Category Archives: Eco Travel

Britain Curbing Airport Growth to Aid Climate

By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
The New York Times: Published: July 1, 2010

In a bold if lonely environmental stand, Britain’s coalition government has set out to curb the growth of what has been called “binge flying” by refusing to build new runways around London to accommodate more planes.

Citing the high levels of greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative, abruptly canceled longstanding plans to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport in May, just days after his election; he said he would also refuse to approve new runways at Gatwick and Stansted, London’s second-string airports.

The government decided that enabling more flying was incompatible with Britain’s oft-stated goal of curbing emissions. Britons have become accustomed to easy, frequent flying — jetting off to weekend homes in Spain and bachelor parties in Prague — as England has become a hub for low-cost airlines. The country’s 2008 Climate Change Act requires it to reduce emissions by at least 34 percent by 2020 from levels reached in 1990.

“The emissions were a significant factor” in the decision to cancel the runway-building plans, Teresa Villiers, Britain’s minister of state for transport, said in an interview. “The 220,000 or so flights that might well come with a third runway would make it difficult to meet the targets we’d set for ourselves.” She said that local environmental concerns like noise and pollution around Heathrow also weighed into the decision.

Britain is bucking a global trend. Across North America, Asia and Europe, cities are building new runways or expanding terminals to handle projected growth in air travel and air freight in the hope of remaining competitive.

That growth in traffic has been damped but not halted by hard economic times, and in the current global recession, business concerns have generally prevailed over worries about climate change. In the United States, Chicago-O’Hare, Seattle-Tacoma and Washington-Dulles all opened new runways in 2008.

On Tuesday, Kennedy International Airport in New York reopened its Bay Runway — one of four, and the airport’s longest — after a four-month, $376 million renovation that included the creation of two new taxiways to speed plane movements between runways and terminals.

Airport expansion plans have sometimes been modified or canceled because of concerns about noise or ground-level pollution. But Peder Jensen, a transportation specialist at the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen, said that as far as he knew, Britain “is the only country that had made a conscious decision based on climate considerations.”

Heathrow, one of the world’s busiest airports and a major connection point for destinations in Europe, South Asia and the Middle East, is already notorious for its flight delays and endless lines. It is the only airport of its size with just two runways; Paris-Charles de Gaulle has four and O’Hare has seven.

So even though the Conservative Party had been expressing growing reservations about the planned expansion since 2008, many businessmen were shocked when Mr. Cameron canceled the plan after coming to power in a coalition with Liberal Democrats.

“This is a new government that claimed to be business friendly, but their first move was to eliminate one of the best growth opportunities for London and the U.K. and British companies,” said Steve Lott, a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association. “We’ve run into a shortsighted political decision that will have terrible economic consequences.”

The British government counters that the economic effects of scrapping the third runway are “unclear” while the environmental costs of adding one are unacceptably high. Ms. Villiers said that a high-speed rail network intended to replace short-haul flights would be a better way to address the airport’s congestion than adding a runway.

“We recognized that just putting more flights and more passengers into the skies over southeast England wasn’t worth the environmental costs we’re paying,” she said. “We decided to make Heathrow better rather than bigger.”

Although it is often said that emissions from air travel account for 2 to 3 percent of global emissions, the proportion is higher in many developed countries: emissions from aviation are growing faster there than those from nearly any other sector.

The British government has calculated that aviation emissions accounted for just 6 percent of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2006. But it concluded in a report that aviation could contribute up to a quarter of those emissions by 2030.

In the United States, the number of general aviation hours is forecast to grow an average of 1.8 percent a year, and to be 60 percent greater by 2025 than it is now, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. While airlines have worked hard to improve airplane efficiency, those efforts are dwarfed by the upward trend in flying.

Citizens’ groups in communities near Heathrow fought hard for nearly a decade against the airport’s runway expansion, complaining about noise and nitrous oxide pollution. As climate change became a more potent political issue in Britain several years ago, environmental groups with broader concerns jumped into the fray, camping out at Heathrow and occupying runways at smaller airports, shutting them down for hours.

“If you were a politician, how you felt about the third runway became a test of your commitment to dealing with climate change,” said Ben Stewart, communications director for Greenpeace U.K.

The temptation to expand airports is great for cities in search of new business and tourism. Airports in Europe are now mostly run by private companies, and for them, the more traffic, the more profit.

