Summer Spotlight: Striving for Marine Conservation

While everyone is enjoying summer weather, vacation, relaxing on the beach, or even shopping on the boardwalk, there’s a major crisis happening that many are unaware of. Despite sustainable efforts and marine conservation research, the ocean is in great danger. With plastics and other contaminates making their way, not only into the water but into marine life’s environment, it’s a clear sign that the world needs to do something about it. Here are some nonprofits around the globe striving to make an impact on the environment to conserve marine life and our oceans.

Pura Vida Bracelets

Spanish for “pure life”, Pura Vida is a Costa Rican saying to encourage the appreciation of life’s simple treasures. Celebrating the good and living a slow life is what Pura Vida strives to embody. This bracelet company was founded on the philosophy of a laid back lifestyle that makes a notable impact on society.

Each bracelet is hand-crafted by artisans in Costa Rica, providing the artisans with full-time jobs and a better life. Although Pura Vida partners with over 190 charities donating to great causes, Pura Vida has a strong connection with marine life and ocean conservation. From supporting environmental causes for saving dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, orcas and more, Pura Vida is a prime example of how one small thing can make a big difference.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Including animal care and exhibits, 61% of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s profitgoes towards conservation and science education programs. The aquarium attracts not only guests from all over the world, but also volunteers and supporters too. Making ocean health, ocean wildlife, climate action for the ocean, sustainable fisheries and reducing ocean plastic a priority, Monterey Bay Aquarium is fighting the good fight to a more sustainable world for the sake of the ocean and all of it’s inhabitants.

Shark Savers

Through establishing and building awareness, education, and action, Shark Savers’ main goal is to save sharks and manta rays. Over recent years, the populations of sharks and manta rays have been dwindling due to a few reasons: overfishing, contaminated oceans and even shark fin soup which is considered a delicacy in foreign countries. The “I’m FINished with FINs” campaign, Shark Savers seeks to reduce the consumption of sharks, altogether reducing sharks used for soup and cosmetics.

This program of WildAid, an environmental organization, stresses the importance of spreading awareness and inspiring action. Shark Savers provides a great example of how campaigns can make a lasting impact. Would you want shark fins in your soup?

World Wildlife Fund

Being home to more than 2 million species, marine life depends on the ocean’s biodiversity and resilient ecosystems. The ocean plays a critical role in the planet remaining inhabitable for all forms of life. From the micro bacteria to human beings, the ocean provides ample oxygen, regulates climate and circulates global carbon. With the World Wildlife Fund, this organization has a keen focus on rejuvenating the ocean’s health through sustainable livelihoods. 

Norton Point

Recently, I published a blog on the dangers of plastic in the ocean. One extremely cool brand dedicated to reducing ocean plastic is Norton Point. Sea Plastic Differently is an environmental initiative from this sunglass company. Creating sustainable eyewear, Norton Point takes plastic straight from the ocean and turns it into a wearable item. Taking sustainability one step further, Norton Point also collects plastic from landfills to reduce the amount of plastic that makes its way into the ocean.

Norton Point’s ultimate passion for ocean conservation shows that it’s possible to turn trash into treasure while saving the planet at the same time. Additionally, 5% of their net profit is donated to research and educational efforts.

Together, these nonprofits and organizations are showing the world how to step up. Supporting causes for marine conservation is as simple as one donation or even getting out there to volunteer. The world can make the ocean a thriving ecosystem once again, it just takes effort around the globe.

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5 Tips When Traveling Alone

Flying solo, both literally and metaphorically, can be a daunting experience. Without a companion alongside you on all of your adventures, traveling can feel quite lonely. Embrace any feeling of loneliness in a positive way, and make the most out of your individual vacation. Here are a few things to consider when visiting foreign countries, states, or provinces by yourself.

Practice proper safety

With traveling alone comes a little less security. Study the area you are visiting before reaching said destination. Be wary of neighborhoods or areas that may have higher crime rates than others. Sticking to well-lit, public areas is a good way to prevent making yourself a target. With that said, don’t be flashy with expensive clothing or jewelry. This is a dead giveaway that you’re a tourist, which may make you an easy target for theft or scams. Don’t give out any personal information about yourself to anyone other than those you trust. Unfortunately, you cannot trust everyone.

Learn the local language

Making an effort to learn the native tongue of the area you’re visiting will show locals that you respect their culture, and are eager to learn. This is almost always met with appreciation, and can benefit you greatly in certain situations. For example, if you’re lost or unsure of the location of somewhere you intend to go to, speaking the language of those around you will most likely receive an answer better than just English.

