BP, Shell, oil giants fund research into mobile carbon capture from ships at sea

October 26, 2020 by  
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BP, Shell, oil giants fund research into mobile carbon capture from ships at sea Michael Holder Mon, 10/26/2020 – 00:05 A coalition of oil and gas majors are eyeing up the potential to capture carbon dioxide emissions from ships out at sea, teaming up with global tanker owner and operator Stena Bulk to evaluate the feasibility of technology they claim could play a key role in decarbonizing the hard-to-abate sector. The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) — which represents 12 of the world’s largest oil and gas companies including BP, Shell, Exxon, Chevron, Aramco and Petrobras — revealed recently it is funding research alongside Stena Bulk into mobile carbon capture on board ships out at sea. The project aims to evaluate the technical and economic challenges involved in capturing CO2 from ships cruising the oceans, and is in part an extension to OGCI member Saudi Aramco’s research which it claims has successfully demonstrated carbon capture on board heavy-duty trucks on roads, it said. “Carbon capture will play an important role in reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions, but there’s no reason it needs to be limited to stationary applications,” said Michael Traver, head of OGCI’s transport workstream. “Expanding carbon capture to long-distance marine shipping could help accelerate its use, while addressing a difficult to abate sector of the transport industry.” Expanding carbon capture to long-distance marine shipping could help accelerate its use. OGCI claims mobile carbon capture technologies aboard ships could help the global shipping sector reach its current climate target to cut emissions by 50 percent by 2050, from a 2008 baseline — a goal that has faced criticism from green groups for lacking ambition. The research itself is also likely to provoke renewed criticism of the OCGI’s priorities, given it focuses on CCS technologies that would in effect prolong the use of fossil fuels to power ships, rather than on alternative, low or zero carbon shipping fuels that could transition the sector away from fossil fuels altogether. But Stena Bulk President and CEO Erik Hånell argued it was “increasingly evident that we need to evaluate as many potential solutions as possible that might help decarbonize the industry.” “Carbon capture might be such a solution with the potential to play a key role in this transition, and this feasibility study presents a unique opportunity for us to work with some of our key customers to understand and assess the technical and economic challenges involved in making carbon capture work onboard vessels,” he said. The global shipping sector is responsible for around 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and has received flak over its failure to come up with a detailed, ambitious plan to decarbonize in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. The global shipping sector is responsible for around 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In 2018 the International Maritime Organization (IMO) — the UN-affiliated body which oversees the global shipping sector — agreed on a draft target to cut global emissions by at least 50 percent by 2050 compared to 2008, alongside targets to cut the average carbon intensity by at least 40 percent by 2030. However, details of the strategy have yet to be fully thrashed out, and crunch negotiations over how the industry should go about meeting its near-term 2030 climate goals are set to kick off today at the IMO, amid concerns from green groups that current proposals amount to an “empty shell. ” Meanwhile, the OGCI today announced that its members collectively have reduced the cut their absolute upstream methane emissions by 22 percent since 2017, shrinking the methane intensity of members’ upstream oil and gas to operations to 0.23 percent. It surpasses its target to cut methane intensity to 0.25 percent by 2020, and as such the OGCI has set a stricter goal of 0.2 percent by 2025. Moreover, the group claims to have cut its carbon intensity by 7 percent collectively since 2017, as it pushes towards its target for a 13 percent cut.  However, carbon intensity targets have faced increasing criticism from green groups, as organizations potentially can still increase their overall emissions by expanding their business while reducing the CO2 intensity of their operations.  Pull Quote Expanding carbon capture to long-distance marine shipping could help accelerate its use. The global shipping sector is responsible for around 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Topics Oil & Gas Carbon Removal Shipping & Logistics BusinessGreen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Stena Conqueror is a Oil and Chemical Tanker, built by Swedish tanker giant Stena Bulk. The company is participating in a novel carbon capture project for shipping. Flickr royvanwijk Close Authorship

