A new eco-minded neighborhood in Utah ski resort emphasizes land stewardship

August 6, 2019 by  
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On a Utah ski mountain, a new neighborhood is bucking the trend of gaudy, environmentally insensitive construction that has long dominated Mountain West resorts. For their first completed project in the United States, Canadian architecture firm MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple recently finished phase one of Horizon, the first pre-designed neighborhood on Powder Mountain, Utah. With eight cabins now complete, the village—which will consist of 30 cabins—has been designed to follow passive solar principles and to allow the majority of Powder Mountain to remain undeveloped as part of the project’s commitment to climate responsiveness and land stewardship. The Horizon village was created to serve as the “home base” for Summit Series , a startup for a conferences comparable to TED. Six years ago, the startup purchased Powder Mountain, the largest ski mountain in the U.S., for the purpose of making the site “an epicenter of innovation, culture, and thought leadership.” To translate the startup’s values of community, environmental responsibility, and social good into architecture, Summit Series tapped MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple to design a village with reduced site impact and an appearance that evokes the traditional mountain vernacular. Located at 9,000 feet elevation, Horizon will consist of 30 cabins of four different typologies ranging in size from 1,000 to 3,000 square feet, a series of strategically placed garages, and a communal lodge called the “Pioneer Cabin.” Every building will be elevated on steel stilts and oriented for optimal passive solar conditions. Moreover, thermal mass concrete flooring with hydronic in-floor heating will help keep energy costs down. Inspired by the region’s cedar-clad barns, the cabins will be wrapped in vertical shiplap cedar and topped with cedar-shingled roofs. Related: Affordable wooden cabin is precariously perched over a cliff in Nova Scotia “The theme and variation strategy, in combination with the dramatic topography, results in a neighborhood that has a powerful sense of both unity and variety,” says the project press release. “The dense neighborhood will allow the majority of Powder Mountain’s 11,500 acres to remain undeveloped, and conserved for future generations.” + MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Images by Doublespace Photography

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A new eco-minded neighborhood in Utah ski resort emphasizes land stewardship

Do people in tiny houses live more sustainably?

August 2, 2019 by  
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Minimalist living is as old as time, but the tiny house trend sweeping across North America and Europe has influenced many people to downsize, declutter and live simply. A new investigation into the habits of tiny house residents reveals that living in smaller houses encourages people to adopt more sustainable habits across the board. What are tiny houses? The unofficial definition of a tiny house is typically any single housing unit under 500 square feet. Many tiny houses are on wheels to get around state and federal government laws that limit the minimum habitable dwelling size. Because of this restriction, tiny house owners often own the transportable housing unit but not necessarily the land that it is on. Related: Is a tiny home right for you? The media and tiny house designers market the micro-dwellings as environmentally friendly alternatives to large family homes. Sellers encourage prospective buyers to downsize their possessions and kiss their mortgages goodbye in exchange for experiential riches like travel and financial freedom. Though they take up less space and store less junk, few studies exist that actually prove that living in tiny houses is more sustainable. Little house habits Maria Saxton, an environmental design and planning PhD candidate, studied the impact that downsizing into a tiny house had on inhabitants’ sustainable behaviors. She conducted surveys and in-depth interviews of 80 downsizers who had been living in their new tiny homes for at least a year. She calculated their individual ecological footprints before and after the move and examined which behaviors changed for the better and which changed for the worse. Her research discovered that on average, residents reduced their individual footprints by 45 percent after they settled into a tiny home, which is a huge reduction. She also found that the move and new lifestyle impacted other aspects and behaviors even without the inhabitants realizing it. Ecological footprint is usually calculated by determining the amount of land that it would take every year to support an individual’s consumption. The average American’s footprint is 8.4 hectares per person per year. That’s about the equivalent of eight football fields per person. Among those who downsized to tiny houses, the average footprint was approximately 3.87 hectares per person compared to a per-person average of 7 hectares before the move. How tiny houses encourage sustainable living Remarkably, housing-related behaviors and consumption patterns weren’t the only changes that the residents experienced. Of more than 100 individual behaviors examined, about 86 percent changed to become more environmentally friendly. For example, tiny house residents tended to shop and buy significantly less than the average American and less than they themselves did previously. Without room to store additional items, tiny house inhabitants simply could not support their old consumption habits. While 86 percent of behaviors changed for the better, about 13 percent changed for the worse. For example, tiny house residents tended to eat out more to avoid the frustration of cooking in a cramped kitchen. These residents recycled less because they had limited space for sorting and storing recyclable materials. They also tended to travel more, including both adventure trips and traveling further for basic items, likely because many tiny houses are located in more rural areas than where the owners previously lived. According to a separate investigation into the habits and motivations of tiny house dwellers, the majority of downsizers simply kept a storage unit. So, while they had fewer items within an arm’s reach, they hadn’t really committed to a minimalist lifestyle, and they could still support the overflow of their overconsumption. Smarter designs to support sustainability According to Saxton, the results of this study are critical for tiny house designers as well as to influence archaic laws that restrict tiny houses. If tiny house inhabitants truly do live more sustainably, towns and cities should be encouraging residents to make the move. Related: 7 tips for decorating a tiny home Architects and designers of the little abodes can also use the results of the research to integrate designs that address the prohibitive factors causing that 13 percent shift to less sustainable behaviors. For example — how can the kitchens be larger and more functional? How can trash and recycling storage be expanded to accommodate proper sorting of recyclable materials? Despite the tiny trend, housing is growing in size and destruction In 1973, the average house was 1,660 square feet, but by 2017, the average house sold was 2,631 square feet . This represents a 63 percent increase in the average size of a house in just 45 years. Although the tiny house trend skyrocketed among a niche corner of the population in over-industrialized countries, the majority of people still think bigger is better, which comes at a cost to the environment . The construction of oversized houses means loss of natural habitat and biodiversity , including the fragmentation of ecosystems to clear the way for new housing developments. In addition, the carbon footprint of the materials and construction industry is enormous. Commercial and residential buildings together contribute 39 percent of the U.S.’s total carbon emissions. This includes the transportation and sourcing of the building materials, the energy needed for construction and the environmental cost of maintenance. Maybe they are just another trend, but maybe tiny houses can be a small solution to global warming on an individual and community level. At the very least, the research concludes that cities and towns should re-examine existing laws that discourage tiny house dwellers from owning land or remove the wheels to at least allow residents to feel a sense of permanence. One town, Spur, Texas, adjusted its laws and sells itself as the first tiny home town in America. As the trend continues, other towns and cities would be wise to follow suit. Via The Conversation Images via Paul VanDerWerf , Christoph Scholz and Nicolás Boullosa ( 1 , 2 )

