Rare blue bee spotted in Florida

May 20, 2020 by  
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While most Americans have been inside watching Netflix and cultivating sourdough starter, Chase Kimmel has scoured the Central Florida sand dunes for the blue calamintha bee . The rare bee hadn’t been spotted since 2016, but Kimmel’s diligence paid off. The postdoctoral researcher has caught and released a blue bee 17 times during its March-to-May flying season. Scientists think the bee lives only in the Lake Wales Ridge region, which is due east of Tampa in the “highlands” — about 300 feet above sea level. This biodiversity hotspot traces its geological history back to a time when most of Florida was underwater. The high sand dunes were like islands, each developing its own habitat. Unfortunately, this ecosystem is quickly disappearing. Related: UK bees and wildflowers thrive during lockdown “This is a highly specialized and localized bee,” Jaret Daniels, a curator and director at the Florida Museum of Natural History and Kimmel’s advisor, told the Tampa Bay Times . The bee pollinates Ashe’s calamint, a threatened perennial deciduous shrub with pale purple flowers. Scientists first described the blue calamintha bee in 2011, and some feared it had already gone extinct . It’s only been recorded in four locations within 16 square miles of Lake Wales Ridge. “I was open to the possibility that we may not find the bee at all so that first moment when we spotted it in the field was really exciting,” Kimmel said. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is funding Kimmel’s two-year study. Before the Ashe’s calamint began blooming this spring — and before the pandemic upended some of his research strategies — Kimmel and a volunteer positioned nesting boxes in promising areas of the ridge. After the flowers bloomed, he has continued to return and look for bees. When he sees what he thinks is a blue bee, he tries to catch it in a net and puts the bee in a plastic bag. Then, he cuts a hole in the corner of the bag and entices the bee to stick its head out so he can look at it with a hand lens. After photographing the bees, he releases them. Kimmel says their stings aren’t too bad. + Florida Museum Photography by Chase Kimmel via Florida Museum

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Rare blue bee spotted in Florida

UK bees and wildflowers thrive during lockdown

April 13, 2020 by  
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While humans stay at home and the workforce cuts back to only those who provide essential services, mowing the verges along roadsides in the U.K. is not a top priority. This coronavirus -induced oversight may prove to be beneficial for the U.K.’s bees, butterflies, bats and wildflowers. Much of the U.K.’s natural meadows have long been converted to housing estates and farmland, so the country’s 700 wildflower species find few places to grow freely. Roadside verges — narrow grassy strips along the highways — are a last haven and home to about 45% of U.K. flora. Related: Planting wildflower strips across crop fields could slash pesticide use The lockdown coincidentally benefits a campaign by Plantlife , a wild plant conservation charity. Its road verge campaign calls on officials to reduce the cutting schedule from four cuts per year to only two. As Plantlife’s website points out, the U.K. has 238,000 hectares of road verges but only 85,000 hectares of wild grassland. “It’s a real opportunity for verges to flower again, some for the first time,” Trevor Dines, Plantlife’s botanical specialist, told The Guardian. “If the lockdown ends in late May, drivers will see great swaths of oxeye daisies and ladies bedstraw.” Various councils around the U.K. have already delayed or scaled back mowing, including Flintshire in Wales, Somerset in southwest England, Newcastle in the northeast and Lincolnshire in eastern England. These areas can expect explosive wildflower displays this spring, featuring oxeye daisy, wild carrot, yellow rattle, betony, meadow crane’s-bill, greater knapweed, harebell and other varieties that will thrill pollinators like butterflies, bees and bats. “This will certainly be good for pollinators,” said Dines, who is also a beekeeper. “Last year, we already saw improvement in the areas where councils were cutting less. I had my best ever year for honey.” Colorful flowers will also boost mental health . “People are desperate for wildlife and colour right now. Let’s see what the public response is. For lots of commuters, myself included, verges are the only chance to see wild plants.” Via The Guardian Image via Phil Gayton

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UK bees and wildflowers thrive during lockdown

