Futuristic Safezone Shelter battles air pollution in Thailand with a green oasis

March 18, 2020 by  
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According to the World Air Quality Index of 2019, the city of Bangkok suffers from unhealthy levels of air pollution most of the year. In a bid to raise awareness about air quality and the urban heat island effect, Thai design collective Shma Company created Safezone Shelter, an ephemeral pavilion filled with air purifying plants and technology to create a welcoming gathering space for passersby. Shaped like a cloud, the sculptural intervention was briefly installed in front of the Grand Postal Building during Bangkok Design Week 2020.  In contrast to the brutalist architecture of the Grand Postal Building, the 150-square-meter Safezone Shelter features a futuristic, organic shape with a white nylon covering to evoke the appearance of a cloud. The white textile allows light to diffuse through while hiding the interior from outside views. Inside, the designers created an unexpected oasis filled with tropical plants, informational signage and seating, which also includes part of the postal building’s steps.  Related: Architects design giant air purifying towers to fight Delhi’s air pollution To create a cooling microclimate, the designers engineered the pavilion to pull in hot, polluted air with fans and pass it through dense vegetation to capture dust particles. This “pre-filtered wind” is then passed through a dust filter plate and a cooling plate to purify the air . In addition to the cool air flow generated by fans, the trees, shrubs and ground cover help keep the pavilion’s interior temperatures to between 72 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit. A humidifier maintains humidity levels of 50% to 70%. Recorded nature sounds, such as the sounds of water and birds, are also played inside the space. “All of these inventive methods could further be applied to solve air pollution in other kinds of design,” the designers explained. “Looking wider at an urban scale, bus stops, recreational space under expressways and skywalks also have a potential to be revitalized with such purification systems. At the end, even high-rise buildings might become old-fashioned when a better choice like an air purifier tower could be constructed.” Safezone Shelter was put on display from December 2019 to February 2020.  + Shma Company Images via Shma

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Futuristic Safezone Shelter battles air pollution in Thailand with a green oasis

