12 sustainable gifts to give Dad for Father’s Day

June 15, 2020 by  
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Father’s Day is just around the corner, so as you celebrate graduations, June birthdays and virtual weddings, keep an eye out for the perfect gift for Dad. While his favorite treat is always welcome, finding something more personal can be a challenge. We’ve come up with some ideas that not only express your love and gratitude for your father, but for the planet, too. Tools If your dad spends his spare time woodworking or tinkering on cars, there are many new gadgets on the market he would like to experiment with. He might also want to upgrade older tools. While shopping, avoid tools made with plastic and look for high-quality wood or stainless steel options that will last a lifetime. Many brands even include a lifetime warranty with your purchase. This will keep low-quality tools out of the landfill and keep Dad from having to shop for wrenches or hammers ever again.  Related: 15 essential woodworking tools Travel mugs and bottles Whether your dad must have his morning cup of Joe or always carries a water bottle with him, provide him with a long-lasting stainless steel option that will keep him from needing single-serve water bottles or to-go coffee cups. Watches Watches are a timeless gift. But, when choosing a design, seek out an eco-friendly model. Many watch manufacturers are now offering sustainable wood designs, like WeWOOD . Also check out the Veldt LUXTURE AARDE watch with a built-in Climate Action Reminder. Wallet By the time a good wallet gets broken in, it starts to break down and needs replaced, so Dad might appreciate something a little different. This year, go for a vegan leather wallet. Some unique options include these apple waste and wood leather wallets , or these wallets made from recycled banana trees . Plants Whether dad is the clear winner in the green thumb category or simply could use some bamboo luck in his office, both indoor and outdoor plants are great options this Father’s Day. Perhaps select a succulent or cactus, or if Dad is into novel gifts, pick up a Venus flytrap, tropical pitcher plants or sundews. Beer-making kit If your father enjoys a good brew at the end of the day, he may also enjoy making his own beer . Complete kits run around $200 and include all of the tools he’ll need, from a glass carboy to the instruction book. He can then add hops and yeast to perfect a recipe of his choice. Hobby class What does your dad love to do in his spare time? Has he shown an interest in gardening, pottery, knife-making, welding, golf, photography, playing guitar or learning another language? Whatever the hobby, get him a certificate for a local or online class to boost his learning on the topic. You could even take the class with him for a special, shared experience. Time outdoors Sometimes all Dad wants is to spend time with you, so set a date for some outdoor fun. Hike somewhere he’s never been, plan a camping trip or go fishing. Meet up for a road or mountain bike ride. Go for a round of golf or introduce him to disc golf at a nearby park. Whatever activity you choose, make sure to get a picture to memorialize the event. Backyard games If your father is the perpetual entertainer with the grill always ready for action, add some backyard games to the mix. Find or make a solid wood cornhole game for hours of family fun that won’t damage the planet. Horseshoes is another classic that requires little more than two metal poles and four metal horseshoes. Gardening supplies Whether he’s just recently shown an interest or taught you all you know about gardening while growing up, your dad might appreciate some new gardening supplies to add to his tool shed. If space is tight, get him one of the many new indoor gardening systems where he can grow veggies in the kitchen. For the outdoor gardener, invest in quality and sustainable gloves, organic skin protection and seeds. For yard decor, get solar path lights, a bird bath, bird feeder, bat house, butterfly house, bird house or beehive .  Park pass For the dad who enjoys spending time in nature, make sure he has the access he needs with a park pass. Most passes expire annually, so it could even be a tradition in the making to buy Dad an access pass. For the road-tripper, a national park pass will provide access to parks and monuments across the country.  Check out pass options here . Solar products The sun is a powerful tool for providing energy. Mount a solar panel to the RV or van for continual power on the road. On a smaller scale, get Dad a solar-powered lantern for nights under the stars. For cooking, invest in a solar oven and leave the propane and charcoal at home. Images via Aleksandra , Deborah Breen Whiting , Nicolas J. Leclercq , Gyae Min and Akiragiulia

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12 sustainable gifts to give Dad for Father’s Day

Why are toothbrushes so hard to recycle?

