sustainability



green walls

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Green walls provide multiple benefits when dealing with the vertical space in urban environments, indoor and out.

There are sound ecological reasons to install green walls rather than purely for visual aesthetic reasons. All plants absorb and clean pollutants from the air. Just 50 square feet of vertical garden can consume as much CO2 as a 14’ high tree in a year. more »

january 3rd, 2014 | posted by megan | causes, daily inspiration, sustainability

renee takes the field

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Renee Brochier (Foerstel’s “weekend director, maintenance team”) is the first female in 100+ years of Boise High School’s history to add points (well, a PAT) to the football team’s score. She joined the football team this year as a kicker. Twelve years of kicking as a soccer defender has totally paid off her senior year! Congratulations Renee!

september 12th, 2013 | posted by megan | industry trends, people + place, sustainability

green gift ideas for dad

Father’s Day is quickly approaching, and if the special dad in your life is an eco-minded type, you’re in luck, we’ve rounded up more than a few “green” gift ideas that are sure to inspire smiles all around. From a selection of organic microbrews for that man who scoffs at the sight of Coors to some great camping gear for the one who loves to spend time outdoors!

a selection of organic/microbrew beers

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There aren’t many people who don’t like to crack open a cold beer on a hot summer day, and if they’re unique little treasures from micro-breweries, all the better to savor! An eco-friendly (re-usable!) cooler bag packed with a variety of organic beers would undoubtedly get you a rib-crushing hug, and you might discover some really fantastic brews that you can enjoy all summer long.

If there’s an organic “beer of the month club” that you can subscribe to on dad’s behalf, that might be a fun option as well. After all, fancy beer that’s delivered to your door is always welcome, right?

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Solar power is gaining in popularity around the world, and as more designers and innovators play with new concepts, some pretty brilliant styles are being created. The Cookup200 Solar BBQ from ID Cook looks like something from a Star Trek set, but the principle behind it is sound: its parabolic shape focuses the sun’s mighty rays onto the ingredients placed at its center, thus cooking them without any smoke or CO2 emissions. For eco-minded guys who love to cook outdoors, this is a rather brilliant way to celebrate great food while still being kind to mother earth.

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There are many eco-friendly and vegan products out there to help dad enjoy the outdoors in as ethical a manner as possible. The classic Encampment sleeping bag from Big Agnes is made of nylon and filled with their unique INTEGRITY synthetic insulation, which is comprised of 97% recycled material. Team that up with some eco-friendly cookware, water bottle, and utensils, and dad’s set for a truly green trek into the woods.

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Just about everyone has a special cup that they’ve claimed as their own; one that fits perfectly in their hands, and brings them an immense sense of warmth and joy with every sip.

Now for the filling: if dad’s a coffee connoisseur, treat him to some amazing fair-trade coffee so he can revel in glorious, rich flavour while supporting coffee bean farmers and their families. A gourmet coffee hamper from Jurang, for example, is filled with 3 bags of fair-trade coffee (from Ethiopia, Mexico, and Papua New Guinea), and presented in an ethically-sourced basket.

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EcoSpheres are tiny little self-sustaining ecosystems encased in glass spheres and pods. Inside each one are active micro-organisms, tiny shrimp, algae, and bacteria, all floating around in filtered sea water. You never have to feed any of the life within: you just need to provide the EcoSphere with a source of indirect light, either artificial or natural, and revel in this little marvel of beauty and balance for 2-7 years.

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A vegan monthly snack box from Vegan Cuts that’s packed with an assortment of goodies. Each package typically includes 7-10 vegan products (sometimes more!), ranging from sweet treats to household fun stuff, so your special guy can try out some things he’s never dreamed of before and hopefully make some new favorites.

Most of the snack box items are gluten-free, and none of them contain any palm oil. Although the snack boxes were previously only available in the U.S., they can now be shipped worldwide.

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Let him cart his food in style with a super-cool litter-less lunch kit. To-Go Ware has a fabulous set comprised of 2 food containers that snap together, a removable plate, and a set of sustainably-harvested bamboo utensils: fork, spoon, knife, and chopsticks. You can even add in a reusable straw as well: Simply Straws has a selection of different glass straws, or you can go the stainless steel route via Life Without Plastic.

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If Dad is a gadget-fiend and would panic if his iPad drops below 2 power bars, then this amazing device is sure to quell any fears of being stranded without email for any period of time.

