10 fun and fascinating facts about sharks

August 10, 2020 by  
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Sharks are the apex predators of the oceans, but they’re more than movie monsters and beach horror stories. There’s a lot that most people don’t know about sharks and plenty more that scientists are still learning about them. More than 500 species of sharks swim the ocean depths, making up a diverse and endlessly fascinating group of animals who have been hunting the waters for millions of years longer than humans have been walking around on Earth. We’re still learning Sharks are ancient creatures who inhabited the Earth at the same time as the dinosaurs . But that doesn’t mean we know everything there is to know about them. In fact, we’re still making discoveries. The megamouth shark was only discovered in 1976, and fewer than 100 of these rare sharks have ever been seen. It grows to an average of 16 feet , we think, and siphons plankton out of the water to feed. Even more recently was the discovery of the pocket shark, a 5-inch shark found in the Gulf of Mexico. It glows under the water to attract prey. Related: How your beauty routine might be killing sharks Their teeth are healthier than yours Shark teeth are totally resistant to cavities . The teeth of sharks are covered in fluoride, an enamel known as fluorapatite. This material is resistant to acid created by bacteria. Sharks also go through several sets of teeth in their lifetimes, shedding and growing new teeth periodically. An average shark mouth will see about 30,000 teeth in one lifetime. Shark teeth are much healthier than human teeth, which need constant care and maintenance. They can clone themselves Through a process that has been observed in many animals , sharks can clone themselves through parthenogenesis , a type of external fertilization. This has been seen in female sharks being kept in captivity. Sharks aren’t that dangerous Humans are a far greater danger to sharks than they are to us. Though it makes for a pretty good movie, there are fewer than 200 shark-human interactions globally every single year. Meanwhile, humans kill about 100 million sharks annually, mostly through hunting. Sharks have a variety of feeding habits. Many species of sharks are filter feeders that eat small marine life , such as clams, and many are bottom feeders who use suction to gather food. Only some species of sharks are hunters that attack seals, dolphins and other large sea creatures. They’re resilient Not only did sharks survive the extinction event that brought an end to the dinosaurs, but they’ve also survived five total mass extinction events on planet Earth. Sharks first appeared in the planet’s oceans over 400 million years ago. That makes them even older than trees. Sharks were swimming in the oceans before dinosaurs roamed the planet. They survived a mass extinction event that killed 75% of all living species on Earth , including many ocean-dwelling species. Then, they survived an event that killed 96% of all marine life on the planet. This is why sharks are often referred to as “living fossils.” The great white isn’t the biggest shark Movies have made the great white shark famous as a predator, but it’s not the biggest shark in the ocean. That honor goes to the whale shark, which grows up to 60 feet in length . Though it has the size, the whale shark doesn’t have the terrifying look that makes the great white shark so distinct. This giant of the water feeds on small fish , plankton and invertebrates. That means whale sharks don’t have those razor-sharp teeth and huge jaws that make the great white shark such a perfectly terrifying villain. By comparison, the great white shark grows up to 20 feet at most. They have a sixth sense Sharks have the same five senses as human beings — plus one more. Sharks have an organ in their snouts, ampullae of Lorenzini, that allows them to sense electrical fields in the water emitted by other fish and marine life. Lion vs. shark? In the battle of lion against shark, if such a battle was possible, sharks would win pretty easily. A lion bite is weaker than you might imagine, about 650 PSI (pound-force per square inch). A shark bite is much more powerful. In a single snap, a great white shark can produce up to 4,000 PSI. They don’t vocalize Despite what you may have seen in “Finding Nemo,” sharks definitely can’t talk, even to other fish. Sharks have no vocal cords; therefore, they make no vocal sounds whatsoever. Instead, they communicate through body language. A mega shark was once real “Jaws” isn’t just a movie, it’s reality. Well, kind of. There once was an enormous shark that swam the ocean depths. The megalodon inhabited the Earth’s oceans 20 million years ago , becoming extinct about 3.6 million years ago. This monster was the largest shark to ever swim the oceans and the largest fish the planet has ever known, up to three times the size of the longest great white shark. Sharks are truly fascinating creatures, and they have much more to fear from us than we do of them. They’ve managed to survive on a planet that’s known for being rocked by massive extinction events, living long enough to see the rise and the fall of the dinosaurs and the evolution of plant life on the planet. Now, they swim the same waters as human beings. The more you research about these hunters of the deep, the more you’ll find that learning about sharks is pretty fun. Via NOAA and WWF Images via NOAA ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 )

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10 fun and fascinating facts about sharks

Celebrate National Pollinator Week from June 22-28

June 23, 2020 by  
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Thirteen years ago, Pollinator Partnership initiated the annual designation of a week in June to help address the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Backed by unanimous approval from the U.S. Senate, Pollinator Week has grown into an international celebration of the fragile ecosystem of bees , birds, butterflies, bats and beetles that help contribute to about 75% of all flowering plant species that require animal pollinators for reproduction. So, what are some of the best ways to help out our planet’s little pollinators? If you have access to a backyard, a window box, a garden or some kind of green space, plant some flowers that are pollinator-friendly. The types of plants that attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators vary by region, so use an Ecoregional Planting Guide to learn which ones will make the pollinators in your area the happiest. Knowing your soil type, planting flowers in clusters for pollinators to target and planting for continuous bloom will help. Related: The best plants for attracting pollinators to your yard Try to reduce or eliminate your use of pesticides whenever possible. Pollinator Partnership offers a digitized training module for farmers and certified pesticide applicators to help increase awareness and skill in minimizing the effects of pesticide applications. Register as part of the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge to connect with other gardeners and pollinator-enthusiasts for free, and upload photos or videos of your pollinator site, view profiles of pollinator-friendly plants, measure pollinator progress and highlight areas in need of pollinator action. If you don’t have a green thumb, support your local bees and beekeepers by buying local honey (buying locally sourced products keeps transportation-based carbon emissions low, as well). Because bees, butterflies and other pollinators are drastically affected by climate change , any effort to conserve resources, use less and reduce your carbon footprint is a huge win for everyone. Check out the Pollinator Partnership’s online toolkit for resources and activity ideas for all ages, from webinars on monarch butterfly habitat restoration and pollinator-themed crossword puzzles to school gardening kits and instructions for building a bee box. Each year, local establishments and buildings light up yellow and orange in support of pollinators during Pollinator Week. Participating destinations have included the Empire State Building in New York City, CN Tower in Toronto, City Hall in San Francisco and Niagara Falls in the past. Add lightings, activities and “My Pollinators, My Story” registered gardens to the website’s map . You can also check for local public events in your own neighborhood to participate in and view governor proclamations from all 50 states. + Pollinator Partnership Images via Cole Keister , Mpho Hlakudi and John Duncan

