Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nature Play

Enjoy Betty's article in Abode magazine or here:

May’s arrival could have parents contemplating the long summer days with kids. A close-to-home solution for getting them outside and experiencing nature is to create a sustainably-minded backyard play structure or treehouse.

If you have an existing structure (pre-2004), a green remodel is in order because your lumber is likely treated with arsenate CCA (chromated copper arsenate), which leaches carcinogenic toxins. You could seal it with a water-based sealant to keep the CCA trapped in the wood, or replace the old wood with EnviroSafe lumber found at Nature Neutral (975-2002).

If you’re starting from scratch and feeling adventurous, choose a D.I.Y. treehouse plan online or design your own. Keep it simple. Look for FSC-certified (Forest Stewardship Council) wood treated with a nontoxic stain. If you scout local lumber yards, ask lots of questions. Better yet, call Harry Groot at Blue Ridge Forest Cooperative (540-392-8081) which services a wide area, including Charlottesville, and tell him Betty sent you.

Too busy to build? There are many online companies that sell 100 percent recycled plastic, PVC-free play structures. I found Earthscapes structures, Timber Form’s “RePlay,” and Big Toys (they tout U.S. Green Building Council approval and plant three trees per purchase) online—alas, no local dealers.

Stay away from recycled-tire surfaces for underneath play structures, because of possible off-gassing. Pesticide-free grass, pea gravel, natural wood chips, play sand (avoid sand with tremolalite, a type of asbestos), or good ol’ dirt work well.


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