Dutch designer creates leather alternative from palm leaves

December 5, 2018 by  
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The leather industry has taken a beating from conscientious consumers for decades, and for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the chemicals used in leather processing are toxic to humans and the environment. Animal advocates are also vocal about protecting the animals used to produce leather. So opponents of leather are always seeking alternatives. One Dutch designer, Tjeerd Veenhoven, is doing his part by developing leather look-alike rugs from palm leaves, called palm leather. Rather than relying on the resource-consuming practice of raising cattle, Veenhoven sources his materials from some of the 80 million trees currently growing naturally, creating a sustainable option to traditional leather. Related: A former leather tannery is transformed into an apartment trio in Lisbon Curiosity launched the invention when Veenhoven became intrigued by the pattern and texture of the palm leaf and asked a friend in India to send him some to experiment with. Although naturally brittle, he found that with glycerin, water and a few other materials he could soften the palm and give it better pliable qualities. Veenhoven’s motivation stems from the belief that producing less meat sources both for food and materials will benefit the planet through the reduction of required resources and the increase in plant systems that are more sustainable. Because of this belief, the processing of palm leather aims to use minimal water compared to cotton or leather and uses no harmful chemicals. In fact, all ingredients could be consumed by humans and are safe to return to nature. Bouncing around from his initial production in Holland, the manufacturing moved to India and then to the Dominican Republic where they are produced now with an emphasis on green initiatives. Related: Nike calls “Flyleather” its most sustainable leather material yet The rugs are assembled with small strips of the palm leather pressed together and mounted to a woven base, which can be produced in a variety of colors to suit different decor needs. The future of palm leather looks promising as other industries begin to notice it and the company focuses on other products that can be made with it. For example, car manufacturers striving to replace leather seats with a vegan option are eager to consider palm leather as an alternative. + Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven Via Dezeen Images via Tjeerd Veenhoven    

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Dutch designer creates leather alternative from palm leaves

Thousands of animals have been displaced by California wildfires

November 14, 2018 by  
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The California wildfires are raging on, but humans aren’t the only ones in danger. Thousands of pets and farm animals have received attention in Northern and Southern California while over 400 square miles continue to burn. Over the past few days, the fires have led to mass evacuations, jammed roads and packed shelters. The animals caught in the blazes are also trying to figure out where to escape. In Malibu last Friday, horses, goats and alpacas packed the shoreline along with humans, and a parking lot became an evacuation zone. Multiple photos have surfaced of animals tied to things like lifeguard towers and fences while smoke fills the background. Related: The fearless dog who refused to leave his goats during the Santa Rosa wildfire “There was just no time to do anything,” said Talley Hutcherson, a ranch owner. “Within hours, we had to make the decision to come to the beach because the [Pacific Coast Highway] was shut down.” Hutcherson’s decision to evacuate to the beach with eight horses required her to make multiple trips back and forth. Searchers combing through areas affected by the California wildfires have rescued hundreds of animals — including dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, ducks, and a tortoise https://t.co/eY2uwf8E5U — CNN (@CNN) November 14, 2018 According to the Huffington Post , animal shelters throughout Southern California are reaching capacity. But there are many shelters in the Los Angeles area that are still open and requesting donations. These facilities are caring for hundreds of animals , including horses, pigs and rabbits. The Los Angeles Zoo also briefly evacuated some animals last Friday while firefighters battled to contain a fire in nearby Griffith Park. The zoo does have an emergency evacuation plan in place when needed, and it eventually returned the animals to their habitats. But not all animals in the evacuation zones have been able to get to safety. Photos from the fires have shown injured and dead animals that became overwhelmed from smoke or flames. There has also been concern on social media for a popular giraffe and other animals at Malibu Wines and Saddlerock Ranch. The ranch was under evacuation orders but didn’t appear to have an emergency evacuation plan in place. Several buildings on the property ended up being damaged or destroyed by the fire, and when a USA Today reporter arrived over the weekend, the ranch looked empty except for one worker and the giraffe. Many people were extremely unhappy that the giraffe, named Stanley, was left behind. Via Huffington Post and USA Today Image via NASA

