Teen Inspires Law Requiring Solar Panels on New South Miami Houses

David McNew/Getty Images
David McNew/Getty Images

In South Miami, Florida, all new houses built after September 2017 will need to to come equipped with rooftop solar panels, thanks to a local teenager. As Inhabitat spotted from the Miami Herald, the recently passed city measure was originally the brainchild of Delaney Reynolds, a teenager who began writing mayors in her area about the idea in early 2016.

After seeing that a similar city ordinance had passed in San Francisco, the then 16-year-old Reynolds wrote to South Miami mayor Philip Stoddard proposing that he craft legislation requiring solar panels in new construction. In response, he asked her to help write the law with him.

The newly passed legislation requires that all new home construction or large-scale home renovations include solar panels. All houses must have either 175 square feet of solar panels per 1000 square feet of sunlit roof area, or at least enough to produce 2.75 kilowatts per 1000 square feet of living space. The solar power requirement also applies to renovations that replace or extend the structure by 75 percent. South Miami is the first city in Florida to pass this kind of mandate.

In Florida, the average solar panel system costs between $10,000 and $15,000 for a 6-kilowatt system, including the federal tax deduction, though those costs vary based on the area (states have their own tax deductions and credits for solar installation) and the type of system. But several years down the line, the investment should start paying off in the form of huge energy savings. In a sunny area like Los Angeles, for instance, homeowners are estimated to save around $90,000 over 20 years, according to the solar marketplace EnergySage.

Reynolds plans to continue to work toward making life in South Florida more sustainable in the face of climate change through her environmental nonprofit Sink or Swim, which is devoted to working against sea level rise.

[h/t Inhabitat]

UK Burger King Restaurants Will Stop Giving Plastic Toys With Kids' Meals

Leon Neal/Getty Images
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Fast food companies don't have a reputation for being eco-friendly, but through small changes made in recent years, some of the biggest names in the industry are working to reduce their environmental impact. Just a few weeks after introducing the meat-free Impossible Whopper, Burger King announced a new policy for its United Kingdom locations. As CNN reports, UK restaurants will no long include plastic toys with kids' meals.

The change comes after two sisters from the UK started a petition on Change.org calling on McDonald's and Burger King to stop distributing plastic toys with kids' meals. Ella and and Caitlin McEwan, who were 9 and 7 respectively when the petition launched this summer, wrote, “children only play with the plastic toys they give us for a few minutes before they get thrown away and harm animals and pollute the sea." They went on to say: "It’s not enough to make recyclable plastic toys—big, rich companies shouldn’t be making toys out of plastic at all." Their online petition has received more than 530,000 signatures.

By cutting plastic from kids' meals, Burger King estimates it will avoid wasting 350 tons of single-use plastic a year. The chain has also installed containers in its UK stores for collecting old plastic toys from customers, so the material can be recycled to make playgrounds. The UK represents just a fraction of Burger King's market, but according to the company, non-biodegradable plastic toys will be phased out of all locations by 2025.

McDonald's has had a different response to the McEwan sister's petition. Instead of doing away with plastic toys completely, UK restaurants will give customers the option to swap toys for fruit with their Happy Meals later this year, and then allow them to opt for books instead for a period in early 2020. Meanwhile, in Canada and Germany, some McDonald's restaurants are experimenting with going totally plastic-free. The more sustainable restaurants feature paper straws, waffle cone condiment cups, and burger wrappers made from grass.

[h/t CNN]

Fall Foliage Is Running Late This Year

Free art director/iStock via Getty Images
Free art director/iStock via Getty Images

The August arrival of the pumpkin spice latte might have you feeling like fall is in full swing already, but plants aren’t quite so impressionable. According to Travel + Leisure, the best fall foliage could be coming a little later than usual this year.

Historically, the vibrant transformation starts to sweep through northern regions of the Rocky Mountains, Minnesota, and New England in mid-September, and reaches its peak by the end of the month. Other areas, including the Appalachians and Midwest states, don’t see the brightest autumn leaves until early or mid-October. The Weather Channel reports that this year, however, the forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts unseasonably warm temperatures for the next two weeks, which could impede the color-changing process.

Warm temperatures aren’t necessarily bad for fall foliage, as long as they occur during the day and are offset by cool nights. Since meteorologists don’t expect the overnight temperatures to drop off yet, plants will likely continue producing enough chlorophyll to keep their leaves green in the coming days.

The good news is that this year’s fall foliage should only be about a week late, and meteorologist David Epstein thinks that when leaves do start to change color, we’re in for an especially beautiful treat. If the current weather forecast holds, he told Boston.com, we'll "see a longer season than last year, we’d see a more vibrant season than last year, and it would come on a little earlier than last year, which was so late.”

Though poor weather conditions like early snow, heavy rain, drought, or strong winds can cause leaves to fall prematurely, most trees right now are in a good position to deliver a brilliant display of color after a healthy, rain-filled summer.

Find out when you’ll experience peak fall foliage in your area with this interactive map.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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