5 tips for beautiful, sustainable Thanksgiving decor

November 16, 2018 by  
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November marks the season of Thanksgiving . With Halloween decor packed up and Christmas trimmings still in totes, it’s time to focus on unveiling the essence of Thanksgiving in your home. Shelves of decor line the store aisles, but many of those options contribute to the destruction of our environment. By making some small, conscientious decisions, you can reduce transport emissions, eliminate plastic consumption and give used items new life while giving your home the holiday flair you envision. While pulling together the look for your Thanksgiving decor, keep sustainability in mind with these tips. Emphasize natural elements The truly wonderful thing about the fall months is the abundance of natural materials you can find and use in your autumn decor. Skip the retail purchases and head outside for organic finds nearby. Curve those grapevines into a circle, and use this as a base for a fall wreath. Adorn it with the colorful red berries that dot the landscape this time of year, and embellish the wreath further with dried leaves or flowers, pine cones or nuts. You could even glue on small apples or pumpkins. Related: How to host Thanksgiving dinner in a tiny home or small apartment Similarly, the same materials can be used to create centerpieces for your Thanksgiving table or as seasonal decorations for your coffee table. Lay out pine boughs and top them with colorful gourds. Grab those still-firm pumpkins, carve them into a bowl and stuff them with fresh greenery. Use clear glassware, jars, vases or water pitchers to hold pine cones, leaves, berries, nuts or colorful rocks. Fresh citrus or apples make a gorgeous centerpiece when placed in simple clear or white bowls. Make a statement by placing a votive candle inside a carved-out mini pumpkin or apple. Set bottles around the house, and fill them with fresh-cut lavender, rosemary or mint. Surround that centerpiece with a eucalyptus ring. Your mantle is another perfect place to add some visual appeal. Thread together orange and red leaves to make a swag, and add small pumpkins painted different colors. Also, remember that Thanksgiving is represented by the colors and products of fall, so take advantage of hay bales, corn stalks and gourds to decorate your front porch. Avoid plastic Anyone who’s spent more than a few minutes considering steps toward sustainability knows that plastic is petroleum-based, which causes problems for the environment — and plastic never goes away. If you decide to purchase decor for your home, look for materials that are eco-friendly and will give you the gift of longevity, resulting in less waste. Find a wrought-iron turkey or hunt down ceramic pumpkins. Buy glass platters and real fabric tablecloths instead of the single-use versions. Upcycle With very little effort, you can find decor that allows you to reuse something that’s already been produced rather than buying new. For example, take those mounting canning jars and etch them with festive designs. Alternately, you could decoupage them with leaves. Fill with orange candles and display them on your mantle or table. Look around your house for a bucket or rusted watering can, and dress it up with bundles of wheat or corn stalks. Hit up the local thrift shop for table runners, used decor and themed dishware. While upcycling might involve plastic items and is not always a zero-waste initiative, the more life we can give to existing products, the less production pollution and post-consumer waste we will have — a win-win for the environment. Get crafty The long, dark evenings of fall are the perfect time to get crafty. Take the kids for a nature walk and collect acorns, leaves, twigs and other natural elements. Once you return home, glue the materials onto fall-colored paper, forming letters on each sheet to spell out, “Give Thanks,” or something similar. Punch holes in the top corners of each paper and thread yarn or rope through them to create a banner for your wall. Crafting can also overlap with upcycling. For example, paint a wine bottle, add a twist of twine to the top and embellish with words. Make a few and group them together. The kids can use toilet paper or paper towel rolls to make hanging turkey decor, place markers or napkin rings. Related: Six yummy, organic pumpkin recipes you can make for Thanksgiving! Turn food into edible art Most people associate Thanksgiving with food, and many would agree that food can be art. Why not give your edibles dual purpose by designing munchable masterpieces? Start with that cornucopia you’re dying to put out and fill it with candy, grapes, apples, pears, satsumas, chocolate, pretzels, bread or nuts. You can carve a watermelon into a boat or basket and fill it with fruit. Head over to Pinterest, and look for ideas that will transform your veggie tray into a turkey pattern. Don’t forget about dessert — make some cookie turkeys or cut out a leaf pattern from your upper pie crust. Remember that the goal is to express the spirit of the season, which is gratitude. Nothing shows gratitude for your home and yard more than using natural elements. Hosting a sustainable Thanksgiving also shows gratitude for the planet and those you love that live on it. Images via Shutterstock

