Ghost orchid among new plant species discovered in 2021

January 10, 2022 by  
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The ghost orchid grows in complete darkness in  Madagascar’s  dense forests. Instead of using photosynthesis, its nutrients come from symbiotic relationships with underground fungi. The orchid pokes its bloom through the forest floor for a single day to attract pollinators, possibly ants. This newly discovered orchid is one of the 205 new species named by the scientists of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and their worldwide collaborators in 2021. Of the world’s 400,000 named plant  species , 40% are threatened by extinction. Many probably disappear before they’re ever named. In the last decade, scientists have named about 2,000 new plant species every year. Related: What causes zombie plants? “It’s almost bewildering that we’re still discovering so many,” said Dr. Martin Cheek at RBG Kew, as reported by The Guardian. “But now is our last chance to find unknown species, name them and hopefully protect them before they become globally  extinct .” Many plants provide food and medicine to humans. Others serve us indirectly by being part of natural  ecosystems  and global biodiversity. Major threats to plant species include overexploitation, habitat loss, pollution, invasive species and climate change. Palm oil and mining are well known for ruining ecosystems. But less obvious human endeavors also threaten plants.  Aerangis bovicornu , a tree-dwelling Madagascar orchid, no longer survives in the wild, likely thanks to people harvesting geranium oil for aromatherapy. Other standouts among the newly named include  Nicotiana insecticid a, an insect-catching tobacco plant found near Western Australia. While tobacco is well known for killing people, this is the first tobacco species known to target flies, aphids and gnats. Scientists dubbed a primrose from Borneo  Ardisia pyrotechnica  because its bloom display resembles white fireworks. A group of Kew scientists named a tropical  tree  from Cameroon’s Ebo Forest Uvariopsis dicaprio after actor/environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio. A member of the ylang-ylang family, the tree sports yellow-green flowers on its trunk. While the new finds are exciting,  scientists  feel they are racing against the clock to discover all of the planet’s amazing plant species. “Who knows how many thousands of plant species it will be revealed in future to have likely become extinct due to palm oil plantations,” said Cheek. “It’s sickening.” Via Kew , The Guardian , American Public Gardens Association Lead image via Big Cypress National Preserve

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Ghost orchid among new plant species discovered in 2021

What should you do with all your holiday trash?

