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

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

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

Maven Moment: Kitchen Gloves

September 16, 2020 by  
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Mom always kept a pair of brightly colored kitchen gloves … The post Maven Moment: Kitchen Gloves appeared first on Earth 911.

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Maven Moment: Kitchen Gloves

A quiet cabin and outdoor adventures in Montana’s Seeley-Swan Valley

September 14, 2020 by  
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As Andy Aldeen strides across his Montana land, a can of bear spray stuffed in his back shorts pocket, you’d never guess the Midwestern-born hay farmer had spent 25 years working in finance in Hong Kong and Tokyo. Now, his three-generation family is rooted here in the Swan Valley, haying and running three VRBO units for visitors craving clean mountain air far from cities. A homesteader cabin That’s what brings my husband, dog and me here. With COVID-19 numbers rising, we hesitated to plan ahead. Then, we got lucky and snagged a last-minute reservation for a socially distant getaway at what was described as a pioneer homesteader cabin . So here we were, briskly touring Aldeen’s land with his black lab, Sis, acting as hostess and leading our dog Rudy through bushes and brambles. Related: 5 cozy getaway cabins that are perfect for fall The cabin has been thoroughly redone since a Norwegian fur trapper built it in the early 1900s. He surely didn’t have a hot water shower, a full kitchen and such a comfortable bed. Aldeen decorates in what he calls “Victorian explorer” style, which means a fun mix of cheery and unpredictable items, including a red-and-white-checked table cloth on the kitchen table downstairs, a cow-spotted plant stand and a sequined rainbow pillow on a daybed in the cabin’s attic library. Aldeen has scoured used bookstores all through the valley, furnishing his VRBO units with thousands of books of all genres. Best of all was the big front porch strung with Christmas lights. You can sit on an easy chair with a view of hay bales sitting in front of the Mission Mountains. In the morning, you may hear migrating sandhill cranes purring as they hunt for critters or see deer bounding by. Down the road, the ranch’s horses congregate under their favorite shade tree. With two bedrooms and a small, cozy living room, the homesteader cabin is the mid-range option among Aldeen’s VRBO units. The Lazy Bean is a 2,000-square-foot cabin that sleeps up to eight and has the most extensive library . Then, there’s a more primitive, 300-square-foot cabin with twin bunk beds. The Seeley-Swan Valley The cabins sit in the Seeley-Swan Valley in northwestern Montana, on the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and just off of Highway 83. This is known as one of Montana’s most scenic roads and is a popular route to Glacier National Park . But it’s also a destination in itself for people seeking outdoor adventures. Seeley and Swan are actually two back-to-back valleys. We were in Swan, the northern of the two, near the tiny town of Condon. The Mission Range of the Rocky Mountains towers to the west, the Swan Range to the east. This is an unusually wet part of Montana, with significantly higher rainfall than most of the state, which accounts for the greenness and abundance of water. Rivers, lakes, ponds and bogs left by long-ago receding glaciers cover about 16% of the Swan Basin — compare that to only 1% wetland habitat for the rest of the state. This is the part of the state to visit if you want to get in the water or if you like scenic hikes with dazzling lake views. With average July and August highs in the mid-80s, the lakes and rivers get lots of summertime use. “Be Bear Aware” One of the things I hadn’t realized until I got to Montana was how many bears call it home. “Greatest concentration in the Lower 48,” Aldeen told me proudly while I shook in my hiking boots. As we set out one morning for the Glacier Lake Trailhead , our route took us on a long stretch of gravel road. When we finally arrived at the parking lot, I was relieved to see other cars. Wilderness is great, but sometimes I gravitate toward safety in numbers. Still, there’s no guarantee that the presence of humans equals the absence of bears. Bears are big, and they go where they want. Signs at just about every trailhead exhort visitors to “ Be Bear Aware .” As we followed the Glacier Lake Trail, I took the information to heart. Bear spray on front backpack strap, check. Talking or singing before turning blind corners, yep. The mountains were gorgeous, and the trail was lined with huckleberries ripe for the picking. I relaxed and enjoyed it, as long as I didn’t think too much about who else loves huckleberries. Paddler’s paradise Bears swim, too. But at least it’s easier to see them coming over open water. This part of Montana is an absolute dream if you like to kayak , paddleboard or swim. Highway 83 has signs for lakes every couple of miles. If you favor motors on your watercraft, a big lake like Seeley will give you lots of space to explore. But if you prefer human-powered vessels, you can also find a quiet lake without motor traffic. The most touristy lake we visited was Holland Lake. This 400-acre glacial lake is popular for good reason, with its well-used campground, Swan Mountain views and easy access to the Holland Falls trailhead . You can rent a canoe, kayak or SUP from the Holland Lake Lodge . My favorite thing about Holland Lake was the cordoned off swimming area. Some of the lakes we visited were nice for paddling but mucky for swimming. Not Holland. You don’t have to worry about putting your feet on the bottom and having them disappear under questionable slime. Van Lake is too small to be of much interest for those with fast boats. A leisurely paddle around the perimeter took less than hour, including stops for wildlife viewing. From my SUP, I saw a bald eagle dive down and nab a fish off the line of somebody fishing from a rowboat. Watching bald eagles swoop, fish and fly above your SUP, and loons swimming alongside you, is a dream come true for any wildlife-enthusiast. The most remote lake we visited was Clearwater. It’s about a 0.7 mile walk from the road. The trail is mostly flat and would be easy an easy trip, if not for dragging an inflatable SUP. But it was worth it, as it was the only time I’ve ever been the only watercraft on a lake, accompanied only by electric blue damselflies. September average high temperatures for Seeley-Swan are in the 70s. There’s still time to get your Montana lake fix before the temperatures dip down and the snow begins falling, although that is another trip full of nature’s beauty. So if you get the chance to escape to a remote Montana cabin, grab your bear spray and go. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: We recommend taking the utmost care to keep those around you safe if you choose to travel. You can find more advice on travel precautions from the CDC and WHO .

