Eco-Travel Might Be Cool With Floating Resort

EcotravelLet’s face it: eco-travel is a tough sell to many travelers. Especially considering that our impact on the environment is commonly not a big factor when planning a trip. Still, as more travelers have begun to realize the importance of preserving the environment, the need is there. In the future, eco-travelers may have a green cruise option in the Solar Floating Resort (SFR) concept.

Powered entirely by solar photovoltaic panels that cover it like a skin, this sleek boat/resort/luxury submarine is just the sort of place Italian industrial designer Michele Puzzolante imagines.

“Solar energy technologies such as photovoltaic panels could provide a third of the world’s energy by 2060 if politicians commit to limiting global warming,” says Puzzolante on her Solar Floating Resort website.

Puzzolante’s SFR relies entirely on non-polluting solar power and uses modular manufacturing techniques currently being used in the naval and automobile industries, kind of like LEGO pieces.

The whole thing can be put together in a matter of weeks and can be used for terrestrial as well as floating applications as we see in this video.



‘Food Forward’ PBS Series Debuts With ‘Urban Agriculture Across America’ Episode

cowsIn less than a century, the United States has gone from being a mostly agrarian society to an urbanized one. Most of us live in cities and, despite our growing cultural fascination with food, most Americans have no idea where the ingredients on their plate (or in that wrapper) are actually coming from.

That’s where “Food Forward” comes in. After a three-year effort, the premiere episode of this innovative new PBS series, as first reported by the Huffington Post, is airing nationally throughout April (see schedule after the jump). In “Urban Agriculture Across America,” the “Food Forward” crew travel from the Bay Area to Milwaukee, Detroit and New York City, talking to urban farming innovators such as Abeni Ramsey, a single mother in West Oakland.

Formerly relegated to feeding her family Top Ramen, Ramsey was inspired some years ago by a farm stand she spotted in her neighborhood, operated by West Oakland’s City Slicker Farms. As part of City Slickers’ initiative to nourish under-served communities, their staff and volunteers build garden boxes (designed for small-scale, intensive production) in residents’ yards.

Ramsey got her garden box and soon had a backyard full of produce. Next, she got chickens to provide her family with protein in the form of meat and eggs. Today, she’s the farm manager of the East Bay’s urban Dig Deep Farms. Dig Deep sells and delivers produce to local communities through its CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) program and works in collaboration with Oakland’s acclaimed Flora restaurant.

Says Flora chef Rico Rivera, “We order the produce, she picks it and it’s here the next morning.” Adds Ramsey, “It’s a modern idea that you get all of your food from the store. People have been farming in cities…since there were cities.”

[Photo credit: Flickr user Martin Gommel]rooftop gardenJohn Mooney, chef and rooftop hydroponic farmer at Bell Book & Candle in Manhattan’s West Village, is another interesting subject as is urban beekeeper Andrew Coté, who collects specific blends from hives around Manhattan and Brooklyn.

While the idea of keeping bees in the midst of a metropolis may seem an unnecessary objective, or a somewhat precious craft food enterprise, it’s anything but, as Coté points out. “Bees help pollinate the city’s community and rooftop gardens as well as window boxes.” Localized honey also contains pollen that helps allergy sufferers living in these neighborhoods.

Of Detroit, “Food Forward” co-creator/producer Stett Holbrook says, “It blew my mind. It’s a city that has been devastated by industrial collapse and the exodus of half of its population, but the resilience of the residents still there to remake the city – literally from the ground up – was truly inspiring. Urban agriculture is a big part of the renaissance.”

According to its website, the objective of “Food Forward” is to “create a series that looks beyond the world of celebrity chefs, cooking competitions,” and formulaic recipe shows. From my perspective, it also goes beyond the seemingly endless variations on scintillating (not) reality series on baked good empires, riffs on “Homo sapiens vs. Arteriosclerosis” and “Twenty Crappy Things You Can Cook With Canned Goods.”

Instead, “Food Forward” looks at what it calls the “food rebels” across America – farmers, chefs, ranchers, fishermen, food artisans, scientists and educators – who are dedicated to changingurban farm the way we eat and finding more sustainable alternatives to how food is produced and procured.

“Food Forward” succeeds (if the pilot is any indication) in a way that documentaries of this genre haven’t (despite being excellent on all counts: see, “The Future of Food,” “Food, Inc.,” etc.).

It’s mercifully not about food elitism, either. Rather than leaving you depressed, angry or guilty, the show inspires, entertains and sends a message of hope. Future episodes will focus on school lunch reform, sustainable fishing and meat production and soil science. Some segments are animated, either to better illustrate a point or to engage a wider age demographic.

