How the next coronavirus stimulus could be a win-win for cruise lines and the environment

April 7, 2020 by  
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As the federal government seeks to bail out the industry, environmental advocacy organizations urged Congress to ensure that any financial aid for cruise lines come with strings attached.

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How the next coronavirus stimulus could be a win-win for cruise lines and the environment

Windwords proposal turns wind turbines into public art

January 6, 2020 by  
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In a bid to clamp down on the NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) opposition to wind farms, international design collective Prototype 2030 has created a two-part proposal that would turn wind turbines into interactive public art. The first part of the design, dubbed Windwords, proposes reshaping wind turbines into giant letters to create landmarks representative of the community. To further empower communities with wind farms, the designers suggest allowing local residents to share in the profits and control the wind turbines through a smartphone app. Inspired by community-oriented design processes for public infrastructure, Prototype 2030 believes that the way to wider acceptance of wind farms and wind turbines begins with neighborhood-centered design. The Windwords proposal takes cues from the Hollywood sign and the IAMSTERDAM letters, which are not only iconic landmarks in their respective cities but also attract attention from tourists. Related: LEGO reintroduces Vestas wind turbine set, now made with plant-based plastic “Our point is not, of course, that every wind turbine has to be turned into a giant letter,” the collective explained. “Every site and community is different and will present different needs and opportunities. Big pink words will not be the solution every time. The real lesson is that wind farms need to be designed to mean something to humans — because they do, to neighbors and passersby. Right now, what they say is usually not what we want to hear. They need to be designed to speak human.” To further humanize the relationship between wind farms and communities, the designers have also proposed Windswitch, a smartphone app that would allow local residents to share in the profits from wind energy . The app would also give users the opportunity to “influence the turbines in their backyard” by trading previous earnings in as credits to temporarily pause a wind turbine. + Prototype 2030 Images by Prototype 2030

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Windwords proposal turns wind turbines into public art

Energy-efficient affordable housing project opens in South LA

January 6, 2020 by  
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As part of its ongoing effort to house Los Angeles’ homeless, local design practice Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA) has transformed a vacant lot in South Los Angeles into an inspiring example of 100% affordable housing. Certified LEED Gold , the energy-efficient MLK1101 Supportive Housing project not only emphasizes natural lighting and ventilation to reduce reliance on mechanical systems, but also encourages community and public health with the addition of communal spaces and an outdoor garden with raised-bed edible gardens.  According to the architects, over 58,000 people are homeless in Los Angeles County. Working with Clifford Beers Housing, LOHA created MLK1101 Supportive Housing to provide permanent housing for a range of residents, from formerly homeless veterans to chronically homeless individuals and low-income households. The development includes 26 affordable housing units that range in size from one to three bedrooms, all of which include their own bathroom as well as kitchens and living spaces. To encourage neighborly relations, the architects included a community room with shared amenities, an elevated community garden set atop street-level parking, a street-facing stoop and a series of exterior walkways of varying widths that serve as informal gathering spaces. In addition to housing, amenities and 4,000 square feet of parking for cars and bicycles, MLK1101 Supportive Housing also includes two retail units at street level that will generate income to help subsidize housing while providing workforce training to residents. Related: LEED Platinum housing for the homeless takes over a formerly vacant L.A. lot “Further advancing previous experience working with Clifford Beers Housing and other supportive housing organizations like the Skid Row Housing Trust, LOHA’s design acknowledges the successful track record these housing complexes have had with integrating various populations, bringing supportive services in-house, and creating uplifting living environments for people to thrive,” note the architects in a project statement. Other sustainable features of the project include high-efficiency heating and cooling, energy-efficient appliances and fixtures, solar water heating and electric vehicle charging.  + Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects Images by Paul Vu Photography

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Energy-efficient affordable housing project opens in South LA

