Archive for May, 2009

Maui, Hawaii: Eco-Travel with the Fairmont Kea Lani

Feel like staying closer to home, but need a tropical ‘feel good’ getaway? We love the Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea, Maui. Huge comfortable rooms, an exotic all-white mediterranean design, not too many kids (but just enough for families), and delicious restaurants right onsite. There’s a reason why they named it “Kea Lani” since it means “Heavenly Whiteness.” Their new organic restaurant, Ko, where 100% of its fish are from sustainable fisheries and their island classic, Nick’s Fish Market, make it a solid go-to getaway for in-the-know Maui eco (yet chic-o) vacationers.

We like them because they’re giving back in an interesting way. Through their Recycling Cents program, they donate their HI-5 recyclables to local non-profit charities, raising, to date, over $20,000. One school group used the funds to build an electric car and, in addition to that mad giving, the hotel donates bath amenities to the women’s shelter on Maui and hosts a Mother’s Day and Christmas dinner. If that’s not enough… the hotel’s Director of Engineering goes to the shelter once a month to fix things like door locks and plumbing. With nearly 50 environmental programs going on at the hotel (and others in the Fairmont portfolio), their latest initiative, converting to the just-on-the-market Eco-Mode Thermostat, is connected to the hotel’s database and automatically turns on when a guest checks in and shuts off when a guest checks out. The motion detectors scan the room for movement and, if there is no motion detected, the thermostat automatically adjusts the temperature 5 degrees higher than either the default setting, or the temperature the guest set. The thermostat also shuts off when doors to the lanai are opened, monitors humidity, and allows the hotel to ensure all air conditioning units are in good working order. Installing the eco-MODE thermostat is yet another progressive initiative emphasizing The Fairmont Kea Lani’s dedication to waste reduction, energy management, and water conservation.

So we say… heavenly whiteness, in more way than one, in the house.

Rates from $340/night.

Locali Yours, An All-Organic Convenience Store!

An environmentally conscious convenience store? That’s right. It’s time to… vegan-ize! We found this new little gem in the heart of Franklin Village in Los Angeles, started by husband and wife duo, Greg Horos and Melissa Rosen. Everything about Locali, from the design to the way the business is operated and all of the products sold, is environmentally conscious, including their solar-powered website!
A neighborhood market that combines the idea of environmentally conscious living with the element of convenience, Locali offers in-the-know customers a healthy destination for all of their food and lifestyle needs. By making locally and sustainably sourced, organic, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and other eco-friendly products accessible to people in their everyday lives, the community-minded concept is launching a movement to change the way the world thinks about, and eats, grab-and-go food.

Locali also has a deli where they make fresh sandwiches to order every day showcasing the finest meats, cheeses, and produce from organic growers and local suppliers as well as the nearby Farmers Markets. Any sandwich can be “vegan-ized” and many are available gluten-free.
What’s more, Locali goes mobile at the end of May with its own frozen dessert delivery tricycle dubbed “THE ICYCLE,” making its selection of Sno-Cones, Ice Cream, Popsicles, and other frozen desserts, more accessible to Angelenos. How cute is that? With the launch of THE ICYCLE, Locali brings its in-store summer sweets directly to its customers. Dressed in an old fashioned soda jerk outfit, a Locali employee will tour the streets of Los Angeles visiting different neighboring communities each day. Locali’s Twitter page, @Locali, will unveil the day’s selected destinations with specific cross streets where people can meet for a cool summer treat in neighborhoods like Hollywood, East Hollywood, Sunset Junction, Los Feliz, Griffith Park, Silver Lake, and Larchmont Village. Locali will also offer delivery for specific locations upon request for large orders. Sno-Cones are made with ultra pure Reverse Osmosis Water and Organic Syrup sweetened with all natural Brown Rice Syrup or diabetic-friendly Xylitol, available in flavors like Banana, Mango, Cherry Cola, Grape, Pumpkin, Coconut, Cinnamon, and Key Lime Pie (2 flavors for $2.75 each). Customers can also visit Locali for a full selection from up to 30 different Sno-Cone flavors. Other options from THE ICYCLE include a variety of sweets from local artisans like Carmela’s Ice Cream and Popshop Popsicles as well as Cookies, Handmade Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches, Raw Vegan Cheesecake, Gluten-Free Ice Cream, and Frozen Organic Wheatgrass Shots.

