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We received an email quite some time ago from Emiliana Garcia, ‘director of sustainability’ (hopefully I haven’t botched the translation too badly) for the Harmony Hotel in Costa Rica. I’ll be honest, when I first read the message I assumed it was yet another person who was hoping we’d promote their business. Don’t get me wrong – we love letting our readers know about cool ‘green’ businesses, but we also want to feel like we are at least dealing with a real person who is genuinely interested in what we’re doing – not just some drive-by promo-hound (particularly irritating when their business has virtually nothing to do with sustainability or related themes) .
Anyway, in Emiliana’s case, because she seemed friendly I decided to request more detailed information, knowing full-well there was a decent chance that would be the end of it. Well as it turns out, she DID write back providing me with lots more info and some photos – I’m glad she did!
Here is the information she provided…
Nestled into the sleepy coastal town of Nosara, Costa Rica, 40 miles from the nearest paved road, high standard of sustainable living meet the creature comfort of low key beach at the Harmony Hotel. Here, comfort meets effortless sustainability. Guests can enjoy the rare luxury of knowing that the beauty they see goes further than grass deep.
The hotel’s many natural treats are sure to enhance our guests’ experience of green living. An awareness of our interconnectedness within nature is shown in our practices which include permaculture, worm farming, a recycling program, use of biodegradable products, biodegradable guest room amenities and gray water purification irrigation system.
In our constant striving to be in tune with the local ecology, the Harmony applies the practice of permaculture to almost everything we do. We hope that by cultivating an awareness of our role in the local ecology that we can work with nature, rather than against it, and as a result foster a deeply satisfying sense of life in harmony for our guests.
We have tried to design our landscape with both our human guests and our animal neighbors in mind. As a result, we have made basic decisions, such as what species of plants to cultivate, based not only on aesthetics but also on their adaptation to the local climate and their contribution to biodiversity.
Native plants, which make up 50% of the plant life in our landscape, are an obvious choice because they not only preserve local character, but also have been fine-tuned by nature to survive both the long dry season and the deluge of rain in the wet season. They also provide food and shelter for the local animal population. The non-native portion of the plants in our landscape are also climate-appropriate and attractive to birds, butterflies, bats, iguanas, humans and other fauna in the local ecosystem.
The desire to create an animal-friendly environment has likewise influenced our overall landscape plan.
Our concern for animal habits and needs is also prominent in the re-design of the once leaky, old pool next to the spa. We transformed it into a living aquatic system by choosing to include shallow areas for herons, egrets and other wading birds plus deeper areas amongst vegetation for protecting fish and turtles from predation.
Using organic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers – such as compost from the restaurant waste – is another method we employ for collaborating with the local ecosystem. This practice increases the soil’s fecundity. It also keeps harmful chemicals from destroying the healthy bacterial necessary for soil balance and from leaching inorganic chemicals, which won’t ever break down, into the plants that feed the local animal kingdom. Plus, composting food waste for fertilizer utilizes waste in an efficient, productive way that gives back to the earth, from which the food originally came.
Our amenities not only vitalize your skin and hair but also serve as a bio-compatible, ph-balanced nutrient for the specific wetland plant life that your shower feeds as a part of our greywater wetland system. Moreover, in keeping with our goal of generating as little waste as possible, we offer you them in a luxury within post-consumer recycled glass containers that the Harmony housekeeping staff keeps clean and refills regularly.
In an effort to promote environmental sustainability and community development we strive to purchase as much organically grown and locally produced food. Harmony Hotel uses a technique called worm farming which transforms all of our organic waste into a fertilizer that is then used to maintain our landscaped gardens and to support the growth of legumes and herbs (which we use in both our restaurant and our spa).
The Harmony Hotel is a sustainable operation with a relaxing, healthy environment with comfortable rooms, excellent dining, melodies mixed with the sound of the ocean.
For more information, be sure to check out the Harmony Hotel Website
Technorati Tags: sustainable, sustainability, eco travel, green resorts, permaculture, worm composting, harmony hotel, costa rica
Written by Bentley on June 21st, 2007 with no comments.
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I caught an interesting article in this week’s edition of the Springwise Newsletter about a new chain of green(er) hotels opening up in Canada.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to spend a couple nights in a Toronto hotel and was constantly wondering just how much power, water etc the building must be consuming. I was actually impressed with the fact that all the lamps had compact fluorescent bulbs – I’m sure it was money savings that led to the change but it’s better than no change at all. Nevertheless, I have little doubt the hotel (along with the vast majority of others in the city) has relatively little concern for environmental issues.
