Bangkoks Mega Park reimagines mega-malls as green community hubs

December 18, 2020 by  
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Thai architecture firm Architectkidd has flipped the script on the typical Southeast Asian shopping mall with its completion of Mega Park, a nature-focused retail connection in Bangkok. Designed to connect the Megabangna shopping mall with a future mixed-use development, Mega Park was created to give the closed-off mega-mall a more “extroverted” character by encouraging visitors to go outdoors to enjoy a richly programmed public park that features a nature walk, a tree top walk and even an amphitheater. Mega Park’s white galvanized steel column structure can also double as a “green scaffold” for supporting vertical vegetation. Completed in 2019, the Mega Park is the newest large-scale addition to the Megabangna, the first low-rise super regional mall in Southeast Asia that was completed over a decade ago. Mega Park connects to the shopping mall with a steel elevated pathway inspired by the local footbridges and pedestrian pathways found across Bangkok . The galvanized steel columns, which measure 20 centimeters by 20 centimeters, are spaced a meter apart to provide sufficient support for the walkways, canopies and programming while allowing for generous views toward the lush, landscaped grounds. Related: Asia’s largest organic rooftop farm can grow 20 tons of food annually Universal design ramps are integrated throughout the park for a seamless transition between the skywalk and ground-level circulation. The ground-level circulation takes the shape of a winding red path that weaves through a variety of garden spaces planted with native tropical species, such as ironwood. Perennial plants provide food and habitat for local pollinators as well. “It has been over 10 years since the original shopping center was built housing the first IKEA in Thailand ,” the architects said. “Since then the retail and urban environment in South East Asia have evolved significantly. Architectkidd’s design brings a vision of change to the shopping center model as well as an opportunity to experiment with new approaches that combine the commercial with community and the public.”  + Architectkidd Photography by WWorkspace, Ketsiree Wongwan and Panoramic Studio via Architectkidd

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Bangkoks Mega Park reimagines mega-malls as green community hubs

Biden chooses his climate team here are the nominees

December 18, 2020 by  
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As president-elect Joe Biden continues to pick his Cabinet and agency heads, eco-conscious Americans watch to see what his choices will mean for the climate crisis. So far, it looks like Biden is surrounding himself with a strong climate team consistent with his top priority of quickly reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. On Wednesday, Biden named former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg as transportation secretary. Auto workers, energy lobbyists and environmental groups supported this choice. “ Transportation is an issue that touches all Americans — urban, rural, coastal and in the heartland of our nation,” said Chris Spear , American Trucking Associations President and CEO. “Having served as a mayor, Pete Buttigieg has had an up close and personal look at how our infrastructure problems are impacting Americans, and how important it is to solve them.” Related: Biden promises US-led climate summit in 2021 Buttigieg also comes into the position with a plan that he developed during his time as a presidential contender. The plan, which he presented back in January, included $165 billion for the Highway Trust Fund to fix and update bridges and roads and create more union jobs. He championed electric vehicles and suggested dispersing $6 billion in loans and grants to cities and states for funding charging station networks. Biden has nominated former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm for energy secretary, and he said he will appoint former Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy to lead domestic climate efforts. The Energy Department is in charge of regulating utility companies. Granholm has a good record on clean energy and has worked closely with chemical and energy firms in the past. As Michigan’s governor, she encouraged the increased manufacturing of electric vehicles. McCarthy was head of the EPA under President Barack Obama. She had a strong record of making rules to oppose climate change. Her new position would be coordinating and overseeing a federal interagency approach to climate issues. She is currently the president and CEO of NRDC . On Thursday, Biden nominated Michael Regan to lead the EPA. Regan began working as North Carolina’s environmental chief in 2017, and during this time, he focused on environmental justice. He has spent years helping low-income communities that were the most impacted by industrial pollution. Biden also announced his nomination of Deb Haaland, who would be the first Native American to lead the Department of the Interior. If confirmed, she will oversee the management of public lands as well as the protection and honoring of Indigenous communities. In a statement, the Biden-Harris transition team said Haaland will be “ready on day one to protect our environment and fight for a clean energy future.” Via Washington Post , AP and NPR Image via René DeAnda

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Biden chooses his climate team here are the nominees