“Food Forward” is “written, produced and directed by a veteran team of journalists, cinematographers and storytellers that includes: director Greg Roden (PBS, FOX and National Geographic channel’s “Lonely Planet” and the Los Angeles Times, Dallas Morning News, and San Francisco Chronicle); aforementioned creator-producer Holbrook (Food editor for Metro Silicon Valley and The Bohemian in Sonoma County, and contributor to the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Saveur and Chow.com); Brian Greene (Food Network, Discovery Channel, NBC), and director of photography David Lindstrom (PBS, National Geographic and Discovery channels).

On April 22, the pilot will air on WTTW in Chicago at 5:30 p.m. and WLIW in New York at 2:30 p.m. On April 28, it will air on Washington DC’s WETA at 5:30 p.m. For future episodes, check your local PBS listings, visit the “Food Forward” website or www.PBS.org/foodforward.


Bound South: 3 brothers cycle from Alaska to Argentina to raise money for charity

bound south Every once in awhile, I read something really inspirational that makes me see the real potential of society. After learning about the Berg brother’s bike ride from Anchorage, Alaska, to Patagonia in Argentina, to raise money to build a house for the Lake Agassiz Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, I knew it was one of those times.

Since August 11, 2011, Nathan Berg, 24, Isaiah Berg, 22, and David Berg, 19, have been cycling over the Pan-American Highway, living on $10 a day by buying donuts on sale and covering then in peanut butter. The boys are aiming to raise $60,000, enough to build one house for a person in need. Their goal is to cross the border of Mexico by late November and make it to Argentina by May.

While this particular ride was inspired by the boys’ sense of adventure, they are being fueled by their desire to help others. They also aim to document a trek full of beautiful and moving landscapes as well as off-the-beaten path travel. The kindness of strangers has also helped them along the way, including an inspired group of elementary school children from their home state of North Dakota writing them letters, people offering a place to sleep, or being given a generous meal.

So, what sets this charity ride apart from the others? On their Bound South Facebook Page, the boys write:

“Many charity rides spend a great deal on various amenities and promotional efforts. We wanted something different. Bound South is a rugged journey of reflection, a fully self-supported trek across some of the most inhospitable places in the Americas. Supporting our cause allows you to become a part of our story. Every dollar you donate will go directly to Habitat for Humanity to build a home.”

For more information on their trek, or to donate to their cause, visit their blog, Bound South.

The sport you probably haven’t heard of: Rutabaga Curling

While many people use rutabagas as food, there are some that like to use them for sport. Wooden planks make up the “field” for playing the game, with the pitch being around 79 feet and a circular target at the end. The game involves throwing your rutabaga towards the other end of the field and trying to knock opponents vegetables out of the way. And if you’re thinking about using unconventional methods to try to win, think again. In the official rules, it clearly states that “steroids are prohibited and any such use will subject the rutabaga to immediate withdrawal”.

In Ithaca, New York, in particular, Rutabaga Curling is an annual tradition that marks the end of the market season. Since 1996, the town has been playing with rutabagas, although the first official Rutabaga Curl was held in 1998. Why rutabagas? They are just about the only vegetable left in the market that time of year. And, no one wants to eat them.

To see this intense sport for yourself, as well as hear the melodic rutabaga choir, head over to Ithaca on December 17, 2011 and attend the 14th Annual Rutabaga Curling Championship. Or, if you can’t make it in person, check out this video:


10 best eco-friendly hostels in the world

portland hawthorne hoste websiteWhile you can usually expect an inexpensive stay at a hostel, not all of these accommodations are alike when it comes to being sustainable and green. For your next trip, why not stay somewhere that will not only give you a social experience on a budget, but will also be good for the planet? Check out this list of the 10 best eco-friendly hostels around the world.

Portland Hawthorne Hostel
Portland, Oregon

The Portland Hawthorne Hostel offers a clean, safe accommodation in the Hawthorne District of Portland, Oregon. The hostel has free breakfast, cheap bike rentals, and is a short walk from Mount Tabor and Luarelhurst parks. Not only that, but this hostel does its part in being eco-friendly. One of their biggest draws is their ecoroof, a “green living roof of vegetation and soil”. The project is low-maintenance and self-sustaining and is being encouraged by the city due to its ability to soak up stormwater and return it to a natural water cycle (water that is not soaked up usually becomes full of sewage and dirt and negatively affects aquatic habitats). Along with the ecoroof, the hostel makes use of green cleaning products, recycling and composting, and gives guests arriving by bicycle a discount of $5 per night.auberge alternative eco-friendly hostel Auberge Alternative du Vieux-Montréal
Montreal, Canada

The Auberge Alternative is a boutique hostel for budget travelers. Old-warm charm resides here as the accommodation is actually an 1875 warehouse that was restored and enhanced. Art-lovers will also enjoy it here, as there is a gallery and studio that hosts artists from all over the world. Mix Auberge Alternative’s flair for art and design with their passion for green living, and you have one amazing accommodation. The hostel boasts free fair-trade coffees and teas, an organic and sustainable breakfast buffet, and usage of products made by small, locally run businesses. Moreover, you will not find a single vending machine, soda machine, or TV.