A guide to zero-waste holiday travel

November 19, 2019 by  
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It’s the year that the Swedish concept of flygskam, or flying shame, hit headlines around the world. Now, it’s November and time for holiday travel. Unfortunately, you might feel like you’re choosing between hurting the environment and hurting Grandma’s feelings. If you find yourself traveling this time of year, here are some zero-waste tips to take the edge off your travel shame. Planning for zero-waste travel A green trip starts with good planning. If you’re traveling by plane and/or staying in hotels, check out their sustainability policies. Airplanes use a staggering amount of plastic, which they mostly don’t recycle, but some carriers are striving to improve. Air France pledged to switch out 210 million single-use plastic items with sustainable alternatives by the end of this year. Qantas is ditching single-use plastic by the end of 2020. Alaska Airlines traded plastic stirrers for ones made of bamboo or white birch. Related: Designers aim to reduce the waste and impact of airlines Consider buying carbon offsets. Because flights were responsible for 2.4 percent of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2018, carbon offset programs aim to balance human destructiveness by investing in projects that reduce greenhouse gases, such as planting trees or improving forest management. Several airlines offer this option. Most hotels post info about their sustainability efforts on their websites. You can also opt to stay in an Airbnb or similar, where you’ll be able to cook your own food and eat on reusable plates. Learn more about sustainable hotel resources at Green Key , Green Traveler Guides or Kind Traveler. Don’t forget to prepare your house for travel. Eat, freeze or give away perishables. Unplug lamps and other small appliances. If it’s plugged in, it’s sucking energy . Turn the thermostat down — but not so low that the pipes will burst if you live somewhere cold. Packing for zero-waste travel In a world of disposability and access to cheap stuff, it’s easy to throw something away when it is only slightly damaged. I was going through security in Canada when the agent wanted to look in my backpack. The zipper stuck because of loose threads around a rip. I said, “Oh, I have to get a new one … or maybe sew it.” I truthfully had no intentions to do so. She looked at the tear and said, “It’s a good backpack. You should fix it.” Of course I should! I’ve sewn that tear a couple of times now (I’m obviously not that good at sewing), and the backpack is still traveling with me. Aim to repair, not discard. Most travel experts advise packing lightly, both for ease of travel and to keep weight down on airplanes. I’m more of a medium packer, because I know from experience that if I travel too light, I’ll buy more stuff while traveling. Capsule wardrobes have garnered a lot of press lately as a light packing strategy. This is a set of clothes like tops, pants, skirts and sweaters that can be endlessly mixed and matched together, often in a neutral palette like tan, gray, black and white. If you go neutral, consider including some bright scarves or big necklaces to rev up your look. Related: The sustainable wardrobe — it’s more accessible than you think Pack reusable versions of things that get trashed the most while traveling. Freelance travel writer and animal advocate Lavanya Sunkara said, “I always bring my S’well water bottle, so I never have to purchase a plastic water bottle, plus it keeps the water cold for a long time. I just decided to bring my own coffee mug as well as some non-disposable forks/spoons for the road. I also bring my own soap, shampoo and conditioner in reusable bottles.” For even lighter packing, consider shampoo bars. Don’t forget to pack a reusable bag for grocery shopping or souvenirs, too. Greener transportation Some countries have great train service. In most regions of the U.S., trains are infrequent and cost-prohibitive. However, if you have the time, live in a busy train corridor or are traveling a short enough distance overland, look into trains and buses. People in the Northeast have more trains to choose from. New bus services like Flix Bus, Bolt and Megabus are trying to make bus travel more pleasant; even Greyhound has on-board Wi-Fi now. Consider whether you’ll need a car at your destination. If you’re going to a city with decent public transportation , a bike share program, walkable areas and/or plenty of cabs and ride-share services, maybe you can forego a rental car. Related: How to make American cities bike-friendly If you find yourself soaring through the skies in an airplane, avoid the so-called “service items” — i.e., trash. You brought your own water bottle , right? Well, fill it up at the airport (after you’ve made it through security) so you won’t have to waste cups on the plane. Bring your own snacks and say no to straws, napkins and ice. Minimizing waste at your destination Think how you can be most environmentally conscious at your destination. If you’re snorkeling in the tropics, use reef-safe sunscreen . If you’re strolling the streets of Paris, sit at a sidewalk cafe and drink out of a real cup, rather than getting a disposable cup to go. Travelers doing their own cooking in an Airbnb kitchen can shop for ingredients at farmers markets or in the bulk sections of grocery stores to minimize packaging waste. One of my biggest sources of eco-shame has been using plastic bottles while visiting countries where waterborne diseases are prevalent. But Terry Gardner , an inspiring sustainability warrior who writes for the LA Times and other publications, has convinced me to try a SteriPen next time. “I’ve used a SteriPen in China , Mexico and twice in Peru,” she told me. “I’ve also used it to purify water from lakes in the U.S. I like the USB one that is rechargeable. In China, where we were encouraged to drink bottled water from single-use plastic, I refused and used my SteriPen. I felt good about avoiding the plastic and remained healthy. In Peru, the SteriPen worked great in Lima, Cusco and Machu Picchu, but I couldn’t use it in some places in the Amazon where the water was polluted by hazardous waste (I think it was uranium or some mining byproduct).” In keeping with the zero-waste ideal, Gardner advises, “One of my most important sustainable travel tips is focused on trying to treat every place like a national park — do your best to Leave No Trace.” Depending on your destination and the length of time you’re staying, considering volunteering in some capacity. Maybe instead of trashing a place, we can learn to leave it just a little bit better. Images via Shutterstock and Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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A guide to zero-waste holiday travel

