A massive green wall grows up the side of this luxury Italian hotel

July 9, 2019 by  
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On the banks of Italy’s spectacular Lake Como sits Il Sereno , a five-star hotel that not only offers top-of-the-line luxury, but also boasts sustainable features throughout. Milan-based Patricia Urquiola Studio designed the building with a palette of locally sourced natural materials and an eye-catching Patrick Blanc-designed vertical garden that grows up the side of the building. The designers’ attention to energy-saving elements and eco-friendly materials earned Il Sereno Climate House certification. Conceived as a contemporary spin on the rationalist-style Casa del Fascio by Giuseppe Terragni, Il Sereno celebrates the historical heritage of the lake and the natural beauty of the surroundings. As such, natural materials were used for construction and include locally sourced stone marble and timber throughout the sustainable hotel. Thorough site analyses informed the placement of the building and the operable facade, which allows for natural ventilation and lighting to reduce the hotel’s environmental impact. The lake is visible from every room in the hotel as well as from the common areas. “I was inspired by the color of the Lake, and its glistening water, the nature of the dramatic mountains, and the adjacent village of Torno,” says designer and architect Patricia Urquiola in a press statement. “The color palette is the lake. It includes green, light-blue, copper, grey and natural tones. For Il Sereno we used natural materials (stone, wood, wool natural fibers) for a sustainable style and timeless elegance.” Related: LEED Gold eco hotel in the Wine Country was built using reclaimed wood To reinforce the hotel’s connection with nature, the architects wrapped parts of the building in full-height glazing and balconies to create a seamless indoor/outdoor living experience and commissioned renowned green wall designer Patrick Blanc to create three artworks for Il Sereno. The largest vertical garden is mounted to the facade facing the northern lakefront to soften the structure’s appearance, while the other two artworks are found near the entrance on the south side. + Patricia Urquiola Studio Images by Patricia Parinejad

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A massive green wall grows up the side of this luxury Italian hotel

These resorts are working diligently at sea turtle conservation

July 3, 2019 by  
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According to WWF, six out of seven of the world’s sea turtle species are threatened with extinction due largely in part to plastic pollution, climate change and poaching. Only one in every 1,000 marine turtle eggs will survive to adulthood, and one in two turtles have ingested plastic at some point. Female sea turtles are able to navigate through the ocean to return to the same beach they hatched on to nest, and many of those beaches are located within the property of popular resorts. Thankfully, a number of these resorts remain dedicated to ecotourism and the protection of the majestic creatures that frequent these beaches. Check out these resorts from around the world with conservation programs aimed (and succeeding) at sea turtle conservation. Related: Kin Travel is offering unique vacations that benefit destinations through conservation Panama Jack Resort, Cancun, Mexico All-inclusive and green-certified Panama Jack Resort in Cancun, Mexico celebrated World Sea Turtle Day in 2019 by implementing a new “Sea Turtle Package” available from August to November. The package includes a donation to the Sea Turtle Conservancy , a hands-on session with the resort’s conservation team and themed amenities such as a turtle bracelet and T-shirt. Each season, Panama Jack Cancun helps to create an environment that yields more than 10,000 hatched sea turtle eggs, thanks to its conservation efforts and the resort’s “Turtle Protection Committee.” The committee is responsible for beach cleanups and nest building at the on-site turtle farm, and the resort offers ecology courses for employees to learn about the proper handling of eggs. Guests are invited to participate in beach cleanups and watch the sunset turtle hatch and release. Blue Osa Yoga Retreat and Spa, Costa Rica Blue Osa Yoga Retreat and Spa in Costa Rica teamed up with local organization Osa Conservation to create a wellness-focused “Save the Sea Turtles” retreat program for yogis who want to do their part for the environment. The Osa Peninsula is visited each year by olive ridley and black or Pacific green turtles, who come to nest on the southern beaches. The specialized retreat is usually offered from April to November, but during other times of the year, guests can contact the retreat for turtle activity. Guests will participate in morning and evening patrols, sea turtle egg recovery and an early morning sea turtle release. Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa, Florida In collaboration with local ocean conservation organization Loggerhead Marinelife Center , the Jupiter Beach Resort in Florida offers a special “Stay and Save the Turtles” package. For guests staying three nights or more, the resort will adopt a native sea turtle in your name, and you’ll receive a resort credit and turtle-themed toy. The adoption directly contributes to the continued care and treatment of sick and injured sea turtles at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center as well as further study of the green, leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles that nest at Juno Beach, Jupiter and Tequesta. Turtle Beach Resort, Barbados Green Globe-certified Turtle Beach Resort sits on a stretch of coastline where leatherbacks and hawksbill turtles love to visit during nesting months. The Caribbean resort has teamed up with The Barbados Sea Turtle Project to create a hotel team of “turtle pioneers” responsible for teaching guests about ocean conservation and leading hatching sea turtles from their nests into the ocean. The conservation team organizes beach cleanup days, in which guests are also invited to participate. Surfing Turtle Lodge & Leon, Nicaragua The Surfing Turtle Lodge in Los Brasiles, Nicaragua created its own turtle hatchery in order to protect the nesting areas on the property frequented by olive ridleys, leatherbacks and green turtles. Unaffiliated with any other organization or charity, the Surfing Turtle hatchery is completely operated by the hotel employees and guests. While the hatchings occur year-round, the peak season runs from September through February in the area, and guests are able to experience baby turtles being released into the sea. Four Seasons Resort Nevis, West Indies Located in St. Kitts & Nevis, The Four Seasons has worked with the Sea Turtle Conservancy and the Nevis Turtle Group since 2006, helping both visitors and residents protect native sea turtles . Sea turtle migration patterns within the open ocean are still somewhat of a mystery to scientists, and the satellite tracking devices can be costly. Every year, the resort sponsors two GPS satellite transmitters to assist the Sea Turtle Conservancy in tracking the migration patterns of sea turtles who return to Nevis annually to nest. Guests staying at the hotel can participate in identifying and marking sea turtle nests and obtaining data to track and study turtle migration paths. Guests can also help team members locate the actual turtles to be fitted with the GPS (after they have finished nesting, of course). This valuable information will give conservationists the tools and information they need to better protect the endangered sea turtles. Images via Jakob Owens , Isabella Jusková and Randall Ruiz

