Lamps by Biohm are made from coffee and orange peel

December 2, 2021 by  
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Biohm, a London biotech and biomanufacturing startup, has created a line of sustainable lampshades called Obscure that are made of 100% coffee chaff and orange peel. Biohm has become an example of what’s possible in development and bio-manufacturing of natural materials for the built environment. They regularly use excess resources/wastes and byproducts, aiming to reduce use of plastics by replacing them in various products they create. Biohm is working to address several planetary challenges at once: the climate crisis, waste crisis and social injustice. Their approach is to apply principles of biomimetics, or systematically applying the ecological laws of nature , to create products and manufacturing approaches that innovate across the entire manufacturing life cycle. And, therefore, to create ethically-sourced and locally-fabricated high-performance sustainable products. Related: Artist 3D-prints biodegradable agar floral lamps “There has never been a more critical time to be doing the work we do at Biohm,” said Ehab Sayed, founder and director of innovation at Biohm. “Recent events have emphasized how our economies and systems are flawed and unsustainable, and that we need to immediately implement radical and regenerative biotechnologies delivered through equitable and compassionate business models to make leaps in the fight against the climate crisis.” For these lampshades, Biohm has used a material they call Orb, or organic refuse biocompound, to combine food and agricultural bioproducts with a plant-based binder. Orb can be molded or formed into sheets to create products such as lampshades. Obscure Lampshades are handmade on demand at Biohm headquarters in London. The production process has been designed to be closed loop with no waste streams or byproducts and will operate on demand to avoid additional waste from overproduction. The coolest thing about the Obscure Lampshades is that they could be cold composted or recycled right back into the same production process of Orb to make new products. + Biohm Images via Biohm

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Lamps by Biohm are made from coffee and orange peel

Can the Amazon rainforest survive?

November 15, 2021 by  
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Humans are barreling toward a catastrophic tipping point for the  Amazon rainforest , according to a recent study by more than 200 scientists. If we don’t change our habits immediately, the damage will be irreversible. According to study authors, more than a third of the Amazon rainforest has been deforested or degraded. Dry seasons continue to lengthen, and  rainfall  has decreased. Related: Amazon deforestation still high despite Brazil’s COP26 pledge The authors formed a new group, Science Panel for the Amazon (SPA). On the final scheduled day of the  COP26  climate talks in Glasgow, the group released its first dire report.  The wonders of the Amazon include a huge diversity of animals, plants and insects, with new species being discovered practically every other day. The Amazon Basin accounts for between 16-22% of global river input to oceans. Biodiversity and abundant water are crucial to the stability of local  ecosystems , regulating climate variability and governing global water cycles. On the minus side: humans. They clear  forests  to put in roads and pipelines. They contaminate water supplies, build giant hydroelectric dams, scar the landscape with open-pit mines and log indiscriminately. “At the start of the century, large-scale forest dieback was seen as a remote possibility, predicted by oversensitive models,” said Jos Barlow of Lancaster University, one of the founders of SPA, as reported by The Guardian. “However, there is now irrefutable evidence that parts of the Amazon have reached a tipping point, with  megafires , increased temperatures, reductions in rainfall. The severe social and ecological changes mean that a rethink is urgently needed. We cannot continue business as usual. The report is a first step in encouraging that rethink.” During the first week of COP26, more than a hundred countries signed a pledge to halt deforestation. These countries include  Brazil  and Ecuador, both of which contain parts of the enormous rainforest, and Canada, a big player in Amazon mining.  While many conservationists are skeptical about the follow-through of those who signed the deforestation pledge, SPA study author Erika Berenguer of the University of Oxford is staying positive. “This is a message of hope,” Berenguer said, as reported by The Guardian. “I don’t want to sound naive given what we have seen over the past three years, but this report gives clear pathways for a different future. We don’t need a forest based on destruction; we can have a future with a healthy ecosystem where people are thriving. This comes from scientists who are a cynical and sceptical bunch. We deal with evidence and we see evidence that the future can be different.” Via The Guardian Lead image via Pexels

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Can the Amazon rainforest survive?

