Cariuma welcomes a new Pantone collection of natural, vegan shoes

August 20, 2020 by  
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Brazilian sustainable sneaker company Cariuma has released its newest collection of completely vegan and natural footwear . All styles in the fall Pantone collection are made of organic cotton canvas and raw natural rubber gathered through ethical tapping. Released on August 12, the new vegan shoes come after a similar Color of the Year collaboration that sold out on pre-order after just one week and gained a waitlist of 5,000 hopeful customers. The collection is inspired by the unique color palettes found in nature from different regions around the world. The Picante color comes from Arizona’s red rocks and desert, while the Bungee Cord green is inspired by free climbers on El Capitan in California. Blueprint blue recalls the last spot on the horizon where the sky blends into the sea, and Snow White is inspired by the snowy white mountain caps on Everest. The black shoes, dubbed Moonless Night, resemble the dark days of Alaskan winter. These naturally occurring tones are chosen for versatility so that each color is easy to match with your style, even as the seasons change. Related: Vegan shoes from Insecta are a stylish option for eco-friendly footwear Cariuma is on a mission to take a stand against fast fashion as well as other wasteful and unsustainable practices in the fashion industry. The brand’s IBI collection, for example, was the first sneaker made from bamboo and RPET, making it 30% to 40% lighter than common sneakers. Perhaps even better, every purchase of a pair of vegan shoes from Cariuma will go toward planting two trees in the Brazilian rainforest, directly aiding in reforestation and preservation of endangered species and natural habitats. These reforestation efforts will focus on native Brazilian species such as the Jacaranda, Pau-brasil-branco, Peroba, Caroba and the Murici-da-mata. Prices in the new Pantone collection range from $89 to $98, depending on style. + Cariuma Images via Cariuma

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Cariuma welcomes a new Pantone collection of natural, vegan shoes

Discarded face masks now threatening wildlife habitats

March 16, 2020 by  
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The worldwide outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) prompted many to purchase face masks for protection. Unfortunately, these protective masks have been harming the environment. Why is that? The masks are made of the plastic polypropylene, which is not easily biodegradable. No surprise then that the accumulation of discarded face masks litters the environment and poses serious risks to the equilibrium of  habitats  and the health of wildlife, especially marine organisms. Environmental groups are now sounding the alarm on how cast-off coronavirus masks are escalating the  litter  and plastic pollution predicaments. Related:  The Ocean Cleanup has first success collecting plastic from Great Pacific Garbage Patch “We only have had masks for the last six to eight weeks, in a massive volume…we are now seeing the effect on the environment,” explained Gary Stokes, founder of Oceans Asia, a marine  conservation  organization. Stokes elaborated with the example of the Soko Islands off Hong Kong. On one 100-meter stretch of beach, Stokes discovered 70 masks, then an additional 30 the following week.  Hong Kong’s dense population means that its citizens have struggled with plastic waste.  Single-use plastic  makes matters more challenging. What’s more, Hong Kong does not effectively  recycle  all its waste. Instead, roughly 70% of its garbage ends up in landfills. That 70% is equivalent to approximately 6 million tons of refuse. Conservationists have been attempting to remove these masks from the environment through beach clean-ups. “Nobody wants to go to the forest and find masks littered everywhere or used masks on the beaches . It is unhygienic and dangerous,” added Laurence McCook, head of Oceans Conservation at the World Wildlife Fund in Hong Kong. Jerome Adams, the United States Surgeon General, has also  advised people to stop purchasing medical face masks , as they are ineffective at preventing COVID-19. Scaling back public purchasing of the masks would not only keep more masks available for medical professionals, but could also reduce the amount being discarded and its impact on the environment. Via Reuters Images via Pixabay

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Discarded face masks now threatening wildlife habitats

