How do you refresh your batteries when it comes time for a vacation? Have you ever thought of changing the pace a bit, or possibly taking an eco-friendly vacation? Well for most of us we see an eco-vacation as travel that minimizes the negative aspects of conventional tourism on the environment and enhances the cultural integrity of local people. In addition to evaluating environmental and cultural factors, an integral part of eco-vacations is the promotion of recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation, and creation of economic opportunities for local communities. But here at ReNewable Now we don't want to tell you that you need to go to an exotic, exclusive area in the Amazon to have an eco-vacation. Rather, modify your dream vacations by using alternative forms of transportation, like electric cars, hybrids, bicycling, or choose to stay at resorts and lodging that also provide compliments to our environment. Here at ReNewable Now, we will try to share with you all the best ideas and tips when it comes for that special time for you and your family to recharge your batteries.
As we celebrate the Year of International Sustainable Tourism, we want to share some great stories and news as they relate to those things that are helping us move in a more eco-friendly direction when it comes to tourism. This week, we share a story about a tole brand you might not be too familiar with, Element.
Marriott International, announced the opening of Element Chandler Fashion Center, which marks the debut of the eco-conscious brand in Arizona. Element Chandler Fashion Center, owned by Chandler HG, LLC, a Glacier House Hotels entity, is conveniently located adjacent to the Chandler Fashion Center – one of the largest malls in the Phoenix Metropolitan area. The new property features 107 light-filled guestrooms and an atmosphere designed to fuel a smart and sustainable stay while maintaining a balanced life on the road.
A recognized industry leader in the eco-space, Element offers travelers a fresh interpretation of the traditional hotel experience with natural light, modern design, healthy options and green-minded sensibilities. This reimagined extended-stay experience is perfect for the traveler who is visiting for a few days or a few weeks. Guests can fuel their day with healthy options from the RISE breakfast stocked with refreshing smoothies, wholesome granola and more, and wind down with the RELAX evening wine reception – both complimentary. Spacious studios and one-bedroom suites at Element Chandler Fashion Center offer a fluid design of modular furniture, fully equipped kitchens, the signature Heavenly® Bed and spa-inspired bathrooms. The hotel also features 600 square feet of meeting space as well as amenities that include: the RESTORE gourmet pantry, the signature Bikes to Borrow program, which offers guests complimentary bikes along with a local trail map, a state-of-the-art 24-hour fitness center, a heated outdoor swimming pool, and fast and free Wi-Fi throughout the property.
"We are excited to launch Element in Arizona, continuing the growth momentum of the brand while meeting a local demand for the healthy, active traveler in the area," said Paige Francis, Vice President, Global Brand Management for Element Hotels. "Element Chandler offers travelers a smart, sustainable option near upscale shops and restaurants, and easy access to the numerous businesses along the Price Road technology corridor. Guests can enjoy clean, modern design and everything they need whether they're staying with us for two nights or two weeks."
The newly constructed Element is located directly across from Nordstrom and within walking distance to the many other retail stores and dining options in the Chandler Fashion Center. Easily accessible from both Santan Freeway and Loop 101 Price Freeway, Element Chandler Fashion Center is 10 minutes from Wild Horse Pass, 20 minutes from Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) and less than 30 minutes from downtown Phoenix and Arizona State University. Nearby space and technology businesses along the Price Road corridor include Intel, Orbital Sciences Corporation, Space Data and Boeing Iridium Satellite.
Iceland's Creativity Promotes Tourism
As part of its Iceland Academy educational video series for tourists, and looking to promote an increased responsibility amongst visitors, Inspired By Iceland has introduced a special video guide on 'How to Take a Safe Selfie'. The video is one of five new online tutorials for tourists wanting to learn about how to experience the best of Iceland firsthand, from the people who know it best - the locals.
The fun tutorials, launched today as part of the online educational tool's Winter Term, aim to enlighten tourists on the more unknown aspects of Iceland. Insider tips and advice highlight everything from the wonders of its seven regions, to its very own 130 volcanoes and the clean and renewable energy they provide to 90% of Iceland's houses. They also offer information on Iceland's unique festivals, its iconic horses and a short history lesson on Icelandic sagas.
Each online academy class is hosted by a local 'tutor' including Head of Iceland Academy and Guide Stína Bang, Kamilla Ingibergsdóttir, music aficionado and PA to global successes 'Of Monsters and Men' and Settlement Centre manager Sigríður Margrét Guðmundsdóttir.
Iceland Academy's classes are open to everyone via the Inspired By Iceland website and social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). Users are invited to watch the video tutorials and complete a short, fun quiz, testing their newly learned knowledge on everything from hot tub etiquette and local food sustainability, to glacier safety. On successful completion of the quiz, viewers will recieve a special Iceland Academy badge and be entered into a competition to win a once in a lifetime 'field trip' to Iceland where they can test out their new skills.
This term, Inspired By Iceland will host a special Facebook Live video class in partnership with Horses of Iceland, educating viewers on all that is wonderful about the Icelandic horse. Viewers can tune in by liking the Inspired By Iceland Facebook page.
Since launching in February 2016 'Iceland Academy' has helped over 15,000 visitors learn about all aspects of Icelandic nature, culture and etiquette offering advice on avoiding awkwardness in the hot tub, how to drive safely in Iceland, what makes local food so healthy and delicious, how to travel responsibly, winter sports, staying safe, how to pack for Iceland's ever changing weather system and how to capture the Northern Lights.
Booking.com, an online service that connects travelers with places to stay, has revealed findings from its global Sustainable Travel Report[i] , identifying what the term "sustainable travel" means to consumers, how sustainable accommodations are viewed, and what the future holds for eco-conscious travelers.
What does green mean?
Nearly half (47%) of American respondents said they consider themselves to be sustainable travelers, rising to 72% amongst Chinese respondents and dropping to 25% amongst the Japanese, with findings showing a wide spectrum when it comes to what people understand "sustainable travel" to mean. More than half (58%) of Americans consider the act of staying in eco-friendly accommodations to be sustainable travel with just over two thirds (68%) confirmed they would be more likely to choose accommodations if they knew they were eco-friendly. A third (33%) of Americans said they don't plan to stay in an eco-friendly accommodation in the year ahead, and of these travelers, 38% said it was because they did not even know sustainable accommodations existed. This reason was even higher amongst Japanese (43%) and German (46%) respondents in particular.
