College Application Season: Greenest Universities

October 6, 2017 by  
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College Application Season: Greenest Universities

Megacities could save $505 million a year thanks to trees

August 30, 2017 by  
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Trees offer enormous monetary benefit to megacities , or those urban areas where over 10 million people reside. New research led by Theodore Endreny of SUNY’s College of Environmental Studies and Forestry highlights the idea that cities shouldn’t overlook the immense value of these plants: every year they could offer a payoff of $482 million in lowered air pollution , $11 million in stormwater remediation, $8 million in carbon dioxide sequestration , and $500,000 savings on heating and cooling costs. The researchers looked at Los Angeles, Beijing, Tokyo, Mumbai, Buenos Aires, Moscow, London, Istanbul, Mexico City, and Cairo. They built on estimates from the i-Tree model developed by the United States Forest Service , which analyzes environmental benefits from trees, with local data. They found median tree cover in all the cities was 21 percent, with potential tree cover at 19 percent. Tree cover varies by megacity – for example, in Cairo tree cover is just 8.1 percent while in Moscow it’s 36 percent. Tokyo claims the prize for greatest tree canopy cover per person, according to CityLab. Related: California street trees are worth $1 billion, says USFS and UC Davis The benefits each megacity reaps from trees varies some as well. Cairo doesn’t receive much precipitation so they don’t benefit that much from stormwater remediation. And Mumbai’s energy expenditures aren’t as high as other megacities’ so it doesn’t benefit as much in that area. Los Angeles got the most benefit from trees sequestering carbon dioxide. The researchers suggest cities plant more trees to nearly double the benefits gleaned from the leafy canopies. And as nearly 10 percent of humans live in megacities, the move could serve millions of people. The journal Ecological Modelling made the research available online at the end of July. Six researchers at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and the Parthenope University of Naples contributed to the study. Via CityLab Images via Laith Abdulkareem on Unsplash and Florian ? on Unsplash

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Megacities could save $505 million a year thanks to trees

Build your own BIG-designed LEGO House with LEGO Architectures newest kit

August 30, 2017 by  
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As if playing in a LEGO wonderland wasn’t enough, we just got wind of another reason to get excited over the BIG-designed LEGO House’s grand opening next month. The iconic toy company just unveiled official images of a new LEGO Architecture kit that’ll let you build your very own LEGO experience center at home. The 774-piece model replica of the nearly complete LEGO House in Billund, Denmark will be sold exclusively at the center when it opens on September 28. The new LEGO House, also known as the “House of the Brick,” will be an experience center where fans can learn about the history of the company, the philosophy of LEGO play, and interact with LEGO through a wide variety of hands-on experiences. Starchitect Bjarke Ingels , an enthusiastic LEGO fan, was tapped to design the LEGO House project and drew inspiration from the modularity of the toy brick. Related: BIG’s LEGO House tops out with opening date in September The nearly completed LEGO House was created as “a cloud of interlocking LEGO bricks…a literal manifestation of the infinite possibilities of the LEGO brick,” said Ingels. The 774-piece LEGO Architecture kit is a small-scale replica of the stunning building that, when assembled, will form 21 stacked white bricks complete with the classic eight-knob LEGO brick-shaped Keystone, colorful surfaces, glazing in the form of translucent bricks, and an interior public square. The kit takes 197 steps to complete. Full instructions and product description can be found here . + LEGO Architecture Via ArchDaily

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Build your own BIG-designed LEGO House with LEGO Architectures newest kit

