Dutch company collects plastic pollution from rivers to make parks and products

December 3, 2019 by  
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Plastic pollution is a worldwide problem, with piles of debris along coastlines, on roadsides, in landfills and floating in waterways. Environmentally conscious companies are looking for ways to clean up the mess while simultaneously seeking out methods to recycle plastic waste into other products. One Dutch company, The Recycled Island Foundation (RIF), is tackling both problems with one solution — Litter Traps. According to the RIF website, the motivation for the project came from the knowledge that our waterways are part of global ecosystem, where everybody benefits or pays the consequences of waste management . “Plastic pollutes our seas and oceans and has a direct and deadly effect on marine life,” the foundation said. “Thousands of birds, seals, turtles, whales and other marine animals are killed every year after ingesting plastic or getting strangled in it. With the plastics breaking down into smaller particles, it also enters the human food chain.” Related: This floating park in Rotterdam is made from recycled plastic waste Knowing that the majority of ocean pollution comes from rivers that lead out to sea, RIF decided to stop plastic waste before it could travel that far. The foundation’s Litter Traps are aptly named. Sourced from recycled plastic themselves, the traps filter water, collect plastic and stop that plastic from traveling downstream. The collected plastic is then made into durable floating parks, seating elements, building materials and even more Litter Traps. The passive design of the Litter Trap allows it to float in the river, harbor or port, catching plastic once it floats inside the trap. The system does not rely on any energy source. Once full, the trap is emptied, and the usable plastic is sorted. The plastic then heads into manufacturing, where it is turned into a variety of products. This circular system allows the company to collect materials, clean up the rivers and make products without waste and at a minimal cost. The RIF has been busy collecting plastic from local waterways for some time. More than one year ago, it opened a prototype in Rotterdam, the Netherlands called the Recycled Park. This floating park is made entirely from recycled plastic gathered from the nearby Meuse River. You can read more about that project here . The initial park prototype is an example of how recycled plastic can be used to replicate the marine ecosystem, complete with live plants above and below the park that animals such as snails, flatworms, larva, beetles and fish call home. What began as a local movement has gone international. New Litter Traps are being manufactured to tackle river waste around the world. Belgium and Indonesia were the first countries to adopt the RIF approach, and the organization is now preparing similar projects in Vietnam, France, the Philippines, Brazil and more. As an example of how the mechanism performs, a single Litter Trap located in Belgium is emptied twice a week, and the average amount of waste collected is 1.5 cubic meters per month. The goal is to continue to expand the use of Litter Traps to divert plastic from the oceans on a large scale. The future of the Litter Trap is bright, with plans to make portable Litter Traps and Litter Traps that can collect and hold larger quantities of plastic before needing emptied. Now partnering with international companies, RIF hopes to create products that are in high demand in the areas where the plastic is collected. RIF is working with innovators to turn the plastic into a durable and easy-to-assemble housing material. It is also looking into large-scale, 3D-printing options using the marine plastic. For example, the company offers custom couches made entirely from salvaged marine plastic that is 3D-printed into shape. RIF feels knowledge is power in the campaign for plastic reduction, so it has implemented an educational program that includes ways to reduce plastic consumption, information about proper recycling techniques and an opportunity to participate in clean-up efforts. It hopes to continue to inspire action and raise awareness about the problem by visiting schools and organizing community events. When it comes to environmental efforts , the more hands involved in projects, the better. RIF has partnered with dozens of agencies with similar goals, creating a village of like-minded companies hoping to lead the way toward better plastic management and the creation of durable, reusable products. + The Recycled Island Foundation Images via The Recycled Island Foundation

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Dutch company collects plastic pollution from rivers to make parks and products

