First Smart Forest City in Mexico will be 100% food and energy self-sufficient

November 8, 2019 by  
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Milan-based architecture firm Stefano Boeri Architetti has unveiled innovative designs for a nature-infused smart city in Cancun, Mexico that will serve as a model for resilient and sustainable urban planning. Created for Honduras-based textile conglomerate and property developer Grupo Karim, ‘Smart Forest City – Cancun’ is a proposed alternative to plans for a shopping district in the area. The masterplan would reforest a 557-hectare site — currently used as a sand quarry for hotels — and create mixed-use development that would be completely food and energy self-sufficient. The proposed Smart Forest City – Cancun would house 130,000 residents as well as 7,500,000 plants of 400 different species selected by botanist and landscape architect Lauri Gatti. More than 200,000 trees would be planted to create a ratio of 2.3 trees per inhabitant, while the remainder of the vegetation would be mostly shrubs, bushes, green roofs and vertical gardens. “Thanks to the new public parks and private gardens, thanks to the green roofs and to the green facades, the areas actually occupied will be given back by nature through a perfect balance between the amount of green areas and building footprint,” the press release stated. Related: Stefano Boeri will revitalize Genoa with sustainable energy-producing urban design With help from the German company Transsolar, the mixed-use development would be surrounded by a ring of solar panels that provide enough renewable energy to meet the residents’ needs. The city would also include an agricultural field belt that wraps around the urban area. The fields would be irrigated by a water channel fed by an underwater maritime pipe and treated with a desalination tower. Parking for traditional vehicles would be located on the city periphery; a MIC (Mobility in Chain) system would provide internal electric and semi-automatic vehicles to transport residents and visitors throughout the development. As a testing hub for sustainable urbanism , the Smart Forest City – Cancun proposal includes a center for advanced research large enough to host international organizations, university departments and companies. The center would include research and development facilities dedicated to sustainability issues and green infrastructure. + Stefano Boeri Architetti Images via Stefano Boeri Architetti and The Big Picture

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These glass vases let you grow your own avocado tree no toothpicks required

November 8, 2019 by  
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While most home gardens tend to conceal the roots within decorated pots, Ilex Studio ‘s new collection of glass vases displays one of the most underrated parts of a plant — the roots. The studio’s transparent glass vases, which can be used to grow avocado and oak trees, feature minimalist silhouettes with spherical bases that showcase the plant’s incredible root systems. Recently unveiled at the London Design Festival , Ilex Studio’s collection was designed to let people skip the prickly process of using toothpicks to grow avocado trees. Additionally, the vases can be used to turn a humble acorn into a magnificent oak tree. Related: AvoSeedo makes growing avocado trees easier than ever Unlike most home gardens , where the plants’ roots are buried deep in the soil, these glass vases let you watch the magical powers of sprouting seeds. The hourglass shape has a small neck, where the avocado seed or acorn sits. The strategic shape lets the seed or avocado stay nice and dry up top while the roots begin to sprout below. Did we mention that there’s no need to stick anything with toothpicks? Over time, the roots begin to spread out into the water. Letting the roots hang freely allows them to become stronger until they are eventually ready to be planted in soil . The bulbous shapes of the vases actually magnify what is going on inside, giving you an up-close view of the roots as they grow. The Avocado Vase is slightly larger than the Acorn Vase, but according to the studio, the growing pattern is similar for the acorn and the avocado tree. The oakling can be left in the vase for up to one year, but growing an avocado tree is a bit more complicated. They both come with instruction booklets to guide you through the process of growing your own trees, straight from the seeds. These playful growing vases cost between £22 and £35 (about $28 to $45), with the larger avocado vase costing a bit more and the vases sans acorns costing less. Each order comes with a 20-page handbook of helpful instructions. + Ilex Studio Via Design Milk Images via Ilex Studio

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These glass vases let you grow your own avocado tree no toothpicks required

