Impress loved ones with these homemade foods for holiday gifts

December 5, 2019 by  
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Many eco-conscious people face a quandary over the holidays. In a consumer-driven society with too much waste and houses overcrowded with stuff, shouldn’t we axe the gift-giving tradition? Then again, our inner Santa-loving child may feel neglected, unloved or just ripped off by a giftless December. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution: the gift of food . Everybody has to eat, and a food gift doesn’t hang around forever, taking up space. To make food gifts more special — and to save lots of money — consider making your own. Here’s a roundup of some ideas for handmade food gifts. Baked goods Fruitcakes are probably the most traditional holiday food gift. This recipe by Gretchen Price features lots of dried fruit chopped up into impressively small bits, and the loaf is strongly spiced with grated ginger, cloves, anise, cinnamon, allspice and cardamom. Gretchen kindly suggests subbing apple juice for rum if you happen to operate an alcohol-free kitchen. However, while fruitcakes are traditional, many people find cookies more delicious. If you’re feeling extra creative, get out your cookie cutters and decorate with frosting, sprinkles and candies. Ellie of My Healthy Dessert offers a trendy spin on rolled cookies with her recipe for crispy matcha Christmas cookies . Scones, muffins and fruit breads also make good holiday gifts , but don’t make them too far ahead, because they’re best eaten within a couple of days of baking. Related: A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for foodies You could go a little healthier by making a fresh batch of granola for folks on your list. My basic recipe starts with preheating the oven to 450. Put about six cups of old fashioned oats in a baking pan, add a cup of raw seeds and a cup of raw nuts and mix them up. Then, combine about one-half to three-quarters of a cup of vegetable or coconut oil with the same amount of sweetener: brown sugar, coconut sugar, agave, maple syrup, molasses, etc. I might throw in ginger, cinnamon, unsweetened cocoa and/or a little cayenne pepper, too. Once that mixture melts, combine it in with the oats and nuts. Stick the pan in the oven for 8 minutes. Take it out, stir and bake for another 8 minutes. If you want it well done, continue cooking but be sure to check it every minute or two after that to prevent burning. Candy If your friends, family, office mates and other gift recipients have a sweet tooth, it’s fun to make candy for them. Peanut brittle is delicious and easy with this recipe from Loving it Vegan. Use up extra candy canes with this peppermint candy cane truffle recipe from Where Do You Get Your Protein. For friends with slightly more adventurous palates, Vegan Gastronomy offers a recipe for chocolate-covered dates stuffed with orange cream and topped with orange zest, sea salt and shredded coconut . Nutty gifts Freshly toasted and spiced nuts are simple to make and more nutritious than cookies. All you need are raw pecans, walnuts, cashews or any other nuts, some vegan butter or coconut oil, sugar and/or spices. For a sweet nut, add brown sugar and cinnamon to your skillet of nuts. For savory nuts, experiment with paprika, chili powder, cumin or turmeric. Trail mix is even easier to assemble. Just choose some nuts, seeds and dried fruits from the bulk section of a grocery store, and pour it all into an attractive, reusable jar. Tamales Native Americans ate a food similar to modern-day tamales as far back as 8,000 B.C.E. Corn was considered the substance of life, and consuming it could be a spiritual experience. The love of tamales has continued through the ages and is now tied to Christmas celebrations in Mexico and the American Southwest. Making tamales isn’t especially hard, but it takes a lot of time. Consider doing what the tamaleras , or tamale makers like to do: throw a tamalada, or tamale making party. You’ll need a tamale steamer, access to Hispanic foods like corn husks and masa and a gathering of loved ones who also want to give the gift of tamales. Check out 18 vegan tamale recipes from Dora’s Table, including red chile jackfruit, jalapeño and cactus, and sweet pineapple tamales. Coffee syrups It seems like every financial advice article highlights how much money you could save by making coffee at home. Help your friends break their high-cost habits by gifting them with homemade coffee syrups. This is an easy and unusual gift. All it takes is water, sugar, extracts, a saucepan and a stove. Check out these recipes from Royal Cup Coffee for flavors like vanilla, peppermint, blackberry and cinnamon brown sugar. Related: 10 recipes you can gift in jars Infused oils Infused oils are another easy-to-make food gift. Luci’s Morsels tells you how to infuse olive oil with lemon, garlic, chili or rosemary in less than an hour. Hot sauce For the friend who just cannot get enough spicy food, homemade chili pepper sauce is a thoughtful gift. From ghost pepper to scotch bonnets, Chili Pepper Madness answers questions about crafting hot sauce at home. You might want to have a dedicated blender or food processor for this, unless you like your smoothies spicy. Spice mixes Custom-blended spice mixes are one of the easiest handmade food gift ideas. Your friends who like to cook quick dishes will thank you when your homemade jerk seasoning blend perks up their tofu , or your barbecue seasoning breathes new life into their kale and chickpeas. Real Simple offers 10 simple spice mix ideas. Chocolate-dipped treats For those on your list who believe chocolate makes everything better, dip some snacks in chocolate and call it a gift. Strawberries, nuts, pretzels — this is easy, messy fun. Melt dairy-free dark chocolate chips for the vegans on your list, dip the snack and let it cool. Use your creative license. Have you ever wondered what ghost pepper potato chips dipped in dark chocolate would taste like? Packaging for your homemade food gifts Think about what you can reuse here. Do you have extra mason jars on hand? Bottles you can wash thoroughly and remove the commercial labels? Excess Tupperware? Scour your nearest thrift shops for secondhand festive cookie tins or pretty tea cups to fill with truffles. If you like making food gifts this year, start a collection of your old jars, bottles and garage sale finds for next year. Images via Shutterstock