Here is a blurb from the Springwise article:
Now, with the growing wave of concern for consumerism’s negative impact on the environment, a third element is being added to the no-frills chic equation: eco-friendliness. Inspirational example? A new hotel chain in Canada, due to open its first location this year. Run by family-owned Groupe Germain, ALT Hotels will combine design, atmosphere and chic interiors with the best possible price *and* with serious efforts to minimize impact on the planet. The Montreal hotel will incorporate geothermal technology, which is an industry first in Canada. Designed by architect Viateur Michaud, ALT Montreal will use the earth’s constant temperature of 10 degrees Celsius (at a depth of about three meters) to help heat and cool the hotel as needed. Other energy-saving measures include efficient lighting throughout the building, and heat recovery from water used in commercial washers.
See the full article here: No-frills Eco-chic
Here is a blurb from an Alt Hotel press release
The first ALT Hotel will be built at a cost of $21 million in Brossard’s brand new Quartier DIX30, strategically located at the intersection of highways 10 and 30, a stone’s throw from Montreal and right in the heart of the South Shore. It will be located near a 900-seat theatre, fabulous restaurants, a state-of-the-art fitness centre and spa, and more than 100 stores and boutiques. Construction has already begun on this first ALT Hotel, which will feature the very latest in energy-saving measures. It is scheduled to open in September 2007.
“Our research clearly shows that there is a shortage of this type of cheap-chic accommodation in Canada’s hotel industry,” explained Ms. Germain. For $129 per night, guests will enjoy quick and easy check-in, a unique atmosphere and an inviting, eclectic lounge. The cozy, inviting rooms include an office area equipped with the latest technology used by today’s travellers and feature an urban-spa type bathroom. Guests will be able to enjoy products and services tailored to their needs, such as breakfast on the run when they leave the hotel, and super-healthy, energizing juices. “No other hotel in this category will
give guests this much for such a tiny price,” concluded Ms. Germain.
And a list of the energy saving features:
•Geothermal heating and cooling
• Heat recovery from cool outdoor air and interior air exhaust (washrooms)
• Geothermal heating of fresh air intake
• Heat recovery from water used in commercial washers
• Efficient lighting throughout
• Main light switch to turn off all lights when leaving the room
• Geothermal heating of domestic hot water
• Geothermal heating of main entrance concrete floor
• Door contacts in stairwells to reduce lighting by half when unoccupied
• Direct digital control DDC system for ventilation, heating and cooling
I am certainly impressed with these improvements in design (in comparison to efforts by other hotels), but it would have been great to at least see some water conservation measures as well (rainwater capture/reuse, maybe a greenroof, greywater recycling etc). Oh well, one step at a time I guess!
Hopefully we’ll see these hotels opening in Ontario before too long.
Technorati Tags: green hotels, eco hotels, energy saving, geothermal, alt hotels
Written by Bentley on May 4th, 2007 with 3 comments.
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Steve’s recent mention of his winter woes reminded me of the fact that not everyone is a huge fan of the white stuff and the cold temperatures that come with it. For that matter, if it weren’t for my winter composting experiment I might not be quite so enthusiastic myself!
For those of you sun-lovers hoping to hit the tropics this year, but looking for something a little more low-impact than a typical resort, you might want to check out Majahuitas Eco-Resort, on Mexico’s Pacific coast. I just read about them in the Nov/Dec issue of Natural Home magazine.
Here is a blurb:
The wind- and solar-powered resort is situated on land owned by the indigenous Chacala community, which prefers low-impact development. A special septic system helps preserve the fragile beach environment; recycling and composting help control waste.
Obviously one could argue that the air travel required to reach the resort would totally negate the ‘sustainability’ aspect, but the fact is most people (even serious environmentalists) still like to go on vacation! Not everyone is willing to completely wean themselves from air travel and that’s all there is to it.
All debates aside, the resort definitely looks like a very beautiful, relaxing locale. Be sure to check out the website (link above), where you’ll find quite a few pics and much more information.
Technorati Tags: mexico, resorts, vacations, travel, sustainable, solar power, wind power, Majahuitas
Written by Bentley on January 22nd, 2007 with no comments.
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It has been awhile since we last posted an eco-tourism article on the website. This afternoon I came across an article that caught my eye and led me to read more about the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre. The Wye Marsh is located on the edge of Midland, Ontario in Tay Township, Canada.
