Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials

September 17, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Lace up your hiking boots and trod into places inaccessible via horse, quad or car. Backpacking allows you to explore the outdoors while enjoying a little distance from the crowds squished together at the state campgrounds. There’s just something about planning for and carrying all the supplies you need for backwoods camping that is empowering and exciting. Once you’ve decided to give backpacking a try, make sure you’ve got the essentials covered. You will find that you can survive with very few comforts while backpacking, but there are some “must-haves” on the list. Here’s a backpacking checklist to ensure a successful start to your adventure! Sleeping and Camp Supplies Backpack — Choose a bag with either an internal or external frame, with the capacity to hold your necessities. Aim for the size that will hold the maximum weight you’re comfortable carrying, even though the goal will always be to avoid filling it completely. The capacity is measured in liters, so look for indicators like 60L or 90L in the product description. It’s best to get fitted by a professional at an outfitter such as REI for the most comfortable experience with your backpack. A 45L is adequate for overnight trips, while a 60L will meet the needs of most multi-day trips. Sleeping bag — Be sure to bring one rated for your weather conditions to ensure that you stay warm and dry. Also consider the weight and packability of the sleeping bag you choose. Roll pad or inflatable backpacking mattress — This is a welcome addition for both comfort and insulation from the cold ground. Tent — This is optional but recommended for protection from bugs and other critters that scurry in the night as well as rain. Some backpackers opt for a hammock instead of a tent . If this is your plan, seek out a lightweight one with a bug net and sturdy straps. Backpacker’s pillow — This is a comfort item. A rolled-up sweatshirt will do the job if needed. Related: Six tents perfect for camping this summer Cooking and Food Supplies Cookstove and fuel — These are lightweight and offer different gas options. A JetBoil or similar device quickly boils water (in less than two minutes) for your morning brew, oatmeal or dehydrated chicken fettuccine. White gas stoves work well at lower temperatures, and gas is easy to find. There are now stoves that heat with sticks and pine cones with the added luxury of a recharging attachment for electronics , too. Any variety will do the job. Just make sure you have the right gas and give it a trial run at home before you go. Food — The lightest and easiest food for backpacking is the pre-packaged, easy-to-find dehydrated meals such as Mountain House, Backpacker’s Pantry or AlpineAire. However, these meals are typically high in salt and can lead to dehydration and puffiness. In my opinion, most of them are only moderately palatable. There are harder-to-find brands, like Food for the Sole, that offer a shorter shelf life but higher quality ingredients and less processing. Because they are cooked in their own bags with the addition of only water, dehydrated meals eliminate the need for pots, pans or additional ingredients. They are a great place to start, but with a little experience, you’ll soon find many alternatives to add to your cooking repertoire. In addition to dehydrated meals, pack snacks with high protein and a combination of carbs and sugar, such as trail mix or protein bars. Jerky, dried fruit and durable fig bars are other good options. Supplies — Pack a pot and/or skillet for cooking and a cup, a plate and silverware for dining. Related: Camping kitchen checklist Water Supplies Access to water is the most essential portion of your planning process. If you are hiking along a river or will camp at a lake, you can plan to sterilize water. Otherwise, you will need to pack in all of your water. The average person will use around one liter of water per hour of hiking. Plus, meals require a lot more water than you might realize. With the weight of water coming in around 2.20 pounds per liter, you can easily tack 10 pounds onto your pack weight. It is essential to map out your water sources and plan accordingly. Water filtration system, Steripen or iodine (affects taste and is really only used for emergency situations) — These items ensure the water you drink is safe. Water bladder (2L or 3L) and collapsible water bottles — Each item will make it more convenient and efficient to grab a drink of water. Clothing Supplies Moisture is not your friend on the trail, so select your clothing carefully. When choosing clothing for your outdoor adventures, consider fabric performance. Avoid cotton, because it does not have good wicking abilities. Instead, pack wool-blend socks, shirts and long Johns. Opt for polyester/nylon options that wick away sweat and dry quickly. Depending on the weather, you can expect to bring several articles of clothing: at least two pairs of socks, underwear, shorts or convertible pants, long pants, a long-sleeve shirt, a jacket or sweater, rain gear, lightweight sandals, sturdy trail shoes or boots and a stocking cap, neck gaiter and gloves if necessary. Safety Supplies Map and compass — Make sure you know where you’re headed. Leave your itinerary with someone at home and avoid backpacking alone. For an added level of safety, consider a portable GPS device such as the SPOT or Garmin eTrex. Multi-tool or Knife — It’s amazing how handy a multi-tool can be thanks to having small screwdrivers, pliers, an opener and a knife in one small device. Paracord — This can be used for a clothesline, to make repairs, to hang a hammock or anything else for which you would generally use rope. Matches — A lighter is great, but also bring some waterproof matches. You can make your own by dipping strike-anywhere matches in melted wax. Store in a small mint tin. Flint and steel — Once you learn to use it, the flint and steel works great for backpacking and is also a basic survival supply. Bring a few cotton balls rolled in petroleum jelly or melted wax for an easy fire starter. First-aid kit — Include ibuprofen for sprains and stings, Benadryl for allergic reactions, bandages, gauze, tape, tongue depressors (they can be used as a small splint) and moleskin for blisters. Bathroom items — Don’t forget to pack toilet paper, hand sanitizer, medications, a toothbrush, deodorant and feminine hygiene products. Light trowel — This is helpful for burying waste (6-8 inches deep at least 200 feet from any water source), and bring a resealable bag to carry out garbage at the end of your trip. Camp soap (biodegradable) — This can be used to wash your body, hair, dishes and more. Other essential items include several pieces that can come in handy for safety reasons: a flashlight or headlamp, bug spray, sunscreen , sunglasses and/or a hat, lip balm, heavy-duty tape for repairs, a needle and thread, pen and paper, a small amount of cash, personal identification, a backcountry access permit (if needed) and trekking poles (optional). Related: 4 must-have camping essentials Packing Tips With each item you pack, think about weight and size. Focus on putting the heaviest items at hip level with lighter supplies above and below it. Although many packs are set up for the sleeping bag at the bottom, we recommend putting it into a waterproof bag in case your water bladder leaks (we’ve seen it happen too many times!). Alternatively, pack your sleeping bag at the top of your backpack. Also look for ways you can minimize the size of supplies, such as wrapping the paracord around the bug spray container or taking tape wrapped around the tongue depressors. Use compression sacks to reduce the size of clothing and your sleeping bag. Place first-aid or food items in resealable bags, which can be used as a garbage bag on the trail. Once you’ve worked your way through this backpacking supply checklist, you should have everything you need to head out and enjoy the backcountry. Images via Ted Bryan Yu , Wilson Ye , Kevin Schmid , Colton Strickland , Emma Van Sant , Simon Migaj and Josiah Weiss