Don’t be a recluse

A common urge of those who travel alone is to stay inside and avoid interaction. This will only create missed opportunities of meeting friends, trying new things, and experiencing the culture as a whole. Participating in local tours, visiting coffee shops or restaurants, and sightseeing are all ways to meet new people, and make the most out of your trip.

Go off the beaten path

While participating in touristy activities can be fun, don’t limit yourself to just that. Look into less popular hiking trails, museums, or small towns. These could provide some of the truest cultural experiences available in the country you’re visiting.Travelers who meet in environments like these will be more inclined to talk to one another as well.

Have fun

A basic tip that goes without saying, but don’t be afraid to enjoy the little things just because you are by yourself. Consider going to a dinner and a show. These typically have scheduled seating; another opportunity to meet new people. Having a drink or two won’t hurt. Bars are some of the most social environments in cities around the world. Comfortably setting yourself up on a bar stool alone isn’t something to be ashamed of. More often than not, exuding confidence in a situation like this will attract others.

Traveling alone is a considerably admirable thing to do. Always remind yourself that you bravely chose to visit a destination without any help, and be sure to embrace all cultures at your expense in order to experience a truly remarkable vacation.

How Flood-Resistant Buildings Work

Picture this: you’ve just moved to a nice little cottage by the sea. You’ve got some beautiful views, and you’re literally steps away from the beach. It’s almost like a dream. And then a hurricane hits, and suddenly you’ve woken up from your dream as your little cottage is destroyed by a devastating cocktail of wind, rain, and flood.  Instead of moving somewhere a bit further away from the coast, you choose to rebuild. But what do you do, or how do you rebuild, to ensure that this doesn’t happen again?

Structure

Coastal regions such as Florida and South Carolina have a long history of getting hit hard (and often) with hurricanes. Over many years of dealing with destruction, flooding, and rebuilding, they’ve discovered three basic principles: elevate structures, build with materials that can get wet, and build structures that can easily dry when that happens. For new buildings, the first levels are typically used for parking, storage, and building access, regions that can afford to get wet. If homes are elevated high enough, then the flooding water won’t get into the bottom floors and cause horrific water damage.

To combat water damage in a building, ventilation is essential. Cavities in a building should be designed to be ventilated, and interior cavities shouldn’t have any insulation (more on that in a bit), and be designed to allow vent openings to be easily provided at the top and bottom.

Materials

Buildings, in addition to being elevated, shouldn’t be built out of water-sensitive materials.  Florida has been pioneering this movement, with the majority of new buildings in the state being constructed from masonry and concrete. If Floridians want to use water-sensitive materials for aesthetic reasons, they do it smart. For example, if they’re going for a “rustic” look, then they’ll build the first level from masonry, and then the top level will be made of wood. This practice actually has its origins in the Middle Ages, when the bottom levels of structures were made from stone to resist invaders.

Two of the most water-sensitive materials out there are also pretty common in building: paper-faced gypsum board, and fiberglass, used to insulate cavities. To minimize water damage, those have got to go, but they can be replaced pretty painlessly.  For example, use non-paper-faced gypsum board on the inside of assemblies and exterior of non-combustible assemblies.  Instead of fiberglass cavity installations, install your insulation on the exterior of steel stud assemblies, and design your cavity to be ventilated after water comes along.

When constructing exterior surfaces, avoid both wood and wood-based cladding and trim materials. Instead, look at fiber-cement and plastic composite materials. Make all exterior cladding and trim “back vented”, and if you still absolutely 100% have to use wood trim and cladding, then coat it on all sides before it’s installed to reduce water absorption.

Things to Do in the Mile High City

At the foot of the Rocky Mountains lies the great city of Denver; a town bustling with culture, breweries, and proud sports fans ready to welcome tourists with open arms. If you’re looking for a summer getaway without extreme levels of heat, this city may be the perfect travel spot for you.

Denver is renowned for its beautiful scenery and parks, which act as perfect buffers during business trips, as the city is a fairly popular destination for business travel. Whether you’re here for a few days on business, or a few weeks for a relaxing getaway, the things you can do in Denver are enough to fill your itinerary.

Coors Field

Home to the MLB team Colorado Rockies, this baseball stadium has one of the greatest views in the entire league, as the Rocky Mountains are able to be seen (from higher seats of course). If you’re unable to catch an actual baseball game, the stadium offers tours throughout the year providing history on the team and facility. Coors Field also houses the Mountain Ranch Club; a bar and grille with outdoor seating.

