Bee hive vandalism in Iowa kills tens of thousands of honeybees

October 15, 2018 by  
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Bee vandals have struck again, this time at the Grateful Acres Farm northeast of Des Moines, Iowa. Last week, farmer Jake Knutson discovered that someone had trashed three of his strongest hives with cinder blocks, logs and bricks, causing him to lose tens of thousands of bees and 150 pounds of honey. The vandalism allowed bees from nearby farms to steal the honey from the exposed containers, and it also left Knutson’s insects to die in the rain. During the past year, hive vandalism has made news all over the world and killed hundreds of thousands of bees, including massacres in California , Ontario and Manchester, England, according to USA Today . Last winter, vandals also hit another Iowa farm, killing 500,000 honeybees. The insects do not fly in cold temperatures, and they died on the ground in the snow. Related: Bees addicted to pesticides much like smokers to nicotine, scientists say In last year’s Iowa vandalism case that caused over $60,000 in damages, two boys — ages 12 and 13 — ended up with felony charges. Knutson believes that kids are to blame for the current damage on his farm. Even though he doesn’t want to see kids get into trouble, he did contact authorities, because the vandals showed up two different times, and he doesn’t believe they should get a pass. “That means whomever did this came back within the last day and a half with the intent to destroy them,” Knutson wrote on Facebook. “The first time I guessed it was curious kids, and I was just wanting to speak to their parents, but after the recent incident I filed a police report and will prosecute when they find them.” Knutson saved as many bees as he could, and he plans to rebuild the hives for next year. One of Knutson’s friends created a GoFundMe account to help the farm recoup its losses. Knutson says that they will be able to recover, but “it just sucks” that someone would destroy everything after the huge investment of time and labor into the hives. Knutson also wrote on social media that bee vandalism seems to be a growing trend among kids, and parents need to teach their children about the importance of bees and seek out a local beekeeper to support . According to estimates, 35 percent of all food production depends on bee pollination. Meanwhile, honeybees continue to die off at an alarming rate. Via USA Today and EcoWatch Photography by Marisa Lubeck via USGS

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Bee hive vandalism in Iowa kills tens of thousands of honeybees

Barn-inspired home offers back-to-nature living with a crisp, contemporary twist

October 15, 2018 by  
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Reconnecting with rural roots has never looked better than at Silvernails, a beautiful hillside home fashioned as a rural barn in Rhinebeck, New York. Set on a picturesque 120-acre property near the east side of the Hudson River, the gabled holiday retreat is the first “ground-up” residential work of Manhattan-based Amalgam Studio . In addition to its modern good looks and spectacular outdoor views, Silvernails also boasts an energy-efficient design optimized for cross-ventilation and daylighting. Spanning 5,000 square feet, the timber-clad home is organized as a long and linear rectangular mass clad in timber inside and out. “Much like the traditional communal barn-raising events of the region, the double-height Bent Frames were raised and bolted into place, with the entire timber structure completed in one day,” explained Amalgam Studio founder Ben Albury, who noted that although many people are drawn to the airy and warm character of barns , the rural buildings’ lack of insulation and comfort are turn-offs. To make the barn-inspired residence a comfortable and welcome place to call home, the architects used high-performance glazing and insulation to ensure stable indoor temperatures year-round. In-wall heat-recovery ventilation units and operable windows also promote continuous fresh air. “From the very beginning, the clients wanted a comfortable house. I believe it would have been irresponsible for me not to look at, and ultimately follow, Passive House Standards,” Albury said. “As far as I’m aware, the home features the longest triple-glazed Passive House Certified residential skylight in North America.” In addition to natural ventilation and lighting, Silvernails features LED lighting, an energy-efficient multi-split heat-pump air conditioning system and locally sourced materials. Related: A Michigan farmhouse is reborn as a beautiful modern vacation retreat The exterior is clad with unpainted “plantation pine” treated to withstand rot and pests and applied using a “unique, innovative clip system to the standing seams of roof sheeting.” The interiors include white oak flooring and lining, walnut cabinetry and hickory vanity units. The timber palette is complemented with domestically quarried stone, including granite and slate. + Amalgam Studio Via ArchDaily Images by Oliver Mint