Pixie Retreat: Behind the scenes in a raw commercial kitchen

March 18, 2020 by  
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I’ve been vegetarian since childhood and have met people with many different takes on a healthy plant-based diet. The raw foodists I’ve encountered have blown me away with the innovation it takes to come up with a menu beyond salad while limiting cooking temperatures to no more than 118 degrees. The raw food philosophy is that heat breaks down food’s nutritional value, while low temperatures allow food to retain enzymes and vitamins, leading to the body’s ability to prevent and fight disease and generally thrive. So when Theresa Keane, co-owner of Pixie Retreat , invited me to tour her Portland, Oregon raw food kitchen, I was intrigued. Her team produces a full vegan, organic , gluten-free and mostly raw menu on a commercial scale. Not only do they supply Pixie Retreat’s three Portland retail locations, they’ve also started wholesaling to local stores. Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at a commercial raw food kitchen. The early years Pixie Retreat was built on a dream and a lot of hard work, trial and error. Keane co-founded the business with Willow O’Brien in 2008. At the time, they wanted to make and sell healthful and delicious food , but were new to the dining business. “We didn’t know what we were doing,” Keane said. “We never worked in kitchens, Willow and I. She didn’t even know how to make food. She made tea and stuff like that.” They started out sharing a commissary kitchen with other vegan businesses. That’s where they met Anna Clark, who later became their third business partner. Clark, a pastry chef, was the only one with formal culinary training. After 9 months in the commissary kitchen, they rented a house and ran Pixie Retreat out of it, working late into the night while filling wholesale orders. Keane described a time when an engineer acquaintance stopped by. Their setup left him shocked. “We had eight refrigerators, freezers, 20 dehydrators,” Keane said. “He said it’s amazing you don’t burn this house down. Every night, the power would trip off. We couldn’t even turn the heat on because it would trip the power.” A spotless, modern raw food kitchen They’ve come a long way. Now headquartered in Southeast Portland’s industrial district, the Pixie Retreat RAW’r Laboratorie & Makery is both a retail outlet and the site of their commercial kitchen. The small front part has a seating area and a case of premade wraps and goodies. “We’re grab-and-go style, because that’s how people are living,” Keane said. “We’re not a sit down-like service restaurant . We’re into flavor, satisfaction and integrity of our ingredients. Plating is not my forte.” Customers can also custom-order kale- or millet-based bowls and coconut cream puddings with toppings. The millet is one of several cooked ingredients available. A big white curtain hangs behind the counter, obscuring the kitchen. “That’s more for health department reasons,” Keane said, indicating the curtain. “And to protect the magic back there.” We step through the curtain and find three workers preparing food in an extremely well-organized kitchen. It’s Thursday, one of the big assembly days for delivering to the two other Pixie Retreat outlets. Tacked up on the door of the walk-in dehydrator are long to-do lists for each day of the week. Keane introduced me to her staff and to each machine, many of which were specially made or adapted to the needs of a mostly raw food kitchen. The walk-in dehydration room is the most exciting and unusual. Keane opened the door, releasing a smoky smell. Inside are trays and trays of eggplant bacon strips, which stay in there for 72 hours. Pixie Retreat bought the dehydrator from a former kale chip entrepreneur who devised tools to streamline raw food making. Keane estimated the walk-in dehydrator is 75% more efficient than the company’s former multiple-dehydrator setup. Pixie Retreat has a Robot Coupe Blixer, which is an industrial-strength food processor. “This tool is a game changer,” Keane said. “I mean, it’s expensive like a car, but it paid for itself in labor. I love this tool so much.” The company uses it to blend ingredients for pizza dough, macadamia nut cheese and raw onion bread. Pixie Retreat makes raw chocolate in its chocolate machine, melting it down at a temperature of 108. The chocolate winds up in treats like chocolate salted “karmals”, “almond butta cups” and dehydrated, oat-based chocolate chip cookies. Other interesting tools include an Italian fruit press repurposed for squeezing excess moisture out of sauerkraut and a specially made enormous cookie-cutter to cut onion bread into uniform squares while minimizing waste . Raw and vegan at home The Pixie Retreat kitchen is cool but daunting. What about the average person who wants to add more raw food into their diet without shelling out for a Blixer? “Make nut milk ,” Keane said. “That’s where I would start.” You’ll need a nut milk bag, available online or in some grocery stores’ produce departments. She recommended starting with hazelnuts or almonds. For flavor and sweetness, add sea salt, vanilla and a Medjool date. Put it all in your blender. “Kick it up on high. Blend it. Then you put it in the nut milk bag and you squeeze it out.” Dry out the pulp and use it as a nut flour for baked goods. Related: How to choose the healthiest, most sustainable milk alternative After you master nut milk, try making nut cheese. Keane recommended blending buttery macadamia nuts with water, Italian seasoning, lemon juice and sea salt for a plant-based ricotta. Going national Pixie Retreat scaled back from wholesale for a while to focus on retail locations. But it has just relaunched, selling chocolate “karmal”, salted “karmal” and raspberry “l’il puddin” at New Seasons stores in Portland. Made with organic young coconut meat and Irish moss, these raw desserts are packed with nutrients . Soon, Pixie Retreat plans to introduce nationwide cold shipping of the “l’il puddin’”. Currently, customers across the U.S. can order sweet or savory Pixie snack boxes . But Pixie Retreat’s goals go far beyond Portland or even the U.S. When I asked Keane about the company vision, she immediately said, “Global. That’s the dream. We want to be the fast food of the future.” + Pixie Retreat Images via Josh Chang and Marielle Dezurick / Pixie Retreat and Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Pixie Retreat: Behind the scenes in a raw commercial kitchen

