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

6 places to find the best recycled building materials

February 19, 2019 by  
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If construction is in your future — either with a new home build or a remodel — using recycled  building materials for the project is definitely the way to go. Not only is using recycled materials good for the environment , but it is often much cheaper. Sometimes, you can even find recycled materials for free! To help you with your upcoming construction or  DIY  project, here is a list of some of the best places to find recycled items and materials. Pawn shops You can find some pretty amazing brand name power tools at your local pawn shop. So, it doesn’t hurt to stop by one near you and see what they have. You can even tell them what you are looking for and they could call you when the right item comes into the store. The most important thing to remember when you want to use recycled building materials for your construction project is to tell people — don’t keep it a secret! Write posts about what you are looking for on social media, post an online classified, talk to your friends and family, make some calls to local contractors or post a flyer around a town. You don’t know if you don’t ask. When you do, you will most likely find some pretty amazing deals that can help your construction project be eco-friendly . Habitat for Humanity Restore Outlets that accept building material donations are a gold mine, especially when you are planning a construction project. Habitat for Humanity Restore sells donated items to the general public. You can find things like furniture, appliances, building materials and housewares, and they will cost you just pennies compared to what you would find at a regular home store. If you can’t find a Habitat for Humanity Restore in your area, there are other non-profits located throughout the country that also sell recycled building materials. All it takes is a quick Google search. Related: Green-roofed home is built of waste bricks and wood in Poland Wood recycling stores There are places all over the United States where you can find recycled and reclaimed wood for things like flooring, paneling and furniture. Not only does using recycled and reclaimed wood have environmental benefits, but it can give your home character. The Building Materials Reuse Association has an online directory that you can use to find a location near you where you can find recycled and reclaimed wood for your next construction project. Scratch and dent stores If you have never heard of a scratch and dent store, they are outlets that sell items that have been damaged, refurbished, are out of the box or have been discontinued. Scratch and dent items can be a lot cheaper than retail, they sometimes have a manufacturer warranty and the damage is usually just cosmetic. However, you will be responsible for getting rid of your old appliances and installing the new ones. There is also a risk that you could buy a lemon. So, make sure that you can swap your appliance out if you end up with one that is causing problems. You can find slightly imperfect appliances at the Sears Outlet website or at one of their outlet stores. You can also buy scratch and dent furniture online at Goedeker’s. Again, a quick Google search will help you find the scratch and dent stores in your area. Tear-down sites When a contractor is tearing down a building or remodeling a residential or commercial site they usually have to get rid of a few things. This means that you can get your hands on items like building materials, cabinets, sinks and toilets, and help the contractor dispose of their waste . Contact local contractors and tell them what you are looking for, then ask if you can take a look at one of their sites. Be prepared for some resistance because there could be safety and liability concerns. But, you just might find a contractor who wants to avoid waste just as much as you do and will be more than willing to set some things aside. Freecycle and Planet Reuse This non-profit website is all about exchanging things for free . It has millions of members from around the globe and the goal is to keep things from ending up in landfills . Membership is free and you can find items like tools, tiles and wood. Related: Eco-friendly options for decluttering waste Another great online option is PlanetReuse , which is a marketplace where you can buy recycled materials from both residential and commercial buildings. They also offer a consulting service if you need help with using recycled materials for your construction or DIY projects. Not to mention, they will also make sure to stay within your budget. Also, don’t be afraid to post an online classified ad on Craigslist, in a Facebook group or your general social media network. You might just be surprised who has something you could use just hanging out in their backyard. Images via Shutterstock

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6 places to find the best recycled building materials

Damage to Joshua Tree during the government shutdown could take centuries to repair