This eco artist uses her gift to highlight climate change

November 3, 2021 by  
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Most people see crushed beer cans, water bottles, old coffee cups and broken shoes as trash. Not Mariah Reading. She looks at these discarded items and gets inspired to make beautiful art . Reading is an ecological artist using her gift to show the world through a different lens. She visits national parks, beaches and forests to find discarded items that become the inspiration for her art. Reading’s goal is to showcase the reality of climate change and the beauty of nature when it is left intact and undisturbed by humans. Related: Artist 3D-prints biodegradable agar floral lamps “I collect most of the trash I use as my canvas, although sometimes I have friendly neighbors who find some cool trash and gift it to me! When I complete a painted work, I photograph the item aligned within the environment it’s based off. I share and display my work with my Instagram audience, and sell both the physical paintings as well as the photographic prints of the work in both galleries and my online shop,” Reading said. Her favorite female artists include Maya Lin, Marina Abramovic, Judy Twedt, Natasha Cunningham, Lisa Ericson and Emma Longcope. But which artists helped shape Reading’s style the most? “Growing up, I was overwhelmingly inspired by M.C. Escher and Rene Magritte because their work was so transfixing and felt like the opposite of my own impressionistic paintings at the time. I find it interesting how my work has now gravitated toward optical illusions, in vain of these formative artists,” Reading told Inhabitat. As for using her artwork to shine a light on the effects of climate change , Reading said, “I think most people in my generation are hyper-conscious of climate change – eco-anxiety is hard to avoid. Being a landscape painter, I have the privilege of living in dynamic and breathtaking environments, many of which express dramatic evidence of climate change right before my eyes.” Discussing the goals of her work, Reading said, “As an eco-artist, I aim to paint the ever-changing landscapes and fleeting moments as a historical marker and as a way to protect them. I don’t think I could navigate life without trying to make the world a more beautiful place.” + Mariah Reading Photography by Mariah Reading

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Climate change is already affecting 85% of world population

November 3, 2021 by  
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A recent  study  Nature Climate Change has concluded that climate change is already affecting people across the world. The study found that at least 85% of the world’s population has already been affected by climate change in some way.  The unprecedented changes that await the world are not yet well understood due to limited research . One known fact is that the effects of climate change will affect poor countries more than wealthier ones. This is despite wealthier nations having fueled the majority of pollution worldwide. Related: 110 countries pledge to end deforestation by 2030 Discussing this topic, the Nature Climate Change study states, “Our results reveal a substantial ‘attribution gap’ as robust levels of evidence for potentially attributable impacts are twice as prevalent in high-income than in low-income countries.” Friederike Otto, a senior lecturer at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College, says that we are at a time where almost everyone is exposed to the effects of climate change. “It is likely that nearly everyone in the world now experiences changes in extreme weather as a result of human greenhouse gas emissions ,” Otto said. The disparities in data across the world make it difficult to accurately predict the future. For instance, most studies concerning the effects of climate change have been conducted in North America and Europe, leaving little to no information about Africa and South America. These disparities leave huge gaps that make it impossible for the most threatened countries to prepare for climate change’s effects. Researchers have found that climate change will force behavior changes in several ways. For instance, scientists predict the need for species to move from their traditional habitats in search of habitable ones. Additionally, reforestation measures will likely become more relevant. Mangrove forests can store four times more carbon than other tropical forests, but they are threatened by rising ocean levels. With severe weather patterns already being experienced worldwide, the recent pledge to end deforestation from countries at COP26 is more necessary than ever. + Nature Climate Change Via The Revelator Lead image via Pixabay

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Climate change is already affecting 85% of world population

