Make Your Own Natural Bee Repellent

June 20, 2017 by  
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Note: This post contains affiliate links, which helps fund our Recycling Directory, the most comprehensive in North America. Now that the season of picnics and barbecues is officially here, your thoughts may also go to typical summer pests. The…

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Make Your Own Natural Bee Repellent

World’s Smallest Garden lets you recycle old bottles into adorable hydroponic gardens

June 7, 2017 by  
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You can always recycle an old wine bottle , but what if you could transform it into a tiny garden instead? Urban Leaf empowers people to grow food at home through the World’s Smallest Garden, and upcycle used bottles into planters. It takes minutes to put together one of the mini gardens, which can grow greens and herbs year-round – and you can snag one on the cheap right now on Kickstarter . The World’s Smallest Garden is comprised of a 3D-printed cylindrical device, or plug, that fits right into the neck of an old bottle. The plastic used in the product is biodegradable . Users fill the bottle with water, insert the device filled with soil and seeds, and sit back and let the plants grow. Plants can draw on that initial water source for a month, and then users can add water as needed. Related: Build your own indoor garden with modular LEGO-like blocks Dill, lettuce, bok choy, and basil are just a few of the plants that can be grown with the World’s Smallest Garden. Users will be able to start harvesting the plants after around four to six weeks. The team designed the garden with the idea that plants would grow just in the bottle, although co-founder Robert Elliott told Inhabitat it should work to move a plant into a planter since hydroponically grown plants typically transplant well. They’ve been able to grow herbs like mint and parsley for five months in bottles, and even grew dwarf tomatoes to fruit in a World’s Smallest Garden. Elliott and Nathan Littlewood started Urban Leaf to work towards a better food system. On their website they say they believe growing food in urban areas solves many of the issues with the modern food industry , allowing for less waste, less packaging, and shorter supply chains. But many people living in cities don’t have a lot of space to grow gardens, an obstacle Urban Leaf overcomes with the World’s Smallest Garden. Elliott told Inhabitat, “The design process for the World’s Smallest Garden was an effort to create the most minimal product that still effectively grew plants. We started with a ‘bells and whistles’ prototype and removed lights, pumps, multiple substrates, nutrient packets, and even the reservoir. Brown or green glass bottles are a natural fit for a reservoir (they block harmful red/blue light while allowing you to see in) and most people just throw them away! By selling just the essential component to turn existing waste into a hydroponic reservoir we save customers money and reduce our manufacturing and shipping environmental impact.” Urban Leaf is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter . You can get a single pack that comes with three plugs and seeds for $15. Check out the Kickstarter here . + Urban Leaf Images courtesy of Urban Leaf

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World’s Smallest Garden lets you recycle old bottles into adorable hydroponic gardens

‘Instantly rechargeable’ battery spells bad news for gas-guzzling cars

June 7, 2017 by  
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Charging an electric car remains an obstacle for some people, especially in areas lacking charging infrastructure. But new battery technology developed by researchers at Purdue University could change that completely. They’ve designed an instantly rechargeable battery that could allow electric vehicles to be charged in roughly the same amount of time it takes to fill up a car with gasoline today. The researchers designed a flow battery system, which in itself isn’t unique, but the Purdue scientists removed battery membranes, something they say no one else has done. Membranes in batteries break down over time, so the new battery technology allows for a longer lifespan and cuts costs. This rechargeable battery could be a game changer for electric cars. Related: New battery concept could give electric vehicles a 621-mile range Drawing on the Purdue energy storage technology, electric car owners would pull up to a station and fill up their cars with not gas, but fluid electrolytes. The spent battery fluids could be gathered and recharged at a solar or wind farm . Earth, atmospheric, and planetary science professor John Cushman said in a statement, “Instead of refining petroleum, the refiners would reprocess spent electrolytes and instead of dispensing gas, the fueling stations would dispense a water and ethanol or methanol solution as fluid electrolytes to power vehicles…It is believed that our technology could be nearly ‘drop-in’ ready for most of the underground piping system, rail and truck delivery system, gas stations and refineries.” They say their instantly rechargeable method is affordable, safe, and environmentally friendly. Cushman recently presented their findings at the International Society for Porous Media 9th International Conference in the Netherlands. With two other Purdue researchers, he started a company, IFBattery, to commercialize their technology. Cushman said they are seeking financing to develop large-scale prototypes, and from there they’ll look for manufacturing partners. Via Purdue University Images via Purdue University and Håkan Dahlström on Flickr

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‘Instantly rechargeable’ battery spells bad news for gas-guzzling cars

