Study reveals mass plant extinction rate since Industrial Revolution

June 12, 2019 by  
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New research suggests that even by conservative efforts, the number of plants that have gone extinct in the last three centuries is 500 times higher than before the industrial revolution, and the rate of extinction is skyrocketing. According to the survey, at least 571 plants have become extinct since 1750, which should be a “frightening” concern to anyone who eats or breathes. “Plants underpin all life on Earth. They provide the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat, as well as making up the backbone of the world’s ecosystems ,” said study author Eimear Nic Lughadha from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew . The scientists also believe that their confirmed list of 571 plants is only the tip of the iceberg. In most cases, it can take years to declare a species officially extinct because of the landscapes that have to be scoured for any last survivors. “How are you going to check the entirety of the Amazon for your lost plant?” Maria Vorontsova, also from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, told The Guardian . Furthermore, there are thousands of species that are functionally extinct, meaning there are so few remaining plants that the chances of reproduction and survival are nearly — if not entirely — impossible. Despite their conservative tally, the researchers’ estimate is still four times higher than what is officially recorded on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List . “It is way more than we knew and way more than should have gone extinct,” said Vorontsova. “It is frightening not just because of the 571 number, but because I think that is a gross underestimate.” According to the United Nations, another 1 million species are currently at risk of extinction. Many scientists believe that extinction and biodiversity should be in the news and keeping us up at night just as much as climate change , but that it is often a less acknowledged, and less funded, crisis. Financing and support for plants is especially challenging within the conservation field, because they just aren’t as cute as their endangered animal counterparts. Scientists often collect and save DNA samples from extinct plants in labs at places such as the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in hopes that innovative discoveries could help save other plants or one day bring back old ones. Via The Guardian Image via Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

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Study reveals mass plant extinction rate since Industrial Revolution