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Impress loved ones with these homemade foods for holiday gifts

6 helpful ways to give back to nature this Thanksgiving

November 28, 2019 by  
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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and it is the best time to reflect on our planet and give thanks for nature and all of its glories. What better way to celebrate our world and its wildlife than by offering a helping hand? Here are some ways to give back to and celebrate Mother Earth this Thanksgiving . Save a turkey While Thanksgiving traditionally means turkey at the table, those who are vegetarian, vegan or simply interested in protecting turkeys can instead adopt or sponsor a turkey. Sanctuaries and rescue organizations devoted to the turkey exist across the United States and United Kingdom. The Adopt-a-Turkey initiative has become a popular Thanksgiving endeavor. By choosing to adopt or sponsor a turkey, you can help fund the care of this fine-feathered friend. Related: Make your own tasty vegetarian turkey for Thanksgiving with this recipe To help a turkey, visit Animal Place , Barn Sanctuary , Catskill Animal Sanctuary , Dean Farm Trust Turkey Rescue , Farm Sanctuary , Friend Farm Animal Sanctuary , Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary , Hillside Animal Sanctuary , Spring Farm Sanctuary , The Gentle Barn , The Retreat Animal Rescue & Sanctuary or Woodstock Farm Sanctuary . For a more comprehensive directory of farm sanctuaries that are also safe havens for turkeys, view Vegan.com’s farm animal sanctuary directory . Give a retired Military Working Dog (MWD) a home MWDs are retired from active duty. Many have either worked in the field or trained with other MWDs, making them unique bearers of particularly honed skills. All adoptable MWDs have already passed rigorous behavioral tests to ensure they are temperamentally a good fit for civilian adoptions.  Because the MWD actually served in the United States military, a MWD is more than just a canine — he or she is a military veteran. When you adopt a MWD, you’re also providing a home to a military veteran and war hero. Organizations that can help you rescue or rehome a MWD include Mission K9 Rescue , the MWD adoption program at Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland Air Force Base and the United States War Dogs Association . Be sure to also inquire your nearest military installation to see if they have any retired or retiring MWDs available for adoption. You also have the option to foster a military working dog . If fostering is more appealing, contact the 341st Training Squadron’s MWD Foster Program at JBSA-Lackland here . Name a species Every year, new species are discovered. Typically, the first person to discover the plant or animal gets the honor of naming the species. But there are still countless other organisms requiring scientific names. For a fee, the general public can name a newfound organism. By naming a new species, you complete the dual kindness of helping the scientific community establish a binomial nomenclature identification for a newfound living thing while simultaneously honoring the person you named the newfound organism after. Of course, giving a newly discovered species a name of your choice increases public awareness of biodiversity, raises much-needed funding for ecological conservation efforts and helps spread the science of taxonomy. Organizations with programs devoted to naming new species include the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, the Discover Life in America (DLIA) nonprofit and the German nonprofit organization BIOPAT . Volunteer at a seed bank You will undeniably make a hands-on contribution when volunteering at a local seed bank. Seeds are deposited for safekeeping in case of unforeseen global emergencies. The seeds can be replanted at some future time to ensure survival, rather than eradication, of certain crops . Today, there are about 1,500 seed banks worldwide, the most famous being the “Doomsday Vault” in Norway, or Svalbard Global Seed Vault . AgProfessional offers a list of the planet’s 15 largest seed banks, where you can learn more about efforts to conserve plant biodiversity. Some seed banks with volunteer opportunities include Irvine Ranch’s Native Seed Farm , London’s Kew Gardens , the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank (MARSB) , Miller Seed Vault at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens , the renowned Native Plant Trust conservation organization, Portland State University’s Rae Selling Berry Seed Bank and the True Harvest Seeds charity. Monitor vulnerable plants and animals as a citizen scientist Citizen scientists help gather data to inform researchers about the protection and management status of flora and fauna species. Regular monitoring of plants and animals, especially vulnerable and rare ones, is essential to determine their population trends. In turn, agencies at the local, state and federal levels gain insight and implement needed modifications to habitat management and conservation plans. Related: 6 ways to give back this Thanksgiving and beyond For instance, the Smithsonian Institution and the Nature Conservancy have robust citizen scientist programs to assist with the monitoring of species distribution, abundance and threat by invasive species . Some, like the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland (BSBI) , annually have openings for volunteer plant hunters and junior citizens curious about botany.  Meanwhile, Zooniverse is the largest platform devoted to animal- and plant-centered citizen scientist collaborations. Perhaps one of the most popular citizen science monitoring programs is Plants of Concern , administered by the Chicago Botanic Garden. Similarly, the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network (PMN) is another volunteer monitoring program that provides better understanding of the interrelationships between humans and ecosystems. Participate in the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) Field Book Project For those fond of history, especially natural history, consider volunteering with the Field Book Project . Field notes and diary entries, from the Victorian era and earlier, still need to be identified, cataloged and digitized. Volunteering with this endeavor guarantees access to original records of scientific discovery and primary source material notes on specimens and native environments from centuries ago. Your volunteer efforts with the Field Book Project will help increase the visibility of these long tucked-away scholarly resources that need to be rediscovered and shared with the global biodiversity research community. Images via Taminwi , Rikki’s Refuge , Sgt. Barry St. Clair , Hans Hillewaert , Elena Escagedo , Glacier NPS and Biodiversity Heritage Library

