Last male Sumatran rhino in Malaysia dies

May 29, 2019 by  
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On Monday, Malaysian authorities reported that the last male Sumatran rhino died in a nature reserve on Borneo island. Currently, there is only one female from the same species remaining in Malaysia. The male, Tam, is thought to have died from old age after he was discovered on a palm oil plantation. Efforts to breed Tam with females of the same species were unsuccessful. Related: Koalas declared functionally extinct Sumatran rhinos are one of five rhino species , and only one of three found in Asia. At their peak, Sumatran rhinos could be found in Bhutan, India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos. They are the smallest rhino species in the world. Experts estimate that between 30 and 100 remain, with a few also living in captivity in Indonesia, and the U.S. Like most species on the brink of extinction , rhinos have suffered from deforestation and loss of habitat. Logging, roads, urban development, farms and palm oil plantations have carved up their habitat. According to experts, the fragmentation of natural spaces is the primary threat to their population. Small reserves and wild spaces are simply not enough. Disconnected populations also make it difficult for the solitary creatures to find mates and reproduce. “With logging, with roads for development, the patches of forest available are shrinking. Frankly it’s hard for them to find each other to mate and breed successfully,” said Cathy Dean of Save the Rhinos International. In addition, rhinos are frequently poached for their horns and other medicinal purposes. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists Sumatran rhinos as critically endangered , however Save the Rhino International believes there may still be hope for the species. According to their research, only about 20 rhinos could still provide enough genetic diversity to save them from extinction if they are able to successfully mate. Via BBC Image via Charles W. Harden

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Last male Sumatran rhino in Malaysia dies

Young couple build their own tiny home to avoid sky-high housing prices in the Bay Area

May 29, 2019 by  
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The San Francisco Bay Area is notoriously expensive for both renters and buyers. But one enterprising young couple has found a way to live in the beautiful city on their own terms by building their very own tiny home . Nicolette and Michael spent just seven months constructing their dream home. Although it is only 300 square feet, it comes complete with a sleeping loft, a full kitchen and a little reading nook for the studious couple. The young couple was inspired to build their own home for a number of reasons. With Michael being a full-time student at CAL, they had to stay in the Bay Area; however, after realizing how expensive the area is, they decided to enjoy the financial freedom that comes with building their own tiny home. Additionally, they were inspired to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle where they could reduce their footprint on the planet. Related: This tiny home allows a family of 3 to go off the grid in Maui As they set out on their tiny home journey, the amateur — but ambitious — builders decided to do most of the work themselves, accepting help from family and friends along they way. Built on a 28-foot long trailer, the home is clad in metal and wood siding with plenty of windows that flood the interior with natural light . According to Nicolette, the interior design was inspired by an industrial farmhouse aesthetic. The home is bright and airy with white walls and high ceilings. To the left, the living room is compact but comfortable with a loveseat that pulls out into a futon. A beautiful silicon-gel fireplace keeps the space warm and cozy during the winter months. The main wall is clad in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that provide plenty of storage space. At the heart of the couple’s tiny home design is a sweet little reading nook that was built onto the end of the structure, past the main living area. With two large windows that open, this space is perfect for snuggling up with a good book or creating artwork. Between the living space and the kitchen, the couple installed a work/dining space consisting of two desks under a wall of windows. On the other side of the space is a compact metal kitchen area along with an oven with a four-burner stove and even a full-size refrigerator. A barn-yard door separates the living space from the bathroom, which has a full shower and vanity along with a composting toilet . Above the kitchen space is the sleeping loft accessible by a metal ladder. White shiplap walls along with two horizontal windows turn the tiny space into a soothing oasis. + Nicolette Notes Via Apartment Therapy Images via Nicolette and Michael

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Young couple build their own tiny home to avoid sky-high housing prices in the Bay Area

‘Overtourism’: Surges in unsustainable tourism are destroying islands in the Pacific