How’s that for Locali Conscious Convenience?
Greening the hood, one Locali at a time…

5825 Franklin Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 466-1360

The Lost City of Z by David Grann

Red hairy chiggers that consume human flesh, cyanide-squirting millipedes, and the candiru, a translucent toothpick-like creature that burrows into the gills of a fish or human orifices like the vagina or penis, latches it’s spines and sucks out the blood of the victim until they perish…

This is the Amazon of the 1920’s and the Amazon you’ll find in David Grann’s new book, The Lost City of Z, chronicling the infamous tough-as-nails British explorer, Percy Fawcett, as he ventures with his son, Jack, and Jack’s best friend, Raleigh, to discover the famous (gold laden and lost) city of El Dorado. Grann’s well-documented tale takes you deep inside the jungle for a peek into the mind of this sometimes ruthless, always brave, explorer. The trio, in so many respects, takes you back to a bygone era when well-heeled gents at supper clubs thirsted for the high stakes of an Amazonian adventure. Not only do the characters look straight out of the movies, but the cinematic story reads like one as well (likely why Brad Pitt and Paramount have optioned the film rights). Just as his piercing blue eyes make their way into your own, so will Fawcett’s adventurous tale. It is one man’s ultimate quest to find, with tragic consequences… a fantasy.

Grann deftly tells a real-life story from both a historical context and a personal one. The author himself ventured to the very place where many believe this fantastic civilization once existed. As I read his story, I found myself being bitten by vicious gnats and fearing the wrath of parasitic worms as the three men journeyed into the heart of one of the world’s most inhospitable regions.

Grann writes, “The cramped, dirty hold of the SS Panama was filled with ‘toughs, would be toughs, and leather faced old scoundrels,’ as Fawcett put it.” Flesh and carrion eating bees, an area so hot that fish were cooked alive in the waters… the countless explorers that died along the way. Whether Percy, Jack, and Raleigh became victims of the elements or the native Indians, one thing is certain: they never made it out alive.

I was so enamored with this impossible, painstaking journey that, instead of reading it quickly as I do with most tales, I found myself intentionally re-reading passages and flipping through the photos. Like my own travels to South America, El Dorado, as well as this tale, is like the love you can never have. It will keep you constantly wanting more.

Kudos to Grann for all of his own painstaking research and bravery. After reading about the candiru, I’m not sure I’d be heading into that part of the jungle anytime soon. I will, however, recommend, for those who love a good jungle jaunt, ordering a copy of his obsessive and mysterious story.

David Grann is a staff writer at The New Yorker and has covered everything from an Aryan Brotherhood prison gang to the hunt for giant squid. His work has been featured in the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. His collected writings will be published by Doubleday in 2010.

Phuket, Thailand: Volunteer with Anantara

Ah, thailand…. we can never get enough. Great food, beautiful people… nature. In the spirit of volunteerism, guests of the newly opened Anantara Phuket Resort & Spa can take part in a day-long excursion to the coastal village of Baan Talay Nok located in the Ranong province north of Phuket, this area was one of the most devastated in the region during the 2004 Tsunami, and is still being rebuilt four years later. Anantara’s community days enable guests to work side-by-side with Tsunami survivors in a handicraft cooperative, where they assist villagers in soap making, batik painting, and palm weaving. Proceeds from the sale of these articles provide a supplemental income for the widows of the cooperative. In addition to volunteering, guests can also join in a soccer match with the children, partake in a jungle hike, or simply practice speaking Thai with the elders. More than a day of volunteerism; guests can take away experiences greater than those that money can buy. Opened in October 2008, Anantara Phuket Resort & Spa features 83 private pool villa suites, five new spa treatment rooms with Ayurvedic therapies along Mai Khao Beach just fifteen minutes from Phuket International Airport, removed from the bustling strip. PS. Their property in the Golden Triangle also offers yoga teacher training!

