IKEA purchases forested land in Georgia for conservation

February 4, 2021 by  
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The Ingka Group has acquired over 10,800 acres of land in southeastern Georgia to protect it from developments. Ingka is an investment group of the Swedish retail firm IKEA , which has several stores in the U.S. The group announced on January 14 that it will be purchasing land close to the Altamaha River Basin in a bid to conserve it. “We truly believe responsible forest management is possible and we see that a large part of our responsibility towards the land we own — and by extension the planet — is to restore forests and plant more than we harvest,” Krister Mattsson, managing director of Ingka Group, said. “In all our properties nature conservation is important. In this particular U.S. investment in Georgia, first it is important that the land cannot be broken up into small units and it remains forever forestland.” Related: IKEA offers open-source design for Bee Homes The land was acquired from a nonprofit conservation group, The Conservation Fund. The forest is home to many species of plants and animals, including the endangered longleaf pine and the gopher tortoise, which need to be protected by keeping the forest intact. Before the arrival of Europeans in the U.S., the forest covered about 90 million acres. However, due to land clearing for development, fire suppression and agriculture, only  4% of the forest remains .  After purchasing the land, Mattsson promised that Ingka Group will continue supporting the local timber industry. The group also plans to open the forest for recreational purposes. “We are honored to work with Ingka Group and applaud its dedication to preserve and enhance forest quality in the U.S. and Europe,” said Larry Selzer, president of The Conservation Fund. “Well-managed forests provide essential benefits, including clean water and important wildlife habitat, as well as mitigating climate change.” Ingka Group has been at the forefront of championing environmental conservation. The group has so far purchased about 613,000 acres of forested land in the U.S., Latvia, Estonia, Romania and Lithuania. Besides the recent purchase, the group also owns land in Oklahoma, South Carolina, Alabama and Texas. Mattsson explained, “For all the forests we own, our commitment is to manage them responsibly, to preserve and increase the quality of the forests over time.” + Ingka Group Via CNN Image via David Mark

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IKEA purchases forested land in Georgia for conservation

The social cost of carbon could help shape stricter climate policies

February 4, 2021 by  
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On President Joe Biden’s first day in office, he ordered a review of an obscure but important number: the social cost of carbon. According to climate economist Gernot Wagner, this is “the single most important number that nobody has ever heard of. It’s one of the most important questions in public policy that will define life on this planet.” Everybody knows that transitioning the entire world to run on sustainable energy will cost a lot of money. But the social cost of carbon is what it will cost for us not to make these important changes. If we keep destroying the planet’s habitability with rising temperatures and seas, extreme weather that decimates crops, and pollution that ruins the air and water, eventually humans will pay much more. Related: Princeton study shows possibility for a carbon-neutral US Former President Barack Obama assembled a working group to figure the social cost of carbon after a 2007 Supreme Court decision allowing the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases. In 2010, the group calculated its initial range of estimates. When Obama left office, the estimated social cost of carbon was $52 per ton in 2020 dollars. But in one of Trump’s many reversals of Obama policies, he axed the working group. His administration came up with its own way to calculate the social cost of carbon involving only the U.S. instead of taking a global view. By the time the Trump administration’s experts had finished massaging the numbers, the social cost of carbon was down to somewhere between $1-7 per ton. This allowed for many of Trump’s regulatory rollbacks to make economic sense. Biden has called for a new working group to set an interim social cost of carbon within 30 days and a final figure by the beginning of next year. Some experts say the number could shoot up as high as $125 per ton. “The social cost of carbon in the United States has already influenced other countries,” said Tamma Carleton, an environmental economist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “ I’m confident that if we put in the time and energy to update that number and bring it closer to the frontier of science and economics, that other countries will do the same.” Via National Geographic Image via Pexels

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Suspended treehouses provide epic views of a fjord in Norway