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Thousands of animals have been displaced by California wildfires

This jet black RV is designed for intrepid travelers who like to explore in style

November 14, 2018 by  
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Clad in jet black, corrugated metal siding and renewable Brazilian hardwood, the Draper is an impressive tiny home on wheels that is as tough as nails on the outside but surprisingly sophisticated on the inside. Created by the ingenious team from Land Ark RV , the Draper RV is designed to be the perfect roaming home for adventurers who want to travel in 300 square feet of style. The exterior of the Draper features black corrugated metal with a hint of red wood. Much like its sister design, the Drake , this RV has a unique, slanted shape that creates a sense of movement even when it is not in motion. The elevated volume not only gives the tiny home a bold presence and more interior space, but it also helps with the aerodynamic pull while on the road. Related: This bold ship-inspired tiny house has a surprising minimalist interior The two designs are quite similar, but the Draper has a few extras such as an ingenious fold-out deck. Made out of renewable Brazilian hardwood, the deck can be folded out to create a wonderful seating area, or folded up flush to the exterior when on the road. In contrast to its bold black exterior, the interior of the RV is light and airy. White-washed pine lends a fresh aesthetic, which is further enhanced by an abundance of natural light thanks to the many clerestory windows. The interior is also quite spacious, with 10′ ceilings that open up the space. Although the living area, which is installed with LED lighting , boasts a sophisticated design, the layout was created with adventurers in mind. There is a 7-foot-wide mud room at the entryway to store gear such as hiking boots, climbing equipment and more. There is also additional storage installed throughout the home. Custom-made,  flexible furniture makes the living space highly versatile. For example, a large galley kitchen with a convertible U-shaped dining space can be configured into different uses. When not needed, the dining table can be stowed underneath, opening up room for the sofa cushions to be folded out into a queen-sized bed, perfect for overnight guests. On the other side of the kitchen, the living room extends to the outdoor deck through a set of large sliding glass doors. The master bedroom is located on a sleeping loft at the far side of the home. The bedroom is reached by ladder and has enough space for a king-sized bed. The tiny home’s bathroom also comes installed with a vanity, wall-hung toilet and a full-size shower. + Land Ark RV Images via Land Ark RV

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This jet black RV is designed for intrepid travelers who like to explore in style

MaliArts designs city-chic beehives to save solitary bees

November 5, 2018 by  
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We’re big fans of beautifully designed urban beehives on Inhabitat, and Mexico-based design studio MaliArts’ new shelters for solitary bees are just as buzz-worthy. Dubbed ‘Refugio,’ the project currently consists of three distinct and sculptural beehives aimed at attracting different species of solitary bees. Built with natural materials, each shelter offers a resting place and access to food and water for the insects. When most of us think about bees, it’s the sociable honey bees and bumblebees that first spring to mind. However, the solitary bees — which, as the name suggests, are lone bees that don’t belong to any colony — make up most of the bee species around the world. Though they’re less popularly known because they typically produce neither honey nor beeswax (and have a weak or nonexistent sting), solitary bees are powerful pollinators and have important roles to play in our food system. “When we talk about bees, we usually imagine the European honey bee ( Apis mellifera ) when in reality, around 90 percent of the bee species are considered solitary,” Gabriel Calvillo of MaliArts told  Dezeen . “The fact that solitary bees do not generate any ‘consumable product’ for humans has meant that they are not given much attention, but recent studies point to the fact that they are possibly the most efficient pollinators in nature.” Related: 6 buzz-worthy backyard beehive designs To bring attention to these bees and create habitats for the endangered insects, MaliArts created three Refugio structures each tailored to the different nesting and refuge preferences of solitary bees. Stylish enough for a wide range of urban settings, each bee hotel is built of  pine  and teak wood finished with natural oil, a ceramic roof or body and steel legs. Feeders and waterers are integrated into the design. Each shelter will also be accompanied by explanatory reading material for passersby. + MaliArts Via Dezeen Images via MaliArts

