Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan

June 23, 2020 by  
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Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan Tom Baruch Tue, 06/23/2020 – 01:30 The global COVID-19 pandemic is a historic Black Swan event that offers a Green Swan of opportunities to harvest innovation from 50 years of converging exponential technologies. We are presented with a rare opportunity to invest in new innovations, rebuild our data and power infrastructures and supply chains to restore and strengthen the economy while healing the environment. According to author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Black Swans are unexpected, hard-to-predict events that result in extreme, unintended consequences. The coronavirus pandemic is a classic Black Swan. Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed countries and states scrambling for personal protective equipment and ventilators. Oil tankers are carrying millions of tons of oil with nowhere to go. Farmers are destroying food and supermarket shelves are missing essential items across the nation. These events, made visible by the COVID-19 virus, have shown us the fragility of systems pushed to their breaking point by design constraints to maximize return on investment in the absence of resiliency.  Green Swans, according to John Elkington , are positive market developments once deemed highly unlikely, if not impossible. They can have a profound positive impact across economic, social and environmental value creation. To lessen the impact of current and future Black Swan events, we have Green Swan solutions that are ready to deploy on behalf of preparedness and resilience. Entrepreneurial innovation, new investment and regulatory models must be promoted and accelerated to prepare for future pandemics, climate change and to restore the environment. Back to normal is not an option To rebuild the economy, the United States government so far seems to choose to deploy the same playbook it did in 2008: funding legacy companies in industries such as oil and gas.  History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. This old playbook will not return us to a pre-COVID-19 “normal.” The price of oil plunged below zero on some days, and customer demand remains at an all-time low. Bailouts paper over the fossil fuel industry’s weaknesses and “will create a zombie industry forever dependent on state aid for survival,” according to Jason Quay, director of the Global Climate Strategy Sunrise Project.  History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. In the United States, examples include the Transcontinental Railroad, the Manhattan Project, the Interstate Highway System and the Apollo program.  What if the government were to integrate support for clean energy into its COVID-19 economic recovery program? Renewables would emerge more robust than ever. Utilities already have found wind and solar power are less costly sources of energy. The economics of solar and wind including storage costs are quickly undercutting the economics of oil as a prime mover. According to MIT Tech Review , prices for solar energy have declined by 97 percent since 1980. Government policies that stimulated the growth of solar accounted for 60 percent of that price decline. Even without those policies — they soon expire — renewables are more than competitive against fossil fuels. The national strategy for re-opening the economy needs to focus on resilience projects and creating an infrastructure that will absorb future shocks. Government must provide the regulatory support to amplify transformative innovation from the intersections of converging exponential technologies. We already have demonstrated the efficacy of investments directed to electrical distribution, water, transportation and renewable energy. Green Swan solutions are already at work Entrepreneurs are on the verge of creating an era that will be marked by abundance, sustainability and resilience. The world that emerges from COVID-19 could offer plentiful, zero marginal cost electricity, ubiquitous computing and cheap bio-manufacturing of high-purity drugs and environmentally friendly plastics directly from DNA.  As another example, the digitization of the electrical grid, is changing the way power is delivered and consumed. Cheap electricity drives electrons across the electrical grid where they become more accessible and offer a more affordable, cleaner and more resilient way to charge electric batteries. Among other benefits, that will increase EV adoption, leading to cleaner air. Cheap electricity will increase access to clean water. One ingenious company, Zero Mass Water , has repurposed the same solar panels helping create cheap electricity to squeeze potable water from the air — even in desert conditions. Cheap electricity also will drive synthetic biology — the intersection of information and biotechnologies, where Moore’s Law meets Mendel , the father of genetics. Synthetic biology already has delivered safe, more economical, cleaner fuels, hardier crops and proteins that are brewed locally to fertilize crops and feed animals — including us humans. Futuristic, sustainable, brewed, high-performance materials already are manufactured locally, disrupting traditional supply chains. Among the many companies demonstrating the breadth of this industry are Calysta (proteins for food production), Codexis (enzymes for multiple applications) and Geltor (proteins for nutrition and personal care products). These companies are demonstrating their products can be more effective than those developed from petroleum products or requiring the slaughter of animals. Emerging digital and biological tools for traceability and reliability are helping build supply-chain resilience now when it is most needed. With digital and biological tools, entrepreneurs are mapping supply chains to increase traceability while offering new levels of transparency following goods as they make their ways from manufacturer to consumer.  Resilience, despite resistance Entrepreneurs, new business models and investors will show us the way forward. Entrepreneurs have demonstrated time and time again that they can compress a century of progress into a decade. With the support of a community of enlightened venture capital investors, corporate strategic partners, financial institutions and governmental regulatory bodies, entrepreneurs can create exponential change and generate substantial value in short periods of time. With community inputs from technology, financial and regulatory bodies, entrepreneurs can generate greater returns on investment, and their efforts can create a template for the rest of the world. We need to encourage and fund new business models that leverage converging exponential technologies. In the 1990s, business models were focused almost exclusively on share of wallet. For the past 20 years, digital technology has enabled the emergence of the business models that have driven the circular and sharing economies with their positive benefits. New business models are quickly emerging based on cloud computing, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, blockchain, data analytics, augmented/virtual reality and combinations thereof. No doubt, they will bring countless benefits. Regulatory barriers for new business models should be eliminated or eased. Don’t bet against America We know this current crisis is a preview or warm-up act for a climate-changing world. The pandemic demands that business and government leaders be ready, willing and able to respond while building secure and resilient supply chains and infrastructure. The post-pandemic world requires that business and government leaders encourage creativity in preparing for the next crisis.  As we try to anticipate a resilient, reliable, secure, sustainable and prosperous future, we also have the chance to incubate and create that future. We can apply what we have learned from the past 50 years of entrepreneurial innovation, from Moore’s Law (semiconductors, information technologies and the Internet) and the mapping of the human genome, and their positive impact on global GNP. It is up to us to innovate and advocate to make the right choices. In a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, investor Warren Buffett wrote, “America’s economy will continue to grow and prosper for generations to come.” He finished by saying, “For 240 years, it’s been a terrible mistake to bet against America.”  Applying our know-how and ingenuity to prepare for the next crisis is the right place to start. Pull Quote History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. Topics Innovation VERGE Cleantech 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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How to make vegetable broth with scraps to reduce food waste

