Heat wave in Australia kills 23K flying foxes

April 15, 2019 by  
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A historic heat wave in Australia killed off thousands of flying foxes late last year. In Australia’s northern coast, temperatures reached over 107 degrees for several days, leading to the deaths of around 23,000 flying foxes, which are some of the largest bats on the planet. The flying foxes did everything in their power to beat the heat. This includes panting, using their wings as fans and coating their bodies with saliva. Unfortunately, the heat proved to be too much, and many of the bats fell to their deaths. A few hundred were also taken to rehab facilities in the region. Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 “We have never seen die-offs in this species before,” David Westcott, who works for the National Flying-Fox Monitoring Program, explained. “Indeed, across the species’ range, we have rarely, if ever, seen temperatures like this before.” The large bats are not the only wildlife affected by such temperatures. The record-breaking heat wave killed camels, wild horses and fish over the past few months. The temperatures have climbed so high that hanging fruit cooked on trees. Although 23,000 bats is a lot, this is hardly the first time such huge numbers of species have died because of heat waves. In 2014, a devastating heat wave led to the death of more than 45,000 bats in Queensland. Dating all the way back to 1791, there have been around 39 similar events , although 35 of them have happened after 1994. What makes last year’s die-off unique is that it happened to a type of bat that is on the endangered species list. Prior to November, scientists estimated that there were around 75,000 spectacled flying foxes in the world, spread out among  Australia , New Guinea and Indonesia. That means the latest heat wave killed close to a third of their population, which could have devastating results on the future of the species. In light of the situation, conservationists are doing their best to prevent future die-offs. Scientists working out of Western Sydney University have created a warning system that alerts local residents ahead of a heat wave , giving them enough time to provide the bats with life-saving water sources. Via EcoWatch Image via Lonely Shrimp

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Heat wave in Australia kills 23K flying foxes

Car-free Sundays are the norm in Colombia’s capital city, Bogot

April 15, 2019 by  
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Imagine your city without cars — every single Sunday. At first, you might be frustrated by the inconvenience and inability to complete errands, but once you embrace the throngs of bikes, recognize your friends and neighbors among the people out for a stroll or attend a Zumba class at what was once a congested intersection, it’s likely to become one of your favorite traditions. For 45 years, the Colombian city of Bogotá has closed its major roads for Ciclovía, a weekly event where cyclists and pedestrians reclaim the street. The world’s most successful mass recreation event Vox calls the weekly event “the world’s most successful mass recreation event,” and more than 400 cities around the world look to Bogotá as a model for replication. In Spanish, Ciclovía means “Bicycle Way,” but the roads are open to bikes , roller skates, scooters, wheel chairs, skateboards, runners, walkers and all other types of physical activity, recreation and relaxation. Since its launch in 1974 , the event has expanded to include juice bars, fruit stands and exercise classes at various stops along the now 76 miles of designated roadway. Related: France moves to reshape infrastructure and promote bicycle transportation Ciclovía occurs from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every single Sunday and on major holidays, a frequency that sets it apart from similar events in other cities and is credited for its long-term success. Pulling off such a large-scale event is no easy feat in Bogotá , a major Latin American city that normally moves 1.5 million cars, 50,000 taxis and 500,000 motorcycles on any given day. “The Ciclovía is the moment when motor vehicles make way for human beings,” a director for the event, Bibiana Sarmiento, told National Geographic . In fact, nearly 1.5 million Bogotanos take over the public space every Sunday, which is approximately a quarter of the city’s entire population. Statistics show that the average participant is out there for about three hours, which has significantly helped residents reach widely recommended levels of physical activity. Bogotanos, like most city-dwellers, face limited space for recreational activities and soaring rates of chronic diseases linked to sedentary lifestyles. Although Ciclovía is only once a week, the city-wide emphasis on physical activity and community access to exercise classes and bike routes has caused a marked difference in health indicators. Street closures are good for your health In addition to improved air quality and a palpable decrease in stress and aggressive behaviors, the city of Bogotá is also attempting to analyze specific public health benefits. Program analysts studied savings on medical costs and found that Ciclovía saves between $3.20 and $4.30 in direct medical costs per every dollar invested, which is approximately $6 per participant. General analyses also indicate that public health benefits are more profound and long-term when such recreational events are reoccurring, something that sets Ciclovía apart from other cities with similar programs. To date, more than 400 cities worldwide have implemented similar mass recreation and street closure events, including 122 U.S. cities. A major roadblock (pun intended) to hosting such events is the logistical nightmare of acquiring permits for road closures and the cost of paying traffic staff. The benefits can outweigh the costs According to Vox, researchers recommend establishing reoccurring events to streamline permitting, staffing and signage and to ensure that residents are aware of the event and familiar with the detours.  Researchers argue that if made more frequent, “the cost of coordinating the event could come down and it could ‘help thousands to meet weekly recommended levels of [150 minutes of] physical activity.’” Related: How to make American cities bike-friendly “Over time the system has been perfected in terms of minimization of costs and of making the public aware of the road closures,” Marcela Guerrero Casas, managing director of Open Streets Cape Town in South Africa, told Vox. “When you do this consistently (in terms of time and location), people accept and embrace the program.” In addition to onerous permitting procedures, planners cite overtime for police officers as one of the largest and prohibitive expenditures. As part of the success, Ciclovía and a similar event in LA (called CicLAvía) utilize volunteers for traffic assistance. The city also pays for the program through sponsorships and a tax on phone bills, made possible because the program is so longstanding and beloved by all types of people that it is an accepted part of Bogotano culture and government spending. Going car-free can bring together the community Although the specific health and urban planning benefits aren’t always easy to quantify, there is resounding, worldwide interest in events like Ciclovía and a multitude of examples of its uniting , cross-cultural success. “No one cares about the clothes you’re wearing or what social class you’re from,” director Bibiana Sarmiento explained to National Geographic. “Everyone is welcome, and everyone is equal.” Via National Geographic and Vox Images via Saúl Ortega ( 1 , 2 , 3 ), Cidades para Pessoas and Carlos Felipe Pardo

