5 Non-Material Holiday Gift Ideas

December 14, 2021 by  
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By now you’ve probably seen the headlines warning that the shipping crisis threatens holiday shopping…. The post 5 Non-Material Holiday Gift Ideas appeared first on Earth911.

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5 Non-Material Holiday Gift Ideas

Holiday Gift Ideas for Outdoor Enthusiasts

December 6, 2021 by  
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Outdoor enthusiasts are some of the most environmentally-conscious folks out there. Hikers and campers have… The post Holiday Gift Ideas for Outdoor Enthusiasts appeared first on Earth911.

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Holiday Gift Ideas for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Green Holiday Gift Ideas for Kids

November 22, 2021 by  
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Here’s the scenario. You promise yourself — you pinky-swear promise — that you won’t go… The post Green Holiday Gift Ideas for Kids appeared first on Earth911.

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Green Holiday Gift Ideas for Kids

A model for sustainable tourism in the San Juan Islands

September 27, 2021 by  
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The San Juan Islands have the same problem as lots of beautiful places — it relies on tourism dollars and wants to welcome visitors, but the ecosystem can only take so much. So like other gorgeous and ecologically sensitive spots around the globe, these islands off the coast of  Washington  state have worked hard to develop sustainability policies to balance the needs of the land with the desires of humans.  Inhabitat talked to Amy Nesler, communications and stewardship manager of Visit San Juan Islands, and Barbara Marrett, who recently retired from the same position after nine years with the visitors bureau. Both women have spent a good chunk of their careers ensuring that the islands are both welcoming and well stewarded. Related: Take a trip to explore natural beauty on the San Juan Islands A sustainable tourism forerunner “In the old days, it was about bringing more people,” said Marrett of  tourism  philosophy. “But now, so much of it for places like the San Juan Islands and Sedona and these other really sensitive places it’s about how do you protect or even regenerate as much as just bring more people.” Visit San Juan Islands  was one of the first visitors bureaus to focus on sustainability  almost from its inception in 2003. One early campaign called “Leave Only Footsteps” aligned itself with Leave No Trace principles. “We were the first county in the nation to voluntarily become a Leave No Trace county,” Marrett said. “We came up with seven principles, we call them the San Juan Seven. They’re very similar to the general principles of Leave No Trace, but we tweaked them to be more relevant to the San Juans.” Partnerships It takes multiple organizations working together to successfully steward the land. Fortunately for San Juan County, it has a land bank and the San Juan Preservation Trust. Back in the 1990s, some locals concerned about  overdevelopment  got together and created the  San Juan County Land Bank . Its mission is to conserve exceptional places in the islands, guided by local input. When people purchase property in the county, they pay a 1% real estate excise tax which funds the program. The  San Juan Preservation Trust , an NGO, works hand in hand with the land bank and specializes in fundraising and arranging conservation easements on private land. While the land is accessible to everybody who comes to the island, land bank acquisitions are primarily for islanders to enjoy. “So the visitors bureau is very sensitive to what the land bank wants us to promote or not promote, and what they want in our visitor guides and what they don’t want,” said Marrett. If the land bank is worried about protecting a sensitive  beach  for spawning or not adding to parking pressure at a site, the visitors bureau will leave those places out of its brochure. Although with social media, no place stays truly secret anymore. In an earlier partnership, the visitors bureau was part of the monument advisory committee that helped get 1,000 acres designated into the  San Juan Islands Monument . A national monument differs from a national park in that a national monument can be declared by presidential decree, whereas parks need to go through Congress. President  Obama  signed the San Juan Islands Monument into existence in 2013. The San Juan Islands Pledge The  San Juan Islands Pledge  is one of the latest sustainability initiatives in the islands. Nesler wrote the pledge, inspired by destinations like Aspen and Palau.   