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A quiet cabin and outdoor adventures in Montana’s Seeley-Swan Valley

7 easy science experiments for kids at home

August 28, 2020 by  
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Many kids will be spending more time learning from home as the school year ramps up during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without the beakers and test tubes of the science lab, it may seem difficult to provide hands-on learning. But have no fear, we’ve put together a list of easy (and fun!) home science experiments to entertain and educate youngsters at the same time. Lava lamp This experiment is sure to produce oohs and aahs from the smallest scientists. Prepare a clear plastic bottle; inside, fill the bottle one-quarter of the way with water. Then fill the rest of the space (nearly to the top) with vegetable, mineral or baby oil. Wait for the oil to settle above the water, then add a few drops of food coloring. Related: This DIY algae kit is an easy science experiment for kids The food coloring carries the same density or weight as water, so it will pass through the oil and color the water below. Now comes the fun part. Add a fizzy tablet, such as an Alka-Seltzer, to the container. It will plop to the bottom and then begin to release colorful bubbles as the carbon dioxide it produces finds its way to the top of the container. The experiment highlights the laws of science where lighter objects, such as gases, will float to the top while heavier substances will sink to the bottom. Water cycle in a jar The water cycle on our planet is a complex phenomenon to explain. After all, we don’t see water vapor rise. To create a visual expression, place about two inches of boiling water into a canning jar. Parents should handle this part. Then place a ceramic plate right-side up over the opening of the jar, sealing it. Wait about three minutes for steam to accumulate. Put several ice cubes on the top of the plate outside the jar. The warm air in the jar will condense and create water droplets, like rain falling from the sky when moist air from the Earth’s surface meets cold air from the atmosphere. Ocean in a bottle With a clean bottle, water, oil and food coloring, make an ocean in a bottle by replicating waves. Fill a plastic bottle one-third to halfway with water. Use blue and green food coloring to create the ocean color you desire. Of course, you can add a primary, secondary and tertiary color lesson at this time by allowing your child to mix blue and red to create purple or yellow and red to create orange. Leaving a few inches at the top, add vegetable or baby oil and tightly replace the cap. Now rock and roll the bottle to create waves. Volcano There are many ways to create your own volcano at home. You can get creative with papier-mâché or simply use a bottle or upturned box. Better yet, make a simple volcano shaped dome out of dirt, leaving a hole in the top to add ingredients. This is a messy project, so it’s best to create your eruption outdoors. Inside the homemade volcano of choice, place a container near the top to hold your ingredients. Support it from below if necessary. Add two spoonfuls of baking soda to the inside of the volcano. Follow that with a spoonful of dish soap (bubbles!) and about 10 drops of food coloring. Red and yellow make a nice orange color, but let the kids experiment. That’s what it’s all about! Now get ready for your eruption with the addition of one to two ounces of white vinegar. The idea is to replicate the pressure that builds up in nature, so play around with different amounts of ingredients . For a more explosive volcano, you can use a two-liter bottle. Place two teaspoons of dish soap, 6-7 tablespoons of water, a few drops of food coloring and 1 ½ cups of white vinegar. Add about ½ cup of baking soda quickly and step back! This experiment shows how pressure builds the need for carbon dioxide to escape. Create a sundial There was time before there were watches and clocks. Show kids how to monitor time using the age-old sundial technique, right from your yard. Simply find a long stick and insert it vertically into the ground. Begin on the hour, say 8 a.m. Use chalk or small pebbles to mark the shadow created by the stick. Come back each hour to mark the new shadow spot. Do this throughout the day to complete your sundial. Explain to children how the Earth’s rotation around the sun causes the shadow to move. Solar oven Heat from the sun on a hot day can cook lunch with the aid of a solar oven. To show kids exactly how powerful solar energy is, simply line the lid of a pizza box with foil from top to bottom. Line the lower portion of the box with black paper. Cut a window out of the lid, hinging it with about two inches remaining around the border. With the hinged portion open, adhere plastic wrap to the top and bottom of the remaining lid, creating a double pane “window” between the foil wrapped lid and the pizza box bottom. Ensure the plastic is sealed all the way around using tape to hold it in place. Once complete, take your box outside. Put food inside the box and angle the foil-lined lid to reflect light and heat through the clear plastic and onto the food. Prop your lid into place using a stick or straw and check frequently to make adjustments as the planet moves. Bon appétit! Grow veggies and compost While setting up a lab in the kitchen is fun, science is all around us in nature. Observe the changing of the seasons through leaves and plant cycles. Start with seeds and grow some pea plants. Also use your organic food scraps to show kids the magic of composting . + Science Fun Images via Adobe Stock, Adriel Hampton , Oliver Lyon and Jonathan Hanna

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Are you up for the Plastic Free July challenge?