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Car-free Sundays are the norm in Colombia’s capital city, Bogot

A 1920s cottage gets a new lease on life as an urban barnyard house

April 12, 2019 by  
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When a family of four outgrew their 1920s cottage in Melbourne and were about to embark on an extensive renovation, they asked Australian design studio Inbetween Architecture for a second opinion on the blueprints. Impressed by the consultation, the clients ended up scrapping their plans and instead put their faith in Inbetween Architecture to lead the redesign, one which would be more sensitive to the family’s lifestyle — and their chickens and honey bees. Affectionately called the “Urban Barnyard House,” the renovated and expanded residence combines rustic influences with contemporary elements into a comfortable home for the family and their beloved animals. Before expanding the original house, a two-bedroom Edwardian weatherboard cottage, the architects first sat down with the family to understand their daily routines and needs so as to create a responsive and flexible design solution. The clients’ answers informed the layout of the Urban Barnyard House. For example, the kitchen is placed in the heart of the home and the dining area is located to the east to take advantage of morning light as well as the embrace of indoor-outdoor living . The existing building was reconfigured to house three bedrooms and a new entry hall while the communal areas were relocated to the new rear extension. To minimize the time the family had to spend outside the home during renovation and construction, the architects built the extension with simple construction and a truss roof and also added a small “link” space that serves as a transition zone from the existing structure to the new building. An outdoor deck was inserted between the new extension and an existing timber shed in the south side of the property. Large windows and a natural materials palette tie the house to the landscape, which includes a productive urban backyard for beekeeping and raising chickens. Related: Modern farmhouse-inspired dwelling in Melbourne is largely self-sufficient “Free and easy indoor-outdoor living (and a productive urban backyard!) suggested that while the home needed to be robust, there was an element of playfulness that could be accommodated,” said the architects, who designed the home with humans and animals in mind. “The contemporary extension sits comfortably within its more traditional context. Sentimental elements of the original house, such as the fireplace bricks, solid timber paneled doors and a stained glass window, were salvaged and reused in new locations.” + Inbetween Architecture Via ArchDaily Photography by Nic Granleese via Inbetween Architecture