Buying locally-made products and supporting local artisans was identified by 31% of Americans as sustainable travel, while 22% said they felt it involves staying in a natural environment such as a nature reserve or national park. 21% consider camping to be sustainable travel and just over one in ten (15%) deem it going to a destination where you can interact with local wildlife.
Beyond nature, altruistic activities are also regarded as "sustainable" including helping local communities by volunteering (16%), and staying with an indigenous community and learning about their culture (13%).
Sustainable stay skepticism
While the report highlights that sustainable travel means many things to many people, it also reveals how the term "sustainable accommodations" is often met with confusion and, at times, skepticism. For instance, Americans who confirmed they will not book an eco-friendly stay in the upcoming year cited reasons such as they are expensive (26%), less luxurious (11%) or simply can't be trusted to be truly "green" (11%). Thirty percent of both Brits and Australians will not book an eco-friendly stay because of perceived expense, while 14% of Japanese detractors say it's because they can't trust a property's "eco" claims.
Gillian Tans, Chief Operating Officer, Booking.com comments: "Sustainable accommodations are a world away from dim lighting, low water pressure and no air conditioning. Guests may not realize that as they sleep on organic cotton sheets, washed with water heated by energy generated from the hotel itself, they are staying sustainably. Or that when eating a meal made from ingredients sourced within 20 miles of their accommodations, they are a sustainable traveler supporting local business."
In fact, according to Booking.com research[ii] over a quarter (26%) of the accommodations surveyed confirmed they have initiatives in place to protect the environment while almost a fifth (19%) support the local community. This rises to a third (33%) and nearly a quarter (24%) respectively for larger properties (36+ rooms). In addition, over half (51%) of properties are currently credited as following official sustainability criteria from a recognized organization in sustainability such as the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
Tans continues: "The more clarity, understanding and visibility around sustainable travel that can be brought to travelers to help them make informed choices around their accommodations and destination, the better. Our research and ongoing discussions with the accommodations we offer is uncovering a range of sustainability efforts that we'd ultimately love to be able to share with travelers searching and selecting on our site."
The findings show a strong consensus that more needs to be done to aid sustainable travel; in fact, only 6% of American travelers said they thought it was already easy. But when it comes to a solution to the problem, there are many converging ideas. The dominant two are economic incentives, such as tax breaks for eco travelers (38% of respondents were in favor) and an international standard for sustainable accommodations (37%). Even though there's no clear agreement, online booking sites have an important role to play, with 33% of respondents wanting them to make it easier to understand and compare eco-friendly accommodations and transportation options.
A greener future?
68% of Americans surveyed confirmed they intend to stay in sustainable accommodations within the year and nearly half (47%) say they have considered, or will be considering, a destination they would not have otherwise been interested in because of sustainable practices. These include protected natural environment and wildlife, animals being treated fairly and initiatives in place to help the local community.
As more people look to experience a sustainable stay, Booking.com is considering ways to evolve its popular Passion Search platform to include eco-based interests and destination intelligence to make searching for the best destinations tied to specific sustainable initiatives and practices easier.
Tans concludes: "It's heartening to see the great intent of people to travel sustainably. With more and more people wanting to select sustainable accommodations in the future, we are looking at ways to harness the power of over 26 million recommendations courtesy of our extensive customer base to assist fellow travelers seeking to embrace and discover sustainable travel."
Can Cuba be a Model for Sustainability?
In this week’s address from the White House, President Obama discussed his upcoming trip to Cuba, a visit that will further advance the progress the United States has made since he announced the new chapter. We’re wondering if there is going to be any discussion on Climate Change and an overall collaboration between the two countries to help advance overall effort in sustainability during his visit. To that extent, we wanted see where Cuba stands with sustainability in its past, present and future as we look at what could be a promising door that is about to open.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report in 2006 Cuba was the only country in the world to reach a sustainable development, because the country covers their present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Cuba demonstrates and makes it possible to imagine future radical possibilities that can be used to analyze and challenge the unsustainable paradigm that presently dominates the world. Cuba is a “real world” socialist country that since the 1990s has had a fundamentally different relationship with the environment than capitalist and past “socialist” countries.
Now, with relations between the United States and Cuba defrosting and investment interest building for the island in the U.S. and beyond, Cuba is at a crossroads.
Will its tropical coastlines soon be home to towering cruise ships and sprawling resorts, or is there a more sustainable way forward for a nation that cares deeply about its unique natural heritage? Many Cubans think there is, and we agree.
Cuba’s approach to conservation and environmental protection is already a model for other Caribbean nations. The country is now positioned to be a regional model also for sustainable economic development.
By scaling up its small and exclusive ecotourism industry, Cuba can stimulate investment and create jobs, while preserving the coral reefs and big fish that make it one of the world’s most special places.
Emerging ecotourism industry points the way
Today, Cuba’s pristine Jardines de la Reina National Marine Park – Gardens of the Queen – is home to a sustainable, but small, tourism enterprise that provides badly needed economic impetus for small coastal communities.
Nearly one-quarter of the families in Jucaro – the small fishing village from which trips to the Gardens depart – already have a source of income directly related to the largest marine protected area in the Caribbean.
The current ecotourism operation in the Gardens is tiny still; only 1,500 visitors per year are granted access to this world-class treasure.
But the industry also has a tiny spatial and ecological footprint, which means it could be replicated at broader scales across Cuba’s two southern archipelagos, and become an economic and ecological centerpiece for broader development plans for the region.
There are, of course, challenges associated with building out the ecotourism industry in the Gardens of the Queen, like elsewhere.
Fragile ecosystems and remote natural areas can only sustain a certain amount of infrastructure to accommodate new visitors. A careful assessment of potential environmental impacts, in accordance with existing Cuban law, should precede and guide any new tourism development.
