How to pull off a tech-free family vacation the whole family will enjoy

May 1, 2019 by  
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It’s a full-blown modern challenge to get through even an hour of the day without using technology. So considering a tech-free trip for the entire family may seem insurmountable. While we acknowledge that there will likely be some discomfort at times, we’re happy to report that it’s certainly attainable. Here are some tips to get you headed in the right direction towards a tech-free family vacation. Preparations We are so accustomed to having technology at our fingertips that you might have to remind the people in your life that you will be checking out. Provide an alternate phone number, like that of the hotel, if necessary. Also let family and friends know you’ll be off-grid so they don’t wonder why you haven’t responded to their text. If you plan to cheat with an occasional phone-on check in, at least remove email push from your phone so you’re not tempted to scroll through. Create a meeting point Not all things about technology are bad, but you might not realize how much you rely on it so it’s important to think ahead. You won’t be able to simply throw out the, “Where are you?” text. If your group is going to be separated for any reason, make sure you have a plan for meeting up again. Divide and conquer in the grocery store and meet by the checkout, for example. If you’re at an amusement park, zoo or museum, pick a time and place to meet. Paper maps Nope, we’re not kidding. Generations of successful roadtrips have spawned from the use of paper maps so there’s no reason not to make them your go-to navigation guide. Plus, map reading is always a good skill to brush up on and is something you’ve likely never taught your kids how to do. Grab road maps for any area you’ll be traveling and pick up city maps and attraction maps when you reach your destination. Visit your local Chamber of Commerce and that at the destination for information that you’re otherwise tempted to find on your phone. Related: Kin Travel is offering unique vacation ideas that benefit destinations through conservation and sustainability Road games If you’re older than twenty, you likely remember playing games with your family on road trips that didn’t require a board, dice or cards. Contrary to current norms, family trips without DVD players, phones or iPads can still equal a good time. Teach your kids the art of identifying each letter of the alphabet on road signs. Play 20 questions or engage in Ispy. It’s also a good time to list those items for your next trip using the alphabet (I’m going on a camping trip and I’m taking…). For older children, start a story and pass the storyline along with each person contributing to the plot. For younger children, create a bag of surprises before your trip. Each 100 miles or when you cross state lines or once an hour, introduce a new activity. This can include small containers of finger dough, jigsaw puzzles, word puzzles or toys (non-electronic of course!) Board games Often times, voids in activity lead to mindless swiping of the cell phones. Instead of engaging in online game play, engage with each other. Be sure to bring along board games for in-between activities at the hotel and smaller versions for the car rides. Handheld card games work well for this. Ask a local In the old days, mom and dad had to stop and ask for directions when they couldn’t find their way. The waitress at the diner and the clerk at the store are still strong resources for this information when you decide to go tech-free. Plus, you can ask about the best place to pick up a pizza without relying on Yelp. Wear a watch Speaking of time, it’s likely that you also rely on your phone to know what time it is. Plan ahead by wearing a watch or identify clocks in the space you’re to help keep you manage your time. Go remote If you don’t trust your ability to to go tech-free, plan a vacation that takes the decision out of your hands. Head into remote areas where you don’t receive cell service and enjoy the solitude of nature . Once the kids stop whining that their phone’s don’t work, they’ll discover the simple pleasures of stacking rocks and skipping rocks. Teach them fire building, take them on a hike or take them backpacking where they can learn map and compass, fishing and how to filter water. Take an alarm clock Hopefully your vacation doesn’t require you to rise early or be anywhere at a specific time, but it’s a good idea to throw in a small alarm clock, both so that you know the time and so you don’t need to rely on a phone for your alarm. Use long math Education never ends, and not toting a phone means not having a calculator at your disposal. That makes for a good opportunity to calculate tips, percentage off deals and admission totals the old fashioned way. It will feel strange at first to eliminate the technology in your life for a few valuable days, but in the end you will achieve more quality time and true engagement without electronic distraction. After all, isn’t that what a vacation should be about? Via Matador Network Images via t_watanabe , Shutterstock