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These resorts are working diligently at sea turtle conservation

This luxury resort in Canada is recognized globally for its contributions to eco tourism

May 29, 2019 by  
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The Fairmont Chateau Lake Lodge in Alberta, Canada is setting the bar high when it comes to sustainable eco tourism . As a popular accommodation choice for outdoor enthusiasts with an unparalleled location inside Banff National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), preserving the national wildlife around the resort is of the utmost importance. The hotel was the very first in Canada to receive the highest possible rating from the Hotel Association of Canada’s Green Key Eco-Rating Program in 2005, and won the award again in 2016. The business also holds an award from the 26th Annual Emerald Awards recognizing outstanding environmental achievements for its sustainability program. Activities around the resort include guided mountain tours, skiing, canoeing, horseback riding, fishing, mountain biking, rafting, ice-skating and scenic hiking. Guests can enjoy amenities such as a luxury spa and multiple dining options. Related: Bee + Hive to help explorers book green hotels and sustainable tourism experiences Over the past ten years of operation, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Lodge has implemented a “No Net Negative Environmental Impact” incentive for its eco tourism hotel operations, with full transparency and results reported annually to Parks Canada. The resort also purchases half of its total energy from wood biomass-generated Green Power and uses energy efficient heating sources throughout the property. 80 percent of the hotel operations use energy-efficient lighting, holiday decorations use LED lighting and free parking is awarded to guests driving hybrid vehicles. Each year the resort helps celebrate the World Wildlife Fund Earth Hour to raise awareness for environmental issues by switching off all of the lights on the property for one hour.   Water-saving fixtures installed at the hotel save 3.9 gallons of water per toilet flush and 1.5 gallons of water per minute in the shower. The new fixtures along with the construction of a water treatment plant helped the hotel decrease its water consumption by 38 percent between 1995 and 2015. Guests are encouraged to do their part by reducing their towel and linen usage, which saves both water and electricity . The Fairmont CAREs Program — Westslope Cutthroat Trout Restoration Project works to preserve Canada’s wild trout population; the hotel has donated $12,000 to the cause since 2012. The resort’s culinary program works with Ocean Wise , a local conservation program that allows consumers to make sustainable choices when purchasing seafood. All possible food and beverage containers are recycled , as well as all paper products, batteries, light bulbs, electronics and toner cartridges. The hotel also works with suppliers and vendors to reduce the amount of packaging for delivered products. + Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Via Dwell Images via Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

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This luxury resort in Canada is recognized globally for its contributions to eco tourism

