With dual sleeping lofts, this family-friendly tiny home proves that the more, the merrier

July 5, 2019 by  
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Although some people might be under the impression that tiny homes don’t have enough space for a family, one savvy, space-efficient design is proving otherwise. Designed and built by New Zealand-based Build Tiny , the Dance Tiny House was custom designed to be a durable family home that boasts beautiful and child-proof interiors. Clad in very practical gray vinyl siding, the tiny home on wheels is durable yet lightweight enough to be towed easily. Double-glazed aluminum windows and quality insulation allow for a tight thermal envelope, reducing energy costs as well as maintaining a comfortable interior temperature. Related: Keep your tiny home safe with these 9 security tips Inside, the space is bright and open with a minimalist interior design that manages to avoid clutter. All-white plywood walls and honey-toned wood flooring, along with an abundance of natural light, gives the home a fresh, modern feel. A compact, open-plan living room with a small sofa and chair make up the social area of the home. To the left of the entrance is the kitchen with full-sized appliances. Although small, the cooking area includes ample counter space thanks to an ingenious rolling butcher block extension. Most of the home’s furnishings, including the counters, feature curved edges to ensure optimal safety for little ones. The far end of the residence houses the bathroom, which has a shower and plenty of storage space. The home’s dual sleeping lofts are accessible via a staircase in the kitchen, with the steps pulling double duty as storage in the form of pull-out drawers and cubbies. At the top, the master bedroom has plenty of room for a queen-sized bed and also includes a full-height closet and built-in storage . Connected by a narrow hallway, the children’s room is located on the opposite side. With plenty of space for a single or double bed, there is also room for play or study. The entire loft is made child-proof thanks to a gate and a metal safety barrier. + Build Tiny Via Tiny House Talk Images via Build Tiny

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With dual sleeping lofts, this family-friendly tiny home proves that the more, the merrier

1 million species are at risk of extinction, says new UN report

May 7, 2019 by  
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A new study released Monday by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services reports that nearly one million animal and plant species are at risk of extinction largely due to unsustainable economic development. The global assessment is the largest and most comprehensive study about biodiversity loss and the role of capitalism. The report synthesizes more than 15,000 scientific papers published over three years; it was released on May 6 and endorsed by more than 130 countries. The report focuses on the disappearance of key species such as pollinators, coral reefs , fish and medicinal plants and specifies the devastating role of industrial farming, fishing and climate change . “If we want to leave a world for our children and grandchildren that has not been destroyed by human activity, we need to act now,” Robert Watson, who chaired the study,  told Reuters . The report’s drastic findings mirror the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s report from October that recommends drastic economic and social changes are needed to slow extinction. Related: Even scientists are shocked by the latest UN report on climate change According to the report, the list of threatened species includes 40 percent of all amphibians, 33 percent of reef-building corals and sharks and one third of all marine mammals. The report calls the rate of extinction “unprecedented” and “accelerating,” explaining that the current rate of extinction is tens to hundreds times higher than it has been over the last ten million years. The report also delves into the economic valuation of ecosystems and biodiversity loss and the impact on human societies. For example, the report findings indicate that $577 billion dollars annually in crop production are at risk if bees and other pollinators become extinct. The loss of mangroves and coral reefs could put 300 million coastal residents at risk of flooding. Reuters described the report as “a cornerstone of an emerging body of research that suggests the world may need to embrace a new ‘post-growth’ form of economics;” however, this acknowledgement continues to ignore ‘non-traditional’ and non-academic voices that have been calling for and modeling more sustainable economies and ecosystems for centuries. + United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Via Reuters Image via Pixels

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1 million species are at risk of extinction, says new UN report

Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism

May 7, 2019 by  
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Captain Ross Files sees ripples on the surface of the water down a side canal and instructs Captain Steve Browning to turn in that direction. Files sprints up a ladder to sit on top of the boat, his bare feet and legs dangling, as he looks for more telltale signs in the water. After a minute, he admits defeat. “No, I don’t think that’s a ‘tee!” he calls back to Browning. The early sun rays illuminate the Crystal River in Florida as eight other tourists wearing wetsuits and snorkels share a boat— dreaming of swimming with manatees. By manatee standards, we’re a few weeks late. Cold winter waters in the Gulf of Mexico force manatees to seek warmer climes. Spring-fed Crystal River, 78 miles north of Tampa, provides a winning temperature for pods of manatees. About 700 manatees spent last winter here, but by early April the gulf is warmer than the river, so most manatees have vanished— which is why our captains are having to work so hard. Related: Kin Travel is offering unique vacation ideas that benefit destinations through conservation and sustainability Florida is the only place in North America that you can legally swim with manatees. To animal lovers, this is an awesome opportunity, but one that can weigh on your conscience. While you many want to swim with manatees, the important question here is,  do manatees want to swim with you? Does raising tourists’ awareness help manatees? Biologists and conservationists are studying these questions and devising best practices for manatee tourism. History of Manatee Tourism After being placed on the Endangered Species List in 1967, before that they were widely hunted, the manatee population increased. Crystal River is currently the epicenter of manatee tourism. Coast Heritage Museum of Crystal River volunteer Maryann Jarrell, said back in the 1940s the river was extremely clear, giving one entrepreneur the idea to launch glass bottom boat tours. When Jarrell moved to Crystal River in 1971, the water was still stunningly clear and full of wildlife . “You didn’t need a rod and reel,” she told me. “Just put a net out and one of those fish was going to jump in it.” Once people discovered Crystal River, the water stopped being so clear. New residents built septic tanks, landscaped their riverfront houses and fertilized lawns. Runoff turned the water mucky. Despite the decrease in water clarity, the increased number of manatees opened up new tourism opportunities. Boats started taking out paying customers and dropping them in the water with manatees. Tourism became even more important after the Crystal River nuclear power plant shut down permanently in 2013, eliminating hundreds of jobs. “Before anybody could get a handle on it, there was this whole economy in that county based on people being able to swim with the manatees,” explained Katie Tripp, director of science and conservation at Save the Manatee Club. “Then it became a matter of not hurting business and not wanting to take that part of the economy away.” Now there’s a tension between allowing people to see manatees in the wild, but not hampering their reason for being in Citrus County, Tripp tells me. Best Practices for Manatee Tourism Dozens of boats are anchored in known party spot Homosassa cove, which is 10 miles south of Crystal River. Suddenly somebody spots a manatee and a couple of swimmers begin a hot pursuit, driving the manatee towards shore. Once it can’t go any farther without beaching itself, one swimmer encourages another to reach out and touch the manatee. This scenario contradicts everything we learned about passive observation from the boat guides and the 7-minute film “Manatee Manners,” which we watched before our swim encounter. Yet, even guides find themselves debating the finer points of passive observation— should you touch a manatee? Captains Mike and Stacy Dunn, owners of Manatees in Paradise, enacted a strict hands off policy for their company about five years ago. Despite naysayers swearing they’d lose customers, Mike Dunn said business improved and drew more respectful clientele. “We got away from the petting zoo mentality,” he said. When they do catch a customer trying to cop a feel, they send the swimmer back to the boat. Both Dunn and Tripp acknowledged that guides sometimes feel pressure to produce friendly manatees for the tourists. Most companies sell videos after the tour and customers are likelier to buy the video if it captures them interacting with manatees. Instead of selling the video for $40 like other companies do, the Dunns give the customers video for free— if they behave. “If they do touch a manatee, they don’t get the video at all.” Tripp has been working with the Manatee Ecotourism Association to develop best practices for manatee tourism and to start a certification program called Guardian Guides. To qualify, tour operators must adhere to strict standards, including varying the times and locations of their tours, insisting that patrons wear wetsuits and use additional flotation devices to decrease splashing, accompanying guests in the water and making sure everybody keeps their hands off the manatees. So far, Manatees in Paradise and Crystal River Watersports are the only two companies certified. Tripp would like to see manatees get their fair share of the tourism pie. “Even though the industry has been growing and growing exponentially, I’m not seeing tons more money go into manatee conservation,” she said. “I’m not seeing tons more people write letters on conservation issues.” Dunn sees an upside of tourism for the manatees. Since guides are in the water every day, they’re often the first to know when a manatee is in distress and proceed to contact authorities and often help in rescuing and rehabbing manatees. Dunn is also in close touch with manatee researchers, reporting on day-to-day behaviors he observes. The Manatee Experience The group climbs stealthily down the boat ladder. The water is murky, but Files assures us a manatee is nearby. Then suddenly this enormous thing appears out of the depths, floating silently like a blimp. It comes up, takes a breath then sinks back down as if we imagined the whole thing. Afterwards, on the boat, we’re awed. We’re on a manatee high. These creatures are so huge, quiet and alien. We got to slip into their world for just a moment. In the future, maybe the group will take Tripp’s advice and watch manatees from a boardwalk, where we’ll be able to see more of their authentic group behavior. But for now, we wouldn’t trade our up-close experience. Via  Manatee Ecotourism Association ,  Crystal River Watersports ,  Save the Manatee Club , Manatees in Paradise Images via Inhabitat, Manatees in Paradise

