Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Please call us if your organization, class room or other civic groups would like a tour of the Tuscarora Landfill. We are also available to bring our presentation to you.

Call us at 252-633-1564 or e-mail us at

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Green roof-topped development

Green roof-topped development to turn elderly residents into social butterflies

The hills are very much alive — and active — at a mountainous, Bjarke Ingels Group-designed development for residents of a certain age in Hualien, Taiwan.

Given that I’ve taken a gander at the big, small-minded winners in the 2014 Architizer A+ Awards, I figured that it would only be fair to take a quick glimpse at a non-tiny residential project in another one of the awards' “Plus” categories that “explore that link between global issues and the structures that society builds.”

I was immediately drawn to the winners/finalists in the “Architecture +Aging” category as architecture and aging is a topic that I’ve associated with Architizer long before the website’s glitzy award-bestowing days — it's something very much embedded into the DNA of the site. Architizer co-founder Matthias Hollwich was the driving force behind the University of Pennsylvania’s New Aging conference in 2010 and, together with Architizer honcho/HWKN partner Marc Kushner, Hollwich dreamt up BOOM, a totally wild eco-retirement community proposed for outside of Palm Springs — I called it "more South Beach by way of Dubai than Shady Pines" — where keeping busy is the key to health and longevity.

And on the topic of keeping busy, it would appear that — when not designing park-studded “protective ribbons” for Lower Manhattan, LEGO experience centers, or trash-incinerating ski resorts — Danish starchitect/sustainable hedonist Bjarke Ingels and his namesake firm, BIG, have found the time to create a lush, alpine-inspired development (his most peak-heavy yet?) for Hualien County, Taiwan, where residents are encouraged to keep in constant motion by utilizing a meandering public path (complete with a designated speed-walking lane) that weaves throughout the development as a means of encouraging social interaction and physical fitness. And if the weather is ever less than ideal, not to worry — there's always the underground jogging path.

The Hualien Wellness & Residential development seeks to find the perfect balance between nature, health and the built environment. Sloping green roofs provide shade, remove heat, harvest rainwater and produce clean, breathable air, while the proximity to lush vegetation in the apartments creates a stress-relieving environment for residents.

Hualien, situated on the eastern coast of Taiwan, has seen an out flux of young people seeking better job opportunities, but population ageing is prompting a growing demand for a “second home” where retired seniors can enjoy an active lifestyle. The Hualien development places a particular focus on exercise and healthy living, with programs catering to an ageing demographic. The buildings are shaped to encourage the growth of a community that is health-conscious and productive. In addition to designated speed walking paths, a public path wraps around the entire complex and is studded with interesting activities to pique interest and encourage more walking and exercise, such as an observation point, performance stage, shops and restaurants. An underground jogging path can be used during inclement weather and serves as an excellent shortcut to all buildings via an interior route. A medical facility located within the complex ensures that residents have ready access to healthcare services.

The project description goes on to explain that the units within the vegetation-clad development, commissioned by the Taiwan Land Development Corporation, are actually pretty bare bones — just the "basic functions" — as to encourage residents to get outside, exercise, and take advantage of the development's myriad communal amenities — gardens, swimming pools, lounges, kitchens, meditation rooms, and the like — where they can “share and learn from each other" and assist in "building a community." But for evidenced in the project renderings, those who do decide to stay in are rewarding with cuddlin' kittens.

Lots more jaw-dropping renderings and info on the project, also a finalist in the MIPIM Awards, can be found over at Architizer. It's also worth noting that Ingels himself served on the large, "blue-chip cast" of jury members for the 2014 Architizer A+ Awards. And while the Hualien Residences didn't win in the Architecture +Aging category (that honor went to LOFT MNN by C.T. Architects), BIG's design for the Danish Maritime Museum did pick up the jury prize in the Museum category.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fort Macon State Park

Fort Macon State Park is situated at the eastern end of Bogue Banks in Carteret County, North Carolina. This barrier island has become heavily developed in recent years, leaving the park as the only large natural area on the island. Fort Macon offers a wide range of programs: EELE "Barrier Beginnings," Turtle Talk and Fort History. The environmental education program for school groups centers around a curriculum packet called the Environmental Education Learning Experience (EELE). The EELE contains pre-visit, on-site and post-visit activities that focus on the park's unique natural features and are correlated to North Carolina Department of Public Instruction objectives. Contact the park for more information about the park's EELE and other environmental education programs and activities for the general public.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

13 natural remedies for the ant invasion

13 natural remedies for the ant invasion

Ants are making their way into homes this time of year. Thankfully there are natural pest control methods to help you cope with and eliminate the problem. Plus, many of the solutions use what you already have in your cupboard!