An eco-friendly gift guide for Fathers Day

June 12, 2019 by  
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This Father’s Day, give your dad a gift he will not only love, but one that also won’t hurt the planet nor gather dust on his shelf: quality time together! Here are a few ideas of ways to get outside and celebrate with the father figure in your life as well as some eco-friendly gadgets he will enjoy when you aren’t together. Visit a national park together June is one of the best times to visit one of the country’s national parks . Whether your dad is a serious hiker or more of a couch potato, he will love getting some fresh air and seeing a beautiful new landscape together. Most parks have options for easy day trips, walking tours and more intense hikes. Some have visitors centers, museums and cafes, and many have short paved trails that are accessible for a wider variety of ability levels . Related: How National Parks benefit the environment Here are a few popular parks for Father’s Day: Acadia National Park, Maine This park has miles of rugged coastline that can be too cold for most people during the rest of the year but are beautiful during the summer. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming Located near Yellowstone National Park, this park has gorgeous mountain vistas and overlook sites. It is popular in the summertime for mountaineering, climbing, hiking and walking. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia Only a few hours from Washington D.C., this park is gorgeous even from a car. There are a number of hikes and waterfall spots for different ability levels, plus you and your dad can brag about hiking part of the Appalachian Trail together. For more ideas, check out the National Parks Service’s Father’s Day Guide . Pick your own strawberries June is peak strawberry season in much of the U.S., and it’s a fun group activity with sweet treats along the way. Bring the loot home and make fresh strawberry shortcake for a Father’s Day dessert! Here is a guide to where you can go strawberry picking in different states. Make sure to call ahead to confirm that the farm is open, has strawberries left and is still offering a pick-your-own program this year. Give the gift of knowledge This year, take your father to a movie about the environment or nature, like The Biggest Little Farm . Not only will it allow you to spend quality time together, but you will learn something new about our planet. If your dad is interested, check out local events or talks about climate change and participate in local activism together! Sign up for a road race If you and your dad have a goal to be more active, exercise is a great way to spend quality time together while staying healthy . Research races in your area and pick one that works with your schedule and abilities. The entrance fee typically goes to help charities or medical research. Stick with a 5K or less if you’re a beginner — that is about 3.2 miles. If you’re more advanced, you can look for a 10K or higher. Related: 8 tips to make your exercise routine more eco-friendly Buy a bike tune-up Does your dad like to bike? Maybe he bikes to work, just on the weekends or very little at all, but we’ll bet his bike could use a tune-up to make sure it’s in the best and safest shape possible. Rent canoes or kayaks Now that the weather is nice, spend some time together as a family and rent canoes, kayaks or paddle boats. Many lakes and rivers have rental companies where you can pay by the hour or by the day. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, you could look at places where you can fish, too. Snag tickets to a sports game or concert Spend your money on an experience instead of an item. Do some research to find out if your dad’s favorite sports team or band is in town, and buy tickets to go with him. Plan a customized rainwater harvesting system If your dad loves to garden, get him a customized rainwater harvesting system. Many companies will take the time to learn about your dad’s space and needs and send an easy, customized kit to set it up. You can also try the DIY route . Get environmental gadgets for Dad Before buying more stuff for your dad, ask him what he wants. A good way to cut down on waste is by buying only something that he would really use. Otherwise, here are some good ideas: App-controlled light bulbs Does anyone else have a dad who is constantly reminding you to turn off the lights when you leave a room? Get your tech-savvy dad this app-controlled light bulb that lasts up to 27 years and uses just 10 percent of the energy needed for a conventional bulb. He can set timers for his schedule and say goodbye to the days of following the kids around and turning off lights after them. Swim shorts that save the sea These swimming shorts are made from 100 percent recycled plastic and are SPF 45+. Each design tells a story about ocean pollution , and they are available in matching Father + Son sizes. Grill tools made from recycled hockey sticks Is your dad a grill master and a sports fan? This California-based company recycles used hockey sticks to make unique grill utensils. According to the website: “We all know somebody (perhaps ourself) whose burgers always come off the grill looking like hockey pucks. They just don’t have the right tools.” Stainless steel coffee mug If your dad is like mine, he drinks a lot of coffee . Get him a sophisticated stainless steel coffee mug that he can take with him on the go or bring to coffee shops. Most shops offer a small discount for bringing your own mug, and some cities like Berkeley, California are piloting a program to start charging customers for using disposable coffee cups, just like plastic bags. Related: The problem with coffee pods and the eco-friendly alternatives to use instead Sustainable socks Put a twist on the typical gift for dad and buy him something from a sustainable brand. Check out the sock choices at Organic Basics . Organic wine Research the vineyards near you or your dad and find out which ones use organic, sustainable or biodynamic methods on their vineyard. After confirming its environmental impact, gift Dad with an eco-friendly bottle of wine. Via Earth 911 Images via Shutterstock

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An eco-friendly gift guide for Fathers Day

Mysterious Black Villa is to be tucked in the lush forests just outside of Moscow

June 12, 2019 by  
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There are few things we love more than dark cabins embedded into lush evergreen forests, and this tiny structure is no exception. The Black Villa in the Forest, designed by Russian architectural firm Archslon, has a certain air of mystery to it that is enhanced by its off-grid location just outside of bustling Moscow. The tiny cabin is a low-lying rectangular volume comprised of two blocks with an inner courtyard separating the two spaces. The entrance is through a small open area, which runs from the front of the house to the back. Related: Black charred-timber home embraces forest views in Zürich The front of the cabin is an elongated, open-air deck, or what the architects call a “bypass gallery,” that runs the length of one of the main blocks. The space is lined with a series of thin columns, giving a touch of modernity to the structure. The compact square footage and height was a strategic decision made to conserve as many existing trees as possible during construction. Clad in jet-black timber, the home was also designed to blend into its natural surroundings. The main living area is illumined by natural light thanks to a full wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. Along with providing panoramic views of the picturesque scenery, the glazed wall creates a strong, continual connection to the home’s forestscape surroundings. The two blocks separate the home into two living spaces: public and private. On one side of the cabin is the living room and open kitchen. On the other end is the master bedroom that is connected with another small room that can be used as a small office or library. Like the living space, the master bedroom has fully glazed walls, further integrating the surrounding nature into the cabin’s interior. + Archslon Via Archdaily Images via Archslon

