13 fun and sustainable activities to enjoy before summer ends

August 16, 2019 by  
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The dog days of summer linger from early morning until late into the evening, providing plenty of opportunities to play, travel and work in the yard. If you’re focused on making sure those summer activities are earth-friendly, we’ve brainstormed some ideas to get you into the great outdoors without leaving a heavy footprint in your wake. Hiking Getting into nature is easy with nothing more than your refillable water bottle and a good pair of shoes. Depending on where you live, you can head straight out your front door, bike to a nearby trail, jump on city transport or take the hybrid car to a trailhead. Hiking doesn’t have to be done on trails, but why not take advantage of the forest canopy, rippling water and scenery that nature provides while getting in your steps. Touring city parks Nearly every city has parks, and often you’re not even aware of them all. Especially if you have kids, vowing to track down each park in your city is a fun way to immerse yourself in your community without leaving a trace. Enjoy the trails, playground equipment and informational kiosks in your area one city park at a time with a goal of seeing them all before summer ends. Swimming Water activities are popular during warm weather for more than a few reasons, and swimming is a great activity for your body and the planet. If you choose a river or lake, make sure you understand the dangers of currents and always have a life jacket. The community pool is a great way to get in your laps while enjoying the cooling effects of the water in a maintained facility. Cycling Jump on your bike next time you’re scouring the Saturday market or heading to the store for small items. Use it as your mode of transport when you go to a friend’s or to the pool. If you want to make an adventure out of it, look up nearby mountain biking trails or road biking routes that fit into your schedule and physical abilities. Enjoy the exercise without polluting the environment. Camping/backpacking Getting into nature is a valid goal for any season, but summer offers opportunities for fair-weather camping and backpacking that the other seasons don’t. To keep it sustainable, watch the packaging on the items you buy, skip the plastic water bottles and use refillable propane tanks instead of disposable ones. Remember to pack out all garbage, including toilet paper. Bury human waste 6 to 8 inches underground and always do your business at least 200 steps from any water source. Related: Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials Kayaking/rafting/river floating River activities are the highlight of summer in many places. There are several ways to enjoy these activities without damaging the environment, especially when you avoid polluting the water with gasoline engines. Instead, rely on your arm strength and the current to kayak, float or white water raft. Scuba diving and surfing If you’re near the ocean or hope to head in that direction for vacation, hit the surf with a board for a good workout and adrenaline rush all in one. Take in the diversity of the marine wildlife you aim to protect through your sustainable lifestyle by grabbing a tank and heading below the surface. Check certification requirements and diving regulations in your area for the safety of yourself and the ecosystem. Be sure to use reef-safe sunscreen while in the water. Visiting national parks There are 61 national parks in the United States alone, plus other protected areas around the world. Wherever you are, take in these natural wonders via bike, hike, boat, air or water. Unless you attend during one of the free national park day events, expect to pay an admission fee, which helps fund the maintenance and care these parks require. Remember to keep your wasteful packing to a minimum, pick up garbage when you see it and use the waste receptacles or haul your trash home. Related: How national parks benefit the environment Barbecuing The very essence of summer is defined by the concept of grilling with friends. Fresh fruit, grilled meat and veggies and frozen ice cones make for a memorable afternoon. Make sure your event is earth-friendly with reusable plates, cups and utensils. Recycle items whenever possible, watch for plastic packaging, skip the single-use straws and make ice ahead of time instead of buying it at the store in plastic bags. Going on a road trip Road trips are a great family bonding experience and an opportunity to really see the land you live in. Throw in the camping gear or plan your lodgings ahead of time. Hit up those national parks or head to the beach. Make your trek as environmentally friendly as possible by bringing snacks packed at home, refillable beverage containers and washable plates and utensils. Toss in some biodegradable soap for washing yourself and those dishes. Playing lawn games Whether you’re at home, the beach or the campground, lawn games are a fabulous activity. Entertaining and memorable, dragging out the cornhole or horseshoes is an earth-conscious choice, too. Watch for games made with plastic ; instead invest in quality metal or wood parts instead. Then, get out there and start the bocce ball, croquet or golf short-chip challenge. Participating in sports There is no end to the number of sports you can play, and almost all of them are low-impact from an environmental stance. Shoot hoops, head to the park for disc golf, put together a neighborhood baseball game or take up wake surfing. Going to museums Although summer is a very outdoorsy time of year, some days are just too hot, cold or wet. When the weather isn’t cooperating, head indoors and learn something new at a museum . Find something related to your interests or those of your kids and focus on art, history, native culture, ships, planes, technology, architecture or toys. Images via Jan Walter Luigi , Dan Fador , Leon He , Pixabay , Jacqueline Macou , RawPixel , Christoph Lindner and Just Pics