The playfully-worded pledge addresses issues Nesler gleaned from park rangers and other locals on social media, as well as her own observations. Visitors who sign the optional 13-line pledge agree to “feed my sense of adventure, but never the wildlife” and “carve the waves and not the trees.” “We have promoted the pledge primarily through  social media  channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and only recently made it the landing page for our fall ad campaign,” Nesler said. So far, signers have left mostly positive comments. Compliance You can come up with all the friendly guidance in the world, but humans still fall short in compliance. “Litter is a concern on the beaches and sometimes in town,” Nesler said. While visitors don’t usually leave  trash  at picnic areas and campsites, they do often cram more stuff into overflowing trash cans, leading to trash blowing away. Visitors don’t always know how to treat local wildlife with the proper respect. Private boater interaction with  whales , particularly the critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, is probably the biggest concern. “Though education efforts continue through our website, the county, and different orca advocacy organizations, recreational  boaters  often seem oblivious to the presence of whales—not altering speed or course to give them the space required by law,” Nesler said. Tourists often make the wrong call when they encounter seal pups born in the late summer. “People who find the babies on the beach, and convinced they’ve been abandoned, will sometimes attempt to put them back in the water or other egregious choices that often do more harm than good,” Nesler said. “Most often, the adult  seal  has not abandoned her baby, just temporarily parked it somewhere safe while she goes off and forages.” But human interference often leads to the mother abandoning the pup, who then winds up in the islands’ wildlife rehab center.  Then there are the famous  foxes  of San Juan Island, a photographer favorite. People have gone as far as baiting dens to try to lure kits out. They also create traffic jams when they stop on the island’s shoulderless roads, trying to get that perfect fox photo. Spreading the visits over the year Like other destinations with an obvious high season, the San Juan Islands would ideally like to spread tourism out over the year. Economically, the feast or famine model isn’t great for business. Environmentally, a flood of summer visitors is hard on the  ecosystem . So the visitors bureau devised campaigns for the less busy months. A fall campaign called “Savor the San Juans: a Medley of Food, Farms, and Film” originally ran during October. Now in its 14th year, it spans September through early November and includes film festivals, wine dinners, beer  festivals , and farm tours to celebrate the harvest season. “Spring is guided more by the month – April is National Volunteer Month along with Earth Month, and we focus on promoting an alternative type of Spring Break – one that involves giving back,” Nesler said. Some visitors participate in the annual Great Islands Clean-Up, which happens on Earth Day. May is National Historic Preservation Month, when the visitors bureau promotes history talks, special exhibits, tours and its best old buildings through its “History Lives Here” campaign. Tourism management plan The visitors bureau staff has both been pushing the county to develop a tourism management plan. “It would be funded with lodging tax but it would be managed by the county, who would hire professionals who’ve done this for sensitive areas around the country or even around the world,” Marrett said. An ideal management plan balances the locals’ quality of life, visitor experience, economy and the environment. “Because in so many places, if you don’t have a management plan, the more people come, the more money you get to promote people coming. And that’s not a sustainable model.” Marrett would like to see the San Juan Islands craft a tourism management plan similar to that of Sedona,  Arizona , another destination known for its extreme beauty — and the tourism impact that beauty brings. Advice for other destinations As the world feels worsening effects from climate change, more destinations will have to address sustainability whether they want to or not. ”Don’t reinvent the wheel,” Nesler advised. “Connect and learn from other destinations doing the same work about their strategies, tactics, successes, and failures. And where applicable, adapt their ideas to fit your place.” She stressed that while many tourism-dependent places may seem dissimilar at first glance — like Vail vs. Kauai — they deal with similar issues like labor shortages, housing issues, traffic and human/wildlife interaction. She recommended attending or livestreaming forums and webinars on tourism and sustainability like the Center for Responsible Travel’s World Tourism Day event every September. Marrett thinks the tourism industry needs to better acknowledge its role in  climate change . “I guess I was a little disappointed in the tourism industry in general not taking more ownership of the environment,” she said. “We need to be part of the solution and not just keep reacting to these environmental challenges. I do see change happening in places like the San Juans and Washington state with tourism leaders being willing to take positive actions. We all need to do our part in evolving to be better stewards of not just our own destinations but the planet.” Images by Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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A model for sustainable tourism in the San Juan Islands