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Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials

DIY fall decor using upcycled items from thrift stores

September 14, 2018 by  
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Fall is a great time to bust out new decorations, but you don’t have to break the bank to make your house stand out. Making DIY fall decor is a great way to save money and help the environment at the same time. From floating shelves to fall clothing accessories, here are eight autumn decorations you can make from common thrift store items or materials in your craft drawer. Cake Stand Pumpkin Display Nothing says fall like fresh pumpkins . You can proudly display these seasonal staples ( before you cook them up for dinner ) using an old cake stand, or you can build your own from old plates and a candlestick holder. If you are building one, simply mount the candlestick holder between two plates and paint them as desired. Glue down the plates to hold everything securely in place. You can build as many of these as you like, using different sizes holders to vary the heights. Related: Fall decorating ideas Floating Bookshelves Floating bookshelves can add a cozy and mysterious feel to a room, and you can build these imaginative holders with a few old hardcovers and a metal bracket. With a floating bookshelf, the bottom book holds everything in place while concealing the support bracket. Once completed, the shelf makes it appear like the books are floating on their own. For this project, all you need are a few metal brackets and some hardcover books. Start by attaching the bottom of the hardcover book to a metal bracket with a piece of fabric fastener. The fabric fastener should be attached so that it holds the bottom cover in place. The rest of the hardcover book should rest on top of the bracket. Then screw the bracket in place and install the bottom book. You can stack multiple books on top of the first one, just make sure the weight isn’t more than the metal bracket can handle. Stagger as many of these floating bookshelves on your wall to complete the look, and top each with your favorite knick-knacks. Sweater Pumpkins Cable knit sweaters make great DIY pumpkins that won’t rot if you forget about them. You can make these adorable fall decorations with a cable knit sweater, stuffing, yarn, twine and a sewing needle. Start by cutting the sweater in half at the armpits. Then, use the needle and yarn to create a running stitch along the bottom of the fabric, pulling it tight as you work around. With the bottom closed, fill the fabric with your stuffing material, leaving around 5 inches of sweater on top. The stuffing should turn the sweater into a rounded shape. Close the sweater with another running stitch around the top and add a piece of twine for a stem. Lastly, run some twine in sections from the top of the sweater to the bottom to create ridges, pulling tight for a more pumpkin-like appearance. Related: Front porch decorating for fall Basket Storage We could all use some extra storage around the house. Instead of buying new plastic totes, you can convert an old basket to serve as decorative storage space for all the seasonal items taking over your house, like blankets, scarves and boots. All you have to do is take an old basket and repaint it a solid color to match your existing decor. You can also paint a pattern on the basket to really make it stand out. Attach thick rope to the top of the basket to serve as handles, making a basket full of scarves, coats or blankets easier to move from the living room to the laundry room. Fall Clothing There are plenty of things around the house or at your local thrift store that you can upcycle and wear in the cooler fall weather. If you have any sweaters that are beyond repair, you can cut off the sleeves and use them as leg warmers, knit socks or tall boot socks. You can even make several pairs using just one sweater, depending on the size. If you have a blanket that has seen better days, cutting it just right can turn it into your new favorite scarf. The key is to getting the right dimensions. If you have another scarf on hand, use it as a reference point. Traditional scarves are anywhere between 55 and 82 inches long and 5 to 10 inches wide. Depending on the condition and size of the blanket, you should be able to get multiple scarves out of one piece. Seasonal Throw Pillows Take your love for fall to the next level by making throw pillow covers with old sweaters or flannel shirts. Start by cutting off the sleeves of the sweater or flannel, carefully following the seams. Then, put the pillow inside the shirt to get an idea of the best placement. Try to center the pillows with the pockets or buttons, which will lend these covers extra charm. Trim around the pillow, leaving an inch of fabric all the way around. Flip the fabric inside out and sew all of the sides together. Avoid sewing shut the buttons, as this is where you will insert the pillow. Once everything is sewed together, turn the shirt the right side out, unbutton the front, insert the pillow and re-button the cover. If your top of choice doesn’t have buttons, sew in buttons or a zipper on one side of the pillow cover. Related: Refresh your furnishings for fall Mason Jar Pumpkins You can make super cute DIY fall decor using old glass jars. All you need are the glass jars, non-toxic paint , twine and some faux leaves and corks for the stems. Start by painting the lids brown and the jars a dark orange. Once they have dried, screw the lids on the jars and use a piece of twine to tie around the jar just below the base of the lids. Add faux leaves and corks to the top of the lids, and feel free to paint on some fun Jack O’Lantern faces as well. Patio Lights Turning old tin cans into patio lights is a lot easier than you might think. All you need are some snips or shears, a hole punch, paint and tea lights. Start by removing any labels from the cans and cleaning them thoroughly. Use a strong hole punch to create patterns on the cans and paint them a warm fall color. If you do not have a hole punch on hand, you can carefully use a hammer and nail to create the same effect. Simply insert the tea light into the cans and place them around your patio, porch or even indoors. Images via Kamelia Hayati ,  John M. P. Knox , Sarah Dorweiler , Max Conrad , Shutterstock

