Archive for the ‘Lifestyle’ Category

Northstar’s New Zephyr Lodge Shoots For LEED

Monday, December 26th, 2011

zephyr ski lodgeIt’s been a dry winter in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and that must mean that Mother Nature must be telling us something. She’s telling us to go sustainable or no more snow. Maybe that’s an exaggeration but some resorts have begun to get the message. Some resorts (like Northstar) have built new projects with LEED certification standards.

We got a chance to check out Northstar’s newly opened Zephyr Lodge. The warmly designed building is shooting for LEED certification which takes a snowshoe step in the right direction.

We couldn’t help but notice the wood paneled interior and exterior which not only gives the lodge a cozy feeling but it does so in a sustainable way using reclaimed barn wood and tin from Montana.

The interior receives a notable amount of natural light from the large window wall that faces the mountains. To us, that design is a no brainer with a great view and tons of natural light.

Speaking of light, the lodge also offers high tech programming in the building so that lights only turn on when a lack of ambient light exists.

The bathrooms offer the ubiquitous low flow toilets and we love the high powered hand dryers. We just have to question why they have paper towel dispensers next to the hand dryers.

We sampled some of the tasty cuisine which supposedly offers a significant amount of either organic or locally sourced ingredients. We haven’t verified the menu ingredients yet. Stick around as we post more about the sustainable slopes in the Lake Tahoe region.

First LEED Platinum Hotel in California

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

olive oil press sculptureWhile most people venture to Napa valley looking for the ultimate Zin or even the latest trendy eatery, others (like those who arrive in Teslas) like to plug in at the region’s Greenest spots. Although dubbed by many as the in new in, chic, trendy inn, the sustainably designed Bardessono (named for environmentally conscious Italian family who still own the land) might be better described as a way for travelers to get their eco-solace on.

The first and currently only LEED-Platinum hotel in California, the Bardessono will give overnight guests the opportunity to truly appreciate the reuse and repurposing of almost every substance rather than just the Green classification acronym. That reuse extends not only to creative use of building and structural materials but also the creative aesthetic touches like the reused Corona bottle glass that outlines the bathroom mirrors.

Although Green and minimalist, the Bardessono offers nods to its Italian roots and well as Zen like touches. Thoughtfully placed within view of several rooms, the olive oil press sculpture offers meditation inducing water (reused) flow to represent olive oil. Not only does the piece offer a pleasing sight and sounds but the fact that the entire piece comes via salvaged items like the stone that used to be part of an 100 year old olive oil press makes it even more attractive.

The fact that Bardessono considers water such an important aspect not only with the various Zen like pieces but the fact that they value the H2O as a precious resource. In addition to the ubiquitous low flow water fixtures and toilets for the indoors, the outdoors contains landscaping designed with native and drought tolerant plants as well as a drip irrigation system. Even the grey and black water gets a second life as irrigation by the town of Yountville.

For us super Greenies who felt somewhat guilty about relaxing in the indoor whirlpool bath or the rooftop based outdoor hot tub and pool, we felt somewhat better knowing that the both solar and geothermal wells go toward heating both the hot tubs and pool. Even the room tubs contain a self-sanitizing feature so chemicals don’t have to be used to clean to fight mildew.

Although many hipsters consider this boutique hotel a new, hip, minimalist trendy overnight option, many guests don’t realize how much sustainable creativity went towards the design. Although some eco-travelers do make a special trip to the Bardessono (like the many electric car owners who know that they can recharge their car or we who arrived in a Prius) many don’t fully appreciate the full environmental thought and how hotels like this one will raise not only the Green building bar but also everyone’s consciousness.

Those Green values and education will help anyone get good night sleep.

6th Gorgeous & Green Gala: Green Meets Mad Men

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

model 6th green and grougeousEven before Gorgeous & Green co-chairs Nadine Weil and Zem Joaquin gave a shout out to the Green crowd to “enjoy yourselves and drink more organic cocktails” which many of green minions so obliged, we had a chance to leisurely sip some organic wine and meet interesting people behind the scenes.

