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

NASA considers puncturing Yellowstone supervolcano to save life on Earth

August 23, 2017 by  
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A new study from NASA’s Jet Propulsion unit has determined that the threat of a supervolcanic eruption to life on Earth may be more pressing than any interstellar collisions. An eruption of a supervolcano, like that found in Yellowstone National Park in the United States, could trigger a collapse of the global agricultural and economic systems and result in the deaths of potentially millions of people. Although NASA scientists can’t predict when such an event would occur, they have already begun preparing a preventative measure: drilling into the magma chamber of a supervolcano to cool it down. Although the potential consequences of a supervolcano eruption would be devastating, earthlings should rest easy knowing that the chance of such an eruption taking place this year is roughly 1-in-730,000. Even then, there is a chance that it could be nothing more than a little lava flow. Nonetheless, NASA scientists are preparing to deal with the problem before it happens. Related: World’s most active volcano harbors a tiny off-grid home—and you can stay overnight Magma eruptions occur only when it is thoroughly melted by intense heat; cooling magma down by 35 percent would prevent a supervolcano from erupting. To do this, the scientists envision using a drill to puncture above the chamber, where hydrothermal fluids are pushed to the surface. Adding water in this highly pressurized environment would be sufficient to cool the magma. To avoid fracturing the surrounding rock and potentially setting off an eruption, NASA scientists suggest drilling into the supervolcano from below. It is estimated that such a plan would cost around $3.5 billion, although governments would be encouraged to think of this as an investment : Excess heat could be captured and transformed into clean energy . Via IFLScience Lead image via Pixabay , others via Laineema/Flickr  and Peter Hartree/Flickr

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NASA considers puncturing Yellowstone supervolcano to save life on Earth

Airy Costa Rica home enjoys incredible views of the ocean and jungle

August 15, 2017 by  
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This gorgeous Costa Rican residence occupies a unique location near Santa Teresa Beach, where the jungle meets the Pacific Ocean. Architect Benjamin Garcia Saxe designed the Ocean Eye House to provide stunning views of its natural surroundings while supporting an outdoor lifestyle. The house, listed for the WAN House of the Year 2017, rests against the back of a steep hill in order to help stabilize the soil. It combines closed, private spaces and light , open areas that allow the owners to enjoy the surrounding landscape. Related: Striking Off-Grid House on the Osa Penninsula in Costa Rica This design approach resulted in a series of interwoven terraces that create different levels which blur the line between the interior and the exterior spaces. This spatial ambiguity allows the occupants to truly appreciate the dual nature of the building’s location. + Benjamin Garcia Saxe Via World Architecture News Photos by Andres Garcia Lachner

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Airy Costa Rica home enjoys incredible views of the ocean and jungle

Costa Rica eco-resort combines jungle yoga with sustainable design

August 9, 2017 by  
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NALU boutique hotel in Costa Rica is a sustainable jungle retreat for exercise and relaxation. Merging sustainability with local craftsmanship, architecture firm Studio Saxe designed a series of pavilions scattered amongst the trees, offering each occupant an extra sense of privacy. The hotel is located in Nosara, a burgeoning tourist destination for health, wellness and surfing. The owners, Nomel and Mariya Libid, wanted the design of the new building to reflect this attitude by offering several tranquil spaces for various types of recreation and exercise. Dense jungle completely surrounds the individual pavilion homes. The architects determined optimal positions for each of the structures by conducting extensive analyses of wind and sun patterns. Related: 8 gorgeous green hotels to add to your bucket list The timber roofs made of recycled Teak planks protrude over each pavilion to create shade from the intense equatorial sun. Corridors lit from the pergola roofs frame views of the lush surroundings and connect separate rooms. “Our project Nalu represents the power of simple, low-key, modern tropical architecture ,” says architect Benjamin Garcia Saxe. “It has quickly become a town favorite, which shows that there is a real desire to occupy spaces that bring people closer to nature, while addressing the needs of contemporary life,” he adds. + Studio Saxe Photos by Andres Garcia Lachner

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Triangular beachfront home is a dreamy retreat buried in the earth

