5 tips for beautiful, sustainable Thanksgiving decor

November 16, 2018 by  
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November marks the season of Thanksgiving . With Halloween decor packed up and Christmas trimmings still in totes, it’s time to focus on unveiling the essence of Thanksgiving in your home. Shelves of decor line the store aisles, but many of those options contribute to the destruction of our environment. By making some small, conscientious decisions, you can reduce transport emissions, eliminate plastic consumption and give used items new life while giving your home the holiday flair you envision. While pulling together the look for your Thanksgiving decor, keep sustainability in mind with these tips. Emphasize natural elements The truly wonderful thing about the fall months is the abundance of natural materials you can find and use in your autumn decor. Skip the retail purchases and head outside for organic finds nearby. Curve those grapevines into a circle, and use this as a base for a fall wreath. Adorn it with the colorful red berries that dot the landscape this time of year, and embellish the wreath further with dried leaves or flowers, pine cones or nuts. You could even glue on small apples or pumpkins. Related: How to host Thanksgiving dinner in a tiny home or small apartment Similarly, the same materials can be used to create centerpieces for your Thanksgiving table or as seasonal decorations for your coffee table. Lay out pine boughs and top them with colorful gourds. Grab those still-firm pumpkins, carve them into a bowl and stuff them with fresh greenery. Use clear glassware, jars, vases or water pitchers to hold pine cones, leaves, berries, nuts or colorful rocks. Fresh citrus or apples make a gorgeous centerpiece when placed in simple clear or white bowls. Make a statement by placing a votive candle inside a carved-out mini pumpkin or apple. Set bottles around the house, and fill them with fresh-cut lavender, rosemary or mint. Surround that centerpiece with a eucalyptus ring. Your mantle is another perfect place to add some visual appeal. Thread together orange and red leaves to make a swag, and add small pumpkins painted different colors. Also, remember that Thanksgiving is represented by the colors and products of fall, so take advantage of hay bales, corn stalks and gourds to decorate your front porch. Avoid plastic Anyone who’s spent more than a few minutes considering steps toward sustainability knows that plastic is petroleum-based, which causes problems for the environment — and plastic never goes away. If you decide to purchase decor for your home, look for materials that are eco-friendly and will give you the gift of longevity, resulting in less waste. Find a wrought-iron turkey or hunt down ceramic pumpkins. Buy glass platters and real fabric tablecloths instead of the single-use versions. Upcycle With very little effort, you can find decor that allows you to reuse something that’s already been produced rather than buying new. For example, take those mounting canning jars and etch them with festive designs. Alternately, you could decoupage them with leaves. Fill with orange candles and display them on your mantle or table. Look around your house for a bucket or rusted watering can, and dress it up with bundles of wheat or corn stalks. Hit up the local thrift shop for table runners, used decor and themed dishware. While upcycling might involve plastic items and is not always a zero-waste initiative, the more life we can give to existing products, the less production pollution and post-consumer waste we will have — a win-win for the environment. Get crafty The long, dark evenings of fall are the perfect time to get crafty. Take the kids for a nature walk and collect acorns, leaves, twigs and other natural elements. Once you return home, glue the materials onto fall-colored paper, forming letters on each sheet to spell out, “Give Thanks,” or something similar. Punch holes in the top corners of each paper and thread yarn or rope through them to create a banner for your wall. Crafting can also overlap with upcycling. For example, paint a wine bottle, add a twist of twine to the top and embellish with words. Make a few and group them together. The kids can use toilet paper or paper towel rolls to make hanging turkey decor, place markers or napkin rings. Related: Six yummy, organic pumpkin recipes you can make for Thanksgiving! Turn food into edible art Most people associate Thanksgiving with food, and many would agree that food can be art. Why not give your edibles dual purpose by designing munchable masterpieces? Start with that cornucopia you’re dying to put out and fill it with candy, grapes, apples, pears, satsumas, chocolate, pretzels, bread or nuts. You can carve a watermelon into a boat or basket and fill it with fruit. Head over to Pinterest, and look for ideas that will transform your veggie tray into a turkey pattern. Don’t forget about dessert — make some cookie turkeys or cut out a leaf pattern from your upper pie crust. Remember that the goal is to express the spirit of the season, which is gratitude. Nothing shows gratitude for your home and yard more than using natural elements. Hosting a sustainable Thanksgiving also shows gratitude for the planet and those you love that live on it. Images via Shutterstock