5 Wellness trends that are bad for the environment

March 12, 2020 by  
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Wellness is an ongoing pursuit that involves diet, exercise, mental health and many other factors. But the activities that make us feel good might be causing  harm to the planet  without us even knowing. Here’s how.  Crystals For those who feel a connection with Mother Earth, crystals are said to offer healing qualities, protection and the ability to calm the mind, among other benefits. While crystals are natural resources from the Earth, problems arise from how they are sourced. Many reports claim anything but safe working conditions for those harvesting the gems, with lax labor laws and many poverty-stricken areas being ruled by brutal military groups. In many countries, the industry is completely unregulated, which means in addition to the human cost, the planet is paying the price. Without oversight, mines can destroy animal habitats and cause extensive water pollution. In tropical areas, abandoned pits fill with stagnant water and create an inviting habitat for malaria-ridden mosquitos that contribute to the spread of disease. Although many retailers do their best to buy from reputable dealers, the supply chain is questionable at best with no transparency to truly know the path of the crystal you hold. Related: Ice rink alternatives and their environmental impact Essential oils For thousands of years, people have used plant oils to treat ailments, anxiety, headaches and much more. As the industry enjoys a resurgence, we wanted to peek into the production and waste components of essential oils, and what we found isn’t great news for the environment. Essential oils are naturally available from plants , some producing the oils on the outside and others storing it in pockets inside the plant. Regardless of the type of oil, it takes a lot of plants to source a single pound of oil. Many of these plants are grown on commercial farms with the same pesticide and water consumption concerns as other crops. Plus, if they are not native to the area, it can take more resources to keep them productive. For example, it takes 10,000 pounds of rose petals to garner one pound of rose essential oil. An even bigger issue is the  post-consumer waste  from essential oils. If thrown into the garbage, it contributes to overflowing landfills, and down the drain, it can create toxic water for fish and other wildlife. Additionally, many municipalities don’t allow recycling of the glass bottles because essential oils are classified as a flammable substance. In short, that means there is no great waste solution for millions of bottles of essential oils that should responsibly be recycled through toxic-waste collection events. To try cleaning up your act, look for native plants rather than those forced to grow in an area outside their normal habitat. Also, look for companies that offer a return program to recycle bottles. Alternately, source your own plants, being sure to check local regulations for your area. Sheet masks Face masks hydrate and exfoliate, leaving your skin looking vibrant and healthy. However, the common practice of using sheet masks may not leave the planet so healthy in its wake . Starting with the production of millions of sheet masks, the carbon footprint begins to unfold. Plus, transport around the world further contributes to pollution and resource consumption. Then there is the post-consumer waste to consider. Most sheet mask packaging contains a combination of aluminum and plastic, making it unrecyclable, so it ends up in the trash. The thin plastic sheet that often accompanies the mask follows close behind. Finally, the sheet mask itself typically ends up in the landfill as well. Even bamboo and cotton options are often treated in a way that keeps them from being composted so they get tossed. Let’s be honest, sheet masks are marketed as single-use products and as such will continue to produce waste. But before you cut out your sheet mask treatment, consider purchasing brands with packaging made from recycled materials, composting or recycling options, or significantly reduced packaging waste as your first choice. You can also select 100% biodegradable masks. Keto diet There seems to be a diet plan for every week of the year and Keto has made more than a few headlines with its low carb, high protein layout. But all that steak and butter comes at a cost to the planet . Meat is a high-polluting industry, consuming high quantities of drinking water as well as water for feed crops. Plus, it contributes to  methane gas in the air. Even if livestock is not being raised for meat, the same problems occur when it comes to milk animals used for cream, butter and other fats. While many oils come from plants, the increase in livestock production equally contributes to greenhouse emissions. Put simply, raising plants is much better for the planet than raising cattle. Hot yoga While it might be good for your body, hot yoga’s ramifications on the planet are less appealing. Classes take place in a studio, heated excessively by natural gas, electrical heat, propane or other sources. This alone contributes significantly to the studio’s carbon footprint. Additionally, lighting the studio, washing towels, cleaning and showers eat up additional resources. If you travel for your yoga class or retreat, the plane or car contributes to air pollution. To minimize your impact, look into mass transit and carpooling options or simply take your yoga class online. As another option, invest in carbon offsetting programs. Also be aware of the fabrics you wear to the gym, selecting organic fibers and options that will last for many years. Plus, invest in a quality yoga mat for long-term use. Images via Pexels and Pixabay 

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5 Wellness trends that are bad for the environment

