Friday, March 4, 2011

Green Getaways

Vacation.  The sound of it makes you vision a place far away, with crystal blue waters, tropical landscape, relaxation, activities, and the excitement of the unknown.  I am sure we could all use a little more vacation in our lives.  Americans inundate themselves deelpy into their work and rarely take the time to rejuvenate...to get away from it all and clear our heads so we can come back and be more productive than before.  That's why vacations are so important.  At a young age I was fortunate enough to have learned and become the recipient of my dad's philosophy to take two vacations per year...one with kids and one without.  Probably one of the most inspiring pieces of advice he ever did and gave to me.  And we took them!  Whether it was camping, cruising, Disneyland, road trips, international travel, I took one vacation per year with my family.  And my parents took the other.  

Whether it's traveling abroad or a quick getaway, make the time to vacation and explore the world around you.  It can be somewhere exotic, local, mountains, beach, snow, luxury or on a budget, and it can also be eco-friendly.  There are all sorts of ways to travel "green", whether it is somewhere near or far.  Sustainable tavel is all the craze and it's important to know how these resorts and hotels practice sustainability and give back to their comunities. 

If you have run out of room to think about how to or where to, check out my Top 10 Eco-Friendly Getaways, and decide which one suits you.

1. The Harmony Hotel:  Costa Rica's is a haven for the ecoconscious world traveler. The hotel uses a greywater wetland system, which recirculates shower water to irrigate the hotel's supply of banana trees, and the pool employs a salt based chlorine-free purification system. The hotel's restaurant produces dishes from its on-site garden, uses "green" dishware made of coconuts and reclaimed marble and worm-based composting.

2.  Proximity Hotel:  North Carolina's Proximity Hotel is the first hotel in the United States to be awarded Platinum LEED certification. This green hotel employs 100 solar panels to power its showers, restaurant refrigeration equipment runs on geothermal energy and energy-efficient operable windows help to illuminate the hotel.

3.  Gaia Napa Valley:  The Gaia Napa Valley Hotel is the first hotel in the world to be Gold LEED certified. The hotel boasts Forest Stewardship Council certified lumber and a forty percent reduction of water use compared to other accommodations in the area. Also, be sure to check out the nearby host of California wineries from HuffPost Green's Top Ten Eco-friendly Wineries.

4.  Gyreum Eco-Lodge:  The Gyreum Eco-Lodge, Ireland's initial EU Eco-label certified eco-lodge, sleeps forty five visitors in its dorm-room style lodgings. The main building was made from scrap timber and the roof was constructed from sheep's wool and fiberglass from an abandoned mushroom farm. The lodge's water system is heated by wind power and its secondary energy supply comes from a geothermal heat pump. 

5.  Chumbe Island Coral Park:  Composed of seven eco-bungalows, Chumbe Island Coral Park is located on Zanzibar, an island off of Tanzania. The eco-bungalows use rainwater filtered from its roof collection system, photovoltaic panels for energy, and composting toilets, which provide the greenest in eco-accomodations. Chumbe's park rangers offer guided walks of the island's virgin coral rag forest and snorkeling expeditions of the Chumbe Reef Sanctuary. The hotel's chefs prepare food inspired by Zanzibarian, Arabic, African and Indian cuisine.

6.  Paradise Bay Eco-Lodge:  Paradise Bay offers a unique blend of eco and luxury set in a brilliant contrast of sun-soaked beaches, crystal clear water and pristine untouched wilderness full of friendly local wildlife.  It’s the ultimate in romantic, environmentally friendly island getaways – your own piece of Paradise in the Whitsundays. Enjoy lazy days exploring the Whitsundays on the resort’s private sailing and expedition boats, feast on gourmet meals with superb wines to match, , relax, leave the service to our friendly team and enjoy the peace and quiet of this tranquil and stunningly beautiful location. 

