7 deluxe tree-house hotels – CNN.com

Want to go out on a limb for your next vacation — literally? Once the sole province of young boys and Ewoks, tree houses offer adventurous travelers (read: unafraid of heights) a unique travel experience in an age of roadside motel chains and globe-stretching hotel corporations.

Building a hotel in the treetops is hardly a new idea: Brazil’s Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel has been inviting guests to explore the jungle canopy from its rooms since the mid-1980s. But the concept has blossomed; today you’ll find them everywhere from Massachusetts to China.

Better yet, this new breed is more than just planks of wood nailed to an old oak. Head to South Africa’s Tsala Treetop Lodge, in Plettenberg Bay, and you’ll find infinity pools and fireplaces.

Modern tree houses present a rare opportunity to drive past the McResort and break free of travel’s predicable stops and well-traveled routes. Up in the leaves, you’ll find something unique and exceptional — surely the reward of any good journey.

Tree House Lodge, Limón, Costa Rica

Why it’s unique: The highlight of this 10-acre beachfront property, within the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge on Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast, is a sustainably built tree-house made from fallen trees, with solar heating, two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a shower built around the crooks and roots of a massive 100-year-old Sangrillo tree.

Access: Hanging steel bridge.

What to do: Snorkel or kayak off the nearby Punta Uva Beach.

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Treehotel, Harads, Sweden

Why it’s unique: Leading Swedish architects gave the backyard staple a strange futuristic makeover at the Treehotel outside Harads village (population: 600). Perched four to six meters above the ground, each of five treetop suites has its own look, whether resembling a bird’s nest, a flying saucer or a construction of Lego blocks. The most ingenious suite has a mirrored exterior, reflecting the forest on all six sides.

Access: Ramp, bridge, or (if you’re lucky) electric stairs.

What to do: Pursue the Northern Lights by dog-sled ride or snowshoe hike through the Lule River Valley in winter, or go fishing and kayaking in summer.

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Playa Viva, Juluchuca, Mexico

Why it’s unique: The eco-friendly Playa Viva north of Acapulco on Mexico’s Pacific Coast features three tree-house casitas completely built with sustainable materials. Each has a bedroom and full porch for dining and lounging, and the master development plan calls for a beach club, lounge and a 40-room boutique hotel, plus solar-generated electricity and hot water.

Access: Series of stairs, ramps, and bridges.

What to do: Tour the resort’s 200 acres, 80 percent of which is a private nature preserve.

The Aviary, Lenox, Massachusetts

Why it’s unique: Located on 22 acres of parkland designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the two-story Aviary tree-house is housed in a former aviary at Wheatleigh, a sprawling 1893 “summer cottage” in the Berkshire Mountains. The luxury suite features a limestone wet room with an antique soaking tub, circular stairs leading to the second-floor sleeping quarters in the trees and a Bang & Olufsen entertainment system.

Access: Ground-floor entrance.

What to do: Sample the season’s bounty in Wheatleigh’s elegant Dining Room restaurant, or poke around the historic area’s local galleries, antique shops, and museums.

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Hinchinbrook Island Resort, Hinchinbrook Island, Australia

Why it’s unique: Hinchinbrook, a 96-acre national park with lush rainforests, rugged mountains, and coarse sandy beaches, has just one option for accommodations: the Island Resort, a secluded hideaway with 15 roomy tree-house bungalows, each with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, small kitchen, private balcony and bath, and easy beachfront access.

Access: Winding timber boardwalks.

What to do: Stroll one of the island’s 11 secluded beaches, and in the evening relax at the Island Resort’s bar.

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Tsala Treetop Lodge, Plettenberg Bay, South Africa

Why it’s unique: Overlooking the Tsitsikamma Forest, this high-design stone-and-glass lodge counts 10 secluded tree-house suites, each with floor-to-ceiling bedroom windows, a log fireplace in the living room, a private deck, and an infinity-edge pool.

Access: Wooden walkways.

What to do: Explore South Africa’s Garden Route, which winds along the botanically rich Western Cape, or relax on the beach at nearby Plettenberg Bay.

Chewton Glen, Hampshire, UK

Why it’s Unique: Six private tree houses, with two stately suites in each, are on the 130-acre grounds of Chewton Glen in the Hampshire countryside near New Forest National Park. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer panoramic canopy views, as does a spacious outdoor terrace, with a hot tub and daybeds, 35 feet above ground. Heated timber and marble floors encourage bare feet.

Access: Gangplanks lead the way to these floating suites.

What to do: After breakfast (a chef-prepared hamper delivered to your tree house) explore the English countryside via walking trails, horseback, or kayak.

Check out more of the world’s coolest tree-house hotels here.

via 7 deluxe tree-house hotels – CNN.com.