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Celebrate National Pollinator Week from June 22-28

Tips for reducing food waste amid coronavirus

May 14, 2020 by  
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In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are panic-buying groceries that may or may not be used before they expire, leading to unprecedented amounts of food waste. Meanwhile, restaurants and farms are having to throw out unsold and unused food and dairy products. To help lessen the impact, follow these tips to reduce your household’s food waste during the pandemic and beyond. Food waste represents around 8% of greenhouse gas emissions. Studies have shown that humans waste one of every three food calories produced — enough to feed 3 billion mouths, about 10 times the population of the U.S. or 25% of the world’s 815 million undernourished people. Financially, food waste presents an additional burden; the average American family wastes $1,866 worth of food annually. But the pandemic could make these circumstances worse. Related: How to make a meal out of leftover veggies According to the The New York Times , farmers and ranchers have been forced to dump tens of millions of pounds of food that they are unable to sell due to the closures of schools, restaurants and hotels. Amid these difficult times, they simply do not have the financial means to ship and distribute their produce. Dairy Farmers of America estimated that farmers are dumping upward of 3.7 million gallons of milk every day, and some chicken processors are smashing 750,000 eggs each week. Exporting excess food is difficult because the pandemic is affecting the entire world. The cost of crop harvesting and processing without the promise of profit is causing portions of the agriculture industry to face financial strains that they have never seen before. Yet, Americans are continuing to see empty shelves at grocery stores, and, according to Feeding America , 98% of food banks in the United States reported an increased demand for food assistance since the beginning of March, and 59% of food banks have less food available. COVID-19 has disrupted nearly every aspect of the food supply chain. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has updated its food waste initiative to reflect additional issues presented by the novel coronavirus. WWF is also helping to bring people together from different food-related industries and schools to find new approaches to reducing food waste with Further With Food . The organization is also providing opportunities to teach and learn about sustainability, water conservation and the connections between food and the environment with Wild Classroom Daily Activity Plans . April 29 was Stop Food Waste Day , a movement introduced in 2017 to help the world reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to halve food waste by 2030. Although a vast number of people around the world are experiencing difficult times, the coronavirus pandemic has also presented many with the opportunity to rethink their habits — including those involving food . Plan ahead Plan your meals ahead of time to ensure that no food goes to waste. Even better, start food prepping so you have time to accomplish other things during the week. Something as simple as making a list or taking inventory of the food you already have in the kitchen before heading to the grocery store can save time, money and food. Related: How to stock a vegan pandemic pantry Try new recipes If there was ever a time to try out those recipes from Pinterest, it is now. Browse social media, ask your friends, scour the internet for creative recipes; you may discover a new way to use those food items you stocked up on a while ago. Preserve and freeze Have some wilting beets in the vegetable crisper you won’t get to before the end of the week or leftover red onion you have no room for in future recipes? Do a quick-pickle to extend the life of your produce (don’t forget to follow correct pickling and canning procedures to avoid getting sick). Consider whether or not you can freeze something before throwing it out, too. For example, before your bananas have the chance to go bad, peel them and store them in the freezer to use for smoothies. Related: Your guide to preserving, storing and canning food Use every bit of food Store unused mushroom stems, onion ends, herbs, carrot stubs and celery leaves in the freezer to use for broth. Save the carcass if you roast a whole chicken, too. Though it takes several hours to complete, making bone broth is super simple and a great way to get those added nutrients without having to purchase store-bought stock. Start with these recipes for simple bone broth and vegan vegetable broth by Minimalist Baker. Learn a trick or two If you notice that some of your produce is starting to shrivel in the refrigerator, revitalize them. Some vegetables, such as lettuce, are reinvigorated with an ice water bath. Asparagus will last longer if you keep the stalks moist by wrapping them with a damp paper towel or storing them upright in a glass of water in the fridge. Check out this infographic on how to make fresh food last longer . Educate yourself on food labeling Food labels can be intimidating for some shoppers, and sometimes consumers tend to err on the side of caution by tossing out food before it has truly gone bad. Don’t confuse the “best by,” “sell by” and “best before” labels. Check out the USDA website for some amazing resources for proper food storage and handling , including information on the FoodKeeper App for the best tips on food freshness and answers to common questions about food product dating . Sharing is caring During times of uncertainty, frustration and fear, humans are always stronger together. Though most of us are unable to see friends, family and neighbors in person for now, dropping off some extra food — if you can spare it — certainly goes a long way for those in need. Remember to only purchase what you need so that other members of your community have enough resources available to get by. Share recipes, donate extra food to your local food bank and remember — we’re all in this together! Images via Jasmin Sessler , Ella Olsson , Hans , Tatiana Byzova

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‘Tiger King’ drama overshadows abuse of captive tigers in U.S.

