Philippine students must plant 10 trees to graduate, new law says

May 31, 2019 by  
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The Philippine Senate passed a new law passed this month requiring all students to plant 10 trees in order to graduate. The program would total about 525 billion trees planted across one generation of students. The “Graduation Legacy for the Environment Act,” championed by Congressman Gary Alejano encourages inter-generational collaboration and responsibility for the future of the environment. The Act encompasses 12 million elementary school graduates, 5 million high school graduates and half a million college graduates every year . Related: English tree planting challenge will help plant 130,000 trees “While we recognize the right of the youth to a balanced and healthy ecology …there is no reason why they cannot be made to contribute in order to ensure that this will be an actual reality,” said Congressman Gary Alejano. Local nonprofits will assist with the implementation of the new legislation by selecting indigenous tree species and site locations. According to the Act, trees will only be planted in mangroves, existing forests, protected areas, military ranges, abandoned mining sites and urban areas. The nonprofits will also establish nurseries to ensure the stock of trees can keep up with the annual surge in demand. The Philippines is recognized as a highly deforested country. Nearly 25 million acres of forest cover was cut down in just 50 years between 1938 and 1988, primarily for the logging industry. Throughout the entire 20th century, forest cover dropped from 70 percent of land to just 20 percent. Without trees to stabilize the ground and coastline, communities and urban areas are at elevated risk for flooding and landslides. Congressman Alejano is confident that even if only 10 percent of the trees survive, the widespread planting will result in at least 525 million additional trees. Furthermore, students will learn the valuable lesson that they must be part of the solution to protect the environment for their future and for their children’s future. Via Bored Panda Image via Exchanges Photos

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‘Overtourism’: Surges in unsustainable tourism are destroying islands in the Pacific