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6 helpful ways to give back to nature this Thanksgiving

This tiny farmhouse features a quaint reading nook

November 28, 2019 by  
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New York-based tiny home builder Willowbee Tiny Homes has managed to combine a cozy, farmhouse aesthetic with a sophisticated and space-efficient tiny home. The Burmenbov is a 30-foot-long tiny home on wheels that has a gorgeous interior space, which includes a charming reading nook where the reader can also take in amazing views. Husband-and-wife team Bob and Esther (along with their four children) have made a name for themselves by building quality tiny houses for other families looking to live minimalist lifestyles. Their builds include a variety of sustainable features, such as composting toilets and solar power options. Related: This gorgeous tiny home features a greenhouse and wooden pergola Inspired by farmhouse aesthetic, the Burmenbov is a gorgeous tiny home on wheels that uses sleek lines and a neutral color palette to create a welcoming and comfortable living space. The exterior of the home is clad in all-white siding with two lovely, gabled entrances on either side. At just 30 feet long, the tiny home manages to pack a lot into one story of living space, but some savvy, space-saving techniques certainly help maintain a clutter-free house. Additionally important to the design is its energy efficiency . The home features tight insulation and a low ambient mini-split HVAC system to reduce energy use and keep the home at a comfortable temperature year-round. The tiny home features a spacious living area with several windows and glass doors to let in optimal natural light . At the end of the home is a welcoming reading nook with a bench that sits under a big, square window. On the other side of the living room, the kitchen is surprisingly large and comes equipped with plenty of counter space, a propane stove and a farmhouse sink. Farther back in the house, the bathroom features a bright design with a full-sized shower, composting toilet and stacked washer and dryer unit. At the very back of the structure is the master bedroom, which includes a roomy closet and a queen-sized bed that elevates to reveal storage underneath. The bedroom even has a folding open-air deck to enjoy a bit of stargazing before drifting off to sleep. + Willowbee Tiny Homes Via Tiny House Talk Images via Willowbee Tiny Homes

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This tiny farmhouse features a quaint reading nook