As lauded on the REI website: “The waterproof Powertraveller Powermonkey Extreme solar battery charger provides a compact and durable source of solar power for tablets, smartphones, music players, e-readers, cameras and GPS units.”  The 3-watt solar panel provides a full charge within 15 hours in direct sunlight, and the solar panel can charge the battery while it’s charging a device at the same time.

eco-friendly watch

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Watches, along with ties, seem to be the go-to gift for fathers around the world, but it’s unlikely father has ever laid eyes on one of these before. Sprout Watches are about as eco-conscious as you can get: cases, case backs, buckles, and dials are made of corn resin and other sustainable materials.

They come in a variety of different colors and styles, on either resin bracelets or organic cotton bands. Depending on the style you like, there may also be bamboo, tree bark, and/or cork involved, so your timepiece is a timeless classic, made of materials that will biodegrade over time.

weekend permaculture course

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If your father is an avid gardener, locavore, and proponent of urban farming, consider a more educational gift for him this year: a weekend permaculture design course, for instance. Permaculture gardening is a sustainable growing technique that’s as well suited to backyard gardens as it is for small-scale farms. These courses are available all over the world: just do a web search for “weekend permaculture course” followed by a couple of cities that you’re closest to, and you’re certain to find some great resources.

With a weekend course like this, Dad will learn about subjects like:

  • Ethics, principles, and design methodology of permaculture and sustainability
  • How to observe land for optimal planting (and companion-planting in each area)
  • Soil amendments and composting techniques
  • Aquaculture
  • Forest gardening
  • and much more

eco-friendly garden tools

61211To ensure that the gardening tools he uses are as earth-friendly (and body-healthy!) as possible, the Promenade Eco Garden Tote from Brookstone is a PVC-free bag that can hold seeds, bulbs, and a variety of other garden implements, and comes with 3 stainless steel garden tools. It has additional pockets for other favorite gardening necessities, and comes in a variety of colors and patterns.

designer popcorn and a netflix subscription

61212Giving Dad a Netflix subscription allows him to watch all the movies and shows he likes, all from the comfort of his own comfy couch space. As for snacks to accompany all of this visual glee, there’s popcorn, and then there’s gourmet, absolute poetry in popped corn format as created by the makers of 479 Degree Popcorn. Forget Kernels and other over-salted and under-flavored varieties that you can get at any mall—these popcorns are hand-crafted with taste combinations that will blow your mind.

In their “Foodie” gift set, you’ll find one box each of:

  • Fleur de Sel Caramel
  • Chipotle Caramel + Almonds
  • Black Truffle + White Cheddar
  • Madras Curry + Cashews
  • Vietnamese Cinnamon Sugar

vegan skincare

61213Men who are conscious about the negative effects of harmful chemicals on their skin might be tempted to eschew most products entirely, but they can stay well groomed and moisturized with some great products that are formulated just for them.  Bulldog skincare products are formulated without any parabens, synthetic fragrances, or sodium laureth sulfate, and they’re totally vegan. Packed with essential oils, green tea, vitamin E, and sea water, their entire line smells fresh and manly, and nourishes skin from the outside in.

ethically-made hammock

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Hammock USA are fair-trade, made by skilled adult artisans who are well-paid as they work from home, allowing them to care for their children as they create these works of art. Many are made from recycled materials, such as re-purposed parachute nylon and synthetic sari silk, and are shipped from their country of origin.

adopt/sponsor wildlife in dad’s name

61215There are many charitable organizations that are dedicated to the care of wild animals, be that through rescue and rehabilitation, protection, or even stewardship of their native ecosystems.  Do a quick web search for groups that offer sponsorship and adoption programs for his favorite species, and you may have an opportunity to give the gift of safety, care, and love for an animal in his name. Through the World Wildlife Fund, for example you can symbolically “adopt” over 100 different species, from wolves and tigers to three-toed sloths, seahorses, hummingbirds, and lemurs. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is another one: the folks there don’t just care for and protect orphaned elephants and rhinos, but also elands, zebras, and even squirrels. If your dad would appreciate supporting less exotic creatures there are sanctuaries that provide a loving home for farm animals (The Gentle Barn) and just about any critter needing a beautiful and safe place to live (Best Friends).

[via Inhabitat]

june 12th, 2013 | posted by megan | organic, sustainability

urban vertical garden built from recycled soda bottles

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As part of an innovative partnership called Home Sweet Home (Lar Doce Lar) between multidisciplinary design firm Rosenbaum and TV producer Luciano Huck, the teams went through dozens of Brazilian homes doing dramatic makeovers of interior and exterior spaces. On their 48th home Rosenbaum designed a pretty amazing vertical garden that was suspended in a narrow walkway just outside the house. Response to the garden was so huge the firm quickly released design schematics (in Portugese) detailing how to build one.

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[source: Colossal]

february 21st, 2013 | posted by megan | daily inspiration, sustainability

could “wooden” jeans reduce the denim industry’s carbon footprint?

