Topas ecolodge aims to be a model of sustainability

February 19, 2019 by  
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From conception, the goal of the Topas Ecolodge in Vietnam has been to encapsulate sustainable practices at every turn. They also carry a heavy burden of social responsibility by focusing on providing local jobs and sourcing materials from the surrounding areas whenever possible. Nestled into a mountainous region in North Vietnam, they aim to assist the five local hill-tribes that remain largely untouched by the modern world. The vast majority of the 100 employees live in surrounding villages or are housed on campus with the supplies to grow and cook their own food . Investing in their employees, Topas offers educational and occupational training, opportunities for advancement and full medical benefits. Related: Bolivia’s Ecolodge del Lago takes inspiration from traditional Lak’a Uta architecture As stewards of the land, Topas Ecolodge also incorporates practices that help the local community as well as the environment . For example, food scraps are sent to local farms for pig feed and aluminum cans are reused by women in a local village. Thinking locally, the food served at Topas is sourced from local farmers, alongside property-raised chickens and a vegetable and herb garden behind the restaurant. Providing adequate energy in a sustainable way has been a challenge for the remote resort. Originally attempting solar energy, they found that inconsistent supply was not accommodating their needs so they switched to hydroelectricity and request that guests conserve wherever possible. Overcoming the struggles of sustainability in a remote mountain resort, Topas has implemented some innovative processes. As a solution for glass recycling , they invested in a glass-crushing machine that breaks it into sand that they then recycle into concrete for construction and maintenance. With no reliable recycling options and an understanding of the problems associated with single use plastic , they have a near zero single-use plastic policy and work to educate staff and guests about the reasons behind it. Inasmuch, they’ve become a member of National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World and help promote their “Planet or Plastic?” campaign. For water filtration, the property has a man-made wetland that treats wastewater from kitchen and bath facilities before releasing it into the rice fields. The Topas Ecolodge first opened in 2005 and offers 33 chalet-style stone bungalows built using local white granite from the Hoang Lien Mountains. They’ve since opened a second, more rustic accommodation named Topas Riverside Lodge, a short distance away. + Topas Ecolodge Images via Topas Ecolodge

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Topas ecolodge aims to be a model of sustainability

From farm to table, sustainability shines at the Belle Mont Farm eco resort

January 16, 2019 by  
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Anyone who has savored the beauty of the Caribbean can attest to its splendor. Not only are there captivating coastlines, but the islands in the area are accustomed to managing limited resources and are naturally focused toward sustainable development. One eco resort, Belle Mont Farm, has taken steps to lead the way in creating an earth-friendly luxury option in the region. The Belle Mont Farm on the island of St. Kitts, West Indies is a sanctuary that encompasses a lush golf course lined with crops and fruit-laden trees that you can enjoy as you play. The resort encourages physical activity in the surrounding natural environment, allowing you to skip typical paved walkways in exchange for miles of fertile farmland , tropical forest, cane fields, fruit groves and pastures. Related: Green-roofed eco resort on Easter Island designed to blend into the landscape In fact, an opportunity to immerse yourself in the physical environment is one of the main goals of the farm. From there, designers believe there are four pillars to sustainable development. The first is art and culture. Belle Mont Farm is dedicated to exposing visitors to the fine arts by hosting several festivals each year, ranging in theme from film to photography to music to culinary, and it hosts a film institute and resident art program. The second goal is to financially contribute to the local economy. The eco resort does this by hiring local vendors; the entire campus was built using local contractors. This has driven millions of dollars back into the community rather than exporting it elsewhere. Related: Stunning sustainable resort in Colombia built out of compressed-earth blocks and bamboo Social responsibility is the third element of sustainable development, which simply means that the Belle Mont Farm aims to maintain the culture and history of the island through consistent, heritage-based architecture that remains true to the fabric of St. Kitts. Finally, Belle Mont focuses on ecology by focusing on stewardship of the natural environment through sustainable practices and net-positive food production. Some of the steps toward sustainability include transitioning to complete renewable energy and making electric cars available to guests. Plus, the farm-to-table program creates a sustainable model for resort dining with fresh, organic vegetables and catches from the surrounding ocean. “My vision is to bring together community and culture, mindful conservation of natural resources, along with rewarding activities and learning opportunities,” said founder Val Kempadoo. “This means we can offer an unforgettable experience while bringing lasting, life-changing benefits to the local people and economy.” + Belle Mont Farm Images via Belle Mont Farm

