Posts filed under ‘Eco-News’

Protecting The Future, One Seed At A Time

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As a new gardener, I’ve been quickly learning about different plant varieties I can grow, in what seasons they grow best and how to take each plant from seed to maturity. The first seeds in my new garden have sprouted and are well on their way to maturity. The layout of the garden has been planned, and seasonal, organic vegetable and fruit seeds have been chosen. Everything seems to be in order, or so I thought it was.

A fellow gardener and I were looking over my plans and plant choices when he noted I did not have enough biodiversity in my selections. I had evidently chosen plants that would increase pests in my plots, and I had none that would keep them away. Additionally, some of the plants I wanted to raise together for seasonal and ornamental reason would kill each other if left on their own for too long. This might sound like bad news, but this is why I asked him for help. I wanted to have the right information before I began planting my sprouts into the ground. Now I have a better understanding of what to plant, where to plant it and in what seasons I should start sowing.

After our conversation, I promised to plant a variety of seeds that would not only produce a tasty product, but would help protect my garden and the gardens around the neighborhood. I was able to source a fantastic nursery near my home that specializes in seeding heirloom vegetables and fruits. I found this curious as I did not know what they meant by heirloom. Evidently, an heirloom vegetable is a plant that was commonly grown during earlier years in human history, but is not commonly grown at present for one reason or another. I became fascinated by these vegetables and quickly learned as much as I could. I discovered that many heirloom vegetables are becoming extinct. I was quite appalling to me.

There are a vast number of wonderful and beautiful vegetable and fruit varieties I was blissfully unaware of until now. Knowing of them now is bittersweet as many of them are endangered. Right then I made a promise to myself, and vowed to grow a number of endangered varieties in my garden. One might suggest we simply let nature run it’s course, but I disagree. The more common vegetables and fruits are ones you see at the supermarket. These varieties were often selected because of their tolerance to pesticides, frost and drought. Nutritional value and flavor was usually a secondary concern if at all. I am certain there are exceptions, however, the homogenization of our horticultural world is only increasing the number of heirloom species that are becoming extinct ever year. I might be an in-experienced gardener, but common sense told me this probably isn’t good.

Cary Fowler, a biodiversity advocate and member of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, gave an excellent TED Talk on this issue. I certainly recommend giving his talk a listen. It is incredibly fascinating, and he highlights some very important arguments for maintaining the biodiversity in the Earth’s crops.

I would like to think I am doing my part by deciding to grow a number of heirloom vegetables along with more common varieties in my garden. I have great hopes and expectations for my plot as I have meticulously planned every detail. However, I do realize that the best gardens always come with time and dedication. It is going to be a long process, but I am very excited for the outcome. The most exciting part for me is knowing that I am aiding in the continued existence of endangered vegetables and fruits. That in itself, is all the drive I need to continue with this endeavor.

Video via TED Talks

Image by Carmen Dirica

September 3, 2009 at 12:23 pm Leave a comment

Link Loving

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• 40 free high quality hand drawn fonts to download via HONGKIAT.com

• Lovely vintage inspired, hand made bags by Bari J. I LOVE her designs.

• Ultimate Mac setup for photographers. 50 apps that will help you with photo processing

• Void LP Player. A really trippy take on the record player via design boom.

• A really great collection of tutorials useful for converting PSD’s into useful html/CSS by dzineblog.com.

• Award winning Spanish design company develops a new fabric using recycled PET bottles. They are creating some really fabulous products with this fabric. The article is via Tree Hugger.

Image: Longest word in the Welsh Language as I understand it. It’s a train station between Holyhead and Crewe.

July 9, 2009 at 9:41 am Leave a comment

The Nautilus: An Organic Habitat by Javier Senosiain

This fascinating structure was designed and developed by organic architect Javier Senosiain. The Nautilus home was built in Naucalpan, Mexico almost three years ago in 2006. As one can imagine, there were quite a few issues with this type of design. The structure had to undergo numerous changes before the right measurements to safely begin construction were found.

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The interior of the structure was designed to create a sense of harmony and flow as one travels through the rooms in the home. The ground floor room is a sitting area surrounded by different types of flora. The rooms become more private as one ascends the spiral staircase. The designer intended to give one the impression of floating over the vegetation on the lower ground floor.

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I do believe Mr. Senosiain accomplished his goal. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw images of this home. I think I’ve found my dream home. I’ve always wanted an indoor garden like this. There are simply so many things Mr. Senosiain has gotten right for me with this design. I truly adore The Nautilus home. The only thing I would change is the size. The structure seems to be mansions size, and I would love something like this in a “tiny home” version. I don’t know if it is even possible, but I have a starting point.

Images via Javier Senosiain

May 29, 2009 at 2:42 am 1 comment

The Sustainable Village Of Pembrokeshire

I’m certain you’ve heard or at least seen a picture of these fabulous, sustainable homes in the middle of the forest. I saw one of these some time ago, and I still dream of living in one. They resemble those cottage looking Hobbit homes from Lord of the Rings, and they’re just as posh on the inside. The first Hobbit home design I discovered was Simon Dale’s woodland home, but since then Dennis and I have discovered a group of people that are actually making a community of them. These folks belong to a group called the Lammas Low Impact Living Project, and they are based in Wales.

