Tiny House Sustainable Living blog documents life in an off-grid tiny home

September 22, 2020 by  
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In her home country of Australia, Jennifer lives with her 20-year-old daughter on a 42-acre farm along with horses, sheep, goats and alpacas. She designed and built her shipping container -turned-tiny-home herself, documenting the whole process on her blog to give everyone a look into her everyday sustainable and off-grid lifestyle. The Tiny House Sustainable Living blog has been live since July 1, gaining over 13,000 reads within the first month to overwhelmingly positive response. The home, which is completely self-sufficient, features an off-grid , ground-mounted solar power system with battery backup, rainwater collection tanks and a full underground septic system. Related: This DIY off-grid home in Hawaii includes a permaculture farm Jennifer says that her decision to go tiny came after a transition from a corporate lifestyle, igniting her desire for a more simple way of living and financial freedom. When she bought her land in 2016, she found herself with a completely blank canvas. Armed with knowledge about animal husbandry, Jennifer’s daughter uses her experience from her job as a wool classer for a major fleece producer to help out with the animals on the farm . Thanks to Jennifer’s touch, no one would ever suspect that this cute farmhouse cottage was once an industrial shipping container. The exterior is complemented with large windows to let the natural light shine through, modern porch lights and a charming stone path that leads up to the front door. There’s a large refrigerator, convection oven and four-burner stove inside the kitchen, with a roll-away island to allow for additional counter space. A wood-burning stove keeps the entire home warm and cozy on cooler days. Additional amenities include a rainwater showerhead and a washer/dryer unit in the bathroom. The blog itself outlines the week-by-week journey of her tiny home construction, highlighting what worked well and what she would have done differently. Readers can follow Jennifer’s articles, photos and videos, learning about everything from budgeting for construction to building a sustainable lifestyle . It doesn’t stop at her tiny home, either; she also discusses farm animal management, beekeeping, agriculture and more. So what’s next for Tiny House Sustainable Living? Jennifer says she is planning on doing step-by-step video blogs about growing her own food so that her fans can come along for the ride and maybe even learn a thing or two themselves. + Tiny House Sustainable Living Images via Tiny House Sustainable Living

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Tiny House Sustainable Living blog documents life in an off-grid tiny home

Botswana elephant deaths caused by cyanobacteria

September 22, 2020 by  
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On June 18, 2020, we reported about the mysterious deaths of 154 elephants in Botswana. At the time, wildlife officials in Botswana said that the cause of the deaths was being investigated. According to a statement released by the Botswana Wildlife Conservation on Monday, it turns out that the elephants were killed by cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria is a type of algae that is found in many warm, calm waters around the world. Some species of this blue-green algae can produce toxins that are harmful to other organisms, including humans. The World Health Organization indicates that people who are exposed to cyanobacterial toxins either by drinking or bathing in infected waters may suffer symptoms including skin irritation, stomach cramps, vomiting and fever. At the same time, animals, birds and fish can be poisoned by the bacteria if it is available at high levels. Related: Scientists discover algae species that may affect coral reefs In May and June, concern was raised after several elephants died in Botswana in the Okavango Delta. According to Botswana officials, a total of 330 elephants died in just two months, prompting investigations into the actual causes of death. The findings have now been released after several months of tests in specialist laboratories in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Canada and the U.S. Although several of the elephants were found near watering holes, wildlife officials did not believe cyanobacteria to be the issue. Blue-green algal blooms mainly appear along the edges of the water, while the elephants typically drink from the center of a watering hole. Speaking in a press conference, Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks’ Principal Veterinary Officer Mmadi Reuben confirmed that the deaths had been caused by cyanobacteria. Reuben further noted that the deaths subsided toward the end of June, around the same time that the water pans began drying up. The elephant carcasses had tusks intact, which led officials to rule out poaching as a cause of death. Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe, 25 more elephants have recently died. Samples have been sent to the U.K. for testing to help determine the cause of these deaths. Scientists and wildlife officials are still looking for possible measures that could be taken to stop such deaths in the future. Via BBC Image via Herbert Bieser

