Stunning House on the Rocks uses geothermal power

January 23, 2020 by  
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On Finland’s windswept Turku archipelago, Helsinki-based design practice and log house kit purveyor Pluspuu has completed yet another ecological wood house — fittingly named the House on the Rocks. Designed to embrace landscape views in multiple directions, the three-bedroom, two-bath residence is a custom design based on Pluspuu’s pre-designed house models Isokari and Kustavi. As with all Pluspuu projects, the geothermal-powered log house is built primarily from timber and boasts a relatively small carbon footprint. Completed last summer, the 150-square-meter House on the Rocks was constructed from 202 x 195-millimeter non-settling logs that are supposedly superior to the cheaper lamella log due to its flexibility of use without the need for post-construction adjustment. The solid log walls also mean that the house doesn’t need additional insulation aside from the eco-friendly wood fiber that insulates the sheet metal roof.  “The carbon footprint of the construction of a log house is extremely small, and the timber will act as a carbon sink for the house’s entire lifespan – this truly is eco-friendly construction,” the architects explained, noting that over 20% of all detached homes are log houses in Finland. “In addition to its environmental friendliness, a log house also has extremely healthy indoor air.” The home is also heated with geothermal heat distributed via underfloor heating. Related: Super-insulated modern log cabin withstands frigid Finnish winters in style Using Pluspuu’s pre-designed housing models as a starting point, the client worked with the architects to craft a site-specific dwelling that embraces outdoor views through large windows and a sea-facing terrace that’s over 100 square meters in size. The property also includes a freestanding Pluspuu Luoto 25 sauna as well as a two-room guesthouse on the shore; both structures are built from smaller 134 x 195-millimeter laminated timber.  + Pluspuu Images via Samuli Miettinen

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Stunning House on the Rocks uses geothermal power

Check out these amazing sustainable cabins by ZeroCabin

January 23, 2020 by  
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Armed only with experience in biology, chemistry and physics, a group of Chile -based scientists took concepts ranging from photosynthesis to thermodynamics to create ZeroCabin, a collection of off-grid and self-sustaining cabins that use “free energy” to function. With no prior knowledge of architecture between them, the team set out with one rule: to place nature (namely sun and rainwater) at the forefront of the project. The timber-framed cabins are elevated on two-meter wooden piles and built by the company itself, but come with maintenance plans for photovoltaic panels, waste recycling and rainwater collection through reverse osmosis. These kits provide buyers with the tools and information to create a self-sustaining cabin with negative impact customized to function anywhere in the world. The structures use biodegradable insulation, and the need for excess artificial heating and cooling is cut down with thermal glazing. To reduce the need for additional materials during construction, the frame is built without using nails. In the field of botany, phyllotaxis refers to the arrangement of leaves on a plant stem, one of the many ways that nature organically creates the maximum conversion of photosynthesis and harnesses energy more efficiently. ZeroCabin takes this concept and applies it to architecture, arranging each self-sustaining cabin at the optimal angle for sun exposure, therefore gaining the most efficient use of solar panels. For heating, a system was created by placing air suction tubes onto the sides of the stove burn chamber. This allows owners to cook, bake and warm water using one-third the typical amount of wood. Apart from the goal of generating a smaller environmental footprint, ZeroCabin is also driven by creating a higher quality of life for its clients. Lower utility bills on trash, water, electricity and gas mean less financial strain — a cherry on top of zero-impact living. Another inspiration behind ZeroCabin is the sense of freedom gained by using only natural resources as power. The company proves its dedication to the environment even further by putting 10% of its utility towards native forests and wildlife preservation. + ZeroCabin Images via ZeroCabin

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Check out these amazing sustainable cabins by ZeroCabin

