Four tiny pavilions make up a low-impact forest home in Mexico

November 13, 2019 by  
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A family that enjoys nature together, stays together. That’s the idea behind the amazing, nature-inspired Casa de Bosque by Mexican architectural firm, WEYES Studio . Tucked into a lush forest, the family home is comprised of four small glass-and-brick structures, all linked by a series of outdoor walkways that weave through the treetops. Located in a large forest just outside of Santiago, Nuevo León, the home features an ingenious design that ensures the human-made structures find true harmony with their natural surroundings. Wrapped in lush vegetation, the four pavilions were all installed with ultimate care to reduce their impact on the landscape. Related: A cluster of coast forest cabins brings a nature-loving family closer together The home is comprised of four compact, concrete-framed, glass cabins . The layout was guided by the existing trees and roots, and the team took care to safeguard the 17 trees that made up the building site. The cabins are connected by stairs, corridors and exterior bridges that run in tune with the topography, rising and weaving through the tree canopy. Out of the four tiny pavilions , the largest is 485 square feet and houses the main living area, which comes complete with a terrace and an interior patio. There is also a garage and storage unit, a private resting pavilion and another private area that is designed to be a guest home or office space. According to the architects, they built the entire home with simplicity and sustainability in mind. “You see a simple construction, without technical complications, with a lot of detail in the placement of its materials,” the firm said. “There is a wide variety of apparent materials that will age with dignity over time and will blend with the surroundings. We translated the love for nature and the original lifestyle of users into a “minimal footprint”; not to destroy natural contexts but to build in conjunction with them.” In addition to its low-impact design, the cabins were all built with passive energy systems. With reducing consumption at the forefront of the design, the homes were strategically positioned to take advantage of the shade of the trees and natural cross ventilation. To help maintain a constant temperature indoors, even during the winter, double walls made out of baked clay brick were used in the construction. Additionally, the cabins use minimal electricity thanks to natural lighting that filters through multiple windows and skylights. + WEYES Studio Via ArchDaily Photography by The Raws via WEYES Studio

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Four tiny pavilions make up a low-impact forest home in Mexico

