Animal rights groups work to "Open Cages" of animals on fur farms

December 24, 2019 by  
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The fashion industry has recently experienced a rise in fur bans , thanks to successful pressure by animal rights advocacy groups and heightened consumer awareness. But these fur-free policies also need to extend beyond the haute couture sector to change the agriculture industry as well. This is where the work of organizations like Tušti Narvai and Open Cages come into play. In 2014, Tušti Narvai, which translates from Lithuanian as Empty Cages, was founded in Vilnius. Its English branch, Open Cages, was then established in the U.K. four years later. As their names symbolize, both sister nonprofit organizations strive to “change the world for animals” by strengthening the protection of farmed animals , improving animal welfare and preventing their suffering. In fact, one of the key projects by Tušti Narvai and Open Cages is to end fur farms. The groups do so by mobilizing the public through education and legal change. Related: Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s to be fur-free by 2021 But who are Tušti Narvai and Open Cages? These organizations are members of Anima International (AI) , a coalition of European animal protection advocacy groups that “envisions a world where animals are not treated as products.” Both sister organizations have been conducting several campaigns to better the situation of farm animals by minimizing animal cruelty and demanding compelling change. These campaigns include the improvement of chicken welfare, the elimination of cages in industrial farming, the ban on foie gras and fur bans. Learn more about these campaigns here . The fur ban has been gaining traction within the fashion industry , in many ways due to the ongoing and very visible anti-fur movement by various animal rights groups. Tušti Narvai and Open Cages have jointly added to that momentum. In Great Britain alone, Open Cages has implemented the #FurFreeBritain campaign, together with the Humane Society International (U.K.). It is projected that the ban on fur will adversely alter the supply chain, therefore reducing incidences of unnecessary animal torture and mortality that stem from cramped living spaces, malnourishment, neglect and even brutality. For instance, Open Cages shared an exposé on a fox that was recently saved from a fur farm. “Now he lives happily in a sanctuary and is an ambassador of this cruel industry,” says the Open Cages website. Scientific American and the International Fur Trade Federation (IFTF) have stated that the majority of the fur industry’s pelts are now sourced from farm-raised animals, specifically mink, fox, chinchilla, lynx, muskrat and coyotes. Moreover, most of the remaining fur farms in the world can be found in Europe. These facts are what motivate the work of Tušti Narvai and Open Cages. From now until December 31, for every 10 euros in donations to the fur ban initiative, an anonymous sponsor will match them by $100. The campaign efforts are all to help in the fight against fur farms. In the words of Tušti Narvai, “Together, we can change the fate of animals kept on farms.” + Tušti Narvai + Open Cages Image via Clem Onojeghuo

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Animal rights groups work to "Open Cages" of animals on fur farms