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13 fun and sustainable activities to enjoy before summer ends

Trumps July 4th celebration cost our National Parks millions

July 5, 2019 by  
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The Independence Day festivities hosted by the White House yesterday cost the National Park Service an estimated $2.5 million dollars, money that is typically earmarked for park maintenance and rehabilitation. The rainy celebration, which included military jet fly overs, tank displays and the largest firework display in D.C. history, is the most expensive July 4th celebration any president has hosted. What Trump promoted via Twitter as the “show of a lifetime” was loosely inspired by his trip to France during Bastille Day. After the proposed budget for a similar celebration last year reached $92 million, Trump had to scale back his plan. Related: How National Parks benefit the environment The president also made a speech yesterday, a first in 32 years. For the past three decades, presidents have elected to not speak at the Independence Day celebrations out of respect for unity and patriotism and an attempt to not politicize the holiday. “Today, we come together as one nation with this very special salute to America. We celebrate our history, our people and the heroes who proudly defend our flag — the brave men and women of the United States military,” Trump said during his speech. Despite his message of unity, tickets for the highly anticipated events were given out as gifts to high-rolling donors to the Republican National Committee. “This is a breach of trust with the public,” said Theresa Pierno, president of the National Parks Conservation Association. “The public pays parks fees to fix national parks and for educational programs, not the president’s parades.” The national parks are reportedly $12 billion dollars behind in their maintenance needs, and this event is another major setback. While the event cost the country’s parks $2.5 million, the Trump administration refused to reveal exactly how much the antics cost taxpayers in total. Before the celebration, Trump tweeted , “The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth. We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel. We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats.” Via EcoWatch Image via Joyce N. Boghosian / The White House

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Celebrate mom with these 10 gifts of time this Mother’s Day

May 6, 2019 by  
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Mother’s Day is the time of the year to really show how much you appreciate Mom. You can always go the traditional route and get your mother a nice card and some flowers, or you can make the day more meaningful by spending some quality time with her — not to mention that gifts of time are better for the planet! From attending a cooking class to relaxing at the spa, here are 10 gift ideas that are sure to make Mother’s Day enjoyable for the whole family. Cooking class Let’s be honest, your mom is probably the best cook you know. But why not put her skills to the test by taking a culinary class together? These classes are a great way to bond with your mom while learning how to make a new dish. Cooking classes vary depending on where you live and are typically offered through a college or culinary school. Related: The Seasonal Food Guide helps you store, cook and enjoy seasonal produce Wine tasting trip Visiting a local vineyard is a great way to relax and try out some local wines . Vineyards usually offer entire day packages that give you a tour of their vineyard and a taste of their best wines. If your mother is a wine enthusiast, she will absolutely love spending a day with some vino — and her loved ones, of course. Painting class You do not have to be the next Picasso to enjoy a painting class. Many places even offer painting classes to take while sipping on your favorite wine, which might just be the best of both worlds. The class will usually charge a flat fee for supplies. All you have to do is show up with a good attitude, and you and Mom will go home with some art for your collections. National Park visit If staying indoors isn’t for you, consider visiting a national park. There are dozens of national parks spread across the United States, and each one offers a unique experience. All it costs for you to explore the great outdoors is an entrance fee and a little bit of time. Depending on your location, some activities you will find include horseback riding, hiking, camping, fishing, wildlife watching  and rafting. Related: Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials If you would like more information about National Parks and where to find them, check out the National Park Service website. Museum pass Museums rotate and add new collections all the time, so if your mom is into art, consider purchasing a day pass at her favorite gallery. You may even find an establishment that offers special tours on Mother’s Day. There are also a wide variety of museums you can check out, including art museums, natural history museums, historic museums and even building tours. Once you are done, take Mom for lunch to talk about the most intriguing things you came across during the trip. Spa day A day at the spa is good anytime of the year. If you have a little extra cash to spend, why not purchase a package for two at your favorite spa? Trust us — your mom will absolutely love it. Some spas will even offer special packages for Mother’s Day, making this gift pretty much a no-brainer. For a more sustainable gift, have a DIY spa day, complete with homemade face masks and lotions. Yoga class It can be very difficult for moms to find time throughout their busy days to relax and meditate. Take away the stresses of the work week by gifting your mom with a  yoga class. You can usually find a studio or two that offer beginning courses, which is a great way to introduce your mom to the practice. If you plan on taking the class with her, we recommend finding one that is designed for families. You could also consider purchasing a monthly membership, just in case your mom wants to return another time or is already an avid yogi. Garden gifts Taking a walk through your local botanical garden is another great way to get outdoors on Mother’s Day. The holiday is set at the perfect time to celebrate the blooming season. If walking through a botanical garden is not an option, you can always bring the plants to her. Starting a small herb or veggie garden for your mother will constantly remind her how much you love and cherish her. The trick is to use plants that are fairly easy to maintain and require little attention to thrive. Some good options include onions, cilantro or thyme. Family photos Mother’s Day is the perfect time to snap a few photos with the entire family, because everyone is usually dressed in their best  for the day anyway. You can hire a professional to take the pictures, or just enlist the help from a family member, friend or neighbor. After the photo session, be sure to have the photos printed and framed for Mom! Homemade brunch One of the ultimate ways to show your mother that you love her is to cook  brunch for her. Invite other members of your family and have everyone contribute one of your mom’s favorite dishes. With a full stomach and loved ones to enjoy, this will be one Mother’s Day your mom won’t soon forget. Images via Shutterstock

