Geothermal-powered forever home targets environmental and social sustainability

December 27, 2017 by  
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Japanese influence weaves throughout the stunning Pound Ridge Residence, a luxurious forever home in rural New York designed by Tsao & McKown Architects for an acclaimed international clothing designer and her husband. The strong architect-client relationship spanning the course of 20 years granted the architects design control not just over the architecture, but the landscape, interiors, and custom furnishings as well. Built to target environmental and social sustainability, the timber-framed house minimizes its energy and resource footprint and is designed for aging in place. Set on 30 acres of forested land, the 2,900-square-foot Pound Ridge Residence opens up to the outdoors through ample full-height glazing and covered walkways. “The structure is formed of exposed heavy timber construction , a rarity today, which, in addition to its natural beauty, has the added advantage of reducing the need for interior walls,” wrote the architects, adding that timber frame construction was built of local wood . “The load-bearing timber beams span the interiors and, with their darkened hues, recede from view as they frames the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the gardens and surrounding woods.” With design control over the architecture, interiors, furnishings, and landscaping, the architects achieved a customized and “holistically conceived environment” reflecting needs and preferences of the clients, whom they knew well. “With full awareness of how they live, work, and entertain, we conceived the furnishings simultaneously with the architecture,” said the architects. Related: Solar-powered forever home is a modern take on the rustic farmhouse The single-story home mainly features open-plan layouts that take advantage of natural ventilation and light through sliding glass doors, windows, and operable timber panels. Light is also let in through two large asymmetrically shaped skylights. Radiant geothermal heating and cooling regulate indoor temperatures and are complemented by two hearths with sculptural custom bronze chimneys. Low-energy materials were used in construction and all excavated stone was reused in the gardens and landscape. The exterior spaces and landscaping feature native species and minimize impermeable paving to capture runoff water. + Tsao & McKown Architects Via ArchDaily Images © Simon Upton

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Geothermal-powered forever home targets environmental and social sustainability

New York delivers huge blow to the fossil fuel industry

December 22, 2017 by  
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New York just sent a big message to the fossil fuel industry . The state is freezing all fossil fuel investments – and they are divesting almost $400 billion in pension funds from the industry, according to Grist . In a statement , Governor Andrew Cuomo said the New York Common Fund has nearly $1 billion invested just in ExxonMobil – but described such investments as increasingly risky “as both New York State and the world back away from the use of fossil fuel as a primary energy source.” Cuomo and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer announced the divestment decision in separate proposals this week. They could divest billions from fossil fuel companies with the aim of de-carbonizing pension funds. It’s a big move – New York’s Common Fund is the third biggest in America and manages retirement assets for over one million New Yorkers. Related: The World Bank will stop funding oil and gas projects after 2019 Cuomo said in the statement, “New York has made incredible strides in securing a clean energy future for this state with our nation-leading clean energy standard, offshore wind development, and aggressive investment in the clean tech economy, yet the Common Fund remains heavily invested in the energy economy of the past. Moving the Common Fund away from fossil fuel investments will protect the retirement savings of New Yorkers.” This year, the Common Fund had holdings in over 50 oil and gas companies that have been listed among the top 100 most carbon-intensive on Earth, according to Cuomo’s statement. Neither proposal has yet given an end date for 100 percent divestment. Stringer said his office would bring a proposal to New York City pension fund trustees in coming weeks. Cuomo said he’d partner with New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to launch an advisory committee to design a de-carbonization road map. Via Grist , Governor Andrew Cuomo , and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Charred wood-clad Sleeve House is a home within a home

