These charming timber cabins in South India are a retreat for nature lovers

May 22, 2018 by  
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If your dream getaway involves nature excursions in a tropical environment, prepare to fall in love with the Cardamom Club resort in Thekkady, India. Recently renovated by Bangalore-based Kumar La Noce , this boutique resort features a series of elevated tiny cabins primarily built from sustainably sourced Bangkirai hardwood. Combining contemporary design with traditional elements, each 430-square-foot cabin rests lightly on the landscape and blends in with the verdant surroundings. Set within an eight-acre cardamom plantation, the Cardamom Club resort features a nearly 50-foot-long infinity pool and spa block — both of which are raised on stilts and also built with extremely durable Bangkirai wood. The hardwood’s reddish tones provide a striking contrast to the lush green backdrop. “Our first response upon visiting the spectacularly lush site was to ‘tread gently,’ which led us to imagine the built structures as light-weight volumes floating within a sea of green,” said Bhavana Kumar, the principal architect and co-founder of Kumar La Noce. The cabins have a minimalist interior filled with  natural light that pours through the plentiful windows. Rooms are dressed in handcrafted textiles and furnishings made with natural fibers — such as  rattan chairs and rice-paper light fixtures — that emphasize the resort’s back-to-nature aesthetic. Operable windows, ceiling fans and linen shades allow guests to control the interior microclimate. The bathrooms are fitted with black granite countertops; a small porthole window looks out over the lush landscape. The hotel rooms also extend out to private terraces. Related: Sleep among the treetops in a nomadic hotel with minimal impact In addition to Kumar La Noce’s elevated cabins  — dubbed the ‘Mountain-View Cottages’ — the hotel also offers ‘Garden-View Cottages’ designed to match a Western aesthetic. The retreat offers 13 rooms in total as well as a variety of experience packages, from spa and massage programs to bird watching and visits to an elephant sanctuary. + Kumar La Noce Images via Kumar La Noce , by Kumar La Noce and Vivek Muthuramalingam

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These charming timber cabins in South India are a retreat for nature lovers

3XN breaks ground on Aquabella, a LEED-certified building on Toronto’s waterfront

May 22, 2018 by  
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Toronto’s new buildings are quickly cementing the city’s status as an architectural icon, and its latest gorgeously green residential tower is no exception. The city has just broken ground on Aquabella, a LEED-certified building with multiple tiers of green roofs. Designed by Danish architecture firm  3XN , the residential building has multiple outdoor spaces integrated into the design to enhance the well-being of the residents. Looking to serve as an icon for the revitalized Bayside Toronto waterfront area, the multi-tiered design will house 174 residential units. Large balconies and terraces rise up in an “L” shape from the first floor, creating a strong connection to the outdoors. These spaces not only enable residents to enjoy fresh air and incredible views of the lake, but also illuminate the apartments’ interiors with natural light . Along with the private homes, the complex will include a community center, a basketball court, retail spaces, and plenty of restaurants and cafes. Related: Toronto’s waterfront to undergo major futuristic redesign thanks to Google’s Sidewalk Labs According to the architects, their vision of creating a “complex yet elegant sculptural form” inspired the final design of rising terraces. Like many of 3XN’s projects, Aquabella was based on Scandinavian design principles , which typically have a strong emphasis on providing outdoor spaces for healthy lifestyles. At the groundbreaking ceremony, Nielsen described his firm’s role in creating an architectural design that would foster a strong sense of community: “3XN is thrilled to be part of helping Toronto to reclaim its industrial waterfront and integrate it into the city. Inspired by the scale and intimacy of a family home, we envision this new project as a vertical neighborhood on the shores of Lake Ontario. The design puts people first, paying particular attention to the quality of views, space and lifestyle. The development will command extraordinary views of the water, neighboring parks, and the city skyline.” + 3XN Architects Images via 3XN Architects

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3XN breaks ground on Aquabella, a LEED-certified building on Toronto’s waterfront