‘Overtourism’: Surges in unsustainable tourism are destroying islands in the Pacific

May 8, 2019 by  
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The tourism industry is booming throughout the world but nowhere more noticeably than on the small tropical islands of Southeast Asia. Millions of tourists flock to these remote islands every day to enjoy the beaches and snorkel among the coral reef, but the traffic and waste they produce has forced some ecosystems to reach their breaking point. “Overtourism” is the new term for the overpopulation of tourists who wreak havoc on fragile ecosystems. Many Asian governments have had to close entire islands in order to allow habitats and species (like sharks and sea turtles) to rehabilitate. The environmental impact of overtourism The primary reasons that mass tourism negatively impacts the environment include: Discharge of human waste directly into the ocean by boats, cruise ships and hotels A government survey in the Philippines revealed that 716 out of 834 businesses on the famous Boracay Island did not have wastewater permits and were indiscriminately dumping sewage and waste into the water. Cruise ships, private yachts and many hotels along the coasts also dump waste directly into the ocean . Toxic chemicals from sunscreens pollute young coral species Sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate have been found to alter the DNA of young corals , prohibiting normal and healthy growth. Related: Hawaii bans reef-killing chemical sunscreens Massive amounts of garbage and plastic pollution According to the Ocean Conservancy, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand are responsible for up to 60 percent of all plastic pollution in the ocean. Globally, eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year. Related: New study reveals microplastics are in the air Unsustainable development and the destruction of key habitats, like mangroves Almost 50 percent of all mangrove forests have been destroyed in countries including India, the Philippines and Vietnam. Mangroves are systematically cleared to make way for hotels, resorts and white sand beaches, but healthy mangroves are an essential part of healthy coastal ecosystems. Mangroves protect beaches from erosion and provide critical nursery and breeding grounds for young fish and other species. Why are there so many tourists? The rapid rise in tourism is mostly because of expanding middle classes in many countries. More people are able to afford vacations and travel, particularly in China. In 2018, Chinese citizens made a total of 150 million trips abroad, compared to just 10 million in 2000. Regardless of the origin of the tourists, Pacific islands’ infrastructure and ecosystems are unable to handle the surge and are in desperate need of regulation and management. “I would argue that tourism has not only been badly managed in general, it’s not been managed at all,” said Randy Durband, chief executive officer of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Islands close their borders to tourists When tourism began to rise, most island residents were happy to have the jobs and foreign investment, and their governments did not take the time nor resources to develop a management strategy or implement limitations. Now, many governments are scrambling to preserve the very ecosystems that bring tourists to their shores before they are destroyed beyond repair. After calling the waters around Borocay Island a “cesspool,” Filipino President Rodrigo Duerte closed the entire island and launched a large clean-up effort. A new management plan will reduce the daily visitors from 20,000 to approximately 6,000, ban single-use plastics , impose littering fines and ban jet skis from driving within 100 meters of the shore. With these steps, an acceptable rehabilitation of the island is expected to take at least two years. In Thailand, the government closed the famous Maya Bay indefinitely after conservationists reported that over 50 percent of corals had been destroyed. In addition to sunscreen toxins, boat anchors and physical impact from tourists walking on coral and taking pieces as souvenirs cause major damage. Current coral restoration efforts are underway to replant native corals, and species like black tipped reef sharks have reportedly returned. SEE: Can the Cayman Islands save to Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs? Closing islands is an extreme solution, but it demonstrates that many governments are realizing the importance of ecosystems even at the expense of tourism revenue. Sustainable tourism expert Epler Wood said, “We don’t advocate a closing unless it’s an emergency. We recommend balanced management that looks at supply and demand and measured responses based on planning and science that involves regular benchmarking, like water testing .” Tips for sustainable tourism Tips for governments: The nation of Bali has imposed a $10 tax on international passengers that goes directly toward cultural and environmental preservation initiatives, such as waste management. Many tourism-dependent islands in the Pacific and Caribbean have imposed similar tourist fees. In Palau, visitors are required to sign an environmental pledge that is stamped right onto their passports, promising to act respectfully and without damaging ecosystems. Bans on straws and single-use plastics can also be particularly effective on small islands without proper waste management systems. Finally, governments can invest in marine spatial planning and zoning initiatives that identify key vulnerable areas. Such spatial data allows governments to declare zones and enforce allowable activities within the zones, such as protected conservation areas versus recreation areas. Tips for tourists: According to the South China Morning Post, here are five tips to be a more sustainable tourist : Book hotels that employ sustainable initiatives to reduce waste, energy and water consumption. Choose tour operators who give back to the community — and keep tourism benefits within the local economy — by employing locals, supporting local growers and other initiatives. Be a plastic-free traveler and dispose of your garbage correctly. Research sustainable tourism initiatives you might want to support ahead of your trip. Engage in community-based tourism. “The basic model is: educate yourself, do the right thing and try to be of positive benefit,” said Marta Mills, a sustainable tourism specialist. “Act like you are a guest in someone’s home, because you are.” Via Yale360 Images via Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi , Laznes Binch ,  Stefan Munder , Juanjook Torres González and Jose Nicdao