See the forest for more than the trees why reforestation isn’t working

August 6, 2019 by  
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We can all agree planting a tree is good for the environment — right? According to a recent study in Nature , the global crusade for reforestation as a remedy for climate change is largely missing the mark. So where did it go wrong? The new evidence reveals that most of the countries with large-scale tree-planting programs are actually developing tree plantations, which might help the economy but fail to sequester the carbon that the countries originally pledged to. The Bonn Challenge promises 350 million hectares of trees In 2011, the international Bonn Challenge was announced as an ambitious plan to plant 150 million hectares of trees by 2020. In 2014, more than 100 nations signed on under the New York Declaration of Forests, increasing the target to 350 million hectares by 2030. Unlike many lofty development goals, most countries are actually on track to exceed their promises, at least at first glance. In fact, the world actually has more forest cover now than it did in 1982. So, what’s the problem? Related: The ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ is transforming northwestern Pakistan Well, the majority of countries have been using the incentives and global momentum to back monoculture farms and counting trees that will be logged within years in their Bonn Challenge totals. According to the assessment, 45 percent of trees planted were species that will be quickly harvested for paper production. Another 21 percent were tree farm species, like fruits, nuts and cocoa . Only 34 percent of trees planted were part of so-called “natural forest,” even though the original intention of the Bonn Challenge was that all hectares planted should be natural forest. “Policymakers are misinterpreting the term forest restoration [and] misleading the public,” argued the study authors, Simon Lewis of Leeds University and Charlotte Wheeler from Edinburgh University. While agroforestry trees do provide important benefits to the environment and economy, monoculture plantations (especially when farmers clear natural forests for crops) fail to provide anywhere close to the same benefit in terms of sequestration and biodiversity . The value of natural forest A general definition of a natural forest is a “multilayered vegetation unit dominated by trees, whose combined strata have overlapping crowns, and where grasses are generally rare.” In general, a natural forest will store up to 40 times more carbon than a plantation that is harvested every decade. Related: How forest bathing can profoundly improve your health and well-being More than just trees , forests are important and intricate ecosystems. They are home to incredible biodiversity and provide sanctuary and habitat for thousands of species. They are also critical to the climate, because forests maintain rainfall and prevent desertification. Because clouds accumulate over forests, places that have destroyed all of their major forests often experience low rainfall, drought, desertification and other climate-related issues. Reforestation pledges around the world Even before the Bonn Challenge, China launched a massive reforestation program in response to flooding along the Yangtze River. Despite over two decades of reforestation, the report claims that 99 percent of all trees planted have been within monoculture plantations. Related: Philippine students must plant 10 trees to graduate, new law says In Niger, after years of complying with foreign and government extension officers who advised farmers to remove trees, farmers have finally argued that native trees serve an important purpose right where they are. Trees stabilize soil, produce nitrogen, buffer strong wind and improve organic matter in the soil. As a result of the farmers’ knowledge, deforestation has decreased, although the majority of farmers now wisely plant trees that will supplement their incomes rather than simply sequester seemingly abstract carbon. Yale Environment 360 reported that in Brazil, up to 82 percent of the forest restoration work is developing monoculture plantations and not natural forests. How to plant a forest? “Get out of the way.” According to National Geographic’s investigative article, “ How to regrow a forest: Get out of the way ,” even specific efforts by the U.S. Forest Department to plant natural forests have not worked the way they were intended to. For ease of planting and eventual use as lumber, the Forestry Department had a long-term tradition of planting native trees in neat rows at 12-foot gaps. Though the majority of trees were then left to develop into natural forests, the meticulous spacing has since exacerbated fire risk. The Department now opts for more irregular spacing and species biodiversity. Although it is more time- and cost-intensive, it ends up saving the department in firefighting costs later. Similarly, in Canada, a study found that a government campaign to drain wetlands thought to be smothering spruce trees caused a fire that destroyed 2,400 homes in 2016. Under the pretense of growing larger trees to store more carbon, peatlands were systematically destroyed. However, it is now recognized that peatlands ultimately store enormous amounts of carbon naturally and were more resilient to fires. “If you take the perspective that no matter what, more trees are better, that’s going to have unintended consequences,” said Sofia Faruqi from the World Resource Institute. “In the case of the West Coast, restoration may mean removing trees from the landscape.” Turning over a new leaf on reforestation pledges According to Faruqi, policies must acknowledge both what kind of tree is planted and how the tree “jibes with the larger health of the forest, the amount of water available or the needs of local people.” As we approach the start of the United Nation’s declared Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, many forestry experts agree that reforestation solutions must be localized — both at a national level and at the individual forest level. While the need for income, especially sustainably sourced income, is paramount, cash crop trees should be planted in addition to the 350 million acres of natural forest. Tropical forests are particularly important, because they have the potential to capture more carbon than any other forest type in the world. In many equatorial regions, where there are large amounts of land available and a high need for economic stimulation, healthy tropical forests can provide jobs, support indigenous traditions and capture an estimated 3 billion tons of carbon annually. That’s the equivalent of taking 2 billion cars off the road every year. Blanket pledges of specific tree planting targets have not worked and leave the door open for damaging misinterpretation. More research and awareness is needed to understand the importance of different ecosystems and more priority given to protecting and keeping natural ecosystems intact. The idea that any tree planted helps is simply outdated and misleading. A quote by American poet, environmentalist and farmer Wendell Berry sums it up nicely: “Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest.” + Nature Via Yale Environment 360 and National Geographic Images via Michael Benz , Marc Pell , Jesse Gardner , Janusz Maniak , Steven Kamenar and Zoer Ng