May 28, 2020 by  
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Even the remotest islands have no lack of used toothbrushes. Researchers studying  Cocos Keeling Islands  — 6 square miles of uninhabited land 1,300 miles off  Australia’s  northwest coast — found 373,000 toothbrushes among the mountains of plastic debris. Reading studies like this makes almost any thinking person wonder why we can’t recycle toothbrushes. Toothbrushes pose a problem, as no matter how much we care about the planet, most of us aren’t going to sacrifice our dental hygiene. So why is it so hard to recycle toothbrushes? Dental professionals and the American Dental Association recommend getting a new toothbrush every three to four months, or when the bristles fray. This means the average American — or at least one that follows dental advice — goes through three to four toothbrushes per year. Even if each American used only two toothbrushes annually, that’s roughly 660 million toothbrushes headed for the  landfill . Why? “Regular toothbrushes are hard to recycle because they are made from many components, including plastics derived from crude  oil , rubber and a mix of plastic and other agents,” explained Dr. Nammy Patel , DDS and author of  Age With Style: Your Guide To A Youthful Smile & Healthy Living.  “It takes the plastic toothbrush over 400 years to decompose.” Usually, the plastic handle would be the most desirable part for recycling. Nobody wants those grotty nylon bristles that spent the last several months poking between your teeth. And it takes a lot of effort to separate the bristles and the metal that keeps them in place from the  plastic handle. The  Colgate Oral Care Recycling Project  is one rare effort to recycle used dental gear. The project accepts toothpaste tubes and caps, toothbrushes, toothpaste cartons, toothbrush outer  packaging  and floss containers. Reusing your old toothbrushes Instead of recycling your toothbrush, it’s easier to find ways to reuse it. Patel suggests using your old toothbrush for coloring hair, cleaning car parts, or anything that can be accessed by the small bristles. “It can be used for cleaning mud under shoes,” she suggested. Toothbrushes are the best tools for cleaning grout on your kitchen counter or between your bathroom tiles. Just add baking soda or bleach. You can also use a dry or just slightly damp toothbrush to clean the sides of your computer  keys. It’s amazingly gross, the stuff that accumulates in a keyboard. Other places to use those tiny bristles to your advantage include cleaning grunge out of your hairbrush, scrubbing around faucets and reviving Velcro by removing the lint. Old toothbrushes even have  artistic  uses. Painters can use them for splattering paint on a canvas, or for adding texture. In another artistic application, toothbrushes are great for scrubbing crayon marks off walls. Sustainable alternatives Of course, the best way to avoid disposing of a non-recyclable item is by not buying it in the first place. “Toothbrushes made from more sustainable products are great,” said Patel. “They offer the same or better clean and are better for the environment.” Bamboo  is the most popular alternative toothbrush handle material. However, most still have nylon bristles. Some companies use compostable pig hair bristles, but this won’t be a happy solution for vegetarians. Still, the handle is the biggest part of the toothbrush, so using a bamboo toothbrush with nylon bristles is still a step in the right direction. Some companies even offer replaceable heads so you can use the same bamboo handle for years. If style is of paramount importance, check out  Bootrybe’s  pretty laser-engraved designs. You could also opt for a toothbrush that’s already been recycled. Since 2007,  Preserve  has recycled more than 80 million yogurt cups into toothbrushes. They partner with Whole Foods to get people to recycle #5 plastics, which is one of the safer yet least recycled types of plastic . And when your Preserve toothbrush gets old, you can mail it back to the company for recycling. Or ditch the plastic and go electric. “Electric toothbrushes are a better alternative than regular toothbrushes,” said Patel. “They give a great clean and they minimize the amount of waste.” She recommends eco-friendly brands like Foreo Issa and Georganics. “There are some brands like Boka brush which have activated  charcoal in its bristles to help reduce bacteria growth. Many companies also have a recycling program where you can send your toothbrush head and they will recycle it for you.” Better yet, she said, get the electric rechargeable brushes so there is no battery waste. “If you have to purchase a battery-operated one, make sure to use rechargeable batteries to decrease waste.” Some people like to further reduce waste by making their own toothpaste and mouthwash. While homemade toothpaste lacks the cavity-fighting power of fluoride, you might want to occasionally use homemade products to decrease packaging waste and save money, or just to tide you over until your next trip to the store. For a very simple and inexpensive paste, combine one teaspoon of baking soda with a little  water . + Dr. Nammy Patel Via Toothbrush Life Images via Teresa Bergen

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Why are toothbrushes so hard to recycle?