January 11, 2021 by  
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Just 20 minutes from the town of Odda, through the steep Norwegian hillsides, something magical sits at the edge of the fifth-longest fjord on Earth. Two suspended treehouses are built 5 to 6 meters above the forest floor and fastened with steel collars to the individual trunks of two living pine trees. The treehouses, known collectively as Woodnest, were created by Helen & Hard Architects in response to the topography and conditions of the stunning site for a client who wanted to form a deeper connection with nature. Completed in 2020, each treehouse is connected to the ground via a small timber bridge. Each treehouse measures just 15 square meters and is carefully constructed around the central tree trunk. There are four distinct sleeping areas, a bathroom and an open kitchen and living space as well as breathtaking views across the forest, down to the Hardangerfjord water below and toward the mountains in the distance. Related: Elevated, green-roofed cabin minimizes impact on mountain in Norway According to the architects, the use of timber as a building material is inspired by the Norwegian cultural tradition of using wood in architecture along with the desire to experiment with the material’s potential. Each structure is supported by the tree trunk and a series of glue-laminated timber ribs, while untreated natural timber shingles help create a protective skin around the treehouse. As time progresses, the timber will weather, merging further with the forested surroundings. With sweeping windows that wrap around the entire building and out toward the fjord, the treehouse allows people to slow down and appreciate the true, natural beauty around them without the distractions that come from a contemporary vacation home . In this chic, minimalist treehouse, which is elevated off the just ground enough to feel as though you’ve become one with the forest, we can’t think of a better place to get away from it all. + Helen & Hard Architects Photography by Sindre Ellingsen via Helen & Hard Architects

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Luxury timber home mimics a rocky outcropping for minimal site impact

December 18, 2020 by  
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As part of an ongoing series to promote the eco-friendly use of renewable materials, Montreal-based studio Natalie Dionne Architecture has completed the Forest House I, a low-impact luxury home that celebrates timber inside and out. Set atop an outcrop of the Canadian Shield in the forested Eastern Townships, roughly 100 kilometers southeast of Montreal , the recently completed dwelling was commissioned by a couple who had long dreamed of a home in the heart of nature. In addition to a predominately timber palette, the architects inserted large glazing and outdoor living spaces to achieve a seamless transition between the indoors and out. Though rich in natural beauty, the client’s 3-acre property posed major siting challenges in the beginning due to suboptimal orientation and the presence of many rocky outcrops. Rather than fill in the landscape with concrete, the architects took inspiration from a “particularly impractical” 3-meter-tall rock formation to devise an elevated design solution that would not only minimize site impact to the existing terrain but would also improve the home’s access to views and natural light. Related: This timber-clad cabin appears to hover over an idyllic lake landscape Wrapped in low-maintenance eastern white cedar pretreated to encourage a silvery gray patina , the linear, 215-square-meter home rises out of the landscape like a rocky outcropping that is anchored on one end atop a base where a rock once stood. The other end, which is supported by slim columns, appears to hover over the rocky cleft and culminates in a partially sheltered terrace pointing toward a moss-covered escarpment. Glazed sliding doors allow for an uninterrupted transition between the outdoor living area and indoor kitchen, dining room and living room. The couple’s bedroom suite is tucked away on the southern end of the house. A staircase leads down to the smaller ground floor, where the entrance hall and a bunkroom — capable of accommodating up to 10 guests — are located.  Views of the forest are pulled indoors by floor-to-ceiling glazing, and a variety of timber surfaces reinforce the design’s connection with nature. Solid maple was used for the kitchen islands as well as for the vanities and stairs. The built-in cabinetry is constructed from Russian plywood. The timber palette is harmoniously integrated with polished concrete floors, white gypsum walls and natural aluminum windows. + Natalie Dionne Architecture Photography by Raphaël Thibodeau via Natalie Dionne Architecture

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Luxury timber home mimics a rocky outcropping for minimal site impact

Architects propose a massive forest park to be the Green Lungs of Hanoi

October 30, 2020 by  
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Air pollution has become a major problem in Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, that was ranked the seventh capital city with the highest average annual PM 2.5 concentration by the 2019 World Air Report. In a bid to improve air quality while encouraging healthier lifestyles, local architecture firm ODDO Architects has embarked on an ambitious project to transform the tail end of the city’s Banana Island into a 26-hectare subtropical alluvial forest with recreational activities. Dubbed the Green Lungs of Hanoi, the proposed design is based on a 15-year plan for developing a lush canopy with mature trees measuring 8 to 15 meters tall. Located close to the city center, Banana Island is a 7-kilometer-long island that is largely undeveloped and unoccupied. According to the architects’ site study, the island suffers from inefficient land use, lack of management and illegal land usage that’s tied to poor living conditions for families who live there without access to clean water or electricity. With “Green Lungs of Hanoi,” the architects want to turn the island into a welcoming green space for the public with forest trails, pedestrian bridges and recreational activities that emphasize connections with nature. Related: Fruit trees grow on the roofs of this rammed earth home in Hanoi To realize their vision that they’ve developed over the past 1.5 years, the architects plan to work closely with the local government and community to recruit a team of volunteers of all ages to plant native trees and oversee long-term maintenance. The project also aims to raise awareness of the region’s endangered bird species, which have dwindled in recent years. In addition to providing an attractive green respite for Hanoi citizens, the architects hope to create a biodiverse habitat to increase local fauna populations. “The alluvial soil on the island also poses an issue regarding flooding and landslides due to its softness,” the architects noted of one of the project challenges. “However with semi-aquatic tree species like the one Green Lungs proposes, the land surrounding the river will be reinforced and become much stronger: preventing landslides from occurring. The location of Banana Island is extremely favorable for a green space. With its large area, and central location, it acts as Hanoi’s Lungs — purifying the air quality but also reviving an ecosystem, attracting new biodiversity and becoming a valuable and rich alluvial forest amidst the city.” + ODDO Architects Images via ODDO Architects