DroneSeed makes reforestation easier after a large wildfire

October 18, 2021 by  
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According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 6,480,861 acres have burned across the United States this year alone as a result of 47,201 wildfires . In response, a Seattle-based company is tackling the issue of replanting and restoring forestry health in a rather science-fiction way.  DroneSeed has spent the past few years developing a drone system that specifically targets the most efficient way to replant forests following a burn. It began by evaluating the current method of reforestation , which requires nurseries to spend one to two years growing small trees that are then hauled to the forest and planted by hand. Workers can cover about two acres per day. DroneSeed said they aren’t looking to replace any of those workers. Instead, they want to supplement the process.  Related: BreezoMeter’s real-time data tracks air quality and wildfires At its roots, DroneSeed is a drone company . The very cool technology is not only fun to watch, but it performs the crucial task of dropping tree pods in a targeted way that emphasizes the best chance of growth success. Rather than simply dispersing seeds across the forest, which is imprecise and results in a high failure rate, the drones carry pods that are intentionally packed with everything the tree needs to grow including seeds, nutrients and natural pest deterrents. These seed vessels are placed using advanced laser mapping that identifies the healthiest soil areas to plant in.  Working in groups of five to six drones, controlled by four employees, they can plant an area covering 50 acres per day. While that barely makes a dent in the millions of acres burned each year, it does equal thousands of acres per year that would otherwise lay bare for a few years before replanting even begins. DroneSeed can start work as soon as 30 days after a fire. It is already replanting after summer burns in California and Oregon. In addition to speed and efficiency, the drones can complete the task while saving the landowner money . DroneSeed estimates a 30% to 50% savings in replanting expenses.  Although air seeding is not new and there are other drone companies capable of doing the work, DroneSeed is the only company approved by the Federal Aviation Administration to deploy a fleet of heavy-lift drones to reforest after wildfires. The company recently raised enough capital from investors to acquire Silvaseed , a long-standing forestry company that will enhance seedling production for DroneSeed. “Global reforestation is key to our fight against climate change ,” said Jay Zaveri, a partner at Social Capital. “We’ve supported DroneSeed from the very beginning given its promise to terraform our planet for good. Since then, DroneSeed has scaled its effort to reforest land, found a profitable model through carbon markets and transformed the experience of forest development for landowners.”  + DroneSeed  Images via DroneSeed ?

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Casa Numa is built out of 50-year-old coconut palm wood

October 15, 2021 by  
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At a first glance, you might not believe that Casa Numa is entirely built out of coconut palm wood over 50 years old. The 160 square meters of living space is a beauty to behold both inside and out. Casa Numa is located on Holbox Island, Quintana Roo, where it functions as a vacation rental. According to Susana López, the chief architect behind the project, the idea behind the building was to integrate sustainability and nature in a modern living space. López is an architect with a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Design and Development for the City from the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey. She is recognized for her exemplary work creating modern, sustainable designs. Related: This collapsible cooler is insulated with upcycled coconut fiber This project is built out of old coconut tree wood. At first glance, the striking front lattice of coconut palm wood stands out. You can’t ignore the beauty of the pattern amid a sunny, warm environment. This lattice offers privacy by obscuring the view into the home. The coconut palm wood used in the building is supported on sapote tree piles. All the materials are sustainably sourced from local jungles . Some may argue that such a design is wasteful for using too much wood, but it is important to note that all the wood used is over 50 years old. In other words, the designers used wood that would have otherwise ended up in flames, contributing to carbon emissions. Additionally, using locally sourced wood minimized the introduction of foreign materials to the island. The materials used in this project also benefit the home. Palm wood insulation minimizes heating needs and helps keep the house comfortable in both hot and cold conditions. The effectiveness of the materials also stands out in terms of the time needed for construction. Casa Numa’s structure was completed in only three months. Casa Numa shows how nature can provide everything we need to live a comfortable life. With efficient, local materials , this project creates a sustainable, original living space. + RED Arquitectos Photography by Miguel Calanchini

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Casa Numa is built out of 50-year-old coconut palm wood