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See the forest for more than the trees why reforestation isn’t working

Scientists confirm tree planting is our best solution to climate change

July 8, 2019 by  
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New research suggests that tree planting isn’t just a feel-good volunteer activity — it could actually be the cheapest and most effective tool against global warming that exists. While environmentalists have been encouraging tree planting for decades, there has been contradicting information about how well nations are adhering to their reforestation pledges and how much they are actually making a difference. A new study, however, calculates just how many trees could be planted in a worldwide reforestation effort and how it would impact climate change if implemented correctly. The researchers concluded that if the entire world organized to plant trees in all available land that isn’t existing farms or urban areas, the new trees could capture two-thirds of all human-related carbon emissions . According to their calculations, there are 1.7 billion hectares available that could support 1.2 trillion additional trees. This area equates to 11 percent of the Earth’s total land surface, or according to The Guardian , “equivalent to the size of the U.S. and China combined.” Related: Philippine students must plant 10 trees to graduate, new law says The researchers calculated the land’s capacity for trees by attempting to reach the goal of 100 percent canopy cover in tropical areas and at least 50 percent tree cover in more temperate zones. “This new quantitative evaluation shows [forest] restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” said professor and lead researcher Tom Crowther. “What blows my mind is the scale. I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.” Even if all 1.2 trillion trees were planted tomorrow, it would take between 50 and 100 years to see the full benefit, and who knows what carbon emissions will look like then? With this in mind, Crowther still emphasized the need to bring emissions from fossil fuels and deforestation to zero. “[Reforestation] is available now, it is the cheapest one possible and every one of us can get involved,” Crowther said. He also noted that each person can make an impact by growing their own trees, donating to reforestation efforts and avoiding companies that are contributing to deforestation. Via The Guardian Image via Valiphotos

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Eco-group faces imprisonment after reviving an abandoned Spanish village