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Bring the garden indoors with these eerie Halloween plants

October 30, 2020 by  
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October brings falling leaves, pumpkin spice and that devilish holiday that inspires all of us to turn our cozy abode into a haunted house. In addition to creepy treats, ghostly images and spooky decor, living plants are the perfect Halloween accent to celebrate both the holiday and the planet. Our friends at  Plants.com  conjured up some witchy good examples of indoor plants that will live long after the season has passed, all with no plastic, no waste, and a literal breath of fresh air.  Devil’s Ivy Any good Halloween event includes a touch of evil, making Devil’s Ivy the perfect match for the holiday. This plant earned its King of Hell status for its ability to live through any type of treatment, including lack of light and inconsistent watering . Even in less than ideal growing conditions, Devil’s Ivy stays green year-round, with the leaves forming a zigzag spine that will be the talk of the party. Related: Simple, sustainable DIY Halloween decor Polly (Alocasia) While other plants lurk in the shadows, Polly enjoys copious amounts of light and thrives on high humidity, such as that provided in the bathroom, kitchen or sunroom. During the Halloween season, use Polly as table decor, where the striking white veins running through the shield-shaped leaves create an eerie addition to the  decor . Black Echeveria The color black is ubiquitous during Halloween, making Black Echeveria a welcome addition to your spooky interior design. With nearly black leaves, the plant couples well with pumpkins or gourds for a festive touch. Or place it near a witch’s cauldron and broomstick on the  food  table as an accent for the scene. When the holiday passes, keep your Black Echeveria happy in a brightly lit area and enjoy its low-water needs. Painted Leaf Begonia The Painted-Leaf Begonia offers fabulous fall shades of green, red, silver and purple and makes the ideal accent to your orange and black decorations. Plus, the eye-catching texture sparks conversation long after All-Hallows Eve . Orange Fall Mum Bringing out  nature’s floral display  is easy with the intrinsically Halloween-colored Orange Fall Mum. The best part? These long-lasting blooms may stick around for the next holiday, to which the color theme still applies. Mums are forgiving enough to act as fireplace mantle or front porch decor and ask little in return for their colorful display. These options are just a sample of live decor that can brighten up your holiday . They add a naturally spooky vibe that makes an equally great hostess or guest gift for events now or in the future. For more information, visit www.plants.com. + Plants.com Images via Plants.com and Pexels

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Love trees? Prioritize wildfire restoration and fighting deforestation

