Friday, February 28, 2014

This May Look Like A Quaint Cabin But The Truth Will Surprise You

The ESCAPE cabin was designed by architect/artist Kelly Davis. Don't let the outside fool you.
February 22, 2014
The design is inspired by the latest tiny house movement where people are living with a smaller financial, environmental, and physical footprint. The motto? Less house, more life.
The cabin is around 400 square feet, larger than most 1 bedroom apartments.
Kelly Davis from SALA Architects, who has many years of experience designing modern cabins and cottages, was the chief architect on this project.
The cabin was originally designed with the intent of being a high end cottage (not a RV).
Inspiration was drawn from the famous Frank Lloyd Wright as Davis put the highest attention to detail to every aspect of the project from best-in-class quality standards to LED lighting to cedar lap siding.
Furthermore, everything was constructed entirely of recyclable or sustainable materials. The unit consumes very little power too.
Additional creativity was needed to maximize the usage of the small space. While there's no full bathroom or kitchen, functionally, one has everything he/she needs to sustain themselves in the ESCAPE cabin.
There's nothing that is underutilized. The fireplace is said to be 90% more efficient than the standard but still strong enough to survive the cold winters.
According to Escape's website, you can get the ESCAPE cabin delivered to you, and the cabin is designed to travel anywhere on the road. The current cost is around $79,000.
While the price is quite high for an RV, there is nothing out there in the market that exists that comes to match this cabin's charm and environmental friendliness.
What do you think? Would you get an ESCAPE cabin?
For more information and photos go to:

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The world's 10 oldest living trees

Taking the long view
There are colonies of clonal trees that have lived for tens of thousands of years, but there's something majestic about a single tree able to stand on its own for millennia. These ancient trees have bore witness to the rise and fall of civilizations, survived changing climates, and even persevered through the fervent development of human industry. They are a testament to the long view that Mother Nature takes in tending the Earth. With that in mind, consider the world's 10 oldest living trees. (Text: Bryan Nelson)
photo 1 of 12


At 4,841 years old, this ancient bristlecone pine is the oldest known non-clonal organism on Earth. Located in the White Mountains of California, in Inyo National Forest, Methuselah's exact location is kept a close secret in order to protect it from the public. (An older specimen named Prometheus, which was about 4,900 years old, was cut down by a researcher in 1964 with the U.S. Forest Service's permission.) Today you can visit the grove where Methuselah hides, but you'll have to guess at which tree it is. Could this one be it?  (Definitely on my bucket list to see!)
To see the rest of the trees, click below --

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Eco-Chic Corkit Flower Pots Are Made From Recycled Wine Corks

by Peter Grisby, 02/24/14

Corkits are eco-friendly pots made from recycled cork and non-toxic materials that put a green twist on the traditional flower pot. Corkits are great for small plants such as herbs, spices, and flowers. The pots’ cork construction makes them antibacterial, extremely durable, reusable, and sustainable. Each Corkit pack ships with seeds, coir soil and a flowerpot with an optional drainage hole.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hyundai's 2015 Tucson Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle Runs on Human Poo

by Marc Carter, 02/24/14

This spring Hyundai will begin leasing a fuel cell version of its Tucson crossover in the U.S. and when it goes on sale, drivers in Southern California will be able to power their cars using processed sewage. Yes you read that right, a new process in Orange County converts human waste into a fuel that can power hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
The Orange County Sanitation District’s Fountain Valley waste facility is experimenting with a complex new technology that converts human waste into hydrogen. The process involves separating the solids from water and then feeding them to microbes that produce methane and CO2. Some of that methane gets piped into a tri-generation machine that isolates hydrogen, which can power both the plant and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
The hydrogen produced from the waste facility is sent to a public pump, where drivers of the Tucson fuel cell vehicle and other fuel cell vehicles can refuel their cars.
Hyundai has announced that the Tucson fuel cell vehicle has a range of 300 miles and can be leased for $499 a month. Hyundai is placing big bets on the future of fuel cell technology; next month the automaker is going to unveil the new Intrado concept at the Geneva Motor Show, which features the next-generation of fuel cell technology. The Intrado concept is powered by a smaller and more efficient fuel cell system than the Tucson and also boasts a longer driving range.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Going off the grid: Why more people are choosing to live life unplugged

For people who want to get away from today's consumerist society, living off-grid can be an attractive option.
Wed, Nov 14, 2012
Edited by me – for full article go to Going off the Grid.

