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

Anti-logging protests make history in Canada

September 9, 2021 by  
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More than 866 protesters against old-growth logging have been arrested in western Canada since April. These protests are now the biggest act of civil disobedience in the country’s history. The main issue of contention is Vancouver Island’s disappearing ancient forests. The situation on the island has been worsened by police brutality towards protestors. The police have responded to protesters by pepper-spraying, beating and dragging them. The number of arrests has already surpassed those made in the 90s during the anti- logging “War in the Woods” protests. Related: Monarch butterfly population declines due to climate change and logging Protestors have locked themselves to the logging road, chained themselves on tripod stands made from logs, suspended themselves in trees and locked their arms in devices known as sleeping dragons, which are cemented to the ground. In June, British Columbia announced a two-year logging moratorium. Protestors want a permanent ban, but the government has been reluctant to acquiesce. Jean-François Savard, one of the protestors who has been at the campsite since April, said, “We have experts in rigging, we have climbers, we have carpenters – we have all these people getting together to build amazing, beautiful things.” Savard added, “The [police] are getting very frustrated by our tenacity because we’re constantly rebuilding and coming up with new ideas. People aren’t giving up.” Police have recently been criticized for their handling of the situation. They are accused of hiding their faces and not wearing name badges. They have also barred the media from reporting on the protests despite a court ruling this unlawful. Those at the camps say that their resolve is only growing. They are determined to protect the remaining forests . One of the protestors, Warren Kimmit, said they are willing to put their bodies on the line. “The civil disobedience movement is very simple. We put our bodies on the line, we almost expect to be injured, we expect to be in a very uncomfortable situation,” said Kimmit. “Our willingness to do that is what causes the public to see our commitment to a cause, to rally them and to put pressure on the government to act.” Via The Guardian Lead image via Pixabay

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Anti-logging protests make history in Canada

Invasive lanternflies want to take over the U.S.

August 3, 2021 by  
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Spotted lanternflies are extremely cool-looking bugs, with polka-dotted wings in shades of red, black and beige that make them resemble paper lanterns. But people should be very worried about this invasive  insect , according to entomologist Frank Hale. The spotted lanternfly hales from India, Vietnam and China. It probably immigrated to the U.S. as a stowaway in a cut stone or wood product shipment circa 2012. The initial U.S. sighting in 2014 was, fittingly enough, on a common  invasive  tree of heaven in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Since then, spotted lanternflies have spread to at least 26 counties in  Pennsylvania  and been spotted in several other eastern states. Related: More than half of Europe’s native trees face extinction The problem is, this is one destructive little bug. Lanternflies feed by piercing  tree  bark and vines, biting right into the plant’s vascular system and sucking out the sap. At an inch long, they’re pretty big for a sucking insect and can remove an awful lot of sap, jeopardizing the lives of their hosts. Then they excrete large amounts of the euphemistically called “honeydew,” which coats the tree. “The heavy flow of honeydew and the resulting sooty mold makes a mess of the landscape,” said Hale, as reported in Ecowatch. Woe to those who park beneath a tree infested with lanternflies. These invasive bugs also have a yen for grapevines. It takes a lot of  insecticide  to kill them, driving up production costs and making vintners kiss their organic status goodbye. Eastern wine-producing areas, including Long Island and Finger Lakes in New York, Newport, Rhode Island and parts of Virginia all face the threat of lanternflies ruining their vineyards. How have these little bugs spread so far in just a few years? In late summer and autumn, lanternflies lay egg masses. Any smooth surface is fair game. Including  cars , trains and trucks. The unborn lanternflies can hitch a ride anywhere, leading to future infestations. Scientists are trying to figure out the best way to stop these bugs from continuing their west and southward trajectory. “Two naturally occurring fungal pathogens of spotted lanternflies have been identified in the U.S.,” Hale told Ecowatch. “Also, U.S. labs are testing two parasitoid insects – insects that grow by feeding on lanternflies and killing them in the process – that have been brought from  China  for testing and possible future release.” Wait, haven’t we seen that in a sci-fi movie? In the meantime, if you see spotted lanternflies in your area, contact your local county extension office for suggestions on how to control the bugs. And if you’re the unlucky first sighter of the bugs in your area, contact your state department of  agriculture .  “ If the infestation is caught early before it can become established in your area, hopefully it can be eradicated there,” said Hale. “Eventually, it will spread to many parts of the country. We can slow the spread by identifying and eradicating new infestations wherever they arise.” Via Ecowatch , USDA Lead image via F Delventhal

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Invasive lanternflies want to take over the U.S.

