8 thoughtful Mother’s Day gift ideas for the eco mama in your life

May 9, 2017 by  
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Finding the perfect gift for the eco-conscious Mama in your life is a little more labor intensive than just running out for generic cards or super-market flowers at the last second. You want to find something that shows you really care – about her and about the planet. We’ve made your life a bit easier this year with a roundup of eight thoughtful gift ideas we think will appeal to the earth-loving mama in your world. 1. Ladies-only outdoor adventure Adventurous outdoor Moms will love REI/Outessa’s three-day retreats , where they can dabble in rock climbing, yoga , paddle boarding, and more while being treated to chef-prepared and locally-sourced meals. After a weekend spent with other nature -loving women, Mom will come back ready to tackle parenting and life with feeling connected and rejuvenated. 2. Jewelry Andrea Bonelli ’s gorgeous handmade jewelry (like the above pink sapphire necklace ) incorporates recycled and ethically mined stones and metals. Bonelli is also a member of Ethical Metalsmiths and gives back through the Toolbox Initiative, which provides jewelers in West Africa with tools and supplies to encourage their ability to work autonomously. If the sky’s the limit for the Earth Mama in your life, gift her with a premium piece from Monique Pean , beloved among the eco-celeb set for her sustainable and unique pieces, who counts former First Lady Michelle Obama as a fan. 3. Books Whether purchasing a physical book or the e-version, you have plenty of choices that will expand Mom’s reading horizons. A few of our hot picks: Phenomenal , which has readers join a new mother as she traipses across the planet in search of migrating butterflies in Mexico and lightening storms in Venezuela and  Lab Girl , the bestselling and intriguing memoir of geo-biologist Hope Jahren. Others may enjoy How To Read Water , which provides insightful instructions for forecasting the weather by looking at waves or using puddles to figure out directions. If the Mom you’re gifting these books to has little ones, earn bonus points by also gifting her some time and a quiet space to actually read them. RELATED: 11 Eco-tastic gifts for Mother’s Day 4. Ceramic breakfast bowl These hand-painted and hand-thrown Moroccan bowls  from Raven & Lily are wonderful mood boosters for Mom when she’s throwing down a bowl of cereal amidst the before school morning chaos or snacking on some dried fruits and nuts for a midday break. It’s no coincidence they are also perfectly sized for use as a chai or latte “mug”; the bowls also come in a mini size  and are pretty enough to corral rings, change, keys, or perhaps chocolate chips. 10 percent of sales goes towards an after-school program in Morocco that provides academic support, life skills mentoring, and leadership coaching. 5. S’Well water bottle We probably all have a reusable water bottle (or five) at home, but somehow they manage to migrate to kids’ backpacks or end up on spouse’s desks. S’Well ’s sleek BPA-free stainless steel water bottles are triple wall insulated to keep beverages cold for 24 hours or hot for 12. The limited edition Terra bottle is decorated with lush flora and fauna; we’re also loving the Elements collection, inspired by natural beauties such as pearls and marbled stone. A portion of S’Well’s sales go towards supporting clean and safe water supplies in vulnerable communities. Staying hydrated, whether Mom’s adventures take her on a hike or to the carpool line, never looked so pretty. 6. Flowers No sad, tired, on-their-last-stem arrangements here: Bouqs partners with local artisan florists around the country and sustainable farmers around the world to provide vibrant custom bouquets. In certain areas of the country, a “bouq” can even be delivered on demand within hours, a lifesaver for spouses and children who perhaps procrastinated a bit too long. All the vendors in this “farm to table” arrangement approach practice sustainable farming that minimizes waste. Want to give Mom the gift that keeps on giving? Consider gifting a living plant that can provide beauty (and clean air) to her space for years. Any potted plant will do nicely, but if you’re looking for an easy, low-maintenance gift idea, moth orchids (phalaenopsis) , in particular, are beautiful, usually easy to find at your local market, extremely low-maintenance (you barely need to water them), and great indoor-air cleaners . RELATED: 7 indoor plants that purify the air naturally 7. Edible goodies INNA Jam ’s jams , shrubs, pickles, and salts are next-level delicious. With a focus on organically grown produce from a 150-mile radius of the company’s California kitchen and a strict seasonal sensibility, Moms and anyone who gives these treats a try will fall in love with the flavorful, jewel-toned, single-origin jams as well as the game-changing shrubs (basically a fruit/vinegar/sugar syrup). Other ideas? Try hand-crafted, non-GMO pickles in flavors including Maple Bourbon Whiskey Sour from Brooklyn Brine  or a 111-year-old dehydrated sourdough starter . 8. Art Adjusting to life with kids often means mamas have to modify their travel and adventure expectations. If she can’t lay her eyes on a far-flung island or peak in real life for the time being, playful and cheerful wall art that brings to mind her love of nature may be a temporary salve. Printed on FSC-certified or recycled paper,  options from Graphic Anthology  include abstract geometric trees or mountains , Scandinavian design-inspired fish , and a sweet reminder to all to Go Outside and Play  and would make also great additions to a nursery, kitchen, or family room. You can even pick up a gorgeous Mother’s Day card while you are browsing the site. Lead image © REI/Outessa

