Doctors orders: 2 hours in nature boosts mental health, study says

June 17, 2019 by  
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According to British researchers, only two hours of sitting in nature per week could have measurable benefits on mental health. This is the first study to examine exactly how long people should spend in the natural environment to feel a positive impact. The researchers believe that with further confirmation, the two hour threshold could be added to similar health recommendations, such as five fruits and vegetables per day or 150 minutes of exercise per week. The study was published in Scientific Reports and used data from Natural England , the largest data set on the topic. The researchers analyzed more than 20,000 people in England to assess their physical activity from the previous week, their general health and their level of satisfaction with life. Their findings showed that people who had spent at least two hours in nature indicated a significant shift away from dissatisfaction — just 14 percent felt their health was poor after spending time in nature compared to 25 percent of other participants who did not spend time in nature but reported poor health. The researchers did not notice any significant changes among those who had spent more than two hours outside and therefore reached the conclusion that two hours is the recommended duration. Related: How forest bathing can profoundly improve your health and well-being “It’s fascinating to see this link between exposure to nature and better health and well-being,” said professor Helen Stokes-Lampard from the Royal College of General Practitioners. “This research makes a strong case for people to get out and about in more natural environments.” The findings held true across the diverse study participants, irrelevant of wealth, disabilities, illness or urban location. The findings also revealed that the nature benefits are not necessarily tied to physical exercise , and that there is a benefit to spending time in nature, even if it is just sitting on a park bench. + Scientific Reports Via The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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Doctors orders: 2 hours in nature boosts mental health, study says

Tiny house in Tokyo funnels light indoors with a curved roof

June 17, 2019 by  
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After spending a decade commuting to teach at Tokyo’s Waseda University and Art Architecture School, architect Takeshi Hosaka and his wife decided to leave their tiny house in Yokohama for Tokyo, where they would build an even tinier house. Dubbed the Love2 House —the predecessor in Yokohama was called Love House—the micro-home spans just 334 square feet and is topped with a funnel-like roof to bring daylight deep inside the home. The tiny home features a minimalist and industrial aesthetic defined by its reinforced concrete structure, galvanized aluminum panel cladding, and timber accents. Takeshi Hosaka and his wife have long admired tiny homes found across history, from an Edo-period 100-square-foot home for a family of four to Le Corbusier’s 181-square-foot vacation home Cabanon. The couple followed tiny house principles preaching minimalism and a closeness with nature in designing their first micro-home, Love House, and their current home, Love2 House. The tenets for an ideal life in ancient Roman villas—study bath, drama, music and epicurism—also influenced the design of the house, which includes space for a bath, plenty of space for record storage, an old-fashioned earthen pot rice cooker and a library for books. Related: Ultra-Compact “Near House” is a Small Space Marvel in Japan Love2 House’s sculptural funnel-shaped roof was created in response to a solar study that showed that the site would be cast in shadow for three months in winter. Inspired by Scandinavian architectural solutions, Hosaka created a curved rooftop with skylights that funnel in light in winter. The open interior and the use of short concrete wall dividers let light and natural ventilation pass through all parts of the home, which is divided into three primary zones: a dining area, a kitchen area and the bedroom. “When we keep the window facing on the street fully opened, people who walk on the street feel free to talk to me,” says Takeshi Hosaka in a project statement. “It’s like a long-time friend, and children put their hands on the floor and look inside. We even pat strolling dogs from [the] dining [room]. The front street has flower bed so we enjoy it as our garden. In this house we feel the town very close. We are really surprised how pleasant to communicate with the town is!” + Takeshi Hosaka, Photography by Koji Fujii Nacasa and Partners

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English tree planting challenge will help plant 130,000 trees

May 21, 2019 by  
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This week, England announced a plan to plant at least 130,000 trees in cities and towns throughout the country as part of the Forestry Commission’s Urban Tree Challenge Fund. The challenge, endorsed and announced by environment secretary Michael Gove, allows individuals, municipalities, nonprofits and non-governmental organizations to access trees and maintenance funding as long as they can prove they have funding to continue to maintain the trees after a three-year funding period. “We need trees lining our streets, not only to green and shade them but to ensure we remain connected to the wonders of the natural world, which is why we must go further and faster to increase planting rates,” said secretary Michael Gove . Related: Labor party launches solar panel program for 1.75m homes Trees have remarkable benefits for the environment and for people living in urban areas. Although 130,000 trees won’t stop climate change , evidence suggests that a mature tree can absorb and store up to  22 kg of carbon every year and produce enough oxygen to sustain two people. Every 10 percent of forest cover in urban areas reduces ozone gas by 3 to 7 percent. In addition to the benefits to air quality , urban trees provide a habitat for birds, squirrels and other species. Tree-lined streets are considered aesthetically pleasing and mentally calming and have even been linked to a reduction in violent and petty crimes, as well as an increase in property values of between 5 to 15 percent. The English Forestry Commission is a U.K. government agency with a mission to increase the value of forests for people and the environment. Forestry Commission chair Sir Harry Studholme said of the tree planting challenge, “This will allow us to plant more trees much closer to where people live and work and where the benefits of trees make the most difference.” Via The Guardian Image via Mary Salazar

