Touring restored wetlands at a Wisconsin nature conservancy

November 1, 2019 by  
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The village of Williams Bay, Wisconsin hasn’t changed much since Harold Friestad was a kid, he told me as we walked through Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy (KNC). Now almost 80 and the conservancy’s chairman, Friestad is proud of being a factor in stunting the small town’s growth. He was president when the village board bought 231 acres of lakefront property in 1989 to create KNC. “What I want on my tombstone,” he said as our sneakers sank into the wetlands , “is, ‘Because of Harold, there will never be a stoplight in Williams Bay.’” Nature conservancy history The nature conservancy sits against Geneva Lake , long a summer playground for rich Chicagoans . Before that, it was home of the Potawatomi people. The name Kishwauketoe comes from a Potawatomi word meaning “lake of the sparkling water.” The current conservancy land was once a rail yard. But when the train was decommissioned, developers swooped in, wanting to build hotels, golf courses and shopping centers. Area residents wished to stop the developers and keep Williams Bay small and quiet. The Williams Bay Village Board, led by Friestad, negotiated a price of $1.575 million for the 231-acre parcel. “People knew I was a businessman,” said Friestad, who worked for Lake Geneva Cruise Line for 50 years, retiring as general manager in 2015. “They didn’t know I love nature so much.” Even though he got an excellent price — a 10-acre estate could now cost $15 million — Friestad said, “A lot of people didn’t like the idea of me spending all that money to buy it.” But now people value the conservancy, and some of Williams Bay’s 2,500 residents even bought their homes in the village so they could walk the wetland trails every day. “It’s almost sacred now,” Friestad said. “I don’t know how you put a value on it. But it’s priceless to me, and it’s priceless to many, many people.” Donations, volunteer hours, summer interns and a few part-time workers power the conservancy, which has never received tax dollars. During my weekday visit, one woman was chainsawing dead branches, a couple of folks were repairing a boardwalk and a controlled burn was going on in the distance. In the conservancy’s nearly 30-year run, the crew has restored more than 65 acres of prairie, planted a 15-acre arboretum, created a spawning area for lake trout, installed boardwalks over the wettest wetlands, cleared invasive species and constructed a four-story viewing tower. They’ve also built and continue to maintain more than 4 miles of trails. Visiting the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy On the October day I visited, the conservancy was quiet. I saw only a half-dozen other walkers during the hour or two I was there. Things are busier in summer, Friestad said, when up to 500 people may visit in a day. Non-human residents include deer, coyotes, foxes and raccoons. Some years, beavers move in. The conservancy has a public education campaign about the benefits of beavers, not the most-loved local animal. Reptile-wise, the conservancy is home to garter snakes and the rare Blanding’s turtle, which has a striking yellow throat. People can walk through the area on their own 365 days a year. The conservancy also offers many guided walks, some focusing on particular aspects, such as history, geology, botany or trees . Those who want to get dirt under their nails can join volunteer workdays and autumn seed harvesting. Every summer, the conservancy hosts a 5K run/walk. I’d recommend the Friday morning walk, which Friestad usually leads. Trail cams Kishwauketoe participates in the statewide Snapshot Wisconsin program, a network of trail cameras. The project provides information for wildlife managers and lets citizen scientists get involved in monitoring Wisconsin’s natural resources. Jim Killian, KNC board member, Wisconsin master naturalist program instructor and coauthor of an upcoming book on the conservancy , learned about Snapshot Wisconsin while attending a master naturalist conference in March 2018. “I immediately sought permission from the Wisconsin DNR [Department of Natural Resources] to host a wildlife trail camera for the Wisconsin Snapshot Wisconsin in KNC,” Killian said. “Because of the location and size of KNC, I learned that I qualified to host two trail cameras in our conservancy. While the program participation requirements are quite stringent, I thoroughly enjoy this volunteer work.” The cameras work with a motion sensor. “At night and in low light, the cameras utilize an infrared flash to capture images,” Killian said. “That is why they appear as black and white. One camera is located on the edge of a small open field/prairie area, while the other is located on the edge of a very dense, wooded area and on the bank of a small stream, which is a popular watering spot for wildlife of many varieties. This stream remains as a source of open water all year, including in the midst of a very cold winter.” Killian services each trail camera at least once every three months to replace the memory card and batteries and to upload the captured images to the Wisconsin DNR. The DNR places the images on a website and invites the public to help classify them. Of the thousands of images captured at KNC so far, Killian said deer are No. 1, followed by squirrels, turkeys , coyotes, raccoons, opossums, cottontail rabbits, redtail foxes, woodchucks, blue jays, cardinals, sandhill crane, northern flickers and mink. Do the trail cams reveal any surprises? “The humor of wildlife,” he said. “I would have never suspected that animals do the funniest things, including selfies, when they know or sense that their image is being captured by a camera. This is particularly true for deer.” KNC is open year-round. If you’re looking for immense peace and quiet, visit in winter … and bring your cross-country skis . + Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy Images via Harold Friestad / Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy, Wisconsin DNR Snapshot Wisconsin (trail cam imagery) and Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Touring restored wetlands at a Wisconsin nature conservancy