October 22, 2020 by  
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Love trees? Prioritize wildfire restoration and fighting deforestation Heather Clancy Thu, 10/22/2020 – 02:00 Back in my former life as a tech journo, my coverage was informed by the infamous ” hype cycle ” phrase coined by research firm Gartner to describe the arc of emerging technology adoption from the spark of innovation to mainstream adoption. Lately, I’ve been mulling that framework a great deal in the context of a much-ballyhooed nature-based solution for removing carbon emissions: planting trees. Heck, even the climate-denier-in-chief loves the idea . Right now, we are clearly in the “peak of inflated expectations” phase of the tree-planting movement, with new declarations hitting my inbox every week. Pretty much any company with a net-zero commitment has placed tree projects at the center of its short-term strategy, often as part of declarations related to the Trillion Trees initiative.   As a verified tree-hugger, I’m encouraged. But, please, it’s time to refine the dialogue: While tree-planting events in parks or schoolyards make for great photo opps, we should devote far more time to acts of restoration and conservation. That’s where we really need corporate support, both in the form of dollars and any expertise on the ground your team can provide.  That’s the spirit of the Wildfire Restoration Collaborative launched this week by the Arbor Day Foundation along with AT&T, Facebook, FedEx, Mary Kay, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble and Target. The first order of business: digging in to support the restoration of 8,000 acres in the burn scars of the 2018 Carr and Camp Fires. Projects in Australia, Canada and other affected U.S. forests are on the future agenda. This translates into roughly 8 million trees. Wildfire restoration is more important than ever, given the intensity of blazes fueled by climate change in the form of hotter, drier weather, according to Arbor Day Foundation President Dan Lambe. It’s critical for rebuilding forest ecosystems and watersheds.  “What we’ve seen lately is tree seed source being destroyed by usually hot and long-burning fires, making it difficult for forests to fully regenerate,” he told me in written remarks. “Meanwhile, shrubs and brush are being left behind to act as fuel for the next megafire. Our local planting partners help determine the species, number and space of trees to promote regeneration while preventing fires of this drastic severity in the future.” P&G actually has partnered with Arbor Day on wildfire restoration since 2019, when it became the lead support for the foundation’s activity in Northern California. So far, the Family Care division of the consumer products giant has planted 50,000 trees there and 25,000 in Saxony, Germany, where forests are being damaged by storms, drought and beetle infestations. A P&G spokeswoman said this is a long-term commitment, because restoration takes years, and the company is prioritizing sites near its operations. (One of P&G’s Charmin and Bounty paper plants is in Oxnard, California.) The replanting for these two fire sites will take place over four years. In written responses to my questions, Tim Carey, vice president of sustainability at PepsiCo Beverages North America, which has provided a $1.5 million grant to support restoration, pointed to water replenishment as a key benefit. “Our investment will not only reforest the burn scars, it will result in 458 million gallons of water being replenished annually — which will be desperately needed as wildfires continue to ravage California,” he wrote. “This grant is just one of our many commitments to reforestation and water replenishment. Our goal is to replenish 100 percent of the water we use in manufacturing operations in high-water-risk areas by 2025 — and ensure that such replenishment takes place in the watershed where the extraction has occurred.” When I asked Arbor Day Foundation’s Lambe how the collaborative will prioritize restoration in the future, he said it will be a combination of factors: the damage done; how difficult it will be for the forest to regenerate on its own without intervention; how restoration might help prevent future fires. Just as important is the role the forest plays in human lives. In the months to come, I’d love to see the trillion-trees get far more sophisticated: lasering in on the vitally important nature of this restoration work, as well as importance of encouraging regenerative forestry practices.  And here’s a challenge: I’d love to see every company that jumps onto the tree-planting hype train double down on their strategy for authentically fighting deforestation. As I reported back in February, big business has a terrible track record on deforestation. Very few companies that embraced a strategy actually have accomplished that goal.  A few weeks back, Mars stepped out as a rare exception, declaring a “deforestation-free” palm oil supply chain. It managed this by cutting hundreds of suppliers, which makes me wonder where those businesses are selling their wares, and by requiring the ones that are left (just 50 by 2022, down from 1,500) to commit to specific environmental practices.  I can guarantee you institutional investors are paying more attention than ever, especially as deforestation maps directly to horrific human rights abuses all over the world — from the Amazon to Indonesia. Banks, on other hand, have fallen way short on scrutinizing deforestation risks, as I reported in February. That needs to change. Rant over, I promise. Want an early view into my weekly rants? Subscribe to the VERGE Weekly newsletter, and follow me on Twitter: @greentechlady . Pull Quote What we’ve seen lately is tree seed source being destroyed by usually hot and long-burning fires, making it difficult for forests to fully regenerate. Topics Carbon Removal Forestry Wildlife Deforestation VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Climate crisis could turn the Amazon rainforest to savanna

October 6, 2020 by  
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A new study published in the journal Nature Communications indicates that the Amazon rainforest could shift from a closed canopy rainforest to an open savanna due to the climate crisis. The study shows that the rate of deforestation coupled with forest fires sparked by climate change could significantly change the status of the rainforest in the future. According to the researchers, rainforests are very sensitive to changes in rainfall. If they experience prolonged droughts and fires like the ones recently witnessed in the Amazon , they may lose more trees and become more like a savanna. Although scientists have always known that this was possible, it was thought that such changes were decades away. The new study, led by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, now indicates that the changes are much closer than initially anticipated. Related: You can help monitor Amazon deforestation from your couch Almost 40% of the Amazon is already receiving less rainfall than usual and is at the point where it could exist as a savanna instead of a rainforest . While the researchers say that the process of fully changing the forest to savanna would take decades, they also say that once the process starts, it is nearly irreversible. “Drier conditions make it harder for the forest to recover and increase the flammability of the ecosystem,” Arie Staal, lead author of the study, told The Guardian . If the Amazon rainforest changes to a savanna, there would be dangerous consequences. Rainforests are important because they support a huge number of species and absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. If the rainforest changes, much of the plant and animal species here could be lost. The problems experienced by rainforests like the Amazon are exacerbated by harmful policies. For instance, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has made promises to develop the Amazon , a move that has been criticized by many. This year, the Amazon has experienced a 60% increase in fire hotspots compared to 2019. The study now warns that if such fires continue, the rainforest could be permanently altered. + Nature Communications Via The Guardian Image via Jose Eduardo Camargo