All-bamboo retreat in Bali features all you need for a serene off-grid escape

September 30, 2019 by  
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If the hustle and bustle of every day life getting to you, perhaps it’s time for a little escape to paradise? Located in a hardy tropical forest in a remote area of Bali, the Hideout Falcon is an all-bamboo retreat with a massive pitched roof and floor-to-ceiling glass windows, all designed to help guests immerse themselves in the idyllic tropical landscape. And if the serene sustainable retreat isn’t enough to calm your nerves, the home, which was designed by Studio WNA , comes with an immense wooden deck with plenty of seating for when you’re not soaking your worries away in the large outdoor stone bathtub. The Hideout Falcon is one of three all-bamboo retreats offered by Hideout Bali. At just 538 square feet, the one-room Falcon definitely has a compact interior space. But this lack of interior space is completely by design so that the guests can truly take in the fresh air and nature of one of Bali’s most pristine forests. Related: Gorgeous bamboo hall welcomes visitors to a relaxing coastal oasis in Vietnam Tucked into a lush forest in the Karangasem regency region of Bali, the minimalist design of the idyllic lodging is meant to put the focus on the incredible surroundings. The most prominent feature of the bamboo structure is it’s large wooden deck. Set off the ground so as to reduce impact , this space is the living room of the home. There is plenty of seating, from a small dining space and comfortable lounge chairs, to a hanging chair under the palm trees. Of course, at the heart of the outdoor space, is the large bathtub, which is permanently filled and filtered as a swimming pool. But, rest assured that it can be heated to hot spring temps. The interior space of the tiny retreat houses the bedroom, which is large enough for a king-sized bed, covered with a romantic mosquito net. Additionally, there is a small lounge space, perfect for delving into a good book on a rainy day. The bamboo structure is meant to cater to those wanderers who look for sustainable lodgings on their adventures. Designed to be low-impact, the Hideout Falcon was built with locally-sourced building materials, mainly from the local forests in Karangasem. + Studio WNA + Hideout Bali Via Archdaily Photography by Drifters and Lovers , Gust Indra  and Valentino Luis, courtesy of Hideout Bali and Studio WNA

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All-bamboo retreat in Bali features all you need for a serene off-grid escape

Sustainable Central Park with energy-producing trees unveiled for Ho Chi Minh City

August 8, 2019 by  
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Laboratory for Vision Architecture (LAVA) and Australian design practice Aspect Studios have won an international competition to design the new Central Park for Ho Chi Minh City. Located on the site where southeast Asia’s first train station was located, the 16-hectare linear park will pay homage to its industrial heritage with walkways overlaid atop 19th-century railway tracks. In addition to historical references, the visionary public space will also integrate sustainable and futuristic “tree” structures engineered to provide shelter, harvest water and generate solar energy. Located in District 1, the central urban district of Ho Chi Minh City , the proposed Central Park will replace and expand the existing September 23 Park. The new design will retain its predecessor’s lush appearance while adding greater functionality to include sculpture gardens, outdoor art galleries, water features, music and theater performance pavilions, a skate park, sport zones and playgrounds. ”The site has always been about transportation,” said Chris Bosse, director of LAVA. “It was the first train station in southeast Asia, it’s currently a bus terminal and in the near future it will be Vietnam’s first metro station. Our design references this history and future mobility. Known locally as ‘September 23 Park’, it also hosts the important annual spring festival.” The designers plan to link the redesigned park to the new Ben Thanh Metro Station and memorialize the transport history with a dramatic twisting steel sculpture at one end of the park. Related: A “green veil” of plants protects this home from Ho Chi Minh City’s heat To improve the energy efficiency of Central Park, three types of eco-friendly structures will be installed, and each one will be created in the image of “artificial plants” and “trees.” The “water purification trees” will collect rainwater for reuse for irrigation, drinking fountains and fire hydrants. “Ventilation trees” will reduce the urban heat island effect and generate fresh air, and the “solar trees” feature angled solar panels to generate renewable energy used for powering the charging docks, information screens and the park’s Wi-Fi system. Construction on Central Park is slated to begin in 2020. + LAVA + Aspect Studios Images via LAVA

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Sustainable Central Park with energy-producing trees unveiled for Ho Chi Minh City

