It might be time to let your garden grow wild

April 12, 2019 by  
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Think of a formal yard or garden, and you likely envision rows of neatly trimmed bushes along meandering walkways and sitting areas. Homeowners spend a ton of money, time and resources in an attempt to recreate that image. But another equally beautiful option for your home is a wild garden . What is a wild garden? A wild garden can carry a variety of definitions. For some, it means limiting the amount you tame your plants , letting them become what others might define as overgrown and unsightly. Others might associate wild with the types of plants you choose for your space. If you think about your walks in the fields or forests where Mother Nature is the only landscaper, plants are “overgrown and unsightly” around every corner. So, it might be time to change your definition of what makes a desirable garden space. The idea of a wild garden is to create a more naturally flowing space with less rigid lines and rules. Related: This Garden Planner makes urban gardening easy Reasons to set it free There are many benefits to allowing your garden to go wild. Consider the nature of the plant and remember that pruning is something we do in our backyard, but it is not the norm in a plant’s natural habitat. We feel we need to confine plants, because that’s what the magazines show. Allowing your plants to become shaggy around the edges means a whole lot less maintenance for you, which is a huge advantage if you prefer not to spend every waking moment tending to your garden. Another benefit of a wild garden is that it becomes a more natural garden. We spend time in nature because we connect with the sights, smells and surroundings that nature provides. Somehow, we lose those same feelings when we bring plants into our yard and then contour them into something they’re not. Instead, allow your plants to take a more natural growth pattern and retain the essence of nature in your yard. The benefit of native plants Plants that are native to your area are going to grow the best. Careful selection of your plants in the beginning will allow for a worry-free space as your garden grows. Talk to the local nursery owner. Stop by the garden center. Read books and scour the internet. After you hunt down the plants indigenous to your area, create a plan on paper or using a graphic design program on the computer. Be sure to allow for the maximum growth of the plants, so you don’t have to continually trim them back. In addition to low-effort growing success, native plants also do not require chemicals to fight off insects and disease. Plus, they often don’t need fertilizer, because they are naturally suited for the native soil. You can even source your native plants directly from nature by selecting seeds or small plants. Check with your local authorities before harvesting from forests or other areas. If nothing else, observe the plants in your area and purchase the same type of ferns, sunflowers or wildflowers that you see growing naturally. Natural elements in the design Another way to bring the wilderness into your yard is through natural elements . Think of an eroding cliffside with protruding rocks and plants that have rooted themselves in the unstable soil. Bring that idea into your yard with stone walkways or tiered river rock stairways surrounded by plants. Mix pristine with savage, manicured with wild The goal of creating a wild yard doesn’t mean you have to have a completely untamed space of rambling branches and invasive blackberries. Instead, segment your yard into areas that provide for the naturally wild look combined with more traditional or formal spaces for sitting or strolling. Bring in the pristine yard if that’s your thing, and mingle it with some savage plants. Manicure the stone patio, but allow the bushes behind the arbor to go wild. The point is that wild doesn’t have to be neglected. Simply work the look into your design. Related: This Australian property was redesigned with a sustainable, lush garden Advantages of wildflowers Wildflowers are often seen as invasive in the restrictive confines of a yard, and they are. But they are also an amazing way to bring the colors and calming visuals of nature into your space. Grab a seed packet and spread the colorful joy throughout your yard, or mostly confine them to one area with a border. Remember that wildflowers are seasonal, so you’ll also want to incorporate other plants that will fill the space when the wildflowers aren’t in bloom. Rethink the spacing Traditional gardens are tightly focused on spacing. We don’t want the fruit tree to overshadow the plants below it. Those daylilies might get too big and push up to the hyacinth next door. Oh no! Again, envision the way plants grow in nature, and replicate it in your yard. Plants have a way of naturally providing for one another or pushing out unwelcome invaders. If you copy what you see in nature, your plants will thrive in a natural way, meaning that they will overlap, procreate and become entangled one into another. Although this goes against our structured (and separated) image of a neat garden, the wildness of an unregimented garden allows nature to show her best self. Images via Shutterstock

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Transparent bubble domes in China allow guests to immerse themselves in nature