How orange peels helped barren land in Costa Rica spring back to life

August 23, 2017 by  
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There’s more to oranges than juice! Back in the 1990’s, two ecologists suggested orange juice manufacturer Del Oro donate some of their land near a national park in Costa Rica ; in exchange, they’d be able to deposit agricultural waste for free on degraded land inside the park. Del Oro agreed and dumped 1,000 truckloads of orange pulp and peels on the land. Today, that area is a thriving forest . A Princeton University -led team of researchers journeyed to the forest to discover just how much that food trash transformed the forest – and how other businesses might do the same. Del Oro donated land to Área de Conservación Guanacaste at the suggestion of husband and wife ecologist team Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs, who’d worked as advisors at the park. The company unloaded around 12,000 metric tons of orange waste for biodegradation until rival company TicoFruit sued, saying Del Oro had defiled the park. TicoFruit won and the land went largely overlooked for over a decade. Related: 16-year-old South African girl invents drought-fighting super material from orange peels Years later, environmental researchers decided to evaluate the site. They discovered a lush forest that had a 176 percent increase in aboveground biomass – what Princeton described as the trees’ wood – in the seven acres they studied. They also found a difference between areas where orange peels hadn’t been dumped and where they had – according to Princeton, the latter showed richer soil, greater tree-species richness, and more closure in the forest canopy. The researchers think regenerating forests with agricultural waste could help us sequester carbon . Princeton graduate student Timothy Treuer said in a statement, “This is one of the only instances I’ve ever heard of where you can have cost-negative carbon sequestration. It’s not just a win-win between the company and the local park – it’s a win for everyone.” Princeton University ecologist David Wilcove thinks more businesses could help the environment in similar ways. He said while companies do generate environmental problems, “…an awful lot of those problems can be alleviated if the private sector and the environmental community work together. I’m confident we’ll find many more opportunities to use the leftovers from industrial food production to bring back tropical forests. That’s recycling at its best.” University of Pennsylvania , Beloit College , and University of Minnesota scientists joined the Princeton researchers to write a study published by the journal Restoration Ecology this week. Via Princeton Environmental Institute Images via Pixabay and Princeton University

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How orange peels helped barren land in Costa Rica spring back to life

US DOI scientist claims he was reassigned for speaking up on climate change

July 21, 2017 by  
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Is the Donald Trump administration reassigning employees who speak out on the dangers of climate change ? Joel Clement, former Office of Policy Analysis director at the Department of the Interior (DOI), seems to think so. He penned an opinion piece for The Washington Post saying he was moved into an “unrelated job in the accounting office.” He said he’s a scientist and policy expert, not an accountant – “…but you don’t have to be one to see that the administration’s excuse for a reassignment such as mine doesn’t add up.” Clement said he began working in the DOI almost seven years ago, and worked with communities in Alaska to help them prepare for the impacts of climate change. On June 15, he received a letter informing him of his reassignment to “improve talent development, mission delivery and collaboration.” He was one of around 50 senior employees to receive a letter, and was shuffled to the role of senior adviser in the Office of Natural Resources Revenue – an office he said gathers royalty checks from fossil fuel companies. Related: Trump launches “witch hunt” for government employees who worked on climate change policy Clement’s background is not in accounting. He has a Master of Environmental Studies degree in Forest Sciences and Canopy Biology from The Evergreen State College . But he said he spoke out on the challenges stemming from climate change that Alaska Native communities face in the months before his reassignment, even bringing the threat up with White House officials. Clement said in his op-ed, “It is clear to me that the administration was so uncomfortable with this work, and my disclosures, that I was reassigned with the intent to coerce me into leaving the federal government.” Indeed, a few days following his reassignment, new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testified before Congress that reassignments might be used to eliminate employees. Clement suggested Zinke might think fed-up employees might quit, and said he has colleagues who are being moved to other locations in the country, at taxpayer expense, to jobs that don’t align well with their skill set. Clement said the Kivalina, Shishmaref , and Shaktoolik villages are “one superstorm from being washed away.” He wrote, “I believe that every president, regardless of party, has the right and responsibility to implement his policies. But that is not what is happening here. Putting citizens in harm’s way isn’t the president’s right…The threat to these Alaska Native communities is not theoretical. This is not a policy debate.” Read Clement’s full piece here . Via The Washington Post Images via Wikimedia Commons and screenshot

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US DOI scientist claims he was reassigned for speaking up on climate change