Breezy brick house with a ground-floor cafe mimics the shape of a cuckoo clock

July 16, 2019 by  
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In the coastal Vietnamese city of Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City-based architectural firm Tropical Space has combined a single-family home with a coffee shop to create an architecturally striking mixed-use building that evokes the playful shapes of a cuckoo clock. Dubbed the Cuckoo House, the home is built predominately from locally sourced clay brick to tie the structure to the local vernacular, while the use of bold geometric shapes throughout the building give it a distinctly contemporary edge. The home also takes advantage of sea breezes with its porous facade that harnesses natural cooling for relief from the tropical heat. Built for a couple and their two children, the Cuckoo House spans an area of nearly 3,000 square feet across two floors and an attic. To make the most of its rectangular east-west plot, the architects split the ground floor into three sections: the entrance gate and parking pad on the east side along with a small storefront and bathrooms; the coffee shop and bar in the middle; and a semi-enclosed courtyard with a pool on the west side. Large arches surround the brick-paved courtyard and bring cooling breezes and views of the surrounding garden into the space, and full-height glazing wraps the coffee shop to blur the line between indoors and out. Related: Solar screen brings beauty and heat relief to a Vietnam home The residential section of the building is located atop the ground floor “base block” and split into three blocks: the double-story Block A with the master bedroom on one floor and the bathroom and walk-in closet on the other; the double-story Block B with the kids’ bedroom above and the living room below; and Block C that contains the kitchen and dining area. All three blocks are connected and open up to outdoor terraces with operable glazing and views. “Like a habit, most of people’s daily activities usually take place in functional spaces. Tropical Space detaches walls, which are used to defined the place and offer the buffer space to urge people to leave their rooms and join together,” the architects explained. “These buffer layers can be used flexibly, connecting the indoor and the outdoor of the house, which could make the family activities be both private and open. Meanwhile, it allows the breeze to go through all corners of the house, and make it chill in the tropical summer.” + Tropical Space Images via Tropical Space

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Breezy brick house with a ground-floor cafe mimics the shape of a cuckoo clock

Porous brick walls keep this bold Vietnamese home naturally cool

July 11, 2019 by  
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In an effort to beat the tropical heat in southern Vietnam’s Long An province, Ho Chi Minh City-based architecture firm Tropical Space created a home that maximizes natural ventilation. Dubbed the Long An House, the residence takes inspiration from traditional Vietnamese architecture but uses contemporary design elements to create an energy-efficient house that follows the local vernacular yet stands out with a minimalist design. Topped with a sloped roof divided in two parts, the home features porous brick walls, an open-sky courtyard and a layout that harnesses the region’s cooling crosswinds. Spanning an area of nearly 3,230 square feet, the Long An House includes two floors arranged around a central courtyard open to the sky. A simple construction palette of brick and concrete defines the minimalist building, which is punctuated by views of greenery throughout. Brick is featured in the home in a variety of ways, not only as a structural and facade material but is also used for cooling the home. The front yard is paved with hollow clay bricks, which can absorb the rain and reduce heat on the floor, while porous brick walls let wind and light through without compromising privacy. “The Vietnam traditional house is stretched from front to back creating continuous functional spaces,” the architects noted in a project statement. “These spaces’ boundaries are estimated by light with different intensity and darkness. The layout utilizes the wind direction of the local area in different seasons.” Related: A “green veil” of plants protects this home from Ho Chi Minh City’s heat Oriented east to west, the Long An House is entered from the west-facing front yard with a vegetable garden that connects to the living area through massive glazed doors that fold open to allow cross-breezes to blow through the length of the home. The courtyard with a pool occupies the center of the home and is flanked by two corridors. The one to the north contains a galley kitchen, while a terrace is found on the south side. The rear of the home comprises a master bedroom and another courtyard (also with folding glass doors) with access to the chicken coop. Two en suite bedrooms are located on the upper floor. + Tropical Space Photography by Oki Hiroyuki via Tropical Space

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Porous brick walls keep this bold Vietnamese home naturally cool