July 1, 2020 by  
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How hard would it be to say no to single-use plastics for an entire month? People who sign up for Plastic Free July are about to find out. The global movement is asking people around the world to be part of the plastic pollution solution. Plastic Free July started back in 2011. Last year, about 250 million people from 177 countries took part in the movement. A survey about Plastic Free July found that participants reduced their household waste about 5% per year and made changes that became long-term habits. Related: How to replace single-use and plastic items in the kitchen Brought to you by the Plastic Free Foundation Rebecca Prince-Ruiz founded the Plastic Free Foundation as a not-for-profit in 2017 along with a team of committed folks in Western Australia. Now, the organization promotes Plastic Free July. The foundation’s ambassador, musician Jack Johnson, is instrumental in spreading the word. “Plastic Free July inspires me to step up my commitment to reducing single-use plastic in my daily life and on tour,” he said on the organization’s website. “A great first step is to commit to using reusable water bottles . I’m also working with the music industry (artists, venues, festivals and fans) to reduce plastic waste through the BYOBottle campaign.” The foundation’s website is its most accessible resource for people around the world. It inspires visitors with stories about ordinary people trying to escape the siren song of convenient plastic. A section called “What others do” features — and invites readers to submit — their stories about alternatives to plastics they use in their everyday life. For example, a mother of two in New Zealand has found strategies for working toward a zero-waste household, and another woman managed to talk her hospital coworkers out of using 70,000 single-use cups each year. You can download posters from the website urging people to avoid single-use straws , takeout containers, plastic bags and other pitfalls of modern life. The posters are suitable for hanging at work, school or local businesses. Ways to avoid single-use plastic People who take the Plastic Free July pledge probably figure they can do without straws for a month or more and remember to bring their reusable cloth bags to the market. But some plastic products are harder to avoid. The web page called “What you can do” provides solutions to many of these problems. For many people, menstruation seems to bring an unfair burden: cramps, moodiness and the responsibility for plastic tampon applicators and used sanitary napkins piling up in landfills or blocking sewage pipes and even causing ingestion issues for marine animals. Instead, the Plastic Free Foundation recommends using menstrual cups, period underwear or reusable pads. Worldwide, people struggle with what to do about bin liners. While putting a plastic bag in your trash can is exceedingly convenient, plastic stays in the landfill forever, eventually breaking down into microplastics that can harm animals. Instead, you can line your bin with newspaper, or let your bin go “naked” and wash it frequently. Of course, composting all your food scraps will cut down on the bin’s ickiest contents. Audit your bin Before you can improve, you need to know how bad the problem is. The Plastic Free Foundation recommends auditing your bin. Doing a bin audit will help you understand what kind of waste you’re creating and how you can minimize it. You can do a bin audit at home or in your workplace. Try to get your family or coworkers onboard to help with the audit and to implement changes based on your findings. Choose an auspicious day for the bin audit. This should be long enough after trash day so that some stuff has accumulated in your bin but not long enough for it to stink. Find a sheltered outdoor place with good