April 24, 2020 by  
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Netflix’s wildly popular “Tiger King” documentary series has been progressively sweeping the nation since it first aired on March 20. As an outrageous, binge-worthy drama released when self-isolation and uncertainty were spreading around the world, the show certainly came at the right time to provide an escape from the news. Overnight, it seemed, conversations that didn’t revolve around the coronavirus or Joe Exotic were hard to come by. Photos of celebrities who’d visited the zoos were flooding the internet, Joe Exotic’s power-ballads were hitting it big on Spotify and even President Donald Trump was fielding questions about the gun-toting zookeeper during press briefings. While the eccentric documentary reveals some disturbing truths about the enigmatic underworld it portrays, the show’s colorful characters tend to overshadow serious animal welfare issues. The dizzying murder-mystery component camouflages animal cruelty behind a jaw-dropping “you have to see it to believe it” drama. Now that the initial buzz of the show has started to die down, animal conservationists are begging the public to take a closer look at what the series failed to address: why, and how, these types of animal “sanctuaries” are legal in the United States. Related: Bronx Zoo tiger tests positive for coronavirus The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) believes that the illegal wildlife trade presents the most substantial incentive for exotic animal breeding and estimates that a vast majority of the captive tigers in the U.S. are living inside people’s backyards, roadside attractions and private breeding facilities. “Tigers should not be kept or bred for entertainment or trade in their parts and products,” said Leigh Henry, director of wildlife policy for WWF USA. “As a leader in promoting the conservation of tigers globally, the United States has a responsibility to manage the staggering 5,000 estimated captive tigers within its own borders.” The tigers remaining in the wild currently number around 3,900 and are continuing to be threatened due to poaching , illegal trade and habitat loss. Surprisingly, only an estimated 6% of the captive tiger population in the U.S. live inside zoos and facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Because tigers in the United States are regulated by a combination of federal, state and local laws, there is no single government agency monitoring the location, ownership or sales of the tigers or what happens to their parts when they die. According to Henry, any supply of tiger parts into the black market stimulates trade and customer demand, posing additional risks to the wild tiger population. Tiger abuse in the U.S. was on the radar well before Netflix aired “Tiger King.” In 2006, Joe Exotic’s GW Exotic Animal Park was fined $25,000 by the USDA for not providing adequate veterinary care or sufficient staff. Back in 2011, the Humane Society put an investigator undercover as an animal caretaker inside the park for about four months. They found hundreds of animals caged in barren conditions, cared for by workers with little-to-no experience and tiger cubs that were “punched, dragged, and hit with whips.” During that time, GW Exotic Animal Park was under investigation by the USDA for the deaths of 23 tiger cubs between 2009 and 2010. Even Emmy Award-winning comedian and political commentator John Oliver recently recalled learning about Joe Exotic in 2016. “Our researcher went back through his notes and did say, ‘It seems like the park he’s running is a little bit dangerous, we may not want to hold hands too closely with this, “ Oliver said . “Plus he started ranting about a woman named Carole.’” For the places that make their money from public encounters with tigers, continuous breeding is key in maintaining a constant supply of cubs for entertaining guests. Because of this, tigers are often inbred, causing birth defects and health issues that make them unsuitable for reintroduction into the wild . Most of the privately owned tigers in the U.S. are of mixed or unknown lineage, making them unable to participate in legitimate captive-breeding efforts in accredited zoos and institutions as well. “Facilities like Joe Exotic’s and Doc Antle’s masquerade as rescue or conservation operations, but in fact they breed tigers and subject the cubs, who are torn from their mothers immediately after birth, to stress and abuse,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and the CEO of Humane Society International. “After a few months, when the cubs are too large for close encounters with the public and the opportunity for profit is over, the cubs are caged, sold into the pet trade or die. This cycle of breeding for temporary use leads to a surplus of unwanted animals who languish in horrible conditions.” When it comes to ethical animal sanctuaries, the leading authority is the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS). This accrediting organization requires sanctuaries to meet animal-welfare standards exceeding the federal Animal Welfare Act minimum. National Geographic also outlines several things to look for when participating in wildlife tourism . According to the GFAS, sanctuaries must provide lifetime care for abused, injured or abandoned animals, and rehabilitation or rescue centers are meant to provide temporary care with the goal of either releasing animals back into the wild or placing them in permanent care. To be accredited in the AZA, the leading non-profit organization connected to zoos and aquariums in terms of conservation, companies must go through a rigorous application process . Both the AZA and the GFAS provide lists of accredited facilities on their websites. Since the documentary was filmed, 39 of Joe Exotic’s tigers have been rescued and are now living peacefully inside The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado (you can see a video of the tigers’ new living conditions here ). WWF and the Humane Society are continuing to call for greater supervision and protection of captive tigers with the introduction of the Big Cat Public Safety Act . The act and its accompanying bill prohibiting cub petting are scheduled to be voted on by the end of the year. One could argue that “Tiger King” inspired viewership in ways that a more deliberate, expose-style documentary simply could not accomplish. Though the more severe components of the documentary have been masked by a barrage of memes and Twitter-fueled jokes, the ones who suffered the most in this human drama were actually the animals . Hopefully, what begins to come out of “Tiger King” will be the public’s refusal to let spectacle overpower mindfulness and that we all learn to see beyond the flashy images to realize that animal abuse is wrong — no matter how captivating the abusers are. Via National Geographic and World Wildlife Fund Images via Pixabay

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How to celebrate Earth Day virtually in 2020

