First foam recycling facility opens in Illinois

Foam recyclingWanted to mention an update on a remarkable US company. Dart Container Corp,, on whom I did an earlier post has just opened a new foam recycling drop-off site in Aurora, Ill., their 10th such site in the US. These facilities accept foam food service containers, including foam cups, plates, take-out containers, egg cartons, and shaped or molded foam that’s used to package various electronics.

The foam must have the “6” symbol on it to be accepted.

Once more, Dart leads the way. Keep your eye on this progressive, difference-making  Michigan-based company.

Update on the Pacific floating garbage vortex

The Pacific "Plastic Vortex" is doubling every decade

The Pacific "Plastic Vortex" is doubling every decade

Since my last post on the Pacific Vortex – the floating heap of garbage that’s estimated to be about the state of Texas – recent stories in the New York Times and Scripps Howard say returning scientists report that the patch is doubling every decade.

The “patch” contains some large trash – including abandoned fishing gear, buoys and metal drums – but  consists mainly of smaller, confetti-looking plastic pieces that fish assume are plankton and ingest.

Plastic Vortex.2Researchers say it’s likely there are other smaller trash patches floating around a number of the world’s oceans, still waiting to be discovered.

Question is, what can be done about solving this disastrous environmental problem? And how soon?

KLM to boldly test the first biofuel passenger flight

KLM airlinesTaking airline passenger flights to a new height, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines will test their first passenger-filled flight on November 23rd, using a 50-50 mix of biofuel and regular fuel.

With the aviation industry’s recent commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, this is a big step forward.

KLM to use camellias to produce biofuel for their test flight

KLM to use camellias to produce biofuel for their test flight

KLM plans to use biofuel made from camellia crops, which don’t impact the food chain and don’t require large amounts of water or fertilizers. The bigger “plus” is this biofuel produces 84 percent less emission than other jet fuel.  That’s a pretty dramatic decrease.

You can be sure the aviation industry will be watching this test closely. If all goes well, and we hope it does, this could be the beginning of a big shift other airlines will be sure to follow.

Add salt to solar for light when the sun goes down

One of the toughest nuts to crack for renewable energy has been the inability of producing light from solar when the sun goes down. Solar Reserve, a Santa Monica, California company, may have solved this conundrum.

The key is salt.

Continue reading

Coming soon – connect your gadgets thru home Wi-Fi

Wireless communicationBy mid-2010, consumers will be able to connect their home electronic “gadgets” via Wi-Fi without a wireless network.

An industry group called the Wi-Fi Alliance has just completed a set of technical “rules” called Wi-Fi Direct to guide consumer electronics companies planning to add this new capability. Now cell phones, cameras and computers will be able to “talk” to each other directly.

Only one gadget will need to have the new Wi-Fi technology to make two-way connections. This technology overlaps with that of Bluetooth, whose wireless technology already has gadget-to-gadget connection capability allowing consumers to send videos and other bandwidth-hogging files around the house.

Things could be getting a little simpler. Add this to the news earlier this year that the major electronics firms have agreed to make standardized charger adapters in the near future and it sure seems like we’ll have a few less headaches in this department next year.

Certified sustainable palm oil – really?

Palm trees2

One of many huge palm tree plantations in Costa Rica

I already wrote about seeing vast palm plantations in Costa Rica – both from the air and on the ground. I’ll be expanding on this soon as I interview an expert on the subject, so stay tuned for that.

But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to comment on a story that came out today, about “certified sustainable palm trade” and how large it’s grown since late 2008.

According to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), approximately forty million tons of palm oil is produced globally per year.

Granted what I’ve learned about the subject is insufficient to consider myself highly knowledgeable. Still, if it’s true that palm plantations are cut down and completely replanted every twenty years and that during the process of growing they soak up all the nutrients from the soil, replenishing none, then you have to wonder where the “sustainability” is in all this?