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8 thoughtful Mother’s Day gift ideas for the eco mama in your life

Cadillac unveils their new CT6 Plug-in Hybrid – a large, green luxury sedan

May 3, 2017 by  
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Cadillac is pushing a new green car strategy they hope will make a bigger impact than their ELR plug-in hybrid – a low-performing vehicle in terms of sales success. Rather than produce a standalone plug-in hybrid , like the ELR, Cadillac will release plug-in hybrid versions of its regular lineup, starting with the new 2017 CT6 Plug-in Hybrid. The 2017 CT6 plug-in hybrid is just now reaching showrooms, giving Cadillac a rival to other luxury sedan plug-ins, like the Mercedes-Benz S 550e, BMW 740e and Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid. The CT6 plug-in hybrid can travel up to 31 miles in electric mode, which is better than the embarrassing 12 mile EV range that the S550e manages to squeeze out of its battery. If you open the hood, you won’t see a V6 or large V8 engine, like many Cadillac loyalists are used to. Instead, the CT6 plug-in hybrid is powered by a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine and two-motor electric variable transmission. A large lithium-ion battery powers the electric part of the system from behind the backseat and takes up to 4.5 hours to fully recharge on a 240-volt outlet. Related: Honda steps up with new green car strategy In total, the system generates 335 horsepower and 432 lb-ft. of torque, which puts it directly in the middle of the CT6 lineup, with only the twin-turbocharged 3.0L V6 beating it. The CT6 plug-in hybrid can reach 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and has a 62 combined MPGe rating. Plus the 31-mile driving range is longer than almost every other plug-in hybrid on the market, with the exception of the Chevy Volt and BMW i3, but neither of those models are as luxurious or comfortable. On the road the CT6 tries to find the perfect balance between performance and efficiency. You can select between three driving modes: Tour, Sport and Hold. Tour is the standard setting, but if you want a more exciting driving experience, there’s the Sport mode with its more aggressive pedal mapping and steering response. The Hold mode allows the driver to save the EV range for later use, maybe in a city center, for example. There are also four selectable battery regen modes to recuperate as much energy as you want. The strongest setting almost allows for one pedal driving, which is something that makes the i3 so great to drive in traffic. What’s it like to drive the CT6 Plug-in Hybrid? Driving around Los Angeles in the CT6 Plug-in Hybrid, it’s easy to forget you’re driving an electrified Cadillac. The instantaneous torque makes acceleration a breeze and the 31-mile EV range is enough for short errands around town. With a 0-60 mph time of only 5.2 seconds, the CT6 Plug-in Hybrid can speed past many sports cars. Although it is fast, it’s still not a true sports sedan. If you’re looking for a sportier driving experience, you’ll probably want to check out the Panamera instead, but if you’re in the market for a large, luxurious sedan, without the fuel economy penalty, the CT6 Plug-in Hybrid is hard to beat. Pricing for the 2017 Cadillac CT6 Plug-in hybrid starts at $75,095. It only comes in one trim with standard features like, a head-up display, panoramic sunroof, rear seat infotainment system and the Enhanced Vision package. Images @Inhabitat and Cadillac + Cadillac

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Cadillac unveils their new CT6 Plug-in Hybrid – a large, green luxury sedan