UK residents enjoying record low emissions

May 28, 2020 by  
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By now, almost everybody has heard about record low CO2 emissions brought on by  coronavirus  lockdowns. But new data shows not only that the U.K.’s emissions are the lowest they’ve been since the 1920s, but there’s reason to hope they might not shoot back up to pre-pandemic rates as soon as life returns to quasi-normal. A recent paper published in the scientific journal  Nature Climate Change examined six sectors known for their climate change contributions: electricity  and heat; surface transport; industry; home use; aviation; and public buildings and commerce. They found that surface transport was notably down, partially accounting for why the U.K. cut emissions by 31% during lockdown, compared to a global average of 17%.  “A lot of emissions in the UK come from surface transport – around 30% on average of the country’s total  emissions ,” said Professor Corinne Le Quéré, the paper’s lead author. “It makes up a bigger contribution to total emissions than the average worldwide.” Since the U.K. reached full lockdown, Quéré said, people were forced to stay home and not to drive to work. Mike Childs, Friends of the Earth’s head of policy, reminds us that our problems are far from over. “A 31% emissions drop in April is dramatic, but in the long run it won’t mean anything unless some reductions are made permanent,” Childs told HuffPost UK. “This lockdown moment is a chance to reset our carbon-guzzling economy and rebuild in a way that leaves pollution in the past, to stop climate-wrecking emissions spiking right back up to where they were before, or even higher.” Fortunately, British drivers appreciate the cleaner air and plan to permanently alter their driving style, according to a survey. In the Automobile Association’s poll of 20,000 motorists, half plan to walk more post- pandemic , and 40% aim to drive less. Twenty-five percent of respondents said they planned to work from home more, 25% intend to fly less and 20% to cycle more. The U.K. government plans to spend £250 million on improved infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. “We have all enjoyed the benefits of cleaner air during lockdown and it is gratifying that the vast majority of drivers want to do their bit to maintain the cleaner air,” said Edmund King, Automobile Association president. “ Walking  and cycling more, coupled with less driving and more working from home, could have a significant effect on both reducing congestion and maintaining cleaner air.” + Nature Climate Change Via HuffPost and BBC

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New map exposes secrets of Antarctica’s green snow

May 28, 2020 by  
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Antarctica’s peculiar green snow is spreading, according to researchers who have created the first large-scale map of microscopic algae growing on the chilly, southernmost continent. As the climate warms, snow algae is becoming a more and more important terrestrial carbon sink. “This is a significant advance in our understanding of land-based life on Antarctica, and how it might change in the coming years as the climate warms,” study leader Matt Davey, faculty member of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences, said. “Snow algae are a key component of the continent’s ability to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.” Related: Antarctica reaches record high temperature The study’s researchers, from University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey, explained the lay of the Antarctic land. “In the limited terrestrial ecosystems of Antarctica , all photosynthetic organisms will make a significant contribution to the ecology of their habitat,” the scientists wrote in their paper, which is published in Nature Communications . With only about 0.18% of Antarctica’s continental area ice-free, there’s very little exposed ground for traditional vegetation. Thus, evolution got creative and developed snow algae. Expeditions in the 1950s and 1960s first described the green and red patches on and below the snow surface. Since then, researchers have learned that Antarctica’s diverse algal species are important for nutrient and carbon cycling. “Considering that a single snow algal bloom can cover hundreds of square meters, snow algae are potentially one of the region’s most significant photosynthetic primary producers, as well as influencing nutrient provision to downstream terrestrial and marine ecosystems ,” the researchers wrote. Researchers combined their own measurements on the ground with satellite images taken between 2017 and 2019 to map the algae. They found that algae grows in “warmer” areas along the Antarctica coastlines and west coast islands, where temperatures in the continent’s summer months rise just a hair over 0 degrees Celsius. Marine birds and mammals also influence the algal distribution, as their excrement is a natural fertilizer. More than 60% of algal blooms were within 5 kilometers of penguin colonies. Lead author Andrew Gray explained, “As Antarctica warms, we predict the overall mass of snow algae will increase, as the spread to higher ground will significantly outweigh the loss of small island patches of algae.” + Nature Communications Via University of Cambridge Images via Gray, A., Krolikowski, M., Fretwell, P. et al. / Nature Communications (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License)

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New map exposes secrets of Antarctica’s green snow