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BP, Shell, oil giants fund research into mobile carbon capture from ships at sea

Burger King announces reusable container pilot program

October 23, 2020 by  
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If the ghosts of fast food containers past are haunting your conscience, Burger King has the solution. The fast food giant has announced a pilot plan to introduce reusable containers. Burger King is partnering with Loop , a circular packaging service owned by TerraCycle, to provide the new containers. Consumers can opt to pay a container deposit when buying a meal. When they return the packaging, they get a refund. Loop cleans the packaging, preparing it for a long life of housing infinite Whoppers and Cokes. The pilot program will go into effect next year in Tokyo, New York City and Portland, Oregon. If it goes well, more cities will soon know the joy of a recycled Whopper box. Related: Swiss grocery store chain will be the first to sell insect burgers “As part of our Restaurant Brands for Good plan, we’re investing in the development of sustainable packaging solutions that will help push the food service industry forward in reducing packaging waste ,” said Matthew Banton, Burger King Global’s head of innovation and sustainability. “The Loop system gives us the confidence in a reusable solution that meets our high safety standards, while also offering convenience for our guests on the go.” Burger King has set a goal of 100% of customer packaging being sourced from recycled, renewable or certified sources by 2025. The company is also trying to improve its waste diversion. By 2025, Burger King restaurants in the U.S. and Canada aim to recycle 100% of guest packaging. The pandemic has focused even more attention on packaging, since so many restaurants are closed for in-house dining. “During COVID, we have seen the environmental impact of increased takeaway ordering which makes this initiative by Burger King all the more important,” said Tom Szaky, TerraCycle and Loop CEO, as reported in BusinessWire . “This enables Burger King consumers to easily bring reusability into their daily lives, and whether they choose to eat-in or takeaway, they will be able to get some of their favorite food and drinks in a reusable container.” Via BusinessWire and Business Insider Image via Burger King / BusinessWire

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How 2 gadgets are going to change China and the world

October 14, 2020 by  
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Pollution. Smog. Dirty air. It’s all around us. Sometimes, you can see the pollution hanging in the air. Pollution is a huge public health problem, especially in China. But how big is the problem? There’s no precise answer to that question. At least, not yet. A couple of amazing new inventions may just change that. Many of the world’s most polluted cities are in China. It’s the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world and in 2014, the country far exceeded the national standard for pollution suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO). It isn’t always easy to get accurate pollution ratings through standard methods employed by the Chinese government. Enter the Pollution Ranger. This little machine is a self-powered air quality monitor that can be placed on cars to collect data on air pollution everywhere it goes. Related: How clean is your indoor air? The Pollution Ranger is designed for full transparency of data. Anyone can use a smartphone app to access the data gathered by the device. You can use the information to check out pollution levels in your current location, or use the app to find data on a place you’re going to. Want to know how much pollution is the air? Smog Shade makes it easier to visually see exactly how polluted the air around you is. This is an installation with a sleek, circular design that shows air quality in real-time. The shade darkens to indicate how much pollution is in the air; the darker the shade is, the more polluted the air is. The Smog Shade is accessible via app as well. The app allows users to view overall city pollution or pollution levels in specific locations all over the city. Both of these inventions were designed by Huachen Xin. Xin spoke about some of the applications for the gadgets, saying, “People have the right to know the genuine air quality [around them]…based on this data, they could choose whether they need to move in or out of where they currently live. City managers could also use the data as clues to find out realtime pollution, for example, or track illegal emissions during the night.” According to Xin, the Chinese government doesn’t always offer precise pollution measurements. Sometimes, air quality monitors are purposefully put in areas where the air is cleaner. Monitors installed in parks, on rooftops and on islands in the middle of lakes aren’t getting accurate readings of city streets and neighborhoods. One study published in Lancet estimated that as many as 1.24 million deaths in China in the year 2017 were caused by air pollution. That’s a huge public health risk, and that’s why accurate pollution monitoring matters. Putting pollution data in the hands of everyone could have another effect — it shows people the reality of pollution. Hard data and accurate numbers are pretty hard to ignore. Xin hopes that real-time pollution data will encourage people to change their daily habits and help work toward reducing pollution levels. If the first step to improving air quality is raising awareness of how bad the air actually is, then devices like the Pollution Ranger and Smog Shade are going to change the world … and not a moment too soon. + Huachen Xin Images via Huachen Xin