Porous brick walls keep this bold Vietnamese home naturally cool

July 11, 2019 by  
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In an effort to beat the tropical heat in southern Vietnam’s Long An province, Ho Chi Minh City-based architecture firm Tropical Space created a home that maximizes natural ventilation. Dubbed the Long An House, the residence takes inspiration from traditional Vietnamese architecture but uses contemporary design elements to create an energy-efficient house that follows the local vernacular yet stands out with a minimalist design. Topped with a sloped roof divided in two parts, the home features porous brick walls, an open-sky courtyard and a layout that harnesses the region’s cooling crosswinds. Spanning an area of nearly 3,230 square feet, the Long An House includes two floors arranged around a central courtyard open to the sky. A simple construction palette of brick and concrete defines the minimalist building, which is punctuated by views of greenery throughout. Brick is featured in the home in a variety of ways, not only as a structural and facade material but is also used for cooling the home. The front yard is paved with hollow clay bricks, which can absorb the rain and reduce heat on the floor, while porous brick walls let wind and light through without compromising privacy. “The Vietnam traditional house is stretched from front to back creating continuous functional spaces,” the architects noted in a project statement. “These spaces’ boundaries are estimated by light with different intensity and darkness. The layout utilizes the wind direction of the local area in different seasons.” Related: A “green veil” of plants protects this home from Ho Chi Minh City’s heat Oriented east to west, the Long An House is entered from the west-facing front yard with a vegetable garden that connects to the living area through massive glazed doors that fold open to allow cross-breezes to blow through the length of the home. The courtyard with a pool occupies the center of the home and is flanked by two corridors. The one to the north contains a galley kitchen, while a terrace is found on the south side. The rear of the home comprises a master bedroom and another courtyard (also with folding glass doors) with access to the chicken coop. Two en suite bedrooms are located on the upper floor. + Tropical Space Photography by Oki Hiroyuki via Tropical Space

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Porous brick walls keep this bold Vietnamese home naturally cool

Last male Sumatran rhino in Malaysia dies

May 29, 2019 by  
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On Monday, Malaysian authorities reported that the last male Sumatran rhino died in a nature reserve on Borneo island. Currently, there is only one female from the same species remaining in Malaysia. The male, Tam, is thought to have died from old age after he was discovered on a palm oil plantation. Efforts to breed Tam with females of the same species were unsuccessful. Related: Koalas declared functionally extinct Sumatran rhinos are one of five rhino species , and only one of three found in Asia. At their peak, Sumatran rhinos could be found in Bhutan, India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos. They are the smallest rhino species in the world. Experts estimate that between 30 and 100 remain, with a few also living in captivity in Indonesia, and the U.S. Like most species on the brink of extinction , rhinos have suffered from deforestation and loss of habitat. Logging, roads, urban development, farms and palm oil plantations have carved up their habitat. According to experts, the fragmentation of natural spaces is the primary threat to their population. Small reserves and wild spaces are simply not enough. Disconnected populations also make it difficult for the solitary creatures to find mates and reproduce. “With logging, with roads for development, the patches of forest available are shrinking. Frankly it’s hard for them to find each other to mate and breed successfully,” said Cathy Dean of Save the Rhinos International. In addition, rhinos are frequently poached for their horns and other medicinal purposes. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists Sumatran rhinos as critically endangered , however Save the Rhino International believes there may still be hope for the species. According to their research, only about 20 rhinos could still provide enough genetic diversity to save them from extinction if they are able to successfully mate. Via BBC Image via Charles W. Harden

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Last male Sumatran rhino in Malaysia dies

Young couple build their own tiny home to avoid sky-high housing prices in the Bay Area