UNStudio to transform Gyeongdo Island into a sustainable tourism destination

May 28, 2020 by  
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UNStudio has unveiled a masterplan to transform South Korea’s Gyeongdo Island into a new, 470,000-square-meter leisure destination that puts the spotlight on nature. The design celebrates the island’s natural beauty by orienting development around carefully framed landscape views — a design approach borrowed from ancient Korean garden design. The high-density development, which ranges from an affordable family resort to private villas, will follow passive solar and bio-design principles to minimize energy use. Commissioned by client YKDevelopment, the redevelopment of Gyeongdo is part of a plan to turn the island into “Asia’s number one marine and coastal tourism destination”. Located in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula, Gyeongdo sits 2 kilometers southeast of the city of Yeosu, the main tourist hub in the Namhae region that is renowned for beautiful, green islands and ocean views. UNStudio’s masterplan aims to highlight the island’s rich biodiversity by creating three developments along the island, each informed by a distinct garden concept with different trees, flowers and other vegetation. Related: UNStudio installs new energy-generating facade for solar producer Hanwha’s HQ Built on either side of a “green backbone” for conservation, the three developments will be nestled within areas of reconstructed forest. The three neighborhoods include the Gyeongdo Gateway at the island’s main entrance; the Sunrise Waterfront on the east side of the island; and Sea Breeze Coast at the island’s southern point. Gyeongdo Gateway will house the main port, a cable car station, marina and bridge, an entertainment center, shopping mall and a waterside boardwalk. The quieter Sunrise Waterfront will serve as the island’s “leisure heart” and will include a four-star hotel and condos. The Sea Breeze Coast neighborhood is located in the most secluded part of the island and will offer a five-star hotel and a series of private villas. All of the buildings will be thoughtfully embedded into the landscape to follow the natural terrain and passive solar principles. Visitors and residents will have access to a seamless public transportation system to easily and sustainably move about the island. + UNStudio Images by Plomp (NL) and Flying Architecture (CZ) via UNStudio

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UNStudio to transform Gyeongdo Island into a sustainable tourism destination