If such precautions are not taken, these special places will disappear along with the tourists who loved them. But we feel hopeful Cuba will choose the right path, because the Cuban people know they sit atop a coral treasure box.
Cuba took bold action to protect reefs
Cuba’s coast is often portrayed as a place frozen in time – a selling point to tourists willing to pay a premium for a unique experience. Of course, there’s more to the story.
The people of Cuba have chosen to protect wide swaths of their most valuable habitats – ocean and land alike – in a national network of parks and other protected areas.
For marine waters and ecosystems, the goal is to eventually protect an astonishing 25 percent of Cuba’s shallow-water area, with a focus on four island arcs each the size of the Florida Keys.
Today, the Gardens of the Queen is among just a few places in the Western Hemisphere where you can still see dense stands of elkhorn corals. They are reminiscent of the reefs that existed in Florida in the 1960s and elsewhere before disease wiped most of them from the map.
The Gardens also boasts many species of sharks – Caribbean reef, silky, lemon, nurse, whale sharks and more – along with large numbers of big groupers, snappers and other reef fishes.
These waters are special in their own right, but they’re also tightly linked to the health of coral reefs in the United States, Mexico, the Bahamas and the rest of the broader West Central Atlantic.
If and when Cuba matches up the ecological values of different areas in the region with their highest and best economic uses, it can create a portfolio of approaches that can serve Cubans – and those of us down-current from Cuba – now and in the future.
Article sources: EDF (Environmental Defense Fund)
Detroit Zoo turns to 100% Renewable Electricity
For your next Eco-Adventure, why not visit one of, if not the most sustainable zoo in the United States and see how they’re putting sustainability into practice first hand.
The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) has taken another big step on its green journey by powering Detroit Zoo operations with 100% renewable electricity from wind farms. The organization’s commitment to sustainable electricity with the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) is being made possible through the support of ITC Holdings Corp.
“We continue to look for ways to reduce our ecological footprint and thank ITC for helping us to accomplish that goal,” said DZS Executive Director and CEO Ron Kagan. “Our hope is to inspire others to look to clean, renewable energy sources.”
The DZS joins a growing list of companies and organizations taking action to reduce the impact of their energy use. Electricity generated from renewable sources results in less environmental waste and pollution and displaces other non-renewable sources from the electric grid. It also serves to build the market for renewable energy, which currently accounts for less than 10 percent of total electricity generated nationwide.
“The Detroit Zoological Society and ITC share a commitment to environmental stewardship, and we are proud to support their sustainability goals by facilitating access to renewable electricity,” said Dr. Terry S. Harvill, Vice President of International and Merchant Development for ITC Holdings Corp. and a DZS board member.
Each REC – a tradable, nontangible energy commodity – represents 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity delivered to a power grid that was generated from an eligible renewable energy resource such as wind or solar power. The Detroit Zoo’s RECs are certified by Green e Energy, which provides independent, third-party certification to ensure that renewable energy products meet strict environmental and consumer-protection standards.
The renewable electricity initiative is just one of many goals of the DZS Greenprint – a strategic plan to refine and improve green practices and facilities at the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Zoo, incorporate sustainability in all policies and programs, and improve green literacy and action in the community. In recognition of these continuous efforts in sustainability – including discontinuing the sale of bottled water at the Detroit Zoo and building the first zoo-based dry biodigester in the country – the DZS received the 2015 Green Award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and was also named 2015 Best-Managed Nonprofit by Crain’s Detroit Business.
10 Ways to Leave A Vacation Destination Better Than You Found it
Have you taken your summer vacation yet? If not consider ways to enjoy yourself while improving where you visit. Believe it or not you'll feel a whole lot better when you're back at home remembering your experience.
We all want to have fun on our vacations, relaxing by soaking up sun and sipping cocktails on a tropical beach. However, traveling to a foreign country for vacation should be much more - a chance to learn the culture and connect with the amazing people who live there, and somehow leaving the place better off because of your presence. Here are 10 suggestions to do just that:
I. Carry a few plastic bags in your backpack when going sightseeing, visit natural attractions, or walk on the beach so you can pick up trash and carry it out. The locals may look at you like you're crazy, but that quickly turns to big smiles when they realize what you're doing. Remember - it's not just about cleaning up after yourself, but for those who aren't so thoughtful, and setting a good example in the process.
2. Talk to the locals.
Don’t be afraid to say “hi” to the local people. Start out with a smile, ask their name, about their family, and joke around a bit. You’ll be amazed how warm and endearing people become once they see you show genuine interest in their lives. Some of the coolest people I’ve ever met around the world have humble jobs in tourism, but once we made a simple human connection we became lifelong friends.
3. Leave good reviews.
The tourism industry, like so many others there days, is dominated by online content from sites like Hotels.com, TripAdvisor, LoneyPlanet, Yelp, etc. Reviews can make or break a business so when you’re having a good experience at a hotel, restaurant, or bar, take the time to snap a few photos and leave a nice review on these sites. Be sure to let the management know so they can give good feedback to their employees, but if you don’t like a place for some reason, also tell the management before you leave a bad review, giving them a fair chance to fix it.
4. Make a donation locally.
Before your vacation is over and you get back on a plane, leave a donation with a local charity or community organization. It doesn’t matter how much you give because the simple, gracious act of wanting to help people goes a long way. Donating to a big organization online is great, but next time actually go meet face to face with someone at the church, community center, or town hall and learn about the people you’ll be helping.
Tipping isn’t required in most countries outside the United States, but it still can make a big difference in someone’s life. In many tourist destinations the locals work 12 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week for only a couple hundred dollars a month. Leaving a dollar or two may be insignificant to you, but it could mean the world to them and be the difference of a good meal. If a waiter, bellboy, taxi driver, or tour guide was friendly and made your stay better somehow, remember to tip them. I give a big tip to the hotel when I leave to spread evenly among the whole staff, so the more backstage, humble workers like maids and maintenance men get rewarded too.
6. Respect the people who live there
Remember that you are in someone else’s home, so think of yourself as a special guest and act accordingly. Of course you want to have a few drinks and have fun, but you can loosen up and still be conscious of the local people around you who make a living in tourism and treat them like gold.