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Mysterious Black Villa is to be tucked in the lush forests just outside of Moscow

It might be time to let your garden grow wild

April 12, 2019 by  
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Think of a formal yard or garden, and you likely envision rows of neatly trimmed bushes along meandering walkways and sitting areas. Homeowners spend a ton of money, time and resources in an attempt to recreate that image. But another equally beautiful option for your home is a wild garden . What is a wild garden? A wild garden can carry a variety of definitions. For some, it means limiting the amount you tame your plants , letting them become what others might define as overgrown and unsightly. Others might associate wild with the types of plants you choose for your space. If you think about your walks in the fields or forests where Mother Nature is the only landscaper, plants are “overgrown and unsightly” around every corner. So, it might be time to change your definition of what makes a desirable garden space. The idea of a wild garden is to create a more naturally flowing space with less rigid lines and rules. Related: This Garden Planner makes urban gardening easy Reasons to set it free There are many benefits to allowing your garden to go wild. Consider the nature of the plant and remember that pruning is something we do in our backyard, but it is not the norm in a plant’s natural habitat. We feel we need to confine plants, because that’s what the magazines show. Allowing your plants to become shaggy around the edges means a whole lot less maintenance for you, which is a huge advantage if you prefer not to spend every waking moment tending to your garden. Another benefit of a wild garden is that it becomes a more natural garden. We spend time in nature because we connect with the sights, smells and surroundings that nature provides. Somehow, we lose those same feelings when we bring plants into our yard and then contour them into something they’re not. Instead, allow your plants to take a more natural growth pattern and retain the essence of nature in your yard. The benefit of native plants Plants that are native to your area are going to grow the best. Careful selection of your plants in the beginning will allow for a worry-free space as your garden grows. Talk to the local nursery owner. Stop by the garden center. Read books and scour the internet. After you hunt down the plants indigenous to your area, create a plan on paper or using a graphic design program on the computer. Be sure to allow for the maximum growth of the plants, so you don’t have to continually trim them back. In addition to low-effort growing success, native plants also do not require chemicals to fight off insects and disease. Plus, they often don’t need fertilizer, because they are naturally suited for the native soil. You can even source your native plants directly from nature by selecting seeds or small plants. Check with your local authorities before harvesting from forests or other areas. If nothing else, observe the plants in your area and purchase the same type of ferns, sunflowers or wildflowers that you see growing naturally. Natural elements in the design Another way to bring the wilderness into your yard is through natural elements . Think of an eroding cliffside with protruding rocks and plants that have rooted themselves in the unstable soil. Bring that idea into your yard with stone walkways or tiered river rock stairways surrounded by plants. Mix pristine with savage, manicured with wild The goal of creating a wild yard doesn’t mean you have to have a completely untamed space of rambling branches and invasive blackberries. Instead, segment your yard into areas that provide for the naturally wild look combined with more traditional or formal spaces for sitting or strolling. Bring in the pristine yard if that’s your thing, and mingle it with some savage plants. Manicure the stone patio, but allow the bushes behind the arbor to go wild. The point is that wild doesn’t have to be neglected. Simply work the look into your design. Related: This Australian property was redesigned with a sustainable, lush garden Advantages of wildflowers Wildflowers are often seen as invasive in the restrictive confines of a yard, and they are. But they are also an amazing way to bring the colors and calming visuals of nature into your space. Grab a seed packet and spread the colorful joy throughout your yard, or mostly confine them to one area with a border. Remember that wildflowers are seasonal, so you’ll also want to incorporate other plants that will fill the space when the wildflowers aren’t in bloom. Rethink the spacing Traditional gardens are tightly focused on spacing. We don’t want the fruit tree to overshadow the plants below it. Those daylilies might get too big and push up to the hyacinth next door. Oh no! Again, envision the way plants grow in nature, and replicate it in your yard. Plants have a way of naturally providing for one another or pushing out unwelcome invaders. If you copy what you see in nature, your plants will thrive in a natural way, meaning that they will overlap, procreate and become entangled one into another. Although this goes against our structured (and separated) image of a neat garden, the wildness of an unregimented garden allows nature to show her best self. Images via Shutterstock