Some critics say the British government’s principled stand is pointless because airlines and travelers will respond not by forgoing air travel but by flying through a different airport. Instead of emissions being reduced, the critics say, they will simply be transferred to places like Barajas Airport in Madrid or Frankfurt International Airport, which have recently been expanded.

“My personal opinion is that the decision concerning Heathrow’s third runway was highly politicized and outpaced the science of what that runway might or might not do in terms of emissions,” said Christopher Oswald, a vice president of Airports Council International, an industry group. He suggested that a third runway might actually reduce emissions above Heathrow, because with less congestion, planes would spend less time idling on runways or circling in holding patterns.

But Dr. Jensen of the European Environment Agency said that building roads or runways generated more traffic in the long term because greater convenience draws people to a route.

Leo Murray, a spokesman for Plane Stupid, an environmental group that has fought new runways, called the British government’s decision “a turning point for aviation” although he added, “It is uncomfortable to have the coup de grace delivered by the Conservative government.”

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America’s Electric Car Capitals

America’s Electric Car Capitals
Joann Muller, Forbes.com 06.21.10

DETROIT — Virtually every major automaker is preparing to introduce some sort of plug-in electric vehicle in the next few years, but how and where will they be recharged? Without a network of convenient charging stations, many consumers are reluctant to embrace battery-powered cars. (Forget how much the technology will set you back.)

Eager to be at the forefront of the electric car era, some cities are preparing faster than others. Places like Portland, San Diego and Seattle, for example, are collaborating with carmakers and local utilities to map their strategies. But it’s not just the usual West Coast cities leading the way. Indianapolis is positioning itself as the Midwest’s electric car capital, and cities like Nashville, Raleigh and Tampa are busy getting plug-in ready, too.

In Raleigh, the city and surrounding Research Triangle area are working to streamline the permitting process for residential charging stations, and they are studying an electrification plan for freight trucks.

Tampa’s metropolitan area, with more than 2 million people, is debunking the myth that EVs will be ushered in only by West Coast cities. Tampa has joined Project Get Ready, a national nonprofit initiative by the Rocky Mountain Institute to help cities prepare for plug-in electric vehicles.

Indianapolis is home to advanced battery maker EnerDel, and a nearby factory that will produce Think City electric cars. The city is emerging as the Midwest’s leading plug-in hub.

Nashville, meanwhile, is the North American headquarters for Nissan ( NSANY – news – people ), maker of the battery-powered Leaf. So it’s a natural hub for electric vehicles.

But there are risks in getting too far ahead of the EV movement. Even some of the most ardent supporters of electric vehicles are scratching their heads at London’s audacious plan to install 25,000 charging points throughout the city–essentially a charging station within a mile of every citizen.

“The worst advertisement for an electric vehicle is a charging station that isn’t being used,” says Michael Rowand, director of advanced customer technology for Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy ( DUK – news – people ), which supplies electric power to 4 million U.S. consumers. Communities need enough public chargers to reassure those suffering from “range anxiety” that they won’t be stranded with a depleted battery, he said, but not so many that people conclude EVs are useless.

It’s not just a case of installing a few public charging stations in front of City Hall. To be plug-in ready, cities have to make sure utilities can handle the extra load, right down to individual neighborhoods, and that car owners can upgrade their home electrical system, if needed, without a lot of red tape.

“Permitting can be a bit of a nightmare,” said Mathew Mattila, manager of Project Get Ready, an initiative founded by the Rocky Mountain Institute. Just ask consumers in New York and California who bought BMW’s Mini-E electric cars last year. “People had an EV sitting dead in their garage for months because they couldn’t get a permit for a charging station,” he said. “It was a great flop, but it was also a good learning experience.”

To accelerate development of electric vehicles, the U.S. Department of Energy is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to support programs in select cities. The EV Project, for instance, is a $100 million effort to deploy 4,700 Nissan Leaf electric vehicles and 11,210 chargers in five states: Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona and Tennessee. It is headed up by Ecotality, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based maker of charging systems. Coulomb Technologies, another charger company, received a $15 million DOE grant to provide nearly 5,000 charging stations in nine cities: Austin, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, Sacramento, the San Jose/San Francisco Bay Area, Redmond, Wash., and Washington. Ford Motor ( F – news – people ), General Motors and Smart USA are partners in that program.

Installing public charging sites is expensive. General Electric ( GE – news – people ), which also makes chargers, estimates that for every dollar spent on charging equipment, another 50 cents could be spent on electrical system infrastructure. That doesn’t even include the cost of digging up sidewalks and parking garages to install the units.

