Greek island changes fortune with green tech

May 12, 2022 by  
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Authorities on the small island of Tilos in Greece have announced that 80% of its trash is now being recycled. Tilos almost lost all of its population due to power and waste problems, however, Greek policymakers decided to use the island to test green tech . In due time, they have turned around its fortune. Today, the island of just 500 residents receives tens of thousands of tourists each year. It is well powered with solar panels that support basic domestic uses and even provide power for electric vehicles. Tilos started producing its own electricity in 2019 thanks to a solar park and wind turbines hooked up to batteries. For a small island, slightly larger than the size of Manhattan, these achievements are commendable. Related: Striking home in Greece uses bioclimatic features to be energy-efficient year-round Tilos is one of the farthest flank islands among the Greek islands. Most of its beaches are usually empty, where goats and other animals roam freely close to medieval churches. For such an island, self-reliance is necessary and authorities have made it possible. Mayor Maria Kamma-Aliferi says that the efforts made to make it self-reliant have helped repopulate the island . “In the 1990s there were 270 people left on this island. There were very few births. The school was in danger of closing because it had so few kids ? I was one of them,” Kamma-Aliferi said.  Greece is a country made up of many small islands. Today, it has more than 200 populated islands, most of which suffer from power outages and garbage management issues. For such small communities that require self-reliance, power generation and waste management can be a big problem. On most of the islands, waste landfills are hidden within hills. Tilos, however, has converted a landfill where untreated garbage was once littered into a well-organized park closed to the public. With an intentional approach to dealing with these problems, it is possible to bring change to such communities. This summer , Tilos is expecting more than 30,000 visitors. The Island of Rhodes just next to Tillos is expecting over 2 million visitors by air alone in the same period. Equipping these islands with functional systems makes it possible for the islands to become economic hubs. “This is an island community that’s open to change. It volunteered to take in refugees and held Greece’s first same-sex partnership ceremony. We had other options but we knew we had to start here,” Athanasios Polychronopoulos, who heads a Greek recycling firm, said. Via ABC News Lead image via Pexels

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Aura Bora sparkling waters give back to the planet