May 22, 2020 by  
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Food waste is a major dilemma in today’s world, and throwing out even vegetable scraps contributes to the problem. Not to mention that throwing out unwanted food is also a huge waste of money. Here’s one small way to do your part —  make your own  vegetable (or meat) broths and stocks from scratch. It’s surprisingly easy to make broth and relies on bits and pieces of  veggies , meats and even odds and ends like cheese rinds, all of which would otherwise be thrown in the landfill. Plus, you’ll save money and create a much more flavorful broth than you can find at the store. Each time, the broth will taste slightly different, too, depending on the combination of scraps you have on hand. Get ready to make flavorful, comforting recipes with this tutorial on how to make your own broth to reduce  food waste . Related: Your guide to preserving, storing and canning food The first step is to find a large, freezer-safe container to store your scraps until you build up enough to produce a rich broth. Of course, much of the internet will say to throw it in a  plastic  resealable bag, but here at Inhabitat, we strongly encourage finding a glass jar or silicone resealable bag instead. The hardest part of the process is remembering to save those stems and peelings for the broth. If you are accustomed to tossing unwanted bits, like pepper stems or onion skins, straight into the garbage can or  compost bin , it will take a conscious effort to train your brain and hands to grab up those scraps and throw them into the freezer container. The freezer will preserve the scraps until you are ready to make a broth. Another good candidate for your scrap container? Veggies that are on their last leg at the end of the week. If you didn’t finish those carrots and celery, chop them into smaller pieces, and toss them in the freezer.  Wilting herbs , cheese rinds and meat bones are also fair game, depending on your dietary needs and what you have available. After a few weeks (or less depending on how many people are in your home!), you will be left with a full container packed with flavorful bits and pieces. It’s time to get cooking! Break out a stockpot and  start sauteing  those frozen vegetable scraps with oil and salt. Cook for just a few minutes before adding several cups of water (about 10 cups should do, but add more if you have more scraps and a larger stockpot). Then, simmer away! Simmer those scraps in water for 30 minutes to an hour; then be sure to let it cool slightly. Don’t forget to taste the broth — add more herbs, salt or even nutritional yeast if it needs a flavor boost. Next, remove the vegetable bits for composting. Strain the broth into another pot to make sure all of the scraps have been removed. Once the broth has completely cooled, pour it into airtight containers — glass jars work well — and store in the freezer for up to a month. Then, anytime you want to make an easy soup for dinner (we recommend these  vegan slow cooker soup  recipes) or even more complex, brothy meals, you can grab your own flavorful, zero-waste broth as the base. Images via Monika Schröder , Hebi. B , Rita E. and Snow Pea & Bok Choi

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How to make vegetable broth with scraps to reduce food waste

