Daily Archives: June 3, 2013

Natural Enviromentalists: 6 animals take “reduce, reuse, recycle” to the next level.

Natural environmentalists
Most animals live in a delicate ecological balance with their natural surroundings. It’s simply the most efficient formula for survival: Take only what is needed, and waste as little of it as possible. But a few animals take “reduce, reuse, recycle” to the next level. It’s a good thing, too: Someone needs to help clean up the mess that so many humans leave behind. Here’s our list of six animals that are nature’s extreme recyclers.
.1. Birds
Perhaps nature’s greatest recyclers are birds. Many urban species have adapted to life in human environments by building their nests with whatever is available, which often includes anything from discarded string and newspapers to paper clips and plastic.
 browerbirds
Bowerbirds from New Guinea and Australia, which construct elaborate and garish “bowers” in order to attract mates, will often collect colorful trash (such as bottle caps and plastics) and repurpose it for bower decoration. (In other words, recycling is considered sexy for these birds!)
Birds like pigeons and gulls also take advantage of all the food waste that is left behind by people, gobbling up what they can.
.2. Hermit Crabs
As a crab grows, it must often seek out new shells that provide a better fit. In this way, these cute crustaceans are constantly recycling dwellings that would otherwise go to waste.
hermit crabs
Hermit crabs don’t grow their own shells, so to protect themselves they have to salvage shells abandoned by other sea life, usually from sea snails. But really they’ll use whatever they can find, which often includes glass bottles, cans or shotgun shells. People who keep hermit crabs as pets also have the option of providing them with artificial shells, which can be made from recycled materials.
.3. Spiders
All spiderwebs represent remarkable engineering feats, but few match the eco-friendly design showcased by some orb-weaver spiders. Take for instance the species Cyclosa ginnaga, which decorates its webs with whatever debris it can find, such as leaves and twigs. Though the ultimate purpose of the decoration is rather sinister (for luring in prey, or for concealing the webbing), this spider’s eco-cred is still worth noting.
 orb weaver spider
Many orb-weaver spiders rebuild their nests every day, so they are always busy recycling. This helps keep both their webs and their surrounding environment clean.
.4. Dung Beetles
Many dung beetles are actually referred to as “rollers,” since their waste-collection strategy is to roll excrement into balls so that it can be easily wheeled away.
dungbeetle
It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. Yes, even poop is too valuable a resource to let go to waste, and perhaps no animal understands this better than the dung beetle. This insect lives to collect and repurpose your poop. Not only do dung beetles build their homes out of feces, but they also eat it and lay their eggs in it.
.5. Octopus / Octopi
Octopi are probably the smartest invertebrates on the planet, and nothing quite displays their cunning as much as their tool use. Several species, such as the veined octopus, have been seen building shelters out of discarded debris. These makeshift homes are built from anything found lying around, from cracked coconut shells, to abandoned sea shells, to glass jars and other containers thrown away as trash. It just goes to show that one creature’s waste is another creature’s treasure.
octopus
.6. Corals
It has been estimated that 75 percent of all coral reefs around the world are threatened, but there is also reason to hope. Though sensitive to variations in their environment, these animals are also remarkably adaptable in that they are willing to attach themselves to just about any hard surface they can find. This includes shipwrecks, undersea pipelines and even oil rigs. By repurposing wreckage on the sea floor, they also provide habitat for the countless other species that rely on the ecology of coral reefs for sustenance.
corals

Top 5: Eco Bras. Smart & Strange.

Eco-Bras

Ladies have you ever heard of it before… checkout the Smart and Strange Eco-Bras, don’t forget to add them to your list…

Since they’re usually worn under clothes, bras may not serve as the best billboard for your eco-message. Nonetheless, the bra’s inspired many inspiring and wacky eco-ideas over the years.

.1. Chopsticks Bra. Dubbed My Chopsticks Bra, this concept bra from Japan encourages people to reuse their chopsticks by carrying reusable ones in a Japanese meal-themed bra. Each bra cup each depict a bowl — rice in the right, miso in the left — and collapsible chopsticks tuck into a small pocket on the side.

chopstickbra

.2. BYOBag Bra. Conceived by the same company as the chopsticks bra, this recycled-polyester bra — calledNo! Shopping Bag Bra — unfolds into a handy shopping bag. You’ll have to do some tricky maneuvering to actually take advantage of the bra’s multifunctionality though.

noshoppingbagbra

.3. Solar-powered Bra. Wanna charge up while laying out at the beach? This iPod-charging, beer-cooling bra also comes with a bottom to complete the electrifying solar bikini set. Part of designer Andrew Schneider’s iDrink swimwear project, this bikini boasts (1″ x 4″) photovoltaic film strips sewn together in series with conductive thread” plus a USB connection.

solar powered bra

.4. Trashy Bra. The toughest-looking eco-bra of the bunch is the Pink Tab Bikini Top, made of upcycled soda tabs, gutter guard, dryer vents, and rivets by artist Ingrid Goldbloom Bloch. Wearable? Probably not, but pretty cool-looking!

trashy bra

.5. DIY plastic bag Bra. Ready to make your own smart and strange eco-bra? The BBC’s got detailed instructions on how to upcycle a supermarket plastic bag into a bra. Unfortunately, this bra’s more decorative than functional, though perhaps useful as part of a Halloween getup.