Mexico wants to run a tourist train through its Mayan heartland — should it?

August 20, 2019 by  
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Big public works like the Maya Train demand careful planning. But the environmental and social repercussions could be disastrous.

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Mexico wants to run a tourist train through its Mayan heartland — should it?

Geothermal-powered bus station will use anti-smog blocks to fight pollution

August 13, 2019 by  
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The Polish city of Lublin will soon be home to an environmentally friendly bus station that not only offers a new and attractive public space, but also combats urban air pollution. Designed by Polish architectural firm Tremend , the Integrated Intermodal Metropolitan Station in Lublin will be built near the train station and aims to revitalize the area around the railway station. The contemporary design, combined with its environmental focus and green features, earned the project a spot on World Architecture Festival’s World Building of the Year shortlist.  Located close to Folk Park, the Integrated Intermodal Metropolitan Station was designed as a visual extension of the neighboring green space with a lush roof garden and large green wall that wraps the northern facade. Greenery is also referenced in the series of sculptural tree-like pillars that support a massive flat roof with large overhanging eaves. Walls of glass create an inviting and safe atmosphere, while the administration rooms will be provided with tinted windows for privacy.  To reduce energy demands, the building will be heated with geothermal energy and outfitted with energy-efficient LEDs . Meanwhile, motion detectors will be used to activate the lighting to ensure energy savings. A rainwater collection and treatment system will also be used to irrigate the plants that create a cooling microclimate and improved air quality. Air quality is further improved with the use of “anti-smog blocks,” a modern photocatalytic material containing titanium dioxide that breaks down toxic fumes.  Related: Cepezed completes the first self-sufficient bus station in the Netherlands “Architecture of public places is evolving in my opinion in a very good direction,” says Magdalena Federowicz-Boule, President of the Tremend Board. “Combining different spaces, open shared zones favors establishing contacts. The communication center, which is to be built in Lublin, is to revive it for revitalization district and become a meeting place where people will be able to meet and spend together time in an attractive environment with green areas. The project is also a response to problems, related to environmental protection and city life, such as smog , water and energy consumption, noise. It is an image of how we perceive the role of ecology in architecture.” + Tremend

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Geothermal-powered bus station will use anti-smog blocks to fight pollution