Tips for reducing food waste amid coronavirus

May 14, 2020 by  
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In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are panic-buying groceries that may or may not be used before they expire, leading to unprecedented amounts of food waste. Meanwhile, restaurants and farms are having to throw out unsold and unused food and dairy products. To help lessen the impact, follow these tips to reduce your household’s food waste during the pandemic and beyond. Food waste represents around 8% of greenhouse gas emissions. Studies have shown that humans waste one of every three food calories produced — enough to feed 3 billion mouths, about 10 times the population of the U.S. or 25% of the world’s 815 million undernourished people. Financially, food waste presents an additional burden; the average American family wastes $1,866 worth of food annually. But the pandemic could make these circumstances worse. Related: How to make a meal out of leftover veggies According to the The New York Times , farmers and ranchers have been forced to dump tens of millions of pounds of food that they are unable to sell due to the closures of schools, restaurants and hotels. Amid these difficult times, they simply do not have the financial means to ship and distribute their produce. Dairy Farmers of America estimated that farmers are dumping upward of 3.7 million gallons of milk every day, and some chicken processors are smashing 750,000 eggs each week. Exporting excess food is difficult because the pandemic is affecting the entire world. The cost of crop harvesting and processing without the promise of profit is causing portions of the agriculture industry to face financial strains that they have never seen before. Yet, Americans are continuing to see empty shelves at grocery stores, and, according to Feeding America , 98% of food banks in the United States reported an increased demand for food assistance since the beginning of March, and 59% of food banks have less food available. COVID-19 has disrupted nearly every aspect of the food supply chain. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has updated its food waste initiative to reflect additional issues presented by the novel coronavirus. WWF is also helping to bring people together from different food-related industries and schools to find new approaches to reducing food waste with Further With Food . The organization is also providing opportunities to teach and learn about sustainability, water conservation and the connections between food and the environment with Wild Classroom Daily Activity Plans . April 29 was Stop Food Waste Day , a movement introduced in 2017 to help the world reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to halve food waste by 2030. Although a vast number of people around the world are experiencing difficult times, the coronavirus pandemic has also presented many with the opportunity to rethink their habits — including those involving food . Plan ahead Plan your meals ahead of time to ensure that no food goes to waste. Even better, start food prepping so you have time to accomplish other things during the week. Something as simple as making a list or taking inventory of the food you already have in the kitchen before heading to the grocery store can save time, money and food. Related: How to stock a vegan pandemic pantry Try new recipes If there was ever a time to try out those recipes from Pinterest, it is now. Browse social media, ask your friends, scour the internet for creative recipes; you may discover a new way to use those food items you stocked up on a while ago. Preserve and freeze Have some wilting beets in the vegetable crisper you won’t get to before the end of the week or leftover red onion you have no room for in future recipes? Do a quick-pickle to extend the life of your produce (don’t forget to follow correct pickling and canning procedures to avoid getting sick). Consider whether or not you can freeze something before throwing it out, too. For example, before your bananas have the chance to go bad, peel them and store them in the freezer to use for smoothies. Related: Your guide to preserving, storing and canning food Use every bit of food Store unused mushroom stems, onion ends, herbs, carrot stubs and celery leaves in the freezer to use for broth. Save the carcass if you roast a whole chicken, too. Though it takes several hours to complete, making bone broth is super simple and a great way to get those added nutrients without having to purchase store-bought stock. Start with these recipes for simple bone broth and vegan vegetable broth by Minimalist Baker. Learn a trick or two If you notice that some of your produce is starting to shrivel in the refrigerator, revitalize them. Some vegetables, such as lettuce, are reinvigorated with an ice water bath. Asparagus will last longer if you keep the stalks moist by wrapping them with a damp paper towel or storing them upright in a glass of water in the fridge. Check out this infographic on how to make fresh food last longer . Educate yourself on food labeling Food labels can be intimidating for some shoppers, and sometimes consumers tend to err on the side of caution by tossing out food before it has truly gone bad. Don’t confuse the “best by,” “sell by” and “best before” labels. Check out the USDA website for some amazing resources for proper food storage and handling , including information on the FoodKeeper App for the best tips on food freshness and answers to common questions about food product dating . Sharing is caring During times of uncertainty, frustration and fear, humans are always stronger together. Though most of us are unable to see friends, family and neighbors in person for now, dropping off some extra food — if you can spare it — certainly goes a long way for those in need. Remember to only purchase what you need so that other members of your community have enough resources available to get by. Share recipes, donate extra food to your local food bank and remember — we’re all in this together! Images via Jasmin Sessler , Ella Olsson , Hans , Tatiana Byzova