November 2, 2017 by  
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The traditional barn gets a brilliant reinterpretation in the modern charred wood-clad Sleeve House. Two elongated volumes – a smaller one sleeved into a larger – comprise this timber house located on an open rolling hillside in New York state. Architecture firm actual / office  used Shou Sugi Ban to give the home a sustainable, low-maintenance exterior that complements the surrounding landscape. The Sleeve House sits on a sloping terrain around two hours north of New York City in a rural area of the Hudson Valley. Its two volumes–one sleeved into the other– create three different types of spaces both on the inside and the outside of the house. The space between the inner and outdoor volumes accommodates common areas, including an entry gallery, a narrow vertical slot for the stairs, and a spacious living space with a sloping glass wall . Walking into the smaller volume from the main one creates an experience of entering a different universe. Related: This charred wood cabin can be rearranged in an infinite number of ways The smaller volume contains private areas and a study. These spaces feature warm, soft finishes which contrast the rough materials– exposed concrete and charred wood – that dominate the rest of the interior as well as the exterior. The house is clad in Shou Sugi Ban (charred wood) that makes the house stand out while complementing its surroundings and gives it depth, pattern and texture. Large glass surfaces offer expansive views of the landscape. + actual / office Via Contemporist Photos by Michael Moran , lead image via  Deborah DeGraffenreid

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Staten Island neighborhood returning to nature for superstorm buffer zone

October 27, 2017 by  
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The Staten Island neighborhood of Oakwood Beach was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy five years ago. Since then, 80 percent of Oakwood Beach residents have sold their homes to the state of New York , which hopes to turn the area into a buffer zone to guard against future superstorms . Many homes have since been torn down, and the area is slowly returning to nature. Superstorms could hit the New York City region more frequently in the future. A recent Rutgers University study found storms flooding the city with at least 7.4-foot surges – an event which occurred every 500 years before 1800 – will hit once every five years by 2030, reports Reuters . Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery executive director Lisa Bova-Hiatt told Reuters the state pursued the home buyout program in large part because they expected more superstorms. She said, “To say that extreme weather is not our new normal would just be incredibly short-sighted.” Related: How to Prepare Your Home and Family for a Hurricane or Superstorm Many Oakwood Beach locals have taken the state up on their buyout program. The state has spent $255 million with money from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to purchase 654 properties, and most of those are in Staten Island. There are 83 more properties in the pipeline, according to the Office of Storm Recovery. Bova-Hiatt said the program is voluntary but “it would be fantastic to have the entire area as a buffer zone.” The state has torn down townhouses and bungalows, and planted grass on the sites of former homes. Out of 402 homes in Oakwood Beach eligible for the program, the state was unable to acquire 88. Reuters spoke with Gregory and Olga Epshteyn, locals who decided not to take the state up on their offer. Gregory said the city still provides services like street lights and trash pickup, and that the neighborhood is the best place to live in Staten Island. Olga told Reuters, “We love it here, but we miss our neighbors.” Via Reuters Images via Sunghwan Yoon on Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Staten Island neighborhood returning to nature for superstorm buffer zone

Staten Island neighborhood returning to nature for superstorm buffer zone

October 27, 2017 by  
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The Staten Island neighborhood of Oakwood Beach was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy five years ago. Since then, 80 percent of Oakwood Beach residents have sold their homes to the state of New York , which hopes to turn the area into a buffer zone to guard against future superstorms . Many homes have since been torn down, and the area is slowly returning to nature. Superstorms could hit the New York City region more frequently in the future. A recent Rutgers University study found storms flooding the city with at least 7.4-foot surges – an event which occurred every 500 years before 1800 – will hit once every five years by 2030, reports Reuters . Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery executive director Lisa Bova-Hiatt told Reuters the state pursued the home buyout program in large part because they expected more superstorms. She said, “To say that extreme weather is not our new normal would just be incredibly short-sighted.” Related: How to Prepare Your Home and Family for a Hurricane or Superstorm Many Oakwood Beach locals have taken the state up on their buyout program. The state has spent $255 million with money from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to purchase 654 properties, and most of those are in Staten Island. There are 83 more properties in the pipeline, according to the Office of Storm Recovery. Bova-Hiatt said the program is voluntary but “it would be fantastic to have the entire area as a buffer zone.” The state has torn down townhouses and bungalows, and planted grass on the sites of former homes. Out of 402 homes in Oakwood Beach eligible for the program, the state was unable to acquire 88. Reuters spoke with Gregory and Olga Epshteyn, locals who decided not to take the state up on their offer. Gregory said the city still provides services like street lights and trash pickup, and that the neighborhood is the best place to live in Staten Island. Olga told Reuters, “We love it here, but we miss our neighbors.” Via Reuters Images via Sunghwan Yoon on Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Denver might require green roofs on new large buildings