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Celebrate mom with these 10 gifts of time this Mother’s Day

Senate approves major public lands bill

February 15, 2019 by  
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On Tuesday the U.S. Senate reversed the trend of shrinking protected space by approving a public lands bill that adds 1.3 million acres of wilderness, creates five new national monuments, expands some national parks and reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This major new public lands bill is a hodgepodge of more than 100 individual bills related to conservation and outdoor recreation. Now more than 350 miles of river will attain the designation “ wild and scenic ,” which safeguards them and limits development. Outdoor lovers will enjoy nearly 700,000 acres of new recreation areas and 2,600 miles of new trails. In Montana and Washington, 370,000 acres of land will be excluded from mineral development. Related: Bureau of Land Management moves forward with the sale of sacred land The National Park Service will administer three new national monuments created by the bill: the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home in Mississippi, former residence of the murdered civil rights leader; Camp Nelson, Kentucky, a Civil War hospital and recruiting center; and Mill Springs, Kentucky, a Civil War battlefield. The two other new national monuments will be Jurassic National Monument, 850 fossil-rich acres in Utah, and the Saint Francis Dam in California, site of a tragic collapse in 1928. The Land and Water Conservation Fund , a bipartisan 1964 creation of Congress, expired last September. The fund used revenue from offshore oil and gas to fund conservation of water resources, natural and recreational areas and cultural heritage. The new public lands bill revives the fund. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been a pre-eminent program for access to public lands,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. However, this public lands bill victory came after a fight. Republican Senator Mike Lee derailed the bill last year by trying to exempt his home state of Utah. Lee has been an outspoken opponent of the 1.3 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument, created at the end of President Barack Obama’s term, and other obstacles to development and mineral extraction. “This victory was a long time in the making, and it is the result of the steadfast efforts of many who care deeply about America’s natural treasures,” said Sen Richard Burr, R-N.C. “Protecting this program is the right thing to do for our children, grandchildren and countless generations so that they may come to enjoy the great American outdoors as we have.” Via APNews Images via Free-Photos

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Damage to Joshua Tree during the government shutdown could take centuries to repair

February 1, 2019 by  
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The recent month-long government shutdown may have caused “irreparable” damage to Joshua Tree National Park, according to former superintendent Curt Sauer. During those 34 days, visitors ruined trails, cut down trees and vandalized the park, and when workers returned, they found absolute chaos. “What’s happened to our park in the last 34 days is irreparable for the next 200 to 300 years,” Sauer — who ran the park for seven years — told the Desert Sun . The shutdown reduced ranger supervision, which led to increased vandalism. Officials decided to temporarily close the park on January 8. But the next day, they managed to avoid the closure and stay open with the help of revenue from recreation fees. Related: National Parks are being trashed during the government shutdown During the shutdown, many national parks were forced to operate without rangers, and volunteers helped out by hauling trash and cleaning bathrooms. Joshua Tree national park is 1,235 square miles, and the volunteer help wasn’t enough to keep people from ignoring the extra care warnings and damaging the park. Park spokesman George Land said that some visitors had created new roads with their vehicles and destroyed some of the Joshua trees. David Smith, the current superintendent, explained that there were a dozen different instances of vehicles going off-road and into the wilderness, creating two new roads inside the park. People also cut chains and locks to access campgrounds. “We’ve never seen this level of out-of-bounds camping ,” Smith said. “Everyday use area was occupied every evening. Joshua trees were actually cut down in order to make new roads.” Many locals were not happy with the park staying open during the shutdown . John Lauretig, executive director of the non-profit group Friends of Joshua Tree, said that the parks shouldn’t be held hostage. He added that having a park open and partially staffed isn’t good for the park, the public or the local community. He also believes that if the government shuts down again, the park should close completely to prevent more damage. Via Desert Sun  and  The Guardian Image via Christopher Michel

