Migrating monarch butterflies get the right-of-way in new agreement

May 22, 2020 by  
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A new nationwide right-of-way agreement aims to protect migrating monarch butterflies. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) signed the agreement, which involves more than 45 transportation and energy companies and many private landowners in creating protected corridors across the country. These promised lands are mostly along roadsides and utility corridors. The agreement allows participants to dedicate parts of their land as monarch conservation management areas. In exchange, the USFW assures landowners that they won’t have to take additional conservation measures on the rest of their land if the monarch butterfly later is listed as endangered. This change in status could happen as soon as December 2020, when the USFWS plans to decide whether the monarch meets criteria for being listed as an endangered species . Related: What’s causing the decline in monarch butterfly populations? “Some companies wanted to wait to see how the listing would play out,” Iris Caldwell, a program manager at the Energy Resources Center at UIC and part of the Rights-of-Way as Habitat Working Group , told Mongabay . “But if you are following what’s happening with the butterflies , you know we really can’t wait. We need to be creating habitat on a variety of different landscapes, as much as we can.” The working group included 200 energy, transportation, government and nonprofits who tried to determine a win-win solution for butterflies and landowners. “How can you incentivize a regulated entity or a utility to do this voluntary proactive work,” Caldwell asked, “and still give them kind of the flexibility and the certainty that they need and be able to, in fact, invest in that work without kind of a fear of repercussion?” Under the new agreement, landowners may alter some of their practices, including timing mowing to avoid times when monarch larvae are developing, not using herbicides on the conservation corridors, replanting if the land is disturbed by construction and planting more beneficial native plants the butterflies will enjoy. UIC’s role will be to coordinate efforts between all partners and to be an intermediary between the USFWS and landowners. Monarchs are one of the most popular and recognizable butterflies on Earth, with their bright orange wings, black lines and white dots. Every year, millions of these butterflies migrate from the northern and eastern U.S. and Canada to spend winter in southern California and Mexico. Monarch butterflies are native to North and South America, although they’re no longer found south of Mexico. They’ve followed milkweed to expand their range as far as Portugal, Spain, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand. In the continental U.S., they fall into two categories: western monarchs — which are found west of the Rockies and spend winter in southern California — and eastern monarchs, whose breeding grounds are Canada and the Great Plains and who migrate to Mexico in the winter. Both populations have plummeted more than 80% in the last 10 years. Via Mongabay and National Geographic Image via Jessica Bolser / USFWS

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Migrating monarch butterflies get the right-of-way in new agreement

These sustainable shoes by Rackle are made from hemp

May 11, 2020 by  
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What better way to put your best eco-friendly foot forward than with a stylish, comfortable pair of sustainable shoes? Rackle, a Boston-based footwear brand, is on a mission to create sustainable shoes, starting with the release of its hemp-based Alex line. The unisex Alex sneakers come in three color options that include redwood, natural and blue. Weighing in at only 6 ounces, these shoes are better suited for leisure and errands than athletics, but they still offer a supportive, tri-density foam sole with EcoPure foam that aids in biodegradation and a hemp-based upper material. Each pair comes with two sets of laces — solid and checkered — each of which are made from a combination of hemp and 100% recycled materials. The shoes aim to meld style, versatility and sustainability. Related: Good Clothing releases capsule collection made from hemp and organic cotton “Rackle uses innovative plant-based materials, such as industrial hemp, in our products,” said Joe Napurano, senior designer for Rackle. “We also incorporated a special foam sole technology that promotes biodegradation. Once your shoes have completed their life of providing you style and comfort, we’ll help you find a home for them through our non-profit partners, or should you discard, they are designed to breakdown in just one year under active enclosed landfill conditions.” Choosing hemp was a calculated decision. It grows faster than cotton yet requires a fraction of the water to grow. Plus, it is antimicrobial and is a durable and washable material. Hemp is a sustainable product that has become popular in the shoe industry because of its eco-friendliness and the ease with which it converts into a strong fiber. According the company’s website, “The 100% sustainable hemp upper is made of high grade hemp and provides year-round comfort and support thanks to the plant’s natural benefits: cool in the summer and warm in the winter; anti-microbial; lightweight; water-resistant; UV-resistant; and extremely durable.” + Rackle Images via Rackle