October 27, 2017 by  
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In November, voters in Denver, Colorado will go to the polls to approve or disapprove a new ballot initiative that would require most new buildings of at least 25,000 square feet and some older buildings to include a green roof . The roofs would have to be covered with trees, vegetables or other plants that add aesthetic value and mitigate the urban heat island effect. Although the idea of green roofs is broadly popular, the mandate to require them is somewhat controversial. Nonetheless, supporters are optimistic that voters will ultimately approve the bold and beautiful policy to add even more green to the Mile High City. Denver’s proposed green roof mandate takes cues from Toronto , which implemented the policy seven years ago, becoming the first city in North America to require green roofs. Although San Francisco recently adopted a mandate for green roofs on new buildings, Denver would be the first to transform rooftops on existing buildings through the mandate. Supporters see real environmental and economic benefits from such a broad adoption of green roofs. A new study from Green Roofs for Healthy Cities and the Green Infrastructure Foundation estimated that the adopted initiative would create 57.5 million square feet of green roofs by 2033 and generate $1.85 billion in energy cost savings and other benefits over the next 40 years. “We have all these flat roofs with all this space, and we’re not doing anything with them,” said Brandon Rietheimer, the initiative’s campaign manager, according to the Denver Post . “Why aren’t we putting solar or green vegetation up there? … We hear all the time that Denver is an environmentally friendly city, yet we rank 11th for air quality and third for heat islands.” Related: Denver food desert raises $50K for first community-owned grocery store Although the idea may be appealing, it still faces a mountain of opposition before it becomes law. “I think it would be great if we all had green roofs,” said Denver City Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman. “They’re so lovely. But the mandate is what worries me. … If you have so much support for it, then why wouldn’t the market just take care of it?” Even Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has come out against the measure, stating that it was “not the right approach” for the city. Despite heavy opposition, the initiative may prove endearing to the Denver electorate, particularly in an off-year election . Political analyst Eric Sondermann said, “I think the risk to the opposition is that it’s under the radar and it just looks good, looks cutting-edge, feels good and that no one digs into it”. Via The Denver Post Images via Denver Green Roof Initiative

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New York City is now offering free lunch at all public schools

September 8, 2017 by  
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Good riddance “lunch shaming” — the practice of holding children accountable for school lunch bills. Starting this school year in New York City, all 1.1 million students who attend public schools will receive their lunches for free. The move has been long sought after by food policy advocates, as 75 percent of the student body qualifies for free or reduced lunches. Now an additional 200,000 kids will benefit, saving their families approximately $300 per year. According to city officials, the program will not cost the city additional money since New York state changed how it tracks families that are eligible for benefits and matched them with schools their children attend. The city was then able to identify more students whose families receive those benefits. It made officials realize the whole city qualifies for a federal program that dishes out free lunches at schools. According to Carmen Fariña, the school’s chancellor, “This is about equity. All communities matter.” Fariña is one of many who thinks the practice of lunch shaming needs to stop. When a student’s account is in overdraft, oftentimes their food is thrown away in front of them and they are given a simple sandwich on white bread as a replacement. The practice is so embarrassing, many kids choose to go hungry rather than subject themselves to the humiliation. Related: 8 Organic School Lunches That Can Be Prepared The Night Before New York isn’t the first city to offer free lunch to all students. Other major cities that do the same include Boston , Chicago, Detroit, and Dallas. However, New York has far more children to feed than any of those cities, which is why this initiative is particularly applaudable. While breakfasts were already free to students at the city’s public schools, this latest development will ensure all students receive most of their daily recommended food intake. This is vital, considering 13 million children in the United States live in food insecure households. Via New York Times Images via Wikimedia Commons , Pixnio

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Tesla begins production of solar roof tiles in Buffalo, New York