Imagine living off the land, producing your own food and energy and getting away from the consumption economy that drives so many of our decisions. For more and more people, off-grid living has become the way to go. Although statistics on Americans who choose to take this route are hard to come by, trends suggest that the number is increasing. Some people do it to be self-reliant or more in touch with nature. Many go off-grid to step away from society. Still others do it because it is the most financially viable option available to them.

"Going off the grid is not a game," says Nick Rosen, founder of the Off-Grid website and author of "Off the Grid: Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government, and True Independence in Modern America" (Penguin Books). "It is real life and a real choice for real people."

Rosen says people go off the grid for a variety of reasons, and they vary how deeply they go off-grid. "You can't get off all of the grids all the time," he says. "It's a question of which grids you choose to get off of and in what way and for how long." Some people live off the grid part of the year for leisure purposes, taking a few months off from their jobs so they can live in a more relaxed manner. Others get themselves off the public electrical or water systems but still participate in what Rosen calls the "car grid" or the "supermarket grid" or "bank grid."

Off-grid is green
Although a desire to go green isn't usually the primary driver for people going off-grid, the lifestyle has many environmental benefits. For one thing, most off-grid homes or communities are in places where nature
plays an important part of their everyday lives. For another, people who are living off-grid do not tend to fill their lives with the same amount of stuff as your average consumer.

Off-grid homes also eschew the American tendency toward overly large residences. Although off-grid housing varies in size and scope and energy needs, Rosen estimates that the average off-grid residence uses about 20 percent of the energy consumed by a typical American home.

Another green factor is a lowered reliance on transportation. Although people living off the grid still own vehicles, they use them much less frequently.

Other motivations: Fear and finances
Some off-grid people do it to get away. "Perhaps the biggest motivation at the moment is a loss of trust in the government and the ability of social networks to look after us," Rosen says. These are people who feel as if society no longer provides the sense of safety that they require.

For others, going off-grid is an economic necessity brought about by hard times.

How much do you really need?
Rosen says most families could go off the grid with as little as a half an acre, "as long as it's the right half-acre." Ideal locations would have some woodland, an area for agriculture, enough light for solar power and a good source of water, either a well or a stream. "The era of 40 acres and a mule has been replaced by the era of a half an acre and a laptop and a solar panel," he says.

But even a half an acre can be a lot of work — too much for most people, Rosen says. "You're giving yourself a lot to do if you're running your own power plant, dealing with your own water supply, disposing of your own waste and pulling your own food."

Instead of going it alone, many people form off-grid communities. "The best way to get off-grid is to go off with others in a group of families, so each have half an acre and share resources and skills," Rosen says. "One is tending livestock and one is growing vegetables, while a third is looking after the power supply for everybody else."

The next generation?
Going off the grid today doesn't mean reinventing the wheel. "The existence of the Internet that has made living off the grid a real choice and a real possibility for so many people," Rosen says. Websites like his own provide lessons and plans and advice for off-grid living, as well as a sense of community for people who might otherwise be physically isolated from each other.

In addition, some off-the-grid communities are ready for new people to join them. "There's a huge generation of 1970s back-to-the-land movement people who are now getting pretty old and they're sitting on these huge tracks of land that can't be broken up," Rosen says. These communities are looking for young people to buy their way in.

Rosen says his own ambition is to create an off-grid village of 300 or so homes in his native England. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Academy Awards—Trees in Film

Hollywood is only a few weeks away from celebrating one of the largest red carpet events of the year—the Academy Awards. The annual award ceremony will honor the achievements of actors, directors, and many others involved in creating motion pictures. With the faces of Hollywood being recognized for some of their best work, we deemed it appropriate to shine light on the supporting roles trees have played in film. Although trees may not have played a prominent role in any of the 2014 Oscar nominated films, they have appeared in scenes from a number of renowned movies. The following list notes five Oscar-nominated movies that made these trees memorable.
The Wizard of Oz

