EWG warns forever chemicals are contaminating US drinking water at levels far worse than expected

January 24, 2020 by  
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Toxic ‘forever chemicals’ known as PFAS, per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, persist in the environment , grossly tainting the drinking water of many United States cities, like Miami, New Orleans and Philadelphia. More specifically, findings by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reveal that the a 2018 estimate of 110 million U.S. citizens being contaminated with PFAS is far below actual numbers. “It’s nearly impossible to avoid contaminated drinking water from these chemicals,” shared David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG and co-author of the report. “Everyone’s really exposed to a toxic soup of these PFAS chemicals.” Related: Climate change-induced melting of mountain ice threatens global supply of freshwater PFAS are highly fluorinated chemicals that do not break down in the environment. The most infamous PFAS are those associated with Teflon and 3M’s Scotchgard. Much of the PFAS contamination is legacy pollution . In fact, both Teflon and Scotchgard were phased out years ago, but these harmful PFAS still persist in the environment — in soils and especially in water , such as the rainwater that supplies drinking water. Despite the original PFAS chemicals being taken off the market, they’ve been replaced by modern PFAS chemicals that might still be just as harmful, if not more so. These modern PFAS chemicals lurk in packaging, stain-resistant furnishings, water-repellent clothing and items, cosmetics and personal care products and firefighting foam. What’s worrisome, too, is that PFAS can accumulate in the human body, thus compromising health . Cancer, disease, endocrine disruption, reproductive issues, low birth weights and a host of other compromised health incidences are some of the consequences of drinking PFAS-tainted water. EWG is advocating for tougher regulations and laws to reduce PFAS chemicals in drinking water and consumer products to help reduce human exposure to these toxins . Some states are ramping up their efforts to reduce PFAS in the drinking water by banning PFAS-based food packaging or firefighting foam. But more work is still needed. + EWG Via The Guardian and Reuters Image via Arcaion

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EWG warns forever chemicals are contaminating US drinking water at levels far worse than expected

The Haeckels Victorian-style bathing machine has a sauna inside

January 17, 2020 by  
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Is there anything better than self-care by the sea? UK-based skincare brand Haeckels is on a mission to reintroduce the local community of Margate Beach to the healing powers of the ocean. The region has a history of ocean-based health remedies and was home to one of the UK’s first sea-bathing hospitals. The company has built a wood-burning sauna on dreamy Margate Beach, located on the southeast coast of Britain. The idea is to give people more reasons to get outside (even during the colder winter months) while helping users relax and rejuvenate before enjoying the salty seawater just steps away. To help house the sauna, the company built a “bathing machine” structure using traditional materials. Bathing machines were popular from the 18th to 20th centuries as a beachside place for women to change their clothes before heading into the water. The walls were constructed using wood planks, with oak for the wheels and a steel frame; a retracting awning made of waxed cloth pulls up into a door for privacy and security.  Haeckels founder Dom Bridges got the idea from a trip to the popular Blue Lagoon spa in Iceland, where visitors go to bathe in the warm geothermal water surrounded by freezing temperatures. He found the perfect spot to start the project after discovering Margate, an area that had a rich history of sea bathing during the Victorian era, and began constructing the updated version of a traditional bathing machine with the help of a crowdfunding campaign in 2014. Names of the donors who contributed to the campaign, which raised £30,000 (about $39,000 USD), are laser-engraved onto the side of the structure. Bridges teamed up with local craftspeople from Re-Works Studio and Moosejaw Woodworks to complete the project, with a total of 20 people contributing their unique skills. Currently, the use of the beach sauna is free of charge to the public , but the company encourages supporters to contribute funds to the project’s Patreon membership platform to help pay for supplies, cleaning, maintenance and rent. Haeckels has also made the bathing machine available for private bookings for group hire or personal treatments. + Haeckels Via Dezeen Images via Haeckels

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The Haeckels Victorian-style bathing machine has a sauna inside