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Native Plants: the Key to Eco-Friendly Gardening

April 10, 2019 by  
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After a dreary winter, spring has finally arrived! It’s time … The post Native Plants: the Key to Eco-Friendly Gardening appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Native Plants: the Key to Eco-Friendly Gardening

Native Plants: the Key to Eco-Friendly Gardening

April 10, 2019 by  
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After a dreary winter, spring has finally arrived! It’s time … The post Native Plants: the Key to Eco-Friendly Gardening appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Native Plants: the Key to Eco-Friendly Gardening

President Trump attacks wind turbines, claims the noise causes cancer

April 5, 2019 by  
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Speaking at an event for the National Republican Congressional Committee, President Trump took a shot at wind power as he continues his war against renewable energy. In a surprising statement, Trump claimed that having a wind turbine near your home will devalue the property and cause cancer. “If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down 75 percent in value,” Trump told his fellow Republicans. “And they say the noise causes cancer. You tell me that one, okay? Rerrrr rerrrr!” The allegation that wind turbines cause cancer is simply false. According to EcoWatch , some studies have looked into the issue but have found no link between wind turbines and health-related issues; this includes strokes and heart attacks. Simply put, the only real issue with wind turbines is that they might be a minor annoyance and create about as much noise as traffic. Trump also doubled down on his previous claims that wind power results in massive bird deaths. Although wind turbines do kill birds on an annual basis, they do so at a much lower rate than traditional energy sources. A study conducted in 2009 discovered that fossil fuel facilities kill almost 15 times the amount of birds as wind turbines. If wind turbines do not cause cancer or kill birds on a large scale, then why is Trump so against them? Turns out, Trump has a history with fighting wind turbines that dates back to 2006. At the time, Trump had purchased some land in Scotland that he intended to turn into a golf course. A nearby farm ruined those plans when it decided to put up a wind turbine. Trump sued the farmers but lost in court. Trump’s stance against wind power also sits nicely with the Republican party’s policy on energy. His administration has initiated plans to boost fossil fuel production in the United States and has made it clear that renewable energy is not high on its priority list. Exactly how this will affect the future of wind turbines in the United States is unclear. Via EcoWatch Image via Pixabay

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Maven Moment: Spring Fashion!

March 20, 2019 by  
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These 5 animals are being consumed into extinction

