Costa Rica hopes to end selfies with wild animals

November 4, 2019 by  
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Costa Rica, renowned for its wildlife , has recently launched a campaign to dissuade people from taking selfies with wild animals. Despite being banned in the country more than 10 years ago, large numbers of selfies are still being taken with wildlife anyway. To spotlight animal rights , promote wildlife safety and minimize animal selfies, Costa Rican authorities instead recommend taking photos with a stuffed toy. As an animal lover’s utopia, Costa Rica sees many instances of selfies being taken with animals, whether for personal memories or for social media influencing. Unfortunately, animal selfies can be stressful for wildlife and can even place tourists at risk. To discourage this practice, the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment and Energy announced the #StopAnimalSelfies campaign, with the goal to “prevent visitors from feeding (animals), from capturing them for photos and from handling them.” Related: Human activity has decimated 60% of animal populations since 1970 Why the ban on animal selfies? Wild animals do not naturally appreciate being “held, hugged or restrained,” as described in the Wildlife Selfie Code established by the World Animal Protection organization. But wild animals are often lured into a selfie with food, and these creatures could potentially injure or be injured by tourists. The Humane Society International said, “We applaud Costa Rica’s efforts to ensure the protection , ethical management and welfare of wild animals by avoiding promoting practices that are cruel to animals, since they do not respect their natural behaviors and promote a mercantilist and utilitarian vision.” A better practice, under the Wildlife Selfie Code, is to keep a safe distance from all wildlife. Permit the animals to remain untouched in their natural habitat . Avoid making loud noises. Especially avoid throwing objects at them to get their attention, and never touch, grab or hold an animal for a selfie. Maria Revelo, Costa Rica’s Minister of Tourism, further explained, “The campaign has the objective of generating conscience about the adequate treatment that a sustainable tourism destination must guarantee to its wild animals and to those that get close to them as tourists. #StopAnimalSelfies has the support of the Costa Rican Tourism Board due to its contribution it makes to the country’s model of sustainable tourism development.” Costa Rica’s move to halt cruel or inappropriate selfies with animals is a step in the right direction to educate people on wildlife encounters that place animals through stress or suffering and to promote animal rights and wildlife safety. Via TreeHugger Image via Shutterstock

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Survey shows most adults prefer volunteering at local parks and recreation areas

November 4, 2019 by  
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A recent National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) poll revealed that four in five adults (80 percent) look to their local parks and recreation areas for family-friendly, community-focused volunteer opportunities. This is welcomed news, because parks and recreational areas are vital to the health, resilience and vibrancy of communities. Communities deserve wonderful parks, and individuals can make that a reality through volunteer work. The poll was part of the NRPA’s Park Pulse series that gauges the public’s opinion on parks and recreation. Findings showed that the top three volunteer activities include collecting litter along park trails, planting trees within parks and raking leaves for composting. The survey found millennials were the most likely to volunteer, followed by Gen Xers then baby boomers. Related: Trailhead Ambassador Program enhances hiking in Oregon “Park and recreation agencies are a great place to volunteer and give back to the community,” said Kevin Roth, NRPA vice president of professional development, research and technology. “Volunteering at your local park is a win-win occasion. Not only are you giving your parks a much-needed hand, you are able to reap the many benefits of parks, including a connection to nature and physical activity.” To enhance communities, there are two main volunteer-driven NRPA initiatives on volunteering and donating to parks: the Parks Build Community (PBC) and the Heart Your Park Day Service programs. The Parks Build Community (PBC) initiative emphasizes the transformative value of parks. A couple of ways PBC does this is by restoring existing parks or building new ones from scratch with the help of volunteers. Meanwhile, the Heart Your Park Day Service provides a hands-on, corporate volunteering program that brings volunteers outdoors, away from the walls of the office, to boost company morale and employee engagement. The NRPA is a leading nonprofit devoted to advancing public parks and recreation with the help of local volunteers. The NRPA focuses on conservation , health and wellness. + NRPA Image via Virginia State Parks

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Survey shows most adults prefer volunteering at local parks and recreation areas

Touring restored wetlands at a Wisconsin nature conservancy

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

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Touring restored wetlands at a Wisconsin nature conservancy

Decrepit barn in Quebec was converted into stunning modern design by salvaging all of its old materials

