collectively.

The results of the efforts are significant.  Some highlights include:

  • The production achieved a 52% diversion rate from landfill
  • Recovered 49.7 tons of materials for donation or reuse on other films
  • Avoided 193,000 single-use plastic water bottles, and
  • Donated 5,861 meals to local shelters.

“I am excited for everyone to see all the heroic moments in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but this production was also a hero for the planet with a huge list of sustainable production practices,” said Andrew Garfield, who plays Peter Parker/Spider-Man.

“Creating the iconic world of Spider-Man on the scale of this film required enormous sets and set pieces, and yet, thanks to the contributions of everyone in the filmmaking process, we had a significantly lower impact,” said Marc Webb, Director of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. “With our on-location shoot in East River Park we helped restore benches and plant trees that had been devastated by Hurricane Sandy, leaving it a better place for the community than we found it.”

Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach, the film’s producers, added, “We’re extremely proud of what we were able to achieve in the production of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, not just because we are delivering an exciting experience for audiences, but because we were able to do it in such a responsible way.  The results speak for themselves – it goes to show that you can make a film on this kind of epic scale while still being mindful of the planet.”

“Promoting sound environmental practices within the fast-paced production world, especially at the scale of a superhero tentpole film like The Amazing Spider-Man 2, takes a lot of hard work and dedication, so we are proud to recognize these efforts with our EMA Green Seal,” said Debbie Levin, President of the Environmental Media Association.

The production had a dedicated Eco Manager, who, with the support of studio executives, producers, cast and crew, engaged with every department in supporting the sustainability initiatives on set, started a “Green Crewmember of the Week” program to reward talent, crew, and extras for extraordinary eco efforts, compiled statistics and results in a detailed report, and communicated the eco efforts in real time through a dedicated Twitter handle @EcoSpidey.

The studio extended these communications efforts, creating an EcoSpidey “sizzle reel” featuring the behind-the-scenes eco efforts and developing an EcoSpidey Photo Hunt game, where users help Spider-Man defeat Electro by becoming a superhero for the planet.

“After years of working to implement sustainable practices on our productions, our efforts on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 resulted in estimated cost savings of over $400,000.  This is more proof that what’s good for the planet can also be good for the bottom line,” said Doug Belgrad, President of Columbia Pictures.

In addition, Sony Pictures Entertainment confirms it is purchasing carbon offsets that render the physical production of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, as well as its publicity tour, carbon-neutral.  Every Columbia Pictures feature does a legacy project, usually planting trees in the locations where filming took place, so for this film the studio donated an additional 50 trees to East River Park after wrap. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will be the first Sony Pictures film to have an end credit self-verifying that it completed the EMA Green Seal and a high level of the studio’s eco-friendly best practices.  The end credit states “Sustainable Efforts Made a Difference.”

Watch the EcoSpidey Sizzle Reel on behind the scenes sustainability efforts: http://bit.ly/EcoSpideySizzle

Follow the film’s environmental efforts on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ecospidey

Play the EcoSpidey Photo Hunt game on mobile, tablet or computer: www.ecospideygame.com

ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL MEDIA ASSOCIATION

EMA mobilizes the entertainment industry in educating people about environmental issues, which in turn, inspires them to take action. A pioneer in linking the power of celebrity to environmental awareness, it was EMA who invented the ‘green carpet,’ launching the concept of taking a hybrid or alternative fuel vehicle – not a limo – to high profile awards events and bringing the concept of alternative automotive technology to millions of previously unaware households. http://www.ema-online.org

ABOUT “THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2™

We’ve always known that Spider-Man’s most important battle has been within himself: the struggle between the ordinary obligations of Peter Parker and the extraordinary responsibilities of Spider-Man. But in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Peter Parker finds that a greater conflict lies ahead.

It’s great to be Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield).  For Peter Parker, there’s no feeling quite like swinging between skyscrapers, embracing being the hero, and spending time with Gwen (Emma Stone).  But being Spider-Man comes at a price: only Spider-Man can protect his fellow New Yorkers from the formidable villains that threaten the city.  With the emergence of Electro (Jamie Foxx), Peter must confront a foe far more powerful than he. And as his old friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), returns, Peter comes to realize that all of his enemies have one thing in common: Oscorp.  Directed by Marc Webb.  Produced by Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach.  Screenplay by Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci & Jeff Pinkner.  Screen Story by Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci & Jeff Pinkner and James Vanderbilt.  Based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.  The film will be released in theaters internationally beginning April 16, 2014, and domestically on May 2, 2014.

 ABOUT SONY PICTURES

Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Sony Entertainment Inc., a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE’s global operations encompass motion picture production, acquisition and distribution; television production, acquisition and distribution; television networks; digital content creation and distribution; operation of studio facilities; and development of new entertainment products, services and technologies. For additional information, go to: http://www.sonypictures.com.

Europe Launches First Environment Satellite!

Europe has launched the first in a constellation of hi-tech satellites designed to monitor Earth for climate change and environmental damage and help disaster relief operations.

Sentinel-1A, a satellite designed to scan the Earth with cloud-penetrating radar, lifted off on Thursday evening aboard a Soyuz rocket from Kourou, French Guiana, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.

The satellite is the first of half a dozen orbital monitors that will be built and launched under the $5bn Copernicus project, a joint undertaking of the ESA and the European Union.

It will be followed by a partner, Sentinel-1B, due to be launched towards the end of next year, according to the AFP news agency.

Operating 180 degrees apart, at an altitude of about 700km, between them the pair will be able to take a radar picture of anywhere on Earth within six days.

Radar scanning has a range of uses, from spotting icebergs and oil slicks to detecting rogue logging and ground subsidence.

The data will be widely accessible to the public and is likely to have uses that go beyond the environment, such as in construction and transport.

Environmental disasters

By mapping areas stricken by flood or earthquake, the monitors will also be able to help emergency teams identify the worst-hit areas and locate roads, railway lines and bridges that are still passable, the ESA says.

The others in the series are Sentinel-2, which will deliver high-resolution optical images of forests and land use; Sentinel-3, providing ocean and land data, and Sentinels 4 and 5, which will monitor Earth’s atmospheric composition the basic component in fine-tuning understanding about greenhouse gases.

The goldmine of data expected to be thrown up by the satellite constellation will be more accessible to the public than any previous Earth-monitoring programme.

The potential applications go beyond stewardship of the environment. They could help shipping firms, farmers and construction companies, too.

“Copernicus is the most ambitious Earth observation programme to date,” ESA said.

“It will provide accurate, timely and easily accessible information to improve the management of the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure civil security.”

Copernicus replaces Envisat, one of the most successful environmental satellites in space history, whose mission ended in 2012.

It was named last year in honour of the 16th-century Polish astronomer who determined that the Earth orbited the Sun, and not the other way round, as convention had it at the time.

Source: Al Jazeera