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5 tips for beautiful, sustainable Thanksgiving decor

A dull, 26-year-old Airstream becomes a bright, cozy home on wheels

November 16, 2018 by  
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While they were dating, travel-loving couple Nate and Taylor Lavender bonded over their shared dream of tiny home living. Years after they met, the ambitious duo decided to bring that dream to fruition by converting a 1992 Airstream into a bohemian, light-filled home on wheels, renamed Augustine the Airstream . Today, the couple, along with their incredibly cute dog Summit, are enjoying the freedom of life on the road. The couple did most of the renovation work themselves , starting with the exterior. Airstreams are known for their shiny aluminum cladding, but Augustine’s nearly-30-year-old exterior had a dull, weathered appearance. To restore its luster, the Lavenders used two rounds of paint stripper before buffing and polishing it back to its shiny gleam. Related: A 1972 Airstream becomes a bright, 198-square-foot home for a family of four Renovating the Airstream ‘s interior, which was pretty shabby, was also quite an arduous task. Stripping the interior to the bone, the couple began to create a new layout that would work best for their lifestyle. They both work from home, so it was essential to create a work space and plenty of storage to keep the interior clutter-free. The couple decided to keep the interior’s color palette neutral with just hints of color. They painted the walls white and installed lightweight, peel-and-stick vinyl plank flooring. To make the most of the compact space, Nate custom-built most of the furniture, including the booth table in the kitchen, the side table next to the sofa, a shelving unit and the bed frame. The best part of the tiny home is the kitchen, which was completely redone to create a simple and clean aesthetic. From there, Nate and Taylor added fun texture with a pressed tin backsplash and hanging plants. The couple also installed a working/dining cubical that faces the kitchen. A beautiful tabletop made out of reclaimed wood pulls double duty as a dining table and work space. A comfortable loveseat was placed in the living room, book-ended by a side table and shelving unit. The dark wood on the tables, along with colorful pillows and a pendant light, give the space a welcoming, bohemian feel. A free-standing fireplace creates a warm and cozy atmosphere during frigid winters. + Augustine the Airstream Via Dwell Images via Nate and Taylor Lavender

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A dull, 26-year-old Airstream becomes a bright, cozy home on wheels

Flawed recycling results in dangerous chemicals in black plastic

May 31, 2018 by  
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Unsafe recycling of electronic waste has resulted in the distribution of dangerous chemicals into new products made out of black plastic . Published in Environment International , a new study documents the presence of bromide and lead in 600 consumer products made out of black plastic and clarifies its potential negative impact on human and ecological health. “There are environmental and health impacts arising from the production and use of plastics in general, but black plastics pose greater risks and hazards,” explained study lead author Andrew Turner in a statement . “This is due to the technical and economic constraints imposed on the efficient sorting and separation of black waste for recycling, coupled with the presence of harmful additives required for production or applications in the electronic and electrical equipment and food packaging sectors.” Although black plastics compose fifteen percent of domestic plastic waste in the United States , they are particularly difficult to recycle. As a result, hazardous chemicals that were originally used as flame retardants or for color are being processed back into new products. “Black plastic may be aesthetically pleasing, but this study confirms that the recycling of plastic from electronic waste is introducing harmful chemicals into consumer products,” explained Turner. “That is something the public would obviously not expect, or wish, to see and there has previously been very little research exploring this.” Related: Biotech company Nanollose could offer plant-free alternatives for the textile industry Of particular concern is black plastic’s wide usage in food service, with the majority of black plastic being used in food trays or packaging. The black plastic also risks poisoning marine life as its dangerous chemicals seep into the ocean through microplastics. However, the presence of dangerous chemicals, such as the potentially cancer-causing bromine, is not limited to food products; it is also found in plastic jewelry, garden hoses, Christmas decorations, coat hangers and tool handles at high, and possibly even illegal, levels. Given the health risks, the industry must reform. “[T]here is also a need for increased innovation within the recycling industry to ensure harmful substances are eliminated from recycled waste and to increase the recycling of black plastic consumer products,” said Turner. Via Ecowatch Image via Depositphotos

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Flawed recycling results in dangerous chemicals in black plastic