Nike reveals Space Hippie sustainable sneakers made from waste

February 25, 2020 by  
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Nike has launched a new, exploratory collection, aptly named Space Hippie , to highlight the NASA-inspired concept of in-situ resource utilization — the idea of using space-based resources during deep space exploration. By taking the company’s own “space junk” from the floors of its manufacturing warehouses, Nike is turning waste into feedstock, creating a sustainable sneaker that combines high performance with low impact. The Space Hippie shoes are assembled using recycled “space junk”, such as recycled plastic water bottles, T-shirts and yarn scraps. The “Crater Foam” tooling is made up of a combination of Nike Grind rubber and recycled foam materials. According to Nike, every aspect of the Space Hippie line was chosen with sustainability in mind, from the material to the production methods to the packaging. The new shoes boast the lowest carbon footprint score compared to the company’s other products. Related: Fashion companies make a pact to protect the planet The collection includes four different shoe designs, appropriately named Space Hippie 01, 02, 03 and 04, and the styles are nothing short of unique. The sustainable sneakers feature gray bodies with complementary orange elements, including the iconic Nike Swoosh. Nike doesn’t seem to be shying away from the fact that these shoes are essentially made from trash , yet the design is still quite compelling, fashion-forward and (unsurprisingly) futuristic. Nike recently unveiled the collection, which will be released in Spring 2020 to Nike members at Nike House of Innovation flagship locations and select retailers around the country. Nike, as a business , has a lot to gain from recycled footwear. “We must think about the entire process: how we design it, how we make it, how we use it, how we reuse it and how we cut out waste at every step,” said Seana Hannah, vice president of sustainable innovation at Nike. “These are the fundamentals of a circular mindset that inform best practices.” + Nike Via Dezeen and Core77 Images via Nike

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Nike reveals Space Hippie sustainable sneakers made from waste

12 tips for a vibrant spring garden

February 13, 2020 by  
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When the frost begins to thaw and the first signs of spring appear, it’s time to start thinking about your garden. While it’s true that many of your plants won’t fully come to life for another six months, the more you can knock off your list before spring, the better off your plants , lawn, and schedule will be. So even if you’re still enjoying cozy time in front of the fire, consider tackling, or even preparing for, some outdoor chores during breaks in the weather. Weeding If you live in a snow-covered area, this task will have to wait, but if the thaw is on it’s the perfect time to tackle the first round of seasonal weeds. Since the soil is soft before the heat of summer cements it in, pull weeds and invasive grass for a jump start to the  spring weeding. The earlier and more frequently you pull them, the easier they are to control throughout the season. Related: 11 unique edible plants for your garden Building  If the weather outside is still too severe to work the ground, there are still ways to prep your garden from within the cover of your workshop. Plan and build trellises, arbors and raised beds in preparation for the planting season. Fencing If the heavy frost is past, dig into that fence-building project. Your post hole digger will glide through the soil much easier early in the year than it will if you wait until August. Plus, your garden space will be protected from wildlife and domestic animals before you even get the seeds in the ground. Transplanting It’s important to get your plants established before the growing season begins so they are ready to accept nutrients and thrive. Deciduous trees and shrubs still in their dormant season can be moved as long as the ground isn’t too frozen or too wet. Evergreen flowering shrubs such as rhododendrons, myrtles, azaleas and camellias can be moved once the threat of frost has passed. Organizing Even if you can’t check weeding or planting off your list, late winter is the ideal time to care for your lawn and garden supplies. Choose a reasonably agreeable weather day and empty the garden shed or supplies from the garage. Wash planting pots and allow them to dry. Clean and add protectants to tools. Also, sharpen blades and take an inventory of trimmer string and similar supplies that need replacing. Reorganize tools and supplies and donate unneeded or duplicate items to your local Habitat for Humanity reStore. Also, create a planting calendar so you have an idea of the workload in the upcoming months. Organize your seeds in a box in order of when they need planting — whether you’re using indoor starts, a greenhouse, or direct planting. This is also the perfect time to order seeds or plants. Make sure to check out your local extension office for garden plant sales nearby. While you’re in planning mode, make a list of desired projects for the year and create a workable timeline for each, complete with a budget. Edging Lawn edging is another task that is much easier in soft soil so tidy up the edges around all lawns and add a border if it’s in your plans. It will make mowing and other maintenance much easier throughout the season. Deadheading As your plants begin to rise from their winter slumber, deadhead last year’s growth as appropriate for each plant. Trim off spent blooms you may have missed in the fall, including the foliage from  ornamental grasses . Also, remove the faded flowers from winter pansies and other current bloomers to extend their blooming season. Caring for fruit February and March (if this is winter in your area) are the time to get root plants in the ground. This includes blueberries and raspberries. For fruit trees, protect them from the birds by adding netting before the fruit begins to develop. It’s much easier to cover plants and trees before they fill out with a full bloom. If you already have established berries, go ahead and cut them back now as the growing season begins. Pruning trees While we’re discussing trees, late winter is still a dormant time where trees respond well to pruning. It’s also easier to see the growth pattern of the branches so you can select which of them needs to be trimmed back. Avoid pruning spring-blooming trees  until after they have completed their bloom season. Pruning shrubs and climbers Now is also the time to trim back ivy, wisteria and other climbers as well as hearty shrubs like boxwood. Creating a shape now drops care down to a maintenance level for the season , meaning you will just need to monitor its growth, feeding, and watering. Feed the birds Even though the temperatures may be starting to level out or rise, the birds are still foraging for food so give them a handout. Clean and fill bird feeders with quality food to keep them coming back for more. Dig a pond If you have set a goal of putting in a pond or other feature, dust off the design and get digging now. Again, you’ll find it much easier to create a hole in soft soil than rock hard tundra . If it will be a while before you finish the task, make sure the hole is properly covered to avoid accidents. Via Thompson and Morgan Images via Pexels and Pixabay