7. Learn to say “Please” and “Thank you,” in the native tongue.
Just by learning a few basic words in the language you’ll open the door to new friendships and opportunities. The locals will love it that you’re showing appreciation and respect for their culture.
8. Patronize locally-owned businesses.
Too often, tourists frequent the bigger chain hotels, restaurants, and attractions, owned by corporations or foreign investors. So make an effort to seek out some smaller local establishments, too – you’ll be directly supporting someone’s family and probably get a better meal or room at a lower price, as well as a taste of the authentic culture.
9. Keep in touch.
Exchange email addresses and add people you meet on Facebook. It’s fun to keep in touch and build lifelong friendships with some of the great people who live there. Who knows – you might come back, or they might come visit you in the U.S. one day so you’ll get the chance to return the hospitality!
10. Practice a random act of kindness.
Before you leave, do something nice for a local person or family you’ve met. Leave a big tip for the cleaning ladies, take a local family out for dinner, or fund a class field trip at the local elementary school. Get creative and have fun with it – the good karma you create will remain long after you’ve gone home.
Up in the Hill-Coffee Shop & Sustainable Resort
Up in the Hill-Coffee Shop is a small organic farm/resort situated on Isla Bastimentos, a 15 minute walk up from the town of Old Bank, and well worth the hike!
One of the things this unique resort does is make Natural Body Products using coconut oil and the plants and flowers from their garden, as well as 100% pure chocolate.
The coffee shop offers a range of juices, teas (from the garden) and great coffee from Boquete. Our home baked goods are made with our own chocolate. Our arts and crafts are all locally made.
They also sell greens from the garden, mainly spinach and salad leaf.
This natural retreat is complemented with small bungalows that are reasonably priced for the true nature lover. But what is really exciting is the opportunity to learn a new craft our skill while vacationing in this piece of paradise. Here are some other things available when you visit Up in the Hill-Coffee Shop:
Recreational Opportunities Available
You must walk to get here, be it from the town of Old Bank (15 mins) or Wizard Beach (20-30 min).
We are situated on the highest point of Bastimentos and our views are 360 degrees around.
The garden is bursting with life with all kinds of trees, plants, and flowers to look at and learn about. The red frogs can be found at any time, as well as many birds, butterflies, lizards & bugs. Sloths, armadillos, snakes, anteaters, and night monkeys can also be seen frequently.
We rent surf boards, and the hike from here to Wizard beach is lovely and scenic.
We have one guest cabin for 3 people, which over looks the biggest wave in Bocas Del Toro, Silverback. It is fully equipped with full kitchen, living space, and a hot shower.
Admission Fee (if any)
Admission is free, but to sit and enjoy the environment or coffee shop we have created we ask you to buy a drink, something to eat, or something from our shop!
Actions taken to promote environmental or social sustainability
We run on solar power here at Up in the Hill, and our water is from rain catchment. Our guest cabin is set apart from the main house/shop and has the same set up.
Mostly everything for the coffee shop menu is from our garden. The body products and chocolate also mostly come from the organic garden/farm.
We recycle our plastics, compost, and have used most of our wood for our buildings from our farm. We have a compost toilet for shop guests, use biodegradable cleaning products and favor vinegar over bleach. We have our own egg producing chickens.
We try and invent different ideas to re-use our rubbish. So far we have lined our walkways with wine bottles and have made our outdoor seating area roof out of milk cartons.
Disney World will soon become a solar-powered wonderland, after Duke Energy announced plans to build a five-megawatt utility-scale solar plant serving Florida’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, the special county set aside for the theme park in 1967.
The new facility will be constructed on 20 acres of land near World Drive alongside the famous Epcot Centre at Walt Disney World Resort.
Consisting of over 48,000 solar panels, the solar farm is expected to be arranged in the shape of a “Disney-inspired design” – reportedly the head of Mickey Mouse.
According to Duke Energy, the Reedy Creek facility will be in service by the end of the year and power the equivalent of 1,000 rooftop solar systems.
The Reedy Creek Improvement District Board of Supervisors approved a 15-year power-purchase agreement (PPA) with Duke Energy Florida Solar Solutions LLC, a subsidiary of Duke Energy Florida, to buy solar energy from the facility.
The Reedy Creek Improvement District was created in 1967 by a special Florida State order allowing Walt Disney World Company to build and operate a major theme park on 25,000 acres of property in central Florida. This legislation handed sole responsibility to the landowner – Walt Disney Company – for building and maintaining all services inside the district, including power, water, roads and fire protection.
The board of Supervisors was also given power to write its own building codes outside state law. Called Epcot Codes, they were considered the country’s strictest at the time of writing in 1970. Currently, the District attracts 250,000 people daily to holiday at Walt Disney’s four theme parks and more than 40,000 hotel rooms, restaurants and retail stores.
“Our new solar facility agreement is another example of how we’re always looking at innovative ways to conserve our natural resources,” said Bill Warren, administrator for Reedy Creek Improvement District, which provides governmental services, including utility systems. “The use of solar energy builds on our commitment to protect the environment and is another step toward realizing our long-term sustainability goals.”
The development is separate from Duke’s long-term Florida plan, announced last month, which aims to add 500 MW of solar in the state by 2024.
“We are committed to working with customers to expand their use of renewable energy,” said Alex Glenn, president, Duke Energy Florida. “This opportunity to serve the Reedy Creek Improvement District is another example of how we are meeting our customers’ interests in renewable energy, while bringing more solar choices to Florida.”
Six Flags Runs Almost at 100% Solar
A day trip to Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey may break the bank, but it won’t break the environment after its newest project: a 134-acre solar farm. The facility, which will be the largest in the state, will provide 98 percent of the park’s electricity needs.
The plan for the 21.9 megawatt solar power facility was approved by the Jackson Township planning board on March 2, and will be ready by late 2016. Councilmembers applauded the measure, calling it a “win-win” for everyone because it brings in more taxes to the town and saves the park a lot of money in the long run.
Environmentalists also approved the decision because in addition to the reduced pollution, the new facility helps the state towards its goal of 20 percent solar power by 2025. Locally owned KDC Solar, which is fronting the project on top of other facilities at nearby hospitals and schools, said any surplus energy will go back to the grid for credit.
