Tech-free hobbies that benefit you and the planet

November 12, 2019 by  
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Technology has become an integral part of our everyday life. From smartphones to smart appliances, the advancements continue to make our lives easier while simultaneous distracting us from traditional hobbies and interests. How we spend our time has changed so much over the past few decades that those seeking to reconnect with non-techy hobbies sometimes struggle to think of ways to spend their time that doesn’t involve a screen of some sort. So we’ve put together a list of eco-friendly hobbies that don’t require electricity and produce little to no waste.  Art Art takes many forms and all of them make great hobbies. Take a class to learn the basics of painting, ceramics or photography. You can even start with a paint by number kit to create your own wall art. Crafting There’s something innately satisfying about creating something creative, and crafting offers the opportunity to make gifts, cozy items for the home or products to sell. Take up sewing, jewelry making or needlework such as crocheting, knitting, counted cross-stitch or embroidery. For papercrafts, gather up the family photos and study your genealogy. Then organize your history through scrapbooking. Related: Light your pumpkins the EEK-o-friendly way this Halloween Puzzles Working puzzles snuggled next to the fire is a mind-expanding pleasure. If you’re looking for more physical activity, you can make your own puzzles from the print to the cutout or complete puzzles and frame them for decor. Reading and Writing Pen and paper bring the opportunity for endless hours of creativity. Practice poetry, jot down life lessons, produce creative pieces of fiction, start an autobiography or complete a manuscript. Sharpen the charcoal pencils and take up drawing — whether it be in the human form of portraits or natural landscapes . Keep the craft of calligraphy alive for the next generation with traditional feather and ink. Of course, reading is a fabulous non-tech activity that offers stress release, the ability to virtual travel to other lands and endless opportunities for deeper knowledge. Just be sure to put the e-reader and audio books aside and pick up a real, old-fashioned paper book. Gardening Gardening provides fresh air, fresh food and fresh flowers. How can that not be a winning combination? Growing your own produce is good for you and the environment. Add in oxygen-producing trees, root systems that filter and absorb water and plants that naturally provide shade to your home and you’ve got a perfectly-contoured hobby. Remember to opt for natural insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers, and skip the lawn tools that require gas or electricity whenever possible. Woodworking Hands on activities are therapeutic for the mind and healthy for the body. Woodworking allows you to express creativity and acquire skills in a variety of ways. Create yard decor with bird/bat/butterfly houses, arbors, lattices and garden boxes . Or accent the inside of the home with furniture and shelves. Further use your skills in combination with crafting by making wooden picture frames, signs and wood-cutouts for wreath-making. Music Take up an instrument or join the choir. Music brings joy to your soul and the spirit of others so experiment. For a unique experience take up an uncommon instrument like an alphorn or hydrolauphone. Heck, you can even make your own instruments from just about anything including fruits and vegetables, household items and jars of water. Knife making Another age-old art that you can master is knife making. Create hunting knives or kitchen knives. Build a small forge and use propane to fire the metal once you grind it into shape. Select, contour, sand and finish wood for handles and personalize with wood burning or carving techniques. Baking and Cooking Baking and cooking might be the ultimately satisfying hobby experience. Not only do you get to enjoy the fruits of your labors, but you can create endless combinations of yumminess. Enhance your craft with a class on cake decorating or expand into beer/wine/cider making. Models Set up a classic train set and give it battery or solar power. Build miniature replicas or paint unfinished buildings, railcars and landscaping. Similarly, you can take up model building in the form of cars, motorcycles or boats. Sports and games There is a nearly endless list of ways to spend time exercising that require no electronics, produce nearly zero waste and are good for you. Here are some ideas to get you started: Mountain or street biking, running, hiking, training for a marathon, Ironman competition, swimming, tennis, racquetball, basketball, golf, dance, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, rugby, scuba diving, kayaking and baseball/softball. If you want to include lawn games, master croquet, cornhole or horseshoes. Bring the games inside with bowling, pool, ping pong and darts. Metal working Working with metal gives you opportunities to make and repair myriad gifts, decor and household items. Learning how to weld also allows you to repair cars and broken items around home. Another fun craft is making colorful designs by grinding layers off of sheet metals. Enjoy nature From day hikes to the vagabond lifestyle, nature provides endless opportunities to improve your health through activity, breathe in the fresh air and imprint images of Earth’s beauty. Take up backpacking, camping or even bird watching and enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer.  Images via AndreasGramer , LubosHouska , Foundry , rawpixel , Skitterphoto , naive_eye , Pexels, Skitterphoto