Reintroducing the Eurasian Lynx to Scotland

February 27, 2020 by  
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The Eurasian lynx is so-called because it has been found in  forests  that stretch from Europe to central Asia, thus distinguishing it as the widest-ranging cat on our planet. Despite this, the species disappeared from Great Britain during the Middle Ages due to habitat loss and excessive hunting, according to the  Journal of Quaternary Science .  Now British scientists, spearheaded by the conservation group  Lynx UK Trust , are pushing to have the Eurasian lynx reintroduced into the British Isles, especially in the Scottish wilds.  Jo Pike, Chief Executive of the  Scottish Wildlife Trust , shared, “Returning the lynx to our landscape as a top predator could help restore the health of Scotland’s natural  ecosystems .” A quartet of lynx species exist worldwide: the bobcat ( Lynx rufus ), the Canada lynx ( Lynx canadensis ), the Iberian lynx ( Lynx pardinus ) and the Eurasian lynx ( Lynx lynx ). Largest of them all is the Eurasian lynx. With acute hearing and eyesight, Eurasian lynx are highly skilled hunters. They dine on wild ungulates, or hoofed animals, like deer . They also supplement their diet by preying on foxes, rabbits, hares, small forest animals and even birds. Interestingly, the Eurasian lynx is Europe’s third-biggest predator by size, just behind the brown bear and the grey wolf. As an apex predator, Eurasian lynx are valued by  conservationists  and ecologists for significantly influencing the distribution of other organisms in an ecosystem. In this way, Eurasian lynx can effectively help in the control of deer populations, culling the old and the weak. Eurasian lynx were eradicated from the British Isles due to hunting. Populations of roe deer, their preferred prey, were vastly diminished by the 19th century, hence destabilizing lynx livelihood. Lynx fur was also in high demand during previous centuries. This fur trade, understandably, had catastrophic consequences on lynx populations in the Britain of old. Across continental Europe and into central Asia, where the Eurasian lynx still exists, there are many threats to their survival in the wild. For example, the  International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List  cites human activity (agriculture, mining and quarrying, roads and railroads, logging and  deforestation , hunting and trapping) as adversely affecting Eurasian lynx populations through increasing urban sprawl, habitat loss and human-induced climate change. These are followed closely by disease and competition from  invasive species . In the United Kingdom today, legislation frowns upon the commercial hunting and trading of lynx fur in the British Isles, so these felines are now better protected. Besides, with contemporary Scotland as the home to the majority of British forests, the Eurasian lynx is likely to thrive there in the available  habitat . Even more favorable, Scotland has an abundance of roe deer and other types of ungulates that are in drastic need of natural culling, which is how the Eurasian lynx can play a vital role in the natural ecological processes. The  Woodland Trust  has documented that roe deer had almost been eradicated from Britain due to overhunting, up until the 19th century. But roe deer have since made a strong  recovery  in population numbers after their reintroduction into Britain. Now, their population density has since become exceedingly high, from a lack of natural predators and the absence of large carnivores in the UK. No surprise, then, that these roe deer have become a pest, overgrazing and thus unhinging the regeneration of the  woodlands . The habitat damage these roe deer bring requires that a large carnivore — their natural predator, the Eurasian lynx — be brought in for ecosystem equilibrium. Of course, there is opposition to lynx reintroduction, particularly from farmers who worry about their livestock. Scientists and stakeholders allay these concerns via reminders that the primary prey are roe deer, whose populations are bountiful in the Scottish countryside. These elevated numbers of roe deer would keep the lynx too occupied (and full) to meddle with farm animals. As for the uneasiness on whether these predatory felines would harm humans, the counterargument, once more, is that these cats prefer rural areas and tend to avoid encounters with humans, instead opting, by nature, to focus on the roe deer. There are some Brits who are apprehensive about the Eurasian lynx becoming a competitor to the Scottish wildcat, Scotland’s only native cat, for it, too, is a denizen of the woodlands. Scottish biologists have been striving to alleviate these qualms, pointing out that both the Eurasian lynx and Scottish wildcat can coexist peacefully, mainly because their prey selection is different. As Lynx UK Trust explained, the lynx reintroduction program is in the early stages, directed towards selecting reintroduction sites via careful evaluation and modeling approaches, as outlined in  Biological Conservation  journal. The reintroduction will be “soft releases” of the Eurasian lynx, meticulously monitored during trial runs before the program goes full-tilt. This transitional period will help scientists and conservationists work closely with local landowners, farmers and citizens of Scotland through education programs to help make the reintroduction initiative sustainably successful. Overall, the Eurasian lynx reintroduction plan holds great promise. Only time will tell what their long-term impact shall be on the Scottish and overall British landscape. Images via Flickr