The best plants for attracting pollinators to your yard

March 2, 2020 by  
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Pollination occurs when pollinators, like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, feed on the sweet nectar from flowers. While they enjoy the buffet, powdery pollen sticks to them. As they move down the buffet line to other plants in the area, the pollen drops off into those plants, which then use it to create seeds, fruit and more plants. The process is essential to our food supply, with some estimates giving pollination credit for up to one-third of what we eat. Whether you want a robust garden full of produce, to help boost pollinator populations or both, focusing on the best plants for pollinators will help you reach your goal. Ideally, you will want to select native plants for your region. Talk to your local extension office, do some research online or grab a book from the library. Your local nursery or other garden supply store will likely have a great selection of the best plants for attracting pollinators to get you started. In the meantime, here are plenty of tips to help you know where to start when it comes to creating a beautiful, bountiful pollinator garden. Related: EU approves complete ban on bee-killing insecticides Best plants for every kind of pollinator and climate Many plants are forgiving enough to succeed in a variety of climates and are commonly used for attracting pollinators in just about any area. Herbs such as lavender, rosemary, sage, mint and oregano are great options. Other plants provide aesthetic appeal for your yard while also creating a feast for pollinators. Look into whether coneflower (purple is a favorite for butterflies), sunflower, redbud, catnip, penstemon, lab’s ears, verbena, aster, black-eyed Susan or yarrow are a good fit for your space. Butterfly gardens If your main draw is butterflies, try alyssum, aster, butterfly bush, cosmos, delphinium, and the easy-to-grow daylily. A few other butterfly favorites include fennel, globe thistle, goldenrod and liatris. Hollyhock makes butterflies happy, but be careful where you plant it, because hollyhock can become invasive after the first season. Plants to attract hummingbirds Hummingbirds like big, bright blooms they can stick their extraordinarily long tongues into for a drink. Test out bee balm, begonias, bleeding heart, canna, cardinal flower, columbine and coral bells (heuchera). Vary your plantings by season, and choose plants of different heights and colors. Include cleome, dahlia, foxglove, fuchsia, gladiolus, iris and lupine. Other plants known to draw in the fluttery birds include lantana, paintbrush, nicotiana, phlox and yucca. Bee-friendly plants As you probably know, bees are critical to the survival of our planet, but colony collapse has put them in crisis. Do your part with some bee-friendly plants like bee plant, bergamot, borage, cosmos, flax, giant hyssop, marjoram and poppies. Bees are usually satisfied feeding at any nectar-rich banquet, so most herbs, berries or flowers in your garden will likely make them happy. If you plan to try beekeeping, note that the resulting honey will pick up the key notes from what they feed on, so experiment with wildflowers, wild rose, thyme, verbena and blackberries for different flavors. Pollinators by region Weather trends in your area will affect the types of plants that will thrive, so again, it’s important to research plants native to your locale. However, here are some general ideas for the more extreme climates you might be dealing with. Arid mountains  If you live in a semi-desert region, try out catnip, clover, milkwort, morning glory, passion flowers and phacelia in your pollinator garden. Some other options that should thrive in arid regions include rose, potentilla, sorrel, violet and wild mustard. Coastal areas For areas that receive more rain, such as the misty coasts, add catalpa, cow parsley, goldenrod, impatiens, morning glory and willow catkins to your garden. Although we’ve mentioned a lot of flowers, remember that crops bloom too, providing an opportunity to feed the pollinators and yourself. Plant some almonds, apples, blueberries, cherries, eggplants, gooseberries, legumes, watermelons, squash, pumpkins and tomatoes along with herbs to satisfy the pollinators and fill your plate. Additional pollinator garden tips There are a few more components to creating the perfect pollinator garden, where bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and more will all flock to for nectar. Proper plant care In addition to selecting the best plants for pollinators, you’ll want to make sure those plants and the pollinators are thriving. Follow watering guidelines for the plants you select and fertilize them when needed, but be sure to use only organic materials. Avoid chemicals such as insecticides and herbicides that can harm bees, moths and other pollinators. Especially during the hot, summer months, scatter water sources around your garden for pollinators to enjoy while they work. Also cluster plants together so pollinators have some protection. This gives them a place to hide from predators, heat and rain as well as to rear their young. If you grow crops on a large or small scale, consider throwing some seeds in the ground during the off season. You may not want the plants that are not at their peak, but pollinators will appreciate them nonetheless — your soil will likely thank you for some variety, too. You can also put wildflowers in unused areas for your pollinators to enjoy. Pollinators’ favorite colors Map out your garden with a variety of colors for attracting pollinators of all types.  Birds are naturally drawn to warm tones, like scarlet, red and orange. They also respond well to white blooms. Butterflies like bright colors and the deeper tones of red and purple. On the other end of the spectrum, moths prefer dull red, purple, pink and white. By planting a variety of colors that bloom throughout the seasons, you will provide the best environment to attract all types of pollinators. Images via Shutterstock