Have an eco-friendly Halloween and aim for zero-waste this October

October 28, 2019 by  
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Holidays and celebrations can take a toll on the environment. Between waste and consumption, Halloween festivities leave behind a giant carbon footprint. But with a little purposeful planning, your holiday can be fun and eco-friendly at the same time.  Go plastic free Obviously plastic is problematic for the planet from the petroleum used in production to the lack of sustainable disposal options. With some foresight you can mostly avoid plastic in favor of alternatives. For costumes, shop local or make your own so you can see plastic parts and avoid shipping packaging. Make costumes from natural fibers such as organic cotton or hemp. Use accessories of metal or wood. Swap out plastic trick-or-treat buckets with pillow cases or reusable shopping bags. Related: Light your pumpkins the EEK-o-friendly way this Halloween Multi-purpose decor One way to cut back on the “stuff” you accumulate for the holiday is to think seasonally. Focus on decor that can serve throughout the fall season rather than just until Halloween. Hay bales, corn stocks, pumpkins, gourds and potted plants create a welcoming display at the front door that is both sustainable and inviting well past Thanksgiving. Inside the home, target the classic sights, sounds and smells of fall with pumpkin spice candles, reflective glass displays and wreaths from burlap, straw or herbs. Organic plant-based food Holidays are for celebrating with friends and Halloween is the perfect time to invite your favorite witches and demons over for a party. Since it’s always in season to be nice to the planet, plan your party around organic (no pesticides and other toxins in the water and soil), plant-based (sans the carbon footprint of meat production) food . Make taco dip with tortilla headstones, adorable pumpkin cookies, a veggie platter in the shape of a skeleton or individual spider pizzas. Save gas Reducing gas consumption avoids the need for more oil drilling and limits your contribution to air pollution. Pick up your party supplies in advance when you are already running other errands to avoid extra trips to the store. Also, stay in your neighborhood for trick or treating if possible. Zero waste Aim for zero waste during Halloween as a challenge to yourself and your family. Work together to brainstorm ways to keep trash from taking over the holiday. Using the real plates and utensils is a great start, but you can avoid the need for dinnerware altogether by creating a menu consisting only of finger foods. Drag out the cloth napkins, too. Avoid throwing out your costume at the end of the holiday by using recyclable materials such as cardboard or save the outfit for another occasion. Be sure to donate or resell when it’s time for the final goodbye. Go second hand If Halloween is really your season to shine and you enjoy widespread decorating, spend some time at the local thrift shop where holiday decor comes in year-round. While you might still end up with non eco-friendly materials like plastic , giving those items a second life keeps them out of landfills. This is also true for costumes, lawn decorations and clothing. Tricks and treats Candy has become an integral part of the holiday and you can enjoy a treat without contributing to wasteful consumption. Start by setting a reasonable limit. While it’s fun to be out with the kids on Halloween, the treats they gather shouldn’t last until Valentine’s Day. There’s not much you can do about the plastic you’ll acquire during your trip around the neighborhood, but you can do your part when it comes to making a conscience choice about what you hand out at your door. Shop from fair trade companies and look for sustainable packaging. Also consider non-candy items or offer up a trick instead. Cut the electric bill You can enjoy your party without a spike in electrical use by making a few simple changes. Skip the TV shows and music and consider cutting the electricity all together. Halloween is the perfect occasion to take the party outside to celebrate around a wood fire under the stars and the harvest moon. Drop some submersible LED lights in the bottom of the apple dunk barrel and use solar lights to create paths or designate gathering areas. If the weather in your area isn’t cooperating with a nature party, bring it inside for a blackout party instead. Grab the solar lights from the yard and further illuminate the space with beeswax candles displayed on reflective metal or glass plates. For entertainment, share spooky stories and explain the history of the holiday to the younger generations.  Halloween is a ghoulishly fun holiday, but it doesn’t have to have a gastly impact on the planet. Set an example for your kids, guests and neighbors with thoughtful decor, costumes and party ideas that just may inspire them to make Halloween a real treat for the planet, too. Images via Shutterstock

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Have an eco-friendly Halloween and aim for zero-waste this October

Italys 2020 World Expo pavilion celebrates sustainable, circular design

October 28, 2019 by  
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Exactly one year before the opening of the World Fair in Dubai, Carlo Ratti Associati has unveiled images for Italy’s Expo 2020 pavilion. Created in collaboration with Italo Rota Building Office, matteogatto&associati and F&M Ingegneria, the temporary structure embodies circular principles to minimize waste and integrate recycled materials such as coffee grounds, mycelium and ocean plastic. To reduce the building’s environmental footprint, natural climate control strategies will be used instead of air conditioning. Inspired by the seafaring populations of the Mediterranean basin, the Italy Expo 2020 pavilion will be constructed out of three boats that will delivered to the site as a symbol of the figurative journey from Italy to Dubai . Once on site, the boats will be transformed into the pavilion’s roof with an undulating shape that recalls the sea and desert waves. Sinuous lines will be repeated at the base of the pavilion, which will be built from a giant dune made with real sand. Meanwhile, an adaptable facade made from LED lights and nautical ropes will be installed to broadcast multimedia content. Related: WOHA unveils a lush, net-zero Singapore Pavilion for the 2020 World Expo “We liked the idea of a pavilion that would continuously mutate into different forms,” said Carlo Ratti, founding partner of Carlo Ratti Associati and director of the MIT Senseable City Lab. “We pursued a kind of architecture that could be reconfigured both in the long-term — because of its circularity — and in the short term — thanks to digital technologies.” The pavilion’s circular design will be rendered visible in the construction. The skywalk, for example, will be constructed with materials created from discarded orange peels and used coffee grounds. Italy’s Expo 2020 Pavilion will open its doors to the public on October 20, 2020 in Dubai and remain open until April 10, 2021. + Carlo Ratti Associati Renderings by Gary di Silvio, Pasquale Milieri, Gianluca Zimbardi / Carlo Ratti Associati

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Earth911 Podcast, Oct. 21, 2019: A More Sustainable Halloween!