Mellow Eco Hostel Barcelona
Barcelona, Spain

Located in the traditional Horta District, this hostel is surrounded by greenery and away from the pollution and crowds of the city (but, still only fifteen minutes away by metro). There are many amenities and services included in your stay, including free Wi-Fi, free lockers, free linens, and free luggage storage. It is also one of the more social hostels with a shared kitchen and events, such as BBQ’s and dinners, on the terrace. What’s really great about Mellow Eco Hostel Barcelona, however, is its approach to a reduced environmental impact. They use renewable energy, with shower water being heated by solar panels on the roof. Moreover, they make use of recycling facilities, draught tap water, soap dispensers, biodegradable cleaning products, low consumption light bulbs, and only having air-conditioning in the common areas (don’t worry, the rooms were built to be well ventilated).

The Grampians YHA Eco-Hostel
Grampians, Australia

Located in the heart of the Grampians National Park, the Grampians YHA Eco-Hostel provides adventure activities such as rock climbing, hiking, and abseling, as well as the chance to experience the beauty of nature. The hostel also aims to be as green as possible and succeeds in many ways. Not only is the accommodation powered by solar electricity, it also does its part by using solar hot water, recycling, and collecting rainwater to reduce water consumption. Free-range eggs and organically grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs are also offered to guests.

Reykjavík City Hostel
Reykjavík, Iceland

Not only is Reykjavík City Hostel eco-friendly itself, it is also located next to a big geothermal swimming pool, beautiful waterfalls, explosive geysers, and other natural wonders for an even greener experience. Moreover, the hostel practices extensive recycling services, energy monitoring, and erosion control, offers a breakfast of local and organic fare, and sells fair-trade beverages at their cafe. While enjoying free Wi-Fi, a BBQ terrace, lounges, game rooms, and comfortable beds, guests can also take part in educational programs that will offer knowledge on sustainability and green living.

Eco Hostel Palermo
Buenos Aires, Argentina

This green hostel is situated in the trendy Palermo Soho of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Along with free linens, Wi-Fi in every room, a fully equipped kitchen, and 24-hour reception, guests can expect a stay that is friendly to the planet. The Eco Hostel Palermo makes use of solar powered panels, solar collectors, an organic garden, low enery light bulbs, insulated windows, cross-ventilation chambers, and eco-friendly computers with less plastic and low carbon emition. Moreover, almost all of the decoration and furnishing of the hostel is made with recycled and reused materials.

Strawberry Fields Eco-Lodge
Konso, Ethiopia

Staying at the Strawberry Fields Eco-Lodge, guests will get a feel for the simple life (the accommodation is also a farm) while being surrounded by dusty hills and lush greenery. It is a great budget accommodation if you’re looking to have a culturally-immersed experience as you will be staying in wooden thatched huts with authentic decor and eating locally prepared foods. Not only that, but your stay here will make you feel good about the environment, as it is run on solar power including solar showers and composting toilets.

The Green Hostel
Montevideo, Uruguay

This eco-friendly hostel has a lot to offer in terms of both amenities and sustainability. The Green Hostel features tours, bike rentals, 24-hour reception, a kitchen, a bar, internet, free breakfast and linens, lockers, luggage storage, and laundry services. Not only that, but they clearly have a committment to the environment, with furniture made of reused materials, hot water generated by solar panels, energy efficient light bulbs, a recycling program, and promotion of using bicycles as a way to explore the city.

ecolodges and hostels Gyreum Ecolodge
Sligo, Ireland

Located in the North-West of Ireland, the name Gyreum literally means “round building” in Latin. You will understand why once you see the temple-like roof of the seemingly invisible Gyreum Ecolodge poking from the Earth. The hostel is an Installation Incubator, a place where people can come together to “incubate” new ideas. It is also an ecolodge, using a wind turbine to power geothermal heating, solar panels to heat water, and a traditional toilet that is connected to outside compost. Moreover, rainwater is collected and used for showers and toilets and an organic vegetable garden can be enjoyed by guests.

Enigmata Treehouse Ecolodge
Camiguin Island, Philippines

The Enigmata Treehouse Ecolodge is more than just a hostel, it is a place for travelers, artists, and environmentalists to come together to create positive change. With options of home-stays and dorms, there is also an art gallery on site (the accommodation is run by local artists), as well as a sculpture garden, library cafe, theater, and an open classroom. Along with trying to educate about ecology through art by, for example, decorating with pieces made of recycled products, guests are also invited to attend conservation and biodiversity workshops and seminars. Surrounded by farms and trees, the accommodation is located far away from highways and pollution. An array of ecotours are offered, as well as recycling and energy saving programs.