Zero Energy Ready Homes bring you net-zero energy bills

September 27, 2021 by  
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Zero Energy Ready Homes push the limits of sustainable living. In these houses, the total amount of renewable energy produced is equal to the amount of energy used per year, resulting in net-zero energy bills and carbon-free homes. Because of their incredible efficiency, the standards are among some of the most rigorous criteria for eco-friendly residential architecture. Saint-Gobain North America (SGNA) is a leading building materials manufacturer that emphasizes innovative solutions. Its first Zero Energy Ready Home project is currently under construction in North Canton, Ohio . The home incorporates over 20 of SGNA’s material solutions ranging from insulation to roof shingles that work towards maximizing efficiency while creating a comfortable living environment. Related: No waste, no carbon, no wonder this net-zero home breaks the mold SGNA specifically chose to construct a net-zero home because of the immense benefits they have. While these homes typically use solar energy to harvest electricity, they are more complex than houses with solar panels on them. Zero energy homes are meticulously designed for their exact locations, using high-quality materials and passive systems to combat site-specific challenges and produce sufficient energy to keep power bills low while respecting the environment. The sustainable solutions that SGNA is employing are beneficial on multiple levels. For example, the roof shingles are locally sourced from CertainTeed Landmark and are manufactured near the site in Avery, Ohio. The manufacturer’s proximity to the project lessens carbon emissions from extensive transportation, while simultaneously supporting local businesses. Another example is the use of InselPure™ Duct Wrap and WideWrap to enhance thermal efficiency within systems. These are insulation materials that can almost eliminate condensation in ducts used for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning ( HVAC ) systems. They are also wide enough to accommodate large duct systems, which results in less material waste and labor costs. While the construction of the project has been underway since July, SGNA is also working with a local nonprofit organization to identify the family that will move into the house upon completion in 2022. SGNA will use this first project as a case study to monitor energy efficiency and savings of the home, to highlight the advantages of Zero Energy Ready Homes. + SGNA Images courtesy of SGNA

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Zero Energy Ready Homes bring you net-zero energy bills