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Damage to Joshua Tree during the government shutdown could take centuries to repair

The geometric Black House captures light and views from multiple angles

February 1, 2019 by  
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When architect Benjamin Heller of Radolfzell-based architectural practice Freier Architekt designed the Black House, he took design inspiration from the project’s location near the boundary of Germany and Switzerland . Created to mimic a boundary stone cut by hand, the Black House is an angular, multifaceted building that appears to conspicuously mark the edge of the small village in which it resides on the German border. More than just an exercise to emulate a distinctive stone, the home’s geometric form is optimized to take in panoramic views of the landscape and natural light as part of the project’s embrace of nature. Located in the charming health resort Öhningen located close to Lake Constance, Germany, the Black House expresses the client’s love of nature in not only its location and framed landscape views, but also with its solid timber construction and energy-efficient technical equipment. For example, the house is sustainably heated with a system that uses a ground collector and heat pump . Spanning an area of 325 square meters, the Black House features two floors with a mix of public, semi-public and private spaces throughout as requested by the client. The home is entered from the east side, where a door opens up to a long hallway that branches off to a variety of rooms that includes sitting rooms, bathrooms and the ground-floor bedroom. Upstairs, an open-plan living room, kitchen and dining area dominate the majority of the floor plan and connect to a south-facing outdoor patio . On the east side is the master bedroom. Related: Experimental prefab home eschews fossil fuels in Geneva “The ‘Black House’ is explicitly oriented toward the landscape and the water,” the architect explained of the massing and the large expanses of glass. “The spacious areas and rooms inside the building are extended in southern direction. The clear and restrained interior design directs one’s eye instinctively to the outstanding panoramic view with the beautiful landscape. The light, polished screed and the parquet flooring of dark oak result in a harmonic but also contrasting interaction.” + Benjamin Heller Via ArchDaily Images via Benjamin Heller

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The geometric Black House captures light and views from multiple angles

Air pollution levels in national parks rival those of major US cities

July 23, 2018 by  
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Bad news for national park lovers: a new study published in Science Advances  has found that many national parks have levels of of air pollution on par with major US cities. In parks such as Sequoia, Acadia, and Joshua tree, toxic ozone levels breaching the safe limit set by the EPA rivaled those found in cities such as New York and Los Angeles, which has the worst air quality rating of cities in the United States. While the number of dangerous pollution days has fallen for both cities and parks since the 1990 enactment of the Clean Air Act and the EPA’s Regional Haze Rule of 1999, experts are pressing for more regulation after this week’s findings. National parks see an 8% decline in visitor numbers, on average, in months recording two to three days of bad air quality. The statistics suggest that many of the parks’ guests choose to come not only for the sights, but for their health as well. And, while some have criticized Regional Haze Rule regulations, study co-author Ivan Rudik disagrees. An assistant professor at Cornell University, Rudik stated that “some of the arguments that people are making against the Regional Haze Rule are that the benefits are basically zero, that these visibility rules don’t matter much or maybe the health improvements are overstated. But if you look at what people actually do, they clearly do care.” Related: UN creates a new global climate change coalition Recent years have seen record-breaking numbers of visitors to national parks, yet another reason to reevaluate government standards when it comes to air pollution. Speaking to The Associated Press, Rudik remarked that “even though the national parks are supposed to be icons of a pristine landscape, quite a lot of people are being exposed to ozone levels that could be detrimental to their health.” + Science Advances Via Ecowatch Images via Shutterstock

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Trump administration wants to allow "extreme and cruel" hunting methods in Alaska

May 23, 2018 by  
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Donald Trump’s administration is angling to amend hunting regulations for national preserves in Alaska , and not for the better. Announced this week, the proposed changes would reverse Obama-era rules that forbid hunting methods the Sierra Club described as cruel and extreme. Among these methods? Baiting bears with human food and shooting wolf pups and bear cubs in their dens. The National Park Service (NPS) announced the proposal this week, saying it would toss out 2015 regulatory provisions banning hunting practices that Alaska allows on state land. Their proposal would affect national preserves, but not national parks . The Associated Press reported that increasing hunting rights on federal lands has been among Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s priorities; the Washington Post said that the NPS’s proposal is in keeping with an order from Zinke to assent to states’ wishes to expand recreational hunting. Related: Trump fills his wildlife protection board with big-game trophy hunters These rules would allow Alaska officials to make the final decision about methods such as killing bear cubs with their mothers, shooting swimming caribou from a boat, targeting animals from snowmobiles or airplanes, hunting animals in their dens, baiting animals with sweets, or poisoning animals. “Targeting cubs and mothers through baiting and other extreme hunting measures has no place on our public lands ,” said Alli Harvey, an Alaska representative for the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign. “Zinke is undermining science-based wildlife management and the basic premise of public lands as places for wildlife conservation . This decision overrides fundamental national environmental safeguards in the name of narrow interests.” You can comment on the proposal on the Regulations.gov website until July 23. + Sierra Club + National Park Service Via The Washington Post and the Associated Press Images via  Depositphotos (1)