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‘Overtourism’: Surges in unsustainable tourism are destroying islands in the Pacific

Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism

May 7, 2019 by  
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Captain Ross Files sees ripples on the surface of the water down a side canal and instructs Captain Steve Browning to turn in that direction. Files sprints up a ladder to sit on top of the boat, his bare feet and legs dangling, as he looks for more telltale signs in the water. After a minute, he admits defeat. “No, I don’t think that’s a ‘tee!” he calls back to Browning. The early sun rays illuminate the Crystal River in Florida as eight other tourists wearing wetsuits and snorkels share a boat— dreaming of swimming with manatees. By manatee standards, we’re a few weeks late. Cold winter waters in the Gulf of Mexico force manatees to seek warmer climes. Spring-fed Crystal River, 78 miles north of Tampa, provides a winning temperature for pods of manatees. About 700 manatees spent last winter here, but by early April the gulf is warmer than the river, so most manatees have vanished— which is why our captains are having to work so hard. Related: Kin Travel is offering unique vacation ideas that benefit destinations through conservation and sustainability Florida is the only place in North America that you can legally swim with manatees. To animal lovers, this is an awesome opportunity, but one that can weigh on your conscience. While you many want to swim with manatees, the important question here is,  do manatees want to swim with you? Does raising tourists’ awareness help manatees? Biologists and conservationists are studying these questions and devising best practices for manatee tourism. History of Manatee Tourism After being placed on the Endangered Species List in 1967, before that they were widely hunted, the manatee population increased. Crystal River is currently the epicenter of manatee tourism. Coast Heritage Museum of Crystal River volunteer Maryann Jarrell, said back in the 1940s the river was extremely clear, giving one entrepreneur the idea to launch glass bottom boat tours. When Jarrell moved to Crystal River in 1971, the water was still stunningly clear and full of wildlife . “You didn’t need a rod and reel,” she told me. “Just put a net out and one of those fish was going to jump in it.” Once people discovered Crystal River, the water stopped being so clear. New residents built septic tanks, landscaped their riverfront houses and fertilized lawns. Runoff turned the water mucky. Despite the decrease in water clarity, the increased number of manatees opened up new tourism opportunities. Boats started taking out paying customers and dropping them in the water with manatees. Tourism became even more important after the Crystal River nuclear power plant shut down permanently in 2013, eliminating hundreds of jobs. “Before anybody could get a handle on it, there was this whole economy in that county based on people being able to swim with the manatees,” explained Katie Tripp, director of science and conservation at Save the Manatee Club. “Then it became a matter of not hurting business and not wanting to take that part of the economy away.” Now there’s a tension between allowing people to see manatees in the wild, but not hampering their reason for being in Citrus County, Tripp tells me. Best Practices for Manatee Tourism Dozens of boats are anchored in known party spot Homosassa cove, which is 10 miles south of Crystal River. Suddenly somebody spots a manatee and a couple of swimmers begin a hot pursuit, driving the manatee towards shore. Once it can’t go any farther without beaching itself, one swimmer encourages another to reach out and touch the manatee. This scenario contradicts everything we learned about passive observation from the boat guides and the 7-minute film “Manatee Manners,” which we watched before our swim encounter. Yet, even guides find themselves debating the finer points of passive observation— should you touch a manatee? Captains Mike and Stacy Dunn, owners of Manatees in Paradise, enacted a strict hands off policy for their company about five years ago. Despite naysayers swearing they’d lose customers, Mike Dunn said business improved and drew more respectful clientele. “We got away from the petting zoo mentality,” he said. When they do catch a customer trying to cop a feel, they send the swimmer back to the boat. Both Dunn and Tripp acknowledged that guides sometimes feel pressure to produce friendly manatees for the tourists. Most companies sell videos after the tour and customers are likelier to buy the video if it captures them interacting with manatees. Instead of selling the video for $40 like other companies do, the Dunns give the customers video for free— if they behave. “If they do touch a manatee, they don’t get the video at all.” Tripp has been working with the Manatee Ecotourism Association to develop best practices for manatee tourism and to start a certification program called Guardian Guides. To qualify, tour operators must adhere to strict standards, including varying the times and locations of their tours, insisting that patrons wear wetsuits and use additional flotation devices to decrease splashing, accompanying guests in the water and making sure everybody keeps their hands off the manatees. So far, Manatees in Paradise and Crystal River Watersports are the only two companies certified. Tripp would like to see manatees get their fair share of the tourism pie. “Even though the industry has been growing and growing exponentially, I’m not seeing tons more money go into manatee conservation,” she said. “I’m not seeing tons more people write letters on conservation issues.” Dunn sees an upside of tourism for the manatees. Since guides are in the water every day, they’re often the first to know when a manatee is in distress and proceed to contact authorities and often help in rescuing and rehabbing manatees. Dunn is also in close touch with manatee researchers, reporting on day-to-day behaviors he observes. The Manatee Experience The group climbs stealthily down the boat ladder. The water is murky, but Files assures us a manatee is nearby. Then suddenly this enormous thing appears out of the depths, floating silently like a blimp. It comes up, takes a breath then sinks back down as if we imagined the whole thing. Afterwards, on the boat, we’re awed. We’re on a manatee high. These creatures are so huge, quiet and alien. We got to slip into their world for just a moment. In the future, maybe the group will take Tripp’s advice and watch manatees from a boardwalk, where we’ll be able to see more of their authentic group behavior. But for now, we wouldn’t trade our up-close experience. Via  Manatee Ecotourism Association ,  Crystal River Watersports ,  Save the Manatee Club , Manatees in Paradise Images via Inhabitat, Manatees in Paradise

