Monday, 28 February 2011

Smart Self-Cleaning Fridge Orders Food & Suggests Recipes

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Smart Self-Cleaning Fridge Orders Food & Suggests Recipes: [ Filed under Fixtures or in the Appliances category ]

Think of all of the activities revolving around this single kitchen appliance – cooking, eating, drinking, then finding things to reheat and eat later, then shopping for fresh food to replenish it. What if your fridge did all of that for you?

This clever all-in-one digital refrigerator design from Ocado proposes to take the mystery out of your meals, suggesting recipes based on what ingredients it contains and even placing orders for new foods when something is running low. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly for people with particularly busy lives, it keeps track of dates, watching for what is soon to expire to reduce waste and save money. Oh, and it cleans iteslf, too.

Right, but how does it work? It has built-in product scanners inside that help identify what is in stock and how aged a given ingredient may be . The internal computer is hooked into (you guessed it) the Ocado supermarket chain, letting it know what you are lacking (and what you like). Whether the digital system can beat your secret family recipes is another question, though. As with many concepts, it may be a while before we start seeing these on the appliance store shelves. Also, while users may be beguiled with touch screens and the like, it is hard to say whether people will be prepared to let a large corporate chain know their daily dietary habits.

The Future is Green: 12 Visionary Architecture Concepts

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The Future is Green: 12 Visionary Architecture Concepts: [ By Steph in Art & Design. ]

With looks straight out of a sci-fi movie, these 12 tall towers and super-complexes hint at the architecture of a greener future where solar-powered skyscrapers hold urban theme parks and self-sufficient mini-cities running on algae soar among the clouds. While some of these will forever remain curious concepts, others are actually slated for construction – and you’ll never guess which is which based on the incredible illustrations.

Tianjin Eco City

(images via: inhabitat)

This one definitely looks like science fiction, but surprisingly, the Tianjin Eco City is slated for construction in the next few years with a projected completion date of 2020. 350,000 residents will occupy this showcase for new green technologies, which will serve as a model for other new cities in China. Divided into seven districts, the city will include apartment buildings, an administrative and civic center, renewable energy production and stacked structures connected by sky-bridges at multiple levels.

Vertical Theme Park of the Future

(images via:

What if all of the attractions currently featured in the sprawling footprint of Disney World were compacted into sky-high towers? That’s essentially the idea of Ju-Hyun Kim’s eco-friendly urban theme park, which would not only pack rides, roller coasters and exhibits into skyscrapers, but equip the structures with technology to harvest rainwater, collect solar energy and recycle waste.

Weave Housing

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While some futuristic-looking eco architecture concepts are totally out-there, others are more attainable – like this apartment complex designed for Denver, Colorado. ‘Weave Housing’ is a stack of prefabricated modular dwellings made from lightweight concrete. Though all the apartments are narrow and long, some are made up of multiple units allowing for more interesting floor plans and additional space.

Twisting Acupuncture Tower for Taiwan

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With a biofuel-producing facade and an unusual spiraling design, the ‘Acupuncture Tower’ designed by grad students at the I.A. Lab of Taiwan University is definitely unlike most modern buildings. Created for Taiwan’s Khaosiung port city, the tower would desalinate ocean water, harvest wind and solar energy, and recycle waste. The greenery on the facade is not vertical trees or vines but algae membranes.

Vertical City for Venezuela Slums

(images via: design boom)

Where there currently stands a run-down building in the slums in Caracas, Venezuela is envisioned a three-tiered tower where each of the three ‘cups’ defines distinct user groups and activities. British architecture design collective Desitecture imagines ‘Vertical City’ containing retail, hotel, apartments and offices. Wind turbines embedded within the hollow structure would collect energy.

Solar Tower for Taipei

(images via: inhabitat)

The winner of the Taiwan Tower Competition is a structure so futuristic, we have to wonder whether building it is even possible. Inspired by the shape of a money tree, this solar observation tower has eight zeppelin-like floating elevators made from lightweight materials and filled with helium. Inside the core of the tower is office space and a museum, while built around it is an urban park. In the upper portion of the tower, solar panels harvest energy for power and a stack chimney effect provides natural cooling. Believe it or not, it’s slated to begin construction in 2012.