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These sustainable shoes by Rackle are made from hemp

Your guide to preserving, storing and canning food

April 30, 2020 by  
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If you’ve stepped foot in a grocery store or filled an Instacart recently, you know there are a variety of items that are in low supply. In fact, butter and sweet pepper shortages appear to be a sign of these very uncertain coronavirus times. So whether you’re looking for ways to preserve what you already have in the house or are setting goals to be better about reducing food waste in the future, we’ve got some pointers regarding the proper way to save everything from milk to peaches so you can enjoy them down the road.  Freezer  Your freezer is a golden opportunity to store ripening fruit and wilting greens . If you fear your container of strawberries, mango, or pineapple is a day away from passing its prime, cut it into cubes and put it on a cookie sheet. Flash freeze the cubes and then transfer them to a freezer safe bag. Use fruit in smoothies, compote, or pies later on. Avocados can be frozen in peeled halves or mash them and store in a bag or container to use for guacamole at a later date.  Related: Use texture, height and variety to create pizzazz in your small garden this fall Some dairy products can also be stored in the freezer, although it may change the consistency a bit. Butter can go directly in, boxes or plastic and all. Milk can be repackaged or frozen whole. It will expand, but that’s what those divots on the sides of the container are for, really. Cheese also stores well, but maintains a better texture if grated first. Be sure to package tightly and remove air before freezing.  Vegetables and freezers make great partners. Some foods first need to be blanched in order to start the cooking process. This simply means steaming or boiling them for a few minutes before cooking and prepping in containers or bags for the freezer. Blanch asparagus, broccoli, leafy greens, okra, peas, summer squash, brussel sprouts, artichoke hearts, and cauliflower . Blanching times range from one to six minutes. Some sources will tell you to also blanch corn, sweet peppers, onions, and tomatoes, but it’s not really necessary. Garlic bulbs can be frozen with or without the skin. A note: the purpose of blanching is to break down the enzymes that cause decay. While unblanched frozen food is safe to eat, the consistency and/or color may suggest otherwise.  To prepare for freezing, remove the core from tomatoes, then cut and place into a freezer safe bag. Peel and cut onions before freezing. You can combine onions with a variety of colored sweet peppers for an instant fajita mixture.  Pickling Pickling is a fermentation process that has been around for generations. It’s simple to do, although some processes are fast and others require patient observation while the process takes place. Pickle red and yellow onion, cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes and other favorite veggies by first cleaning and cutting into slices or spears.  One technique is called quick pickling. This results in a snackable product in just a few days, but lacks the deeply pickled taste of long-fermentation. Combine equal parts vinegar (any type) and water. You can add herbs, spices, garlic, or ginger to create unique flavor profiles. For a combination of one cup water to one cup vinegar, add one tablespoon kosher salt or two teaspoons pickling sale and an optional one tablespoon of table sugar. Boil the mixture until the dry ingredients dissolve. Stuff vegetables into clean canning jars and top with the boiling liquid, filling within ½ inch of the top. Seal with a lid and refrigerate. Wait a minimum of 48 hours before opening. The longer they sit, the fuller the flavor will be.  To ferment the traditional way, use a large crock or other container that can be out of your kitchen circulation for a few weeks. There are many, many recipes for different foods and flavors but the basic process is again to prep foods by cleaning and disposing of end pieces . Slice in the shape you prefer. Then make a brine with water, acidic vinegar, and salt. Combine in the crock and let them sit a few weeks. Once fermented, pack into jars. Different foods call for different processing times, but typically range from 15-30 minutes.  Canning Canning foods is an excellent preservation technique. Many vegetables can be made in a pressure cooker or instant pot. To can green beans, for example, select fresh beans. You will need one to three pounds per quart jar. Blanch and then cut them into bite-size pieces. Pack them into hot jars, add salt, and cover with hot water. Release trapped air from the jar and leave about an inch of space at the top. Place the jars into a pressure cooker and follow directions to create the proper amount of cooking pressure based on your model. Use caution when handling hot items.  Fruits, jams and tomatoes are processed in a simple water bath and create a plethora of food options with no waste . When your tomatoes go crazy at the end of summer, you can also make a variety of sauces to get you through the winter. Try salsa, marinara sauce, ketchup, bbq sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste, etc. All of these items are cooked in a pot and then added to hot, sterile jars. Wipe the top of the jar with a clean cloth and seal with lid and ring immediately. Then submerge into a water bath for the recommended amount of time. The process is similar for peaches, pears, jams, and applesauce, with a bit of variation in the preparation. You can even make apple pie filling and can it to reheat and serve over ice cream or add to a pie crust during the upcoming months.  Proper Storage Even if you don’t plan to process your food, you can make it last longer with proper storage. Hearty onions can be stored for ten months or more in the proper conditions. The ideal location is a cellar or shed that maintains a temperature of around 40 degrees F. Also stored in a cool, dark location, garlic will store for several months. For both foods, be sure they are properly cured (dried) before storage. Potatoes can also join the cold and dark party where they should remain fresh for at least three months.  Images via Source Name 