7 biggest threats to the environment – why we still need Earth Day

April 18, 2017 by  
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This Saturday is Earth Day , and while it’s a time to celebrate our planet, it’s also a prime opportunity to take a closer look at the serious environmental issues we’re facing and the solutions that need to be put in place to alleviate them. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to ignore the damage we’ve done to the environment, especially when the effects have been hitting so close to home . If you want to make this Earth Day an opportunity to educate yourself about the problems, read on as we break down the 7 biggest environmental threats facing our society right now and how we might be able to solve them before it’s too late. Climate Change Climate change is first and foremost an issue because people can’t even agree on whether or not it’s an issue in the first place. Before we even get into the solutions, we all (regardless of political party) need to come to the realization that yes, climate change is real and yes, it is affecting us in ways that we can see and feel.  If you still believe that the freakish weather and heat waves we’ve been experiencing have nothing to do with climate change, you might want to ask your neighbor what he or she thinks because the majority of Americans say they believe global warming is causing these incidents . You might have noticed that the weather’s been hotter than usual , or you might have noticed a drought in your area or conversely, unusual storms. Furthermore, even small temperature changes are causing crops to die, decreasing the amount of food available. On top of all that, higher temps are causing the polar icecaps to melt, flooding certain areas and leading to an imbalance for wildlife. So we know the threat is real, but what can we do to prevent climate change from being exacerbated even more? Some small steps you can take in your own life are to use less electricity by turning off your lights when you don’t need them, driving less, switching to LED bulbs and eating less meat . On a more global scale, leaders have come to an agreement on how to curb the harmful greenhouse gases each nation emits into the atmosphere, and steps are being taken to plant more forests (which act as natural carbon sinks). Every bit helps, but in order for us to reverse the current course the Earth is on, the United States needs to commit to the Paris Agreement  and, along with the rest of the world, work towards a greener planet. Deforestation We mentioned planting more forests above, and sadly at a time when we need more forests, trees are being uprooted at an alarming rate.  Deforestation is a rapidly-growing problem in areas like Africa, Central and South America. Not only does this mean less trees, less cleansing oxygen, and the displacement of the wildlife, deforestation means a dangerous decrease in a natural fighter of global warming – the #1 threat to our Earth right now. Removing trees also leads to much drier climates, as trees extract groundwater to release into the air. Our tropical rainforests, which are crucial to stabilizing the climate and to human survival, are being chopped down at a breakneck pace – one and a half acres of rainforest are lost every second . Humans have already chopped down about 50% of the rainforests that once existed on the planet and at the current rate of destruction, we will completely destroy the rainsforests in the next 40 years . If rainforests are so important, why are they being destroyed so carelessly? Short-sighted governments and multi-national logging companies only see the forests as a way to make money by selling timber – they don’t consider the long-term effects . Luckily, deforestation is an issue that we as individuals can combat. By using recycled paper, we can decrease the need to cut down as many trees and by buying goods made with FSC-certified wood, we can show retailers that we don’t want them to support brands that obtain lumber irresponsibly. Last but not least, why not plant a tree or even a hundred trees like this man did . Pollution Pollution comes in many forms and no matter where you live, you’ve probably seen some form of it. From litter on NYC city streets to the smog that lingers over LA to the plastic trash that floats in the  Great Pacific Garbage Patch , the visible signs of pollution are more than evident. The main reason for why pollution has gotten so out of control is that our desire for more “stuff”  has led to our old stuff being thrown away at an alarming and unnecessary rate. For more information on this, watch Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff . This need for manufactured items also leads to the air and water pollution emitted from factories, which in many countries are highly unregulated. Looking at the bigger picture, government oversight and sloppy industrial practices on the part of big companies has also exacerbated our pollution problem. The first thing we can all do to reduce the amount of pollution in our streets, air and water is to make a mental change. Before buying a new product, ask yourself if you really need it or if you might be able to purchase it secondhand. It could make a big difference in the amount of trash we see in our landfills. Secondly, if you don’t already  recycle , get into the habit. If everyone adopted these easy principles, the world would be in a much better place. Loss of Biodiversity Each species has a role in our planet, and when one dies out, it can have catastrophic effects on the rest of us. We don’t want to get all “Butterfly Effect” on you but even a population dwindling can cause major problems for the human race. For example, with their role of pollination , the decline of the  bee population has a direct effect on both the environment and food production. Currently, many other animals are in danger of becoming extinct, either from being forced out of their habitats by man or by climate change. This particular problem is more difficult for individuals to combat but we can start by educating ourselves with the facts and donating to organizations like the World Wildlife Fund that facilitate the preservation of animals on the brink of extinction. This problem is also closely linked to deforestation and unchecked habitat destruction so by fighting those two issues, we can also slow down loss of biodiversity. Melting Polar Ice-Caps and Rising Sea Levels Climate change (are you seeing a trend here?) also contributes to another dangerous problem – melting polar ice-caps, which in turn causes rising sea levels. According to the NRCD , average temperatures in the Arctic region are rising twice as fast they are elsewhere and the ice is melting and rupturing. NASA satellite images reveal that the area of our permanent ice cover is shrinking at a rate of 9% every decade. At that rate, the Arctic could be totally ice-free in the summer season within decades. And if all of that ice melted, where would it go? You guessed it – our oceans. You might think that rising tides are only a problem for people in a few isolated areas, but major cities like NY and London could be underwater soon if we don’t do something soon. Manhattan alone has already dreamt up ways to deal with the potential rising tides over the next few years, but coming up with solutions after the fact is not enough. In order to reverse the melting of polar icecaps, we have to start at the root of the problem. See our section above on climate change to learn what you can do personally to keep global warming from continuing on its deadly course. Oceanic Dead Zones Along the coasts of heavily populated communities, scientists have found more and more dead zones – areas where depleted oxygen levels cannot support marine life. 146 dead zones were found in the world’s oceans, caused by high levels of chemicals in the waters. North America’s Gulf Coast has a high concentration of dead zones, which causes fish to become unable to reproduce. You might think that if you live on land, you won’t be affected by oceanic dead zones but if you eat seafood, seaweed, or care about air quality, you won’t want to ignore this issue. The good news is that dead zones can be reversed, though it is difficult. The  Black Sea dead zone disappeared in 1991 and 2001 due to the discontinued use of fertilizers. To find out more about how you can help with dead zone cleanups, visit Oceana.org . Explosive Population Growth It’s usually true that the more the merrier, but not when the human population is growing to a point that our society and systems can’t handle. Last year, the world population hit a whopping 7 billion , and while we welcome the newcomers with open arms, we also want to make sure that we don’t continue to put a strain on our water, food, well-being, space and sanity (yes, we’re talking about you, Tokyo subway system ). If everyone were more conscious of the fact that our limited resources need to be shared (how many times have you grabbed a fistful of paper napkins when you only needed one?), we could make living together, even with such a large amount of people) a lot more pleasant. Another example is our world food supply. Statistics show that we have enough food to feed everyone on the planet but we end up wasting so much (according to the  National Resources Defense Council , Americans waste a whopping 30 to 50% of all food produced) that others go without. While we might not be able to stop the population from growing, we can educate the people who currently live here and the new ones that are being born to make smarter choices and consume more responsibly. Images from Wikimedia Commons, Shutterstock, © James Cridland , @ Kevin Crejci , and @ No Minds Vision    