August 9, 2017 by  
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A beautiful beach-front home by renowned architect, William Morgan just hit the market for $1.75 million – and while that is a huge chunk of change, you get quite a lot for your money. Designed to be the architect’s family residence, the wooden, three-story house takes the form of a slanted triangle , and it’s strategically designed to give unreal views over the Atlantic Beach coastline in Jacksonville, Florida. Morgan built the stunning 1,800-square-foot home in 1972 for his family. The house volume is comprised of two back-to-back triangular masses , with one side facing the street entry and the other overlooking the grassy incline that leads to the beach. According to scholar Robert McCarter, the unique design was “inspired by the stepped structure of the ancient Roman seaside town of Herculaneum.” Related: Architect Leo Qvarsebo’s triangular summer home doubles as a climbing wall More than just a quirky architectural whim, the stepped design also created an amazingly open living space on the home’s interior. The space is clad in honey-toned cedar wood panels throughout, with ultra-high slanted ceilings and plenty of windows and glass doors that lead to the home’s four open-air terraces. As a bonus, the new homeowners of this remarkable home will be living next door to another William Morgan work, the earth-rammed , two-bedroom Dune House that the architect built into the adjacent sand dune to protect the “ecological character” of the landscape. + William Morgan Architecture + Premier Sotheby’s International Realty Via Dwell

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Triangular beachfront home is a dreamy retreat buried in the earth

Costa Rica aims to become the first country to ban all single-use plastics

August 7, 2017 by  
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Costa Rica is taking a stand against the plastic waste flooding our oceans and clogging up our landfills: the country is poised to become the first in the world to eliminate all single-use plastics . This isn’t just a ban on plastic bags or water bottles. Using a multi-prong approach, Costa Rica will eliminate plastic forks, lids and even coffee stirrers. And as if that wasn’t a lofty enough goal, they plan to do this by 2021. Plastic is one of the most dramatic problems that the environment is facing. There is so much plastic trash in the ocean that it is difficult to even comprehend, and we are constantly discovering more . By 2050, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish. In Costa Rica, 4,000 tons of solid waste is produced every day, and 20 percent of that never makes it to a recycle center or landfill, ending up in the Costa Rican rivers, beaches and forests. Related: Costa Rica ran almost entirely on renewables in 2016 Costa Rica has taken environmental protection seriously. The country plans to be carbon neutral by 2021, in part by ditching fossil fuels . They are also dedicated to restoring their forests and protecting wildlife .  In order to move away from single-use plastic, the country will utilize both public and private sectors to accomplish five actions. The country will offer incentives and issue requirements for suppliers, in addition to investing in research and development and other initiatives that will move it closer to its goals. It will also replace single-use products with innovations like cellulose acetate-based materials. Via Costa Rica News Images via Deposit Photos ( 1 , 2 )

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4 DIY herbal remedies that take the sting out of pesky insect bites