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The Lammas group aim to create a thriving example of low impact development and living. They plan on becoming an example of a successful sustainable rural development. Unfortunately, the village isn’t built quite yet, but the Lammas group are currently applying for permission to build their eco-village on 76 acres of mixed pasture and woodland next to the village of Glandwr, Pembrokeshire in Wales. It is a bit difficult to get permission from the local councils for such a development, but the Lammas group will not give up. They plan on starting construction this summer.

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One of the issues the Lammas group is having has to do with their low-impact living initiative. This concept involves the intense management of ones natural surroundings in order to maximize return and minimize waste. The group’s plans were a bit out of the ordinary, and the council found it a bit difficult to approve without further investigating their proposal. However, according to their website, the Penbrokeshire council has been very understanding, and are willing to work with the Lammas group on this project.

The actual homes will be built from materials found in and around the development area. They are specifically designed to blend into the landscape. Each building will use a combination of natural and recycled materials and building styles. All homes will be built with the latest environmental technologies and design techniques.

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I really do hope Lammas and the Penbrokeshire council come to an understanding. Dennis and I have signed up as volunteers to help build low-impact homes in Penbrokeshire, but I hear they are delaying their plans at the moment. Dennis and I are very willing to take on a task like this. We figured there wasn’t a better way to learn about this lifestyle than to be working with low-impact community pioneers. I hope we can make this happen. Our dream is to build our own off-grid, sustainable home in a few years time, and the Lammas group are truly inspirational people for pioneering such a project.

These are similar low-impact living homes.

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To find more information about the Lammas project visit lammas.org.uk

Images via Lammas and Simon Dale

May 21, 2009 at 11:31 am 1 comment

Eco-Friendly Design That Doesn’t Work

I really hate it when this happens, but I suppose it’s a learning process for all of us. I’ve fallen victim to this myself in my work, but I always admit I was wrong and start over. It’s a journey, but we can’t make progress if no one admits they were wrong or happened to miscalculate.

The reason I’m a bit upset about non-functioning green design right now is because I have to live with someone’s very bad eco-decision. Let me give you a little background. Dennis and I moved into this very overpriced flat before we knew better. Now, we know we can get close to the same for less than half of what we pay now, but that is beside the point. The flat is very luxurious and the building is very posh. The rental company boasted about its excellent flats, and I am upset to admit that we took the bate. One of the reasons we chose this place was because it is a green building and its home appliances are energy efficient. We figured we couldn’t go wrong with a smaller utility bill, and it was honestly the best flat we viewed.

I am certain you are not surprised to learn that problems arose the day we moved into the flat. We quickly noticed the toilets didn’t flush and called the property management company immediately. They sent over a plumber and he let us know there was nothing he could do. The toilets didn’t flush anything down because they were supposed to be conserving water.

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I thought this was ridiculous! He informed us that these toilets were put in all over the city. They were a major problem, because they overflowed constantly. Now, I am incredibly happy to live in a building and city that places the environmental impact of a problem’s solution in their top priorities. However, I disagree with solving these problems with green design that doesn’t work. What’s the point of something being green if it doesn’t do it’s intended job. For instance, our toilets are supposed to conserve water, but they do it by only flushing half the waste. What’s the bloody point? I’d rather have a compost toilet. At least I’d know it would do the job!

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It’s been a month now since our toilet stopped working. I’m still waiting for the property management company to send a plumber over. We’ve had it looked at already, but there really isn’t anything they can do. It’s just going to keep overflowing. The owner needs to replace the toilet, but I don’t think he is willing to do that. In the end, Dennis and I are paying for a luxury flat with a broken, stinky toilet. The owner will have to replace it at some point, and this is just going to cost him more money.

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There is no reason for this to have occurred, but now that it has it’s time to fix it. I get upset because everyone refuses to acknowledge that these things don’t work. Everyone is sitting on their green high horse, boasting about their eco-friendly flat when secretly they wish they had a normal, flushing toilet. Design like this just makes people angry, and distracts from the real issue. How are we going to persuade people to live greener lifestyles if we can’t provide proper, working alternatives? By the way, my dryer doesn’t dry, because it’s trying to conserve energy. To be honest, I much rather line dry my clothing, but don’t call it a clothes dryer if it doesn’t dry clothes.

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Images via Alicia Jo McMahan, SandraBr, ArtFiend147, and Agrelli

May 14, 2009 at 2:08 pm Leave a comment

Under Water Astonishments: TED TAlk with David Gallo

David Gallo is no stranger to the bizarre and beautiful creatures found in the depths of our seas. As an oceanographer he understands the importance of underwater exploration. He is a pioneer in this field, and an enthusiastic ambassador between the fascinating creatures in our oceans and us land dwellers. In this presentation, David shows amazing footage of some very interesting sea creatures.