Wildlife conservation aided by a Chesapeake Bay retriever named Train

March 13, 2019 by  
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A Chesapeake Bay retriever named Train is playing an important part in wildlife conservation . Train, who was too energetic to make it as a drug dog, is lending his nose to sniff out endangered species by smelling their poop. Train is helping conservationists like Karen DeMatteo track down some of the world’s most elusive animals, such as oncillas and jaguars, by finding their scat in the wild. DeMatteo and her colleagues are focusing their research in Argentina, and Train is helping them discover where these endangered species are calling home. “Everybody leaves poop behind in the forest,” DeMatteo shared. “You can figure out which habitats they like and which habitats they avoid.” Related: These AI-powered cameras can sense poachers and save wildlife DeMatteo is using the data she gathers to help conservationists determine where they need to focus their efforts. As human populations continue to encroach on wilderness areas, researchers hope to figure out which areas of the country need better conservation practices — and Train is helping them reach their goals. Before he was sniffing out wildlife , Train was placed in a drug-detection program. Train’s life as a drug-sniffing dog did not pan out, because he was far too energetic for the program. Luckily, DeMatteo snagged him up and trained him to sniff out poop instead of drugs, and the rest is history. Train’s energy also makes him ideal for tracking down wildlife in Argentina. In fact, DeMatteo and her team hiked over 600 miles in 2018 looking for scat, and Train’s energy helped him handle the workload with ease. Before Train came along, researchers like DeMatteo relied on game cameras to find and track endangered species. The only problem with this system is that scientists have to wait until the animals cross the camera’s view. They also have to deal with theft. Although Train is 12 years old, he has not slowed down. After Argentina , DeMatteo and her team will be traveling to Nebraska to find mountain lions, continuing Train’s assistance in wildlife conservation. + Got Scat? Via CNN Images via Karen DeMatteo

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Wildlife conservation aided by a Chesapeake Bay retriever named Train

Former Angry Bird marketing guru proposes 80-mile underwater tunnel to link two cities

January 18, 2018 by  
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Peter Vesterbacka, the former marketing chief for the smash hit mobile game Angry Birds, has embraced a new challenge: the construction of an 80-mile-long tunnel between Helsinki , Finland and Tallinn , Estonia. This tunnel would facilitate a high-speed rail connection between the capital of Finland, an artificial island in the Baltic Sea that Vesterbacka plans on building, and the capital of Estonia. “Digging is just a few billion [euros],” Vesterbacka told Buzzfeed News . “Let’s say $15 billion and then it’s done. It’s pretty big.” Big is perhaps an understatement, not only in the resources required and procedural obstacles but in the potential economic impact of linking these two historic cities into one metropolitan area. Vesterbacka was inspired to revisit the old idea of connecting Helsinki and Tallinn, first proposed in 1871 as a bridge built with the assistance of massive balloons , during a May 2016 conference in Tallinn. “When Finns and Estonians get together, they typically start talking about the need to cooperate more,” he said . “It happened again and then I thought that OK, I will finally build it. Let’s walk the walk.” Vesterbacka then stood up, walked to Marina Kaljurand, then-minister of foreign affairs for Estonia, and told her that he and his friends now planned to build a tunnel . “I looked at him quite skeptically, as an enthusiastic and very naive Finn. But when he introduced his background, he started to sound more believable,” Kaljurand told BuzzFeed News . Related: Finland’s longest bridge will be a beautiful pedestrian and cyclist superhighway Admittedly, Vesterbacka had not entirely thought his plan through. For example, he later learned that the world’s largest traffic tunnel, the 35.5-mile-long Gotthard tunnel in the Swiss Alps, took two decades to finish and only recently opened in 2016. Nonetheless, Vesterbacka remains confident. “Building a tunnel is different than building a game, but not that different,” he said . “It’s about making things happen, bringing the right people together.” To this end, Vesterbacka has enlisted the services of two engineering firms with tunnel-building experience. Seventy percent of the project’s funding would come from undisclosed Chinese sources while the rest would be sourced from bank-run public pension funds. Even as the process of securing permits, funding, and a solid plan are daunting, Vesterbacka sees his initiative as a patriotic endeavor. “It is important for Europe as well. France, Germany, and the UK are totally incapable of doing anything. It is very important for the Nordic countries to step up and show the leadership,” he said . Via BuzzFeed News Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Former Angry Bird marketing guru proposes 80-mile underwater tunnel to link two cities

The Revolve Wheel is a puncture-proof tire that folds into a compact pod

January 18, 2018 by  
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It’s often said that there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel, but one revolutionary designer has done just that. Andrea Mocellin’s Revolve Wheel is an airless, puncture-proof and foldable wheel that is compatible with most bicycles and wheelchairs. Mocellin says that the new take on the old wheel was inspired by the growing trend of foldable vehicles , which are typically limited in how small they can get by the size of their wheels. REVOLVE: The wheel in a new form from Andrea Mocellin | REVOLVE | on Vimeo . The Revolve Wheel is designed to be the first modular wheel that can be taken easily on the road. The unique hexagonal structure folds down to a compact pod, allowing for effortless pack up – perfect for biking excursions or city adventures. Related: BriTek’s Brilliant Airless Bicycle Tire Reinvents the Wheel Since the tire is airless, it’s even more convenient for adventure cyclists – there’s no need to bring along a bulky tire pump. According to the designer, the wheel is made with foldable bikes in mind as well as wheelchairs and other wheel-based forms of travel. + Revolve Wheel Images via Revolve Wheel