May 12, 2022 by  
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For those who get bored of drinking plain water or prefer to add bubbles without calories, sparkling water is a popular choice. But along with the bubbles, many sparkling waters offer bland flavors or artificial junk. Aura Bora Founders Paul and Maddie Voge set out to change all that with plant-based flavor combinations that are bold, natural and different.  Aura Bora sparkling water is made using recipes infused with herbs, fruits and flowers. The flavor options aren’t your typical lime, berry and mandarin. Instead, there are combinations that jazz up the standard with lime cardamom, elderflower grapefruit, hibiscus passionfruit, ginger Meyer lemon, chai cranberry and more (see review below). Read the ingredient list on any can to see unique offerings like basil, cactus , coconut and lavender. Related: Good Earth Tea celebrates 50th anniversary with tasty blends Aura Bora is dedicated to providing drinks that are free of the bad stuff and full of the good stuff. Inasmuch, their offerings are all zero calorie, zero sugar, non-GMO, plant-based, gluten free, artificial flavor free and vegan. Additionally, the company is equally dedicated to giving back to the environment as members of 1% for the Planet. The story of Paul and Maddie’s entrepreneurial journey starts with the absence of soda in their childhood homes, which guided them towards sparkling water at a young age. After meeting at summer camp in New Hampshire, they continued to share their love of the outdoors ever since. They said, “Both grew up as firm advocates for the environment — practicing ‘Leave No Trace’ on the hiking trails, buying second-hand clothing, avoiding plastic and outfitting their home with solar panels.” Once they entered the tech world , they found an underwhelming assortment of sparkling water options in the corporate break rooms. It inspired them to ask if there was a better sparkling water alternative. As the story often goes, when they couldn’t find it, they made their own. Equipped with a home carbonator and friends willing to taste test, the groundwork for Aura Bora was born. As luck and hard work would have it, Paul was able to anchor Aura Bora in Whole Foods stores in the Boulder, Colorado region following a trade show event in the area. With continued persistence, Paul and Maddie were invited to pitch the brand on the famous “Shark Tank” TV show where Robert Herjavek said, “This might be the best branding we’ve seen in all 12 seasons.” Aura Bora craft flavors can be found in myriad retail locations including Sprouts, Whole Foods, Thrive Market, Amazon and many natural grocery stores . Watch for limited edition flavors where the company donates 20% of profits from the sale of those products.  In explaining the thought process behind the brand name, the company explained, “Paul and Maddie knew that rhymes are memorable. And since their sparkling waters were notably earth-inspired, herbal and colorful, they were drawn to the word ‘Aura’ — and Aura Bora was born, with associations to the beautiful Aurora Borealis and island of Bora Bora. There was an added bonus too: as a lover of design, Maddie was happy to have a symmetrical, stackable eight-letter square.” Review of Aura Bora Sparkling Water I’ll just start by saying I’m not a big fan of sparkling water. Or more precisely, I haven’t been exposed to a lot of sparkling water. I don’t drink soda. I don’t drink juice. I’m just kind of a coffee, tea and water kind of gal. However, I also love to try new things and eagerly accepted the offer for a sample pack of Aura Bora.  The shipment arrived very quickly and was packaged in recyclable cardboard with no plastic or unnecessary waste . Good start.  The variety pack includes a 12 pack with five different flavors. These are notably different flavor combinations. My husband and son are rabid sparkling water drinkers so I brought them in on the tasting. Lemongrass Coconut I love lemongrass, so this was an exciting combination . The lemongrass flavors come through subtly in the front, followed by almost a creamy finish that speaks to the coconut.  Basil Berry This was the first flavor I grabbed because I have a bit of an obsession with basil and, boy howdy, did it deliver. This is a bold basil -forward flavor. In fact, I’m not sure I pulled berry out of it at all, although my son reported tasting it on the back end. The basil may be too punchy for some people, but I found the flavor mellowed after the initial assault on the taste buds.  Lavender Cucumber I have a sensitivity to lavender, so I left this one up to the husband and boys to review. They reported a distinct flavor of lavender that then morphed into the expected cool and smooth finish that makes cucumber a popular addition to drinks.  Peppermint Watermelon This was a favorite with both my boys. They described it as light and refreshing with a nice balance of flavors. The Aura Bora website offers mixology suggestions and I’m eager to try this in the Peppermint Mojito recipe! Cactus Rose The word “ rose ” put me off a little, as I’m not a fan of rose scents. But this is perhaps the mildest of the mixtures we sampled, cactus rose is both the earthy wildness of cactus and the English garden of rose.  Overall, each can we sampled had distinctive notes of the plants and herbs in the title, but none were overly dominant (except perhaps the basil for some). Rather, they offer more of a complex flavor profile that keeps me wondering what other flavors they will come up with in the future.  + Aura Bora Images via Aura Bora When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commissions at no cost to you. Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by Aura Bora. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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Aura Bora sparkling waters give back to the planet