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DIY fall decor using upcycled items from thrift stores

Henning Larsen unveils green, mountain-inspired buildings for Shanghai

September 14, 2018 by  
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Henning Larsen Architects has unveiled designs for the first phase of the “The Springs,” a mixed-use development currently underway in Shanghai that aims to embrace green living. Inspired by a style of traditional Chinese landscape painting called ‘shan shui,’ the Danish architecture firm crafted the buildings in the image of the dramatic, mountainous landscapes found throughout rural China. Trees and gardens will grow on top and around the stepped towers to create an immersive urban oasis of green. Developed for real estate company Tishman Speyer , The Springs is located on a 66-acre plot in Shanghai’s Yangpu district and will incorporate a mix of residential, commercial and retail. With a proposed 40 percent green ratio and a 33-acre wetland eco-park next door, the planned development embraces green living in both its surroundings and its design. At its core, Henning Larsen designed a series of terraced high-rises layered with greenery and clustered around a green public square to create a sheltered microclimate for improving air quality , reducing noise pollution and promoting natural light. “We wanted to create a protected environment in this city center that contributes to the potential for this development to become a new focus that generates and attracts public life in uptown Shanghai,” said Claude Bøjer Godefroy, design director and partner at Henning Larsen. “We understand sustainability in broad terms. It is important to offer people an environmentally friendly surrounding while at the same time developing a building that stages human interaction.” Related: MAD Architects-designed residences rise like mountains in a UNESCO Heritage site According to Tishman Speyer, The Springs will feature LEED Gold certification for the Core & Shell of the first phase. Public health will be promoted through a pedestrian-friendly design that boasts abundant open space and excellent transportation infrastructure.The Springs development broke ground July 12, 2018 and is slated for completion in 2020. + Henning Larsen Architects Images via Henning Larsen Architects

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The ugly truth about the imperfect food movement