April 17, 2020 by  
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With social distancing in full force this Earth Day , the 50th anniversary of this environmental movement is certainly one for the history books. Just because you can’t go outside in large groups this year doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of inventive ways to celebrate Earth, though. The Earth Day 2020 theme is “climate action,” and while we aren’t able to come together physically this year, technology is presenting some unique opportunities to show your love for the Earth virtually. Learn the history The first Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970, when 20 million Americans (about 10% of the U.S. population at that time) took to the streets and college campuses to protest environmental ignorance and promote environmental awareness. The movement, now recognized as the world’s largest civic event each year, launched the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. Related: How Earth Day began and how it helps the planet Take a virtual tour Because many of us are now homeschooling kids, Google has created 360-degree tours of 113 different national park sites, including monuments, historic sites and shorelines. The Nature Conservancy also features a series of virtual field trips designed for grades 5-8. Live webcams have also gained popularity since social distancing began. People may be staying indoors for the most part, but animals are still keeping up with their daily routines. Check out live feeds of marine animals at Monterey Bay Aquarium or a series of different feeds, from remote locations throughout Africa to rescue animal facilities around the world, with Explore.org . Earthx , in partnership with National Geographic, is streaming everything from speaker series to film festivals to student activities via its website. Participate in a running challenge A healthy running challenge that raises awareness for the environment is a win-win to celebrate this year’s Earth Day. The 2020 Earth Day Run presented by The Virtual Run Challenge encourages participants to spend the month of April (though you can start anytime) to collectively run the distance of the equator — 24,901 miles. Log your running and walking miles every day and connect with others for a common goal; participation is free. Related: Orca Running offers a Social Distance Run Virtual Strides is celebrating Earth Day by hosting the 5K/10K/Half-Marathon Earth Run virtually. After runners (or walkers) finish their course, they can upload results and photos to the website. Registration isn’t free, but a portion of the proceeds from the race (around $4 from each registration) will be donated to EarthShare, a non-profit that supports critical environmental causes. In the past, the organization has raised more than $300 million for programs benefiting air, land, water, wildlife and public health. Download the Earth Challenge 2020 app By downloading the Earth Challenge 2020 app , you’ll help gather critical environmental data near your area, providing scientists and other “citizen scientists” with research to help maintain a cleaner planet. Users measure air quality and plastic pollution where they are and add each reading to a global database. Related: Earth Day 2020 goes digital For example, Earth Challenge 2020 launched its monarch butterfly project on April 1 with a goal to fill 1 billion data points before the month’s end. When users launch the app, they are able to snap pictures of insects that they see, submit them to be verified and allow scientists to better understand the distribution of butterflies and migration patterns. This kind of knowledge is essential to identify the different regions that need habitat restoration. Take action From April 20 to April 25, more than 100 speakers from five continents will participate in the largest online climate conference ever held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Topics ranging from climate finance and agriculture to circular economy and politics will be discussed and can be viewed virtually via the partnership program We Don’t Have Time . Sign up with the official Earth Day website volunteer database for the latest resources and information on at-home or online activities as well as ways to spread the word to your friends. You can also create your own “act of green” and share it with the rest of the Earth Day community. The official Earth Day website also has a planning guide to help get people inspired and organized; check the map for ideas and to see how other people around the world are celebrating. Spread the word Digital tools are making it easier than ever to connect, especially through social media. You can bring your friends, teachers and family together to raise awareness and do their own part for the environment. Utilize Vote Earth to take the pledge to vote for climate candidates . The global initiative has already mobilized millions of people who wish to show their concern for the Earth and demand change at the polls. Sign up on the website to pledge to vote for candidates who support sustainability in your next election, and you’ll have the option to receive automatic email reminders to vote. + Earth Day Images via Carl Heyerdahl , University of Michigan School of Environment and Sustainability , Arek Adeoye , U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region

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12 surprising things that arent vegan

January 16, 2020 by  
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It’s hard to stick to a vegan lifestyle. It can be easy to be foiled by ingredients that just slip right by you, and these aren’t just in food . A surprising number of non-food items also contain animal-derived ingredients. What’s a wannabe vegan to do? Remember that drastically cutting down on animal consumption is good for the planet, even if you fall short of 100 percent. If you want to be as close to completely vegan as possible, here’s a list of some surprising foods and other items that aren’t necessarily vegan. Sugar The sugar industry uses bone char from slaughtered cattle to remove the color from sugar so it becomes a lovely, bright white. What about using brown sugar? Unfortunately, that’s made of white sugar with molasses added to it. If you want to avoid bone char-processed sugar, buy organic, unrefined, beet or coconut sugar. You can also consult PETA’s list of manufacturers that forego the bones. Condoms Many condom manufacturers use the milk derivative casein for a smooth feel. If you can do without that texture, check out vegan-friendly brands . Altoids Would you like some tendons with your fresh breath? Yep, those ubiquitous mints contain gelatin. Time for a Tic Tac instead, or opt for the Altoids labeled “sugar-free smalls,” which do not contain gelatin. Related: 10 vegan myths, debunked Tattoo ink Charcoal can be made from plant or animal origins. But many of the black dyes used in tattooing are made with charcoal derived from animal bones. Other non-vegan ingredients in tattoo ink are glycerin (from animal fat), gelatin and shellac (made from crushed beetles). If vegan ink is important to you, consult this international list of vegan-friendly tattoo artists . Apple juice Now, it’s time for something really gross. Some companies use isinglass, or fish bladders, to clarify their apple juice. Paintballs Animal tendons and sinews find their way into a lot of food and non-food products. The outer layers of paintball capsules are usually made of gelatin. Dryer sheets Dryer sheets are designed to fight static electricity and make clothes soft and lint-resistant. But what keeps the sheets from drying out? In some cases, animal fat. Urban Vegan assembled a list of vegan alternatives , if you happen to use dryer sheets. Alternatively, you can also reduce your waste by opting to use wool dryer balls. Paint and makeup brushes Artists and anybody who uses makeup might wonder, where did the hairs in my brush come from? They might be synthetic, or they might be from some poor pig, squirrel, sable or Siberian weasel. Artists, consult this list of cruelty-free brushes , and here’s a list of vegan makeup brushes . Related: The pros and cons of going vegan Crayons In other art supply news, crayons contain stearic acid. This ingredient occurs naturally in plants and animals. But it’s often animal-derived, a slaughterhouse byproduct. Crayons are one of many products that contain stearic acid, including soaps, cosmetics, candles, lubricants, chewing gum and hairspray. If you prefer your crayons vegan, check out these triangular ones made by Melissa and Doug . Worcestershire sauce Newer vegans might not have realized this yet, but traditional Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies. Instead, make your own or buy this vegan, organic Worcestershire sauce from trusted brand, Annie’s. Soy cheese If you’re vegan, you probably already know that many regular cheeses aren’t even vegetarian, because they contain rennet, enzymes produced in bovine stomachs that help cheese curdle. But did you know many soy cheeses aren’t vegan? They often contain casein, which seems really weird, because why would you even want soy cheese if you weren’t vegan? British money Vegans who live in or are visiting Britain aren’t thrilled to handle the £5 notes, which contain tallow, an animal fat derivative. It is used to make the bills anti-static and less slippery. British vegans and vegetarians have been protesting since the new notes were introduced in 2016. This month, a British employment judge ruled that the Equality Act should also apply to people who sincerely believe in ethical veganism. How an indirect discrimination case will affect the bank notes is still to be seen. Plastic bags Could be beef tallow, could be chicken fat — most plastic bags use some type of animal fat as “slip agents” to prevent bags from sticking together. One more good reason for banning plastic bags ! Images via Shutterstock