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English tree planting challenge will help plant 130,000 trees

Brasserie 2050 restaurant pops up as a prototype for sustainable food service

May 21, 2019 by  
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As the push toward sustainable lifestyles continues to spread from individual purchasing decisions to the overarching responsibility of big business, one restaurant is making a big statement by providing meals from a circular environment of zero food and material waste . The Brasserie 2050 restaurant in the Netherlands temporarily opened its doors last fall as a restaurant and food storage pavilion designed by temporary-structure specialists Overtreders W for an event called the Lowlands Festival. The goal was to highlight the need for sustainable food production, and they achieved this goal by setting up a food barn made from recycled and borrowed materials that could be disassembled and moved at the end of the festival with no damage to the materials and no waste. Related: An urban farm and restaurant fluorishes in Utrecht’s “circular” pavilion With forecasts estimating the world will have 10 billion people to feed by 2050, Brasserie 2050 is a testament to how we can achieve that goal. Not only is the design of the structure a sustainable model, but the catering company The Food Line Up created a zero-waste menu to feed the masses in attendance of the festival. Creative use of kitchen scraps culminated into baked bread from potato peelings, steak tartare with half the meat and pesto sourced from kitchen leftovers. The food pavilion made use of the entire barn-shaped space by using standard pallet racks as the primary structural component. A corrugated plastic roof completed the gabled look. Even the tables were constructed from recycled plastic with the reuse and zero-waste cycle in mind. The space was efficiently filled from top to bottom, with suspended herb boxes and wheat, corn, garlic and onions dangling from the ceiling above diner’s heads. Of course, this also provided natural decor for the restaurant . To keep the structure from blowing away, bags of grain weighed down the sides. The structure and the menu served as a model of efficient and sustainable practices designed to lead us toward more eco-friendly food services for the future. + Overtreders W Via ArchDaily Photography by Jorn van Eck via Overtreders W

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Invasive longhorned tick could spread disease across the U.S.

December 17, 2018 by  
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The Asian longhorned tick used to be a species only found in China, Japan, Korea and southeastern Russia, plus parts of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. But last year, an established population was found in New Jersey, and since then, the ticks have been found in eight other states. Because the tick is parthenogenetic — which means the females can reproduce without needing male DNA — it is possible that it will soon occupy large parts of the Pacific Northwest and the eastern U.S. “There is a good chance for this tick to become widely distributed in North America,” said Ilia Rochlin, a researcher at the Rutgers University Center for Vector Biology. “Mosquito control has been very successful in this country, but we are losing the battle with tick-borne diseases.” Related: Winter ticks are responsible for New England’s moose massacres The Asian longhorned tick’s ability to clone makes it possible for them to cause “massive” infestations of hosts, and Rochlin said that researchers have already seen large numbers on livestock and dogs. He added that the ticks can bite humans, pets, farm animals and wildlife . The Journal of Medical Entomology published new research about the tick last week, and even though the tick can cause infectious disease, there have not been any reported illnesses in animals or humans in the U.S. One of the diseases the Asian longhorned tick can transmit is a hemorrhagic illness called thrombocytopenia syndrome. According to the CDC , the illness recently emerged in China, South Korea and Japan. The syndrome causes severe fever, nausea, diarrhea and muscle pain. Most patients must be hospitalized, and almost a third of infected people have died. The tick can also carry other illnesses like Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. Rochlin said that all of these illnesses can lead to severe disabilities. Asian longhorned ticks can spread quickly in favorable habitats. If you add that to their aggressive biting behavior and potential for carrying pathogens, Rochlin said the tick is a significant public health concern. + Journal of Medical Entromology Via CNN Image via James Gathany / CDC

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Slide down a fire pole in this classic fire truck converted into a quirky hotel