This island home has a green roof seeded with native, drought-tolerant plants

July 30, 2021 by  
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Lone Madrone is a 1,600-square-foot vacation retreat located on a rocky, south-facing shoreline on Orcas Island, a horseshoe-shaped islet in the San Juan Islands archipelago off Washington state. The home’s green roof is landscaped with a variety of plants and vegetation that are both native and drought-tolerant, a feature that designers hoped would increase the biodiversity value of the area. The home, called Lone Madrone, is built for a family of four and is clad in wood . It utilizes a simple design to blend into its natural surroundings and mimic the hillside slope that hits behind it. What’s more, Lone Madrone is also tucked into a naturally forming depression in the shoreline landscape (known as “wedge shape geometry”) in order to diminish its visual impact and minimize exposure to the weather as well. Related: Kauhale Kai is a solar-powered, pavilion-style home on Hawaii’s Big Island Although the living spaces are completely open to gardens on the northern side and water on the southern side via a custom lift sliding door mechanism, the bedrooms are built with much more privacy in mind. The private rooms are located on the forested slopes to the west, while the kitchen opens to the east. All of the main openings are paired with rolling wall panels to both provide security and protect the house from winter storms, given the extreme weather exposure of the site. A variety of local woods were used during construction, including douglas fir for the floors and trim, western red cedar for the siding, walls and ceilings, and pacific madrone for the interior furniture. The site itself is part of the San Juan Islands National Monument, characterized by its sensitive shoreline and marine environments. As a result, the designers incorporated their understanding of near-shore ecology as part of the design with a garden roof. The green roof features native plants to provide habitats for coastal insects, which have become a critical food source for local endangered Chinook salmon. According to the designers, the roof helped replace 90% of the vegetative footprint lost to construction.  + Heliotrope Architects Photography by Sean Airhart via Heliotrope Architects

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This island home has a green roof seeded with native, drought-tolerant plants

Drones eradicate rat invaders from Galapagos

July 2, 2021 by  
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Visitors to the  Galapagos  Islands learn about the island’s fragile ecosystem and the need to protect the lives of its endemic animals. But not every animal life is sacrosanct on these islands just 600 miles off Ecuador’s west coast. Certain rodents that start with pointy snouts and end with skinny, sparsely-haired tails are not welcome. Now, thanks to drone technology, rats have been eradicated from the Galapagos. Rats first hitched a ride to the Galapagos on ships visiting in the 19th and 20th centuries. Winding up in a place where they faced no natural predators was like winning the rat lottery. The rodents quickly got busy eating eggs and nestlings and gnawing on and eating the seeds of rare plants. According to  Island Conservation , rats contributed to the  extinction  of 86% of the Galapagos’ wildlife. Related: As temperatures increase, so do rat populations The recent drone activity isn’t the first time people have tried to wipe rats off the face of the islands. But this is the first time it seems to have worked. Starting in 2019, the Galapagos National Park began dropping rat bait made by Bell Laboratories from  drones  equipped with dispersal buckets. Now, Seymour Norte Island and Mosquera Islet are rat-free. More bait was left in stations along the coastline, in case a rat army rallies and attempts to recapture the island. “After two years of waiting, we can declare these islands are free of rodents,” Danny Rueda, director of the Galapagos National Park, said in a statement. “This project has given the expected results, according to the planning and according to the highest protocols for these cases. Galapagos, once again, is a benchmark in terms of the protection of this globally important  ecosystem .” While inventors started fooling around with the great-great-grandmothers of drones in the early 1900s, modern drones careened into public awareness in the 1990s. Now, drones are used to monitor ecosystems and  wildlife  in many ways, including detecting illegal deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and checking on dolphin health by collecting spray from their blowholes. “Almost every  conservation  organization I work with is using drones now, in one way or another,” said biologist and drone expert Serge Wich, as reported by  Nature . Via EcoWatch , Island Conservation Images via Island Conservation, credit Andrew Wright