Solar-powered aquaponic greenhouses grow up to 880 lbs of produce each year

March 17, 2017 by  
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Fresh produce – ideally grown locally right in your backyard – is essential to a healthy diet, but with scores of people either lacking the space, time, or knowledge to cultivate their own food , for many that ideal simply isn’t attainable. Enter French company Myfood . They aim to bring food production back home, and they’re doing it with smart solar aquaponic greenhouses . These groundbreaking greenhouses, which are small enough to fit in a yard or even a city balcony, can produce 660 to 880 pounds of vegetables every year. Myfood is pursuing the vision that everyone should be able to grow their own produce locally. To that end, they’ve come up with small family greenhouses powered by the sun that can function off-grid . Their Family22 greenhouse is 22 square meters, or around 237 square feet, and comes complete with solar panels and a rainwater collection system. Their model City offers a smaller option for those residing in busy metropolises – it’s just 38 square feet. Both models can be installed above ground, making them suitable for backyards or rooftops. Related: The Sunbubble greenhouse is a mini Eden for your backyard https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fi728-dgViU Inside the greenhouse, fish swimming around the base of vertical towers fertilize the vegetables growing – no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides needed. Inspired by permaculture , the team also developed raised beds that can surround the greenhouse for added food production. Ultimately, after several months, the beds become self-fertile. The greenhouses are intended for everyone from seasoned gardeners to people with zero gardening experience. Often one barrier that stands in the way of home food production is a lack of knowledge, so Myfood makes it easy for anyone to get started growing their own food through their smart structures designed to control the climate to guarantee success, according to Myfood. The team’s app enables families to remotely monitor the greenhouse. Myfood co-founder Mickaël Gandecki said, “The production of fresh and natural food, close to the consumer, offers a response to the environmental impact and lack of transparency of intensive, industrial agriculture .” Myfood recently unveiled what they described as the first European line of smart aquaponic greenhouses at the Paris International Agricultural Show 2017 during February 25 through March 5. In France and Benelux, a City model costs around $4,820 and the Family22 around $8,577. Those figures include installation, delivery, and tax. Outside the European Union costs are slightly different; not including installation, delivery or tax, the City is around $3,569 and the Family22 is around $6,432. You can find out more on their website here . + Myfood Images courtesy of Myfood

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Solar-powered aquaponic greenhouses grow up to 880 lbs of produce each year

Go Wild! How to Certify Your Backyard as Wildlife Habitat

March 7, 2017 by  
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Most of us take great pleasure in being good hosts. When the game’s on, we bring out the beer and hot wings; for girls’ night, the wine starts flowing and we pull out the trashy rom-coms; when the neighborhood kids descend for sleepover…

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Go Wild! How to Certify Your Backyard as Wildlife Habitat

The 3 Plants Every Home Should Have for Clean Air

February 22, 2017 by  
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How’d you like to be happier, calmer, healthier and oh, yeah … smarter? Just add plants. Yes, Kermit, it’s not only easy being green today, it’s essential. With Americans spending upward of 90 percent of their time indoors (ribbit!), it is more…

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The 3 Plants Every Home Should Have for Clean Air

MIT’s "food computers produce reliable crops anywhere

December 27, 2016 by  
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Hunger is an ugly social menace we would love to see resolved. It looks like MIT researchers may be getting close with their new ” Food Computers ”. Advanced greenhouses that use software to control for climate, energy, and nutrients, MIT’s new system is designed to produce reliable crops just about anywhere. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iI56tVuDGcY Caleb Harper is the director of MIT’s Open Agricultural Initiative , a program he began after witnessing the agricultural devastation surrounding the Fukushima , Japan nuclear disaster. A food crisis impacted both the locals supply and their economic potential, due to fear of radioactive contamination. He spoke to Motherboard about developing the Food Computer, super-advanced greenhouse hardware and software that uses data analysis to create the perfect environment to grow preferred foods. Related: Beautiful, odorless tabletop ecosystem is powered with food waste The system is equipped with climate controls, grow lights, and humidifiers to encourage the growth of plants through hydroponic and aeroponic systems. Specialized “climate recipes” can be used for specific plants and unique traits, such as colors or sizes, so even the most temperamental crops can be grown anywhere in the world. “The biggest problem [in agriculture] is that we became way too centralized,” said Harper. When food must travel long distances and sit in warehouses before reaching the stores, and then the consumers, not only are nutrients lost in the process, but a lot of fossil fuels are burned along the way. Harper argues that food computers put the power of growing food in individuals’ and smaller communities’ hands, increasing food security and decreasing food waste. MIT’s food computers are all open source, so anyone can build one for themselves. They come in three different sizes: a tabletop model, a larger unit about the size of a shipping container , and the largest unit, which is as big as a warehouse. The newest generation of personal food computer costs about $2000. “The reality is most of us don’t have to come into contact with how food is being grown,” argues Harper. With a food computer in every home, that could change. +MIT Open Agricultural Initiative Via  Motherboard Images via MIT

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MIT’s "food computers produce reliable crops anywhere