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From farm to table, sustainability shines at the Belle Mont Farm eco resort

Departure From Stuff: Give the Traveler in Your Life Gift Experiences

November 15, 2018 by  
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With the holidays approaching, many of us are focused on … The post Departure From Stuff: Give the Traveler in Your Life Gift Experiences appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Dominica makes historic pledge to combat plastic pollution

August 13, 2018 by  
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Many countries are fighting plastic pollution by enforcing harsher regulations such as special labels and plastic taxes, but the island nation of Dominica is now leading the pack by announcing that it will ban plastic foam and common plastics by 2019. With less than five months left to go, the heroic stand involves the elimination of single-use items such as plastic straws, plates, forks and knives as well as plastic foam cups and containers. “Dominica prides itself as the ‘Nature Isle,’” Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said in his July 2018  budget address . “We must in every way deserve and reflect that designation. The issue of solid waste management affects that perception and we continue to grapple with it.” His hopes are to inspire not just a more environmentally prominent Dominica through successful sustainability measures , but to also create the world’s first-ever climate-resilient nation. Related: Shocking Caribbean photos reveal a “sea of plastic and Styrofoam” This undertaking to fight plastic pollution and become climate-resilient complements the country’s aim to better protect itself from natural disasters. In September 2017, Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, which is still grappling with the humanitarian and economic effects of the disaster. “Extreme weather events are now more frequent and intense, brought on by climate change impacts that are real, visible, devastating and unrelenting,” Skerrit said. “We must rebuild and reset our society and economy and protect our environment in order to achieve a new, more resilient Dominica.” Dominica follows in the footsteps of countries such as the U.K., New Zealand and Australia, which have seen a significant reduction in plastic pollution after taking measures against single-use plastic bags. Major companies such as Starbucks and Disney have also gained traction in their battles against plastic straws. Dominica will be the first nation to launch such a strict initiative against the major pollutants of plastic and plastic foam, and hopefully many countries will look to the nation’s progress when adopting their own action plans. + Dominica Via CNN Image via JD Lasica

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Dominica makes historic pledge to combat plastic pollution

This new green-roofed hotel with mirrored walls blends into Uruguay’s mountains

April 18, 2018 by  
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Visitors to Uruguay’s Maldonado region can soon stay in a stunning new hotel, which is tucked into 250 acres of gorgeous natural landscape. The Sacromonte Landscape Hotel  — designed by local firm MAPA Architects — is a green-roofed mountain retreat that uses mirrored exteriors to strategically blend into its surroundings. The sustainable hotel complex, which is comprised of 13 individual cabins, a winery and a farm-to-table restaurant, was completely prefabricated off site to reduce the project’s footprint. MAPA Architects utilized a variety of strategies to enable the Sacromonte Landscape Hotel to blend into the environment. The buildings’ sizes and height were kept subtle as to not disrupt the amazing landscape. The cabins have a mirrored facade on one side that camouflages the buildings into the grassy meadows. The rear side of the cabins feature locally-sourced timber trunks and local stones, creating a rustic look. Related: This modern hiking hotel blends into the dark alpine forests of Italy To keep the project’s footprint at a minimum, the structures were prefabricated off site in 10 weeks in a factory in Montevideo. In fact, the overall design focused on implementing various sustainable construction techniques. In addition to using prefab manufacturing, the structures were built with low-E glass and built on bases made from locally-sourced stone. Eco-friendly wastewater treatment systems were also installed to make the project as green as possible. The eco-resort  just recently opened for business and is expected to be fully operational by September, 2018. Visitors will be able to reserve individual cabins, which come with private decks and circular pools for enjoying the spectacular views. Inside, guests can enjoy the modern design, including dark stone floors and oak-paneled walls. For dining, the hotel restaurant offers dishes made with vegetables and fruits grown onsite in an organic garden. And of course, wine tastings are offered daily. + MAPA Architects + Sacromonte Landscape Hotel Via Dwell Photography by Leonardo Finotti

