The organic farm teaching sustainable growing techniques in Canada’s cold, dark north

January 15, 2018 by  
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Tucked inside the lush boreal forest in Canada’s Northwest Territories, you’ll find something unexpected. There, cheek to jowl with the ever-encroaching trees sits a thriving farm with snuffling pigs, lush fruit trees, and acres of vegetables, all in an environment that is anything but hospitable to agriculture . But creating a flourishing, regenerative landscape perfect for establishing local food security is exactly what the Northern Farm Training Institute is all about. Their goal is to help people form their own holistic growing environments to support healthy, food-secure communities – even if they happen to be located above the 60th parallel.   The Northern Farm Training Institute (NFTI) was founded in 2013 as a way to train people in isolated communities how to grow their own food and to restore northern environment-based food systems. Since then, the farm has taught 147 people from over 30 communities – half of those from First Nations/Metis/Inuvialuit communities – to create their own farms. NFTI grew as Jackie Milke, a local Hay River Metis woman, recognized the need to alleviate food insecurity in local communities. She quickly realized that there was a large demand for this type of learning, and the 260-acre farm has since hosted 30 intensive workshops in what they call a “living classroom.” The farm consists of outdoor gardens, a hoop greenhouse, and a geodesic dome greenhouse. On the farm live herds of sheep, cattle, pigs, goats, and chickens, with an animal barn, industrial kitchen and farm store. There are also 10 small yurts that act as student housing, and one large yurt for classroom learning. All of this is surrounded by the nearby Hay River, fields, forests and ponds. Related: Utopian off-grid Regen Village produces all of its own food and energy Farming in the NFTI focuses on regenerative, holistically-grown food that improves the health of the land and wildlife. The farm is completely organic and uses tactics like minimal tillage, and supporting biodiversity and soil health to help maintain a healthy environment. The farm grows a variety of berries, cherries, herbs, greens, carrots, beets, beans, potatoes, radishes and cruciferous vegetables. To further support a healthy community, NFTI uses produce that is being thrown out by local grocery stores to feed their pigs. In the fall, they teach wool washing, felting and dying. Pigs are used to help clear land for farming, and sheep help weed and fertilize pasture areas. They also work with animals that are more comfortable in colder climates, like Iceland Sheep and yaks , rather than the Rambouillet sheep and Angus cattle so familiar in the US. During the winter, with just six daylight hours, aurora borealis overhead and a sunset at 3:45 pm, the Northern Farm Training Institute doesn’t sit back and take January off. They grow seedlings inside their greenhouses, using snow to water the plants. The sunlight bouncing off the snow outside creates an ideal lighting effect for the growing plants. And the farm collects and uses discarded shredded paper from local communities to keep the animals warm. They also teach cheesemaking classes and food storage classes. The farm’s goal can be summed up as this: “Together we can transform Canada’s north. Regenerative agriculture provides the key to our food security, economic growth, and environmental restoration.” If you’d like to check the farm out, you can stop on by, either as a visitor, student or volunteer. Head to their webpage for more information. + Northern Farm Training Institute images via NFTI

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The organic farm teaching sustainable growing techniques in Canada’s cold, dark north