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5 simple ways to reduce your food waste right now

October 30, 2018 by  
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Food waste is a huge problem worldwide, with one-third of all globally produced food ending up wasted. Americans throw away about 43 percent of the food they buy, and the organic matter in landfills emits methane, which is a major factor in climate change . We are enticed into wanting our food to look perfect, and we also don’t want to spend much on it. Americans generally spend less on their food compared to other nations, and because of that, many people don’t value it or think much about throwing it out. So what can the average person do to fight back? Here is a list of ways that you can reduce your food waste right now. Start meal planning This may seem like common sense, but it is one of the easiest and most important things to do. Plan out your meals in advance, and then make a detailed list of ingredients you will need. Then, when you get to the store, stick with the plan. This will help you avoid buying too much food. Plus, it also saves you time and money at the store. If you buy only what you expect to use, you will be more likely to keep it fresh and use it all. Also, be sure to check your cupboards and refrigerator before going to the grocery store or farmers market , so you don’t buy things you already have on hand. Store and prep properly It is easy to buy fruits, vegetables and other perishable items and then forget about them. But if you store and prep everything properly, it can significantly help you reduce your food waste. When you get home from the market, take the time to wash and prep your fresh food, then store it in containers for easy  cooking  and snacking. Put items you plan to use in the next day or two in the fridge, and put the surplus in the freezer. Eat leftovers If you cook too much or have extra after going out for dinner or enjoying takeout, save your leftovers to enjoy later. Invest in quality food storage containers, because they will keep your food fresh for longer. Come up with a labeling system to help you keep track of how long the leftovers have been in your fridge. Almost half of extra restaurant food alone is thrown in the trash instead of boxed up and taken home, so learn to love leftovers for the sake of minimizing food waste. Watch your portions Speaking of restaurant leftovers … they occur because restaurant portion sizes are significantly larger than they should be. You can’t force restaurants to give you a smaller portion (although you can embrace the leftovers), but you can control your portions at home. Large portions have made their way into many kitchens, leaving more opportunities for food waste. Use smaller plates when you prepare food at home, and then save the leftovers for later. If you notice that you are constantly making too much food, cut down your recipes. Ignore expiration dates Expiration dates contribute to tons of wasted food each year, but you might be surprised to learn that expiration dates on food mean absolutely nothing to consumers. Except for baby food, expiration dates, sell-by dates, guaranteed fresh dates and use-by dates are all used by manufacturers and have nothing to do with government regulation or any kind of set standard. This means that a lot of food isn’t spoiled, even though it has gone past the expiration date. Trust your senses of smell, sight and taste. Unless the food has obviously spoiled, don’t be so quick to throw it out. Most people don’t realize just how much food they throw away on a daily basis. By taking just a few easy steps, you can reduce your food waste , make a major impact and help conserve resources for future generations. Via Mashable , Time and Stop Food Waste Images via Shutterstock

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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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"Cheesy" solar charger kit empowers students in East Africa