See the forest for more than the trees why reforestation isn’t working

August 6, 2019 by  
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We can all agree planting a tree is good for the environment — right? According to a recent study in Nature , the global crusade for reforestation as a remedy for climate change is largely missing the mark. So where did it go wrong? The new evidence reveals that most of the countries with large-scale tree-planting programs are actually developing tree plantations, which might help the economy but fail to sequester the carbon that the countries originally pledged to. The Bonn Challenge promises 350 million hectares of trees In 2011, the international Bonn Challenge was announced as an ambitious plan to plant 150 million hectares of trees by 2020. In 2014, more than 100 nations signed on under the New York Declaration of Forests, increasing the target to 350 million hectares by 2030. Unlike many lofty development goals, most countries are actually on track to exceed their promises, at least at first glance. In fact, the world actually has more forest cover now than it did in 1982. So, what’s the problem? Related: The ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ is transforming northwestern Pakistan Well, the majority of countries have been using the incentives and global momentum to back monoculture farms and counting trees that will be logged within years in their Bonn Challenge totals. According to the assessment, 45 percent of trees planted were species that will be quickly harvested for paper production. Another 21 percent were tree farm species, like fruits, nuts and cocoa . Only 34 percent of trees planted were part of so-called “natural forest,” even though the original intention of the Bonn Challenge was that all hectares planted should be natural forest. “Policymakers are misinterpreting the term forest restoration [and] misleading the public,” argued the study authors, Simon Lewis of Leeds University and Charlotte Wheeler from Edinburgh University. While agroforestry trees do provide important benefits to the environment and economy, monoculture plantations (especially when farmers clear natural forests for crops) fail to provide anywhere close to the same benefit in terms of sequestration and biodiversity . The value of natural forest A general definition of a natural forest is a “multilayered vegetation unit dominated by trees, whose combined strata have overlapping crowns, and where grasses are generally rare.” In general, a natural forest will store up to 40 times more carbon than a plantation that is harvested every decade. Related: How forest bathing can profoundly improve your health and well-being More than just trees , forests are important and intricate ecosystems. They are home to incredible biodiversity and provide sanctuary and habitat for thousands of species. They are also critical to the climate, because forests maintain rainfall and prevent desertification. Because clouds accumulate over forests, places that have destroyed all of their major forests often experience low rainfall, drought, desertification and other climate-related issues. Reforestation pledges around the world Even before the Bonn Challenge, China launched a massive reforestation program in response to flooding along the Yangtze River. Despite over two decades of reforestation, the report claims that 99 percent of all trees planted have been within monoculture plantations. Related: Philippine students must plant 10 trees to graduate, new law says In Niger, after years of complying with foreign and government extension officers who advised farmers to remove trees, farmers have finally argued that native trees serve an important purpose right where they are. Trees stabilize soil, produce nitrogen, buffer strong wind and improve organic matter in the soil. As a result of the farmers’ knowledge, deforestation has decreased, although the majority of farmers now wisely plant trees that will supplement their incomes rather than simply sequester seemingly abstract carbon. Yale Environment 360 reported that in Brazil, up to 82 percent of the forest restoration work is developing monoculture plantations and not natural forests. How to plant a forest? “Get out of the way.” According to National Geographic’s investigative article, “ How to regrow a forest: Get out of the way ,” even specific efforts by the U.S. Forest Department to plant natural forests have not worked the way they were intended to. For ease of planting and eventual use as lumber, the Forestry Department had a long-term tradition of planting native trees in neat rows at 12-foot gaps. Though the majority of trees were then left to develop into natural forests, the meticulous spacing has since exacerbated fire risk. The Department now opts for more irregular spacing and species biodiversity. Although it is more time- and cost-intensive, it ends up saving the department in firefighting costs later. Similarly, in Canada, a study found that a government campaign to drain wetlands thought to be smothering spruce trees caused a fire that destroyed 2,400 homes in 2016. Under the pretense of growing larger trees to store more carbon, peatlands were systematically destroyed. However, it is now recognized that peatlands ultimately store enormous amounts of carbon naturally and were more resilient to fires. “If you take the perspective that no matter what, more trees are better, that’s going to have unintended consequences,” said Sofia Faruqi from the World Resource Institute. “In the case of the West Coast, restoration may mean removing trees from the landscape.” Turning over a new leaf on reforestation pledges According to Faruqi, policies must acknowledge both what kind of tree is planted and how the tree “jibes with the larger health of the forest, the amount of water available or the needs of local people.” As we approach the start of the United Nation’s declared Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, many forestry experts agree that reforestation solutions must be localized — both at a national level and at the individual forest level. While the need for income, especially sustainably sourced income, is paramount, cash crop trees should be planted in addition to the 350 million acres of natural forest. Tropical forests are particularly important, because they have the potential to capture more carbon than any other forest type in the world. In many equatorial regions, where there are large amounts of land available and a high need for economic stimulation, healthy tropical forests can provide jobs, support indigenous traditions and capture an estimated 3 billion tons of carbon annually. That’s the equivalent of taking 2 billion cars off the road every year. Blanket pledges of specific tree planting targets have not worked and leave the door open for damaging misinterpretation. More research and awareness is needed to understand the importance of different ecosystems and more priority given to protecting and keeping natural ecosystems intact. The idea that any tree planted helps is simply outdated and misleading. A quote by American poet, environmentalist and farmer Wendell Berry sums it up nicely: “Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest.” + Nature Via Yale Environment 360 and National Geographic Images via Michael Benz , Marc Pell , Jesse Gardner , Janusz Maniak , Steven Kamenar and Zoer Ng

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See the forest for more than the trees why reforestation isn’t working