Structural Geodesics: Evolving Skyscraper for Armenia

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An ‘assemblage of structural geodesics’ make up the highly unusual exterior of the ‘Evolving Skyscraper’ proposal by Vahan Misakyan, designed for the city of Yerevan in Armenia. The structure consists of three towers joined by habitable bridges at the top and bottom and would include offices, residences and a hotel. The ‘intelligent’ skin of the building includes mechanical openings that let in varying amounts of light, heat and fresh air as well as solar panels, wind turbines and rainwater collection systems.

Synthetic Hyper Structure Proposal

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How can we use architecture to create a new kind of urbanism? Architect Graham Thompson addresses this question with synthetic hyper-structures that create urban farming zones, towers, solar recharging zones and recreation areas. The result, with its oddly curvilinear buildings, certainly looks unlike any city currently existing on Earth.

Multi-Floor Bridge in Seoul

(images via: inhabitat)

Why should a bridge just be a bridge when it can also serve as a park, meeting space, mall, museum and energy generator? This concept for the Paik Nam June Media Bridge in Seoul, South Korea would connect a newly redeveloped public cultural space with the National Assembly Building, and with its vertical gardens, solar panels and interesting attractions it practically serves as a city within itself.

Spiral Tower: Suburban Living in Berlin

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Bringing the benefits of the suburbs to the city is a common theme in sustainable urban architecture concepts – because after all, wouldn’t it be great to enjoy the benefits of urban living and have a backyard, too? The Spiral Tower would give Berlin residents stacked dwellings with private terraces that provide a view and an open outdoor space for recreation and relaxation. Additionally, the building is equipped with solar panels, wind turbines and water collection and purification systems.

Sustainable Space Skyscraper in Egypt

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Looking like a fantasy writer’s idea of a skyscraper in an alien metropolis, the Space-Scraper by Mohamed Abdel-Aziz is made for modern-day Egypt with three twisting towers connected by a geo-sphere containing a health center with a spa and swimming pool. The unusual form is based on studies of the area’s wind patterns, and created to maximize views of nearby sites like the pyramids, the Nile and the city of Cairo. The green features are the requisite solar panels, wind turbines and water collection systems.

Self-Sufficient Algae Airships

(images via: inhabitat)

It’s an airship! It’s a hydrogen plant! It’s a flying farm! It’s… totally bizarre, but amazing. The Hydrogenase algae-producing airborne cities are the latest pie-in-the-sky sustainable concept to come from architect Vincent Callebaut, designed for the South China Sea near Shanghai. The self-sufficient airships contain special varieties of micro-seaweed that convert sunlight and CO2 into hydrogen biofuels. The exterior of each ship is also covered in solar panels and wind turbines. It’s certainly among the less likely ideas to ever see the light of day, but you can’t say it’s not fun to look at.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Ping-Pong Apartment: 25,000 Balls Make Off-the-Wall Decor

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Ping-Pong Apartment: 25,000 Balls Make Off-the-Wall Decor: [ Filed under Interiors or in the Apartments category ]

A little space, a lot of time and a dash of creative inspiration came together to form this crazy decorative scheme inside of a modest compact condo (less than 100 sqaure feet in size!) in Brooklyn, New York.

This loft is situated above (and occupied by an employee of) the NYC firm Snarkitecture – the name really does say it all. Blacks, whites and grays show the potential of gradients and light in a cramped urban dwelling.

Shelves, ladders and a latticework grid of overhead lights form a series of rectilinear patterns that offset the round ping-pong-ball wall coverings. Floating white shelves, strategic mirrors and other visual elements raw eye across and through the small space to make it feel more open.