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10 easy eco-friendly home decor tips

February 28, 2019 by  
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Decorating a home is intimidating enough without taking the environment into account, but choosing eco-friendly decor will be more beneficial in the long run. Here are some simple tips and rules for green alternatives in home decorating that will help reduce your  carbon footprint and even save you some money along the way. Perks of vintage The simplest way to positively affect the environment with your home decor choices is to buy pre-used. Some people even prefer a more wear-and-tear or “distressed” look. Not to mention, vintage decor is chic and costs way less than buying new. So head over to your local thrift store, estate sales or flea markets (you can even raid your grandma’s attic for forgotten treasures). If you still can’t find anything to your taste, Ebay and other media sites are a great place to explore pretty much anything vintage. Related: 9 ways to add more houseplants to your home Choose sustainably-sourced materials Work with companies that are focused on ethical labor standards and fair trade. There are some great globally inspired home products that give back to the artisans and communities who make their pieces and are passionate about eco-friendly decor. Obviously, one of the best material for furniture is wood, but making sure that you choose a wood that doesn’t contribute to the deforestation epidemic is just as important as choosing the style of furniture itself. Make sure all wood is FSC certified and sustainably-sourced. Donate When you absolutely do need to get rid of something in your home, choose to donate it or even sell it. Even if you don’t make much money off the sale, it still means that the item transferred its value to someone else (and more importantly, didn’t end up in a dumpster or landfill ). The Goodwill is an amazing organization that gives back to the community and ReStore by Habitat for Humanity has a free pick-up program that will help local families find homes. Most donations are tax-deductible as well. Don’t assume that just because it is used or old that no one will want it. Use non-toxic materials Whether you’re painting your walls or repurposing a piece of furniture, the type of paint you choose matters. Eco-friendly paints are free of volatile organic compounds or “VOCs,” which can be harmful to both the environment and to humans. Even carpet has been known to emit high levels of VOCs and contribute to accumulations of allergens . Houseplants A well-cared-for houseplant can give renewed life to any space. There are even some houseplants such as ferns or palms that can increase oxygen and help purify your home. Houseplants are a less-expensive decoration that adds a natural, fresh accent and can combat pollutants and chemicals produced from man-made materials. Thermal alternatives Even a plain thermal lining can drastically reduce how much hot or cold air is escaping from your home. This will also save money on your electricity bill and make your home that much more comfortable for your family and guests. For eco-friendly insulation, there are alternatives to fiberglass made from sustainable materials like wool or hemp. Related: 6 places to find the best recycled building materials Repurpose It may take a little more elbow grease, but DIY-ing your old stuff into new stuff is more rewarding and satisfying than buying new every time. Repaint wooden tables to match your new decor with an artsy pattern or reupholster your old chairs to make them look brand new. If your creative side refuses to come out, hire someone else to do the job. It will still cost less money than buying new while still feeling new to you. Look out for furniture made from reclaimed and salvaged materials like aluminum and recycled wood as well. Go with timeless styles One of the biggest problems with home decor is changing trends. A type of furniture or style may be in vogue one year and out of style the next. That leaves trendy homeowners with the options of either getting rid of their decor or repurposing it in order to keep up. Investing in sturdy, timeless designs will ensure that your home decor never goes out of style and you get plenty of use out of it before it needs to be altered or donated. Use nature Go wildflower picking or gather herbs from the garden to decorate. Add natural accents like citrus to elevate a vase or candle holder for a special effect, or use cranberries or holly during the holidays. Driftwood is also a wonderful alternative for doorstops or shelving and can be DIY -ed into wall art. Sometimes the most memorable and special decorations can be found in the most unlikely places. Redecorate If your home is feeling dull and in dire need of an upgrade, sometimes just a simple change of scenery can make all the difference. Try moving furniture or shelving around, switching out photos or re-arranging artwork onto different walls. You may save yourself a lot of unnecessary effort and stress just by finding new spots for your furniture in your home . Images via Shutterstock

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10 easy eco-friendly home decor tips