May 8, 2019 by  
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The tourism industry is booming throughout the world but nowhere more noticeably than on the small tropical islands of Southeast Asia. Millions of tourists flock to these remote islands every day to enjoy the beaches and snorkel among the coral reef, but the traffic and waste they produce has forced some ecosystems to reach their breaking point. “Overtourism” is the new term for the overpopulation of tourists who wreak havoc on fragile ecosystems. Many Asian governments have had to close entire islands in order to allow habitats and species (like sharks and sea turtles) to rehabilitate. The environmental impact of overtourism The primary reasons that mass tourism negatively impacts the environment include: Discharge of human waste directly into the ocean by boats, cruise ships and hotels A government survey in the Philippines revealed that 716 out of 834 businesses on the famous Boracay Island did not have wastewater permits and were indiscriminately dumping sewage and waste into the water. Cruise ships, private yachts and many hotels along the coasts also dump waste directly into the ocean . Toxic chemicals from sunscreens pollute young coral species Sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate have been found to alter the DNA of young corals , prohibiting normal and healthy growth. Related: Hawaii bans reef-killing chemical sunscreens Massive amounts of garbage and plastic pollution According to the Ocean Conservancy, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand are responsible for up to 60 percent of all plastic pollution in the ocean. Globally, eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year. Related: New study reveals microplastics are in the air Unsustainable development and the destruction of key habitats, like mangroves Almost 50 percent of all mangrove forests have been destroyed in countries including India, the Philippines and Vietnam. Mangroves are systematically cleared to make way for hotels, resorts and white sand beaches, but healthy mangroves are an essential part of healthy coastal ecosystems. Mangroves protect beaches from erosion and provide critical nursery and breeding grounds for young fish and other species. Why are there so many tourists? The rapid rise in tourism is mostly because of expanding middle classes in many countries. More people are able to afford vacations and travel, particularly in China. In 2018, Chinese citizens made a total of 150 million trips abroad, compared to just 10 million in 2000. Regardless of the origin of the tourists, Pacific islands’ infrastructure and ecosystems are unable to handle the surge and are in desperate need of regulation and management. “I would argue that tourism has not only been badly managed in general, it’s not been managed at all,” said Randy Durband, chief executive officer of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Islands close their borders to tourists When tourism began to rise, most island residents were happy to have the jobs and foreign investment, and their governments did not take the time nor resources to develop a management strategy or implement limitations. Now, many governments are scrambling to preserve the very ecosystems that bring tourists to their shores before they are destroyed beyond repair. After calling the waters around Borocay Island a “cesspool,” Filipino President Rodrigo Duerte closed the entire island and launched a large clean-up effort. A new management plan will reduce the daily visitors from 20,000 to approximately 6,000, ban single-use plastics , impose littering fines and ban jet skis from driving within 100 meters of the shore. With these steps, an acceptable rehabilitation of the island is expected to take at least two years. In Thailand, the government closed the famous Maya Bay indefinitely after conservationists reported that over 50 percent of corals had been destroyed. In addition to sunscreen toxins, boat anchors and physical impact from tourists walking on coral and taking pieces as souvenirs cause major damage. Current coral restoration efforts are underway to replant native corals, and species like black tipped reef sharks have reportedly returned. SEE: Can the Cayman Islands save to Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs? Closing islands is an extreme solution, but it demonstrates that many governments are realizing the importance of ecosystems even at the expense of tourism revenue. Sustainable tourism expert Epler Wood said, “We don’t advocate a closing unless it’s an emergency. We recommend balanced management that looks at supply and demand and measured responses based on planning and science that involves regular benchmarking, like water testing .” Tips for sustainable tourism Tips for governments: The nation of Bali has imposed a $10 tax on international passengers that goes directly toward cultural and environmental preservation initiatives, such as waste management. Many tourism-dependent islands in the Pacific and Caribbean have imposed similar tourist fees. In Palau, visitors are required to sign an environmental pledge that is stamped right onto their passports, promising to act respectfully and without damaging ecosystems. Bans on straws and single-use plastics can also be particularly effective on small islands without proper waste management systems. Finally, governments can invest in marine spatial planning and zoning initiatives that identify key vulnerable areas. Such spatial data allows governments to declare zones and enforce allowable activities within the zones, such as protected conservation areas versus recreation areas. Tips for tourists: According to the South China Morning Post, here are five tips to be a more sustainable tourist : Book hotels that employ sustainable initiatives to reduce waste, energy and water consumption. Choose tour operators who give back to the community — and keep tourism benefits within the local economy — by employing locals, supporting local growers and other initiatives. Be a plastic-free traveler and dispose of your garbage correctly. Research sustainable tourism initiatives you might want to support ahead of your trip. Engage in community-based tourism. “The basic model is: educate yourself, do the right thing and try to be of positive benefit,” said Marta Mills, a sustainable tourism specialist. “Act like you are a guest in someone’s home, because you are.” Via Yale360 Images via Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi , Laznes Binch ,  Stefan Munder , Juanjook Torres González and Jose Nicdao

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Disaster-resilient housing saves lives and dollars