I hesitate to pronounce this as greenwashing when I may not be in full possession of all the facts. But it’s definitely food for thought.

Sustainable Tourism – the 1st of three amazing eco-resorts

Arenas del MarAfter theSan Jose conference, I spent 2 1/2 days at Arrenas del Mar, an eco-resort surrounded by rainforest. I began discovering what the term ec0-tourism meant.

Built to be a combined luxury-sustainable resort. Arenas del Mar’s exquisite beaches co-exist with Manuel Antonio National Park, filled with some of the most amazing wildlife on the planet.

Their focus on the environment goes beyond solar panels (which they have). It includes:

  • a wastewater treatment center onsite
  • their recycling center
  • a plant nursery to further their efforts to reforest the surrounding rainforest
  • buying and serving organic food from local farmers
  • underground power lines for their solar power
  • solar-heated water

Another eco-related element is how they keep their swimming pools clean. Rather than use chemicals, Arenas del Mar uses an ionization process , running an electrical charge through colloidal silver and colloidal copper. At the government’s insistence,  they do use a small amount of chlorine.

“Sometimes you’ll see the iguanas drinking the water – they know it’s safe,” said staff member Kalinga Rodriguiz, who led my sustainability tour around the property.

Arenas del Mar was the first eco-construction to be proposed in Costa Rica twelve years ago. The idea was so new, the government didn’t understand what this was. This began a new chapter for Costa Rica, one that would lead this Latin American country to become known as a premier eco-tourism destination.

“When you’re in Costa Rica, you really feel you’re in a green country,” says Fabian Palma, Arenas del Mar’s General Manager. “There are a lot of rainforests.”

Arenas del Mar 2The government, or rather the MINAE (the Ministry of Environment) sets strict rules eco-resorts must follow. During construction, the resort was only allowed to fell a total of 26 trees on their approximately eleven hectares of rainforest!

Despite this restriction, they succeeded, cutting only 19 trees while using downed wood. And  best of all, the resort’s so well integrated into the rainforest, it creates a minimal impact on the surrounding environment.

There’s a great deal to this sustainable resort. Be sure to come back for more!

Differences in perspective – what do sustainability and eco-tourism really mean?

Costa Rica mapThis begins an important topic. During the conference earlier this week, several speakers agreed that the meaning of the term “sustainability” had become diluted and blurred.

I’m now at the second of three eco-tourist resorts I’ll be visiting in Costa Rica. You’ll be reading more about these over the coming week or so, but for now I’ll only give short glimpses as I’m currently staying at one – Lapa Rios, in southern Costa Rica – which doesn’t offer internet for guests but is graciously allowing me to use it. The idea here is for visitors to really experience what Costa Ricans call “pura vida”, involving taking life in, enjoying it and relaxing, at the same time. Being in the rainforest, there’s a lot to see and take in!

But I digress.

I’ve interviewed the general managers of 2 of the eco-resorts and an important distinction has begun to emerge here. We Americans often think of sustainability as a combination of recycling, green construction (using recycled or certified green materials) and a few others. But here in Costa Rica another rather surprising element is part of the mix. 

Eco-resorts in Costa Rica are empowering the community

Eco-resorts in Costa Rica are empowering the community

That element involves the community, helping it to better itself while educating and perhaps immersing them in what sustainability is.  Costa Rican resorts –  perhaps even the Costa Rican government – are embracing this important factor. It’s a concept I’ll definitely be writing more about. There’s a great deal to say as  what this entails.

For now, consider this.

What if the  hospitality industry in the US, was to take a vested interest in the well-being and education of the surrounding community, particularly those with less?  What if it did what’s necessary to empower them to better themselves, through company-provided training, reimbursement for completed classes and treating them periodically to the same amenities as the paying guests so they could get a first-hand appreciation of what tourists experience? What kind of difference could that make to employee retention and their sense of pride?

More to come on this subject, so come back soon!