Airstream unveils new 2020 camper with smart technology

January 17, 2020 by  
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Airstream is a long-standing American legend beloved by many roaming road warriors, but now the iconic campers have been given a sleek modern makeover. The new 2020 Airstream Classics feature an impressive apartment-like interior design scheme that uses a “comfort white” color scheme to create a more contemporary living space that puts the campers once again at the forefront of tiny home design. Although Airstreams come in various sizes and styles, the campers have normally been manufactured with dark wood accents and rough textures that contrast with the campers’ ultra shimmery exteriors. The newly-unveiled 2020 Classics, however, have taken a decidedly contemporary turn that breathes new life into the classic campers. Related: This 1970s Airstream is an off-grid oasis for a family of six Perhaps taking cues from the burgeoning tiny home sector , the reformatted trailers now boast a bright and airy apartment-like layout. The living space is comprised of matte grey curved ceilings with all white walls that contrast nicely with a few black tables. Adding a sense of whimsy to the design, woven vinyl floors with a textured, grasscloth look run the length of the space. Although the campers boast a contemporary design, some things have remained the same such as the abundance of natural light that floods the interior space thanks to Airstream’s signature wide windows. The living space features a comfy living area that faces a small desk that pulls double duty as an entertainment area or office space. Further down the aisle, a contemporary kitchen will please any home cook. Outfitted with white shaker-style cabinetry and German-imported brass hardware, the space also features dark Corian countertops that compliment the grey, white and black color scheme that runs throughout the interior. A dining nook across from the kitchen provides ample space to enjoy a nice spread of home-cooked fare. At the end of the trailer , the bedroom has two single beds with stylish white linens with grey accents. Blackout shades keep the morning sun out while sleeping in, but otherwise, the space is just as bright and fresh as the rest of the interior. Ranging from 30 to 33 feet, the Classic Travel Trailer starts at just $156,400. In addition to its newly-renovated interiors, the Airstream Classics come with all-new Smart Control Technology that lets you control and monitor the trailer’s features from an app . For example, you can turn the exterior and interior lights on and off, extend and retract the awning, adjust the air conditioner or heat pump, and monitor tank and battery levels, all with just the touch of a button. + Airstream Via Curbed Images via Airstream

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Airstream unveils new 2020 camper with smart technology

New Marine Education Center in Malm raises climate change awareness

January 17, 2020 by  
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In Malmö, Sweden, the recently completed Marine Education Center is giving visitors a closer look at the effects of climate change and sustainable technology. Copenhagen-based practice NORD Architects designed the building, which not only provides an indoor-outdoor learning landscape but also visually blurs the boundaries between the built environment and its surroundings. As a beacon of sustainability, the center is integrated with energy-efficient technologies including solar panels, geothermal heat exchangers and rainwater collection systems. Located next to the Öresund strait, the Marine Education Center officially opened in the fall of 2018, four years after NORD Architects won the bid for the project in a design competition. Surrounded by earth berms built up to resemble sand dunes, the single-story building appears nestled into the landscape, while its long footprint emphasizes the vastness of its surroundings. The wave-like protrusions that top the roof add both visual interest and practical purpose; the angled elements are used to mount solar panels , let in indirect daylight and promote natural ventilation. Related: Obra Architects stimulates climate change discussion with a “climate-correcting machine” Beneath the roof are two enclosed areas separated by a large, sheltered walkway. Walls of glass surround the classrooms and gathering spaces to let in light and frame views of the sea, while the use of timber adds a sense of warmth to the interior. The Marine Education Center was designed to be highly flexible and can adapt over time to accommodate new technologies.  “We have developed a learning landscape where education is everywhere,” said Johannes Molander Pedersen, partner at NORD Architects. “It is in the landscape, in the building and in the transition between nature and culture. The center is open for everyone who is interested in the role we as humans play in nature’s life cycle. It allows hands-on learning experience that invites users to explore using their senses in the field, and thereafter analyze and understand their observations of the marine life .” + NORD Architects Photography by Adam Mørk via NORD Architects

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How to have a sustainable NYE party