ARCspace’s prefab homes are a quick and sustainable housing solution

July 26, 2021 by  
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The construction industry is responsible for considerable pollution and waste. Builders are leaning into innovative designs and material development to curb the environmental impact through sustainable architecture. ARCspace, a modular building developer, is one such business offering a solution for wasteful traditional construction, while introducing a host of other benefits. ARCspace is a division of Sustainable Building Council Ltd., located in the Los Angeles Cleantech Corridor. As a parent company, the goal of Sustainable Building Council Ltd. is to bring together experts in construction, architectural design, engineering, building, environmentalism and innovative technology who are all invested in addressing housing needs around the world, starting with the crisis in their own backyard, Los Angeles . Related: These prefabricated tiny homes are earthquake- and fire-resistant Prefabricated construction As part of this larger mission, ARCspace partnered with a variety of public and private interests to develop proprietary modular and prefabricated steel building systems. The mission is to work together to create efficient, affordable and long-lasting housing for a variety of needs that range from serving underprivileged communities to providing temporary housing. What began as a pilot program as a potential solution to the extreme homelessness crisis in L.A. has grown into several accommodation options ranging from 160 to 10,000 square feet. These units have been developed for residential and commercial use and as accessory dwelling units (ADUs). The structures are prefabricated for highly efficient and quick builds. The process also minimizes waste . In fact, the company reports the buildings are “spec-built from the ground up in 40-60% less time and cost than traditional construction.” Building materials In alignment with another Sustainable Building Council Ltd. goal to focus on sustainable architecture, ARCspace relies on high-grade steel as its primary material. Steel is a strong choice for durability, so the ARCspace units are built to meet and exceed California seismic safety requirements for protection against earthquake damage. The steel also makes them resilient in high winds and highly fire-resistant. In addition, steel won’t succumb to damage-causing bugs such as termites, and it’s a material that can be reused or recycled . Customizable tiny homes During development, the team at ARCspace collaborated with top innovators in the housing industry in order to follow the guidance of leading GreenTech companies. As a result, ARCspace units come with a variety of options customers can select during the customization process. This includes fun interior design elements like flooring, countertops, fixtures and paint. It also means optional elements that provide off-grid power and water. For example, some homes feature self-contained atmospheric water generators called Hydropanels that are grid-independent and pull a few liters of drinking water out of the air each day. Affordable solar panels are another add-on option. However, the primary supply still comes from onsite plumbing and electrical systems. The finished product provides all the comforts of home and the convenience of upsizing or downsizing with the addition or subtraction of units. Units can be linked end to end or stacked up to four units high with stairways connecting each unit. Avoiding toxins Although they look a bit like shipping containers, ARCspace pointed out critical differences. “We do not utilize or work with any form of used containers, not even 1-trip containers (those only used one time),” the company explained. “Shipping containers are manufactured with materials known to cause cancer such as LED paint, DDT wood flooring, and often have insecticide coatings, etc.” In addition to avoiding toxins in construction, ARCspace puts a focus on smart home features that are energy-efficient and healthy. The company employs a variety of sustainable technologies such as environmentally friendly, vegetable-based spray foam insulation and specialized window coatings that keep excessive heat out while allowing natural light in. It also uses recycled materials throughout, including for decking and outer cladding. Temporary shelters and emergency housing For temporary work sites or emergency housing needs, impermanent foundations mean the units can be relocated with minimal site impact . They can also be set up in as little as 24 hours once onsite with a small team using cranes to stack modules then following up with window installations. The company said, “Last year, ARCspace collaborated with Habitat for Humanity to create an Emergency Shelter Project in the San Francisco Bay area using America’s first prefabricated foundation and worked with local trade schools to help prepare a new workforce with an understanding of emerging sustainable building technology.” This quick-build housing showed the potential for ARCspace to provide affordable housing but also served as inspiration for those considering a career in green design. The ARCspace project was recently selected as a finalist in Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Ideas Awards, a competition that recognizes “Buildings, landscapes, urban designs, and policies that make cities and living in them cleaner, more efficient, more beautiful, and more equitable for their citizens.” + ARCspace Images via ARCspace

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ARCspace’s prefab homes are a quick and sustainable housing solution

Abandoned tramway becomes the playful Precollinear Park

July 5, 2021 by  
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If you’re not familiar with the term, placemaking is an idea that is sliding into the central focus spot when it comes to urban planning . It’s a people-centered approach to planning the usage of public spaces and was essential in developing the now permanent Precollinear Park in the center of Corso Gabetti and Ponte Regina Margherita in Turin, Italy. Even before the pandemic upended life in Italy, the strip of space was mostly abandoned. It previously hosted a tramline that experienced a few evolutions before crossing the route off the schedule, leaving the bridge with no activity. Related: Valet proposes a prefab parklet system for Milan’s roads When the pandemic saw droves of people looking for safe outdoor gathering spaces, nonprofit cultural association Torino Stratosferica started strategizing how to best use the space to the benefit of the citizens. With a priority for people’s happiness and well-being, the space was temporarily converted into Precollinear Park, a public area with seating and room to safely social distance. The project immediately drew help from the community , with over 700 residents from all over Turin speaking out about their ideas. Crowdfunding campaigns raised over 2,500 euros to help maintain the area. As a central location with arms connecting the four neighboring districts of Borgo Po, Madonna del Pilone, Vanchiglia and Vanchiglietta, Precollinear Park began hosting an assortment of events catering to entertainment, education and exhibitions. Now, it remains hugely popular as a recreational space where volunteers regularly participate in organized care and maintenance events. At least 60 citizens make up Volunteers of the Park who dedicate time each week to keep the park clean. The park was officially inaugurated in June 2020 and is now a permanent fixture in the region. Seemingly every week, Torino Stratosferica adds more structures and furnishings in continued development of the space, including an informational booth, wood pallet benches, flower pots, seating, a platform for events and an increasingly full calendar of cultural and recreational events. + Torino Stratosferica Via ArchDaily Images via Torino Stratosferica