October 26, 2018 by  
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For those who have ever wanted to slide down a real fire pole, the Red Rescue Retreat is the hotel for you. The retreat is an old fire truck that has been converted into a tiny vacation home . Located on a peaceful lot in Lake District National Park in England, the renovated fire truck offers guests a tranquil, relaxing getaway while they enjoy the fire truck-themed elements, including a real fire pole and fire-truck style beds. Tucked into a quiet, green corner of a working farm, the Red Rescue Retreat is a great place to visit with the family. Guests to the fun hotel can enjoy strolling around the farm or hiking to the magnificent Blencathra fells, one of the most beautiful areas in the Northern Lakes. The tiny vacation rental with a big personality sleeps four, with a master bedroom and two twin fire truck-themed beds for the kiddies. There are even a few child-sized firefighter costumes in the closet. Related: Couple transforms a fire truck into a cozy camper for traveling Europe The compact space is actually quite comfortable. The interior features a spacious living area that comes with a smart television and a cozy sofa that pulls out into a double bed. Large bean bags make for a fun movie night. Guests can also prepare their own meals in the fully-equipped kitchen. Large sliding glass doors lead to an open-air patio with plenty of space for dining, reading or just enjoying the scenery. As an extra bonus, there is even an wood-lined sauna. The master bedroom, equipped with a king-sized bed, is located on the upper level and reached by ladder. Of course, you can take the ladder down to the first floor, but sliding down the fire pole, which is surrounded by a lockable gate for safety, will be the first option for those staying at this very unique hotel . + Holiday Cottages Via Apartment Therapy Images via Holiday Cottages

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Slide down a fire pole in this classic fire truck converted into a quirky hotel

How to cook and enjoy 10 types of squash other than pumpkin

October 26, 2018 by  
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‘Tis the season for pies, soups, breads and fall produce. Whether you roast, puree, bake or sauté it, squash is one of the few fall/winter options for cooking with fresh produce , thanks to its tough outer skin that shields it from cold temperatures. While pumpkin steals the show this time of year, there are many other options from which to choose. From butternut squash to sweet dumpling squash, there are endless varieties of this amazing vegetable, and even more delicious ways to prepare it. To help you add squash to your cooking repertoire, here is a guide that will allow you to incorporate several types of squash into your diet all winter long. Butternut squash One of the most popular and common types of winter squash, butternut squash is ideal for roasting. This foot-long, bell-shaped squash has a thin, butterscotch color with a sweet, nutty flesh. It is great for creamy soups, ravioli filling and sauce for gnocchi and risotto, and it pairs well with flavors like cinnamon, balsamic vinegar and smoky bacon. There are so many ways to cook butternut squash  that you could use it in a different recipe every day. Spaghetti squash This type of squash is oval and yellow. When you cook it, spaghetti squash has a stringy flesh that looks like, well, spaghetti, and you can use it as a substitute for pasta . They typically weigh between 4 and 8 pounds, and those that are larger will have the best flavor and thicker “noodles.” If you are trying to reduce your carb intake, spaghetti squash is a perfect addition to your diet. It absorbs cheese and sauce and can easily be enhanced with butter and herbs. Sweet dumpling squash This type of squash tastes like a sweet potato and is the perfect size to be used as a soup bowl or to stuff with rice and veggies . You can also use sweet dumpling squash the same way you would use a sweet potato — bake, roast or mash it for soups. Because it is one of the sweetest varieties of squash, it is perfect for a puree . Related: How to cook and serve pumpkin soup in a tureen made from its own shell Hubbard One of the largest and thickest-skinned squash varieties, you can use hubbard in the dead of winter with no problems. Because it weighs between 8 and 20 pounds, hubbard squash does require longer cooking times, but it is a fantastic substitute for pumpkin in pie. They vary in color from orange to grayish blue, and beneath the tough skin is a savory and sweet yellow flesh. Hubbard is high in sugar, and that means it is best mashed or pureed as a pie filling. Banana squash Named after the fruit because of its color and shape, banana squash has a sweet, orange, meaty flesh perfect for soups or thinly shaved in salads. You can even use it as a substitute for butternut squash in a stew. Acorn squash Ideal for roasting and stuffing , acorn squash is mild in flavor and features a dark green exterior with a firm, yellow flesh. You can use it as a natural bowl for fillings like apples and chestnuts. Just remember, peeling acorn squash is difficult, so cut it in half or slice it for roasting. Carnival squash Because it is a combination of acorn and sweet dumpling squash, you can use carnival squash as a substitute for either one. The flesh is sweet and great for soups, or you can spice it up and bake it for a side dish. Calabaza Also known as West Indian Pumpkin , calabaza squash has a sweet, juicy, golden-orange flesh with a similar taste and texture to butternut squash. Perfect for baking , calabaza does have a tough rind, so you will need to use a cleaver to cut up a whole squash. Kabocha New to the American market and sometimes called a Japanese pumpkin, kabocha is an Asian winter squash that has a sweet flavor with strong nutty and earthy elements. It has a moist and fluffy texture, with a taste often compared to chestnuts. Puree kabocha to add a buttery richness to a thick and creamy soup . You can also bake or steam it with delicious results. Delicata Another squash that is similar to sweet potatoes because of its creamy flavor and texture, delicata can be baked, roasted, steamed, sautéed  or stuffed . You can even eat the skin, so peeling isn’t necessary. Delicata is long and thin, and has an incredible umami flavor that makes for an excellent  side dish . There are definitely more members of the squash family, but these 10 are versatile and can be used in many different recipes. So the next time you hit the grocery store, try incorporating at least one of these types of squash into your meal planning — you will be happy you did. Via Food Network , Real Simple and Plated Images via Blair Fraser , Ulleo , Alberto Trevino , Aaron Burden , Linda N. , Gennie Bee , Amy G ,  Rafael Saldaña , Green Mountain Girls Farm and Shutterstock