November 1, 2019 by  
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We’ve seen quite a few amazing barn conversions over the years, but this new design by La Firme is simply breathtaking. Located in a rural area in Quebec, the old barn was in near ruins until the Montreal-based firm was hired to convert it into a secondary family home. Thankfully, instead of bulldozing the beautiful old building to the ground, the studio managed to salvage nearly every single material to reuse in the new design. Referred to simply as The Barn, the building has sat at the foot of the Owl’s Head Mountain for decades. Sitting majestically over the idyllic setting, the barn is elevated up on a small hill with expansive rolling hills on one side and forest on the other. Related: 6 barns converted into beautiful new homes Despite its pristine landscape, the old barn had fallen into dire disrepair. However, the owner had a strong attachment to the building and wished to see it’s life extended. Accordingly, when he approached the La Firme team about converting the barn into a cozy modern home for his children, his primary request was that they do what they could to retain its original character. The architects took his request seriously, approaching the conversion with a strategy of adaptive reuse . According to the team, the project began by numbering and recording each and every single piece of the hemlock structure. As they were rebuilding the new family home, they managed to reuse every every part of the old barn. With the original materials given a second chance, some new elements were added to create a contemporary home. For example, a new standing seam metal roof creates a nice contrast with the barn’s weathered facade. And although the exterior retained its rustic, agrarian roots, the interior of the home is a beautifully contemporary design . With massive 30-foot ceilings with exposed beams and all-white walls, the living space is fresh and modern. Large steel-framed windows and an entire glazed front wall provide breathtaking views of the landscape. + La Firme Via Uncrate Photography via Ulysse Lemerise

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Decrepit barn in Quebec was converted into stunning modern design by salvaging all of its old materials

How to see these six fascinating animals in the wild while aiding in their conservation

October 15, 2019 by  
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If you’re going to travel , travel responsibly. The best way to show animals that you love them is by respecting their habitats and aiding in the conservation of their species. Here’s how to ethically view six animals in their natural habitats in ways that benefit them rather than disturb them. Sharks on Viti Levu, Fiji There are hundreds of different species of sharks who call earth’s waters home, and a trip to Fiji will give you the chance to see at least eight of them in their natural habitat. Due to the misshapen view of sharks as dangerous creatures paired with many parts of the world’s affinity for shark fin as a delicacy has caused these misunderstood creatures to dwindle in population. The future of sharks is heavily reliant on the changing of that mindset and the conservation of the animals and their habitats. While the ethics of shark diving remains a personal choice for different travelers, those who choose to swim with sharks should ensure that it is done under the appropriate conditions and provide a benefit to sharks through conservation or habitat protection. Beqa Adventure Divers in Fiji uses the funds raised from their shark diving tours to fuel their conservation efforts, from working with the local government to create designated protected marine parks to multiple scientific research projects. The organization is sponsored by is sponsored by the Shark Foundation, the Save our Seas Foundation and PADI Project AWARE. Polar Bears in Svalbard, Norway  It’s no news to wildlife lovers that the world’s polar bear population has been among the worst affected by climate change. Natural Habitat Adventures with Lindblad Expeditions offers expedition ship tours of Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago located between the Barents and Greenland seas north of Norway and 600 miles from the North Pole. Onboard naturalists help spot polar bears in their natural habitat while giving expert insight about these majestic creatures in real time. A National Geographic-certified photography instructor accompanies guests to create timeless memories and the company’s fleet of kayaks and zodiac boats allow for closer, responsible examination of the bears. Natural Habitat Adventures was the first 100% carbon-neutral travel company in the world and a portion of their sales goes towards the World Wildlife Fund, one of the leading voices for polar bear conservation . Dolphins in Akaroa, New Zealand Black Cat Cruises in Akaroa, New Zealand is committed to the conservation of the country’s rare Hector Dolphins. Take a boat tour of the historic village of Akaroa just an hour and a half drive from Christchurch. The Akaroa Harbour is a marine mammal sanctuary , so the protection of these animals is paramount. The company donates a portion of all ticket sales to the research of the area’s dolphins, as well as educational programs. Additionally, Black Cat Cruises was the first boat tour company on earth to receive the Green Globe 21, an international program aimed at ensuring sound environmental practices. They are also the only cruise operator in the Akaroa area to obtain an Enviro-gold certification from the New Zealand tourism quality assurance organization, Qualmark. Humpback Whales on Maui, Hawaii The Pacific Whale Foundation offers whale watching eco-tours on the island of Maui, where Humpback Whales migrate each year from December to May to breed and give birth to their young. The channel that runs between the islands of Maui and Molokai offer some of the best whale watching in the state. The Pacific Whale Foundation , a non-profit organization founded in 1980, puts all profits towards their research, education and conservation programs. Additional funding is raised through donations and local fundraising activities as well. Penguins in Chubut, Patagonia While penguins aren’t exactly difficult to see (they are included in most zoos and aquariums around the United States), these flightless birds are actually quite mysterious in the wild. Scientists understand how they interact on land, but research on how penguins find their food in the depths of the ocean is much more sparse. The Earthwatch Institute offers penguin trailing tours where participants join scientists and conservationists at the nesting colonies in Argentina’s Golfo San Jorge. Tag penguins to track their nesting and feeding locations, as well as help choose a selection of 50 penguins to track with more advanced GPS devices and underwater cameras. Finding out where these animals frequent throughout the year helps scientists better understand which parts of the ocean need the most protection in order to keep penguin populations strong in Patagonia. Wolves at Yellowstone National Park, United States The wolf reintroduction efforts at Yellowstone National Park have influenced and inspired conservationists and scientists around the world. After the wolf population at the park had completely died off by 1926, efforts to reintroduce the animals back into Yellowstone territory in the mid 1990s were completely successful in restoring the balance in the ecosystem. Experts at the park suggest heading to the open valleys in the northeast corner of Yellowstone (specifically the Lamar Valley) to have the best chance of seeing wolves. The winter months offers the best possibilities since the snow helps provide an easy backdrop. Keeping the wolves at the park safe and healthy requires constant monitoring and research from the National Parks Service, and part of your entrance fee into the park goes towards those efforts. Images via joakant , NPS Climate Change Response , Gregory Smith , National Marine Sanctuaries, Celine Harrand , 12019 , Shutterstock