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Fun, eco-friendly things to do in Portland

January 13, 2020 by  
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Portland has boomed in the past 20 years, attracting musicians, writers, graphic designers and other creative people. Many entrepreneurial folks have started unusual businesses and events, which often surprise and delight visitors. If you’ve always wanted to visit a vegan strip club or watch an adult soapbox derby race, Portland is for you. The city of about 650,000 residents has a well-deserved reputation for rain . If you like a dry vacation, summer is your best bet. Spring is the most beautiful season, when tulips, irises and daffodils push up through the soggy ground and rhododendrons seem to bloom in every yard. Autumn enthusiasts will enjoy Portland’s fall colors. But don’t curse the rain if you get wet — it’s what makes Portland so beautiful and green. Portland outdoor adventures Outdoor adventure awaits, both within city limits and a short drive or bus ride away. The Willamette River separates Portland’s east and west sides. Running, walking and hiking are popular pastimes. On the east side, Mount Tabor, a dormant  volcano , offers hiking trails without leaving the city. Forest Park, on the west side, is even bigger, with about 70 miles of recreational trails. For a short but gorgeous Forest Park hike, take the Lower Macleay Trail along Balch Creek up to the Audubon Society, where you can check out the Wildlife Care Center which treats orphaned and injured native animals. If you happen to be in Portland on Thanksgiving, consider walking or running the annual  Tofurky Trot  5K, which benefits animal sanctuaries. Portland is well known as a bike-friendly city. You can rent a bike and explore, or join a guided tour.  Pedal Bike Tours  offers an intro to Portland tour, plus excursions focused on donuts or  beer . Their Columbia River Gorge Tour takes you out to the must-see gorge by van, where you bike and hike to waterfalls. Since Portland has access to both the Willamette and Columbia rivers, the water possibilities are vast. Join  Portland Kayak  for a guided full moon paddle on the Willamette. During summer,  eNRG Kayaking  offers SUP yoga classes. For a special Portland experience, learn about the Northwest’s favorite biped on a narrated  Bigfoot Cruise . You’ll even get the chance to smell a simulated Bigfoot pheromone (only people with strong stomachs should take a whiff). Those who like a little culture with their outdoors time will find plenty of art festivals, especially in summer. The upscale Pearl neighborhood has art openings every first Thursday of the month. From April to October, the  Urban Art Network Street Gallery  sets up an extremely accessible First Thursday show, with a chance to meet painters, jewelers, woodworkers and other skilled  artists , and find art for all budgets. Portland wellness It might seem like every other person you meet in Portland is a yoga teacher, and many neighborhoods have multiple yoga studios.  Yoga Refuge  occupies an attractive upstairs space in an older building, with plenty of light and plants to cheer up the grayest Portland days.  Studio PDX  even lets you bring your small dog to some of its classes. Portland is a city where it’s easy to find gong healing.  Portland Sound Sanctuary offers various sound healings, some including a cacao ceremony.  Awakenings Wellness Center  hosts intriguing events almost every day, such as ancestral lineage intensives, shamanic sound healing and a White Stag meditation. Common Ground Wellness Center  has a communal soaking pool and a dry cedar sauna. This clothing-optional hangout has times set aside for men, women, queer/trans and BIPOC people only, and a nightly silent hour from 10 to 11 pm. If you’re happier when everyone wears a swimsuit,  Knot Springs  is a newer facility with a delightful water circuit, sauna, eucalyptus-scented steam room and full foot rub menu. You can book massages at both Common Ground and Knot Springs.  Zama Massage Therapeutic Spa  is Portland’s only place for halo therapy in a  salt cave. The Grotto, a Catholic shrine to the Virgin Mary, is a peaceful place to visit, whether you’re religious or not. It features gardens, shrines, a labyrinth and a  meditation chapel with floor-to-ceiling windows. On a clear day, you can meditate on a view of snow-capped Mount Hood. Dining out in Portland Portland has become a city known for food, especially vegan food. At the high end, Chef Aaron Adams of  Farm Spirit  creates exquisite tasting menus from the Cascadian bioregion, with all ingredients sourced within 105 miles of the restaurant. There’s also a chef’s table experience, where you can chat with the chefs and watch as they prepare your food . The  Sudra interprets Indian food with a dash of New Mexico. Inventive plates include ingredients like turmeric-roasted Brussels sprouts, kale -infused dosas and coconut yogurt. All of this is served with a side of New Mexico green chilis, if desired. Vegetarian Thai Restaurant  KaTi Portland  makes the standard dishes, plus Thai street food and specialty entrees, with nary a drop of fish sauce. The all-vegan and gluten-free  Back to Eden  Dessert Shop on NE Alberta makes cookies, pies,  chia puddings and has an impressive sundae menu. Sweet Pea Bakery  is a real cake specialist. You can even get a tiered wedding cake or a six-layered rainbow cake. For vegan ice cream,  Eb & Bean  makes both dairy and non-dairy frozen yogurt in flavors like black sesame and salty pistachio.  Salt & Straw , Portland’s most famous ice cream shop, always features at least a few vegan flavors. Don’t miss their lemon cheesecake crumble. In nearby Milwaukie, Oregon, world-famous  Bob’s Red Mill  churns out oats, millet, sorghum, farro, and other grains. Visitors can take a tour, attend a cooking class, shop from a mind-blowing bulk section and eat lunch or breakfast. There’s also a separate veg menu. Visit during October to catch the annual two-day Portland VegFest . The newer  VegOut! Portland  Vegan Beer & Food Festival happens in  summer . Public transit It’s easy to get around Portland without driving yourself, through a combination of walking, biking, bus,  light rail and rideshare.  TriMet is the local public transit company. The MAX light rail serves the airport every day until almost midnight and is the cheapest way to get to downtown hotels. Amtrak, Bolt, Flixbus and Greyhound also serve Portland. If you see folks cruising around on heavy orange bikes built like tanks, that’s the  Biketown  bike share program. They even have a limited number of  adaptive bikes  to get people with  disabilities  on the road. Don’t want to pedal? You can also rent an electric scooter. Be advised that it’s illegal to ride scooters on the sidewalk, so stick to  bike lanes  and city streets. Also, be aware that these things pick up speed very fast when going downhill. Where to stay The  Kimpton Riverplace  puts a yoga mat in every room, has two charging stations for  electric cars  and is located right on the Willamette River waterfront path. Built in 1927, the  Heathman is both historic and eco-conscious, with low-flow shower-heads, LED lighting, walls made from recycled materials and even a ghost or two. For more eclectic lodging, check out one of Portland’s three  tiny house  hotels. Yes, three.  Caravan: The Tiny House Hotel  has five cramped but cute choices.  Tiny Digs  has eight themed units, including train car, “gypsy wagon,” barn and Victorian cottage.  Slabtown Village  bills itself as NW Portland’s luxury tiny home hotel. At Slabtown, you can also choose from three small Victorian houses if a tiny home proves too teeny. Images by Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Fun, eco-friendly things to do in Portland