Driving, flying expected to spike after COVID-19 pandemic

November 12, 2020 by  
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Amidst the everlasting pandemic, fewer people yearn to squeeze into closely spaced airline seats or pack into crowded buses. As such, a new survey reveals a seemingly contradictory conclusion that post-pandemic , people expect to drive private cars more, even though the majority of respondents believe humans are responsible for the climate crisis. In some countries, people also planned to fly more after the pandemic. The YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project polled about 26,000 people in 25 countries during July and August. It found that respondents held humans as the culprits of global warming by a ratio of more than three to one. This belief was most strongly held in Brazil, Spain, China, the U.K. and Japan. The countries with the largest number of doubters regarding human responsibility rely heavily on oil production, notably Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and the U.S. Related: Could a private car ban make NYC more livable? Air travel has long been an issue to climate campaigners, because it’s a huge source of emissions . People in the U.K., Italy, Germany and India all said they plan to fly less post-pandemic, although this could well be more for fear of contagion than love of the planet. But some respondents plan to fly more, especially those in Brazil and Nigeria. People in Brazil, Nigeria, Egypt and Sweden were more likely to be looking forward to holidays abroad. Meanwhile, those in Italy, the U.K., Germany, Thailand and China will be planning more domestic vacations in the future. Researchers were most alarmed by the fact that respondents in all 25 countries plan to drive more post-pandemic. Brazilians showed the most marked planned increase, with 62% saying yes to more driving and only 12% planning to drive less. South Africa was right behind, with 60% yay and 12% nay. More than 40% of Australians and Americans planned to spend more time behind the wheel, with only 10% anticipating leaving their cars in park more often. What do all these statistics mean? Human behavior is complicated and often contradictory, as our best intentions battle with fear and convenience. But if people begin to drive as much as predicted, they could undermine global efforts to meet the Paris Agreement targets. Via The Guardian Image via S. Hermann & F. Richter

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Driving, flying expected to spike after COVID-19 pandemic

Retailers drop coconut milk brand over animal exploitation allegations

November 4, 2020 by  
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Coconut has been touted as a superfood the last few years. But now something even more alarming than its sky-high saturated fat content has come to light — some companies may be using forced monkey labor to pick the coconuts. “PETA Asia’s investigators found cruelty to monkeys on every farm, at every monkey-training facility, and in every coconut-picking contest that used monkey labor,” PETA claimed in a press release. “When not being forced to pick coconuts or perform in circus-style shows for tourists, the animals were kept tethered, chained to old tires, or confined to cages barely larger than their bodies.” Related: Is our coconut demand making slaves of monkeys? A video on the PETA site shows monkeys kept in cages or on barren patches of dirt when they’re not being forced to harvest coconuts. It describes their abduction from nature, where they live in large social groups, and how they often go insane from being deprived of companionship with fellow monkeys. Sometimes farmers remove their teeth so the monkeys give them less trouble. The video ends with the message, “If you see a product made with Thai coconuts such as coconut milk, oil or yogurt please leave it on the shelf to avoid supporting this life of misery.” Chaokoh brand coconut milk, manufactured by Thailand -based Theppadungporn Coconut Co., has especially come under fire. American retailers are listening. Costco, Walgreens, Stop & Shop, Food Lion and Giant Food have all dropped the brand due to animal abuse claims. Theppadungporn denies the allegation. “Following the recent news about the use of ‘monkey labor’ in Thailand’s coconut industry, Chaokoh, one of the world’s leaders in coconut milk production, reassures that we do not engage the use of monkey labor in our coconut plantations,” the company said in a statement. Other companies are also feeling the repercussions. Portland-based health food brand Edward & Sons sent out a letter to retailers and consumers claiming that not all coconuts are harvested by monkeys. “Coconuts are picked from tall trees by human workers using sharp saws or sickles attached to very long poles,” the letter read. “All work to plant, care for, harvest and process Edward & Sons food products is performed by human professionals, who are fairly paid for their labor.” Via People Image via Zibik

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Retailers drop coconut milk brand over animal exploitation allegations