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Zambia plans to cull 2,000 hippos over the next 5 years

October 23, 2018 by  
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Two years ago, the Republic of Zambia in south-central Africa suspended its plans for the controlled slaughter of up to 2,000 hippos over five years following protests from animal rights activists . The country has recently revived those plans, claiming that the water levels in the Luangwa River — where most of the hippos are located — can’t support the current hippo population. According to Zambia’s tourism minister  Charles Banda, it would be too costly to move the hippos to another part of the country. Instead, the government has decided to proceed with its plans to cull the hippo population in eastern Zambia. “The South Luangwa National Park has a population of more than 13,000 hippos, but the area is only ideal for 5,000 hippos,” Banda said. Related: Hippos could be threatened with extinction due to demand for their teeth The Zambian government believes that overpopulation could threaten Zambia’s ecosystem , and Banda added that moving the hippos to other bodies of water would be “very expensive,” leaving culling as the only option. The government also insists that controlling the number of hippos in the area will stop the spread of anthrax — a bacterial disease commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa that kills animals — and the low rainfall in the region has just made the situation worse. As Reuters reports, during the summer of 2016, the British wildlife charity Born Free led a campaign against the culling of hippos and described it as trophy hunting . After the recent announcement to continue with the culling, Born Free said on its website that Zambia has not provided any solid, scientific evidence that there is actually a hippo overpopulation problem at the Luangwa River. Born Free also stated that scientific evidence suggests that culling hippos actually stimulates breeding, ultimately increasing the hippo population, which could potentially establish a “cycle of death and destruction.” Back in 2016, Born Free also questioned Zambia’s scientific rationale for killing 2,000 hippos when the population in southern Africa is around 80,000. Via Reuters and Born Free Image via Lars Plougmann and Sarah Depper

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Zambia plans to cull 2,000 hippos over the next 5 years

Hurricane Michael leaves uncertainty for loggerhead sea turtles in Florida

October 18, 2018 by  
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The full extent of damage from Hurricane Michael is still not known. But when the storm hit the Florida Panhandle, it did more than destroy property and accumulate a human death toll that is still on the rise. Part of the hurricane’s devastation included sweeping away the nests of threatened baby loggerhead sea turtles that were hatching on Florida beaches after damage from previous storms. From May through October, the Gulfside Beaches in Florida’s Franklin County are dotted with sea turtle nests. But Hurricane Michael has replaced the dunes with scalloped sand in the town of Alligator Point, which was one of the most prolific areas for sea turtle nests in the state. Loggerheads are a federally-protected species and the most common type of sea turtle in Florida. Sea turtles lay eggs many times throughout the season, which results in hundreds of nests across the Panhandle that each hold anywhere between 50 to 150 eggs. Protecting those nests is a 24/7 job, and volunteers and city staff both work to make sure the hatchlings can make it to the ocean safely. At St. George Island in Franklin County, there were only seven nests left after the hurricane, but volunteers said if they haven’t already hatched, it is likely that none survived. According to Reuters , the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute started monitoring the beaches of Franklin County for sea turtle nesting activity back in 1979. In the 1990s, there was a huge increase in the number of turtles hatching and crawling to the ocean. Since then, there has been a significant drop-off. “The downward trend seen with hatch success began as a result of beach conditions and has continued due to tropical storms, high tides and erosion,” said the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s website. However, during the last year, Franklin County had more than 1,1100 loggerhead nests — the most the state had seen in four years. Hurricane Michael came late in the nesting season, and that might be the only reason that this year’s turtle population wasn’t totally wiped out. Florida master naturalist Lesley Cox said that they had a lot of nests this year and no storms until Michael, so there is a good chance that a lot of hatchlings made it. Now, the question remains whether or not the beach erosion from the storm will keep the area from being a sufficient habitat for nesting next year. Via Reuters Image via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ( 1 , 2 )

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Hurricane Michael leaves uncertainty for loggerhead sea turtles in Florida