September 24, 2018 by  
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Playful in its design and highly functional, SunMade Cheese features a charger for flashlights, lighters, radios and even cellphones powered by mere sunlight. The device was developed by YOLK, the solar company applauded for its Kickstarter project ‘Solar Paper’ in 2015 that has sold millions of dollars worth of units worldwide. This time, it seems whimsy has struck the cutting-edge solar tech firm, which decided to express its love of cheese in this new project. Continuing its sun-charged aspirations, the group has debuted quirky, cheese-plate-shaped solar panels and cheese-shaped, solar-powered accessories with a meaningful mission to boot. YOLK is eager to attract current generations to solar energy , making it easy to incorporate the technology in their daily routines. The group also hopes to improve energy infrastructure and conservation in developing nations as well as put an end to child labor, instead empowering families to send children to school. Rather than tackling these issues separately (as is common), YOLK decided to put its creativity to the test and develop the Solar Cow in conjunction with the new cheese chargers. The Solar Cow systems are much larger solar energy generators built with a portion of the revenue that YOLK receives from SunMade Cheese. The company is deploying the conductive cows in remote areas of East Africa that are burdened by poor energy infrastructure. Related: Striking, solar-powered LA roundabout manages stormwater runoff with art As many as one in every five children are prevented from attending school in East Africa. Families rely on child labor to supplement the household income. Besides providing power to local schools , the Solar Cow will provide an incentive for parents to send their children to school instead of sending them off to work. In the mornings, students are able to attach batteries to the “cow’s udders” for charging and take them home at night with a full supply of free, clean energy. “The SunMade Cheese project is more about enjoying solar power and promoting education for solar technology, but the Solar Cow is really a lifeline for people,” YOLK CEO Sen Chang explained. “They are two projects for two different perspectives, but combined in one initiative.” Families in rural areas commonly travel around four to six hours in order to reach a charging station to juice up their cellphones. The mobile phones are a necessity, because they facilitate communication to the rest of the world and a means to make payments and receive income. The cost of this process is astounding, with the average family spending approximately 10-20 percent of their total monthly earnings to simply charge their cellular devices an average of 10-12 times per month. The SunMade Cheese charger is the perfect accessory to promote an environmentally friendly lifestyle at home while assisting YOLK’s efforts to help communities abroad. Stressing creativity and efficiency, the award-winning innovators deserve to bask in the sunlight for their life-changing technological designs . No doubt, many will join them — cheese plate in hand! + YOLK Images via YOLK

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Mystery of banned CFCs resurgence may be solved

June 26, 2018 by  
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The world recently learned that chlorofluorocarbons ( CFCs ), an ozone-damaging industrial gas banned under the 1997 Montreal Protocol, have made an unexpected comeback, with significant emissions detected in the atmosphere. The source of these banned gases has remained unclear. Now, documents and research gathered by the New York Times and independent investigators suggest that the CFCs, specifically CFC-11, may be coming from factories in China that manufacture foam for buildings and appliances. “You had a choice: Choose the cheaper foam agent that’s not so good for the environment, or the expensive one that’s better for the environment,” factory owner Zhang Wenbo told the New York Times . “Of course, we chose the cheaper foam agent. That’s how we survived.” At the time of Zhang’s interview, local authorities were conducting inspections throughout town and citing those who violated regulations. When they arrived at his factory, they assessed that it was in violation of environmental codes and ordered it shut down. “They never told us until last year that it was damaging the atmosphere ,” Zhang said. “Nobody came to check what we were using, so we thought it was O.K.” Although some provinces in China have tightened enforcement of the CFC ban, the chemical still remains available online. “When nobody is watching, they can make some, or when they get an order — an underground order — they can also produce it,” local refrigeration expert Liu Le told the New York Times . “They produce for a while until they’re discovered, and then move on.” Related: Antarctic ozone layer shows “first fingerprints of healing” The U.S.-based Environmental Investigation Agency has determined that at least eight factories in four provinces are still using CFCs to create foam. “The scale of this environmental crime is devastating, with massive potential impact on the climate and the ozone layer,” executive director Alexander von Bismarck said. “We’re hoping for a strong response from a strong environmental agreement.” While the mystery is becoming more clear, there is much more that needs to be done to determine the full extent of the problem. Head of the United Nations Environment Program Erik Solheim said, “Based on the scale of detected emissions there is good reason to believe the problem extends beyond these uncovered cases.” Via New York Times Image via Depositphotos

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Shipping container village for startups pops up in Amsterdam