Monarch butterfly conservation groups fight to conserve the species

February 20, 2019 by  
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Monarch butterfly conservation is in full effect as numerous organizations have shared concerns for the beautiful butterfly. The number of monarch butterflies observed at 97 sites in 2018 was dramatically lower than ever before, according to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation , an organization that monitors monarch butterfly populations. In fact, the numbers dropped as much as 86 percent. That’s a startling statistic and is much higher than scientists expected it be. Worse yet, looking back twenty to thirty years, the records showed a population around 4.5 million, which means the rate has been rapidly declining for decades. The numbers have plummeted so dramatically, that it has now become a race to save the vanishing species. Fortunately for the Eastern and Western monarch butterfly, there are several groups fighting for their survival. When it comes to increasing numbers and monarch butterfly conservation, the focus is splintered, working simultaneously to improve natural habitat alongside evaluating the health of the butterfly population. Here are some notable organizations and a highlight of their efforts to help the monarch butterflies. Related: California’s Monarch butterfly population hits ‘potentially catastrophic’ low in 2018 Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates (SOMA) The largest monarch habitat restoration projects in the western U.S., beginning in 2017 and continuing today, is taking place in the backyard of SOMA and they’ve played a key role in its success. Covering over 300 acres across Southern Oregon, the Southwest Oregon Pollinator Collaborative Project is working towards rebuilding pivotal habitats for the insects . For their part, SOMA placed over 7,000 plants over 40 acres in the Sampson Creek Preserve in the hopes of attracting and populating the butterflies. This project was one of the most recent of several, representing nearly five years of hands-on habitat restoration and community education. In 2015, the group began developing waystations for the butterflies — the largest of which is located at an appealing creekside location at Coyote Trails School of Nature in Medford, Oregon. Relying on the suggestions of published experts in the field, the SOMA group establishes plants well known as butterfly attractants, such as milkweed and other nectar-bearing plants . They also distribute seeds to encourage backyard planting and offer community outreach to several organizations with similar interests. Monarch Watch Based out of the University of Kansas, Monarch Watch promotes education pertaining to the monarch butterfly. They strive to inform the public about the life cycle and breeding of the species in an effort to encourage public involvement in the cause. In addition, the group also engages in research to better understand their biology and migration patterns. Monarch Watch also promotes the protection of known habitats and assists with the development of potential new habitats for the species . The website offers resources for the community and classrooms, such as a list of research projects that students can undertake along with information on how to rear monarchs. Monarch Watch feels that in order for the public to help, they need to have a better understanding of the issues so they provide information about how human activities such as infrastructure development decimates the natural habitat of the butterfly. They report that both overwintering and summer habitats are at risk due to human activities such as logging trees (known to aid the monarch) and building within the few known migration sites through Mexico and California. Journey North Journey North is another organization focused on saving the monarch butterfly. For twenty five years, Journey North has worked to maintain reliable resources for educators and the public. As an online citizen science program, they encourage teachers, scientists, members of the community and nature centers to report sightings so they can maintain a realtime database of monarch locations and numbers. This information is then mapped as waves of migrations move across the continent. The more people they involve, the more information they can gather. With a focus on “ecologically- sustainable relationships between people and the land through integrative, innovative, and collaborative science, stewardship, education, and public engagement,” community involvement is at the core of their mission. Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) The Monarch Joint Venture is an example of private and governmental organization coming together in an effort to conserve the monarch butterfly. More than 70 partners are part of the joint venture, all with the goal of “implementing science-based habitat conservation and restoration measures” to protect the migration of the butterfly. With a vast network of resources from all levels of stakeholders, the Monarch Joint Venture culminates all the information gathered and produces an annual report called the Monarch Conservation Implementation Plan that outlines the best conservation and habitat planning techniques for organizations making the effort to protect nesting grounds, build habitats and work to better understand the species and their needs. To further coordinate the efforts of this diverse group of like-minded organizations, the MJV maintains a visual map database of ongoing projects so people can connect with others in their area. Financially, the MJV also allocates funds to different conservation projects across the lower 48 states. As with all monarch conservation organizations, MJV works to provide information about the species, including their needs, biology , habitat, habits, migratory patterns, etc. so they facilitate an organized webinar series on the topic. Reports across the board support the knowledge that the monarch butterfly has become dangerously threatened. Organizations like those above agree that saving the species will require a coordinated effort of educators, scientists and the public from Mexico and up the west coast to Canada. Via Monarch Joint Venture , Journey North , Monarch Watch , SOMonarchs Image via elleo , eliza28diamonds , lauralatimer