Barbados: The Crane’s New Eco-Techniques

It may be the oldest, most historic hotel in Barbados, but it certainly isn’t stuck in the past when it comes to earth-saving tips. Sure, ‘Being Green’ is all the rage, but taking a landmark from the 1700’s and turning it green is another – more ambitious – story. Set on forty acres of oceanfront land on the Southeast Coast of Barbados, The Crane, located six minutes from the airport on a spectacular cliff overlooking Crane Beach, is comprised of the original historic hotel building, built in the late 1700s and expanded in 1887, with an new all-suite development underway. On completion, this world-class resort will feature a Barbadian village of retail shops, a jazz bar, art gallery/museum, a full-service spa set in a coconut grove on the beach, a choice of gourmet and casual restaurants, and flood-lit tennis courts.
The Crane, Living Room Suite

Known for its modern “vertically integrated” approach, this approach also increases environmental sustainability, examples of which include:

Landscaping – The Crane has a thirty-six person full service landscape team dedicated to beautifying Crane’s extensive grounds. A new on-site covered nursery will be used to propagate plants so that the grounds will continue to be beautifully and economically maintained. Rather than using metered town water for its irrigation needs, The Crane relies on a 350,000 gallon water tank that collects rainwater for irrigation.
Laundry – The Crane does all of its laundry in-house and has recently constructed a facility that utilizes state-of-the-art, high volume, commercial equipment and rain water collected in underground collection tanks.

Pool Service – A system of salt-water chlorination in which salt from sea water is converted into natural chlorine through electrolysis without the extra cost of replenishing chlorine.
Central Air – The Crane’s central air-conditioning system is not only far more energy efficient than individual “split system” units for every room, but it also produces hot water, requires less ongoing maintenance and has a life expectancy of over twenty-five years.

So make like Rhianna and “Shut Up and Drive” to the airport. You won’t need an “Umbrella” in Barbados.

(Sorry, we couldn’t resist)

Kenya & Tanzania: Climb Kilimanjaro!

Crowned by eternal snow, Mount Kilimanjaro is called the “Home of God” because to climb Kilimanjaro is to stand on the roof of Africa. Leave it to Mountain Travel Sobek to offer the most comprehensive, one-of-a-kind Kilimanjaro adventure around. Eco-Adventurer says, “What better way to appreciate the environment than to get right up in it?” Operating Kilimanjaro climbs since 1974, Mountain Sobek was the first company to lead commercial treks up the mountain. Today, over 90% reach Kilimanjaro’s 19,340-foot high summit. We think those are pretty good odds, don’t you?
Climbing Kilimanjaro is a Mountain Travel Sobek (MTS) classic, enough so that anchorwoman Ann Curry used MTS to make her own ascent to Africa’s highest peak. In Amboseli National Park, you’ll slip into “safari mode” by viewing elephants before taking off on a six-day climb of Kilimanjaro via the rarely-traveled Rongai Route, a trail skirting spectacular Mawenzi peak. You’ll track game along the Tsavo National Park on the banks of the Galana River where MTS has the only permit to camp and hike along this stunning waterway. Your savvy naturalist guides include Alex Fiksman, one of East Africa’s leading mountaineers and rock-climbing aces, and Julius Odhiambo, one of Kenya’s top ornithologists and naturalists. As a grand finale, the trip ends with some “R&R” at the Indian Ocean coast (you’ll need it) where you’ll bask in shameless luxury at a deluxe resort — a perfect spot to unwind at the conclusion of an unforgettable safari.

Not up for the climb? While your spouse, partner, or friend goes for the summit, you can enjoy traditional safari activities in five-star comfort like game viewing, horseback riding, and “sundowners,” at two permanent camps: Ol Donyo Wuas, at the foot of the Chyulu Hills; and Finch Hatton’s, a luxurious legacy of the former big game hunter in Tsavo. Both offer views of Kilimanjaro. On Day 10 (see itinerary below) you’ll meet the group in Tsavo after the climb.

Itinerary: Kilimanjaro & Beyond – Rongai Route

Day 1 – Meet in Nairobi, Kenya. Overnight at the Karen Blixen Cottages, just outside Nairobi.

Days 2-3 – Game viewing in Amboseli, noted for having the most magnificent elephant herds in Africa and dramatic views of Kilimanjaro. Noted researchers Cynthia Moss and Joyce Poole have conducted groundbreaking elephant studies here for almost 30 years.

Days 4-7 – From the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro on the Kenya side, you’ll be climbing through unspoiled forests, moorlands, and alpine zone, arriving at a high camp at 15,500′. You’ll take an extra day for acclimatization below the craggy north face of Mawenzi, Kilimanjaro’s forgotten peak (it’s the second-highest point at 16,893 feet).