December 27, 2021 by  
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The holiday season is filled with social events with family, friends and co-workers. All that celebrating is not only hard on the waistline, but the environment too. So after all that sipping candy cane cocktails, wrapping gifts and dipping strawberries in the chocolate fountain, be sure to reduce, reuse and recycle along the way.  Conscientious purchasing Waste begins with purchasing. If you’re in charge of the event, or have any influence in the matter, start by finding party supplies that are low waste. Rent plates and glassware or use the real stuff in your home instead of single-use disposables. When it comes to food and drink, buy containers made from glass or metal whenever possible. Better yet, make your own juices with a power or manual juicer. Watch for the copious plastic wrapped around food, gifts and decorations and refuse to buy items stuffed with plastic foam (Styrofoam).  Related: Need eco-friendly holiday gifts for friends? We’ve got you covered. Compost unwanted leftovers With good planning, you can achieve minimal food waste , but there will always be some to dispose of. While you’re scraping plates after the big meal or when you’re disposing of the seeds from your peppers and skins from your onions, remember the compost pile loves all plant-based scraps. You can also toss in undyed toilet and paper towel rolls and brown paper bags. Recycle where you can Recycling is a tricky industry. There are some materials that are widely accepted in nearly every market. For example, glass, cardboard and metal can commonly be recycled curbside or at a drop-off facility. Plastic is more location specific. However, most recycling services accept large jugs. Others may take smaller containers like those used for yogurt, salsa and sour cream. Again though, since only about 10% of plastic is actually recycled, your most eco-friendly choice is to make those foods from scratch and make every effort to avoid plastic at the purchasing level.  Holiday wrap and bows are another sticking point. Most paper-only wrap can be recycled while anything with glitter and other finishes cannot. To minimize waste, use classic wrapping paper and real ribbon you can reuse for years to come. Bonus points for relying on jute or other natural materials . At the end of your gift-unwrapping frenzy, sort the ribbons and bows from the tissue paper and wrapping paper. Crush all boxes and recycle them with paper. Identifying items that can be recycled in your area is only a portion of the task. The next step involves ensuring you recycle correctly. For example, all items, including food containers, should be clean and dry before going into the bin. Food remnants can actually pollute the entire recycling line, meaning that perfectly good cardboard and paper might have to be pulled out and thrown away if soiled. Similarly, keep small items out of the recycling. Although caps might be technically the right materials for recycling, they can jamb machines and cause big problems during processing so make sure they’re attached to the container rather than left loose.  Items that cannot be recycled curbside include lights , ribbons, electronics, bubble wrap and cellophane, along with wrapping paper, cards and gift bags that are any material other than basic paper.  Other Materials If plastic foam makes its way on scene, check your community for places that recycle it. You may have to pay a few dollars for the service.  If your strand lights are garbage, check for community collection events rather than throwing them into the trash can. These events are commonplace at home improvement stores.  Electronics can be donated to a local recycling center or mailed in to an e-waste recycler. Some large stores recycle household batteries. Check with Lowe’s if you have one in your area. Other batteries are often accepted at the recycling center, such as car batteries. Plastic film like that used for Ziploc storage bags, shopping bags and as the shrink wrap around toilet paper and paper towels can be collected and dropped at select locations. Get online to see which stores in your area provide the service. Also watch when you enter grocery stores as there is often a drop box near the entrance. If you live in a state with a beverage bottle, make sure you keep them separate from other debris. Provide an easy deposit spot for your guests and return them for recycling after the party. If your state is one that still hasn’t adopted this practice, write your state representative asserting the idea and then be sure to properly recycle each glass, aluminum and plastic container.  Make a donation pile If you don’t plan to save used holiday bags and unused wrapping paper, put it in the donation pile. Also include any items in good working condition that you replaced during the holiday season. This might be cookware, clothing, tools, electronics or bedding, for example. What about your tree? If you have a live tree this year, you can keep it in a pot and move it outside to plant in the spring. If you’ve cut a tree for the season, be sure to responsibly recycle it. Most city yard waste recycling companies offer pickup of most trees in the weeks following Christmas. This is an easy fix. All you have to do is remove all ornaments and lights and drag it to the curb on pickup day. Be sure to remove every strand of tinsel too. Trees larger than eight feet tall may need to be cut down in size. Avoid placing trees in plastic bags. Note that flocked trees cannot be recycled in this way and will end up in the landfill.  Lead image via Pexels

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What should you do with all your holiday trash?

Climate change may drive up Christmas tree prices this year

December 9, 2021 by  
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Thanks to climate change, you will have to dig much deeper in your pocket to buy a real Christmas tree this year. Christmas tree prices have gone up by 10-15% since last year, according to Jeri Seifert, president of the California Christmas Tree Association. The trouble started due to the wildfires and heatwaves earlier this year. Christmas tree farmers in Oregon and California took the hardest hit from the disasters. With Oregon farmers being the largest producer of Christmas trees in the U.S., their predicament has affected the entire country. Usually, the state produces about 40% of Christmas trees bought in the U.S. However, their production this year is much lower due to the heat and fires. Related: London tree rental service solves a Christmas quandary “I had 30% mortality, but every single seedling is damaged without question,” said Tom Norby, a Christmas tree farmer in Oregon. Norby, who is also the president of the Oregon Christmas Tree Growers Association, says that farmers across the state have experienced similar issues. “There are literally fields with hundreds of acres of dead seedlings. Just 100% mortality across the entire field. If you produce a million trees a year, you don’t have time to deal with that,” Norby added. In Oregon, the main killer for the trees was the June heatwave . According to Norby, the trees were largely spared from wildfires, but the heatwave killed most of the young seedlings. “The heat dome came at the absolute worst time. It came when those new seedlings were trying to take root on that fresh soil and push out new shoots, and they just couldn’t compete with that heat,” said Norby. The resulting tree scarcity is driving up this year’s Christmas tree prices. Despite this, California farmers are optimistic to get back on track next year. For Oregon farmers, the supply might be affected for the next decade. Christmas trees take over six years to mature to a harvesting height. If a farm is destroyed, it takes a lot of time to repair the damage. If the trees are exposed to too much heat and not enough moisture, they may suffer sunburns that destroy the tree entirely. “When you lose a plantation, there’s a huge process that goes into regrowing those trees, so it takes many years to recoup,” says Seifert. Via CNN Lead image via Pexels