Planning a low-water garden with expert Guy Banner

April 28, 2020 by  
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For those fortunate enough to have some outdoor space, gardening has become a top  pandemic  activity. It gets people outdoors doing something constructive while maintaining social distancing. You might even grow something to eat. But as all eco-conscious people know, gardening requires water. Sometimes a lot of water. For low-water gardening tips, we asked horticulturalist Guy Banner of  Red Butte Garden  in Salt Lake City for some tips. Banner worked as a field botanist for federal agencies like the U.S. Geological Service and the U.S. Forest Service in Oregon before going back home to Utah. He now co-owns  Grand Prismatic Seed , which specializes in hardy organic seeds, and works as the assistant horticulturalist in Red Butte’s Water Conservation Garden. Red Butte is a gorgeous 100-acre botanical garden with display gardens, hiking  trails , walking paths, talks, outdoor concerts, flower shows and lots of educational displays for home gardeners. It’s definitely worth a trip once we can leave our houses again. Inhabitat: Could you tell us a little bit about the history and inspiration behind Red Butte’s Water Conservation Garden? Banner: The  Water Conservation Garden (WCG) had been a long-term goal for the garden as a response to our arid climate and regional projected population growth as well as an opportunity to create a garden space with a different feel and plant palette. Ten years of planning and preparation came before the grand opening in the spring of 2017. The hope was to create a water conservation garden that demonstrated low to no water use through design,  plant selection and gardening techniques without sacrificing high aesthetic value. I believe it has been a success. The WCG hosts plants from similar climates across the globe but there is a special emphasis on housing many examples of the beautiful and well-adapted native flora of the western U.S. Inhabitat: Any tips for people planning a low-water garden at home? Banner: There are many lovely dry shade plants, but the majority of the most colorful and structural low-water plants need full sun and warmth. They are great for sunny south and west facing garden beds.  Rocks , slopes, windbreaks, evergreens and structures can be used to create warmer sheltered spaces for more cold-sensitive plants. Low-water plants tend to need good drainage in the  soil , especially in non-arid climates. You can find out your soil’s drainage by doing a simple DIY soil percolation test, like this one from Tennessee State University Cooperative Extension:  Soil Perc. Test. To improve drainage, plant on a slope, use rock, gravel, sharp sand and coarse organic material to amend heavy clay soils and/or use plants adapted to those conditions. You can also build mounded beds with large rocks, cobble, cinder blocks, etc. inside to give height and good drainage. If you are lucky enough to have a naturally moist and/or cool garden site, ‘low-water’ plants for you can have higher water needs. Draw inspiration from your native upland flora . Those plants will indicate plant types that can thrive in your area without extra water. Newly planted and transplanted plants will have to be watered regularly until their roots can establish. Establishment can take between one and three years, depending on how slow-growing the plant is. Only the most low-water plants can establish with little to no water after initial planting. Rainfall should be considered. Plants that grow from seed or seedlings in your beds will create the best root systems most quickly, because the roots are free to grow to their fullest potential while seeking out the nutrients and moisture in your garden soil. Mulch is a great way to improve soil texture, moderate temperature, reduce weeds and retain moisture. Use well-draining inorganic rock or gravel mulches around very xeric plants that are prone to rot if their stems and crowns are surrounded by excess moisture. The spongy organic material, beneficial bacteria and fungi of healthy living soils help plants to better utilize available water and nutrients. The natural symbiosis of roots with beneficial fungi (mycorrhiza) in upwards of 90% of studied plant families help plant roots access much more of the soil’s water and nutrients than they can on their own. To improve sterile and impoverished soils use healthy compost or beneficial soil life inoculants. Be minimal and cautious with pesticides, toxic materials and repeated heavy tillage. Visit and support your local nurseries, botanical gardens, university extension programs and gardening clubs. They can be excellent resources. Inhabitat: What are the biggest water-related mistakes people make when planting a garden? Banner: One of the biggest mistakes in low-water gardening is to mix plants with high and low water needs in the same irrigation zones. This creates a lot of hand watering or drowned low-water plants. The key is to create ‘hydrozones’ of plants with similar water needs that receive the same irrigation. Another water-related mistake is to not maximize the water that naturally falls on your garden area. Unless you live in a heavy rainfall area, slow, spread and sink the water you receive by integrating passive rainwater harvesting into your landscaping . It can be particularly useful to integrate your rain gutter downspouts, create swales and basins and then hydrozone the plantings based on how much water is retained. Be mindful of rainfall patterns, leaks and potential flooding in your designs. Inhabitat: What have you learned from working at the Water Conservation Garden? Banner: It’s always teaching me new things of course but here are some of the most poignant lessons that I have learned. The amount of water used to establish many of our garden’s low-water plants is more than some of the most xeric or sandy soil adapted plants can handle; they establish better now with the lower water scheduling. The natural slopes of our foothill garden have helped significantly with drainage of our rocky, clay soils. The use of native annuals and summer drought-adapted bulbs in the garden can create a wonderfully lush landscape by taking advantage of natural seasonal moisture. People are very excited and often surprised to see the wide range of possibilities in low water gardening that we display, and it inspires me to continue to make the garden botanically interesting, aesthetic and approachable. Inhabitat: Can you recommend some low-water plants? Banner:  My current favorite low-water plants are Northern Blazing Star (Liatris scariosa var. nieuwlandii), Shasta Sulphur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum var. polyanthum), Long trunked Spanish Dagger (Yucca gloriosa), Palmer’s penstemon (Penstemon palmeri), Smoothstem blazingstar (Mentzelia laevicaulis), Pale stonecrop (Sedum sediforme), Silverleaf Oak (Quercus hypoleucoides), Yellowhorn (Xanthoceras sorbifolium), Texas beargrass (Nolina texana),  Arizona fescue (Festuca arizonica), New Mexico Agave (Agave parryii var. neomexicana), ‘Frazier Park’ Big Berry Manzanita (Arctostaphylos glauca ‘Frazier Park’), Canyon Liveforever (Dudleya cymosa), Saint John’s Chamomile (Anthemis sancti-johannis) Inhabitat: Anything else our readers should know about water conservation and gardening? Banner: There is a lot to explore in finding the best water- conserving garden for your unique situation. While there are many general guidelines and recommendations you will find special opportunities as you dig deeper in your gardening practice (pun intended). Don’t be afraid to experiment and make some mistakes. Have fun with it! For more information on what to plant for your climate zone, check out this EPA site . + Guy Banner, Red Butte Garden Images via Teresa Bergen

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Planning a low-water garden with expert Guy Banner