Restored Georgian townhouse has rainwater-fed green roof

January 23, 2020 by  
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The Sun Rain Room is an extension and restoration of a two-story Grade-II listed townhouse designed and constructed by Tonkin Liu. Partnering with local craftspeople to complete the project, the London-based architecture firm was able to create an extension of the existing structure through a landscape that feeds off of the sun and rain . The house, which was built as a home and studio for the owner, features a green roof , garden room and reflecting pool that are all designed to uniquely celebrate nature. The garden room on the ground floor is encased in a wall of curved glass that works as both a living space for occupants and as a meeting area for the owner’s professional studio. The covered outdoor area connected to the garden room contains a studio workshop, kitchen, potting shed, recycling bay and a store. Another wall of sliding mirrors conceals the planter for a collection of small trees that grow through the green roof overhead. The neighboring open patio covers a basement refurbished with a new bedroom, two bathrooms and a utility area. The courtyard garden’s perimeter walls support a roof made of plywood cut to allow the most possible light into the site. Between the patio (which frames the terrace) and the house sits an etched glass staircase to bridge the two spaces. The true meaning of “Sun Rain Room” comes to play with the 110-millimeter structural shell roof that is perforated with coffered skylights made to mimic raindrops that land onto the pool . This creates an ethereal, organic environment inside the home. To make the townhouse more sustainable, heat loss from the ground floor is decreased through double-glazed, double-laminated glass with low-e coatings. Waterproof concrete was used in the construction of the basement, which removed the need for a backup waterproofing system. What’s more, the light-well from the plywood roof around the courtyard has improved the affecting passive ventilation strategy for the home. The green roof not only contributes to sustainable drainage, but is also planted with local trees and plants that suit the natural habitat to improve the site’s biodiversity . The reflecting pool is filled naturally with harvested rainwater, also used to irrigate the green roof. + Tonkin Liu Images via Alex Peacock, Greg Storrar, Tonkin Liu, and Alexander James Photography

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Restored Georgian townhouse has rainwater-fed green roof

Charming hobbit home in Slovenian ‘Shire’ is built of local, natural materials

January 23, 2020 by  
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While it may not be located in the Shire, this hobbit home in Slovenia is just as magical as a Middle Earth abode. Located in an ancient Chalcolithic settlement that dates back more than 5,000 years, the quaint hobbit home was reconstructed using the building principles of the era, including natural materials such as wood, loam, straw and a lush layer of native grass that completely covers the handmade structure. Years ago, archaeologists discovered the ruins of a settlement from the Chalcolithic era in the village of Razkrižje, just a few kilometers from the Slovene-Croatian border. Over time, the local government has reconstructed the settlement, complete with homes made out of wood, clay and additional materials found in nature. Related: Spend the night in this magical Hobbit House tucked into the Washington shire Inspired by the project, one local, Mirko Žižek, decided to build a structure using the same ancient techniques. The result is a charming hobbit home , embedded into the landscape and cloaked in greenery. At the onset of the project, Žižek had strong ideas on the building’s volume and shape. “I wanted the house to be legal and structurally stable, so I have enlisted the help of an architect,” Žižek said. “He resisted my idea of a dome-shaped house for quite a few months, but I was stubborn. Finally, he had to give in.” Because the curves couldn’t be achieved using timber, the architect opted for a steel frame, which was then filled in with a mixture of clay, sand and straw. Although the team primarily relied on natural materials, there are some modern touches as well, including the layer of hydro-insulation that was added to the walls. Once the home’s clay envelope was dry and considered sturdy enough, an exterior layer of packed soil, approximately 10 to 15 centimeters thick, was applied to the building. This layer enabled the planting of a lush green roof that rolls over the entire structure. A natural rock pathway with a log edging leads up to the house. The entrance is unique in that it is made of an arched wooden door surrounded by repurposed glass jars stacked sideways, allowing natural light to stream into the front parlor. The interior walls are plastered with clay and kept in a natural tone. Curved throughout, the dwelling is comprised of a small living area, a kitchen and dining space and a large en suite bedroom, with the bathroom located behind a privacy wall. Mirrored tube lamps in the curved ceiling allow natural light to filter into the living area. Throughout the space, wooden touches, such as shelving, doors and the king-sized bed, were custom-built by Žižek. Right now, the hobbit house is used as a guest accommodation, but Žižek and his wife have plans to move into the beautiful space once they retire. + Ambienti Photography by Arhiv Lastnika

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Charming hobbit home in Slovenian ‘Shire’ is built of local, natural materials