The catch? Of course there always is one: ping pong balls are made of flammable material – easy to ignite and hard to put back out. Hopefully these are coated with something relatively fireproof, but even still, they could turn a decor idea into a death trap if not treated carefully.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Eco-Bridge Over Troubled Times: Green Design Drives Concept

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Eco-Bridge Over Troubled Times: Green Design Drives Concept: [ By Delana in Art & Design, Energy & Fuel, Technology & Gadgets. ]

Bridges are constantly exposed to the elements, sitting outdoors as they do in all types of climates and in every kind of weather. It is a wonder that before now no one has thought to harness these massive man-made structures for harnessing natural eco-friendly power. The Solar Wind bridge concept would take advantage of a particular bridge’s location and altitude to capture two separate types of green energy.

Although automotive bridges are part of an infrastructure that can not exactly be called eco-friendly, they are often in unique positions to capture plenty of sun and wind. Their necessary elevation and, of course, their constant exposure to the sun means that they make ideal collectors of solar and wind energy.

This bridge design was meant for s specific site in Italy. As part of the Solar Park Works – Solar Highway competition which asked for designers to remake a section of decommissioned elevated highway between Bagnera and Scilla, three designers put their heads together to come up with this innovative idea. Francesco Colarossi, Giovanna Saracino and Luisa Saracino saw the potential in the bridge’s location due to its constant battering by crosswinds and its exposure to the lush Mediterranean sun.

(all images via: Gizmag)

The road itself would be made of not the traditional asphalt, but instead of a dense network of solar cells coated in durable plastic. The solar cells could produce as much as 11.2 kWh per year. The bridge would also contain 26 integrated in the spaces between the bridge supports which would provide an additional 36 million kWh per year. All told, the innovative bridge could power up to 15,000 homes. But the benefits don’t stop there: the designers also envision the sides of the roadways as makeshift small-space farms/market stalls. Farmers could grow and sell their wares right there on the side of the bridge. While we love the idea, we’d much rather see urban planners concentrate on the first part of the design – integrating eco-power collection devices into everyday structures – before getting too fancy with the idea.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Furry Forecasters: 7 Amazing Weather-Predicting Animals

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Furry Forecasters: 7 Amazing Weather-Predicting Animals: [ By Steve in 7 Wonders Series, Animals & Habitats, Nature & Ecosystems. ]

Animals have evolved to cope with changing weather conditions and in some cases, have learned to sense when these changes are imminent. These 7 amazing weather-predicting animals offer us more insight into weather’s whimsy than Phil Connors on a good day. Now for today’s fur-cast…


(images via: Best Week Ever, Uncoverage and Daniel David Allen)

“Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cooooold out there today.” How do we know? Because every February 2nd, Punxsutawney Phil, the world’s most famous groundhog weatherman, crawls out into the chill Pennsylvania air. If it’s sunny out and Phil sees his shadow, we’re in for 6 more weeks of winter.

(image via: Vondrook!)

Some people have a problem with this, most notably the character played by Bill Murray in the 1993 movie Groundhog Day. Says Phil (the weatherman, not the groundhog): “There is no way that this winter is *ever* going to end as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don’t see any other way out. He’s got to be stopped. And I have to stop him.”

(images via: Milk In The Clock, USA Today and Finding Dulcinea)

“Winter, slumbering in the open air, wears on its smiling face a dream of spring.” Indeed, spring always follows winter regardless of the prognostications of any number of representative rodents, but the tradition has ancient origins in European (especially Germanic) folklore. It should be noted that the National Climatic Data Center has measured the overall prediction accuracy rate of the featured groundhogs to be only 39%. Don’t blame the groundhogs, though, we just might be reading their predictions backwards.


(images via: Animal World, Worlds Of Disney, eHow and MNN)

Ladybugs (or Ladybird beetles) are commonly found throughout out Eurasia and North America where they are susceptible to seasonal weather. Being cold-blooded creatures, ladybugs tend to swarm when temperatures reach approximately 12-13°C (55°F). A number of old proverbs concern the ladybug’s usefulness as a weather forecaster, one being “When ladybugs swarm, expect a day that’s warm.”