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Scientists search for cause of mass marine die-off in Russia

October 14, 2020 by  
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Massive deaths of marine life off of the Russian Pacific Coast have left many scientists baffled. At the beginning of October, thousands of dead sea creatures were spotted along the eastern coast, after they had been pushed on the shoreline by waves. Although environmental experts have already ruled out human activity as a cause, they are still investigating other possibilities. Among the dead ocean creatures are octopuses, crabs and sea urchins. The organisms were found washed up on Khalaktyrsky Beach, which is a popular surfing destination. This week, Russian environmental officials revealed that the water where the deaths occurred has excess amounts of phosphate ion, iron and phenol. But where this pollution originated is still a puzzle to scientists. Related: Botswana elephant deaths caused by cyanobacteria At the same time, environmental officials are still trying to assess the full extent of the damage. There are fears that more dead fish and other marine life could be found in other areas. Speaking to ABC News, Elena Sakirko of Greenpeace revealed that signs of trouble have also been observed farther north. We published the first results of sample analysis collected in Kamchatka where the massive die-off of benthic marine organisms happened. #SaveKamchatka pic.twitter.com/0qLeoG5RZO — Greenpeace Russia (@greenpeaceru) October 14, 2020 The most affected areas are Avacha Bay to the south and Cape Nalychev to the north. Scientists who examined the impacted waters said that about 95% of sea creatures to the depth of 15 meters have died. But local environmental officials are suggesting that the deaths are a natural occurrence. Several theories have arisen to try and explain the mass die-off. Some experts suggest that the marine organisms may have died due to a poisonous algal bloom , while others suggest that the event might have been caused by seismic activity. It is common for seismic activities in the region in question, as it is a volcanically active area. Sakirko said that it is too early to rule out any theories, including that the deaths could be caused by human activity. For now, scientists and environmental officials must continue investigations to determine the exact cause of the deaths. Via ABC News Image via Valery Balievich

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Why sustainability professionals should embrace Black Lives Matter