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Do people in tiny houses live more sustainably?

Trash collecting device returned to Pacific garbage patch

June 26, 2019 by  
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A giant floating, trash collecting boom is en-route to return to the Pacific ocean after necessary repairs. Initially placed between California and Hawaii in 2018, the boom broke apart due to constant wind and wave pressure and had to be brought back to mainland for service. The 2,000 foot device is now ready to return to the high seas and expected to collect five tons of plastic trash every month. The project aims to clean up what is known as the Pacific Garbage Patch , a widespread issue of marine debris in the Pacific Ocean. Despite dramatic images of heaps of garbage floating on top of the sea, the reality is that the majority of plastic in the northern Pacific is already broken down into micro-plastic particles so small they can be difficult to see and hard to photograph but detrimental to marine life. Related: Ocean explorer finds plastic waste during world’s deepest dive The C-shaped boom mimics a natural coastline and uses the currents to collect plastic garbage. It has solar lights, satellite antennas, cameras and sensors in order to ensure the team behind the project– the Ocean Cleanup Project– can find it at all times. The contraption also has a “skirt” that stretched almost 10 feet below the surface to collect plastic particles floating just below the water level. The boom does not negatively impact marine wildlife , as the majority can easily swim below the skirt. The Ocean Cleanup Project plans to use the boom to collect about five tons of garbage every month, which is collected and towed by a collection vessel. “Hopefully nature doesn’t have too many surprises in store for us this time,” tweeted Boyan Slat, founder of the Ocean Cleanup Project. “Either way, we’re set to learn a lot from this campaign.” via The Guardian Image via The Ocean Cleanup

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Trash collecting device returned to Pacific garbage patch