This private island resort in Panama promises sustainable luxury

November 19, 2019 by  
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Just off the western Pacific shore of Panama lies Isla Palenque , a private island sanctuary with nearly 400 acres of lush jungle and a luxury resort that prides itself on low-impact living. Unlike the traditional beach resort, Isla Palenque promises paradise for wildlife and nature lovers who are invited to explore a relatively undeveloped island — over half of the island has been set aside as a nature reserve. From jungle hikes to kayaking to cooking classes and birdwatching, all activities at the award-winning resort aim to cultivate a greater appreciation of Panamanian biodiversity. Created as part of the Cayuga Collection, a hotel group of sustainable luxury hotels and lodges in Central America, Isla Palenque gives guests of all ages the chance to experience “nature in the raw.” Amble Resorts founder and architect Benjamin Loomis designed the sustainably minded resort and deliberately kept its total development footprint to approximately five percent of the island while capping the guest count to 40 people at a time. Related: Sleep in sustainable luxury inside this eco-friendly jungle treehouse Isla Palenque is also a partner of the community-supported Dock to Dish sustainable fishing program and offers a reforestation program that invites guests to plant a primary rainforest seedling of their choice in an area of secondary growth. To further reduce the resort’s carbon footprint, locally sourced materials and ingredients are used wherever possible, from the wooden furnishings made on-site from naturally felled trees on the island to the locally grown ingredients used at the Las Rocas Bar & Restaurant. The onsite guided activities and excursions on and near the island — there are over 8 miles of hiking trails and seven accessible private beaches — that are included in the daily resort rates also emphasize a minimal environmental footprint. Guests can stay in one of Isla Palenque’s eight sumptuous Beachfront Casitas — romantic 650-square-foot bungalows that face the island’s largest beach, Playa Palenque — or choose among the Beachfront Villa Estates that include two Ocean Suites, three Jungle Rooms and a single Garden Room scaled with children and teens in mind. Rates at the Isla Palenque vary depending on the season. + Isla Palenque Images via Isla Palenque

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This private island resort in Panama promises sustainable luxury