September 21, 2020 by  
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Why sustainability professionals should embrace Black Lives Matter Charles Orgbon Mon, 09/21/2020 – 00:45 Long before corporations acknowledged Black Lives Matter, they championed the plights of specific endangered species. Corporate conservation campaigns used phrases such as “Save the [insert your favorite animal],” which have been catchy, effective and oddly similar to the language we’re now using to educate people about the status of Black life in America. The Disney Conservation Fund protects lions, elephants, chimpanzees and thousands of other species. Ben & Jerry’s brings awareness to declining honeybee populations. Coca-Cola appropriately is the longtime ally of the poster child for climate change, the polar bear. As a kid, I, too, was influenced by Coca-Cola’s messaging. At just 11, I thought I could stop global warming, so I created a blog with articles urging people, “Save the polar bears.” No one challenged me by asking, “What about the tigers? The tigers…matter, too! All endangered species matter.” The fact is, polar bears were (and still are) drowning due to global problems. If we addressed the root causes of those global problems such as reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, in fact, all endangered species would fare better. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” works similarly to “Save the polar bear,” only that Black people are drowning in a sea of systemic racism instead of a rising sea of melting ice. Want to know how well our society is tackling racial injustice? Look to Black people. If we’re doing good, we’re all doing good. When someone says something such as “Save the polar bears,” they are also indirectly revealing other information about themselves. Perhaps they eat organic, use public transportation, recycle or take military-style showers. Likewise, when we say “Black Lives Matter” we are actually making a declaration about our belief that injustice somewhere is a threat to justice everywhere. All lives truly matter when those that are the most marginalized matter. Want to know how well our society is tackling climate change? Look to polar bears. If they’re doing good, we’re doing good. Want to know how well our society is tackling racial injustice? Look to Black people. If we’re doing good, we’re all doing good. I spend a lot of time thinking about how white people are just awakening to the systemic racism that continues to thrive in every aspect of American life and how this systemic racism continues to affect me daily . If so many people have gone so long without acknowledging the reality that people of color experience every day, it’s not surprising that these issues have gone on for so long. Watershed moment Sometimes a watershed moment is needed to bring attention to a crisis. After all, no one cared about polar bears until Mt. Pinatubo’s 1991 volcanic eruption, which greatly influenced our scientific understanding of anthropogenic global warming and its impacts on arctic life. The catastrophic event was one of the most significant watershed moments for climate activism. Now, the Black Lives Matter movement is amid a watershed moment. White people are awakening from their own hibernation and acknowledging that, yes, as the statistics suggest, racism still exists. For example, Black people and white people breathe different air. Black people are exposed to about 1.5 times more particulate matter than white people. Give more than just a cursory glance to Marvin Gaye’s ” Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) ” and you’ll discover its truisms: “Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and east.” Researchers have found that toxic chemical exposure is linked to race : minority populations have higher levels of benzene and other dangerous aromatic chemical exposure. Lead poisoning also disproportionately affects people of color in the U.S., especially Black people. A careful examination of our nation’s statistics reveals myriad racial disparities. The polarity of experiences is startling. This influenced many well-intentioned white people to examine numerous situations and ask, “Is racial bias truly at play here?” I challenge that that’s not the question we must ask when we live in a world with such disparate statistics for communities of color. It’s much more powerful to ask, ” How is racial bias at play here?” Those who fail to confront how racial bias is often at play attempt to live in a colorblind world that does not exist. When tipping service workers, when selecting your next dentist, when making employment decisions, when raising children, seriously consider that the world is not colorblind. And to create a more equitable world, we have to fight more aggressively to counteract the evil that already exists. This is what it means to be anti-racist, or as the National Museum of African American History and Culture counsels, “Make frequent, consistent and equitable choices to be conscious about race and racism and take actions to end racial inequities in our daily lives.” So, what can allies do? Step 1: Take out a sticky note. Step 2: Write out the words ANTI-RACIST. Step 3: Put it on your laptop monitor and do the work. It’s a daily practice to filter your thoughts, communication and decisions through an anti-racist lens. Pull Quote Want to know how well our society is tackling racial injustice? Look to Black people. If we’re doing good, we’re all doing good. Topics Social Justice Equity & Inclusion Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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Zoos struggling to survive during pandemic

August 4, 2020 by  
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Hundreds of zoos and aquariums across the U.S. risk being closed due to financial constraints caused by the coronavirus pandemic . At the start of March this year, zoo and aquarium operators were forced to shut down to contain the spread of the virus. Four months down the line, the zoos are now on the brink of survival. Case in point is the Oakland Zoo, which has been in existence for nearly 100 years. Since zoo visitors stopped streaming in, it has been difficult for the zoo. The animals in the zoo require just over $50,000 worth of food on a daily basis, making it challenging for the zoo to continue operating without revenue from regular zoo visitors. Joel Parrott, president of the Oakland Zoo, said in an interview that the zoo will soon run out of supplies and may not survive further without funding. Related: Tigers, humans at risk for coronavirus as ‘Tiger King’ zoo reopens “We have already lost the bulk of our summer revenue and are living off whatever reserves we have left, but they are going to run out at some point,” Parrott said. The situation being faced by the Oakland Zoo is replicated across hundreds of other zoos and aquariums in the country. This month, the state of California allowed the Oakland Zoo to reopen its doors to visitors. But the slow revenue generated from reopening activities cannot sustain the daily maintenance and feeding needs of the animals . Zoos and aquariums in most states are seeing fewer numbers of visitors, prompting administrators to appeal for support from the local communities and governments. The National Association of Zoos and Aquariums says that about 75% of the zoos represented by the association have reopened. However, reopening does not solve the problem of financial constraints. According to Dan Ashe, president of the association, most zoos are only hitting 20% to 50% of their normal revenues. This leaves a big gap that has to be filled from other sources. With a significant drop in revenue, it becomes impossible to continue running these facilities. Tara Reimer, president and CEO of the Alaska SeaLife Center, said, “If we don’t have enough money to make it through the winter, we have no option but to send these animals away and close the facility.” Via Huffington Post Image via Todd Dailey