May 8, 2019 by  
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The tourism industry is booming throughout the world but nowhere more noticeably than on the small tropical islands of Southeast Asia. Millions of tourists flock to these remote islands every day to enjoy the beaches and snorkel among the coral reef, but the traffic and waste they produce has forced some ecosystems to reach their breaking point. “Overtourism” is the new term for the overpopulation of tourists who wreak havoc on fragile ecosystems. Many Asian governments have had to close entire islands in order to allow habitats and species (like sharks and sea turtles) to rehabilitate. The environmental impact of overtourism The primary reasons that mass tourism negatively impacts the environment include: Discharge of human waste directly into the ocean by boats, cruise ships and hotels A government survey in the Philippines revealed that 716 out of 834 businesses on the famous Boracay Island did not have wastewater permits and were indiscriminately dumping sewage and waste into the water. Cruise ships, private yachts and many hotels along the coasts also dump waste directly into the ocean . Toxic chemicals from sunscreens pollute young coral species Sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate have been found to alter the DNA of young corals , prohibiting normal and healthy growth. Related: Hawaii bans reef-killing chemical sunscreens Massive amounts of garbage and plastic pollution According to the Ocean Conservancy, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand are responsible for up to 60 percent of all plastic pollution in the ocean. Globally, eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year. Related: New study reveals microplastics are in the air Unsustainable development and the destruction of key habitats, like mangroves Almost 50 percent of all mangrove forests have been destroyed in countries including India, the Philippines and Vietnam. Mangroves are systematically cleared to make way for hotels, resorts and white sand beaches, but healthy mangroves are an essential part of healthy coastal ecosystems. Mangroves protect beaches from erosion and provide critical nursery and breeding grounds for young fish and other species. Why are there so many tourists? The rapid rise in tourism is mostly because of expanding middle classes in many countries. More people are able to afford vacations and travel, particularly in China. In 2018, Chinese citizens made a total of 150 million trips abroad, compared to just 10 million in 2000. Regardless of the origin of the tourists, Pacific islands’ infrastructure and ecosystems are unable to handle the surge and are in desperate need of regulation and management. “I would argue that tourism has not only been badly managed in general, it’s not been managed at all,” said Randy Durband, chief executive officer of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Islands close their borders to tourists When tourism began to rise, most island residents were happy to have the jobs and foreign investment, and their governments did not take the time nor resources to develop a management strategy or implement limitations. Now, many governments are scrambling to preserve the very ecosystems that bring tourists to their shores before they are destroyed beyond repair. After calling the waters around Borocay Island a “cesspool,” Filipino President Rodrigo Duerte closed the entire island and launched a large clean-up effort. A new management plan will reduce the daily visitors from 20,000 to approximately 6,000, ban single-use plastics , impose littering fines and ban jet skis from driving within 100 meters of the shore. With these steps, an acceptable rehabilitation of the island is expected to take at least two years. In Thailand, the government closed the famous Maya Bay indefinitely after conservationists reported that over 50 percent of corals had been destroyed. In addition to sunscreen toxins, boat anchors and physical impact from tourists walking on coral and taking pieces as souvenirs cause major damage. Current coral restoration efforts are underway to replant native corals, and species like black tipped reef sharks have reportedly returned. SEE: Can the Cayman Islands save to Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs? Closing islands is an extreme solution, but it demonstrates that many governments are realizing the importance of ecosystems even at the expense of tourism revenue. Sustainable tourism expert Epler Wood said, “We don’t advocate a closing unless it’s an emergency. We recommend balanced management that looks at supply and demand and measured responses based on planning and science that involves regular benchmarking, like water testing .” Tips for sustainable tourism Tips for governments: The nation of Bali has imposed a $10 tax on international passengers that goes directly toward cultural and environmental preservation initiatives, such as waste management. Many tourism-dependent islands in the Pacific and Caribbean have imposed similar tourist fees. In Palau, visitors are required to sign an environmental pledge that is stamped right onto their passports, promising to act respectfully and without damaging ecosystems. Bans on straws and single-use plastics can also be particularly effective on small islands without proper waste management systems. Finally, governments can invest in marine spatial planning and zoning initiatives that identify key vulnerable areas. Such spatial data allows governments to declare zones and enforce allowable activities within the zones, such as protected conservation areas versus recreation areas. Tips for tourists: According to the South China Morning Post, here are five tips to be a more sustainable tourist : Book hotels that employ sustainable initiatives to reduce waste, energy and water consumption. Choose tour operators who give back to the community — and keep tourism benefits within the local economy — by employing locals, supporting local growers and other initiatives. Be a plastic-free traveler and dispose of your garbage correctly. Research sustainable tourism initiatives you might want to support ahead of your trip. Engage in community-based tourism. “The basic model is: educate yourself, do the right thing and try to be of positive benefit,” said Marta Mills, a sustainable tourism specialist. “Act like you are a guest in someone’s home, because you are.” Via Yale360 Images via Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi , Laznes Binch ,  Stefan Munder , Juanjook Torres González and Jose Nicdao

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‘Overtourism’: Surges in unsustainable tourism are destroying islands in the Pacific