March 12, 2019 by  
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Humans have a long history of wiping out animal populations, and we continue to do so even to this day. According to a new study published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, people around the world are eating hundreds of animal species into extinction. If we don’t make some changes, the authors of the study warn that the food security of hundreds of millions of people could be threatened. Currently, we are in the middle of mass extinction that rivals the wiping out of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. But this time, it isn’t a giant meteorite doing all the damage — it’s humans. Over the past century, we have accelerated extinction rates 100 hundred times greater than what would naturally occur without human impact. As we continue to destroy habitats with construction and invade wild areas for hunting, 301 species of land mammals are now critically endangered and have made their way to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. The list includes 168 primates, 73 hoofed animals, 27 bats, 26 marsupials, 21 rodent species and 12 carnivores. There are also 1,414 species of fish on the Red List. “There are plenty of bad things affecting wildlife around the world, and habitat loss and degradation are clearly at the forefront, but among the other things is the seemingly colossal impact of bushmeat hunting,” said David MacDonald, professor at the University of Oxford and part of the international research team. Bushmeat is a traditional food source for rural people in societies across the globe. That is starting to change because of large-scale commercial hunting and road construction in remote areas. MacDonald said that the number of hunters continues to increase, and the roads are being built in the most remote places, so there is no place left for wildlife to go. Not only does this mass extinction threaten food security, but it also upsets ecosystems. To reverse this problem, the researchers in this new study have a few ideas. They recommend greater legal protection for the endangered species, empowering local communities to prioritize wildlife conservation , providing alternative foods and family planning to reduce the rate of population growth. The list of endangered animals is long, but here are a few highlights. Bluefin tuna One of the fastest fish on Earth, bluefin tuna can hit speeds around 40 miles per hour when they are hunting, can grow up to 15 feet long and weigh as much as 1500 pounds. However, with the growing demand for sushi, overfishing is becoming a huge problem, and the bluefin tuna numbers are dropping. Related: Endangered bluefin tuna sold for $3.1 billion to sushi tycoon Whale shark The largest fish in the sea, the whale shark has been on the critically endangered list for three years, because the population has dropped more than 50 percent in the last 75 years thanks to both legal and illegal fishing. According to National Geographic, fishing for whale sharks is extremely lucrative, because they can be “harvested for their meat, fins and other parts used in traditional medicinal products.” Of course, they are also in great demand for shark fin soup. Pangolin These nocturnal mammals have keratin scales, emit a harmful chemical like skunks and eat ants and termites. In Africa, they are a major source of food and medicine, but in China and Vietnam, they are a delicacy. This has led to the pangolin becoming the most trafficked animal in the world. Related: Zimbabwe hopes to bring attention to trafficking endangered species with the Pangolin Project There is an international trade ban on all pangolin species, but this has only resulted in rising prices as the population declines. Chinese giant salamander As the largest amphibian on Earth, the Chinese giant salamander has been around for more than 170 million years, and it can grow to be 6 feet long and weigh over 100 pounds. The species is currently on the critically endangered list, because it is a Chinese delicacy. It is also used in traditional Chinese medicine. In just three generations, the population has plummeted by 80 percent. Sturgeon With fossil records dating back 200 million years, we know that sturgeon have survived two — maybe three — mass extinctions . This time, the species might not be so lucky. The beluga sturgeon is being overfished, because the eggs are needed for caviar. They take 20 years to reach maturity, but we are killing them to harvest the eggs at massive rates. You can learn more about the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species on the organization’s website. Images via Danilo Cedrone / UN Food and Agriculture Organization , Aruro de Frias Marques , A.J.T. Johnsingh / WWF-India , Petr Hamerník , USFWS and National Marine  Sanctuary

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Drones: the future of ocean conservation