airflow. Spread a tarp on the ground and dump your bin. Separate your trash into categories, such as paper , food, cans, batteries, plastics, etc. Estimate the volume and percentage of each category and write it down in a notebook. Later, after cleaning up, you can assess your findings. Some things will be obvious, like if you’ve been too lazy to carry your apple cores and potato peels to the compost and have been chucking them in the bin instead. Or maybe you’ll notice lots of food packaging and realize you could be buying more of those items in bulk instead. Focus on one or two behaviors that will be the easiest to change. Do another bin audit about six months later, check your improvement and pick a new goal. Take the plastic-free challenge Ready for a meaningful sustainability challenge? You can sign up on the Plastic Free July website. The web form asks for your name, email address, country and post code. You’ll get weekly motivational emails in your inbox with tips for avoiding plastic and news on the global movement. The form also gives you choices about the level of your participation. You can commit to going plastic-free for a day, a week, the whole month of July or indefinitely. You can also select whether you’re taking part in the challenge in your workplace, at your school or at home. + Plastic Free July Images via Laura Mitulla , Volodymyr Hryshchenko , Jasmin Sessler ( 1 , 2 ) and Good Soul Shop

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Are you up for the Plastic Free July challenge?

Gardens grow on all floors of Saint-Gobains crystalline HQ

July 1, 2020 by  
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On the outskirts of Paris, French architecture firm Valode & Pistre has completed a new headquarters — a crystalline tower wrapped in low-emission glass — for Saint-Gobain, a multinational building materials company. Designed to emphasize urban integration, energy performance and user comfort, the skyscraper features wind-sheltered gardens accessible from every floor, an abundance of natural light and stunning panoramic views. The building, known as Tour Saint-Gobain, was completed in 2019 in the business district of La Défense. Selected as the winning entry in an international architecture competition, Valode & Pistre’s design for Tour Saint-Gobain references Saint-Gobain’s leading role in construction material distribution — particularly with glass — with its crystalline architecture. The new company headquarters is divided into three distinct parts that are likened to the head, body and feet of a person: the lower floor, or “feet”, contain the open access areas and showroom; the main “body” comprises flexible office spaces; and the highest floors at the “head” houses reception areas, meeting places and the “espace plein ciel”, a stunning gathering space with panoramic views. Related: Dramatic crystalline concert hall boasts a gorgeous prismatic interior in Poland “A tower, more than any other building, is about people and how it affects them,” the architecture firm explained in a press release. “Emotions are expected to be felt at the sight of such a building and the architect should strive to bring about these feelings and this excitement. The dynamic silhouette of the building, through the assembly of three oblique prisms that, in an anthropomorphic way, resemble a head, a body and a foot, allows it to interact with the surrounding towers. The tower thus becomes a figure turning its head and slightly stooping as a sign of warm welcome.” At 165 meters tall, Tour Saint-Gobain spans 44 floors and encompasses 49,900 square meters of floor space. High-performance glass ensures optimal user comfort for occupants, who not only enjoy panoramic views but also direct access to indoor gardens from all of the office spaces. + Valode & Pistre Photography by Sergio Grazia via Valode & Pistre