(image via: Sabrina School)

The advent of heated housing has allowed ladybugs to show another side of their weather forecasting ability. As autumn edges towards winter, ladybugs search for a warm and sheltered place to hibernate – such as your home. As the days lengthen and warm spring weather arrives, the ladybugs become active and begin to fly about, looking for an exit to the outdoors.


(images via: Wonder How To, and Amazon)

Farmers are extremely cognizant about the need to be weather-wise – in the old days, the weather was literally a matter of life and death. Combine this need with close observation of domestic animals over thousands of years and you end up with the unlikely premise of weather-forecasting cows.

(images via: David Wall Photo, Corbis and Martin LaBar)

Cattle in pasture or on the range are social creatures but the extant of their gregariousness seems to be related to atmospheric conditions. Most obviously, a herd of cows sensing an oncoming storm tend to cluster together for warmth and security.

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Cows exhibit other weather-related habits such as restlessness; a state of anxiety perhaps brought on by sudden changes in air pressure and/or a buildup of static electricity in the air. Cows have also been known to lie on the grass when rain is imminent: possibly they’re shading a dry spot that would be more comfortable during a rainy spell. Then again, these things may just reflect the prevailing bovine moood.


(images via: Naturfoto-CZ, Dr. Oliver-David Louis Finch, Memegenerator and Rotholl)

Years ago in Germany, kids would catch a certain type of temperate zone tree frog called a Laubfrosch which had a habit of climbing up branches when the weather became warmer. Placing the frog in a glass jar with a tiny wooden ladder inside, the children would watch the frog climb or descend in conjunction with the changing weather. A ribbeting barometer, to be sure!

(image via: Mach Publishing)

Old & busted: Punxsutawney Phil. New hotness: Snohomish Slew! Yes indeed, Snohomish, WA’s resident “GroundFrog” has got the jump on the meteorological marmot in more ways than one, making his annual animal weather prediction every year for the past 6 years on the last Friday of January.


(images via:, Di Greenhaw and Able 2 Know)

Anyone who’s seen the 1998 movie A Bug’s Life knows that what for us is a gentle rain shower is, for ants, a catastrophe of biblical proportions. The fact that ants construct their nests underground with the entrance/exit opening at ground level would seem to be a recipe for disaster, yet ants are among the most abundant creatures on the planet.

(image via: Telegraph UK)

Ants have worked out a number of defenses against rainwater ingress but they all depend on one thing: foreknowledge of when rain is going to fall. Y’see, it takes time to build the anthill extra high and, in some cases, put a trapdoor or blocking pebble in place. Sort of like walking down the street when the sky opens up: by the time you buy yourself an umbrella, you’re soaked to the skin.


(images via: Images82ask, Hill Shepherd and Mandi859)

Sheep are one of the earliest domesticated animals and shepherding one of the world’s oldest professions – and a family-friendly one at that. Over thousands of years of watching over their sheep, shepherds have noticed a thing or two about how the woolly wonders react to environmental stimuli like oncoming storms. This was (and is) important – one never wants to be accused of crying wolf, especially one wearing cheap clothing.

(image via: Corbis)

Like cows, sheep can sense minute differences in their environment and sudden changes in temperature, humidity and air pressure seem to invoke anxiety. Clustering together before a storm strikes helps keep sheep warm and prevents stragglers from drifting away. Hey, they don’t call it the Herd Instinct for nothing!

Woolly Bear Caterpillars

(images via: Tony the Misfit, Getty Images, That Guy With The Glasses and Jonclark2000)

Woolly Bear caterpillars are the larval stage of the Isabella Tiger Moth, found in the northeastern United States and parts of eastern Canada. These shaggy caterpillars are black on either end with a reddish-brown band in the middle. According to folklore, a wider brown band indicates a warm winter is on the way, while Woolly Bears that are predominantly black are harbingers of a colder, harsher winter.