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The Revolve Wheel is a puncture-proof tire that folds into a compact pod

The world’s first 100% solar-powered train launches in Australia

December 18, 2017 by  
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The world’s first 100% solar-powered train is now gliding down tracks in Byron Bay, Australia . The Byron Bay Railroad Company refurbished a three-kilometer, or almost two-mile, stretch of tracks and restored a heritage train, outfitting it with a 6.5 kilowatt (kW) solar array with flexible solar panels . A limited service launched over the weekend, with full service set to commence in January. Byron Bay Railroad Company restored tracks and a bridge between the town of Byron Bay and the Elements of Byron Bay resort to provide affordable public transportation for locals and visitors. 100 seated passengers and other standing passengers can ride the solar train , and there’s room for luggage, bikes, and surfboards. The fare for a one-way trip is $3 for adults, $2 for ages six to 13, and free for children up to age five. Related: Indian Railways launches first train with solar-powered coaches The flexible SunMan solar panels lining the carriage roofs produce energy that is stored a 77 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery system, which can also charge up between trips via a 30 kW solar array at the main station. The battery bank has around the same capacity as a Tesla Model S, according to RenewEconomy , and can make 12 to 15 runs off one charge as it only takes the solar train around four kWh for each leg of the trip. A regenerative braking system “recovers around 25 percent of the spent energy each time the brakes are applied,” according to the Byron Bay Railroad Company website . The train’s lighting, traction power, control circuits, and air compressors are all battery-powered. Byron Bay Railroad Company said they originally intended to offer a diesel train service before switching to solar, but the “accelerated development of technology in this area” made it technically feasible to create the solar train. One of two original diesel engines is still part of the train as a backup and for weight and balance. You can find out more about the train here . + Byron Bay Railroad Company Via TreeHugger and RenewEconomy Images via Byron Bay Railroad Company

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The world’s first 100% solar-powered train launches in Australia

America’s first private high-speed train could take 3M cars off the roads

December 11, 2017 by  
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America isn’t known for high-speed rail travel. But a new express train project taking off in Florida could shake up that perception. Brightline , owned by Florida East Coast Industries , will be the country’s first private, high-speed rail service, and will allow people to travel from Fort Lauderdale to Miami in half an hour, on trains powered by diesel electric engines. Floridians could soon get around Southeast Florida in around an hour aboard Brightline. The $3 billion project could take up to three million cars off the roads, on trains the company says were “designed with green in mind” with diesel electric engines that are quieter and spew less emissions . They’ll operate in Florida’s densest population corridor, where over six million people live and tourists continually visit. Related: Amtrak purchasing new high-speed trains to speed up travel between New York, Boston and Washington DC Brightline will start transporting travelers from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale this month, and in early 2018 into downtown Miami . Phase 2 will take people all the way to Orlando . Much of Brightline’s marketing revolves around ease, advertising frequent departures and the ability to book on the fly. They say rideshares will be waiting at their modern stations, and while traveling people can take advantage of free WiFi. All Aboard Florida obtained state approval earlier this year to sell bonds to finance Brightline, and said no public money will go towards paying for it. The Brightline project is the first test into an American foray into high-speed rail, according to Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions director John Renne. The vehicle speeds still won’t be as fast as some trains in other countries. Brightline trains will travel at 120 miles per hour (mph) at their fastest, but during the rollout they’ll operate at around 80 mph. The company has not yet confirmed ticket prices; a 2015 study they commissioned suggested it could be around $16 to go from Miami to West Palm, which is around $10 more than the price to journey on a government-run train on a similar route. + Brightline Via Brightline and NPR Images via Brightline and Brightline Twitter

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America’s first private high-speed train could take 3M cars off the roads