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The best plants for attracting pollinators to your yard

3-wheeled electric truck doubles as a sweet tiny camper

February 17, 2020 by  
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The worlds of electric vehicles and tiny campers have collided to bring us the Elektro Frosch — a tiny, three-wheeled electric pickup truck that has a fold-out camper. The cute little “Electric Frog” campers have everything you need to enjoy a minimalist outdoor excursion, including a camper that sleeps two and a large tarp that pulls out from the vehicle to cover the cooking and dining space. Designed by the German company Elektro Frosch, the electric truck comes in two sizes: the Big and the Pro. Although the designs are slightly different, each three-wheeled, fire-engine red vehicle is equipped with 2,500 watts of energy that enable the electric truck to travel up to 37 miles on one charge. Granted, that’s not much power, but for a quick weekend in the wilderness, it should do the trick. Related: Tiny TigerMoth Camper generates power while being towed The electric trucks come with custom camping modules that fit snugly in the flatbed area but can also be easily removed. Completely street-legal, these tiny trucks are incredibly lightweight at just 529 pounds, yet they are strong enough to hold up to 1,157 pounds. The camping setup has everything needed for an off-grid adventure. The bright orange tent, which sleeps two, folds up and out and is accessible by a ladder. The functional electric vehicle also includes a pull-out tarp that can be staked into the landscape for support. This space can be used as a covered kitchen and dining area or just general lounge space with some protection from the elements. The dining table comes with plenty of storage and a slide-out shelf that can be used for extra preparation space. The tiny camper also comes with several fold-out stools, creating the perfect setting for owners to enjoy the fresh air. The entire set-up, electric truck and all, is 4,900 euros (about $5,300). + Elektro Frosch Via Treehugger Images via Elektro Frosh

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3-wheeled electric truck doubles as a sweet tiny camper

Airstream unveils new 2020 camper with smart technology

January 17, 2020 by  
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Airstream is a long-standing American legend beloved by many roaming road warriors, but now the iconic campers have been given a sleek modern makeover. The new 2020 Airstream Classics feature an impressive apartment-like interior design scheme that uses a “comfort white” color scheme to create a more contemporary living space that puts the campers once again at the forefront of tiny home design. Although Airstreams come in various sizes and styles, the campers have normally been manufactured with dark wood accents and rough textures that contrast with the campers’ ultra shimmery exteriors. The newly-unveiled 2020 Classics, however, have taken a decidedly contemporary turn that breathes new life into the classic campers. Related: This 1970s Airstream is an off-grid oasis for a family of six Perhaps taking cues from the burgeoning tiny home sector , the reformatted trailers now boast a bright and airy apartment-like layout. The living space is comprised of matte grey curved ceilings with all white walls that contrast nicely with a few black tables. Adding a sense of whimsy to the design, woven vinyl floors with a textured, grasscloth look run the length of the space. Although the campers boast a contemporary design, some things have remained the same such as the abundance of natural light that floods the interior space thanks to Airstream’s signature wide windows. The living space features a comfy living area that faces a small desk that pulls double duty as an entertainment area or office space. Further down the aisle, a contemporary kitchen will please any home cook. Outfitted with white shaker-style cabinetry and German-imported brass hardware, the space also features dark Corian countertops that compliment the grey, white and black color scheme that runs throughout the interior. A dining nook across from the kitchen provides ample space to enjoy a nice spread of home-cooked fare. At the end of the trailer , the bedroom has two single beds with stylish white linens with grey accents. Blackout shades keep the morning sun out while sleeping in, but otherwise, the space is just as bright and fresh as the rest of the interior. Ranging from 30 to 33 feet, the Classic Travel Trailer starts at just $156,400. In addition to its newly-renovated interiors, the Airstream Classics come with all-new Smart Control Technology that lets you control and monitor the trailer’s features from an app . For example, you can turn the exterior and interior lights on and off, extend and retract the awning, adjust the air conditioner or heat pump, and monitor tank and battery levels, all with just the touch of a button. + Airstream Via Curbed Images via Airstream