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Your guide to preserving, storing and canning food

Solar-powered hotel on Grand Cayman features turtle-friendly lighting

April 30, 2020 by  
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Thankfully, the world is coming around to the fact that eco-friendly travel doesn’t have to mean sacrificing comfort or luxury. As one of Kimpton’s latest sustainable properties, Kimpton’s Seafire Resort + Spa is leading the way for travelers who want to enjoy gorgeous locations while doing their part to protect the environment. Located on the beautiful Grand Cayman, the eco-resort was built with several green features, including solar power , LED lighting, recycled building materials, native plants and even turtle-friendly lighting. Located on Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach, the green hotel is the first of the Kimpton hotels built beyond the continental U.S. Perched on a slope overlooking the crystal-blue sea, the luxury property features 264 guestrooms, three distinct dining destinations, an 8,500-square-foot spa and two seaside pools all surrounded by gorgeous gardens. Related: Solar-powered eco hotel in Portugal offers surfers ocean views from green-roofed bungalows Although the aesthetics and the amenities of the beautiful hotel are sure to delight guests during their stay, it is really the hotel’s sustainable profile that makes the property stand out. While it is still considered a challenge to equip large hotel properties with proper eco-friendly features, the Seafire Resort manages to pack a punch when it comes to sustainability. In addition to using a 100,000-watt solar array to generate electricity, the hotel was built with several eco-friendly materials meant to reduce its impact. For example, guests walking or riding along the eco-resort’s many biking and walking trails will be happy to know that they are treading on a path made entirely out of recycled glass , which, according to the hotel, has diverted millions of glass bottles from local landfills. Additionally, the ample green spaces were planted with 32,000 individual plants , all native to the island and sourced from a local nursery. The gardens are irrigated through the hotel’s integral rainwater harvesting system. As part of its dedication to local wildlife, the hotel also boasts turtle-friendly lighting to prevent disrupting sea turtles’ journeys from land to sea during nesting season. The common areas and the guests rooms are all equipped with LED lighting. Additionally, small but effective measures have been put in place to help guests share in the responsibility of being more energy-efficient . Most of the guest rooms include private balconies, but as soon as the doors are opened, the geothermal air conditioning automatically shuts down, avoiding energy loss. + SB Architects Via Interior Design Images via Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa

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Solar-powered hotel on Grand Cayman features turtle-friendly lighting

A light-filled home in India embraces indoor-outdoor living

April 30, 2020 by  
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A constant connection to nature pervades the Home by the Park, a newly completed single-family residence that faces a park in the South Indian city of Hubballi. Bangalore-based practice 4site architects designed the house to engage views of the adjacent park from multiple floors and vantage points, while bringing the lush greenery indoors with the creation of a rain courtyard and landscaped terraces. The abundant plantings not only give the house a sense of tranquility but also create a cooling microclimate to counteract the region’s tropical climate . Commissioned by a nature-loving family, the Home by the Park adheres to the teachings of Vastu Shastra, a traditional Indian system of architecture that champions the integration of architecture with nature and recommends spatial arrangements to improve the flow of positive energy. Located on a linear east-facing plot, the Vastu-compliant home spans 7,050 square feet across three floors, with the bottom-most floor partly buried into the earth because of the 3-foot change in elevation between the east and west sides. Related: Recycled shipping container cafe utilizes passive cooling in India To visually connect the home to the adjacent park to the east, the architects inserted three gardens — the elevated front garden, the central rain courtyard and the rear private garden — so that all of the main rooms in the home enjoy access to nature. The centrally located rain courtyard is a double-height space open to the sky that serves as a light well and connects to the living areas on all floors. In addition to a variety of seasonal plants that provide year-round interest, the rain courtyard also features a sculptural fountain with a waterfall feature and has become haven for birds that nest in the trees and shrubs. The driveway, garage, storage room and home theater are located on the lowest floor. The next floor comprises the main living areas, including an expansive kitchen split into wet and dry sections; a guest en suite with a living room that connects to the rear garden; dining area; the master en suite bedroom; and the prayer room located opposite the rain courtyard. The top floor houses three additional bedrooms, a family living room, an outdoor terrace and a U-shaped walkway that provides views into the rain courtyard.  + 4site architects Photography by Petrichor Image Labs via 4site architects