February 1, 2019 by  
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The recent month-long government shutdown may have caused “irreparable” damage to Joshua Tree National Park, according to former superintendent Curt Sauer. During those 34 days, visitors ruined trails, cut down trees and vandalized the park, and when workers returned, they found absolute chaos. “What’s happened to our park in the last 34 days is irreparable for the next 200 to 300 years,” Sauer — who ran the park for seven years — told the Desert Sun . The shutdown reduced ranger supervision, which led to increased vandalism. Officials decided to temporarily close the park on January 8. But the next day, they managed to avoid the closure and stay open with the help of revenue from recreation fees. Related: National Parks are being trashed during the government shutdown During the shutdown, many national parks were forced to operate without rangers, and volunteers helped out by hauling trash and cleaning bathrooms. Joshua Tree national park is 1,235 square miles, and the volunteer help wasn’t enough to keep people from ignoring the extra care warnings and damaging the park. Park spokesman George Land said that some visitors had created new roads with their vehicles and destroyed some of the Joshua trees. David Smith, the current superintendent, explained that there were a dozen different instances of vehicles going off-road and into the wilderness, creating two new roads inside the park. People also cut chains and locks to access campgrounds. “We’ve never seen this level of out-of-bounds camping ,” Smith said. “Everyday use area was occupied every evening. Joshua trees were actually cut down in order to make new roads.” Many locals were not happy with the park staying open during the shutdown . John Lauretig, executive director of the non-profit group Friends of Joshua Tree, said that the parks shouldn’t be held hostage. He added that having a park open and partially staffed isn’t good for the park, the public or the local community. He also believes that if the government shuts down again, the park should close completely to prevent more damage. Via Desert Sun  and  The Guardian Image via Christopher Michel

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Damage to Joshua Tree during the government shutdown could take centuries to repair

The geometric Black House captures light and views from multiple angles

February 1, 2019 by  
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When architect Benjamin Heller of Radolfzell-based architectural practice Freier Architekt designed the Black House, he took design inspiration from the project’s location near the boundary of Germany and Switzerland . Created to mimic a boundary stone cut by hand, the Black House is an angular, multifaceted building that appears to conspicuously mark the edge of the small village in which it resides on the German border. More than just an exercise to emulate a distinctive stone, the home’s geometric form is optimized to take in panoramic views of the landscape and natural light as part of the project’s embrace of nature. Located in the charming health resort Öhningen located close to Lake Constance, Germany, the Black House expresses the client’s love of nature in not only its location and framed landscape views, but also with its solid timber construction and energy-efficient technical equipment. For example, the house is sustainably heated with a system that uses a ground collector and heat pump . Spanning an area of 325 square meters, the Black House features two floors with a mix of public, semi-public and private spaces throughout as requested by the client. The home is entered from the east side, where a door opens up to a long hallway that branches off to a variety of rooms that includes sitting rooms, bathrooms and the ground-floor bedroom. Upstairs, an open-plan living room, kitchen and dining area dominate the majority of the floor plan and connect to a south-facing outdoor patio . On the east side is the master bedroom. Related: Experimental prefab home eschews fossil fuels in Geneva “The ‘Black House’ is explicitly oriented toward the landscape and the water,” the architect explained of the massing and the large expanses of glass. “The spacious areas and rooms inside the building are extended in southern direction. The clear and restrained interior design directs one’s eye instinctively to the outstanding panoramic view with the beautiful landscape. The light, polished screed and the parquet flooring of dark oak result in a harmonic but also contrasting interaction.” + Benjamin Heller Via ArchDaily Images via Benjamin Heller

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The geometric Black House captures light and views from multiple angles

Prosecco production is destroying soil in some Italian vineyards

January 28, 2019 by  
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Many people enjoy a glass of prosecco with their dinner , because it pairs well with everything from seafood to spicy Asian dishes. But the demand for the Italian sparkling wine is starting to cause some problems. According to a new study released earlier this month, the wine is destroying the soil in northeastern Italy’s vineyards. The amount of soil erosion from Italy’s prosecco vineyards is not sustainable, according to Jesus Rodrigo Comino, a geographer at the Institute of Geomorphology and Soils in Malaga, Spain. Even though he wasn’t involved in the study, he said that the future of the vineyards could be in jeopardy. Italy’s prosecco vineyards produce about 90 million bottles of the sparkling wine each year. After growing concerns about the skyrocketing demand of prosecco and its effect on the local environment, researchers from the University of Padua in Italy decided to look into the “soil footprint” of high-quality prosecco. Related: The growing wine industry is threatening California’s Napa Valley After studying 10 years of data for rainfall, land use, soil  and topographic maps, they found that prosecco was responsible for three-quarters of total soil erosion in the region. Then, they compared the soil erosion numbers with annual prosecco sales and came up with an annual “soil footprint” of 4.4 kilograms per bottle. It is worth noting that soil erosion isn’t always negative. To keep an ecosystem healthy, the erosion can help generate new soils. But that doesn’t mean that this current trend with prosecco production should continue. Scientists said that vineyard owners can reduce soil loss by leaving grass between the rows. According to simulations, this one solution could reduce total erosion by half. Other ideas include planting hedges and other greenery around the vineyards and also by the rivers and streams. According to Comino, “Only the application of nature-based solutions will be able to reduce or solve the problem.” Via Science News Image via seogolic0