Little tiny ants have been spotted in our new home, and many people are suffering the same fate across the country. As much as I love spring, I don't like bugs — especially bugs that can infest a house. Last week I asked for some advice in how to deal with ants naturally as I didn't have time to research it myself since I just moved this weekend. I got such good advice, I had to share it with the readers here at MNN as well.

Some of these measures are deterrents. That is, they deter the ants from coming in your house. This seems to work well for those with a mild problem. Others found that they needed to use a method that kills the whole colony of ants. I've compiled the comments and suggestions by category, allowing you to compare the different methods a little more easily.

1. Lemon juice

Teresa: We just spray around the openings with pure lemon juice … and it always works for us … something about the acid messes up their sense of tracking…

2. Cinnamon

Shayla: We use ground cinnamon around where there are coming it. It works really well.

Peggy: We spray cinnamon essential oil all around the doors, windowsills, floors, etc. keeps them from coming in. I put the sugar water and borax OUTSIDE!

Letia: Another vote for ground cinnamon. Easy to clean up afterwards and worked great for us!!!

Jean: Cinnamon and cloves. Makes your house smell nice and the ants just hate it sprinkled right in their path.

Patricia: We also use cinnamon oil. We draw borders around everything with a Q-tip dipped in it. They won’t cross it.

3. Peppermint

Heather: My mother-in-law has success with peppermint essential oil around windows and doors (any entries). Plus her house then smells awesome.

Julie: Dr. Bonner’s liquid soap in the mint aroma. Mix 1 to 1 with water in a spray bottle. Spray on the ant invasion and watch them suffer.

4. Borax, water and sugar

Kristi: We use borax, sugar, water and a touch of peanut butter. It takes a couple of weeks but really works. We used it last year in our old house and are implementing it again this spring in our new house. Pesky ants! Here is the site where I found the recipe:

Christy: I second Diana’s comment about borax and sugar. I’ve made a thin paste before with water, sugar and borax, then spread it on little pieces of thin cardboard or stiff cardstock and placed them near where it seems they are coming into the house. They’ll eat it and take it back to their colony (just like the Terro liquid you can buy). The paste will dry up in a couple days, so you’ll have to make more. But I think I only had to do it twice before they were gone.

Chookie: What worked for us was a mixture of borax and sugar in water. Several years ago, we lived in a house where there was an ants nest in the walls. Removing it would have meant virtually demolishing the entire front wall of the house (not practical!), so instead, after a year or two of having flying ants swarm into our bedroom every year we decided to go on an ant killing spree. Conventional ant killers didn’t work. Borax and powdered sugar didn’t work. But adding water to the borax and sugar mix to make a thick sugary borax-y syrup DID work…. the worker ants took it back into the nest and it positioned the queen – result = no more flying ants. OK, so borax does need to be kept away from pets and small children, but it is relatively safe beyond that as it is only toxic if you eat it. my solution was to put it somewhere where the kids and the cats would not reach it but the ants could.

BeverlyC: We live in China and had a HORRIBLE ant problem in our house. Tried cinnamon, black pepper, vinegar, etc. etc. We were concerned about the borax because we have guests in and out regularly and the little children are often, well, naughty and undisciplined. When someone suggested Terro liquid ant bait and we found it was just Borax and sugar, we asked someone to bring us some. We could pick the traps up and put them away when company came and put them back out after they left. They worked wonders!!

5. Boiling water and dish soap

Jennie: We make sure all of our food is sealed up. The honey jar is usually the biggest ant magnet, so it gets a thorough washing and then is placed on a small water-filled saucer in the cupboard. We use a spray bottle filled with water and a squirt of liquid dish soap (I use Seventh Generation) to kill any visible ants. I also look around outside to try to find their hill; pouring a kettle of boiling water on it solves the problem.

Christy: I’ve done what Jennie mentioned too – boiling water will destroy an ant colony, or weeds popping up between sidewalk cracks or in mulch. It’s an easy, purely natural way to kill things that we don’t often think about.