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7 biggest threats to the environment – why we still need Earth Day

6 naturally-insulated cave homes that stay cool in summer and warm in winter

April 18, 2017 by  
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Cave homes have come a long way since prehistoric times. Far from primitive, many modern cave dwellings are surprisingly luxurious, comfortable, and beautiful places to call home. In addition to their head-turning location, cave homes tend to be naturally energy efficient thanks to their insulating earth walls that keep the inside air at comfortable temperatures year-round without heating or cooling. We’ve rounded up six such abodes that could make you want a cave home of your own. Rockhouse Retreat The Rockhouse Retreat is the luxury dream home located in a 700-year-old cave. Hand-carved from 250-million-year-old Triassic sandstone, this cave dwelling was fully restored and renovated by Worcestershire native Angelo Mastropietro who has transformed the space into “Britain’s first luxury cave house” with all the creature comforts of home—it even has WiFi—and made the home available for rent on AirBnB . Cuevas del Pino UMMO Estudio carefully slotted the modern Cuevas del Pino homes into calcarenite stone caves near Córdoba, Spain. The layout of the home was created in harmony with the existing rock wall formations. Natural materials like stone and timber complement the cave surroundings. Yaodong Renovation The Loess Plateau in China is home to many cave dwellers who live in very primitive conditions. Architect Shi Yang of hyperSity Architects renovated one of the caves into an extraordinary dream home that’s modern, aesthetically-pleasing, and full of natural light and ventilation. New Mexico Sandstone Homes Part art and part abode, artist Ra Paulette’s hand-carved sandstone homes are truly sculptural masterpieces. The inspiring artist meticulously turns sandstone into intricately detailed cave homes in New Mexico . He has since completed at least 12 caves over 12 years that include full power, wood flooring, and running water. Chez Hélène-Amboise Troglodyte A young French man named Alexis Lamoureux transformed a run-down cave home he purchased for just one euro into a gorgeous new abode with beautiful detailing. The original shelter lacked plumbing, sewage pipes, and electricity, so Lamoureux invested 35,000 euros and a lot of elbow grease to realize his chic new home. Luque Earth Homes BAUEN Architects tucked two homes into a sloped site in Luque, Paraguay. The green-roofed homes blend into the rolling hills and feature double-height windows that let plenty of light into the partially underground homes.