How zip lining impacts tree health, according to experts

December 24, 2019 by  
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Outdoorsy people have long enjoyed hiking on remote trails or rafting on rivers. But aerial views have been harder to come by, until the recent popularization of zip lines. Although varieties of zip lines have existed for hundreds of years, they have become widespread in recent years. It’s a popular outdoor activity, but how does it impact trees? Zip lines originated 2,000 years ago in mountainous areas of China , India and Japan, where people first used them to transport supplies from one place to another and to traverse dangerous areas. Later, European mountaineers navigated between high points with zip lines. In the 1970s, wildlife biologists built zip lines in the Costa Rican rainforests to cause minimal environmental disturbance during their studies. These Costa Rican ziplines soon caught the attention of tourists, and entrepreneurs latched onto the idea, opening recreational zip lines in Costa Rica and then other parts of the world. Related: Inside the Mohicans — an Ohio treehouse empire The United States’ first recreational zipline, the Haleakala Skyline Tour in Maui , launched in 2002. Fewer than 20 years later, commercial zip lines operate in at least 72 countries on six continents, with more than 400 zip courses in the U.S. alone. Obviously, zip lining is popular with people. But what effect does it have on trees and forests? Inhabitat spoke with four zip-line experts to get their views on the subject. Designing a zip course When planning a zip course, designers look at topography, using hills, valleys and water features to their advantage. “People like to zip line because it makes them feel like they’re flying,” said Jon Johnson, owner and builder of Zipline Utah in Deer Creek State Park. “So, if you think about a bird flying through the air, you don’t want to fly over a parking lot. That’s no fun. You want to find some piece of ground that has unique features and aspects to it.” In Ohio, Larry Gerstner, co-owner of Hocking Hills Canopy Tours , had some advantages when he designed their second zip course. “I’m a civil engineer by trade,” he said. “When we had our first course built, it was built by Bonsai, which is maybe the leading [zip course] builder in the country. I worked with them when they built it and picked up a lot of information to go with my engineering background.” Since Gerstner already owned the property, he was familiar with its features when he designed the second course. “It’s more taking the terrain and the trees and using them to the best advantage. You need to start out high and end up low. We don’t have enough fall to do the whole thing. So all of our courses have a walk in the middle where you gain some elevation, so that you double-use the elevation.” Gerstner took advantage of the unusual Hocking Hills topography to end one zip line inside a shallow cave and cross a river several times. Attaching cables to trees The biggest danger to trees comes from attaching cables and bolts to them in order to hold up platforms. According to a report by the engineering firm Robson Forensic , “Drilling any hole into a tree creates a wound that makes the tree more susceptible to infection and decay.” So trees need to be chosen carefully. They should be healthy , sizable and of a species that can compartmentalize damage and limit the spread of decay around a wound. “We need to protect them as much as we can, and we do love our trees,” Gerstner said. Hocking Hills Canopy Tours hired an arborist to evaluate its trees and pick the best candidates for platforms. Gerstner explained that when attaching platforms to trees, they stack bolts on top of each other so that the cambrium, or growth tissue of the tree, is only disturbed in one spot. “You’re only taking a little bit of the tree that you’re using out of commission for a brief period. It does grow back around that.” Other attachments to the tree use oak blocks to minimize damage. “We cut oak blocks and put them around the tree, and put our cable through the oak blocks so that it never touches the tree and the tree can grow.” Putting a cable all the way around a tree would kill it. “We also ‘guy’ the trees, so that where we have the force of a zip line on the tree, we’ll have a guy that goes the opposite direction that holds that force, so there’s nothing really pulling on the tree,” Gerstner said. “The tree has to be able to move back and forth some, but we limit that moving back and forth to keep it strong.” Ongoing tree health Once a course is in use, staff and arborists frequently inspect trees to ensure health. Adventures on the Gorge in West Virginia operates Tree Tops Canopy Tours, a 10-zip course with five sky bridges that wind through an ancient hemlock forest. According to Roger Wilson, CEO, its Bonsai-constructed course uses the block-and-cable system. “As trees grow, the blocks and cables can be readjusted with minimal impact on these ancient trees.” In Trinidad, ZIP-ITT Adventure Tours operates a course including an 800-foot line with a stunning view of Macqueripe Bay. “We would like to think that we have enhanced many of the trees in our area as we continue to look after them, including regular spraying for termites,” said Matthew Devaux, ZIP-ITT’s director. Gerstner watches his Ohio forest closely for sick or dead trees. “So it’s not quite a natural thing. We take better care of it. It’s a managed forest.” In Utah, the way local wildlife interacts with zip lines has surprised Johnson. Unlike canopy courses that are built in trees, Johnson’s platforms are all on constructed towers. “We get a lot of hawks and a lot of bald eagles,” Johnson said. “We’ll see them swoop down and catch a fish in the lake. We’ll find half-eaten fish on our towers. They use our towers as perches.” Getting in touch with forests Zip lines are more than just an adventure. They can be a powerful way for people to connect with forests. “We would like to think we have brought an awareness to the green environment and that feeling of being one with nature as you zip around our course,” Devaux said. “Moving into Macqueripe 6.5 years ago, we brought such an awareness to our staff, who now understand the effects of littering and the impact it has on the environment. They are now like ambassadors for the area, which is a great achievement for ZIP-ITT. The team has embraced keeping the forest clean and educating those who come about the area and the flora and fauna we enjoy because of it.” Many zip guides make sure to slip some education into the adventures. Gerstner said that most of the Hocking Hills guides are ecology majors who talk about tree characteristics during the tour. “We get a lot of people from the city, and they’ve never been in the forest,” Gerstner said. “They get a bird’s eye view of being up in the trees. Most people never get that in their life.” Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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How zip lining impacts tree health, according to experts

This container home in Brazil helps its residents disconnect

December 24, 2019 by  
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The 2,766-square-foot Hanging House was designed by the architects of Casa Container Marília in the rural area of ??Campos Novos Paulista, Brazil. About 80 percent of the materials used in construction were recycled , including the primary maritime shipping containers that make up a majority of the structure. The home also lacks two major modern amenities — televisions and Wi-Fi — to encourage a digital detox. The Hanging House sits elevated from the ground, so the windows are level with the native trees abundant throughout the property. This also lessened the impact on the landscape. The wooden deck balconies blend in with the branches of the trees as well, making it feel much like a treehouse. It earns its name from the numerous hammocks that hang from the ground level, one of many places where the homeowners can kick back and relax. There is a modular green roof attached to the container home as well as a rainwater storage system that reduces the need for excess irrigation around the property. The interior doors on the first floor were made with reused plates of the containers. Following the completion of the project, 70 percent of the debris left over — mostly made up of wood and steel scraps — was also reused. No outside soil was brought to the site, and a minimal amount of concrete was used in the foundations to preserve and protect the soil drainage and root patterns. Related: This prefab weekend retreat made from shipping containers can be ordered online All of the walls are insulated with a thermoacoustic blanket, and the interior has a cross-ventilation system with wide openings to encourage airflow. Nestling the house under the trees also provided the building with plenty of shade. Thanks to this air exchange and thermal arrangement, the house has no need for an air conditioning system, even on the hottest days of the year. The container home has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a beautiful kitchen that opens up to the living spaces. The interiors are dressed in timber, creating a cozy and welcoming atmosphere. In an effort to allow residents to disconnect from the outside world and better connect with the surrounding nature, there are no televisions or Wi-Fi available on the property. + Casa Container Marília Images via Casa Container Marília