Terreform ONE’s plans to upend cities and suburbs in a post-pandemic world

August 10, 2020 by  
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Terreform ONE’s plans to upend cities and suburbs in a post-pandemic world Joel Makower Mon, 08/10/2020 – 02:11 And now for some serious fun. Last week, I had the opportunity to facilitate an  online conversation with  Terreform ONE , a Brooklyn, New York-based nonprofit architecture and urban design research group whose humble mission is “to combat the extinction of planetary species through pioneering acts of design.” It was a refreshing jolt of inspiration and hopefulness during this otherwise dreary moment. The conversation was hosted by the San Francisco-based Museum of Craft and Design , which recently housed an exhibition titled  “Survival Architecture and the Art of Resilience,” in which visionary architects and artists were asked to create artistically interpretative solutions and prototypes for survival shelter in a warming world. (My wife, Randy Rosenberg, executive director of the nonprofit  Art Works for Change , created the exhibition, which has traveled North America the past few years.) As part of the exhibition, Art Works for Change commissioned Terreform ONE (for Open Network Ecology) to create  Cricket Shelter Farm , an innovative living space that addresses both sustainable food systems and modular compact architecture. Essentially, it is housing that also serves as a cricket farm and, hence, a source of food for its human residents. Each of the hundreds of off-the-shelf plastic containers that form the main structure house a self-contained colony of crickets, which can be turned into high-protein flour. A typical shelter might have 300 such units, each producing a bag of “chirp chips,” or the ingredients for making such things as bagels or pasta, every few weeks. “They live happy lives and they reproduce,” explained Mitchell Joachim, Terreform ONE’s co-founder, of the tiny, six-legged critters. In a world with more than a billion undernourished souls, not to mention as many as 1.6 billion homeless, solutions like this can be global game-changers. That may sound fanciful — and, for some, less than appetizing — but insect consumption is hardly a novel concept, according to a 2013 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report . “From ants to beetle larvae — eaten by tribes in Africa and Australia as part of their subsistence diets — to the popular, crispy-fried locusts and beetles enjoyed in Thailand, it is estimated that insect-eating is practiced regularly by at least 2 billion people worldwide,” FAO said. Some 80 percent of the world’s nations eat insects in some form. And because you can produce a gram of cricket protein using a tiny fraction of the land, water and other resources it takes to produce a gram of animal protein, it represents a vast ecological improvement compared to eating meat from cows, chickens, lambs and pigs. In a world with more than a billion undernourished souls, not to mention as many as 1.6 billion homeless, solutions like this can be global game-changers. Bikes, buildings and butterflies Cricket Shelter Farm is just one of Terreform ONE’s  innovative solutions . There’s  Gen2Seat , ”the first full-scale synthetic biological chair,” created by fusing mycelium — the vegetative part of a fungus, and the foundation for mushrooms — with bacteria to create a  biobased polymer. “It’s designed for kindergartens, and she’s supposed to go home and tell mommy and daddy that she can eat her chair and that it’s okay,” said Joachim, a Harvard- and MIT-educated architect, Fulbright Scholar and TED Fellow, whose daughter is pictured here, modeling the chair. Another is the  Plug-In Ecology: Urban Farm Pod , a habitat “for individuals and urban nuclear families to grow and provide for their daily vegetable needs.” As Joachim explained: “Instead of a green wall, it’s a green ball for your home or your rooftop or your urban balcony or an urban park. You make food on the outside and the inside. It’s on wheels, so it can rotate to get the most amount of solar income.” An app tells you when the veggies are ready to pick. And then there’s the  Monarch Sanctuary , a prototype building façade that serves as a habitat for the butterfly of that name, an iconic pollinator species that is considered endangered. It’s a regular building on the inside but the skin of the building doubles as a “vertical butterfly meadow.” Terreform ONE teamed with BASF to launch a Monarch Sanctuary  installation at the Morris Museum. A  planned eight-story building in New York City’s Nolita neighborhood will be the first full-scale version. In addition to BASF, Terreform has also worked with Intel and GE. “These big partners are very much interested in sharing these concepts so they can move on their side of things to make some of them happen,” said Terreform Executive Director Vivian Kuan, an architect with an interdisciplinary background in art, entrepreneurial marketing and startups. Quotidian, everyday folks One of the things I truly appreciate about Terreform’s approach is its attention to the social aspect of these innovative designs. “I think a lot of the future depends on creating access and implementing these programs and making them rely on the collaboration of many different stakeholders — public-private partnerships, where cities and corporations really jump in and help the funding; and where inventors and entrepreneurs develop the technology and pilot,” Kuan said. Joachim pointed to a shared-bicycle concept being incubated at Terreform —”a super accessible bike-sharing program along with a biodiversity program,” as he described it. “This is essentially meant for people who can’t even afford something like Citi Bike” — the privately-owned public bicycle sharing system serving New York City. “It gives them access and they can use it to solve what we call the last-mile problem, which is a very difficult thing in cities. You can get buses and subways to a certain area, but then you can’t get that bag of groceries from that last stop on the subway to your home.” The low-cost cargo bikes are designed to carry up to 400 pounds. “We are working deeply to think about mobility justice in every possible form,” Joachim added. “So, none of this is imagined for the 1 percent or the super-elite. It’s imagined for the quotidian folks and the everyday people in cities, especially dense, intense urban environments.” In this topsy-turvy time, even the most fanciful ideas suddenly seem possible as we rethink cities, suburbs, buildings, work, home, shopping and practically everything else. Joachim and Kuan believe the pandemic could cause a massive shift in how people think about living in dense urban environments — or, instead, move to the ‘burbs. Either way, the times will require new designs for buildings, infrastructure and ways of moving about. Indeed, Joachim said, this may be Terreform’s moment. “We were waiting for a crisis, because we thought that was the only way we’re going to get any kind of change happening.” I invite you to  follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter,  GreenBuzz , and listen to  GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote In a world with more than a billion undernourished souls, not to mention as many as 1.6 billion homeless, solutions like this can be global game-changers. Topics Cities Buildings Eco-Design Innovation Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Terreform ONE’s fanciful vision of 42nd Street in New York city, with riparian corridors teeming with aqueous life, lighting systems with vertical-axis wind turbines and photovoltaic cells, and lots of green walls. All images courtesy of Terreform ONE. 