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Tech-free hobbies that benefit you and the planet

Minimalist hotel gym made out of locally-sourced stone features one of the largest glass panels in the world

November 5, 2019 by  
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UK architecture firm  Invisible Studio has become known for its ground-breaking low-impact designs , but this time the innovative architects have just unveiled a beautiful structure that manages to combine sustainability with elegant minimalism. To put it simply, “Room in a Productive Garden” is a small hotel gymnasium made out of natural stone with a large window that looks out over a vegetable garden. However, even though it may just appear to be a big window, it is, in fact, one of the largest glass panels in the world! The new project is part of an expansion of a hotel in Somerset. Located on  the grounds of Hadspen House, the single-story 1,600-square-feet room is a bright and airy gymnasium where guests can enjoy a nice workout while taking in the serene view of the vegetable garden out front. Related: This tiny timber cabin was built from construction waste for under $30K The small gym was strategically designed to blend into its natural surroundings. It’s minimalist volume was intentional to reduce the project’s impact on the landscape. Additionally, the designers used natural stone sourced on site to create the exterior cladding. The stone was crushed and rammed into the walls to add an earthy tone to the facade. According to the architectural studio, the eco-friendly building was “conceived in a manner as ‘no building’ – more, a window on to a mature productive garden with as few distractions from the garden as possible,” they explain. “The garden provides food for the hotel, and is an important part of the arrival experience into the gymnasium. At the heart of the design is the massive glass window , which not only lets in optimal light into the workout space, but also provides serene views of the surrounding nature. At 50 feet wide and 10 foot tall, the continous glass panel is one of the largest in the world. The interior of the building is also an example of sophisticated minimalism . The gym walls are lined entirely in beech wood, with slats concealing the lighting and ventilation systems. At the base of the glass panel, there is a long continuous bench for those who would like to take in the unobstructed views calmly versus running on the treadmill. + Invisible Studio Via World Architecture Images via Invisible Studio

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Minimalist hotel gym made out of locally-sourced stone features one of the largest glass panels in the world

Clear targets for a clean ocean

October 30, 2019 by  
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Creating a healthier ocean is one of the biggest challenges of our time — and all sectors of society need to play a role.

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Clear targets for a clean ocean

Lessons from Phoenix on water management and equity

October 30, 2019 by  
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This article originally appeared on MeetingoftheMinds.org.

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Lessons from Phoenix on water management and equity

Calm Booth is a soundproof office retreat made out of recycled plastic bottles

October 21, 2019 by  
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The stresses of work often make us want to crawl under our desks. Now, one innovative firm is providing offices with a designated place to tune out the noise and find inner peace. Designed by New York-based firm ROOM , the Calm Booth, which is made out of 1,088 recycled plastic bottles , was created for companies that want to provide their employees with a space to enjoy a moment of peace while working. According to the designers, the inspiration for the Calm Booth came from the common difficulty that workers face when wanting to find a moment of  peace during a long, hectic workday. The booth is designed to be a place where “meditation meets privacy,” allowing workers to enjoy a respite to relax and refocus during the day. Related: Upcycled plastic bottles are used to create this durable emergency shelter ROOM has long been known for its soundproof booths that are designed to create private spaces for office use . But this time around, it is partnering with a meditation app, called Calm, to create a soothing space that has an extensive library of meditation soundtracks, from nature soundscapes to music to “nap stories.” The Calm Booth is a simple structure clad in a crisp, white facade with a frosted, acrylic privacy door. The booth is made soundproof thanks to three layers of insulation made with more than 1,000 recycled plastic bottles . On the interior, the space is minimalist with a simple, green forest print on the walls. The booth also comes with a small shelf, a built-in Ethernet port, soft motion-enabled LED lighting and a ventilation system. According to the American Institute of Stress , work-related stress accounts for high absenteeism in offices around the country. Hopefully, companies will begin to take notice that providing a place for workers to practice mindfulness within the office is both beneficial to employees as well as the bottom line. Creating that space with recycled materials is better for the planet, too. + ROOM Architects Images via ROOM Architects