September 11, 2018 by  
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The imperfect food movement continues to rise in popularity as companies, like Imperfect Produce in Silicon Valley, capitalize on a growing trend to fight food waste around the country. Imperfect Produce and similar companies offer boxes of ugly and misshapen produce to customers, saving a lot of food that would otherwise be discarded. While the movement is cutting down on food waste , small farmers are worried that it might have a negative affect on their livelihoods. Origins of the imperfect food movement Startups like Imperfect Produce are not the first to sell discarded produce at a discount. Farmers around the country have been doing it for years with the support of local communities. Many farmers engage in community supported agriculture ( CSA ), selling boxes of imperfect produce on a subscription basis and providing fresh food that is locally sourced. Although trends like the imperfect food movement are on the rise, small farmers have seen a decline in their sales as larger companies and grocery stores branch out into the organic marketplace. It is estimated that small farms throughout the country have seen a 20 percent dip year over year in CSA sales ever since the imperfect food movement took off in 2014. Related: New study finds food waste will increase to 66 tons per second if left unchecked An imperfect food movement on the rise Selling ugly and misshapen produce has really taken off over the past three years, and the movement is still going strong. Imperfect Produce sells produce in a growing number of cities across America. This past summer, Imperfect Produce started another round of financing that generated upward of $30 million, a clear sign that investors are interested in the growing movement. But as companies like Imperfect Produce benefit from the imperfect food movement, small farmers are struggling to keep up. The decline in sales has even forced some smaller farmers to shut down and seek work elsewhere. How are small farmers affected? The main problem with the imperfect food movement, at least as it relates to small farms , is that the market has become too large for these farmers to compete. Imperfect Produce is doing its best to help small farms by sourcing produce from farms across the Midwest — the company currently works with 25 small farms throughout the area — but the demand is higher than what these farmers can meet. To help fill the gaps, Imperfect Produce has turned to larger farms, which supply all of the demand and do so at a cheaper price. In fact, the majority of the produce the company sells actually comes from Mexico and California , especially when winter hits the Midwest. For all of the farmers who are not associated with the company, competing with them at that scale is nearly impossible. Related: Walmart introduces line of “ugly” fruit to combat food waste The ugly side of the imperfect food movement Small farmers are not the only ones hurt by the imperfect food movement. With most of the produce coming from California and Mexico , customers outside of these regions aren’t always getting local or seasonal foods — instead, more emissions are emitted as these companies try to get enough food to customers. Critics also point out that companies like Imperfect Produce are making money from food that would normally be donated to non-profit organizations, like local food banks. This in turn hurts local communities and low-income families who have used these resources for decades. That said, Imperfect Produce has made an effort to help out food banks in cities where it operates. In Chicago , for example, the company has gifted more than 130,000 pounds of produce to the city’s food bank, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which gives this food to homeless shelters and food outlets. Benefits of the imperfect food movement The impact on small farms aside, the imperfect food movement is cutting down on overall food waste, which is a big issue in this country. As the movement rises in popularity, more and more produce will be rescued from the trash heap, a benefit that should not be overlooked. The imperfect food movement also teaches consumers — and farmers — that produce can look imperfect but still taste amazing and have nutritional value . It can also open the door for people to look into other programs, like CSA, that offer imperfect produce at a discount. Should you support the imperfect food movement or small farmers? The imperfect food movement has created a difficult problem for small farmers throughout the country, an issue that will likely worsen in the coming years. For consumers, picking between supporting local farmers or the imperfect food movement is a tough decision. On one hand, buying imperfect produce helps cut down on food waste. On the other hand, buying that produce from larger companies hurts small farmers who cannot compete with the growing demand. As the movement continues to grow, we can only hope that companies like Imperfect Produce will partner with more small farms. After all, helping small farms not only keeps their doors open, but it also boosts local economies and provides fresh food with a smaller environmental impact. Images via Alexandr Podvalny , Gemma Evans , Rebecca Georgia , Sydney Rae , Anda Ambrosini , Caleb Stokes and Shumilov Ludmila

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The ugly truth about the imperfect food movement