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Airstream unveils new 2020 camper with smart technology

New Marine Education Center in Malm raises climate change awareness

January 17, 2020 by  
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In Malmö, Sweden, the recently completed Marine Education Center is giving visitors a closer look at the effects of climate change and sustainable technology. Copenhagen-based practice NORD Architects designed the building, which not only provides an indoor-outdoor learning landscape but also visually blurs the boundaries between the built environment and its surroundings. As a beacon of sustainability, the center is integrated with energy-efficient technologies including solar panels, geothermal heat exchangers and rainwater collection systems. Located next to the Öresund strait, the Marine Education Center officially opened in the fall of 2018, four years after NORD Architects won the bid for the project in a design competition. Surrounded by earth berms built up to resemble sand dunes, the single-story building appears nestled into the landscape, while its long footprint emphasizes the vastness of its surroundings. The wave-like protrusions that top the roof add both visual interest and practical purpose; the angled elements are used to mount solar panels , let in indirect daylight and promote natural ventilation. Related: Obra Architects stimulates climate change discussion with a “climate-correcting machine” Beneath the roof are two enclosed areas separated by a large, sheltered walkway. Walls of glass surround the classrooms and gathering spaces to let in light and frame views of the sea, while the use of timber adds a sense of warmth to the interior. The Marine Education Center was designed to be highly flexible and can adapt over time to accommodate new technologies.  “We have developed a learning landscape where education is everywhere,” said Johannes Molander Pedersen, partner at NORD Architects. “It is in the landscape, in the building and in the transition between nature and culture. The center is open for everyone who is interested in the role we as humans play in nature’s life cycle. It allows hands-on learning experience that invites users to explore using their senses in the field, and thereafter analyze and understand their observations of the marine life .” + NORD Architects Photography by Adam Mørk via NORD Architects

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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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Off-grid tiny cabin in Australia is just the place for a digital detox in the new year

January 1, 2020 by  
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Last year, we featured CABN ‘s collection of gorgeous, off-grid cabins that are designed to offer a serene respite away from the stresses of everyday life. Now, the Australian company has just unveiled another beautiful design, the Sadie, which is its first eco-retreat in Victoria. Tucked in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, the solar-powered cabin is the ideal spot for reconnecting with nature in the new year. Like all of CABN’s projects, the Sadie is designed to go completely off the grid while still offering the ultimate in comfort for guests who are looking to immerse themselves in nature. Located on a remote property in Daylesford, the cabin is less than a 1.5 hour drive from Melbourne. Guests staying at the tiny cabin will enjoy the secluded area, which is surrounded by lush forest and unspoiled nature. Related: These Australian tiny cabins are designed to help us disconnect With a master bedroom and a comfy day bed, the cabin can accommodate up to four guests. In addition to the two sleep spaces, there is a main living area complete with the company’s signature, massive window that frames views of the forested landscape. This window is accompanied by a handful more, all of which brighten the space with natural light during the day. Despite its small size, the cabin has more than enough amenities to make guests feel at home. The bathroom sports a simplistic design of unfinished wood and has enough space for a shower and a composting toilet . For meals, there is a fully equipped kitchen and an outdoor grill. Guests can also enjoy a nice glass of wine while lounging around the firepit, provided its not bushfire season, of course. Although the cabin, which starts at $200 per night, is located in a remote forest seemingly at the end of the earth, in reality, the cabin retreat is in Daylesford, which has plenty of restaurants and shops nearby. Additionally, there are plenty of local wineries in the area to tour. + CABN Images via CABN

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Off-grid tiny cabin in Australia is just the place for a digital detox in the new year