March 6, 2019 by  
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Unmanned systems such as drones, are increasingly used in a variety of fields — from border patrol, to cinematography to just plain showing off your cool new toy with neighbors. Thanks to rapidly improving technology , durability and artificial intelligence, these unmanned systems also show significant promise in the field of ocean conservation. Scientists can save significant time and resources by collecting data, mapping species and monitoring huge areas of ocean impossible to reach by boat. “Drones are fundamentally changing the way we monitor and manage our environment ,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Institute Captain, Brian Taggart, told  DroneLife . Taggart explained that unmanned systems can help scientists track the abundance and distribution of endangered species, patrol for illegal fishing and monitor areas that might be hard for boats to reach — such as shallow reefs. Related: Oceans are dubbed the ‘ultimate sink’ for plastic waste WasteShark: the trash-eating ocean drone RanMarine, a Dutch technology firm, has launched a floating drone called “WasteShark” in several countries. This remote-controlled  or autonomously running drone collects floating trash at a rate of 130 pounds per trip, equaling 15 tons of waste every year. Think of it as a large, high-tech, trash -eating Roomba vacuum for the ocean’s surface. In addition to alleviating litter, the robot can also test water quality and remove oils, chemicals and harmful algae — all without threatening wildlife. Video: See how WasteShark works “WasteShark is cheaper, greener, more effective and less disruptive than other methods of dealing with marine litter,” Chief Commercial Officer of RanMarine, Oliver Cunningham, told the Daily Mail . Aerial mapping and measuring Drones are also used to collect data everywhere from the Caribbean to Antarctica. Conservation website Monga Bay reported that scientists in Antarctica are using drone imagery to measure and monitor leopard seal populations. This technology saves the researchers huge amounts of time, money and resources when compared to business as usual; physically capturing, sedating and then releasing each seal they measure. Weighing an average of 800 pounds each, this is a huge and costly endeavor that also disrupts the seal population. The researchers conducted a study to compare the results of drone-measured seals versus those that they hand measure and found the results only varied by two to four percent. “Because we took the time to develop this technique and verify that it’s doing what we think it’s doing, we can feel confident about gathering monitoring information in the future that will both help us understand ecosystem function and also give us better data to support conservation efforts,” lead scientist Douglas J. Krause told Monga Bay . Drones give students a new perspective   Drones can also be used for educational purposes by giving scientists, researchers, students and the general public a gorgeous, birds-eye view of marine ecosystems and restoration projects that they otherwise could never see up-close. The Nature Conservancy used drones to teach students in Grenada about a coral reef restoration project and used the awe-inspiring robot technology to hover over the project infrastructure and convince the students of how cool ocean conservation can be . Cracking down on drones in parks With advancing technology and decreasing prices, it seems like everyone has a drone now, and many local and state governments are cracking down on their use in parks. All drones have been recently prohibited in California’s San Luis Obispo Coastal Park with authorities arguing that the unmanned systems disturb both wildlife and the public’s recreational experiences. For example, unskilled drone users have been cited for accidentally landing drones on rock islands inhabited by sunbathing seals. Others have scared birds from their nests, while others lose their drones and trample through fragile ecosystems to retrieve them. Drone use for scientific research is still allowed with a permit and trained pilot. Related: Plastic pollution is causing reproductive problems for ocean wildlife Are drones taking jobs? There are many examples of how drone technology improves ocean conservation , but how does this artificial technology impact local fishers, park rangers and other ocean-based livelihoods? The National Geographic Society recently awarded Moroccan company ATLAN a World Oceans Day Prize for their drone that can identify, recognize and alert authorities of illegal fishing activities across 435 miles — far more than rangers on a motor boat could ever accomplish. This seems like a great achievement for protecting fish populations, especially when over 80 percent of the world’s fisheries are severely over fished. However, many marine protected areas — where fishing is prohibited — were established without consultation with subsistence and small-scale fishers. Despite their benefits to ecosystems, marine protected areas can often cause the displacement and criminalization of cultures and traditional ways of life without providing realistic alternatives. “The idea that conservation requires emptying the land of its customary inhabitants fails to acknowledge that Indigenous Peoples and local communities are the most effective and efficient guardians,” Rights and Resources’s Lindsay Brigda wrote in their publication, Cornered by Protected Areas . Many environmental organizations are now making a determined effort to consult with local communities and develop jobs in areas such as eco-tourism and conservation. With their extensive knowledge of navigated waters, fishers are often given jobs as park rangers– an opportunity to earn a living protecting the species they used to exploit. Video: See how a fisher woman in Jamaica become a fisheries warden Drones, like most artificial intelligence , are still years away from completely replacing the need for humans, but a concerted effort to protect already limited conservation jobs and budget for displaced people is paramount. Images via Shutterstock

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A modular classroom for environmental education pops up in a Barcelona park

February 21, 2019 by  
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Flexible, transportable and cost-efficient, the modular classrooms created by local design studio Baena Casamor Arquitectes BCQ offer a sustainable new way to activate Barcelona’s public parks. Inspired by timber cabins, the prefabricated pop-up classroom is a multipurpose space sheathed in wood and crafted with a focus on environmental education for school groups and families. The architects recently installed a classroom prototype, AULA K, in the Parc de Can Zam with a built area of nearly 1,200 square feet. Constructed primarily of timber, the prefabricated classroom is designed to blend into the park surroundings with the future aim of providing habitat to certain species of animals, including insects, birds and bats. “It is a pavilion destined to give more life to the parks, complementing the offer of leisure, recreational and sports with the educational dimension,” the architects said in a statement. “It must be a space open to the outside; it is necessary that one could see the trees from the classroom, to perceive the light and feel the climate.” To create flexibility in the design, the classrooms can comprise any combination and configuration of three modules — a service module, classroom module and pergola module — so as to best meet the needs of each site. The modular architecture is prefabricated in a factory and can be installed on site in just a few weeks. The prototype at Parc de Can Zam consists of the service and classroom modules and is topped with sloped roofs optimized for solar panel installation and rainwater collection. Related: Modscape installs a prefab school building that stays comfortable year-round The use of prefabrication helps reduce the time and cost of producing the classrooms, which share a uniform wooden envelope and a large opening on the facade to let in natural light and views of nature. The classrooms can be modified to generate energy, return rainwater to underground aquifers, reuse stormwater runoff as garden irrigation or provide habitat for local fauna. + Baena Casamor Arquitectes BCQ Photography by  Marcela Grassi via Baena Casamor Arquitectes BCQ