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Fires in Australia create dangerous weather conditions

January 8, 2020 by  
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Authorities warn that the unprecedented ferocity of Australia’s wildfires can produce extreme  weather  systems — dangerous and unpredictable conditions known as cumulonimbus flammagenitus, or pyrocumulonimbus (pyroCb) clouds. These pyroCb are associated with fire clouds, ember attacks, fire-driven tornadoes and lightning storms that could create further wildfires. Australia’s Climate Council advisory says that these occurrences are likely to become more common as  climate change  persists and  greenhouse gas emissions  increase. Even more worrisome, pyroCb can make firefighting efforts more difficult. “A fire-generated thunderstorm has formed over the Currowan fire on the northern edge of the fire near Nowra. This is a very dangerous situation. Monitor the conditions around you and take appropriate action,” the New South Wales Rural Fires Service (NSW RFS) recently shared via social media. Related: Half a billion Australian animals, even 30% of koala population, likely lost to wildfires NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons brought attention to the situation when an RFS firefighter died because of the wildfire-associated bizarre weather phenomena. “That extraordinary event resulted in a cyclonic-type base flipping over a 10-tonne truck. That is the volatility and danger that exists,” Fitzsimmons explained. According to a  Climate and Atmospheric Science journal study, wildfire-triggered thunderstorms, or pyroCb, have been observed before in other regions of our planet and were first discovered in the early 2000s. They were originally thought to have been precipitated by volcanic eruptions until they were reclassified as being wildfire -induced. The study of wildfire-associated pyroCb is still a nascent science, yet to be systematically researched. In recent years, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s  Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) has monitored pyroCb in cooperation with both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). CIMSS classifies pyroCb as a “deep convective cloud…generated by a large/hot fire.” CIMSS has been monitoring the pyroCb formations above Australia as the wildfires continued to grow in quantity and magnitude. Several factors make pyroCb a formidable atmospheric force. The speed at which they form and change, coupled with heat from wildfires, can cause rapid, massive temperature swings. In turn, this fosters unpredictably severe winds that exacerbate wildfire intensity. The dynamics of pyroCb and their destructive power can, therefore, put the lives of both firefighters and the public at risk. “PyroCb storms are feared by firefighters for the violent and unpredictable conditions they create on the ground,”  The Guardian  reported. Not only are pyroCbs capable of creating lightning strikes and hail, but they can also engender embers that are “hot enough to start new fires…at distances of 30km from the main fire.” Dr Andrew Dowdy, a meteorologist at Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology,  adds that the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the resultant  climate crisis facing our planet makes conditions favorable for pyroCb. As Simon Heemstra, manager of planning and predictive services at NSW RFS, said, “What’s happening now is that we are noticing an increase in incidence of these sorts of events. With a changing and heating climate, you are going to expect these effects.” Via Reuters , HuffPost , The Guardian Images via Harry Stranger and Rob Russell

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The Amazon has lost over 10 million football fields of forest in a decade