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Tips for reducing food waste amid coronavirus

Oliver Co. makes vegan leather wallets from apple waste and wood

May 14, 2020 by  
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A new London-based company has created a sustainable line of wallets and cardholders made from a combination of vegan “apple leather” and “wood leather.” Oliver Co. puts a priority on sustainability by focusing on high-performance, eco-friendly fabrics for its products, moving away from the non-renewable resources that the world has come to expect out of fashion accessories. Matt Oliver, the 27-year-old product design graduate behind the company, understood the difficulties of finding sustainable fabrics that maintained the same quality and look of traditional materials, especially when it came to leather. He spent about two years looking for the right materials to fit his goals, working with Sustainable Angle, a nonprofit organization that connects small businesses with high-quality eco-textile suppliers. It was then that the vegan leather came to life. Related: These vegan “Star Wars” sneakers are made with discarded pineapple leaves The wood leather is made by bonding thin sheets of wood and fabric with a non-toxic adhesive. The wood fabric gets its soft, supple touch and pliability thanks to small micro-laser etchings to make it look and feel more like leather. All of the wood comes from FSC-approved forests, helping to reduce carbon emissions by about 60% when compared to traditional leather. The apple leather is created using a 50/50 combination of apple by-product and polyurethane coated onto a cotton polyester canvas. The company gets the apple waste from an apple-producing region of Bolzano that grows and processes a large number of apples each year and faces a significant amount of food waste . According to Oliver Co., the upcycled apple leather has a much lower impact than similar faux leathers on the market right now. Oliver Co. continues to work on innovative ways to incorporate sustainability into its business model. The company works closely with its suppliers to ensure high ethical standards in product manufacturing and full transparency for its product ingredients. Future collections of Oliver Co. accessories , such as clutch bags, pouches and laptop cases, will use the same unique vegan leather. + Oliver Co. Images via Oliver Co.

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Oliver Co. makes vegan leather wallets from apple waste and wood

Oliver Co. makes vegan leather wallets from apple waste and wood

May 14, 2020 by  
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A new London-based company has created a sustainable line of wallets and cardholders made from a combination of vegan “apple leather” and “wood leather.” Oliver Co. puts a priority on sustainability by focusing on high-performance, eco-friendly fabrics for its products, moving away from the non-renewable resources that the world has come to expect out of fashion accessories. Matt Oliver, the 27-year-old product design graduate behind the company, understood the difficulties of finding sustainable fabrics that maintained the same quality and look of traditional materials, especially when it came to leather. He spent about two years looking for the right materials to fit his goals, working with Sustainable Angle, a nonprofit organization that connects small businesses with high-quality eco-textile suppliers. It was then that the vegan leather came to life. Related: These vegan “Star Wars” sneakers are made with discarded pineapple leaves The wood leather is made by bonding thin sheets of wood and fabric with a non-toxic adhesive. The wood fabric gets its soft, supple touch and pliability thanks to small micro-laser etchings to make it look and feel more like leather. All of the wood comes from FSC-approved forests, helping to reduce carbon emissions by about 60% when compared to traditional leather. The apple leather is created using a 50/50 combination of apple by-product and polyurethane coated onto a cotton polyester canvas. The company gets the apple waste from an apple-producing region of Bolzano that grows and processes a large number of apples each year and faces a significant amount of food waste . According to Oliver Co., the upcycled apple leather has a much lower impact than similar faux leathers on the market right now. Oliver Co. continues to work on innovative ways to incorporate sustainability into its business model. The company works closely with its suppliers to ensure high ethical standards in product manufacturing and full transparency for its product ingredients. Future collections of Oliver Co. accessories , such as clutch bags, pouches and laptop cases, will use the same unique vegan leather. + Oliver Co. Images via Oliver Co.

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Oliver Co. makes vegan leather wallets from apple waste and wood