June 8, 2018 by  
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Like many countries around the world, Spain is struggling to address the problem of rural inhabitants abandoning villages to migrate to urban areas. However, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for Fraguas. Nearly 50 years after residents left the small area in northern Castilla-La Mancha, an eco-minded group of people decided to revitalize the village. Since 2013, the community has managed to breathe new life into Fraguas by rebuilding dilapidated homes, installing solar panels , planting vegetable gardens and restoring the area’s natural forest growth. By most accounts, it is a heart-warming story of the reformation of a once-beloved village — that is until the Spanish government decided to start legal proceedings to kick the new residents out of town. After decades of urban migration, the Iberia Peninsula is currently teeming with hundreds, if not thousands, of extinguished communities, many of them up for sale . While most of the villages were left abandoned, the previous residents of Fraguas were bought out by the government in the late 1960s to make way for a planned reforestation program . The village had only a handful of full-time inhabitants and became overgrown by nature’s creep. At one point, it was being used as a military training camp for Spanish soldiers, who took to blowing up the remaining buildings. Related: This revolutionary sustainable community in Atlanta is still thriving 15 years after its founding When the group arrived at the derelict site, they were set on bringing the land back to life through sustainable principles . The members began by clearing out the mass plant growth that had taken over the buildings and streets. Then, they started to reforest the area in and around the village, clear out roads and walking paths and plant orchards and large crops of vegetables. To restore the many dilapidated buildings and homes, the group researched as much as they could about the village’s original layout. As they created their master plan, the team started to draw up plans for installing various green technologies such as  solar panels and a communal gray water system. When the group began to revitalize as an eco-village , they met with various former residents, most of whom gave the group their blessings. One such supporter, Rafael Heras, was born in the village 71 years ago, but left at 19 to work in Madrid. Heras helped the team by describing life in what he calls a simple and self-sufficient area. “There was no electricity and no proper road; we used to keep it clear so that cars could come through,” he said. “It wasn’t a prosperous place, but I had a happy childhood here and people got by quite well.” Another former resident, Isidro Moreno, was also instrumental in the village’s rebirth by providing maps, plans and photos of the area as it was when he was growing up. In his guidebook, he addressed a heartfelt letter to the group. “To the new residents of Fraguas,” it reads. “Let’s see if you can recover this village’s history once more … I want to remind you to treat these stones with the love and respect they deserve, even if today they’re dead and lost among brambles and weeds. In another time, they were alive and were part of the story of the people who struggled so hard to live and who went through so many calamities.” Despite the support of many, there are some powerful adversaries that want to put a stop to the group’s hard work. The regional government recently said that the new residents can no longer stay in the village. In fact, not only is the government trying to evict the collective, but it is going through legal channels to punish the members for their “invasion” of the area. Currently, six members face more than four years imprisonment each along with a fine of up to $30,000 that will be used to demolish and destroy all of the effort that the group put into rebuilding the village over the last five years. According to  The Guardian , the regional government’s representative in Guadalajara Alberto Rojo has suggested that the group would had been better off rebuilding a village on the brink of extinction. He explained that there are more than 200 villages in the same area that have fewer than 50 inhabitants and would love to welcome new neighbors. “Of course we agree that there needs to be re-population initiatives in the province – and let’s hope there will be many – but only in the right kind of places,” he said, adding that the area of Fraguas is part of the Sierra Norte natural park, which is protected by law. Rojo also claimed that the village is in a danger zone for forest fires. Jaime Merino, one of the new residents, dismissed Rojo’s argument about the potential fire danger, insisting that the group has significantly reduced the risk of fire by cleaning up the overrun vegetation, and they have even offered to dig firebreaks around the village. He explained that the government says one thing, but does another. “There’s a certain resistance to this kind of project in this country,” Merino said. “They always say they’re going to take steps to tackle depopulation and find ways to get people back into rural areas, but this is an example of that. That’s the paradox: it’s Guadalajara’s department of agriculture, the environment and rural development that wants to demolish the village.” At this time, the Fraguas collective is going on the offensive to protect the home that they have spent years rebuilding. A Change.org petition has already attracted more than 76,000 signatures, and the group has launched an appeal for contributions on their website to fund legal bills. The group regularly posts updates on their Facebook page as well. + Fraguas Revive Via The Guardian Images via Fraguas Revive

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Japanese builder unveils plans for worlds tallest timber skyscraper in Tokyo