October 21, 2019 by  
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Recycled botanical garden in Seattle brings visitors decades of joy

October 17, 2019 by  
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When Wendy Morgan accepted a friend’s invitation to go see Elda Behm’s garden in the 1990s, she had no idea she would become entangled in a project for the next 25 years. “Elda popped her head around the garage and that was the beginning of it,” Morgan says with a laugh. “She was a saleswoman.” The Port of Seattle was planning its third runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport . Behm’s home and garden were in the way, so the port slated them for demolition, but Behm wasn’t giving up her garden without a fight. By the end of the decade, her charisma and love of her plants would entice Morgan and 200 other volunteers to move Behm’s entire garden. As Morgan and her dog Snooks show my tour group around the Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden , we see the rich community partnership that has grown up around the original effort to recycle a garden into a new space. Five local flower societies have started gardens within Highline, and many individuals pay $40 per year for a community garden plot. Some people include the garden in their daily dog walk, and hundreds turn out for the annual summer time ice cream social. The garden’s beginnings Elda Gothke Behm was born in 1913 and raised on a farm near Wenatchee, Washington. She became a certified landscape designer in 1953 and moved to Burien, near SeaTac, in 1954. “Elda never met a plant she didn’t like,” Morgan reminisces as we wander through the Elda Behm Paradise Garden section of Highline. Plants flourished under her care — enough so that the Burien City Council and the City of SeaTac (yes, there’s a city as well as an airport with that name) agreed to develop 11 acres in North SeaTac Park into a public garden, starting with relocating Behm’s plants to save them from runway three. The Highline Botanical Garden Foundation was incorporated to oversee the garden. Volunteers worked with the Port of Seattle and the City of SeaTac from late 1999 into the spring of 2000 to move plants, trees and shrubs from Behm’s home into a holding area while gardeners prepared the soil. Behm favored native species, especially rhododendrons. The port supplied cranes and trucks to hoist conifers and other trees into their new home. The garden is planted on former residential land that the port had claimed in the 1950s, demolishing houses for a buffer zone around runway two. Morgan, who promotes interactive tours by asking questions and urging visitors to guess the answers, wants to know what we think they found when they started digging. “Water heaters!” she tells us triumphantly after we guess wrong a few times. Buried appliances had been left behind, which had to be cleared out. But some trees and shrubs had survived from the long ago houses, so those are incorporated in the garden today. Behm didn’t quietly slide into the background once her garden was moved. “She stayed on the board even in her nineties,” Morgan recalls. “She never gave up leadership.” Morgan remembers lots of arguments Behm had with the board over features she wanted added to the garden. Her last project was a shade garden featuring ferns, hostas, hellebores and her special favorite black trilliums. Behm died in 2008 at the age of 94. The Japanese garden While the thought of transplanting one entire garden is astonishing enough, in 2005 Highline relocated a second garden. The Seike family came from Japan , settling in Des Moines, Washington around 1920. The three sons all studied horticulture and helped run the family-owned Des Moines Nursery. They were forced into an internment camp during World War Two. Unlike most Japanese families, the Seikes were lucky in that a German-American family tended their plants during their internment and returned their property intact after the war. However, a much greater wartime loss befell them: their second son, Toll, died while fighting in France. Later, in conjunction with the 1962 Seattle World Fair, they hired a gardener to come from Hiroshima and build an authentic Japanese garden in Toll’s honor. Fast forward to 2004. Again, the Port of Seattle wanted more property. This time, the Seike family nursery was on the chopping block. The city of SeaTac found funding to move the miniature mountain and waterfall garden to Highline. Now generations who were born long after World War Two can sit by the pond and contemplate this family’s suffering and perseverance. The garden today Highline covers 11 acres today, with half developed and half still just dreams in gardeners’ heads. In addition to grants, donations and bequests, Highline raises money at its annual plant sales. Volunteer coordinator and gardener Jolly Eitelberg propagates the plants in the garden’s greenhouse. The garden is an extremely peaceful place, despite being so close to planes landing and taking off. Many out of town visitors with long layovers find their way to Highline, Morgan says, as it’s one of the closest attractions to the airport. But the airport has one unexpected effect on the garden — Highline can’t put koi in its ponds, because koi attract herons , which could get sucked into jet engines. Morgan is especially proud of the victory garden, modeled after those who tended to the home front during World War Two, when fresh vegetables supplemented ration cards. Highline donates green beans, tomatoes, zucchini and other vegetables grow in the victory garden to the Tukwila Food Bank. Morgan is a big believer in sharing food. She even takes our group into her plot in the community garden and offers us parsley, cucumbers and tomatoes. “Where do you think we get most of our volunteers?” she asks, a twinkle in her eye. “Most of our volunteers run red lights. And then when the judge says that will be 500 dollars they say they don’t have that kind of money.” They choose working in the garden as their community service so they can get outside, she says. Some like it so much they stay. After 25 years, the garden still inspires Morgan, who loves to share its message with visitors. To her, Highline is a triumph over what looked like insurmountable odds for Behm’s beautiful garden. She repeats herself several times over the course of our tour, driving her point home: “If you have something in your life that you think should be preserved or kept somehow, you can. If you gather people around you and keep pushing.” Images via Inhabitat