Pittsburghs MuseumLab for children achieves LEED Gold

May 14, 2020 by  
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MuseumLab, one of Pittsburgh’s most creative and innovative youth learning spaces, has earned LEED Gold a year after the project was completed in the recently renovated 1890 Carnegie Library, which is located in the city’s North Side neighborhood. Santa Monica-based Koning Eizenberg Architecture led the design of the energy-efficient adaptive reuse project that now serves as a beacon for sustainability, historic preservation and community investment. Part interactive museum and part learning lab, the MuseumLab was developed by the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, which received LEED Silver in 2006, to offer a variety of innovative activities for kids aged 10 and above for experimenting with art and technology. The new space hosts three labs: the Studio Lab for art; the Make Lab that comprises woodworking and metalworking equipment as well as CNC routers and laser cutters; and the Tech Lab that teaches children coding, augmented reality and video game design. The MuseumLab also has program and rental spaces, commissioned artworks, unique camps, workshops and after-school activities. Related: The net-zero Frick Environmental Center is officially one of the world’s greenest buildings In renovating the 130-year-old Carnegie Library, the architects sought to preserve and expose as much of the original 1890 archways, columns and mosaic floors as possible while bolstering the building’s energy efficiency. As a result, deteriorated plaster was sensitively rehabilitated with thermal plaster patching rather than demolished altogether. Windows were reinstated to bring greater amounts of natural light to the interiors to highlight the many historic details and new contemporary art brought into the space. “The work of innovative building projects like MuseumLab is a fundamental driving force in transforming the way our buildings are built, designed and operated,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of U.S. Green Building Council. “Buildings that achieve LEED certification are lowering carbon emissions , reducing operating costs and conserving resources while prioritizing sustainable practices and human health. Because of MuseumLab, we are increasing the number of green buildings and getting closer to USGBC’s goal to outpace conventional buildings, while being environmentally and socially responsible and improving quality of life for generations to come.” + Koning Eizenberg Architecture Photography by Erik Staudenmaier via Koning Eizenberg Architecture

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Pittsburghs MuseumLab for children achieves LEED Gold

Pittsburghs MuseumLab for children achieves LEED Gold

May 14, 2020 by  
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MuseumLab, one of Pittsburgh’s most creative and innovative youth learning spaces, has earned LEED Gold a year after the project was completed in the recently renovated 1890 Carnegie Library, which is located in the city’s North Side neighborhood. Santa Monica-based Koning Eizenberg Architecture led the design of the energy-efficient adaptive reuse project that now serves as a beacon for sustainability, historic preservation and community investment. Part interactive museum and part learning lab, the MuseumLab was developed by the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, which received LEED Silver in 2006, to offer a variety of innovative activities for kids aged 10 and above for experimenting with art and technology. The new space hosts three labs: the Studio Lab for art; the Make Lab that comprises woodworking and metalworking equipment as well as CNC routers and laser cutters; and the Tech Lab that teaches children coding, augmented reality and video game design. The MuseumLab also has program and rental spaces, commissioned artworks, unique camps, workshops and after-school activities. Related: The net-zero Frick Environmental Center is officially one of the world’s greenest buildings In renovating the 130-year-old Carnegie Library, the architects sought to preserve and expose as much of the original 1890 archways, columns and mosaic floors as possible while bolstering the building’s energy efficiency. As a result, deteriorated plaster was sensitively rehabilitated with thermal plaster patching rather than demolished altogether. Windows were reinstated to bring greater amounts of natural light to the interiors to highlight the many historic details and new contemporary art brought into the space. “The work of innovative building projects like MuseumLab is a fundamental driving force in transforming the way our buildings are built, designed and operated,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of U.S. Green Building Council. “Buildings that achieve LEED certification are lowering carbon emissions , reducing operating costs and conserving resources while prioritizing sustainable practices and human health. Because of MuseumLab, we are increasing the number of green buildings and getting closer to USGBC’s goal to outpace conventional buildings, while being environmentally and socially responsible and improving quality of life for generations to come.” + Koning Eizenberg Architecture Photography by Erik Staudenmaier via Koning Eizenberg Architecture

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‘Tiger King’ drama overshadows abuse of captive tigers in U.S.