April 25, 2019 by  
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When Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013, the Raloso family hid in their bathroom while their house collapsed around them. 4,000 of their neighbors died. The Raloso’s invested in rebuilding stronger and when Typhoon Rammasun hit just a year later, the World Bank reported the family “rode out the storm in their disaster-resilient house — along with 17 of their neighbors who took shelter there.” A World Bank report, Build Back Better, promises massive savings in dollars and lives by retrofitting existing houses to withstand disasters before they happen. The report assessed 149 countries, which covers 95 percent of the world’s population, and more than 30 percent savings by building houses stronger, faster and more equitably. Natural disasters cost the U.S. over $200 billion in 2017 alone, so 30 percent in potential savings is a promise that cannot be ignored. Related: Installing Retrofit Wall Insulation Low income housing should be the priority When disasters hit, families often suffer what the World Bank calls a “double tragedy”— the loss of loved ones and the loss of their most valuable and sometimes only asset— their home. Without this asset, many people cannot access loans to rebuild and do not have any form of shelter or stability. Alarmingly, many affordable housing programs incentivize the segregation of low-income families into vulnerable areas, such as flood plains in Texas , despite the fact that these same communities require costly government aid after disasters strike. Their disproportionate vulnerability and lack of capacity to recover means low-income people are hit the worst during disasters— further exacerbating poverty and dismantling affordable housing reforms within minutes. What is retrofitting? Retrofitting or rehabilitating houses looks different depending on the type of building, region and expected disasters. In flood-prone areas, contractors may suggest elevating the house or improving the septic system. After Hurricane Ivan hit the Caribbean island of Grenada, many families used recovery funds to build hurricane-resilient roofing that utilizes stronger braces and a faceted design that doesn’t catch the wind. In the US, the nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners uses lessons from Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina to encourage proactive retrofitting and to ensure current recovery efforts in Texas and Puerto Rico prioritize resilience —  rather than simply building back what was destroyed. “The return on investment for taxpayers is that these households will need less support after an event. Disasters are very expensive and it is more expensive to repair housing after an event than before. There are fewer contractors, they charge more, there’s limited temporary housing,” explains Laurie Schoeman, Senior Program Director for Resilience Initiatives at Enterprise. Research is increasingly pointing to energy efficiency as a critical ingredient to retrofitting and rehabilitation. Not only will high performing, energy efficient buildings provide cost savings to residents, they also have the infrastructure to ride out the aftermath of storms when power is down and attention is on urgent needs such as water, medical supplies and food. Resilience and equity Despite the benefits, retrofitting is often not an affordable option in slums, housing projects or low-income areas. Around the world, poor people are forced to live in susceptible areas that are undesirable by those who can afford a safer choice. As the World Bank’s blogpost explains, poor people “trade livability for opportunity— by living in flood-prone, landslide-prone or other at-risk areas for access to jobs and services.” Additionally, poor people throughout the world are more likely to build their own homes, many of which are not to code. The World Bank’s report argues these same homes could withstand hurricanes and earthquakes with just a few improvements. Most governments steer clear of informal, substandard housing, but the World Bank contends that this ignorance is costing governments millions of dollars in aid after disasters. In the U.S., Enterprise Community Partners focuses on connecting home and building owners to grants and loans for retrofitting and rehabilitation. “The key to working with low income households in terms of resilience and rehab is providing a comprehensive source of funding. Anything short of that and it’s not affordable,” Laurie Schoeman told Inhabitat. Enterprise also produces manuals and toolkits to help homeowners, contractors and others understand the best methods to assess and improve resilient housing. According to the World Bank, technology is also helping to make such assessments easier and cheaper than ever. Drones and drive-by cameras can identify highly-vulnerable areas to target for intervention. Connecting this technology with community experts who know local materials, practices and cultures is essential. Recovery grants can be combined with existing housing programs to offer affordable loans and subsidies that refocus government resources on resilient infrastructure for the most vulnerable populations. “We have a lot of funding coming into communities,” Laurie Schoeman told Inhabitat, “but unless it’s going toward resilience we will be back in the same place. Let’s get these communities the information and resources they need to build forward .” + The World Bank Images via Shutterstock, Andrea Booher , Bob McMillian

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Bananatex launches a sustainable material revolution at Milan Design Week

April 9, 2019 by  
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A party of three has collaborated to create a multi-purpose material sourced entirely from banana leaves. Swiss bag brand QWSTION, a yarn specialist from Taiwan, and a Taiwanese weaving partner spent four years developing the new material, which is being revealed at the 2019 Milan Design Week. The strong, flexible material, called Banantex, offers a new universal option in the search for sustainable materials . Beginning at the source, the banana leaves come from a natural ecosystem of sustainable forestry in the Philippines. The banana trees grow naturally without the use of pesticides or other chemicals. Plus, they do not require any additional water. The banana plants are a boon to an area previously eroded by palm plantations, bringing back vegetation and a livelihood for local farmers. Related: See how banana trees are recycled into vegan “leather” wallets in Micronesia With a long history of creating materials from sustainable resources, QWSTION saw the strength and durability of the banana leaves that were used in the Philippines for more than a century as boat ropes. Following three years of research and development, the bag company finalized the plant-based material. As a bag company, the first products they put together are backpacks and hip pouches, made completely with the plastic-free material. The larger goal, however, is for other companies to use Banantex in their own production, spreading the application to any number of industries that could eliminate many of the synthetic materials on the market today. United with the common goal of inspiring responsible product development, the team conceived the idea as an open source project with this in mind. The characteristics of the material makes this idea easy to imagine since it is durable, pliable and waterproof. Plus, it is biodegradable at the end of the life cycle, significantly reducing post-consumer waste rampant in the clothing and accessories industries in particular. The display will be open to the public at Milan Design Week on April 9-14, 2019. + QWSTION Images via QWSTION