September 4, 2017 by  
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It’s official! Tesla has started producing solar roof tiles at its factory in Buffalo, New York. Several hundred employees and machines have been installed in the 1.2 million-square-foot factory, and they are now creating  tiles that can harness the sun’s energy without compromising the appearance of a roof. The company is already installing solar roofs but has been making them on a small scale near its vehicle factory in Fremont, California. Now that the factory in Buffalo is running, production is expected to increase substantially. Reportedly, traditional solar panels will also be produced in the factory. AP News reports that Tesla’s partner, Panasonic Corp ., will produce the photovoltaic cells while Tesla workers combine them into modules that fit into the solar tiles. Said JB Straubel, Tesla’s Chief Technical Officer, “By the end of this year we will have the ramp-up of solar roof modules started in a substantial way. This is an interim milestone that we’re pretty proud of.” SolarCity was acquired by Tesla last year for around $2 billion. It was run by cousins of Tesla CEO Elon Musk , who sat on the company’s board. Straubel said, “This factory, and the opportunity to build solar modules and cells in the U.S., was part of why this project made sense.” Related: Tesla and SolarCity power an entire island with nearly 100% solar According to Straubel, Tesla’s goal is to reach two gigawatts of cell production annually at the Buffalo plant — more than the initial target of one gigawatt by 2019. As The Washington Post reports, one gigawatt is equal to the annual output of a large nuclear or coal-fired power plant . “So it’s like we’re eliminating one of those every single year,” Straubel said. Tesla has not revealed how many customers have ordered the solar roof tiles. However, Straubel said demand is strong and that orders will keep the company occupied until the end of next year. Both he and Musk have the solar tiles installed on their roofs. Via AP News, The Washington Post Images via Tesla

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10 vegan sources of protein you can grow at home

September 4, 2017 by  
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When most people go vegan , the number one question that tends to get asked of them is usually “where are you going to get your protein from?” Sound familiar? Yes, protein is indeed an important part of a healthy diet, and if you’re keen on growing your own food, it’s a good idea to have a few solid sources growing in amongst your herbs and lettuces . Read on to discover 10 delicious, plant-based, nutrient-dense foods you can cultivate in your own garden . Amaranth This gorgeous plant can be grown pretty much anywhere, and its seeds are an incredibly rich source of protein. Those seeds can be cooked like quinoa as a pseudo grain into a gorgeous, crunchy dish that can be served either savory or sweet. Try cooking it like breakfast porridge with cinnamon, apples, and maple syrup. Amaranth leaves are also edible, and are prepared in the same way spinach is. Those leaves don’t have as much protein as the seeds, but they do have some protein content, as well as iron and calcium. Squash and Pumpkin Seeds Growing pumpkins and squash is a lot of fun, and serves multiple purposes, especially if you grow small, easy-to-manage varieties like Luxury Pie Pumpkin or Lakota Squash. Not only can you carve these hardy gourds to creep out your neighbors at Halloween, you can eat the vegetables’ flesh in soups, pies, and muffins, and then roast those glorious seeds of theirs into crunchy, protein-rich snacks. Sunflower Seeds Not only are sunflower seeds incredibly high in protein, they also have very high levels of magnesium and vitamin B6. Sunflowers are gorgeous, sunny additions to anyone’s garden, and in addition to providing you with nutrient-dense food, they’ll also attract pollinators to your yard. In permaculture , they’re often referred to as the fourth sister in the traditional guild of corn, beans, and squash: beans can climb up sunflower stalks, and they draw bees over to fertilize other crops. Green Peas These tasty little gems are packed with protein, vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium (the latter being great for alleviating winter depression) and are as delicious as they are pretty to look at. Even better, peas are incredibly easy to cultivate, and can be grown indoors as well as out in your garden, which is great for adding some edible greenery to your living space over the winter months. Related: How to maximize your south-facing windows to grow food all winter Green Beans Just 1/2 a cup of fresh green beans contain about four grams of protein, and they’re a great source of vitamin B6 as well. You can cultivate either pole or bush varieties, and you can pick the haricots verts right off the vine while they’re new. Just steam them or sautee them lightly, and serve with a bit of Earth Balance or a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a dash of salt. Dry Beans If you let those green beans mature fully, the seeds within will ripen into the rich, creamy beans we use for everything from soups and stews to chili, or even brownies. Beans are one of the top protein sources for people around the world, and they’re also full of magnesium, fiber, and iron. There are so many different types that you can cultivate, from creamy white Hutterite soup bush beans to spotted, fuchsia scarlet runner pole beans. All are delicious, easy to grow, and ideal for any vegan diet. You can even sprout them for a raw, crunchy snack. Related: How to sprout seeds and beans on your kitchen counter Groundnuts Are you familiar with these wonderful little tubers?  Apios americana , also known as the potato bean, is a perennial, indigenous North American vine with tuber roots that taste… well, mildly like potatoes. Groundnuts have 17 percent crude protein (that’s three times the amount of a regular potato), and thrive in damp woodlands without a lot of direct light. You can boil them, mash them, stick them in a stew… anything you’d do with a regular or sweet potato, and since they’re perennial, they’ll come back year after year. Hazelnuts Hazelnut (filbert) bushes don’t take up a lot of space, and start producing nuts more quickly than nut-bearing trees like walnuts, pecans, or chesnuts. If you plant 2- or 3-year-old bushes, you’ll be able to harvest nuts even more quickly. Hazelnut bushes can thrive in almost any soil type, but need full sun for a good 4–6 hours a day. In addition to protein, each nut will also provide you with calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamin C. How’s that for a nutrient-dense powerhouse? Peanuts People who don’t suffer from peanut allergies can grow these fabulous plants as easily as they can grow potatoes. Although they thrive best in warmer, southern climates, those of you who live a bit further north can also grow them with ease: you’ll just need to get cultivars that do well in a cooler climate with a shorter growing season. They’ll need about 100 frost-free days to reach maturity, and since they’re tropical, they’ll need to be grown in the warmest, sunniest spot you can offer them. Kale Adding this one in for honorable mention, but with good cause: most people don’t realize just how much protein leafy greens have to offer, and kale is one of the easiest (and tastiest) members of the brassica family that you can grow. It also has a crazy-high amount of both vitamin C and vitamin A, and you can eat it at any stage of its development: use the baby greens in salads, maturing leaves in salads or smoothies, and braise the older leaves like you would cook collard greens. Whenever possible, aim to cultivate heirloom, organic seeds in your garden, and be sure to share those seeds with your friends and neighbors so they can grow them in their own yards! Biodiversity is incredibly important, and by choosing organic seeds, you help ensure future plant generations are healthy, and unsullied by genetic machinations thanks to companies like Monsanto. Photos via Unsplash and Wikimedia Commons