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The Lantern is a portable home wrapped in a natural woven lattice

February 21, 2019 by  
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London-based firm Emulsion Architecture has designed a serene, portable home to serve as versatile lodging that can be installed in a variety of landscapes. Hosted by Land Stories , the first dwelling is The Lantern, a round structure with a translucent core, which is wrapped in ornate latticework made out of woven willow. The glamping suite is designed to be highly energy-efficient and have minimal environmental impact, leaving no lasting footprint on any of its locations. The portable home was designed to offer a contemporary but inviting sustainable lodging within a variety of landscapes. Whether surrounded by mountains, deserts or grasslands, guests staying in The Lantern will be able to immerse themselves comfortably in the surrounding nature. Related: KODA is a tiny solar-powered house that can move with its owners The round dwelling sleeps up to four, with one double bed and two singles as well as a kitchenette. The living space is surrounded by glass doors that swing open to a beautiful outdoor deck, which winds around the structure. Wrapped in the woven latticework, this area is the perfect spot to enjoy the panoramic views. As a nod to the design’s inspiration, lights on the roof will act as periscopes, reflecting glimpses of the landscape and environment directly onto the mirrored interior. According to the architects, the inspiration for the design came from the simple but ubiquitous lantern. “We were inspired by the simple idea of a lantern acting as a gentle beacon, which can sit sensitively in the landscape,” the team said. “A lattice of woven willow encases the dwelling space, the irregularity of the natural willow contrasting the glowing faces of the enclosure. It will be a very serene and beautiful place to stay in any landscape.” The portable home was originally slated to be built in the North Norfolk coast in the U.K., but the plans fell through at the last moment. Land Stories is currently looking for landowners that would like to collaborate on the project. + Emulsion Architecture + Land Stories Via World Architecture Forum Images via Land Stories

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The Lantern is a portable home wrapped in a natural woven lattice

Court allows Trump’s border wall to violate several conservation acts

February 15, 2019 by  
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Donald Trump is moving forward with the construction of his controversial border wall, even if it means sidestepping important environmental laws. A federal judge ruled in favor of Trump’s wall construction along California’s southern border, a project that is expected to violate several conservation acts. The federal court ruled that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the power to wave environmental laws in the construction of the border wall, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act. The majority opinion argued that the Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 gives the DHS power to ignore certain laws when it comes to border security. Related: 10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration “Because the projects are statutorily authorized and DHS has waived the environmental laws California and the environmental groups seek to enforce, we affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to DHS,” Judge M. Margaret McKeown said. According to EcoWatch , environmentalists and conservation groups attempted to stop the construction of the border wall in 2017. Building the prototypes for the structure has already violated at least 37 regulations in San Diego County. Once construction begins, environmentalists predict that more than 90 endangered species could be harmed by the time the wall is complete. California is not the only state facing an environmental crisis. Texas is also getting ready to start construction of its border wall , and conservation groups are worried about how the wall will affect one of the most successful butterfly sanctuaries in the country: the National Butterfly Center . A 5-mile portion of the wall will cut through the heart of the property, which has environmentalists worried about how it will affect the 200 variations of butterflies that call the sanctuary home. This includes the monarch, black swallowtail and the Mexican bluewing. Conservation groups are currently attempting to stall construction of the wall in Texas as they scramble to figure out a solution. The Trump administration has hailed the new court decision as a major victory in its effort to secure the border. The White House has not, however, addressed how building the border wall will break dozens of environmental laws and potentially harm endangered species. Via EcoWatch Image via Melissa McMasters

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