Ramboll helps Lombok locals build earthquake-resistant bamboo housing

January 17, 2020 by  
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In 2018 when Lombok was struck by several earthquakes, some measuring up to magnitude 7, local communities around the seismic region were greatly affected. After the series of earthquakes settled, there were over 500 people dead, 445,000 people homeless and 129,000 homes damaged. Concerned that the quality of the area’s buildings was partially to blame, Els Houttave, founder of the Lombok-based charity Grenzeloos Milieu, knew that something had to be done to ensure this type of devastation never happened again. She teamed up with Ramboll bridge engineer Xavier Echegaray and structural engineer Marcin Dawydzik to find a solution that was both sustainable and resilient. When Dawydzik traveled to Lombok, he discovered the problem was in the building techniques and materials : “Villages were flattened with bricks and rubble scattered all around, in many cases the building foundations were all that remained. This was not an unusually powerful earthquake for the region, but lack of reinforcement in the buildings meant the damage, and consequential loss of life, was far greater than it should have been. What I found even more disturbing was that communities had already started rebuilding with the same absence of structural integrity that had existed in the destroyed buildings!”   As it turns out, the building solution was closer than expected. The partially-destroyed villages were surrounded by bamboo forests, a time-honored building material that is lightweight, strong, affordable, sustainable and reaches full maturity in about five years. Working hand-in-hand with the locals, Ramboll has now built three prototype earthquake-proof “template houses” made almost entirely out of locally-sourced bamboo. The homes are raised on cross-braced columns with a central staircase leading to the living area and space for two bedrooms. The walls are finished with bamboo woven sheets or canes and the roofing is made from recycled Tetra Pak carton packaging.  Going even further, the project headed by Grenzeloos Milieu and University College London will provide locals with a free blueprint on how to construct affordable earthquake-proof homes without complicated construction knowledge necessary. Additionally, Grenzeloos Milieu is growing more bamboo forests and teaching communities how to harvest the trees for food and construction. Ramboll volunteers on the ground in Lombok will teach the process hands-on while ensuring safety and efficiency . + Ramboll Via Dezeen Images via Ramboll

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Ramboll helps Lombok locals build earthquake-resistant bamboo housing

Stunning, sustainable lodge blends into beautiful landscape

January 16, 2020 by  
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Romanian architecture firm BLIPSZ has created a near-autonomous holiday home that combines the charms of rural Transylvanian architecture with a sustainable and contemporary design aesthetic. Surrounded by gently rolling hills and valley views, the Lodge in a Glade comprises two barn-inspired structures with green-roofed surfaces that appear to emerge from the earth. South-facing solar panels generate about 90% of the building’s energy needs, which are kept to a minimum thanks to its passive solar design and underfloor heating powered by a geothermal heat pump. Located in a Transylvanian mountain village, Lodge in a Glade is a luxurious retreat that seeks to embrace its surroundings while minimizing its visual impact on the landscape. To that end, the architects used mostly natural building materials, including locally molded clay bricks and mineral gabion wall cladding, as well as gabled roof profiles that recall the region’s rural vernacular. The expansive size of the four-bedroom home is partly hidden by its horizontal massing and the local grasses that cover the non-pitched roof sections.  The green roofs provide insulating benefits that are reinforced by cellulose, wood fiber, and compacted straw bale insulation. Triple-glazed windows frame views of the outdoors while locking in heat. The thermal mass of the timber house also benefits from the clay brick wall fillings and thick polished concrete floors throughout. Thirty-three solar panels generate the majority of the home’s energy needs and are complemented by a safety back-up electrical grid connection for very cold and cloudy days. Rainwater is collected and reused for automated irrigation.  Related: Solar-powered Dutch home produces all of its own energy with surplus to spare “The challenge of the project was experimenting with a multitude of alternative techniques and materials to seamlessly integrate traditional and high-tech elements demanded by the clients along with the sustainable , green solutions,” the architects said in a statement. “The required interior area is quite impressive, especially compared to the modest, traditional local households nearby. Shapes and materials were chosen to blend the expansive building in the special scenery.” + BLIPSZ Via ArchDaily Images by Makkai Bence

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Stunning, sustainable lodge blends into beautiful landscape

