October 11, 2011 |
by Beth Buczynski
Last week I utilized Airbnb for the first time ever. Since many people I talk to still haven’t heard of this unique travel-sharing service, I wanted to post a little summary of what it was like to come home to a house and family instead of an empty hotel room.
This past week was the first-ever SxSW Eco conference in Austin, Texas. Featuring some of the coolest green companies and brightest minds in the environmental and collaborative consumption space, I knew I had to be there. Only problem was the recommended hotel was over $120 a night. Not possible for this freelance writer.
So I decided to put my money where my mouth is, and book lodging on Airbnb instead. (For those who aren’t familiar, Airbnb is a peer-to-peer travel service that allows people to list their spare apartments, vacation homes, and guest bedrooms at reasonable prices for budget-conscious travelers looking for a more personable experience).
After browsing lots of listings in the Austin area, I finally settled upon an East Austin Artists Home listed by Andrea and Lance. I appreciated that the listing included lots of pictures, both of the inside and outside of the home, so that I had a good idea of what I would find. As you can see above, these pictures were vetted by Airbnb, so I knew they really represented the home. Not everyone on Airbnb does this. I also like that this listing had over 50 positive reviews and 3 references from previous guests. This boosted my confidence that Lance and Andrea would be good hosts and my stay wouldn’t be awkward.
We exchanged a few emails once my reservation was accepted, and Lance even offered to pick me up from the airport and drop me off downtown for the first day of the conference. When’s the last time your hotel did that for free?!
Upon arrival at the house, I got a complete tour, was informed of the house rules (aka where you could and couldn’t smoke, how to use the alarm system, and what food was free to eat), got some tips about using public transit, and got to meet the awesome pets, Duke the dog and Chelsea the very-talkative cat.
Other than that, I was free to come and go as I pleased. The first night, the conference ended early, so I got to enjoy some drinks and conversation with my hosts on their lovely back porch. The second and third nights, I came home later, so I didn’t see them. On the day of check out, my flight wasn’t scheduled until around 5 p.m. But unlike a hotel, which would have kicked me out at 10 am, I got to hang out at the house until Lance gave me a ride to the airport.
Besides the amazing monetary savings and transportation assistance, booking with Airbnb introduced me to an awesome couple living in East Austin! I got to learn about what it’s really like to live in Austin, where all the great eating and drinking spots are, and an invitation to stay again any time I’m passing through.Reprinted with permission from Insteading
by Kristy Hessman
Budget Travel has named its 10 Coolest Small Towns in America 2011 – towns that are “short on people,” with populations under 10,000, “but long on personality.” Because these towns are so small, most are not widely known, but EarthTechling readers will recognize one name on the list.
Greensburg, Kan., comes in 10th on the Budget Travel list, with the magazine touting the town’s many eco-friendly characteristics, including wind turbines that produce 100 percent its power, as well as LED streetlamps. How did a town of 777 in the middle of the country become so green? As we reported earlier this year, Greensburg ironically owes its sustainable character to a twister that blew through in May 2007 and destroyed most of its infrastructure, homes and buildings. City officials decided to rebuild the ecofriendliest town ever. They’ve done a good job. All but one of the buildings in town is LEED-Platinum certified. That one building is LEED Silver certified.
Throughout the town, visitors will also see other green building signs, such as solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling systems and windmills to bring water out of the ground. Greensburg residents say the ”green” change of heart is no mere fad; it’s a way to get back in touch with many of the ways the pioneers before them made a living in harsh prairie conditions.
One resident was quoted in the Budget Travel story as saying, “These are the same tennents used in pioneer days – south-facing windows in chicken coops to increase sunlight, reusing everything like Mennonites do.” The Budget Travel piece also mentions local green busnesses that visitors might want to check out, including Green Bean Coffee Co. and Silo-Eco Home B&B.Reprinted with permission from EarthTechling
Recently there has been a significant amount of buzz circulating about eco-tourism and, more specifically, about agritourism. This buzz coincides with the renewed interest in farmers markets and consumers who are interested in once again becoming closer to their food. With outbreaks of E. Coli and Salmonella, who doesn’t want to know more about where their food comes from? Another reason – It’s just plain fun.