16th Street Mall

In a city full of enormous buildings and skyscrapers, it is refreshing for most to see a long stretch of restaurants, shops, and department stores breaking up the monotony. 16th Street in downtown Denver is a bustling strip of boutiques void of traffic. The only car you’ll see in this area is the shuttle bus taking shoppers to and from stores and restaurants. With 42 outdoor cafes in and around the mall, it may be difficult deciding where you wish to grab a bite. The restaurants, breweries, and cafes range from casual to fine dining. For those visiting the mall after hours, horse-drawn carriages are available at dusk to transport you wherever you wish to go.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Located in City Park, the city’s Museum of Nature and Science is full of rich history dating all the way back to the Jurassic period. Dinosaur skeletons, rocks and minerals, and one of Colorado’s biggest nuggets of gold ever discovered are just a few of the many exhibits this museum houses. Additionally, there is an IMAX theatre, planetarium, and a new exhibit on the history of vikings.

Rocky Mountain National Park

What trip to Denver would be complete without a hike through the Rocky Mountains? This national park is full of breathtaking mountains, lakes, and plantlife, setting the scene for a truly beautiful adventure. There are several visitor centers throughout the park should you be overwhelmed by the sheer size of the park. Most will suggest checking out Bear Lake, the Rainbow Curve Overlook, and a hike up Longs Peak, should you be in a physical state allowing you to journey up such a mountain. Regardless, this park is full of activities for family members of all ages, and makes for a very memorable Colorado vacation. Before embarking on this journey however, be sure to visit the park’s website to check for daily hazards, weather conditions, and general alerts to guarantee your safety.

3 Airports That Give Free Tours During Your Layover

One of the worst parts of any airline trip is a lengthy layover during your flight. Your time may be spent browsing the internet, trying to catch a nap on uncomfortable seats or window shopping the same stores over and over again. Although airports try to provide diversions like movies, arcades and sports bars, six hours can be hard to take. Happily, there are some airports that offer free tours lasting from a few hours to as much as six hours that you can take at no cost while you wait for your flight.

There are many options to take guided tours or tour on your own to see the sights. Because you are considered an “in transit passenger” you will not need a visa to take these tours. Here are three cities that allow for a quick getaway before your flight.

Salt Lake City International Airport

If you have a few hours, you can take a shuttle from the airport to Temple Square, Utah’s most popular tourist destination. It is located right in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City and the tour is free. The site is replete with historic structures for those history buffs. At Christmas, the lights are stunning and said to be the best on the West Coast. From one of the many rooftop restaurants you can get spectacular views of the city while you dine on local fare.

Narita International Airport in Tokyo, Japan

Choose a self-guided tour or hire a local tour guide to point out the sights of the city. There is the famed Narita-san Shin shoji Temple or the wonderful cherry blossom gardens for a stroll. Sample the local cuisine or visit an iconic Japanese shrine. One of the scheduled tours takes visitors to the Museum of Aeronautical Science. For a self-guided shopping tour a shuttle bus can take you to Shusui Premium Outlets or AEON Mall Narita.

Ataturk Airport Istanbul,Turkey

If you have a 6 hour layover and are a passenger on Turkish Airlines, you can see Istanbul on one of five tours offered daily. A shorter tour of 2-1/2 hours is also available. Stops include The Grand Bazaar, the world’s biggest and oldest covered market, Hagia Sophia for a view of Byzantine architecture, the Walls of Constantine and of course shopping. Depending on the time of your tour, you may also be treated to free lunch or dinner.

Artificial Intelligence in Civil Engineering

AI in CE

Civil engineering is a field that has been around for years, and will continue to be a central part of society for years to come. The construction industry as a whole is vital to the function of cities around the world, and must be constantly adapting in order to maintain its structure, both literally and figuratively.

Advancements in engineering technology throughout time have allowed those working in the field to stay on top of the ever changing world. For example, the development of tools dating back to the Stone Age has stood the test of time, including hammers, axes, sickles for harvesting, and drills. Techniques, designs, and the materials used have changed time and time again, and are continuing to do so. This brings forth the idea of incorporating one of the most groundbreaking forms of technology today in civil engineering, which is artificial intelligence.

Many people seem to agree that the next industrial revolution is nearing with how rapidly technology is advancing, and how much leaders in the field of engineering have been striving to create new ways of completing tasks much more simply. The introduction of artificial intelligence in civil engineering could allow the most commonly used, and most effective machines to think on their own.

The requirement of big data can be made much simpler with artificial intelligence. Civil engineering has become an industry full of smoothly run computers, but AI would be able to self-diagnose, learn, and multitask with the help of manmade framework through these computers. Experienced practitioners would not have to tap into their mathematical skills nearly as much with machines in place capable of doing their jobs for them. Cutting the time required in half, AI would be able to solve the world’s most complex problems with the intelligence of the field’s most skilled professionals.