Children hurt after Delta jet dumps fuel on schools

January 16, 2020 by  
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On January 14, a Delta jet malfunctioned and dumped jet fuel over Los Angeles-area schools. The incident injured more than 50 people, including students from Park Avenue Elementary, San Gabriel Elementary, Graham Elementary, Tweedy Elementary, 93rd Street Elementary and Jordan High School. Currently, injuries such as skin and eye irritation and breathing problems have been reported. As the Los Angeles Unified School District said, “Students and staff were on the playground at the time and may have been sprayed by fuel or inhaled fumes.” Several people affected by the fuel were treated on-site. A “reverse 911” text message was sent out to locals, informing them of the event, noting affected areas and advising residents on how to proceed. The L.A. County Fire Department also updated its Twitter with the number of patients affected at each school site. As of Tuesday evening, the patient count included 31 patients from Park Avenue Elementary, six patients from Tweedy Elementary, one patient from Graham Elementary and six patients from San Gabriel Elementary. The Delta flight in question was Flight 89 to Shanghai , which apparently experienced an engine malfunction after takeoff. According to Delta, safe landing procedures following such a malfunction required fuel release — though the Federal Aviation Administration commented that fuel-dumping procedures “call for fuel to be dumped over designated unpopulated areas, typically at higher altitudes so the fuel atomizes and disperses before it reaches the ground.” This event isn’t the first environmental issue Park Avenue Elementary has faced, either. For an eight-month period between 1989 and 1990, the school was closed due to a mysterious ooze appearing. Investigation then discovered that the school was formerly the site of a city dump . As Elizabeth Alcantar, recently appointed mayor of Cudahy, said, “The very same playground experienced another environmental injustice. For our residents, they’re rightfully upset, and there is concern over when this will truly be over.” Via L.A. Times and CNN Image via Pixabay

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Children hurt after Delta jet dumps fuel on schools

A green lung brings sunlight and air into a narrow Vietnamese home

January 7, 2020 by  
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In the tightly packed cities of Vietnam, residential houses are often placed close together on long, narrow plots of land — a setup that can make it hard for residents to get access to natural light and ventilation. When VRA Design was tapped to design a home on a plot tightly sandwiched between two others, the Hoi An-based architecture firm inserted a large courtyard to bring fresh air and light deep into the house. Built to the edges of its narrow and long plot, the HH Green Lung house spans three floors over 270 square meters. The main communal rooms, including the living room and kitchen, are located on the ground floor while two bedrooms, a prayer room and a relaxation room are placed above. Rather than install a courtyard that spans all three floors of the home, the architects instead designed a double-height courtyard located on the second floor — “if the courtyard is too deep, it would have made people who stand in it feel uncomfortable,” according to the architects — and cut out nine holes on the courtyard floor to let light and views into the living room below. Related: A rich vegetable garden grows atop a unique home in Vietnam “These holes are created not only to allow the light that can penetrate the ground floor, but we also want to look [at it] as a symbolic representation of the fusion between the sky and the earth of the eastern notion,” the team explained. “This space is like a buffer space between outdoor space and indoor space .” Filled with plants and open to the sky, the interior courtyard serves as a “green lung” that brings natural ventilation and sunlight into the rooms through operable glazing. To protect the home from heavy rain or high winds, the architects have also installed an operable roof cover that can be programmed to open or close depending on the time of day and weather conditions. + VRA Design Photography by Ha Phong DANG via VRA Design

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A green lung brings sunlight and air into a narrow Vietnamese home