Paperless Pavilion says goodbye to paper waste

February 16, 2022 by  
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The Consulate General of the Netherlands in Guangzhou approached Superimpose Architecture to design a small pavilion to display Dutch design strategies in China during the 2021 Guangzhou Design Week. Project collaborators include the Dutch Consulate, multimedia designer Shard Island and light innovator Signify. Dubbed Paperless Pavilion, the exhibit replaces the typical event pamphlets and informational posters with live presentations and online video presentations. This approach cuts down on paper waste and challenges how content is usually presented in expositions. The pavilion was designed by Carolyn Leung, Ben de Lange, Ruben Bergambagt and JunWei Loh. Mostly constructed with white painted plasterboard with a brushed metallic veneer layer, the pavilion’s curved walls reflect the LED lights. A special carpet was used to improve acoustics in the auditorium, which is surrounded by entrance atriums via a curved outer wall. Related: Artist Hugo McCloud spotlights waste with art made of plastic bags The Paperless Pavilion’s integrative design allows for both remote and live presentations. Superimpose Architecture wanted to rethink how live presentations are given, both physically in how people gather, and in how marketing materials and content are disseminated. Presenting content without paper materials is just one part of the equation. A QR code at the pavilion’s entrance provides information about the exhibition’s content and replaces the paper marketing materials many projects use. To attract visitors, the designers rigged the pavilion with 124 linear LED light fixtures arranged in 4 horizontal bands on the exterior of the semi-circular wall outside the auditorium portion of the pavilion . The colorful, horizontal bands are arranged in rows like tulip plantings to create an abstract depiction of Dutch flower fields. Shard Island developed an interactive script for the pavilion lights. When an event occurs in the pavilion, the script directly converts real-time presentations into abstract colors through the LED lights on the wall. When the exhibition ends, the LED lights will be disassembled for reuse . + Superimpose Architecture Images via DUO Architecture Photography and Junwei Loh

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El Yunque Visitor’s Center restored and redesigned by Marvel

February 16, 2022 by  
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The El Yunque Visitor’s Center in Puerto Rico has been renovated and redesigned after damage from Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Now restored, the center will serve as a gateway to Puerto Rico’s natural treasure, El Portal, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. park system. The center was closed in 2017 and only just reopened after a redesign by Marvel, an architecture, landscape design and urban planning practice with offices in New York and San Juan. The renovation cost $18.1 million and added a host of new sustainable features to the center. New features of the El Yunque El Portal Visitor Center include a new entry plaza, gardens , a cafe, exhibition and meeting areas, a kitchen, pavilions and a walking trail. Related: Brutalist home in Puerto Rico is resistant to weather “Our challenge for this project was to envision a refreshed design, that would respect and harmonize with the beautiful natural surroundings of El Yunque, integrate environmental sustainability factors and build upon the previous structure,” said Jonathan Marvel, principal of Marvel. “El Portal is an integral part of one of Puerto Rico’s biggest tourist attractions and, as such, it is an iconic destination.” Passive ventilation was integrated into the exhibit, cafe and pavilion spaces via new roof structures with clerestory windows and new shading structures. To achieve LEED Silver certification for El Portal, Marvel implemented solar-ready infrastructure and water harvesting. Marvel also designed the only accessible trail in the entire National Forest, developed within El Portal’s site. Interpretative exhibits were designed by Split Rock Studios. The reception desk and interior signs at El Portal were designed and built by Puerto Rico Hardwoods with recycled local mahogany boards. Elements of the original design include the main hall, the upper courtyard and a water feature, but these were also modified to fit the new design vision and to meet new building and sustainability standards. “Marvel seeks to promote initiatives and tackle construction projects that favor sustainability and resilience. The renovation of El Portal exemplifies our philosophy, and we are proud to be a part of this historic and significant project for Puerto Rico,” said Edna Echandi Guzmán, AIA, Director at Marvel’s Puerto Rico office. + Marvel Designs Images via Joe Colon

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El Yunque Visitor’s Center restored and redesigned by Marvel