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What to do with banana peels

July 31, 2020 by  
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Banana peels. They’re so associated with comedy, you probably crack a smile just thinking about these famous casings. Bananas are a delicious snack and a little taste of the tropics that just about everyone enjoys, but they’re also an environmental problem. So what can you do with banana peels once you’ve eaten the delicious treats they keep wrapped inside? What’s the big deal? Other than being an obvious slip-and-fall hazard, what’s the big deal with banana peels? For starters, they produce methane gas. This gas is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide, which is already pretty bad stuff for the planet. Related: 10 ways to use up mushy, overripe bananas Americans eat around 3.2 billion — yes, billion — pounds of bananas every year. That is a lot of methane-producing peels. But don’t give up on eating bananas just yet. There are plenty of environmentally friendly uses for banana peels. Banana peels as fertilizer and compost If you’re a home gardener, banana peels are a valuable resource. Wrap your peels around the base of your tomato plants. This works as a great slow-release fertilizer that provides your plants with nutrients, namely phosphorus, throughout the season. You can also soak your peels in water overnight. Take the banana-rich water and mix it with standard water to use for all your indoor plants. You want to get a ratio of about one part banana-peel water to five parts normal water. Banana peels are a great addition to the compost pile or bin because they are so rich in nutrients. The peels break down very quickly in compost. These peels are also great for animal feed as well. If you keep chickens, rabbits or any type of livestock, grind up dried banana peels and add them to your feed. Do you have aphids in your garden ? Cut two or three banana peels into pieces and dig one-inch holes near the base of your plants that are damaged from insects. Drop the pieces of peel inside. Ants and aphids will be drawn to the peels instead of to your plants. Home remedies If you have itchy bug bites or a rash, such as poison ivy, these fruit skins provide soothing relief. Rub the peel directly on the area to reduce the itchiness and help your skin heal. You can even use banana peels as a cheap polish. Rub the outer layer of peels on leather items of all kinds, including shoes and furniture, to polish the leather. Blend a peel with water to make silver polish. Need to remove a splinter? Leave the needles in the sewing kit and grab yourself a banana peel. Tape a piece of the peel to the skin directly where the splinter has embedded itself and leave it there for about 30 minutes. The enzymes in the peel will naturally draw the splinter toward the surface of the skin so it can easily be pulled out. You can integrate banana peels into your daily skincare routine, as they may help fade scars and soothe acne. Rub the fleshy part of the peel directly on your face. Let it sit for about 10 minutes before you rinse your face thoroughly. Do this every day, and you could notice an improvement in scars and acne within a week or two. Banish bugs Grab a container with a lid and poke some small holes in the lid. Place the peel inside and cover the container with the perforated lid. This is a great way to attract and trap fruit flies and other little insects. They’re drawn to the sweet smell of the banana, and then they’re trapped by your DIY trick. You can throw the peel away after a day or two and freshen the trap as needed. Cook with banana peels Get creative and start experimenting with cooking banana peels. They can be made into vinegar, pickled in brine, broiled with cinnamon and sugar to become a unique dessert or even turned into a spicy curry. There are dozens of ways to cook with the peels that you once threw away. Once you start using them in your recipes, you’re going to find all kinds of ways to give new life to those peels. Add a peel to any roasting pan when you’re cooking meat or fish. This helps to tenderize and moisten the meat while it’s cooking. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can actually just eat your banana peels. They’re full of antioxidants and nutrients, so they’re actually really good for you. Boil peels for about 10 minutes in water and run it through the juicer or blend it up with other fruits and enjoy! Banana peels make a great chutney ingredient, too. Soak them in cold water, then boil the peels and chop them up to mix in with other chutney ingredients to add a tasty, nutritious burst to your dish. There are several different recipes for banana tea online, or you can play around with your own recipe . If you boil the peels for about 10 minutes, enough flavor will be released into the water to create a great flavor. You can also candy your peels to use as a topping for cupcakes, cakes, yogurt, ice cream and a variety of other treats. Chop up the peel into small pieces and cook it on medium heat with a half-cup of sugar and a half-cup of water. Once it caramelizes, spread the mixture on a cookie sheet or parchment paper to allow it to cool. Then, you can chop or break it into pieces and have a sweet banana topping any time. Getting serious about banana peels It’s no laughing matter — banana peels have too many uses to simply be thrown away. The peels are a great source of both potassium, magnesium and fiber, and they’re packed with Vitamins C and B6. So if you’re throwing out your peels, you’re losing out on an all-purpose personal care product, household remedy, garden aid and cooking ingredient that can be added to just about anything. Images via Louis Hansel , t_watanabe , Vicran and bluebudgie