Your eco-friendly travel guide for New York City

January 9, 2020 by  
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It’s easy to get caught up in New York’s frenetic energy. If you’re there as a tourist, the checklist of must-see attractions is exciting, but long and tiring: Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Broadway shows, amazing museums. If you’re there for business, it’s easy to go from hotel to conference room to bar, repeat. But there are plenty of opportunities to find some beauty and tranquility within NYC’s nonstop style. Take some time to get outside, do something healthy, and take a few deep breaths. NYC outdoors Yes, there is nature within New York City’s urban jungle. The most obvious place to get outside is Manhattan’s massive, iconic Central Park. Within this 843-acre green space, you can visit the formal Conservatory Garden, pay your respects at the Strawberry Fields John Lennon memorial, rent a boat and paddle around the lake, and check out the Literary Walk, which is lined by statues of authors. For a very New York walk, stroll the 1.45-mile High Line. Manhattan’s elevated linear park, created from an old New York Central Railroad spur, has attracted a constant stream of locals and tourists since opening in 2009. Come as you are; you’ll see jogging shorts, haute couture, and everything in between. The 250-acre New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx is gorgeous in every season. Peacefully wander through water lilies, lilacs and roses, or take advantage of the ambitious schedule of programming. The NYBG is on a serious sustainability mission, providing research to support government policy and protecting the world’s flora and biodiversity . Manhattan Kayak Company offers guided expeditions on the Hudson River, including its popular Skyline and NY After Dark tours. They also have many excursions for more experienced paddlers. The Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse has a free kayaking program during the summer. You’ll need to stay within a supervised area to participate. On Sundays, you can join them for kayak polo. Only the bravest visiting cyclists will want to take on Manhattan. But NYC has 300 miles of bike trails. Study this map and see if a bike rental might fit into your New York City plans. Wellness in NYC You can find any type of yoga you like in New York. But if you want to try something new and different, you’re in luck. Are cats your cup of tea ? You can enjoy both cats and tea during a Yoga & Kitties session at Meow Parlour . Like to let it all hang out? Bold & Naked might be the yoga class for you. If you want to get even bolder, one-on-one tantric yogassage is also available. During summer, consider joining a yoga class in a park or on a rooftop farm at sunset in the Brooklyn Navy Yard . Two of NYC’s most popular water therapy options are the old-fashioned Russian & Turkish Baths , serving New Yorkers since 1892, and the modern Great Jones Spa . At the Russian & Turkish Baths, you can get a platza oak leaf treatment, which involves being beaten with a broom made from fresh oak leaves dripping with olive oil soap. At Great Jones, the water circuit atmosphere is peaceful if a bit sterile. NYC appeals to spiritual seekers across the spectrum. Stop into Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, opened in 1879, for a few minutes of quiet or prayer. Visit the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art on Staten Island for tai chi, meditation, and a look at one of the biggest collections of Himalayan artifacts in the US. Join devotees of The Path for a nondenominational meditation, followed by relaxing in the Montauk Salt Cave. Or experience the power of spending time with ancient art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Dining out in NYC Just as you might want to try an unusual yoga class while visiting NYC, this is a chance to eat vegan food that’s hard to find elsewhere. For example, vegans are out of luck in your average dim sum restaurant. But at Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant in Chinatown, vegans can safely grab anything off the dim sum cart. When’s the last time you had gluten-free veg shark fin congee? Vegan star Beyond Sushi has six locations, including in the Chelsea Market food hall, ironically situated in the Meatpacking District. Their sushi rolls are creative and ambitious. For example, the smoky jack contains black rice, pickled cabbage, mango, hickory-smoked jackfruit , watercress, mint, dehydrated olives and tomato guajillo sauce. Cinnamon Snail , in Pennsy Food Hall right by Madison Square Garden, specializes in “vegan kosher food made by a gaggle of wild ponies who live in a magical tree.” Start the day here by raiding their case of vegan donuts and baked goods, or get a hearty serving of mac ‘n’ cheese at lunch or dinner. For dessert, try some matcha cream crunch or lemon ginger cream pie at Rawsome Treats . Founder, head chef and Muay Thai fighter Watt Sriboonruang makes everything raw, vegan and gluten-free . Public transit While a Pew Research Center survey found that about 88 percent of Americans own cars, only about 22 percent of Manhattan households are auto owners. This is good news for tourists, as it means lots of public transportation. Trains serve all three of NYC’s airports , connecting to buses and the subway system to get you wherever you want to go. That said, NY public transit can be overwhelming, and New Yorkers tend to move fast. If you’re unfamiliar with public transit, New Yorker Minh Nguyen kindly put together this website for newbies. Commuter rail lines serve outlying areas. You can also ferry around town. NYC Ferry operates six routes spanning more than 60 nautical miles of waterways, and service is still growing. You can even charge your phone and get a snack while cruising. CitiBike offers a bike share program if you’re planning on short rides. Or hire a pedicab and take a rest while somebody else does the work . Eco-hotels The Benjamin Hotel was one of New York’s first hotel to focus on both sustainability and luxury, partnering with students from the New York Institute of Technology to help them revamp and earn a Green Key Eco-Rating. The hotel’s wellness offerings include the Rest & Renew program that helps guests improve their sleep . The Element New York Times Square West incorporated recycled material into its furnishings, such as carpets made from recycled plastic bottles. This Marriott hotel features loaner bikes for guests and a free breakfast bar with fresh fruit. For budget travelers who value a hotel’s gym over in-room amenities, consider staying at one of NYC’s YMCAs . Your room will resemble a monk’s cell, but you’ll wake up in a huge gym with spin class, weights and a pool. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat and New York Botanical Garden