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The environmental secrets the fashion industry does not want you to know

March 25, 2019 by  
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The fashion industry has grown in leaps and bounds over the past few decades. Having greater access to the latest trends in fashion is great, but the industry as a whole could do a lot better lessening its environmental impact on the world. Some of the biggest issues with the fashion industry are microplastics used in production, child labor violations and new disposable fashion trends— which put more waste into landfills around the world. If you are curious about how the fashion industry is affecting the environment, here’s an inside look at the industry’s biggest hidden secrets. Related: The sustainable wardrobe: it’s more accessible than you think Fashion’s Environmental Impact Mass-producing clothing items for the fashion industry has massive implications on the environment. The industry as a whole contributes greatly to water waste and has a large carbon footprint – and that is only considering production. Discarded items of clothing end up in landfills around the world, further polluting waterways and oceans. When it comes to clothing production, it takes thousands of liters of water to produce a single cotton shirt. Farms that grow cotton also use a quarter of the world’s insecticides. Around a trillion gallons of water are used to die fabrics, which further contributes to water waste . Child Labor Laws Aside from environmental concerns, the fashion industry also violates child labor laws in certain locations around the world. Areas most impacted by child labor violations include Bangladesh, Argentina, China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia. In Bangladesh, for example, child workers – most of whom are women – only take home around $96 every month. The country’s government, however, says that its citizens need at least $336 a month to meet basic living requirements. Given how the country has little regulations on labor and environmental practices, the situation is unlikely to change in the near future. Related: Faux fur or real fur, which one is better for the planet? Plastic Microfibers One of the biggest issues with the fashion industry is the use of plastics in garments. Synthetic materials such as nylon, polyester and acrylic are used in over 60 percent of clothing. Plastics are used in fashion because they are long-lasting, budget-friendly, pliable and light. The problem with incorporating synthetics in the production of clothing is that they leach plastic microfibers into the environment. These microfibers eventually make their way to the ocean, where marine organisms ingest them. Once eaten, the plastics can lead to digestive blockages, growth issues, problems in the endocrine system and even starvation. “One of the problems is plastic ingestion at all levels of the food chain, which may pass plastic to larger animals and humans. The question is ‘is it acceptable to us to end up eating plastic?’” Heidi Savelli, an expert with the UN Environment, explained. Discarded Clothing Fashion sales have skyrocketed over the past few decades. The industry has seen a growth of around 60 percent since 2000, which is partly because clothing does not last as long as it used to. On average, people retain a piece of clothing for about half the amount of time as they did in the late ‘90s. This trend of discarding and buying clothes has been profitable for the fashion industry, but it has led to disastrous effects on the environment. With production steadily increasing, more and more water is being used in cotton farming while excess materials are overcrowding landfills . Industry Solutions With the fashion industry causing a major concern for the environment , there are a few things it can do to become more eco-friendly. For starters, companies can make changes to the manufacturing process, which will reduce the amount of plastic that ends of polluting the environment. The primary issues in clothing are the density of the material and the length of fibers. If these two problems are addressed, then there will be a lesser chance of plastic microfibers shedding in the wash. Companies can also incorporate better finishing techniques when making clothing, which can also reduce microfiber issues. There also needs to be an improvement in the way microfibers are captured, both in efficiency and scale. There are capturing devices on the market, but they are not geared towards large-scale operations. What Can You Do? There are a number of different things you can do to lessen the fashion industry’s impact on the environment. For starters, you can repair clothing items instead of replacing them whenever possible. When it comes to laundry, washing less is the best way to reduce microfibre shedding. You should also look into investing in a front load machine, as they are better at handling plastic microfibres. If you want to go the extra mile, there are special bags that catch plastic debris in the wash and reduce these particles by over 80 percent. At the end of the day, doing your part to help curb disposable fashion will only go so far, and unless the industry makes some major changes, these environmental concerns will continue to grow. Via UN Environment , The Progressive Images via Shutterstock