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How to see these six fascinating animals in the wild while aiding in their conservation

Can we use nature to mitigate wildfire risk?

October 11, 2019 by  
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As wildfire season heightens, The Nature Conservancy is developing and implementing a new strategy to fight back.

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Can we use nature to mitigate wildfire risk?

Circular cities: The state of the art

October 11, 2019 by  
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What happens when cities think in loops.

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Get away from the urban chaos in one of these 8 amazing eco-friendly treehouses

September 24, 2019 by  
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Imagine just for a moment waking up to the chirpy birdcall and the crisp sounds of rustling leaves coming from the surrounding tree canopy.  The rest of your day can be spent exploring the deepest part of the Costa Rican rainforest or strolling along pristine coastal waters. You might just want to sleep in and enjoy a mid-morning yoga class, too. Although all of this may seem too good to be true, it’s not. This is life within the rainforest sanctuary known as the Finca Bellavista community. Located in the southern region of Costa Rica, this idyllic sustainable community offers ecotourists their choice of eight amazing eco-friendly treehouse retreats. Casa Tamandua Entrenched in lush vegetation, the three-level Casa Tamandua offers family-style lodging high up in the tree canopy. The solar-powered treehouse has two bedrooms plus a cool sleeping loft. The main living area offers ample space to enjoy the great outdoors, but for those looking to really immerse themselves in nature, the place to be is swinging on the dual hammocks hanging on the spacious decks. Related: 9 treehouses you can actually rent for an off-the-ground getaway Fila Tortuga For those looking for a serene off-grid respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Fila Tortuga is calling your name. The one bedroom treehouse sits high up in the canopy, surrounded by vegetation. Although it has no electricity, it comes with all of the basics, including a well-equipped kitchenette. There is plenty of indoor living space, but at the heart of the treehouse is the large balcony with plenty of room to watch the amazing wildlife. Cabina Colibri Get back to the basics with this lovely studio treehouse that offers the glorious delight of off-grid simplicity. The Cabina Colibri offers a quiet treehouse stay, complete with a furnished balcony with outdoor dining space to enjoy the daily sightings of the wildlife among the rusting of the tree leaves. El Castillo Mastate El Castillo Mastate stays true to its name by offering guests a castle in the sky. Reached by a fun plankway, the two-story treehouse is another great family-oriented retreat. The treehouse features three bedrooms with Queen-sized beds, two bathrooms, plus a fully-equipped kitchen and large dining table that seats up to eight people. Although, the large open-air deck is the perfect place for dining al fresco while listening to the birds and other wildlife. Solar-powered electricity provides enough charge for lights, refrigeration, phones, etc. Casa Estrella With its robust all-wood interior, including exposed wooden beams, this two bedroom, 1.5 bathroom treehouse is like a tiny wooden cabin in the sky. Along with a spacious living and dining area, the solar-powered treehouse comes with furnished balconies and canopy views that offers the best in wildlife viewing. As the closest treehouse to basecamp, Casa Estrella is especially suited for those who are looking for a getaway, but not one that’s not so far from civilization. Casa de Tigre This studio-style treehouse offers a beautiful stay for anyone wanting to explore the Costa Rican jungle. Tucked into the vegetation, this cabin sits high off the ground, but is accessible via a small ramp. It even has its own trail leading to an adjacent river. With a large-open air balcony and screen-in windows on every wall, it’s perfect for getting in tune with the surrounding nature. Casa de Leon This three-level treehouse is a perfect location for anyone wanting to truly go off-grid with a large group. Casa de Leon sleeps ten, spread out between two bedrooms and a loft. And although there is no electricity in the off-grid treehouse, there is a well-equipped kitchenette with everything needed to whip up tasty meals. La Torreluna Reached by a stairway leading up from the landscape, La Torreluna treehouse is a perfect escape for a small family. The treehouse offers one queen bed and two twin beds, along with a bathroom. Although there is no electricity, families can spend their time bonding as they hike through the large network of hiking trails that lead to some seriously breathtaking views. Along with a vast choice of amazing eco-friendly treehouses to choose from, Finca Bellavista offers an incredible chance to explore the Costa Rican jungle. In addition to wildlife viewing, hiking, mountain biking, etc., the community offers complimentary daily yoga classes with reservations secured. Fresh organic produce is grown on site at their expansive gardens. Guests can also enjoy spending time at the camp’s community center which provides internet service, happy hour gatherings, games, etc. + Finca Bellavista Images via Finca Bellavista