Of course, a project this size requires a lot of space. Building on the parking lost wasn’t an option, though; zoning and infrastructure costs would make the solar power farm far too costly. So instead, they’re going to remove a ton of trees. Eighteen thousand trees, in fact, will be cleared from east of the safari park. There’s no such thing as a free solar powered theme park, kids!
Six Flags and KDC are pledging to replant 25,000 trees over the next seven years to make up for the losses.
THERMAL RESORT - Bogner Bad Blumau
The Rogner Bad Blumau in Austria is half work of contemporary art, half luxury spa hotel. Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser came up with the unusual looking village, which looks like a scene from a cartoon with no straight lines and bold blocks of colour. The surrounding landscape and large amounts of green grass give it an even more fairytale feel, and the design intends to reconnect visitors with nature.
Built over a hot spring with the highest mineral content of any in Europe, it certainly offers visitors the opportunity to take advantage of nature’s healing properties, whether by bathing in one of its eight thermal pools or indulging in one of the many therapeutic treatments derived from locally sourced products such as pumpkin, grape, apple and elderberry.
But it is its holistic approach to sustainability that really makes it stand out. “The aim of the spa when it was conceived by Robert Rogner in 1993 was to integrate it harmoniously with nature and within the local communities,” says general manager Hannes Czeitschner.
Aiming to create a synergy between man, nature and architecture, its designer, the Austrian artist and environmental champion Friedensreich Hundertwasser, devised an enchanting, fairytale exterior and a wonderfully meandering interior where straight edges have no place and none of its 2,400 windows are the same.
As you might expect, its environmental credentials are second to none. The spa water, which reaches the surface at 110˚C, is used to heat the entire complex and to generate up to half its electricity. And all the products that it uses and its suppliers meet stringent criteria set by the Austrian Institute for Sustainability.
Have a ReNewable Now Fourth of July
Whether you are traveling this Fourth of July or spending time with friends in your hometown, here a few tips to make your holiday celebration more sustainable!
1. Enjoy the Outdoors
Hopefully you will be enjoying this holiday celebration outside. By taking the party outdoors you can reduce the amount of energy used and cut the energy costs of utilizing indoor facilities.
2. Eat Local
Consider hitting the farmer’s market this weekend and purchasing locally grown organic food to cook on the Fourth. Locally grown and organic foods are not only good for you but the environment too, as they help reduce chemicals used in processed foods and pollution caused by transportation that is necessary to ship non-local food products.
3. Avoid Using at Home Fireworks
Fireworks are definitely not environmentally friendly. They contain hazardous chemicals that pollute the atmosphere. Avoid doing fireworks at home this Fourth of July and head to your local beach or park to enjoy a nearby fireworks show. You may want to consider talking to your local officials about more eco-friendly fireworks, or fireworks alternatives.
4. Grill Greener
It is estimated that 60 million barbeques are used on the Fourth of July alone, consuming enough energy in the form of charcoal, lighter fluid, gas, and electricity to power 20,000 households for a year. Grilling is not a green activity, though there are several ways to make the activity a little less harmful. Natural gas barbeques are considerably less harmful to the environment and you can buy organic or natural charcoal instead of traditional ones to decrease the negative impact of grilling. Here are some more green grilling tips.
5. Use Washable Dishes
Avoid using landfill-bound plastic plates and utensils. Non recyclable plastic food containers are detrimental to environment, remaining for hundreds of years and often littering beaches and parks. Try to use washable dishes for your Fourth of July party or picnic. If you plan on using paper plates, purchase dishware and silver that is made from recycled materials. And, of course, recycle!
6. Don’t Buy Water Bottles
Most plastic water bottles are simply thrown away, not recycled, causing a huge negative impact on our planet. Instead of offering your guests plastic water bottles, have reusable cups and water stored in a large container. If you are not the party host, bring a reusable water bottle with you for your Fourth of July activities.
Fourth of July parties are sure to have soda and beer. Be sure to provide your guests with a recycle bin somewhere to put their empty cans and recyclable products.
If you are using non recyclable products for a Fourth of July party, such as decorations and tablecloths, try to reuse them. Use decorations from last year and be sure to save the table cloth for future summer parties.
9. Bike or Walk
Bike or walk to the party, beach, or wherever you will be spending the Fourth. If your destination is too far, then carpool with friends of family.
If you are traveling this Fourth of July, whether you are enjoying a vacation at a lake house or relaxing at a beach cottage, be sure to stay at an eco lodge that has initiatives in place to minimize the property’s impact on the environment.
Wind turbines and solar panels: do you love them or hate them? Do you think of renewable energy as the way to a greener future, or an awful blight on the present?
Either way, growing numbers of German communities think they have found a silver lining: they’re touting renewables as tourist attractions. A guidebook is now available, listing about 200 green projects around the country which it thinks are, in the travel writer’s time-hallowed phrase, “worth the detour”. The publication, which has already run to a second edition after the first sold out, was supported by Germany’s Renewable Energies Agency.
Nuclear power stations are not top of every tourist’s must-see list. But the book’s author, Martin Frey, says a nuclear plant in Kalkar, a town on Germany’s border with the Netherlands, is the world’s safest. It pulls in more than half a million visitors annually.
Safe? It should be, because local protests – driven partly by the 1986 Chernobyl accident – meant it never started operation. Now it’s an amusement park offering hotels with all-inclusive holidays, restaurants and merry-go-rounds. Its most popular attraction is a gigantic cooling tower with a climbing wall outside and a carousel inside.
Another strictly retired “attraction” listed is Ferropolis, the City of Iron. Located on the site of a former brown coal (lignite) opencast mine in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt, it’s a bit of an oddity in Frey’s list – an open-air museum, preoccupied not with emerging technologies but with echoes of one that many hope has had its day.
Huge redundant metal structures, immense excavators and towering cranes, all abandoned, give Ferropolis the air of a post-apocalypse movie. But in a nod to the future the roof of a former workshop is covered with solar panels which help to power the museum’s annual summer music festivals.
