The Biomimicry Manual: What can Vultures Teach Us About Sterilization and Specialization?

by , 10/27/13

biomimicry, turkey vulture, feeding guild, ecological niche, scavenger adaptations, teratorn, california condor

Did you know a coven of vultures swirling overhead is called a ‘kettle?’ I love that. It makes me think of a fortune teller’s black magic tea-leaves, steeping in her stove-top cauldron. And of course, we all know what this fortune says. Vultures are the harbinger of death, eagerly awaiting the last painful breath of unlucky desert travelers. They are known as opportunists and cowards, picking at the soft entrails of others’ misfortune, gleeful at their bleach-bone fate. If you’re like me, your thoughts turn instantly to ambulance-chasers and divorce lawyers. The ancient Mayans didn’t see them that way, though. To them, the vulture was a god: human in body, with a naked kingly head. He brought their earthly messages skyward to the other gods, a divine liaison between heaven and earth. Today, this exquisitely-adapted carrion specialist has many things to tell us, if we choose to listen. Tune your ears to today’s entry of The Biomimicry Manual, and maybe you will agree.

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DIY: All-Natural Creams and Salves for Cold-Battered Hands

by , 10/26/13
filed under: DIY, Features, How To

skin cream, hand cream, hand salve, salve, cream, DIY, calendula, wintergreen, cinnamon, arnica, cayenne, olive oil, coconut oil, beeswax, carnauba wax, vegan, essential oils

I know that most people aren’t quite ready to say the “w” word just yet, but that season of sleet and snow will be upon many of us in a few short weeks, and it’s better to be prepared in advance, right? Just as we try to ensure that our faces, lips, and eyes are protected from harsh weather, it’s important to pay attention to our hands as well: dry, cracked, aching paws aren’t fun to deal with, especially if you spend your day typing or doing any fine-detail work. Here are a few DIY creams and salves that you can create at home:

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New Website Chairish Lets You Shop for Pre-Owned Designer Furnishings Online

by , 10/23/13

Inhabitat's Clean Green Collection For Chairish

Who doesn’t love that incredible feeling of discovery when you stumble across an amazing, one-of-a-kind vintage furniture piece at an incredible price at a flea market? I remember finding a pair of red Eero Saarinen executive chairs for $50 at a garage sale in San Francisco, and 15 years later I still treasure those babies like they’re my children. For a time (around the turn of the millennium), eBay and Craigslist were my go-to places for finding vintage designer pieces online, but the glut of professional sellers (and scammers) that have flooded those websites over the past decade means it is pretty hard to trust the buying or selling process on those sites anymore. Happily, a brand new website called ‘Chairish’ has just launched to rescue us vintage design aficionados. Like the younger, hipper love child of eBay meets Design Within Reach, the cutely named Chairish is a carefully curated online consignment marketplace for design obsessed people to buy and sell exceptional pre-owned home furnishings.

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HOW TO: Protect Your Plants Over the Winter

by , 10/22/13
filed under: Features, Gardening

winter garden, trees, tree protection, burlap wrapped trees, mulch, mulching, tree mulch, cloche, greenhouse, protect plants during winter, growing during winter, how to keep plants alive during winter

Frozen leaf image via Shutterstock

Here in the northern hemisphere, nights are growing chillier, and it’s not unusual to wake up to a light frost clinging to car windshields and lingering garden plants. Sure, the mercury might rise when midday’s temperatures hit “balmy” levels, but that’ll change in the very near future. Those of us who are cultivating plants to last through the colder months, or have young trees that are vulnerable to severe weather, would do well to ensure that these little wonders are protected against winter’s bite.