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12 tips for a vibrant spring garden

8 attainable sustainability resolutions for 2020

January 1, 2020 by  
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Setting goals is a ubiquitous part of ushering in each new year. With a renewed vigor for healthy living, embrace the opportunity to incorporate more eco-friendly habits into your routine. This task can be achieved in a variety of ways, from changing your diet to reducing waste . Wherever you are on your sustainable living journey, we’ve got some ideas for how to lower your carbon footprint and enhance your sense of commitment to the planet. Commit to less driving Reducing miles equals reducing carbon emissions . To minimize personal auto usage, use public transportation for your daily commute. If subways and buses don’t take you where you need to go, set up a carpool to eliminate multiple cars going to the same location. Over the course of a year, replacing your 10-mile drive to work or school at least one day each week will greatly reduce emissions. If possible, skip the car altogether by walking or using a bike. Alternately, look into electric cars if you’re in the market for a new vehicle. Even if you must rely on your car daily, you can still reduce miles by combining errands when you head to town, organizing a carpool for kid drop-offs and pickups, sending the kids to school on the bus, eating your lunch in the office instead of driving to a restaurant and walking or biking to places in your neighborhood instead of jumping in the car. Related: People for Bikes is making cycling safer with Ride Spot Start a garden There’s nothing better than having fresh, organic vegetables at your disposal and no better way to achieve that goal than by starting a garden. If you have the space, plan for the seasons with cool weather leafy veggies and carrots in the spring, a salsa garden in the summer and squash in the fall. In a small space, prepare a container garden on your patio with cherry tomatoes, herbs and peas. If you don’t have space for your own garden, bring together like-minded people and start a community garden. As the saying goes, “Many hands make light work,” so having help with planting, maintaining and harvesting plants benefits everyone. If outdoor space isn’t an option, consider setting up a hydroponics system to grow indoors instead. Join an environmentally focused group Finding ways to help the environment can feel somewhat overwhelming, but when you join a group of like-minded people sharing in a common goal, you can achieve great things. Whether your passion is cleaning up the oceans or planting trees , find a local group that supports your cause. If there isn’t one in your area, set a goal to start one. Budget for the environment We are surrounded by prompts to constantly buy more stuff. Every billboard, bus and storefront is filled with enticing marketing meant to convince you that you need whatever they offer. But each product contributes to emissions from sourcing materials, manufacturing, transporting, maintaining warehouse and retail space and disposing of post-consumer waste. Of course, it’s important to make conscientious decisions about avoiding plastic and plastic foam, buying in bulk when possible and investing in durable products that will last many years rather than disposables, but avoiding the purchase in the first place is the best thing you can do for the planet. Boil purchases down to the essentials. Give experiences rather than physical gifts. Only buy in quantities you’re likely to use. Focus on multipurpose items that can suit alternate needs. Really evaluate whether you will use an item long-term. Set a goal to reduce unnecessary purchases, and do your budget a favor at the same time. Hint: Sharing or renting equipment, tools and supplies is another easy way to save money and reduce environmental impact. Take a class There are endless ways to lower your carbon footprint , so target a topic of interest and learn more about it. Some examples include beekeeping, preserving food, woodworking, sewing, gardening or learning how to build solar and wind technology. Become more self-sufficient by obtaining skills in homesteading, identifying edible plants or using plants in alternative ways. Reduce waste Becoming conscious of your waste is a huge step toward reducing it. Take a look at your typical waste. Do you fill a 64-gallon street container each week? If so, see if you can reduce that to a 32-gallon instead. If you don’t already, start recycling . Capabilities of local recycling centers vary widely across the nation, so educate yourself on the regional process. Most facilities accept glass, tin cans, large plastic containers and paper — at a minimum. Also, always return your bottles and aluminum cans for recycling or redemption. Related: Recycling Identifying Device takes the guesswork out of figuring out what is recyclable To repeat an earlier sentiment, the best way to reduce garbage is to keep it from entering the house in the first place. Look at the packaging when you make a purchase, and support companies that ship in recyclable or biodegradable containers. Set a tangible goal for yourself to reduce your waste production by half. Maybe next year, you can halve it again. Write a letter Believe it or not, companies want to know how you feel about their products. When you notice something you like, such as a commitment to carbon offsetting or sustainable material sourcing, let them know with your buying power and your word. Conversely, let businesses know when they miss the mark. Write a letter to the CEO or owner, and let them know you would be a loyal customer if they worked toward corporate responsibility. Near and far, make companies aware of changes they can make to be more sustainable. Offer suggestions to local restaurants to replace plastic straws or single-use plastic tablecloths. Ask if to-go containers are cardboard, and refuse them if an establishment only provides plastic foam. At a city, state or federal level, get your representative involved. Drop them a note each month of the year to let them know what is important to you. Educate them about issues they may not be aware of. Ask for representation around topics like reducing petroleum reliance, protecting nature and supporting organic farming. Make your voice heard by speaking out for what you believe. Clean your plate Feeding the planet’s population puts a burden on our limited resources, but there are many things you can do to lessen your individual impact. Start by buying as local as possible. Source food from the farmer’s market seasonally, and purchase directly from farms in your town. Buying organic produce supports farmers who make the extra effort to keep pesticides and other chemicals out of our waterways. You don’t want to eat chemical-laden food, anyway. Cut back on animal products, because animal farming is a major producer of methane. Skip meat a few days a week or altogether. Cut out dairy products where you can, too. Don’t buy more food than you need , and use up leftovers rather than throwing them out. Do most of your cooking at home. A commitment to home-cooked meals is better for your health, your budget and the planet. Setting resolutions for the new year is a healthy way to guide yourself toward your sustainability goals, which is a win for you and for Earth. Happy New Year! Images via Shutterstock

