Posts Tagged ‘low_flow_showerhead’

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.

5 Energy Efficient Improvements To Make with FHA 203K Loans

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

green fiberHaving recently attended West Coast Green, we couldn’t help but thinking how this whole mortgage crises set the Green building movement back a few years. Unfortunately people will think about getting their loan mod or forbearance before they think about buying formaldehyde free cabinets or installing a water catchment system. The thing that many people don’t realize is that with the right property (and loan officer) buyers can use the FHA 203K loan to improve a home with Green elements.

In terms of Green building and Green interiors, people always get fixated on the energy savings aspects. True, much of Green building centers on energy (and savings) but don’t overlook the health benefits (like using zero VOC paint)

With the 203K loan in mind, here we listed 5 Green improvements that can improve a home, save money and increase the value:

1-    Go Energy Star – Energy Star appliances remain the way to go to not only cut down on an energy bill but it works as a plus for the planet as well. Some Energy Star appliances can chop 20% of a monthly energy bill and they often cost about the same as their inefficient cousins.

2-    Insulate baby Insulate – With winter looming, it only makes sense to either add or upgrade the walls and the attic. Many Green insulation options such as Bonded Logic to soy-based polyurethane can be found.

3-    Water Water Everywhere – Things like low flow showerheads (which should be a given these days) represents an inexpensive fix but think about low flow toilets, tankless hot water heaters, and for the more adventurous a water catchment system.

4-    Replace those Windows – Anyone that has ancient leaky windows might consider replacing them. The low–E, dual pane windows continue to hit the market at a fast clip. To us they represent a no-brainer as they not only preserve energy costs but they cut down on outside noise as well. Typical Eco-Star windows only cost about $15 more then their leaky brothers.

5-    Not to many people in the Bay Area have those old (pre 1992) inefficient furnaces that have a standing pilot light but consider sending it out to pasture (not the junkyard but some place like Building Resources) as they waste abut 35 percent of the fuel the use. Better to use the 203K money for a “condensing furnace” with annual efficiency of at least 90 percent. That number along with the possible 27 percent savings on a heating bill definitely sounds better to us.

Greenest Napa Valley Winery Opens

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Usually when people visit a winery, people look for various shades of white or dark red, but here our color paradigm might shift to say Green. The recently opened CADE Winery offers not only solar power and organically farmed winery but hopes to garner LEED Gold status and if so, would be the first Estate Gold LEED certified winery in the Napa Valley.

When visiting a winery, people’s olfactory system normally goes into overdrive but instead of inhaling the aromas of vanilla, rosemary, oak and sage here we took deep breaths of the air. As in indoor air quality. No stuffy AC here as the building relies on natural ventilation. Although the wines remain something to admire, we also dig the other green aspects. CADE utilizes 100% solar power and organic farming methods which both look so green and tasty.

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Going LEED Gold at the Gaia hotel

Friday, January 18th, 2008

gaia-go.jpgWe had heard a lot about the LEED Gold Gaia hotel in American Canyon (even we had to look up American Canyon and we live in San Fran) but we hadn’t actually visited it. Yes, we can only tell so much from a press release. The hotel, rather unassuming, sits right off busy Highway 29 just a short hop to both Napa and Sonoma Valley but once in the lobby or the rooms it’s not easy to hear any of the traffic. But onto the Green stuff. When checking in, it’s hard not to notice the kiosks with “green touch screens” which display how much water, electricity savings and how much CO2 the hotel emits. The overhead Solatube Tubular skylights represented an even more impressive aspect. Even on the cloudy day, the lobby had no artificial lighting, but you wouldn’t know it but the amount of natural light.

We got one of the choice rooms overlooking the man made lagoon which plays home to koi, frogs, various plant life and Artemis and Apollo (two impressive swans that live in the lagoon and strut their way around most of the hotel). By the way, the koi pond uses recycled water from the site which they clean and filter prior to entering the pond.

The sparten yet comfortable rooms offer lots of Green aspects. Small things like offering fair trade, organic coffee and not having those tiny shampoo bottles littering the bathroom made a big difference. Here they provide shampoo, lotion in bulk dispensers. We also like that all restrooms use recycled tiles and granite. While in the bathroom, we give wet kudos to the water saving low flow showerhead, which offer plenty of water pressure for one person (but not two, if you catch our drift).

We slept easy not only with a comfy, firm mattress but breathing easy with the low VOC paints were used throughout the rooms and rest of the hotel. It also helped us to know that solar panels provide 12% of the hotel’s electricity.

We know that a boutique type hotel needs a relaxing but unsustainable hot tub (yes, we partook and didn’t feel guilty) but we didn’t feel too keen about the microwave that inhabited our room but even with the little monster we felt pretty energized about our stay. It sure beats a stay in an unsustainable Motel 6.

We could very well come all the way to wine country without visiting some organic, sustainable and do we dare say biodynamic wineries. Stay tuned.