Modern luxury resort blends into the lush coffee hills of India

July 18, 2019 by  
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The misty coffee hills of southwest India recently gained a new luxury resort designed by Bangalore-based architectural firm Cadence Architects . Named Java Rain, the 18-villa resort is set in the middle of an active, 40-acre coffee estate and offers not only spectacular views of the landscape but is also thoughtfully nestled into nature to blur the boundaries between indoors and out. Natural, locally sourced materials were carefully selected to blend the buildings into the landscape and to reduce environmental impact. Located at the foothills of the Mullahangiri Hills in Chikkamagalur, the Java Rain resort spans an area of 60,000 square feet and comprises a clubhouse, villas, a spa, a restaurant and a treehouse that houses an elevated cafe in addition to other service buildings. The 18 contemporary, butterfly roof-topped villas range from single, twin and presidential suites, and each is named after terms associated with coffee. Glazing wraps around the villas to immerse guests in nature. Related: Escape to the Azores at this charming eco resort by the sea “The project deals with the idea of blurring the boundaries between inside and outside, such that the building becomes one with nature,” Cadence Architects said. “The challenge in this project was to insert built forms into the existing landscape and blurring the edge seamlessly like a graft. The landscape is treated as a visual and tactile element. The built form responds to both the immediate site context as well as to that of the hill station. The surfaces of the buildings are rendered with earthy and rustic materials to accentuate their contemporary forms. Local materials available on site are extensively used to not only help the architecture blend with the context but also make the project sustainable.” The mix of contemporary architecture with natural materials and organic forms helps the resort achieve its branding as a luxurious escape from the city that offers immersion in nature without sacrificing creature comforts.  + Cadence Architects Via ArchDaily Photography by Patricia Parinejad via Cadence Architects

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Modern luxury resort blends into the lush coffee hills of India

Meet Maya Kaan: Mexico’s Newest Ecotourism Destination

June 3, 2019 by  
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Mexico’s newest ecotourism area highlights natural scenic beauty and Mayan cultural experiences for travelers looking to immerse themselves in eco-friendly, sustainable activities. Maya Ka’an is a large swathe of central Quintana Roo, a state on Mexico’s Caribbean. It includes the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and Zona Maya, the traditional Mayan heartland. Local tour operators run the area’s touristic activities, aiming to keep the money in the community. “Travelers know and love Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel and Riviera Maya. Now they can learn about another side of the Mexican Caribbean in Maya Ka’an,” said Dario Flota Ocampo, director of Quintana Roo Tourism Board. “Maya Ka’an’s sustainable , off-the-grid status creates unparalleled experiences for travelers seeking true cultural immersion.”  Related: Bee + Hive to help explorers book green hotels and sustainable tourism experiences Tourists familiar with the area have probably already visited Mayan ruins or dived into a cenote. The string of indigenous communities that make up Maya Ka’an offer activities for those who have been there, done that. For example, tourists can visit the Cave of the Hanging Serpents, where red and yellow rat snakes hang from the cave ceiling, waiting to snag bats in midair as they fly by. Travelers are also able to kayak the same lagoon Mayans once used as a commercial route. Bird watching, mountain biking and snorkeling are other active tour options. Visitors interested in wellness can participate in a healing ceremony in the city of Felipe Carrillo Puerto (population 25,744). Health -related experiences here include an interpretive trail lined with medicinal plants, massage, Mayan dance and music, and a trip to the very hot local sweat lodge called a Temazcal. Mayans have a long history of making chewing gum in chiclero camps. Travelers can learn about extracting chicle– the resin that makes gum chewable– from zapote and chicozapote trees . Other cultural and natural highlights include handmade rope demonstrations, stingless bees and the Caste War Museum– which documents 400 years of Mayan struggle against foreign attacks. +Quintana Roo Tourism Board Images via CIIC

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Meet Maya Kaan: Mexico’s Newest Ecotourism Destination

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

Tourism de force: Why sustainable travel is the future

October 8, 2018 by  
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The best of live interviews from GreenBiz events. This episode: Tourism industry execs discuss how to lower emissions from start to end of a trip.

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Tourism de force: Why sustainable travel is the future

‘Zoom-Zoom’: Mazda speeds towards 2030 electric future

October 8, 2018 by  
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Carmaker plans for 95 percent of its cars to be hybrid by 2030, with remaining 5 percent battery electric.

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‘Zoom-Zoom’: Mazda speeds towards 2030 electric future

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