5 standout brands from Vegan Fashion Week 2021

October 15, 2021 by  
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As more consumers prioritize sustainability, the days of fast fashion are numbered. This year’s Vegan Fashion Week in Los Angeles highlighted brands that are stepping up to meet the demand for ethical products by offering fashionable creations free of animal products.  In 2021, vegan fashion has moved beyond the simple aesthetics from its days as a niche market. Now, you can find clothes you have an affinity for in a variety of styles. Curious about what the vegan fashion world has to offer? Check out these five standout brands from Vegan Fashion Week 2021. Related: Get your vegan jewelry fix with KEVA’s cactus leather line Vegan Tiger Vegan Tiger kicked off Vegan Fashion Week’s Friday fashion show. As Korea’s first vegan fashion brand, Vegan Tiger wants to “end fur animal suffering and give consumers wider choices,” according to their mission statement. To this end, Vegan Tiger creates cruelty-free clothing, including faux fur outerwear and GRS-certified recycled polyester jackets. While these high-fashion items come with high prices, the brand puts some of its proceeds toward donations for animals and the environment. Lunar Method Cactus leather has been having its moment in the fashion industry, and Lunar Method puts it to use in luxurious, functional bags. Accentuated with colorful fabrics sourced from Mexican artisans, these bags are made of durable, PETA-certified cactus leather. A relatively new brand, Lunar Method began researching animal leather alternatives in December 2020 and launched a Kickstarter in July 2021. One of the brand’s collections is already sold out, showing the high demand for sustainable, vegan leather products. Fleur & Bee Looking for a more affordable vegan brand? All of Fleur & Bee’s clean skincare products are under $30. From facial cleanser and toner, to vitamin C serum and eye cream, Fleur & Bee has everything you need for a natural, vegan beauty regimen. Its products are also free of sulfates, parabens and artificial fragrances. Solios For a timeless accessory, check out these solar -powered watches from Solios . Started by university friends Samuel Leroux and Alexandre Desabrais, Solios creates sustainable watches powered by clean, renewable energy. The brand does not use any single-use plastic in its supply chain, favoring instead for recycled and recyclable paper packaging. Solios also donates to the Rainforest Trust and has committed to protecting one acre of rainforest for each watch sold. Shoes 53045 Complete your outfit with stylish shoes from Shoes 53045 . While working to become more sustainable, this vegan brand strives to source renewable and recycled materials. Currently, Shoes 53045 uses Better Cotton Initiative certified canvas and GRS-certified recycled cotton for some of its shoes. It’s also sourcing a corn-based leather alternative, finding ways to minimize shipping emissions and planting one tree for each pair of shoes sold. So far, the company has planted 22,550 trees as part of its program. While the vegan fashion world still has room to grow in terms of prioritizing eco-friendly materials and making products accessible to a wider range of consumers, these brands show the potential in cruelty-free clothing. Photography by Delaney Tran and Grae Gleason / Inhabitat

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5 standout brands from Vegan Fashion Week 2021