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

Impossible Foods debuts plant-based pork at CES

January 9, 2020 by  
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Impossible Foods has unveiled its newest meatless product, Impossible Pork. The Silicon Valley-based company continues to break ground since launching the Impossible Burger in 2016 to help minimize the use of animals as a food source. The Impossible Pork debuted at the recent Las Vegas CES 2020 event, renowned as the largest digital technology show worldwide. The Impossible Pork is gluten-free with reduced fat and no cholesterol. Even better for eco-minded consumers is the Impossible Pork’s smaller carbon footprint . According to the Impossible Foods website, “Animal agriculture uses a tremendous amount of the world’s natural resources,” particularly land, water and energy. By comparison, creating a plant-based pork substitute is a more sustainable process. It reduces not only the deforestation associated with animal agriculture but also minimizes carbon emissions and water usage. Related: Impossible Burger is now available in grocery stores Venturing into pork was a natural decision for the company. As CEO Pat Brown explained on an Impossible Pork promotional video, “Beef is popular around the world. But in many cultures, the most popular and familiar and common dishes use pork as the main source of meat. So, for us to have an impact in those markets, pork was a necessity.” Brown elaborated further, “Our mission is to completely replace animals in the food system by 2035, and expanding our impact globally is a critical part of that. Impossible Pork is also an amazingly delicious product that consumers around the world, who love dishes that are traditionally made with pork, will finally be able to serve to their families without the catastrophic environmental impact.” The Impossible Pork aims to reach new consumers, particularly in China, according to the New York Times and Grist . The meatless product is also halal and kosher, meaning it can be enjoyed by many people worldwide. “Pork is delicious and ubiquitous — but problematic for billions of people and the planet at large,” said Laura Kliman , senior flavor scientist at Impossible Foods. “By contrast, everyone will be able to enjoy Impossible Pork, without compromise to deliciousness, ethics or Earth.” On the Impossible Pork’s heels will be the Impossible Sausage’s launch at Burger King in late January. The Impossible Sausage will be featured in the BK Croissan’wich. + Impossible Foods Image via Impossible Foods

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Impossible Foods debuts plant-based pork at CES