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Calm Booth is a soundproof office retreat made out of recycled plastic bottles

Halloween generates frightening amounts of plastic waste each year

October 21, 2019 by  
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Two eco-minded British charities, Hubbub and the Fairyland Trust, have revealed that Halloween generates mounds of plastic waste equal in weight to millions of plastic bottles. Besides food and costume packaging and masks and accessories, plastic lurks in the costumes, which are often made from fabrics like polyester, nylon, acrylic and other synthetic fibers. After polling 19 prominent British retailers, Hubbub and the Fairyland Trust found that more than 2,000 metric tons of plastic waste are generated from Halloween clothing and costumes alone. That’s because 83 percent of the materials in costume pieces were made from non-biodegradable, oil-based plastic — the same trash accumulating in both landfills and oceans and equivalent to the weight of 83 million plastic bottles.  Related: How to have a plastic-free Halloween Hubbub Chief Executive Trewin Restorick warned, “These findings are horrifying. However, the total plastic waste footprint of Halloween will be even higher once you take into account other Halloween plastic such as party kits and decorations, much of which are also plastic, or food packaging .” Synthetic plastic fibers are cheap and extremely versatile — able to stretch and breathe while providing warmth and durability — thus making them highly desirable as costume materials. Unfortunately, these plastic-based fabrics and their consequential microfibers leach into the environment, whether through laundry water or refuse disposal, further exacerbating the plastic pollution crisis. Additionally, the study found that about 7 million costumes are tossed annually in Britain. This pales in comparison to the National Retail Federation ’s findings that in the United States, more than 175 million people celebrate the spooky holiday each year, with 68 percent of those people purchasing Halloween costumes. Many of these costumes will quickly find their way in the garbage can before the next Halloween. Both Hubbub and the Fairyland Trust are calling for manufacturers and retailers to rethink Halloween product ranges to go beyond single-use , synthetic garments. Similarly, the charities want industry-wide labels to indicate that textiles like polyester are plastic. Doing so would educate the public on these plastic-based fabrics, informing them that these clothing materials are a significant part of the plastic pollution ravaging our planet. The charities hope that manufacturers, retailers and consumers seek non-plastic alternatives . Both Hubbub and the Fairyland Trust encourage Halloween celebrants to go plastic-free and shift toward a more environmentally sustainable and circular model for the holiday industry. Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Halloween generates frightening amounts of plastic waste each year

