Friday, November 30, 2007

Holiday Gifts That Fight Poverty

The best gifts are the ones that will be appreciated, even life changing, and I am not talking about a pair of mittens or a fruitcake. I'm talking about a gift that will help a poor family to survive.

My vote for one of the best places to shop for gifts this season goes to Heifer International, which fights hunger and poverty around the world one goat, sheep, pig, cow, chicken, rabbit and human family at a time.

Here are some gift suggestions --

$120 will buy a dairy goat for a destitute family, perhaps in Guatemala or Kenya. One goat can supply a family with up to several quarts of nutritious milk a day. Whatever the family doesn't drink can be sold to make cheese, butter or yogurt. And the manure fertilizes the family vegetable garden.

$120 will give a sheep to a poor family, perhaps in Peru or Ecuador, to be sheared for wool that can be knitted into warm ponchos and sweaters for the family, or sold to others support the family.

$60 will buy a trio of rabbits for an impoverished family, perhaps in Nepal or China, to help fertilize the garden and multiply and its offspring shared with a neighbor who is similarly improverished.

Your friends and family, including the kids, will not miss receiving a silly tie or duplicate of a toy they already have. You'll both feel good about helping the world's poor and hungry, and helping the environment, too.

Oh, and did I mention that your gift is tax deductible, too?

Recycling Old Tires Into Art

Artist Chakaia Booker is known for her sculptures that utilize old tires that are cut, shaped and folded, then woven into dynamic, highly textured designs.

What better place for an installation of artwork made of old tires than Indianapolis, home of the world-famous Indianapolis 500 auto race held each May.

Booker is creating at least nine original, site-specific sculptures for a temporary public art exhibition in Indianapolis, opening in May 2008, and ending April 1, 2009.

The New York based artist has produced acclaimed shows in sculpture parks including Storm King in New York and Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis, and has been included in important museum and gallery exhibitions including the 2000 Whitney Biennial.

The tire art will reflect the history and culture of Indianapolis, including the spirit and energy of Madam C.J. Walker, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and social activist; musician, producer, entrepreneur Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds; the Jazz, Blues and R&B of Naptown; and the Underground Railroad. And, of course, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The artwork also acknowledges the city's GreenPrint plan for a more environmentally sensitive future.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Eco-Lodge in Sri Lanka Uses Solar Power

The Kandalama Hotel is nestled in between two UNESCO World Heritage sites and a national wildlife refuge, on the edge of a pristine mountain lake in Sri Lanka, . So resource conservation is a no-brainer.

The simple task of replacing several hundred incandescent lightbulbs in rooms and public areas with fluorescents in this 162-room resort is saving 75,000 kwh per year. Using solar power to heat water is saving an additional 80,000 kwh annually.

The Kandalama Hotel is the first resort in Asia to be certified by Green Globe 21 and the first in the world to be certified by LEED.

Kandalama actively re-forests its surroundings, with an unusual and worthy dual-purpose tree-planting program -- it uses discarded coconut shells as seedling containers, and regional school children do the planting. That teaches them a great deal more than the just names of the seedling varieties they are planting.

Lots to do here.
  • Go elephant trekking.
  • Take a hike through the rainforest.
  • Visit Dambulla, a UNESCO site regarded as one of the world’s most important cave temples.
  • Watch the light and clouds dance around and behind Sigiriya, another UNESCO site, an almost inaccessible rock that was the site of an ancient fortress.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Green Spa in New Mexico

Absolute Nirvana Spa, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is one of the most comprehensively green spas in the country.

Here's some of the eco-friendly things you'll find here:

Facials are done with the all natural Naturopathica skincare line or with avocado, honey, cucumber, yogurt, and brown rice powder. Spa treatments are done with organic oils, spices, organic brown rice and brown sugar, papaya, seaweed, white clay, yogurt and honey.

The spa is cleaned using all natural cleaning agents which are chemical-free and non-toxic. And only earth-friendly, non-toxic fertilizers are used in the gardens.

80% of the electricity is from wind power. At night, the spacious grounds are illuminated by a combination of solar and motion detector lights. That eliminates the waste of all-night outdoor lighting. Light bulbs are compact fluorescent wherever possible

The spa has its own water treatment system and they recycle all of their rose petal bath water.

Menus and stationary are printed on recycled paper with soy ink. Decorations are long living plants instead of fresh cut flowers.

Cloth hand towels replace paper towels, and glass or plastic cups instead of paper. Also, no bottled water. Only filtered. That saves yet more plastic and paper. And what is used gets recycled.