Singapore, the City in a Garden, sets an example for a green planet

August 15, 2018 by  
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Singapore has transformed itself from a hub of pollution to an environmental dream-city in the past 50 years. From afar, the country’s landscape looks like any other modern city with abounding skyscrapers etched into its skyline. On the inside however, a green heart has grown at the center of the city, spreading into the minds of its people and up the walls of its buildings. This heart was initiated by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew — often called ‘Chief Gardener’ — who pushed his imperative of a clean and green Singapore until it became reality. In the 1960s, raw sewage loaded already-polluted canals of the city-state with so much waste that they poured sludge-like  waters into the Singapore River and surrounding areas. “In the 1960s, Singapore was like any other developing country – dirty and polluted, lacking proper sanitation and facing high unemployment,” Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources for Singapore, explained in his recent address to the Global Environment Outlook 6 (GEO6) . “These challenges were particularly acute, given our constraints as a small island state with limited resources; we did not even have enough drinking water.” These problems encouraged rapid industrialization to help improve living conditions for the citizens of Singapore, but the widespread urbanization only aggravated the environmental concerns. Related: A rainforest-like green heart grows within Singapore’s Marina One Yew saw the decay as “a blighted urban jungle of concrete [that] destroys the human spirit.” He believed that “we need the greenery of nature to lift our spirits,” hence planting the first tree of many in 1963 to inspire a generation of eco-warriors into action. This has become The Singapore Story  of the ‘Biophilic City in a Garden.’ The incredible journey began with this small deed, shortly before Singapore’s separation from Malaysia. Now, the city sits at the center of architectural innovation and technological design and has become a green global powerhouse. “We merely wanted to rise above the region we found ourselves in,” Lim Liang Jim, group director of the  National Biodiversity Centre at the National Parks Board, said in an interview with UN Environment . “Lee Kuan Yew had a plan. Keep us clean. Keep us green.” The generation that pioneered this change understood that if Singapore became “a nice place to live, then people will come and invest. Then we moved up,” Jim explained. But the movement was not solely economic or aesthetic in nature. The small self-governing city-state was urged to clean up the region by Singaporeans who wanted to stay on their land. These residents launched a strenuous 30-year campaign, cleaning up pollution and creating agencies where there were none to support their cause. This lead to the inception of the National Parks Board, which decided there should be greenery and plant life everywhere people looked. The board rejected the idea of being confined to a concrete jungle and instead constructed a sustainable model for any city to follow. Part of the ongoing changes involves educating students from an early age on the importance of environmental awareness, protection and advocacy. “We are going back to history, to ensure that we build from the ground up and ensure that the youth of Singapore don’t take our 50 years of history for granted,” said Lim, who believes that history can be easily forgotten by the minds of young Singaporeans who only know the smell of fresh air and the sights of lush greenery. “[Environmentalism] has to be something that is driven by the grassroots movement, it has to become in a sense political. You can’t easily turn a nature reserve into buildings, it would require some reasoned discussion with the public. We have to make sure that the younger generation appreciates our nature and biodiversity and do not take them for granted.” Related: Giant glowing bottle walls light up Singapore for “plastic binge” awareness This is Singapore’s mission in preserving the achievements it has made while ensuring the future of its vision as an environmental champion. It believes that its citizens are entrusted a with stewardship that makes caring for common spaces second-nature. The residents built this new Singapore from the ground up, adding innovative features like the SGBioAtlas , which allows members of the public to become ‘citizen scientists’ by uploading photos of plants or animals and to the National Biodiversity Centre’s central database. Other ongoing projects include urban planning and zoning as well as policy changes and public awareness campaigns focused on a smaller carbon footprint and zero waste, among other goals. With its visionary leadership, Singapore’s long-term plan includes a phase of sustainable development found in its Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015 , which underlines improvement in sectors that include all 17 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals through 2030. “Our approach has been to build a livable and sustainable city through pragmatic policy-making based on sound economic principles and science; a focus on long-term planning and effective implementation; and the ability to mobilize popular support for the common good,” Zulkifli said. Singapore has set the standard for a clean and green future worldwide, and it looks absolutely inviting. + The Singapore Story Via UN Environment Images via Joan Campderrós-i-Canas ( 1 , 2 ), Jaafar Alnasser and Jo Sau

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Singapore, the City in a Garden, sets an example for a green planet

A striking timber home with a green roof disappears into a Mexican forest

August 15, 2018 by  
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Barcelona- and Mexico City-based firm  Cadaval Sola-Morales has just unveiled Casa de la Roca, a beautiful, dark timber home topped with a green roof  and located in a remote forest in Mexico. The single-story structure features a jet-black facade crafted from felled trees and finished with a living roof to help camouflage the home into the peaceful, secluded forestscape. When designing Casa de la Roca, the architects were focused on one objective: to create a home that would easily blend into the landscape for years to come. Acting accordingly, the architects chose materials based on durability. The structure, which sits on a low-maintenance concrete foundation, is clad in reclaimed timber from local felled or dead trees. Related: Living trees grow through the ceiling of Cadaval & Sola-Morales’ Tepoztlan Lounge in Mexico The exterior walls were then coated in black paint to add longevity to the structure. “We used paint (and not dye), to add another layer of material protection; dye tends to lose its qualities over the years,” the architects explained. “It is black, responding to the desire to blend in with the landscape, seeking a certain anonymity in front of the vegetation and exuberant views.” The dark exterior essentially allows the home to hide deep within the forest , but that wasn’t enough for the architects. Once the dwelling was constructed, the team finished the entire roof with vegetation, creating an even stronger connection between the man-made and natural. According to the architects, the home’s layout of three long hallways that converge into the main living space was also inspired by the landscape. The team wanted the house to have three private lookouts at each end to provide distinct views of the forest. The three “arms” of the home come together at a central point, which is also where people can come together and socialize . The interior space is both elegant and welcoming. A minimal amount of furniture is spread out over the open-plan living room, so the main focus is always on the incredible nature that surrounds the home. Extra large floor-to-ceiling windows and doors allow optimal natural light into the home, while also creating a seamless connection to the forest. + Cadaval Sola-Morales Via Wallpaper Photography by Sandra Pereznieto