How the world’s first floating city could restore the environment

December 27, 2017 by  
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The world got a little closer to the first floating city when the Seasteading Institute signed a memorandum of understanding with the French Polynesian government earlier this year. Not only could floating cities offer a sustainable place to live, but they could also potentially help coral reefs recover and provide a habitat for marine life, according to Joe Quirk, Blue Frontiers co-founder and Seasteading Institute seavangelist. Inhabitat spoke with Quirk and architect Simon Nummy to learn more about the vision for the world’s first floating city. Quirk told Inhabitat, “We think of cities as being a blight on the land and polluting the oceans. Floating cities are so different because they could actually be environmentally restorative.” For example, an increase in ocean temperatures has caused much of coral bleaching . Quirk said the mere presence of a floating city could help combat this issue. He said, “The corals could actually recover if we could just lower the temperature a little. Our engineers at Blue Frontiers have devised a plan to position the platforms to create some shadows to lower the temperatures. So as the sun moves about, you get enough light on the ocean floor to spark photosynthesis, but you lower the heat just enough to have a restorative effect.” Related: World’s first floating city one step closer to reality in French Polynesia Solid floating structures can also increase the amount of sea life by serving as a habitat, according to Quirk. He said platform floors, that would be below water level, could be made of glass, creating an aquarium apartment or aquarium restaurant. There are currently a few visions for what the floating cities might look like from different designers, as seen in the images. Nummy, who won the Seasteading Institute’s Architectural Design Contest, told Inhabitat, “The intent is for an architecture derived from nautical technology and sensibility, combined with a deep respect and willingness to learn from the culture and knowledge of the original seasteaders, the Polynesians.” The goal is for the floating city, which will be placed around one kilometer, or a little over half a mile, from shore inside a protected lagoon, to be 100 percent renewable and 100 percent self-sufficient. Floating solar panels could help power the city, and Quirk said as water cools panels, they could generate 20 percent more energy than their landlocked cousins. 20 percent of the floating city could be comprised of solar panels. Another goal is to not discharge any water into the lagoon – waste water is to be treated and recycled. Food could be cultivated in sea farming systems. “Each building strives for energy independence and the architecture results from this; energy efficiency and passive strategies are vital,” Nummy told Inhabitat. “Polynesian architecture is primarily about the roof and we have tried to interpret this in a contemporary, sensitive way that both reflects local precedents while harvesting rainwater and discretely maximizing the opportunities for photovoltaics and vertical axis wind turbines .” The floating city could be designed to look like a natural island, featuring green roofs and buildings constructed with locally-sourced materials – potentially bamboo, coconut fiber, or local wood like teak. Nummy told Inhabitat, “The buildings are designed to connect to nature and embrace the magnificent Tahitian views. Walls are to be louvred or openable whenever possible.” 2020 is the goal for construction of the floating village, which would include around 15 islands 82 by 82 feet. Quirk said the first floating city could be kind of like the first iPhone – rather bulky and expensive – but they aim to drive down the price with later iterations. Two to three years after 2020, they hope to double the amount of platforms – from around 15 to around 30 – and then triple the amount two to three years after that. Quirk said, “Island nations and coastal nations are already suffering from sea level rise , and this is a realistic way for them to adapt.” + Seasteading Institute + Blue Frontiers + Blue21 Images courtesy of Blue Frontiers, Blue21, and Simon Nummy

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How the world’s first floating city could restore the environment