August 7, 2017 by  
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We share the planet with many different species, and some of them bite or sting us on occasion. Mosquitoes , horse flies, fire ants, bedbugs, spiders, fleas, bees, and wasps can cause nasty reactions with their saliva or venom, but we don’t need to run to the drugstore to alleviate any potential reactions. Instead, we can enlist our plant allies and a few household ingredients to relieve the torment. Read on for a few DIY recipes that soothe insect bites without the nasty chemicals. When gathering wild plants for your herbal remedies, be sure to collect them from areas that haven’t been sprayed with pesticides and aren’t too close to active roadways. If you grow these plants yourself, try to avoid chemical fertilizers and just use compost to nourish them as they grow. 1. Plantain Poultice Plantain ( Plantago major ) is an invaluable plant for just about every type of insect bite or sting , and it grows so prolifically that you can undoubtedly find it somewhere near you. If you’re walking outside and you get bitten, look around to see if there’s some plantain growing nearby: just crush up or chew one of its leaves, and rub it all over the affected area for relief of both pain and itchiness. Alternately, if you have these extra ingredients at hand, you can make a poultice instead: What you’ll need and how to make it: 4-6 plantain leaves 1 teaspoon bentonite clay powder 1/2 teaspoon activated charcoal powder Fresh aloe vera gel Step 1: Chop the plantain leaves very finely. I mash mine in a mortar and pestle as well, but you can also put them through a food processor. Here’s a tip: if you have one of those Magic Bullet-style mini smoothie makers, they’re pretty much ideal for chopping up fresh herbs. Step 2: Cut a 3-inch piece off your handy aloe vera plant, and squish the gel out of it. Mix that, the bentonite powder, and the activated charcoal powder with the chopped plantain to create a thick paste. Step 3: Slather this paste on bite and surrounding area. It should alleviate the pain, as well as overall irritation, and both the bentonite and charcoal will draw the insect venom out of the bite. Which types of insect bites and stings will this help? Pretty much all of them. For spider bites specifically, add some crushed fresh yarrow leaves to the poultice, as this will help to draw out the venom. 2. Creosote-Infused Oil Leaves from the creosote bush ( Larrea tridentata ), also known as chaparral, can be used to create an infused oil for all kinds of insect bites, though it’s particularly well suited to fire ant bites and scorpion stings. What you’ll need and how to make it: Dried leaves from the creosote bush High-quality olive oil Clean, sterilized jar and lid I generally use the folk method for creating infused oil, so that’s what I’ll be describing below. If you’d be more comfortable using official ratios, then it’s 1 oz of dried leaves to 10 oz oil. Step 1: Fill your jar 1/2 full of dried leaves, then pour in olive oil to fill the jar almost to the top. Step 2: Use a chopstick to stir it well, then cap it with the lid. Place in a sunny spot and shake daily for 2-3 weeks. Step 3: Strain well through cheesecloth and a sieve into another clean jar. Decant into colored glass dropper bottles, and label with the name and date. Store these in a cool, dark place. When and if you get stung or bitten, apply a drop or two to the area. Which types of insect bites and stings will this help? Spider, kissing beetle, and mosquito bites, bee and scorpion stings, and those weird caterpillars that have hairs that’ll lodge in your skin and make you scream in pain. *Note: It’s best to avoid creosote if you’re pregnant or nursing. 3. Plantain Vinegar When you combine plantain with apple cider vinegar, you end up with an acidic tincture that neutralizes wasp sting venom surprisingly well. Note that this works for wasp stings, not bees: wasp venom is alkaline, which is why the acid in vinegar neutralizes it. What you’ll need and how to make it: Handful of plantain leaves Apple cider vinegar (you can also use white vinegar in a pinch) Clean, sterilized jar and lid Step 1: Gather some plantain leaves and rinse them well under running water. Step 2: Pat them dry, then chop them up and loosely fill a small, clean jelly jar 2/3 full of the chopped leaves. Step 3: Fill the jar all the way to the top with apple cider vinegar, and stir the contents gently with a chopstick or spoon handle to release any air bubbles. Close it up with a clean lid and store in a cool, dark place for 3-4 weeks, agitating the jar gently every day to draw out the plantain’s medicinal properties. Step 4: Once that time has passed, strain the liquid through a few layers of cheesecloth into a clean jar, or into amber dropper bottles. If you get stung by a wasp, use a cotton ball to apply this tincture to the affected area immediately, followed by ice to reduce any swelling. Alternate with the ice and vinegar for about 15 minutes, and keep applying the vinegar as needed to relieve pain and itchiness as it heals. If you get stung before this has a chance to cure, just apply plain apple cider vinegar. It won’t do as much for alleviating the pain and inflammation, but it’ll counteract the venom so you can heal more quickly. Which types of insect bites and stings will this help? Fire ant bites and wasp stings, as well as flea and bed bug bites. Related: DIY insect repellent lotions and sprays 4. Jewelweed or Calendula Salve Now, if you happen to have jewelweed growing in your area, you’re in luck. Also known as Touch-Me-Not, because if so so much as touch its seeds, they’ll go squirting off several feet away, Impatiens capensis is incredible for alleviating all kinds of skin irritations. In addition to neutralizing poison ivy reactions, the gel inside its stem will also soothe insect bites instantly. You can’t tincture this plant because it reacts badly with alcohol, but you can make a salve with a few simple ingredients. *Note: If you can’t get hold of jewelweed in your area, you can use calendula flowers instead. What you’ll need and how to make it: 3 cups fresh jewelweed stems and leaves (or calendula flowers), coarsely chopped 1 cup high-quality olive oil 3/4 cup beeswax or carnauba wax pastilles Tea tree, peppermint, and lavender essential oils Step 1: Chop the jewelweed coarsely and place in a small saucepot. Step 2: Cover it completely with your olive oil, and bring to a simmer. Keep simmering for about an hour, until the plant has softened and the oil has changed color. Remove from the heat and let it sit overnight. Step 3: Strain the oil into another, clean saucepot through several layers of cheesecloth or muslin lain inside a strainer. Use a metal spoon to squish all the oil out of it. Step 4: Warm this oil on low heat, add the wax pastilles, and stir gently. I use a small baking whisk for this, but you can also use a metal spoon. Step 5: Remove from the heat, then add 8 drops each of tea tree, peppermint, and lavender essential oils. Step 6: Pour the mixture into a small jar or tin, let set for 20-30 minutes, then refrigerate. This salve will stay good for up to a year if kept in the fridge. While calendula doesn’t have jewelweed’s itch-neutralizing properties, it’s a good all-purpose herb for alleviating skin irritation and inflammation. Which types of insect bites and stings will this help? All of them. Related: How to make your own herbal tinctures at home Remember that prevention really is the best medicine, and it’s good to take steps to avoid being bitten or stung. Spraying exposed skin with a diluted yarrow tincture is just as effective as DEET. (Follow the link above for a DIY tincture tutorial), and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when you’re gardening or hiking in the woods can help to keep all kinds of bugs from biting you. It’s important to educate yourself about these plants before using any herbal remedies to make sure they don’t contraindicate with any medications you may be on, or trigger any allergies you may have. For example, people who are allergic to chamomile may also be allergic to other flowers in the Asteraceae family, such as the calendula listed above, or arnica. If you have any nervousness about using these remedies, talk to your healthcare provider or a local herbalist for advice, and then try a small test on your skin to see if you’ll react badly to the salve or poultice. Images via Unsplash and Wikimedia Creative Commons, and by the author