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Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism

Solar-powered COAF SMART Center brightens the future of Armenias rural youth

January 2, 2019 by  
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The Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) recently completed its flagship COAF SMART Center, a state-of-the-art facility that will empower Armenia’s rural communities through locally and globally relevant knowledge and technologies. Designed by Beirut-based architecture firm Paul Kaloustian Studio, the innovative campus features a contemporary and sculptural form powered with clean energy . Opened May 2018, the first COAF SMART Center is nestled in the rural hills of Armenia’s northern province of Lori. Designed to advance COAF’s goals of rural revitalization, the COAF SMART Center serves as a platform for connecting villages to resources in education, health, arts and sciences and renewable energy . Covering a built area of 5,000 square meters, the large campus is nonetheless dwarfed by the beautiful highland landscape and purposefully defers to its surroundings with a sinuous, single-story form that follows the natural terrain. Full-height glazing wraps around the structure to blur the boundary between indoors and out. Related: Zaha Hadid Architects completes highly complex Nanjing International Youth Cultural Centre As the flagship SMART Center campus, the building encompasses sustainable and green design principles that will be applied to all future SMART campuses as well. Powered with solar energy , the building comprises classrooms, health posts, studios, computer lounges, meeting rooms, a multipurpose auditorium, libraries, restaurants and other flexible spaces both indoors and out. The regional education hub will offer a rich curriculum spanning topics from blockchain technology and robotics to agriculture and linguistics. “Targeting the rural regions, these campuses will respect the integrity of rural aesthetics in sync with contemporary architectural design, maintaining the authenticity of the region, while encouraging progressive ideology,” the architecture firm said. “The contradictive play of scale between landscape and building blurs all the visual boundaries. The blend becomes an essential architectural language meant to erase the traces of architecture from the landscape and in return the landscape adopts the architecture as an extension of itself.” + Paul Kaloustian Studio Photography by Ieva Saudargaite and Paul Kaloustian Studio via Paul Kaloustian Studio

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Solar-powered COAF SMART Center brightens the future of Armenias rural youth

