It’s a sad fact that many city dwellers do not have a single plant in their homes, and this is more often than not because of a lack of adequate daylight coming into the cramped urban apartments. But the Kiel, Germany-based firm We Love Eames seeks to alleviate this problem with glass planters, which act as both greenhouses and lights at the same time. These planters are not only gorgeous to look at, but they also bring the possibility of growing your own veggies to urbanites living in apartments with small windows and no balconies.
This so called Mygdal collection of lamps is made up of a hand-blown glass container with a dedicated light, inside which a variety of plants can successfully be grown. The container also acts as a lamp. According to the designers, the plants inside the Mygdal containers don’t require any ventilation, irrigation, or other care. This is achieved because the LED inside them closely resembles sunlight and therefore makes photosynthesis possible. In other words, the entire container is a self-sustaining ecosystem where the plants can grow undisturbed for years.
Another very cool thing about these lamps is the fact that the standing model of the lamp does not need wires connected directly to the light source. This is made possible by a new type of electrically conductive glass coating applied to the container that can stream electricity invisibly along the surface.
This is the perfect plant/lamp for someone who would appreciate some greenery inside their home, yet is not the best at remembering to water them. It also looks like something out of a dystopian, futuristic vision of the world, where the only greenery left is that which can be grown in jars. A pretty sobering thought.
The company Roots Up has come up with an innovative greenhouse solution, which can be used in arid, desert areas where rainwater is scarce. This is made possible by the fact that the primary source of water for collection in these greenhouses is dew. Their greenhouse is projected to be used in Gondar, Ethiopia, in an effort to help local farmers grow crops using low-tech solutions. What’s more, the water collected in this way can also be used as drinking water.
The Roots Up greenhouse can be constructed out of very basic materials and is very easy to build. Basically, the greenhouse is set into a pit dug in the ground while the greenhouse built around it is made of locally-sourced bamboo, ropes, a polycarbonate sheet, a bioplastic sheet and a cistern for water collection. The entire greenhouse can be built by unskilled laborers using only basic tools in about five days.
The greenhouse has a pyramid shape, and its walls are made by the polycarbonate sheet so it looks much like a tent, which can be opened at the top. The bioplastic sheet is used to create a funnel in the center of the greenhouse and works by directing the collected water into the cistern. This water is then used to irrigate the plants.
This design allows for the trapping of hot and humid air inside the greenhouse during the day. This air then circulates around the greenhouse rather than escaping back out. In the evening, when the external temperature drops, the top part of the greenhouse is opened, which causes drops of dew to form on the bio plastic sheet and trickle down run into the cistern. Rainwater can also be collected in the same way.
The amount of water that can be collected in this way depends on the level of humidity in the atmosphere. In an area with about 50% humidity like Gondar, it is estimated that about 44 gal (200 l) of water can be harvested a day.
Roots Up is currently raising funds for this low-tech project on Indiegogo. They hope to raise enough funds to start building the first greenhouses in Gondar in June, with the aim of building 10 more greenhouses by November.
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A Simple Floating Greenhouse
Growing food in the colder months of the year is a challenge, and growers in colder climates that want to extend the crop-growing season are always looking for a better way to do so. Greenhouses are a great option, but they cost a lot of money to construct and heat during the colder months. The American sustainable agriculture non-profit organization Benson Institute has come up with a set of easy to follow instructions on how to build a much cheaper alternative, the so-called walipini, which means “place of warmth” in Aymara Indian. The walipini is basically an underground, pit greenhouse in which it possible to grow vegetables all year, even in the coldest regions of the world.
The walipini is built using the principles of earth-sheltered building and passive solar heating. The Walipini is basically a rectangular hole in the ground that should be 6 to 8 feet deep. Once the hole is dug, it should be covered by plastic sheathing. The longest side of the rectangular hole should face the winter sun, which is to the north in the Southern Hemisphere and to the south in the Northern Hemisphere. At the back of the structure, there should be a thick wall of rammed earth, while at the front there should be a much lower wall, which provides the ability to angle the plastic roof in the correct fashion.
The roof serves two functions, namely to protect the plants and to heat the greenhouse. The plastic roof is made up of two layers of plastic, namely a sheet on the top and one on the bottom of the roof/poles. It works to seal the hole in the ground, and creates an insulating airspace for the garden. In addition to that, it lets in the sun’s warmth and traps it, which creates an even temperature inside the walipini and allows for successful year-round vegetable growth.
By being built underground, the walipini also takes advantage of the earth’s thermal mass, meaning that a lot less energy is needed to heat up its interior compared to a conventional greenhouse. The structure must of course be waterproofed and ventilated correctly, face the sun at the right angle and have an adequate drainage system. The Benson Institute has a detailed manual on the construction process available here.
The Benson Institute built a 20-foot by 74-foot field model walipini in La Paz, Bolivia, which they say, cost only about $300 to build. The low cost is due to volunteer labor and using materials such as plastic ultraviolet (UV) protective sheeting and PVC piping, which are very affordable.
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