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Design Your Landscaping to Handle Stormwater Runoff

November 19, 2019 by  
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It’s time to think about Spring. Yes, now, before the … The post Design Your Landscaping to Handle Stormwater Runoff appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Design Your Landscaping to Handle Stormwater Runoff

We Earthlings: We Can Change

November 19, 2019 by  
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When we put our minds to it, humanity can make … The post We Earthlings: We Can Change appeared first on Earth911.com.

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We Earthlings: We Can Change

Innovative fish adoption program protects San Marcos River from invasive species

September 26, 2019 by  
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Like any ecosystem , the San Marcos River is happier without invasive species taking over. This spring-fed river in San Marcos, Texas, maintains its 72-degree temperature year-round, making it popular with humans, fish and turtles who live in the area. But a problem arises when humans decide they no longer want their exotic aquarium fish and decide to release these non-native species into the river . Fortunately, the San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department has devised an innovative way to protect both the river and the unwanted fish. Inhabitat spoke with Melani Howard and Eric Weeks to learn more about San Marcos’ Pet Fish Drop Off program. Howard is the Habitat Conservation Plan Manager for San Marcos’ Engineering and Capital Improvements Department. Weeks is the coordinator of the Discovery Center, an interpretive center for the Blanco and San Marcos rivers, parks and associated trails. Related: Robotic fish offer a solution to controlling invasive species Inhabitat: How and when did the program start, and why was it needed? Howard and Weeks: The program started in 2017 to reduce the number of non-native fish being dumped into the San Marcos River from aquaria and, most importantly, to educate the public about the impacts of non-native fish on native populations. We started with a small outside pond, but the predators eventually turned it into a “food bowl,” so we had to move the program to our inside tanks.  We have three large aquaria — one is dedicated to native species and the other two we use for the Fish Drop Off program. Inhabitat: How many fish do you usually have at once? Howard and Weeks: We typically have anywhere between 15 to 30 fish total in both aquaria. Inhabitat: What types of fish have people dropped off? Howard and Weeks: Suckermouth catfish (our target fish to collect, as it is incredibly invasive ), goldfish, angelfish, neons, beta, zebra, bala, gourami, cichlid, rainbow, Oscar, aquatic frog, carp, tetra and platy. Inhabitat: Do the fish get “adopted” and brought home to new aquariums? If so, how does that process work? Howard and Weeks: Yes, all the fish are adoptable by anyone who wants them. The adoption process has been fairly constant, although has slowed down somewhat because of decreased marketing. Individuals just have to stop by the Discovery Center, Monday to Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., with their own take-home containers. Inhabitat: Who takes care of the fish, and what kind of care is provided? Howard and Weeks: Discovery Center staff cares for the fish. Care consists of regular cleaning, water changes and feeding. Inhabitat: What results have you seen from this program? Howard and Weeks: The program has been used by college students primarily, but we have also received goldfish after the carnival has been in town (ugh), and people are very grateful to have such a program. Adopters are also quite pleased to be getting free fish. But the most important result is public education regarding the impacts of aquaria dumping.  