Valuable wetlands are disappearing 3 times faster than forests, new study warns

September 28, 2018 by  
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Wetlands around the world are disappearing at an alarming rate. New research shows that these valuable ecosystems are vanishing at a rate three times that of forests . Unless significant changes are made, the disappearance of wetlands could cause severe damage around the globe. The Global Wetland Outlook , which was completed by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, found that more than a third of the wetlands on Earth have disappeared over a 45-year period. The pace that wetlands are vanishing jumped significantly after the year 2000, and regions all over the planet were impacted equally. Unfortunately, there is a handful of reasons why wetlands are diminishing around the world. This includes climate change , urbanization, human population growth and variable consumption patterns, all of which have contributed to the way land is used. Related: Natural wetland in India filters 198 million gallons of wastewater a day with zero chemicals There are several different types of wetlands found on Earth, including marshes, lakes, peatlands and rivers. Lagoons, coral reefs , mangroves and estuaries also fall into the wetland category. In total, wetlands take up more than 12.1 million square kilometers, an area larger than Greenland. Wetlands are crucial, because they provide almost all of the world’s access to freshwater — something that is key to survival. Humans also use wetlands for hydropower and medicines. From an environmental perspective, wetlands help retain carbon and regulate global warming . They also serve as the ecosystems for 40 percent of living species on Earth, providing food, water, breeding spaces and raw materials for these animals to live. If the wetlands keep vanishing at the current rate, many species will go as well. “The Global Wetland Outlook is a wake-up call — not only on the steep rate of loss of the world’s wetlands but also on the critical services they provide. Without them, the global agenda on sustainable development will not be achieved,” said Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. “We need urgent collective action to reverse trends on wetland loss and degradation and secure both the future of wetlands and our own survival at the same time.” With wetlands in danger of disappearing, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has pledged to make saving these regions a top priority. The parties involved with the group have targeted 2,300 sites for protection and hope to expand that to include more wetlands around the globe. + Ramsar Convention on Wetlands Image via Jeanethe Falvey / EPA

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Valuable wetlands are disappearing 3 times faster than forests, new study warns

Judge stops bear hunt and returns Yellowstone grizzlies to the endangered list

September 27, 2018 by  
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The hunt for grizzlies in Yellowstone National Park is officially over. This week, a judge ordered that all grizzly bears living in or near the park to be put back on the list of endangered species. The ruling stops the attempts of wildlife officials to issue licenses for those want to hunt the bears, which have been protected from hunting for the past four decades. According to The Guardian , the population of grizzly bears has increased in the last 30 years from around 135 to more than 700 today. While the numbers are improving, grizzlies are only present in four locations in the Rocky Mountains. This has raised concerns about the recovery of grizzlies, as the populations are still isolated from each other. This is one reason why Judge Dana Christensen, who put in a lot of research on the case, decided to put the bears back on the endangered list. As Judge Christensen explained, true recovery means expanding grizzly populations to regions outside of the Rocky Mountains. Related: Montana judge to rule on first grizzly bear hunt in 40 years While environmental groups and activists praised the ruling, wildlife officials were disappointed by the turn of events. Officials in Wyoming recently put in motion plans for a bear hunt later this year. Up to 22 individuals were granted licenses to hunt grizzlies when the season opened. Luckily, citizens and conservationists launched a massive campaign — including the Shoot’em with a Camera, Not A Gun initiative  — to stop the sport hunting of these beautiful creatures. The fight to keep grizzly bears on the endangered list is sadly not over. Experts believe that state officials will attempt to repeal the ruling at a higher court. The pro-hunting organization Safari Club International is also expected to make a push toward making grizzly hunts legal once again. We can only hope that Judge Christensen’s ruling stands the test of time, allowing grizzlies to make a true recovery in the wild. Via The Guardian Image via Neal Herbert / Yellowstone National Park

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Judge stops bear hunt and returns Yellowstone grizzlies to the endangered list