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6 naturally-insulated cave homes that stay cool in summer and warm in winter

We test drove the new Chevrolet Bolt and heres the scoop

April 11, 2017 by  
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When we were invited to test-drive the brand new Chevy Bolt electric vehicle, we naturally jumped on the opportunity. The new Chevrolet Bolt is Chevy’s first mass-market all-electric vehicle, designed for those who want to go further than a hybrid plugin electric like the Chevy Volt . With a range of 238 miles per charge (better than the Nissan Leaf and comparable to the much higher priced Tesla Model S ), for a price tag of around the 30K (after the tax rebates), many have high hopes for the Chevy Bolt as the first true “electric vehicle for the masses”. We were curious to see how this car would fare in real life, and were excited to check it out. Hailed by automotive enthusiasts as the “Tesla Killer,” the Bolt has been a frontrunner in the competition against Tesla’s more affordable electric car, the Model 3 , and now enjoys an entire year’s head start to market. Will the Bolt bring a new wave of adoption for electric vehicles? Read on for our thoughts: We set out in our burnt orange Bolt EV just an hour south of San Francisco, along the picturesque, tree-lined roads of Portola Valley. From the minute we hit our first hill-hugging turn, we knew that we were in for a smooth experience. The car carries the bulk of its weight in its floor-mounted lithium-ion battery pack, which translates to a lower center of gravity, better structural integrity, and ultimately a more enjoyable ride than most gas cars. Naturally of course, the car is extremely quiet as well, without any vroom vroom of an engine. The unique placement of the battery also allows for a flatter floor, making the Bolt noticeably roomier then the Volt and many of its electric vehicle competitors. With AeroVironment’s Level 2 charging station the battery can be recharged to full in only eight hours, making charging as simple and intuitive as plugging in before going to bed. On straighter stretches we were able to zip from 0-60mph in an impressive 6.5 seconds. Drivers can choose between “Drive” and “Low” modes, and while Low mode permits speeds as highs as those in Drive mode, its “regenerative” braking system cleverly funnels braking friction back into the battery the moment the driver lifts their foot from the pedal. A paddle behind the left side of the steering wheel can be used to the same effect or to increase brake regeneration, so much so that the car can come to a complete stop without hitting the brakes. It’s ideal for stop-and-go traffic and even better for conserving energy. Drivers can visualize the energy captured on the car’s 10.2-inch touch screen display. With an impressive 238-mile range per charge, Bay Area owners can make a complete one-way trip to Tahoe without having to refuel, making the Bolt far more suitable for weekend trips than many of its EV competitors, such as the Nissan Leaf . The car’s official MSRP is $37,495 but a federal tax credit of $7500 puts it firmly in the under $30,000 range. All in all, it is easy to see why the Bolt EV might be a tempting choice for those in the market for an electric vehicle. With exceptional range, groundbreaking technology, and roomy interior, we’re convinced the Bolt delivers on everything it promised. Chevy Bolts officially went on sale at dealerships across the West Coast this past December and will be reaching excited customers across the nation by mid 2017. + Chevrolet Bolt

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We test drove the new Chevrolet Bolt and heres the scoop

Mark your calendars for a chance to score an organic mattress from My Green Mattress