How to make your own green terrarium to keep or give away for the holidays

December 14, 2017 by  
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If you have a green thumb but minimal garden space, why not create your own mini-world full of lush and beautiful plants by making your own terrarium? If you’re in the southern hemisphere instead, remember that having green plants around is a surefire way to keep away the winter blues, plus plants are certain to help improve your indoor air quality . Terrariums are easy-to-make, low-maintenance gardens, and can last almost indefinitely with minimal water. Don’t believe us? We assembled seven terrariums of various shapes and sizes in a single weekend, and they’re all adorable. Read on for our easy terrarium DIY to learn how to make your own to keep or give away for the holidays. MATERIALS: A clear glass jar, vase, bowl, glass, or whatever interesting glass container you have on hand Rocks, pebbles or recycled glass chunks Activated charcoal (sometimes called activated carbon) Potting soil appropriate for your plants Moss (optional) Figurines, sticks or decorative items (optional) Various small plants A scoop, spoon or shovel Scissors Gloves Source your containers from a thrift store or an antique store, or just scrounge around your house for an old jar. Even simple jelly jars or canning jars can make beautiful terrariums. They can be left open or closed—it’s totally up to you. All other supplies can be bought at your local gardening center. As for the plants, the sky is the limit, but generally speaking look for small plants that you can fit inside your jar and won’t grow too tall. Some plants will have multiple stems so you can break them up even further. To ensure that your terrarium will be successful, keep succulents and cacti together, and keep fern and tropical plants together, because they require different amounts of water and soil. You’ll want cactus soil for the succulents and regular old potting soil for everything else. The rocks are used as a false drainage layer while the activated charcoal helps keep the terrarium healthy, and the moss can be used for decoration and to help soak up and retain water. STEP 1: Prepare the Container Remove any price tags or stickers from your vessel and wash both the interior and exterior thoroughly to ensure that there are no unwanted residues that could affect the health of your plants. Envision how you want to arrange your plants inside the jar. STEP 2: Add Your Drainage Layers Once the container is ready, fill the bottom with rocks or pebbles. This is to create a false drainage layer so water can settle and not flood the plant. The depth of the rocks totally depends on the size of your container, but aim for 1/2″ to 2″. STEP 3: Add the Activated Charcoal The charcoal looks exactly like what you would expect it to and it’s messy. Sometimes it comes as small granules and other times it comes as shards—either works. You don’t need much, just enough to cover the rocks. The charcoal will improve the quality of your little world including reducing bacteria, fungi and odors. Related: How to Make a Recycled Glass Terrarium STEP 4: Add Soil Again, cactus and succulents need a special soil compared to most other plants, so be sure to get the appropriate bag depending on which plants you’re using. Add enough soil so the plant roots will have plenty of room to fit and then grow. Aim for a depth slightly greater than the height of the plant’s pot. STEP 5: Plant Take your plant out of the pot and break up the hard soil ball until you get down to the roots. If you’re breaking the plant into multiple parts, be gentle. You may also want to trim the roots if they are especially long; don’t worry, they’ll grow back. Using a spoon, your fingers, the end of a brush, or even a pencil, dig a well to place your plants roots in. Add more soil around the top and compact the soil down around the base of the plant. Continue placing your little plants in the container and try to keep them away from the edges. The leaves are likely to touch the sides but aim to keep them away as much as possible. STEP 6: Add Accessories After you’re done planting you can add little accessories like a blanket of moss (dried or living), little figurines, old toys, glass beads, shiny metal object, sticks, stones, or even a layer or rocks. This is your little world and you can put whatever you’d like in there. Related: 7 Eco-Friendly Summer Crafts for Creative Adults (and Kids!) STEP 7: Clean and Water You’ll likely have dirt all over the sides of the container, so wipe them down so you can enjoy the beautiful living world inside. Give the terrarium a little bit of water. Unlike most of your house plants, a terrarium doesn’t need to soaked: just a couple of shots of water should get it started. Tips & Tricks – Over time, monitor your terrarium’s water needs based on how dry the soil is. For terrariums with closed lids, if water is dripping down from the top, open the lid to let some evaporate. Likewise, you may need to add more if it looks parched. You shouldn’t need to water them very often. – If leaves die or wilt, remove them from the terrarium immediately to maintain the health of the little eco system. If an entire plant dies, take it out. – Don’t place in direct sunlight. Remember that these are essentially little greenhouses and direct sunlight through the glass will trap heat and scorch the plants. Place in indirect light for best results. – Afterwards, enjoy your little world or give it away and make another! Lead image via Pixabay . All other images ©Bridgette Meinhold

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How to make your own green terrarium to keep or give away for the holidays

11 charitable green gifts that give back

December 12, 2017 by  
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Turn your holiday shopping into an act of kindness this year with our picks for festive and charitable gifts that give back. The National Wildlife Federation dedicates proceeds from its holiday birdseed wreaths to protect American wild animals, and you can  adopt an African elephant for just $25 from the World Wildlife Fund. Check out our favorite gifts that give back here ! GIFTS THAT GIVE BACK >

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18 fun and educational gifts for tots

December 8, 2017 by  
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This holiday season, delight the tots in your life with playful  eco-gifts  that educate and inspire creativity. From this Waldorf and Montessori-inspired game  to this ingenious easy weaver , all of the gifts in our gift guide for tots will be sure to bring joy to little ones, while encouraging cognitive and imaginative play. Check out all  18 awesome green gifts for little kids here . GIFTS FOR LITTLE KIDS >

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18 fun and educational gifts for tots

"It has totally changed how people feel:" new forest transforms former UK coal community

December 8, 2017 by  
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One UK organization is transforming an industrial landscape into a green, thriving woodland. The National Forest Company planted the first tree around 25 years ago, and today they’ve planted eight million trees in 200 square miles in the Midlands, creating the country’s first new forest in 1,000 years. Former coal miner Graham Knight told The Guardian , “It is quite difficult to put into words what’s happened here and the impact it has had on people. Perhaps the best way to think about it is that people seem…well, more happy somehow.” Many of the coal mines in the area were shuttered in the 1980’s. The local community took a hit – and then the trees started growing. Knight told The Guardian, “Twenty-five years ago all this was an opencast mine. Mud and dirt with hardly a tree to be seen. Now just look, people want to live here, they are proud to be from here – it has totally changed how people feel.” Related: Former coal miners receive training for renewable energy jobs The forest has revitalized the community. National Forest Company CEO John Everitt told The Guardian the project has had several side benefits, from creating jobs to improving health to offering a habitat for wildlife to sparking tourism. 7.8 million visitors venture there every single year, and the forest has led to around 5,000 new jobs with hundreds more forthcoming. There are hundreds of miles of trails for people to hike or bicycle, craft beer and food businesses in the area are thriving, and there’s a growing timber industry. One of Everitt’s goals is to have an outdoor woodland classroom and forest school teacher in every primary school. He told The Guardian, “Children who were maybe nervous of the outdoors are benefiting from being able to walk or cycle or simply play in the woods.” You can support the organization by joining in on one of their tree planting events or donating here . Head on over to The Guardian’s article for astonishing before and after pictures as well. + The National Forest Company Via The Guardian Images via The National Forest on Twitter ( 1 , 2 )