What is Agritourism?
The term agritourism can include a variety of activities – anything from a week volunteer farm stay, to picking pumpkins, to an afternoon tour of a farm operation. Any version gives the consumer an opportunity to see the side of a farm that would not normally be open to the public, to learn more about the source of their food, and to ask whatever questions happen to come to mind. For a short period, you get to experience the beauty of rural life, usually without most or any of the work. Many tours even include tastings of wine, cheese, meats, and other loveliness that is sourced on the farm or in the local area. At the end of the tours, customers can often purchase the goodies they sampled in order to take a piece of the experience home with them and further support the farmers and farms they visited.
From a farmer’s perspective, it is an excellent chance to build a relationship with customers, and to show off their farm, and their wares. Additionally, it diversifies income by offering a new source (tourism) that may not have been previously available. Liability concerns aside, it seems like a clear win/win for all parties.
One of the latest and the most popular agritourism events on the farm is “farm-to-table” dinners. Imagine having the opportunity to participate in an on-the-farm dinner where you are served the foods that were harvested and cooked on the same day. You start with appetizers upon arrival often outside. The view is beautiful – you can look out over a field, or over a productive garden. After mingling, the farmer will introduce him/herself to the group and guide everyone around for a tour of the farm. He or she will tell the story of their farm and what they do. You have the opportunity meet the animals, maybe bottle feed one or two, and ask any questions you may have. After the walk, you are taken to a table where you sit down to enjoy a five course meal. Most ingredients are local and there is discussion of each item as it arrives. The tour ends with a fantastic dessert and coffee as darkness sets in.
Sounds heavenly? It absolutely is. Very similar experiences are happening all over the country as more and more farmers begin opening their farms for agritourism events.
Where to find Agritourism?
North Carolina is lucky enough to have two fantastic organizations who organize farm tours and other agritourism events several times a year. The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association and the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project have both done much to market farms and farmers state wide. Not only do they hold farm tours where consumers can visit multiple farms over a two day period, they also publish local food guides, and publicize on-farm dinners. If you’re in North Carolina, you can check their web sites, or keep up with them on Facebook.
Check with your local extension office for information about agritourism and local organizations that support farms. Summer is the time – support local food and plan your farm visits now.
This post is written by a guest writer, Julia Gold, a co-owner of Belle Terre, a natural personal care product company. Both Julia and her husband Wayne are passionate about sustainable and purposeful living. When not working, they tend their bees, keep a small garden, and love their four dogs.
Reprinted with permission from Green Living Ideas
New York City has more miles of waterfront than Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, and Portland, Oregon, combined–but for decades, New Yorkers have been cut off from their city’s heritage as one of the world’s ”premier waterfront cities“ according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He and the New York City Council aim to change all that by increasing access to the water with more parks, esplanades and water-borne transportation, recreation, maritime activity and natural habitats.
Towards that end, NYC is moving forward with two components of its overall waterfront plan. The first is a three-year action agenda comprised of 130 funded projects–including the development of more than 50 acres of new waterfront parks, creation of 14 new waterfront esplanades and introduction of new commuter ferry service–and the Vision 2020: New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, a framework for the City’s 520 miles of shoreline for the next decade and beyond.
This plan was developed via a year-long public process that engaged New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs, yielding recommendations for every stretch of New York City’s waterfront, as well as for the waterways themselves. Accompanied by maps, charts and illustrations, the 190-page waterfront plan–led by the Department of City Planning–presents specific strategies for improvements for each of the City’s 22 reaches of shoreline bordering rivers, the Atlantic Ocean, inlets and bays, as well as active port areas, residential neighborhoods, wetlands and public open space.