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Barn-inspired home offers back-to-nature living with a crisp, contemporary twist

This tiny shipping container home adapts to your needs

October 15, 2018 by  
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The tiny-living movement is thriving for a variety of reasons. An emphasis on minimalism, financial benefits and location freedom top the list. Many people who consider investing in a tiny home worry about size constraints, but the Calico tiny home by Katz Box offers a solution to that concern by offering a shipping container structure that adapts to its residents’ needs. Sustainability drives the Ohio-based Katz Box company with the goal of lowering the environmental impact of housing through reclaimed and recycled shipping containers. On the manufacturing end, the team is also committed to focusing on processing that minimizes waste. Related: Old shipping container repurposed as a 40-foot-tall parking booth In addition to creating an eco-friendly option through upcycling , the Calico design highlights a modular blueprint, meaning that each section of the interior is customizable to suit a variety of functions. An option for commercial or individual needs, the Calico provides a universal model to suit an endless array of demands, yet is completely tailored for a personal touch. The adaptable components don’t stop with the interior modular variations. In fact, this home can grow or shrink with the needs of the family. When more space is required, an additional shipping container or two can be added, making for a thoughtful and completely scalable design. Similarly, when the kids move out and it’s time to minimize, the added shipping containers can be removed. Mobility is another feature of the Calico, which can be relocated with ease. Appealing for the individual who moves often, it’s also an option for retail locations or temporary housing and offices, such as those on construction sites. Katz Box, the passion project company born from the sustainable mindset of owner Tobias Katz, is a relatively new option in the tiny-living movement. Founded in 2017, the objectives of Katz Box are many, including the goals of universal design elements and an accessible price point. Katz Box also aims to employ ultra-efficient building practices such as renewable energy and water conservation. + Katz Box Images via Tobias Katz

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This tiny shipping container home adapts to your needs

Adventuring Naya becomes first wolf sighted in Belgium in a century

January 23, 2018 by  
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A female wolf originally from East Germany has traveled across Europe to arrive in Belgium , marking the country’s first sighting in at least 100 years. Farmers in Belgium’s Dutch-speaking Flanders region have been notified of Naya’s presence after she killed two sheep and injured one in the town of Meerhout. While it is unlikely they are thrilled by Naya’s adventurous spirit, her arrival is nonetheless an inspiring event for a continent that long ago hunted most of its wolves to near-extinction in most places. With the Belgian sighting in the books, wolves have now officially returned to every country in mainland Europe. The nearly two-year old Naya was first tagged with a tracking device by Technical University of Dresden when she was six-months-old. However, she did not depart from her pack rooted in rural Lübtheener Heide, a region between Hamburg and Berlin , until last autumn. She has since been living the dream of traveling through Europe , first traversing the Netherlands before arriving in Belgium. “She passed through four or five natural parks in the Netherlands but she left them all after one or two days showing that she was looking for something else,” Hugh Jansman, a researcher from the Wageningen University and research center, told the Guardian . Related: Wolves return to Rome’s periphery for the first time in 100 years Data gathered from her tracking device indicates that Naya has covered between 30 and 70 kilometers per night. “I followed the places where she stayed,” said Jansman . “We found leftover roe deer and hares, so she has been eating wild animals as well, as expected. And one thing we can tell is that she has totally avoided humans, and anything to do with humans.” Naya is part of a thriving movement of European wolves returning to live in their former habitats. “ Agricultural areas are being abandoned by people so they are re-wilding again, leaving lots of space for carnivores. The countryside is being abandoned by young people who are moving to the cities,” said Jansman. “This increase in wolves numbers and distribution area is going quite rapidly. So it is not a matter of if wolves are coming to the Netherlands , and probably Belgium, but how fast.” Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Adventuring Naya becomes first wolf sighted in Belgium in a century

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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