7.  Centro Ecologico Sian Ka'an:  The Centro Ecologico Sian Ka'an is an ecolover's paradise in Tulum, Mexico. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located near Tulum's Mayan Ruins. CESiaK's lodgings(raised tent cabins and hotel rooms) uphold green building standards and situate guests along Tulum's beach coastline. Proceeds from the hotel maintain CESiaK's initiatives such as sea turtle protection, endemic plant nursery conservation, alternative energy generators and education programs.

8.  El Nido Resorts:  Miniloc Island and Lagen Island are home to the Philippines El Nido Resorts in Palawan, some of the finest in eco-luxury.  Each resort is on it's own island where this all-inclusive getaway will wither away any stress of daily life.  Eco-conscious of thier pristine environment, El Nido Resorts have won numerous international awards for sustainability and eco-tourism.  

9.  Hotel Mizpe Hayamim:  Hotel Mizpe Hayamim, surrounded by the Sea of Galilee, is an upscale forerunner in eco-conscious tourism. The hotel runs its own organic vegetable farm, which supplies the hotel's restaurants. Additionally, the milk produced by the cows at Mizpe Hayamim's animal farm is used to make yogurts and cheeses, while the hotel's free range chickens provide a daily supply of eggs. The hotel also boasts a vegetarian restaurant in addition to its main restaurant.

10.  Jungle Bay Resort, Dominica:  Jungle Bay resort is the ultimate in relaxation.  The resort features thirty-five tastefully furnished tropical hardwood cottages elevated on wooden posts, nestled beneath the undisturbed jungle of Dominica. Cottages are spacious and feature wood furnishings all "designed and built" at the resort.  Jungle Bay's Mission is to enhance the natural environment and improve the livelihood of surrounding communities so that the region is improved in a sustainable way, while providing quality, comfortable nature-based experiences for our guests.

Friday, February 25, 2011

LA is the Emerald City

Photo courtesy of LivablePlaces.org

I love LA. I really do. It is the land of opportunity, dreamers, amazing weather, progression, beaches, healthy living, and just about anything goes opportunity. In what other city can you be snowboarding in the mountains and then surf the afternoon swell on the same day? I have met people from every race, creed, color, and religious background (or lack thereof). It's a bubble, for sure. But a bubble that has just about anything you could possbly dream of. Yeah, we have our drawbacks...traffic and smog. But hey, I would choose to live in LA over any other city in this country based on the eco aspects alone. Because of it's vast size, Los Angeles boasts some of the largest amount of open space in the country. Want a healthy meal? Macrobiotic, vegan, vegetarian, organic, and local, are all words used here on a more common than not basis. "I'll take an organic dark roast, vanilla soy latte with raw sugar, please," is my morning quote on those days when I need a pick me up before heading out into the vast sunshine. When it comes to green, I think LA has got it down.

So, what does this all mean? Well, according to the Brookings Institution, a prestigious Washington think tank, LA truly is the “Emerald City,” ranking greener than New York, more virtuous than Portland, Oregon and, yes, even better than socially conscious San Francisco. If you really want to know, here are "25 Green Facts about LA".


LA was the first city to require that city-owned buildings be built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) specifications — the internationally recognized standard for constructing environmentally friendly buildings — back in 2003. Mayor Villaraigosa recently committed $1.3 Million in grants to nonprofits and community organizations for energy efficiency outreach.

LA has the highest solid waste recycle rate of any large American city — 62%.

The Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC) is the largest solar-generating building in North America. The LACC also recently accepted its Gold Level certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB), awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

LA’s celebrity chefs are leading the charge for sustainable food and environmentally sustainable restaurant practices.

You can shop ‘til you drop for eco-friendly products in LA. From designer shoes made from tree sap to contemporary furniture crafted from recycled materials, green is the new black all over town.

Nearly 14% of all LA's energy comes from renewable resources, including solar and wind power. The city’s LA Solar plan, the largest of its kind in the nation, is slated to provide for 10% of all LA’s energy needs by 2020.

The city’s “Native Tree Ordinance” protects all Oak, Southern California Black Walnut, Western Sycamore and California Bay trees from harm.