Inhabitat: What has the public response been? Howard and Weeks: Incredibly positive. It’s been fun. Inhabitat: Could you give us a brief overview of your involvement with the fish program, as well as your other duties as watershed protection manager? Howard and Weeks: My involvement consists of responding to questions and assisting the public with dropping off or adopting the pet fish, tracking the number of fish and species type dropped off/adopted for reports and ensuring proper care and feeding. We also have education and outreach with the intent to reduce the introduction of non-native fish species in the San Marcos River. Watershed protection manager duties include implementation of the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan to conserve habitat for endangered and threatened species that inhabit the upper San Marcos River. Conservation measures include non-native predator fish removal, non-native aquatic and terrestrial vegetation removal, aquatic and terrestrial native plantings, recreation management, litter removal, bank stabilization, education and outreach and water quality best management practices. Inhabitat: What are the main threats to the San Marcos River? Howard and Weeks: The primary threat is overpumping of the Edwards Aquifer, which feeds the San Marcos River, water quality impacts from urbanization, impacts of recreation, invasive species — all these threaten the diverse, high quality habitat in the river, which supports diverse natives including several endangered species . + Pet Fish Drop Off Program Images via Melani Howard

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Innovative fish adoption program protects San Marcos River from invasive species

IPCC landmark report warns about the state of the oceans, polar ice content and the climate crisis

September 26, 2019 by  
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The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — which is, in fact, the UN body responsible for communicating on the deteriorating climate — has officially recognized the oceans as a critical component in the climate change crisis. Warming ocean temperatures are becoming commonplace and are melting ice sheets and glaciers and contributing to rising sea levels. Additionally, the warm waters affect the ocean’s oxygen levels. As these phenomena accelerate toward a tipping point, nature’s ecosystems will be disrupted, and human society will be adversely affected. The IPCC’s announcement of its Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate — which is based on almost 7,000 peer-reviewed research articles — signals a crucial milestone. If things remain as the status quo, then ecological upheaval is imminent. Related: Even scientists are shocked by the latest UN report on climate change Our oceans comprise an important habitat that many living things, including humans, rely on for food and sustenance. Oceans also collectively absorb more than a quarter of the human-made carbon dioxide being produced, while simultaneously providing half of the oxygen created on our planet. Similarly, more than 90 percent of the heat generated via greenhouse gas emissions is likewise absorbed by our oceans. In this way, the oceans play a significant role in global climate regulation. But our climate is in dire crisis. Rising global temperatures are making oceans warmer through marine heatwaves. Warm ocean water is less likely to hold oxygen, leading to subsequent ocean acidification. Plus, warmer waters bleach coral reefs and also increase the likelihood of water chemistry disruptions, so that both bacterial and algal blooms become more common, as do red tides. Marine biodiversity is thrown off-kilter, leaving certain ocean regions devoid of life. Mass endangerment and extinctions of particular marine species becomes inevitable, and fishing yields dwindle considerably. Hence, for the 70-member coalition known as the Ocean and Climate Platform, the ocean’s sustainability comes into question. To stem the tide of climate catastrophe, the authors of the report are warning humanity and calling for policy change. If human-induced warming continues, there will come a time when the damage can no longer be healed. Immediate collaborative action is required, before it is too late, to reverse and remedy the climate crisis. + IPCC Image via Oregon State University

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IPCC landmark report warns about the state of the oceans, polar ice content and the climate crisis

Start Thinking About Your Spring Garden Now

September 5, 2019 by  
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The common practice of cleaning gardens in fall and planting … The post Start Thinking About Your Spring Garden Now appeared first on Earth911.com.

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