Zero-energy timber and steel home is buried into a natural dune

December 27, 2016 by  
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VVKH architecten designed Villa Meijendel in Doornweg, the Netherlands to a client’s custom specifications – but they also had a big helping hand from nature. Clad in timber charred Shou Sugi Ban timber, Villa Meijendel is a site-specific home that is half-buried in a high dune and largely sculpted by the forest landscape. Solar panels, heat pumps, and the high thermal mass of the building’s concrete structure helps the home produce as much energy as it consumes. The Villa Meijendel comprises three levels, two of which are partially built into the dune . The ground level contains a garage and technical room. The building’s unusual form was dictated by local regulations that only allowed a small and compact building volume on the relatively narrow lot located on the edge of the Meijendel nature reserve . The first level of the home includes two bedrooms, a master bedroom, wellness room, entrance, and office, while the topmost level includes a large living room and kitchen. Related: Prefab Dutch ‘Shou Sugi Ban’ House Features a Low-Maintenance Charred Timber Facade The home is modern and minimalist with unpolished concrete, steel, charred wood , unfinished wood, and anodized aluminum. Split levels in the house create a variety of views inside the home and out towards the landscapes through the large expanses of glazing. “Every detail, such as the door handle or stairs, is precisely thought through and designed,” write the architects. “Villa Meijendel is a fascinating artefact, a sort of wooden forest hut fully integrated in the landscape and with a strong connection between the interior spaces and immediate surroundings. Trees, light and dunes have sculpted this remarkable house.” + VVKH architecten Via ArchDaily Images via VVKH architecten

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Zero-energy timber and steel home is buried into a natural dune

How to choose a living tree to replant after Christmas

December 8, 2016 by  
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It takes about 10 years for a Christmas tree to reach maturity, and it’s a shame to kill a tree just so it can prop up ornaments and lights for a couple of weeks. Even though many cities do an admirable job of recycling trees (or ‘treecycling’) after the holidays are over, it’s always a bit depressing to see hundreds of dried-up, tinsel-covered trees out on the curb in early January. So instead of heading out to a tree farm, you might consider bringing a live, potted tree into your home this winter. After the holidays are over, you can plant the tree in the ground again (or you can get someone else to plant it), so it can get back to sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere. Purchase a Tree from a Nursery Nurseries in most parts of the country sell young pines and fir trees, and the best way to find a tree is to call around to local nurseries and ask what’s in stock. Living trees are much heavier than cut trees (a typical 5-foot tree is about 150 pounds), so you’ll probably want to choose a slightly smaller tree than normal. Transporting a living tree is a bit trickier than a cut tree, because you’ll need to treat it more delicately. The Original Living Christmas Tree Company in Portland suggests standing it up in the trunk of a car, so that the crown is sticking out behind. Locate a Tree Rental Service If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of finding a home for your tree after the holidays are over, a tree rental service might be a better option. Although tree rental services have been around for a few years in several cities, they aren’t available everywhere. Currently most of the live tree rental services in the country are located in California, Oregon and Washington. The Original Living Christmas Tree Company, which has been renting potted trees since 1992, is one of the oldest rental services in the country, and it offers eight different varieties for rent. In San Diego, dancing, singing elves from the Adopt A Christmas Tree company will deliver a potted tree to your front door. In most places, potted tree rentals will run from $75 to $100, but the prices vary widely. The Adopt-a-Stream Foundation in Everett, Washington, for example, offers tree rentals for just $20. In Los Angeles, prices at the Living Christmas Co. range from $25 for a tiny 2-foot allepo pine tree to more than $250 for a stately 9-foot Turkish fir. Choose a Tree that Grows Naturally in Your Region It’s important when choosing a Christmas tree to select one that grows naturally in your region so that once it’s replanted it will survive — hopefully — for many years to come. In the Pacific Northwest, Douglas fir is a good option. If you live south of the Mason-Dixon Line, you might consider Virginia pine or Eastern red cedar. And in the Northeast, a variety of pines and firs like Balsam fir, Fraser fir and white pine grow naturally. But who says all Christmas trees need to be conifers? In San Francisco, Friends of the Urban Forest and SF Environment offer non-traditional Christmas trees, like southern magnolia and small leaf tristania, which are planted on city streets after the Holidays. How To Care for a Live Tree Live trees should be treated with a bit more tenderness than a typical cut tree, because you want to make sure that it survives when it’s replanted. But you don’t need to have a green thumb to keep it alive. Just make sure it gets enough water (but not too much), and don’t leave it indoors too long. The longer you leave a tree inside the more acclimated it will become to the warm temperature. If you keep it indoors too long, it might not be hearty enough to plant outside. It’s best to keep the room that the tree is in as cool as possible, and if possible, use small LED lights and minimal ornaments so that you don’t put too much added stress on the tree. What To Do When Christmas is Over Once Christmas is over, rental services come to retrieve their trees. Some services rent the same trees every year, so in theory, if you like the tree you had last year, you could get it again this year (though it’ll be slightly taller). Others plant them after one use. If you purchase a tree from a nursery, you’ll have to deal with it yourself. There are a few options for live tree owners: you can donate the tree to a local parks department, church or school, or you can keep it an plant it yourself. If you live in a very cold climate, you’ll probably have to keep the tree in a pot until the ground thaws a bit  — just be sure to keep it outside and properly watered! Lead image (modified) © Louisa de Miranda and Flickr user Wonderlane

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How to choose a living tree to replant after Christmas

What I Learned My First Year Of Container Gardening

October 13, 2016 by  
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I’m notorious for my black thumb, so when I proudly announced that I was going to grow a garden this year, it didn’t come as a surprise when my friends laughed. I was determined, though. I was going to have homegrown tomatoes if it killed me! The…

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What I Learned My First Year Of Container Gardening

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