LA boasts the single largest fuel cell power plant at any university in the world, at the California State University Northridge (CSUN) campus in the San Fernando Valley.

More influential green organizations have been founded in LA than in many cities, including TreePeople, Heal the Bay, American Oceans Campaign (now part of the global advocacy group Oceana) and the Wright Organic Resource Center.

Go green on wheels! Celebrities and others choose LA-based Ecolimo’s fleet of green limos and VIP vehicles, while Hertz’s “Green Collection” features rental hybrids.

Breathe easy. LA has a fleet of Hazmobile trucks and trailers devoted to picking up and disposing of hazardous waste.

LA was one of the first cities in the nation to establish curbside recycling back in 1989 and currently boasts the highest recycling rate of any large US city.

Green Glitz. As the world’s entertainment capital, LA’s celebrity galas spread the word of eco-responsibility around the globe. The Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, the Emmys, the Grammys, the MTV awards and even the Teen Choice Awards are all eco-savvy, using recycled materials, organic foods, solar-powered technology, Green Tag carbon-offsets and eco-chic gift bag goodies.

Do as I do. The LA Department of Water and Power (DWP) leads the nation in energy conservation by using solar power and recycling — and it encourages LA residents to do the same. The DWP picks up power-guzzling refrigerators free of charge and gives residents a refund; gives a $300 rebate to customers who install water-efficient washing machines, and offers financial incentives to homeowners and businesses to use solar power.

80% of LA City’s trash trucks and street sweepers run on natural gas, with the goal of getting to 100% by the end of this year.

The Port of Los Angeles is slashing in-port air pollution by half — well below EPA standards — with its five-year Clean Air Action Plan, meeting their 2011 goal, by replacing diesel-powered equipment with clean, natural gas and electric-powered equipment. Not content to stop there a revised program will lead to a 72 percent reduction in diesel particulate matter, along with 22 percent fewer smog-forming nitrogen oxides and a 93 percent decrease in sulfur oxides emitted by ship exhaust fumes by 2014.

Shady deals. LA is proactively moving to reduce the use of eco-harming residential air-conditioners with the One Million Trees LA program. 300,000 shade trees have already been planted throughout the city. “Trees for a Green LA” gives free shade trees to any resident who wants to plant them. More than 30 water-resistant species are available.

LA boasts the nation’s largest fleet of clean, green buses — 2,500 — all powered by compressed natural gas.

Metro LA’s modern subways and light rail lines are totally electric.

Waste not, want not. LA recycles more than 850 tons of restaurant food waste a month into compost that is sold to local farms and vineyards. More than 335 restaurants participate and dozens more join the program every month.

Water wisdom. Back in 1988, LA was one of the first cities to require low-flow toilets and showerheads, as well as water-efficient devices for landscaping in all residences prior to re-sale.

Airport clean. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Van Nuys Airport (VNY) use non-polluting green sources for up to 35% of their electrical power — they’ve been doing so for years. Bob Hope Airport (BUR) was one of the first to install electric charging units at all its airport gates in 2005 to encourage airlines to switch to non-polluting electric ground support equipment (eGSE). More than 70% of its eGSEs are clean. LA/Ontario International Airport (ONT) recycles paper and beverage containers and more than 50% of the airports’ GSEs are electric, hybrids or use natural gas.

Green greens. Only recycled water is used to irrigate LA’s numerous area golf courses and regional farming operations.

Ahead of its time. In 2004, LA passed Proposition O, a first-of-its-kind, $500 million local water quality bond measure, designed to keep LA in compliance with the Federal Clean Water Act.

The Smart Grid Demonstration Project provides $60M of federal matching funds for the development and demonstration of smart grid energy management solutions in LA. This five year project was awarded on a competitive basis and is the largest single award of its type in the country.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Green for the Academy Awards

Courtesy of GlobalGreen.org
While there's no denying their influence on popular culture and our collective conscience, Celebrities jet set lifestyles, big houses, and extravegant habits can rack up a pretty hefty carbon footprint- and we don't want to be planting trees to correct their irresponsible behaviors.  Well, thanks to non-profit organizations like Global Green USA, they bring celebrities together for events that benefit the planet, hopefully reducing the "celebrity style" carbon footprint.