March 13, 2019 by  
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For those who need a little respite from the hustle and bustle of life and who may find themselves in the Guangxi region of China, there is an entire glamping site comprised of transparent bubble domes . Created by designer ChengWei Chiang of PL Interior Design Studio, the Wow Bubbles are made of special transparent PVC material to let visitors truly immerse themselves in the idyllic landscape that surrounds the site. Located in the mountainous area of southern China  bordering Vietnam, Guangxi is right on the coast and known as a nature-lover’s paradise. Full of lush green forests, winding rivers and towering karst formations, the area is a popular tourist spot for both adventurers and those who just want to commune with nature. Related: Sleep beneath the northern lights in this unique Iceland bubble Now, visitors to the picturesque area can go one step further by staying in the Wow Bubbles lodgings. Made out of special PVC material, the transparent bubble huts are inflated with air. Waterproof and resistant to wind, they were also designed to withstand the severe humidity that is common in this coastal area. The bubble domes are strategically orientated to provide stunning, unobstructed views of the mountains and forest that surround the site. A wooden walkway on the edge of a small lake leads to the individual domes, which are lifted off the landscape on wooden platforms. Once inside, the interior design is quite contemporary. With a spacious living area, a large bedroom and bath, the huts provide all of the amenities of home. According to the designer of the bubbles, ChengWei Chiang, the unique glamping concept was inspired to provide mesmerizing, panoramic views for guests looking to get away from the stress of their urban lifestyles. “As more and more people move into the cities, making more money, buying more luxuries, owning bigger houses, the nature serves as a pure land that evokes peace of mind,” he explained. “Zen is a lifestyle we need today. Zen style is the key to attract urban people to nature.” + PL Interior Design Studio + Chiange Cheng Wei Via World Architecture Images via Chiange Cheng Wei and PL Interior Design Studio

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Transparent bubble domes in China allow guests to immerse themselves in nature

Indonesia builds a resilient "living shoreline"

March 4, 2019 by  
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The Demak District on Indonesia’s most populous island of Java is four years into a five-year plan to restore its disappearing and degraded shoreline. In a collaborative and holistic approach to nature restoration and sustainable development, local and international partners successfully completed many integrated components to build back the shoreline. This “ Living Shoreline ” vision creates natural defenses against further erosion while increasing economic opportunities for coastal residents. Why is Indonesia vulnerable to climate change? Small islands around the world are experiencing erosion and sea level rise . In Demak, severe erosion is coupled with subsidence — the gradual sinking or caving-in of land. These risks have been attributed to three interrelated and man-made causes: Unsustainable development along the coast The island of Java and the district of Demak are important economic hubs for Indonesia, a country comprised of over 17,000 islands. As the city’s population grows, its urban footprint spreads into natural and coastal areas at unsustainable rates and with little time for developers to consider the ecological impact. Increased urbanization, in the pursuit of economic development, has led to a rise in emissions, pollution and degradation. Cutting down mangroves for shrimp farms Indonesia is the world’s second largest shrimp producer  and home to the largest mangrove forest in the world. In addition to logging and pollution, the Food and Agriculture Organization lists shrimp aquaculture as one of the major causes of mangrove loss in Indonesia. Despite the importance of this coastal habitat as a nursery and breeding ground for shrimp and other species, entrepreneurial farmers are rapidly cutting down mangroves to make way for more aquaculture ponds. Over-extraction of groundwater Rising urban populations and the construction of new development projects are using Java’s groundwater supply faster than it can be replenished naturally. Overdrawing of water has caused some areas of the coastal district to sink at alarming rates of up to 8 centimeters every year. Sinking causes serious risk for infrastructure such as roads, buildings and homes and puts lives in danger. See how the project vision compares to Wetland International’s prediction of flooding , erosion and evacuation along the same coast. Permeable dams build back the shoreline In response to these vulnerabilities, the Building with Nature Project installed resilience-building green infrastructure. First, the team of interdisciplinary partners and local groups constructed nearly 3 miles (4.7 km) of permeable dam structures with bamboo and brushwood. These partially submerged structures trap sediment from coastal erosion but allow water to pass freely. Over time, these structures collect and build back shorelines, which provides a stable coast for mangroves to regrow. The growth of new mangroves and their interconnected web of roots further fortifies the coast. Related: Indonesia unveils first zero-waste restaurant build with sustainably sourced materials In January 2019, the project partners officially handed over the maintenance of the permeable dams to local community groups. This hand-off is an effort to make the project sustainable and community-owned after the project funding runs out. Though project managers assisted community members with training and outreach to seek further funding from local and regional governments, it remains to be determined how the future maintenance of project infrastructure will be sustainably financed and managed. Shrimp farming sustainably The project also worked with shrimp farmers to introduce sustainable aquaculture  practices. According to the project website , over 422 hectares of ponds have benefited from environmentally friendly practices, and farmers surveyed reported that their income tripled as a result. Seventy hectares of damaged ponds have also been designated for potential mangrove restoration. Community and policy dialogues are underway to address persistent groundwater issues in an effort to integrate new development with the project’s living shoreline vision. The project is unique in its multi-year, multi-sector approach that integrates many environmental and economic approaches to sustainable development. While the longevity and sustainability of the project are still unknown, other cities and small islands are looking to the Building with Nature Project for examples of comprehensive coastal resilience strategies. The Building with Nature Project is a collaboration between an extensive collection of local and international partners, including EcoShape, Wetlands International, the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, the Ministry of Public Work and Human Settlement, Witteveen + Bos, Deltares, Wageningen University, UNESCO-IHE, Von Lieberman, the Diponegoro University and local community groups. The project is funded by the Dutch Sustainable Water Fund, The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), Waterloo Foundation, Otter Foundation, Topconsortia for Knowledge and Innovation and Mangroves for the Future. Images via Dion Hinchcliffe , Wave Haven Bali , Stephen Kennedy  and Shutterstock