10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration

January 2, 2019 by  
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The Endangered Species Coalition has released a report titled  Extinction Plan: Ten Species Imperiled by the Trump Administration , which outlines the possible impact of the current administration’s anti-wildlife policy stances. The report highlighted the 10 species that are in the most danger because of proposed new regulations as well as the specific changes that put these animals at risk. California Condor The California Condor has a 10-foot wingspan, making it one of the largest land birds in North America. These birds can reach altitudes of 15,000 feet and speeds up to 55 miles per hour. They are a critically endangered species, with fewer than 500 left, after flying in the skies of the western U.S. and Mexico for thousands of years. Most California Condors die in the wild from lead poisoning, and when the population shrank to less than 30 back in 1982, survivors were captured and put in breeding facilities. By 2017, more than 290 were flying free in the wild, with another 173 in the breeding program. However, on his first day in office, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke rolled back legislation from the Obama administration that banned the use of lead ammunition in critical condor habitat. This could be a catastrophic action that might lead to the end of the California Condor. Leatherback and Loggerhead Sea Turtles Both of these sea turtles can swim for thousands of miles, and they help maintain balance in their ocean habitat while providing essential nutrients to the beaches where they nest. Both types are protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but they are also vulnerable to human activity. Each year, thousands are snared in fishing nets and die, and climate change is hitting their homes hard. Related: Study finds microplastics in sea turtles around the world The Trump Administration’s proposed new regulations give leeway when it comes to how a habitat is or isn’t protected. If those regulations do kick in, the Fish and Wildlife Service can ignore protections in that habitat altogether, and the leatherbacks and loggerheads could lose their fragile beach nesting grounds entirely. Red Wolf Red wolves were declared extinct in the wild back in 1980. But after a successful experimental breeding program, they were reintroduced in North Carolina in 1987. The red wolf is on the edge of extinction again, with fewer than 30 left in the wild. The only place in the world that you can find red wolves is in a five-county area in North Carolina. Under proposed regulations from the Trump Administration, the delisting of the red wolf could be justified, even though scientists are still investigating their genetics. This would be a fatal blow to the species. Hellbender This ancient salamander is slimy and mud-brown or speckled gray, like a river rock. It has flappy skinfolds on the entire length of its body, lidless eyes that keep it from seeing much of anything and chubby toes for clinging to the river bottom. It also has a superb sense of smell. Hellbenders live solitary lives under a single boulder, and they never relocate. They do not pose any threat to humans and are a vital indicator of water quality, because they thrive in clean streams but deteriorate when their habitat does. Because the Trump Administration’s proposed regulations include economic analysis in their listing decisions, it could mean the end for the hellbender. The economics of mining, logging and fossil fuel extraction could cloud a listing for this species, and those businesses could also damage the hellbender’s habitat beyond repair. Giraffe The world’s tallest animal with 6-foot-long legs and a 6-foot-long neck, the giraffe is a highly social animal that roams in groups called towers. Their patterned coats are unique, just like fingerprints, and the animal is emblematic of Africa’s savanna. Hunting and habitat encroachment have reduced the population by 30 percent in the last three decades, and the animal appears to have gone extinct in seven countries. The two biggest threats are a growing trade in giraffe parts and trophy hunting; however, this animal is not protected internationally or by the Endangered Species Act. Related: Trump administration wants to allow “extreme and cruel” hunting methods in Alaska To make matters worse, Zinke created an International Wildlife Conservation Council full of NRA members that is promoting and expanding international trophy hunting. President Trump has not responded to a request to add the giraffe to the Endangered Species list. At this point, fewer than 100,000 are left. Humboldt