December 30, 2019 by  
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With a New Year to ring in, what better time to begin your sustainable efforts for 2020 than during an eco-conscious NYE party? Here are some of Inhabitat’s recommendations for how to enjoy the festivities in green ways. Vegan treats For Earth-friendly food fare, offer fruits and vegetables as your smorgasbord. Source fruits and vegetables from your local farmer, farmers’ market or farm cooperative, or choose organic at the grocery store. For those guests who prefer a charcuterie board, choose vegan cheeses, and you can even find vegan jerky from FOREAL Foods Coconut Jerky , Pan’s Mushroom Jerky , Primal Spirit Foods Meatless Jerky , Unisoy Wholesome Wonders Jerky and Watermelon Road Jerky . Related: 6 sustainably crafted cocktails for New Year’s Eve Low- or zero-waste celebration Go digital by opting for email invites rather than paper invitations. Rather than excessively decorating for the party, opt for simplicity. Also, when decorating, avoid glitter or synthetic confetti, beads and especially anything sparkly, for those excesses can wind their way into the ocean or the environment to disrupt wildlife and their habitats. Try LED tea lights or soy candles to add more eco-conscious ambiance to your soiree without worrying too much about energy waste . If your celebration is being held outdoors, there are solar-powered lights, including fairy lights and garden lights, to set the scene for a celebration. Plastic-free party planning Rather than turning to unnecessary plastic decorations and party goods, choose sustainably sourced and biodegradable materials, such as bamboo, canvas, cloth, recycled paper or wood. Plastic-free decorations can be purchased at Bio & Chic , Botanical Paperworks and Eco Party Time . Paper lanterns and glass cloches are greener than balloons, too. Organic cotton, bamboo fiber and other sustainable fabrics are lovely for any New Year’s Eve gathering. Use these fabrics to make bunting and banners. Even the photo booth can be decorated with fabric to supplement and enhance makeshift structures devised from cardboard boxes. Make sure to raid your local thrift store for secondhand or vintage costumes. There are always wooden pipes, wool scarves, top hats, cloth togas and other unusual apparel to entertain your guests as they pose for pictures at the photo booth. Biodegradable or reusable serving utensils Dinnerware can be eco-friendly, thanks to palm leaf, banana leaf, bamboo , sugarcane and paper products that are both recyclable and compostable. Some of these can be purchased through online stores like the Eco Products store, Susty Party and TreeChoice . Choose real glasses over plastic cups. Not only is glassware eco-friendly, but it will certainly make your party guests feel classy and chic. If you don’t have quite enough glassware to cover your guest list, you can find more at your local thrift store. Horns, shakers and noisemakers No New Year’s Eve celebration is complete without noisemakers. How else will celebrants greet the New Year at midnight than with some form of triumphant, thunderous noise? For eco-friendly noisemakers, consider DIY versions of party horns, party blowers and rattles. For DIY rattles, stuff a metal container with coins, pencils or pebbles. For maracas, try raw beans or raw rice in wood containers. If you don’t have time to go the DIY route, consider visiting a thrift shop or even a music store. There, you can look for bells, cabasas, castanets, chimes, claves, cymbals, egg shakers, gongs, harmonicas, recorders, tambourines, triangles, whistles, woodblocks and other percussion instruments. Eco-friendly, functional party favors To go the extra mile, some hosts like to provide party favors. Why not gift eco-friendly ones that are functional? For example, Burt’s Bees lip balm might be appropriate for those shy about chapped lips before the New Year’s midnight kiss. Accessorize guests in allergy-free, cruelty-free, faux fur and featherless boas from Happy Boa . Add in a vegan leather or wood keychain. Include seed packets and mini succulents to help guests cultivate their green thumbs in the New Year. Organic champagne or sparkling cider Before you pop the bubbly, check the labels. Find organic or biodynamic varieties of champagne and sparkling cider to serve guests, who will enjoy toasting to the new year in green style. Related: The differences between organic, natural, biodynamic and sustainable wines Alternatives to fireworks Fireworks are harmful to nocturnal wildlife , especially migrating birds, insects, bats and more. The chemicals associated with fireworks also percolate into the water and soil, further harming ecosystems. Instead, replace fireworks with piñatas filled with vegan goodies. Another possibility is to have a light show indoors with DIY disco balls. There are also non-toxic bubbles that can be homemade from various recipes online. Images via Annie Spratt , Pen Ash , Swab Design , Tom Pumford , Sweet Mellow Chill , Joanna Kosinska , Freestocks , Frédéric Paulussen and Lumpi

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How to have a sustainable NYE party

