The organic farm teaching sustainable growing techniques in Canada’s cold, dark north

January 15, 2018 by  
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Tucked inside the lush boreal forest in Canada’s Northwest Territories, you’ll find something unexpected. There, cheek to jowl with the ever-encroaching trees sits a thriving farm with snuffling pigs, lush fruit trees, and acres of vegetables, all in an environment that is anything but hospitable to agriculture . But creating a flourishing, regenerative landscape perfect for establishing local food security is exactly what the Northern Farm Training Institute is all about. Their goal is to help people form their own holistic growing environments to support healthy, food-secure communities – even if they happen to be located above the 60th parallel.   The Northern Farm Training Institute (NFTI) was founded in 2013 as a way to train people in isolated communities how to grow their own food and to restore northern environment-based food systems. Since then, the farm has taught 147 people from over 30 communities – half of those from First Nations/Metis/Inuvialuit communities – to create their own farms. NFTI grew as Jackie Milke, a local Hay River Metis woman, recognized the need to alleviate food insecurity in local communities. She quickly realized that there was a large demand for this type of learning, and the 260-acre farm has since hosted 30 intensive workshops in what they call a “living classroom.” The farm consists of outdoor gardens, a hoop greenhouse, and a geodesic dome greenhouse. On the farm live herds of sheep, cattle, pigs, goats, and chickens, with an animal barn, industrial kitchen and farm store. There are also 10 small yurts that act as student housing, and one large yurt for classroom learning. All of this is surrounded by the nearby Hay River, fields, forests and ponds. Related: Utopian off-grid Regen Village produces all of its own food and energy Farming in the NFTI focuses on regenerative, holistically-grown food that improves the health of the land and wildlife. The farm is completely organic and uses tactics like minimal tillage, and supporting biodiversity and soil health to help maintain a healthy environment. The farm grows a variety of berries, cherries, herbs, greens, carrots, beets, beans, potatoes, radishes and cruciferous vegetables. To further support a healthy community, NFTI uses produce that is being thrown out by local grocery stores to feed their pigs. In the fall, they teach wool washing, felting and dying. Pigs are used to help clear land for farming, and sheep help weed and fertilize pasture areas. They also work with animals that are more comfortable in colder climates, like Iceland Sheep and yaks , rather than the Rambouillet sheep and Angus cattle so familiar in the US. During the winter, with just six daylight hours, aurora borealis overhead and a sunset at 3:45 pm, the Northern Farm Training Institute doesn’t sit back and take January off. They grow seedlings inside their greenhouses, using snow to water the plants. The sunlight bouncing off the snow outside creates an ideal lighting effect for the growing plants. And the farm collects and uses discarded shredded paper from local communities to keep the animals warm. They also teach cheesemaking classes and food storage classes. The farm’s goal can be summed up as this: “Together we can transform Canada’s north. Regenerative agriculture provides the key to our food security, economic growth, and environmental restoration.” If you’d like to check the farm out, you can stop on by, either as a visitor, student or volunteer. Head to their webpage for more information. + Northern Farm Training Institute images via NFTI

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The organic farm teaching sustainable growing techniques in Canada’s cold, dark north