Marten Related to the mink, the Humboldt marten is the size of a kitten. It is a stealthy hunter that lives deep in the forests of Northern California and Southern Oregon. This animal is so secretive, there is only a handful of photos in existence, and they were taken by remote-sensing cameras. At one time, the species was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1996. But only four separated populations remain, and humans have put them at risk by trapping them for their fur and logging in their rainforest habitat. Fewer than 400 are left, but it is not on the endangered species list and receives no federal protection. The Trump Administration finally proposed to list the Humboldt marten under the ESA but only to classify it as threatened. Under the new proposed regulations, a species classified as threatened no longer receives the same protections as those classified as endangered. There is also a special rule that exempts logging operations, which means the Humboldt marten population could vanish entirely. Rusty Patched Bumble Bee This species was the first bee in the continental U.S. to be listed under the ESA. That was a challenge all its own, because the paperwork was delayed on President Trump’s first day in office when his administration put a hold on the protections just before the bee was supposed to be listed. It finally made the list in 2017, but the Trump Administration’s proposed regulations prioritize the protection of habitat currently occupied by the species. This is a problem, because the rusty patched bumble bee has vanished from nearly 90 percent of their historic range due to disease, habitat degradation and use of pesticides . The bee needs that historic habitat to recover. If there are no safeguards for the habitat these bees once called home, it could have deadly consequences. West Indian Manatee This fully-aquatic, plant-eating mammal has some interesting relatives. At one end there is the elephant, and at the other, there is the hyrax. Manatees weigh around a thousand pounds and can live up to 60 years old. They have no natural enemies … except for humans. Manatees get hacked by propellers, smashed in watercraft collisions, drowned in canal locks and tortured and killed when they eat fish hooks, litter and lines. The biggest threat to the manatee is habitat loss thanks to red tides, algae blooms and pollution . But this didn’t stop the Trump Administration from downlisting the West Indian Manatee from endangered to threatened. The new rules also ignore impacts to habitat unless those impacts occur across the entire habitat and affect the whole species. With the manatees having such a scattered population, their habitat won’t get necessary protections. San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat This little rodent has specialized fur-lined face pouches that allow them to cache seeds in their cheeks until their face almost bursts. The San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat is about four inches long, and its tail is longer than its body. Their survival depends on natural cycles of wet and dry, and they never have to take a drink. They get all of their moisture from food, which comes from plants that mature at the perfect time and produce seeds at the right rate. Green vegetation stimulates their reproduction, but it has to be in moderation. There is a fragile wet/dry balance that human activities have messed up with mining, dam building and residential and commercial development. The new regulations from the Trump Administration would require less consultation between agencies, which means they can ignore the impact of what they do to their surroundings. Something as simple as a new road can mess up the rat’s wet and dry life, leading to extinction. Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo This bird loves where the water meets the woods, and they often avoid detection even when they are out hunting caterpillars and other prey. One researcher once watched a Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo for an entire hour waiting for him to budge, but he didn’t. In addition to hiding in plain sight, this bird is disappearing altogether. There are only about 2,000 left, and the species was listed under the ESA in 2014. But the bird needs habitat protections. It is now being reviewed for delisting, and the new regulations from the Trump Administration could kill the recovery plan. This could end up being a fast-track to extinction . + Endangered Species Coalition Images via U.S. Department of State , U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ), Red Wolf Recovery Program , Brian Gratwicke , Charles J. Sharp , Nbonzey and Mark Linnell / U.S. Forest Service