Sustainably shop, eat and travel your way through Vancouver

December 30, 2019 by  
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Vancouver is Canada’s most temperate area, known for forests, sea, cosmopolitan entertainment, lots of rain and a high cost of living. The densely populated city in western Canada has more than 610,000 residents with a total of nearly 2.5 million in the metro area. Visitors can easily get around on bus, foot and bike share. Just be sure to pack an umbrella and a rain poncho! Here are the outdoor activities, vegan restaurants and eco-hotels to visit during your trip to Vancouver. Vancouver’s great outdoors Stanley Park is Vancouver’s most popular outdoor spot. Once the homeland for the native Squamish people, it has been a park since 1888. You can rent a bike and cruise around to see the gardens, totem poles and views of English Bay and Lions Gate Bridge. To learn more about Canada’s First Nations culture, contact Talaysay Tours and sign up for the Talking Trees tour to learn how the Squamish used local plants as food and medicine. Related: Vancouver Food Tour showcases the city’s vegan side The Capilano Suspension Bridge, built in 1889, is an engineering marvel — a 450-foot walking bridge over the Capilano River. Visitors also get high up in the canopy on a series of shorter, tree-to-tree bridges. For those who believe fitness never takes a vacation, there’s the Grouse Grind. Hikers climb 2,800 feet in 1.8 miles, then take the gondola back down Grouse Mountain. Both Capilano and Grouse Mountain are a short distance outside Vancouver, but free shuttle buses depart from Canada Place. Vancouver also offers splendid kayaking opportunities. Perhaps the best is at the Indian Arm fjord in the Deep Cove neighborhood. Rent a kayak from Deep Cove Kayak Centre or join a tour for additional company, security and/or information on history, geography and wildlife. You might see purple sea stars, moon jellyfish, 1,800-year-old petroglyphs, baby seals or even a cougar lounging on a rock. Looking to kick back and relax? Take a silent, zero-emissions cruise on a whale-friendly electric boat . Electric Harbour Tours offers public and private tours from Coal Harbour. Vancouver wellness Vancouver loves yoga . If you’re visiting in summer, check out the outdoor classes offered by the Mat Collective at Kitsilano Beach and pop-up locations. Do Peak Yoga atop Grouse Mountain on summer weekends, weather permitting. For a spa experience, visit Miraj Hammam , where you’ll open your pores in a steam room, then lie on a golden marble slab while an attendant exfoliates your body. Some of the most deluxe spas are at the big hotels, such as the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Pacific Rim and the giant, new spa at the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver. Vegan restaurants in Vancouver The historic Naam restaurant has served vegan and vegetarian food 24 hours a day since 1968. Its versatile menu ranges from enchiladas to a crying tiger Thai stir fry to vegan chocolate carrot cake topped with hemp icing for dessert. For a modern take on vegan comfort food, MeeT has three locations serving burgers, fries and bowls around the city. The Acorn is Vancouver’s most upscale vegan restaurant, creating complex dishes that showcase seasonal vegetables . For dessert, Umaluma Dairy-Free Gelato serves inventive gelato flavors like blood orange jalapeño jelly and salted caramel seafoam. There’s even a dedicated plant-based pudding store, Vegan Pudding and Co. Getting around Vancouver If you’re already in the Northwest, consider taking the Amtrak or bus service to Vancouver, then getting around on foot and by public transportation . If you’re flying in, you might be able to take the SkyTrain to your hotel, depending where you’re staying. The SkyTrain light rail system serves downtown Vancouver and many suburbs. Walking is an ideal way to get around Vancouver . Check out the Walk Vancouver site for good sightseeing routes. Bright blue Mobi bikes are everywhere in Vancouver. If you want to try the local bike share , you’ll need to download an app and keep your eye on the time, so you don’t rack up overage charges. Rent a bike by the day at one of the shops near Stanley Park. TransLink is the public bus system that will take you around the Vancouver metro area. The SeaBus 385-passenger ferry crosses the Burrard Inlet, bringing you from downtown Vancouver to the North Shore. The West Coast Express commuter railway connects Vancouver to the scenic Fraser Valley. Eco-hotels in Vancouver Vancouver has many excellent hotels, but be prepared for sticker shock. Wellness-focused guests will appreciate the amenities at the Loden . The hotel’s garden terrace rooms on its second floor sanctuary include special tea, yoga props, a 30-minute infrared sauna treatment and access to an urban garden, reflection pond and waterfall. The Fairmont Waterfront Hotel partners with Hives for Humanity , a nonprofit that educates people about gardens and beehives . You can tour the hotel’s rooftop gardens and learn about the pollination corridor connecting the city’s green spaces. Even the Vancouver police department hosts four beehives. The Skwachàys Lodge is a First Nations-focused social enterprise hotel combining 18 uniquely decorated rooms, studio space for First Nations artists and a ground-floor art gallery. Visitors can book private sweat-lodge ceremonies. Travelers on a budget can stay in the tidy and colorful YWCA Hotel . Not only do you get a comfortable place to stay and access to excellent fitness facilities and exercise classes; some of your money goes toward services for women and children in need. Images by Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Award-winning Australian winery adds new, sustainable building