A rich vegetable garden grows atop a unique home in Vietnam

December 17, 2019 by  
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In Vietnam’s coastal region of Quang Ngai, a one-of-a-kind home with a roof topped with fresh vegetables has infused new life into a rural village. Designed by Ho Chi Minh City-based architecture firm TAA DESIGN , the recently completed home — dubbed The Red Roof after its red facade and eye-catching roof — is the residence of a married couple who grew up in the area and sought a unique home conducive to their traditional cultural lifestyle. Designed with an emphasis on connecting with nature, the home features a flourishing vegetable garden on its roof and multiple courtyards for seamless indoor-outdoor living. Located along the main road of the village, The Red Roof is a compact residence of 80 square meters that stretches east to west on a long and narrow plot. Accessed from the west end, the entrance leads past a gated front yard with a bicycle repair space to a covered porch that opens up to a double-height living room. Tucked behind is a kitchen and dining area next to a small interior courtyard and bathroom. A set of stairs to the mezzanine and the rice storage area separates the kitchen from the master bedroom in the rear; this space leads to the small backyard. Related: This self-sustaining Australian home harvests its own food, energy and water A second bedroom with a bathroom and an alter room are located on the mezzanine level. The alter room has access to a courtyard and the terraced vegetable gardens on the roof. The vegetable garden not only gives the couple ample opportunities to indulge in their love of gardening and cooking, but it also helps tighten bonds with the community, who benefit from the harvest. “In Vietnamese traditional landscape, ‘the red roof’ house represented for a time of regional local architecture,” the architects said in a statement. “However, now new multi-story houses with steel roofs seem to have lost the identity of village landscape.” The architects used a stair-step method as to not overwhelm the urban landscape with another towering, steel structure. Instead, the stair-step design “establishes the communication between the space on the roof and the space under the road. ‘The red roof’ has the intent to keep, to store and remind the familiar rural lifestyle.” + TAA DESIGN Images via TAA DESIGN

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A rich vegetable garden grows atop a unique home in Vietnam

