Episode 65: Kashi grows ‘transitional’ wheat; circularity takes off in cities

February 24, 2017 by  
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In this week’s episode: How Phoenix is kicking its reputation as “the world’s least sustainable city,” and thinking big and small when it comes to corporate projects in cities.

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Episode 65: Kashi grows ‘transitional’ wheat; circularity takes off in cities

Incredible sea creature sculptures are made from dangerously sharp colored pencils

February 8, 2017 by  
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It’s always fascinating to see common objects, like pencils, used in unexpected and amazing ways— Jennifer Maestre’s art is one such example. The Massachusetts-based artist creates alien-like sea creature sculptures made from hundreds of colored pencils . Though her vibrantly colorful pieces are beautiful and attractive, many of the pencils are sharpened into dangerous needle-like points to mimic defense mechanisms found in nature. In her artist’s statement, Maestre credits the original inspiration for her art to the form and function of sea urchins . She said she was drawn to the urchin’s beautiful yet dangerous spines, as well as that tension we feel between the desire to touch and the repulsion to pain. The artist captures this feeling of push and pull in her handmade pencil sculptures that combine smooth and sharp surfaces, from the flat pencil ends and overlapped shavings to the sharpened points. Related: Federico Uribe Creates Incredible Sculptures From Thousands of Colored Pencil Tips “Paradox and surprise are integral in my choice of materials,” writes Maestre. “Quantities of industrially manufactured objects are used to create flexible forms reminiscent of the organic shapes of animals and nature . Pencils are common objects, here, these anonymous objects become the structure. There is true a fragility to the sometimes brutal aspect of the sculptures, vulnerability that is belied by the fearsome texture.” The sculptures are made from pencils cut into one-inch sections that she then drills to turn into beads. The pencils are sharpened and sewn together, often with a peyote stitch technique. + Jennifer Maestre

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Incredible sea creature sculptures are made from dangerously sharp colored pencils

South Pacific islands introduce ban on western junk food

February 3, 2017 by  
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South Pacific islands are banning western junk food in favor of a more nutritious diet. As the islands can grow organic, local food themselves, leaders in Torba, a Vanuatu province, said they want to ban imported foreign food. Their goal is to be the first organic province in Vanuatu by 2020. Torba is Vanuatu’s most isolated province, according to community leader Father Luc Dini. Around 10,000 people reside in the province; most are subsistence farmers. But Dini said the remote islands are experiencing an intrusion of foreign junk food, the most popular of which have been sweets, biscuits, tinned fish, and rice. In contrast, the islands can yield pineapple, yams, paw paw, shellfish, crabs, and other fish for what Dini sees as a healthier diet. He told The Guardian, “It is easy to boil noodles or rice, but they have almost no nutritional value and there is no need to eat imported food when we have so much local food grown organically on our islands.” Related: Michael Moss Investigates How Junk Food is Engineered to Be Addictive Dini also leads the local tourism council, and starting this week, with the support of other local chiefs, he has ordered tourism bungalows to serve only local, organic food. He aims to introduce legislation in the next two years to wholly ban imports of foreign food. Vanuatu’s central government, in Port Vila, has been supportive, according to Dini. “In other provinces that have adopted western diets you see pretty young girls but when they smile they have rotten teeth, because the sugar has broken down their teeth. We don’t want that to happen here and we don’t want to develop the illnesses that come with a western junk food diet,” he told The Guardian. “If you really want to live on a paradise of your own, then you should make do with what you have and try and live with nature .” Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons and Harsha K R on Flickr

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South Pacific islands introduce ban on western junk food

Solar-power system could provide clean drinking water in rural India for the first time