“The greatness of New York City grew directly from our connection to our water,” said New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, in a statement. “But at some point in our history, we both literally and figuratively turned our back on the waterfront. Now we’ve made a decision to more fully embrace the waterfront, in a way that’s both thoughtful and strategic.” She goes on to note that the plan doesn’t just include recreation and open space, but also focuses on transportation and sustainability, as well as ideas to help preserve and grow the 13,000 maritime jobs in the five boroughs.
Photo by Alexis Lamster/flickr/Creative Commons
Reprinted with permission from EarthTechling
Fifty years ago, just after the election of President John F. Kennedy, Cape Cod brothers Dick and Bob Scudder teamed up with a business associate of their father's to buy a circa 1911 150-foot passenger boat to ferry people to the nearby Kennedy Compound in Hyannisport, Massachusetts, so they might be able to catch a glimpse of Camelot in action. And while what has now become a 350-employee, multi-purpose ferry company linking Cape Cod and the Islands, Hy-Line Cruises likely wasn't always in good graces with the Kennedys. And just as some members of the Kennedy clan likely didn't appreciate Taylor and the Scudder brothers' little paparazzi ferry tours then, it is ironic, to say the least, that the Hy-Line Cruises project is a partnership with Cape wind to ferry residents and tourists out to the nation's first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind, a project the late Senator Edward Kennedy and his nephew Robert F. Kennedy Jr. both opposed.
Throughout the tumultuous ten-year battle over Cape Wind, opponents argued time and again that the project would not only destroy the fishing industry that operates in Nantucket Sound (to say nothing of the ecologically-devastating trawler-fishing operations most of these boats run), they maintained that the very presence of "industrial power plants" 7 miles from the coast of will destroy the economically vital tourism industry on Cape Cod.
On Monday, officials from Cape Wind and Hy-Line Cruises announced a partnership based on the premise that not only will the wind farm not threaten the local tourism-based economy, it will actually be a boon to it.
Starting this season, Hy-Line plans to augment its popular high-speed ferry services between Hyannis, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket with guided tours of the Cape Wind farm, both during construction and after completion.
"For the past year, Hy-Line has looked at the growth and potential of the eco-tour cruise industry when operated in conjunction with the development of off-shore wind farms in Europe," said David Scudder, Vice President of Operations at Hy-Line Cruises at a Monday press conference. "We found that eco-tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry globally," Scudder said.
But Hy-Line hasn't always been sailing under the Cape Wind flag. In fact, the ferry operator had been a stalwart of the opposition camp since the project was first proposed in 2001, arguing that its construction would be "courting a maritime disaster." On Monday, however, Scudder and Hy-Line had clearly staked out new territory, saying that Cape Wind had sufficiently addressed the company's concerns over navigational obstacles presented by the wind farm.
But the Cape's other major ferry operator isn't so sure. Officials from the the Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority told South Coast Today that Cape Wind and the Coast Guard still haven't detailed the mitigation efforts that would address their concerns.
"The Coast Guard has said in the past that they have a lot of tools in their tool box," General Manager of the Steamship Authority Wayne Lamson said. "They didn't specify what those were."
Cape Wind President Jim Gordon said, "The Cape Wind Eco Tour and Visitor's Center at Hy-Line Cruises represents more than creating a world class tourism attraction and drawing visitors from around our region, nation and globe. It will stand as a testament to the spirit, ingenuity and progressiveness of Cape Cod and Massachusetts and how our community harnessed the wind to protect and preserve our environment, to revitalize our economy and to create a healthier more secure future."
Hyline officials said the new enterprise could add up to 100 new jobs at the outset and perhaps hundreds more if things go well.
In addition to employing a team of interpreters who will explore issues of energy, the environment and the political battle to build an offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound from the decks of a Hy-Line vessel, the plan also calls for a Visitor Center, that will both serve as an educational portal for visitors to learn about local culture's experience with energy and also serve as a platform to develop a curriculum of credit and non-credit courses for students at Cape Cod Community College.
"Specific emphasis will be placed on the history of energy of Cape Cod and the Islands ranging from historic windmills on the Cape to whale oil on Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, to fossil fuels, and the transition to a clean energy economy," Hy-Line's Scudder said.