New ‘thermal battery’ soaks up heat energy like a sponge

January 11, 2018 by  
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Scientists at MIT have created a new unconventional material that is highly effective at storing and releasing heat energy — and could be used as a battery. Called AzoPMA, the new plastic-like polymer is capable of holding 100 times as much thermal energy as water. If further developed, a thermal battery which stores and releases heat as energy is needed could revolutionize solar energy , much as powerful traditional batteries have transformed the smart phone and electric car industries. Research on AzoPMA was led by Dr. Dhandapani Venkataraman, a chemist at the University of Massachusetts , and recently published in the journal Nature . The material was given its name in reference to its azobenzene-based poly(methacrylate) composition. AzoPMA is able to hold so much thermal energy because it switches between two conformations, or shapes, depending on its heat . When the material is heated, molecules within take their high-energy form, which is effective at storing thermal energy . When it is cooled, they return to their low-energy form, which then releases heat energy as needed. Related: South Australia to host world’s largest thermal solar plant The potential for thermal battery power is seemingly endless. “Thermal batteries today are where electrical batteries were a century ago,” MIT professor Dr. Jeffrey Grossman, who has led similar thermal battery research , told NBC News . “There are exciting applications we’re only starting to understand.” Venkatarman sees this feature as being especially useful in off-the grid locations. “Imagine when go camping, you’d be charging the molecules while you are hiking, then you’d discharge them to cook your dinner,” he said . AzoPMA could also be used as a non-burning material in solar-thermal ovens, which would reduce the risk of health damage from fumes on stoves common in rural areas, as a component of large household batteries, or spread out in small pieces to melt snow after a storm, without the need for electricity. Via NBC News Images via MIT and Nature

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New ‘thermal battery’ soaks up heat energy like a sponge

Midwest greenhouse heated with geothermal energy produces citrus year-round for $1 per day

August 31, 2017 by  
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Those who live in the Midwest United States understand how difficult it can be to eat local during winter. But for Russ Finch and his community, the task isn’t too difficult. A former mailman living in Nebraska , Finch designed a greenhouse that produces lemons, grapefruit-sized oranges, green figs, and grapes — all for just $1 a day. His magic trick? Geothermal heating. Finch calls his structure the Greenhouse in the Snow . The original, which he constructed more than 20 years ago, is connected to his home. Finch specifically grew citrus in the greenhouse to prove that it’s possible. “Any type of plant we saw, we would put it in and see what it could do. We didn’t baby anything,” said Finch. “We just put it in and if it died, it died. But most everything really grows well. We can grow practically any tropical plant.” NPR reports that the structure’s design is base don a walipini, or a pit greenhouse. The floor has been dug down 4 feet below the surface, and the roof has a slant toward the south to catch the sun’s rays. During the daytime, temperatures in the greenhouse can reach over 80 degrees F. At night, geothermal heat is relied on to combat the plummeting temperatures. Only warm air is used to heat the greenhouse — no propane or electric heaters. Warm air is obtained from perforated plastic tubing that is buried underground. The tubing runs out one end of the greenhouse and extends in a loop to the opposite side. It is circulated via a single fan. “All we try to do is keep it above 28 degrees in the winter,” said Finch. “We have no backup system for heat . The only heat source is the Earth’s heat, at 52 degrees at 8-foot deep.” Because the 1,200 square foot greenhouse is not dependent on fossil fuels , energy costs are down to just $1 a day. Particularly in midwestern states, low energy costs matter. “There have been hardly any successful 12-month greenhouses on the northern High Plains because of the weather,” said Finch. ”The cost of energy is too high for it. But by tapping into the Earth’s heat, we’ve been able to drastically reduce the cost.” Related: Russian ice skating rink doubles as a solar-powered outdoor cinema and geothermal spa Every year, the farmer grows a few hundred pounds of fruit which he sells at a local farmers market. His main business is selling the design for the Greenhouse in the Snow. A new version of his invention costs $22,000 to build. Finch says he has constructed 17 of them so far, throughout the United States and Canada. While Finch might not be able to supply a supermarket with the crops he grows, he can provide fresh produce to his local community. If more people in the rural midwest invested in greenhouses that rely on geothermal energy, carbon emissions from shipping fruit and vegetables all over the country would be reduced. This, in turn, would benefit the environment and people’s health as fresh, organically-grown food is more nutrient-dense and retains more flavor. + Greenhouse in the Snow Via NPR Images via Pixabay, YouTube

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Midwest greenhouse heated with geothermal energy produces citrus year-round for $1 per day