May 29, 2019 by  
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The San Francisco Bay Area is notoriously expensive for both renters and buyers. But one enterprising young couple has found a way to live in the beautiful city on their own terms by building their very own tiny home . Nicolette and Michael spent just seven months constructing their dream home. Although it is only 300 square feet, it comes complete with a sleeping loft, a full kitchen and a little reading nook for the studious couple. The young couple was inspired to build their own home for a number of reasons. With Michael being a full-time student at CAL, they had to stay in the Bay Area; however, after realizing how expensive the area is, they decided to enjoy the financial freedom that comes with building their own tiny home. Additionally, they were inspired to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle where they could reduce their footprint on the planet. Related: This tiny home allows a family of 3 to go off the grid in Maui As they set out on their tiny home journey, the amateur — but ambitious — builders decided to do most of the work themselves, accepting help from family and friends along they way. Built on a 28-foot long trailer, the home is clad in metal and wood siding with plenty of windows that flood the interior with natural light . According to Nicolette, the interior design was inspired by an industrial farmhouse aesthetic. The home is bright and airy with white walls and high ceilings. To the left, the living room is compact but comfortable with a loveseat that pulls out into a futon. A beautiful silicon-gel fireplace keeps the space warm and cozy during the winter months. The main wall is clad in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that provide plenty of storage space. At the heart of the couple’s tiny home design is a sweet little reading nook that was built onto the end of the structure, past the main living area. With two large windows that open, this space is perfect for snuggling up with a good book or creating artwork. Between the living space and the kitchen, the couple installed a work/dining space consisting of two desks under a wall of windows. On the other side of the space is a compact metal kitchen area along with an oven with a four-burner stove and even a full-size refrigerator. A barn-yard door separates the living space from the bathroom, which has a full shower and vanity along with a composting toilet . Above the kitchen space is the sleeping loft accessible by a metal ladder. White shiplap walls along with two horizontal windows turn the tiny space into a soothing oasis. + Nicolette Notes Via Apartment Therapy Images via Nicolette and Michael

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Young couple build their own tiny home to avoid sky-high housing prices in the Bay Area

‘Overtourism’: Surges in unsustainable tourism are destroying islands in the Pacific

May 8, 2019 by  
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The tourism industry is booming throughout the world but nowhere more noticeably than on the small tropical islands of Southeast Asia. Millions of tourists flock to these remote islands every day to enjoy the beaches and snorkel among the coral reef, but the traffic and waste they produce has forced some ecosystems to reach their breaking point. “Overtourism” is the new term for the overpopulation of tourists who wreak havoc on fragile ecosystems. Many Asian governments have had to close entire islands in order to allow habitats and species (like sharks and sea turtles) to rehabilitate. The environmental impact of overtourism The primary reasons that mass tourism negatively impacts the environment include: Discharge of human waste directly into the ocean by boats, cruise ships and hotels A government survey in the Philippines revealed that 716 out of 834 businesses on the famous Boracay Island did not have wastewater permits and were indiscriminately dumping sewage and waste into the water. Cruise ships, private yachts and many hotels along the coasts also dump waste directly into the ocean . Toxic chemicals from sunscreens pollute young coral species Sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate have been found to alter the DNA of young corals , prohibiting normal and healthy growth. Related: Hawaii bans reef-killing chemical sunscreens Massive amounts of garbage and plastic pollution According to the Ocean Conservancy, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand are responsible for up to 60 percent of all plastic pollution in the ocean. Globally, eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year. Related: New study reveals microplastics are in the air Unsustainable development and the destruction of key habitats, like mangroves Almost 50 percent of all mangrove forests have been destroyed in countries including India, the Philippines and Vietnam. Mangroves are systematically cleared to make way for hotels, resorts and white sand beaches, but healthy mangroves are an essential part of healthy coastal ecosystems. Mangroves protect beaches from erosion and provide critical nursery and breeding grounds for young fish and other species. Why are there so many tourists? The rapid rise in tourism is mostly because of expanding middle classes in many countries. More people are able to afford vacations and travel, particularly in China. In 2018, Chinese citizens made a total of 150 million trips abroad, compared to just 10 million in 2000. Regardless of the origin of the tourists, Pacific islands’ infrastructure and ecosystems are unable to handle the surge and are in desperate need of regulation and management. “I would argue that tourism has not only been badly managed in general, it’s not been managed at all,” said Randy Durband, chief executive officer of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Islands close their borders to tourists When tourism began to rise, most island residents were happy to have the jobs and foreign investment, and their governments did not take the time nor resources to develop a management strategy or implement limitations. Now, many governments are scrambling to preserve the very ecosystems that bring tourists to their shores before they are destroyed beyond repair. After calling the waters around Borocay Island a “cesspool,” Filipino President Rodrigo Duerte closed the entire island and launched a large clean-up effort. A new management plan will reduce the daily visitors from 20,000 to approximately 6,000, ban single-use plastics , impose littering fines and ban jet skis from driving within 100 meters of the shore. With these steps, an acceptable rehabilitation of the island is expected to take at least two years. In Thailand, the government closed the famous Maya Bay indefinitely after conservationists reported that over 50 percent of corals had been destroyed. In addition to sunscreen toxins, boat anchors and physical impact from tourists walking on coral and taking pieces as souvenirs cause major damage. Current coral restoration efforts are underway to replant native corals, and species like black tipped reef sharks have reportedly returned. SEE: Can the Cayman Islands save to Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs? Closing islands is an extreme solution, but it demonstrates that many governments are realizing the importance of ecosystems even at the expense of tourism revenue. Sustainable tourism expert Epler Wood said, “We don’t advocate a closing unless it’s an emergency. We recommend balanced management that looks at supply and demand and measured responses based on planning and science that involves regular benchmarking, like water testing .” Tips for sustainable tourism Tips for governments: The nation of Bali has imposed a $10 tax on international passengers that goes directly toward cultural and environmental preservation initiatives, such as waste management. Many tourism-dependent islands in the Pacific and Caribbean have imposed similar tourist fees. In Palau, visitors are required to sign an environmental pledge that is stamped right onto their passports, promising to act respectfully and without damaging ecosystems. Bans on straws and single-use plastics can also be particularly effective on small islands without proper waste management systems. Finally, governments can invest in marine spatial planning and zoning initiatives that identify key vulnerable areas. Such spatial data allows governments to declare zones and enforce allowable activities within the zones, such as protected conservation areas versus recreation areas. Tips for tourists: According to the South China Morning Post, here are five tips to be a more sustainable tourist : Book hotels that employ sustainable initiatives to reduce waste, energy and water consumption. Choose tour operators who give back to the community — and keep tourism benefits within the local economy — by employing locals, supporting local growers and other initiatives. Be a plastic-free traveler and dispose of your garbage correctly. Research sustainable tourism initiatives you might want to support ahead of your trip. Engage in community-based tourism. “The basic model is: educate yourself, do the right thing and try to be of positive benefit,” said Marta Mills, a sustainable tourism specialist. “Act like you are a guest in someone’s home, because you are.” Via Yale360 Images via Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi , Laznes Binch ,  Stefan Munder , Juanjook Torres González and Jose Nicdao