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A 1920s cottage gets a new lease on life as an urban barnyard house

Modern farmhouse-inspired dwelling in Melbourne is largely self-sufficient

March 29, 2019 by  
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Desirous of a “low-tech, country life,” a couple reached out to Brunswick-based architectural firm MRTN Architects for the design of the Trentham Long House, a contemporary home inspired by the traditional farming structures that once inhabited the Australian countryside. Located north of Melbourne, the dwelling consists of an elongated structure topped with a gable roof. To meet the client’s brief for a largely self-sufficient home, the architects optimized the thermal performance of the build, taking advantage of passive solar principles and installing a high-efficiency fireplace for supplementary heating in winter. Built for a couple that often hosts their extended family, the single-story home spans an area of 2,787 square feet and is oriented east to west. The main living spaces are located on the west side and include four bedrooms evenly split on either side of the central open-plan living area with a dining space and kitchen. Full-height glazing with custom sliding screens open the living space to an outdoor terrace. “The building’s muted material palette subtly and effectively reflects the surrounding environment, echoing buildings of the past,” MRTN Architects explained. “The spotted gum exterior cladding is left to naturally patina , relying on its innate aptitude to develop character and camouflage over time. The owners are not extravagant or wasteful people, they live with a careful intent behind all they do and their family is very important to them. The house is largely self-sufficient, heating costs are low, cooling costs are non-existent and the extended family can be accommodated at all times.” Related: A tiny, rustic, off-grid cabin sits on vast 300 acres in Australia The client’s son, a builder, constructed the project with finishes and materials selected on the basis of their durability, thermal performance and cost-effectiveness. To ensure energy efficiency, the architects kept glazed openings along the south facade at a minimum while roof overhangs and custom sliding screens help protect against unwanted solar gain. Stone tile set on a concrete slab provides  thermal mass . Moreover, all rainwater runoff from the roof is captured and stored in large water tanks and reused for all the home’s water needs and for irrigation. + MRTN Architects Photography by Anthony Basheer via MRTN Architects

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Modern farmhouse-inspired dwelling in Melbourne is largely self-sufficient

Are bioenergy facilities the solution to the growing garbage problem?