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Recycled botanical garden in Seattle brings visitors decades of joy

Architects use simple, low-cost and efficient materials to create spectacular home with ‘flying roof’ in Chile

October 17, 2019 by  
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Modern homes come in all shapes and sizes, but it seems that architects are opting to take a simpler route these days when it comes to creating amazing designs. Case in point is the beautiful BL House by Mas Fernandez Architectos . Located in a coastal area in Chile’s Valparaíso region, the gorgeous home was built using prefabricated and modular materials, then topped with an eye-catching, origami-inspired metal roof. Tucked into a hilly landscape covered with trees and vegetation, the almost 2,000-square-foot home was designed to embrace its idyllic, quiet setting. Using the surrounding nature as inspiration , the team at Mas Fernandez used simple, cost-effective materials to create a design that would offer the homeowners a peaceful respite away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Related: Breezy, prefab home stays naturally cool in tropical Costa Rica The single-level home is gently nestled into the topography of the land in order to minimize impact. Using concrete pillars, part of the home is elevated over a gentle slop. The home is topped with a fun, origami-inspired aluminum roof that gives off the impression that it is about to take flight at any moment. The roof juts out over the home’s frame, shading the interior from harsh sunlight during the hot summer months. The roof also has two triangular cutouts that allow for natural light to filter into the two interior courtyards. The house was built using prefabricated materials that allowed the architects to keep construction costs down and minimize construction time. The project is clad in a dramatic, dark pine cladding with some walls made of glass panels. The five-bedroom home features an open-concept living, dining and kitchen area that is filled with simple, rustic decor reminiscent of a contemporary cabin. Massive, floor-to-ceiling glass walls provide a seamless connection between the outdoors and indoors. Additionally, the walls and ceilings are lined with native treated pinewood, adding warmth to the atmosphere. For outdoor space, the home has an enviable, open-air deck with plenty of space for seating and dining. + Mas Fernandez Arquitectos Via Dezeen Images via Mas Fernandez Arquitectos

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Architects use simple, low-cost and efficient materials to create spectacular home with ‘flying roof’ in Chile

Maven Moment: Moving Day

October 9, 2019 by  
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Student designs an ecotourism hot-spot for the Iranian desert