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Indonesia builds a resilient "living shoreline"

A tiny, 96-square-foot rustic pavilion brings the outdoors in

February 22, 2019 by  
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Small and portable, this tiny structure offers a versatile shelter for the artist, fisherman or weekend traveler. At only 96 square feet, it could make a micro home , but the space, now called a pavilion, is laid out for an effective work studio, storage shed or traveling gallery. When Danish architect Anders Hermansen designed the pavilion 10 years ago, he presented it as a movable art piece. Perhaps more widely known for his vast furniture line and work with audio-visual company Bang & Olufsen (B&O), the lifelong independent designer wanted to create something that encompassed his love for nature and an active lifestyle. Related: Recyclable art pavilion made of mesh pops up in Kolkata Inspired by that connection to the environment, Hermansen used discarded materials sourced from a construction project in Sydhavnen, Copenhagen to support the structure. The main wall hosts four built-in cabinets for storage and organization. Two of the sides are comprised of large double doors that open to the outdoors. The fourth wall incorporates an entrance and a huge floor-to-ceiling window that draws in natural light while protecting from the elements when Mother Nature is in a bad mood. The interior raw lumber creates a seamless transition from the surrounding natural elements and offers a place to mount supplies. The all-wood design adds to the rustic vibe of this tiny studio pavilion. With the idea that art and nature go hand in hand, the pavilion can be moved from place to place as the need arises by loading it onto a flatbed truck. Although tiny, the pavilion offers plenty of space for storage, work or living, and it is now for sale through Adam Schnack at a $38,000 price tag. It is currently situated in a scenic location at Værløse Flyvestation, near Denmark’s largest film studio. + Anders Hermansen Design Via Curbed Images via Adam Schnack and Lars Gundersen

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A tiny, 96-square-foot rustic pavilion brings the outdoors in