Save bats from becoming extinct

October 4, 2021 by  
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Thanks to the horror movies, books and rabid headlines, bats are not only a victim of natural dangers , but also of human misunderstanding and fear. The truth is, bats are amazing for the environment . There are around 1,400 species of bats. They are located in nearly every corner of the planet , with the exception of extreme deserts and arctic regions. Bats come in a variety of sizes, live in different habits and are the only flying mammals on the planet.  Not only do bats eat more than their weight in insects on a nightly basis, but they also spread seeds that add to the diversity of our ecosystem . Bats contribute to the pollination of a variety of plants, including avocados, bananas, mangos and agave. Unfortunately, a growing number of bats are endangered or threatened, so it’s up to each of us to initiate practices that protect these night flyers. Consider it a way to give thanks for fresh produce and tequila.  Related: Dutch town helps out rare bat species by installing “bat-friendly” streetlights The dangers they face A disease known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) is one of the highest threats to the bat population with some colonies being nearly completely wiped out as a result. WNS is caused by a bacteria first discovered in the United States in 2006. It is now responsible for millions of bat deaths as it spreads across the U.S. and Canada.  There are other dangers too. According to Bats Without Borders, “Many bats are under severe threat from increasing human pressure. Habitat loss, climate change , roost destruction, disease, deforestation, bushmeat trade, guano mining, disturbance and persecution, and increasing numbers of wind farms are all causes of bats declining globally.” Learn more about bats The single most important thing we can do to protect bats is to understand them better. Help kids write a report, do some investigative research, watch documentaries such as Nature’s “ The Bat Man of Mexico ,” “ The Truth About Bats ” and listen to podcasts on the topic such as those available on “Ologies” called “Chiropterology with Merlin Tuttle.” Mr. Tuttle is a world-renowned expert in the field, so a quick internet search will lead you in the right direction to find out more.  Provide bat habitat Due to human interference, bat habitat is in danger, but you can help replace it by building or buying bat houses to put around your property. Here are two design options if you opt to build your own: Four-chamber Nursery Bat House and Two-chamber Rocket Box .  In addition to bat houses, you can provide habitat in the form of decaying logs. Whether they fall naturally or are cut down, leave them for a natural roosting site.  Avoid bat caves We’re not talking about the secret superhero type here. Many types of bats take refuge inside caves. They thrive in the damp, dark environment and prefer it as a place to hibernate. Unfortunately, it’s also where they pick up white-nose syndrome. Human visitation can be disruptive to the colony, especially during hibernation. Early waking can result in burning too much energy and induce starvation.  More importantly, humans can inadvertently spread the bacteria from one cave to another. Listen to the rangers when they provide information about removing or properly decontaminating clothing, shoes, backpacks and other gear. Report sightings and behavior Acting as an extra set of eyes and ears for researchers contributes to the safety of bats. If you witness bats acting strangely, such as flying off kilter, appearing during the day or getting close to humans , report it. In addition to pointing out odd behavior, you can advance the knowledge, understanding the data about bats through actions as a citizen scientist. Whether you’re out hunting a colony for observation or happen to encounter bats in your home or nearby area, add to bat monitoring networks at a regional or national level. Check out the phone app iNaturalist and look into local fish and wildlife websites.  Let bats be your pesticide Another way you can help bats is to provide a food source, primarily insects. Avoid pesticide use that suppresses insect populations as well as polluting the environment, food supply and human health. Let the bats do the job instead. They do it well, consuming up to 3,000 insects each in a single night.  Plant a bat garden Bats may not show a full appreciation of your garden, but they will enjoy the insects drawn towards the fresh scent of flowers. Focus on plants that give off aroma after the sun goes down. Start with white jasmine and evening primrose, along with fragrant herbs such as mint and lemon balm. Also provide a water source to complete the meal.  Join conservation efforts In addition to using caution when visiting caves and making your property inviting for bats, consider joining organized efforts to protect the species. Check out Bat Conservation International , and Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation to begin. Via U.S. Fish and Wildlife   Lead images via Pexels

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Take a trip to explore natural beauty on the San Juan Islands