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17,000 Tiehms buckwheat, rare wildflowers of Nevada, destroyed

September 22, 2020 by  
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While most people seem to appreciate the beauty of wildflowers , somebody in Nevada clearly doesn’t. Last weekend, more than 17,000 Tiehm’s buckwheat plants, a rare wildflower, were destroyed — deliberately. Some person or people used shovels to dig up, mangle and cut buckwheat taproots, seriously impacting all six subpopulations of the flower. “This is an absolute tragedy,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Tiehm’s buckwheat is one of the beautiful gems of Nevada’s biodiversity and some monster destroyed thousands of these irreplaceable flowering plants.” Related: The Ray integrates plants and pollinators along I-85 Tiehm’s buckwheat is a controversial wildflower. Ioneer Corp., an Australian mining company, wants to build an open-pit lithium mine in southwest Nevada. Lithium is a white metal used for making the lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles . The plan is for construction to begin in 2021, with the mine opening for business by 2023 and operating for at least 26 years. Ioneer Corp. expects an annual lithium production of about 20,600 tons each year . But the lowly wildflower has been a roadblock, as the mining plan would pretty much wipe out Tiehm’s buckwheat. Federal agencies have also been involved. The Center for Biological Diversity accused the Bureau of Land Management of mismanaging the species and in 2019 petitioned for protection under the Endangered Species Act . This request is currently being reviewed by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Donnelly and Naomi Fraga, director of conservation at the California Botanic Garden, estimate that the weekend’s attack has destroyed approximately 40% of the species . “This appears to have been a premeditated, somewhat organized, large-scale operation aimed at wiping out one of the rarest plants on Earth, one that was already in the pipeline for protection,” Donnelly said. “It’s despicable and heartless.” Fraga and Donnelly have recommended to federal and local authorities that the area around the remaining Tiehm’s buckwheat plants should be fenced with 24-hour security. If the survivors are stabilized, rehabilitated, propagated and transplanted, there’s still hope for this species to survive. “I was absolutely devastated when I discovered this annihilation of these beautiful little wildflowers,” Donnelly said. “But we’re not going to let this stop our fight against extinction . We’ll fight for every single buckwheat.” + Center for Biological Diversity Images via Sarah Kulpa/USFWS

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17,000 Tiehms buckwheat, rare wildflowers of Nevada, destroyed

The future of organic coffee: Building a network of support for regenerative agriculture