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Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism

Bee + Hive to help explorers book green hotels and sustainable tourism experiences

April 30, 2019 by  
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Conscientious travelers often worry about the impact of their dollars and whether or not tourism improves lives in the local communities they visit. Now Bee + Hive, a not-for-profit association made up of hotels and other travel industry partners, is launching a booking engine to help travelers choose sustainable tourism experiences. Starting in June, Bee + Hive plans to take the guesswork out of global sustainable travel . “People are interested in traveling responsibly, but the process of identifying and selecting genuine sustainable options is complicated,” explained Bruno Correa, Bee + Hive founder. “In addition, there is growing interest in making travel choices based on experiences that are unique and transformative. Our booking engine will help do both.” Related: Kin Travel is offering unique vacation ideas that benefit destinations through conservation and sustainability So, what qualifies as sustainable? Canada-based Bee + Hive has worked with Conservation International to identify a group of indicators by which it evaluates prospective members’ impact on the local community  and the experiential impact they provide to guests. Areas of examination include sustainable management, cultural connections, nature, experiences offered and social-economic impact. Bee + Hive helps members develop an action plan to up their sustainability quotient. A much-cited 2013 report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) found that in most all-inclusive package tours, 80 percent of travelers’ money benefited airlines, hotels and other companies with headquarters outside the country the person is visiting. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), when a traveler from a developed country visits a developing country, only about 5 out of every 100 dollars spent stays in the local economy. Correa wants to improve upon this figure. “A responsible hotel cares about developing the local ecosystem and its community,” Correa said. “The best way to do this is by offering authentic activities that reflect the destination. As a not-for-profit, all of Bee + Hive’s revenues will be reinvested on promotional efforts for legitimate and inspiring sustainable hotels and experiences, in a virtuous circle where more hotels join our movement.” + Bee + Hive Images via Bee + Hive

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Bee + Hive to help explorers book green hotels and sustainable tourism experiences

Sparkman Wharf cargotecture restaurants revitalize Tampa’s Water Street neighborhood