Celebrate inclusivity and sustainability with these outdoor Pride activities

June 10, 2019 by  
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June is Pride month, and there are celebrations happening in major city centers all over the world. A small but growing number of activities is also happening throughout the most wild and natural corners of the U.S. and beyond. LGBTQ+-focused outdoor activities and safe spaces are increasing in number and visibility, and though there are more this month than ever, they are all part of a movement to promote inclusivity and representation among those who love the outdoors — and those who don’t know they love it yet. Where to find outdoor Pride activities The Venture Out Project This LGBTQ+-owned company has hosted queer-specific trips since 2014. This June, it is offering a Queer & Trans, Indigenous, People of Color Backpacking Trip in Vermont and a Queer Arctic Adventure in Canada. It also offers more low-key day hikes , family trips and youth service projects. Related: The ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials Canyons River Company Based in Idaho, this company offers a River Pride Trip, a six-day rafting trip on the Salmon River that includes wine tasting . National Outdoor Leadership School This organization has an LGBTQ+ backpacking trip in Utah, which takes place over nine days and is led by queer instructors. Outdoor adventures for LGBTQ+ youth Learning in the outdoors has proven benefits for kids, including building skills and self-esteem as well as increasing performance in the classroom. A limited number of LGBTQ+-focused youth trips and activities allow youth to explore their identities and the outdoors in a safe, inclusive space. Out There Adventures is a Seattle-based company that offers trips led by queer instructors for LGBTQ+ youth. It is offering two Pride-focused events this summer: a rafting and service trip for teenagers in Oregon and a Yosemite trip in July. According to one young participant of an Out There Adventures trip, “I would get these overwhelming feelings of being at home and knowing that those were some of the only moments in my life where I was 100 percent sure that I was in the right place and 100 percent sure that it was something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I would be willing to do things to keep myself in good health and motivated and educated in order to achieve those feelings over and over and over.” Events in your own backyard If you don’t have the interest or ability to attend a far-flung trip to celebrate Pride, you can focus locally on ways to get outside and active. Many cities have 5K runs, walks or dance events as part of their Pride festivities. This can be a great way to get fresh air and exercise , especially for people who get their motivation from community members or a loud bass line instead of a babbling brook. Research your local gym and see if it is hosting any Pride events, like Homoclimbtastic in West Virginia. If the gyms near you are not hosting an event, speak up and ask why not. The more interest they hear, the more likely they are to consider adding something to the calendar next year. Check out MeetUp.com to find groups of like-minded people in your area. There might already be an LGBTQ+-focused outdoor group near you. If not, create one yourself! How to be eco-friendly at Pride parades The Seattle-based organization OUT For Sustainability aims to make Pride events around the country carbon-neutral and zero waste . Follow the organization’s Greener Pride tips for a more sustainable celebration: • Bring your own water bottle to the parade. • Bring a reusable bag to collect promotional items. • Make a colorful outfit from items you already own instead of buying a new outfit. Better yet, make a costume out of recycled materials.• Avoid balloons, glitter and beads. These plastic items are toxic for the environment and detrimental to marine species. Celebrate without them. Instead, try natural body paint, flowers and recycled art. • As a vendor, remove all trash at the end of the day. Do not serve food in plastic foam containers, and offer water for people with refillable bottles. • Reduce or refuse handouts and promotional items, especially plastic items. • Avoid handing out or taking cheap T-shirts that support the unsustainable and unethical fashion industry.• Run your Pride float with electric vehicles or human power instead of diesel fuel. Tips for outdoor companies to be more inclusive Visibility and representation matter LGBTQ+ folks often do not see themselves represented in outdoor brands or websites. Consider your staff and models , and come up with a specific plan about how you will incorporate more identities. Don’t promote people just for the sake of diversity — promote and hire LGBTQ+ staff, models and managers because they are qualified and will inspire a broader audience. “We need to put people from these communities out in the forefront, not because they represent diversity but because they’re great at what they do,” said Elyse Rylander , founder of Out There Adventures. “We don’t have enough roundtables with people who are not white, cisgender dudes talking about their badass outdoor experiences. But we should.” Host LGBTQ+ events If you host trips or events, consider adding LGBTQ+-focused activities. You might take for granted feeling safe and included on hiking trips, but discrimination excludes many people from participating. It’s great to host an event during Pride month, but this is something that matters year-round. Participate in a Pride parade Walk the route or make a float . It can be a great way to show that you care about and serve all types of customers and clients. Manufacture gender-neutral gear Active gear for all genders should come in all color palettes and target all body types. LGBTQ+ outdoor advocates to follow on social media There are many advocates and activists focusing on bridging the gaps between queer folks and the great outdoors. Here are a few amazing leaders to follow on social media : Pattie Gonia A play on the “Patagonia” brand name, @PattieGonia is the self-proclaimed first nature drag queen. Pattie advocates for a more inclusive outdoor industry and takes fabulous photos that combine drag fashion with outdoor gear and awe-inspiring locations. Pattie is also offering LGBTQ+ hikes in a few cities around the U.S. during the month of June. Queer Nature A non-binary duo in Colorado founded @queernature to educate people about deeper connections to nature using both queer and indigenous philosophy and leadership. Unlikely Hikers Jenny Bruso set out to change the stereotype of what an “outdoorsy” person looks like. @unlikelyhikers ’s posts promote diversity and inclusivity in all forms, focusing primarily on body diversity and queerness. Via New York Times Images via Yannis Papanastasopoulos , Nic , Levi Saunders , Pineapple Supply Co. and NeonBrand

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Celebrate inclusivity and sustainability with these outdoor Pride activities