September 10, 2019 by  
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A student finalist in this year’s Radical Innovation competition has found a possible solution for conserving Iran’s deserts while also promoting ecotourism in the region. Sharareh Faryadi’s Nebka Protective System could be applied to both residential and tourist accommodations in deserts. Radical Innovation “mobilizes disruptors from around the world with the ideas to propel the industry forward,” according to its website. A jury of design and hospitality experts judged the competition on design, creativity and potential for impacting the industry. Nearly 50 people entered from more than 20 countries. The judges chose three professional finalists, one student winner and two student honorable mentions, with the Nebka Protective System earning a student honorable mention. Related: Experimental design-build festival takes over Californian desert The Iranian desert faces problems like air pollution , inaccessibility and, well, a huge mass of sand. But it’s also a hauntingly beautiful place of great interest to desert researchers and with potential for increased tourism. Almost a quarter of Iran’s land is desert. The Lut Desert is the most famous and is a UNESCO-registered natural phenomenon. While the shifting sands make for a magical landscape, desert wildlife benefits from some stability — that’s where nebkas come in. A nebka is a little, wind-blown accumulation of sand anchored by a bush or a tree. Nebkas help desert animals survive and help control evaporation and shifting sand sediments. Having more nebkas in deserts close to developed areas could protect cities from shifting sand. Faryadi’s Nebka Protective System is an elaborate but intriguing way to increase the number of nebkas over a 12-year cycle. Imagine a circular area in the desert that’s free of nebkas; Faryadi proposed placing a round observatory building in the center of the circle, with a long, arm-shaped hotel reaching out from that center like a clock hand. The circle is divided into 12 sections. During the first year, the long walls of the hotel would act as a dam against wind-blown sand. Each tourist and researcher staying inside would plant a seed. Some of these would sprout, spawning nebkas to stabilize the sand. After a year, the whole hotel would be lifted into the second section, and the nebka development would begin all over again. Twelve years later, the hotel would make a full circle, and the empty desert would turn into a jungle of young nebkas. The round, central area would include a glass elevator for watching the desert, and people would be able to walk around it for 360-degree views. Faryadi also planned for lots of common space, restaurants , cafes, a museum and desert research institute and areas for sand therapy, said to ease muscle and joint pain. The design incorporated traditional Iranian architecture, such as a large, open space to serve as the central yard in the family suites. Solar and wind would provide power, including that required for moving the structure every year. + Radical Innovation Images via Radical Innovation

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Student designs an ecotourism hot-spot for the Iranian desert

Maven Moment: Bus Tours

August 21, 2019 by  
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DIY natural cleaners for every household chore