Steven Holl Architects LEED Gold-seeking museum is a beacon for sustainability

May 22, 2018 by  
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Environmental design and contemporary art go hand-in-hand in Steven Holl Architects’ recently completed The Markel Center , the home of the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Located at the busiest intersection in Richmond, The Markel Center embodies VCU and the ICA’s commitment to sustainability with its LEED Gold-seeking design and energy-efficient technologies. Filled with natural light to reduce electricity demands, the museum draws energy from geothermal wells and features over 8,000 square feet of green roofs for extra insulation. Opened last month, VCU’s new Institute for Contemporary Art is free to the public and marks Richmond’s first art institution dedicated exclusively to exhibiting contemporary art . Sandwiched between VCU’s Monroe Park campus and the city’s art district, the ICA is a sculptural, 41,000-square-foot structure spread out across three floors and flooded with natural light from large glass walls, windows and skylights. The glass, which ranges in transparency from clear to opaque, filters out UV rays and, when backlit, gives the titanium-zinc-clad building a light, box-like appearance. The lobby, offices, cafe, bar, 240-seat auditorium , and concept shop, along with a 4,000-square-foot gallery, occupy the first floor and connect to the ICA’s central forum and outdoor garden, dubbed the “Thinking Field.” The second floor houses two forking galleries, an interactive “learning lab,” and a publicly accessible landscaped terrace . The top floor features a gallery with 33-foot-tall walls in addition to administrative suites and the boardroom. “We designed the ICA to be a flexible, forward-looking instrument that will both illuminate and serve as a catalyst for the transformative possibilities of contemporary art,” said architect Steven Holl. “Like many contemporary artists working today, the ICA’s design does not draw distinctions between the visual and performing arts. The fluidity of the design allows for experimentation and will encourage new ways to display and present art that will capitalize on the ingenuity and creativity apparent throughout the VCU campus.” Related: Steven Holl Architects unveils designs for geothermal-powered Angers Collectors Museum Clad in 100% recyclable titanium-zinc exterior paneling, the LEED Gold -seeking building draws energy from 43 geothermal wells for its radiant floor system. Native plants are used in the permeable landscape design as well as on the green roofs that cover three of the four gallery roofs. Nearly a third of materials used during construction were recyclable and nearly a quarter of the materials were regionally sourced. + Steven Holl Architects Images by Iwan Baan

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Steven Holl Architects LEED Gold-seeking museum is a beacon for sustainability

Climate Victory Garden campaign aims to "Make America Green Again"

May 22, 2018 by  
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Want to take action  in the fight against climate change? Plant a garden! During World War II, people in the U.S. planted around 20 million victory gardens. Green America aims to bring the concept back with Climate Victory Gardens to combat climate change . Their goal is to help launch 40 million Climate Victory Gardens that together produce 12 million tons of produce . They hope everyday citizens will leverage their gardens as forces for change. “Instead of gardening in support of war efforts, we are gardening to fight climate change,” the Green America website states. Green America is encouraging people to cultivate Climate Victory Gardens as an individual way of lowering carbon emissions . The organization also encourages practices such as composting , cover crops, perennials and no-till to boost soil health so it will sequester carbon . Plus, local food tends to be more sustainable — it hasn’t traveled long distances to reach a consumer. To match the level of scale of victory gardens in the 1940s, Green America set its goal for 40 million Climate Victory Gardens. Related: Amazon patents network-based ‘gardening service’ Is 40 million gardens a realistic goal? A 2014 report from the National Gardening Association  found that 42 million households in America are growing food either in a community garden or at home. Existing gardens could adopt climate-friendly practices to become Climate Victory Gardens. “Americans want to take actions that have a direct impact on climate change. They are also increasingly concerned about the chemicals on store-bought produce,” said Todd Larsen, executive co-director of consumer and corporate engagement at Green America. “Climate Victory Gardens gives us all a way to reduce our impact on the planet, while ensuring the food we feed our families is safe and nutritious.” Green America’s Climate Victory Gardens map currently lists more than 275 gardens across the U.S. and around the world. Add your garden to the map or commit to growing one on Green America’s website . + Climate Victory Gardens + Green America Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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Climate Victory Garden campaign aims to "Make America Green Again"

This tiny cabin in Australia lets you go off-grid in style

May 11, 2018 by  
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For those looking to get back to nature, this tiny cabin in rural Australia provides a picturesque retreat without sacrificing comfort or style. Located on the remote Kimo Estate and designed by Anthony Hunt Design and Luke Stanley Architects , JR’s Hut is a beautiful A-frame cabin built with sustainable Australian hardwoods . The minimalist cabin was designed to provide guests with a remote, off-grid option to disconnect and enjoy the area’s stunning natural beauty. Kimo Estate is a popular wedding venue set in the rural area of Gundagai, New South Wales. The JR Eco Hut is located away from the main venue, in the midst of a beautiful, expansive landscape. Related: Go way off-grid in this beautiful bamboo hut tucked into Bali’s lush mountains All of the cabin’s materials were locally sourced and assembled on-site by a two-person team. Sustainable Australian hardwoods were used throughout the cabin’s A-frame volume, which is topped with pitched roofs covered in galvanized steel. A glazed front wall brings natural light to the interior while also providing stunning views. The serene, minimalist interior, which is furnished with a small seating area and queen-sized bed, allows guests to enjoy the remote location in optimal comfort. A wood-burning fireplace keeps the space warm and cozy during the chilly nights, but when weather permits, the outdoor deck is the heart of the beautiful cabin . + Kimo Estate + Anthony Hunt Design + Luke Stanley Architects Via Archdaily Photography by Hilary Bradford Photography via Anthony Hunt Designs