Park City, Utah commits to 100% renewable energy

October 17, 2016 by  
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Park City, Utah is on the front lines of global warming as it grapples with decreasing snowfall and a shorter winter season that traditionally draws thousands of skiers and snowboarders from around the world. However the mountain community isn’t waiting for the snow to melt to take climate action – Park City just committed to 100 percent renewable energy by the year 2032. The announcement comes just months after Salt Lake City, Utah made the same pledge to transition to clean power. “Park City’s commitment for 100% renewable electricity is driven by our community,” said Mayor Jack Thomas. “The passion for the natural environment and our responsibility to take care of it is part of the fabric of what makes Park City a very special place to live. Park City can’t do it alone. I challenge other communities to across the nation join us in this goal.” Related: A unique community of modern green homes hug the desert floor in Utah A total of 19 American cities have now committed to 100 percent renewable energy, joining a growing global list of hundreds of cities, regions, countries and institutions – including the mountain community of Boulder, Colorado that in September committed to 100 percent clean energy by 2030. Last year, Aspen, Colorado became the third US city to reach 100 percent renewable energy after Burlington, Vermont and Greensburg, Kansas. Park City is also aiming to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2022. Reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2022 and 100 percent renewables by 2032 are ambitious goals in a state that relies on coal for 80 percent of its power. But Park City is well on its way, with more than 1,200 solar panels installed on city facilities, a robust energy efficiency program and soon zero emissions electric buses transporting riders on city streets. Via Park City Government Images via Raffi Asdourian and Joseph De Palma

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Park City, Utah commits to 100% renewable energy

No, the Great Barrier Reef isnt dead – but it is damaged

October 17, 2016 by  
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Last week, social media users from around the world were shocked and horrified to find the Great Barrier Reef had been “declared dead” in a viral symbolic obituary from Outside Magazine. There was only one problem: the premise of the article isn’t actually true, and scientists have been scrambling to correct the record in the following days. What is true is that the reef is struggling due to climate change, and needs urgent help if it’s going to survive. Earlier this year, a shocking 93% of the reef began experiencing a phenomenon known as “bleaching,” which occurs when warm ocean temperatures stress the reef, causing the tiny colored algae living within the coral organisms to become ejected. Without the algae, the coral eventually dies. In fact, this is what’s recently happened to about 22% of the coral on the reef. While this is the worst mass bleaching event on record, the majority of the reef is still alive and struggling. Related: This startling video shows coral bleaching in action The viral obituary has marine scientists scrambling to correct the record. In a statement to the Huffington Post , Russell Brainard, chief of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Program at NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, expressed his frustration. While the article may have been a well-intentioned attempt to highlight the urgency of the situation, he worries that people will take it at face value and assume that there’s no work to be done to save what’s left of the reef. In fact, there is reason for hope: one study last year found that even after massive bleaching events, it is possible for reefs to fully recover. However, it’s a slow process that requires stable conditions to occur — something the reef may not have if bleaching events continue to occur at a faster and faster rate. Related: More than one-third of the coral is dead in parts of Great Barrier Reef If we don’t act soon to protect our oceans, we may see the world’s coral reefs perish for real. The driving cause of coral mass bleaching events is climate change , and if global temperatures continue to rise, we will reach a point at which coral simply can’t survive. That’s why it’s so important to vote for candidates with a strong environmental record, write to our representatives, and do what we can to reduce our individual carbon footprint . Via Slashdot Images via Wikipedia and Oregon State University

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No, the Great Barrier Reef isnt dead – but it is damaged