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Denim made from sustainable wood pulp, rather than cotton, could be the key to reducing the jeans industry’s sizable environmental footprint, according to a fashion student at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland. Dawn Ellams, a Ph.D researcher at the School of Textiles and Design, developed her “no-cotton” jeans using pulp from the eucalyptus tree, which is then spun into cotton-like yarn marketed under the trade name of Tencel. She also used digital-printing technology to replicate the stone-washed effect denim aficionados crave. Despite their physical similarities, Ellams says her “wooden” jean uses only a fifth of the water, energy, and chemicals required by its conventional counterpart.

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going out on a limb

Producing a single pair of cotton-denim jeans, Ellams says, isn’t just energy intensive. It also uses an average of 42 liters of water, along with up to 15 dyeing vats full of harmful chemicals. Her greener alternative, however, costs roughly £27 ($42) to make. It also drastically reduces carbon emissions through a closed-loop production process that manages close to 100 percent recovery of the solvent used to render the wood into fiber.

A pair of cotton-denim jeans uses an average of 42 liters of water, along with up to 15 dyeing vats full of harmful chemicals.

“The sustainability issues associated with the manufacturing of cotton garments are already well understood, yet the use of cotton shows no sign of diminishing,” she says. “The research challenged the design and manufacture of denim jeans, probably the most iconic use of cotton. The overall aim was to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and water use associated with conventional manufacturing for denim jeans.”

Another plus? Eucalyptus grows rapidly without the need for pesticides, artificial irrigation or gene manipulation, according to Lenzing, the Austrian fiber company that popularized the material. The fiber yield with Tencel is also 10 times higher than with conventional cotton, even when grown on so-called “marginal lands” that cannot be used to cultivate food crops, it adds.

Ellams’ goal is to create an entire collection, even a eucalyptus-based dress or two.

[source: ecouterre]

february 20th, 2013 | posted by megan | daily inspiration, sustainability

ask your company to measure the carbon footprint of your office

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Even if your office building wasn’t designed with sustainability in mind, there are several steps you can take to make it more eco-friendly. One of the first things to do is figuring out how the building’s performing right now. Check the Environmental Protection Agency’s guide to measuring the carbon footprint of a building.

[sources: GOOD, photo]

january 29th, 2013 | posted by megan | sustainability

upcycling coffee products

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Used coffee capsules now upcycled as watches - Nespresso has been riding the home barista trend with counter-top coffee makers. But what to do with those crushed capsules? One enterprising idea is seeing them used as the basis for a handmade, custom timepiece as part of the Grand Cru collection produced by high-end watchmaker Blancier. At least you’ll always know when it’s time for a coffee.  [via Brand Channel]

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Leave it to a Manhattan-based crafter to use coffee shop leftovers to create a stylish piece of fashion. Dreamed up by P.S.- I made this… blogger Erica Domesek, this chic statement necklace is made entirely from plastic coffee stirrers, thread and a scrap of ribbon.

Inspired by a collaborative collection from Marc Jacobs and ’80s fashion icon Maripol, this trend-setting piece is sure to turn heads - whether you live in the big city or a small town. Create an inverted triangle like Domesek’s, or try another shape for the look that suits you best. [via Earth 911]

play-ball-cup-typography

Brooklyn-based desinger Derek Munn enjoys all forms of visual arts, but his passion lies with expressive typography. When he was a child in Newport News, Va., he and his Little League teammates would store their water cups in a chain-link fence in front of the dugout to keep them clean. The memory inspired Munn to use foam coffee cups to create baseball-related typography at a local playground.

Check out his tutorial at Ragehaus to see how he did it, and give the geometric letters a try in your own neighborhood. This fun project would be great for sports games, but you don’t have to be an athlete to get in on the action. Just use the same technique to craft a typography message that represents your interests and transforms them into head-turning art. [via Earth 911]

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Rather than tossing those espresso cups in the trash, repurpose them into a dainty (and surprisingly stylish) home decor solution like Hey Gorgeous blogger Rhiannon Nicole. All you’ll need is a few basic materials and Rhiannon’s detailed photo tutorial to help you do it right. Don’t worry if your espresso cups are branded with a coffee chain logo. You’ll be covering them with colored craft paper anyway.

Once you have completed your project, hang the string lights at home as a decorative accent, or use them to posh up backyard parties, baby showers or weddings. [via Earth 911]

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Starburst home decor is trending in modern homes and apartments from coast to coast. But these picks can be pricey at most home decor chains. Ditch the added expense and create a starburst-style clock on the cheap using this detailed tutorial from Freckled Nest blogger Leigh-Ann Keffer.