8 attainable sustainability resolutions for 2020

January 1, 2020 by  
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Setting goals is a ubiquitous part of ushering in each new year. With a renewed vigor for healthy living, embrace the opportunity to incorporate more eco-friendly habits into your routine. This task can be achieved in a variety of ways, from changing your diet to reducing waste . Wherever you are on your sustainable living journey, we’ve got some ideas for how to lower your carbon footprint and enhance your sense of commitment to the planet. Commit to less driving Reducing miles equals reducing carbon emissions . To minimize personal auto usage, use public transportation for your daily commute. If subways and buses don’t take you where you need to go, set up a carpool to eliminate multiple cars going to the same location. Over the course of a year, replacing your 10-mile drive to work or school at least one day each week will greatly reduce emissions. If possible, skip the car altogether by walking or using a bike. Alternately, look into electric cars if you’re in the market for a new vehicle. Even if you must rely on your car daily, you can still reduce miles by combining errands when you head to town, organizing a carpool for kid drop-offs and pickups, sending the kids to school on the bus, eating your lunch in the office instead of driving to a restaurant and walking or biking to places in your neighborhood instead of jumping in the car. Related: People for Bikes is making cycling safer with Ride Spot Start a garden There’s nothing better than having fresh, organic vegetables at your disposal and no better way to achieve that goal than by starting a garden. If you have the space, plan for the seasons with cool weather leafy veggies and carrots in the spring, a salsa garden in the summer and squash in the fall. In a small space, prepare a container garden on your patio with cherry tomatoes, herbs and peas. If you don’t have space for your own garden, bring together like-minded people and start a community garden. As the saying goes, “Many hands make light work,” so having help with planting, maintaining and harvesting plants benefits everyone. If outdoor space isn’t an option, consider setting up a hydroponics system to grow indoors instead. Join an environmentally focused group Finding ways to help the environment can feel somewhat overwhelming, but when you join a group of like-minded people sharing in a common goal, you can achieve great things. Whether your passion is cleaning up the oceans or planting trees , find a local group that supports your cause. If there isn’t one in your area, set a goal to start one. Budget for the environment We are surrounded by prompts to constantly buy more stuff. Every billboard, bus and storefront is filled with enticing marketing meant to convince you that you need whatever they offer. But each product contributes to emissions from sourcing materials, manufacturing, transporting, maintaining warehouse and retail space and disposing of post-consumer waste. Of course, it’s important to make conscientious decisions about avoiding plastic and plastic foam, buying in bulk when possible and investing in durable products that will last many years rather than disposables, but avoiding the purchase in the first place is the best thing you can do for the planet. Boil purchases down to the essentials. Give experiences rather than physical gifts. Only buy in quantities you’re likely to use. Focus on multipurpose items that can suit alternate needs. Really evaluate whether you will use an item long-term. Set a goal to reduce unnecessary purchases, and do your budget a favor at the same time. Hint: Sharing or renting equipment, tools and supplies is another easy way to save money and reduce environmental impact. Take a class There are endless ways to lower your carbon footprint , so target a topic of interest and learn more about it. Some examples include beekeeping, preserving food, woodworking, sewing, gardening or learning how to build solar and wind technology. Become more self-sufficient by obtaining skills in homesteading, identifying edible plants or using plants in alternative ways. Reduce waste Becoming conscious of your waste is a huge step toward reducing it. Take a look at your typical waste. Do you fill a 64-gallon street container each week? If so, see if you can reduce that to a 32-gallon instead. If you don’t already, start recycling . Capabilities of local recycling centers vary widely across the nation, so educate yourself on the regional process. Most facilities accept glass, tin cans, large plastic containers and paper — at a minimum. Also, always return your bottles and aluminum cans for recycling or redemption. Related: Recycling Identifying Device takes the guesswork out of figuring out what is recyclable To repeat an earlier sentiment, the best way to reduce garbage is to keep it from entering the house in the first place. Look at the packaging when you make a purchase, and support companies that ship in recyclable or biodegradable containers. Set a tangible goal for yourself to reduce your waste production by half. Maybe next year, you can halve it again. Write a letter Believe it or not, companies want to know how you feel about their products. When you notice something you like, such as a commitment to carbon offsetting or sustainable material sourcing, let them know with your buying power and your word. Conversely, let businesses know when they miss the mark. Write a letter to the CEO or owner, and let them know you would be a loyal customer if they worked toward corporate responsibility. Near and far, make companies aware of changes they can make to be more sustainable. Offer suggestions to local restaurants to replace plastic straws or single-use plastic tablecloths. Ask if to-go containers are cardboard, and refuse them if an establishment only provides plastic foam. At a city, state or federal level, get your representative involved. Drop them a note each month of the year to let them know what is important to you. Educate them about issues they may not be aware of. Ask for representation around topics like reducing petroleum reliance, protecting nature and supporting organic farming. Make your voice heard by speaking out for what you believe. Clean your plate Feeding the planet’s population puts a burden on our limited resources, but there are many things you can do to lessen your individual impact. Start by buying as local as possible. Source food from the farmer’s market seasonally, and purchase directly from farms in your town. Buying organic produce supports farmers who make the extra effort to keep pesticides and other chemicals out of our waterways. You don’t want to eat chemical-laden food, anyway. Cut back on animal products, because animal farming is a major producer of methane. Skip meat a few days a week or altogether. Cut out dairy products where you can, too. Don’t buy more food than you need , and use up leftovers rather than throwing them out. Do most of your cooking at home. A commitment to home-cooked meals is better for your health, your budget and the planet. Setting resolutions for the new year is a healthy way to guide yourself toward your sustainability goals, which is a win for you and for Earth. Happy New Year! Images via Shutterstock