Makes sense, especially the eco-friendly things you can do yourself at home, like using less paper towels, more flourescent light bulbs, and filtering tap water and a re-usuable container so you avoid those ubiquitous and environmentally damaging little throwaway water bottles.

Rockefeller Center Xmas Tree Goes Eco-Friendly

The most famous holiday decoration in New York City, perhaps the world, is the annual Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. And this year, it go eco-friendly with bright new LED lights that use a lot less electricity.

The new light emitting diode lights use less than half as much electricity as the conventional bulbs used until now. So, instead of using 3,510 killowatt hours a day, the number is now 1,297kw.

According to, the use of LED lights on the Rockefeller tree equates to a daily “savings” equal to the electricity consumed by a 2,000-square-foot house in a month. That's pretty significant. But, A posting on Design News isn't impressed, saying, "they would save even more energy if they just didn’t put the tree up to begin with".

Bah, humbug.

The engineering website did not mention that Paris, also known as The City of Lights, is using similar LED lighting to cut back on electrical usage for the hundreds of trees along the Champs-Elysses.

Close to one million of the new eco-friendly light bulbs decorate more than 400 trees along this famous boulevard, between the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde. The LED bulbs promise to provide eight times the twinkle, while cutting the electric bill by 70 percent.

New York City and Paris. Two of the world's most popular and most visited cities. Always setting trends. This one is a Green Travels trend.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Hampshire Ski Resort Using Biodiesel

Mount Sunapee Resort has started using Biodiesel fuels in its resort operations this winter.

Biodiesel B-20 will be used in snow grooming equipment and snow removal heavy equipment.
Biodiesel B-5 will be used to heat base area lodges and other buildings.

It's the most recent addition to the New Hampshire resort's expanding energy management program, which includes using wind energy. Its sister resorts, Okemo Mountain in Vermont and Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado, also use wind energy

The ski resorts off-set 100% of their electrical power consumption with wind energy that is put back onto the power grid.

Also in Colorado, Winter Park Resort is using wind power to power its new Eagle Wind chairlift.

Now, if we could only harness the energy of skiers hurtling downhill. Ah, but we do. It's called apres ski.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Bicycle-Friendly Santa Cruz, California

Pedal power is a great way to travel green. And the beachside community of Santa Cruz, California is a great place to bicycle.

The League of American Bicyclists has named Santa Cruz a Bicycle Friendly Community. It's an award, a recognition, to communities that have made impressive efforts to integrate bicyclists into the community. The designation is difficult to come by -- since it was launched in 2003, just 70 communities have earned the pedal power award.

The designation includes recognition of the all-around cycling program in Santa Cruz, and such specifics as strongly enforced guidelines to protect the safety of cyclists, pedestrians and disabled travelers.

One of the places to visit on your two-wheeled travels is Roaring Camp Railroads, up in Bear Mountain, which is offering a menu of rides from one hour to four hours long. Novice cyclers can take the train up the mountain.

You'll learn about the redwood forest, nature, ecology, conservation efforts and local history. From there, it's all downhill -- on a single track run back to Roaring Camp.

Eco-Adventures in Northern Arizona

Winter is an ideal time to visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument in northeastern Arizona.

Daytime temperatures typically range from 40 to 60 degrees, and at night they sometimes dip into the 20s, and while it does snow sometimes, it is rarely more than a few inches. There are no crowds, the air sparkles with brilliant sunshine, and the park's only hotel cuts its room rates in half.

The Thunderbird Lodge is built on the site of a 1896 trading post. Throuugh March 1, 2008, rooms are $69 for a double room, plus taxes, with a complimentary breakfast. And the gift shop still trades in some of the region’s finest examples of hand-crafted turquoise and silver Native American jewelry and colorful Navajo rugs.

Take a tour of the beautiful, mystical back-country in six-wheel drive touring vehicles operated by experienced and knowledgeable Navajo guides. You will learn about one of the most sacred, historic and culturally significant places in the Navajo Nation. The tour takes you to Anasazi ruins, pictographs and petroglyphs on the sides of cliffs, and sites where the Navajo fought to keep their independence from Spanish, Mexican and American governments.

Except for hiking the White House Ruin trail, travel in the canyons is allowed only with a park ranger or an authorized Navajo guide.

Canyon de Chelly is a beautiful spot, in any season.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Allergy Free Hotel Rooms in NYC

No sneezing, coughing or itching in this NYC hotel, which claims to be 98% free of bacteria and viruses.

It's the deluxe Premier Hotel in Times Square, part of the Millennium Hotels and Resorts group.
Their new "Premier Pure" rooms feature an allergen- friendly environment, which includes zapping the rooms with a 4-5 hour high ozone shock treatment to kill any of living organisms and their associated odors. That's followed by a bacteriostatic barrier applied on virtually all surfaces to minimize the growth of bacteria.