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Sustainable pencil stubs Sprout into plants

January 28, 2019 by  
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Have you ever stopped to think about where your pencil came from or what it’s journey will be once it hits the trash? It’s okay if you haven’t, because one company has made it their mission to not only produce eco-friendly pencils that are available in a variety of colors, but also to give new life at the end of the pencil’s functional usability. Sprout World began as an idea from MIT students on the lookout for a more sustainable pencil and has resulted in over 10 million pencil-to-plant product sales. The Sprout pencil starts with sustainable materials such a cedar casings, clay and carbon-based graphite. At the end of the pencil (where you would expect an eraser to be) is a biodegradable capsule that holds plants seeds. So once you’ve sharpened your way through that much awaited manuscript or copious to-do list, your pencil brings new life in the form of plants. Related: These incredible sea creatures are made from dangerously sharp colored pencils As businesses are pushed towards environmental responsibility, Sprout offers a product they can use to their advantage— and that of the planet. The Sprout pencil sketchpad of clients includes notable companies like Toyota, Disney, Marriott and Coca-Cola. Although the private market is noticing the product, around 90% of Sprout pencil sales are currently to companies for use in marketing promotions— which is a major earth-friendly step in the right direction over landfill -clogging disposable pens or magnets. An appealing selling point is the personalization on the pencil shaft along with the additional marketing bling for the pencil sleeve. The seeds packed into the pencil range from colorful flowers to herbs and even vegetables, and buyers can select their preference. The pencils are available in a traditional grey color, as well as colored-pencil packs. Sprout feels that it is their duty to inspire sustainability through their products as well as their own corporate initiatives. With that in mind, they keep production facilities local in Minnesota for the U.S. and Canadian market instead of shipping manufacturing overseas. This not only minimizes the carbon footprint produced by transporting materials, but also provides American jobs. So what’s next for Sprout World? You won’t have to wait long to find out as the world’s first makeup pencil that also sprouts into plants instead of heading into the trash can is due to hit the market any day. Related: Cindy Chinn carves a tiny family of elephants into pencil tips New Sprout CEO, Sidsel Lundtang Rasmussen says, “The idea behind the plantable makeup pencil – like our other sprouting pencils – is to inspire to make small steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle. If you can plant a makeup pencil, what else can you do to recycle and give your belongings new life? The makeup pencil is also especially good as a gift because the receiver will enjoy it for a long time, as it signals originality and consideration from the giver.” + Sprout Images via Sprout

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Seeds on the moon started to sprout for the first time but quickly died