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Climate change may drive up Christmas tree prices this year

Carrboro Hillside House looks like a giant black snake

October 14, 2021 by  
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The location is tucked into a protected forested area covered in trees with a creek nearby. It’s an odd-shaped lot with a hillside and boulders, surrounded by nature. It was a huge challenge for architect Doug Pierson and designer Youn Choi, but the end result is absolutely stunning. Carrboro Hillside House is tucked into the terrain like a slumbering black snake, which is how it got its name. The submerged design helps regulate the home’s interior temperature, as does the triple-pane glazing throughout that prevents energy loss through the windows. There’s also a tankless water heater, a solar-ready roof , Energy Star appliances and low-flow sinks and toilets. Related: YEZO is a nature retreat perched on a Japanese hillside The house is made up of three sections that create a z-shape, and, interestingly, all wrapped in black corrugated metal . The foundation and retaining walls are made of polished concrete. Natural light enters the space through glazed windows. The interior temperature is regulated with thermal mass and radiant flooring. Every one of the pine trees that were felled to build this home went to a local lumber company and then returned as the pine wood seen throughout the interior of the house. The black walls were made from repurposed liner material for poured concrete forms. Perforated metal or glass railings were used for the stairs and balcony. All of the floors in the living area are polished concrete. The upper-level floors are made from milled pine just like the walls . Found in Carrboro, North Carolina, Hillside House’s innovative design and eco-friendly materials used to create it (with extra care and attention given to energy efficiency) makes this a stunning example how even a difficult and unsavory lot can be the inspiration for a real dream home. Drawing inspiration from the exterior environment is often the best way to honor nature. + Doug Pierson and Youn Choi Images via Blue Plate PR

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Carrboro Hillside House looks like a giant black snake

Invasive lanternflies want to take over the U.S.

August 3, 2021 by  
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Spotted lanternflies are extremely cool-looking bugs, with polka-dotted wings in shades of red, black and beige that make them resemble paper lanterns. But people should be very worried about this invasive  insect , according to entomologist Frank Hale. The spotted lanternfly hales from India, Vietnam and China. It probably immigrated to the U.S. as a stowaway in a cut stone or wood product shipment circa 2012. The initial U.S. sighting in 2014 was, fittingly enough, on a common  invasive  tree of heaven in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Since then, spotted lanternflies have spread to at least 26 counties in  Pennsylvania  and been spotted in several other eastern states. Related: More than half of Europe’s native trees face extinction The problem is, this is one destructive little bug. Lanternflies feed by piercing  tree  bark and vines, biting right into the plant’s vascular system and sucking out the sap. At an inch long, they’re pretty big for a sucking insect and can remove an awful lot of sap, jeopardizing the lives of their hosts. Then they excrete large amounts of the euphemistically called “honeydew,” which coats the tree. “The heavy flow of honeydew and the resulting sooty mold makes a mess of the landscape,” said Hale, as reported in Ecowatch. Woe to those who park beneath a tree infested with lanternflies. These invasive bugs also have a yen for grapevines. It takes a lot of  insecticide  to kill them, driving up production costs and making vintners kiss their organic status goodbye. Eastern wine-producing areas, including Long Island and Finger Lakes in New York, Newport, Rhode Island and parts of Virginia all face the threat of lanternflies ruining their vineyards. How have these little bugs spread so far in just a few years? In late summer and autumn, lanternflies lay egg masses. Any smooth surface is fair game. Including  cars , trains and trucks. The unborn lanternflies can hitch a ride anywhere, leading to future infestations. Scientists are trying to figure out the best way to stop these bugs from continuing their west and southward trajectory. “Two naturally occurring fungal pathogens of spotted lanternflies have been identified in the U.S.,” Hale told Ecowatch. “Also, U.S. labs are testing two parasitoid insects – insects that grow by feeding on lanternflies and killing them in the process – that have been brought from  China  for testing and possible future release.” Wait, haven’t we seen that in a sci-fi movie? In the meantime, if you see spotted lanternflies in your area, contact your local county extension office for suggestions on how to control the bugs. And if you’re the unlucky first sighter of the bugs in your area, contact your state department of  agriculture .  “ If the infestation is caught early before it can become established in your area, hopefully it can be eradicated there,” said Hale. “Eventually, it will spread to many parts of the country. We can slow the spread by identifying and eradicating new infestations wherever they arise.” Via Ecowatch , USDA Lead image via F Delventhal

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Invasive lanternflies want to take over the U.S.