December 25, 2019 by  
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Victoria’s Yarra Valley is an idyllic region known for its award-winning vineyards. Now, guests to the  Medhurst Winery  have a new, sustainable tasting area to enjoy the label’s delicious wine selection. The family-run winery has just added the Cellar Door — a contemporary extension that was built with resilient and  sustainable features . Designed by  Folk Architects , the new contemporary space allows visitors to view the entire wine-making process, from the vineyards and production area to the gorgeous tasting facility. The main building of the winery sits in a prestigious location, elevated on a sloped landscape overlooking the vineyards. A low-lying elongated volume, the contemporary building features one section made of heat-reflective, polycarbonate material. The translucent walls allow natural light to illuminate the wine-making area during the day, while at night revealing a picturesque view of wine-making equipment found within. Related: Modern timber winery blends Japanese and Viennese influences The winery’s rooftop features an expansive green roof with a state-of-the-art rainwater collection system. According to the winery, the roof collects around 500,000 liters of rainwater every year. This water is filtered and used in the wine-making process. Now, visitors to the winery will have a sophisticated place to taste the wonderful Medhurst wines. The new Cellar Door sits adjacent to the 250-ton wine-making facility and features a design that mimics its linear volume, while subtly curving around the ends. Located in a bushfire zone, the Cellar Door’s materials were chosen for their durable and sustainable qualities. The building’s main materials include a bold mix of oxidized steel and fire-resistant timber. Additionally, the roof eaves were carefully designed to jut out over the building’s frame to let in the maximum amount of sunlight during winter, while also reducing solar glare during summer. This passive feature allows the building to reduce its mechanical heating and cooling throughout the year. On the inside, visitors are greeted by a warm space designed for taking in the incredible views and tasting the award-winning wine. The entrance-way includes a 40-foot concrete bench that sits under a wall of thin timber slats . Raw steel accents throughout give the interior a modern industrial feel. With the addition of the Cellar Door, visitors can view the entire wine-making process. From the wine tastings offered at the Cellar Door, visitors can follow a winding path through the beautiful landscape to the production area, before making their way out to the vineyards beyond. + Folk Architects + Medhurst Winery Via ArchDaily Photography by Peter Bennetts

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Award-winning Australian winery adds new, sustainable building