Power and publicity trump protection in large marine protected areas

May 15, 2019 by  
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Nations have just one more year to reach the global marine conservation goal to protect 10 percent of the world’s oceans by 2020. Although 7 percent is already legally protected, many new declarations are massive, offshore areas. Some conservationists argue these offshore achievements fail to protect more critical coastal waters and may even be aggressive ocean-grabs by colonial powers. The goal to legally protect 10 percent of the ocean was ratified under the Convention of Biological Diversity in 2010, and in 2015 it was added to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. According to the World Database of Protected Areas , although 7 percent of the ocean is protected, only 20 marine protected areas account for 70 percent of that area. Offshore areas have significantly fewer stressors than coastal areas, including fishing, tourism, development and mining and host considerably less biodiversity. By contrast, coastal coral reefs are home to 25 percent of all marine species. Related: Drones — the future of ocean conservation Because of the diversity in both uses and species, governments have a difficult time finding compromises to effectively declare and sustainably manage coastal areas, but they can easily make headlines and reach their targets by sectioning off large areas of deep sea. The colonization of marine protected areas Ecological concerns are not the only issue. Many critics also believe political — and colonial — power dynamics are behind these declarations. In recent years, the United States, Britain and France have declared large protected areas in their island territories, while declaring very few at home. The U.S. has less than 1 percent of continental waters under legal designation, while 43 percent of its colonial ocean territories are under protected status. England has just 2.9 square miles of marine protected areas but controls 1.5 million square miles around its territories. Control and displacement in the Indian Ocean In the 1960s, Britain maintained the Chagos Archipelago islands in the Indian Ocean, even after granting independence to nearby Mauritius. In order to make a naval base, the British forcibly removed 2,000 citizens who have spent decades demanding to be allowed to return to their homeland and continue their traditional fishing practices. In 2010, Britain declared the islands a protected area, and suddenly, peoples’ traditions became a crime. Despite official claims that the protected area had nothing to do with preventing displaced people from returning to their homeland, leaked documents revealed an explicit connection to this motive. In 2019, the International Court of Justice at The Hague declared Britain’s actions wrongful and ordered the island to be handed back to Mauritius. Why prioritize coastal areas? Larger protected areas are praised for their ability to preserve more space for migratory species like whales and tuna and for protecting deep sea areas from future exploitation. The problem, however, is when large offshore declarations distract attention from the harder work of protecting coastal zones. The declaration of protected or managed coastal areas requires compromise from many different stakeholders, including transportation, businesses, hotels, local fishers and coastal residents. Unsustainable development, pollution and competing interests exacerbate environmental degradation in coastal areas and require explicit management legislation and compliance — a feat that many governments lack the capacity to take on. In fact, only 5 percent of all marine protected areas have implemented management plans. Enric Sala, a marine ecologist with the National Geographic Society,  argues that protected area declarations that aren’t accompanied by management plans are “false and counterproductive” achievements that look good on paper but do nothing to protect the long-term sustainability of ocean resources. Money and management The lack of local government resources and investment means that the majority of marine conservation activities are funded and implemented by foreign conservation groups and private philanthropists — the majority of whom are American. According to Fred Pearch, a journalist with Yale Environment 360, “Some see such philanthropists as planetary saviors; others as agents of a creeping privatization of one of the last great global commons.” Again, foreign powers have jurisdiction and decision-making power over foreign waters and what indigenous communities can and cannot do. Many local groups are pushing back against this invasion. John Aini, an indigenous leader in Papau New Guinea explained in an interview with MongaBay about the decolonization of marine conservation: “I’ve basically given up working with big international nongovernmental organizations, basically given up networking with them. And we are doing our own thing now with funding that’s available, and funding from people that understand that we are in touch, that we own the land, the sea, we know the problems of our people better.” What is the right way to protect the ocean? There is no one-size-fits-all solution and no way to make all marine conservationists and ocean users agree, but positive examples of protected areas do exist. Last year, Honduras declared a marine protected area in Tela Bay, which includes 86,259 hectares of coral reef. Although it is relatively small at only 300 square miles, the coastal protected area is a model for its outreach strategy, local management committee and “managed-access fishery” program that supports coastal residents. Belize also became the first country to implement a nationwide, multi-species fishing rights program for small-scale local fishers that is incorporated into the country’s intricate network of protected and locally managed areas. The key to successful legal protections is more science- and community-based conservation, not what New York Times contributor Luiz A. Rocha calls “convenient conservation” to meet numbers, make headlines and ignore realities and power dynamics on the ground — and under the sea. Via Yale Environment 360 Images from Bureau of Land Management , Arnaud Abadie , Dronepicr , Drew Avery , USGS Unmanned Aircraft Systems , Daniel Julie and Fred

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Power and publicity trump protection in large marine protected areas

SCAD students fight food insecurity in Georgia with organic farming and beekeeping

May 15, 2019 by  
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For a break from schoolwork, students at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) have been swapping their laptops for shovels and seedlings at SCAD Back40, the university’s new one-acre “farm.” Created as a legacy project to celebrate SCAD’s 40th anniversary, the agricultural initiative features a wide range of seasonal, organically grown crops as well as a growing apiary with 16 beehives actively managed by students. Produce is regularly donated to America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia, with 1,000 units of leafy greens sent to the non-profit food back in the fall and winter quarters of 2018. Located in Hardeeville, South Carolina across the bridge from Savannah, Georgia, Back40 occupies rural land just a short drive from the bustle of cars and urban life. Back40 Project Manager Jody Elizabeth Trumbull oversees the agricultural initiative with the help of student volunteers from varying backgrounds, ranging from UX design to architecture. Because Back40 employs active crop rotation methods, soil management, companion planting and other natural growing methods —  organic certification is currently in progress — for producing seasonal crops, SCAD prefers to call the project a “farm” rather than a “garden.” The one-acre plot has the potential to grow up to five acres. While Back40 has yet to incorporate livestock and poultry, it does feature an apiary with 16 honey-producing hives and nearly 350,000 bees. Each hive can produce 80 to 100 pounds of honey. In addition to supporting the declining bee population, the apiary fits with SCAD’s image — the university’s mascot is the bee. To provide enough food for both managed and native bees, SCAD has planted a wide range of flowers to support both bee populations. When wild beehives are found on campus buildings, they are safely removed and relocated to the apiary. Related: SCAD artist turns recycled materials into giant puppets to revitalize a historic French village Back40 produced 1,000 units of kale, Brussels sprouts, radishes, shard, cardoon and three types of lettuce in the first two quarters of operation. Part of the yield is donated to America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia to help fight food insecurity, while the remaining produce is used at SCAD dining venues. As an educational tool for conservation, Back40 offers learning experiences not just for its students, but for local schools and organizations as well. In the future, the urban farm’s non-food commodity items will also be used in SCAD fine arts and design programs, such as the new business of beauty and fragrance program. + Savannah College of Art and Design Images via SCAD