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This new green-roofed hotel with mirrored walls blends into Uruguay’s mountains

This floating hotel and spa in Sweden will fill you with wanderlust

January 23, 2018 by  
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The team behind the famous Treehotel in Sweden just unveiled plans for a new floating hotel and spa on the Lule River in that will fill you with wanderlust. The Arctic Bath Hotel and Spa might be the perfect place to enjoy the Northern Lights and work on your well-being while being surrounded by stunning landscapes. As a company that specializes in luxury adventure holidays, Off the Map Travel aims to provide people with exotic travel options and allow them to reach authentic destinations. The newest addition to their handpicked offering is this floating hotel and spa that freezes into the ice in the winter and floats on top of the Lule River in the summer. Related: Floating sauna with charred timber cladding boasts minimal site impact The Arctic Bath Hotel and Spa is a circular building that will house a spa treatment room, four saunas , an outside cold bath, a hot bath, outside and inside showers, and two dressing rooms for visitors. The six hotel rooms included also float or remain frozen into the ice, depending on the time of year. The project is being built using locally available materials and will be open for overnight stays as soon as early 2018. + Off the Map Travel Via AFAR

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This floating hotel and spa in Sweden will fill you with wanderlust

Beautiful eco hostel embedded in the forests of Mexico is the ultimate off-grid idyll

September 27, 2017 by  
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Mexico’s beautiful Tosepankali Hostel is a peaceful haven for travelers that pays homage to the local indigenous culture. The eco hostel was designed by Puebla-based firm Proyecto Cafeína , and it’s actually part of a Nahuatl indigenous cooperative. The hostel was carefully built into the rugged landscape using locally-sourced materials like bamboo , stone, brick, and Bahareque – a traditional building material made of sticks and mud. The hostel is a recent addition to an eco-complex called Tosepankali, which means “Our House” in the Nahuatl language. The complex provides a variety of lodging options that are designed to “transport travelers into a new dimension”. The hostel is an incredibly peaceful off-grid retreat for anyone looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Related: Experimental eco-hostel promotes Andean culture and Pachamama love in Bolivia The hostel was built completely out of local, natural materials such as bamboo, stone and brick. A large elongated roof extend over the building – and it’s the only part of the structure that is visible from a distance. The building is carefully embedded into the uneven topography, and it’s surrounded by natural vegetation that further fuses the hostel with its surroundings. The guest rooms and common areas feature an abundance of windows that provide stellar views and natural light. A large atrium at the center is completely clad with glazed walls built into the beautiful bamboo framework . + Proyecto Cafeína Via Archdaily Photography by Patrick Lopez

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Beautiful eco hostel embedded in the forests of Mexico is the ultimate off-grid idyll

UAE unveils plans for massive city simulating human settlement on Mars

September 27, 2017 by  
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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced plans to build a 1.9-million-square-foot city that will simulate conditions for humans living on Mars . Mars Scientific City comprises the Emirate’s first step towards their ultimate goal of building a city on the red planet itself by 2117. The UAE Government unveiled plans for the Mars Scientific City at the first annual review of their plans for the future, according to The National. The project will cost 500 million United Arab Emirates Dirham, which is around $136.1 million. Inside the city, research laboratories will be set aside to investigate how future Mars colonists will produce everything from food and water to energy . Related: The UAE joins race to build first city on Mars Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE vice president, said the Mars Scientific City is an extraordinary national project and released some images on his Twitter page. From these pictures, it appears scientists could carry out research in the desert in large bio domes. In addition to research on Earth, the Emirates Mars Mission is working towards launching the Hope spacecraft in 2020. The spacecraft is set to arrive and begin orbiting Mars in 2021, in time for the UAE’s 50th anniversary. According to The National, the probe would be the first sent to Mars by a Muslim country. Earlier this year, the UAE unveiled their Mars 2117 plan and their goal of building the red planet’s first city within 100 years. They plan to conduct research for the Martian city with the help of an international scientific consortium. According to The National, the Mars Scientific City, as a specialist research city, could offer a first step towards Mars 2117 as scientists delve into how humans might survive in Mars’ harsh environment . Via The National Images via Dubai Media Office on Twitter