Compensation for conservation: water markets are economists’ answer to scarcity

February 15, 2019 by  
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As cites grow and put more pressure on water sources, scarcity is an increasingly important issue. More than two thirds of the world’s population experience a water shortage every year. Just because water continues to reach your tap does not mean your area isn’t experiencing a shortage. Instead, it could mean your town is forced to tap sources, such as rivers, faster than they can renew. Economists have introduced one solution, water markets, which assign a value to usage under the premise that when something has a dollar value, people are more likely to conserve it. What are water markets? When preserving nature for nature’s sake is not enough to get a company’s attention, sometimes the best strategy is through its bottom line. Related: 7 ways to conserve water and reduce your water footprint Water markets function similarly to the stock market or carbon trading markets, where water usage rights and quantities can be traded among voluntary stakeholders within a watershed. There are different types of trades and markets that vary based on local legislation, infrastructure and government regulation. Ultimately, one water user sells a portion of its predetermined water allotment to another user, meaning it reduces the quantity of water it uses (in exchange for compensation), while the buyer utilizes the agreed upon amount of water. Why would the seller engage in a water market? A farmer, for example, might sell a portion of their water access and use the funding to purchase more efficient irrigation or use it as compensation for reducing their yield. Why would the buyer engage in a water market? A metropolitan area, for example, might purchase water from farmers upstream and use it for urban residents. This enables more efficient use of the water available, without forcing the government to tap into reserves or build expensive infrastructure to reach far away sources. Environmental organizations might also purchase water and then not use it, simply to ensure that an optimum amount of water cycles through the watershed to support healthy ecosystems . Why do we need water markets? Most people consider water a human right and a shared resource; however, this means that people do not necessarily have tangible incentive to conserve . Agriculture is the largest water user, with more than 90 percent of all water going to irrigated farms . But nearly 75 percent of all irrigated farms are vulnerable to scarcity, and almost 20 percent of all irrigated crops are produced with nonrenewable groundwater. This means that a fifth of everything we eat taps the earth’s water supply beyond what the water cycle can naturally replenish. This rate is alarmingly unsustainable. As The Nature Conservancy reported , “Nature is the silent and unseen victim of water scarcity.” But with the rise in severe weather, including flooding and drought , those who are paying attention could argue that nature is not so silent. Not to mention the 844 million people living without adequate access to clean water who are also victims in plain sight. Have water markets been successful? Australia’s Murray-Darling river has one of the most widely cited examples of a successful water market. Established in response to a seven-year drought, the market provides farmers with an alternate revenue stream that helps them stay in business even during times of water crises. Currently, 40 percent of all water used within the extensive basin in southeastern Australia is traded water. Another example comes from San Diego, California , where the water authority pays farmers to reduce water and reroute it to urban areas. This traded water covers one third of the city’s water needs. Reducing water use on large farms — without destroying local economies and food supplies — inevitably has to be a major part of the solution. Unlike carbon trading, which many argue promotes “pay to pollute,” water markets offer “compensation for conservation.” According to The Nature Conservancy , water markets “offer a powerful mechanism for alleviating water scarcity, restoring ecosystems and driving sustainable water management.” Markets, however, are intended to be one solution within a more comprehensive conservation strategy. Other components include enforcing meaningful reductions in water usage —  forcing businesses to innovate more efficient operations, appliances and products. The concepts of trading and monetizing water access are complex, abstract and focus on major players. More research is continually needed to ensure that market approaches do not only benefit the loudest and highest bidders, but to ensure the equity of markets for small and nontraditional users. + ‘The Nature Conservancy’ Image via Diego Delso

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Reimagine a resilient future with this nature-based tool