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10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration

Recycling Mystery: Children’s Toys

January 2, 2019 by  
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As kids grow older, they inevitably grow out of their … The post Recycling Mystery: Children’s Toys appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Recycling Mystery: Children’s Toys

A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for children

December 14, 2018 by  
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While it’s obvious that we want the children in our lives to have only the most natural, clean, organic clothes and toys , it’s also important to our planet that we introduce sustainable goods from the start. As children grow up with eco-friendly items at their side, they will naturally grow up to respect the Earth, seeking out these types of green products for the rest of their lives. To get them started on the right foot, here are some of our favorite sustainable gifts for kids and babies. Veggie Crayons These crayons , which are made from organic herb and vegetable powders as well as food-grade soy wax, are safe for babies and children to use. While they shouldn’t be eaten, they are safe for hand to mouth transfer, and they do not contain toxic ingredients like petroleum. Plus, the square shape also makes them fun for stacking and playing. “Adopted” animals Support organizations like WWF , Oceana , The Nature Conservancy and more, and in return, your child will have an opportunity to learn more about our planet and the animals that roam it. Many organizations will allow you to symbolically adopt an animal , and for your donation your child will receive a plush animal, coloring books, educational materials and more. Related: 20 sensory table activities that offer creative ways to teach kids through play Plush toys Kids love their “stuffies,” so gift them their new favorite this year. These options from Ouistitine are adorable yet minimalist, so they’ll still look chic lying all over your living room floor. Plus, each toy is handmade from the scraps of natural, eco-textiles like wool, linen and cotton . Sustainable clothing Clothing is a gifting staple in many households, but conventional fashion often relies on unsafe fabrics and unethical production processes. If you’re looking to give the little ones clothing this year, be sure to choose options that are organic , non-toxic and responsibly made. Gardening kits Most kids love to get messy, so add in the benefits of growing their own food and teaching them the importance of gardening, and you have quite a gift! Surprise the kids with a gardening kit (like this one ), which is fun for children of all ages. You can also check out this website for educational resources to go along with the gift. Images via  Wee Can Too , WWF , Christopher Michel , Ouistitine ,  Phichit Wongsunthi and Shutterstock

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A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for children

5 Children’s Books That Expertly Teach About the Environment

December 14, 2018 by  
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We all know that reading to our children every night … The post 5 Children’s Books That Expertly Teach About the Environment appeared first on Earth911.com.

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5 Children’s Books That Expertly Teach About the Environment

RIBA crowns Children Village in Brazil as the worlds best new building

November 30, 2018 by  
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On the edge of a rainforest in northern Brazil , a recently built school complex by Brazilian architecture firms Aleph Zero and Rosenbaum has been awarded the RIBA International Prize 2018 for the ‘world’s best new building.’ Dubbed Children Village, the contemporary project earned praise not only for its beautiful and low-impact design but also for its social impact as boarding accommodation to 540 children aged 13 to 18 attending the Canuanã School. The winning entry was selected by a grand jury chaired by visionary architect Elizabeth Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Funded by the Bradesco Foundation, the roughly 25,000-square-meter Children Village is one of 40 schools backed by the foundation that provides education for children in rural communities across Brazil. The architects — Gustavo Utrabo and Petro Duschenes from Aleph Zero along with Marcelo Rosenbaum and Adriana Benguela from Rosenbaum — worked closely with the children while designing the school. Key to the design was creating an intimate environment that felt like a “home away from home.” Instead of dormitories for 40 students, for instance, Children Village offers rooms for six children as well as a mix of private and public spaces that cater to study, play and relaxation. The school comprises two identical complexes: one for girls, one for boys. The building has been praised for “reinventing Brazilian vernacular” by bringing together a contemporary aesthetic with traditional techniques and local resources. The architects also drew from the local vernacular to mitigate the sweltering summertime temperatures in a cost-effective and sustainable way. For instance, the large canopy roof built from cross-laminated timber beams and columns allows for cooling cross-breezes as well as shade. Earth blocks handmade on site were also used for the walls and latticework. Related: Carbon-neutral Caring Wood wins RIBA award for best new house in the UK “Beyond being a standout work of architecture, Children Village embodies the generosity of the Bradesco Foundation’s philanthropic mission to provide much-needed amenities to those who otherwise have limited access to schools,” Diller said. “Aleph Zero and Rosenbaum have achieved a humble heroism, utilizing a sophisticated approach to detailing and construction that belies the fact that the building’s users are predominately teenagers, age 13-18, in a remote area in Brazil. The architect’s inventive rethinking of the region’s traditional techniques and materials succeeds in building community and in proving that space matters in education.” + RIBA International Prize Images via Leonardo Finotti and Cristobal Palma of Estudio Palma

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RIBA crowns Children Village in Brazil as the worlds best new building

Raising Kids Who Take Action: Value of Teamwork Skills

November 22, 2018 by  
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Some kids understand the benefits of working harmoniously with others … The post Raising Kids Who Take Action: Value of Teamwork Skills appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Raising Kids Who Take Action: Value of Teamwork Skills

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