Couple converts an old school bus into a chic skoolie for travel

May 8, 2019 by  
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When you are ready to explore the country, why not take your home with you? Sure, there are motorhomes and travel trailers to choose from. You could even pick up a Sprinter van. But for a real adventure, you could tootle about in a skoolie. If you didn’t catch the play on words, a skoolie is a converted school bus made into a tiny home on wheels . Couple Robbie and Priscilla have converted a school bus into their own travel-ready abode through a process of trial and error mixed with some frustration and a dash of luck. The couple wanted the exceptional 210-square-feet of open space that a school bus allows so they could bring along their pet cat and feel like they had more of a home than an RV. The 1998 Thomas School Bus was the inspiration that drove them forward with their plan. Related: A 1992 International School Bus gets a second life as an adventure-mobile The conversion took a year and a half to complete, with many obstacles along the journey. For example, discovering leaky windows required a complete replacement. Then, a blown gasket kept the project in park for several months. If ever there was a reward worth the labor, this homey project is it. As a result of their efforts, the couple was able to take to the road in March in a cozy, relaxed dwelling. The lengthy, flowing space is well lit with myriad windows throughout and white cabinetry lining one side. The gray laminate flooring accents the stainless steel appliances and is complemented by the cedar tongue-in-groove ceiling. Storage is tucked in several areas including beneath the raised bed, near the ceiling in the kitchen and under the couch in a sitting area. The tiny home’s unusually large bathroom features tile work alongside glass shower doors, and the bus also has two outdoor showers for convenient clean-up. Unlike most RVs, this skoolie features both air conditioning and a fireplace, which suits the couple well as they begin their trip in Canada and Alaska, planning to later hit all 48 contiguous states. + Going Boundless Via Curbed Images via Going Boundless

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Couple converts an old school bus into a chic skoolie for travel

Quirky youth hostel in Taiwan is made from reclaimed materials

March 14, 2019 by  
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Young wanderers traveling to the city of Hualian in Eastern Taiwan can now book a stay in a fun, quirky youth hostel made almost entirely out of recycled materials. To create the Wow Hostel, designer ChengWei Chiang  from PL Interior Design breathed new life into an existing nine-level property by using a vibrant collection of concrete, stone, wood, greenery and reclaimed materials , such as old window frames and timber. From the moment you enter the hostel, the interesting collection of building materials is clearly visible. From stone walls and a reception made out of reclaimed wood, the nine-story hostel has a energetic, youthful aesthetic. Related: Nha Trang’s first hostel built from recycled shipping containers pops up in Vietnam The ground floor welcomes visitors with a cafe and bar area that is open to everyone, from paying guests to passersby. From the first floor leading up to the second floor reception is a large vertical living wall. The reception also features a check-in desk made out of reclaimed wood paneling. The rest of the floors are split between the dorm rooms and communal places. According to the designer, the hostel layout was strategically designed to provide plenty of space to allow people to meet each other and socialize or simply hang out in the lounge area with a good book. In the main communal space, there is a large table with family-style seating. Around this area are several lounges with big, comfy reading chairs. In one of the lounge areas, a custom-made cabinet stands against the wall. Made out of reused window frames, this is used to showcase art works by local artists as well as knickknacks left by travelers that have passed through the hostel. For outdoor space, one of the floors has an open-air terrace, which features a discarded shipping container door. For lodging, the Wow Hostel offers a number of options, from an eight-person dorm with four double beds to private suites. The guest rooms’ interior design boasts an industrial vibe with exposed concrete block walls and pressed board accents. + PL Interior Design Studio + ChengWei Chiang Images via ChengWei Chiang and PL Interior Design Studio

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Quirky youth hostel in Taiwan is made from reclaimed materials