Germany is moving rapidly away from the past which Ferropolis evokes in its switch to renewable energy. In the last decade renewable power generation has tripled and now provides a quarter of the country’s electricity and about 380,000 jobs. Wind, hydro, solar and biogas plants are taking over from coal and nuclear power.
The change is evident right at the heart of the nation’s political life. The glass dome of the Reichstag, a tourist magnet which stands resplendent on the Berlin skyline, contains a cone covered with 360 mirrored plates, which reflect sunlight and illumine the plenary hall below. And there’s more: a heat exchanger inside the cone’s ventilation shaft significantly reduces the building’s power consumption.
The Reichstag also boasts an array of solar panels, and half its electricity and most of its heat come from two combined heat and power generators beneath the building, which run on bio-diesel.
If you want to combine some mildly energetic activity with your environmental sightseeing, then head for Lower Saxony where you’ll find the Holtriem wind farm. The largest in Europe when it was built, with a total capacity of 90 MW, it has an observation platform on one of the turbines, 65 metres above ground. That offers tourists – if they’re prepared to climb the 297 steps to the top – a stunning view of the North Sea and, in good weather, the East Frisian islands.
Also in Lower Saxony is Juehnde, the first German village to achieve full energy self-sufficiency. Its combined heat and power plant produces twice as much energy as Juehnde needs. The villagers are so keen to share their experience that they built a new energy centre to win over visitors.
Frey, a journalist specialising in renewable energy, says he wrote the book because he’d been impressed by a large number of innovative renewable projects and wanted to share them with tourists as well as experts.
Germany: Experience Renewable Energies, published by Baedeker, is available in German (and only in print) for €16.99. An English language version may be produced if there is enough demand.
Sustainable Growth of Travel & Tourism
is Worth $7 trillion!
Governments need to work collegiately and take a long-term view of the economic importance of Travel & Tourism to ensure the sustainable growth of the industry. That is the message from David Scowsill, President & CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), who is speaking on the occasion of the 98th UNWTO Executive Council.
Speaking in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Mr. Scowsill says, for Travel & Tourism to grow in a sustainable and successful way, governments need to be better coordinated and to engage properly with the private sector; “WTTC understands the limitations faced by some government departments responsible for Travel & Tourism, whose influence and decision-making power is often limited and competes against other stronger elements in government. But for visa facilitation and infrastructure projects to work for the sector, and for true transport connectivity to be realised, this requires understanding and support across many government ministries. Our Members frequently tell us of the need for governments to take a long term view – often one that will stretch for periods beyond the length of individual government terms of office.”
Mr. Scowsill set out the economic importance of the industry worldwide, explaining that it accounts for 9% of GDP, a $7 trillion contribution to the global economy and 266 million jobs.
Speaking on the occasion of World Environment Day, Mr Scowsill emphasised that the industry needs to be proactive about ensuring benefits for all; “We need to prove that we a Force for Good and not a ‘force for destruction’ as many critics fear we may become. We must embrace our belief in a Tourism for Tomorrow. Our standards of ethics and sustainability must be of the highest order”.
“The Travel & Tourism Industry cannot hope that someone else will solve the world’s problems. Most importantly, it is time to stop talking and start acting. The sector needs to focus consciously on whether it wants to be ‘just good enough’ or become a ‘leader’ in sustainability. This requires concerted action and coordinated commitment from both the public and private sectors”.
South African itineraries certified as Fair Trade Tourism
Baobab Travel has recently become the first UK-based Africa travel specialist to have a portfolio of South African itineraries certified as Fair Trade Tourism (FTT) travel packages. This brought a substantial increase in the number of packages available in the UK holiday market and a big step in providing the UK consumers with a wider choice of Fair Trade holidays.
South Africa developed an internationally unique system in 2003, to measure and certify Fair Trade practices in tourism. Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA) was originally established to accredit individual accommodation and activity providers and since successfully certified over 60 tourism products in South Africa. The FTTSA certification was recently also made available to tour operators worldwide. This ground-breaking initiative allows consumers to extend ethical purchasing decisions beyond everyday products, such as coffee, tea and fruit, and is endorsed by Fairtrade International (FLO), Transfair Germany, and South African Tourism.
Fair Trade Tourism travel packages guarantee that your holiday benefits the right people, namely the workers and owners of tourism businesses. This is achieved by requiring amongst others long-term trading relationships, full prepayment, and binding cancellation agreements. Baobab Travel's local procurement, environmental, and corporate social responsibility policies were also monitored as part of the Fair Trade audit. A levy, the Fair Trade Premium, is raised and invested into one central fund, which will be used for development and tourism projects across South Africa.
By being audited on both their internal operations and contractual relationships against Fair Trade Tourism standards, Baobab have shown their full commitment to fair and responsible tourism. Louise de Waal (Founder) says "We can hardly believe it ourselves, but it was 10 years ago this month that we launched Baobab Travel. Initially it was a dream that started with a strong love for Africa and a desire to make a difference. Even if that difference was only small. The icing on the cake came today with the certification of four of our South Africa holidays as Fair Trade Tourism holiday packages. We are immensely proud of this achievement, as it validates our long-standing commitment to responsible travel, which is at the heart of all itineraries we prepare for our customers."
The four certified South Africa Fair Trade Tourism travel packages include the Cape & Garden Route, a Whale Watching itinerary along the South African coast, a Johannesburg, Kruger & Limpopo tour, and a Hiking Trail through the Southern Drakensberg Mountains. The customer can combine a week of Fair Trade holiday with a week of other responsible travelling or the different FTT packages can be combined into longer Fair Trade holidays.
Katarina Mancama, FTTSA Project Manager, says "we are delighted that Baobab Travel, a pioneer in responsible tourism, has joined the Fair Trade Tourism initiative. Their participation will help to bring more conscious tourists to South Africa and, by extension, this will enable us to use tourism as a vehicle for sustainable development and poverty alleviation".
The Recycled Hotel on WINGS!
The Recycled Hotel On Wings!