September 24, 2021 by  
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As I pick my way between the crazily-shaped logs, to the water of South Beach on San Juan Island, it’s a driftwood lover’s dream come true. Some pieces are propped up to make primitive shelters. I’m here to run a half marathon and see some fellow runners huddled inside these shelters, appreciating the windbreak as we watch gentle gray waves and await our start time. Only an hour off the Washington coast by ferry , the crowds and tall buildings of Seattle seem very far away. Related: Green-roofed vacation home embraces old-growth trees in the San Juan Islands The San Juan Islands include 172 named islands and reefs. But only a handful are well known, even in Washington, and only a few are served by ferry. I recently spent a September weekend exploring San Juan Island on the hunt for nature experiences and a look at island culture. Outdoor adventures My friend and I drove up from Portland and took the ferry from Anacortes to San Juan Island on a Friday morning. Since the road around the island is only 41 miles, we figured we’d have plenty of time to see everything. However, once we started dilly-dallying on island time, the hours evaporated. We started by driving up to Roche Harbor at the north end of the island, where we visited the San Juan Island Sculpture Park . The park covers 20 acres and displays more than 150 works of art , many made from recycled materials like sheep crafted out of old fishing nets. The garden area around the entrance is more manicured, with sculptures surrounded by plantings. But our favorite part was the Whimsey Woods, a forested trail full of art surprises like garlands of old LPs strung between trees, or a strange little outdoor living room with colorful, broken-bottomed chairs arranged around a creepy monkey jack-in-the-box. The park displays an ever-changing collection of work. If you’re an artist, you can find out about submissions here . Visiting a mausoleum is not everybody’s idea of a good time, but Afterglow Vista draws an impressive number of tourists. This mausoleum is the final resting place of John S. McMillin and his family , who monopolized the limestone trade on the west coast in the late 20th century. The huge round structure features seven columns (one broken, to represent life cut short) with a limestone table surrounded by six stone and concrete chairs. The ashes of the family are in the base of those chairs. McMillin was a Mason and the huge structure reflects Masonic symbolism as well as that of various spiritual and architectural traditions. While we didn’t manage to work whale watching into our trip, it’s one of the reasons I most want to return to the San Juan Islands. The Southern Resident Killer Whales who frequent the waters of the islands include three pods: J, K and L. They follow salmon and are most often seen in the summer months. The best ways to view them are from land, on a whale watching cruise or in a kayak. Or you can do like we did and visit the excellent Whale Museum on a rainy afternoon. If you do venture out by boat or kayak, follow these Whale Wise guidelines so you don’t harm or disturb the orcas and other local whales. Lime Kiln Point State Park on the west end of San Juan Island is considered one of the world’s best whale watching spots. Biking , hiking and running are other good ways to get outside and see the island. San Juan Island has both forested and beachy trails. Biking is very popular. Some people bring bikes on the ferry and get around on two wheels. But watch for cars—the roads are narrow and some have little in the way of shoulders. I participated in Orca Running’s annual San Juan Island Half Marathon, which is a fun way to check out the scenery with running support like periodic electrolytes, gels and portable toilets. Visit the lavender farm If you like the smell of lavender , stop at Pelindaba Lavender Farm. When we visited in September, the flowers in the organically certified fields had turned an inky purplish charcoal, rather than the typical purple. Turns out, that’s the time to harvest lavender for its oil. Culinary harvesting happens earlier. We got a lavender education and saw the distilling process in action.  The grounds are open for picnicking and wandering. Pelindaba’s website lists an impressive number of ways the public are invited to use the space free of charge, no reservation necessary: book club meetings, vow renewals, elopements, photo shoots and yoga in the fields. But I found it impossible to leave without a sack full of lavender souvenirs—salve, lip balm, essential oil, dark chocolate lavender sauce, to name a few—as well as, consuming a cup of lavender/lemon sorbet on the premises. Dining out Mike’s Café & Wine Bar is a phenomenal restaurant with a sleek, modern look and an all- plant-based menu. It’s a happening place on a weekend night and draws way more than just the vegan crowd. Locals stop in for Northwest beer and wine. Visitors like me are thrilled to see a big menu of tacos, interesting salads, sandwiches, bowls and fancy hors d’oeuvres. Since the islands are known for seafood, I was drawn to the crabby tacos made with vegan crabby cakes. We also got an appetizer of heirloom tomatoes with plant-based mozzarella and some delicious shishito peppers. The Cask & Schooner Public House also has several clearly marked vegan items, including an eggplant and red pepper spread sandwich, and a chickpea and leek saute. For coffee, we got hooked on the Salty Fox, which is in a big white Victorian house. Not only was the coffee good, but it’s perfectly situated on the harbor to watch the ferries and other boats come and go. Getting around We took our car on the ferry and then drove around the island, as many visitors do. But there are much more eco-conscious ways to go. You can leave a car in Anacortes and walk onto the ferry. Or take Amtrak to Mount Vernon, Washington, then get to Anacortes by Uber or public bus . Once you arrive on San Juan Island, you can get around by shuttle bus, or rent a bike, e-bike, scooter or electric car. Be sure to reserve your ferry passage ahead of time, especially if you’re bringing a car during the high season of June through September. Amy Nesler, stewardship and communications manager for the San Juan Islands Visitor Bureau , would like to see more visitors arrive car-free. Her ideal visitor “patronizes local shops, restaurants and tour operators, while being patient, kind and appreciative of service workers. They respect traffic etiquette, stay on marked trails, leave campsites/picnic areas better than they found them and maintain a respectful distance from wildlife , whether on land or sea.”  Where to stay Islanders are conscious of their island ecosystem, so many hotels have green initiatives. One of the best is the Island Inn at 123 West in Friday Harbor, the main town on San Juan Island.  Once the site of a fuel and storage facility for the local fishing fleet, cannery and ferry, the hotel is now Silver LEED certified. They reuse rainwater, supply extremely lightweight towels and sheets to save on laundry energy and stock refillable bath amenity dispensers to cut down on waste. Plus, they feature a custom blend by San Juan Coffee Roasting Company packed in recyclable materials. If you venture over to Orcas Island, the Pebble Cove Inn & Animal Sanctuary will serve you vegan food and prepare your room using cruelty free, natural cleaning products. You can meet adorable rescue animals like Dolly the mini horse and the Dread Captain Redbeard, a turkey who escaped the brutal American Thanksgiving tradition. Doe Bay Resort & Retreat , also on Orcas Island, offers yoga, massage and outdoor hot tubs. Doe Bay has a long history of being an alternative to the mainstream, from the time a mixed-race couple raised their family on 175 acres in the 1870s to hippie types discovering it in the 1960s and beyond. Photography by Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Take a trip to explore natural beauty on the San Juan Islands