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This DIY algae kit is an easy science experiment for kids

July 28, 2020 by  
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BioBombola is a DIY algae kit specially designed to teach kids how to grow their own domestic garden of spirulina – a sustainable source of plant-based proteins. The project is the brainchild of ecoLogicStudio’s Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto, who wanted to create a fun and educational way to keep their children occupied during the shutdown in London. In addition to cultivating the nutritious blue-green algae, the kit also helps to absorb the same amount of carbon dioxide as two young trees and provides the home with the same amount of oxygen as seven common indoor plants. Perhaps best of all, BioBombola allows children and adults alike to interact with nature from the comfort of their own homes. Related: Eos Bioreactor uses AI and algae to combat climate change The two researchers got the idea after creating an algae-growing and air pollution data collection project with their children, who were already participating in a home-school program. After their experiment has finished, the idea for the mini algae harvesting kit was born. Each kit comes with a nutrients bag, a 15-liter starting batch of living photosynthetic spirulina cells, an air piping system, a pump to keep the medium afloat, a customized photobioreactor and a 1-meter-tall, lab-grade glass container. Not only does the bubbling of the small air pump keep the precious algae constantly stirred and oxygenated, it also creates a soft, calming sound similar to a fish tank. The fresh, cultivated spirulina can be harvested several times a week and collects up to 7 grams of product per day (the daily recommended supplement intake for a family of four, according to the inventors) to be used in food and drinks. The harvesting process is simple and suitable for children, as well. While it is recommended to install the kit in a sunny spot or near a grow lamp, the photobioreactor can adapt to almost any environment. + EcoLogicStudio Photography by NAARO via EcoLogicStudio

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Isaac Burrough unveils solar-powered luxury yacht concept

July 28, 2020 by  
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New Zealand-based practice Isaac Burrough Design has proposed a new luxury yacht concept designed to maximize both energy efficiency and enjoyment out on the high seas. Named Kiwa after one of the divine guardians of the ocean in Maori legend, the proposed 110-meter motor yacht combines an elegant, aerodynamic hull with solar-powered technology. The boat would also include an array of amenities, from expansive lounge areas on the main deck to an elevated hot tub on the sun deck. The Kiwa is designed to accommodate 14 guests along with two staff members and a crew of 27 people. At 110 meters in length, the luxury yacht concept would be large enough for multiple deck areas as well as 175 square meters of storage space. The designers claim that the narrow, low volume-to-length hull coupled with the hybrid drivetrain powered with 200 meters of solar panels would enable the yacht to enter an electric-only mode for pollution-free and noise-free sailing. Related: Hinckley unveils the world’s first fully electric luxury yacht “The intention for Kiwa was to design a yacht that is both modern and elegant,” Burrough said. “Her sleek silhouette combined with curvaceous surfaces give grace despite her exploration capabilities. A yacht that will look sophisticated whether cruising the Mediterranean or the Arctic.”  Designed for indoor/outdoor living and panoramic views, the Kiwa features a large and versatile main deck with sliding doors and lounge areas terraced to the swim platform. Just off of the main deck is a cantilevered glass-bottom pool. Inbuilt sun pads are placed on the lower deck, while an upper sun deck would host a hot tub that is elevated for prime views of the sea. The spa area has the “best view on board” and includes semi-submerged pools to give guests views both above and below the water. The boat also has space for a helicopter pad. + Isaac Burrough Design Images via Isaac Burrough Design