March 20, 2019 by  
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Have you ever heard of bioenergy? Or, have you ever wondered where your garbage goes once you throw it out? For many people — especially Americans — once their trash leaves the house, there is no more thought about where it goes or what happens to it. As soon as a sanitation worker picks up your garbage , there is no reason to think about the serious problems that massive amounts of waste can cause. Every year, Americans discard about 250 million tons of resources, making them the largest generator of waste on Earth. Approximately 136 million tons are buried, 89 million tons are composted or recycled  and 33 million tons are burned. Yet, have you ever thought about how those methods of trash disposal impact communities and the environment ? In an effort to dispose of trash in a more eco-friendly way, many countries have started increasing the disposal method of waste-to-energy, or bioenergy , because when the garbage is burned, it generates energy. Some countries have even switched to bioenergy completely, like Sweden, who has actually run out of its own trash and imports 700,000 tons annually to meet the capacity of their waste-to-energy plants. In Norway, they are experimenting with fueling their public transportation system with biogas. According to Energy Central, one kilogram of food waste produces a half liter of fuel . The city of Oslo powers 135 buses with their organic waste. It may seem like a good idea to turn trash into energy, but is the process really as environmentally-friendly as it sounds? Related: Scientists invent a solar panel that produces hydrogen The Controversy When waste is burned to produce energy and heat, the process produces an enormous amount of smoke. Nearly all of that smoke is carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, and there is nothing clean about that. Could this really be better than recycling or even burying trash in a landfill ? Waste-to-energy is not a “renewable” process because unlike solar or wind, once the waste is burned, that’s it. There is no more energy production from that specific resource. Gayle Sloan, chief executive of the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia, says that the goal is to create energy from burning materials that recycling programs leave behind. This means the waste hierarchy is prevention and recycling before bioenergy and landfills. But, according to Jane Bremmer, coordinator of the campaign group Zero Waste Oz, waste-to-energy incinerators are actually a threat to recycling. “We appear to have this system where waste-to-energy incinerations are being allowed to remove material recovery facilities (recycling centers) from their planned projects,” says Bremmer. “They are doing that because it assures their waste stream.” Not only is waste-to-energy emitting greenhouse gasses and threatening recycling, but it can also be polluting the air. Wheelabrator, an incinerator located in Peekskill, New York, burns 2,250 tons of waste every day and provides “clean, renewable electricity.” But, is that an honest claim? The plant emits toxins into the air that can be deadly — 577 million pounds of carbon dioxide and 131,000 pounds of carbon monoxide every year, according to the Emissions Containment Totals Report . Then there is the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen, which means the citizens around that plant are breathing in a plethora of dirty pollutants . Related: Verizon pledges $1 billion for programs that help the environment In Australia, there is also a problem when it comes to funding. Not only are their waste-to-energy plants polluting the air and damaging their recycling programs, but they are also gobbling up cash from government grant and loan programs. “It’s consuming, in a large degree, a petroleum product into an energy stream which produces CO2 equivalent,” says Robin Chapple, Greens Western Australian MP. “We managed to control the emissions, like dioxins, but we are still turning the plastics into a greenhouse gas . If you have a good recycling program which deals well with waste, the feedstock for incineration disappears.” Smart Solutions Inventors from the Center for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) program at the University of New South Wales are attempting to take recycling to the next level . Instead of burning materials to create energy, they have developed a microfactory that can be placed at waste sites that can turn discarded items into molecules which can then be transformed into something new. “If you are using something and then, after a single life, saying, ‘I’m done with it, and I’m going to burn away the fundamental molecules and elements and everything else to release a bit of energy’, then that’s not good,” says UNSW engineering professor Veena Sahajwalla, the head of the SMaRT project. She says that if we simply burn our waste, then we aren’t trying hard enough to find ways to repurpose materials and resources. For Sahajwalla, bioenergy is not the solution to our environmental problems. Via The Guardian Images via Shutterstock

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Are bioenergy facilities the solution to the growing garbage problem?

Escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life in these bamboo huts built on a remote Vietnamese beach

March 20, 2019 by  
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When it comes to completely disconnecting from the stresses of everyday life, sometimes it’s worth the while to really go off-the-beaten-path. Thanks to Vietnamese architecture firm, VTN Architects , now you can find a little slice of serenity in a very remote area of Vietnam. Located about 2 hours from the nearest port and only accessible by boat, the Castaway Island Resort is comprised of five bamboo guest huts , covered in thatched roofs and engulfed on one side by a verdant mountain range and on the other by a private white sand beach. The Ho Chi Minh City-based firm designed the resort to offer the ultimate in lodging for those who want to reconnect with nature. Located on a tiny island that’s part of the Cat Ba Archipelago, the idyllic area is a well-known tourist destination. Tucked into a soaring mountain range on one side and a private beach on the other, guests at the eco-retreat can enjoy breathtaking views from anywhere inside the bamboo huts and outside the property. Related: Top 6 Must-See Summer Eco Resorts Around the World! Using the natural landscape for inspiration, the architects used environment-friendly bamboo to craft the huts that make up the guests rooms, as well as the restaurant and multi-use pavilion. The huts were built using thin bamboo rods that were treated in a traditional Vietnamese technique that involves soaking the bamboo in mud first and then smoking it afterwards. Once properly treated, the bamboo frames were assembled by bamboo dowel nails and re-enforced by rope. Covered with thatched roofs, the huts not only offer an authentic Vietnamese cultural experience, but also reduce the building’s impact on the existing landscape. Using bamboo as the primary building material meant adding durability to the design, as well as the option to be easily removed without leaving a footprint on the beautiful landscape. Guests will enjoy staying in the spacious guest rooms, but can also enjoy spending time in the restaurant and onsite pavilion. Built in the same style as the bamboo huts , the restaurant is built in a hyperbolic-parabolic shell volume. This shape allows the communal area to be covered, but open on all sides so that guests can take in unobstructed views while they enjoy local fare served by the restaurant. + VTN Architects Via Archdaily Photography by Hiroyuki Oki, via VTN Architects