August 13, 2019 by  
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Your home is your castle. It’s where you live, play, relax and sometimes even work or attend school. A clean castle pleases the royal family, but harsh chemicals are unwelcome guests in the kingdom. With the amount of time you spend in your surroundings, considering your air and water quality seems like a good investment. These DIY cleaners are safe for your home, your family and the planet. There seems to be a debate surrounding what products are safe, with every major manufacturer slapping sustainability verbiage on products to promote all-natural, chemical-free and organic assumptions. For the most part, it’s marketing, plain and simple. In truth, most commercial cleaners contain damaging chemicals, even when the label disguises them as healthy options. The only way to really know what you’re cleaning with is to make your own cleaning products, and fortunately there are many truly natural cleaners that will leave the sparkle without the chemical aftermath. Related: Get ready to use soapnuts for everything from cleaning to self care Ingredients Vinegar Vinegar is nature’s cleaner. It can be used outright on nearly every surface. It is great as a versatile cleaner for everything from countertops to windows. Although not touting antibacterial qualities, it is biodegradable . Lemon Lemon juice has natural antibacterial qualities. Although many store-bought products have a lemon scent to sell this message, including fresh lemon in your own cleaners gives you assurance that it’s the real thing. Baking soda Another ingredient found in many cleaning recipes, baking soda offers superior odor neutralization and has impressive stain-fighting capabilities.  Liquid castile soap Castile soap is a plant-based product that has been used for generations in different forms. Dr. Brommer’s is a commonly used brand that you might recognize. It is naturally sourced from vegetable fat, so it is non-toxic and biodegradable, meaning that it’s good for the environment, too. Hydrogen peroxide Inexpensive and readily available, hydrogen peroxide makes a great non-toxic disinfectant for your household surfaces. Simply spray and leave to bubble for a minute or two before wiping clean. Make sure to store hydrogen peroxide in an opaque or darker bottle, because light will break down its effectiveness. Note that hydrogen peroxide is not a safe choice for granite surfaces. Borax Borax is a naturally occurring substance that has earned a name in the cleaning industry. However, there is some dispute as to its safety in cleaning products. Although typically only required in small amounts for most recipes, borax can cause skin and breathing problems, so it doesn’t rank high as a healthy cleaner for some. Moreover, it’s toxic to children and pets, so it’s not a good choice for cleaners that touch every surface in your home. DIY natural cleaner recipes Now that we’ve covered the ingredients, let’s get to the recipes, so you can get to cleaning. Multipurpose cleaner This DIY cleaner is good for all floors and most other surfaces. The basic recipe calls for just a few simple ingredients: 1 cup white vinegar, 1 gallon water and essential oils if you wish to disguise the vinegar scent. When cleaning any wood surface, use minimal water and other ingredients. Do not saturate the wood. Apply a light layer with a mop and dry immediately. All-purpose cleaner This is the stuff you can use in the toilet, on the counter or on the floors. Here are a couple of options that will work well: Castile soap all-purpose cleaner 2 cups distilled or boiled water 2-4 tablespoons castile soap 15 drops of your favorite essential oil (we recommend peppermint) Vinegar all-purpose cleaner 1 cup distilled or boiled water 1 cup white distilled vinegar 1/2 lemon, juiced (optional, but store cleaner in the fridge if you do add lemon) 15 drops of your favorite essential oil (we recommend orange) Alcohol all-purpose cleaner 1/4 cup alcohol (rubbing alcohol or cheap vodka) A few drops of essential oil A few drops of eco-friendly liquid soap 13 ounces of water Drain cleaner Set the teapot on to boil and grab the baking soda. Spoon about one cup of baking soda down the drain. Let it slip down as far into the drainpipe as it will go. Then add one cup of lemon juice or one cup of white vinegar. Either will cause a chemical reaction, so pour slowly. The reaction helps eat away at whatever is clogging your drain. After 10-15 minutes, chase it down the drain with several cups of boiling water (use caution). Repeat if necessary. Stain remover When it comes to tackling those deodorant armpit stains on your T-shirts or the unidentified marks on the carpet, look no further than the mixture below. 1/2 cup baking soda 1 tablespoon salt 1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide Create a paste and apply to the stain. Allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes. Remove with water and clean rags, or wash the item in the washing machine. Make sure to dab carpets, and don’t oversaturate. Related: Cora Ball emulates natural filtering of coral to remove toxic microfibers from your washing machine Glass and window cleaner Vinegar and water in a one-to-one ratio will tackle the windows pretty well. If you have a lot of dirt, clean the windows with an eco-friendly dish soap and water solution first. Use coffee filters or recycled newspapers to wipe down the glass . Alternate recipe 1/2 cup vinegar 1 cup rubbing alcohol 2 cups water Combine and use as a spray cleaner for mirrors and windows. Liquid fabric softener Avoid the fabric sheets headed to the landfill . Instead, make your own easy and eco-friendly fabric softener. Although not technically a cleaner, we couldn’t skip putting this one on the list. 1/8 cup food-grade glycerine 2 cups water 2 cups white vinegar Combine and pour 1/3 to 1/2 cup of this mixture into the liquid fabric softener dispenser in the washing machine for fresh, soft sheets and clothes. Images via Conger Design , Monfocus ( 1 , 2 ) and Daiga Ellaby

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