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The Biomimicry Manual: How Do Beavers Create Business Opportunity?

by , 10/21/13

biomimicry, keystone species, ecosystem engineers, lichen, mycelium fungus, mycorrhizae, elephants, stromatolites, rainforest, coral reefs, upcycle

I’m fascinated by creatures that create new ways of life for others. Ecologists talk about ‘keystone species,’ ones which support entire ecosystems, like the central stone in a renaissance archway. Pull it away, and the whole arch falls. But I like to go beyond the edge-of-your-seat ‘Jenga’ approach, and think about ‘ecosystem engineers’: category-busters that create new opportunities for everyone. The beaver is one of those. Beavers build lodges (domed shelters made of woven branches and grass, plastered together like adobe) and they also build log dams to raise the water level around the lodge, hiding the entries to their home safely underwater. When beavers are around, a wetland is nine times more likely to have pooling water, and in times of drought, these waterways have 60% more water in them. Where there are beavers, there is a greater abundance and diversity of songbirds, frogs, salamanders, dragonflies, and fish. Put simply, beavers make ponds, and ponds support life. There are other ecosystem engineers out there; fig trees, coral reefs, elephants, and fungus, for example. In each of these species, a radical innovation brought them success and changed the world forever, not just for themselves, but for everyone else as well. People do it too. But are we creating more life with our innovation? More opportunities? More value? Read today’s entry of The Biomimicry Manual, and find out!

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Inhabitat Test-Drives the New BMW 328D Diesel Wagon

by , 10/18/13


BMW 328D Diesel Sedan, Jill Fehrenbacher, New York City , testdrive, test drive, test-drive, diesel car, biodiesel, bio-diesel, clean diesel, green diesel, east river, Long Island City, Queens, Greenpoint, Inhabitat test drive, green car

When BMW first approached me about test-driving their brand new clean diesel wagon, the 328D, my first response was “huh?” My only experience with diesel up until this point was getting stuck behind black-smoke-belching diesel 18 wheelers on the highway, and riding around in smog-filled diesel “Tuk-Tuks” (3 wheel taxis) in Nepal. But when I learned more about diesel, and read up on the 328D, I was impressed. Diesel engines are 20-40% more efficient than gasoline engines, meaning you can drive a lot farther on one tank of fuel. BMW’s 328D has the über-efficiency of a typical diesel engine, but is much cleaner than yesteryear’s diesel, with 14% less CO2 emissions than a typical gasoline engine and a highway MPG rating that is better than a Prius at 45mpg! The most impressive thing is that you can drive 675 miles on a single tank of fuel.

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An Exploration in Diesel, Courtesy of BMW

by , 10/12/13


BMW328D Hits the Lower East Side, BMW 328D, BMW 328 diesel, BMW 3 series, diesel car, diesel engine, diesel beamer, lower east side, essex street, New york, manhattan, lower manhattan, canal street, hester street

I’m excited to announce that this week I will be test-driving a BMW 328D and reporting back to you, dear readers, on the experience. When BMW first approached me and offered me their new diesel sedan to test-drive, I was a little confused. Knowing virtually nothing about diesel, except the mental image in my head of giant 18 wheeler diesel freight trucks spewing sooty black smoke, I wondered why would a green-car enthusiast like myself would be interested in diesel. Then I started wikipediaing…

Turns out that diesel is highly efficient, much more so than traditional gasoline.

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How 7 Smart Technologies are Tackling New World Problems

by , 10/11/13
filed under: DIY, Features, green technology

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Team Texas' Solar Decathlon ADAPT House Takes Advantage of El Paso's Abundant Sunlight

by , 10/09/13

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DIY: Make Your Own Artisan Soap Bar from Repurposed Scraps

by , 10/09/13

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The Biomimicry Manual: How Does Nature Make Saltwater Drinkable?

by , 10/08/13

biomimicry, seawater desalination, mangrove adaptations, marine vertebrate adaptations, aquaporin, pickleweed, saltbush, coastal salt marsh

It’s frightening to think, but one of every six people in the world today doesn’t have enough safe water to drink. Within 30 years, thirst will spread to three-quarters of the world’s population. But surely this clever ape can figure out how to tap our watery planet’s vast oceans? We can’t drink saltwater, of course, but doesn’t desalination offer tantalizing potential? We already do it in some of the world’s driest spots, but in general, it’s still an expensive proposition, fraught with environmental disaster. But even as we humans struggle to meet the freshwater challenge in a sustainable way, nature is busy doing it. Every day, tide in and tide out, fueled by sunshine and emitting nothing more than sea salt. How do they do it? Find out in todays entry of The Biomimicry Manual.