Airavat is a home in the clouds flowing with beauty

January 19, 2022 by  
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Airavat, a “home in the clouds,” is a new creation by reD Architects on the outskirts of Mumbai that casts a striking complement to its natural surroundings. Amidst arid hills and palm trees, Airavat is a picture perfect stack of cement, stone, steel and glass, complete with an infinity pool angling out from underneath a cantilevered floor of the house. Inside, the stone and cement walls continue to the interior of the space. A couch is suspended by rope from a catwalk on the second floor. Related: Conceptual rammed earth home harmonizes with an Indian forest A reading nook is thoughtfully integrated into a wall with a window view of the grounds. It contains the entertainment space of the house suspended between the common spaces to the north and the personal quarters to the south. This allows the natural topography of the site to flow underneath without having to be altered. The site is in the quiet Sahyadri Hills, offering expansive views of the Western Ghats in almost any direction. The front view was inspired by the image of a “ lotus pod that breathes in a freshness on entering after a long drive out of the city.” The house was made of entirely local materials. The heavy cement overhang creates a surprisingly welcome parking area near the front of the home. Inside, the materials used for the structure of the house are on full display and not softened for the viewer, which gives the impression of sitting in a renovated stone ruin or perching over the landscape from the vantage point of a fortress. Exposed steel beams cross at angles in the windows, celebrating the steel and glass style of the structure. In fact, Airavat is as sustainable throughout as it is beautiful. There is a rain reservoir that holds 350,000 liters, and all terrace and surface drains are channeled toward the borewells that collect water in this reservoir. Stones from the building site were used to create retaining walls, and the natural topography of the site was followed to reduce disruption of the ecosystem and backfilling. All of this unique, intricate planning creates a triangular courtyard at the center of the home, angled between wings of the building. Here is where the glass and steel used for the public living space and the slate used in private spaces meet together in a concrete spine. ReD Architects says this creates the impression that “as you move through the house, you feel as though the house moves along with you.” + reD Architects Photography by Fabien Charuau

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Airavat is a home in the clouds flowing with beauty

Casa Numa is built out of 50-year-old coconut palm wood

October 15, 2021 by  
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At a first glance, you might not believe that Casa Numa is entirely built out of coconut palm wood over 50 years old. The 160 square meters of living space is a beauty to behold both inside and out. Casa Numa is located on Holbox Island, Quintana Roo, where it functions as a vacation rental. According to Susana López, the chief architect behind the project, the idea behind the building was to integrate sustainability and nature in a modern living space. López is an architect with a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Design and Development for the City from the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey. She is recognized for her exemplary work creating modern, sustainable designs. Related: This collapsible cooler is insulated with upcycled coconut fiber This project is built out of old coconut tree wood. At first glance, the striking front lattice of coconut palm wood stands out. You can’t ignore the beauty of the pattern amid a sunny, warm environment. This lattice offers privacy by obscuring the view into the home. The coconut palm wood used in the building is supported on sapote tree piles. All the materials are sustainably sourced from local jungles . Some may argue that such a design is wasteful for using too much wood, but it is important to note that all the wood used is over 50 years old. In other words, the designers used wood that would have otherwise ended up in flames, contributing to carbon emissions. Additionally, using locally sourced wood minimized the introduction of foreign materials to the island. The materials used in this project also benefit the home. Palm wood insulation minimizes heating needs and helps keep the house comfortable in both hot and cold conditions. The effectiveness of the materials also stands out in terms of the time needed for construction. Casa Numa’s structure was completed in only three months. Casa Numa shows how nature can provide everything we need to live a comfortable life. With efficient, local materials , this project creates a sustainable, original living space. + RED Arquitectos Photography by Miguel Calanchini

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Casa Numa is built out of 50-year-old coconut palm wood