Transparent bubble domes in China allow guests to immerse themselves in nature

March 13, 2019 by  
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For those who need a little respite from the hustle and bustle of life and who may find themselves in the Guangxi region of China, there is an entire glamping site comprised of transparent bubble domes . Created by designer ChengWei Chiang of PL Interior Design Studio, the Wow Bubbles are made of special transparent PVC material to let visitors truly immerse themselves in the idyllic landscape that surrounds the site. Located in the mountainous area of southern China  bordering Vietnam, Guangxi is right on the coast and known as a nature-lover’s paradise. Full of lush green forests, winding rivers and towering karst formations, the area is a popular tourist spot for both adventurers and those who just want to commune with nature. Related: Sleep beneath the northern lights in this unique Iceland bubble Now, visitors to the picturesque area can go one step further by staying in the Wow Bubbles lodgings. Made out of special PVC material, the transparent bubble huts are inflated with air. Waterproof and resistant to wind, they were also designed to withstand the severe humidity that is common in this coastal area. The bubble domes are strategically orientated to provide stunning, unobstructed views of the mountains and forest that surround the site. A wooden walkway on the edge of a small lake leads to the individual domes, which are lifted off the landscape on wooden platforms. Once inside, the interior design is quite contemporary. With a spacious living area, a large bedroom and bath, the huts provide all of the amenities of home. According to the designer of the bubbles, ChengWei Chiang, the unique glamping concept was inspired to provide mesmerizing, panoramic views for guests looking to get away from the stress of their urban lifestyles. “As more and more people move into the cities, making more money, buying more luxuries, owning bigger houses, the nature serves as a pure land that evokes peace of mind,” he explained. “Zen is a lifestyle we need today. Zen style is the key to attract urban people to nature.” + PL Interior Design Studio + Chiange Cheng Wei Via World Architecture Images via Chiange Cheng Wei and PL Interior Design Studio

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Transparent bubble domes in China allow guests to immerse themselves in nature

Zimbabwe hopes to bring attention to trafficking endangered species with the Pangolin Project

February 20, 2019 by  
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Zimbabwe is raising awareness about animal trafficking with the annual World Pangolin Day. The pangolin is the most often trafficked mammal in the entire world, with an estimated one million of the scaly mammals being sold in the black market over the past 10 years alone. The pangolin project hopes to curb those numbers and raise awareness about the growing problem of animal trafficking around the globe. Behind drugs, weapons and humans, animal trafficking is the fourth highest illegal trade in the world. “It breaks my heart to know how the greed of mankind is pushing this animal to the brink of extinction,” the head of the Tikki Hywood Foundation, Lisa Hywood, explained. “Time is running out for the pangolin, so we all need to take action.” The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) outlawed the trade of pangolin in Asia and Africa, two regions of the world that contain all eight of the endangered species. The ban has given the pangolin protective status, but officials are still dealing with large scale poaching. Related: 60% of wild coffee species are now threatened with extinction In honor of Pangolin Day, several groups are using the occasion to raise awareness about other trafficked animals throughout the world. This includes the Tikki Hywood Foundation, which produced a documentary in 2016 about saving pangolins from poachers and the black market. While efforts like Pangolin Day are doing a great job at raising awareness, environmentalists and conservationists face an uphill battle ahead of them. In fact, animal trafficking numbers have steadily grown over the past few years, despite bans against trading endangered species like pangolins. Last week, for example, authorities in Hong Kong uncovered nine tons of pangolin scales in a shipyard, along with over 1,000 elephant tusks. The shipment was headed to Vietnam by way of Nigeria, and officials believe the cargo would have sold on the market for as much as $8 million. Sadly, experts believe around 13,000 pangolins were killed to account for the nine tons of scales seized in Hong Kong The incident in Hong Kong is one of many examples of the growing problem of animal trafficking around the world. Fortunately, initiatives like World Pangolin Day is helping raise awareness about animal trafficking and making it harder for illegal traders to operate. Via UN Environment Images via David Brossard 

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Zimbabwe hopes to bring attention to trafficking endangered species with the Pangolin Project

A green veil of plants protects this home from Ho Chi Minh City’s heat

February 20, 2019 by  
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In the heart of Ho Chi Minh City’s concrete jungle, a compact family home has been infused with greenery thanks to the work of Vietnamese architecture firm Vo Trong Nghia Architects . Dubbed the Breathing House, the property is located in an extremely dense neighborhood on a plot measuring just 12.8 feet in width and 58.4 feet in length. To provide a connection to nature despite the constrained urban conditions, the architects wrapped three sides of the home in a “green veil” made of creeper plants that grow on steel mesh. Edged in by buildings and accessible only via a tiny alleyway, the Breathing House makes the most of its small footprint with a staggered floor plan arranged around light wells that let natural light and ventilation deep inside the home. To open three sides of the house to the outdoors without compromising privacy, the architects wrapped the facade in a vertical green screen that not only protects against prying views, but also helps mitigate solar heat gain and improve air quality. This “green veil” was constructed using a modularized galvanized steel mesh and planter boxes installed at every floor. “Inside the ‘green veil’, the building consists of five tower-like volumes that are staggered and connected to each other, arranged in between the two boundary walls,” the architects said of the interior layout. “The external spaces created by the staggered arrangement of the volumes, which we call ‘micro voids’, play a role in providing myriad indirect lighting and ventilation routes throughout the building. In the narrow and deep plot shuttered by neighbors on both sides, it is more environmentally effective to promote ventilation for each corner of the house, by multiple ‘micro voids’, rather than having a singular large courtyard.” Related: Fruit trees grow on the roofs of this rammed earth home in Hanoi The “porous” arrangement of spaces helps create a sense of spaciousness in the home while reducing dependence on air conditioning . The “green veil”, which is visible to passersby, continues up to the roof terrace, creating what the architects said is a much-needed green space in a city that’s been losing green spaces at an alarming rate. + Vo Trong Nghia Architects Images by Hiroyuki Oki via Vo Trong Nghia Architects

