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For thirty years we raised our family in the middle house in this photo, in what was a streetcar suburb built after the St. Clair line opened at the edge of Toronto in 1913. Although it is on a smallish 30 foot by 90 foot lot, it was a big house, with three stories, six bedrooms and one bathroom. Because it was on a hill, the previous owners were able to drill a garage into the basement in the 70s, something that was made illegal shortly thereafter because it was so seriously ugly. Now this house was really cold and drafty. There really was no place on the living where you could sit except in front of the gas fireplace; when our contractor, Greening Homes, did a blower test they found air coming in everywhere. They never could do the test properly to figure out the air changes at 50 pascals; the house was too leaky. But besides being interested in green living, I am also a past president of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario and I like old buildings, I love the character of the wood and the windows and there was no way I was going to gut the place and lose all that.

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view On decluttering, downsizing and surviving a green renovation as presented by: Treehugger


The crazy thing about all of the different innovative housing ideas that we show is how design is so affected by the rules. So in America you can design a shed or a recreational vehicle (why so many tiny houses are on chassis) or a mobile home or a trailer or a park model or a HUD home. All of these are subject to different building codes and more importantly, to different zoning bylaws that determine where they can go. It is much the same in the UK, with the difference that where in America, trailers are considered somewhat downmarket, there they are called Caravans. They can be quite upscale and wonderful, like this one at Brockloch bothy, built by Sam Booth of ECHO.

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view Echo Eco-pods are modular marvels as presented by: Treehugger


Last month, a group of street artists converged on Mexico’s Isla Mujeres for a festival of art and awareness. Sea Walls: Murals for Oceans is a public art project created by Pangea Seed, an organization dedicated to protecting sharks, sea life and our oceans. One of Pangea Seed’s primary means of sending their messages is through “ARTivism”—a strategy of combining art and activism. Sea walls is a beautiful example of this, bringing together artists from all over the world to make art with a message about ocean conservation. At Isla Mujeres, 15 artists from around the world created 14 large murals that explore the beauty of the sea, the creatures that inhabit it, and our complicated relationship with them.

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view Street artists strive to save the sharks with public murals as presented by: Treehugger


Pigs haven't exactly evolved for an aquatic lifestyle, but apparently that doesn't stop the pigs from Big Major Cay, aka Pig Beach or Pig Island, part of the Exuma Cays archipelago in the Bahamas. The island is uninhabited when it comes to humans, but wild pigs have taken over, and over time they became good swimmers. There are many legends and theories surrounding the swimming pigs: "[They're said] to have been dropped off on Big Major Cay by a group of sailors who wanted to come back and cook them. The sailors, though, never returned; the pigs survived on excess food dumped from passing ships. One other legend has it that the pigs were survivors of a shipwreck and managed to swim to shore[8] while another claims that the pigs had escaped from a nearby islet. Others suggest that the pigs were part of a business scheme to attract tourists to the Bahamas." Eric Cheng, a photographer who went to the island, had this to say: "Because locals bring food, the pigs will run into the water and actually swim out to the oncoming boats, as if to greet them individually. It is strange enough to see pigs laying around on tropical beaches of white sand, but to see them then charge into the water to greet oncoming boats is just bizarre."

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"Fire Island Modernist: Horace Gifford and the Architecture of Seduction" is a new book by Christopher Rawlins that chronicles the life and work of an architect whose beach houses were a lesson in sustainable design before green building was in vogue. Ten years of archival work went into the creation of the book, and this slide show provides a taste of Rawlins' findings. "The houses were built around the landforms in such a way that maximized the sense of the site," said Rawlins. "It wasn't just the way it was built, but the materials that were chosen too." Gifford's houses are built from local wood and other materials that could be carried to construction site "by hand." Images courtesy of Christopher Rawlins and ARTBOOK.

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view Horace Gifford's Sustainable Fire Island Beach Houses as presented by: Treehugger


Photographer Francis Prior puts insects under his macro lens and snaps portraits with amazing detail. Prior's interest in macro insect photography stems from a source familiar to us -- a fellow photographer named Thomas Shahan. We have featured Shahan's work here on TreeHugger, and he has even been on the Today Show showing off his amazing photography. So it is no wonder that other photographers would want to try their hand at documenting this fascinating world of bugs. Prior has taken his love of the natural world and the inspiration of other photographers and created a wonderful following of his own with his detailed portraits of a world we rarely see, let alone appreciate. Enjoy the photos in this slideshow, and learn more about how Prior creates these images.

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view Incredible Bug Photos: Portraits Of Insects Up Close as presented by: Treehugger


We recently published an article about Maremma sheepdogs being used as bodyguards to protect Fairy Penguins (aka Little Penguins, Blue Penguins, Korora penguins, etc) from foxes, and a lot of readers told us that they just loved the little blue guys and wanted more. So I figured, why not indulge a bit with a Fairy Penguin special feature! Fairy Penguins only grow to about 12-13 inches on average (30-33 cm), weighting in at a featherweight of around 3 pounds (1.5 kg). This shot provides some scale. You can really see just how small Fairy Penguins are compared to a human.

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Two guys, Abe and Jon, have allowed us to share their great project for making your own bicycle powered generator for charging your electronics with clean energy for every day or as an emergency power supply. Under the Instructables user name abemckay, they guys shared what you need to make your own generator in just nine steps.

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view Make a Bicycle Powered Generator in 9 Steps as presented by: Treehugger

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