January 30, 2019 by  
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Most Americans have personally experienced a federally declared, weather-related disaster in the last decade. In fact, the number is 96 percent of the population. Both science and personal testimonies indicate that extreme weather events are increasing in severity and frequency.  Naturally Resilient Communities  is an interactive website that allows users to explore successful examples of nature-based solutions to reduce risks and re-imagine a resilient and connected future for their own communities. The guide, launched in 2017, provides case studies and funding suggestions for urban planners interested in learning how to implement specific ecosystem-based strategies that address pervasive challenges such as flooding, sea level rise and coastal erosion. Naturally Resilient Communities is a partnership between the American Planning Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers, Association of State Floodplain Managers, the Environmental and Water Resources Institute, the National Association of Counties, The Nature Conservancy and Sasaki Associates, with funding from the Kresge Foundation. What are nature-based solutions? Nature-based solutions, according to the site, are strategies that “use natural systems, mimic natural processes or work in tandem with traditional approaches to address specific hazards.” Ideally less expensive and destructive than “over-engineered” infrastructure, such as concrete sea walls, natural solutions protect and restore ecosystems that effectively filter and redirect storm water while providing additional benefits to nearby communities. For example, a healthy coastal marsh can reduce storm waves by up to 50 percent, and therefore provides a protective buffer for homes, businesses and infrastructure along the coast. In addition, marshes are an important habitat for birds , fish and other wildlife and can be used for recreational biking and walking trails. In turn, access to urban parks increases property values. It’s a win-win-win for the community, nature and the economy. “Investing in nature is both a viable way to adapt to climate change and a good way for the community to create the kind of future they want to live in,” Nate Woiwode of The Nature Conservancy told Inhabitat in an interview. “It is smart investing across the board.” Related: Bronx community garden transformed with sustainable improvements Naturally Resilient Communities provides more than 20 suggestions of natural solutions and 30 case studies from cities and towns that successfully use them. The target audience is urban and rural planners or decision makers and the teams that support them. The guide has been utilized throughout North America and the world to engage residents and visualize smart climate action that takes nature and communities’ needs into account. Other examples of solutions include preserving floodplains and upstream watersheds, rather than paving and developing within feet of a river. Healthy river ecosystems allow space for natural, upstream flooding in times of heavy rain and reduce catastrophic flooding in urban areas downstream. The online tool allows users to specify and filter their searches based on hazard, region, type of community (eg. rural or urban) and implementation price range. Users can click on various solutions displayed on a visual coastal landscape graphic to learn more about the benefits. Nature-based solutions include: Parks and preserves Restoration of marsh, reef, sea grass, beach or mangroves Relocation of homes and businesses in flood-prone areas Flood bypass Horizontal levees Flood water detention basins Trees and vegetation throughout streets, parking lots or roofs Bioswales Rain gardens Horizontal levees , for example, integrate marsh land with a below-ground concrete wall. This alternate approach to a traditional concrete wall provides a natural buffer zone, reduces the size, cost and maintenance of the hard structure and provides natural habitat with recreational opportunities, such as birding trails. The partnership behind the online tool hopes that by making the benefits clear and accessible, municipalities will feel empowered and motivated to integrate nature into their adaptation and development plans. Green spaces build a sense of community, slow down and redirect storm water, improve water and air quality, sequester carbon and reduce heat radiating from concrete during hot summers. Natural habitats provide shelter for a variety of species, increasing biodiversity, ecotourism and commercially important fisheries. Related: Sean Parker’s wedding violations result in new app for California coastline Numerous studies also indicate a profoundly positive psychological impact of nature and access to green spaces, including increased physical activity and health. One study from California indicated that 90 percent of minor crimes occurred in places where residents had no access to vegetated areas. Facing both rising urgency and increasing public support, cities and towns are interested in implementing sustainability measures but almost always lack information and funding. In addition to case studies and links for more resources, the online tool also provides suggestions for different funding strategies. “Counties are on the front lines of emergency response and preparedness,” said Sally Clark, president of the National Association of Counties, in a press release . “And we’re pursuing forward-thinking measures to mitigate risk and foster local resiliency. The Naturally Resilient Communities project helps us leverage natural and other resources to make our neighborhoods safer and more secure.” + Naturally Resilient Communities Images via Robert Jones , Lubos Houska and Free Photos

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Concrete home perched on Greek island cliffside designed with large cut outs to frame the amazing sea views