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Maryland bans single-use foam containers

October 6, 2020 by  
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Last week, Maryland became the first U.S. state to ban single-use foam containers for carryout. Although the legislation banning their use was passed in 2019, it came into effect on Thursday, October 1. Among the items that will be prohibited in the new law include cups, plates, trays and containers. All entities in the state will be affected by the law, including businesses and institutions, such as schools. Originally, the state had set July 1 as the deadline for implementing the new law. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the deadline was pushed to October 1. Even with the delays, many cities and counties within the state had already implemented the ban early. Related: Maryland could become the first state to ban plastic foam containers Democratic Delegate Brooke Lierman was the main sponsor of the House bill that led to the new law. Although she had proposed the bill twice before, it was unsuccessful. But due to the recent climatic events, her colleagues started to shift their positions. According to Lierman, plastics are already hurting our environment, and actions have to be taken now to stop their effects. “Single-use plastics are overrunning our oceans and bays and neighborhoods,” Lierman said. “We need to take dramatic steps to start stemming our use and reliance on them … to leave future generations a planet full of wildlife and green space.” For a long time, polystyrene foam containers have been the go-to solution for businesses. They provide a cheap option for food packaging and are preferred by most business operators. But they are detrimental to the environment. In opposition to the new bill, the American Chemistry Council said that banning the single-use containers would vastly harm the local businesses. “Polystyrene foam packaging and containers provide business owners and consumers with a cost-effective and environmentally preferable choice that is ideal for protecting food and preventing food waste , particularly when used for food service,” the council argued. “Foam packaging is generally more than 90 percent air and has a lighter environmental impact than alternatives.” Although the law does not leave loopholes for continued use of the outlawed products, the Maryland Department of Environment allows schools and other institutions to apply for a grace period of up to one year. This will only be granted in special situations, where the institution may not be able to fulfill the ban in time. + Maryland Expanded Polystyrene Ban Via CNN Image via Jens S.

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Prefab holiday cabins appear to float among misty tea fields in China

October 6, 2020 by  
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Chinese architecture firms Wiki World and Advanced Architecture Lab have designed and built the Mountain & Cloud Cabins, a boutique hotel hidden in the mountains of Yichang in China’s Hubei province. Commissioned by the local cultural and tourism development agency, the nature-focused hospitality project features 18 timber cabins that are prefabricated and strategically sited for reduced site impact and optimized landscape views. The cabins are also engineered for energy efficiency and include a floor heating system and a fresh air exchange system. Completed earlier this year, the Mountain & Cloud Cabins project takes cues from the lead architect Mu Wei’s experiences living in Norway. The mountainous site in Hubei reminded Wei of the Norwegian landscape, so he channeled Scandinavian minimalism for the design of the modern cabins. The project includes hotel rooms, a cafe and a swimming pool. There are five different types of cabins that range from 35 square meters to 65 square meters in size. Each cabin’s main structure can be assembled in one day thanks to the use of prefabricated, cross-laminated timber panels. Related: Sophisticated, sustainable lakeside cabin showcases the best of Nordic minimalism “You can never order nature, besides you become part of it,” explained the architects, who endeavored to blend the buildings into the landscape. “We try to design and build as nature: cabins seem to come from the future, but disappear in the nature. They are the viewfinders of nature and breathe freely in the forest.” While the structure of the buildings are built of timber, the exterior of the cabins vary depending on the location. A bridge-like cabin that spans the tea valley, for instance, takes the form of an elevated, 14-meter-long wooden bridge with a courtyard terrace, while the angular, spacecraft-like LOFT cabins perched higher up on the mountain are clad in mirrored metal plates that reflect the surrounding environment. The unusual shapes of the various cabins lend the project an extra layer of mystique in the foggy tea field landscape. + Wiki World Photography by ?????? via Wiki World

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Prefab holiday cabins appear to float among misty tea fields in China

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