April 30, 2019 by  
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Any successful restaurant requires communication among workers, but when you’re turning out quality food in a 30 by 8 foot space, even more cries of “below,” “behind” and “heard” are necessary to keep staff from trampling each other. “There’s not enough room to open the oven door and the beer cooler at the same time,” says Tampa restaurateur Ty Rodriguez, co-owner of Gallito. Rodriguez’ newest restaurant opened last November and occupies a former shipping container in Sparkman Wharf, a major project revitalizing Tampa’s Water Street neighborhood in Flordia. Sparkman Wharf , formerly known as Channelside Bay Plaza, is the southern anchor of a $3 billion district called Water Street Tampa. The plan includes about 180,000 square feet of office space, 65,000 square feet of ground level retail, a park and recreational lawn. Yet the most eye-catching feature is the collection of repurposed shipping containers which now house nine places to order a meal, get a coffee or an ice pop. Seating is outside — sorry, the micro-restaurants barely contain the staff. Related: Is cargotecture the future of construction? What you need to know for your next project Strategic Property Partners, LLC, who owns the wharf, worked with local art studio Pep Rally Inc. to paint a mural encompassing all the containers. SPP describes the result:  “The collage pattern of the mural includes natural elements and imagery celebrating the history and culture of Tampa. Water currents and raindrops move through mangrove roots. Egret, blue crabs, and anoles crawl through the artwork. Oranges and tobacco leaves are set over bricks, reminiscent of Ybor City. Nautical patterns as well as the latitude and longitude coordinates featured in the Sparkman Wharf brand are a nod to the wharf itself and to Port Tampa Bay. The varied and vibrant color palette complements the energy of the outdoor space and the diversity of the food concept available within the dining garden .” While the containers look gorgeous and upcycling materials always sounds like a cool idea, there is more than meets the eye at the Wharf when it comes to these small restaurants operating inside shipping containers. Rodriguez gave Inhabitat the lowdown. First of all, the owners had a lot of experience before opening Gallito . Rodriguez and his best friend, Chef Ferrell Alvarez, already own Rooster & The Till , named the top restaurant in 2018 by the Tampa Bay Times. Alvarez was a 2017 James Beard Best Chef South nominee. Tampa entrepreneur Chon Nguyen is the third partner in Gallito. The three had worked together prior to opening the Nebraska Mini Mart, a 400 square foot restaurant in a former drive-up market. So these guys know what they’re doing — even in small spaces. When they first heard about Sparkman Wharf, the partners were intrigued. “We thought it was an extremely interesting idea,” Rodriguez says. “What can we do in a 30 by 8 foot container that’s successful, good and most importantly, is feasible to pump good food out of an incredibly small area?” Since the other chefs involved were friends and colleagues, he was confident the wharf would have quality restaurants. The concept behind Gallito is an upscale, family-friendly taqueria with high-quality ingredients . “We wanted to do something palatable for a mass audience,” Rodriguez says. To work efficiently in a small space, they chose a pared-down menu with two appetizers, five tacos and a limited choice of Mexican beer, wines, sodas and house-made sangria. “We don’t have a wide variety of everything, but what we do is unique.” Prep was the biggest challenge. Even though Gallito doesn’t open until noon, the sous chef and cook get there at seven. On weekdays, three to four people are usually working. On the busy weekend days, the staff maxes out at six — which is all the container can hold. “If I went in there on a Saturday and tried to help, I’d just be in the way,” Rodriguez says. To keep things simple in the fast casual container, they also had to trim down the point of sale so that every product they sell fits on one screen, rather than having separate screens for drinks and appetizers, as they do at Rooster & the Till. “How many steps is it going got take to complete this taco?” Rodriguez and Alvarez ask themselves. Gallito’s front of house staff garnish the tacos as they come out, something that wouldn’t be done in a more formal setting. Since seating for both Gallito and Nebraska Mini Mart is all outdoors , Rodriguez has become addicted to the daily forecast. “I can tell you more about the weather in Florida than I care to talk to anyone about. We live and die by the weather.” If it rains, they have to cut labor and shorten that day’s operating hours to stay afloat. This will be Gallito’s first summer at Sparkman Wharf and he’s hoping Tampans will brave the heat. Rodriguez may be serious about food, but he’s not above the occasional cargotecture pun. “Because of tight quarters and where everything is situated inside the container, you have to think outside the box.” Images via Inhabitat

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Sparkman Wharf cargotecture restaurants revitalize Tampa’s Water Street neighborhood

Kin Travel is offering unique vacation ideas that benefit destinations through conservation and sustainability