February 2, 2017 by  
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A solar-powered purification system could slake the thirsts of rural India with clean drinking water for the first time. This would be no ordinary feat. Tens of millions of people in India lack access to potable water, and roughly 600,000 Indian children die every year from water- and sanitation-related diseases like diarrhea or pneumonia, according to UNICEF . In the country’s most far-flung regions, where 70 percent of India’s population lives, toxic bacteria routinely fouls at least half of the water supply . But while the Indian government has focused its efforts on treating surface water in rivers and streams, researchers from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland want to attack the source of contamination: sewage. They’ve developed a system that uses sunlight to induce high-energy particles within a photocatalytic material, which uses light to generate a chemical reaction. These, in turn, activate molecules of oxygen, mobilizing them to destroy bacteria and other organic matter. Because the materials require no power source, an off-grid system requires little more than attaching the photocatalyst to containers of contaminated water and angling them toward the sun until they’re safe to drink. If necessary, the system could be used in tandem with a filter to catch larger particles. Related: 6 Innovative, Life-Saving Designs for Clean Drinking Water The researchers are now working with the Indian Institute of Science Education & Research to scale up the technologies they honed during a five-month pilot project. “Working closely with our Indian partners, we aim to harness the sun’s energy to tackle a huge problem that affects many people around the world,” Neil Robertson, a professor from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Chemistry, said in a statement. + University of Edinburgh Via FastCo.Exist Photo by Jake Givens

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Solar-power system could provide clean drinking water in rural India for the first time

Iceland building biodome community to be fully sustainable oasis

February 2, 2017 by  
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Iceland’s weather extremes poses unique challenges for residents and travelers – but the country’s capital Reykjavik is planning a series of new eco biodomes that will welcome Icelanders with warmth and style. Designed by Spor i Sandinn , Aldin is a fully sustainable biodome community powered by geothermal energy. Located in the Elliðaárdalur Valley of Reykjavik, the biodome community will feature a central plaza surrounded by ample public spaces for social functions and public activities – as well as a marketplace and various cafes. Inside the biodome, the interior temp will be kept at a balmy 25°C – an optimal temperature for tropical plantings and a working urban farm . Related: Stunning geodesic domes from Romania can handle earthquakes up to 8.5 on the Richter scale According to Hjördís Sigurðardóttir, the founder and CEO of Spor i Sandinn , the project will show the world a new side of Icelandic agriculture: ” This glazed landmark Biodome will seek to reconnect people to nature in new and exciting ways, combining the experience of tropical temperatures, with a farmers’ market and an agricultural laboratory. Aldin will be a hub for minds and thoughts, a space for a healthy community to meet, shop, relax and socialize, as well as an authentic attraction for tourists.” Aldin will rent out spaces to green-minded tenants such as farm-to-table restaurants, green product retail stores, and health-related businesses. Sigurðardóttir contends that the biodome project could also serve as an example of how to create and build new and meaningful infrastructure, “The Biodome represents this. It is a statement of change, highlighting the benefits of another way of thinking and of energy-efficient buildings.” The Aldin project is currently waiting for approval, but it’s expected to open late 2018 or early 2019. + Spor i Sandinn

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Iceland building biodome community to be fully sustainable oasis