April 24, 2020 by  
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Netflix’s wildly popular “Tiger King” documentary series has been progressively sweeping the nation since it first aired on March 20. As an outrageous, binge-worthy drama released when self-isolation and uncertainty were spreading around the world, the show certainly came at the right time to provide an escape from the news. Overnight, it seemed, conversations that didn’t revolve around the coronavirus or Joe Exotic were hard to come by. Photos of celebrities who’d visited the zoos were flooding the internet, Joe Exotic’s power-ballads were hitting it big on Spotify and even President Donald Trump was fielding questions about the gun-toting zookeeper during press briefings. While the eccentric documentary reveals some disturbing truths about the enigmatic underworld it portrays, the show’s colorful characters tend to overshadow serious animal welfare issues. The dizzying murder-mystery component camouflages animal cruelty behind a jaw-dropping “you have to see it to believe it” drama. Now that the initial buzz of the show has started to die down, animal conservationists are begging the public to take a closer look at what the series failed to address: why, and how, these types of animal “sanctuaries” are legal in the United States. Related: Bronx Zoo tiger tests positive for coronavirus The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) believes that the illegal wildlife trade presents the most substantial incentive for exotic animal breeding and estimates that a vast majority of the captive tigers in the U.S. are living inside people’s backyards, roadside attractions and private breeding facilities. “Tigers should not be kept or bred for entertainment or trade in their parts and products,” said Leigh Henry, director of wildlife policy for WWF USA. “As a leader in promoting the conservation of tigers globally, the United States has a responsibility to manage the staggering 5,000 estimated captive tigers within its own borders.” The tigers remaining in the wild currently number around 3,900 and are continuing to be threatened due to poaching , illegal trade and habitat loss. Surprisingly, only an estimated 6% of the captive tiger population in the U.S. live inside zoos and facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Because tigers in the United States are regulated by a combination of federal, state and local laws, there is no single government agency monitoring the location, ownership or sales of the tigers or what happens to their parts when they die. According to Henry, any supply of tiger parts into the black market stimulates trade and customer demand, posing additional risks to the wild tiger population. Tiger abuse in the U.S. was on the radar well before Netflix aired “Tiger King.” In 2006, Joe Exotic’s GW Exotic Animal Park was fined $25,000 by the USDA for not providing adequate veterinary care or sufficient staff. Back in 2011, the Humane Society put an investigator undercover as an animal caretaker inside the park for about four months. They found hundreds of animals caged in barren conditions, cared for by workers with little-to-no experience and tiger cubs that were “punched, dragged, and hit with whips.” During that time, GW Exotic Animal Park was under investigation by the USDA for the deaths of 23 tiger cubs between 2009 and 2010. Even Emmy Award-winning comedian and political commentator John Oliver recently recalled learning about Joe Exotic in 2016. “Our researcher went back through his notes and did say, ‘It seems like the park he’s running is a little bit dangerous, we may not want to hold hands too closely with this, “ Oliver said . “Plus he started ranting about a woman named Carole.’” For the places that make their money from public encounters with tigers, continuous breeding is key in maintaining a constant supply of cubs for entertaining guests. Because of this, tigers are often inbred, causing birth defects and health issues that make them unsuitable for reintroduction into the wild . Most of the privately owned tigers in the U.S. are of mixed or unknown lineage, making them unable to participate in legitimate captive-breeding efforts in accredited zoos and institutions as well. “Facilities like Joe Exotic’s and Doc Antle’s masquerade as rescue or conservation operations, but in fact they breed tigers and subject the cubs, who are torn from their mothers immediately after birth, to stress and abuse,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and the CEO of Humane Society International. “After a few months, when the cubs are too large for close encounters with the public and the opportunity for profit is over, the cubs are caged, sold into the pet trade or die. This cycle of breeding for temporary use leads to a surplus of unwanted animals who languish in horrible conditions.” When it comes to ethical animal sanctuaries, the leading authority is the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS). This accrediting organization requires sanctuaries to meet animal-welfare standards exceeding the federal Animal Welfare Act minimum. National Geographic also outlines several things to look for when participating in wildlife tourism . According to the GFAS, sanctuaries must provide lifetime care for abused, injured or abandoned animals, and rehabilitation or rescue centers are meant to provide temporary care with the goal of either releasing animals back into the wild or placing them in permanent care. To be accredited in the AZA, the leading non-profit organization connected to zoos and aquariums in terms of conservation, companies must go through a rigorous application process . Both the AZA and the GFAS provide lists of accredited facilities on their websites. Since the documentary was filmed, 39 of Joe Exotic’s tigers have been rescued and are now living peacefully inside The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado (you can see a video of the tigers’ new living conditions here ). WWF and the Humane Society are continuing to call for greater supervision and protection of captive tigers with the introduction of the Big Cat Public Safety Act . The act and its accompanying bill prohibiting cub petting are scheduled to be voted on by the end of the year. One could argue that “Tiger King” inspired viewership in ways that a more deliberate, expose-style documentary simply could not accomplish. Though the more severe components of the documentary have been masked by a barrage of memes and Twitter-fueled jokes, the ones who suffered the most in this human drama were actually the animals . Hopefully, what begins to come out of “Tiger King” will be the public’s refusal to let spectacle overpower mindfulness and that we all learn to see beyond the flashy images to realize that animal abuse is wrong — no matter how captivating the abusers are. Via National Geographic and World Wildlife Fund Images via Pixabay

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15 ways to celebrate Earth Day 2020 at home