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A striking timber home with a green roof disappears into a Mexican forest

School-in-a-Box brings the gift of learning to children in Papua New Guinea

July 27, 2018 by  
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Americans often take education for granted. Whether their children attend public or private schools, the opportunity to learn is always there, from kindergarten through high school and often beyond. Meanwhile, many children around the world can only dream of this priceless endowment. Sydney architect Stephen Collier noticed this problem and wanted to take action – so, along with various international non-profit groups, he developed School-in-a-Box, which has helped make the dream of education a reality for many children in Papua New Guinea . In the Beginning Four years ago, Collier read Drusilla Modjeska’s novel The Mountain , which tells the story of how established cultures based on clans struggle to embrace contemporary mores in post-independence PNG. Since Collier was born in PNG, he had a personal interest in the material, and he contacted Modjeska, a stranger at the time. She asked him to join her on an excursion to Tufi , where she revealed she had an indefinable project in dire need of an architect. Collier was soon en route; he and Modjeska flew into the tropical coastal fjords of the province of Morobe in a tiny Dash8 plane. Multiple Challenges Modjeska is the co-founder of Sustain Educate Art Melanesia (SEAM), an organization that works to improve literacy in the six villages of Morobe. In the more remote areas of PNG, adult literacy is often as low as 15 percent; even though parents want their kids to be educated, they don’t want to sacrifice their customary connection to the farmland that sustains everyone in the villages. In addition, the villages are each very difficult to reach, with many sitting along single-file ridges above the coast, creating a long and treacherous journey for children. Even though the PNG government funds remote schools, each of which typically supports between 100-150 students of various ages with two teachers, these schools have a minimal number of books (no reference or literary texts, only workbooks) and hardly ever have electricity. Paper is hard to come by, fresh water is rare, and there are no pencils, crayons, pens or other writing materials. Students can’t read to each other, and the schools have nothing written by locals. The Box is Born Collier and Modjeska started brainstorming as soon as their plane touched down and a solid concept for School-in-a-Box began to grow. Early on, it was clear the box had to include water and solar electricity resources and storage systems. The box had to be light enough to easily transport from village to village, large enough to be functional, and tough enough to last and protect its cargo. Related: Hand-Built Library on Wheels Helps Retired Teacher Spread the Love of Reading The boxes, made from polycarbonate , are the same as those used by the US Army to transport armaments. The tents, poles, solar panels, and other materials conform to the box’s dimensions. The stretchable roof covers around 485 square feet and its translucent fabric is easily wound into a miniscule size for storage. The Treasure Inside Modjeska’s and Collier’s goals for the School-in-a-Box were multifaceted. They wanted the contents of the box to focus not just on childhood education, but also on creative writing and drawing for adult literacy classes, sharing and recording local stories to encourage imaginative investigation instead of pattern/repetitive learning, and making education more accessible to girls. After intensive idea sharing, they decided that each lockable, waterproof School-in-a-Box would include: two marine-grade plywood cabinets a 20 x 26-foot stretch tent with cables, poles, cables, stakes and ties two flexible solar panels batteries and an electrical board two laptop computers an A3 printer, guillotine and laminator books, paper, pencils, crayons, paints and brushes a 1,320-gallon water storage tank a simple water filter that can function without electricity or chemicals How It Works When the assembly is complete, cooling breezes flow freely underneath the structure. The roof is flexible enough to adjust to weather conditions and the sides are adjustable to stave off high winds. Collier created a hefty fabric gutter along one side to accumulate rainwater for storage in a pillow tank. To protect the gutter from direct sunlight, he made it concealable under a raised platform. The local community contributes some of the materials and helps in the platform construction. When closed, the cabinets form a box, although they open up and extend out in five directions. A teacher can conduct a class on one side, private study can take place on another, and the other sides serve as storage compartments. Looking Forward Mundango Abroad, The Readings Foundation, Planet Wheeler Foundation, Victorian Womens’ Trust, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and numerous other charitable organizations support the project, which has been going strong since its inception in 2014. Stephen Collier Architects, which won The Australian Institute of Architects Small Project Architecture prize in 2018 for this project, is investigating how to deliver more boxes to PNG in the future. A new fund to make that happen and take donations has been set up. If you would like to donate or assist in other ways, please email  info@collierarchitects.com  with SCHOOL-IN-A-BOX in the subject line. + Stephen Collier Architects Images courtesy of Stephen Collier Architects

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School-in-a-Box brings the gift of learning to children in Papua New Guinea