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"It has totally changed how people feel:" new forest transforms former UK coal community

Creative DIY gifts you can make yourself

December 7, 2017 by  
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Making your own DIY gifts this holiday season is a smart way to ensure that your present will be one-of-a-kind, and it doesn’t hurt that it’ll probably save you some cash too. We’ve rounded up a list of cool and creative homemade presents for the holiday season from tricked out terrariums to make-it-yourself lip balm to custom cat pillows . Check out our DIY Gift Guide to see them all! + DIY GIFT IDEAS

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Creative DIY gifts you can make yourself

Switzerland’s NeighborHub wins first place in the Solar Decathalon 2017

October 14, 2017 by  
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This past week, eleven teams of students designed, built and presented futuristic houses at the Solar Decathalon 2017 . The competition took place in Denver , and though the challenge was simple it was by no means easy: create a super-efficient sun-powered building that seamlessly integrates green building technologies into its design. The winners of the highly-anticipated event were just announced this morning – and Team Switzerland’s NeighborHub took first place! For the first time in history, the winners of the Solar Decathalon won prize money. First place received $300,000; second place won $225,000; third place took home $150,000; fourth place won $125,000 and fifth through eleventh places each received $100,000. 1st Place: NeighborHub by the Swiss Team First place in the Solar Decathalon 2017 was awarded to the Swiss Team ‘s NeighborHub. The NeighborHub isn’t a home at all – rather, it is a collaborative community space. The team designed the eco-friendly space to serve as an educational resource, specifically for suburban neighborhoods. At the NeighborHub, residents can learn about seven sustainable themes: renewable energy, water management, waste management, mobility, food, material choices, and biodiversity. 2nd Place: reACT by University of Maryland The University of Maryland’s reACT House (Resilient Adaptive Climate Technology) took second place. It’s a smart, sustainable home that can adapt to different needs and environments . Not only is the self-sufficient home beautiful, it produces clean energy, clean water, and nutrient-rich foods — all the while automatically adapting to homeowners’ habits. 3rd Place: RISE by University of California, Berkeley, and University of Denver Students from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Denver collaborated to develop RISE . The affordable and sustainable abode is designed for urban infill lots in Richmond CA, and it can be stacked and expanded like building blocks. The prefab solar is home is incredibly flexible, with a scalable size, customizable floor plans, and moveable walls. 4th Place: SILO by Missouri University of Science and Technology Finally, fourth place was awarded to the Missouri University of Science and Technology for their SILO House (Smart Innovative Living Oasis) . The light-filled home combines high-tech, energy-efficient technology with traditional farmhouse vernacular. Best of all, this futuristic house lets you control all systems remotely via a smartphone. Related: 11 Solar-powered homes that show the future of architecture Each team presented an incredible futuristic home that incorporates solar and energy-efficiency technologies. Congrats to all of this year’s teams, and we can’t wait for the return of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathalon in 2019. + Solar Decathalon 2017 + Solar Decathlon Coverage on Inhabitat Photos by Mike Chino for Inhabitat

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Switzerland’s NeighborHub wins first place in the Solar Decathalon 2017