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Drones eradicate rat invaders from Galapagos

These Christmas lights are made of trash left on Canary Island beaches

October 27, 2017 by  
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While some associate Christmas with crass consumerism, Spanish architect Fernando Menis from the Canary Islands believes it’s a great opportunity to reuse discarded objects. To prove the idea, Menis designed Christmas lights out of recycled summer waste for the coastal town of La Oliva on the island of Fuerteventura. Colorful floats, surfboards, buckets, beach toys and even plastic bottles abandoned on local beaches will have a second life as very unusual Christmas decorations on the exotic island. Instead of classic “White Christmas” snowflakes and snowmen, the architect proposed more appropriate marine decor that fits into the local context. La Oliva is traditionally linked to the sea and fishing, so Menis dreamt up giant squids, hibiscus flowers, palm trees, boats and jellyfish garlands – all lit with energy-efficient and environmentally friendly LED technology. Some of the lights are even powered by small solar panels. Menis also wants to bring his oceanic Christmas theme to the sea by supplying fishing boats navigating near the coast with recycled garlands that light up at night. Related: How to Green Your Holidays With Eco-Friendly Christmas Decor The project will be realized with the citizen participation – In fact, its assembly will involve the inhabitants and especially the local kids. What a great way to have fun and celebrate Christmas while creating real value with objects that tourists discard upon leaving the island. + Fernando Menis Images courtesy of Fernando Menis Architects

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These Christmas lights are made of trash left on Canary Island beaches

These Christmas lights are made of trash left on Canary Island beaches

October 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Eco, Green, Recycle

Comments Off on These Christmas lights are made of trash left on Canary Island beaches

While some associate Christmas with crass consumerism, Spanish architect Fernando Menis from the Canary Islands believes it’s a great opportunity to reuse discarded objects. To prove the idea, Menis designed Christmas lights out of recycled summer waste for the coastal town of La Oliva on the island of Fuerteventura. Colorful floats, surfboards, buckets, beach toys and even plastic bottles abandoned on local beaches will have a second life as very unusual Christmas decorations on the exotic island. Instead of classic “White Christmas” snowflakes and snowmen, the architect proposed more appropriate marine decor that fits into the local context. La Oliva is traditionally linked to the sea and fishing, so Menis dreamt up giant squids, hibiscus flowers, palm trees, boats and jellyfish garlands – all lit with energy-efficient and environmentally friendly LED technology. Some of the lights are even powered by small solar panels. Menis also wants to bring his oceanic Christmas theme to the sea by supplying fishing boats navigating near the coast with recycled garlands that light up at night. Related: How to Green Your Holidays With Eco-Friendly Christmas Decor The project will be realized with the citizen participation – In fact, its assembly will involve the inhabitants and especially the local kids. What a great way to have fun and celebrate Christmas while creating real value with objects that tourists discard upon leaving the island. + Fernando Menis Images courtesy of Fernando Menis Architects

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These Christmas lights are made of trash left on Canary Island beaches

Powering Puerto Rico back to life, with PRIDE

October 12, 2017 by  
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Rebuilding the island’s hurricane-destroyed electricity grid is an unparalleled opportunity, if only we move past rebuilding-as-usual.

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Powering Puerto Rico back to life, with PRIDE

Making that ‘make-or-break’ breakthrough pitch

October 12, 2017 by  
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Even when in the lion’s den, there’s room for a sense of humor.

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Making that ‘make-or-break’ breakthrough pitch

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