The best eco tourism spots in San Diego

January 8, 2020 by  
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With 70 miles of coastline and average high temperatures ranging from 66 degrees in January to 77 in August, San Diego is a city where people like to spend time outside. This city of over 1.42 million between Los Angeles and Mexico has endless beaches, parks and cultural opportunities to explore. Its history combines native Kumeyaay people, Mexicans and European explorers, who first landed in San Diego Bay in 1542. Nowadays it’s home to people from around the world and welcomes nearly 36 million visitors per year. San Diego outdoors San Diego’s mild temperatures and beautiful topography make it ideal for biking, hiking and, of course, water sports. La Jolla Sea Kayak will take you on a tour of this beach town’s seven sea caves, where you might see sea lions, leopard sharks and dolphins. If you prefer a more placid paddle, the SUP Connection at Liberty Station offers a sheltered area to practice your SUP and kayak maneuvers. Some of San Diego’s best views are from Cabrillo National Monument at the end of the Point Loma peninsula. An excellent historic lighthouse welcomes lighthouse lovers, the ocean views stun bicyclists and hikers, and this national park unit has some of the best tide pools in the area. In springtime, the wildflowers are awesome. If you’re visiting San Diego with your canine friend, don’t miss the dog-friendly beaches. Dog Beach is a spacious section of Ocean Beach where dogs can run off-leash 24/7. Most of Fiesta Island in Mission Bay is also open to dogs. The SUP Connection offers SUP Pups — private lessons for if you want help training your dog to join you paddle boarding. If you can tear yourself away from the ocean, Balboa Park is an enduring San Diego attraction for museums, gardens , a miniature railroad, the zoo and just walking around. Much of the park was built for the 1935-36 California-Pacific International Exposition. The botanical building and lily pond are much beloved photographic backdrops. On the park’s eastern edge, the less-trafficked historic cactus garden features succulents and African protea. The Spanish Village Art Center houses 35 working art studios for those who like to shop and meet makers. Some of the area’s best beaches are on Coronado Island. For a varied outing, take the ferry from downtown San Diego to Coronado, rent a bike and explore. Don’t miss the famous Hotel Del Coronado. Built in 1888, the wooden Victorian beach resort provided the setting for many movies, including Marilyn Monroe’s “Some Like it Hot.” The beach in front of the Hotel Del has calm water and family-friendly swimming. San Diego wellness Not only does San Diego have a bazillion yoga studios, but many classes are also held outside. Whether you want to do yin yoga in Ocean Beach or vinyasa at Bird Rock in La Jolla, yogis dot every major beach. Mission Bay Aquatic Center will help you take your practice onto a stand-up paddleboard. Or go a little inland and join a Hatha class beside a koi pond at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park. Just a little bit up the coast in San Diego’s North County, you can visit the Self-Realization Fellowship in Encinitas. Founded by Paramahansa Yogananda, the SRF offers lectures, meditations, kirtans and other events. Or just stroll through the beautiful meditation gardens. Also in North County, the Chopra Center is part of Omni La Costa Resort in Carlsbad. It hosts varied multi-day meditation and wellness retreats from an Ayurvedic medicine perspective. Dining out in San Diego San Diego has a high veg IQ, with plenty of vegetarian and vegan restaurants. For old-school veg food, try Jyoti-Bihanga in Normal Heights. Run by devotees of spiritual master Sri Chinmoy, this vegetarian restaurant has been serving Neatloaf sandwiches and other hearty meals for more than thirty years. For modern fast-casual wraps, bowls, tacos and burgers, try one of Native Foods’ three vegan outlets in San Diego County. In Ocean Beach, Peace Pies has all your raw vegan needs covered, from mango curry wraps to coconut cream pie. Veganic Thai Café in Hillcrest and Plumeria in University Heights and Encinitas allow you to enjoy your pad thai without worries of fish sauce contamination. Heartwork Coffee Bar in Hillcrest offers a case full of delicious vegan croissants, scones and other treats. Public transit Southern California is known for its car-centered ways, but many San Diego neighborhoods are extremely walkable. Since the city is large and spread out, you might need to take a bus, trolley or Uber to get between neighborhoods. San Diego Metropolitan Transit System runs the county’s extensive bus and trolley system. If you’re visiting Tijuana , the easiest way is to take the trolley to the border and walk across. For those with limited time who are firmly on the tourist track, buying a day-pass on the Old Town Trolley will take you directly to San Diego’s most-visited spots. You can hop on and off as much as you like. Guides will clue you in on the city’s history and lore between stops. Amtrak is a good way to get to other southern California cities, such as Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, without braving the hectic highways. For those needing to cross water, ferries run to Coronado Island, or you can call a water taxi. Since San Diego’s airport is downtown, it’s one of the few American cities where you can easily walk to many hotels. A shared-use bike/pedestrian path connects the airport to Liberty Station and Point Loma to the west, and downtown San Diego to the east. Eco hotels Many San Diego hotels are getting greener, but the city has a few real standouts. Hotel Indigo is the city’s only LEED-certified and Platinum Level GreenLeader, featuring rooftop composting and an eco-roof. It’s also central to all kinds of public transit. The Lafayette Hotel , Sheraton Hotel & Marina , Bahia Resort Hotel , and La Jolla’s Estancia Hotel & Spa are Gold Level GreenLeaders. The Bahia’s long list of eco measures includes subsidizing public transit for employees, converting cooking oil to biodiesel , participating in beach cleanups, and composting 100 percent of food waste. The Lafayette combines eco-consciousness with 1940s Hollywood style glamour. One warning: Avoid the many hotels located in the area called Hotel Circle, as you’ll find yourself walled in by unsightly freeways and a total lack of charm. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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The best eco tourism spots in San Diego