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Terreform ONE’s plans to upend cities and suburbs in a post-pandemic world

Kudmai Collection repurposes vintage fishing boats into unique wood flooring

July 7, 2020 by  
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The Sacred Crafts, a San Diego-based brand focused on adding character to the home by sustainable methods, is giving new life to old wooden ships. The company’s new line, dubbed the Kudmai Collection after the Thai word for “reborn,” is a beautiful example of environmentally friendly reuse that also celebrates cultural history. Rather than creating new materials (and new waste), the company is dedicated to harvesting old materials that were once useful and meaningful for its pieces instead. The wood used for the Kudmai Collection comes from vintage and decommissioned Thailand boats, which have been retired from service and are no longer needed. Related: Costa Rican eco-lodge is made of reclaimed wood from a 100-year-old home The boats are deconstructed and the wood is designed for indoor flooring, but it can also be utilized for outdoor flooring and wall paneling with the proper treatment. Each plank is made of 4mm reclaimed ironwood and reclaimed acacia wood with an added base of 15mm sustainable eucalyptus plywood. Kudmai is available in three main colorways, which are customizable depending on needs and lifestyles. “Carbonized” uses a natural wood treatment that adds heat and pressure to enrich the wood’s natural minerals, meaning it doesn’t require staining and won’t change color over time. “Blonde” is the lightest of the three, with a subtle medium- to pale-yellow hue and a natural sheen that will help brighten a space. “Nude” provides a deeply rich, reddish-brown color with added warm vintage appeal. The flooring comes with a 10-year residential warranty and can ship to any country globally. There are two finishes available: low-sheen satin and high-gloss piano. While giving new life to materials that would otherwise become trash, the flooring also helps tell the stories of sailors and destinations that the fishing boats experienced throughout their service on the water. Because each piece of upcycled wood is unique in terms of age and seasoning, depending on its exposure, Kudamai floor boards become a true one-of-a-kind addition to any home. + The Sacred Crafts Images via The Sacred Crafts

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UN releases World Water Development Report 2020

March 23, 2020 by  
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Climate change further challenges the world’s overstretched water resources, ultimately threatening all aspects of human life, according to the latest UN World Water Development Report. Most human needs revolve around water, so energy production, industrial development, food security, human and animal health and housing are also vulnerable to climate change impacts. The report states that the reliability of available water will decrease as the climate becomes more variable, amplifying floods, droughts and other water-related problems. Places already stressed from insufficient water sources will suffer more, while places that have so far been unaffected will feel the pain, too. Related: IPCC landmark report warns about the state of the oceans, polar ice content and the climate crisis Over the last century, global water use has increased by a factor of six. Between population increase, economic development and explosive human consumption, this growth continues at about 1% per year. Groundwater depletion doubled from 1960 to 2000. Some experts predict that 40% of the world will face a water deficit by 2030. “If we are serious about limiting global temperature increases to below 2°C and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, we must act immediately,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, chair of UN Water. “There are solutions for managing water and climate in a more coordinated manner and every sector of society has a role to play. We simply cannot afford to wait.” The UN report acknowledges that while most countries recognize water as a crucial issue, few have specific action plans about adapting policies to protect this resource. The report suggests that climate change funds be used more for adaptation and mitigation of water issues. Adaptation includes social and institutional measures, plus natural, technological and technical steps to lessen climate change-related damage. Mitigation refers to the actions humans must take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Wastewater treatment generates a high amount of emissions. Some countries — such as Peru, Mexico , Thailand and Jordan — have already harnessed the methane in untreated wastewater as biogas, which provides enough energy to run the treatment process. The UN report also mentions wetland protection, conservation agriculture techniques, reusing partially treated wastewater for industry and agriculture and fog capture as possible water management interventions. + UN World Water Development Report 2020 Image via Alex Hu