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A green veil of plants protects this home from Ho Chi Minh City’s heat

VEJA unveils vegan sneakers made from corn waste

February 20, 2019 by  
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Ethical sneaker brand VEJA has unveiled its newest and arguably most impressive eco-friendly kicks yet — the Campo, a chic sneaker made with a new vegan and biodegradable fabric. The revolutionary material, called C.W.L., is made from a waxed canvas with 50 percent corn waste from the food industry. The Campo marks the first time C.W.L. has been used in the fashion industry. Developed by an Italian company, C.W.L. is organic cotton coated with PU and resin from the corn waste industry. With a look and touch comparable to leather, the bio-sourced material is VEJA’s ecological substitute for leather. “Since we started VEJA in 2005, we are always looking for new sustainable and more ecological raw materials,” VEJA said in a press release. “After five years of R&D and many failures to find an ecological substitute for leather, we finally found a revolutionary fabric.” The Campo, which is available in a variety of colors, uses C.W.L. for the upper and panels, recycled polyester — a B-Mesh (bottle-mesh) fabric created from recycled plastic bottles  — for the jersey lining and wild rubber sustainably sourced from the Amazonian forest for the insole and sole. As with all of VEJA’s shoes, the Campo sneakers are ethically made in Brazil in the region of Porto Alegre. Related: nat-2 creates a completely vegan sneaker made from coffee Launched this year, the new Campo model is an alternative to VEJA’s leather models. Forty percent of VEJA models are vegan for its spring/summer 2019 collection, which also includes the alternative-leather models Rio Branco and Nova. The Campo sneakers are now available for purchase online in six different varieties and start at 125 euros. + VEJA Images by Mario Simon Lafleur via VEJA

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VEJA unveils vegan sneakers made from corn waste

Topas ecolodge aims to be a model of sustainability

February 19, 2019 by  
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From conception, the goal of the Topas Ecolodge in Vietnam has been to encapsulate sustainable practices at every turn. They also carry a heavy burden of social responsibility by focusing on providing local jobs and sourcing materials from the surrounding areas whenever possible. Nestled into a mountainous region in North Vietnam, they aim to assist the five local hill-tribes that remain largely untouched by the modern world. The vast majority of the 100 employees live in surrounding villages or are housed on campus with the supplies to grow and cook their own food . Investing in their employees, Topas offers educational and occupational training, opportunities for advancement and full medical benefits. Related: Bolivia’s Ecolodge del Lago takes inspiration from traditional Lak’a Uta architecture As stewards of the land, Topas Ecolodge also incorporates practices that help the local community as well as the environment . For example, food scraps are sent to local farms for pig feed and aluminum cans are reused by women in a local village. Thinking locally, the food served at Topas is sourced from local farmers, alongside property-raised chickens and a vegetable and herb garden behind the restaurant. Providing adequate energy in a sustainable way has been a challenge for the remote resort. Originally attempting solar energy, they found that inconsistent supply was not accommodating their needs so they switched to hydroelectricity and request that guests conserve wherever possible. Overcoming the struggles of sustainability in a remote mountain resort, Topas has implemented some innovative processes. As a solution for glass recycling , they invested in a glass-crushing machine that breaks it into sand that they then recycle into concrete for construction and maintenance. With no reliable recycling options and an understanding of the problems associated with single use plastic , they have a near zero single-use plastic policy and work to educate staff and guests about the reasons behind it. Inasmuch, they’ve become a member of National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World and help promote their “Planet or Plastic?” campaign. For water filtration, the property has a man-made wetland that treats wastewater from kitchen and bath facilities before releasing it into the rice fields. The Topas Ecolodge first opened in 2005 and offers 33 chalet-style stone bungalows built using local white granite from the Hoang Lien Mountains. They’ve since opened a second, more rustic accommodation named Topas Riverside Lodge, a short distance away. + Topas Ecolodge Images via Topas Ecolodge

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Topas ecolodge aims to be a model of sustainability

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