Friday, 18 July 2008

Artha, Not Your Average B&B!

One of the unique eco-friendly B&Bs featured on the ecobookers site - Artha - tell us how it all began...

Artha Sustainable Living Center, USA, has just achieved the highest certification rating with the ‘Travel Green Wisconsin’ program, a program designed to protect the beauty and vitality of Wisconsin’s landscape. Here they tell us what led them to start this unique B&B.

“Artha is not only a Bed and Breakfast, but also an education center. Bob Ramlow bought the farm in 1975 with the goal to live off the land. This idea attracted many to come and learn. During this time period Bob learned about solar and made this his life’s passion.

Bob and Marguerite’s dream was to build a zero energy home showcasing sustainable building practices and materials. As a trial run for their new home a studio was built in the second story of the barn, utilising straw bale construction and radiant floors. This studio is now used for yoga classes and workshops, an amazing space!

They then took the plunge and built a new home, also utilising straw bale construction with a high mass solar thermal heating system. The home was built with all local labour, hand making all of the doors, cabinets and floors from sustainably grown and harvested wood from the Menomonee forest here in Wisconsin. Linseed oil was used on the wood and milk paint for the ceilings.

The question then was what to do with the old home. During this time both children, Leif and Chamomile, had moved back to Wisconsin, along with Chamomile’s husband Benjamin. The family decided to start a business based on the idea that they all loved to teach and wanted to create a centre where people not only learned in a classroom setting, but also by example. The old home was turned into a B&B so those who came to take workshops would have a place to stay, and those wishing to see how and if renewable energy really worked could stay in a home run by the sun.

Bob teaches about solar thermal energy not only here at Artha, but all over the United states and is the author, along with his son-in-law Benjamin, of the book Solar Water Heating: A Comprehensive Guide to Solar Water and Space Heating. Benjamin does some teaching, but is Artha’s primary solar thermal consultant, designing systems for homeowners and business all over the world. Marguerite teaches weekly yoga classes along with workshops on organic gardening, herbs and yoga retreats. Marguerite and Chamomile maintain the B&B and make delicious vegetarian breakfasts, utilising local organic produce and dairy products. Syrup for pancakes and waffles is made from the sugar maples that grow on the 90 acres here at Artha. Leif maintains the grounds and gardens, making Artha a beautiful place to visit. The family has found great joy in working together on things they truly care about.

Artha is a place that strives to exist in harmony with the environment. We here at Artha hope to lead by example and we offer our experiences and expertise to those who wish to learn from us. Please come and visit, you might just leave with some inspiration!”

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