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Ecobricks transform plastic trash into reusable building blocks

May 9, 2018 by  
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People are getting creative with plastic waste around the world, and now Ecobricks wants to utilize plastic for building. They encourage people to pack soft plastic garbage into plastic bottles to make blocks that can create buildings, walls, or modular furniture . The group says ecobricks offer a zero-cost solution to plastics pollution that allows people to take action right now. According to the Ecobricks website, “Ecobricks are designed to leverage the longevity and durability of plastic to create an indefinitely reusable, cradle to cradle, building block.” People create these blocks by packing cleaned plastic into drinking bottles, then connecting them with “tire bands, silicone, cob, and cement,” although the group advises against using concrete. “No special skills, machinery, funding, NGOs, or politicians are needed,” the group said in a YouTube video . Related: Cameroon student nonprofit recycles plastic bottles into boats Ecobricks describes itself not as an NGO, but as a people-powered movement . Designer Russell Maier, one of the people behind the movement,  said in an interview  that he discovered ecobricking while living in Sabangan in the Northern Philippines. Currently based in Indonesia, Maier was a lead author of the Vision Ecobricks Guide, originally created for schools in the Northern Philippines. According to the Ecobricks website, the guide is now part of the curriculum in over 8,000 schools in the Philippines, and Maier has “overseen the construction of hundreds of ecobrick playgrounds, gardens, and buildings.” People in the United States, South America, and Africa have gotten involved in ecobricking as well, creating projects that include an eco-restaurant in the Ecuadorean Amazon. You can find more information about ecobricking on the group’s  website . + Ecobricks Images via Ecobricks

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UPS just unveiled a fleet of adorable electric trucks for London and Paris

May 9, 2018 by  
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The streets of Paris and London are about to get a whole lot cuter — and more eco-friendly — because UPS is deploying adorable electric trucks that look like something straight out of a cartoon. The mail carrier is teaming up with ARRIVAL to launch a state-of-the-art fleet of 35 zero emission electric vehicles. The lightweight, composite vehicles have a range of 150 miles, and each truck includes driver-assist technology that will help keep the roads safer. . @UPS revs up latest London & Paris EV deal by working with @ArrivalGB develop a "state-of-the-art pilot fleet" https://t.co/4vsXFsxe5O — UPS UK&IE (@UPS_UK) May 9, 2018 UPS has made sustainability a priority, with more than 9,000 vehicles worldwide operating on alternative energy. UPS and ARRIVAL have been collaborating since 2016 to create these custom-designed trucks built to UPS’s specifications. The news comes a month after the delivery company announced that it had deployed a radical new charging infrastructure in London . Related: UPS declares the “beginning of the end” for combustion engines by making its London fleet entirely electric “UPS is working with ARRIVAL here in the UK because their smart electric vehicles are helping to reduce dependency on fossil fuel. This is a pioneering collaboration that helps UPS develop new ways to reduce our emissions,” said Luke Wake, international director for automotive engineering in the advanced technology group at UPS. “UPS is marshaling its global scale to encourage innovation within the automotive industry. We are helping to drive demand for these disruptive technologies. The result is a safer and cleaner fleet for the communities in which we deliver.” + UPS + ARRIVAL Via Engadget Image via UPS

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UPS just unveiled a fleet of adorable electric trucks for London and Paris