For the entire blog and more, visit SahbaNaderi.com!

Charities That Promote Clean Water

Gathering water puts a burden on many poor families in developing countries. Often people have to travel for hours just to get water. Sometimes this task falls to the children. In recognition of the global water crisis, the United Nations designated March 22 as World Water Day. Here are some charitable organizations whose mission is to bring clean water to underserved communities throughout the world.

Charity: Water is a ten year old New York based charity that has helped to fund 20,000 water projects in over 20 developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. 100% of public donations go directly to clean water projects including wells and water filtration systems. The charity uses social media platforms to bring attention to the global issue of water.

MIYA focuses on reducing non-revenue water (NRW) or fresh water that is lost from the distribution system before it reaches the consumer. These municipalities suffer a loss of millions of cubic meters of clean water every day. MIYA also promotes community awareness about water preservation. In addition to delivering more clean water, cities save energy and get lower costs for water. The program currently operates in the Philippines, Brazil, Canada, South Africa and the Bahamas.

WaterisLife cites its mission as bringing clean water to needy populations through short and long term solutions. The organization developed a water filtration system call The Straw. When this device is immersed in a water source, water borne bacteria is removed with each sip. The device lasts up to one year. In terms of long range goals, the program promotes sanitation, hygiene and education about how diseases are spread. Countries served by WaterisLife are Haiti, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and parts of South America.

PureMadi is non-profit organization composed of faculty and students from the University of Virginia. Working with the University of Venda in South Africa, the team produces ceramic water filters using local materials to efficiently purify water. They also created MadiDrop—a simple water purification tablet that can disinfect water for up to six months.

Water.org is an organization co-founded by Matt Damon and Gary White. The organization provides information about good hygiene and basic sanitation to local communities in developing countries. They also work to secure safe water by building wells. Donors to the charity can track progress by using  GPS coordinates. The co-founders also created WaterCredit, a nonprofit which connects micro-financiers with individuals and communities who use small loans to build wells and toilets.

Toronto Travel Guide

In Canada’s province of Ontario lies the country’s biggest city, and Ontario’s capital; Toronto. If you’re planning on traveling in the near future and don’t mind colder temperatures, this city is perfect for groups and families of all sizes. Though Canada may not be the first country to come to mind when thinking of vacation spots, Toronto hosts a buzzing entertainment district, and attractions everyone can enjoy. Below are just a few of the city’s best offerings.

The CN Tower

Perhaps Toronto’s most famous landmark, it would be hard to miss this building, standing at an impressive height of 553 meters. After its completion in 1976, it briefly held the title of tallest freestanding structure in the world, though that record was broken long ago. For a truly breathtaking view, the CN tower allows you to ride the Sky Pod, which reaches 447 meters off the ground. From here, so long as the weather permits, views allow you to see as far as Niagara Falls and parts of New York.

For thrillseekers, the CN Tower offers what is called the “Edge Walk,” a hands-free trek around the structure’s main pod 116 stories above the ground. It is also worth noting that the ledge you walk across is only 5 feet in diameter, so if an adrenaline rush is what you’re looking for, this is the attraction for you.

Toronto Islands

Just a short ferry ride outside the city lies these beautiful islands that permits kayaking, sailing, swimming, and hiking around the perimeter. Marinas lining the coasts bring a touch of class as well, attracting everything from yachts to fishing boats, while the Centreville Amusement Park provides entertainment for the kids. During the summer, the islands host numerous open-air events like aerial acrobatics and airshows.

Distillery District

Once a historic area of brick victorian buildings serving as a whiskey distillery turned a scenic downtown shopping area, the Toronto Distillery District has boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants of all kinds. Restored nearly 10 years ago, developers managed to combine the beautiful aesthetics of the industrial revolution with modern architecture and eco-friendly technology. Additionally, the district hosts a variety of performing arts schools and venues for those interested.

Niagara Falls

Of course Niagara Falls was going to make the list of best tourist attractions in Toronto, though it isn’t technically in the city. However, a little over an hour ride in a cab or Uber will bring you to one of the world’s most famous waterfalls. Once you’ve reached your destination, it is highly recommended that you hop aboard the Maid of the Mist. This boat ride allows you to get up close and personal with the falls, without putting yourself in danger.

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

In the heart of the Toronto Entertainment District sits this newly established aquarium that features a moving walkway through an underwater tunnel, surrounded by a huge variety of sharks and other fish. As if it weren’t already extremely kid-friendly, the aquarium hosts sleepovers for children of all ages along with any parents interested in joining.