Enchanting Christmas tree nursery is made from 16,000 recycled drink cartons

December 22, 2017 by  
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A glowing Christmas wonderland has popped up in Hong Kong with an inspiring environmental story. Local studio AaaM Architects transformed 16,000 recycled drink cartons into a festive Christmas tree nursery aimed at raising environmental awareness and promoting recycling. Named ‘Jungle All the Way’, the collection of 36 festive trees was created with the help of over 1,600 primary school students and is located in the courtyard of a revitalized heritage building. The 16,000 recycled drink cartons were collected by local primary schools over the past few years. With the help of the students, AaaM Architects flattened and refolded the cartons and, after combining them with plastic and aluminum, used them to create three-dimensional Christmas trees . Eight different “species” of trees of varying heights were made. Public visitors are also encouraged to participate and add their own recycled products to the installation. “The reality and necessity for public participation in order to bring true changes and awareness laid the root for the concept of a nursery forest, where it was spatialized for social interactions and engaging experience to take place,” wrote the architects. “[We] rethought the temporary installations not as a decorative end product, but as a catalytic instrument in both material and ideological terms among the waste recycling process and its education to achieve true sustainability .” Related: Top 10 crazy christmas trees made from bottles, bikes, shopping carts and more! The 36 trees are laid out into the shape of a giant Christmas tree visible from above. An experiential path leads visitors through the forest and is punctuated by key messages, benches, and public engagement areas. The trees are lit from within for a glowing effect. All materials will go back into the recycling process after the exhibition ends. + AaaM Architects

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Enchanting Christmas tree nursery is made from 16,000 recycled drink cartons

Are Flocked Trees Recyclable?

December 21, 2017 by  
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Those dreaming of a white Christmas may participate in the … The post Are Flocked Trees Recyclable? appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Are Flocked Trees Recyclable?

Carnivorous marsupial alive and well after being presumed extinct for 100 years

December 18, 2017 by  
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A carnivorous marsupial thought to be extinct for a century has been found alive in the Australian state of New South Wales. The crest-tailed mulgara, one of two mulgara species, is known to have endured in the arid region of Central Australia. Its discovery in Sturt National Park near the northwest corner of New South Wales is a surprise, considering that the crest-tailed mulgara’s presence in the region was previously limited to fossilized bone fragments. Documenting the crest-tailed mulgara’s population distribution was also complicated by the fact that until 2005, crest-tailed and bush-tailed mulgaras were considered to be the same species. The crest-tailed mulgara was one of Australia’s many native species that fell victim to invasive animals . “The crest-tailed mulgara was once widely distributed across sandy desert environments in inland Australia, but declined due to the effects of rabbits, cats and foxes,” said Rebecca West of the University of New South Wales . West’s team at the university’s Wild Desert project discovered the crest-tailed mulgara in New South Wales during a recent scientific monitoring trip. Mulgaras are nocturnal and do not need to drink water , instead gaining the moisture that they need through the insects, reptiles and small mammals that they eat. Related: Google Street View captures the migration of millions of crabs on Christmas Island The mulgara’s rediscovery comes at an opportune time for the team, which is preparing to implement a predator reintroduction and rabbit eradication effort. “The aim of this project is to return mammal species not seen in their natural habitat for over 90 years in Sturt National Park,” said Jaymie Norris, National Parks and Wildlife Service area manager.“Rabbits, cats and foxes will be eradicated from two 20-square-kilometre fenced exclosures in Sturt National Park, before locally extinct mammals are reintroduced.” Via ScienceAlert Images via Reece Pedler/UNSW and Depositphotos

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Real vs. Artificial Christmas Trees

December 13, 2017 by  
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The real versus artificial Christmas tree debate replays itself year … The post Real vs. Artificial Christmas Trees appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Google Street View captures the migration of millions of crabs on Christmas Island

December 11, 2017 by  
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Google Street View Trekker is traveling to Christmas Island this week to capture the migration of millions of red crabs . In what naturalist David Attenborough has described as one of nature’s “most astonishing and wonderful sights,” huge numbers of the iconic, endemic red crabs annually travel from their inland forest homes to the ocean, where the crabs breed and lay their eggs. The red crabs have already begun their march to the sea and the peak number of crabs on the beaches is expected on December 13, 2017. Dr. Alasdair Grigg of Parks Australia is working with Google and wielding a Street View Trekker 360 camera to capture images from the event, which should be available in early 2018. The red crabs of Christmas Island, an Australian territory near the Indonesian island of Java, spend most of the year burrowed in the damp forest floor to preserve body moisture and protect themselves from the harsh equatorial sun. When conditions are right, 40 to 50 million crabs emerge from their dens to march towards the ocean. Parks Australia has set up walls and fencing to help protect and guide the crabs as they maneuver around manmade obstructions, such as roads. Related: Google maps the solar system for armchair space travelers Although few are able to actually travel to Christmas Island to observe the phenomenon, people around the world will be able to witness the migration thanks to Google and Dr. Alistair Grigg of Parks Australia. “Christmas Island is not on the radar of most travelers,” said Grigg in a statement. “We hope people can get a taste of the magnificent nature and the red crab migration through the eyes of the Google Trekker. We also hope they are inspired to appreciate the world-class conservation values of the Island.” This documentation of natural phenomenon follows similar efforts by Google, including virtual tours of all of South Africa’s national parks . Via Mashable Images via Google