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Isaac Burrough unveils solar-powered luxury yacht concept

A socially distanced vacation in eastern Oregon

July 13, 2020 by  
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A close-up view of an elk. The feeling of a lake rippling beneath your paddle board. The experience of huddling under a tree, waiting for an afternoon thunderstorm to pass while staring at snow-capped mountains . These are the sorts of summer activities nature lovers miss after being stuck inside for too long. As we move into the heart of summer and pandemic-fatigue has well set in, many folks are pondering how to travel safely. This means minimal contact with people outside of those you already live with. So forget airplanes, resorts and crowded beaches. This is the summer for road-tripping to natural and wilderness areas, bringing your own food and camping or renting a cabin. <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Eagle-Cap-Chalets-img1-889×667.jpg" alt="log cabin in the woods" class="wp-image-2274790" Off to eastern Oregon For my husband, dog and me, who live in Portland, Oregon, east is the natural direction to get away from crowds. We booked a dog -friendly cabin with a kitchen near Wallowa Lake, about six hours east of Portland and close to the Idaho border. Then we packed up everything we could think of to create as self-sufficient a vacation as possible — two bags and a cooler full of food, hiking gear, my new inflatable stand-up paddle board (SUP), dog treats and, of course, masks. Related: An eco-travel guide to Bend, Oregon We were conscious of going from a big city into a rural area. Neither Portland nor Wallowa County had many COVID-19 cases at the time of our trip. But we weren’t sure if locals would welcome us. When we checked into our cabin at the Eagle Cap Chalets , I was the only person in the lobby wearing a mask. The young woman behind the desk said, “It’s a personal choice. Whatever you feel comfortable with.” It turned out they were more worried about a lack of tourists than contracting COVID-19 . “We have so many doctors per capita,” she told me. During our four days in the area, we saw more Trump/Pence signs than masks. Fortunately, we were able to maintain a good social distance the whole time. <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Wallowa-Lake-img2-889×663.jpg" alt="lake in the foreground and mountains in the distance" class="wp-image-2274789" Wallowa Lake Wallowa Lake is one of those places where you feel like you walked into a postcard. The snow-topped Wallowa Mountains loom over the glacial lake , which is about 3.7 miles long and three-quarters of a mile wide. There’s a beach on each end with suitable shallow places for family swimming. But if you venture into the middle, you’ll be nearly 300 feet from the bottom. This means the water is pretty chilly, with the swim season limited to July and August for most people, except for the hardiest souls. You can tent or RV camp in Wallowa Lake State Park , get up early and enjoy the lake at its quietest. When we visited in June, I only got knee-deep in the water — just enough to launch my SUP. Good paddlers can spend the day paddling the lake’s circumference. Amateurs, like myself, can hug the edges, peering into the clear glacial water for fish and taking breaks to lie on your back and cloud-gaze. When the wind suddenly whipped up and I had to work to get back to shore, I was glad I hadn’t ventured into the middle. Weather can change quickly here, so bring a life jacket and know your limits. The Wallowa Lake Marina offers watercraft rentals, ranging from paddle boards to 22-foot pontoon boats that hold 10 people (at least in non-pandemic times). JO Paddle rents glass-bottomed kayaks for the ultimate lake views. The company also offers full moon tours, crescent moon tours and one focused on searching for Wally, the Wallowa Lake Monster. No, Wally wasn’t just made up for the tourists. Local Native Americans tell a tragic tale of a wedding that united the Nez Perce and Blackfeet tribes. When the newlyweds rowed off into the lake, a sea serpent shot up from the depths and gulped them down. I’m glad I didn’t hear this story until after my solo SUP excursions. Several hiking trails start close to the lake. We followed the West Fork Wallowa River Trail, which ventures into the Eagle Cap Wilderness.  