Sure the front scenes of the hemp strolling, sauntering, strutting (how do eco models walk?) down the cat walk at the W Hotel in San Francisco for the 6th  Gorgeous & Green gala draw the most attention and why shouldn’t it? But behind the scenes, we met many people involved with Green causes who looked a whole lot less glamorous but still looked sexy green for what they believed in. Throughout the night, we encountered a Rode “Model” for the Environment, an EcoJew, and a Green Urbanism Program Director for Green Global among others.

At a energetic event like this, it is easy to lost in all of the models and cocktails but most of the people in the background, whether it is the volunteers or the VIPs have a passion for making the world a wee bit more Green and educating the masses about the right thing to do.

The night had this Mad Men theme with many women wearing second hard 60’s style dresses (reuse) and guys wearing skinny Don Draper style ties (reuse again) but the main message that we took away had to do more with Green urbanism rather than Madison Avenue chauvinism.

Green Grand Canyon Part 2 – Phantom Ranch

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

grand cnayon zen shotWhile at the Miswak lodge the director of sustainability mentioned that the average visitor spends something like 17 minutes at the Grand Canyon which represents a longer period than the time Clark Griswold spends looking at the Canyon in the film “Vacation” but still a somewhat ridiculous amount of time.

A group of us (10 total) headed down the less traveled Kaibab Trail without much traffic. Those who we did run into only planned on heading down a mile or so. Que lastima for them. They would miss the wildlife that we spotted (deer, ring-tailed cats, bats), as well a magnificent Canyon highlights. A fast 5-6 hours later, most of the group tumbled into our 10-person cabin at the Phantom Ranch.

Although we could never get a straight explanation of the origin of the name, we did appreciate the various elements that the ranch did to make things more environmentally friendly. Not just the recycling and energy waste prevention but the educational evening discussions including one about the bats and their delicate balance with the environment and their misunderstanding with most of the human world.

Although striving to create a more sustainable environment, the fact that Phantom Ranch bathrooms contained these Rain Flurries caused some consternation. One of hikers – a green thinking attorney (yes, they do exist) mentioned looked that these showerheads looked like giant sunflowers. Although we enjoyed free flowing warm water after a pair of lengthy day hikes (we will get to that soon) these showerheads certainly don’t tow the party line as far as water conservation. We can’t imagine how much water they use or why they even exist in the shower rooms where the ranch continues to make green strides.

Speaking of strides, some of the better hikes to consider include the Clear Creek Trail, which for a 3/4 mile hike from the junction offers killer views directly down onto Phantom Ranch and the Bright Angel Creek drainage. However, keep the momentum going a few miles further to another overlook, which offers views of both the Black Bridge of the South Kaibab Trail and the Silver Bridge of the Bright Angel Trail along with a long stretch of the Colorado River and the Inner Gorge. Some of the rock formations (especially around sunrise or sunset) not only make for super photos but offer near moments of Zen, something that we all seek on our eco-trips.

A Green Look at the Grand Canyon

Monday, November 15th, 2010
Miwak lodge

Maswik lodge

From Costa Rica to Alaska and many places in between, travelers like us often see eco-lodges proudly displaying advertising claiming how “eco friendlily” or “green” the lodge is. Oftentimes, the “eco-lodge” claim has more to do with the location in a rain forest, in or near a state park. Some places might be better tagged Greenwashing lodge. That doesn’t mean that lodges located in national park areas can’t be considered eco-friendly or even (gasp) sustainable minded.

Take some of the lodges that sit right on the ledge (or close to it) of the Grand Canyon. Anyone would be hard pressed to find any excess PR expressing how Green the Maswik or Bright Angel lodges are. The Xanterra lodges have been on the Green bandwagon for about 10 years (and that includes the Grand Canyon Railway that during certain dates runs on cooking grease from their own used cooking oil.)

Good thing they act proactively with their resources because Arizona seems be in drought denial. Eventually, the state will run out of fresh water and if the hotels (especially the ones in Phoenix) don’t do something about it then the state will be something like dust in the wind.

Water, more than any other resource, remains a top concern for the Grand Canyon hotels.
At the Maswik and Bright Angel lodges, the guest and public bathrooms offer numerous water savings features like low flow showerheads, low flow and hooray waterless toilets. Get over the waterless urinals guys.