A World Without Landfills? It’s Closer than You Think | NationofChange

Zero waste systems include:

composting, recycling, reuse, and education on how to separate materials into these categories;

door-to-door collection of recyclable and compostable stuff; swap meets, flea markets or freecycle websites to exchange reuseable goods and encourage people to buy less;

policy change, including bans on incineration and single-use plastic bags, and subsidies and incentives for recycling;

regulation of corporations to require them to buy back and recycle their products once they are used by consumers (glass soda bottles and tires are examples of products subject to this regulation in some countries).

Zero waste systems are designed with the goal of eliminating the practice of sending trash to landfills and incinerators. Not only is this possible, it’s already beginning to happen. Ercolini’s hometown of Capannori, Italy, has already achieved 82 percent recycling and reuse and is on track to bring that figure to 100 percent by 2020.

via A World Without Landfills? It’s Closer than You Think | NationofChange.

Wall Gardens, Living Walls in Home Decor – WSJ.com

Consumers with deep pockets will find wall-garden systems that are elaborate and high-tech. GSky Plant Systems Inc., of Vancouver, sells a ProWall system that holds plants without soil in 1-foot-square stainless-steel units, watered through an automated drip system. Typical cost of a custom 10-foot-by-10-foot wall ranges from about $10,000 to $15,000, says Hal Thorne, chief executive. The company won’t install the ProWall system unless the homeowner or business agrees to a maintenance contract for at least a year—which for a 10-by-10 wall would cost about $150 a month.

“We don’t just build them and walk away,” Mr. Thorne says. “It’s a living system, and it needs constant attention and care.”

Bright Green, of Hartland, Mich., creates living walls from plastic trays of 10 or 45 cells, which hold plants in soil at an angle so they don’t fall out when mounted on a wall. Hand-watering is required. Water enters through notches at the top edge of the tray and travels down via a “moisture mat” made of a coconut-based fiber. A tray collects water at the bottom.

The system retails for $29.95 for the small version or $39.95 for the large. A kit including a wooden frame to set off the design on a wall costs $95.

Woolly Pocket, of Los Angeles, offers a system of 2-foot-wide planters filled with soil. Each pocket has a plastic-coated mesh liner that is both a moisture barrier to protect walls and a reservoir, focusing water onto plant roots. The systems generally are watered by hand or by an automatic system with a timer that can cost as much as $60.

The single-pocket “Wally One” planter retails for $40; three cost $100, five $150.

via Wall Gardens, Living Walls in Home Decor – WSJ.com.

After some trial and error with plants, homeowner Angela Day, a financial analyst, enjoys tending her collection of kangaroo ferns and prayer plants. “When I walk by, it’s calming, just a little more serene, maybe a little bohemian,” she says. “It’s a lot different from where I am most of the day.”

Incorporated into a sleek interior, a green wall lends unexpected freshness and some appealing contrast, designers say. “It gives an otherwise smooth, straight, linear design some texture,” says Jason Lempieri, a 41-year old industrial designer in Philadelphia.

Mr. Lempieri’s recently remodeled 1920s brick row house has an open floor plan and a sleek, black-and-white interior.

Recalling plant-filled walls he had seen in Europe, Mr. Lempieri installed a wall garden in the dining room, on a partial-height wall 13 feet wide by 8 feet high with a skylight 30 feet above. He used a system of felt-like pockets filled with soil and, working with Philadelphia-based designer Peter Smith, came up with a palette of ferns and tropical plants. Total cost: $1,000.

Jason Lempieri, a Philadelphia industrial designer, installed a wall garden filled with ferns and tropical plants on the wall of the kitchen in his renovated 1920s row house. Wall gardens are a good contrast in linear modern interiors, designers say.

Mr. Lempieri says he enjoys watering and tending to it. “I’ve come to care for it like it’s a member of the family,” he says.

Wall systems are often modular, with stackable cells of plants that can be arranged in customized displays. Irrigation can be an old-fashioned watering can, or a hidden computerized watering system on timers. Plants may require soil, or they may be fed hydroponically, through chemical-nutrient mixtures in water.

For some, living walls can be a bad fit. Conditions indoors are more challenging for plants than outdoors, because there is less light and moisture. Homeowners have to be a little more “in tune” with their plants’ needs, says Kimberly Labno, a Philadelphia designer.

People may forget to set the timer on an irrigation system. Yet with automatic irrigation systems, there are risks of mold problems and overwatering, designers say. Manufacturers say their systems are safe, but many have been on the residential market for less than five years—not exactly a test of time.

Ms. Labno actually advises homeowners against certain automatic watering systems for their indoor wall gardens, because she says there’s too much that could go wrong. “If dust prevents a valve from closing, you could have a serious flooding event,” she says. The wall gardens she designs typically require watering by hand.

“I think the jury is still out,” says Rebecca Sweet, a Los Altos, Calif., garden designer and author of the book “Garden Up,” about vertical gardening. “Because this is such a new field, I don’t know any homeowner that has had any of these walls up for 10 years at a time.”