6 tents perfect for camping this summer

June 18, 2018 by  
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Now that summer is here, it’s time to prepare for some  camping trips. But finding a great tent can be tricky. Are you an adventurer who needs a tent that will withstand all types of weather ? Are you looking to stay somewhere unconventional (like in the trees, or on a lake)? Or maybe you need something that can easily be packed away or recycled after use. If you’re on the hunt for a new tent, here are some of our favorite options that are perfect for your summer camping trip. 1. Alfheim by Nordisk Summer is the best time for camping and and enjoying nature. If you’re planning for longer than a day trip, you’re going to need a tent to protect you from the elements. The Alfheim by Nordisk is a teepee-inspired tent that requires only one person to set up. The Alfheim comes in two different sizes: 12.6 meters squared or 19.6 meters squared. The 19.6-square-meter tent also has an organic option. Other custom options include a ground sheet that zips in and mesh dividers to create separate sleeping spaces. 2. Shoal Tent by SmithFly There’s something magical about spending a camping trip next to the water , but with the Shoal Tent , you can camp right on the water . The tent sits on an inflatable raft that can easily be deflated and carried from campsite to campsite — or from lake to lake. The entire structure of the tent inflates along with the raft, making it very lightweight. The tent has an 8’ x 8’ footprint, so it is comfortable and roomy. 3. KarTent Have you ever been so tired after an event that you just can’t be bothered to break down your tent and take it home with you? It happens more often than you think — every year, thousands of festival-goers leave their tents behind. What if the tents were made of cardboard ? Hear us out. The KarTent is a tent made out of recycled cardboard , and once your journey is over, you can choose to either take it home or drop it into the nearest recycling bin. It’s big enough for two people and secures to the ground with recyclable pegs. For larger events, you can buy the tents in bulk; the company will set them up for you when you arrive and break them down once your event is over. 4. Sky-Pod If you want to sleep among the trees , you’re in luck — the Sky-Pod tent allows you to do just that. You can hang a Sky-Pod as high as four feet above the ground, which is ideal for enjoying life in the trees , but it is also a great safety measure if you’re camping in areas that are prone to flash floods. It also reduces your impact on the environment — you don’t have to worry about placing your tent on a game trail or crushing important flora under your tent’s floor. 5. Sierra Shack by Alite Pop-up tents are an easy way to get out of the weather no matter where you are, but they tend to be difficult to set up and awkward to sleep in. The Sierra Shack is a handy, budget-friendly pop-up tent  that unfolds instantly, has enough room for two people and can even be zipped with other Sierra Shacks to create a small chain of tents. Each tent has a built-in rainfly to keep you dry in case of overnight rain . Once you break it down, the tent weighs less than seven pounds, so you can easily carry it from one campsite to the next. 6.  Stingray Tree Tent by Tensile If you like sleeping in a hammock but don’t like getting caught in the rain, Tensile’s Stingray Tree Tent is the tent for you. The tent keeps you off the ground and provides an enclosed environment to protect you from weather, bugs and other outdoor unpleasantness. You can easily string the tent between any two stable items — trees, boulders or even vehicles. This tent has one major benefit over a standard hammock, though — it can hold up to three full-sized adults. In addition to these practical benefits, the company pledges to plant 18 trees for every tent purchased with its partners Arbor Day Foundation, Eden Projects and WeForest. As you can see, you don’t have to stick with a traditional canvas-and-poles tent during your summer camping trip. Hopefully, these tents inspire you to reconnect with nature and start exploring. Happy trails! Images via Anruf Advertising, Nordisk Smith (Alfheim); SmithFly (Fly Shoal Tent); KarTent (KarTent); Sky-Pod, Zak Bentley (Sky-Pod); Alite Designs (Sierra Shack); Taylor Burke, Justin Hartney and Sean Murphy (Stingray Tree Tent)

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6 tents perfect for camping this summer