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Net-zero home is designed to blend in with its natural, protected landscape

January 11, 2019 by  
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Located adjacent to designated wetlands, the Tung House by Seoul-based firm Project Architecture  is a net-zero home that combines conscientious landscape design with energy efficiency. Along with a large photovoltaic array and solar water heater panels to provide power and heating, the home uses a number of passive features to achieve its  net-zero energy use . At 2,900 square feet, the Tung House is a fairly large structure but relatively small in comparison with other homes in the area. One of the reasons that the size was restrained is its location. The home is built in Lincoln, Massachusetts on a strictly preserved site adjacent to designated wetlands. The size limitations imposed by the local government presented a challenge to the architects, who met the restrictions head-on with a gorgeous angular design that aesthetically gives the home a unique character while simultaneously achieving net-zero energy use . Related: This net-zero home is inspired by Iceland’s volcanic landscapes At the heart of the design are the geometric features. The roof, which is comprised of various planes, was used to give the home ample space for the photovoltaic array and solar water heater panels . The rooftop solar panels provide sufficient power and heating to the house, and in the summer months, any additional energy is transferred back to the city’s local grid. In addition to making room for solar panels, the multiple roof planes provide several overhangs that shade the interior living space during the warmer months and help provide natural light and heat during the wintertime. Inside, the architects wanted to create an open layout that offered a seamless connection between the living space and the outdoors. From the front door to the upper level, multiple large windows offer views of the serene backyard. Naturally lit by sunlight , a loft-like living room and open kitchen are on the ground floor, which is connected to the upper floors through a mezzanine level. The interior design scheme of all-white provides a contemporary elegance throughout the home, enhanced by the various angular ceilings. + Project Architecture Via Archdaily Images via Project Architecture

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Net-zero home is designed to blend in with its natural, protected landscape

Nh Nhm Homestay is built from upcycled waste in Vietnam

December 19, 2018 by  
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Born from waste materials, the stylish Nhà Nhím Homestay is giving upcycling a good name with its smart eco-friendly design. Designed by Ho Chi Minh City-based architectural practice A+ Architects , the hotel comprises a series of contemporary structures built of locally sourced materials and positioned for optimal views over the landscape. Completed last year, the project is located in Da Lat, the capital of Lam Dong province in southern Vietnam’s Central Highlands. The long and narrow project site for the Nhà Nhím Homestay proved a challenge due to the dimensions and the sloped terrain. Rather than create a single structure stretched across the slender site, the architects split the hotel into a series of buildings strategically staggered and spaced apart to protect against cold winds and to encourage connection between units. The structures were also elevated off the ground for improved views and to create usable open space underneath. The sleeping areas—seven beds in total—are located upstairs while the communal spaces are on the ground floor. After the architects sketched out the initial design, they began to study the site surroundings in more detail. After multiple trips out to Da Lat, the firm found inspiration in the region’s abundance of waste material and decided to upcycle those materials to tie the design into its surroundings. Unwanted cutoffs from the local textile factories, for instance, were recycled into different parts in the buildings, while external wood cells were reused in the ceiling modules. Leftover pine branches were transformed into fencing and other old timbers were given new life as furnishings. Related: An old warehouse is remade into a stylish hotel with a copper chevron crown The architects add: “There were also test concrete blocks being thrown away. No longer garbage. We recreated a new purpose for them, when they were carefully aligned to recreate the iconic talus slope of Da Lat. In the end, this project was a story of giving so-called “garbages” a second chance and an architect’s adventure of creating something meaningful from trash.” + A+ Architects Images by Quang Tran  