LA City Council unanimously agrees to ban the sale of fur

September 25, 2018 by  
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The Los Angeles City Council made a historic vote last week by unanimously agreeing to ban the sale of fur. The meeting resulted in a direct order to the L.A. City Attorney, who is responsible for penning the formal policy to outline the new law. The document is expected to surface sometime next month and will effectively ban fur beginning two years from the date of its signage. When completed, this process will result in L.A. being the largest city in the U.S. to ban the sale of fur clothing and accessories. “This is L.A. taking a stand and saying we will no longer be complicit in the inhumane and vile fur trade that’s been going on for years,” council member Bob Blumenfield said. Related: British Fashion Council commits to a fur-free London Fashion Week Some skeptics of the policy raised eyebrows, wondering how a city like L.A. that enjoys average temperatures of 75 degrees plans to make a major impact on the fur market. “I don’t think it’s happening in Moscow,” said P.J. Smith, the senior manager of fashion policy at the Humane Society. While colder cities are not expected to jump on the band wagon any time soon, the council’s initiative is definitely sparking encouragement for other cities and states in the U.S. to adopt the same measures. Blumenfield, the council member responsible for initiating the motion, explained, “We’re trying to set an example for the rest of the state and the rest of the country.” Smith agreed that as the second largest city in the U.S. — also recognized as an epicenter of global fashion — the influence that L.A. would have over other cities is extraordinary. Top international fashion houses have also pledged their commitment to the no-fur campaign, along with several other cities and countries. Smith described his experience with this domino effect saying, “I’ve been doing this job for about 10 years, and if you would have told me just two years ago that Gucci, Versace, Burberry, InStyle magazine, London Fashion Week, Norway, the Netherlands, São Paulo would be going fur-free, I wouldn’t have believed you, but it’s happening.” Related: Burberry vows to stop burning unsold clothes and using real fur Smith attributed the back-to-back bans to a little friendly competition between cities. There is already a handful of cities that have adopted anti-fur laws in California , for instance. L.A. will be joining a list that includes San Francisco and West Hollywood, “to see who’s the most compassionate city out there,” Smith explained. “San Francisco’s colder, and when San Francisco banned fur sales, it was considered the compassion capital. Then you have L.A. turning around and claiming that title back.” Via New York Times Image via Pete Bellis

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LA City Council unanimously agrees to ban the sale of fur

Scientists working to help manatees poisoned by Florida red tide

September 7, 2018 by  
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The toxic red tide has been raising states of emergency within Florida counties over the past few months. The harmful algal blooms are causing extensive fish deaths as well as sickness and death in sea turtles, birds and marine mammals, including manatees. Scientists at Florida International University (FIU), in coalition with Mote Marine Laboratory , are racing against the clock to neutralize the poisonings with a new treatment. Red tide accounts for 10 percent of manatee deaths in the last decade. Because of the current bloom cycle, that could jump to a tremendous 30 percent in the near future. Thanks to a $428,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ECOHAB program , a three-year program is being launched by FIU and Mote to improve veterinary care for rescued manatees affected by the Florida red tide. The project allows scientists to study cellular immune responses in the marine mammal to various antioxidant treatments. “The current approach is simply to give palliative care and wait for them to clear the toxin and get better,” explained Kathleen Rein, the FIU chemist that is leading the research team in tandem with colleague Cathy Walsh, a marine immunology expert at Mote’s labs. Related: Manatees taken off the endangered species list – but that may not be good The current treatment, which uses anti-inflammatory substances, just isn’t ebbing the tide. “This new treatment could accelerate the healing process,” Rein said. “If this treatment is successful, it could be used with many other animals including dolphins, turtles and birds.” The manatee recently advanced from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list to threatened status. However, the current Florida red tide bloom, which is continuing without any predictions on its duration, has already claimed more than 103 of the 575 manatee deaths this year — almost 18 percent. “The need for better treatment is underscored by the current, long-lasting bloom of Florida red tide and its intense impacts on Florida manatees,” Walsh said. With the current red tide bloom being the worst the state has endured since 2005, the situation is critical. + Florida International University + Mote Marine Laboratory Image via Ramos Keith / U.S Fish and Wildlife Service

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Scientists working to help manatees poisoned by Florida red tide

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