How to have a plastic-free Halloween

October 21, 2019 by  
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Reducing plastic waste in a world that seems to be wrapped in it is no easy task, and that challenge is multiplied when it comes to holidays. From gift giving to decorations, plastic is everywhere. To avoid it takes a conscientious effort and a plan. With Halloween festivities on the horizon, we’ve put one together for you. When planning for a plastic-free Halloween, remember to encompass all aspects of the event to eliminate the greatest amount of waste. Costumes Trick-or-treating is an important element of the holiday for most kids. Even those that don’t head out for the door-to-door ritual find themselves needing a costume for a school dance, community event or house party. Even adults participate in the fun. Costumes create an opportunity to invite plastic into your home, especially ensembles that are store-bought. Order one online, and you’ll likely see additional plastic in the packaging. Related: Light your pumpkins the EEK-o-friendly way this Halloween The best way to avoid plastic in your costume is to make it yourself . Focus on cloth designs, especially those with organic cotton and other natural fibers . Also, look for ways to use paper or cardboard instead of plastic. Watch those accessories, too: plastic belts, pistols, staffs and hats. If you can’t go entirely plastic-free to complete the look, at least avoid new plastic by borrowing or buying secondhand. Decorations Decorations are to blame for massive amounts of plastic. Skip the giant inflatable ghost or skeleton on the front lawn in favor of a more eco-friendly wood or metal option. Build a haunted house out of a giant cardboard box, or pull together those wood scraps to carve out a black cat. Old pallet boards make fun and easy decor a possibility. You can create single signs or stack boards of different sizes on a stake for a spooky or friendly front porch decor option. Inside the home, Halloween wreaths will last for many years if they are made from burlap, straw or hemp . Accessorize with mini pumpkins, berries, fall leaves or wood cutouts for a look that incorporates the elements of fall. For the mantle and other surfaces, look to the natural options around you. Carve a pumpkin or decorate the outside with a cloth hat and a painted-on face. Similarly, carve out apples and use them as candle votives. Glass is another fantastic decor material that produces light and color in fun ways. Use paint to decorate canning jars, or fill them with LED lights to use as centerpieces or hanging decor around the pergola. Use glass platters or bowls to display your spooky collection of ceramic witches combined with pine cones. If you already have plastic items in your home, get as much life out of them as you can. It’s more damaging to trash them while they’re still useful than to reuse them. Just replace items with plastic-free options when the time comes. Party items Halloween parties are a fun and festive way to celebrate the holiday. But make sure your celebration honors the planet with plastic-free options that everyone can enjoy. Pass on the plastic cups in favor of regular glassware, and provide dishware and silverware. If you don’t have enough dishes, elect for paper plates over Styrofoam or plastic. For a silverware shortage, try planning your meal around finger-foods instead. Serving delectable, utensil-free meals saves on both garbage and cleanup. For games, go with the traditional bobbing for apples or pinning the (paper) hat on the (cardboard) witch. Food and candy A quick visit to Pinterest will provide a ghastly number of finger-food appetizers that require no plastic to make or serve. But you might find it challenging to purchase food without the plastic component. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always a good option. Create hot dog or sausage mummies by wrapping them with strips of croissant dough. Make a scary taco dip with a spider web designed out of sour cream and use chips as your utensils. Of course, just about any sandwich or tortilla can be cut into the shape of a bat for an easy treat. Related: This year, dish out these eco-friendly Halloween treats For dessert, dish up brownies or pumpkin-shaped cookies, or fill candy bowls with bulk options rather than individually-wrapped treats. Trick-or-treating When it’s time to canvas the neighborhood, bypass the plastic pumpkin or bag. Instead, employ a reusable shopping bag or even a standard pillowcase to haul treats. You won’t be able to avoid the plastic that others hand out in their homes, but you can take charge in deciding what treats you give the goblins and superheroes that appear at your door. Stay away from plastic trinkets and give out wooden pencils, small books, reusable straws or friendship bracelets instead. Look for individually paper-wrapped candies to skirt the plastic waste. You can also offer homemade goodies, although many parents will pass on accepting them as a safety precaution. Small apples also make a waste-free option. Of course, you could avoid the “treat” portion altogether and perform your best joke, imitation or magic gag to fulfill the offered “trick” option instead. Halloween is a fun season full of parties and festivities. With a little forethought, it can be free of plastic, too. Images via Shutterstock

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Use texture, height and variety to create pizzazz in your small garden this fall