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

Take a trip to explore natural beauty on the San Juan Islands

September 24, 2021 by  
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As I pick my way between the crazily-shaped logs, to the water of South Beach on San Juan Island, it’s a driftwood lover’s dream come true. Some pieces are propped up to make primitive shelters. I’m here to run a half marathon and see some fellow runners huddled inside these shelters, appreciating the windbreak as we watch gentle gray waves and await our start time. Only an hour off the Washington coast by ferry , the crowds and tall buildings of Seattle seem very far away. Related: Green-roofed vacation home embraces old-growth trees in the San Juan Islands The San Juan Islands include 172 named islands and reefs. But only a handful are well known, even in Washington, and only a few are served by ferry. I recently spent a September weekend exploring San Juan Island on the hunt for nature experiences and a look at island culture. Outdoor adventures My friend and I drove up from Portland and took the ferry from Anacortes to San Juan Island on a Friday morning. Since the road around the island is only 41 miles, we figured we’d have plenty of time to see everything. However, once we started dilly-dallying on island time, the hours evaporated. We started by driving up to Roche Harbor at the north end of the island, where we visited the San Juan Island Sculpture Park . The park covers 20 acres and displays more than 150 works of art , many made from recycled materials like sheep crafted out of old fishing nets. The garden area around the entrance is more manicured, with sculptures surrounded by plantings. But our favorite part was the Whimsey Woods, a forested trail full of art surprises like garlands of old LPs strung between trees, or a strange little outdoor living room with colorful, broken-bottomed chairs arranged around a creepy monkey jack-in-the-box. The park displays an ever-changing collection of work. If you’re an artist, you can find out about submissions here . Visiting a mausoleum is not everybody’s idea of a good time, but Afterglow Vista draws an impressive number of tourists. This mausoleum is the final resting place of John S. McMillin and his family , who monopolized the limestone trade on the west coast in the late 20th century. The huge round structure features seven columns (one broken, to represent life cut short) with a limestone table surrounded by six stone and concrete chairs. The ashes of the family are in the base of those chairs. McMillin was a Mason and the huge structure reflects Masonic symbolism as well as that of various spiritual and architectural traditions. While we didn’t manage to work whale watching into our trip, it’s one of the reasons I most want to return to the San Juan Islands. The Southern Resident Killer Whales who frequent the waters of the islands include three pods: J, K and L. They follow salmon and are most often seen in the summer months. The best ways to view them are from land, on a whale watching cruise or in a kayak. Or you can do like we did and visit the excellent Whale Museum on a rainy afternoon. If you do venture out by boat or kayak, follow these Whale Wise guidelines so you don’t harm or disturb the orcas and other local whales. Lime Kiln Point State Park on the west end of San Juan Island is considered one of the world’s best whale watching spots. Biking , hiking and running are other good ways to get outside and see the island. San Juan Island has both forested and beachy trails. Biking is very popular. Some people bring bikes on the ferry and get around on two wheels. But watch for cars—the roads are narrow and some have little in the way of shoulders. I participated in Orca Running’s annual San Juan Island Half Marathon, which is a fun way to check out the scenery with running support like periodic electrolytes, gels and portable toilets. Visit the lavender farm If you like the smell of lavender , stop at Pelindaba Lavender Farm. When we visited in September, the flowers in the organically certified fields had turned an inky purplish charcoal, rather than the typical purple. Turns out, that’s the time to harvest lavender for its oil. Culinary harvesting happens earlier. We got a lavender education and saw the distilling process in action.  The grounds are open for picnicking and wandering. Pelindaba’s website lists an impressive number of ways the public are invited to use the space free of charge, no reservation necessary: book club meetings, vow renewals, elopements, photo shoots and yoga in the fields. But I found it impossible to leave without a sack full of lavender souvenirs—salve, lip balm, essential oil, dark chocolate lavender sauce, to name a few—as well as, consuming a cup of lavender/lemon sorbet on the premises. Dining out Mike’s Café & Wine Bar is a phenomenal restaurant with a sleek, modern look and an all- plant-based menu. It’s a happening place on a weekend night and draws way more than just the vegan crowd. Locals stop in for Northwest beer and wine. Visitors like me are thrilled to see a big menu of tacos, interesting salads, sandwiches, bowls and fancy hors d’oeuvres. Since the islands are known for seafood, I was drawn to the crabby tacos made with vegan crabby cakes. We also got an appetizer of heirloom tomatoes with plant-based mozzarella and some delicious shishito peppers. The Cask & Schooner Public House also has several clearly marked vegan items, including an eggplant and red pepper spread sandwich, and a chickpea and leek saute. For coffee, we got hooked on the Salty Fox, which is in a big white Victorian house. Not only was the coffee good, but it’s perfectly situated on the harbor to watch the ferries and other boats come and go. Getting around We took our car on the ferry and then drove around the island, as many visitors do. But there are much more eco-conscious ways to go. You can leave a car in Anacortes and walk onto the ferry. Or take Amtrak to Mount Vernon, Washington, then get to Anacortes by Uber or public bus . Once you arrive on San Juan Island, you can get around by shuttle bus, or rent a bike, e-bike, scooter or electric car. Be sure to reserve your ferry passage ahead of time, especially if you’re bringing a car during the high season of June through September. Amy Nesler, stewardship and communications manager for the San Juan Islands Visitor Bureau , would like to see more visitors arrive car-free. Her ideal visitor “patronizes local shops, restaurants and tour operators, while being patient, kind and appreciative of service workers. They respect traffic etiquette, stay on marked trails, leave campsites/picnic areas better than they found them and maintain a respectful distance from wildlife , whether on land or sea.”  Where to stay Islanders are conscious of their island ecosystem, so many hotels have green initiatives. One of the best is the Island Inn at 123 West in Friday Harbor, the main town on San Juan Island.  Once the site of a fuel and storage facility for the local fishing fleet, cannery and ferry, the hotel is now Silver LEED certified. They reuse rainwater, supply extremely lightweight towels and sheets to save on laundry energy and stock refillable bath amenity dispensers to cut down on waste. Plus, they feature a custom blend by San Juan Coffee Roasting Company packed in recyclable materials. If you venture over to Orcas Island, the Pebble Cove Inn & Animal Sanctuary will serve you vegan food and prepare your room using cruelty free, natural cleaning products. You can meet adorable rescue animals like Dolly the mini horse and the Dread Captain Redbeard, a turkey who escaped the brutal American Thanksgiving tradition. Doe Bay Resort & Retreat , also on Orcas Island, offers yoga, massage and outdoor hot tubs. Doe Bay has a long history of being an alternative to the mainstream, from the time a mixed-race couple raised their family on 175 acres in the 1870s to hippie types discovering it in the 1960s and beyond. Photography by Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Take a trip to explore natural beauty on the San Juan Islands