6. Diatomaceous earth

Karen: Yes … diatomaceous earth (DE) works well … use food-grade not swimming pool DE. It should be sprinkled around the perimeter of your new home and you can also safely sprinkle it inside where you see them. Do not wet the DE or it will not work. DE isn’t an instant kill but should resolve the problem within a week or so.

Jami: I have a pretty serious any invasion at my house too. When I moved in last April they had already made themselves at home. I did the cinnamon thing last year and worked ok, but they just kept finding new ways in. My ants weren’t attracted to sugary things, but protein, especially the dog food. This year I made some borax cookies and put them in the old fireplace where I noticed the ants returning a week ago. I also sprinkled DE around the perimeter of my kitchen and that seems to have worked better than anything so far for immediate results.

7. Chalk

Natalie: Oh! And they will not cross a line drawn in chalk. I drew a line around my window where they were coming in and it kept them at bay.

Anali: My grandparents had really good results with the line of chalk, they used powder that you can get at home improvement stores. It comes in a squeezey bottle so it’s easy to lay down a line with.

8. Baking soda and powdered sugar

Jennifer: Ants carry an acidic substance with them always for protection. I do a mix of baking soda and powdered sugar in a plastic lid set in strategic places. I think a little volcanic science experiment happens inside their bodies. Over the course of several days, it has made a huge difference.

9. Coffee grounds

Lea: I have had success with used coffee grounds, I did know where their entry was, after putting it in the cracks they never returned. I also do know it doesn’t kill them, it just makes them move homes, (we have put them on beds outside and we just see them pop up a small distance away.

10. Cornmeal

Jill: One more thing to add to this. I saw somewhere to use corn meal. Well, it worked out since some moths got into my cornmeal, and I felt bad wasting it. That’s when I saw the idea and tried it. I sprinkled a little bit just off the back porch. Every day I would check and every day the same trail of ants was still there. Then I forgot about it. My daughter found another ant nest further out in the yard, and it made me remember to check the last trail. It was gone, completely gone. So, I sprinkled it on the new nest, and less than a week later, it is gone. If you google it there are a ton of places where it mentions it. Here’s just one link, and if you scroll to the Tip there is still another idea using molasses. Although if cornmeal will work I think it’s cheaper, and safer around kids and pets.

11. Cream of Wheat

Rebecca: Cream of wheat! They eat it & it expands & they explode! Ha! I used it in my garden for ant problems. Kind of makes you wonder what it does to our insides when we eat it too

12. Vinegar

Kristie: Vinegar! Since we switched to using a vinegar/water solution for mopping the floors and cleaning the counters, our ant problem has vanished.

Mysty: Vinegar is the one sure solution, but you need to pour it where the ants have their nest, not just to where they walk around. If you find their nest just pour about 0.5-1 L of white (cheap) vinegar. I never had ant problems but my grandparents sometimes has as they has a big farm and there is always an ant problem is some corner of the farm.

Cath: We used a mixture of vinegar, washing up liquid (ecover) and peppermint oil last year. Tracked them back to their nest and syringed it into the cracks. They never came back.

13. Equal

Tea Leaf: We killed our ants by mixing Equal packets with apple juice. It is a neurotoxin to the ants. Scary that people put these in their coffee.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

5 ways to reuse a two-liter plastic bottle

5 ways to reuse a two-liter plastic bottle

Nearly everyone has bought a delicious sugary drink in a two-liter bottle at some point. What do you do when the bottle is empty?

By: Eileen Campbell

Recycling plastic is very important, especially now that the effects of climate change can be seen around the country. According to Earth911, only about 27 percent of plastic is recycled in the U.S. When you think about how much we use, it's astounding. However, there are some innovative ways to recycle plastic bottles! Two-liter bottles in particular are versatile. Here some ways you can reuse them in your own back yard!

1. Grow plants

Once you empty and wash a two-liter plastic bottle, it can be used for quite a lot of things. You can actually grow plants in one, if you cut it a certain way and give it the proper drainage. To make a basic plant pot, cut the bottle in half (short-ways, not long-ways), and use the bottom portion to fill with soil. You'll need to poke some holes in the bottom so the plant can drain properly. Using the bottom of the bottle (which is specially shaped to allow it to stand up) keeps the pot secure and unlikely to tip over. You can also make a mini hanging basket out of this sort of pot, if you punch holes in the side to attach a string to hang the pot from. These pots are generally suited for small plants, so they are good for starting plants out (you may have to re-pot them when they get too big). Alternatively, you can also use the bottle for starting seedlings! If you cut the bottle longways, it makes a nice long tray that you can fill with soil and start some baby plants. These will obviously need to be repotted, too, but you can start a lot of seedlings this way.