(images via: The Chronicle Telegram, FOX8 Cleveland and Pixelate Photography and Design)

Not to be outdone by groundhogs and green frogs, the annual Woollybear Festival in downtown Vermilion, Ohio, has been held every autumn since 1973. By all accounts, the Woollybear Festival is a huge success and has grown is size and scope since local TV personality and WJW-TV weatherman Dick Goddard first floated the concept. Over 20 marching bands, 2,000 marchers, hundreds of animals and over 100,000 spectators participated in the 2006 parade, which has outgrown its original location in Birmingham and is now the largest one-day festival in the state.

(image via: A Simple Life)

Are much-maligned TV weathermen about to be replaced by, say, weather-sheep or weather-frogs? Not likely, though groundhogs would probably work for peanuts. That doesn’t mean we should shrug off behavioral manifestations that creatures have evolved over thousands, even millions of years. Besides, if you want a prediction about the weather on any day BUT February 2nd, you’re asking the wrong Phil. Now it’s time to go, gotta beat the weather. Chance of departure today: 100 percent!

Closet Home: A Compact, Remote-Controlled Dream Condo

Closet Home: A Compact, Remote-Controlled Dream Condo: [ Filed under Space-Saving or in the Interiors category ]

Imagine transforming your entire home at the touch of a button – turning a 44-square-meter space into a luxurious, ultra-modern, five-room super-condo. From hidden drop-down kitchen shelves and an automatic sliding living room/bedroom wall to multi-functional surfaces and subtle digital projectors, this is a realistic look at what saving space is all about.

Consexto is a Portuguese design firm that recognizes the square-footage limitations of living in cramped urban condos, but realizes the possibilities of making maximum use of every last inch of floor area. Be sure to view the video at the bottom – this is one of those design concepts one has to see in action to truly appreciate and understand.

A thin divider wall packed with storage and digital accessories moves to open up the bedroom while enclosing the living room on the opposite site – a give and take that reflects our rare use of two spaces at once, particularly as singles or couples in small-space apartments.

Compact closet organizers fold down and out from behind narrow doors, expanding into the room as needed then flipping back into place. Dishes and other kitchen accessories slide down from secret compartments, again via a simple digital control pad, then disappear again. A small dining table also folds open on demand below a built-in television screen – a small extension of the entertainment center.

Luxurious Eco Travel: 12 Elegant Green Destinations

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Luxurious Eco Travel: 12 Elegant Green Destinations: [ By Steph in Animals & Habitats, Geography & Travel, Nature & Ecosystems. ]

Staycations and ultra-rustic nature-centric accommodations may be the greenest way to spend your vacation time, but sometimes, special occasions call for a luxurious getaway. The good news is, elegant eco-resorts do exist, and while some have more green cred than others, they offer experiences that rival those of traditional pampering luxury resorts but in a more environmentally sensitive manner.

EcoCamp Patagonia, Chile

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There are rustic eco resorts and there are luxury resorts with dubious green claims, but EcoCamp Patagonia in Chile is the best of both worlds – a luxurious getaway that is 100% carbon-free. You’ll sleep in a geodesic dome inspired by the huts built by the native Kawesqar people but enjoy modern comfort and convenience, right in the wilderness of the Torres del Paine National Park.

Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, Blue Mountains, Australia

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The first hotel in the world to be certified carbon-neutral through carboNZero is nestled in the Blue Mountains of Australia and definitely emphasizes guilt-free luxury. Winner of numerous awards, the Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa is made from recycled materials and renewable resources, runs on solar power and is located on a private conservation and nature reserve. Each free-standing luxury suite has its own private terrace and swimming pool, and guests can indulge in massages and skin treatments in between outdoor adventures.

Six Senses Hideaway, Thailand

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The Six Senses Hua Hin on the Gulf of Siam set out to prove that luxury and minimal environmental impact are compatible with its SLOW LIFE philosophy (S-Sustainable, L-Local, O-Organic, W-Wholesome, L-Learning, I-Inspiring, F-Fun, E-Experience). The resort, which features 55 pool villas and a holistic spa, has committed to green operations including energy efficiency, waste minimization and water conservation.