February 15, 2018 by  
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Japanese builder and developer Sumitomo Forestry has unveiled designs for the world’s tallest timber skyscraper in the heart of Tokyo. Designed by Nikken Sekkei , the 1,148-foot-tall wooden tower will form part of the W350 Project, a mixed-use environmentally friendly development that the firms aim to complete in 2041 to mark Sumitomo’s 350th anniversary. The company says these steel-and-timber structures will help “transform the city into a forest.” Early renderings of the W350 project show the timber buildings covered in greenery and filled with natural light as part of Sumitomo’s message of promoting a healthier living environment. The buildings will be built to withstand earthquakes and be constructed with a 9:1 ratio of wood to steel. The development’s skyscraper centerpiece will house a hotel, offices, retail and residences. When complete, it will not only be the tallest timber tower in the world but also the tallest building in Japan. Related: Magnificent timber skyscraper will sequester carbon and add greenery to Bordeaux W350 is estimated to need over 6.5 million cubic feet of wood and cost approximately 600 billion yen. While the building framework will be made of a hybrid timber-steel structure, the interior will feature exposed wood in an attempt to bring people closer to nature. The company hopes that the project will popularize timber architecture and help jumpstart a revitalization of the forestry industry in rural areas and interest in reforestation . + Sumitomo Forestry + Nikken Sekkei Via Telegraph Images via Sumitomo Forestry

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China is planting 6.6 million hectares of new forest almost the size of Ireland

January 11, 2018 by  
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The government of China has announced its plans to plant forests in 2018 that will occupy at least 6.6 million hectares, roughly equivalent to the size of Ireland . As the United States forfeits its leadership on climate change, China has been eager to seize the moment by taking bold action to mitigate the impact of climate change . The State Forestry Administration of China is working towards raising the total percent of the country’s territory covered by forests from 21.7 percent to 23 percent by 2020, then to 26 percent by 2030. The massive reforestation project will be a collaboration between the Chinese government and internal and external groups that know how to get the job done. “Companies, organisations and talent that specialise in greening work are all welcome to join in the country’s massive greening campaign,” said Zhang Jianlong, head of the forestry administration. “Cooperation between government and social capital will be put on the priority list.” This latest announcement is not the only reforestation project being conducted in China. The strategy of planting trees has also been utilized to fight desertification in the Gobi Desert , with mixed results. The most recent reforestation project may have more success as it is focused on planting in regions already well suited for hosting forests . Related: Shanghai’s sponge districts fight flooding with green space After China declared a national emergency over pollution in 2014, the nation of nearly 1.4 billion has invested heavily in improving the health of the environment and developing clean technologies. Reforestation is one weapon in this war on pollution . In 2018, trees will primarily be planted in the northeast Hebei province, Qinghai province in the Tibetan Plateau, and in the Hunshandake Desert in the northern autonomous Inner Mongolia region. China has already spent 538 billion yuan ($82,765,920,000) on its reforestation efforts over the past five years and plans to spend much more as it transforms much of its land into forests. Via The Telegraph Images via Depositphotos and Anthony Anastas/Flickr

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China is planting 6.6 million hectares of new forest almost the size of Ireland

Greening the Earth could fight climate change as efficiently as cutting fossil fuels

October 18, 2017 by  
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Planting trees, revitalizing soil, and other natural environmental actions could prove as effective in fighting climate change as ceasing all oil use across the planet, according to new study published by an international team of scientists in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Better stewardship of the land could have a bigger role in fighting climate change than previously thought,” said the team in a statement. Protection of carbon-storing peatlands , sustainable land management, reforestation, and other natural solutions could account for 37 percent of all emissions reductions required under the Paris Agreement by 2030. Perhaps most astoundingly, a complete re-greening of the planet would have as much of a positive impact on climate change mitigation as completely stopping the global burning of oil for fuel. The estimates of the potential benefits from natural climate change solutions are about 30 percent higher than that predicted by a 2014 UN panel of climate scientists. In the recently released study, scientists conclude that more sustainable management of natural resources and the environment could result in 11.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of China’s yearly emissions, by 2030. Trees are particularly important to this system, as they act as carbon banks while they are alive. After they die, trees decompose and this carbon is slowly released back into the atmosphere. More trees and more resilient forests means more potential carbon storage, among other health benefits. Related: Megacities could save $505 million a year thanks to trees Although the current plans from governments across the globe are insufficient to avert a 2 degree Celsius global temperature rise, the new study offers hope for alternative solutions. “Fortunately, this research shows we have a huge opportunity to reshape our food and land use systems ,” said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever. Unfortunately, the planet is rapidly running out of time before catastrophic climate change upends the world as we know it. “If we are serious about climate change, then we are going to have to get serious about investing in nature ,” said Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy. You heard it here: get out there and start planting trees. Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos

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Floating Cloud lamp adds levitating magic to any room

August 14, 2017 by  
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Take your home to new atmospheric levels with this incredible floating cloud lamp. Designed by Richard Clarkson Studio and Crealev , Floating Cloud is a magnetically levitating ambient lamp that adds a magical touch to any room it hovers in. The designers just announced a limited production run of these unique and fluffy lamps—read on for more details and to see the cloud come alive. Floating Cloud is the latest iteration of an ongoing collaboration between Richard Clarkson Studio’s cloud-themed designs and Crealev’s innovative levitation technology. Made from PETG and hypoallergenic polyester fiber, the fluffy cloud-like mass floats approximately 2.75 inches off its base using magnetic levitation. The Cloud is entirely wireless and the base is powered with a rechargeable lithium ion battery. The cloud spins and bobs side-to-side for a “more realistic atmospheric experience,” while hidden sound-reactive RGB LEDs create the powerful illusion of a storm cloud with lightning. To reduce weight and size, the Floating Cloud does not include a speaker, however it will react to existing sound systems and voices. The Cloud flashes to the beat of the music in four different styles using an embedded microphone. An infrared remote controls a range of ambient lamp modes from white to colored versions. Related: This water-filled lamp makes it rain in your home “The Cloud is held in place using both rare earth magnets, electromagnets, and a location sensor,” write Richard Clarkson Studio. “There is a discrete infrared locating beam in the center of the Cloud, which, if obstructed by an object (such as a hand) will result in the Cloud “falling off” it’s levitating balance point. In such an event the Cloud has a soft felt bottom to cushion the fall. To return the Cloud to its floating position, use your fingers to pry the Cloud off the base and with two hands hold the Cloud roughly in position, slowly move the Cloud from side to side until you feel it ‘lock’ in place.” The studio has released a limited 100-unit production run of the Floating Cloud, available on their website for $4,620 USD . + Richard Clarkson Studio

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Floating Cloud lamp adds levitating magic to any room

The biggest artwork in Europe "recharges" an Italian mountain with new trees

February 22, 2017 by  
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Spanish artist Escif is on an eco art mission to reforest Southern Italy’s Mount Olivella, which due to  massive deforestation centuries ago, is causing hydrogeological instability in the region today. The artist’s impressive environmental art intervention, Breath – Time to Recharge includes an image of a tree battery on the bald face of the mountain, which will slowly “recharge” thanks to the planting of 5,000 new indigenous trees, creating what’s being called Europe’s largest artwork. https://vimeo.com/203920760 Located in Sapri, Southern Italy, Mount Olivella was partly deforested in the 1700s, which has created a hydrogeological instability of the region. This instability is most likely to blame for climate-related problems such as flooding in the surrounding areas. Related: Irish town plans to plant world’s largest giant redwood grove The Breath project, designed by Escif and curated by Antonio Oriente and Incipit , includes planting 2,500 Holm Oaks and 2,500 Maples on the mountain’s bald face within the battery image. All in all, the art piece will cover a surface of 120,000 square meters – almost the size of 17 football fields. The first phase of the tree planting is scheduled for September 2017. Over time, locals will be able to see the battery image slowly “recharging”. More trees will be planted in 2019 in order to fully recharge the tree battery and restore the mountain back to its green glory. The project is currently running an Indiegogo campaign for support, and funds from an upcoming concert by Damien Rice on May 19th will also go towards the project. + Escif + Breath Project

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