Look up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane...well, yes, it's a plane that also happens to be a 2 bedroom hotel suite constructed with a real 1965 Boeing 727 fuselage as part it's structure. A most interesting and unique example of repurposing old tech for new use beyond the trash heap (or recycling yard in the case of most planes)
The 727 Fuselage Home at Hotel Costa Verdes is located in Costa Rica inside a national park, available to rent for, sporting accommodations much more plush than the plane's original aviation origins. Any "turbulence" to be provided by occupants (but you don't earn Mile High Club points really):
Cost Verde salvaged this airframe, piece by piece, from its San Jose airport resting place. We carefully transported the pieces on five, big-rig trucks to the jungles of Manuel Antonio where they have been resurrected into a unique jumbo hotel suite. Our classic airplane, nestled on the edge of the National Park in our Costa Verde II area, is perched on a 50-foot pedestal. At this height, you will enjoy scenic ocean and jungle views from the hard wood deck built atop the plane's former right wing. The plane's interior is Costa Rican teak paneling from the cockpit to the tail. Furnishings are hand-carved, teak furniture from Java, Indonesia. Our 727 home features two air conditioned bedrooms--one with two queen sized beds and the other with one queen sized bed, each with its own private bath—a flat screen TV, a kitchenette, dining area foyer; an ocean view terrace; a private entrance up a river rock, spiral staircase; and 360 degrees of surrounding gardens.
Kermit was wrong: it is easy being green. And trendy too.
Environmentally conscious travelers no longer have to rough it in jungle leans-to without electricity or trek to remote campgrounds in order to vacation. More and more hotels, resorts and lodges are targeting eco-aware tourists by touting green credentials.
Treading gently on mother earth when traveling not only feels good, it also sells. Although statistics on what exactly inspired someone to book a property are hard to come by, a Travel Industry Association of America national survey of 3000 travelers conducted in August 2007 found that more than half of U.S. adults would be more likely to choose an environmentally friendly hotel, rental car or airline if given the opportunity.
The tricky part, however, is defining "environmentally friendly." After all, "green" comes in many shades.
Some properties claim to be environmentally sound when their sole green action is to place a "do not change the linen daily" sign on your bed. For purists that's "green-washing." Like "white-washing," the term means covering-up false or misleading statements but in the context of a property's ecological sensitivity.
For other travelers, the laundry option marks a step in the right direction. Amelia Island Plantation, a green property under Florida's standards, saved 180,000 gallons of water with its linen reuse program. If that were all the resort did, however, it would not have won green certification.
Certifications What distinguishes a truly green resort is its entire package of initiatives so check to see how and who rates the property. "Certification," notes Ayako Ezaki, the International Ecotourism Society's director of communications, "has certainly been one of the most effective ways to distinguish truly green companies from those that are merely using 'eco' and 'sustainable' as a marketing tool.
Not all certifications carry the same weight since standards differ. "Certifications are nice, but a piece of paper by no means can guarantee company and employee commitments," says Bill de Stanisloa, director of Florida's Amelia Island Plantation spa and also of the resort's ecological program. "A green guest should ask 'How long has your resort or hotel been green and what are your initiatives in place now?' One reason for the extra research on the part of the consumer is that a few states have so-called green standards that are more of a 'pay-to-play' certification.
To be recognized by Green Seal, a 20-year-old non-profit organization, a lodging must not only minimize waste and recycle, but also demonstrate energy efficiency, proper management of fresh water and waste water, as well as purchase and use environmentally-sensitive products.
"It's not an easy process and it can take a long time to achieve," says Linda Chipperfield, Green Seal's vice president of marketing and research. "What we do is add credibility back into the claims. We apply standards and have guidelines, do a site visit and have third party involvement. But once a property goes through this and gets certified, it creates real change." Green Seal, like other organizations, offers gold, silver and bronze awards, designating varying levels of green actions.
Great Wolf Lodges, on April 16, 2009, became the first national hotel chain to be awarded Green Seal certification. All 11 U.S. lodging units of the indoor water park resorts achieved Green Seal Silver designation while the Niagara Falls, Ontario, property gained Green Leaf status, an analogous Canadian certification.
Project Green Wolf began with simple changes about 18-months ago at Great Wolf's Pocono property. "In one year," says Steve Shattuck, Great Wolf Lodges' director of communications, "with low-flow toilets and linen recycling, we saved 9 million gallons of water. We have some great guest feedback about our efforts," says Shattuck. "At the end of the day, it makes sense. It's healthier for our guests, healthier for the environment and healthier for our bottom line."
Green applies to daytrips from the resort as well. The best outfitters preserve the environment you've come to experience, adhering to the credo of "taking only photographs and leaving only footprints." Ecologically responsible operators also encourage the area's tourism industry by working with local guides and companies. Recommended Hotels and Resorts Options abound for going green on your next family vacation whether you want a strict, easy-on-the-land eco-lodge or a resort that complies with basic recycling. The following earth-friendly accommodations offer varying degrees of green and range from plain seaside tents to indoor waterparks, rainforest lodges and AAA Four Diamond properties. At each of them, you can feel good about your ecological awareness plus have a great family vacation.
U.S. Virgin Islands: Maho Bay Camps and Harmony Studios, St. John In 1976, long before "green" was anything but a color, Stanley Selengut opened Maho Bay Camps, a series of tent-cottages located within the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park. Perched on a hillside overlooking the teal-colored Caribbean sea, the 114 structures rely on island breezes and electric fans for cooling and camp stoves for cooking. The nearby bathhouses have limited shower hours.
The deluxe camping units proved so popular that Selengut opened Harmony Studios, ecologically friendly townhouses with a similar setting but such creature comforts as running water, kitchens and private bathrooms. Elevated walkways minimize ground contact. Harmony's construction features recycled milk jugs for roof insulation, floor tiles constructed from recycled tire rubber or clay scraps, as well as rafters, floor girders and I-beams made from waste wood or farmed trees.
At Concordia, Maho Bay's sister property on St. John's southeastern side, choose from 25 eco-tents with running water, toilets and solar heated showers or opt for the added luxury of Estate Concordia's nine studios, each with a bathroom, living area and kitchen facilities.