The Philippines envisions a green smart city to combat pollution in Manila

June 11, 2018 by  
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Traffic is an unpleasant facet of life in cities , but in Manila, the most densely populated city in the world , it’s a severe drain on the economy and the quality of life of residents. This metropolis in the Philippines is infamous for traffic congestion, which contributes to its substantial smog problem. With it also comes many other forms of pollution and environmental hazards. The country has an ambitious plan to combat these issues — build a new smart city that is green and resilient. The Plan The new city, dubbed New Clark City , is considered Manila’s twin city. It’s located in Central Luzon, about  75 miles from Manila at a former U.S. military base. It’s expected to be larger than the size of Manhattan and home to up to two million people . The Bases Conversion and Development Authority ( BCDA ), a government entity vested with corporate powers that converts former military properties, is the leading developer of the project. Both government and private investments will fund the new city. The government plans to move many of its offices and thousands of its workers to the smart city .  By the end of 2023, the government aims to have eight mid-rise government buildings and 8,000 housing units in New Clark City. The Department of Transportation has already moved to Clark , and BCDA will do so this year. One of the most notable parts of the project is the expansion of Clark Airport, which would double the volume of flights the facility can handle. This development is scheduled for completion in 2020. Related: Panasonic is building an incredible smart city outside of Denver Smart, Green and Resilient New Clark City aims to avoid many of the problems that plague Manila by emphasizing green design and smart technologies.  Two-thirds of the city’s land will be used for green space and agriculture . Developers plan to use green building techniques — such an energy monitoring systems and renewable energy — to increase energy efficiency and cut greenhouse gas emissions. The project is slated to include a  rail system connecting the new city to Manila . The inclusion of reliable public transport should alleviate some of the hassle for commuters, visitors and in-city residents alike. The Philippines anticipates autonomous cars will further reduce current and future congestion. While reducing traffic, these technologies are also expected to help keep air quality at the World Health Organization’s recommended safe levels — air pollution levels in Manila are currently  70 percent higher than WHO’s endorsed rates. New Clark City is designed with resilience to disasters in mind. The city’s elevation at its lowest point is 184 feet above sea level  to minimize the risk of flooding, and green space along rivers will also allow room for water to rise without damaging nearby property. In case of power disruption or an emergency, the city will also host backup government offices, so agencies can continue operations. The government said it is working to develop the city quickly while still keeping the design green. Challenges Against New Clark City The New Clark City project has received praise for its vision, and the plans suggest it could have substantial environmental and economic benefits for Manila and the Philippines. But such an ambitious project isn’t without its challenges. One of the primary roadblocks is getting residents to actually move to the city. To address this challenge, the Philippines is prioritizing connecting New Clark City to Manila via train to make the smart city easily accessible. The BCDA also hopes to attract people by building a sports facility that will host the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. Another critical strategy for jump-starting the economy and moving people to the urban center is to gradually relocate government agencies to New Clark City. Sustainable design is another critical challenge to this project. Because of the tight time frame, project managers had to carefully weigh the long-term needs of the natural world with the short-term profitability of the developers. To that end, they have spent time making sure the space, when finished, will prioritize natural landscapes and farmland. The Philippines expects to complete the full development plan within 30 years . In total, New Clark City is an approximately $14 billion project — a high price to pay, especially  if the city fails . A City for the Future The government hopes the benefits of New Clark City will outweigh the costs. As evidenced by the state of Manila’s traffic congestion and environmental problems, there is a demand for change. If New Clark City succeeds, its victory may enable Manila to revitalize and integrate more smart, green features, which could reduce the country’s environmental impact substantially. Building a new city from scratch — and keeping it green — is, of course, no small feat, but this modern city could mean a new, brighter future for the Philippines . + New Clark City Via  World Population Review ,  Rent PMI ,  Business Insider ,  Bloomberg ,  Reuters  and  CNN Images via New Clark City  and BCDA

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The Philippines envisions a green smart city to combat pollution in Manila

Pope Francis calls on oil executives to transition to clean power

June 11, 2018 by  
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Pope Francis hasn’t been quiet about the urgency of combating climate change . Most recently, during a two-day conference in Vatican City, he took oil company executives to task and called for clean power as climate change continues to threaten people and the environment . The pope said, “Civilization requires energy , but energy use must not destroy civilization.” The conference gathered experts, investors and oil executives who support scientific opinion that human activity has caused climate change. The 50 participants included ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods, BP  group chief executive Bob Dudley and Equinor (formerly Statoil) CEO Eldar Sætre. Pope Francis said it was worrying that searches for new fossil fuel reserves still continue, and said, “There is no time to lose.” Related: Catholic churches to make massive divestment from fossil fuels Pope Francis said, “We know that the challenges facing us are interconnected. If we are to eliminate poverty and hunger … the more than one billion people without electricity today need to gain access to it. But that energy should also be clean, by a reduction in the systematic use of fossil fuels. Our desire to ensure energy for all must not lead to the undesired effect of a spiral of extreme climate changes due to a catastrophic rise in global temperatures, harsher environments and increased levels of poverty.” The pope called for attendees to comprise the core of leaders “who envision the global energy transition in a way that will take into account all the peoples of the earth, as well as future generations and all species and ecosystems.” Pope Francis said our situation is dire, and even after the 2015 Paris Agreement , carbon dioxide emissions are still high. The New York Times quoted him as saying, “We received the earth as a garden-home from the Creator. Let us not pass it on to future generations as a wilderness.” Via The Guardian , Reuters  and The New York Times Images via Aleteia Image Department/Flickr , Depositphotos

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Pope Francis calls on oil executives to transition to clean power

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