July 30, 2020 by  
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The future of organic coffee: Building a network of support for regenerative agriculture Jean Orlowski Thu, 07/30/2020 – 02:00 Nearly a decade ago, as we took in the lush plant life, clean air and warm sunshine surrounding us during a vacation in Hawaii, my wife, Danielle, and I knew a life shift was happening. A connection to the land — this island — was built on that trip, leading us to relocate permanently to Captain Cook, Hawaii. It was there that we came across a six-acre Kona coffee farm that had fallen into neglect. Nurturing this farm back to life strengthened our relationship with the island, taught us the true meaning of sustainability and allowed us to become advocates for organic farming beyond our own acreage. Today Hala Tree Coffee Farm consists of nearly 100 acres, and we’ve built a network of like-minded coffee farmers looking to become fully organic. While organic processes may not change the taste of the coffee beans (the environment here takes the credit for that), the organic processes show respect to the land that produces them. We’re firm believers that authentic Kona coffee is organic and that shifting toward regenerative agriculture is vital. Globally, but especially on an island, just being “organic” is no longer enough.  Moving from ‘minimizing impact’ to regenerating  Our motivation to make a career out of farming stemmed from a love of the land. We wanted to work with this island, not take from it, and leave it even better than we found it. Learning the intricacies of Kona coffee farming from the ground up highlighted the need for organic practices early on. While sustainability is important no matter where you live, living on an island increases the urgency. Our soil, our trees and our water eventually connect to the ocean that surrounds Hawaii. While we want to care for the island itself, the consequences of not using organic practices can reach to the mainland United States and beyond, carried by the currents. Even small island farms leave a lasting effect — both positive and negative — on the environment globally. And because Hawaii must import large amounts of produce (resulting in 600,000 pounds of CO2 released into the atmosphere for each flight from San Francisco to Hawaii), regenerative agriculture is imperative for our state. One major way to do that is to shift the way farming is done, especially for key crops such as coffee. Until recently, Hawaii was the only U.S. state that grows coffee beans (California has just started), and Kona coffee is coveted around the world. The mix of rain, quality soil, sunshine and elevation on the island creates the perfect environment for farming coffee beans. The conditions truly can’t be reproduced elsewhere, and that’s why the Kona coffee farming community is passionate about the environment and our island. At Hala Tree, we focus on two key areas: our soil and our trees.  We focus on topsoil regeneration by using perennial peanuts as ground cover to nourish the soil and anchor it. Our farm, as with most coffee farms in Hawaii, covers sloped areas prone to runoffs. Ground cover is vital to stabilizing our soil; we focus on the regenerative piece by choosing materials that give back to the soil. During pruning and clipping seasons on the farm, everything cut from the trees is spread on top of the current soil throughout the farm. We also use natural fertilizer made from fish bones throughout the farm. Wildlife is also a consideration with ground cover; we must ensure that we are not restricting movement or harming native animals. These species are key to the land’s ability to regenerate, and we must work with them, not around or against.  New trees are continuously planted on the farm to boost carbon sequestration. We have about 100,000 trees under our management, each being carefully maintained with organic practices.  Part of our initiative to move toward regenerative agriculture is helping other local farmers obtain organic certification. This initial process can be time-consuming and cost-prohibitive for small farms; for example, the weed maintenance piece is a tall order in a wet, humid climate where plants grow at astounding speeds. By bringing more farms under our wing and helping them on the organic path, we aim to better equip the agriculture community to embrace regenerative farming.  What’s good for one is good for all  While smaller farms may have the most to gain from going organic, the upfront cost to earn that designation can be prohibitive. Materials, tools, processes and labor need to be accounted for, not to mention the cost of certification. Farms also must be fully organic for three years before a certification can be awarded, adding a time investment on top of cost. For a small farm with just a few acres, this may be impossible to achieve alone. In order to create more organic farms and better serve the planet, larger farms (and perhaps even corporate brands ) need to prioritize the sharing of resources and support. In order to create more organic farms and better serve the planet, larger farms (and perhaps even corporate brands) need to prioritize the sharing of resources and support.   Our own expansion as a company is partially fueled by mentoring other farms. The territory here can be difficult to work with, given the grades of hills and the need for special equipment. We help smaller farms by sharing resources and, in some cases, we manage their acreage to support their journey toward organic certification. Our partners either pay a fee or share a part of their harvest with us in exchange, making organic farming attainable while ensuring that they still see profit. It’s a form of regenerative agriculture itself: We’re investing in the community that invested in us, keeping everything local. Other types of agriculture are starting to use this model, and more need to follow. The wine industry is similar to coffee in terms of cultivation, harvest and processing. Established vineyards with organic certification can lift up neighboring vineyards and share their resources. When more organic wine enters the market, consumers are more likely to try it, which benefits the newly established organic farms and boosts the industry as whole. While new technology can help this process, machines can’t fully replace people or mimic the value of a strong, supportive network. That’s why we all need to work together. We hope to see farms of all kinds on the mainland and beyond consider the model we’ve created in Hawaii. We need more minds behind innovation in this area to continue growing and making regenerative practices accessible. While living on an island initially may have raised our sense of urgency for going organic, it’s no less imperative for our farming community in other U.S. states and around the world to shift their practices. While sustainability discussions can feel overwhelming and difficult, we have an opportunity in the agriculture community to show fellowship, support and positivity — and perhaps improve products and profits along the way. Pull Quote In order to create more organic farms and better serve the planet, larger farms (and perhaps even corporate brands) need to prioritize the sharing of resources and support. Topics Food & Agriculture Regenerative Agriculture Organics Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Hala Tree Coffee Farm owners Danielle and Jean Orlowski. Courtesy of Charla Photography Close Authorship