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This container home in Brazil helps its residents disconnect

Macys and Bloomingdales to be fur-free by 2021

October 24, 2019 by  
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In partnership with the Humane Society of the United States, both Macy’s and its subsidiary, Bloomingdale’s, will cease sales of authentic fur. The fur ban aligns with the Fur Free Alliance’s guidelines against exotic skins (mink, fox, raccoon, rabbit, chinchilla) and will be fully enacted by the close of fiscal 2020, shifting the tide toward more environmental, socially responsible consumerism. Fur-free policies have been adopted across several luxury fashion brands and major retailers in recent years, thanks to the spread of both legislation and public education on the realities of animal cruelty. Related: LA City Council unanimously agrees to ban the sale of fur Interestingly, public pressure is also driving faux fur manufacturing away from synthetic fibers as well. That’s because polyester, nylon and other petroleum-based textile fibers are exacerbating the microplastic pollution crisis. In lieu of these textiles, eco-conscious alternatives like vegan leather and organic cotton are emerging and appealing to ethical shoppers. “Over the past two years, we have been closely following consumer and brand trends, listening to our customers and researching alternatives to fur . We’ve listened to our colleagues, including direct feedback from our Go Green Employee Resource Group, and we have met regularly on this topic with the Humane Society of the United States and other NGOs. Macy’s private brands are already fur-free, so expanding this practice across all Macy’s, Inc. is the natural next step,” explained Jeff Gennette, chairman and chief executive officer of Macy’s. “We are proud to partner with the Humane Society of the United States in our commitment to ending the sale of fur. We remain committed to providing great fashion and value to our customers, and we will continue to offer high-quality and fashionable faux fur alternatives.” Macy’s is not the first U.S. department store to enact a fur ban, for JCPenney and Sears did so already. But the impact of Macy’s business move will be far-reaching, becausee it operates 680 stores across 43 states. While Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s will no longer sell fur across their brands and off-price stores — even closing off a fleet of fur vaults and salons where storage and alterations of furs were offered — the ban does not mean Macy’s and its subsidiaries will stop selling all animal-based goods. Rather, they will still continue to retail calf hair, cowhide and sheepskin merchandise to shoppers. + Macy’s Image via Macy’s

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Macys and Bloomingdales to be fur-free by 2021

Vegan Fashion Week is coming to Los Angeles

January 25, 2019 by  
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Just a few days before Fashion Week begins in New York, the world’s first Vegan Fashion Week will debut in Los Angeles. Starting on February 1 with a party at the LA Natural History Museum, Vegan Fashion Week will be a four-day event that will feature fashion shows, exhibitions, a talk from Nobel Prize-winning climate scientist Robert Lempert and discussion panels about topics like animal rights , social justice and technology. French stylist Emmanuelle Rienda is curating the event, and the theme will be “facing our time.” The idea is to explore the challenges of climate change through art, nature and science. Related: British Fashion Council commits to a fur-free London Fashion Week “Vegan Fashion Week will be a tribute to the animals and an ode to the end of animal exploitation in all forms,” Rienda told Dezeen . “I want to ignite conversations and debates within the industry by educating, elevating and drawing connections between our most important values: our respect for human life, animal rights and the environment.” Animal activist group PETA and the non-profit group Fashion Revolution are supporting the event, which hopes to bring vegan avant-garde fashion to Los Angeles . Organizers also aim to empower vegan designers and show that “cruelty-free is the new luxury.” In addition to the fashion show and discussion panels, there will also be a two-day fair at the California Market Center, where visitors can purchase vegan beauty products and designer pieces. Related: LA City Council unanimously agrees to ban the sale of fur Rienda admitted that the vegan label can come across as aggressive and judgmental, especially in the world of fashion. She is hoping that the vibe for the event will be “very inclusive and open.” Vegan designers and non-vegan brands looking to change their environmental impact will all be part of Vegan Fashion Week. Rienda said that it’s not about being vegan, it’s about what designers are doing to improve their labels and evolve. She added that being vegan isn’t just about the animals. Instead, it is about being good to humans and all other beings on the planet. Vegan Fashion Week will take place in locations throughout the Los Angeles area from February 1 to February 4. + Vegan Fashion Week Via Dezeen Image via Shutterstock

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Vegan Fashion Week is coming to Los Angeles

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