This boy accidentally found a 1.2 million-year-old fossil by tripping over it

July 21, 2017 by  
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Sometimes, there are benefits to being clumsy – so discovered 9-year-old Jude Sparks on a recent hike in New Mexico’s Orange Mountains. On a trip with his family, Sparks tripped over an object which he first thought was “just a big fat rotten cow.” Instead, it turned out to be a Stegomastodon fossil from 1.2 million years ago. The young boy told KVIA TV, “I didn’t know what it was. I just knew it wasn’t usual.” His family agreed, which is why they contacted Peter Houde, a professor at New Mexico State University, and returned to the site the next day. Sure enough, what Sparks had tripped over was a fossilized tusk belonging to an ancient Stegomastodon . According to The New York Times , the ancient mammal was a cousin to the wooly mammoth and modern-day elephants. Not only are the remains large, they are quite rare, considering prehistoric bones tend to disintegrate quickly after being exposed to the elements. “This is really very unusual to find,” said Houde. Elated to have made the find, the family set up a fundraiser for a formal dig. It took months to organize a team and secure a permit, but earlier this May, an entire skull made of delicate “egg-shell thin” pieces was discovered. Houde hopes to display the remains at the university. “We’re really, really grateful that they contacted us, because if they had not done that, if they had tried to do it themselves, it could have just destroyed the specimen,” he said. “It really has to be done with great care and know-how. Jude — now 10-years-old — says he isn’t as interested in fossils as he used to be but likes the attention that comes with discovering the fossilized remains of a mammal which is slightly smaller than the average African elephant . Related: World’s oldest fossils discovered in Canada – and they’re 4 billion-years-old Believe it or not, this isn’t the first Stegomastadon that’s been “accidentally” discovered. A hiking bachelor party found a 3-million-year-old skull in 2010 while hiking in New Mexico’s Butte Lake State Park. Via The New York Times , All That Is Interesting Images via Peter Houde

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This boy accidentally found a 1.2 million-year-old fossil by tripping over it

Vertical farming startup raises $200M from Alphabet, Jeff Bezos

July 21, 2017 by  
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Indoor vertical farming is on the rise, if a recent funding round for San Francisco startup Plenty is any indication. The company just scored what they say is the largest agriculture technology investment in history. Plenty has attracted attention – and quite a lot of money – from well-known tech greats like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. Plenty is utilizing technology to improve agriculture. The startup draws on big data processing, micro-sensor technology, and LED lighting in an effort to make affordable, local food available for people around the world. Their system uses less water and space than conventional farms, and grows food more efficiently. Plenty says they can yield as much as 350 times more crops per square foot than a typical farm. Their recent Series B funding round, led by Japanese media corporation SoftBank ‘s Vision Fund, turned out to be quite fruitful at $200 million. Related: 40-foot shipping container farm can grow 5 acres of food with 97% less water SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said in a statement, “By combining technology with optimal agriculture methods, Plenty is working to make ultra-fresh, nutrient-rich food accessible to everyone in an always-local way that minimizes wastage from transport. We believe that Plenty’s team will remake the current food system to improve people’s quality of life.” Plenty will use the $200 million to start expanding, and plan to bring their first produce to market later this year. They plan to grow two to five acre indoor farms, which the BBC said is around the size of a Walmart or Home Depot. The company already employs 100 people working in three facilities in Wyoming and San Francisco. Initially, Plenty will provide mainly leafy greens and herbs for distributors that have already signed on, according to co-founder and CEO Matt Barnard. He said in a statement, “The world is out of land in the places it’s most economical to grow these crops. After a decade of development driven by one of our founders, our technology is uniquely capable of growing super clean food with no pesticides nor GMOs while cutting water consumption by 99 percent…We’re now ready to build out our farm network and serve communities around the globe.” + Plenty Via Plenty and the BBC Images via Plenty Facebook

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Solar-powered Farm From a Box is a compact farm kit that feeds 150 people