In addition, special hypo-allergenic pillow cases and mattress covers are used in rooms, to eliminate the dust, dander and dust-mite related allergens usually associated with common bedding.

The allergen-removal extends to the Penthouse suite and the hotel's fitness center -- which claims to be the first hotel gym using this new process, which includes removing allergens from the air flow.

Medical research shows that more than 70 million Americans suffer from various airborne allergies or asthma. But even if you are not a sufferer, the allergy-friendly rooms are a bonus because they reduce or eliminates biohazards and other irritants from all room surfaces -- including bedding, carpeting, walls and furniture -- and filter them from the air.

The hotel also is introducing therapeutic natural skin care products by LATHER as its bath amenities.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Coffee in a Cup Made From Corn

Americans drink through and toss away more than 16 billion paper coffee cups a year.
That's a lot of landfill. How much? Oh, about 25 million pounds just for the oil-based plastic coating on the paper cups, and millions more pounds of paper inside the plastic coating.

There's a new, environmmentally friendly coffee cup to fill our caffeine-addicted brains and un-fill our overflowing landfills.

It is part corn, so it requires less energy to manufacture -- and therefore generates less greenhouse gas to make. And the corn-based coating lets the cups be composted instead of landfilled.

It's called 'ecotainer' and its from Internataional Paper. One of the first and biggest customers for this new bio-degradable coffee cup is the Hilton Garden Inn chain of mid-priced hotels.

All 340 Hilton Garden Inns in the US will be using these eco-friendly ecotainers. Maybe the rest of the hotels in the Hilton chain will, too.

A cuppa joe in a cuppa corn. What will they think of next!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rent a Hybrid Car From Avis, Budget

Next time you need to rent a car, call Avis or Budget and ask for one of the hybrid or flex-fuel vehicles just added to their rental fleets.

It's a great way to travel green, and a great way to test drive a new fuel-efficient 'green' car that you just might want to buy when your current Old Breakdown needs to be replaced.

There are more than 2,500 gas-electric hybrids in the Avis and Budget fleets, with more models and additional rental locations being added. Models include --

  • Toyota Prius, the model which made hybrids cool to drive, in the compact class
  • Nissan Altima, which has licensed Toyota's hybrid technology, a full-size sedan
  • Ford Escape, a compact-size SUV, being added by the end of 2007
The 2,500 hybrids make up only a small percentage of the 360-thousand cars that Avis and Budget rent out, but it's a start.

Avis and Budget also rent "flex fuel" cars, which run on E-85, mixture of gas (85%) and ethanol (15%). E-85 ethanol fuel is sold at gas stations primarily in the Midwestern U.S. One of the beauties of E-85 is that flex-fuel cars also can run on 'normal' unleaded gas, without the ethanol mix. E-85 models in the two fleets include three Chevrolet models -- Chevy Suburban, Chevy Impala, Chevy Monte Carlo.

Avis and Budget also are introducing airport shuttle busses with the newest "ulta-clean diesel" technology, in Los Angeles and San Diego. Clean diesels kick out less sulfur thanks to more advanced engine and exhaust-control technology, produces fewer emissions than standard diesel fuel and engines -- a whopping 95% less.

Hybrids, flex-fuel, ultra-clean diesel. Yes, the roads are getting greener.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Solar Energy for Death Valley

One of the sunniest spots on the planet is about to make use of all that sunshine.

The just-announced Death Valley Solar Photovoltaic System will be one of the largest in the USA. Over the next 30 years, this solar power installation will eliminate the emission of more than 284,000 tons of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide. Those are the primary contributors acid rain, smog and global warming -- and this will reduce those emissions by more than 30%.

Another way of looking at these numbers -- this is equal to planting more than 54-thousand trees and removing nearly four thousand cars from the roads.

The Death Valley project will produce enough clean, renewable energy to power more than 400 average-sized American homes.

The solar generating station is being built by Xanterra, which operates lodges, inns, restaurant and more in many National Parks, including Death Valley and Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion and Crater Lake National Parks.

The system is skedded to be up and running by March 2008. And it's only the latest of a long list of environmental initiatives by Xanterra which include generating zero hazardous waste and reducing water usage by 25%.

All good. Let's hope this photovoltaic -- solar -- energy installation idea is copied by other resorts in places where they advertise about their sunshine. California, Arizona, Hawaii, Florida, etc.

Whale Watching in Australia

A record number of whales off Australia's South Coast this winter and spring lures whale watchers to the spectacular Grand Pacific Drive around Wollongong.