January 3, 2020 by  
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The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) recently published its International Statistic of the Decade, and the “winner” was the stark statistic that the Amazon lost 24,000 square miles of rainforest. That is a land size equivalent to 10.3 million American gridiron football fields or 8.4 million soccer fields. This sobering deforestation figure highlights the harsh landscape changes caused by intentional human encroachment for commercial development purposes, such as logging, mining and cattle ranching. “The statistic only gives a snapshot of the issue, but it really provides an insight into the dramatic change to the landscape that has occurred over the past decade,” Liberty Vittert, a Harvard University visiting scholar and a statistician on the RSS judging panel, said. Related: Amazon rainforest might reach irreversible tipping point as early as 2021 Deforestation matters. Why? For one, the Amazon rainforest is a biodiversity hotspot, home to thousands of plant and animal species at risk of endangerment and extinction . Secondly, the Amazon Basin supplies a considerable amount of water vapor to the atmosphere; its deforestation leads to drought and attendant wildfires, which further exacerbate the ecosystem equilibrium of the rainforest habitat. Also, the loss of trees and other vegetation causes soil erosion, which increases the risks for  flooding  and a host of other problems such as land loss for indigenous people and  habitat loss for endemic flora and fauna species. When species become endangered , the ecosystem and its biodiversity equilibrium are imbalanced, triggering chain reactions where one loss leads to another. We lose not only those plants and animals we know of, but even undiscovered ones with medicinal potential that could never be recovered. Hence, when ecosystems weaken, all species, even humans, are placed at risk.  The Amazon’s deforestation is considerable because it is the world’s largest rainforest , spanning nine South American countries and measuring about 25 times the size of the United Kingdom. Therefore, it plays a vital role in our planet’s climate regulation. The rainforest’s canopy, for example, regulates temperature, cooling the atmosphere. The canopy similarly controls atmospheric water levels, affecting the water cycle and stabilizing the rainfall of South America. Of utmost significance, too, is the Amazon’s role in carbon sequestration . After all, this rainforest absorbs and stores more than 180 billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere. Without the Amazon as a carbon sink, the carbon is released back into the air, adding to greenhouse gases , which is ultimately bad news for Earth’s climate. Indeed, were it not for the Amazon rainforest helping to re-absorb the carbon from the carbon footprint generated by human consumption, land use and fossil fuel burning, climate change will not be buffered.  Professor Jennifer Rogers, chair of the judging panel and RSS vice-president for external affairs, explained further, “Irreplaceable rainforests, like the Amazon, are shrinking at an alarming rate, and this statistic gives a very powerful visual of a hugely important environmental issue. Much has been discussed regarding the environment in the last few years, and the judging panel felt this statistic was highly effective in capturing one of the decade’s worst examples of environmental degradation.” + Royal Statistical Society Via CNN Image via Free-Photos

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The Amazon has lost over 10 million football fields of forest in a decade

White Sands officially becomes the 62nd national park

December 26, 2019 by  
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Last week, President Donald Trump signed legislation, seen here , designating White Sands National Park as the 62nd national park. Since 1933, the country’s largest gypsum dunefield has been a national monument. The recent signing of the National Defense Authorization Act (the 2020 defense spending bill), with a provision on White Sands, has now upgraded the national monument to its new national park status, thereby protecting its glistening white sand dunes, which are visible even from outer space. In 2018, a study conducted on eight national monuments that were upgraded to national parks found that redesignation increased visits by an average of 21 percent in the five years after redesignation. Projections further estimate that White Sands’ redesignation will bring $7.5 million in revenue and $3.3 million in labor income. Related: How national parks benefit the environment Wondering why the provision was included in the 2020 NDAA? The reason stems from White Sands National Monument sharing land with White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), the long-standing national military weapons testing area and site of the first atomic bomb detonation. By 1963, NASA established the White Sands Test Facility at WSMR, which eventually became the primary training ground for NASA space shuttle pilots and a rocket research test site. However, White Sands’ appeal goes beyond strategic military and aerospace history, extending to its geological, biological and anthropological assets. For instance, the endless dunes’ surreal beauty makes White Sands one of Earth’s natural wonders. Gypsum, which makes up the dunes, is a common sedimentary mineral, usually forming via precipitation from highly saline waters. Thus, White Sands’ landscape formed because Lake Otero dried up millennia ago . Its predominantly desert habitat today supports unique wildlife , with five endemic species and many well-adapted flora and fauna. Archaeologically, the area was home to hunter-gatherers as far back as 10,000 years ago and even has the planet’s largest collection of Ice Age fossilized footprints. “Our staff are very excited for White Sands to be recognized as a national park and to reintroduce ourselves to the American public,” shared Marie Sauter, superintendent of White Sands National Park. “We are so appreciative of our partners, local communities and congressional leaders who made this achievement possible and look forward to continued success working together.” With national park 36 CFR 2.1 protections, desert sand and other resources cannot be removed from White Sands. This ensures the ecosystem thrives and remains in tact for future generations to enjoy. + National Park Service Via EcoWatch Image via White Sands National Monument

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White Sands officially becomes the 62nd national park