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Trump administration wants to allow "extreme and cruel" hunting methods in Alaska

California man files lawsuit against Monsanto for allegedly hiding dangers of glyphosate

May 23, 2018 by  
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In a monumental trial, DeWayne Johnson will soon become the first person to face Monsanto in court for an alleged cover-up of the cancer-causing dangers of its herbicide products. Johnson, a father of three and resident of California , has cancer, which he believes was caused by his exposure to Monsanto-produced chemicals in his work as a groundskeeper. Though Monsanto has denied it, studies have demonstrated a link between glyphosate , the active ingredient in Monsanto herbicides, and cancer. Last week, presiding Judge Curtis Karnow issued a ruling that allowed for the consideration of evidence with regards to whether Monsanto knew about the dangers of its products and systematically concealed it, as well as the specifics of Johnson’s case. Johnson’s lawsuit, which will be filed on June 18th in San Francisco county superior court, is part of a larger legal fight against Monsanto. Approximately 4,000 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against Monsanto alleging that the failure to disclose the dangers of its chemicals has led to  cancer . The soon-to-be-filed lawsuit says that Monsanto “championed falsified data and attacked legitimate studies,” while engaging in a “prolonged campaign of misinformation,” which caused harm to the public. “We look forward to exposing how Monsanto hid the risk of cancer and polluted the science,” Michael Miller, Johnson’s lawyer,  told the Guardian . “Monsanto does not want the truth about Roundup and cancer to become public.” Related: California adds Monsanto’s glyphosate to list of chemicals known to cause cancer Monsanto claims there is no evidence that glyphosate is carcinogenic. “Glyphosate-based herbicides are supported by one of the most extensive worldwide human health and environmental effects databases ever compiled for a pesticide product,” Monsanto said in a statement . “Comprehensive toxicological and environmental fate studies conducted over the last 40 years have time and again demonstrated the strong safety profile of this widely used herbicide.” Monsanto will soon have to defend this position in court, not only in California, but also in St. Louis, Missouri , where Monsanto was founded. Via The Guardian Images via Chafer Machinery , Avaaz and Mike Mozart

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Tourists in Utah are tossing priceless dinosaur footprints into a lake

May 11, 2018 by  
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People, this is why we can’t have nice things. Tourists in Utah have been removing dinosaur footprints embedded in sandstone and tossing them into the lake at Red Fleet State Park in Vernal. The foot-long prehistoric dino tracks primarily come from the reptile known as the velociraptor in Jurassic Park (it’s actually a Deinonychus ), and park officials are frantically trying to stop visitors from destroying the priceless artifacts. Park officials don’t know why people have started tossing the prints into the lake. Certainly, some people don’t realize what they are doing, despite signs around the site warning visitors not to disturb the sandstone. “It’s become quite a big problem,” Utah Division of State Parks spokesman Devan Chavez told the Salt Lake Tribune . “They’re just looking to throw rocks off the side. What they don’t realize is these rocks they’re picking up, they’re covered in dinosaur tracks.” Related: Video captures vandals toppling 18-million-year-old sandstone formation in Oregon For now, the park is putting up more signs to stop the vandalism, but they are also considering sending a diving team into the water to recover the prints. Unfortunately, many of them shatter when they hit the water, and many others have probably dissolved. “Some of them are likely lost forever,” Chavez said. Tourists have vandalized national and state park sites multiple times in the past few years, including an instance in 2001 where three Boy Scouts tore up a dinosaur print trail at the same park. In 2013, Boy Scout leaders tipped over “goblin” formations in Goblin Valley State Park, and even celebrities have gotten in on the vandalism . Unfortunately, due to the Trump administration’s budget cuts, the parks system is struggling to address the ongoing problem across the country. Via History and the Salt Lake Tribune Image via Jim McKenzie

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Tourists in Utah are tossing priceless dinosaur footprints into a lake

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