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Office building uses 112 ‘smart’ chimneys to regulate light, air and energy

April 10, 2020 by  
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Mario Cucinella Architects has created a sustainable public building that uses several active and passive elements to lower its environmental footprint. Specifically, the new timber-clad headquarters for the Regional Agency for Prevention, Environment and Energy (ARPAE) uses a soaring rooftop made up of 112 smart chimneys to regulate its air, light and energy so that the building relies on minimal technical systems. At more than 53,000 square feet, the immense public works building features a central courtyard. Its cladding is made up of thin timber panels that top a ground floor with floor-to-ceiling glass panels, creating a natural harmony with its woodland surroundings in the small city of Ferrara, in northern Italy. Related: 3D-printed home inspired by a wasp’s nest is made of local clay The architect chose the building’s materials based on their ability to help the structure reach a “maximum level of environmental sustainability.” Mario Cucinella explained, “The building in Ferrara explores the relationship between form and performance, that makes it the first hybrid public building in Italy.” The stand-out characteristic in the design is, without a doubt, its eye-catching rooftop, which is comprised of 112 chimneys. An essential element in regulating the building’s energy use, each chimney features a skylight that lets natural light and air filter down into the spaces below. Some of the chimneys feature solar panels that generate ample energy for the building. The passive building system also acts differently in the summer and winter months. During the hotter months, the chimneys constantly move air through the interior, creating a healthy working space for employees and visitors. In the winter months, they operate more like a greenhouse, where they accumulate solar heat to keep the spaces warm. All in all, the unique system helps the building enjoy a comfortable temperate year-round all while reducing energy demand. + Mario Cucinella Architects Images via Mario Cucinella Architects

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Office building uses 112 ‘smart’ chimneys to regulate light, air and energy

Office building uses 112 ‘smart’ chimneys to regulate light, air and energy

April 10, 2020 by  
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Mario Cucinella Architects has created a sustainable public building that uses several active and passive elements to lower its environmental footprint. Specifically, the new timber-clad headquarters for the Regional Agency for Prevention, Environment and Energy (ARPAE) uses a soaring rooftop made up of 112 smart chimneys to regulate its air, light and energy so that the building relies on minimal technical systems. At more than 53,000 square feet, the immense public works building features a central courtyard. Its cladding is made up of thin timber panels that top a ground floor with floor-to-ceiling glass panels, creating a natural harmony with its woodland surroundings in the small city of Ferrara, in northern Italy. Related: 3D-printed home inspired by a wasp’s nest is made of local clay The architect chose the building’s materials based on their ability to help the structure reach a “maximum level of environmental sustainability.” Mario Cucinella explained, “The building in Ferrara explores the relationship between form and performance, that makes it the first hybrid public building in Italy.” The stand-out characteristic in the design is, without a doubt, its eye-catching rooftop, which is comprised of 112 chimneys. An essential element in regulating the building’s energy use, each chimney features a skylight that lets natural light and air filter down into the spaces below. Some of the chimneys feature solar panels that generate ample energy for the building. The passive building system also acts differently in the summer and winter months. During the hotter months, the chimneys constantly move air through the interior, creating a healthy working space for employees and visitors. In the winter months, they operate more like a greenhouse, where they accumulate solar heat to keep the spaces warm. All in all, the unique system helps the building enjoy a comfortable temperate year-round all while reducing energy demand. + Mario Cucinella Architects Images via Mario Cucinella Architects