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Gardens grow on all floors of Saint-Gobains crystalline HQ

12 sustainable gifts to give Dad for Father’s Day

June 15, 2020 by  
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Father’s Day is just around the corner, so as you celebrate graduations, June birthdays and virtual weddings, keep an eye out for the perfect gift for Dad. While his favorite treat is always welcome, finding something more personal can be a challenge. We’ve come up with some ideas that not only express your love and gratitude for your father, but for the planet, too. Tools If your dad spends his spare time woodworking or tinkering on cars, there are many new gadgets on the market he would like to experiment with. He might also want to upgrade older tools. While shopping, avoid tools made with plastic and look for high-quality wood or stainless steel options that will last a lifetime. Many brands even include a lifetime warranty with your purchase. This will keep low-quality tools out of the landfill and keep Dad from having to shop for wrenches or hammers ever again.  Related: 15 essential woodworking tools Travel mugs and bottles Whether your dad must have his morning cup of Joe or always carries a water bottle with him, provide him with a long-lasting stainless steel option that will keep him from needing single-serve water bottles or to-go coffee cups. Watches Watches are a timeless gift. But, when choosing a design, seek out an eco-friendly model. Many watch manufacturers are now offering sustainable wood designs, like WeWOOD . Also check out the Veldt LUXTURE AARDE watch with a built-in Climate Action Reminder. Wallet By the time a good wallet gets broken in, it starts to break down and needs replaced, so Dad might appreciate something a little different. This year, go for a vegan leather wallet. Some unique options include these apple waste and wood leather wallets , or these wallets made from recycled banana trees . Plants Whether dad is the clear winner in the green thumb category or simply could use some bamboo luck in his office, both indoor and outdoor plants are great options this Father’s Day. Perhaps select a succulent or cactus, or if Dad is into novel gifts, pick up a Venus flytrap, tropical pitcher plants or sundews. Beer-making kit If your father enjoys a good brew at the end of the day, he may also enjoy making his own beer . Complete kits run around $200 and include all of the tools he’ll need, from a glass carboy to the instruction book. He can then add hops and yeast to perfect a recipe of his choice. Hobby class What does your dad love to do in his spare time? Has he shown an interest in gardening, pottery, knife-making, welding, golf, photography, playing guitar or learning another language? Whatever the hobby, get him a certificate for a local or online class to boost his learning on the topic. You could even take the class with him for a special, shared experience. Time outdoors Sometimes all Dad wants is to spend time with you, so set a date for some outdoor fun. Hike somewhere he’s never been, plan a camping trip or go fishing. Meet up for a road or mountain bike ride. Go for a round of golf or introduce him to disc golf at a nearby park. Whatever activity you choose, make sure to get a picture to memorialize the event. Backyard games If your father is the perpetual entertainer with the grill always ready for action, add some backyard games to the mix. Find or make a solid wood cornhole game for hours of family fun that won’t damage the planet. Horseshoes is another classic that requires little more than two metal poles and four metal horseshoes. Gardening supplies Whether he’s just recently shown an interest or taught you all you know about gardening while growing up, your dad might appreciate some new gardening supplies to add to his tool shed. If space is tight, get him one of the many new indoor gardening systems where he can grow veggies in the kitchen. For the outdoor gardener, invest in quality and sustainable gloves, organic skin protection and seeds. For yard decor, get solar path lights, a bird bath, bird feeder, bat house, butterfly house, bird house or beehive .  Park pass For the dad who enjoys spending time in nature, make sure he has the access he needs with a park pass. Most passes expire annually, so it could even be a tradition in the making to buy Dad an access pass. For the road-tripper, a national park pass will provide access to parks and monuments across the country.  Check out pass options here . Solar products The sun is a powerful tool for providing energy. Mount a solar panel to the RV or van for continual power on the road. On a smaller scale, get Dad a solar-powered lantern for nights under the stars. For cooking, invest in a solar oven and leave the propane and charcoal at home. Images via Aleksandra , Deborah Breen Whiting , Nicolas J. Leclercq , Gyae Min and Akiragiulia

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5 Clever Ways To Maximize Natural Light in Your Kitchen

May 13, 2020 by  
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The kitchen often gets more use than any other room … The post 5 Clever Ways To Maximize Natural Light in Your Kitchen appeared first on Earth911.com.