DIY plastic bag bra

Top 5: Why not to plant bamboo in your garden ?

Bamboo is a trendy star of the eco-friendly construction movement, with a wide variety of flooring, furniture and other items being manufactured with the strong, fast-growing grass. However, bamboo production should be left to commercial growers. Bamboo’s hardiness and rapid growth make it a problematic plant for most yards. Here are the top five reasons not to plant bamboo in your garden. Bamboo may seem like an attractive garden option, but it poses serious problems. Stick to a lucky bamboo in a small indoor pot, or avoid growing bamboo altogether.

forest_bamboo

.1. Bamboo can spread into neighboring yards. Many homeowners plant bamboo to create a fast-growing privacy screen around their home. Ted Jordan Meredith, author of “Bamboo for Gardens,” notes that some bamboo species can grow more than three feet per day. Bamboo can spread as quickly as it grows, and it doesn’t respect fences or property lines. Bamboo grows particularly vigorously when adjacent to irrigated lawns and gardens or in low-lying areas that collect water. Instead of just blocking the view of nosy neighbors, you could be turning your property line into a war zone by planting bamboo. Some bamboo species may even be categorized as noxious weeds, meaning a neighbor could legally force you to remove your bamboo. You could also be liable for the cost of any damage to the neighbors’ property caused by your bamboo, and for the cost of removal from their property.

.2. Bamboo can be an invasive threat to biodiversity. Bamboo that spreads and escapes your yard can also cause ecological problems. Many spreading bamboo species are categorized as invasive exotic plants that crowd out native plants and threaten biodiversity. The best ways to contain spreading bamboo can be expensive and complicated, and may not be worth pursuing for many homeowners. Moreover, they are not foolproof. Experts at the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office recommend burying thick 60-ml polypropylene or fiberglass about three feet deep, and leaving another two inches of material above the soil to inhibit surface spreading. Morgan Judy of Clemson University Cooperative Extension suggests creating a solid barrier made of concrete, metal or pressure-treated wood at least 18 inches deep around the bamboo. Any of these barriers should stop shallow bamboo rhizomes from spreading, but Judy still recommends closely monitoring the area for escaping shoots, particularly during the early summer peak growing season.

.3. Getting rid of bamboo can take years. Bamboo is a long-term relationship that should not be entered lightly. It may take years and vigorous effort to remove unwanted bamboo. The first step in removing bamboo is to remove all the root mass and rhizomes. This is easier said than done, and many homeowners with bamboo-loving neighbors complain they can’t get rid of the spreading grass. No matter how much they dig, the shoots keep coming back. Judy suggests frequent mowing can deplete and starve the bamboo, but it take at least two years of regular mowing to see any results.

.4. Getting rid of bamboo may require herbicides. Moreover, Judy notes that chemical herbicides are often necessary for controlling bamboo. This can be a problem for those trying to maintain organic gardens and avoid herbicide use. She recommends Roundup Original, Quick Kill Grass and Weed Killer and other herbicides containing glyphosate. This broad-spectrum herbicide has minimal residual soil activity and typically kills only the plants that are directly sprayed. Mow or chop the bamboo and let it regrow until new leaves expand. Then spray the herbicide on the leaves. Again, this could take years. One application will not solve your bamboo problem. Also, Judy warns that only specialized glyphosate herbicides should be used near creeks, ponds and other surface water. Eraser AQ, Pondmaster and other products are approved for use near water.

.5. The right bamboo can be hard to find. Bamboo’s defenders will argue that not all of the more than 1,000 bamboo species are equally invasive. They recommend clumping bamboo species rather than spreading types. The problem is that even clumping species spread, albeit not as vigorously. It also can be hard to differentiate between the types, and some are mislabeled. Moreover, other similar invasive species may be confused with bamboo. For example, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension officials warn against transplanting or encouraging the giant reed (Arundo donax), a bamboo look-alike that has invaded parts of their state.

Bamboo may seem like an attractive garden option, but it poses serious problems. Stick to a lucky bamboo in a small indoor pot, or avoid growing bamboo altogether. Moreover, do your homework before buying bamboo flooring and other products. It may not be as eco-friendly or durable as you think.