The Wye Marsh has decided to expand its Eco-Tour Program for Winter 2007. After a successful summer program, the Wildlife Centre is giving guests and visitors the opportunity to explore winter in Ontario. If you have children and are looking for an escape away from the TV, video games and computer, the Wye Marsh is the place to visit.
According to the article I found:
Wye Marsh naturalists will guide visitors behind the scenes into the world of woodland and wetland research using snowshoes. Eco-tours will be approximately 3 hours in duration and will include a stop at a warm fire for hot chocolate and snacks. Tours start in January 2007, and continue through March on selected Saturdays and Sundays. Cost is $40.00 per person plus applicable tax and includes use of snowshoes. Additional times and dates can be personally arranged for groups of five or more. Scheduled dates and times can be viewed at Wye Marsh Winter Eco Tours.
Eco-tours will include:
• A three-hour (three – four km.) snowshoe trek (snowshoes provided-or bring your own)
• Hands-on winter animal tracking and tree identification
• Hands-on winter survival techniques plus bow and drill fire starting
• Research updates and swan information
• GPS workshop – You get to lead us home!
• Hot chocolate and hotdogs over an open fire in the woods
The Wye Marsh is working hard to reduce their impact on the environment:
* Solar panels
* Composting toilets
* Waterless gardening
* Vermicomposting – Visitors to the Marsh can also buy worm kits and worms for their own vermicomposting initiatives.
* Future wind turbine – The Marsh also has future plans to erect a 10KW wind turbine on the property
* 3 goats to cut their grass – zero harmful emissions and free rich fertilizer
If you are interested in visiting the centre, you can reserve now for the outdoor winter eco-tour by calling 705-526-7809. For more information on the Winter Eco Tours go to the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre web site. www.wyemarsh.com
Technorati Tags: Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre, eco-tours, Midland Ontario, outdoor winter eco-tour, eco-travel, vermicomposting
Written by steve on November 17th, 2006 with no comments.
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The Gaia Napa Valley hotel (- named after the Greek term for Mother Earth) is the first hotel on the West Coast to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s requirement for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.
The 133-room hotel has been in the works for about six years and is still under development. Unlike other hotels who implement green features, the Gaia has been developed from the ground up.
Some of the eco initiatives used by Gaia:
• Responsibly harvested “new growth” wood was used
• Extensive use of solar power
• Techniques for conserving water, energy and other materials in its ongoing operations were developed
• Recycled corrugated metal covers the lobby’s outside walls
• “Gray” water from the showers and sinks are recycled in the ponds and landscaping.
Eco Aesthetics and Comfort:
• Heat and cold are regulated naturally
• Rooms are lighted with Solatubes
• Air quality is maximized through low emission paints and adhesives.
The GAIA hotel is not stopping there. The rooms are equipped with toilet paper and facial tissue made from recycled products, shampoo dispensers that do not leave a plastic bottle to dispose of and recycling bins in each room. The rooms are also cleaned using cleaners that meet eco-friendly standards.
Guests can also learn about green living by utilizing the hotel’s news kiosks and reading the conservation tips found in each room.
Like many things that are either good for us or the environment, the hotel came at an inflated cost. Using typical and traditional materials and construction materials the hotel would have costs $9 million to build. Unfortunately the Gaia’s green initiatives pushed the construction costs to $20 million. It isn’t cheap being green but well worth it. I hope people who are visiting the area will choose green and help support this wonderful hotel!
Visit the Gaia Hotel website
Technorati Tags: eco hotel , Gaia Napa Valley, sustainable travel, green friendly hotel, California Eco-friendly hotel
Written by steve on November 7th, 2006 with no comments.
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Just caught an interesting press release from PRNewsWire (via Earthtimes.org): Las Vegas’ Version of Central Park a Model of Sustainability
Here is the introductory blurb:
The Las Vegas Springs Preserve (Preserve), a $250 million non-gaming cultural attraction located a few miles off the Las Vegas Strip, is nearing construction completion. With 180 acres of green museums, botanical gardens, galleries, trails and concert venues, the Preserve is designed to set new standards in “green building” while becoming a new cultural hub for locals and even for tourists seeking a different kind of experience than you’d normally associate with Las Vegas.