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This passive-energy lake house unites multiple generations under one roof

June 14, 2018 by  
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Located on a peninsula on Ossippee Lake, New Hampshire, the Anker Jordan Residence is a lakeside cottage that offers multi-generational living with a spectacular view. Designed by New York City-based Scalar Architecture , the New England home was created with passive energy performance, privacy, and aging in mind. The dwelling’s relatively compact footprint and its unusual geometric form were informed by passive solar studies as well as surrounding views of the lake, forests, and White Mountains range beyond. Although one of the undeniable charms of the Anker Jordan Residence is the beautiful view, the site also proved one of the project’s most challenging aspects. The property’s main views lie to the north and it receives little southern solar exposure; neighbors on the south and east also posed privacy concerns. In addition to site considerations, Scalar Architecture had to develop a design that allowed for comfortable intermingling between three generations and protected the building against the region’s harsh winter weather. Through adaptive computation design, the 3,000-square-foot Anker Jordan Residence takes on the shape of two conjoined prisms clad in Everest roofing standing seam metal siding and insulated with high-density spray foam insulation. The folded roof mitigates southern exposure, northern views, and snow shed. The orientation of the building allows for the summer westerly winds but deflects northwestern winter winds. Large KasKel windows punctuate the metal-clad envelope to let in views and natural light from all directions. The home also opens up to a 700-square-foot deck. Related: Atmospheric 1950s home renovated as a school facilitates self-guided education “The interior of the prism is articulated as interconnected cells that afford a complex landscape of social interaction,” explain the architects. “The process is then reiterated in a fractal fashion to address a multi-generational dwelling program: A conjoined second prism – evolved from the first one, provides a discreet yet connected realm for the young adults occupying the middle level. Below it, the ground floor is given over to the grandparents’ quarters.” + Scalar Architecture Images by Miguel de Guzman, Imagen Subliminal

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This passive-energy lake house unites multiple generations under one roof

How lobsters became victims of the tragedy of the commons

June 9, 2018 by  
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Will New England lobstermen be able to survive the threat of climate change against their generations-old traditions and livelihoods?

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How lobsters became victims of the tragedy of the commons

UK plans to ban the sales of plastic straws to tackle ocean plastic pollution

April 19, 2018 by  
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8.5 billion plastic straws are tossed out in the United Kingdom every year, according to a recent study cited by the government . They plan to take action — by ending sales of plastic-stemmed cotton buds and plastic drink stirrers and straws in a bid to reduce ocean plastic waste. The UK is cracking down on ocean plastic . The government announced the ban at the summit for the Commonwealth heads of government. Prime Minister Theresa May said, “ Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world…the British public have shown passion and energy embracing our plastic bag charge and microbead ban .” Related: Queen of England bans plastic bottles and straws at royal estates The ban won’t take effect immediately; the statement said the government would work with industries to ensure time to adapt and create alternatives. Plastic straws utilized for medical reasons could also be excluded from the ban. May challenged other countries in the Commonwealth, which includes 53 member countries across Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Caribbean, to battle marine plastic as well. The UK government is committing to £61.4 million, around $87.4 million, in funding for research and better waste management for developing countries , according to May, who said, “The Commonwealth is a unique organization, with a huge diversity of wildlife, environments, and coastlines. Together we can effect real change so that future generations can enjoy a natural environment that is healthier than we currently find it.” The UK government’s microbead ban went into effect in January of this year, and their five pence single-use plastic bag law has resulted in nine billion fewer bags distributed, according to the government. Another statistic the government drew on to back the plastic straw scheme is that one million birds and more than 100,000 sea mammals perish due to eating plastic waste and getting tangled in it. They also said there are more than 150 million metric tons of plastic in the oceans on our planet. + United Kingdom Government Images via Depositphotos and Carly Jayne on Unsplash

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