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‘Overtourism’: Surges in unsustainable tourism are destroying islands in the Pacific

Couple converts an old school bus into a chic skoolie for travel

May 8, 2019 by  
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When you are ready to explore the country, why not take your home with you? Sure, there are motorhomes and travel trailers to choose from. You could even pick up a Sprinter van. But for a real adventure, you could tootle about in a skoolie. If you didn’t catch the play on words, a skoolie is a converted school bus made into a tiny home on wheels . Couple Robbie and Priscilla have converted a school bus into their own travel-ready abode through a process of trial and error mixed with some frustration and a dash of luck. The couple wanted the exceptional 210-square-feet of open space that a school bus allows so they could bring along their pet cat and feel like they had more of a home than an RV. The 1998 Thomas School Bus was the inspiration that drove them forward with their plan. Related: A 1992 International School Bus gets a second life as an adventure-mobile The conversion took a year and a half to complete, with many obstacles along the journey. For example, discovering leaky windows required a complete replacement. Then, a blown gasket kept the project in park for several months. If ever there was a reward worth the labor, this homey project is it. As a result of their efforts, the couple was able to take to the road in March in a cozy, relaxed dwelling. The lengthy, flowing space is well lit with myriad windows throughout and white cabinetry lining one side. The gray laminate flooring accents the stainless steel appliances and is complemented by the cedar tongue-in-groove ceiling. Storage is tucked in several areas including beneath the raised bed, near the ceiling in the kitchen and under the couch in a sitting area. The tiny home’s unusually large bathroom features tile work alongside glass shower doors, and the bus also has two outdoor showers for convenient clean-up. Unlike most RVs, this skoolie features both air conditioning and a fireplace, which suits the couple well as they begin their trip in Canada and Alaska, planning to later hit all 48 contiguous states. + Going Boundless Via Curbed Images via Going Boundless

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Couple converts an old school bus into a chic skoolie for travel

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