April 23, 2019 by  
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Traveling is becoming more and more convenient through the help of new technology, but sadly it doesn’t always bode well for places affected by over tourism and negative influences. Kin Travel began when founders Brian Jones and Mark Somen decided to give travelers a way to go on vacation while immersing themselves into the local culture and having a positive impact on their destinations. They strive to offer opportunities to rejuvenate communities and environments through travel , proving that visitors don’t have to disrupt their surroundings to enjoy themselves. One of the company’s most popular trips, located in Labadie, Haiti, includes volunteer work in reef restoration, hikes to UNESCO World Heritage sites, local school visits, bonfires with village elders and beach drum circles. The trip ranges from $2,400 to $4,000 for the six-day experience depending on accommodation type, but that rate includes everything but flights (that means transportation , experiences like yoga classes and photos, food, drinks and accommodation). The housing for the Haiti vacation is akin to glamping, equipped with a glamorous beach side yurt tent with memory foam mattress and furnishings made by local artists. Throughout the camp there are spots for dancing, yoga, fire pits and lounging, as well as a fully-equipped bathroom, bar and kitchen. Food is prepared by an accomplished chef who uses local ingredients for every meal. Kin partners with local companies in Haiti to help boost the economy and positively impact the community . Related: Fairmont canine ambassador program promotes human-animal connection Halfway across the globe in Kenya, Kin Travel leads safari trips in the Olderkesi Conservancy bordering the famous Maasai Mara National Reserve. Kin invests part of the profits into tree-planting, as well as the Cottars Wildlife Community Trust to support local entrepreneurial and educational opportunities for women. Accommodations for the Kenya trip include private bathrooms, a spa, pool and tented lounge area with a viewing deck. Apart from the typical safari activities like bush walks and Big Five game drives, participants also get to experience school visits, waterfall swims, massages, local markets, village visits and even an educational meeting with a reformed poacher. The camp is an accredited Global Ecosphere Retreat, chosen for its commitment to sustainability through conservation, community, culture and commerce. In Wyoming, Kin partnered with The Bentwood Inn, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World to create a winter wildlife safari on the corner of Grand Teton National Park and Elk Refuge. An uncommon spot for a typical American vacation, the town of Jackson Hole, where the trip takes place, represents one of the country’s largest income gaps. Kin focuses on serving underrepresented communities in the area while interacting with the people who best know how to serve the local environment . Along with a National Geographic photographer and local biologists, visitors will track animals such as wolves, bison, fox, bighorn sheep and elk through the unparalleled landscape . Travelers will also visit the Wildlife Art Museum, Vertical Harvest and Cultivate (a local organization that provides training and education to combat the local unemployment rate), while supplementing the trip with skiing adventures. In Wyoming, Kin Travel also works with One 22 providing language interpretation, emergency services and education to underrepresented communities and 1% for the Tetons, who contribute $1 million a year to local social and environmental projects. Beginning in August, the company is pairing up with non-profit IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) to curate a series of trips focusing on animal conservation in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Each weekend package for the Cape Cod trip will include immersive activities led by renowned scientists and explorers where travelers will dive into the non-profit’s work saving marine mammals (think tracking whales at sea and dolphin rescue training) and beach side experiences like bonfires, oyster shucking, bike riding and yoga. In addition to Provincetown, IFAW and Kin are planning future trip location opportunities as well. Prices range from $2,200 to $2,800 for the all-inclusive weekend. Accommodations will take place in The Salt House Inn, a restored 19th century cottage a few blocks from the beach , complete with an outdoor patio and dining room. The focus of the newly designed trip is to immerse participants into the IFAW Marine Mammal Rescue and Research work along the 700-mile southeastern Massachusetts coastline. Sadly, this area is known as having one of the highest rates of whale and dolphin strandings (beaching) on earth. IFAW is fighting back against strandings and sea life entanglement with the non-profit’s world-renowned rescue and prevention program made up of experts and highly-trained volunteers, all while conducting important research simultaneously. As a part of the Kin Travel group, attendees will participate in a marine conservation course led by these experts. With the growing popularity of mindful and sustainable travel increasing among jet-setters, the journeys offered by Kin Travel couldn’t have come at a better time. The company proves that travel organizations don’t have to sacrifice community and environmental awareness for life-changing experiences. + Kin Travel Images via IFAW, Kin Travel, Kimson doan, Montylov

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Kin Travel is offering unique vacation ideas that benefit destinations through conservation and sustainability