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Google Street View captures the migration of millions of crabs on Christmas Island

Weathered steel and reclaimed materials blend a modern home into the woods

December 11, 2017 by  
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Raleigh-based Tonic Design completed a creative new home that plays with the contrasts between the old and new in their use of reclaimed and contemporary materials. Tucked into the forests of Durham, the Piedmont Retreat is a 3,800-square-foot single-family home that embraces the outdoors in its use of weathered materials and large cantilevered windows. Reclaimed materials , like the oak flooring and factory lights, help soften the modern steel and glass construction. Located on a corner of a cul-de-sac in Durham, Piedmont Retreat is a two-story home commissioned by clients who wanted a low-maintenance home with a direct visual connection to their beautiful wooded site. In response, the architects wrapped the street-facing side of the home in vertical strips of Corten steel that will continue to weather over time and blend the home into the surroundings. Abundant glazing was installed in the back of the home to frame views of the forest. The home’s upper level is split into two halves, one for the communal spaces and the other for the bedrooms. This division of space is realized as two separate volumes set slightly apart and linked via light-filled walkways. A protected exterior courtyard sits between the two parts. Related: Stunning Lake Michigan home is built from dying ash reclaimed onsite “While the steel provides an exterior barrier, of sorts, between the family and the street, interior spaces are open and fluid, shifting perspectives throughout the house as the inhabitants move from the “public” volume of living, dining, and kitchen areas to the private volume of bedrooms and baths, all on one floor,” wrote the architects. + Tonic Design Images by Tzu Chen Photography

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Weathered steel and reclaimed materials blend a modern home into the woods