Airstream unveils new off-grid ready Globetrotter trailer

October 12, 2017 by  
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One of our favorite travel trailer companies, Airstream , just debuted a new product: the Globetrotter. Almost 70 years ago the company’s founder Wally Byam set out on a European trip in an Airstream , and adorned the side with the words ‘Globe Trotters.’ Now, Airstream is bringing back the storied name with their new trailer, designed with United Kingdom-based design firm Astheimer Limited . Hit the jump to hear more from Airstream CEO Bob Wheeler, who spoke to Inhabitat about the inspiration for the design -forward Globetrotter. Airstream’s Globetrotter puts a sleek spin on the iconic aluminum travel trailer, with a European-inspired interior aimed at people who “like comfort but don’t like clutter,” according to Wheeler, who told Inhabitat, “This product is designed specifically for people that have a sophisticated taste in design; they like clean, uncluttered modern design , but without the hard edge.” Related: Iconic Airstream gets a magnificent revamp to celebrate the National Park Service Centennial The Globetrotter is a 27-foot long trailer that can sleep as many as six people comfortably. A small kitchen features a three-burner stove, pantry, and 6.7 cubic foot fridge. There’s a bathroom with built-in nightstands, a shower, bathroom, and dinette space that doubles as a lounge bed. There are two choices for interior decor: natural elm and dark walnut. “A very holistic approach really sets this design apart,” Wheeler told Inhabitat. “Every fixture, every handle, every light and the flooring, the design of the furniture: everything in there works together in a very high degree of harmony. There are more curves in this design, whether it’s the corner of the cabinets, or the design of the bed or the seating that wraps around you, even the edges of the cushions. There are no sharp edges, no sharp corners. It draws you in and looks like something you would want to spend some time in.” The trailer can also go off-grid with an optional solar package that includes two 80-watt solar panels , two batteries , and an inverter. “We try to set everything up so you can spend several days comfortably off-grid, and get away from the crowds and the campsites,” said Wheeler. Solar power isn’t the last of the Globetrotter’s sustainable features. It’s equipped with low flow water fixtures, and LED lighting – both inside and out. Airstream utilized low volatile organic compound materials, and Wheeler estimates around 90 percent of the materials in the trailer are recyclable . “We want to inspire people to travel ,” he told Inhabitat. “That’s really the magic of the Airstream brand: it inspires people to get out of their La-Z-Boys, and get out of their comfort zones and go have an adventure.” The 27-foot Globetrotter costs $99,900. Wheeler said the initial reaction to the trailer has been “one of the most positive responses we can remember to the launch of a new product.” He said in the future, Airstream aims to create a whole line of products with different lengths and layouts with the same interior design aesthetic. + Airstream + Astheimer Limited Images courtesy of Airstream

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Airstream unveils new off-grid ready Globetrotter trailer

This new energy concept from Sweden can make any building net zero

October 11, 2017 by  
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A new Swedish energy concept can turn any building into a net zero energy structure. Pioneered by Malmö-based company Innenco , the concept utilizes a building’s thermal mass to drastically reduce energy use by around 85 percent. With their active elements systems, heat pumps, chillers, and adding solar panels , Innenco can bring new or existing buildings to net zero energy consumption. Inhabitat spoke with CEO and founder Jonathan Karlsson to find out more. Innenco, which stands for innovative energy concept, dramatically slashes a building’s energy use. Karlsson told Inhabitat, “Our vision is to create possibilities to make new net zero constructions in an efficient way, giving everyone the capability to do so.” Their technology changes how a building operates for vastly improved energy efficiency . Related: California city could become the first Zero Net Energy city in the U.S. It starts with their active elements system: pipes are integrated into the frame construction to utilize a building’s thermal mass. Adding heat pumps and chillers to the system allows Innenco to get four to six times greater efficiency in heating and cooling . At this point they’re able to reduce energy use by 85 percent, so to cover that last 15 percent, they install Innenco Quantum Solar panels. “This makes an investment in solar cells much lower than a traditional system, and we can get net zero for a really cost-efficient investment,” Karlsson told Inhabitat. Buildings with the Innenco system installed tend to maintain a temperature of around 22 degrees Celsius, or around 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Innenco has already seen their concept work in the real world. They’ve installed their system in homes, offices, schools, and industry premises. Karlsson said they were excited to discover they could utilize a really high rate of thermal mass in industry buildings, and think their concept could translate well to skyscrapers . They’ve worked in Sweden, the Czech Republic, Spain, and the Netherlands, with projects coming up in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. They provide maintenance, and their energy concept can be installed as new buildings are built or integrated in old ones. Karlsson said sustainability projects should deliver social, environmental, and economical benefits, all three of which Innenco aims to offer with their concept. “Reducing carbon dioxide emissions is a really high goal for us,” Karlsson told Inhabitat. “It’s the climate condition; it’s really necessary to figure out how we can help the planet.” Innenco hopes to introduce their energy concept to other markets too, such as the United States. You can find out more on their website . + Innenco Images courtesy of Innenco

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This new energy concept from Sweden can make any building net zero

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