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Office building uses 112 ‘smart’ chimneys to regulate light, air and energy

Los Angeles air quality improves amid pandemic

April 10, 2020 by  
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There is one positive impact of the tragic coronavirus pandemic — Los Angeles is experiencing its longest stretch of good air quality since 1995. On April 7, Swiss air quality technology company IQAir cited LA as one of the cities with the cleanest air in the world. While the notoriously smoggy city is on lockdown, highway traffic has dropped 80% throughout the entire state of California, which probably accounts for much of the improvement. “With less cars on the road and less emissions coming from those tailpipes, it’s not surprising to see improvements in the air quality overall,” Yifang Zhu, professor of environmental health science at UCLA, told CNN. Zhu and her team of scientists measured a 20% overall improvement in southern California’s air quality between March 16 and April 6. They also recorded a 40% drop in PM 2.5 levels. This microscopic air pollutant is linked to both respiratory and cardiovascular problems, especially in the very young and very old. A recently released Harvard study linked PM 2.5 exposure to an increased likelihood of dying from COVID-19 . Related: Coronavirus and its impact on carbon emissions All over the world, scientists are noting that cleaner air is a side effect of the pandemic . Satellite images have revealed much lower concentrations of nitrogen dioxide over industrial areas of Europe and Asia in the past six weeks. The drops in nitrogen dioxide levels over Wuhan — a city of 11 million — and the factory-filled Po Valley of northern Italy are especially striking. “It’s quite unprecedented,” Vincent-Henri Peuch, director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Service, told the Guardian. “In the past, we have seen big variations for a day or so because of weather. But no signal on emissions that has lasted so long.” Alas, when lockdowns lift and Angelenos return to the highways, the pollution will likely return. Zhu hopes that this glimpse of clear, blue skies will inspire people to work for better air quality post-pandemic. “From the society level, I think we need to think really hard about how to bring about a more sustainable world, where technologies and policies come together to bring us cleaner energy ,” she said. “So that the air that we’re breathing will stay as clean as what we’re breathing today.” Via CNN and The Guardian Image by Joseph Ngabo

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Floating, nest-inspired Arctic Bath Hotel and Spa opens

February 6, 2020 by  
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One of the most eagerly-awaited floating hotels has finally opened their doors. Located on Sweden’s remote Lule River, the Arctic Bath Hotel and Spa is a nest-inspired, circular building that floats on the water during the summer months and is suspended on top of the frozen lake during winter. Designed by architectural team Johan Kauppi, Annkathrin Lundqvist and Bertil Hagström, the striking design incorporates several luxury cabins built with all-natural, sustainable materials . While there are several floating spas located around the world, this particular project is certainly one of a kind. Located on the Lule River in Swedish Lapland, guests to the hotel and spa will be able to enjoy a spectacularly idyllic region often referred to as Northern Europe’s last remaining wilderness. Related: Floating sauna with charred timber cladding boasts minimal site impact The remote solitude is the perfect backdrop for an otherworldly spa experience . The circular building, which is reached by a wide wooden walkway that leads from the lake’s shore, features a spa, saunas, a hot bath and indoor and outdoor showers. In the middle of the circular building is an outdoor cold bath that, set at 39 degrees Fahrenheit, is sure to get your heart pumping. Guests can choose from a wide-range of holistic treatments geared towards relaxation and wellness. The hotel offers six wooden Scandinavian-inspired cabins, which were all built with natural and sustainable materials , that will float on the water during summer or stand frozen on the ice in the winter months. There is also a larger cabin located nearby and a private suite with loft space  nearby. All of the structures feature large walls of glass as well as open-air wooden decks to take in the incredible surroundings. Besides the treatments on offer, guests to the unique hotel will be able to enjoy a wide array of activities. Dog sledding through the snow-covered forests is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For those visiting during the months of August to April, the northern lights fill the night sky over the hotel. + Arctic Bath Via Design Boom Images via Daniel Holmgren and Pasquale Baseotto

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Floating, nest-inspired Arctic Bath Hotel and Spa opens

#SmallSteps: Do More With Gift Wrap!

December 31, 2019 by  
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We wrap gifts all year round, but during the winter … The post #SmallSteps: Do More With Gift Wrap! appeared first on Earth911.com.

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