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This tiny cabin in Australia lets you go off-grid in style

Breakthrough polymer could lead to ‘infinitely’ recyclable plastics

April 27, 2018 by  
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Even though we’re aware of the environmentally damaging effects of plastic , many people still use the material because it’s long-lasting, convenient, and inexpensive – but plastic can only be recycled a few times. Four Colorado State University chemists just made a breakthrough that could allow for a plastic-like material that’s completely recyclable . They discovered a new polymer that could be infinitely recycled without intensive procedures in a laboratory or using toxic chemicals. The infinitely recyclable polymer is strong, heat-resistant, durable, and lightweight. Its discovery marks a major step towards materials that are sustainable and waste-free, according to Colorado State University — and could compete with polluting plastic in the future. Related: Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme that chomps plastic for lunch Polymers are characterized by chains of chemically bonded molecules called monomers. The university said in this new research, which builds on a chemically recyclable polymer demonstrated by the laboratory of chemistry professor Eugene Chen in 2015, a monomer can be polymerized in environmentally friendly conditions: “solvent-free, at room temperature, with just a few minutes of reaction time and only a trace amount of catalyst.” The material created in this process possesses mechanical properties “that perform very much like a plastic.” The polymer can be recycled to its original state in what the university described as mild laboratory conditions, with a catalyst. With this breakthrough, published this week in the journal Science , the scientists envision a future with green plastics that can be “simply placed in a reactor and, in chemical parlance, de-polymerized to recover their value — not possible for today’s petroleum plastics.” This would bring the material back to its chemical starting point, so it could be utilized again and again and again. Chen said in the statement, “The polymers can be chemically recycled and reused, in principle, infinitely.” What’s next for the team? Chen emphasized this polymer technology has solely been demonstrated at the academic laboratory scale, and more research is necessary to polish the patent-pending processes of monomer and polymer production. The chemists do have a seed grant from CSU Ventures , and Chen said, “It would be our dream to see this chemically recyclable polymer technology materialize in the marketplace.” + Colorado State University + Science Images via Colorado State University and Depositphotos

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Breakthrough polymer could lead to ‘infinitely’ recyclable plastics

Scientists create revolutionary ultra-white paint inspired by beetles

March 27, 2018 by  
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Researchers have unveiled what could be the whitest natural substance, composed of cellulose and inspired by the  Cyphocilus beetle native to Southeast Asia . The material, which has yet to be named, is lightweight, thin, and has the ability to effectively scatter light, resulting in an exceptionally bright white color. The coating is also edible and non-toxic and could change how we use paint. The secret to the coating’s success is its insect inspiration, whose thin chitlin scales are formed in a dense light-reflecting mat that causes the beetle to appear vibrantly white. In a new study published in  Advanced Materials , scientists at the University of Cambridge and Aalto University in Finland explain how they used fine strands of cellulose , or cellulose nanofibrils, to create a scale-like membrane through a process known as mechanical defibrillation. At only a few millionths of a meter, the subsequent membrane is one of the thinnest materials ever created that is capable of appearing white. “What is cool is that with a really low amount of material, you can achieve a high intensity of reflection and whiteness,” Cambridge University researcher Dr. Silvia Vignolini told Hyperallergic . “You don’t need to have thick material to have get 100% white, 100% reflection.” Related: Praying mantises wearing tiny glasses help researchers discover new type of 3D vision At the moment, the coating is still somewhat weak. However, researchers hope to develop a more hardy version for wider applications. “Ideally we would like to make a powder that can be readily used and applied directly as you would do with a standard pigment,” explained Vignolini. When this pigment is mixed with an organic solvent, it would then enable for the quick, one-layer application of white paint to most surfaces. The coating’s cellulose composition makes it an ideal replacement for other white products, most of which contain unsustainable materials such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Importantly, the ultra-white powder will likely be quite inexpensive. Via Hyperallergic Images via Olimpia Onelli/University of Cambridge

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Four living trees grow through this dreamy treehouse retreat in Montana