January 18, 2019 by  
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China has taken a major step toward long-term space exploration. Earlier this month, the Chinese moon probe Chang’e 4 carried a container with cotton, mustard and potato seeds , yeast and fruit fly eggs to the moon’s far side (facing away from Earth), and early this week, the China National Space Administration said that those seeds started to sprout. Unfortunately, temperatures dropped and killed the plants. According to the BBC , the project was designed by 28 Chinese universities, and the experiment was contained within a canister 7 inches tall and weighing about 6.5 pounds. It was designed to test photosynthesis and respiration, which are processes that produce energy . For the first time ever seeds 🌱 are growing on the moon 🌑! China’s moon mission success means that astronauts 👩‍🚀👨‍🚀could potentially harvest their own food in space! Learn more 👉 https://t.co/S6dOB3p2Ym via @BBCNews #ZeroHunger #FutureofFood pic.twitter.com/TNssZBLG0R — FAO (@FAO) January 15, 2019 The plants  were in a sealed container on the lunar lander, and the hope was that the crops would form a mini-biosphere. Inside the container, the organisms had a supply of air, water and nutrients to help them grow. The scientists said that keeping it at the right temperature was a challenge, because of the wild temperature swings on the moon , which ultimately killed the first sprout. If the experiment worked, astronauts could potentially begin to harvest their own food in space. That would be incredibly useful for long-term space missions, because they wouldn’t have to return to Earth to resupply. Although the sprout died, the experiment is a move toward this goal. Related: China plans to launch the world’s first ‘artificial moon’ But could these experiments contaminate the moon ? Generally, scientists don’t believe this is something we need to worry about, especially because there have been containers of human waste on the moon for 50 years thanks to the Apollo astronauts. The consensus among experts is that the sprout was “good news.” Fred Watson, astronomer-at-large at the Australian Astronomical Observatory, said that it could be a positive development for future space exploration. “It suggests that there might not be insurmountable problems for astronauts in future trying to grow their own crops on the moon in a controlled environment,” Watson said. “I think there’s certainly a great deal of interest in using the moon as a staging post, particularly for flights to Mars , because it’s relatively near the Earth.” Via BBC and The Guardian Image via Jeremy Bishop

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Seeds on the moon started to sprout for the first time but quickly died

Samson Ogbole is a Nigerian farmer who wants to bring aeroponics to the world

December 24, 2018 by  
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Samson Ogbole is a Nigerian farmer who is trying to solve the problem of land shortages in his native country. Nigeria’s population has now reached 190 million, but there isn’t enough land in the country to grow the food needed for the ever-growing population. So, Ogbole has found a solution — aeroponics. This unconventional method is the process of growing plants in the air without using soil. Ogbole first got involved with soilless farming in 2014, and just two years later founded PS Nutraceuticals, a company that puts cutting-edge agricultural technologies into action to improve the efficiency of food production and to ensure food security. “Soilless growing entails removing the soil component, bringing in substitutes, and applying fertilizer to enable the plants to grow,” Ogbole says. “With soilless farming, we have been able to push for what you call urban farming , where we now have farms in cities such that we are able to cut off the middlemen and marketers.” Ogbole says that there are many advantages to aeroponics, the biggest being that you can grow crops at any time of the year. The method has also allowed them to eliminate pathogens that naturally exist in the soil and affect crops. Related: Farmscape helps communities embrace urban farming  Nigeria needs an estimated 78.5 million hectares of land to produce enough food for the population. But, right now there are only 30 million hectares of farmland under cultivation , according to the International Trade Administration of the United States. And, Ogbole says that only 46 percent of Nigerian soil is fertile to grow crops, so the country needs to take steps towards self-sustainability in food production and let technology play a more prominent role. He believes that the “war of the future will be fought through agriculture .” “We’re bringing in technology into agriculture so that the youth can actually see this as a viable option,” explains Ogbole. “We also want to ensure that food production is no longer seasonal, and we’re also bringing in smart sensor technologies into agriculture so that you’re able to get feedback from your plants.” The farmer added that the future of the economy depends on a few people who have bright ideas and can think outside the box. It is ideas, not money, that solves problems. Via CNN Images via Shutterstock

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How to grow a lush garden in your tiny kitchen windowsill