With the 83rd Annual Academy Awards just four days away, tonight Global Green USA is hosting their 8th Annual Pre-Oscar Party, at Avalon in Hollywood.  Should be an exciting event as Hollywood's greenest celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Penelope Cruz, and Orlando Bloom, walk the carpet in their organic couture from designers like Stella McCartney and Edun, make their way inside to the VIP area filled with gift bags made up of eco-products and organic goods,  eat delectible organic hours d'oeuvres, and sip organic concoctions all night long, while listning to performances by Black Motorcycle Club and celeb DJ's spinning the night away.  And for a mere $55 per ticket, they have made it accessible for anyone who wants to get involved...I like to call it being "On The Green Scene"! 

Global Green is a non-profit organization that strives to fight global climate change by creating healthy homes, schools and communities.  This organization has their hands in many projects in the US, including helping to rebuild New Orleans, Haiti, and local schools and communities while educating them about being more sustainable.

Kudos to Global Green for making such an event possible, 8 years in a row!  Check out their website www.GlobalGreen.org to find out more information about becoming a member, events, and communities they are making greener ones.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Eco-Friendly Flights: Carbon Offsetting

Photo courtesy of Felipe Barrientos on Flikr.com.

For those of us enjoy traveling and for those of us who travel for work, flying seems to be an inevitable part of the trip.  Flying is one of the most effective means of travel, getting us across the US and anywhere in between, in about 6 hours or less.  It has made the dream of world travel accessible.  Flying can also be exciting...the beginning of a long awaited and planned vacation to some far off, exotic place where relaxation and bliss await.  Let's face it, flying has enabled us to see the world a lot faster than our ancestors, who toughed it out at sea.  But with all the perks that come with flying, i.e., status, upgrades, mileage...there is also a cost.  An environmental cost that many of us overlook or may not even realize...CO2 emissions, and a lot of them!

TerraPass.com, calculates that a typical non-stop one way flight from LAX to JFK on American Airlines emits 1,616 lbs of CO2 per person.  (To see how this is calculated, click here.)  If you calculate that times the 244 seats on a typical 767 plane, that comes out to 394,304 lbs CO2 being released on one flight, one way!  Think about how many flights take off each day at each airport around the country and world.  That is some serious carbon emission, polluting our air.

What can we do about counteracting those emissions that pollute the air?


What does THAT even mean?  Well, according to Wikipedia, a carbon offset is a reduction in emissions of carbon or green house gases made in order to compensate for or to offset an emission made elsewhere.  So basically, you can counter balance your carbon emissions through the purchase of a carbon credit or offset from specialized intermediary company (see below) who generates offsets by various means, such as planting trees or investing in renewable energy.

So how do you go about offsetting you carbon?
1.  Look for airlines that offer for you to offset your carbon as you purchase your ticket.  Continental Airlines and Qantas are two that I have found that offer that service.
2.  If they don't allow you to do it right away, check to see what programs each airline is involved in and learn how to donate that way.  Click here to find out more about Delta, American Airlines, and United's carbon neutral programs.
3.  If you need to calculate your carbon footprint for a flight, vehicle, or household, and contribute to one of the many environmental programs they fund like restoration, reforestation, or renewable energy, you can use sites like TerraPass.com or CarbonFund.org.
4.  Going on an eco-vacation?  Choose countries that are more "green" like Costa Rica, and check out Nature Air, the world's first certified carbon neutral airline.

If you are headed on a vacation or typical work travel day, why not try to make it as eco friendly as possible?  The non-stop flight we just calculated from LAX-JFK, would cost a small $11.90 to offset the carbon.  Think about how many trees you can plant or how your investment would help fund renewable energy projects.  Pretty cool!