Day 8 – Pre-dawn hike (the classic alpine start) to Kilimanjaro’s glacier-clad summit to watch the sun rise over the African plains, an indescribable thrill and feeling of accomplishment! Descend to camp at 12,000′.
Day 9 – Hike down through the lush equatorial rain forest, home to colobus and Syke’s monkeys. Meet waiting vehicles for a drive to the hotel in Marangu, Tanzania.

Day 10 – Drive to camp along the Galana River in Tsavo East National Park where Mountain Travel Sobek has an exclusive permit.

Days 11-12 – Tsavo is Africa at its most intense and dramatic, a raw sunburned land through which the Galana, the only source of water for the wildlife, cuts a bright green swath. Accompanied by trackers and an armed escort, you’ll carefully search for prides of lions, including the rare maneless males, stalk elephant herds, view hippos and crocs in quiet pools, and enjoy some of the best birding in Kenya.

Day 13 – Drive to palm-fringed Watamu Beach at Malindi on the Indian Ocean coast, where you can swim, snorkel, bird-watch, or go deep-sea fishing (optional).

Day 14 – Morning on the beach; fly to Nairobi in the afternoon and depart, or join one of our extensions in East Africa.
Dates & Prices

Jun 01 – Jun 14
Jul 09 – Jul 22
Jul 31 – Aug 13
Aug 29 – Sep 11
Sep 28 – Oct 11

Jan 24 – Feb 06
Feb 22 – Mar 07
Jun 20 – Jul 03
Jul 20 – Aug 02
Sep 17 – Sep 30
Oct 17 – Oct 30

2009 Prices
$6,295 (11–15 members)
$6,595 (7–10 members)
$6,995 (3–6 members)
$1,250 park fees
$300 internal air
$1,200 single supplement

Toll Free 1-888-831-7526 (USA & Canada)

So what are you waiting for? The ice caps to melt?

Eco-Conscious Travel Style: Organic Rain Tees

In the Winter of 2007, Beth Doane changed her life forever. “I was running my clothing distribution company, Andira, for about two years when I started to feel this odd sense of emptiness and lack of respect for the fashion industry,” Doane admits.

“I was learning so much about import and distribution of international brands through my travel internationally, trade shows, and fashion weeks, but none of what I was learned was fulfilling. I started to see the toxicity of mass production and began asking questions about price points and color-ways, when I also asked who was making this handbag or that line of dresses, where they lived, how much they were paid and what kinds of fabrics are used and how they are developed… questions the industry seemed to conveniently avoid. It seemed no amount of yoga or red wine could make my real questions or concerns about fashion go away. The more I had all this running through my head, the more miserable I became so I decided to do something about it.”
Alas… Rain Tee was born.

Rain Tees, her 100% organic apparel line for women and children is designed by youth living in endangered rain forests across Central and South America, each featuring their own thoughts and illustrations regarding their tropical homeland. For every Rain Tee sold, a child involved in Kids Saving the Rain Forest, Costa Rica will receive a tree they can plant to replace one that has been destroyed.

Why tees for the rain forest?

“I knew that rain forests act like a delicate balancing mechanism for our entire planet. By keeping them intact we can control weather patterns globally. I knew this was an area in desperate need of global attention, so I started with combining nature (which affects everyone in the world)- with apparel – something that can reach everyone in the world,” Doane explains. She traveled to the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, areas of La Selva Maya in Mexico, worked with teams of volunteers in Ecuador and Bolivia, researchers in Brazil, and NGO’s in Peru that traveled deep into the Amazon Jungle to do art sessions with the children.

Manufactured in Peru, the tees give new employment opportunities to people who are often forced out of their homes to work for oil companies, cut trees, or poach animals illegally to feed their families because the waterways have become polluted due to industrialization. Using family-owned, vertically-integrated factories that pay their workers 25% above average wages, Doane tries to keep the manufacturing process as eco-conscious as possible, from the way the fabric is selected to the way the tees are packaged to ship. With each Rain Tee purchase, you’re not only supporting fair trade and fair labor practices, but you’re promoting reforestation, creating environmental education for youth living in both endangered tropical forests and in our local communities, and creating green jobs for workers in rain forest communities so they do not feel forced to work in deforestation, animal trafficking, or oil industries.

And really… if you’re going to wear something cute, you might as well make the most of it.

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