In the Canyon, people don’t realize that 40% of the park’s energy use comes as a result of moving water. Not drinking it, just moving it.

Beyond the H2O, one of the big challenges comes about because the historical buildings have certain limitations and restrictions so it isn’t like they can just place a water catchment system (or even solar panels) on the lodges.

They focus on small creative things with significant environmental impact but low visibility impact. The Bright Angle lodge recently installed recycled carpet in their dining room, which counts as only a small aspect to their attempt for LEED Gold certification. Even those small shampoo bottles, normally taboo in an eco lodge, come in Plastarch bottles, made from a corn based, biodegradable material.

For those who don’t get enough environmental reading, feel free to check out a copy of the company sustainability report that resides in each room. It contains successes and failures but at least they continue to be transparent.

Next week – we go down the trails and into Phantom Ranch.

Green Festival 2010 – San Francisco

Monday, November 8th, 2010

healthy home furnitureAlthough many great speakers informed, educated and inspired the well attended Green Festival in SF, a couple of us circulated among the vendor booths to check out the newest and greatest and not so greatest products.

Although not having a full opportunity to do our due diligence we did pepper some of the vendors with various questions about their products.

The Solar Lite caught our attention with the their hanging displays of flashlights (and the solar lantern). The light puts out a nifty 40 lumens which would come in handy for camping trips and the fact that it can hold a charge for three years makes it earthquake preparedness friendly. It would be great if the flashlight itself were made of something greener than plastic but the fact that it saves people from chucking batteries into the landfill makes it shine.

We only mention Bright Earth foods because the owner (more like a an alchemist) acted to passionately about his sustainability produced Noni and other superfoods that we have to give out props. After doing the Noni shot we did feel happier knowing that all Noni drinks are not created equal.

At the far end of the exhibits, we ran into (almost literally) the Green Bike Effect bikes. These folding and electric bikes recently came on the market from Alameda. One of us jumped on the bike which offered a quick giddyap and can reach speeds of near 20 mph. Unlike mopeds, these don’t cause CO2 emissions and cause less noise pollution as well. Although we would prefer if the bike itself weren’t made in China or if some of the bike components or even the saddle came from repurposed material, it still may encourage people to do the electric commute.

We definitely aren’t interior designers but we couldn’t help but stop and sit in the Exotic Green Furniture, which we talked with owner James Michaels. To be sure, he gets excited about his formaldehyde free furniture and the fact that much of the furniture utilizes other materials so it fits in with some of the cradle-to-cradle mentality. Some of his tables come from dormant coconut trees, which is a story in itself, and we will hit on that topic in a future post.

Tour de Fat – Beer and Bikes in San Francisco

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
Tour de Fat San Francisco 2010

Tour de Fat San Francisco 2010

Wanted to post for Eco Monday but had too much beer and biking over the recent weekend for us to stick to our schedule. Fortunately, the Tour de Fat stuck to its (or is it their) schedule.

In all honesty, a few of us made but we completely missed the festive ride but we did make it in time to celebrate the beer and bike happenings in Golden Gate Park. Let it be known that happiness reined not just because Mother Nature cooperated with a balmy 85 degrees and the cold New Belgium beer poured freely but because the stages where Mucca Pazza (like the Stanford marching band on acid or steroids) and other performed came via solar energy. The festival pretty much marks on off the grid show which makes the merriment even more merry.

On this day, bikes ruled. It might have seemed odd for some to see a young lady go up on stage an sign way the pink slip to her Toyota Corolla for for a spanking new bike courtesy of New Belgium. Some may think that isn’t a fair trade when the lady mentioned how she only drove her car in order to avoid parking tickets, we think that she may have gotten the better end of the deal.

If more festivals had this smarts to play off the grid and promoting sustainable transportation then we would all be happy to purchase just one more beer.

Photo courtesy SFbike

Small Vines Wines – High Denisty and Sustainable Wine Thinking

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010
Small Vines Wines vineyard

Small Vines Wines vineyard

We took a few days off to hit the wine country, no not Napa or Sonoma but rather the Russian River Valley. Keeping with our true nature, we explored and tasted our way through some of the more progressive thinking sustainable wineries in the region. We’ll start small and work our way up.