Surprise wasps and bacterium complicate butterfly study

September 15, 2021 by  
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The introduction of new species to other territories could have unforeseen consequences. According to a study published in  Molecular Ecology , introducing new species to an area could bring along other organisms and pathogens. One such case dates back three decades when caterpillars of the Glanville fritillary (Melitaea cinxia) butterfly were introduced to the tiny island of Sottunga in the Åland archipelago. Scientists hoped that introducing the butterflies would foster an understanding of how they spread. What the scientists did not realize is that they were introducing at least three other species. Related: Season’s first ‘murder hornet’ nest destroyed in Washington It was later discovered that some of the caterpillars contained a parasitic wasp known as Hyposoter horticola. This wasp usually hides inside the caterpillar and bursts out before it can become a butterfly. But that’s not all. Inside the wasps were tinier, rarer “hyperparasitoid” wasps, known as Mesochorus cf. stigmaticus. The hyperparasitoid wasps kill the original wasps shortly after the wasps kill the caterpillar. The study’s lead author, Dr. Anne Duplouy of the University of Helsinki, says that scientists must learn more about species before introducing them to new territories. “The reintroduction of endangered species comes from the heart, a good place, but we have a lot to learn about the species we are reintroducing and the habitat where we want to reintroduce them before we do so,” said Duplouy. One additional visitor, the bacterium Wolbachia pipientis, came along with the wasps. Despite these surprising developments, each species continues to survive on the island. Since the butterflies were introduced along with the accidental parasites , they have spread further to other islands. The wasps are parasites and have consequently affected the other species of butterflies that existed on these islands. According to Duplouy, when such species are introduced, they crash over time and may not last long. However, with the Glanville fritillary, the case has been different.  “The Glanville fritillary population has had amazing crashes at times over the last 30 years and we were expecting there to be very low genetic diversity in the years following those crashes,” Duplouy said. “But this butterfly somehow seems to recover from isolated population crashes, and the genetic diversity in Åland is still impressively high, despite all the bottlenecks the butterfly has been through,” she added. These results could serve as a warning for future studies exploring the possibility of introducing new species. Via The Guardian Lead image via Pixabay

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Surprise wasps and bacterium complicate butterfly study

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