Ice rink alternatives and their environmental impact

January 3, 2020 by  
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Ice rinks are an important fixture of winter sports, whether for ice hockey, speed skating, curling, ice dancing or figure skating. But with growing concerns about global warming , water scarcity and our planet’s climate crisis , even the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and the National Hockey League (NHL) have been considering the environmental issues related to coordinating ice sports events and ensuring energy consumption and rink-operating costs are feasible. As a result, there is now a movement towards utilizing synthetic ice on ice rinks. The first historical mention of a skating club’s founding was in 1642 in Edinburgh, Scotland. As skating clubs grew, they inspired inventors to create artificial ice surfaces, so the rink would not be at the whim of the weather. By 1843, a Punch magazine article featured the first artificial ice rink, “not of frozen water but of a slush of chemicals including hog’s lard and melted sulphur, which smelled abominably.” That was followed by the growing popularity of ice hockey from the 1880s onward, which increased the demand for more rink construction. When the 1890s rolled around, the rush to patent ice rink surfaces began and has not abated since. Related: 5 sustainable activities to make the most of a winter wonderland Rinks have long required both ice-making technical equipment and ice maintenance measures. Unfortunately, contemporary ice-making and maintenance technologies consume large amounts of energy and produce refrigerant gases that cause pollution , making them environmentally harmful. During the most recent determination of the NHL’s total carbon footprint , it was estimated to emit 530,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases , an amount rivaling the yearly emissions from 110,000 cars, says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Which refrigerant gases are linked to present-day ice rinks? The main refrigerants associated with most ice-making equipment include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), hydrocarbons, ammonia and carbon dioxide. CFCs and HCFCs are synthetic gases attributed to ozone layer destruction. HFCs heighten the greenhouse effect, while carbon dioxide similarly intensifies global warming. Plus, ammonia, when inhaled, aggressively causes irreversible respiratory damage. And hydrocarbons, like propane and isobutane, are highly combustible, often exacerbating smog formation. Hence, each of these gases adversely affects the environment.  Of course, as ice rink technology advances, many refrigerants are under a phase-out schedule, especially in Canada, due to the Montreal Protocol terms. Additionally, Canadian Consulting Engineer magazine reported: “Since 2010, no new HCFCs equipment have been manufactured in Canada or imported,” though extant ones are still in use today. Even with ammonia and carbon dioxide as the main refrigerants of choice for the majority of today’s ice rinks, they still have their attendant issues as well. For example, whereas ammonia may be a primary refrigerant, it is often utilized concurrently with brine to keep the rinks cold. The brine entails that this secondary fluid is high in salinity, having had salt added to boost its cooling properties. This highly saline secondary fluid, if leaked, can pose serious environmental damage. Meanwhile, despite “some rinks add[ing] ordinary salt to the water to keep them from freezing,” Wondergy documents, “most modern rinks now add ethylene glycol.” Ethylene glycol is a type of antifreeze, and it is highly toxic . Again, its leakage would be harmful to the environment, poisoning living organisms, their habitats and ecosystems . Other negative impacts of ice rinks include greenhouse gas emissions of carbon dioxide. For instance, CO2Meter reported that to shift away from coolants like HFCs and other fluorinated gases, some ice rinks have been using carbon dioxide-based refrigeration systems as their primary refrigerant. Carbon dioxide is a better alternative, though its use still contributes to global warming. Likewise, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has cataloged that other noxious emissions, such as high nitrogen dioxide levels and carbon monoxide, are being released by indoor ice rinks due to ice resurfacers, such as Zamboni rink vehicles. The EPA website states, “In enclosed ice arenas, a primary source of indoor air concerns is the release of combustion pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM) into the indoor air from the exhaust of fuel-fired ice resurfacers.” This assertion is supported by an Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) study , which shares that “nearly 40% of the rinks surveyed worldwide could be exceeding the World Health Organization’s 1-hour exposure guideline value for nitrogen dioxide in indoor air, with higher percentages of rinks exceeding this value in the US (55%) and Canada (46%). High nitrogen dioxide levels have been associated with respiratory problems such as severe coughs, chest pain and pulmonary edema.” Additionally, the same EDF study addresses carbon monoxide risks from ice rinks, citing that “High carbon monoxide levels can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and impaired performance. At the levels of carbon monoxide typically found in indoor rinks, fast breathing from skating or hockey can produce adverse health effects.” The combination of ice-making, ice-maintenance and ice-resurfacing factors pose harmful health consequences for those who frequent ice arenas and rinks. For these reasons, ice arenas and rinks are turning to synthetic ice as an alternative. Xtraice, a company known for building and distributing synthetic ice for rinks, says that synthetic ice’s significant advantages are that it doesn’t use water and thus doesn’t waste energy on ice-making or ice-maintenance. Rather, it eliminates the cost of water and electricity that traditional ice rinks contend with. Besides, a synthetic ice rink can be used 24/7 without having to be re-surfaced in the same way real ice does. Xtraice explains further that synthetic ice rinks “are cleaner and do not require big noisy generators and best of all, they do not emit CO2 into the atmosphere.” What’s the catch? Synthetic ice is mainly composed of high-density polyethylene panels. Polyethylene is the most common plastic on the market. Critics of plastic ice worry about the environmental implications of the microplastics that could be released as skates erode the synthetic ice surface and create shavings and abrasions, which, when brushed or cleaned off of the rink, would likely be dumped in the refuse bin. From there, they could find their way into waterways and oceans , polluting the environment. Accordingly, ice rinks can be viewed as a sustainability conundrum, at least for the time being. Traditional ice rinks have noise, energy waste and pollution costs. And their alternative, the synthetic ice rink, while resolving those issues, still generate other environmental concerns surrounding microplastic and plastic detriments. Only time will tell how the ice rink will evolve to become more eco-friendly. Via Xtraice and New York Times Images via Jimmy Chan , Suzy Hazelwood , Pixabay , and Lina Kivaka

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Ice rink alternatives and their environmental impact

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