April 5, 2017 by  
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Avoiding toxic chemicals in food, bath products, and home cleaning supplies is a good start for personal health, but toxins might be lurking where you least expect them: in your mattress. The scary reality is conventional mattresses are doused with flame-retardants containing VOCs (volatile organic compounds) such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers , which are linked to thyroid problems, allergies, asthma, hormone disruption , and even cancer. We spend a third of our lives sleeping, with our faces, nostrils, and lungs just above our mattresses, so exposure to harmful chemicals that off-gas fumes while you sleep is no joke. Fortunately, for those of you looking for a new mattress, we are giving you the chance to win an organic, USA-made, non-toxic Natural Escape mattress, courtesy of My Green Mattress . Read on for a chance to win the healthiest sleep of your life. HOW TO ENTER: Want to throw your name in the hat for a chance at winning your own Natural Escape mattress ? Here’s what you need to do: 1. Follow Inhabitat on Facebook 2. Put the date on your calendar and RSVP for the LIVE event 3. Tune into our LIVE Facebook event on April 24th at 11am PST / 2pm EST. Follow along as we live stream the details of the giveaway on our Facebook page and remember to share or comment on the live video in order to enter. The Natural Escape Mattress Designed to offer contouring support and a springy bounce, the Natural Escape mattress is made with a layer of 100% all-natural Oeko-Tex Certified Dunlop latex foam, topping GOTS certified organic cotton batting, and a natural wool quilted cover surrounding the mattress. Natural Latex boasts a range of benefits- from its anti-microbial properties that repel dust mites, mold, and mildew, to it breathability in all seasons. In addition to keeping you warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, latex offers optimal support and relieves pressure, stiffness, and pain. The wool quilting acts as a natural flame barrier so you can sleep soundly, knowing that your mattress has passed all of the required flame tests without

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Mark your calendars for a chance to score an organic mattress from My Green Mattress

The 10,000-year-old East Coast Grand Canyon 100 miles from NYC

April 5, 2017 by  
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The East Coast has its own Grand Canyon -like natural wonder – just 100 miles southeast of Lady Liberty in New York City. And the mile-deep Hudson Canyon brims with biodiversity , but it is at risk of being exploited for oil and gas exploration. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)’s New York Aquarium recently nominated the canyon as a National Marine Sanctuary in a bid to protect endangered creatures dwelling there from the fossil fuel industry. The Hudson Canyon formed around 10,000 years ago during the last ice age, but few New Yorkers or East Coast residents know it exists. It’s under around 60 feet of water on the continental margin, or ocean floor zone separating thin oceanic crust from thick continental crust, at the Hudson River’s outlet. Scientists don’t even know a lot about what is at the bottom of the canyon, which is the East Coast’s largest submarine canyon , but they do know it’s home to endangered whales , sea turtles , sharks , and hundreds of plankton species. Related: Leonardo DiCaprio gives Seychelles $1 million for monumental marine sanctuary New York Aquarium visitors will get a glimpse into the canyon in the upcoming 57,000-square-foot exhibit “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” set to open in 2018. The exhibit will include Canyon’s Edge, a recreation of the experience of sitting on or standing just below the edge of Hudson Canyon. WCS wants to preserve the Hudson Canyon from fossil fuel exploration and extraction through nominating the site as a National Marine Sanctuary. They say such a designation will also sustain recreational and commercial fisheries and whale and bird cruises. WCS vice president Jon Forrest Dohlin also told NYMetro a sanctuary designation could also help scientists obtain resources necessary to explore the canyon further. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) did determine the Hudson Canyon meets criteria necessary to be “an ecological site of national significance worthy of protection,” according to WCS, and they have a petition going asking NOAA to rapidly start the designation process. You can sign the petition here . Via 6sqft and NY Metro Images courtesy of Deepwater Canyons 2013 – Pathways to the Abyss, NOAA-OER/BOEM/USGS and Dominic Sherony on Flickr

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The 10,000-year-old East Coast Grand Canyon 100 miles from NYC