October 2, 2018 by  
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Envision a garden — you probably picture rows of corn neatly spaced across a field or lettuce coming to life in large raised beds. What you might not realize is that produce can grow very well in limited spaces, too. You can transform the confined windowsill in your kitchen into an oasis of herbs, greens and other goodies. In addition to growing flavorful herbs and fresh food, you also bring visual appeal to the space and produce a natural  air filtration system . By growing plants organically, you know what you are eating, and you can save money. It’s also nice to be able to easily pluck fresh flowers, herbs or produce any season of the year. When you’re ready to tackle the challenge, here are some tips and tricks to get you started on growing your own windowsill garden. Picking the best plants for a windowsill garden There are myriad possibilities when it comes to selecting plants for your indoor garden. First, consider your preferences. Are you looking for unique, conversation-starting plants that draw interest, or is your goal to produce as much food as you can from your space? Also think about the amount of time you can dedicate to the garden. Since vegetables need frequent attention, consider durable houseplants if you have less of a green thumb. You can start plants from seed, cuttings or plants. Plants are the easiest and most productive option. Cuttings are started from existing plants. Simply trim off a 3-4 inch section and place it into a jar or glass with the bottom in water. Change your water about once a week to avoid bacterial growth. After roots appear (in a week or two), transfer your cuttings to soil. At first, help your cutting adjust by keeping it quite moist, and then gradually cut back the water as it stabilizes in the soil. If you want to start with seeds, seed trays are a good way to develop individual plants. Use a seed soil or potting soil rather than heavy garden soil , which can be too dense for seeds to grow through. Related: 6 foods you can regrow from kitchen scraps Most compact vegetables will do well in a windowsill garden. Look for dwarf varieties that remain small in size but produce a quantity similar to outdoor gardens . Snow peas, cucumbers, radishes, different types of lettuce, spinach, bush beans, green onions, garlic, chilies, sprouts and microgreens are all examples that will perform well in the right indoor conditions. Also consider porch tomato options, such as cherry tomatoes. Just about any herb will grow happily inside the kitchen. Some great options include basil, dill, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, dill and tarragon. Choosing plant containers The containers you choose can make a unique, artistic statement or create a peaceful, uniform landscape. Consider whether you want them all to match or if you prefer an eclectic blend. Use terracotta pots in their natural form, or give them a fresh coat of paint.  For a DIY look, cover them in chalk paint and label each pot with the plant it contains. Alternately, select your favorite ceramic pots, baskets or vases; use an old canister, tea kettle, bowls or jars; or gather standard store-bought resin planters. When choosing your planting containers, size is the biggest factor. Make sure you have room for each plant to spread out its root system without confinement. Plants will not be happy with compressed roots. Also make sure that the container you choose will fit on the windowsill. Whether you’re using a rain boot or an antique tea cup, make sure you have a drainage hole in the bottom of your container with some sort of saucer to catch the water that filters through. Finding a home for your indoor garden The location of your windowsill garden can be the difference between success and failure. South-facing windows are best, because they do not suffer from the harsh afternoon heat or struggle to find light. Many plants will thrive in an east-facing window as a second option. Wherever you locate your plants, they should receive at least 5-6 hours of direct sunlight daily. If your space doesn’t allow adequate sunshine , artificial light via heat lamps can do the trick. Set them on a timer to help you out and also to provide more consistent light for the plant. Make sure that your plants don’t come into direct contact with the cold window glass during the winter months, and protect them from the blazing greenhouse effect on hot summer days. Also stay away from areas with drafts, such as fireplaces or central heating vents. Tending to the garden Once you’ve selected your plants, containers and location, it’s time to pamper, watch and wait. Label all of your plants for easy reference. You can also include any care instructions that you want to keep close at hand. Keep your plants moist without providing too much water . You can set up drip systems for consistent watering or simply dip your finger in each pot every few days to feel for moisture. Offer your plants fertilizer every few weeks to boost health and productivity. Watch for signs that your plants are not getting the proper amounts of food, water or sunlight, and make adjustments as needed. Related: Why are my plants turning yellow? After herbs are well-established, pinch them back frequently to encourage bushy growth and keep them from going to seed. If the air in your house is dry from a wood-burning stove or other heat source, lightly mist around your plants weekly to improve humidity. Also rinse your plants every few weeks to deter insects, and be sure to look under the leaves for evidence of bugs. When your garden is thriving, propagate your next round of plants. Take cuttings and get them in water. Cut your green onions without pulling them out of the soil, and they will regrow. After harvesting your garlic, replant individual bulbs to grow again. Windowsill gardens are a great way to enjoy your garden all year without concern for outdoor weather conditions. Plus, it keeps your harvest within arm’s reach, adds variety to your meal plan and sparks visual appeal. Start your own windowsill garden and discover the many joys of indoor gardening for yourself. Images via Till Westermayer , Gemma Evans ,  Cassidy Phillips and Shutterstock

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How to grow a lush garden in your tiny kitchen windowsill

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