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SCAD students fight food insecurity in Georgia with organic farming and beekeeping

US stops Arctic Council joint statement over climate change language

May 8, 2019 by  
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On May 7, the Arctic Council released a statement of various priorities, but for the first time it could not publish a joint declaration, reportedly due to push-back from the U.S. over climate change language. The Arctic Council is comprised of indigenous leaders and eight nations, including the U.S., Canada, Finland, Russia, China, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland. After meetings in Rovaniemi, Finland, the group released its disjointed statement, but it could not agree on a declaration of urgent challenges and strategies for the next two years. “A majority of us regarded climate change as a fundamental challenge facing the Arctic and acknowledged the urgent need to take mitigation and adaptation actions and to strengthen resilience,” the chair of the meeting, Finnish Minister Timo Soini, said in the statement. Minister Soini refused to point fingers at which nations would not acknowledge climate change as a fundamental challenge. Related: 1 million species are at risk of extinction, says new UN report Indigenous leaders argue that climate change is indeed the most pressing issue in the Arctic and should be a primary focus. Scientists suggest that temperatures are rising twice as fast  fast in the Arctic region than in the rest of the world. Melting ice is contributing to sea level rise in low-lying countries, but it is also creating new shipping routes and opening access to undiscovered oil reserves. The Arctic contains 13 percent of the world’s untapped oil and 30 percent of natural gas reserves. This fossil fuel wealth makes it a controversial region, and development there is highly sought after, particularly by world powers like the U.S., China and Russia. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed too many versions of the declaration as the reason the Council could not reach an consensus, and spent most of his floor time pointing fingers at Russia and China for going against previous agreements and rendering them ineffective. + Arctic Council Via Reuters Image via  Patrick Kelley, U.S. Coast Guard / U.S. Geological Survey

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US stops Arctic Council joint statement over climate change language

8 sustainability podcasts to listen to this Earth Day

April 22, 2019 by  
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Give your daily commute a boost by subscribing to an eco-friendly podcast. Not only do these podcasts make your drive pass by a little faster, but they will also keep you informed on the latest trends in sustainability — just in time for Earth Day . Here is a quick list of the best sustainability podcasts for your morning drive. Sustainable Jungle This podcast tackles current and future problems in the environmental realm. The hosts of the podcast, Lyall and Joy, tour the planet to discuss big issues with some of the world’s leaders in conservation, tackling issues like plastic waste , climate change and overconsumption, to name a few. Although the people they meet are focusing on different areas of conservation, they are all working together to build a better world. Organic Healthy Life This podcast is led by Nancy Addison and focuses on healthy eating. In each episode, Addison dives into recipes that are tailored to benefit the entire body and mind. According to Player FM , Addison’s clients have experienced substantial improvements to their health by following her advice. This includes weight loss and improved medical conditions. Related: 6 fun, meaningful ways to celebrate Earth Day! Addison is the author of several award-winning books, including Raising Healthy Children ; Lose Weight, Get Healthy And Never Have To Go On A Diet Again ; and How To Be A Healthy Vegetarian . The Minimalists Starring Ryan and Josh, The Minimalists podcast examines sustainability through a slightly different lens. Being minimalists, the pair often talk about how they live a more fulfilled life by decreasing what they own. They also discuss their impact on the environment and how modern living affects Earth’s delicate ecosystem . Ryan and Josh frequently take questions from the audience and offer an inside look at what it really means to be a minimalist. My Ocean The My Ocean podcast interviews leaders in the conservation community whose main focus is on preserving the ocean. This podcast will undoubtedly leave you inspired about the good in people while offering an interesting look at some of the problems facing our oceans today. If you are looking for feel-good stories about people making positive impacts on the oceans, this podcast is definitely for you. The Adaptors This podcast is for listeners who are looking for interesting twists on sustainability. The Adaptors frequently introduces ideas that are hypothetical and bordering on ridiculous, but they still make you think about sustainability in a different way. One of the common questions on the show is how environmentalists would adapt to some of the most damaging effects of climate change . Although the answers are sometimes outlandish, they are often inspirational. Warm Regards Warms Regards may be one of the most passionate podcasts on this list. The hosts often interview journalists and climate scientists who are dedicated to their work in a way most of us could only dream of being. The podcast focuses on climate change and the effects of global warming . This includes exploring ideas on how to deal with global warming and what might happen in the future if proper steps are not taken to deal with the issue. Direct Current Direct Current will appeal to those looking for environmental discussions with elements of comedy. The main topic on Direct Current is electricity and the many ways humans generate and use energy around the world. The discussions often feature human elements and explore new trends in technology that are driving the renewable energy revolution. Fast-paced and always fascinating, this podcast is perfect for those looking to solve old problems in unique and inventive ways. Hippie Haven Hippie Haven releases an episode every Wednesday, and each one is sure to teach you something new about sustainable living. Led by host Callee, this podcast interviews ordinary people who follow  eco-friendly lives . The guests typically offer real-world solutions while telling people how they can get involved in the environmental community. Related: These sustainable headphones are making a debut just in time for Earth Day The topics on Hippie Haven are diverse and include anything from becoming a vegan to building a tiny home . The topics change each week, so you never know where the conversation might take you. Being a long-time activist and small business owner, Callee also brings plenty of experience to the table and is never afraid to discuss even the most controversial of issues. Mountain And Prairie Mountain and Prairie could definitely be your next favorite podcast. Ed Roberson hosts the show and talks with a myriad of guests from the American West. The topics tend to focus on issues that ranchers and hunters face, but they always come back to conservation. Even if you are not an expert on the environment, you will find the discussions on this sustainability podcast both significant and illuminating. Via Player FM , 1 Million Women and The Basic Goods Images via Pexels , Kaboom Pics , Matthieu A , Tomasz Gaw?owski  and  Photo Mix Company