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UN releases World Water Development Report 2020

Brazilian home uses solar energy for 100% self-sufficiency

February 6, 2020 by  
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Brazilian firm  24 7 Arquitetura  has set a stunning modern home into a challenging mountainous landscape in Brazil’s Nova Lima region. In addition to the home’s contemporary aesthetic, which is comprised of several exposed concrete blocks, the residence is completely self-sustaining thanks to its massive rooftop  solar array  that generates all the power the home needs. Located north of Rio de Janeiro, Nova Lima is a mountainous region known for its mining sector. The area is marked by rugged low and high-rising topography covered in lush vegetation. Although the undulating landscape presented several challenges for the 24 7 Arquitetura team, the architects managed to use the natural layout to the benefit of the contemporary home . Related: Solar-powered residence in Thailand takes on a sculptural form with cantilevering cubes According to the architects, the solution to the building lot’s slope was to set the home’s main social areas at the highest elevation possible, jutting out of the sloped hill, but above the tree canopy. This allowed the main living area to open up to a large outdoor space with a swimming pool and outdoor lounge area. Building the home into the landscape also led the design to be slightly tilted to the east, which enables the home’s interior to be shaded from the harsh sun rays during the summertime. Additionally, the designers planted two trees in the middle of the home’s outdoor deck to provide additional shade and let  natural light  subtly filter into the living spaces. The first floor of the home was built out to house the garage, laundry facilities and extra storage while the second floor is at the heart of the home. The large open-plan living area opens up to a large deck via massive sliding glass doors, leading to the infinity  swimming pool . The top floor houses the master bedroom with an ensuite bath and open-air balcony space to take in the stunning views. At over 4,000 square feet, the home is a massive structure that requires a lot of energy. Thankfully, this energy is produced by a large rooftop solar array that produces about 1400kW per month. This not only generates enough energy for the home, but also for heating the pool water. + 24 7 Arquitetura Via Archdaily Photography by Pedro Kok

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Low-impact Thai home uses modular design to harmonize with nature

December 10, 2019 by  
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Thai architectural firm TA-CHA Design has recently completed the Binary Wood House, a second home for a Bangkokian family of five that emphasizes environmentally friendly design. Located on a hill in Pak Chong in northeastern Thailand, the home was carefully sited to preserve existing Siamese Rosewood trees and is elevated to reduce site impact. To create a seamless indoor-outdoor living experience, the architects employed a modular design, designating each 3.4-meter module as either a “0 (unoccupied/open space)” or a “1 (occupied/close space)” in a binary system that also gave rise to the project’s name.  Spread out across 600 square meters, the Binary Wood House was initially meant to serve as an Airbnb or private resort but later morphed into a second home for the clients with room for their soon-to-retire parents. To lessen site impact, the architects opted to design the home with a metal structure clad in wood paneling instead of concrete. Approximately 80 percent of the wood used in construction was reclaimed . Local craftsmen were hired for the woodworking, which takes inspiration from the region’s traditional “Korat” houses. Related: Reclaimed materials star in this surf villa with ocean views in Bali “Throughout the entire design project of the house, there has been one and only core value on which the owner and the designers agree — to always hold the predecessors in high regard,” the architects said. “In other words, the house exists to respect those who came before, whether they be neighbors, local people, local animals and local trees.” In addition to elevating the home off the ground, the property reduces its environmental footprint by relying on natural cooling instead of air conditioning. Surrounded by covered terraces, the indoor-outdoor living areas feature operable shutters that let in cooling winds, while the preserved trees help mitigate unwanted solar gain. A reflecting pond was also added to increase moisture in the house. + TA-CHA Studio Photography by Beersingnoi via TA-CHA Studio

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7 sustainable travel experiences to have this summer as an ecotourist