8 natural immunity boosters to get you through cold and flu season

February 2, 2017 by  
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Even if you get your flu shot , wash your hands religiously, and try to steer clear of people at home or in the office who are hacking and sneezing, fighting against all the germs and illnesses that seem to proliferate in winter is an uphill battle. While we can’t promise these seven natural immunity boosters will keep you from needing to take a single sick day this winter, incorporating them into your life may improve your chances of a less severe sickness, a quicker recovery time, and even avoiding “catching” a bug in the first place. Some of them (such as getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating foods rich in vitamins and minerals) are pretty obviously the basic building blocks of a healthy lifestyle, but its always good to have a little reminder how to stay healhty. Hit the jump to find out how to boost your immune system nature’s way. Image © flickr user planetchopstick 1. Rest up and get some sleep We all know this one, but its easier said than done, right? Instead of fighting long nights with blue screens, Netflix binges, and snacks, try to make an early (or earlier) bedtime a priority. Sleeping does more than feel good: it gives your body a chance to repair itself on a cellular level. Numerous studies have shown that being sleep-deprived makes you more likely to get colds; long-term sleep deprivation may be linked with more serious illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. Many of us are pretty exhausted , but if going to sleep is challenging, experiment with a few of the following suggestions: Dim the lights and turn off electronic devices about an hour before bed. Give yourself time to digest before heading to Snoozetown. Falling asleep on a full stomach can be difficult so try to make your last meal or snack a few hours before bedtime. Smell your way to sleep. Dab a bit of lavender essential oil on your pressure points (including wrists and behind the ears) to help your mind relax. 2. Whip up some Golden Milk Golden Milk , a creamy turmeric-spiked drink that has recently been added to menus on coffee and tea shops in the United States, has its origins in Ayurveda. Turmeric ’s active ingredient is curcumin, which has been touted as being anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-fungal. You’ll love this drink as a warm and soothing alternative to coffee or tea any time of the day, but we especially adore it when winding down at night. Choose your favorite non-dairy milk as the base; try cashew, which has sleep-inducing and regulating tryptophan. Another healthy turmeric-tinged drink: make a “tea” by mixing lemon juice, slices of ginger, turmeric, and a little liquid sweetener (such as honey) with warm water. Image via Pixabay 3. Eat a vegetable rainbow Incorporating a wide array of veggies and veggie colors is recommended for most healthful and nourishing diets, but it’s especially important for boosting immunity. Vitamins such as C and A have been studied for their ability to fight off illness, so add plenty of dark leafy greens, citrus fruits, and carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes . Actually eating your vitamins in whole veggie form is preferable to supplementing with often unregulated pills and capsules. Selenium, a mineral found in garlic, broccoli, and brazil nuts , also has been touted as an immune system booster. Image © Pixabay 4. Find some magical mushrooms The fungus kingdom is notoriously defensive against bacteria and viruses – after all, it was funguses (specifically the Penicillium mold) which lead to the development of modern day antibiotics. Many funguses produce chemicals that kill viruses and bacteria. Some funguses are believe to have anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties as well. Mushrooms, especially Asian varieties such as shiitake, enoki, and maitake , contain natural anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties including the immune-boosting chemical beta-glucan . Plus, they’re delicious can be added to virtually any meal — breakfast, lunch or dinner. Always make sure you fully cook mushrooms for optimal nutrition and so that you can digest them properly! Image © Aris Setya via Shutterstock 5. Feed your gut flora Speaking of funguses, having a healthy ecosystem of good gut bacteria and fungi is critical for immune health. Did you know that 70-80% of your immune tissue is located in your digestive tract? Traditional foods from a variety of cultures are plentiful sources of probiotics (aka beneficial bacteria) that can feed your gut flora. Cultured yogurts and kefirs, tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha , and more provide diverse belly flora, which may help lower levels of inflammation in your gut and boost your immune system. Probiotics are often found in fermented foods; the fermenting process promotes the growth of millions of microorganisms that help break down food. In addition to potentially helping to ward off some illnesses before they attack, probiotics are also used to help replenish the gut microbiome after a course of antibiotics. 6. Sip hot soup A version of Grandma’s healing chicken soup can be found in almost any family lineage, and doctors have figured out that the power of this soup is more than just the nostalgia factor. Soups can deliver easily digestible and nourishing nutrients and keep you hydrated. When you have a cold or sore throat, the steam and humidity of soup can help clear clogged nasal passages as well. Vegetarians and vegans can make up their own version of no-chicken soup or whip up a quick and healthful miso soup instead. 7. Get your blood flowing Exercise and immune function have a slightly contentious relationship: exercising too strenuously has actually been linked with a suppressed immune function, but the benefits of moderate exercise outweigh the potential negatives so don’t throw in the (gym) towel: exercising moderately through brisk walks, cycling, pilates, yoga , dance class, or lifting at the gym can give you an immunity boost. Moving, however it suits you, gets blood circulating, may help flush out bacteria and viruses, lowers stress levels, and helps you sleep better. If you exercise outdoors you can also get the benefit of fresh air and soak in a little Vitamin D from the sun, another key element to a healthy immune system. 8. Get some sunshine Vitamin D is produced naturally in your body when your skin is exposed to UV radiation from the sun. Vitamin D acts more like a hormone than a vitamin, and is thought to play a role in regulating the immune system. It is found in relatively few food products, but it can be found in fortified milk products and mushrooms. Many people have low levels of Vitamin D, so its always helpful to get outside for a 30 minute walk in the sunshine to boost your immune system. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, it is hard in the winter to get enough Vitamin D from the sun alone, so it’s a good idea to drink a Vitamin-D fortified beverage or take a supplement (and/or eat lots of mushrooms!). Image via Shutterstock 8. Herbs and supplements While most of our recommendations can be found in whole foods or through making healthy lifestyle choices, a few potentially powerful immune boosters are best when taken in supplement form, whether as tinctures, capsules, or even as part of a tea. Taking vitamin C and zinc capsules regularly or at the first sign of a cold can work wonders for the immune system. Some herbal remedies have found their way into the mainstream market, including echinacea, astragalus, ginseng, elderberry and reishi mushrooms and can be purchased separately. Visiting a professional, such as a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner who has knowledge of and expertise in prescribing an array of herbs and medicinal roots, may be your best bet for getting the appropriate dosage and most effective combo. While you are there, consider having an acupuncture treatment, which has also been associated with boosting immune function. Lead image via Shutterstock