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Nh Nhm Homestay is built from upcycled waste in Vietnam

8,000 barrels of oil spill in the Peruvian Amazon

December 14, 2018 by  
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Approximately 8,000 barrels of crude oil have spilled into the Amazon, and the Peru State oil company Petroperu says its because local indigenous people severed the pipeline. According to a company statement , members of the Mayuriaga community in the Loreto region first damaged the pipeline and then interfered with the technicians trying to repair it. “The townspeople prevented us from securing the pipe to stop petroleum from spilling from the pipe,” said Beatriz Alva Hart, a Petroperu spokeswoman. The spill is one of the worst the region has seen in years, and it comes after the Mayuriaga community threatened to attack the pipeline in protest of recent district election results. Related: Crude oil spill off Newfoundland coast deemed impossible to clean up The pipeline transports the crude from the Peruvian Amazon oil fields to Petroperu’s refinery on the Pacific coast. And, during the past two years, local vandals have attacked it fifteen different times over issues that have nothing to do with the company. Data from OEFA, an environmental regulator, shows that the repeated attacks have caused over 20,000 barrels to spill from the critical pipeline , and over 5,000 barrels have sprung leaks thanks to corrosion or operative failures. The leader of Peru’s Wampis Nation — whose members make up the Mayuriaga community — has denied Petroperu’s accusations. Just days before the spill, the company received a handwritten letter from three individuals threatening to damage the Norperuano pipeline if the company didn’t declare recent election results invalid. They also claimed fraud and corruption in the local mayoral election. The letter’s authors identify as indigenous peoples of Morona, the district that contains the Wampis community of Mayuriaga, which sits about 500 yards from the spill site. Petroperu is not in charge of the local elections, but 20 of their employees were held hostage before the threatening letter arrived, a practice that the Mayuriaga community has been accused of in the past. Company officials have still not been able to assess the damage from the spill or do any cleanup work because the community will not allow them to enter the area safely. Via Reuters , Earther Image via Shutterstock

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8,000 barrels of oil spill in the Peruvian Amazon