May 24, 2018 by  
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In a bid to create affordable office space in Amsterdam , Dutch architect Julius Taminiau has upcycled a series of shipping containers into Startup Village, a temporary cargotecture hub for fledgling companies. Located in Amsterdam Science Park, the container buildings are stacked and painted in a variety of colors to create a space that can adapt to different needs. In addition to offices, the Startup Village offers space for events and gatherings ranging from networking parties to outdoor cinema nights. Architect Julius Taminiau was inspired to experiment with cargotecture during his time at London-based Carl Turner Architects , where he worked on Pop Brixton, a project that transformed a derelict space into a shipping container community. After moving to the Netherlands and opening his own firm—Julius Taminiau Architects—Taminiau decided to create a low-cost office space for startups in Amsterdam Science Park. The architect arranged the upcycled containers around a large communal square conducive to events and designed the hallways and circulation to take place outside the containers in order to encourage interaction between different startups. Since the project is meant to be temporary, Startup Village was constructed with recyclable materials and an easily removable concrete tile foundation. The 155-square-foot containers are completely insulated, airtight, and heated with low-energy, infrared heating. Windows installed on both sides of each container can be opened for cross-ventilation. Taminiau collaborated with Green Art Solutions to install green roofs and other greenery on-site. Related: Repurposed shipping containers make a bold statement at the National Theater Company of Korea “The ‘low-cost’ ‘low-energy’ ‘circular’ upcycled shipping containers provide some sort of ‘free’ atmosphere where young startups feel soon at home and provide the means to develop, innovate, grow and professionalise,” explains Julius Taminiau Architects. “Should a startup need more space they can move within the Startup Village but also within the campus area of Science Park.” The Startup Village also plans to add larger containers in the future for scale-ups. + Julius Taminiau Architects Via Dezeen Images via Julius Taminiau Architects

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Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano eruption has destroyed 26 home and caused thousands to flee

May 7, 2018 by  
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The eruption of the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island has destroyed around 26 homes and five structures. Since the eruption began, 10 fissures have emerged, and thousands of people have been forced to evacuate. Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency administrator Talmadge Magno told CBS News yesterday, “There’s no sign of things slowing down.” Kilauea has spewed lava as high as 230 feet up into the air, according to Vox . Lava bursting from fissures has destroyed houses. According to a Sunday evening update from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory , in the Leilani Estates subdivision, in the volcano’s lower East Rift Zone, intermittent lava eruption was ongoing, and “new ground cracks in the vicinity of fissures eight and nine…were emitting thick steam and gases.” Related: Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupts, forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate Sulfur dioxide emissions are also a concern — Vox cited the Civil Defense Agency as calling the gas “a threat to all who become exposed.” It’s often expelled in large amounts during a volcanic eruption . In a Sunday evening update , the Civil Defense Agency said Lanipuna Gardens residents would not able to access the area because of dangerous volcanic gases. Leilani Estates residents were “allowed to continue evacuation to check on their property” during certain hours, but only if conditions permitted, and the agency said lines of safety can change “because of unstable conditions that involve toxic gas, earthquakes , and lava activities.” “Please, the residents of Leilani need your help. This is not the time for sightseeing. You can help tremendously by staying out of the area,” the Civil Defense Agency said in the update. “The residents of Leilani Estates are going through a very difficult time. We ask for your understanding. We ask for your help.” Kilauea is among the most active volcanoes in the world, according to the United States Geological Survey , and “may even top the list.” + County of Hawaii Via Vox Images via U.S. Geological Survey

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Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano eruption has destroyed 26 home and caused thousands to flee