Scudder said Hy-Line is committed to developing a green vessel to be used for the ecotours and they are exploring the purchase of a hybrid engine vessel made by a Massachusetts company.
Reprinted with permission from Earth & Industry
There will come a day when an electric vehicle (EV) charging station going in anywhere – save, perhaps, the moon or Mars – won’t be news. But we’re not there yet. EV infrastructure is still in its infancy, so we bring you word now that a company called EV-Charge America has announced installation of charging stations at the the Flamingo Las Vegas.
What’s interesting here is that this charging station is outside Ecotality’s EV Project and Coulomb’s ChargePoint America programs, which are getting federal government backing. Not only that, the company that did the Vegas station isn’t one of the other big charging-station players we’ve been hearing about, like AeroVironment (which has a deal with Nissan to provide Leaf buyers with charging stations) or Leviton (which will offer stations to Ford Focus Electric buyers).
EV-Charge America is based in Las Vegas. The company said the Level 2 chargers installed at the Flamingo are the first such devices to be “produced in any great quantity in the United States.”t also said it anticipates “strong demand for Southern California EV driving visitors in the near future,” which isn’t out of the question but does make you wonder if they plan to install charging stations in Barstow as well.
The company noted also that its system “allows for users to establish a wireless-LAN account which translates to seamless billing and even parking-meter management.” This roughly means it will be much easier to take your credit card information and charge up your EV while you wear down your banking account gambling at the slots.
Reprinted with permission from EarthTechling
What’s big, green, and gold, and headed for auction in Aspen, Colorado? Vision House Aspen, Aspen’s first Gold LEED- certified home, billed as pairing “environmentally friendly features with luxury mountain living,” slated for sale at a live, on-site auction on January 28, 2011.
This 6,750 square foot luxury home, offered by Concierge Auctions, was originally listed at $13,975,000. Apparently, there were no takers at that price, so the sale has been opened up to the general public, with no minimum bid to participate. The auction will be conducted in cooperation with the home’s listing agent, Wendy Lucas of Wendy Lucas Aspen, who said, in a statement, “Vision House is not only breathtaking in design, but it’s also arguably the most eco-friendly residence in Aspen.” She also noted that her sellers are among the most motivated sellers in Aspen, and have committed to finding new owners for the home on auction day.
Green features of the home, located at 101 Byers Court, include native rock from the Telluride Stone Company and earthen plaster by American Clay, spray-in foam insulation, geothermal heating and cooling, flyash concrete mix, below grade insulation, rigid insulation, Low-E windows, reclaimed beetle-killed wood siding, and solar hot water panels.
Vision House Aspen sits on 2.33 acres in the W/J Subdivision on McLain Flats, with 360-degree views of Aspen Mountain, Snowmass Mountain, Capitol Peak, Mt. Daly, and the Upper Roaring Fork Valley, and sits adjacent to hundreds of acres of dedicated open pasture lands. It contains six bedrooms, six full bathrooms and one “powder bath.” More information is available online.
Reprinted with permission from EarthTechling
Earlier this month the fisheries minister of Belize announced that all forms of trawling will be banned in Belize effective December 31, 2010.
Oceana, especially Oceana’s vice president for Belize, Audrey Matura-Shepherd, led the push to get bottom trawling banned, opening an office in Belize to tackle this matter last year. Additionally, UNESCO has been putting a lot of pressure on the country to change fishing practices there. It threatened to take the Belize Barrier Reef System off its World Heritage Site list.
“Our team is working with Prime Minister Dean Barrow and the Northern Fishermen Cooperative to protect the country’s reefs, marine inhabitants and heritage,” Oceana wrote in an email to me. “With this decision, Oceana has been responsible for the protection of 1.4 million square miles of sea floor globally from trawling.”
What is Bottom Trawling?
If you’re not familiar with it, bottom trawling is a horrible fishing practice. “Trawling can be compared to deforestation,” Oceana writes. “It’s a destructive fishing practice where weighted nets are drug across the seafloor, destroying everything in their path – turning vibrant seafloor ecosystems to rubble in an instant and leaving baby fish with nowhere to call home.”