World’s fastest bullet train can travel between Beijing and Shanghai in 4.5 hours

September 25, 2017 by  
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Traveling between Shanghai and Beijing can take more than 12 hours by car, or over eight hours on public transportation . But a new bullet train could slash those travel times. China recently launched the fastest bullet train in the world that travels at a speed of 217 miles per hour. This month, China launched the world’s quickest bullet train in Beijing. The service is called Fuxing and will travel the route between the country’s capital and Shanghai – a 777-mile trek – in around four hours and 30 minutes. Related: China takes on the Hyperloop with a supersonic ‘flying train’ This isn’t the first time China has run a 350 kilometer per hour (km/h) bullet train. They first launched a train that travels at that speed in August 2008, but lowered speed limits in 2011 to 186 miles an hour after a two-train crash close to Wenzhou that killed 40 people. A signaling failure caused the crash, according to Al Jazeera. The BBC said Fuxing trains have an improved monitoring system that can slow the trains down and stop them if there’s an emergency. Now the Chinese government is thinking of building more bullet trains, and taking their technology abroad. Experts wonder about the economic benefits of the super fast bullet train – estimates from international think tanks indicate it could cost 90 percent more to construct lines for 217 mph trains than for those that only travel at 155 mph. Economics professor Zhao Jian told Al Jazeera, “The purpose of raising the speed is mainly symbolic. The train is the fastest in the world, which implies the strength of Chinese train technology and science.” According to The Telegraph, the country has laid over 12,400 miles of high-speed rail , and aim to add 6,214 more miles by 2020. Along with looking to take their technology overseas, according to the BBC, China’s rail operator might even be looking into how to upgrade tracks so that trains could travel at speeds close to 250 mph. Via The Telegraph , Al Jazeera , and the BBC Images via screenshot and Pixabay

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World’s fastest bullet train can travel between Beijing and Shanghai in 4.5 hours

South America’s first luxury sleeper train is a traveler’s dream come true

June 20, 2017 by  
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Travelers looking to explore Peru in style can now jump aboard South America’s first luxury sleeper train – the Belmond Andean Explorer . The train’s interior was designed by London-based Muza Lab to pay homage to the golden age of train travel, enhanced with vibrant colors and textures inspired by the local Peruvian culture and landscape. According to the founder of Muza Lab, Inge Moore, the train’s interior is designed to take travelers back to another age of train travel: “We design journeys, and with Belmond Andean Explorer, we have distilled the romance, nostalgia and freedom of the train voyage. The train is a place of transition where time seems to slow down between the departure and the arrival. Our vision was to design somewhere to ponder and dream, a space where the beauty of the land can infuse the soul.” Related: You won’t believe the interior of Japan’s jaw-dropping new train Although the name and the design of the Belmond Andean Explorer are new, the 16-carriage train was originally the Great South Pacific Express. During the renovation process, the design team worked hard to renovate the space while retaining some elements out of respect for train’s long history. The train’s original timber walls were painted soft, neutral tones to help create an open, airy feel that runs throughout the interior. However, it’s not quite a minimalist color palette; touches of vibrant colors and varying textures are found throughout the train thanks to the various Peruvian crafts and artistry that were found locally. In fact, most of the design touches were locally sourced – from the timber floors and roman blinds to the hand-crafted woven textiles. The sleeper cabins were designed to provide a luxurious travel experience. Once again using local culture for inspiration, each cabin is named after Peruvian flora and fauna. In addition to the comfortable beds and soft Saffiano leather seats, vibrant tapestries can be found in each car as well as baby alpaca blankets for extra chilly nights. Even the smallest detail speaks to the country’s rich culture, such as the brass room keys in the shape of the Chakana Cross – a symbol of the Incan civilization as well as the train’s crest. Outside of the private sleeper cars , guests can also enjoy watching the beautiful landscape pass by from the rounded outdoor deck of the Observation Car, called Ichu after the tall grasses that grow on the Peruvian plains. There are also two dining cars, a serene spa, and an old-world piano bar named after the herb Maca. + Muza Lab + Belmond Andean Explorer

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South America’s first luxury sleeper train is a traveler’s dream come true

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