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5 Clever Ways To Maximize Natural Light in Your Kitchen

Bace presents Rotofarm, an automated garden for your kitchen

May 6, 2020 by  
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There’s never been a better time to grow your own herbs and veggies at home, but limited space is a common issue, especially in urban areas. In steps Rotofarm, the newest product from Australian-based company Bace, offering a compact indoor garden suitable for the kitchen counter complete with technology inspired by NASA. Apparently the idea is a popular one since, even at the prototype stage, The Rotofarm was funded in 8 minutes on Indiegogo , where you can now pre-order the device. This indoor garden works using hydroponics and an innovative lighting system that allows plants to grow without soil. Removing soil from the equation makes every step in the process easier. Plus, it significantly reduces the amount of water required for plant growth. Related: PICO microgarden lets you grow anywhere from home to car But a lack of soil doesn’t reduce yield. Rotofarm is intended to supplement your diet with 10 spaces for plants. Although the specialized system does require the use of custom Bace Seed Pods, they are designed to optimize growth while providing a sustainable option; the pods are composed of 100% biodegradable coconut fiber, not plastic. In addition to eliminating soil and designing a compact indoor garden, it was important to Bace that Rotofarm be easy to use. The goal is to be able to grow fresh produce anywhere, regardless of space or light limitations. As such, the system is completely automated and can be controlled by an app. The only thing the user needs to do is pop the seed pods into the machine, mix the nutrient base with water and pour the nutrients into the reservoir at the base of the Rotoform. The circular design makes efficient use of space, and the entire growing area rotates around a central light for consistent and controlled lighting. In addition to giving each plant an equal share of light, the rotation creates a zero-gravity system, which allows plants to grow faster than those in a traditional flat bed. The light can be quite bright, so the Rotofarm can be dimmed with an optional Eclipse cover, which reduces light pollution in the home and increases humidity inside the garden. + Bace Via Design Milk Images via Bace

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Bace presents Rotofarm, an automated garden for your kitchen

Climate change could lead to dramatic decline in narwhals

May 6, 2020 by  
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Climate change is affecting everybody, even narwhals. These mysterious “unicorns of the sea” may decline by 25% by the end of this century, according to a new study . Narwhals are a type of Arctic-dwelling whale found only in the cold waters of Greenland, Canada, Norway and Russia. Their population currently numbers about 200,000. In winter, most narwhals spend up to 5 months beneath the sea ice. They are recognizable by a single long, spiral tusk, which is actually an enlarged tooth. Related: Arctic shipping routes could threaten “unicorns of the sea” Researchers from Denmark, Canada, Norway, Germany and the U.K. studied tissue samples from 121 narwhals, mostly collected between 1982 and 2012. Some were killed by Inuit hunters in Greenland and Canada. Other samples came from archaeological remains from digs in Russia and northern Europe. Researchers were even able to collect tiny samples from a throne chair featuring narwhal tusks in Denmark. “They had special access to be able to drill little tiny bits of tusk from that throne,” said Steven Ferguson, an Arctic marine mammal research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and one of the study’s authors. These samples helped them learn more about narwhal DNA. Through a combination of DNA information and habitat modeling, the researchers investigated the impact of previous climate shifts on narwhal distribution and estimated what the future might hold for these creatures. Scientists confirmed that the world has three narwhal populations. Most live in two different groups off Canada’s northeastern coasts. The third population of about 10,000 lives off Greenland’s east coast, extending as far as Russia. The researchers were surprised to find that narwhals show the lowest genetic diversity in any marine mammal studied. They weren’t sure why this is. As sea ice melts because of global warming , the narwhals’ habitats will shrink, and the animals will probably move northward. But as they are crowded into a smaller habitat, they’ll become more vulnerable to human encroachment, competition for food, new diseases and orca predation. Unlike other polar mammals, narwhals are only found in very limited locales. “They really seem to have this Atlantic Ocean habitat,” Ferguson said. “So there’s an open question as to what might happen as we continue to lose sea ice.” + Royal Society Publishing Via Forbes and The Narwhal

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