This pink snow may be pretty, but it’s terrible news for the environment

June 27, 2016 by  
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Pink snow might sound outlandish, but it can actually be found around the world. While it may be pretty, it turns out it really isn’t a good look: the color is caused by blooming algae , which cause the snow to melt quicker. As the climate changes, these algae thrive – but their presence has ominous implications for glaciers . In a study published this week in Nature Communications , scientists from the UK and Germany scrutinized the algae and an effect called “bio-albedo.” White surfaces, like glaciers and snow, reflect sunlight, and that’s called albedo. When those glaciers and snow melt, they reveal darker surfaces beneath, like mountains or oceans, and those surfaces have a lower albedo, or absorb greater amounts of sunlight. That effect is important because red algae actually gives snow a lower albedo and makes it melt faster. Related: Arctic temperatures are literally off the charts Lead author Stefanie Lutz told Gizmodo, “The algae need liquid water in order to bloom . Therefore the melting of snow and ice surfaces controls the abundance of the algae. The more melting, the more algae. With temperatures rising globally, the snow algae phenomenon will likely also increase leading to an even higher bio-albedo effect.” Lutz’s study reveals ” red pigmented snow algal blooms ” can decrease snow albedo by 13 percent during a melt season. The phenomenon takes place all around the world, too, from the Arctic to Antarctica. Greenland, the European Alps, and Iceland are a few other places where people have noted the algae. The algae is especially prevalent in the Arctic during the summer, when Lutz says by her estimation at least 50 percent of snow on a glacier displays the blooms. Lutz and her colleagues recommended the algae be taken into account in future climate models, because warmer temperatures will likely mean more algae, and therefore even more melting. Via Gizmodo Images via Wikimedia Commons and Dick Culbert on Flickr

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This pink snow may be pretty, but it’s terrible news for the environment

There’s so much snow in the US and Canada that snow tunnels are now a thing

February 26, 2015 by  
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Click here to view the embedded video. When a few inches of snow falls in your yard, it’s time to find the shovel and dig out a path, but what do you when several feet of the cold stuff lands outside your door? Apparently, you dig out a tunnel . Or at least, that’s what some people have done: creating tunnels up to 40 foot long in an attempt to locate buried cars, access sidewalks, and generally quell the tedium and frustration of being submerged in epic quantities of snow. Read the rest of There’s so much snow in the US and Canada that snow tunnels are now a thing Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: 2014 , 2015 , Ari Goldberger , bike path , boston , canada , Climate Change , Marcel Landry , MBTA , snow , snow tunnel , snowfall , winter

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There’s so much snow in the US and Canada that snow tunnels are now a thing

Loo-cy helps one Maryland man clear snow while sitting on the can

February 23, 2015 by  
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The northeastern US has been inundated with snow over the past month, but one Maryland man has found a way to bring a smile to the faces of passersby with his rather unique snowplow. Dubbed “Loo-cy”, David Goldberg’s sidewalk snow plow is manned from atop a toilet , and the rig is fully equipped with loo paper and a magazine rack—though Goldberg admits it’s probably not advisable to actually “go” on this particular lavatory. Read the rest of Loo-cy helps one Maryland man clear snow while sitting on the can Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: bathroom , bethesda , David Goldberg , lavatory , loo-cy , northeastern us , Recycled Materials , salvaged materials , snow , snow plough , snow plow , snowplow , toilet plough , toilet plow , toilet snow plough , toilet snow plow , toilet snowplow , winter 2015

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Loo-cy helps one Maryland man clear snow while sitting on the can

Apple to build 100 percent renewable energy-powered data centers in Denmark and Ireland

February 23, 2015 by  
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Apple has just announced plans to construct two new data centers in Europe, and like all current Apple data centers, the facilities will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy . Constructed at a total cost of $1.9 billion, the data centers will each measure 166,000 square meters (545,000 square feet) and will power the company’s iTunes App Store, iMessage, Maps and Siri services. Read the rest of Apple to build 100 percent renewable energy-powered data centers in Denmark and Ireland Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: “wind power” , apple , computer , data center , demark , Europe , Ireland , lisa jackson , mac , native trees , renewable energy , servers , Sustainable Building , tim cook , waste heat

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Apple to build 100 percent renewable energy-powered data centers in Denmark and Ireland

Incredible ICEHOTEL shows off stunning fantasy-like rooms carved from ice and snow

January 14, 2015 by  
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Read the rest of Incredible ICEHOTEL shows off stunning fantasy-like rooms carved from ice and snow Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Art Suites , hotel rooms made from ice , hotel rooms made from snow , ice , ice hotel room , ice room , ice theater , icebar , icehotel , ICEHOTEL 25th anniversary , jukkasjarvi , snice , snow , Sweden

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Incredible ICEHOTEL shows off stunning fantasy-like rooms carved from ice and snow

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