January 25, 2019 by  
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When Stockholm-based firm, OOAK Architects were tasked with building a beautiful home for two windsurfing aficionados on the Greek island of Karpathos, they created a design completely driven by the incredible surrounding nature. The Patio House is a beautiful concrete home with large open cutouts that sits gently on the landscape, cantilevering over the rocky cliff to provide breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea. According to the architects, the design and orientation of the home was driven by the rugged landscape, which is comprised of two stepped plateaus. Due to the nature of the terrain, the architects decided to cantilever the home from the higher ledge, a decision that would optimize the amazing sea views. Related:This off-grid home on a Greek island provides ‘cinematic frames’ of the sea “The question became how to introduce a foreign object– a house –into this spectacular landscape, enhancing its qualities without altering its character,” said OOAK. “Rather than trying to mimic the landscape, the house is gently placed on the site as an object, leaving the surrounding landscape as untouched as possible.” The natural terrain not only influenced the home’s overall design, but also its materials. To install the home into the rocky cliffside, the architects built the home with reinforced concrete , clad in a board-marked finish that gives the home a strong Mediterranean aesthetic. Additionally, the home’s roof was covered with gravel to blend in with the surroundings. The home’s volume is a fairly simple horizontal silhouette that stands out due to its various distinctive cutouts. These large apertures, some windows and some left completely open, were strategic to provide breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea from virtually anywhere in the home. The interior design , which includes Scandinavian-inspired furnishings and all white walls, is bright and airy, giving the design a fresh, modern aesthetic. Located high above the sea, the home is often exposed to strong winds, which prompted the architects to add a sheltered open-air patio at the heart of the living area. This space is a usable outdoor space, with a small dining area and plenty of greenery, that the family can use to enjoy fresh air despite the severe winds. For entertaining, the homeowners can also enjoy a large terrace that was placed on the lower plateau and accessed by a large staircase. + OOAK Architects Via Dezeen Photography by Yiorgos Kordakis and Åke E:son Lindman, via OOAK Architects  

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Concrete home perched on Greek island cliffside designed with large cut outs to frame the amazing sea views

Sea Turtle Rescuers: Volunteers Patrol for Hatchlings Disoriented by Light Pollution

January 11, 2019 by  
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In the dark of night, teeny sea turtles emerge from … The post Sea Turtle Rescuers: Volunteers Patrol for Hatchlings Disoriented by Light Pollution appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Sea Turtle Rescuers: Volunteers Patrol for Hatchlings Disoriented by Light Pollution

Mother Nature’s Medicine: 4 Natural Remedies For Healthy Kids

December 25, 2018 by  
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Some of you might have an encyclopedic knowledge of natural … The post Mother Nature’s Medicine: 4 Natural Remedies For Healthy Kids appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Energy-producing pavilion proposal for Expo 2020 mimics Brazil’s biomes

December 10, 2018 by  
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? ? Architect Gabriel Kozlowski has proposed a stunning, energy-producing structure for the Brazilian pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Created in collaboration with Gringo Cardia, Bárbara Graeff and Tripper Arquitetura, the conceptual design showcases a variety of sustainable systems, from construction materials like rammed earth to passive solar design strategies. Although the competition entry was not ultimately chosen for the Expo, the design does offer an inspiring look at the integration of Brazilian identity into sustainably minded architecture. “Our pavilion is inspired by one of the greatest technological achievements of Brazil: the improvement of the Direct Planting System over straw,” Kozlowski explained in a project statement. “This agricultural technique protects the soil and maintains the ideal thermal conditions for cultivation. The pavilion conceptually mimics this scheme through its layered arrangement — soil, entanglement of protection, productivity — presenting itself as both a building and a symbolic image of one of our progresses.” In addition to its nature-inspired form, the pavilion proposal subtly references Brazil’s previous Expo pavilions including those of Paulo Mendes da Rocha at Osaka 1970 and from Sérgio Bernardes at Brussels 1958. The building would have been built primarily of laminated timber as well as rammed earth mixed with reinforced concrete. The ground floor would serve primarily as exhibition space and is designed to host the ‘Together for Nature’ exhibition organized around six walls, each symbolic of Brazil’s six main terrestrial biomes: the Amazon Forest, the Cerrado, the Atlantic Forest, the Caatinga, the Pampa and the Pantanal. Each wall would be made from the soil of each biome and surrounded by totems housing the seeds of native species. Related: RIBA crowns Children Village in Brazil as the world’s best new building A massive, nest-like structure made from woven tree branches would appear to float above the ground floor and is accessed via a spiral staircase. The upper level would house the ’Together for People’ exhibit with images showcasing Brazil’s ethnic diversity along with the ‘Together for Tomorrow’ exhibit that explores water-related, biotechnological advancements, such as desalination and aquaculture . The upper level would have also included an auditorium and gathering spaces as well as a landscaped rooftop with a lookout terrace and restaurant. The proposed pavilion would have been engineered to produce its own energy, recycle its own water and stay naturally cool without the need for air conditioning. + Gabriel Kozlowski Via ArchDaily Images via Gabriel Kozlowski

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