Guide to sustainable winter activities

December 3, 2018 by  
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Just because the temperature plummets and the daylight runs short doesn’t mean your bustling days need to end. Instead of hibernating like a bear, wearing pajamas and watching Netflix day after day, put some fun on the schedule and look forward to a winter full of activities. Of course, consumption and waste are always a consideration here at Inhabitat so here’s our top choices for the best eco-friendly, sustainable activities for your winter calendar. Snow play Those who love winter often anticipate the arrival of snow. Even those who long for summer have to admit that there is much fun to be had in the snow. Besides the obvious snowboarding and skiing, think local. Drag a sled up and down a hill for the afternoon and follow it up with hot cocoa or cider back at home. Take those cross-country skis off the wall and head to a nearby field or back-country road. Make, rent, or purchase some snowshoes for an invigorating experience. No discussion of snow would be complete without recommending you build a snowman and enjoy the mandatory snowball fight that comes with it. Alternately, build an igloo or snow cave. If you’re really adventurous you could even camp out in it! Get into nature Many outdoor activities can roll over from fall into winter. If the weather is not too severe, keep up your nature hikes and monitor the changes in the landscape throughout the season. While you’re out, look for supplies that you could use in crafts, such as pine cones, leaves, rocks, curved bark, acorns, or colorful berries. In fact, make it a challenge with a scavenger hunt or look up geocaching in your area and see if you can find the prize. Have a picnic Yes, you can. Of course you can. Why not? Replace the summer Chablis with a thermos of heated goodness. Bring along some hearty favorites and a thick blanket or pop-up tent. Find cover at a nearby park and watch the river rush by or the birds forage for food. Have a war For those mild-weather regions or even those with snow on the ground, grab the kids or a group of friends and head to the woods for a paintball war. Just be sure to wear eye protection and choose eco-friendly paints for you guns. Of course, you can recreate the same fun at home with rubber band guns and they are even easy to make yourself with any shape of wood and a clothespin mounted on top to fire the rubber bands. Baking party As soon as the days begin to shorten, the baked goods are in high demand. Instead of spending hours alone in the kitchen, why not make it a party? Invite over a few friends and pool ingredients to maximize the eco-friendly advantages of bulk foods, reduced packaging, and minimal waste. At the end of the day you’ll each have a variety of baked goods to take to your family or give as gifts. Travel by train There’s something about traveling by train that is timeless and serene. Of course, it’s also nice that it’s one of the most earth-friendly forms of transport. So whether you’re traveling to reach a destination or simply to take a scenic tour, hop aboard the train as your first option. Local events Communities organize events during every season and winter is no exception. Check the local online pages and printed newspapers for sustainable events in your area. These might include taking a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, or attending a tree lighting ceremony, fundraising event, or salmon education walk. Volunteer Wintertime is a rough season for the homeless and less fortunate. Take some time to help out at a soup kitchen or local food bank and feel good about your contribution. Craft party For an indoor activity, invite over some friends or plan a party for your kids. You can make any number of things as a group including wreaths, blankets, quilts, pick-me-up cards for seniors or veterans, etc. For the kids, make Play-doh, Flubber, fingerpaints, or paper snowflakes. Donate them if you like or use them as gifts during the holidays and beyond. Build a birdhouse Your feathered friends will enjoy a warm place to sleep too. Get together with friends and make birdhouses for your backyard sanctuary. Visit the library The library is a great place to spend a soggy winter afternoon. Learn something new or just enjoy some quiet time. Indoor herb garden Many plants will grow indoors, even during the winter. Take pleasure in planting an herb garden and watch it grow while you enjoy fresh herbs year round. Take an adventure There’s no need to wait for summer for your next adventure. Instead, hunt down eco-friendly winter options around you. Go ice skating on the lake, visit the local reindeer farm, or experience your first dog sled ride. Winter is waiting. Go get it! Images via Shutterstock, Andrew Ly , Ethan Hu , lukasbieri , rawpixel , skeeze , jill111 , Michael Mroczek , Susan Yin , pintando la luz

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Guide to sustainable winter activities

Veteran carpenter builds gorgeous tiny home that boasts impressive wood working and screened-in porch

December 3, 2018 by  
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Working in woodworking since he was 15 years old, Maine native Vince Marzilli knows a thing or two about carpentry. The Maine-native has now parlayed his wood crafting talents into the tiny home construction business, and the results are stunning. Clad in cedar shingles with an all-wood interior and inviting screened-in porch, Marzilli’s first tiny home, the Cumberland, gives off a soothing cabin-in-the-woods feel. Built on a custom wheeled trailer , the Cumberland is 15 feet long, clad in a mix of cedar shingles and black siding. The home’s screened-in front entrance is perhaps the first thing to stand out among the beautiful tiny home’s design. A short three steps leads into the warm space, complete with a small dinette set to enjoy a morning cup of coffee or late night glass of wine with friends. Related: Enjoy a mint julep on this tiny farmhouse’s charming front porch On the interior, Marzilli’s wood working talents are evident at just about every angle. The wood-clad living space boast a variety of wooden hues and grains, emitting a warm, soothing aesthetic. Poplar was the wood of choice for much of the interior, including the ceilings, whose Poplar planks contrast nicely with White Ash rafters and beams. The wooden interior is flooded with natural light thanks to an abundance of large windows. The living space includes the seating area of the screened in porch, and a large kitchen with custom-made cabinets, doors and drawer fronts. Adjacent to the kitchen is another seating/dining area with an expandable dining table with two removable leaves that allows space for up to four people. The bedroom is located on a sleeping loft , which is accessed by ladder. The space is large enough for a queen size bed and also features a large skylight for stargazing before drifting off to sleep. + Evergreen Tiny Homes and Custom Woodworking Via Tiny House Talk Images via Evergreen Tiny Homes and Custom Woodworking

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