Villa bordering nature reserve features natural stone design

July 15, 2021 by  
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Located in the  Spanish  town of Sotosalbos, Segovia, the House Salbos honors the 12th-century Romanesque architecture of the region with a modern design. Created by ABIBOO Studio, the villa is made out of natural stone using local construction systems, helping it blend into its historic surroundings without sacrificing the comforts of modern life. Castilian tile and natural stone line the entire exterior as well as a series of large  flower planters  to keep the property uniform. The 250-square-meter house design includes an L-shaped plan, incorporated to address existing municipal codes while allowing residents to maintain a relationship with the outdoors. Related: Former camping site turned into gorgeous family home clad in charred wood and natural stone Perhaps most exciting of all is the 900-square-meter property’s proximity to a local nature preserve, which brings an ecological element to the project that combines the wild landscape with the overall contemporary feel of the design. The nature reserve bordering the home is characterized by cold and rough winds for a portion of the year. The landscape design remedied this by installing a large brazier,  fire pit  and masonry seats in the garden to protect the outdoor spaces. Also outside, the design features a  gabled roof  and a combination of local materials and corten steel. The in-ground fire pit area is well suited for hosting with plenty of seating areas, a series of stone walls rising in different levels against the tree-lined backdrop. Almost like a maze, each section of the outdoor landscape compliments the main structure’s contemporary framework with matching stone and sleek, clean lines.  Inside, the bright and natural theme continues with neutral finishes and minimalist decor, complemented by light  wood  details and earth tones in the furnishings. The home includes two floors, the ground floor containing the main rooms and a common area and the upper floor hosting the family’s children’s rooms. + ABIBOO Studio Images courtesy of ABIBOO Studio

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Villa bordering nature reserve features natural stone design

Villa bordering nature reserve features natural stone design

July 15, 2021 by  
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Located in the  Spanish  town of Sotosalbos, Segovia, the House Salbos honors the 12th-century Romanesque architecture of the region with a modern design. Created by ABIBOO Studio, the villa is made out of natural stone using local construction systems, helping it blend into its historic surroundings without sacrificing the comforts of modern life. Castilian tile and natural stone line the entire exterior as well as a series of large  flower planters  to keep the property uniform. The 250-square-meter house design includes an L-shaped plan, incorporated to address existing municipal codes while allowing residents to maintain a relationship with the outdoors. Related: Former camping site turned into gorgeous family home clad in charred wood and natural stone Perhaps most exciting of all is the 900-square-meter property’s proximity to a local nature preserve, which brings an ecological element to the project that combines the wild landscape with the overall contemporary feel of the design. The nature reserve bordering the home is characterized by cold and rough winds for a portion of the year. The landscape design remedied this by installing a large brazier,  fire pit  and masonry seats in the garden to protect the outdoor spaces. Also outside, the design features a  gabled roof  and a combination of local materials and corten steel. The in-ground fire pit area is well suited for hosting with plenty of seating areas, a series of stone walls rising in different levels against the tree-lined backdrop. Almost like a maze, each section of the outdoor landscape compliments the main structure’s contemporary framework with matching stone and sleek, clean lines.  Inside, the bright and natural theme continues with neutral finishes and minimalist decor, complemented by light  wood  details and earth tones in the furnishings. The home includes two floors, the ground floor containing the main rooms and a common area and the upper floor hosting the family’s children’s rooms. + ABIBOO Studio Images courtesy of ABIBOO Studio

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Villa bordering nature reserve features natural stone design