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Your eco-friendly travel guide for New York City

5 growing environmental nonprofits to support in 2020

January 8, 2020 by  
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With the new year already upon us, the need for efficient organizations battling the climate emergency is only growing. According to the Council of Nonprofits , 92% of public charities have an annual revenue of less than 1 million dollars. This year, consider donating to and volunteering with nonprofit organizations and charities that are transparent about how they use their funds and their time. Here are five fledgling nonprofits you may not have heard of yet, but that are already inspiring movements, pushing for legislation and combating climate change . The Foundation for Climate Restoration Probably best-known for its work with the United Nations Office for Partnerships and Earth Day Network, The Foundation for Climate Restoration (F4CR) is a nonprofit with a mission to restore the climate by 2050. The organization hopes to achieve its mission through initiatives that unite the public, policy-makers and businesses behind a common goal of reversing global warming. F4CR spotlights solutions that reduce carbon dioxide from the earth’s atmosphere, restore ocean ecosystems and rebuild declining Arctic ice . According to the nonprofit, F4CR has already researched and supported solutions and technologies that, once at scale through funding and legislation, have the capacity to remove 1 trillion tons of excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. To get involved, use this link to join the movement and receive updates about important working group moments, policy actions and meetings. Take the Climate Restoration Pledge and make a donation (one-time or monthly). Future Coalition Founded in June 2018, Future Coalition is the youth-led movement that mobilized 1 million people worldwide — led by the organization’s executive director, 20-year-old Katie Eder — to strike on September 20, 2019. The nonprofit is a national network and community organized for the younger generations who refuse to sit by while the future of the planet is in jeopardy. Future Coalition provides young people with the resources and support they need to make a difference in the battle against climate change. Related: Can’t make the climate strikes? Here are a few tips on how students can live sustainably On September 17, 2019, with support from the United Nations Office for Partnerships, F4CR, Earth Day Network and Future Coalition hosted the first Global Climate Restoration Forum at the UN Headquarters. “Young people understand that the climate crisis will require real leadership, as well as bold and innovative solutions,” Eder said. “We will not accept action that inadequately addresses the very real and existential crisis we’re facing. We need governments around the world to enact ambitious climate plans, and we need them to do it now.” Sign up for the Future Accelerator , which matches young people or youth-led organizations in need of pro bono campaign or support services with adult allies willing to contribute time and expertise to empower youth activists. Join the Future Coalition community Slack channel to share ideas and organize gatherings, or donate to the cause. Sunrise Movement Founded in April 2017, Sunrise Movement is focused on stopping climate change while creating jobs in the process. Coordinated by Sunrise, a political action nonprofit advocating political action on climate change, the youth-led movement is particularly focused on the Green New Deal. To show your support, you can host a 2020 launch party , search for a local hub in your neighborhood (if there isn’t one, start a chapter of your own) or donate . 5 Gyres 5 Gyres was founded by a couple who met on a sailing expedition to research pollution in the North Pacific Gyre. The organization’s goal is to empower action against the global epidemic of plastic pollution through science, education and action. 5 Gyres is a member of the Break Free From Plastic movement, and in 2017, it received special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Apply to become an ambassador to represent 5 Gyres at events and to promote and raise awareness of plastic pollution. Those interested can also donate or download the Trash Blitz app to track pollution in your area. Extinction Rebellion This global environmental movement founded in October 2018 is based in the U.K. but has recently expanded to the U.S. as well. Extinction Rebellion uses nonviolent civil disobedience to catalyze government action to avoid climate system collapse and loss of biodiversity . It has been organizing nonviolent protests against the government for inaction on the climate crisis since its founding, including the recent global climate hunger strikes in November 2019. Related: In a world first, the UK declares a climate emergency “We see that people are waking up and looking for ways to get involved and ways to create change,” said John Spies, a member of Extinction Rebellion NYC. “Extinction Rebellion provides that; people can join and take action. Extinction Rebellion’s mission, demands and means of creating change by using nonviolent direct action protesting is a proven way to create real change outside of the normal routes, such as voting.” Extinction Rebellion has groups all over the world, so check this map to find a local chapter near you. You can also donate legal fees to support members who’ve been arrested for peaceful protests or just general funds for training, actions and raising awareness. To get involved in the U.K., click here . To get involved in the U.S., click here . Images via Brian Yurasits , Foundation for Climate Restoration, Gabriel Civita Ramirez and Extinction Rebellion