Most active volcano in the Philippines sends locals and tourists fleeing

January 16, 2018 by  
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Mount Mayon, the most active volcano in the Philippines , sent lava billowing down its slopes on Tuesday and prompted an evacuation of more than 21,000 locals who live in threatened areas. According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, lava flowed as far as 1.2 miles from the crater while ash from the volcanic activity spread to several communities in the northeastern Albay Province, where Mayon is located. Although the sight of an active volcano is breathtaking, authorities have advised that people remain beyond the 3.7-4.3 mile danger zone around Mayon. “They say it’s beauty juxtaposed with danger,” Office of Civil Defense regional director Claudio Yucot said, according to CBS News . Of the at least 21,800 people to be displaced by Mayon’s most recent eruptive episode, over 16,800 have taken shelter in 22 schools throughout the region. Others found safety at the homes of relatives far from the danger zone. Locals have expressed concern for their livestocks, which authorities have met by setting up evacuation areas for animals such as pigs, poultry, water buffalo, and cattle.  Despite the vivid display of danger, the volcano’s current lava spell was sparked by lava fragments splitting from the lava flow, not from an explosive eruption from within the crater. Further, scientists have not observed the level of volcanic earthquakes that would indicate an imminent eruption. If such an eruption were to appear imminent, authorities say that they are ready for a large-scale evacuation operation. Related: Scientists construct new theory of Yellowstone’s supervolcano hotspot Mayon has erupted about 50 times in the past 500 years, often with great strength. Its first recorded eruption was in 1616 while the most destructive occurred in 1814, when 1,200 people were killed and the town of Cagsawa was buried. The most recent episode before the current occurred in 2013 when an eruption of ash killed five people who attempted to climb the volcano despite warnings. While Mount Mayon may be the most active, it certainly is not the only volcano in the Philippines. Mayon is a part of the Ring of Fire, an area in the Pacific in which seismic faults are plentiful and often produce earthquakes and volcanic activity. Via CBS News Images via Denvie Balidoy/Flickr and Tom Falcon/Flickr

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Iceland makes it illegal to pay women less than men in world first

January 3, 2018 by  
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Iceland has been making headlines lately – first by electing a 41-year-old environmentalist as prime minister , and now by becoming the world’s first country to legalize equal pay for men and women. Al Jazeera reports the tiny Nordic nation first introduced legislation last March to help close an existing wage gap, but the law did not come into effect until the first day of 2018. “The legislation is basically a mechanism that companies and organisations … evaluate every job that’s being done, and then they get a certification after they confirm the process if they are paying men and women equally,” Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a board member of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, told Al Jazeera. “It’s a mechanism to ensure women and men are being paid equally”. She adds that existing legislation designed to close the wage gap had failed to do the job, although the World Economic Forum (WEF) has consistently rated Iceland as one of the world’s most progressive countries when it comes to gender equality. Related: Iceland elects 41-year-old environmentalist as prime minister This new law will require companies that have at least 25 employees to obtain certification proving that men and women receive the same pay for their jobs. Failure to comply will result in fines. “Women have been talking about this for decades, Aradottir Pind told Al Jazeera, “and I really feel that we have managed to raise awareness, and we have managed to get to the point that people realise that the legislation we have had in place is not working, and we need to do something more”. In a WEF post , Magnea Marinósdóttir and Rósa Erlingsdóttir with the Equality Unit of Iceland’s Ministry of Welfare says their fight for gender parity did not happen by accident: “What is the secret to Iceland’s success? What are the lessons learned? In short, it is that gender equality does not come about of its own accord. It requires the collective action and solidarity of women human rights defenders, political will, and tools such as legislation, gender budgeting and quotas.” The United States failed to make it into the top 10 of WEF’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Index , which includes Nicaragua in 6th place and the Philippines, led by “The Punisher” President Rodrigo Duterte, in 10th. Via Al Jazeera Images via DepositPhotos ( 1 , 2 )

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This low-cost forest house on stilts is a minimalist dream in Vietnam

January 3, 2018 by  
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This charming forest house on stilts allows two people to experience the beauty and simplicity of living in a remote mountain setting. Architect Chu V?n ?ông designed the structure as a low-cost dwelling that is easy to build and that places focus on the surrounding environment, rather than on interior luxuries. The house is nestled in the lush wooded landscape of Northern Vietnam . As a simple, temporary residence, the Forest House offers a minimalist space that draws the eye toward the surrounding greenery. Large glass surfaces blur the line between the interior and the exterior and allow natural light to bathe the living area. Related: Incredible daylit house in Vietnam is filled with living trees The building can accommodate two people. Its interior is stripped down to the essentials and includes a wood-burning stove , a bed that doubles as a bay window bench, and a wooden table top that can be used for dining and work. The designer hopes that the project, which was built on a small budget, will inspire other temporary housing projects in the area. + Chu V?n ?ông Via Plataforma Arquitectura Photos by Handyman

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