Earth-friendly holiday gift ideas for your entire family

December 13, 2019 by  
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Wondering what to give every family member on your list — parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins? Here are this year’s green gift recommendations from Inhabitat to help you decide which eco-conscious presents to give this holiday season. Zero-waste makeup Beauty and personal care products are wonderful ideas for gift-giving. Even better are the ones that are ethical, zero-waste and eco-friendly. Some suggested brands are Antonym Costmetics , Axiology , Besame , Elate Beauty , Ilia , Kjaer Weis , Lush , RMS Beauty and Tata Harper . Vegan leather goods Vegan leather is in, especially for those who prefer being cruelty-free and ethical. For vegan leather alternative goods like belts, footwear, jackets, luggage, outerwear, purses and wallets, consider Brave GentleMan , Cork By Design , Corkor , Doshi , Ethique212 , Eve Cork , Matt & Nat , Pixie Mood , Stella McCartney , Tree Tribe , Urban Expressions, Vaute Couture , The Vegan Collection , Wilby and Will’s Vegan Shoes . Bamboo pillows and bedding For a good night’s sleep, pillows and bedding made from bamboo fibers are a healthy and environmentally friendly choice. Did you know that bamboo pillows and bedding are hypoallergenic? If that has piqued your interest, have a look at the options by Cariloha Bamboo , Ettitude , Hotel Sheets Direct , Miracle Bamboo Pillow , Simply Organic Bamboo , Snuggle-Pedic , Zen Bamboo and Zenlusso . Sustainable weighted blankets If anyone in your family has weighted blankets on their wish list this year, then Bearaby and Sheltered Company have some snuggly, sustainable options. Weighted blankets resemble the sensation of being hugged or swaddled, allowing for a deeper sleep. Plus, weighted blankets stimulate serotonin production, which helps reduce stress and increase calmness, making sleep more comfortable and satisfying. Cast iron skillets Cast iron skillets are sturdy and durable. As the original non-stick cookware , they don’t have the hazardous coating chemicals, like Teflon, which means they are a healthier cookware choice. Also, what draws many people to them is that they are easy to clean and they can be passed down from generation to generation. Examples of cast iron skillets to gift this year include those by All-Clad , Demeyere , Le Creuset , Lodge Cast Iron , Mauviel , Skeppshult , SolidTeknics and Staub . Solar grills, cookers or ovens Solar energy is now being utilized in cooking and grilling. Grills, cookers and ovens that operate via solar power are becoming a hot commodity, not only for camping enthusiasts and off-grid homesteaders but also for those prepping for potential power outages. Some viable options to choose from include those offered by All Season Solar Cooker (SolCook) , GoSun , Haines Solar Cookers , SolSource by One Earth Designs , Sun BD Corporation , SunFlair Solar Ovens and Sun Oven International Inc . Related: We tested the GoSun Go solar oven — here’s what we thought Organic fabric aprons Organic , sustainable fabrics are a better option for the planet. Luckily, there are many aprons out there that are made from organic textiles. Try the offerings from Native Organic , the Portland Apron Company and Rawganique . Nut and seed butters Nut and seed butters are wonderful sources of vitamin E and protein . They are also full of healthy fats and are high in fiber. These butters can be made from almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, chia seeds, coconuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts and even watermelon seeds. Some good brands to gift include Artisana Organics , Barney Butter , Dastony , Justin’s , MaraNatha Foods , Nutiva , Rawmio , Reginald’s Homemade , Soom Tahini , Sun Butter , Wild Friends and Yumbutter . Better yet, try your hand at making homemade varieties! Jams, jellies, marmalade and preserves You can’t have nut and seed butters without a tasty jam or jelly. Marmalades and preserves are a delicious addition as well, especially to cheese boards and bread trays. If you aren’t great in the kitchen, here are some recommendations for wonderful varieties to try: Frog Hollow Farm , Happy Girl Kitchen Company, INNA , June Taylor Company , Katz Farm , Lemon Bird Preserves , Mountain Fruit Company , Quince & Apple Company and We Love Jam . Eco-conscious headphones and earbuds For the music listeners on your nice list, there are some options that are friendly to the environment. While there aren’t yet any types that are 100 percent green, there are still many that strive to do better by the environment through materials like sustainably sourced wood, organic cotton, recycled plastic , bioplastic or recycled metal. Options to consider are those from The House of Marley , Thinksound and Woodbuds . Related: Inhabitat reviews House of Marley’s new sustainable headphones Garden tools Burgon & Ball has been around since 1730, and its stainless steel tools have been endorsed by the Royal Horticultural Society as “Tried, Tested, Trusted.” For those on your holiday list with a green thumb, gift them a Burgon & Ball set of tools. Solar-powered gadgets If you have a gadget geek on your list, consider SunCore products like backpacks, Bluetooth speakers, solar panel kits, door locks and street lights. There are numerous other types of solar-powered gadgets, too. For instance, there are the Logitech Solar Wireless Keyboards and the SolSol Solar Charger Hat . For campers and glampers , having a tent, such as this Eddie Bauer 3-person tent or Earth Ship tents powered by a solar panel from Goal Zero or BioLite , might be just the ticket. Of course, there are an assortment of portable solar power packs to choose from as well, like chargers, portable panels and solar backpacks, as seen on SolarProductsPro . But if you want to get started with going solar, then peruse the online offerings from A Green Origin , the altE Store , Blue Pacific Solar , Free Clean Solar , The Solar Store and Wholesale Solar . Maps, globes and more MOVA offers a world of possibilities with its wide array of maps and globes. The company likewise features artworks of the planets and outer space . All of MOVA’s inventory showcases an appreciation for Earth and our place in the universe. Woodworking kits Woodworking is a hobby that is regaining momentum, and it can appeal to people at any age. For youngsters, there’s Annie’s Young Woodworkers Kit Club subscription and the wood craft kits from Craft Kits and Supplies . For all ages, visit the Wood Store ’s online portal for more merchandise and ideas to cultivate the hobby. Images via Juliana Malta , Joanna Kosinska , Olesia Misty , James Kern , Edgar Castrejon , Michal Jarmoluk , Conger Design and Mova Globes

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Earth-friendly holiday gift ideas for your entire family

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