Your essential guide to eco-wellness in Tampa, Florida

December 23, 2019 by  
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Tampa is a big city that loves to live outside. The city of almost 400,000 has gone from old-time Florida to explosive modern growth, surprising some long-time residents to find that their city is suddenly hip. Tampa’s setting on Tampa Bay lends itself to water sports. Thanks to recent development along the Hillsborough River, including a 2.6-mile Riverwalk, Tampa is very pedestrian-friendly. It’s a winning combination of sunshine, beaches and big-city amenities. Outdoors Tampa The Riverwalk is probably Tampa’s most popular place to run, bike, or walk your dog. It’s even well-lit at night, with locals and visitors strolling until late. You can also rent a kayak or stand up paddle (SUP) board from several shops along the Riverwalk. “You get a different perspective from the water,” said Aida Perez, manager of paddle rental outfit Urban Kai . “You get that feel of a really live and active city when you’re paddle boarding on the river.” Urban Kai also offers lessons and guided expeditions. It’s fun to SUP under bridges and get your photo taken with Tampa’s tallest buildings in the background. Just north of Tampa, Thonotosassa offers a completely different view of the Hillsborough River. Rent a canoe from Canoe Escape and you’ll see alligators. A lot of alligators. Plus roseate spoonbills, herons, snakes and birds I’d never heard of, like anhingas and limpkins. “We always tell people you’re visiting their home,” said Mike Cole, general manager of Canoe Escape, as he calmly paddles by 6-foot gators drowsing on logs. Wellness Tampa’s warm weather lends itself to outdoor fitness classes. It seems like every night of the week offers free or low-cost group exercise, from Zumba in parks to weekly yoga sessions in the courtyard of Armature Works, a converted streetcar barn which is now a lively public market.  Kodawari Studios offers lots of wellness under one roof, including chiropractic care, energy work, a float tank, sauna , cold plunge and a robust yoga schedule spanning styles from power to yin. Yoga Loft Tampa has locations in downtown and Ybor, and offers aerial as well as lots of flow classes. Spa Evangeline gives facials and massages. For a specialty couples experience, soak in a two-person Jacuzzi , followed by side-by-side massages with agave rubbed into your scalps while drinking champagne. Eating out in Tampa Tampa has lots of healthy eating options. Both bowl specialist Fresh Kitchen and Taco Dirty work on the customizable plan. Pick a combo of bases, protein, veggies, and sauces. Vegans might choose kale slaw or braised lentils at Fresh Kitchen, or lime jalapeno sour cream and vegan cauli queso at Taco Dirty. Plant-based Dixie Dharma debuted in Tampa in 2019. Top vegan takes on Southern classics include Carolina jackfruit, chili dogs, and the orange bird — a sloppy joe with orange barbecue sauce and house slaw served on a toasted potato bun. Vietnamese restaurant Bamboozle has vegan pho, vegan tofu lemongrass banh mi sandwiches and three types of vegan fresh rolls — avocado , veggie and tofu. They make each roll fresh as you wait and also craft three different vegan dipping sauces. Sweet Soul SoHo is a can’t miss for vegan dessert lovers. The brownie sundae is a big bowl of soft serve topped with chocolate granola, cacao nibs, brownie chunks and your choice of drizzle. “Everything here has a nutritional benefit,” says owner and Tampa native Taylor Winter. The gray vanilla ice cream takes a little getting used to, but the charcoal adds a detox benefit without altering the flavor, Winter says. Same with the Blue Majik algae that makes the coconut soft serve a glacial blue. Public transit If you’d rather not fly to Tampa, check out the Amtrak timetable. Tampa is right on the New York-Miami Silver Star line, with two passenger trains daily. You can also take Amtrak trains or buses to many points within Florida. Tampa must have the most beautiful streetcars in the country. Streetcars were a common way to get around the city from the 1890s until just after World War Two, when cars took over. But Tampa brought back electric streetcar service in 2002. Now about ten historic replica streetcars carry folks around, plus one refurbished original that plied Tampa’s tracks from 1923 to 1946. All have gorgeous wood interiors. Take the streetcar from downtown to Ybor City, a historically Cuban neighborhood once famous for cigar manufacturing, and now known for nightlife and colorful chickens in yards. Tampa also has an extensive bus network. You can also download the Coast Bike Share app and cruise around town on one of the program’s ubiquitous blue bikes . Eco-hotels The Tampa Marriott Water Street is the top wellness hotel in town. Its Stay Well rooms, located on the 15th floor, have spectacular river views, comfy Stay Well mattresses and an air purification system. The circadian lighting system is fun to play with. You can set it to modes like “energize,” “relax,” and “play,” which makes lights cycle through shades from light pink to magenta. There’s even a special shower infuser which promises softer skin and hair. Embassy Suites by Hilton earned a 2-palm rating from Green Lodging Florida, which means they pay attention to things like waste reduction, recycling , water conservation, indoor air quality and energy efficiency. For a funkier, more communal experience, stay at Gram’s Place . This independent hostel is in a residential neighborhood, a short walk or bike ride from downtown. Dedicated to the late musician Gram Parsons, the hostel has two fully equipped kitchens, a sundeck, clothing-optional hot tub, small backyard bar, dorms and private rooms. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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10 holiday gifts for eco-friendly coworkers