April 22, 2020 by  
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April 22, 2020 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day . While every day is the perfect day to honor Mother Earth, Earth Day is an opportunity to implement a new sustainable practice, create something beautiful or protect limited resources. So while you are hunkered down during COVID-19, here are some activities you can do to celebrate Earth Day at home. Establish rain barrels Water conservation is especially important, so why not start in your own yard by collecting rainwater ? In turn, you can use it to water the lawn and garden or provide a drink for pets and wildlife. Systems are easy to set up with a downspout diverter that you can incorporate directly into your gutter system. Related: Earth Day 2020 goes digital Pick up garbage Garbage is not only an eyesore, but it can hurt wildlife and pollute waterways , too. This Earth Day, head out on your own or with your household to pick up the neighborhood on your daily walk or even clean up your own yard. Just be sure to follow health precautions, including social distancing and wearing masks. Make planters For a fun Earth Day project, build your own planters. You can make them out of spare wood or concrete mix, or you can get creative with household items that make excellent planters, such as an old boot, a colander or a teapot. Create flower beds Because Earth Day lands in spring, it’s a great time to plan for planting. If you’re creating flower beds, use repurposed materials instead of buying new. Grab a pallet, upcycle some metal sheeting, stack rocks from around the property or line the space with upside-down bottles. The options for creating flower beds are only limited by your imagination, so get creative! Design an eco-friendly pantry  Earth Day is about giving thought to ways you can reduce consumption and waste and that idea works just as well inside the home as it does outside of it. With that in mind, tackle the pantry by moving food and spices into glass jars. Use a label-maker or attach chalk paint stickers to the front of each jar so you can identify the ingredients. Then, plan to purchase from bulk bins in the future to eliminate packaging waste with each grocery store trip. Plant a tree Few things are more ubiquitous than planting a tree on Earth Day, so join the movement by putting some of your favorites in the yard. Trees offer endless benefits, from providing animal habitats and shade to cleaning the air you breathe. Consider planting a fruit tree , so you can even harvest some sweet rewards. Provide bird feeders and baths Birds are pollinators , plus they are just fun to watch as they fly and sing around the yard. Take care of your feathered friends with clean bird baths and feeders full of fresh seeds for them to enjoy. Build a butterfly house In addition to selecting plants that attract fluttery friends, you can spend your Earth Day building a home specifically made for butterflies . Plans are fairly basic, and if you are inclined, a slight variation in the design can net you a bat house, too. Start an apiary Bees are essential for pollination and a healthy food and flower supply. With that in mind, why not manage your own apiary? There are some upfront costs and planning required, but if beekeeping is on your bucket list, Earth Day is the perfect time to start.  Make your own cleaning products To avoid washing toxic chemicals down the drain and into the water system, make your own natural cleaners. With a little practice, you can make laundry detergent , fabric softener, liquid soap and all-purpose cleaners. Natural cleaners don’t require very many ingredients, and you may already have these ingredients in your home. Spend your Earth Day making the switch from commercial to homemade. Related: DIY natural cleaners for every household chore Replace plastic Eliminating plastic from your house can take your Earth Day campaign from one room to the next. Although you don’t have to hit the internet to order all new containers, make a wish list and replace plastic items as you are able. Common examples include shampoo bottles, water bottles, laundry detergent jugs, grocery bags and food storage containers. Vow to make the switch to no packaging or glass and stainless steel reusable containers for every item on the list. Convert to online billing In today’s world, paper billing is rarely needed. Save mail delivery fuel emissions and reduce paper consumption by moving your bills online instead of receiving them in paper form. This can include mail relating to utilities, banking, credit cards, mortgages and more. Plan or plant a garden Providing fresh, farm-to-table food for your family or roommates is a fabulous way to spend Earth Day. The benefits are endless, from bountiful produce to a smaller carbon footprint. If it’s not quite planting time in your region, at least outline a plan for what plants you hope to grow, where you will locate them and when they will be ready for consumption. Start composting If you don’t have one already, composters are easy to start and maintain. You can buy a commercial composter, put together a basic wood box without a bottom or simply make a pile in the backyard. Position your compost pile in a sunny spot for best results, stir it occasionally and make sure it stays moist during very dry seasons. Layer ingredients with approximately equal amounts of brown materials, green materials and organic food scraps. Watch the Lyrid meteor shower Enjoy an exciting glimpse of our universe by watching the Lyric meteor shower , which is actually visible from about April 16 to April 25, just in time to celebrate Earth Day. You’ll have a chance to see up to 10 to 15 meteors per hour. + EarthDay.org Images via Manfred Antranias Zimmer , Barb Howe , Dieter G , George B2 , Crema Joe and Neon Brand