6 groundbreaking examples of tech innovations inspired by biomimicry

March 29, 2017 by  
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Da Vinci was definitely on to something when he observed birds and copied their forms to create his own wings for flight. Although biomimicry wasn’t ultimately successful in helping Da Vinci achieve flight , it has a solid track record for getting engineers, thinkers, and inventors to approach problems in design and technology by returning to nature and its processes. Here are six examples of how observing and imitating nature lead to designs that can improve issues in the modern world. Wind turbine with hummingbird wings Wind turbines typically incorporate a pinwheel shape, but a breakthrough design from Tyer Wind has cleverly tapped into the gravity-defying hovering abilities of hummingbirds . While it may look like these feather-light birds are furiously flapping their wings in a linear fashion, they actually use a figure eight configuration. The design for this new turbine uses wings instead of traditional rotating blades to turn energy from wind into green electricity through 3-D Aouinian Kinematics . Cactus water collector After observing certain cacti ’s ability to collect and store water particles from fog, students from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago were inspired to create Dewpoint , a design with real-world applications beyond the desert. By recreating a cactus’s prong-like spines and attaching them to a panel that can absorb, collect, and efficiently save water, the team is beginning to explore water security possibilities for a world that is increasingly facing drought, desertification, and disappearing water sources. Stable and durable bridge Anyone who has ever watched a little leaf on a tree take hit after hit from wind or pelting rain (or perhaps a child with a stick) and still persist knows that surprising hidden strength can be found in many of Mother Nature’s designs. Wanda Lewis has been studying that idea for 25 years, looking specifically at how examining the ways that fragile elements in nature respond to external forces and stress can benefit the structure of a modern, man-made bridge . Lewis developed a mathematical model for bridge design that would take into consideration modern stressors such as traffic and extreme weather conditions. Lewis’s “form-finding” would enable the creation of bridges that are safer, more durable, and long-lasting  by using a previously elusive optimal arch. Related: Biomimicry keeps hope alive despite the new regime Light-sensitive robot caterpillar What may look like a tiny piece of wavy plastic (or perhaps a miniaturized piece of bacon) is actually a robot that can carry loads up to 10 times larger than itself . With caterpillars as inspiration, physics researchers in Poland created this 15 millimeter long critter which is crafted from light-sensitive Liquid Crystalline Elastomers. Mimicking the wave-like motions of a moving caterpillar, this soft robot can also go up a slope or squeeze into a small space. Watch this little robot move in a surprisingly meditative video. Artificial leaf Artificial photosynthesis has been around for over a century, but Caltech’s Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis has found a way to mimic the natural process and safely, effectively, and affordably produce and store energy using the sun . The group’s artificial leaf consists of two electrodes (one that generates hydrogen gas, the other that generates oxygen gas), as well as a plastic membrane that keeps the collected gases separate. The Caltech crew is working on scaling up the design, but their innovation shows promise for creating a system that uses only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to produce hydrogen fuels that can be utilized as needed. Avian-inspired train It’s a bird…it’s a train…it’s kind of both: a bullet train  whose design was partially inspired by features of an owl and a kingfisher . Engineer, general manager of the tech development department for Japan’s bullet trains , and avid bird-watcher Eiji Nakatsu wanted to make his trains both faster and quieter . He first employed his observations about the noise-dampening feather parts of an owl to reduce the sound effects of the trains as they whizzed through neighborhoods and tunnels. Later, he observed that the streamlined shape of the kingfisher’s bill could be used in a new train design to further reduce noise (including a persistent sonic boom effect) and decrease necessary fuel amounts, all while reducing travel time.

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6 groundbreaking examples of tech innovations inspired by biomimicry

9 fun things you can do during Earth Hour!

March 25, 2017 by  
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Today at 8:30 pm , WWF’s Earth Hour will begin. Started in 2007 , Earth Hour is a symbolic act to get us thinking about our planet and our impact on it. But more than that, it’s also part of a simple idea to start an environmental resolution — this is not only about one hour in the dark, it’s about creating a brighter future. Even though you’re switching off your lights and electronic appliances for the environment, you don’t have to sit twiddling your thumbs in the dark. There is still a lot you can do without using a watt of electricity. Earth Hour can be as fun as it is good for the planet, and if you’re looking for some entertaining ways to spend it you’re in luck because we’ve rounded up 9 fun activities that are sure to deliver a good time completely off-grid! Candlelight dinner via Shutterstock Have a candle-lit dinner using menus from celebrity chefs Celebrate the hour with your partner, friends or family and have a candlelit dinner with your own tasty dishes based on WWF’s Livewell principles, which has been created for healthy people and a planet with a brilliant future. Get inspired by celebrity chefs who support the Livewell principles . Board Game Pieces and Dices via Shutterstock Invite friends around for a quiz and board games by candlelight WWF’s Earth Hour is all about people coming together to celebrate our world. If you’ve decided to invite friends over, the Earth Hour team has created a fantastic Quiz to download to make the most of the night while the lights remain off. The night sky via Shutterstock Take a wildlife walk or go star-gazing Get closer to nature while doing something for your health and well-being by taking a night walk or going star-gazing. And if you don’t have a telescope, don’t worry. Just darkness, a blanket and hot drinks will be enough for a perfect star-gazing hour. San Antonio Texas River Walk at night via Shutterstock Go for a nightime city walk If you are a “city animal”, why not take a walk around town and see what has switched off in your city? In past years, many landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House, the Tour Eiffel and Big Ben switched off their lights in honor of Earth Hour. This year is sure to find more participants, so be sure to check out what else is happening. Silhouette of biker at sunset via Shutterstock Go for a nighttime bike ride Cycling is not a trend, it’s part of a sustainable lifestyle. Everyday more people decide to leave their car at home and start cycling. And once you’ve started cycling, you can’t stop. So why not go for a ride during the hour? Yoga exercise via Shutterstock Try candle-lit yoga or exercise “Mens sana in corpore sano,” says the famous Latin quotation. WWF’s Earth Hour is a moment for appreciating the brilliant world we all share, and how we need to protect it. Use this time to pursue a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle. Playing the Guitar via Shutterstock Have an unplugged jam session at home Invite your friends over and unplug while you enjoy some in-house music. Children reading via Shutterstock Read a bed time story Light a candle to create a cozy atmosphere, and transform your favorite bedtime story into a fantastic journey of the imagination. Make a green energy resolution WWF has lots of resources to help you be green every day. Check out their resources for making a lifestyle change  and then plan with your family and friends how you will change things up even when it isn’t Earth Hour. + WWF EARTH HOUR 

