Unless you happen to live in Florida or another part of the country that wasn't impacted by historic dry spells or record-shattering cold and snow, you're probably ready to exit this winter without even thinking about looking back. I get it. Why should you be forced to revisit a particularly miserable season marked by glum weather reports, high energy bills, and Justin Bieber news?
Well, for one, here at MNN I reported on a whole bunch of excellent stories this (almost) past winter. I think that they're worth a second look in the event that you missed them the first time around because you were too busy de-icing your driveway with mozzarella brine, planning your next glamping trip, or playing Cat Bingo. February was an especially banner month for intriguing stories about sustainable design, urban gardening, and planet-changing innovation, so much so that I had trouble singling out just five stories to share.
As to be expected, the usual suspects —tiny houses, toilets, IKEA, Frank Lloyd Wright, energy-efficient lighting — all made repeat appearances throughout the winter, joined by a few other recurrent themes: London (there's lots of truly forward-thinking stuff going on across the pond), adaptive reuse (plenty of unlikely and ambitious building conversion projects from across the globe), innovation on the waste disposal and recycling fronts (a perennially popular topic), and micro-housing geared toward the less fortunate among us. And although many of my stories focused on things happening outside of the home in the greater world around us, I also traveled to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show in January for a glimpse at what the connected home in the not-so-distant future will look like (hint: it involves brainy Crock-Pots and multi-tasking robots).
What’s been your favorite post of mine from this past winter? Was there a particular story that I missed out on that you would like to have seen featured? Are there any topics that you'd like to see me tackle this spring and beyond? And if you aren't already, please do follow me on Twitter to keep up to speed. Happy thaw-out season, y'all!
• Fresh starts, tiny dwellings abound in eco-villages for the homeless — A social outreach ministry in Austin, Texas, and an offshoot of Occupy in Madison, Wisc., envision planned communities where formerly homeless residents living in micro-homes will have just enough room to get back on their feet.
• Kick back with fellow 'healthy hedonists' in a shipping container day spa — Hot tubbin' in the city gets sustainable with SOAK, a mobile 'anti-spa' concept built from shipping containers that harvests its own energy and recycles all of its wastewater.
• Flock of feral turkeys terrorizes Staten Island homeowners — They're loud, they're destructive and they have absolutely no qualms about defecating or having sex on your front lawn at 6 am. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the feral turkeys of Staten Island.
• NYC's largest solar facility coming to former Staten Island dump — Between the crazy-tall proposed Ferris wheel and Big Ang, Staten Island, NYC's smallest borough, has been living large as of late. Now come plans to build the city's largest solar farm on parkland that was once the largest landfill in the world.
• Ignorance is bliss: 4 in 10 Americans aware of incandescent phase-out —According to Osram Sylvania's 6th annual Socket Survey, not too many folks realize that 40W and 60W incandescent bulbs will go bye-bye come Jan 1. And a sizable number of those who do plan on stockpiling old bulbs.
• TogetherFarm Blocks: A built-to-last raised garden bed minus the headache —Realizing that not all gardeners have the time or carpentry skills to construct a conventional raised garden bed, a Portland-based startup releases a modular garden bed system made from recycled plastic that's literally a snap to assemble.
• From fork to furnace: New York City to heat homes with table scraps — Truckloads of organic food waste will help to boost production of methane-rich biogas at the city's largest wastewater treatment plant — biogas that will be purified and used to heat homes.
• Google charges full-speed ahead into smart homes with Nest acquisition — 2014's big tech news has come early in the year with the announcement that Google plans to acquire Nest Labs, the acclaimed smart home startup founded by two Apple expats, for a staggering $3.2 billion in cash.
• Mobile tiny house promotes community, connection to nature —With an emphasis on 'Less House. More Life,' Alek Lisefski, the young owner/designer/builder of a lovely wooden abode-on-wheels, does tiny housing right.
• Portland apartment development busts bike-parking record — As buzz grows around the Lloyd District's Hassalo on Eighth development and its record number of long-term bike parking spots, the City of Roses becomes an even better place to get around on two wheels.
• London air raid shelter houses carbon-neutral hydroponic farm —Tunnel-to-table salad anyone? Growing Underground, a hydroponic agriculture venture hailed as the world's largest subterranean farm, is based in a WWII air raid shelter 100 feet beneath the streets of South London.
• Mothballed grain silo reborn as student housing in South Africa — A Johannesburg property development company has turned a shuttered grain silo into the city's hottest new student housing complex. And just wait to you see what's mounted on the roof ...
• A shvitz with a view: Floating sauna proposed for Seattle's Union Bay — Seattle-based architecture firm goCstudio unveils a kayak-accessible floating sauna concept for Lake Washington complete with a diving board for post-sweat cool-offs.
• Tree-inspired pole-cabins offer woodsy alternative to the 'burbs — Even if you're not keen on living in a zinc-clad piece of origami that floats above the forest floor, Primeval Symbiosis, a zero-impact housing concept that aims to stamp out reckless sprawl, is a lovely bit of starry-eyed green design.
• With latest design, Blu Homes does modern green prefab Wright — Blue Homes' view-ready Balance prefab finds a most appropriate home on the stunning ancestral stomping grounds of Frank Lloyd Wright in rural southwestern Wisconsin.
• Quiet Treehouse: A sylvan escape that battles noise pollution — Making its debut at the Ideal Home Show in London, Blue Forest's Quiet Treehouse is outfitted with an array of features that drown out modern life's most irritating noises.
• Composting park proposal keeps NYC's organic waste close to home — Talk about pulling double-duty: In lieu of being hauled out of state, will organic waste be turned into compost at a network of park-topped artificial islands dotting NYC's waterfront?
• Buy a condo, give a micro-home to someone living in a third world landfill — Influenced by TOMS Shoes, two Canadian entrepreneurs move way beyond espadrilles-based altruism with the launch of World Housing, a one-for-one real estate gifting model.
• San Francisco on cusp of ushering in historic bottled water ban — Accustomed to buying bottled water on public property in San Francisco? Drink up because it would appear that your days are numbered ...
• Robotic garden lanterns prevent spills in the dark, haunt you in your sleep — When solar-powered accent lights just aren't cutting it, Alvaro Cassinelli's somewhat nightmarish crawling robo-lanterns will help you safely traverse a garden or backyard at night.