Glass EcoSpheres at Brookstone

Call it what you will—a science project, a low-maintenance pet, a closed aquarium—but we have always thought that Ecospheres were just plain neat, and here’s why: They demonstrate, in a very simplistic way, the interdependence and harmonic co-existence of animal and plant life with that most basic of necessary elements—water...The EcoSphere—like Tang and freeze-dried ice cream—is the outcome of a NASA experiment. It’s also an example of a completely self-contained community, like the kind that space explorers also need in order to live in during long-term space flights. Voila--the Ecosphere, an ecosystem of animal and plant life in perfect balance.

Inside each sphere are active micro-organisms, bright red shrimp and algae, and filtered sea water, which live in harmony, providing one another with the necessary oxygen, carbon dioxide, food, and waste to sustain one another. All you have to do is provide an indirect source of light. Because the living resources within the EcoSphere utilize their resources without overpopulating or contaminating their environment, they are so very Treehugger. (NB: Yes, we agree it's still weird that we can send people to the moon, but can't figure out how to live sustainably.)

Though they have an average life expectancy of two years, its not unusual for shrimp populations to be thriving in systems as old as 7 years, and you can actually send the orbs back to manufacturer to have the organisms replaced at the end of their life cycle. Makes a great gift for kids, design snobs, and animal lovers alike. $65-500 ::Brookstone [by MO]