How You Can Help Local Wildlife

eirik-olsen-67776There are a large number of species currently considered endangered at the moment, and a fair amount on the brink of extinction. From elephants, to gorillas, to the black rhinoceros, all of these animals need our help if they are to survive, and hopefully, reproduce enough to become self-sustaining once again.

While journeying to the country of origin of the animal that you wish to help can be a truly rewarding experience, it can be difficult, and expensive. Rather, there are a number of simple strategies you can implement to do your part right at home.

Educate yourself

Learn about any endangered species in your area, and promote that education throughout your community. The more friends and family members know about the dire situation these species face, the more likely they are to do their parts. Understand how this wildlife plays a part in your community rather than just the anesthetic reasons. Plants and animals alike often play great roles in their local areas including the control of other population sizes, clean air and water, and commercial benefits.

Modify your home

Many wild animals are attracted to houses in their communities due to easily controllable factors. To prevent them from developing a dependency on human resources and becoming comfortable around humans in general, properly secure any garbage cans you have, feed pets indoors, and avoid feeding any yourself. The reason being, wild animals that regularly visit residential neighborhoods looking for food can pose as dangerous, increase their chance of being hit by cars, and may also begin to starve without the help of human-produced food.

Another great way to help out your local wildlife (birds specifically) is to place decals on your windows. An astonishing 988 million birds die every year due to window collisions, simply by misjudging the distance or not seeing the glass at all. By placing decals or stickers on a window that clearly indicate its distance, you can prevent this number from rising.

Be eco-friendly

Regular maintenance on your home garden and yard can help it maintain its visual appeal, but using herbicides and pesticides are hazardous on many levels. Beginning at one of the smallest levels of the food chain, insects and rodents that may eat these poisoned plants can lead to poisoning their predators i.e. foxes, hawks, owls, etc. The effects are damaging and long lasting. Instead, try attracting native bees and butterflies to pollinate your plants and flowers. By doing so, local plants will flourish, and invasive species are not introduced, which cause increased levels of competition for resources, promoting the extinction of native wildlife.

Drive slowly
A simple but effective strategy; slowing down when driving in wooded areas or communities in general allows you prepare for any sudden animal running across the street. Many species live in developed areas that introduced roads and neighborhoods right in the middle of their homes. This forces them to navigate a hazardous terrain on a daily basis. By driving slowly, you allow both yourself and the local animals to go about their ways safely.

Barcelona’s Best Market Restaurants

Barcelona is a city unlike any other. There’s beautiful architecture across the city and the food you find there is delicious. The city possesses a rich history and a wonderful local culture, which you’ll certainly want to experience if you travel there. A large part of the culture of Barcelona is their markets, which feature local food and enchanting places to eat. Visitors have the opportunity to purchase goods and food local to the area and can also sample some unique and incredible dishes.

Mercat de Santa Caterina, La Ribera, Ciutat Vella

This market is a favorite of the locals, so you’ll be able to get a real feel for what Barcelona is like if you visit Santa Caterina. Since it was originally opened, Santa Caterina has gone through some remodeling. In 2005, the market got a new multi-colored roof that fits in with Barcelona’s attempt to modernize its markets for the 21st century. There are many stalls you can stop at, but the main attractions are the produce, fish, and meat stands. There are also various restaurant stalls you can stop and get food at, such as Cuines Santa Caterina and Bar Joan.

Mercat de Sants, Sants

This stunning brick building opened a little over a hundred years ago after it was designed by Pere Falqués. You’ll want to take the time to truly appreciate the architecture of this market before you make your way inside. Inside the market is Montero, where visitors can take menjars casolans (homemade meals) home or stay and eat the meals at one of the tables located in the market.

Mercat de Sant Antoni, Sant Antoni

This market underwent an extensive renovation, but will be open once again come 2018. While you may not be able to walk around the classic marketplace of Sant Antoni, the market has been set up nearby so merchants can keep their stalls open while the original building is being remodeled. You can browse the food and clothes or wait until Sunday to look through the many books the marketplace features. Whenever you go, take time to stop at Rekons, which has a terrace where you can enjoy your empanadas.

Mercat de la Llibertat, Gràcia

Located in a nice section of town and out of the way of the usual tourists, la Llibertat is a wonderful market for you to explore. In this section of the city, you’ll find great restaurants and shops, outside of the market itself. While this market has been renovated over the years, the outside retains its original style and lacks the modern touches that many of the more popular markets have been given. The restaurant to check out at this market is El Tast de Joan Noi. It’s unassuming, but its chef used to work at one of Barcelona’s best seafood restaurants.