Nominated for six Academy Awards, the Wizard of Oz tells the story of Dorothy, a Kansas girl who searches her way back home after her house is uprooted by a tornado. The most notable characters Dorothy encounters on her journey are a Scarecrow, Tin Man, and a Lion. In following the yellow brick road with her new-found friends, Dorothy comes across an apple tree from which she tries to pick an apple. The tree grabs the apple and slaps her hand. "How would you like to have someone come along and pick something off of you?" asks the apple tree.  Needless to say, Dorothy didn't eat any apples off of that apple tree.
Gone with the Wind
This American classic— adapted from Margaret Mitchell's novel—received 10 Oscars out of its 13 nominations. The film features the Wilkes' family Twelve Oaks plantation situated in Georgia. The family's white mansion is surrounded by twelve great oak trees in a near perfect circle. Historians say the fictional estate was inspired by the real-life Boone Hall plantation near Charleston, South Carolina. Boone Hall is one of the nation's oldest working plantations and boasts the "Avenue of Oaks," a mile long road lined with 350 year old Oak trees.


Nominated for five Academy Awards, Hook is the continuation of an adult Peter Pan. The Hangman tree is an old tree with several hidden entrances that the Lost Boys used as a hideout. The name comes from its rope-like limbs that resemble nooses when hung low.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

The first installment in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was nominated for three Oscars. The Whomping Willow tree in the film has a persona of its own. Situated on Hogwarts Grounds, it's known for its violent behavior and attacks anyone who comes close to its branches. The tree was planted to guard the entrance of a secret tunnel. We get our initial introduction of the Whomping Willow's temper when Harry and Ron accidentally crash their flying car into the tree, and the tree defends itself, critically damaging the car. In the Harry Potter sequel the Whomping Willow is shown destroying Harry's broom when it falls into the tree's branches.
Shawshank Redemption

Nominated for seven Oscars, this prison drama tells the story of two inmates who become friends while serving life sentences. Andy, who proclaimed his innocence since before his conviction, eventually escapes Shawshank State Prison, but before he flees he gives his new-found friend Red instructions to visit a specific hayfield in a nearby town, should Red ever be freed. 40 years later, Red is let out on parole and visits the hayfield to retrieve the package from Andy. The package is hidden in a rock wall beneath an Oak tree. The Oak tree portrayed at the end of the movie is located in Mansfield, Ohio and fans journey from all parts of the world to see it.
What movies can you think of with memorable appearances by trees?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Solar energy jobs surge in Florida

By Doreen Hemlock, Sun Sentinel
February 16, 2014

Solar energy is generating thousands of jobs in Florida and could create far more, a new report found.
More than 4,000 people work in solar energy jobs in the Sunshine State, up about 60 percent from 2012. That ranks Florida No. 7 nationwide for solar jobs, up from No. 12, according to The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit research group.
The job potential is even bigger, if the state were to prioritize renewable energy and offer greater incentives for businesses and homes to adopt solar energy, industry leaders said.
Solar energy is taking off, partly because the price of solar panels has dropped about 60 percent since 2011. The state's biggest utility, Florida Power & Light Co., also has been offering rebates.
That's helped businesses like Advance Solar & Spa Inc., with offices in Fort Myers and Fort Lauderdale. It added six installers last year for solar water heaters, pool heaters and panels, boosting its workforce to nearly 50 people, said Jacob Fields, an owner in the family business.
Among the company's 2013 projects: installing a solar panel-covered carport for software giant Citrix of Fort Lauderdale, where employees can charge their electric cars for free, Fields said.
Nationwide, nearly 143,000 people had solar jobs in 2013, up 20 percent from a year earlier. That includes jobs in manufacturing, installation, sales and more, the Foundation said.

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Public Works Sustainability Division
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Don't Like Pollution In Your Home? Plant A Row Of Trees And Breathe Easier By Half