It is one of Australia’s most beautiful coastal drives, with lofty lookouts and sweeping views over the ocean to the migrating 40-ton mammals. And it's just one hour south of Sydney.

Or, get even closer to the whales aboard one of the area's whale-watching cruises. Look for large pods of whales, including the acrobatic humpback variety. Also, if you're lucky, you'll spot plus southern right, pilot, killer, fin and minky whales.

Peak viewing periods are late August through November for the whales’ southern migration, and June-July for their return to northern waters.

Kiama-based charter boat MV Signa offers two-hour whale-watching cruises.. Tickets are $55, including refreshments. The South Coast’s biggest whale and dolphin-watching operator, Jervis Bay Whales, has three-hour tours on 140-passenger catamarans. Pricing is from $55 adult, $28 children, or $130 per family, including morning tea.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wind Power for a Washington DC Hotel

We all know Washington, D.C. is full of hot air. Some of it now powers the city's most famous historic hotel, the Willard InterContinental.

A growing number of hotels in resort areas have switched to wind power, but the Willard claims to be the first 'downtown' luxury hotel in the United States to be powered 100% by wind power. All 332 rooms and suites in this landmark hotel in a landmark city.

Wind power for the Willard is being supplied by Pepco Energy Services, which also provides 100% renewable resources to the Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in New York City, and also to the headquarters of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington, D.C.

If the EPA can switch to wind power, why can't more U. S. Government buildings do the same? Like the White House and Congress.

That would demonstrate a serious commitment to improving the environment and reducing carbon emissions -- more than all that hot air from all those government officials who populate those two buildings. The ones who seem more interested in talking than taking action.

Wind power reduces the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), which we all know by now is the key component of greenhouse gas. Wind generators don't emit any.

The Willard is on Pennsylvania Avenue in the heart of the nation's capital, just two blocks from the White House and Congress, and has been hosting presidents and foreign heads of state since the 1850s. A chunk of American history has been written here --

It was at the Willard that Julia Ward Howe wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

This hotel also is where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King wrote his renowned "I Have A Dream" speech.

President Ulysses S. Grant popularized the term "Lobbyist" here for all the guys hanging out in the lobby bar, waiting to talk to elected officials. Lobbyists and elected officials still hang out and chat here, and you have to wonder how many deals are made over a glass or three.

My vote is for reducing hot air in Washington -- the talking kind -- and increasing the electricity generating kind.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Green Mountains Resort Gets Eco-Award

The new base area development at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont has become the first ski resort in the country to earn the Audubon Green Community Award.

It's Spruce Peak at Stowe, in the heart of the Green Mountains. How appropriate.

The recognition is from Audubon International, a non-profit environmental organization headquartered in New York State. It's a step toward earning the much tougher award -- rigorous designation as a Certified Audubon Sustainable Community.

Spruce Peak’s accomplishments include --

--Permanently protecting more than 2,000 acres of wildlife habitat through conservation easements donated to the Vermont Land Trust and the state Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.

-- Restoring ten acres of summit ski terrain to their natural state plus dense forests adjacent to the base village. That provides a crucial habitat for the Bicknell’s Thrush, nesting sites for Peregrine falcons, and also friendly habitats for moose and black bear.

-- Mountain cabins built to the maximum 5-star rating of the EPA’s Home Energy Rating System. Each cabin is expected to save $3,500 per year through these 'green' energy efficiencies.

-- The a new transfer lift between the Spruce Peak and the Mount Mansfield base area, which has eliminated the need for a fleet of smoke-belching diesel buses to shuttle skiers between the two mountains.

Delta Airline's Eco-Friendly Amenity Kits

Kudos to Delta Airlines.

No, they have not returned to serving real, free meals in economy --it's still just peanuts and friends. And, no, they are still charging for headsets and movies in the 'back of the bus'.

But Delta has gone 'green' in the front, in business class, at least on domestic flights.

No more fancy little amenity kit with a zipper and lots of plastic wrapping each individual item -- toothbrush, socks, eye shade, earplugs. Now, everything comes in a plain brown wrapper. Recycled brown paper, and everything is printed with biodegradable inks.

Here's what was printed on my paper bag --

"Take care of yourself and the environment. In keeping with Delta's commitment to environmental mindfulness, this amenity kit has been made Earth-friendly through the use of natural, biodegradable and recycled materials.

So, kudos to Delta. Except --

Everything in the amenity kit, including the biodegradable wrapping paper, is Made in China -- the biodegradable ink tells me so. Hmm, toothpaste Made in China -- hopefully Delta made sure it's not the kind with the poisonous ingredients that made headlines a few months ago.