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Scientists discover algae species that may affect coral reefs

July 17, 2020 by  
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A new species of alga found in Hawaii is emerging as a potential threat to coral reefs. Researchers from the University of Hawaii conducted a study establishing that the red algae have been growing on the island for several years now. First spotted in 2016, the species has spread rapidly throughout the island. Published in the journal  PLOS ONE , the study revealed that a thick layer of red algae has been spreading in Hawaii . A group of scientists first spotted the species during a mission to monitor ocean life in 2016. At the time, only small patches of red algae existed on the island. When the scientists returned to the same spot four years later, they found that the algae had grown into a thick layer. According to the researchers, mat-like layers of algae cover vast groups of corals in the island’s Pearl and Hermes Atoll. This development proves especially concerning given how coral reefs usually thrive in such remote areas. The presence of this new species could threaten coral reefs on the island. Coral reefs need sunlight and space to survive, both of which are hampered by the layers of algae. According to Dr. Alison Sherwood, the study’s lead researcher, this algae issue is unprecedented. “Something like this has never been seen in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands before. This is extremely alarming to see an alga like this come in and take over so quickly and have these impacts,” Sherwood said. The scientists who discovered the red alga named it Chondria Tumulosa. Considered a “nuisance species,” Chondria Tumulosa’s rate of spread could endanger marine life . Although the algae’s exact cause is unknown, researchers list unusual water chemistry and the absence of natural algae consumers as potential factors. Researchers are now working to determine Chondria Tumulosa’s characteristics and its possible effects on marine life. + PLOS ONE Via NY Times Image via Ed Bierman

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Virtually visit these 10 farm sanctuaries on July 25

July 9, 2020 by  
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On July 25, animal lovers are invited to participate in a virtual animal sanctuary tour that will let them peek into 10 American sanctuaries. The  Great Farm Sanctuary Tour , organized by Lancaster Farm Sanctuary in Pennsylvania, will raise money to help these nonprofits continue caring for their rescued  animals . The Northeast, Midwest,  California , Colorado, Texas and Hawaii will be represented on the virtual tour. This event will run from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and costs $25. Each sanctuary gets a 20-minute slot to introduce who they are and what they do. Related: Jon & Tracey Stewart’s animal rescue in New Jersey to join the Farm Sanctuary family “Being the only  vegan sanctuary in our region, it is so great to be able to connect with other wonderful organizations that hold the same overarching mission,” Brittany Kane of Foreverland Farm Sanctuary in Amelia, Ohio, told VegNews. “FLF is a new, small sanctuary and we are ecstatic to be able share our work with folks nationwide. We’re looking forward to meeting everyone on our tour, and learning about the great work being done all over for the animals.” Farm animal sanctuaries rescue animals from factory farms. Animal lovers — especially those from urban areas — thrill at the chance to rub a pig’s belly or look a cow in the eye. Many vegans like to visit farm sanctuaries when they travel. Of course, the  coronavirus  pandemic has taken a huge bite out of travel and axed millions of jobs. For nonprofits like animal sanctuaries, money is even tighter than usual. To support these sanctuaries, buy your ticket and tune in on July 25. Perhaps you’ll virtually meet Grandpa Pancakes, a 30-something-year-old horse in Woodstown,  New Jersey ‘s Rancho Relaxo that was saved from the slaughterhouse. Or Yoru, an orphaned Polynesian piglet found scrounging for scrap by a hiking trail, who now resides at the Aloha Animal Sanctuary, Oahu’s first nonprofit sanctuary for farmed animals. The Great Farm Sanctuary Tour is matching donations given to these farm sanctuaries via this event up to $1,000–5,000, depending on ticket sales and sponsorships. + Lancaster Farms Sanctuary Via Veg News Images via Pexels

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Virtually visit these 10 farm sanctuaries on July 25