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8 natural immunity boosters to get you through cold and flu season

5-Step Guide to Treecycling

December 29, 2016 by  
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With treecycling information for more than 85 percent of the U.S. population, Earth911 boasts the most comprehensive Treecycling Directory in the country. Considering the U.S. EPA estimates 20 percent of our municipal solid waste is already…

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5-Step Guide to Treecycling

What can small farms learn from ‘the Toyota Way?’

December 5, 2016 by  
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Some farmers are using lean manufacturing to streamline operations and focus on customers’ needs.

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Farm to cafeteria table: The new local food frontier

October 13, 2016 by  
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Institutions embrace their growing potential to rebuild local economies and deliver healthful food.

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Man leaves rat race to grow dream permaculture farm – and it’s flourishing after 3 years

July 18, 2016 by  
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Andrew Martin left the fast-paced business world in order to live a more simple and sustainable life in balance with nature. He and his wife Beth bought five acres in Bay of Plenty, a region on the northern coast of New Zealand’s North Island, and began growing a permaculture farm. In just three years it has turned into a lush oasis featuring a vegetable garden, fruit trees, a pond and wildlife habitats. His story was recently featured as the first segment of the Living the Change documentary film series by Happen Films. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=914&v=3jh1481J6qw The path to permaculture for Martin began in 2007 after watching the documentary ” A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash ,” about peak oil and resource depletion. His interest in sustainability continued to rise as he conducted more research into energy and environmental issues and kept seeing permaculture as a holistic solution to modern society’s fragmented and environmentally destructive approach to living. Related: Seattle embraces urban farming at ten acre Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands Andrew and Beth’s neighbors say they can’t believe the amount of wildlife and birdlife that the permaculture project attracts, which Martin attributes to letting ecosystems flourish on their own rather than trying to control nature. Martin’s advice is to start growing food. “Once you engage with growing and experiencing nature, then things start to happen. It’s like a flower. It starts growing, getting bigger. And then that leads to something else,” says Martin. They sustain themselves from the hundreds of fruit trees they’ve planted, the garden they tend to with kale, spinach, zucchini and more, eggs from the chicken yard, grapes from the vine and other organic edibles from the farm. Says Martin: “This lifestyle of working on the land and doing permaculture feels more rewarding. With a lot of current society it’s take, take, take. With this sort of lifestyle I feel like this is long term. I’m putting something back.” Via Treehugger Images via Over Grow the System

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