December 28, 2016 by  
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Two acres of land is enough to farm a sustainable food supply for as many as 150 people, and now a San Francisco startup is making it even easier to get that farm growing. Farm From a Box is a shipping container kit that holds all the essentials for setting up a two-acre farm (except the land, of course). Founders Brandi DeCarli and Scott Thompson got the idea after working on a youth center in Kenya where shipping containers were being used to substitute where infrastructure lacked. That project didn’t address food insecurity , though, which led DeCarli and Thompson to found their own venture specifically for that purpose. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlcijvWRJGU Farm From a Box is a kit designed to make it easier for all types of organizations to start growing sustainable food . Nonprofit humanitarian agencies, schools, community groups, and even individuals can buy a $50,000 kit, which comes with a complete water system including a solar-powered pump and drip irrigation system. Together, those features help conserve water by using it more efficiently, delivering water directly to the roots of growing plants. All of the kit’s components are solar-powered, so the kit also includes 3 kW of solar energy capacity which is enough to power the water pump as well as WiFi connectivity that makes it possible to monitor the farm conditions remotely. Because the built-in solar power technology generates more than enough energy to power the farm’s equipment, the farm is suitable to run completely off the grid. Related: Top 10 cities in the US for urban farming All the prospective farmer needs to have is viable land, of course, and seeds. Luckily, the Farm From a Box team realizes that farming is largely about skill and science, so the kit also includes three stages of training materials on sustainable farming, farm technology and maintenance, as well as the business of farming. In a recent interview with Smithsonian Magazine, DiCarli explained that the farm kit was designed to “act as a template” and that it’s possible to “plug in” components that specifically fit the farm’s local climate and the farmers’ needs. Those options include internal cold storage, to help preserve crops between harvest and consumption or sale, and a water purification system, if needed. So far, Farm From a Box has deployed one prototype at Shone Farm in Sonoma County, California. A project of Santa Rosa Junior College, the farm is part of a larger outdoor laboratory in which students learn how to cultivate crops in drought conditions, and then the harvest is used to supply the farm’s own community-supported agriculture (CSA) program as well as the college’s culinary arts program. DiCarli said the Shone Farm prototype turned out to be “more efficient than we had even planned,” with “really high” production and energy output. Farm From a Box has a number of other potential sites lined up already, in Ethiopia, Nepal, Bhutan, and Afghanistan, as well as additional test farms in California and a veteran-partnered site in Virginia. Via Smithsonian Magazine Images via Farm From a Box

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Solar-powered Farm From a Box is a compact farm kit that feeds 150 people

Mexican winery built from recycled wood and rammed earth blends into the valley landscape

December 28, 2016 by  
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Mexico’s booming wine country of Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California recently welcomed the chic BRUMA winery , a large complex constructed with a natural materials palette to blend beautifully into its surroundings. TAC Taller de Arquitectura Contextual designed the BRUMA winery as part of a 75-acre masterplan that includes a bed and breakfast, pool, spa, event space, and restaurant. Rammed earth and recycled wood feature prominently in the rustic winery building. Despite its 22,000-square-meter size, the BRUMA winery visually disappears in the dusty red and green landscape of Valle de Guadalupe. Part of the winery is tucked underground to take advantage of the earth’s thermal mass that protects against volatile temperature changes. A large reflecting pool nearby also serves as a natural heat insulator. Related: Rammed earth house blends traditional materials with modern techniques in Vietnam’s last frontier Recycled wood and steel are the primary materials used to construct the winery. The timber slats are naturally weathered and are of varying shades to give the building an interesting and earthy texture and parts of the wooden walls are punctuated by small glass openings for beautiful effect. Pieces of natural unmilled wood are used as seating or decorative objects. Native plants cover the roof of the winery. Curving rammed earth walls also make up part of the complex, further integrating the building into the landscape. + TAC Taller de Arquitectura Contextual Via ArchDaily Images © Humberto Romero

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Mexican winery built from recycled wood and rammed earth blends into the valley landscape

An old Swiss farmhouse gets a striking wooden extension that juxtaposes past and present

December 28, 2016 by  
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Studio Marazzi Reinhardt recently updated an old farmhouse in the quiet Swiss village of Löhningen  with a striking wooden extension that seamlessly melds modern and classic architecture. ‘Haus Zur Blume’ ads extra living space to an existing home while juxtaposing the past against the present. The modern structure is wrapped in a wooden slat facade that filters natural light.

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An old Swiss farmhouse gets a striking wooden extension that juxtaposes past and present

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