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Biomimicry helps nature-lovers and fragile wildlife co-exist at the Votu Hotel in Brazil

September 20, 2017 by  
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The Maraú Peninsula is a 25 mile long bar of pristine Brazilian sand, flanked by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the tranquil Camamu Bay on the other, where one glorious beach gives way to another. With such stunning landscapes, it’s no wonder hip Brazilians are flocking to these shores. But the native mangrove forests here are one the world’s most endangered ecosystems, and great care must be taken to preserve them. GCP Arquitectura and Urbanismo’s Votu Hotel takes an unusual approach to that challenge: biomimicry––sustainable innovation inspired by nature’s proven wisdom. According to Indian legend, the peninsula’s namesake, Maraú, was a peaceful fisherman who lived in with his beautiful wife, Saquaíra. One day, while Maraú was out fishing, his neighbor, Camamu, came ashore, and he and Saquaíra fell deeply in love. Camamu took her away in his canoe, and when Maraú returned to discover her abduction, he desperately begged the gods for a faster one. They granted his lovesick plea, and away he went after her at top speed, surfing the waves and sculpting the peninsula´s curved beaches and bays as he went. Today, the region is a dreamy wonderland of rich, golden sands, rugged white cliffs, nodding coconut palms, cool waterfalls, teeming coral reefs, tranquil mangrove forests and restingas ––special forests that grows on shifting coastal dunes. Unfortunately, humans are having a massive impact on the landscape. Less than 5% of the original forest cover remains, yet 40% of its plants and 60% of its vertebrates––including a long-hair maned sloth, giant armadillo, giant otter, and unique local populations of cougar, jaguar, and ocelot––are found nowhere else in the world. New species are discovered frequently: over a thousand new flowering plants, a black-faced lion tamarin recently believed extinct, and a brightly blonde-haired capuchin monkey in recent years. Meanwhile, the mangroves and estuaries provide critical nurseries for the fish, crustaceans, and mollusks that feed these populations. Inhabitating such a precious and endangered habitat requires the region’s hotels to care for it just as they care for the visitors who come here. The Votu Hotel, designed by GCP Arquitectura and Urbanismo , embraces the challenge using biomimicry, an innovative approach to design that is in accordance with nature. GCP even has a biologist on staff––Alessandro Araujo, a Certified Biomimicry Specialist educated by Biomimicry 3.8 ––and it’s her job to enhance natural processes already at work here by tapping nature’s proven solutions ––those favored for hundreds of millions of years of evolution. Related: 6 groundbreaking examples of tech innovations inspired by biomimicry The GCP team sought to maintain and support the region’s native species while minimizing air conditioning and electricity consumption, and good water management, ventilation, and thermal comfort were also critically important. These requirements were made challenging by the vulnerability of these shores to heavy rain, floods, coastal erosion, high temperatures, salt spray, and high humidity. To solve these problems, Araujo looked at species that solve these same kinds of challenges. Prairie dogs, for instance, are social rodents that live in large colonies or towns where outside temperatures can reach 100°F in the summer and -35°F in the winter. They rely on long underground burrows to insulate them from such extremes. GCP borrowed this concept for Votu, using concrete walls and a roof garden to buffer heat. The burrows also leverage a natural process called the Bernoulli principle, in which air flow is slowed by the prairie dogs’ earthen mounds, increasing pressure and forcing air to flow quickly through the tunnels. Votu’s team mimicked this clever strategy by optimizing the position of each bungalow using computer modeling, and placing a semi-permeable guardrail in front of the prevailing winds, slowing them and drawing air into ventilation ducts below the roof. The bungalow shell itself was inspired by another biological champion, the saguaro cactus, which relies on long spines and accordion-like folds to mitigate extremes of heat and exposure. The deep folds offer partial shade, cooling air on the shaded side and creating a gradient that facilitates circulation and minimizes heat absorption. The Votu bungalows mimic this strategy with vertical, wooden, self-shading slats. Local species were consulted as well. The little houses rest on stilts, just as the native mangroves and restinga forest trees do, preserving the natural topography and allowing the unimpeded flow of rainwater and tides. Meanwhile, the kitchen takes inspiration from the toco toucan, a local bird that experiences large temperature swings, from hot days to cool nights. The large, vascularized toucan beak is an extremely efficient thermal radiator, offering the greatest thermal exchange known among animals. Heat from the kitchen is dissipated the same way: as it rises, it is drawn into a copper coil that passes through the rooftop soil. Air cools in the shade of a roof garden, and eventually returns to the kitchen: a natural air conditioner requiring no additional energy. Biomimicry is known for its reliance on a simple set of Life’s Principles, and GCP is dedicated to following them. One Araujo particularly loves is “Be resource efficient,” which the team did by relying on multifunctional design, low energy processes, recycling, and fitting form to function. The bottom of Votu’s concrete structure doubles as the bathroom wall, for instance, while the upper part forms the roof. In front of the hotel, a thicket of bamboo intercepts any run-off from the bungalows or tidal wash from the beach, acting as a living filter against salinity, bacteria, or pollutants. In back of the bungalows, graywater goes into the banana circle, while blackwater passes through a biodigester and biofilter, ending in a compost pile that fertilizes a fruit-bearing orchard for the guests to enjoy. GCP’s approach to conservation and tourism may seem unusual, but biomimicry has been growing in popularity among architects for a long time. And after all, these ideas are proven winners, nature’s survivors. Why reinvent the wheel? And maybe, just maybe, such bio-inspiration will let nature’s wild places continue to survive and thrive as we enjoy them. + GCP Arquitetura & Urbanismo