Residential energy is becoming companies’ business

May 29, 2020 by  
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Residential energy is becoming companies’ business Sarah Golden Fri, 05/29/2020 – 01:45 In this crazy upside-down world, the line between residential and commercial energy is getting fuzzy.  Everything changed so quickly, it makes sense that climate and energy teams have yet to figure out how to account for the shift. But as companies such as Mastercard , Facebook and Twitter look at long-term remote work policies, working from home (WFH) is adding a new dimension to corporate carbon accounting.  And it’s not too soon for climate-forward companies to think about how to incentivize employees to make their home (office) run off clean energy.  It’s still early days for companies thinking about WFH energy usages as part of their own greenhouse gas footprint. Right now, commercial energy use is still high , and it’s not clear when or which workers will head back to the office.  It’s not too soon for climate-forward companies to think about how to incentivize employees to make their home (office) run off clean energy. According to Noah Goldstein, director of sustainability at Guidehouse, there also aren’t great calculations for what the GHG impact of working from home would be. The guidance is that the company is only responsible for “additional” energy use, but that is hard to determine without baseline calculations.  “I can foresee some companies accounting for WFH in their 2020 or 2021 footprint, but very, very few in number,” said Goldstein in an email.  Five companies with residential energy programs for the COVID era With people hunkering down at home as we enter a hotter than normal summer , residential demand response will be critical to keep energy affordable and clean(er).  The pandemic began in a shoulder month — meaning a time of year where heating and cooling demands are low as most of the country experiences temperate weather. With restrictions on movement still in effect, grid operators are preparing for air conditioners alone to strain our energy infrastructure. Demand response is a promising solution. According to an analysis by Wood Mackenzie, residential demand response would unlock more than 10 gigawatts of additional energy capacity. This would help utilities and states stay on track for clean energy goals and reduce energy bills at a time when households are struggling more than ever to make ends meet.  Here are five companies with updated offerings tailored to the COVID-19 era, designed to make residential energy use smarter as our homes become our office (and bar and restaurant and concert venue and movie theater…) 1. Google Nest partners with utilities Google recently announced its partnership with Consumers Energy to bring smart thermostats to up to 100,000 households in Michigan. According to its release , those who receive a thermostat will be enrolled in the utility’s Smart Thermostat Program, which shifts energy use to off-peak hours.  The partnership is part of Consumers’ Clean Energy Plan, which is striving to reach net-zero carbon emissions. Shifting energy use during peak times is key to staying on track.  This is just the first in a series of Google Nest’s partnerships. The company is expected to announce three more utility partnerships at the start of June.  Google isn’t the only company teaming up with utilities to gamify demand response. Logical Buildings launched its GridRewards campaign last month to encourage residents to reduce energy usage at key times. Logical Buildings partnered with a consortium of municipalities in Westchester, New York.  2. OhmConnect launches AutoOhms Last week, OhmConnect announced AutoOhms , its newest program that offers cash incentives for “timely, smarter energy use.” AutoOhm will power down energy-intensive connected appliances in 15-minute increments during peak energy times. Customers will receive a text message when peak rates are about to kick in and can select appliances to power down through an app. Through this “gamified” experience, the customer can actively see their energy savings.  The program is available for customers of California’s three big investor-owned utilities: Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric.  3. Tesla Energy discusses Autobidder Always a big dreamer, it comes as no surprise that Tesla’s energy division has its sights on becoming a distributed global utility.  Tesla has been deploying distributed energy assets (think solar, electric vehicles, Powerwalls) while investing in grid-scale energy and storage projects. Now the company’s vision is to control these individual assets as one beast on its platform Autobidder . According to the website, Autobidder allows anyone with energy storage assets — be they EVs, solar plus storage, a home battery, anything — to engage in real-time trading and make additional money from the energy asset.  Apparently, Autobidder already has been (quietly) around for a few years, operations at Tesla’s energy storage facility in South Australia. With Tesla talking about the software, the company is likely hoping for wider adoption.  4. Leap Energy develops a demand response marketplace Leap, a newer company in the world of demand response, is working to create a marketplace to better monetize energy resources. Its vision is to engage connected energy resources that aren’t currently participating in grid flexibility — which, according to its CEO Thomas Folker, is about 90 percent of energy assets. “We are an aggregator of other aggregators,” said Folker in a phone conversation last month. “We don’t physically control any hardware, we don’t acquire any customers. We just provide the software that allows for this all to happen.” The platform allows for end energy users to bid on resources and automatically facilitates the exchange. Its users are demand response companies — such as OhmConnect and Google Nest — and works to increase the value of distributed energy resources while providing flexibility to the grid.  5. Span turns homes into microgrids New on the scene with a fresh round of Series A finance, Span bills itself as a smart panel company that works to integrate a home’s solar, energy storage and electric vehicle. It’s kind of like using a home’s energy assets as a microgrid.  Span’s selling point is energy resilience. The system works to keep power flowing to where customers need it in the event of a power outage, which, the company points out in a release , is of growing importance as California is looking at a future where shelter in place could overlap with planned power outages. (The company is initially focusing on California and Hawaii as key markets.) This increased level of control and connected energy assets also means users can rely on their own resources when the grid has more dirty energy.  This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here . Pull Quote It’s not too soon for climate-forward companies to think about how to incentivize employees to make their home (office) run off clean energy. Topics Energy & Climate COVID-19 Energy Efficiency Featured Column Power Points 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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Brother sister duo create tropical tiny home in Hawaii