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Get away from the urban chaos in one of these 8 amazing eco-friendly treehouses

$87M wildlife bridge in California will be a haven for mountain lions

August 23, 2019 by  
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Mountain lions in Southern California will have a safer place to roam by 2023 thanks to an $87 million bridge being designed northwest of Los Angeles and spread out above the busy 101 Highway. California is the only state in the country where shooting the creatures for sport is banned . But a March study published in the journal Ecological Applications suggested mountain lions could be extinct within 50 years if changes to their environment don’t happen. Related: Utah plans $5 million wildlife bridge over deadly I-80 highway “ Animals were able to move around through different parts of the mountains until humans cut them off with giant roads,” said Beth Pratt of the National Wildlife Federation. “GPS tracking shows that the animals are largely isolated in their own small areas, unable to mingle. Segmentation impacts animals both large and small: lizards and birds up to mountain lions.” Once the project is completed, the wildlife bridge will connect various sections of the Santa Monica Mountains, hopefully giving mountain lions and other wildlife better protection. It is designed to blend into the scenery, so the creatures won’t know they are on a bridge. Pratt stressed this ecological environment needs to be rebuilt for the sake of all animal welfare and thinks the wildlife bridge is a good idea. “This is an animal that is particularly beloved in California ,” Pratt said. “We want these animals on the landscape, and the population will go extinct if we don’t do something soon.” The project has been 20 years in the making, with the National Park Service closely studying the area during this time. It wasn’t until about a decade ago the idea became a reality; funds totaling $13.4 million have been raised by private contributors, according to The Guardian. The project has caught the attention of actor Leonardo DiCaprio , who has been a supporter of the project, as well as other big names around the world. About 9,000 comments were posted in favor of the project, and only 15 were against it when the public was given the opportunity give feedback. “We’re doing this in LA, a city of 4 million people,” Pratt said. “If LA can do it, it can work anywhere. Even in a giant city , we’ll make a home for a mountain lion.” + Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains + Clark Stevens Via The Guardian Design and images via Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains and Clark Stevens Architect/Raymond Garcia Illustrator

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$87M wildlife bridge in California will be a haven for mountain lions

Tesla solar panels now available to rent

August 23, 2019 by  
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If you’re looking to cut your electric bill by installing solar panels but are looking for an affordable option, Tesla may have the answer– rent them. Hoping to offer homeowners a better money-saving option by renting the streamlined panels, Tesla offers renters monthly payments, no installation costs, no long-term contracts and the ability to cancel monthly rental payments anytime. However, the company will charge a $1,500 fee to remove the system from your roof and return it to its original condition. Related: Chattanooga becomes first 100% solar-powered airport in US If customers were to sell their homes, Tesla offers a convenient contract transfer option that can be set up under the home’s new owner. The solar panel rental program is currently available to rent in six states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New Mexico. The Tesla panels come in three sizes starting at a small 3.8 kilowatt solar panel at $50 per month which generates an average of 10 to 14 kilowatt hours of energy per day; a medium 7.6 kWh for $100 per month, generates between 19 to 28kWh per day; or the large 11.4kWh option for $150 per month producing 29 to 41kWh per day. Keep in mind that the average U.S. household uses about 28 kilowatt hours of electricity per day While Tesla expects the solar panel renting to be a big hit, energy experts say the company wants to give customers the chance to rent panels as way to boost its struggling solar business. Earlier this year the company reportedly cut its solar panel prices and also allowed customers to purchase residential systems in increments. +Tesla.com Via Yale Environment 360 Image via Tesla

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Tesla solar panels now available to rent

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