June 24, 2019 by  
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Planning an international trip can be pretty overwhelming as it is, but it can be even harder for eco-friendly travelers looking for sustainable activities that promote cultural travel and ecotourism. Luckily, more and more travel companies and agencies are making it easier to travel with the environment in mind. Start off by researching green destinations, travel packages and green hotels at websites like Lokal Travel , Green Pearls or Responsible Travel . The World Travel Market Responsible Tourism website is a great resource, as it gives out awards each year recognizing worldwide travel organizations in categories such as “Best for Reducing Carbon & Other Greenhouse Gases” and “Best for Reducing Plastic Waste.” Look for hotels and resorts that have been certified eco-friendly or green, that have clear evidence of protecting the Earth, that are built with environmental sustainability in mind or that have made the investments to truly change their business models toward long-term sustainability. Once you’ve chosen a destination and accommodation, look for travel companies that are trying to help the local culture or the land in a positive, significant way and have hired local employees with fair wages. While these organizations are usually small and focused on a few specific places, there are larger companies doing good work as well. Sadly, plenty of “volunteer” programs out there are aimed at making the client feel good about themselves, rather than making an effort to make a positive difference on the destination (or at the very least leave it unharmed by the presence of visitors). If your volunteer trip costs money, find out where the money is going. Related: Natural Habitat Adventures launches the world’s first zero-waste vacations Of course, flying is something to keep in mind, as the carbon emissions from airplanes are high. Don’t be afraid to stay close to home or travel by train to somewhere near you. If you do decide to fly, as many of the destinations below might require unless you are a local, do some research into the most sustainable airlines and consider carbon offsets to ever-so-slightly lessen the impact of this form of travel. Here are seven eco-friendly activities to enjoy in destinations around the world. Watch the Northern Lights in Norway Not only is Norway one of the most environmentally conscious countries on Earth, it is also one of the most beautiful. Its capital city of Oslo was named Europe’s greenest capital by the European Union in 2019. When it comes to seeing the Northern Lights, don’t do it as an afterthought. Take the time to plan a trip with local guides that benefits the economy. Consider an immersion program with the indigenous Sámi people, who have recently embraced sustainable tourism as a vital source of local income. Volunteer in the Galapagos, Ecuador An undisputed leader in ecotourism destinations worldwide, the Galapagos are home to some of the most exciting and important lands on the planet. Almost 100 percent of the island chain is protected as a national park , and visitor fees go straight toward conservation efforts. Look for a company that organizes volunteer trips rather than sightseeing; the latter creates unnecessary trash and carbon emissions. Book an eco-friendly safari in Kenya It’s no secret that poaching is one of African wildlife’s greatest threats. Eco-friendly safaris and lodges provide alternative employment to poaching in Kenya, all while supporting the community and putting money toward the upkeep of nature preserves. A good tourism company works hand-in-hand with the local people (such as the Maasai tribe in Kenya) to protect the land and animals. Consider staying on conservancy lands, where the area has been set aside for wildlife conservation and is strictly regulated. Related: 7 eco-friendly and conservation-minded safari lodges across Africa Help save elephants in Thailand The tourism industry is beginning to see elephant riding for what it is — cruel. What was once a misunderstood and popular bucket-list item is now one of the main proponents responsible for the rise of ecotourism. Skip the elephant ride and opt for a trip to an elephant rescue center, where your money will go toward the betterment of these animals rather than the exploitation of them. For a day trip, check out the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, but if you want to spend a week or more volunteering, the Surin Project is another great choice. Go hiking in New Zealand New Zealand is world-renowned for its luxury ecotourism (such as “ glamping ”) as well as plenty of hiking opportunities that let tourists submerge themselves in the natural environment without doing any damage. Another thing to consider: Air New Zealand recently got rid of all single-use plastics from its entire fleet of planes. That means no plastic bags, cups or straws are being used on any of these flights, resulting in about 24 million less pieces of plastic being used each year. Visit animal sanctuaries in Costa Rica Costa Rica pledged to become the first carbon-neutral country by 2021, and with 25 percent of its territory protected as national parks or biological reserves, it is setting the bar pretty high for the rest of the world. The country is known for its abundance of eco-friendly accommodations and wildlife sanctuaries. Check out the Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula or the Jaguar Rescue Center in the Limón Province. Stay in self-sustaining accommodation in the Maldives With more than 1,000 islands making up this archipelago, environmental awareness and protecting the ocean is a vital part of life in the Maldives. For example, Soneva Fushi Resort has been completely carbon-neutral since 2014. It has an on-site recycling program, and all the water used at the resort is desalinated. Ninety percent of the waste produced is recycled, including 100 percent of the food waste , and all of the facilities run on the energy from solar panels. Images via Derek Thomson , Claudia Regina , Peter Swaine , Marcel Oosterwijk , Bruce Dall , Jeff Pang , Michelle Callahan and Selda Eigler

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