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Hydra-Light lantern doesn’t need a batteryjust saltwater

August 7, 2017 by  
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Hail, Hydra…Light? You too might be singing this portable lighting product’s praises if you find yourself off the grid without a battery to your name. Designed with campers, boaters, and outdoor revelers in mind, Hydra-Light’s range of flashlights, lanterns, and energy cells harness salt and water as its power source. Several models even come with a USB port, so you can juice up your cellphone or smart device at the same time. Each Hydra-Light features an energy cell that comprises a carbon-based membrane and a replaceable metal-alloy cylinder known as a PowerRod. When an electrolyte like saltwater—or just regular table salt and water—is added to the mix, the two elements react to generate a current. Related: Light-powered device can purify air and generate clean energy This reaction continues until the PowerRod is exhausted to a sliver, leaving only “harmless mineral sediment” behind, per the Australia-based manufacturer. “When the rod has become very thin, it is removed and a new one is inserted—which takes just seconds—making the cell like new and ready to continue generating power,” Hydra-Light said. “All that’s needed during the lifetime of each PowerRod is a periodic rinsing out of the mineral sediment and refilling with fresh saltwater. Unlike conventional batteries, the power output remains constant and does not decline over the lifetime of the rods.” Hydra-Light claims that a single PowerRod provides more than 250 hours of continuous power, which is equal to the output of about 85 standard AA batteries but at a “fraction of the cost.” (Each Hydra-Light product includes a preinstalled PowerRod.) It’s still salad days for the company yet, but the technology is nothing if not promising. For the 1.3 billion people around the world who live without electricity, Hydra-Light could prove life-changing. For the rest of us, it’s several more sets of single-use batteries we don’t have to toss out. Americans purchase—and presumably dispose of—more than 3 billion dry cell batteries every year to power our various gadgets and gizmos, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency . Hail, Hydra-Light indeed. + Hydra-Light [Via Digital Trends ]

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Hydra-Light lantern doesn’t need a batteryjust saltwater

Gorgeous solar-powered greenhouse home in Sweden hits the market

August 7, 2017 by  
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If you’re looking for a gorgeous home surrounded by an idyllic landscape, this greenhouse hybrid is currently on the market for a cool $864k. Located in Gothenburg, Sweden, the A-frame residence has three bedrooms and a large, daylit greenhouse tacked on to one side. Equipped with various energy-efficient features and solar panels , the space is the epitome of green luxury living. The home itself has a beautiful interior design with white walls and polished concrete floors that create an open and airy living space. The latter, kitchen, three bedrooms and bathrooms are spread over the first two floors. However, the star of the home is located on the top floor – a massive attic space clad entirely in glass panels with exposed wooden beams, where residents enjoy stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Related: Giant greenhouse in Rotterdam doubles as a light-filled family home The new tenants won’t have far to go to the garden thanks to the massive greenhouse attached to the home. Surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass panels and exposed wooden beams, the greenhouse was designed to provide a perfect climate for growing a variety of fruits and veggies year-round. The affixed greenhouse is more than just a fun gardening space, however. The home’s living area benefits substantially from having the insulation provided by the light-filled space, which helps keep it warm during frigid Swedish winters. It also reduces energy usage and costs throughout the year. + Eklund Stockholm New York Via Dwell Images via Eklund Stockholm New York

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Gorgeous solar-powered greenhouse home in Sweden hits the market

Fully-furnished shipping containers form unique prefab hotel in Manchester

August 7, 2017 by  
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Architecture firm Chapman Taylor unveiled images of the recently completed Holiday Inn Express at Manchester’s Trafford City – the first hotel in the North West to be built using a special type of volumetric modular construction based on steel shipping containers . The hotel was built off-site, as separate modules, and assembled on-site in under a month. The architects worked with the main contractor, Bowmer & Kirkland, to develop a detailed design of the hotel with a focus on exploring modular options. Related: This shipping container hotel is so cool you’ll forget its a shipping container All 220 guest rooms were completed before off-site, and include interior furniture, fixtures and fittings, carpets, curtains, wallpaper and floor-to-ceiling windows . A team of workers then stacked the first 125 modules on a podium structure upon their arrival at Trafford City – in less than one month. The use of a comprehensive BIM model helped inform the detailed design and enable off-site fabrication. Every container features a vapor control layer and pre-finished rain-screen cladding that make them watertight. + Chapman Taylor Via World Architecture News

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