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8 attainable sustainability resolutions for 2020

Dropps offers chemical-, dye- and plastic-free laundry and dishwashing products

December 27, 2019 by  
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In a world where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find products free of harsh chemicals, it’s refreshing to discover a company focused on creating simple household supplies that do the job without endangering the health of humans or the planet. Dropps’ mission is to provide safer cleaning products minus bulky, wasteful packaging and unnecessary ingredients. Chemical- and dye-free The laundry and dishwashing products offered by Dropps come in clear pods that show the absence of dyes. Even though it offers scented options, all varieties omit the harsh chemicals found in many brand name detergents. For those with sensitive skin, some options eliminate scents as well. Related: Cora Ball emulates natural filtering of coral to remove toxic microfibers from your washing machine Eco-friendly packaging Each cleaning pod is made using a water-soluble membrane that leaves no waste behind. One of the most eco-friendly characteristics of the Dropps brand is the elimination of the large plastic tubs that house standard laundry and dishwasher detergents. In fact, both laundry and dishwasher pods come packaged in 100 percent recyclable, compostable and repulpable boxes. Carbon offsetting Dropps are only available via mail order, which means you won’t find these cleaning supplies at the local supermarket. Even though it is conscious about packaging during shipping, the company understands that product transport is hazardous to the environment. With this in mind, Dropps is committed to 100 percent carbon offsetting for each shipment “in the form of forestry conservation efforts or based on a technology that captures gas before it is released such as at a landfill or farm with decomposing waste,” according to the website. Awards With attention to high-quality, natural ingredients , conscientious packaging and carbon offsetting, it’s no surprise Dropps has earned some accolades with organizations that monitor these types of efforts. In 2017, Dropps was honored as an EPA Safer Choice Partner of the Year for outstanding achievement in formulation and product manufacturing of both consumer and institutional/industrial products. This recognition is earned by meeting stringent human and environmental health criteria. Inhabitat’s review of Dropps laundry and dish pods While in correspondence with Dropps, the company offered to send samples of several products, which I was happy to try out. My first impression was the packaging . The cardboard boxes were streamlined and minimalist. The products themselves fit tightly inside without extra and unneeded space. The pods are also compact and easy to use with no waste . For the dishwasher, the pods come in a citrus scent or without scent and go directly into the detergent compartment. Dishes came out clean with no residue from the pod on the dishware or in the compartment. I also sampled two varieties of laundry pods. One is labeled for stain and odors and offers a mild scent. The other is unscented and caters to sensitive skin. As a person with acute scent sensitivities, I prefer the unscented version. Both options perform effectively in dirt and odor removal. With three large dogs in the house, I can say I deal with plenty of both. Related: Tips to establish an eco-friendly laundry routine Dropps also provided a cold water washing pouch, which holds the pod if you wash in cold water (which I do). Because the pod takes slightly longer to dissolve in cold water, the washing pouch ensures it stays wet enough to dissolve, even in high-efficiency washing machines that use little water. The bag is small and easy to misplace, so I have washed loads with it and without it with equally good results. However, for the newest, ultra-efficient models, you may notice an issue without the bag. Some users have reported the pod membrane sticking to clothing in a cold water wash without the bag. Dropps also makes products for the dryer and provided me with wool balls to test. I have used wool balls in the past to improve dryer efficiency. The Dropps version seems slightly larger than those I’ve used previously, which helps to separate the clothes as they are drying and also makes the wool balls easier to find at the end of the cycle. Dropps has received high ratings for its chemical- and dye-free household cleaning items, with the main criticism being that it doesn’t provide a “clean, freshly laundered scent.” For me, that’s a pro, not a con, but it’s something to be aware of. Also, the membrane on the pods is very thin and susceptible to sticking together, so make sure you store them in a moisture-free area. Ensure your hands are dry before touching them. The bottom line is that plastic doesn’t have to be part of the cleaning process; neither do harsh chemicals. + Dropps Images via Dropps and Dawn Hammon / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by Dropps. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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