Severe droughts cause 14% drop in US hydropower generation

September 24, 2021 by  
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In 2021, electricity production by hydropower plants across the U.S. will reduce by 14% compared to 2020 levels. This is due to the extreme drought conditions affecting western states. The U.S. Energy Information Administration stated in its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) that the drought will significantly affect water levels, causing some rivers to dry. States such as California and those in the Pacific Northwest, which are major contributors to U.S. hydroelectric power, have faced “extreme and exceptional” drought conditions in 2021. The Columbia River, the country’s fourth-largest river by volume, contributes immensely to hydropower generation. Its watershed runs through four states, including Washington , Idaho, Montana and Oregon. In 2020, the hydropower generated in these states was 136 billion kWh, accounting for 54% of all hydropower generated in the U.S. Related: Hydropower demand is damaging Indigenous lands The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Water and Climate Center (NWCC) has provided data showing that reservoir storages in Washington and Montana are at or above average. Even so, reservoir storage in Oregon measured just 17%. Historically, reservoir capacity in the state averages 47%. Another drought -affected state, Idaho, reported a reservoir capacity of 34%, compared to its historical average of 51%. The low water levels in reservoirs threaten power generation. And the situation may get worse as droughts continue. After record-breaking heatwaves hit major areas of the Columbia River Basin, officials issued drought warnings in several counties across Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The critical role played by these states in hydropower generation has been under continuous threat in the past decade. While California alone accounts for about 13% of the U.S. hydroelectric power generation, plants in California only contributed 7% in 2020. With the state experiencing widespread drought, it is expected that the power generated this year will be even lower than last year. In August, the second-largest reservoir in California at Lake Oroville hit an all-time low of 35% capacity, forcing a temporary closure of the Edward Hyatt Power Plant. This was the first time the plant went offline since 1967. This year, the state’s power generation has fallen on the lower end of its 10-year range. Via Renewable Energy World Lead image via Pixabay

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Severe droughts cause 14% drop in US hydropower generation

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