Purchase a set of clockworks from a local crafts store to make the whole thing yourself, or use a thrifted clock with no dimension as a base for your spunky focal point. You’ll need a pretty sizeable handful of stirrers to complete this project. So, you may want to ask friends and co-workers to stockpile their stirrers for a few weeks before getting started. [via Earth 911]

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If you’ve ever picked up coffee for a group of friends (or the entire office), you’re likely familiar with those pesky fiberboard cup carriers that tend to come with large orders. It would be tough to carry eight lattes without them, but once you reach your destination they become little more than extra waste.

Keep your carriers out of the landfill and create a funky piece of wall art at the same time by taking a cue from New Orleans mom and Bon Temps Beignet blogger Liz. The crafty mama arranged her cup carriers into a geometric pattern and added string lights for a modern look. Check out her tutorial at Bon Temps Beignet – chock-full of photos and tips to help you craft your own budget-friendly wall art. [via Earth 911]

january 22nd, 2013 | posted by megan | daily inspiration, industry trends, sustainability

build a vertical garden with recycled cups

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Vertical gardens are a fun way to bring greenery indoors or to small patios and yards.

Turkish design firm Designnobis has created a living wall system with an upcycled twist: Their Naturwall allows anyone to create their own vertical garden using disposable cups. Rather than ending up in the landfill, coffee cups take on a second life as plant pots in the Naturwall system, which includes an aluminum metal frame with 10-12 cup holders. Users can set up the living wall in any arrangement that fits the size and type of their plants.

Designnobis believes that these vertical garden systems benefit the environment by not only reducing plastic waste, but also by increasing the number of plants indoors and in small outdoor spaces, which can help absorb carbon emissions. The Naturwall received the 2008 Green Dot Build Award, which recognizes innovative design and architecture that achieves the highest level of environmental responsibility.

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[via Earth 911]

january 17th, 2013 | posted by megan | daily inspiration, organic, sustainability

organic sculptures made from hundreds of pencils

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South Carolina-based artist Jessica Drenk was born and raised in Montana where she developed an understanding and appreciation of the natural world that has since deeply influenced the course of her artistic career. Her installations and sculptures often imitate organic shapes, patterns, and textures even when using a medium that is often manufactured by human hands. Drenk’s most recent sculptures are a series called Implements, each of which begins with a mass of standard No. 2 pencils that have been tightly glued together. Using an electric sander she then molds the piece into a form that seems more likely to have originated in a dark cave or deep within the ocean than from a school desk. Of her work she says:

By transforming familiar objects into nature-inspired forms and patterns, I examine how we classify the world around us. Manufactured goods appear as natural objects, something functional becomes something decorative, a simple material is made complex, and the commonplace becomes unique. In changing books into fossilized remnants of our culture, or in arranging elegantly sliced PVC pipes to suggest ripple and wave patterns, I create a connection between the man-made and the natural.

You can find her work at Paia Contemporary in Hawaii, or Foster/White in Seattle, and see many more images over on Facebook.

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[via Colossal]

january 8th, 2013 | posted by megan | daily inspiration, sustainability

saving food from the refrigerator

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Although we think and talk about food on a constant basis, do we really know how best to preserve it or do we become lazy and leave the responsibility to technology? Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Jihyun Ryou thinks we no longer understand how to treat food. Her Save Food from the Fridge project involves placing certain foods on a group of “knowledge shelves” outside the fridge. With the goal of a better relationship with our food we may be able to waste less and conserve more energy, without sacrificing design aesthetics.

“Observing the food and therefore changing the notion of food preservation, we could find the answer to current situations such as the overuse of energy and food wastage. My design is a tool to implement that knowledge in a tangible way and slowly it changes the bigger picture of society. I believe that once people are given a tool that triggers their minds and requires a mental effort to use it, new traditions and new rituals can be introduced into our culture.” - Jihyun Ryou

Her beautifully designed storage shelves aim to “re-introduce and re-evaluate traditional oral knowledge of food, which is closer to nature.  Furthermore, it aims to bring back the connection between different levels of living beings, we as human beings and food ingredients as other living beings.”

For instance, the egg holder shelf includes a drop down cup of water to test the eggs. A ripe egg will always sink in water, so before breaking it open you can check to see its freshness. There is also a set of spice jars equipped with lids that hang down small bags of rice inside the jar. The rice is said to absorb humidity and keep the spices dry. There is even a hybrid apple/potato holder which keeps potatoes in a dark cabinet. Particularly focusing on the food preservation, it looks at a feasible way of bringing that knowledge into everyday life.

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[source: save food from the refrigerator]

december 4th, 2012 | posted by megan | daily inspiration, sustainability
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