December 16, 2019 by  
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If you have coworkers who are eco-conscious or you hope to encourage them to be, then a thoughtful gift will certainly convey that you appreciate everything they do as your teammates — all while helping the planet. Besides, showing gratitude for the people you work with is tremendously helpful for boosting morale, building rapport and cultivating a positive work environment. To spread the holiday cheer and the message of sustainability, here is a gift guide for eco-friendly presents for coworkers. Ecozoi stainless steel lunch box Stainless steel is better for the environment than plastic because it is meant to last. This stainless steel lunch box is free of BPA , PVC and phthalate. It also comes in recycled packaging that can be reused. A purchase comes with a bonus lunch pod for fruits, healthy snacks or dessert options, making it a great gift for your desk neighbor. Sustainable notebooks from ECO Imprints ECO Imprints has long been dedicated to social and environmental responsibility, often promoting positive change for greener merchandise that is recycled, reusable, reclaimed, organic, sustainable or ethically sourced . ECO Imprints has a wide range of notebooks from which to choose, and many of the notebooks are accompanied with eco-friendly pens for a complete gift set. Namaste water bottle from Yuhme Made from sugarcane, this water bottle is both BPA- and toxin-free. It is also 100 percent recyclable . The fun design will make everyone at work want one, in turn eliminating plastic bottles in exchange for stylish trips to the water fountain. HankyBook handkerchiefs These eco-friendly handkerchiefs are made of 100 percent certified organic cotton . HankyBooks are more sustainable and reusable than disposable paper tissues, thereby keeping our planet (and your work space) greener. Plantable Sprout pencils For a sustainable pencil option — made from 100 percent natural clay, graphite and PEFC-/ FSC-certified cedar wood — consider Sprout. Once you’ve finished with your Sprout pencil, you can plant the stub and watch it grow into herbs, flowers or vegetables. This is a truly unique and functional gift that you can give to everyone at work. Related: Sustainable pencil stubs Sprout into plants Living vertical wall garden from Portrait Gardens Available in three sizes — 4×6, 5×7 or 8×10 — this vertical wall garden allows its recipient to arrange plants (everything from succulents to flowers to herbs, vegetables and more) on a tray, pin them to a securing grid, then frame them, so the plants of choice will be ready for your coworker to display proudly. Abeego beeswax food wrap Abeego is renowned for saving honeybees. It is also a company that is sustainable, natural and zero-waste . This food wrap, made with beeswax, can be washed and reused. It’s a much better alternative for wrapping sandwiches or saving half of an avocado from lunch compared to single-use plastic wrap. Wooden tech accessories from iameco For more than 20 years, iameco has been crafting sustainable, ecological and high-performance computers, devices and accessories that are free from harmful chemicals. The company’s electronics do not harm the environment nearly as much as mainstream devices, especially given that they operate at a third less power. What’s more, iameco harvests the natural wood used for its electronics, devices and accessories from sustainable forests. As such, a fun wood keyboard or mouse from iameco makes an interesting gift for coworkers who love design, technology and the planet. Related: This eco-friendly wooden laptop is designed to curb e-waste Zero-Waste starter kit from Wakecup This kit has all the eco-friendly essentials: a vegan rucksack, a bamboo and stainless steel water bottle, a bamboo travel mug and two reusable bamboo straws. As Wakecup shares on its website, “Did you know that excluding food packaging, 90 percent of single-use plastic waste comes in the form of bags, bottles, cups and straws?” By giving these to your coworkers, imagine how much greener the Earth becomes as each person reduces their waste! Compostable phone case from Pela Pela is widely known as the company with the world’s first 100 percent compostable phone case. Phone cases are a simple way to show coworkers you appreciate them this holiday season, and a compostable phone case means less waste, too. Images via Shutterstock, Ecozoi, ECO Imprints, Yuhme, HankyBook, Sprout, Portrait Gardens, Abeego, iameco, Wakecup and Pela

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How to make zero-waste decorations for the holidays