Hurricane Dorian threatens endangered bird species

September 5, 2019 by  
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Those living on the Abaco and Grand Bahama islands recently met Dorian as the hurricane’s 185 mph winds wrecked havoc on the islands, destroying and damaging about 13,000 homes. While the hurricane has raised much concern over the rising death tolls and destruction to the island, it also raised concern for endangered species who call the island home, such as the critically endangered Bahama nuthatch. The Bahama nuthatch has been in trouble for some time as a 2004 survey reported its population was around 1,800. Three years later, a 2007 survey noted more hurricanes decreased its numbers to a mere 23. By the time Hurricane Matthew struck in 2016 the bird’s population dropped and in 2018 only two were found. Related: Spiders are becoming aggressive thanks to climate change It appears Dorian left very few stones upturned as most of the areas are reportedly still under water and coniferous forests are being killed by saltwater flooding. “It is obviously a humanitarian disaster for people living in these northern islands, and the extent is as yet unknown, but we hope that international medical and infrastructure aid will arrive rapidly and generously,” Diana Bell, professor of Conservation Biology at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, told Earther. “It is also highly likely to have also been an ecological disaster affecting the already fragmented areas of Caribbean pine forest which support endemic avifauna.” Aside from trees and the Bahama nutshell, some scientists are worried about the Bahama warbler and the more well-known Kirtland’s warbler, a bird that lives among the pineyards during the winter season. In addition to the nuthatch and the warblers, as recent as July, avifauna in the Bahamas was reported at 374 species, according to Avibase – Bird Checklists of the World. According to a National Climate Assessment, researchers say warmer ocean climes and higher sea levels from climate change will further intensify hurricanes in the Atlantic and Caribbean, though some research suggests hurricanes are slowing down but causing longer impacts. Nonetheless, hurricanes of all categories could cause irreparable disaster for all island inhabitants. Via Gizmodo, Audubon, Avibase Image via Dick Daniels

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The World Surf League is pledging to eliminate single-use plastics and become carbon-neutral by the end of 2019

June 27, 2019 by  
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The World Surf League (WSL)  is known for being the authority for all things surfing, famous for showcasing the most talented professional surfers to the rest of the world. Now, they’ve decided to use that powerful platform to set an example for sports organizations everywhere by committing to substantial environmental initiatives. Earlier in June, the WSL announced a series of pledges that will apply to all WSL Championship Tour and Big Wave Tour events. They include becoming carbon neutral globally by the end of 2019, eliminating single-serve plastics by the end of 2019 and leaving each place better than they found it. The WSL runs more than 230 global surfing events each year. Considering the WSL’s millions of passionate fans, and the organization’s plan to hold competitions throughout Australia, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa, Tahiti, France, Portugal, California and Hawaii in 2019 alone, these public commitments are bound to inspire others to address critical issues about the state of our environment. Related: Kin Travel is offering unique vacation ideas that benefit destinations through conservation and sustainability Along with the announcement came an expansion of the WSL’s already-active ocean conservation efforts by their launch of a global campaign to “ Stop Trashing Waves ” with its non-profit arm, WSL PURE (“Protecting Understanding and Respecting the Environment”). WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt spoke of breaking new ground in the world of sports when it comes to the “urgent battle against climate change and ocean pollution,” saying, “We believe it’s our responsibility to be ‘all in’ with our efforts to protect the ocean and beaches amid the devastating climate crisis we all face. We invite everyone who cares about the ocean to join us.” So how does the WSL plan on carrying out these goals? For starters, the organization is offsetting its carbon footprint by investing in REDD+ and VCS (Verified Carbon Standard) certified carbon offset projects. These projects are focused on restoring and protecting natural and renewable energy ecosystems based in each of the WSL’s operating regions. The WSL will also be making an effort to limit non-essential travel and implement policies to reduce carbon emissions within its offices. 11-time WSL Champion and surfing legend, Kelly Slater, spoke of the announcement with enthusiasm. “I think it’s a great stance and an important message to send to people around the world. The ocean is vital to everyone, for food, for oxygen and especially to us surfers. I think everyone should make it their priority to care about this issue and make changes in their lives to help.” + World Surf League Images via World Surf League

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The World Surf League is pledging to eliminate single-use plastics and become carbon-neutral by the end of 2019

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

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