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I love Mr. Gallo’s presentation, but my favorite part is the last bit. It’s truly amazing. I could watch these remarkable sea creatures all day if given the chance.

Video via TED Talks

February 12, 2009 at 2:52 pm Leave a comment

The Intelligence Of Crows: Joshua Klein TED Talk

Author and life hacker Joshua Klein discusses his observations on the intelligence and adaptability of the common crow. He showcases his vending machine invention, which tests a crow’s ability to learn and adapt to its surroundings. Joshua notes some interesting statistics as well. Evidently, the crows population has been growing exponentially throughout the years. In a world where there are so many endangered species, this special bird certainly proves to be a fantastic survivor.

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I am actually very fond of crows. They have always fascinated me. I remember seeing hundreds of them during winter in northern Arizona. They always took flight in large numbers, and they turned the sky black before nightfall.

Dennis, on the other hand, has a very interesting story to tell. There was a little crow that would caw loudly very early in the morning outside his home when he lived in Seattle. When Dennis couldn’t take it anymore, he went outside and threw rocks at the bird until it left. Next morning, the little crow came back with about eighteen friends. I think you know where this is going. Let’s just say the crows won. Dennis eventually got used to it. I agree with Joshua on this. Never piss off a crow. They know how to hold a grudge.

Photo via Wilgert Velinga

Video via TED Talks

February 5, 2009 at 4:13 pm 2 comments

Where Have All The Bees Gone? TED Talk With Dennis vanEngelsdorp

Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the Acting State Apiarist for Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture, discusses the unusual relationship we as a culture have with bees. He notes a few unhappy statistics showing the huge decline in the bee population around the world, and how this decline will begin to effect our everyday lives if we do not come up with a solution. He explores the fascinating relationship bee keepers have with their hives, and the dedication it takes to maintain a colony.

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His solutions to the bee population decline problem are very clever and obvious. I don’t know why we as a culture didn’t see this coming, and why we aren’t actively doing something about it. I suppose it is important to note that change happens slowly sometimes, and I am very happy that individuals like Mr. vanEngelsdorp are spreading the word.

Photo via Anna B.

January 29, 2009 at 5:45 pm Leave a comment

Photosynthesis Key In Major Breakthrough For Renewable Energy

I didn’t believe this story when I heard it, but it’s true. I have to admit, it brought a tear to my eye. MIT chemists Daniel Nocera and Matthew Kanan have discovered a way to to convert sunlight into chemical fuel by using Cobalt to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. According to Dr. Nocera, water combined with light will split the hydrogen and oxygen in a water molecule. Next, recombining those same hydrogen and oxygen atoms will produce energy and water. This means those pollution-free fuel cell vehicles already in the market will be able to acquire fuel using a sustainable energy source instead of using energy acquired from fossil fuels.

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This is an incredible discovery. It might be a long time before we actually see this in the market, but I am glad to know it is in development.


Photo via Jason Antony

Video via MIT TechTV

January 22, 2009 at 8:10 pm Leave a comment

Orphaned Elephant Numbers Increase As Price Of Ivory Soars

There has been a horrible trend in recent years that is affecting the elephant population in Africa dramatically. Baby elephants are being left orphaned after an increase in the price of ivory. It used to cost 300 shillings per kilogram to a poacher, but now it is worth 5000 shillings per kilogram. This has lead to an increased number of ivory poachers in Kenya, and the deaths of many elephants and their families. Neighboring countries like Somalia have not been left behind. The country is currently in conflict, and ivory is being traded for guns and ammunition.

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Unfortunately, the increased price of Ivory isn’t the only reason these elephant herds are in danger. There is a large protected area in Kenya called the Salvo National Park, where elephants are allowed to roam in peace. However, the elephant’s ancient migration route takes them across many borders and leads many herds into conflict zones. Many are killed simply because they happen to wander into one of these zones. Others accidentally wander into what is now farmland and end up destroying valuable crops, which subsequently leads to some casualties on both sides.

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The Kenya Wildlife Service tries very hard to decrease the illegal killing of elephants, but it can only protect parts of the country. They have no jurisdiction when elephants cross borders during their migration. It is very easy to have an illegal piece of ivory laundered into the legal trade, because confiscated ivory is just auctioned off back into the market. Many suggest the the ivory trade should be banned completely, and that countries with confiscated ivory stockpiles should be compensated for destroying it. This is certainly a fabulous solution to this issue. However, until that happens, the number of killed herds and orphaned baby elephants will continue to increase. Thankfully, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for some of these victims. People like Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick, who runs a wildlife nursery near Nairobi National Park, is helping rehabilitate many of these traumatized elephants. She is involved with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which is dedicated to the protection of Africa’s wilderness and species. To learn more about Dr. Sheldrick’s work visit the Trust Website.

Read Dr. Sheldrick’s Interview in The Guardian Weekly.

Photos Via Mette Finderup and Søren Faurby

January 15, 2009 at 6:06 am Leave a comment

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