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5 growing environmental nonprofits to support in 2020

5 growing environmental nonprofits to support in 2020

January 8, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Comments Off on 5 growing environmental nonprofits to support in 2020

With the new year already upon us, the need for efficient organizations battling the climate emergency is only growing. According to the Council of Nonprofits , 92% of public charities have an annual revenue of less than 1 million dollars. This year, consider donating to and volunteering with nonprofit organizations and charities that are transparent about how they use their funds and their time. Here are five fledgling nonprofits you may not have heard of yet, but that are already inspiring movements, pushing for legislation and combating climate change . The Foundation for Climate Restoration Probably best-known for its work with the United Nations Office for Partnerships and Earth Day Network, The Foundation for Climate Restoration (F4CR) is a nonprofit with a mission to restore the climate by 2050. The organization hopes to achieve its mission through initiatives that unite the public, policy-makers and businesses behind a common goal of reversing global warming. F4CR spotlights solutions that reduce carbon dioxide from the earth’s atmosphere, restore ocean ecosystems and rebuild declining Arctic ice . According to the nonprofit, F4CR has already researched and supported solutions and technologies that, once at scale through funding and legislation, have the capacity to remove 1 trillion tons of excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. To get involved, use this link to join the movement and receive updates about important working group moments, policy actions and meetings. Take the Climate Restoration Pledge and make a donation (one-time or monthly). Future Coalition Founded in June 2018, Future Coalition is the youth-led movement that mobilized 1 million people worldwide — led by the organization’s executive director, 20-year-old Katie Eder — to strike on September 20, 2019. The nonprofit is a national network and community organized for the younger generations who refuse to sit by while the future of the planet is in jeopardy. Future Coalition provides young people with the resources and support they need to make a difference in the battle against climate change. Related: Can’t make the climate strikes? Here are a few tips on how students can live sustainably On September 17, 2019, with support from the United Nations Office for Partnerships, F4CR, Earth Day Network and Future Coalition hosted the first Global Climate Restoration Forum at the UN Headquarters. “Young people understand that the climate crisis will require real leadership, as well as bold and innovative solutions,” Eder said. “We will not accept action that inadequately addresses the very real and existential crisis we’re facing. We need governments around the world to enact ambitious climate plans, and we need them to do it now.” Sign up for the Future Accelerator , which matches young people or youth-led organizations in need of pro bono campaign or support services with adult allies willing to contribute time and expertise to empower youth activists. Join the Future Coalition community Slack channel to share ideas and organize gatherings, or donate to the cause. Sunrise Movement Founded in April 2017, Sunrise Movement is focused on stopping climate change while creating jobs in the process. Coordinated by Sunrise, a political action nonprofit advocating political action on climate change, the youth-led movement is particularly focused on the Green New Deal. To show your support, you can host a 2020 launch party , search for a local hub in your neighborhood (if there isn’t one, start a chapter of your own) or donate . 5 Gyres 5 Gyres was founded by a couple who met on a sailing expedition to research pollution in the North Pacific Gyre. The organization’s goal is to empower action against the global epidemic of plastic pollution through science, education and action. 5 Gyres is a member of the Break Free From Plastic movement, and in 2017, it received special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Apply to become an ambassador to represent 5 Gyres at events and to promote and raise awareness of plastic pollution. Those interested can also donate or download the Trash Blitz app to track pollution in your area. Extinction Rebellion This global environmental movement founded in October 2018 is based in the U.K. but has recently expanded to the U.S. as well. Extinction Rebellion uses nonviolent civil disobedience to catalyze government action to avoid climate system collapse and loss of biodiversity . It has been organizing nonviolent protests against the government for inaction on the climate crisis since its founding, including the recent global climate hunger strikes in November 2019. Related: In a world first, the UK declares a climate emergency “We see that people are waking up and looking for ways to get involved and ways to create change,” said John Spies, a member of Extinction Rebellion NYC. “Extinction Rebellion provides that; people can join and take action. Extinction Rebellion’s mission, demands and means of creating change by using nonviolent direct action protesting is a proven way to create real change outside of the normal routes, such as voting.” Extinction Rebellion has groups all over the world, so check this map to find a local chapter near you. You can also donate legal fees to support members who’ve been arrested for peaceful protests or just general funds for training, actions and raising awareness. To get involved in the U.K., click here . To get involved in the U.S., click here . Images via Brian Yurasits , Foundation for Climate Restoration, Gabriel Civita Ramirez and Extinction Rebellion

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5 growing environmental nonprofits to support in 2020

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