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No more neglect: Mongolia says rangelands are a global priority

April 12, 2019 by  
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When most people think of conservation , they often picture the large, hallmark mammals (think pandas) or key ecosystems like coral reefs and rainforests. Few people think about or even understand rangelands as a priority for land restoration, even though rangelands cover more than 50 percent of all land on earth. In March, Mongolian community-conservation leaders persuaded the United Nations to acknowledge the importance of rangelands and commit to global action to fill glaring gaps in data. As a result of their efforts, the United Nations adopted a resolution to recommend an official “Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists” and to center rangeland restoration within the already declared Decade of Ecosystems Restoration (2021-2030). In Mongolia, leaders have also submitted a “Rangeland Law” to parliament, which would ensure that herders have legal land rights and are named the primary protectors of their land. What are rangelands? The International Center for Agriculture Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) defines rangelands as land that is covered with grass and shrub species and used as a primary source for livestock grazing. Rangelands are also recognized for their ability to provide other environmental services, including carbon sequestration, eco-tourism opportunities, biodiversity, ranching and mining. Related: Less fertilizer, greater crop yields and more money — China’s agricultural breakthrough ICARDA estimates suggest that nearly 50 percent of all land surface is considered rangeland, which includes grasslands, savannas and marshes. Why is Mongolia on the forefront? Herding has been a defining part of Mongolian culture and tradition for more than 4,000 years . Up to 15 percent of the country’s gross domestic product comes from sheep, cattle and other livestock. However, economic, environmental and migration changes have caused much of Mongolia’s rangelands to become degraded. The United Nations reports that nearly 57 percent of all rangeland in Mongolia is degraded and 13 percent is so degraded that it is believed to be impossible to restore. Despite this, Mongolia still has some of the world’s last remaining natural grasslands, and people there are committed to preserving these diverse ecosystems and their traditional way of life. “If nothing is done now, we face the danger of losing this beautiful land, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of nomadic herder families,” said Enkh-Amgalan Tseelei , a sustainable rangeland expert from Mongolia. Research shows that indigenous and local communities are some of the most effective stewards of natural land. However, these same groups rarely have legal land rights, making them vulnerable to dislocation and exploitation. According to the World Resource Institute’s  land mapping tool , indigenous and collectively-managed lands store about 25 percent of the world’s above-ground carbon , which means land restoration in these areas is essential to reducing climate change , and that indigenous people are the rightful leaders. We don’t know enough about rangelands The UN resolution aims to elevate awareness, earmark funding and increase collaborative action to improve the  protection and restoration of rangelands. The resolution also amplifies the role of community leadership and traditional management practices. Most critically, however, the resolution calls for increased research, pointing to major gaps in current scientific knowledge about the “status, conditions and trends in rangeland, pastoral land and pastoralism.” Another UN report from March suggests that current data on agriculture and livestock within rangeland regions and societies are insufficient to inform effective policy. The report, “A case of benign neglect: Knowledge gaps about sustainability in pastoralism and rangelands,” recommends further collection and disaggregation of data to highlight different needs and opportunities for locally based, sustainable management. For example, the report warns that some governments have misconceptions of rangelands and even consider them to be “forgotten” or “barren.” Seemingly environmentally progressive programs have implemented afforestation projects — meaning large  tree  planting initiatives — in rangelands. This can actually devastate rangeland biodiversity and have a negative impact on existing carbon sequestration. Pastoralism and marginalization Nearly 500 million people are considered pastoralists, yet these communities are among the most marginalized societies in the world. Herding, nomadic and pastoral groups face challenges such as land degradation, biodiversity loss, vulnerability to climate change, low investments, inequity, low literacy, inadequate infrastructure, lack of access to markets, lack of legal ownership and exodus of youth. Related: One of the last remaining communities still farming like the Aztecs If March is any indication of the next few years — and hopefully the next decade — pastoralists might have the attention, investment and collective action needed to make meaningful advancements in land restoration and community management. Deputy Director General of Integrated Sciences at the International Livestock Research Institute, Iain Wright, praised the efforts of governments and partners so far. “In my 35 years’ experience working on rangelands and pastoralists, this is the first real progress I am seeing,” Wright said. “The lack of data up to now has been critical, and this report forms one of the building blocks in getting this issue into the political and international agenda.” Via UN Environment Images via Jeanne Menjoulet , Ludovic Hirlimann , Sergio Tittarini ,  Christopher Michel , and Paulo Philippidis

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