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9 Great Uses for Pumpkin (Other Than Pie)

by , 10/07/13

pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, pepitas, pumpkin brittle, pumpkin soup, soup, curried soup, wrap, pumpkin syrup, latte, coffee syrup, pumpkin oatmeal, oatmeal, pumpkin pancakes, pancakes, pamcakes, pumcakes, pumpcakes, roasted pumpkin, vegan, Earth Balance, vegetarian, pumpkin ravioli

Pumpkins are popping up everywhere these days, from farmer’s markets to grocery store bins. Small one, large ones, white ones, orange ones; all stunning globes of delicious pumpkin-y goodness. Sure, they’ll be carved into ghoulish faces within a couple of weeks, but there’s a lot more that you can do with a pumpkin than turn it into a Jack o’Lantern or a pie. Here are 9 things you can do with punkins’ gloriously goopy innards and succulent flesh this season.

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Watch Ford and the AIANY’s ‘Design With a Purpose’ Webcast Featuring a Panel of Leading Architects & Auto Designers!

by , 10/06/13

On October 3rd, 2013, Inhabitat kicked off NY’s Archotober with a fantastic panel discussion and live webcast at New York’s Center For Architecture, to talk about resilient design and the intersection of building and automotive design. This provocative discussion brought together builders from across NYC with a prominent automotive designer and the head of AIANY to create a panel that spoke about how we can create designs that are sensitive to environment, beautiful, functional, and able to stand the test of time. The Design With a Purpose panel included Erik Churchill, project manager at SHoP Construction; Steven Colletta, Vice President of Sciame Construction Company; Ford’s group vice president of design  J Mays; and moderator Rick Bell, the executive director of the AIANY. Check out what was said after the break or watch our video above!

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8 Heartbreakingly Adorable Endangered Animals That We Need to Save

by , 10/06/13
filed under: Animals, Conservation, Features

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How Online Education Strengthens the Learning Experience at Boston Architectural College Landscape Design

by , 10/05/13

Boston Architectural College, online design education, online learning, distance learning, Patricia Bales Van Buskirk, BAC, Landscape Design, Landscape Institute, landscape design online class, landscape design class, design education, online classroom

Image: The rooftop of the California Academy of Sciences Building designed by Renzo Piano

Teaching studio-based design courses online has numerous advantages to the student not available in the traditional classroom. As an instructor with over fifteen years of landscape design teaching experience, I have found that translating classroom learning to an online class actually enriches the experience of a landscape design class. An online forum provides a custom experience for each student at that student’s pace as his or her project develops, step by step and week by week. At the Boston Architectural College, online classes have a high student to faculty ratio, keeping the classrooms small and tailored to the individual like a seminar.

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Edible Plants That You Can Grow in Autumn and Winter

Edible Plants That You Can Grow in Autumn and Winter

Summer's glory might be fading here in the northern hemisphere, but gardeners don't have to tuck their green thumbs away just yet: there are many cold-hardy plants that can be sown in…

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USC's Net Zero fluxHome Leaps Out of the Starting Gate at the Solar Decathlon 2013

USC's Net Zero fluxHome Leaps Out of the Starting Gate at the Solar…

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon judges the twenty solar homes on design, construction, cost-effeciency, energy-efficiency and appearance. And from the looks of the…

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What the US Government Shutdown Means for the Environment

What the US Government Shutdown Means for the Environment

Image © Shutterstock After a prolonged debate over the Congressional budget and the effective date of the new healthcare law, Democrats and Republicans have failed to reach an…

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