May 5, 2020 by  
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Tiny homes  are still all the rage within the minimalist and wanderlust communities of the world, and what better place to consider tiny living than in the warmth of the big island, Hawaii? If equatorial location is on your must-have list, this tiny home might be just the serving of simplicity and decadence you’re looking for.  Designed by the brother and sister team, Ellie and Dan Madsen, the Oasis Tiny House lives up to each aspect of its name. Measuring in at just 260 square feet, this tiny home provides an oasis with an abundance of luxury features inside and out. An A-frame ceiling and curved roof leave an airy feeling of space far beyond what is actually there. Complete with a ceiling fan, stained beams and an octagonal window at the peak, the eye is drawn to all the features above. Copious windows provide an abundance of light that embraces the tropical vibe of the home.  Related: 7 tips for decorating a tiny home This theme continues inside the bathroom with a skylight roof above the shower for an outdoor feel, where you just might think you’re actually under a rain shower. The shower design projects out onto the tongue of the trailer for a spacious overall bathroom design. A space-efficient corner shelf holds a vessel sink, and the corner is  lit naturally  and with added track lighting.  The kitchen features stainless steel counters with husky tool drawers and black cabinetry, but the  exotic curly mango wood  windowsill ledge and large pass-through window are the focal points of the space. A subway tile backsplash and mounted shelving round out the accents. This space-conscious design still manages to incorporate a washing machine into the kitchen, a feature many tiny homes lack.  The mango wood laced stairs leading to the bedroom loft offer copious storage underneath, and a row of submarine -style bubble windows offer a 180-degree view. The living room allows space for furniture as well as a multi-functional bar-height table for work, dining or entertaining. Since the tiny house is located in Hawaii , outdoor living is an essential component. The design welcomes this with an outdoor bar located directly below the pass-through kitchen window. Paradise Tiny Homes combined the talents of the two Madsen siblings, who, after having lived in different states for a decade, came back together after the passing of their mother. Feeling reunited by the importance and love of family, they saw that their two different but compatible skill sets could come together beautifully to produce some of the most unique and remarkable homes in Hawaii. + Paradise Tiny Homes, LLC  Images via Paradise Tiny Homes, LLC

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Brother sister duo create tropical tiny home in Hawaii