UK smashes days-old record, goes without coal for 76 hours

April 26, 2018 by  
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Just over a week ago, the United Kingdom set a new record: almost 55 hours without using coal . It didn’t take them long to shatter that record. CleanTechnica reported the country just went 76 hours without the polluting fuel — “for the first time since the 1880s,” according to a National Grid Twitter account . For the first time since the 1880s the UK electricity network has clocked up over 72 hours without the need for coal generation. This new record comes days after the first ever 48 hour period of no coal on the network. — National Grid Media (@Grid_Media) April 24, 2018 The country started their coal-free streak on Saturday, April 21, and went into Tuesday, April 24, ultimately going for 76 hours and 10 minutes, according to the UK Coal Twitter account . This may not be the last record the United Kingdom sets this year; Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit analyst Jonathan Marshall told The Guardian , “Ever rising renewable capacity in the UK will see these records fall more and more frequently, clearly showing progress made over the past decade or two.” The final length of this record #coal free run was 76 Hours 10 minutes. Coal units are now back generating. pic.twitter.com/OauJREXzxN — UK Coal (@UK_Coal) April 24, 2018 Related: The UK just went for a record 55 hours without using coal What did the UK run on in the absence of coal? The Guardian put out a graphic showing the electricity mix from April 21 at 10 AM to April 24 at 10 AM; during that time 30.3 percent of power came from gas , 24.9 percent from wind , 23.3 percent from nuclear , 15.3 percent from biomass or other sources, and 6.2 percent from solar . Electrical engineer Andrew Crossland, who operates MyGridGB , cautioned against replacing coal with gas, telling The Guardian, “Shifting to gas is likely to make our electricity market more volatile as our energy price becomes increasingly locked to international gas markets. That will only hurt consumers.” More coal stations are shuttering — two plant owners in the country have said they’ll close this year, according to The Guardian. What will happen to those brownfield sites? The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit explored that question in a recent blog post from Marshall, who said one old power station could be transformed into a cruise ship terminal, another into housing, and others as logistics centers. At the time of writing, the UK was on another streak and had already gone 39 continuous hours without coal — could another record be over the horizon? Via CleanTechnica and The Guardian Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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New book reveals Cecil the lion suffered for at least 10 hours before dying

March 7, 2018 by  
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When Cecil the lion was killed by a game hunter in 2015 , people around the world were outraged. But despite the widespread attention to the situation, questions still lingered about what exactly took place. A new book on Cecil’s death finally gives us some answers, revealing that the lion likely suffered for 10 – 12 hours before being shot a second time, which ended his life. Cecil was shot with an arrow from a compound bow by dentist Walter J. Palmer from Minnesota. At the time, media outlets reported that the lion was in agony from a thoracic injury for 40 hours. While that seems to not be the case, the book says that “Cecil suffered incredible cruelty for at least 10 hours, severely wounded and slowly dying.” The arrow wound missed vital organs and arteries, incapacitating the lion but not killing him. The lion was finally relieved of his torture when the hunters located him and shot him with a second arrow. Related: Cecil the lion’s son shot and killed by trophy hunter Using data from the lion’s GPS collar and details from interviews with game staff, researchers and the local community, the book also confirms that the lion was lured out of the park in order to avoid regulations, a detail that has been disputed by the hunters. You can read all the details about Cecil’s tragic death in the book Lion Hearted: The Life and Death of Cecil and the Future of Africa’s Iconic Cats , which will be released on April 10. Via CNN Images via Flickr , Simon & Schuster and Flickr

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New book reveals Cecil the lion suffered for at least 10 hours before dying

New technology could slow down biological time to save injured soldiers’ lives

March 5, 2018 by  
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Sometimes the difference between life and death is a matter of time. For injured soldiers in the field, the minutes that pass before a medic can treat them can make all the difference. That’s why DARPA is looking into ways to slow biological time in order to give medics an extra advantage in the battle to save lives. We can learn a lot from life around us. For instance, some organisms like tardigrades can essentially suspend animation when conditions are hostile to life. DARPA wants to tap into that ability to do something similar for soldiers. The trick is to figure out how to slow down every cellular process concurrently, and how to return everything back to normal without doing any damage. Related: US govt developing brain implants that give humans the ability to never forget According to DARPA, “When a Service member suffers a traumatic injury or acute infection, the time from event to first medical treatment is usually the single most significant factor in determining the outcome between saving a life or not.” To tackle that problem, DARPA just launched a 5-year Biostasis program that is developing biochemicals that can help slow down cellular activity so that medics can provide help before vital systems start shutting down. It’s still in the early stages, but if they can develop a viable technology, it could not only save soldiers’ lives, but it could have massive implications for medical science as a whole. “Nature is a source of inspiration,” program manager Dr. Tristan McClure-Begley said. “If we can figure out the best ways to bolster other biological systems and make them less likely to enter a runaway downward spiral after being damaged, then we will have made a significant addition to the biology toolbox.” Via Engadget Images via Deposit Photos ( 1 , 2 )

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