All the properties come with stunning views and the chance to enjoy the essential Caribbean. Hike the wooded trails, snorkel the coves and kayak the tranquil waters. At Maho Bay's art studio, you and your kids can create a treasure from recycled trash.
Belize: Inn at Chaa Creek Located in Belize's inland Cayo District, the Lodge at Chaa Creek gained Green Globe Silver certification in 2009 and has been a member of the Rainforest Alliance for twenty years. The eco-resort, about 20-minutes from San Ignacio, is situated on a private 365-acre nature reserve in the hills above the Macal River.
All 23 cottages feature decks, making it easy to watch for toucans, parrots and spider monkeys in the nearby trees. Both the modest thatched-roof cottages and the more elaborate casitas are decorated with tile floors and Belizean fabrics and colors. Among the resort's many eco-friendly initiatives are howler monkey reintroduction programs plus the use of energy-efficient lighting, crushed metal cans in concrete building foundations and organic kitchen waste as fertilizer for vegetable gardens.
You and your children can watch butterflies hatch at the Butterfly Farm, learn about rainforest animals and insects at the Natural History Centre, discover the healing properties of plants on the Medicine Trail plus hike and horseback ride through the rainforest. The Eco-Kids Rainforest Adventure package, a four-night, five-day program geared to ages 6 to 10 and 11 to 15, includes many of these activities.
Florida: Amelia Island Plantation, Amelia Island Sprawling on 1,350 acres, Amelia Island Plantation not only rates Four Diamonds from AAA, but also a Green Lodging designation from Florida's Department of Environmental Protection. The resort maintains 70 percent of its natural tree canopy despite offering 610 guest accommodations: 249 hotel rooms in the oceanfront Amelia Inn and Beach Club, and 361 one- to three-bedroom condominiums called "villas." Along with energy efficient lighting, linen reuse and recycling programs for paper, plastic, glass and aluminum, the resort irrigates its golf courses with reclaimed water and the spa uses only chemical free, natural products.
Stroll the long stretch of beach, swim in the ocean, play golf and tennis with your kids as well as go crabbing, fishing and kayaking. You can also learn more about the local environment on a guided tour of the salt marshes led by a naturalist. Kids' Camp Amelia hosts morning, afternoon and all-day sessions for ages 3 to 10.
US and Canada: Great Wolf Lodges Great Wolf Lodges are located in Kansas City, KS; Traverse City, MI; Concord, NC; Mason; OH; Sandusky, OH; Pocono Mountains, PA; Grapevine, TX; Williamsburg, VA; Grand Mound, WA; Wisconsin Dells, WI; Blue Harbor, Sheboygan, WI, and Niagara Falls, Ontario.
Great Wolf Lodges captivate kids with its mega-sized, indoor water parks. At these huge water play areas (78,000 square feet indoors at the Wisconsin Dells resort) you can float along current pools, splash down slides, dunk in fountains and climb four-story treehouses arrayed with sprays and water guns for dousing unsuspecting relatives. Even though the size and water elements differ at the various properties, you can count on slides, bucket dumps, kiddie pools and swimming areas.
Alas, you have to get out of the water sometimes. The lodges, except for the Sheboygan, WI, Blue Harbor, aim to evoke a Wisconsin Northwoods' cabin. Sculptures of howling wolves, timbered facades and even totem poles adorn some hotels. Beds have log-like headboards and some rooms come with a pretend cabin or a tent outfitted with bunk beds.
The 12 hotels -- not the water parks -- became the first national chain to receive Green Seal certification in April. The company also launched Project Green Wolf, a program that develops standards for "greener" water parks and works National Geographic Kids to educate children about environmental protection through play areas and in-room television programming.
Arizona: Sheraton Wild Horse Pass, Chandler Only 11 miles from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International airport, the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass is world's away. The 500 room resort occupies 2,400 acres of the 372,000-acre Gila River Indian Reservation, home to the Pima, Maricopa and HuHugam (Hohokam) tribes. More than 1500 wild horses still roam the land, Native American art graces the public areas, storytellers engage guests in winter, a year-round cultural concierge answers questions and a two and a half mile replica of the Gila River runs through the desert property, all part of the tribes' effort to tell their story about water rights and cultural survival.
These initiatives, as well as recycling, energy-efficient lighting, controlled air conditioning and other ecological programs, combine to create what the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass calls a "GeoGreen" property, one that combines cultural sustainability with environmental stewardship.
Forget-about being bored. Children can twist down the water slide and make crafts at the kids' program as well as ride horses across the high mountain plains. At the AAA Four Diamond property, you can play golf, luxuriate at the spa and savor dinner at Kai, Arizona's only Mobil Five Star restaurant.
Ecotourism: A Smart Way to Vacation Naturally
It's easy to forget about the fragile rainforests of our world when we are preoccupied with our own lives. However, far off in the Amazon, for example, the rainforests suffer and deteriorate. Actually, almost every type of natural habitat on our planet is in danger of traumatic decline and numerous species of wildlife become extinct every year. If these ideas appear extreme, it's important to remember that the Amazon rainforests provide 20 percent of the earth's oxygen. Fortunately, there is hope for saving the nature of our planet.
One progressive step is eco adventure travel, or ecotourism. Many of the declining ecosystems around the world provide attractive locations for tourism. However, tourism to these environments must be managed responsibly to protect their livelihood. Ecotourism directly promotes social and economic development in places such as the Amazon jungles, the Andes Mountains, the Galapagos Islands and the rainforests and beaches of Costa Rica.
Green Tracks offers eco travel adventure to all of these natural environments and more. We are dedicated to not only supporting the preservation of delicate ecosystems, but also to providing our travelers with experiences they will not soon forget. Count on our expertise and let us take you on an Amazon riverboat expedition or to the fabulous Pantanal of Brazil. You'll bring home with you unbelievable stories to share time after time!
The Amazon is appealing because of its majestic beauty and spectacular wildlife, but the adventure it offers is also thrilling. To actually be a guest in such unspoiled magnificence is a true privilege. After an experience such as this, don't be surprised if you're often thinking of the far away rainforests where the spider monkeys jump high and the vibrant flowers and dense greenery create a sanctuary you can delve into in your dreams forever.