Gayana Luxury Eco Resort, Borneo

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Experience a lush jungle on a coral reef island off the coast of Borneo at the Gayana Luxury Eco Resort, which not only offers accommodations on the water with stunning views of the ocean and Mt. Kinabalu, but also operates its own Marine Ecology Research Center which propagates endangered giant clams and engages in other conservation and restoration activities. Guests can dive, kayak, trek through the jungles or lay back for a relaxing day in the luxury spa.

Miraval, Tucson

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Not interested in venturing beyond the U.S. borders? America has a few eco resorts of its own, including Miraval in Tucson, a luxury spa and wellness retreat on 400 acres populated with rammed earth buildings and plenty of cacti. The rammed earth (clay adobe brick) construction makes the structures energy-efficient; water is heated with solar energy; the guest rooms feature green materials like non-toxic paints and the landscaping is all native. Miraval specializes in wellness and stress relief, with yoga, meditation, nutrition instruction, fitness activities and much more.

Gaia Luxury Hotel & Nature Reserve, Costa Rica

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High on a hill in the pristine wilderness of Costa Rica is the Gaia Hotel, a modern resort on 12.1 acres of nature reserve populated with local wildlife like squirrel monkeys and three-toed sloths. The 5-star, 20-room boutique hotel in the Manuel Antonio area has been named Central America’s top green hotel for its efforts to minimize the effects of tourism on the surrounding ecosystem.

CESiaK, Mexico

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Often named among the world’s best green getaways, the Centro Ecologico Sian Ka’an (CESiak) is located adjacent to ancient Mayan ruins in Tulum. All proceeds from the surprisingly affordable yet comfy and exotic resort fund education and conservation programs at the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Dar-Hi, Tunisia

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Made almost entirely from local materials and labor, the Dar-Hi eco hotel in Tunisia is architecturally stunning and environmentally sensitive. The Dar-Hi is located on the edge of the Sahara Desert and features 17 rooms in four ‘styles’ that have different ways of interacting with the environment and the hotel: elevated ‘pill houses’ with beautiful views, ‘troglodyte houses’ built into the ground, ‘the dunes’ at ground level with a design inspired by wind-sculpted sand and the ‘dar malika’, a traditional house within the village. Accessible only on foot, the Dar-Hi offers secluded luxury just three hours from Paris.

Sanctuary Chief’s Camp, Botswana

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Twelve luxury bush pavilions in the Mombo Concession, an area of the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana known as the ‘predator capital of Africa’, offer a beautiful and comfortable place to stay while experiencing Africa up close and personal. Included in a stay at the Sanctuary Chief’s Camp are ‘Mokoro’ dugout canoe excursions in the Okavango Delta and game drives on 4×4 vehicles where visitors can spot lions, antelope, zebra and buffalo.

Campi Ya Kanzi, Kenya

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Recognized for excellence in environmental management, Campi Ya Kanzi in Kenya is located on the 400-acre Kuku Group Ranch on land owned by Maasai herdsmen. The buildings were constructed from local materials like lava rocks, water is heated with a solar boiler and proceeds benefit the conservation of the local habitat. The price of the stay includes lodging in a luxury suite, all meals, house beer and wine, excursions to three national parks and botanical walks, game drives and visits to the Maasai village.

Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort

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Famed ocean explorer and environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau runs green resorts around the world including this gem on the island of Vanua Levu in Fiji. Dive, swim and snorkel in a marine reserve or just lay back and relax among the restored mangrove trees and traditional Fijian architecture, built for natural cross ventilation with sustainably harvested wood.

Longitude 131, Australia

(images via: longitude131)

15 luxury tents hover on steel stilts over the sand dunes at Longitude 131, an ecologically sensitive resort in the Northern Territory of Australia. The owners keep the resort small and pledge to protect the natural ecosystem as much as possible. The main event here is Uluru, the world’s largest monolith, a World Heritage Site; most of the resort’s outdoor activities center upon this beautiful landscape feature.