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Biomimicry helps nature-lovers and fragile wildlife co-exist at the Votu Hotel in Brazil

Tesla patent reveals plans for a new battery-swapping machine

September 20, 2017 by  
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In the not-so-far future when  electric vehicles (EV) rule the road, don’t expect to sit around in line waiting for your battery to charge. That’s because electric automaker Tesla recently filed a patent for a mobile battery swapping technology that could replace a depleted battery in under 15 minutes. In 2013, the company toyed with the idea of building stationary rigs that can replace a car’s battery pack. However, that idea never took off. Now, the EV maker is improving on the concept and has filed a patent application for a more compact, mobile version that would be placed in strategic locations where Superchargers aren’t always available. As Elektrek reports, Tesla’s original system was designed to be autonomous, while the newer one can be operated by technicians. Additionally, the original battery swap service claimed a 90-second swap, whereas the new one says “less than fifteen minutes” is more plausible. Says the patent application, “In some implementations, the battery swap system is configured for use by one or more technicians, who will monitor certain aspects of the system’s operation and make necessary inputs when appropriate. For example, the battery -swapping system can be installed at a remote location (e.g., along a highway between two cities) and one or more technicians can be stationed at the location for operating the system. This can reduce or eliminate the need for the system to have vision components, which may otherwise be needed to align the battery pack or other components. Using techniques described herein it may be possible to exchange the battery pack of a vehicle in less than fifteen minutes.” As can be seen from the application figures, the patent application references swapping Model S and Model X battery packs. Both vehicles’ battery packs have been designed to be easily swappable. Model 3’s battery pack is not, on the other hand. Because the company aims to expedite the process in 15 minutes or less, it is unlikely the system will apply to more complicated swaps. Related: Tesla to TRIPLE number of Superchargers by end of 2018 When Tesla CEO Elon Musk last mentioned the battery swap system, he said it would likely be developed to support commercial fleets — if pursued at all. Now that plans for Tesla’ all- electric Semi-Truck have been shared, Musk’s vision is coming into focus. + Tesla Via Elektrek Images via Tesla , Pixabay

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