December 9, 2019 by  
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Sometimes in the whirlwind of family, friends and food, the eco-friendly habits we’ve refined throughout the year tend to slip through the cracks during the holidays. To combat some of this waste, try your hand at decking the halls with DIY, zero-waste decor from November all the way through the new year. According to the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), Americans throw out about 25 percent more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day compared to the rest of the year. This includes 38,000 miles of ribbon (more than enough to wrap around the planet) and $11 billion worth of packing material. To put it in perspective, that’s approximately 1 million extra tons of garbage each week. While most of this waste comes from gift packaging and shopping (if you haven’t already switched to reusable bags, now is the time to start!), plenty of consumers tend to overlook the wastefulness of holiday decorations as well. Often made out of unsustainable materials like plastic and polyester, decorations are just as important as gifts to plenty of American households. Related: Your guide to natural holiday decorations Inhabitat collected and tested five unique holiday decorations that are completely zero-waste , cost-effective and made with recyclable, reused or natural materials . Not to mention, they look great, too! Find out how to make these zero-waste decorations and create less trash during the holidays. Dried fruit decor Drying holiday fruits is a fun way to bring some festive color into your home without using artificial materials. We strung ours onto a garland with 100 percent cotton thread, but they can also be hung as ornaments in the tree, intertwined into a wreath, used as a table centerpiece or wrapped around cloth napkins for table settings. Dress them up with fresh cranberries or leaves to add some texture. To make your own dried fruits at home, you can use either an oven or a dehydrator. For the oven method, simply cut your oranges, apples or pears into slices about one to two centimeters thick. Pat the slices dry with a towel and set them onto a baking rack in an oven set to 160 °F for 4 to 6 hours, depending on thickness. Make sure to turn them every hour or so to ensure the slices are evenly dried out. Salt dough ornaments Sure, you might remember making salt dough ornaments as a kid, perhaps fashioning them into thick balls of unrecognizable shapes and finishing them with bright acrylic paint. These zero-waste decorations have been given a makeover with a more sophisticated look (we fell in love with these beautiful ornaments from Compost and Cava ). Not only are they zero-waste, they’re completely compostable as well. Related: 10 easy eco-friendly home decor tips To make the salt dough, you’ll need flour, salt and warm water. To decorate the ornaments, use dried flowers, herbs or spices. For a bit of color, we made two batches and swapped the water for some leftover turmeric tea and beet juice for natural food coloring. Combine 2 cups of flour and ½ cup of salt into a mixing bowl. Then, slowly add your warm water (about ¾ of a cup) and mix or knead until it takes the consistency of play dough. If you’re using flowers to decorate the ornaments, it’s easier to mix these into the dough before rolling it out to help them stick. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough to ½-inch thick and cut it using cookie cutters. Don’t forget to use a kebab stick or a reusable straw to make a hole at the top. You can either air-dry these for a couple days or bake them in the oven to harden. For the oven, heat it to 300 °F and bake for 1 hour, checking regularly to make sure the dough hasn’t started to brown or crack. After they’re cooked and cooled, string the ornaments with compostable twine and hang them on the tree. Foraged wreath or garland For your next holiday decoration, look no further than your backyard or nearby park . Gather a bundle of pine cones to place into a basket or bowl for the table, fashion branches and fruits into a table runner as a centerpiece or string them into a wreath with twine and leaves. The possibilities are endless. Though foraging is a sustainable way to decorate your home, there are a few things to consider. Only forage in places where you have permission to do so, and know how to properly identify what you are bringing home (you wouldn’t want a wreath made of poison ivy!). Remember to forage sustainably, only taking what you need and considering the health of the tree or plant you’re taking from. Your local Christmas tree lot is a great resource as well; ask for the extra branches while they’re trimming the trees. They will be thankful for your taking the waste off their hands, and you’ll get some free evergreen foliage. Paper roll stars We got the idea for these pretty paper roll stars from zero-waste blogger Veraviglie . They are a perfect holiday activity for children and adults alike and use materials that you probably already have lying around your home. You’ll likely want to spend some time collecting finished paper towel rolls and toilet paper rolls for this craft, depending on how many stars you want to make. We asked a few family and friends to hang onto theirs for us instead of tossing them in the recycling bin. Related: Simple DIY upcycled holiday decor Fold the tubes lengthwise and cut into equal 1-centimeter pieces along the shorter side, and use a water-based, eco-friendly glue (you can also make your own by boiling cornstarch and water on the stove) to make stars. Decorated candles Use a candle made of biodegradable wax, such as beeswax or soy, and materials such as coffee beans or herbs that can be reused or composted at the end of the season. For our decorated candles, we used compostable jute twine, cinnamon sticks and holly leaves. It added an extra touch of holiday cheer with the festive cinnamon smell as well. For coffee drinkers, fill up a mason jar with your favorite beans and add a tea candle on top. As the candle warms the beans, your house will be filled with the delicious scent of coffee. Images via Katherine Gallagher / Inhabitat

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How to make zero-waste decorations for the holidays

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