‘Trump Forest’ plants trees to offset president’s climate ignorance

August 15, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump is notorious for his ignorance on climate change . So instead of sitting by while his administration harms the planet, a British climate scientist, American PhD candidate, and French and Kiwi sustainable hat company founder decided to take action. They started Trump Forest to encourage people to plant trees , and have seen a huge response: so far hundreds of people around the world have pledged 130,999 trees . “Where ignorance grows trees” is the tagline of the Trump Forest project. Dan Price, Jeff Willis, and Adrien Taylor initiated the project in March of this year in New Zealand with a contribution of 1,000 native trees from Taylor’s company Offcut (which plants a tree for every cap sold). From there, hundreds of people in places as far-flung as Malawi, Japan, and the United States pledged to plant trees too. Related: Meet the teen planting 150 trees for every person on Earth Trump Forest isn’t after money, according to their website. Instead, they hope people will pay for and plant trees where they live in the name of America’s president, or donate to charity Eden Reforestation Projects . Taylor told the BBC of Trump, “Only a small percentage of the world voted him in, but we all have to deal with the consequences of his climate ignorance.” The organizers told the BBC they would need to plant a forest as big as Kentucky to offset Trump’s policies. They also estimated they’d need to offset 650 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2025 to make up for the actions of America’s commander-in-chief – that’s over 100 billion new trees. They think it’s feasible. Wouldn’t a forest named after Trump just bolster his already large ego? The organizers say people have complained about that, but they’d prefer if the president got on board. Taylor told the BBC, “We kind of want him to love the forest; this is his forest after all. We would love it if he tweeted about it.” Price said, “All we’re trying to do is pick up the slack he created and do the work for him.” If you want to get involved, you can check out the project here . + Trump Forest Via BBC Images via Pixabay and Ozark Drones on Unsplash

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Configurable wooden shelter hangs from the treetops

July 21, 2017 by  
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Need a quiet space to get away from it all? French architecture firm,  Les Etablissements Tourneux has created a multi-use wooden shelter that hangs from the tree tops. Although compact in size, the Sequoia Shelter is incredibly flexible thanks to multiple wooden planks with hinges, which allow the structure to be configured in a variety of shapes without causing harm to the tree or its branches. The shelter is made out of individual panels of spruce that can be configured in different shapes. It’s also possible to create various awnings and terraces within the design. The narrow apex at the top and flexible configuration were strategic to creating a hanging treehouse that causes little to no damage to trees and branches. Aesthetically, the natural spruce planks give the treehouse a light, airy feel. Related: Kengo Kuma envisions shapeshifting nomadic shelters woven from hundreds of identical wooden pieces The structure is incredibly easy to put together, making it a practical solution for off-grid living , an additional guest room, or just for plain, old fun. A flat base means it can be set on the ground and easily transported. Recently, the shelter was used as a music studio and lecture space for the Embranchements Festival in Nancy, France. + Les Etablissements Tourneux Via NotCot Images via Les Etablissements Tourneux

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Configurable wooden shelter hangs from the treetops

Shigeru Ban designs 20,000 homes for severely overcrowded refugee camp in Kenya

July 21, 2017 by  
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World-renowned architect, Shigeru Ban , is taking his talents to those who need it most. Working in collaboration with UN-Habitat, the UN agency that focuses on sustainable development , the 2014 Pritzker Prize recipient designed a prototype for some 20,000 new homes for refugees in Kenya’s Kalobeyei Refugee Settlement . True to form, Ban promotes the use of locally-sourced, sustainable materials in the shelter design. The Kalobeyei Refugee Settlement is currently home to almost 37,000 refugees, 17,000 of whom arrived in the first half of 2017 alone. This continuous influx of inhabitants is expected to increase over the next few months, putting the settlement, which has a capacity of 45,000, in a severely precarious situation. Related: 10 groundbreaking designs by Shigeru Ban that changed our ideas about architecture Ban is well-known for his dedication to humanitarian construction, having built various refugee and crisis shelters around the world, namely Rwanda, Italy, and Nepal. Ban is also known for his work with sustainable and locally-sourced materials, a trait that will be essential in the Kenyan camp. On a recent trip to the settlement, Ban highlighted the importance of using local construction techniques and sustainable materials , “The key thing will be to design and construct shelter where no or little technical supervision is required, and use materials that are locally available and eco-friendly. It’s important that the houses can be easily maintained by inhabitants.” The plan calls for Ban’s shelter design to be used initially as a prototype for 20 shelters. After a test period, the design, if successful, will be used to replace some of the camp’s deteriorating structures. + Shigeru Ban Via Archdaily Images via UNHCR

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