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15 ways to celebrate Earth Day 2020 at home

Interactive maps show top 10 states for off-grid lifestyles

April 9, 2020 by  
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Homesteading was a way of life for generations while the world developed industrialization and created cities of infrastructure. Over time, modern conveniences and the fast pace of business encouraged an increasing number of people to move into urban areas and/or reduce self-reliance in favor of easily accessible supermarkets and mail-order food. But in recent years, a resurgence of homesteading has shown that uncertain times have resulted in people returning to the basics of gardening , farming, food preservation and finding ways to be off-grid.  A recent data collection report by HomeAdvisor consolidated information from across Instagram to find out how many people are subscribing to a simpler way of life. Interestingly, the results show clusters of communities seemingly sharing common values in certain areas across the United States. Related: Do people in tiny houses live more sustainably? The information was gathered based on three commonly used hashtags (#homesteading, #tinyliving , and #offgridliving ), and then geolocation data identified the hot spots. Each of these lifestyles focuses on some level of self-sufficiency and cost savings. Homesteading is mainly about self-sufficiency. You’ll find homesteaders growing their own food, generating their own power and making their own clothes. Tiny living is a lifestyle that leaves a smaller footprint on the world. Tiny houses and tiny living are about simplification, a lower cost of living and using fewer resources. Living off-grid is a broad category that includes tiny living and homesteading. It also means disappearing from staples of society like the electric grid, schooling and the internet.  The reasons for heading towards a more self-sufficient lifestyle are varied, ranging from a fear of pandemics, an increase in surveillance infringing on privacy and concern for the environment. Regardless of the exact reasons, freedom,  lowering one’s carbon footprint  and a sense of independence seem to be at the core of the movement.  While there are abundant hashtags for any of these lifestyles, the study targeted these three as the best sources of information on the topic. The data was then consolidated and prepared for visual consumption by converting it into interactive maps and infographics . The method of collection eliminated Instagram posts without a location and those outside the United States. “To create these visualizations, we collected data by “scraping” it. Scraping is a technique that gathers large amounts of data from websites. In this case, we wrote a custom script in Python to get the data for each hashtag. The script collected information including the number of likes, number of comments, location, etc. for posts with each of the three lifestyle hashtags. The python script also collects data that human users can’t see, like specific location information about where the post was published from,” HomeAdvisor said on its website. When it comes to the United States and off-grid living as a whole, the interactive map gives a snapshot of the trend with the larger circles showing clusters. Moving into more specific information, homesteading may not be as rural as one might expect. In fact, large numbers of homesteaders are balancing backyard beehives , chickens and crops with a daily commute. One might also think homesteading is associated with life on the west coast. While that’s partly true, there are communities up and down the east coast squashing the idea that high populace and running your own farm don’t go hand-in-hand. As seen on the Top 10 States for #Homesteading map, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York all have active homesteading communities. Austin, Texas and Livermore, Colorado are Insta-proud of their homesteads too. On the west coast, the Seattle area in Washington and larger cities such as L.A. and San Diego in California top the list in the number of homesteaders posting their fresh eggs and veggies. For off-grid living, the map looks a little different. Here we find that numbers might be a bit skewed, considering off-grid technically means off social media, but the images are still there as a basis to understand the trends. By the Insta-numbers, Kimberly, Alabama comes in at the top of the off-grid areas, but since many of the posts are from the same Airbnb location, HomeAdvisor calculates that California takes the prize for the most off-gridders. This isn’t too surprising for a state that just mandated all new home constructions must include  solar panels . The four corners of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico are all in the top 10 for off-grid living, in addition to New York, Florida, Oregon, Hawaii and Alaska. The  tiny home movement  might be a bit hard to track for the mobile types, but on the road or not, Instagram is full of #tinyliving examples. The resulting map shows all three west coast states (California, Oregon and Washington) taking part in the trend. Florida, North Carolina and New York are active on the east coast, and Utah, Colorado and Arizona house the tiny movement too. Texas rounds out the #tinyliving top 10 list.  In conclusion, an increasing number of #homesteading Americans are going back to their roots of growing crops and raising cattle. Meanwhile, the #tinyliving community looks for ways to minimize their impact on the land, and #offgridliving continues to be difficult to accurately track, at least through the likes of Instagram. + HomeAdvisor  Images via HomeAdvisor

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Interactive maps show top 10 states for off-grid lifestyles

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