Taylor Guitars and the sustainable approach to instrument-making

February 11, 2020 by  
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Since 1974, Taylor Guitars has been a champion guitar brand, renowned for its signature sound and instrument-manufacturing innovations. In this feature, Inhabitat goes behind-the-scenes at the company’s headquarters and factory in El Cajon, California, where tour guide Ryan Merrill shares the Taylor Guitars approach to  sustainability , sourcing  wood  and making guitars.   Inhabitat:  What can you share about the process of making a Taylor Guitar? Merrill:  The very first step of building our guitars is housing them in this outdoor tent when the wood arrives. What we’re seeing here is mostly mahogany. When we bring in wood from around the world, they’re accustomed to other types of climates, places that are generally a lot more humid – Cameroon, India, Hawaii. When it gets here, we therefore need to make sure that wood acclimates to our  weather , temperature and  humidity . If we don’t, then as that wood is drying out in the factory, and we’re working on the guitar, it’s going to start bending and warping in different ways. We want all that bending and warping to happen here outside rather than during the process when we are building guitars because we have some tools in there that have high accuracy. And with that level of accuracy in cutting, if the wood is warping, it’s going to cause some problems. So we leave this wood outside here to acclimate. Water that’s sitting inside the grain of the wood, you want to bring down to about 10%. Sometimes that takes two weeks, sometimes that takes a month. Related: YouTube stars partner up in #TeamTrees campaign to plant 20 million trees Inhabitat:  What does Taylor Guitars do with any leftover wood cuttings? Merrill:  The first measure of our sustainability endeavors is that after we’ve cut wood for our guitars, the scrap wood — instead of us throwing them into the trash bin — we actually utilize it by giving them to other companies that need them, like toymakers, people who make birdhouses, even companies that turn the wood into  mulch . Inhabitat:  Forest management,  reforestation  and the sourcing of ethically harvested tonewoods — the wood used to build acoustic guitars — are important values to Taylor Guitars. Tell us more about that. Merrill: We understand that in order to make our products, we have to cut down trees. But we make sure to plant more trees  than we are taking out of forests every year, and we’ve continued to be dedicated to that goal. A pipe dream Taylor Guitars has is to plant all of the trees we use for all of our guitars on the land we own. That way, we won’t have to source our wood anywhere else in the world, but just focus on effectively using that one piece of land that is ours with all our trees on it. Of course, that’s still what we are working toward. For now, the two places we are focused on are in Cameroon, where we have our ebony, and in Hawaii, where we have our koa. Out in Hawaii, for instance, we own over 570 acres on the Big Island, where we are planting koa trees. Now, koa trees take about 40 to 60 years to grow — that’s a long wait for us to be able to use those trees for guitars. Ebony is even longer, taking 100 to 200 years to fully mature. Inhabitat:  Now, on display here in the corporate headquarters gallery are an array of signature Taylor Guitars, made from various types of wood. What’s the importance of wood type, or tonewood? And, why are certain ones chosen over others for guitar-making? Merrill:  The type of wood affects the instrument sound. First, it’s important to know that woods flavor the sounds. And, historically, there’s hundreds of years’ worth of experimentation on what types of woods are best for what is now the modern guitar . And the main ones that have been settled on are rosewood and mahogany, which are the hardest woods.  So, in a mahogany guitar, you’re going to hear a lot of mid-range sounds, not a lot of bass, not a lot of treble. In rosewood, you’re going to get a lot of bass, you’re going to get a lot of treble, but not as much of the mid-range. You’ll probably notice we’ll get more deep tones and more sparkle with rosewood. Inhabitat:  These are some exotic-sounding names of tonewoods lining this guitar gallery wall. Tell us more about them. Merrill:  Cocobolo is a South American rosewood, so it has a very similar tone to a rosewood guitar. Ovangkol is an African relative of the rosewood. Sapele is an African relative of mahogany. Most tonewoods are going to fall within those two very broad categories. There are some exceptions — we have  maple , which is a very bright wood. It’s the only wood that’s distinct from mahogany and rosewood. We have something like koa as well, which has the mid-range of mahogany and the sparkle of rosewood, but it doesn’t have the bass of rosewood.  Koa guitars have become increasingly popular amongst guitarists. And that’s because as koa wood ages, it gets more dense, which means it will start to produce a better low-end sound. So, if you buy a koa, it might sound one way, but then five years down the line, someone might pick up that same guitar and go, “Wow! This has way more bass than I ever heard out of this instrument!” And that’s one of the very unique things about koa — just the amount that it opens up over time. Inhabitat:  Taylor Guitars has been recognized as a leading guitar-making pioneer. What are some things you can share about what makes you stand out from other guitar manufacturers ? Merrill:  We’re the only company making sapele guitars. We’re the only company making ebony bodies. And we’re the pioneers of the V-bracing, whereas all other guitars elsewhere are still employing the X-bracing. Inhabitat:  What’s the difference between your V-bracing and the conventional X-bracing in guitars out there? Merrill:  One of the beautiful things about the V-brace is that it’s very forgiving of notes that aren’t quite in tune. With an X-brace, the notes start to warble — you can hear the notes bouncing back and forth. You can kind of hear the decay there — decay is just the note fading out. When you compare that with something like a V-brace, the notes just keep ringing — we call it bloom, where it almost grows into a larger chord after you first strum it. You can hear the difference, it sounds fuller, and a lot of that comes down to the sustaining, and that’s the V-bracing being a little more forgiving with those notes. It was fitting for Merrill to say the word “sustaining” to describe the V-brace and what it does to guitar notes, because it circularly tied into Taylor Guitars’ sustainability initiatives. As the tour winded down, a large plaque — entitled “Taylor’s Commitment to Sustainability” — was visible on the way out, reminding everyone of the quality the company stands for in the soundness of its products and  supply chain . Images via Mariecor Agravante