Small would mean Small Vines Wines. Like most others in the region vigneron Paul Sloan creates Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Small Vines grows on several small acre plots situated in Sebastopol and the vineyard that we visited takes up only about an acre but Sloan makes the most of his space. They use high density planting which seems to make sense but not many wineries use. Like high density Green building, doesn’t it seem logical to grow more grapes on less land? Why doesn’t everyone use this traditional technique used successfully for ages in Burgundy France? Because high density does not equal tractors, so mechanization doesn’t fit in the density style, thus the method (often like organic growing or biodynamic growing) remains labor intensive and more costly.

The high-density grapes need less compost because more nutrients can be found in the roots. More nutrients and less compost don’t just equal more sustainability but better wine quality as well. We sipped some pinot noir and chardonnay to be sure while Sloan mentioned how he views wine as a living entity and as an expression of place.

Unlike many wineries, we completely get how Sloan considers the whole picture when producing wines. Small Vines only produces a limited number of cases each year because if the operation gets too large Sloan said, “You lose your ability to be in tune with the whole system.” People often don’t understand or often abuse the term “sustainability” but considering the whole picture and caring about the Earth can’t be too far from what the meaning truly represents.

Photo by Valerie Summers

Carnaval 2010 San Francisco – Sexy for Sure But It Could be More Green

Monday, May 31st, 2010
Carnival San Francisco - Green Section

Carnival San Francisco - Green Section

Carnaval here in San Francisco may not be as sexy, rambunctious or famous as its counterparts that take place in Rio or New Orleans but that doesn’t mean that the 2-day event doesn’t mean that the crowds don’t enjoy the fun, sun (the weather actually cooperated with glorious 80 degree SF weather) music and sexy costumes.

With all of the things going for Carnaval why can’t there be some added consideration given to making the event more Green. We did spy a plethora of compost and recycling canisters and the beer areas did utilize the non-plastic cups.  The event did have a small cluster of vendors dedicated to products or services at least slightly aligned with being somewhat progressive. Earthlust sold slightly dented reusable water bottles at a discount, San Francisco Vegetarian Society, Zip Car, Rainforest Action Network and some others. Sure these aren’t as sexy as some of the other venders but Green can be sexy as evidenced by some of the Hollywood A-listers creating Green events or supporting various green products.

Nos gusta gazing at the colorfully sexy costumes and gyrating to the various Latin beats but wouldn’t it be great to see some of sexy thinking combined with some Green ideas?

Maker Faire Draws Sustainable, Inspiring Inventors and Artists

Monday, May 24th, 2010
Mousetrap at Makers Faire

Mousetrap at Maker Faire

Unbelievable but true but this past weekend marked the first time that we attended the Maker Faire. True, in terms of numbers, we only stand a few behind those Makers who’ve made it there since its inception. Our Green posse scurried from the ingenious to downright crazy exhibits. For us Maker virgins, Donna our unofficial group leader for the day, mentioned that people might place this fair somewhere between Burning Man and Exploritorium. That description nailed it.

Why do we love this event and can’t believe that we hadn’t attended before? Not only did we encounter mad scientists of a sort but because almost every artist, scientist, inventor at the fair reuses, repurposes, and recycles other object to create art, cleaning robots, giant mousetraps, and transportation (mostly creatively built bikes).

Even the entertainment had a sustainable element with a solar stage but we caught the band Fossil Fuel at the Human Powered Stage where the bands powered their instruments and amps from bicycle powered generators. That way, we earned our music. Maybe people should try this with their TV so they would have some incentive to exercise.

Now, we can’t be sure about how sustainable it is to jolt 1,000,000 volts of electricity from two five foot Tesla Coils into a guy wearing a grounded metallic suit but the sheer spectacle of watching the long electrical arcs made us think how the electro guy might be able to creatively energize a small town.

Seeing all of the innovations like Algaelab which creates a personal algae photo-bioreactor and the not so practical but highly amusing inventions like the giant mousetrap made us believe that humans can still create mind-boggling inventions and art while not using up precious resources.