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Escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life in these bamboo huts built on a remote Vietnamese beach

Solar-powered home puts an eco-friendly twist on the farmhouse vernacular

March 14, 2019 by  
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When architect Paul O’Reilly of the Australian architectural practice archterra was asked by his mother to design a modern farmhouse, he delivered a handsome dwelling that not only takes inspiration from traditional barn architecture, but also deftly addresses the region’s climatic extremes with its site-specific, energy-efficient build. Aptly named the Farm House, the roughly 2,000-square-foot abode features a gabled roofline, a veranda and timber cladding to mimic traditional barns, while the interior is decidedly contemporary and dressed in natural materials, including rammed earth and oiled timber cladding. Moreover, the home is energy-efficient , taking cues from passive solar principles and drawing power from a 2.5-kilowatt solar photovoltaic array. Located on a grassy paddock on a working cattle farm near Margaret River, the Farm House is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom abode that places the sleeping areas toward the south and the open-plan living areas to the north. Large outdoor decks open off of the two bedrooms and the living area toward the east. “Primary outlook across paddocks to the east and a need to maintain a passive solar orientation to the north generated a T-shaped plan response with the living pavilion orientated to the north, whilst the sleeping areas align east-west,” explained the architecture firm. “Morning sun is moderated on the sleeping pavilion by the traditional veranda to the east whilst a thick rammed earth wall to the west ensures the thermal lag effect of the earth wall keeps internal spaces cool into the early evening.” Related: Solar-powered Bush House exemplifies chic eco-friendly living in the Australian outback The home’s passive solar orientation mitigates unwanted heat gain and permits cooling cross breezes to flow through the home from all directions. In addition to the thermally efficient envelope, the energy efficiency of the Farm House is bolstered by the addition of an evacuated tube solar hot water heater, a solar photovoltaic array, rainwater collection  and wastewater treatment systems. Recycled timber and bricks lower the embodied energy of the project as well. + archterra Photography by Douglas Mark Black via archterra

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Solar-powered home puts an eco-friendly twist on the farmhouse vernacular