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Whole Foods prices just dropped by as much as 43%

August 28, 2017 by  
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Until recently, few people could afford to shop at Whole Foods regularly. Now that Amazon has bought out the grocery chain for $13.7 billion , however, big changes are underway. On its first day, the internet giant slashed some of the store’s prices by up to 43 percent. The goal is to upend the way customers shop and ensure more people have access to affordable, healthy food. The first step to addressing the store’s reputation for being overpriced (which has led some to call it Whole Paycheck) was to mark down the prices of food. Bloomberg reports that at the Whole Foods store on East 57th Street in Manhattan , organic fuji apples were marked down to $1.99 a pound from $3.49. Similarly, organic rotisserie chicken fell to $9.99 from $13.99 and organic avocados changed from $2.79 each to $1.99. All of the marked-down items have orange signs reading, “Whole Foods + Amazon .” The sign also lists that there is “More to come.” “Price was the largest barrier to Whole Foods’ customers,” said Mark Baum, a senior vice president at the Food Marketing Institute. “Amazon has demonstrated that it is willing to invest to dominate the categories that it decides to compete in. Food retailers of all sizes need to look really hard at their pricing strategies, and maybe find some funding sources to build a war chest.” 60-year-old Simon Salamon couldn’t be more pleased by the marriage between Amazon and Whole Foods . He said, “It reminded me why I shop at Amazon. Ninety-nine percent of the time they have the best prices and their return policy is great. With the prices lower, I think we’re more likely to shop here every day.” While Walmart has invested billions into lowering prices all around, it’s Costco that might be Whole Foods’ biggest competitor. The chain has a slate of organic items that are priced about 30 percent cheaper than Whole Foods, according to Sanford Bernstein. Prices can remain low, as Costco charges membership fees and sells bulk-sized goods to customers. Related: Whole Foods reveals the bleak future of dessert without bees Now that the deal is done, only time will tell if the organic grocery chain will be successful at changing its reputation and, in the process, serving a wider clientele. Via Bloomberg Images via Whole Foods , Pixabay

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