Here are some interesting factoids/features:
- It’s the largest commercial straw bale construction project in the US
- Aiming for ‘Platinum’ LEED status (the highest possible) for seven of its buildings
- Installing carpets made from recycled pop bottles
- Biofiltration ponds that reclaim on-site wastewater
Sounds like a great attraction! I always love hearing about ‘green’ projects going mainstream. I’m sure this will attract a fair bit of attention, and hopefully show the owners that green can be profitable as well!
Be sure to check out the original release (link is at the beginning of the post).
Here is the link for the park’s website: Las Vegas Springs Preserve
Technorati Tags: las vegas, springs preserve, LEED, green building, green contruction, sustainable design, sustainability, theme park
Written by Bentley on November 1st, 2006 with no comments.
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Just read an article in The Seattle Times that I certainly found interesting! Those of you who have been following the blog probably have a sense for how much of a composting fanatic I am by now, so it probably comes as no surprise that that this sort of story would catch my attention!
Earlier this year South Africa’s oldest hotel, the Mount Nelson, started a vermicomposting pilot program in an effort to divert some of its organic waste from the landfill. It’s estimated that they currently employ about 1 million composting worms to help them process large quantities of food waste daily.
It’s widely suggested in worm composting circles that 1 lb of worms is made up of approximately 1000 individuals – in other words, the hotel estimates that they currently have about 1000 lbs of worms! Pretty impressive numbers!
Under favourable conditions it is also suggested that composting worms can eat their own weight (or more) in waste every day, so you can get some sense for the processing potential of a large-scale system (I’m already pretty blown away with the processing speed of my home-scale system).
Apparently the system is able to handle 1/3 of their total organic waste stream, but they’re confident that by next year they’ll be able to divert up to 70%.
Not only do systems like this produce large quantities of incredibly rich compost, but they also help to reduce global methane emissions. Remember that organic wastes sent to the landfill tend to undergo anaerobic degradative processes (as opposed to aerobic composting), which lead to methane production. Methane is many times more potent as a global warming gas than carbon dioxide.
I would love to see this sort of initiative taken by a LOT more businesses! With the right systems in place, I can only imagine how much organic waste could be diverted from the landfills!
Here is the article in case you are interested: Hotel worms its way out of pile of waste
And here is the hotel’s website: Mount Nelson Hotel (sadly, I couldn’t find any info about their worm composting project)
Technorati Tags: compost, composting, worm composting, vermicomposting, hotels, waste-management, organic waste, Mount Nelson hotel, worms
Written by Bentley on October 30th, 2006 with no comments.
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Well I am FINALLY back – back to posting on the blog that is! We actually got back from our honeymoon a little over a week ago, and I’ve been trying to ease myself back into the ‘real’ world ever since.
Apologies for my extended absence, but I guess its not really a big deal given how new the blog still is. (we have yet to promote it at all)
Over the next couple months you’ll likely see a lot more posts from Steve and myself, along with plenty of other changes at Ecosherpa, so do stay tuned!
Anyway, back to my post…
I came across a pretty cool website today called Earthship Biotecture. Here is a blurb from their “About Us” section:
Earthship n. 1. passive solar home made of natural and recycled materials 2. thermal mass construction for temperature stabilization. 3. renewable energy & integrated water systems make the Earthship an off-grid home with little to no utility bills.
Biotecture n. 1. the profession of designing buildings and environments with consideration for their sustainability. 2. A combination of biology and architecture.
Earthship Biotecture, based in Taos, NM, USA is a global company offering proven, totally sustainable designs, construction drawings & details, products, educational materials, lectures / presentations, consultation & guidance toward getting people in sustainable housing. From single family to colony / community / city complexes.
The Earthship is a completely independent globally oriented dwelling unit made from materials that are indigenous to the entire planet. The Earthship has been designed to reduce our impact on the planet and increase our connection to it by utilizing recycled and low embodied energy materials, passive solar heating and cooling, photovoltaic power system, catchwater, solar hot water, gray water and black water treatment systems.
The concept in general is certainly very interesting, but what intrigued me the most (and inspired me to write this post) was their invitation to actually rent one of their ‘Earthships’!
Combine the beautiful vistas of northern New Mexico with the fascinating and educational experience of staying in your very own earthship and you have the makings of a pretty cool eco-holiday!
Per night prices range from $125-$210, depending on the time of year and the number of people in your group (1-4). Weekly rentals are also available.
For more info be sure to check out the ‘Earthship Nightly Rentals Page’
Written by Bentley on September 11th, 2006 with 8 comments.
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