Santa and the ‘Shrooms: The real story behind the "design" of Christmas

December 8, 2017 by  
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When we think of Christmas in the United States, we invariably think of Santa Claus — a man in a red suit and pointy hat with white furry trim and tall black boots, and his accessories, a bag of goodies in a sleigh pulled through the sky by a team of eight flying reindeer. And it’s a clear case of the clothes making the man, for a Santa in any other outfit would most definitely not still be Santa. (Does a fat, bearded, white-haired guy in cargo shorts and a Metallica t-shirt make you think of Christmas?) But when you think about it, it’s a pretty special outfit, no? Santa’s pretty much the only one who wears anything like it — a baggy suit with fur trim isn’t exactly stylish these days, and it wasn’t when Santa made his first appearance, either. His last known precursor, Father Christmas, wore a long red robe, sometimes with trim and sometimes without, like a cardinal — reflecting the link drawn between him and the historic Saint Nicholas, a Turkish cardinal in the 14th century who was known for his kindness to children. But the pants? And the hat? And the boots? They’re nowhere to be found on him. Popular legend has it that Santa himself, not to mention his outfit, was designed by Coca Cola, making his first appearance in their early-20th century ads and defining him for the ages by sheer force of commercial might. There’s a grain of truth in this: His generous shape and rosy cheeks came at the whimsy of Haddon Sundblom, the illustrator of so many of Coke’s well-loved ads from that period. Before Sundblom’s illustrations, Santa was commonly depicted as more of a gnome-like little man (editorial cartoonist Thomas Nast drew some of the best-known early dedications of him), often skinny and a little scary — but even then, wearing the same clothes he wears now. So the question is, where did that outfit come from? Where did Santa get such a unique sense of sartorial élan? The answer, according to anthropological research from recent decades, lies way further back than even Coke can be found. The roots of Santa’s style, and his bag of goodies, sleigh, reindeer, bizarre midnight flight, distinctive chimney-based means of entry into the home, and even the way we decorate our houses at Christmas, seem to lead all the way back to the ancestral traditions of a number of indigenous arctic circle dwellers — the Kamchadales and the Koryaks of Siberia, specifically. (So it’s true — Santa really does come from the North Pole!) And like so many other fantastical tales, it all originated with some really intense ‘shrooms. On the night of the winter solstice, a Koryak shaman would gather several hallucinogenic mushrooms called amanita muscaria, or fly agaric in English, and them to launch himself into a spiritual journey to the tree of life (a large pine), which lived by the North Star and held the answer to all the village’s problems from the previous year. Fly agaric is the red mushroom with white spots that we see in fairy tale illustrations, old Disney movies, and (if you’re old enough to remember) Super Mario Brothers video games and all the Smurfs cartoons. They are seriously toxic, but they become less lethal when dried out. Conveniently, they grow most commonly under pine trees (because their spores travel exclusively on pine seeds), so the shaman would often hang them on lower branches of the pine they were growing under to dry out before taking them back to the village. As an alternative, he would put them in a sock and hang them over his fire to dry. Is this starting to sound familiar? Another way to remove the fatal toxins from the ‘shrooms was to feed them to reindeer, who would only get high from them — and then pee, with their digestive systems having filtered out most of the toxins, making their urine safe for humans to drink and get a safer high that way. Reindeer happen to love fly agarics and eat them whenever they can, so a good supply of magic pee was usually ready and waiting all winter. In fact, the reindeer like fly agarics so much that they would eat any snow where a human who had drank ‘shroom-laced urine had relieved himself, and thus the circle would continue. When the shaman went out to gather the mushrooms, he would wear an red outfit with either white trim or white dots, in honor of the mushroom’s colors. And because at that time of year the whole region was usually covered in deep snow, he, like everyone, wore tall boots of reindeer skin that would by then be blackened from exposure. He’d gather the tree-dried fly agarics and some reindeer urine in a large sack, then return home to his yurt (the traditional form of housing for people of this region at that time), where some of the higher-ups of the village would have gathered to join in the solstice ceremony. But how would he get into a yurt whose door was blocked by several feet of snow? He’d climb up to the roof with his bag of goodies, go to the hole in the center of the roof that acted as a chimney, and slide down the central pole that held the yurt up over the fireplace. Then he’d pass out a few ‘shrooms to each guest, and some might even partake of some of the ones that had been hung over the fire. Clearly, this idea of using the chimney to get in and pass out the magic mushrooms (and other goodies) had sticking power. Interestingly, even as late as Victorian times in England, the traditional symbol of chimney sweeps was a fly agaric mushroom — and many early Christmas cards featured chimney sweeps with fly agarics, though no explanation of why was offered. Interestingly, in addition to inducing hallucinations, the mushrooms stimulate the muscular system so strongly that those who eat them take on temporarily superhuman strength, in the same way we might be affected by a surge of adrenaline in a life-or-death situation. And the effect is the same for animals. So any reindeer who’d had a tasty mushroom snack or a little yellow snow would become literally high and mighty, prancing around and often jumping so high they looked like they were flying. And at the same time, the high would make humans feel like they were flying, too, and the reindeer were flying through space. So by now you can see where this is going: The legend had it that the shaman and the reindeer would fly to the north star (which sits directly over the north pole) to retrieve the gifts of knowledge, which they would then distribute to the rest of the village. It seems that these traditions were carried down into Great Britain by way of the ancient druids, whose spiritual practices had taken on elements that had originated much farther north. Then, in the inevitable way that different cultures influence one another due to migration and intermarriage, these stories got mixed with certain Germanic and Nordic myths involving Wotan (the most powerful Germanic god), Odin (his Nordic counterpart) or another great god going on a midnight winter solstice ride, chased by devils, on an eight-legged horse. The exertion of the chase would make flecks of red and white blood and foam fall from the horse’s mouth to the ground, where the next year amanita mushrooms would appear. Apparently over time, this European story of a horse with eight legs, united with the ancient Arctic circle story of reindeer prancing and flying around on the same night, melted together into eight prancing, flying reindeer. That story then crossed the pond to the New World with the early English settlers, and got an injection of Dutch traditions involving the Turkish St. Nicholas (who came to be called Sinterklaas by small Dutch children) from the Dutch colonialists — and found immortality in its current form in early 20th-century America, with Clement Clark Moore’s famous poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Before this poem hit the press, different immigrant groups around the U.S. each had their own different versions of the Santa Claus legend. Then in the 1930s, Coca Cola’s ad campaign gave Santa his sizable girth and sent him back around the world. And so in that spirit, a merry Christmas to all who celebrate it! + Fly Agaric

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