Students around the world join climate strike on March 15

March 13, 2019 by  
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On Friday, March 15, tens of thousands of high school and middle school students in more than 70 countries plan to walk out of their classrooms and protest at town and city halls. Young people are uniting around the world in a coordinated demand for their leaders to take radical action to curb greenhouse gas emissions and slow down the impacts of climate change. How did the climate strikes start? The international youth climate strike movement began in August 2018 when 16-year-old environmental activist, Greta Thunberg skipped school to protest outside the Swedish Parliament. Since August, her actions caused a ripple effect throughout the world and snowballed the movement to include teens throughout the world. Related: 8 women leading the change for a better world Since Thunberg’s protest, students have similarly skipped out on school to hold up “Youth Climate Strike” and “School Strike for Climate” signs outside government buildings in the U.K., U.S., Japan, Uganda, Germany, Thailand, Switzerland and France, among others . Frustrated by inaction— or insufficient action— from politicians throughout their young lives, these students are panicked about the scientific predictions for the future and unwavering in their call for change. In New York, for example, 13-year-old Alexandria Villasenor has forgone her classes for the past twelve consecutive Fridays in order to sit outside the U.N. headquarters and protest. On Friday, March 15, thousands of others will join what the young people have virally hashtagged as #FridaysForFuture . Find a Climate Strike near you To date, there will be over 700 strikes in 71 countries, however the number continues to grow as rallies are added to the map. Check out this world-wide map  to see the incredible number of strikes across the globe. This U.S. climate strike map  is tracking all of the registered climate strikes in the U.S. Students are rallying around the hashtags #FridaysforFuture and #YouthClimateStrike , in honor of Thunberg and other student activists who have skipped school to protest for climate action in the past months. The strikes are supported by outspoken environmental groups such as the Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion. Climate Strike leaders are calling on students to walk out of their classes on Friday, March 15, to protest outside of the nearest town or city hall, and of course post a photo on social media. Not all students get a free pass Many of the U.S. climate strikes will take place at local House or Senate representatives’ offices where the youth plans to push for acceptance of the Green New Deal, a radical environmental proposal championed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Similar protests have already met with dismay by representatives such as Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein, both Democrats from California, who feel the students are naively confident in the Green New Deal without understanding the complexities of politics and party relations. Related: Rep. Ocasio Cortez releases green new deal In the U.K., the Prime Minister condemned the climate strike as wasteful of teachers’ time. In Australia, despite support for the protests by labor unions, the Minister of Education announced that all students and teachers who leave school on Friday will be punished— to which Greta Thunberg quickly tweeted back “we don’t care.” Isra Hirsi, daughter of freshman Representative, Ilhan Omar (D-MN), is one of the young leaders of the behind U.S. climate strikes, but she also expressed concern about the movement’s lack of intersectionality– in other words its lack of recognition and inclusion of climate leaders from many different, overlapping and often disadvantaged, demographic groups. Early this week, Hirsi tweeted about the importance of recognizing that indigenous leaders, not young white students, have been leading climate activism long before these hashtags. What are the students asking for? The strikes are largely a response to a UN Framework Convention on Climate Change report, which indicates that the world has less than 12 years to implement radical change or the impacts of global warming will be devastating and irreversible. Mark Hertsgaard from The Nation wrote of the students: “They grasp what many of their elders apparently never learned: The climate struggle is not about having the best science, the smartest arguments, or the most bipartisan talking points. It is about power — specifically, the power that ExxonMobil and the rest of the fossil-fuel industry wield over governments and economies the world over, and their willingness to use that power to enforce a business model guaranteed to fry the planet.” While students around the world have different demands from their respective leaders, they are united in their call for swift and decisive action to curtail carbon emissions and for politicians to adopt firm environmental platforms. Such platforms, though, might look drastically different in each country. Columnist for The Guardian , George Monbiot, argued that the students must develop and articulate a clear position, or else he fears they will be divided, co-opted or worse– ineffective at ultimately influencing the actual legislation that will save their futures. Via The Nation Images via Mike Baumeister , niekverlaan

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Students around the world join climate strike on March 15

Breezy caravan-inspired annex uses passive design for thermal comfort

February 28, 2019 by  
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In Melbourne, Australia, a 1960s family home has been updated with a new contemporary extension that draws inspiration from a traveling caravan. Flanked by lush greenery, the Bent Annexe is filled with natural light and designed to follow passive solar principles for energy efficiency. The modern addition was designed by Australian architectural practice BENT Architecture for an outdoor-loving family of four and their two active Dachshunds. The primary goal of the Bent Annexe was to open the relatively introverted midcentury home up to the garden and bring greater amounts of natural light and ventilation into the living spaces. To that end, the architects removed existing ancillary structures in the rear of the property to make space for the new addition . With the primary living spaces now located in the annex, the architects also took the opportunity to remodel the existing dwelling, which now houses larger bedrooms, a family bathroom, and a second living space. “The trick to making the Annexe feel like a part of the garden is creating green spaces on both sides, by separating the addition from the original home with a courtyard ,” the architects explain of their design process. “Of course, the central courtyard improves cross-flow ventilation and lets north light into the master bedroom, but with full-height windows on both sides of the living area, it also creates the illusion of one continuous space, blurring the boundary between inside and outside.” Related: A 1960s home gets a modern facelift with solar panels and rainwater collection Built to wrap around the original home beneath a continuous roofline, the extension houses open-plan living areas that overlook the landscape through full-height glazing and casement windows. A retractable shading device—a caravan-inspired canvas element—provides shade to a decked outdoor dining area that strengthens the home’s new indoor/ outdoor connection. The use of concrete floors for thermal mass and operable louver windows help passively heat and cool the space to reduce the home’s energy bills. + BENT Architecture Via ArchDaily Images © Tatjana Plitt