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9 fun things you can do during Earth Hour!

6 impressive structures built around living trees

February 28, 2017 by  
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Treehouses hold a special magic. They hint at escape, and an opportunity to transcend the busyness of life; connect with nature. An example of man-made structures that harmonize with the environment , treehouses have inspired architects and designers around the world to build homes and offices that do the same. We’ve rounded up six examples of architecture influenced by treehouse design: four homes , one office, and one tearoom. All are designed around living trees , allowing inhabitants to breathe easy surrounded by greenery. Uncle’s House by 3 Atelier The living area of this light-filled home in Vietnam centers around a flourishing tree that is large enough for children to climb. The architects at 3 Atelier built this home for their uncle and his family, using materials reminiscent of the parents’ childhood homes. Not only does Uncle’s House inspire kids to engage with nature, they can even grow vegetables in the dirt around its base. Related: Snøhetta’s luxury cabin with Aurora Borealis views opens at Treehotel Inside Out House by Takeshi Hosaka One tree wouldn’t suffice for the Inside Out House by Takeshi Hosaka in Tokyo, Japan . From the outside, the cubic home is simple and modern. Inside, multiple trees and plants bring the outdoors inside. Sliding glass doors offer flexibility, and natural light permeates the home through skylights , creating a serene sanctuary in which humans and cats coexist. Symbiosis office by Cong Sinh Architects New developments are increasingly crowding out green spaces in the southern part of Hue, Vietnam. So Cong Sinh Architects designed Symbiosis, a peaceful office rooted in the environment in the midst of the bustling city . Expansive windows on both floors of the office overlook a green oasis full of vines and a tree. The shade from the greenery even helps regulate the office temperature. Tree House by A. Masow Design Studio A. Masow Design Studio unveiled astounding plans for the ultimate treehouse: an entire tree wrapped in a glass facade in Kazakhstan . A spiral staircase would allow the owner to move between four levels, circumnavigating the tree as they moved from floor to floor. The glass allows natural light to stream in and provides an unobstructed view of the surrounding woods. House in the Trees by Anonymous Architects This cantilevered Echo Park home takes the treehouse concept to new heights. House in the Trees by Anonymous Architects rests on a hillside overlooking Los Angeles , and was carefully constructed so as not to harm neighboring mature cypress trees, one of which extends through a bedroom in the home. Fire-treated Western red cedar siding, reclaimed chestnut floors, and walnut cabinetry add to the woodsy , natural feel of the cozy California dwelling. Bird’s Nest Atami by Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP A 300-year-old camphor tree in Japan now includes a tiny teahouse nestled among its branches. Bird’s Nest Atami, designed by Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP with the help of Takashi Kobayashi , is part of the country’s largest treehouse. Inspired by how crows utilize coat hangers in nests , Nakamura designed the freestanding teahouse to rest among the 22-meter-tall tree on light structural elements without harming the tree. The earthy interior also includes wood furnishings, inviting tea drinkers to relax in nature . Images via Quang Dam , © Koji Fujii by Nacasa & Partners Inc., Hiroyuki Oki , A. Masow Design Studio , Anonymous Architects , and Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP , by Koji Fujii/Nacasa and Partners Inc.

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6 impressive structures built around living trees

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