October 18, 2019 by  
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As the crisp, misty mornings of fall greet the day, autumn colors emerge across the landscape. Meanwhile, your garden and flower pots begin to look barren and colorless as annuals die off and perennials go dormant for the upcoming winter. In most areas, though, there is still plenty of life left in the fall, even in the smallest spaces around your home. With a bit of planning, you can bring a new season of life to your porch, patio or balcony, even during the short days of fall. To get started, follow these tips for color, variety, texture and height variation. Color Fall is synonymous with falling leaves and bare trees, leaving a trail of red, orange and yellow along the roads. You can match the colors associated with the season using pumpkin decor, rusty red or gold mums, plants that produce berries, ornamental grasses and plants that retain their colorful leaves until late into the season. Grab a journal and list some plants common to your area that offer complementary colors. Then, add in some accents, like prolific white mums, silver-leaved herbs such as sage and evergreens like boxwood for a stable green color. On that note, remember that evergreens are a delightful option for every season and make a nice backdrop to seasonal plants that you can swap out every few months. This gives you a lot of options year-round, even with limited space. Related: 11 unique edible plants for your garden Variety Along with the plan for color comes a blueprint for variety. Your preference might be to have window boxes full of a single varietal. If so, great! If not, choose plants that contrast each other throughout the space. Include plants with different types of leaves, heights and lifespans. Put some in the window box, but surround it with potted plants, shrubs, trees and even an ever-changing vase of fresh wildflowers. Just be sure to choose options that can be pruned to stay small or are naturally compact. Even your planters can add to the variety in texture and color. Use galvanized buckets or watering cans mixed with colorful ceramic pots and a miniature wheelbarrow. Insert a glass vase with bamboo , surround plants with an old tire or carve out a pumpkin for a naturally-compostable planter. Use bronze, terracotta or copper to add to the fall color palette, and make them really stand out by surrounding them with white rocks. Texture Plants in nature vary from each other as much as the human face or fingerprint. Embrace that diversity to feed the need for visual appeal. After all, your garden space, no matter how small, should bring you pleasure. Mix it up — bring in some spiky leaves and balance those with the dainty Sweet Alyssum. Throw in some curvy-edged flowering kale, and place it next to your Aster that still might be in bloom, attracting bees and butterflies well into the season. Height Nothing adds variety and depth like a display of flowers, plants and shrubs of varying heights. This can be accomplished using supports or props. For example, use a window box. Then, place a table beneath it with potted plants ranging from tiny succulents to larger herbs . On the ground, add another layer of potted or planted options. Mix in small trees and shrubs if your space allows. You can also choose plants that are all planted in the same bed with diverse heights. Just plant the tallest selections in the back, so they don’t obscure the view of the lower-to-the-ground superstars behind them. Depending on how much space you have, you might include a dwarf conifer, Dogwood or slow-growing Japanese Maple. For very small spaces , use pots to contain purple fountain grass, croton and other plants. Also, use those long-lasting summer climbers to your advantage. Create height with the hops over the pergola, grapes covering the arbor or ivy up the pillars in the front of the house. Placement Another planning consideration includes the placement of your plants. For a back patio or areas where you still spend a lot of time outdoors in the fall, create clusters of texture or color along the edges. Plant a tree just off the edge of the deck and surround it with seasonal potted plants that sit on the deck, creating a vignette of eye-catching cohesion. If you spend most of your time next to the window near the front porch, invest in color within the frame of the window. For an upstairs office, load up the window box. If you’re going for curb appeal, make sure to include border plants to pull the look together. A simple display of a few potted chrysanthemums with some decorative gourds can spice up the entrance to your home. Hanging baskets are another option that complement your decor in any season and work in any space, large or small. Small gardens might present some challenges, but with the right plant selections, you can create spaces that bring visual interest and life to your balcony or patio throughout the seasons. Images via Shutterstock

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Use texture, height and variety to create pizzazz in your small garden this fall

How the Urban Freight Lab seeks to fix the last 50 feet of shipping

October 15, 2019 by  
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Packed with automotive and logistics giants, the living lab out of Seattle aspires to test solutions to “the transportation challenge of our time.”

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How the Urban Freight Lab seeks to fix the last 50 feet of shipping

How the Urban Freight Lab seeks to fix the last 50 feet of shipping

October 15, 2019 by  
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Packed with automotive and logistics giants, the living lab out of Seattle aspires to test solutions to “the transportation challenge of our time.”

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How the Urban Freight Lab seeks to fix the last 50 feet of shipping

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