New science shows that even one or two extra trees on the street can reduce dust and allergens inside homes. Perhaps cities and homeowners should consider more "tactical" urban greening?
Trees aren't just nice to look at. They also provide key environmental services, from removing harmful gases from the air to cooling buildings in the summer. As urban investments, they pay for themselves easily, as this U.S. Forest Service tool quantifying their value shows.
And that's before we get into the potential health benefits of trees, a subject that's still under-explored by scientists. To date, there had been little field research looking at how trees reduce neighborhood pollution, according to Barbara Maher, a professor at the University of Lancaster in the U.K., which is why she wanted to look into the question more closely.
Maher's team set up a temporary row of silver birch trees along a nearby, high-traffic road that has 12,000 vehicles a day passing by. The researchers wanted to see how much particulate matter the saplings could remove before the dust settled on nearby homes. And the answer was a lot. Houses behind the tree line saw a 50% reduction in the sort of microscopic matter (soot, metal, acid, dirt, pollen, and so on) that people breath into their lungs, and that heightens the risk of cardiac arrest, strokes, and asthma attacks.
The researchers used two methods to measure particulate concentrations in and around eight homes behind the trees. First, they employed a dust-counting machine in a target house and a control house outside the line. Second, they took swaps from dust-collecting TV and computer monitors inside all the homes before and after the trees were installed. The methods produced similar results--a halving of levels of particulate matter.
Putting leaves from the trees under a microscope afterwards showed how the trees did it. There were substantial build-ups of "traffic-derived particulates" in their "uneven, hairy surface," the paper reports.
The research suggests cities, or individuals, should consider tactical "urban greening," Maher writes in an email. "It suggests a possible cost-effective means of air quality improvement," she says. "If the reduction in PM is 50%, this would save significant numbers of lives and money."
That doesn't mean putting trees everywhere, but rather placing them where they can make a difference.
Ben Schiller is a New York-based staff writer for Co.Exist, and also contributes to the FT and Yale e360. He used to edit a European management magazine, and worked as a reporter in San Francisco, Prague and Brussels Continued

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why it's important to stick with fair-trade chocolate this Valentine's Day

February 12, 2014

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, many people will be reaching for chocolate. With its creamy, addictive taste, chocolate has long been associated with romance. And yet, this seductive sweet has a bitter backstory that many consumers don’t want to think about. It’s ironic that chocolate, commonly bought to induce happiness, is such a great source of misery.
If you thought slavery had ended, think again. In Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, children are often kidnapped from neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso in order to provide slave labour on cocoa plantations. In Bitter Chocolate, journalist Carol Off describes the conditions in which these child slaves work:
“The farmers were working the young people almost to death. The boys had little to eat, slept in bunkhouses that were locked during the night, and were frequently beaten. They had horrible sores on their backs and shoulders… Farmers were paying organized groups of smugglers to deliver the children to their cocoa groves, while police were being bribed to look the other way.”
These children are responsible for climbing cocoa trees, cutting down bean pods, and chopping them open with machetes, which leads to inevitable accidents. They are exposed to hazardous pesticides that they spray without protective equipment. They are fed corn paste and bananas, the cheapest food available, and they’re not paid.
When one former child slave was asked what he’d say to chocolate-eating Westerners, he answered, “When people eat chocolate, they are eating my flesh.”
Despite the fact that the cocoa industry’s awful human rights record is now public knowledge, “Big Chocolate” – Cargill, Nestlé, Hershey, Mars, etc. – has not taken the necessary steps to guarantee that its products are slave-free. Many problems could be alleviated, or at least improved, if these companies paid their workers a living wage, one that is high enough to maintain a basic standard of living that includes education, health care, and savings.
A big part of the problem is that Western consumers love eating cheap chocolate so much that they don’t pressure the industry to change. Rather than being viewed as a rare, expensive treat, chocolate has become “a universal luxury – a reasonably priced frivolity for everyone, except those who’ve never heard of it or can’t afford to buy it. Ironically, that unenviable group includes the people who produce its most essential ingredient.” [Bitter Chocolate]
The best thing consumers can do is to read labels. Fair trade is a decent option, as it ensures producers sell chocolate at above-market prices, generating extra income to improve community infrastructure and give a higher quality of life to farming communities. The downside is that certification can be very costly, and is often unaffordable for small-scale operations. It seems intrinsically unfair that producers must pay extra money to ensure forced labour is not part of their product.
It's important to note that, in 2012, Fair Trade USA split from the International Fair Trade Organization because it wanted to be able to certify huge coffee corporations, instead of sticking to the small, farmer-run cooperatives that the global FTO continues to support, refusing to buy into the corporatization of fair trade. (You can thank Starbucks for influencing that split.)
The green Rainforest Alliance stamp is also valuable. It ensures that farmers are growing cocoa in environmentally responsible ways – protecting shade trees, planting native species, maintaining wildlife corridors, conserving natural resources, and reducing pesticide use.
Consumers can influence the chocolate industry, and reading labels is the best place to start. Vote with your dollars, and don’t give slave-made chocolate to your beloved this Valentine’s Day.