March 27, 2018 by  
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Many of us can remember having a childhood treehouse, but Montana Treehouse Retreat owners Kati and Daren Robison have taken this idea one step further. Nestled on seven acres of private woods near Glacier National Park in Montana, this two-story cabin has four living trees growing through it—two through the decks and two through the interior. Although spacious enough to accommodate a group of up to five people, the Montana Treehouse Retreat is also a perfect romantic getaway for two. The treehouse’s grand entrance takes the form of a spiral staircase that winds around a giant Douglas fir tree . This unique stairway provides access to 500 square feet of living space, with two outside deck ares, a full kitchen, dishwasher, and three padded benches that double as sleeping quarters. The first floor also has a full bathroom with a full-sized shower and sink. Related: The Treebox is an amazing modern home set high up in the treetops On the second floor, the master suite loft has a queen mattress, private bathroom, and a sliding glass door that leads out to the second-story deck. Here, guests can relax and enjoy a glass of wine or cup of coffee, all while taking in the secluded forest setting. The cabin also offers a private wooded space with a campfire ring, walking trails, and cross-country ski trails for the winter months. Whether inside the cabin or out, visitors to the Montana Treehouse Retreat can experience a dwelling that harmonizes with nature in a unique and innovative way. + Montana Treehouse Retreat Via Uncrate    

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Four living trees grow through this dreamy treehouse retreat in Montana

First plastic-free supermarket aisle opens in Amsterdam

February 28, 2018 by  
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The world’s first plastic-free supermarket aisle opened on February 28 at the Amsterdam location of the Netherlands -based supermarket chain Ekoplaza. Within this aisle, customers will be able to choose from more than 700 plastic-free products. Eventually, the company hopes to roll out plastic-free aisles at all of its 74 locations. The aisle arrives at a time when global concern over plastic pollution is on the rise and campaigns are being waged to urge companies and governments to change their plastic policies. “For decades shoppers have been sold the lie that we can’t live without plastic in food and drink,” Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, told the Guardian . “A plastic-free aisle dispels all that. Finally we can see a future where the public have a choice about whether to buy plastic or plastic-free. Right now we have no choice.” Ekoplaza is proud to offer an environmentally friendly alternative to its customers. “We know that our customers are sick to death of products laden in layer after layer of thick plastic packaging,” Ekoplaza chief executive Erik Does told the Guardian . “Plastic-free aisles are a really innovative way of testing the compostable biomaterials that offer a more environmentally friendly alternative to plastic packaging.” The plastic-free items, which incorporate biodegradable materials whenever possible, will not be any more expensive than those wrapped with plastic. According to anti-plastic campaigners, the aisle will serve as a “testbed for innovative new compostable bio-materials as well as traditional materials such as glass, metal and cardboard.” Related: Iceland supermarket commits to eliminating plastic within five years According to activists, the grocery store sector accounts for 40 percent of all plastic packaging. “There is absolutely no logic in wrapping something as fleeting as food in something as indestructible as plastic,” Sutherland said. “Plastic food and drink packaging remains useful for a matter of days yet remains a destructive presence on the Earth for centuries afterwards.” Ekoplaza’s first step into a plastic-free world should be emulated by others. “Europe’s biggest supermarkets must follow Ekoplaza’s lead and introduce a plastic-free aisle at the earliest opportunity to help turn off the plastic tap,” added Sutherland. Via The Guardian Images via Ekoplaza

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First plastic-free supermarket aisle opens in Amsterdam

Beer with biodegradable six-pack rings finally hits the market

January 24, 2018 by  
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SaltWater Brewery in South Florida is the first brewery to test biodegradable six-pack rings. Designed by start-up E6PR , the Eco Six-Pack Ring is made from wheat and barley, which allows it to be composted. And best of all? The six-pack ring is not harmful to aquatic life if swallowed. If widely adopted, this groundbreaking product could result in a significant decrease in both plastic pollution and wildlife injuries or deaths related to ingestion of or entrapment in six-pack rings. Initially introduced as a concept in 2016, E6PR’s green six-pack holder required considerable fine-tuning, a process that continues as the startup aims to expand production. “Bringing the product to the level of performance that we have right now was really challenging,” Francisco Garcia, Chief Operating Officer at E6PR, told Fast Company . Since the current model is made from wheat and barley, it is technically edible, though human consumption of the product is not advised. The next iteration will be made from brewing waste by-products in a production facility soon to open in Mexico . Related: This Louisiana craft beer pioneer ‘went green’ long before it was cool If the current roll-out of E6PR’s green six-pack holder proves successful, the startup hopes to expand the product’s usage to other breweries. In addition to its collaboration with craft beer maker SaltWater Brewery, E6PR is also working with a large brewing company to test the scalability of the product. “For Big Beer, it’s really about making sure that we can not only produce the E6PRs, but also apply them at the speed that those lines require,” Marco Vega, co-founder of ad agency and E6PR collaborative partner We Believers , told Fast Company . E6PR also hopes to bring its green drink packaging to other beverages like soda. As E6PR and other companies race to release market-competitive, green packaging products, consumers and environmentalists have reason to hope the tide may someday turn against plastic pollution, more than 8 million tons of which is dumped into the world’s oceans each year. Via Fast Company Images via E6PR

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Beer with biodegradable six-pack rings finally hits the market

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