Why is a Bottom Trawling Ban in Belize So Important?
Yeah, Belize isn’t exactly a world economic power, but this ban is significant for a few reasons. The Belizian reef system is the largest in the Western Hemisphere and the 2nd-largest in the world. As mentioned above, it is on the U.N.’s list of World Heritage Sites.
Additionally, Belize is now one of the first countries in the world to issue a complete ban on trawling.
A big congratulations and thank you to Oceana and the legislators in Belize who have made this happen. Hopefully, more countries will get on board soon.
For more info on bottom trawling in Belize and its environmental impacts, check out Oceana’s report: Impacts of Bottom Trawling in Belize.
Reprinted with permission from Ecolocalizer
The Pasadena Central Library is a classic, with its expansive hall, wood-paneling, tall book cases and long desks – and beautiful old pendant lighting fixtures hanging high above. There was a problem with the lights in those fixtures, however: they were energy-inefficient, really inefficient, burning at an extraordinary 900 watts apiece.
That’s now been fixed. In a press release, the LED light designer and manufacturer LEDtronics details how it gave the historic library a lighting makeover and trimmed its power use dramatically. According to the company, the city was able to save 788 watts with each of 30 reworked pendant fixtures by switching from metal-halide lighting to LEDs. On an annual basis, that reportedly adds up to around 50,000 kilowatt hours of power.
There’s a real money return with that level of power savings, but the library comes out ahead in other ways as well. With the old lights, it had to regularly schedule workers to replace the bulbs in the hard-to-reach suspended fixtures. That bother – and expense – is now virtually eliminated. In addition, the old lights were big heat producers, driving up summertime air-conditioning costs.
Lastly – but perhaps most importantly – it’s now “much brighter, and our customers are really enjoying it,” a library spokeswoman told the Pasadena Star. About the only thing left to find out is whether movie producers, who have frequently used the historic library for film shoots, are keen on the new energy-efficient lighting.
Reprinted with permission from EarthTechling
One of the busiest border crossings in the U.S. will soon welcome visitors with a stroll through a new wastewater treatment plant. That sounds a bit, well, unfriendly, but there’s a twist. The “treatment plant” will be disguised as a beautifully landscaped, man-made wetland environment that purifies wastewater through natural processes. Visitors using the Otay Mesa Land Port of Entry in California will amble to the U.S. through the wetlands on a curved, meandering pedestrian walkway. It’s still sewage, but it sure sounds a lot more pleasant than a TSA pat-down!
The Living Machine Constructed Wetlands
The new treatment plant/wetlands is called Living Machine, produced by the company Worrell Water Technologies. The concept is based on the decomposition that takes place in tidal wetlands, in which two kinds of bacteria digest organic matter. These are anaerobic bacteria, which thrive in the absence of oxygen, and aerobic bacteria. The man-made Living Machine wetland is designed to maximize the efficiency of these processes within the smallest possible space. Though the resulting water is not suitable for drinking or cooking, it has a wide variety of other uses including recharging aquifers, irrigation, toilet flushing, cleaning, filling fountains and ornamental ponds, and various industrial uses. The Living Machine at Otay Mesa will be capable of treating up to 1,500 gallons of high-strength “black water” (from toilets) and “gray water” (from sinks).
A New Direction for Wastewater Treatment
Constructed wetlands like the Living Machine obviously cannot be applied to every situation. For example, they would be difficult to site within cities and other congested areas, although mini-wetlands using cattails are one possibility. Where sufficient land is available, constructed wetlands are becoming a mainstream means of treating and recycling wastewater, as evidenced by the fact that at least one very fancy private golf club has begun to irrigate its grounds with reclaimed wastewater. Constructed wetlands also play a key role in the U.S. EPA’s green remediation strategies, which are designed to reduce the carbon footprint involved in cleaning up Superfund and brownfield sites.
Reprinted with permission from Cleantechnica