The world is at our fingertips, thanks to flying.  Let's help reduce carbon emissions and green house gases by offsetting the pollutants we use to allow us to see the beauty of the world.  One small price to pay for experiences we have forever.  Be an eco friendly traveler and leave behind less footprints than what it took for you to get there.

Love this planet.  We've only got one.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Eco Friendly Dry Cleaning Bag! Green Garmento!

Photo courtesy of Green Garmento.

Dry cleaning can help keep that cashmere sweater in tact, not shrink your favorite jeans, help colors stay bright, and get out that greasy stain on your silk blouse from last night's dinner.  Yes, some clothes require us to have them dry cleaned, while others of us just don't like to do laundry.  So the dry cleaner is like your best friend.  Yes, we all have been to the dry cleaner and some more regularly than others.  Do you ever stop to really look at how much plastic dry cleaner's use?  A LOT!  More than you can probably imagine!  Think of how many dry cleaner's there are in your area, in your city,in your state, and in the country!  That's billions of plastic bags being used once around each garment we dry clean.  Seems like a big-ole waste to me.

Are these plastic bags really necessary and at what point do people decide that sheer convenience is not worth the environmental impact? Many have begun to carry cloth bags with them when they go grocery shopping, but not enough people have looked to their dry cleaner. Not only are those giant strips of plastic a suffocation risk for children and animals, but most people only use their bags to take the clothes home and then toss them out.

It is estimated that one dry cleaner uses more than 100,000 plastic bags per year!  I don't even think my brain can wrap around that number if you multiply that by every dry cleaner.  Insane!!

Photo courtesy of Green Garmento.

So...what can you do?  Bring your own garment bag!  Plain and simple.  Actually, my dry cleaner sells a garment bag called the Green Garmento. I had never heard of this before and one day when I walked in, voila!...there it was...in all it's lime green glory!  I wish I had thought of this!!!  This bag is not only a garment bag, but can serve as a laundry bag, and duffel.  They even have an official "GTL" bag you can get and be like "The Situation" from MTV's Jersey Shore.  And the price couldn't be more affordable at less than $10 (my dry cleaner sells two for $10).

In the end, it takes a tad more effort because the dry cleaner will actually have to match up the bag to the clothes and their customers will have to remember to bring the bag.  But this little extra effort can do a lot for our world!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Santa Monica Bans the Plastic Bag!

Attention Santa Monica Shoppers!

As of Tuesday, January 5th, Santa Monica becomes the eighth city in California to ban the single use plastic bag.  The Santa Monica City Council approved a ban of plastic bags in all retail outlets except for restaurants.  Retailers will still be able to sell paper bags priced at a dime or more.  So if you are going shopping in Santa Monica, plan on bringing your own bag!!  And although banned as well in grocery stores, for health purposes, people will still be able to get the rolled plastic bags used in the meat and produce sections.

This has been a long time coming and I am very happy to see this happen in a city that's part of Los Angeles County.  Two years ago, Santa Monica had considered such a ban but lawsuits from an industry group prevented it from happening.  Wonderul environmenta activist groups such as Heal the Bay, spearheaded the effort to curb widespread use of plastic bags.  This was a victory.
Photo Courtesy of Kate Ter Harr/flikr.

Many of you may ask...why the need for banning plastic bags?

Ever see plastic bags in trees?  On the beach?  In storm drains?  Plastic bags are mobile and they can be found EVERYWHERE in large cities...mainly on the sides of the roads and in storm drain areas.  The average American uses between 300 and 700 plastic bags per year, says Answers.com.  That's Crazy!!!  And we use these once!  Wake up people...stop using plastic bags!  There are so many alternatives now-a-days.  Almost any grocery store sells reusable bags (some which are made from recycled bottles) for about $.99 per bag.

Let's do our part and help reduce useless waste.  This should have passed years ago.  Let's relish in this victory and hope other cities see the benefits and follow in these footsteps!