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Abandoned tramway becomes the playful Precollinear Park

The Garden House is built like a renewable power station

July 5, 2021 by  
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This seemingly small, shingle-covered home in Melbourne, Australia may not look like a sustainable powerhouse, but in reality it is generating 100kwh of  energy  per day with a 26kwh Tesla battery. This number stands out compared to the 19kwh of energy the average Australian house uses per day. Known as the Garden House, the modern abode has an impressive set of sustainability features. In addition to its 17kW  solar panels  that face north, east and west to maximize solar output throughout the day, it also boasts a 15,000-liter rainwater tank stored under the garage for use in the toilets and to irrigate the garden. Related: Biophilic dome homes produce more energy than they consume The goal was to create a self-sustaining,  modern  home that didn’t feel big yet could accommodate a family of five. According to the clients, the architects were able to make this dream a reality. “Our home doesn’t feel too huge, it feels homely and cosy,” said the owners. “It’s like a little eco system, the more people the more sense it makes. It’s a multitasking house, doing four things at the same time. There’s logical space for it and it all works.” This was achieved by breaking up the bulk of the house into four smaller zones: an office, a kitchen/living room, a dining area and a kids’ area, each connected through mirrored glass links or bridges. Since the glass reflects its lush surroundings, the result is a cozy space that maintains a cohesive style. According to the designers, the clients wanted to keep as much of the plot’s existing greenery as possible, so they could enjoy the  garden  feel right when they moved in. The home also includes underfloor insulation, hydronic heating and double glazed windows with thermally broken aluminum frames. Such features allow the house to operate without gas or fossil fuels. For materials, the designers opted for  recycled  brick and 50% fly-ash content cement to lower emissions. The home has since won accolades from the Victorian Institute of Architects Awards. Austin Maynard Architects also dubbed the project its “most sustainable house so far.” + Austin Maynard Architects Via Dezeen Images via Austin Maynard Architects

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The Garden House is built like a renewable power station

Repurposed Furniture Ideas You Have to See

September 22, 2017 by  
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When a passion for repurposing is focused on furniture, the opportunities … The post Repurposed Furniture Ideas You Have to See appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Repurposed Furniture Ideas You Have to See

Zhang Chenxi creates realistic alien creatures that we actually wish existed

August 23, 2017 by  
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When we think of aliens, we usually conjure up images of green-skinned aliens or knobby-fingered creatures like E.T., but one artist let his imagination run wild with a series of 80 digitally-rendered aliens that are probably more realistic – and certainly more appealing – than the sci-fi fantasy. UI/UX designer and 3D artist Zhang Chenxi developed an art series titled “Unknown x Unknown” in which he explored what other forms these intergalactic beings could take – and the results are far from creepy. Zhang Chenxi’s digital illustrations are bursting with color and so much detail you could almost believe these were photographs of deep sea creatures or animals lurking in the Amazon rainforest. The little critters feature bright antennae, soft and squishy tentacles, fungi-like qualities and beads at the tips of their extremities. Some seem inspired by succulents, sea anemone, squids and insects while others are as completely odd as they are mesmerizing. Related: Jill Bliss’ stunning arrangements capture the magical beauty of mushrooms To bring his visions to life, Chenxi used MAXON Cinema 4D , a software program that allows artists to do 3D modeling, animation and graphics rendering. First he sketches his ideas on paper and then works his concept through Cinema 4D before rendering in Octane. He just finished the series of 80 renderings, but you can see his entire collection on Instagram and high-resolution versions on his Behance portfolio . + Zhang Chenxi Via Colossal

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Zhang Chenxi creates realistic alien creatures that we actually wish existed

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