Topas ecolodge aims to be a model of sustainability

February 19, 2019 by  
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From conception, the goal of the Topas Ecolodge in Vietnam has been to encapsulate sustainable practices at every turn. They also carry a heavy burden of social responsibility by focusing on providing local jobs and sourcing materials from the surrounding areas whenever possible. Nestled into a mountainous region in North Vietnam, they aim to assist the five local hill-tribes that remain largely untouched by the modern world. The vast majority of the 100 employees live in surrounding villages or are housed on campus with the supplies to grow and cook their own food . Investing in their employees, Topas offers educational and occupational training, opportunities for advancement and full medical benefits. Related: Bolivia’s Ecolodge del Lago takes inspiration from traditional Lak’a Uta architecture As stewards of the land, Topas Ecolodge also incorporates practices that help the local community as well as the environment . For example, food scraps are sent to local farms for pig feed and aluminum cans are reused by women in a local village. Thinking locally, the food served at Topas is sourced from local farmers, alongside property-raised chickens and a vegetable and herb garden behind the restaurant. Providing adequate energy in a sustainable way has been a challenge for the remote resort. Originally attempting solar energy, they found that inconsistent supply was not accommodating their needs so they switched to hydroelectricity and request that guests conserve wherever possible. Overcoming the struggles of sustainability in a remote mountain resort, Topas has implemented some innovative processes. As a solution for glass recycling , they invested in a glass-crushing machine that breaks it into sand that they then recycle into concrete for construction and maintenance. With no reliable recycling options and an understanding of the problems associated with single use plastic , they have a near zero single-use plastic policy and work to educate staff and guests about the reasons behind it. Inasmuch, they’ve become a member of National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World and help promote their “Planet or Plastic?” campaign. For water filtration, the property has a man-made wetland that treats wastewater from kitchen and bath facilities before releasing it into the rice fields. The Topas Ecolodge first opened in 2005 and offers 33 chalet-style stone bungalows built using local white granite from the Hoang Lien Mountains. They’ve since opened a second, more rustic accommodation named Topas Riverside Lodge, a short distance away. + Topas Ecolodge Images via Topas Ecolodge

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Topas ecolodge aims to be a model of sustainability

From farm to table, sustainability shines at the Belle Mont Farm eco resort

January 16, 2019 by  
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Anyone who has savored the beauty of the Caribbean can attest to its splendor. Not only are there captivating coastlines, but the islands in the area are accustomed to managing limited resources and are naturally focused toward sustainable development. One eco resort, Belle Mont Farm, has taken steps to lead the way in creating an earth-friendly luxury option in the region. The Belle Mont Farm on the island of St. Kitts, West Indies is a sanctuary that encompasses a lush golf course lined with crops and fruit-laden trees that you can enjoy as you play. The resort encourages physical activity in the surrounding natural environment, allowing you to skip typical paved walkways in exchange for miles of fertile farmland , tropical forest, cane fields, fruit groves and pastures. Related: Green-roofed eco resort on Easter Island designed to blend into the landscape In fact, an opportunity to immerse yourself in the physical environment is one of the main goals of the farm. From there, designers believe there are four pillars to sustainable development. The first is art and culture. Belle Mont Farm is dedicated to exposing visitors to the fine arts by hosting several festivals each year, ranging in theme from film to photography to music to culinary, and it hosts a film institute and resident art program. The second goal is to financially contribute to the local economy. The eco resort does this by hiring local vendors; the entire campus was built using local contractors. This has driven millions of dollars back into the community rather than exporting it elsewhere. Related: Stunning sustainable resort in Colombia built out of compressed-earth blocks and bamboo Social responsibility is the third element of sustainable development, which simply means that the Belle Mont Farm aims to maintain the culture and history of the island through consistent, heritage-based architecture that remains true to the fabric of St. Kitts. Finally, Belle Mont focuses on ecology by focusing on stewardship of the natural environment through sustainable practices and net-positive food production. Some of the steps toward sustainability include transitioning to complete renewable energy and making electric cars available to guests. Plus, the farm-to-table program creates a sustainable model for resort dining with fresh, organic vegetables and catches from the surrounding ocean. “My vision is to bring together community and culture, mindful conservation of natural resources, along with rewarding activities and learning opportunities,” said founder Val Kempadoo. “This means we can offer an unforgettable experience while bringing lasting, life-changing benefits to the local people and economy.” + Belle Mont Farm Images via Belle Mont Farm

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From farm to table, sustainability shines at the Belle Mont Farm eco resort

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