We took in mountain and river views and looked for treasures, like the tiny hot pink calypso orchids that grow out of the conifer forest floor. An unexpected evening thunderstorm drenched us and frightened our dog. Again, the predictably unpredictable weather. A little rain jacket folded up in a backpack sure comes in handy when hiking in Oregon. <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Wallowa-West-Fork-Trail-img3-889×667.jpg" alt="fallen logs on either side of a forest trail" class="wp-image-2274788" Nez Perce Country Long before European explorers came into North America, the Nez Perce lived in eastern Oregon and Idaho. When you visit Wallowa Lake, stop by the Old Chief Joseph burial site and pay your respects. This Nez Perce leader refused to sign an 1863 treaty that would sell out his homeland. He died in 1871, warning the younger Chief Joseph, “My son, never forget my dying words, this country holds your father’s body. Never sell the bones of your father and mother.” The cemetery that holds Old Chief Joseph’s remains is a national historic landmark and is sacred to the Nez Perce people. So if you visit, act with decorum. Travel a half-mile north to visit Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site , 62 acres of land set aside in 2009 by the Nez Perce and other local people. You’ll find easy graveled trails for walking or running, meadows, a stream and lots of wildlife. The Nez Perce call this part of the Wallowa Lake basin Iwetemlaykin. <img src="//inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2020/07/Hells-Canyon-img4-889×667.jpg" alt="person looking out at Hells Canyon" class="wp-image-2274786" Hells Canyon This was my second visit to Hells Canyon. The first time was via jetboat from Lewiston, Idaho, which is the easiest and most relaxing way to see the area. All you have to do is sit back and look for big-horned sheep and admire the steep volcanic cliffs along the Snake River. But this time, we traveled by car — and a hair-rising time it was. Starting at Wallowa Lake you go northeast to Imnaha — so far, so good, so paved — but soon you reach the entrance to Hells Canyon National Recreation Area along with signs warning against passenger cars as the road turns to gravel. We have an SUV and my husband is a professional light rail operator, but I still spent much of the scenic drive with my eyes shut, hoping we wouldn’t meet a car coming the other way. We crept along a one-lane gravel road on high cliffs, sometimes slowing to seven miles an hour on steeper downhill stretches, sometimes facing obstacles in the road like a single chukar running along in front of the car before launching itself off the cliff and taking flight. Very few people live out here. We saw some ranches, four Forest Service workers and what might have been a remote gold mining operation on the Imnaha River. We stopped for a couple of short hikes. There are few trails out here, and they’re barely maintained, so you really feel the natural state of the land. We followed a cow trail up one steep hill, putting our feet in the small earthy stairs carved out by hooves. Once we reached the top, we had incredible mountain views of more of the same in every direction. We stayed a little late. The day turned to dusk and we were still on the treacherous, windy gravel roads. More animals appeared — elk, a herd of cows, bulls and calves on both sides of the road, all standing still and staring at us sternly, a flock of wild turkeys running in front of us. When we finally reached the pavement near Imnaha, it really felt like we’d been somewhere drastically removed from our daily lives — lives that had been completely overwhelmed by the constant stress of the pandemic. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: Like the author, we recommend taking the utmost care to keep those around you safe if you choose to travel. You can find more advice on travel precautions from the CDC and WHO .

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A socially distanced vacation in eastern Oregon

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