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Breezy caravan-inspired annex uses passive design for thermal comfort

10 easy eco-friendly home decor tips

February 28, 2019 by  
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Decorating a home is intimidating enough without taking the environment into account, but choosing eco-friendly decor will be more beneficial in the long run. Here are some simple tips and rules for green alternatives in home decorating that will help reduce your  carbon footprint and even save you some money along the way. Perks of vintage The simplest way to positively affect the environment with your home decor choices is to buy pre-used. Some people even prefer a more wear-and-tear or “distressed” look. Not to mention, vintage decor is chic and costs way less than buying new. So head over to your local thrift store, estate sales or flea markets (you can even raid your grandma’s attic for forgotten treasures). If you still can’t find anything to your taste, Ebay and other media sites are a great place to explore pretty much anything vintage. Related: 9 ways to add more houseplants to your home Choose sustainably-sourced materials Work with companies that are focused on ethical labor standards and fair trade. There are some great globally inspired home products that give back to the artisans and communities who make their pieces and are passionate about eco-friendly decor. Obviously, one of the best material for furniture is wood, but making sure that you choose a wood that doesn’t contribute to the deforestation epidemic is just as important as choosing the style of furniture itself. Make sure all wood is FSC certified and sustainably-sourced. Donate When you absolutely do need to get rid of something in your home, choose to donate it or even sell it. Even if you don’t make much money off the sale, it still means that the item transferred its value to someone else (and more importantly, didn’t end up in a dumpster or landfill ). The Goodwill is an amazing organization that gives back to the community and ReStore by Habitat for Humanity has a free pick-up program that will help local families find homes. Most donations are tax-deductible as well. Don’t assume that just because it is used or old that no one will want it. Use non-toxic materials Whether you’re painting your walls or repurposing a piece of furniture, the type of paint you choose matters. Eco-friendly paints are free of volatile organic compounds or “VOCs,” which can be harmful to both the environment and to humans. Even carpet has been known to emit high levels of VOCs and contribute to accumulations of allergens . Houseplants A well-cared-for houseplant can give renewed life to any space. There are even some houseplants such as ferns or palms that can increase oxygen and help purify your home. Houseplants are a less-expensive decoration that adds a natural, fresh accent and can combat pollutants and chemicals produced from man-made materials. Thermal alternatives Even a plain thermal lining can drastically reduce how much hot or cold air is escaping from your home. This will also save money on your electricity bill and make your home that much more comfortable for your family and guests. For eco-friendly insulation, there are alternatives to fiberglass made from sustainable materials like wool or hemp. Related: 6 places to find the best recycled building materials Repurpose It may take a little more elbow grease, but DIY-ing your old stuff into new stuff is more rewarding and satisfying than buying new every time. Repaint wooden tables to match your new decor with an artsy pattern or reupholster your old chairs to make them look brand new. If your creative side refuses to come out, hire someone else to do the job. It will still cost less money than buying new while still feeling new to you. Look out for furniture made from reclaimed and salvaged materials like aluminum and recycled wood as well. Go with timeless styles One of the biggest problems with home decor is changing trends. A type of furniture or style may be in vogue one year and out of style the next. That leaves trendy homeowners with the options of either getting rid of their decor or repurposing it in order to keep up. Investing in sturdy, timeless designs will ensure that your home decor never goes out of style and you get plenty of use out of it before it needs to be altered or donated. Use nature Go wildflower picking or gather herbs from the garden to decorate. Add natural accents like citrus to elevate a vase or candle holder for a special effect, or use cranberries or holly during the holidays. Driftwood is also a wonderful alternative for doorstops or shelving and can be DIY -ed into wall art. Sometimes the most memorable and special decorations can be found in the most unlikely places. Redecorate If your home is feeling dull and in dire need of an upgrade, sometimes just a simple change of scenery can make all the difference. Try moving furniture or shelving around, switching out photos or re-arranging artwork onto different walls. You may save yourself a lot of unnecessary effort and stress just by finding new spots for your furniture in your home . Images via Shutterstock

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