2. Make a birdfeeder

This is something that is done very often with plastic bottles of this size. If you poke large enough holes for birds to poke their beaks through, and fill the bottle with seeds, it can function as a bird feeder. You also might want to use small pieces of wood dowels to attach near the holes, so the birds have a place to perch. Since these bottles are large, they are better used for larger seeds such as corn, peanuts or sunflower seeds. Small seeds like thistles are likely to just fall out of the holes you make.

3. Give birds a home

Since two-liter bottles are relatively large, they can be used for a birdhouse as well. You should cut one main circular hole in the middle for the birds to enter, and use a similar sort of perch that you would put on a birdfeeder for the outside of the hole. It's also a nice option to fill the birdhouse with material birds might use for a nest. Since the bottle is clear, it's best if you paint the bottle before using it as a birdhouse, so the birds will have privacy and protection. Any color will work, although if you paint the bottle the color of a tree, birds might be more likely to come because it looks more natural. Once the birdhouse is painted and fully assembled, you can tie a string around the top of the bottleneck (make sure the bottle cap is on!), and hang it from a tree branch.

4. Hatch some butterflies

If you cut off the top of a two liter bottle, it can be used for a relatively spacious habitat to grow baby caterpillars. Once you cut off the top, you can cover the place where the top was with a piece of cloth, which will allow any caterpillars you keep inside to breathe. You can raise a number of different types of caterpillars in your caterpillar habitat, depending on where you live. In Illinois, we've been able to raise monarch, swallowtail and painted lady eggs into full grown butterflies. Make sure to feed the caterpillars the leaves they would normally feed on in the wild, and regularly rid the habitat of dead leaves and/or waste. When the caterpillars get large enough that they are about to make their chrysalises, it's helpful to put a few sticks in the habitat, so they have something to hang from. They might hang from the cloth as well, so it's important to make sure the cloth is tight around the top of the enclosure. Use a rubber band to make sure of this. And when the butterflies hatch, you can let them go in the wild!

5. Make a terrarium

I mentioned how to make a terrarium in one of my most recent posts. However, you do not just have to stick to a glass container! You can make a terrarium out of a plastic bottle, too, albeit a small one. As with any terrarium, make sure to put pebbles in the bottom, under the soil, for proper drainage. For a terrarium of this size, moss or small tropical plants might be best. There are many tiny varieties of plants grown just for this purpose, so take a look at your local nursery to see what they have. Once the plants are firmly in the soil, water them, and then close the lid of the bottle. It's as easy as that.

Hopefully, more and more people will recycle plastic. With these sorts of ideas, especially for those of us inclined toward nature, remembering to recycle plastic bottles can even be fun!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Recycling craft: Seed starters

Recycling craft: Seed starters

Raid your recycling bin to create fast and easy seed starters for your garden.

Warmer temperatures and longer days means that it's finally time to start thinking about your summer garden. Planting seeds indoors is a good way to get a jump start on the growing season. And fortunately, you don't need much in the way of supplies to get it going. In fact, you probably have everything you need right in your recycling bin. Here's how it's done:

Metal cans, yogurt containers, water bottles, toilet paper tubes, and egg cartons all make excellent seed starter containers. And the best part is that your kids can lend a hand and decorate their containers. Punch a few small holes in the bottoms of your containers to allow water to drain, decorate the sides with stickers, recycled paper, or paint, fill with soil, plant a few seeds, and watch your bounty grow. Once the seeds have sprouted, gently remove the plants from the containers and plant in the ground.

Need more ideas? Try these tips for organic seed starters that can be buried right with your plants.

Newspaper: Fold it in half lengthwise and roll it around a soda can. Fold the bottom over, fill with soil and plant your seeds.

Egg Shells: Save the shells from your next omelet, gently clean them with mild soap and water and return to the egg carton. Fill each shell with soil and plant your seeds. When it's time to plant, gently crush the egg shell and plant it in the ground with your plant.

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