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Taylor Guitars and the sustainable approach to instrument-making

Proposed Florida bill could require prescription for sunscreens in effort to save coral reefs

October 18, 2019 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

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In a bid to protect the Sunshine State’s reefs from coral bleaching , a new legislative bill has been proposed that requires a physician’s prescription for sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, on grounds that these chemicals are harmful to marine coastal environments. The two ingredients are found in roughly 80 percent of all commercially available sunscreens. Discouraging their widespread use can help protect Florida’s fragile coral ecosystems. Following in the footsteps of Hawaii and Key West , all over-the-counter sunscreens will need to be free of both oxybenzone and octinoxate to be deemed safe enough for use, because both chemicals contribute to coral reef bleaching and the compromised health of reef aquatic life. If approved, the bill will take effect in 2020. Related: Pacific heat wave threatens coral reefs in Hawaii and other regions Coral reefs are a valuable asset to the Sunshine State. They are beneficial for environmental and economic reasons, such as protecting coastal communities from wave action and storm surges, providing ecosystem biodiversity, serving as a food resource and offering commercial tourism opportunities. What’s more, Florida is “the only state in the continental United States to have extensive coral reef formations near its coasts. These reefs extend over 300 miles,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) . Coral reef activities promote tourism and businesses that “generate $3.4 billion and support 36,000 jobs in the region each year.” Reputed to be the third-longest coral barrier reef in the world, Florida’s celebrated reefs, sadly, have not been faring well in recent years due to a combination of factors: warming ocean temperatures, acidification, rising sea levels, erosion, pollution, coastal development, offshore oil and gas drilling, dredging, boat groundings, propeller and anchor damage, unsustainable fishing activities, invasive species and infection and disease. Because the coral reefs are left at a delicate tipping point, a patchwork of restoration efforts, largely from marine conservation groups, have attempted to revitalize them. It is hoped this bill can help save the fragile ecosystem. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are harmful to corals. As documented by a NOAA study published in the journal Environmental Contamination and Toxicology , they damage coral DNA, beget aberrant growth and defective development in young coral, exacerbate coral bleaching vulnerabilities and ultimately prevent the coral from reproducing properly. Because both oxybenzone and octinoxate accumulate in coral tissue, the coral become highly susceptible to infection and disease, likewise culminating in reef degradation. Critics complain the new legislation will increase skin cancer risks; however, the bill’s proponents argue for a shift toward “reef-friendly” alternative sunscreens. The National Park Service , for instance, recommends “titanium oxide or zinc oxide, which are natural mineral ingredients.” Neither titanium oxide nor zinc oxide have been found to be harmful to coral reefs, making both appealing as eco-friendly substitutes. Via CNN Image via Shutterstock

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Proposed Florida bill could require prescription for sunscreens in effort to save coral reefs

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