Photo Courtesy of energy-green.net.
Photo Courtesy of inhabitat.com

Monday, January 31, 2011

Welcome to On The Green Scene!


What does that mean?  I mean really, what does it mean to be "green"?  When we hear "green," most of us think of something planetarily environmental...something in the forrests, the sky, the ocean, or the mountains.  We think of the ice caps melting, green house gases, ozone depleting and toxic landfills.  We basically think of things on a global level when we hear "green"...things that affect us, but not necessarily so close to home.

I would like for you for a moment to think of "green" as YOU, your environment.   I am not just talking about your living space or car, I am talking about your body, your health, your lifestyle and your mindset.
Just take it in for a moment and really think about it because it affects each and every one of us, every single day.  The most important thing about "green" is to know that it isn't something far off or out there and it's not just the air you breathe.  It's in everything you do and everything you are.  And being green starts right here, right now, in your immediate environment, your body.

There are so many factors that make your body or "environment" a greener one.  It is so interesting to me how different parts of this country view being environmentally conscious.  I travel a great deal for my work, and I have the wonderful opportunity to experience many cities in this country, and in the world, on a regular basis.  For some, being green is all about recycling...bottles, cans, and paper.  For others, green is a way of being and they incorporate it into many aspects of their life...food, exercise, health, beauty, shopping, clothing, and recycling.

There are many shades of "green" and it is so important to know which one you are.  There are little things that you could be doing every day to bring "green" into your life.  It doesn't have to be time consuming, or extreme.  It can be as easy as reusing a water bottle instead of buying a new one, or bringing your own bags to the grocery store.  Those little things can make a big difference to your life and those around you.

My tip for today...BUY A REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE!  Yeah, yeah, yeah…you say you know how damaging one-time use water bottles are to the environment, yet YOU STILL BUY THEM!!  Yeah…you!  We are all guilty of this one, but come on people, we just buy it because it’s convenient and the packaging is pretty.  There's a simple alternative to bottled water: buy a stainless steel thermos, or BPA free plastic reusable bottle, and use it. There are tons of options and colors for you to choose from.  Don't like the way your local tap water tastes? Inexpensive carbon filters will turn most tap water sparkling fresh at a fraction of bottled water's cost.  How cool would it be to buy your own water bottle that you can take around every day…like your new sidekick?

Let me give you some facts so you can think before you drink.  According to Reuseit.com…
  • ·      Americans will buy an estimated 25 billion single-serving, plastic water bottles this year. Eight out of 10 (22 billion) will end up in a landfill.
  • ·      1.5 million barrels of oil is used annually to produce plastic water bottles for America alone - enough to fuel some 100,000 U.S. cars for a year.
  • ·      Imagine a water bottle filled a quarter of the way up with oil. That's about how much oil was needed to produce the bottle.
  • ·      Like all plastic, these bottles will be with us forever since plastic does not biodegrade; rather, it breaks down into smaller and smaller toxic bits that contaminate our soil and waterways.
  • ·      Bottled water is big business.  It’s labeled the “Blue Gold” of our time.
  • ·      Along with plastic bags, plastic bottles are one of the most prevalent sources of pollution found on our beaches.  These bottles kill marine life because birds and fish mistake our trash for food.

For some reason, Americans have this obsession with water in a bottle, and in reality, many studies have shown that the quality of bottled water may be no better than that of your tap.  So let’s stop this insane addiction of buying and throwing bottles away!  Make a commitment to yourself to use less and refill more.  It’s a simple thing we can all do to help. 

Check out this new product!  Water Bobble!!  It is BPA free, Made in the USA (Woo hoo!), Recycled, and REUSABLE!  It kind of acts like a portable Brita.  Great for people on the go.  It has its own filter so you can fill it up with water anywhere, and it is cleaned out before it hits your mouth!  You can even replace it with new filters.  Check it out at http://www.waterbobble.com/.  Also available to buy at Target.  

Bottom’s up!
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