Rafting outfitters focus on sustainability

June 26, 2019 by  
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Rafting draws a group of nature lovers with higher than average respect for keeping wilderness clean. But even the raft outfitting industry faces environmental issues— both in external threats to river quality and, in a much smaller way, in making sure their participants are educated in Leave No Trace best practices. “Rafters, both commercial and privates, are extremely conscientious and respectful of the river and its environment,” said Steve Lentz, owner of Idaho-based Far & Away Adventures . His company rafts three Wild and Scenic rivers: the Middle Fork of the Salmon, the Jarbidge/Bruneau and Owyhee rivers — two of the newest to win Wild & Scenic designations, which are especially prized for their solitude and remoteness, Lentz said. But Lentz can remember when people weren’t so respectful of rivers. When he explored the Middle Fork as a child in the 1960s, toilet paper and other garbage littered the riverbanks and people thought nothing of washing with soap in the river. Once the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act passed in 1968, he watched people’s environmental IQ increase while litter decreased. Inhabitat talked to five rafting outfitters to see how their staff and customers can have an impact on keeping rivers clean and beautiful. Related: Seven commandments of Leave-No-Trace Camping Sustainable Rafting Practices Guided rafting trips start way before the raft goes in the water . That’s why Hood River, Oregon-based Northwest Rafting Company’s sustainability measures begin with its office and the supplies they buy. NWRC uses software for reservations and online registration, resulting in minimal printed paper. They’re one of a growing number of outfitters who use online waivers and forms to cut printing. Outfitters are well-versed in Leave No Trace principles. “Fortunately, we live in a state that is environmentally conscious,” said Andy Neinas, owner of Echo Canyon River Expeditions, which rafts Colorado’s Arkansas River above and through the famed Royal Gorge. “The rafting industry is scrutinized by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and our outfitter organizations work closely to meet and exceed the standards set forth. Colorado Tourism Office works with the Leave No Trace organization to promote responsible use of our natural resources.” Leave No Trace is more rigorous than many people realize. Zachary Collier, owner of Northwest Rafting Company, says this even includes burnt wood. “I suggest all groups use a fire blanket to capture coals from fires,” he advised. Guides and guests sweep the campsite for micro-trash , such as bread crumbs and orange peels. Nor are rafters allowed to leave human waste, let alone toilet paper. Portable toilets are sealed and transported between campsites, and later carried out at the end of the journey. Bob Klein, manager of A Wanderlust Adventure , which rafts Colorado’s Cache la Poudre River, emphasizes the responsibility of the guides. “We believe that rafting outfitters should be enforcing Leave No Trace, educate their guests on the dangers and effects of human recreation on the natural environment, and to keep the amount of rafters they take down the river to the Forest Service’s regulations.”  But the responsibility doesn’t entirely fall on the guide— all rafting participants need to make good choices. “High water looks like fun, but fun can turn to tragedy very quickly when people’s skill levels don’t meet the river’s demand,” said Ron Blanchard, owner of Wyoming River Trips , which operates on the Main Shoshone River.  “We try to mentor rafters when conditions are extreme with information as to what to lookout for.  Most times if you talk with them and not to them, they get the point.” The Bigger Picture Lots of issues facing rivers are beyond people’s individual control. For example, Collier mentions the damage caused by mining .  “The 1872 mining law allows for mining on these rivers and their tributaries even if they are protected,” he said. Neinas has also faced the dumping of hard metals from mining operations near the river’s headwaters close to Leadville, Colorado. “As well as fish kills that resulted from attempts to eradicate invasive species ,” he said. Blanchard mentioned agricultural field runoff as the main threat to the Shoshone. Several outfitters urged rafters to be more proactive in protecting their beloved rivers. “I would love for more guides and outfitters to call, write, or visit Congress to share why these rivers are important and why they should be protected,” said Collier. He and some fellow guides recently visited Washington, D.C. to meet with their representatives about environmental conditions. Lentz agreed. “Be involved and get out of the back seat. From forest plans regarding management to breaching dams that harm the river. Support organizations that that prioritize efforts to strengthen the wilderness and its environment.” Each guide has a special relationship with his or her river, and can tell you 100 reasons it needs protection. For example, Lentz expounded on the attractions of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River: “Alpine forests , hot springs, blue ribbon fly fishing for native cutthroat trout, hiking well maintained trails, crystal clear water, 100 rapids, North America’s third deepest canyon, wildlife including elk, deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, both golden and bald eagle, cougar, black bear to name a few.” Are rivers worth protecting? You bet. Photos via Echo Canyon River Expeditions, skeeze

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Rafting outfitters focus on sustainability

Clean the World Recycles Hotel Toiletries to Save Lives

March 20, 2017 by  
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When it comes to the hotel industry, the biggest symbol of waste would have to be the complimentary toiletries. As it stands, the majority of hotels in the U.S. aren’t involved in any recycling programs — which means that a staggering amount of…

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Clean the World Recycles Hotel Toiletries to Save Lives

Care to invest sustainably? Don’t miss these guides

March 21, 2016 by  
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Report authors Heidi Welsh and Michael Passoff detail a total of 314 pending shareholder resolutions, the majority of which target environmental issues and corporate political activities.

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Care to invest sustainably? Don’t miss these guides

5 Recycled Buildings That Will Blow Your Mind

May 10, 2013 by  
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Raising buildings out of two-by-fours and bricks is so last decade. Okay, okay, we admit that the majority of structures nowadays are still built using age-old materials and techniques. But every once in a while, someone comes along and knocks …

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5 Recycled Buildings That Will Blow Your Mind

10 Creative Ways to Reuse Extra Office Supplies

April 24, 2013 by  
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Office supplies are often sold in bulk, meaning the majority of that 2,000-count box of paper clips may sit forgotten in the back of a desk. Help keep useful items from collecting dust or going to waste by finding creative ways to re-purpose office…

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10 Creative Ways to Reuse Extra Office Supplies

Survey Shows Americans Support Water Reuse

January 15, 2013 by  
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  Most Americans strongly support using recycled water for non-drinking uses, but the majority remain hesitant about “toilet-to-tap” recycling. That’s one of the findings of a recent General Electric survey of 3,000 consumers in the United…

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Survey Shows Americans Support Water Reuse

Sustainability becoming a ‘must have’ for IT services

April 27, 2012 by  
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A new survey released Friday by Rackspace finds that the majority of its IT customers believe that "greener is better," even — in some cases — when it costs more.

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Sustainability becoming a ‘must have’ for IT services

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