Right now, public chargers are mostly for show, anyway. Most EV owners will charge their cars at home, overnight. But even this is not as simple as it sounds.

Most electric cars can plug into a regular, 120-volt household outlet–fine for short-range EVs or plug-in hybrids like the Chevrolet Volt. (It’ll take about eight hours to charge a Volt to its full 40-mile range. A backup gasoline motor will provide extra miles, if necessary). But for pure EVs, which have bigger batteries, charging on a 120-volt outlet will take too long. Most EV owners will want a 240-volt outlet (used for appliances like electric stoves or clothes dryers) instead. If your home isn’t equipped, you’ll need to have an electrician rewire your garage–and install the charger, which could cost anywhere from $300 to $1,500. (The government will reimburse 50% of the costs, up to $2,000.)

Super-fast chargers–480-volt plugs capable of having your car juiced up in 20 minutes or so–will be available in select cities, but until U.S. standards for those quick-charge connectors are set, availability will be spotty.

Utilities at the forefront of EV readiness efforts, including Southern California Edison ( SCE.PR.B – news – people ) and Duke Energy, say there is plenty of juice available on the grid to power electric cars. But if all the early adopters are concentrated in a handful of cities, that could strain transformers and switching equipment at the local level. The trick, utilities say, will be encouraging people to charge their vehicles at off-peak times so that there’s enough electricity to meet peak demand on hot summer afternoons.

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Britain’s Newest, Most Eco-Friendly Hotel

An equal commitment to luxury and the environment makes The Scarlet a special place, writes Saska Graville.

As first impressions go, walking into The Scarlet is pretty hard to top. Standing in the lobby and gazing through the floor-to-ceiling windows, all I can see are sky and sea. Lots of it. Light floods the airy space and the surf is breaking virtually under my nose.

When it comes to location, location, location, this hotel has it sussed. Its cliff-top site overlooks Mawgan Porth, a quiet, sandy beach close to buzzy Newquay on Cornwall’s north coast. All that separates the hotel from the seashore is a perilous, rocky drop. Anyone who thinks that Australia has the copyright on show-off surf views needs to check in here.

Stunning though the scenery is, it’s not the only thing that makes The Scarlet such a special spot. The hotel, which opened in August, claims to be Britain’s most eco-friendly, going so far as to boast 101 different ways in which it is sustainable. But if you think being eco means you can’t be luxurious, think again. The Scarlet may have nerdy-sounding “grey water harvesting”, “sea thrift roofing” (a Cornish plant) and a macerator to dry out food waste but it combines its greenness with a serious dose of glamour – a world-class spa, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and bedrooms so comfortable you won’t want to leave.

But back to that show-stopping lobby. As well as maximising every centimetre of view with huge windows, the interior reveals the owners’ love of art and design. Sofas are upholstered in bright Missoni fabrics and quirky pieces of Cornish sculpture and paintings are everywhere. The scattered newspapers and books encourage you to sit back and enjoy – on seeing one guest quietly dozing in a sunny corner, owner Debbie Stratton (one of three sisters behind the project) positively grinned with delight.

The bedrooms are just as conducive to zoning out. Lying on my bed watching a perfect sunset unfold in front of me, I feel hypnotised. The accompanying soundtrack of crashing waves only adds to the mood. Rooms are categorised as “Just right”, “Generous”, “Unique”, “Spacious” and “Indulgent” and even the smallest “Just right” ones are roomy and sun-drenched. My “Spacious” space, is, as you’d imagine, on the large side. From my enormous bed, perfectly positioned to gaze out to sea across a wide balcony, I take in views of surf, beach and craggy cliff-top greenery. In keeping with the “101” eco efficiencies, there is no in-room mini bar, minimising “the use of ozone depleting substances” and all of the towels and robes are made of organic cotton. Even the guest soap (locally handmade, of course) could be taken home in a fair-trade bag or left for the hotel to recycle as stain rub.

It’s this attention to sustainable detail that makes The Scarlet unique. Most luxury establishments are hardly models of green behaviour, so this hotel really does set itself apart. From the biomass boiler that produces all the hot water and heating, to the thermal solar panels, ecotricity supply (100 per cent of the electricity used is generated through renewable sources), rainwater harvesting and recycling policy, it takes its eco responsibilities very seriously.

Not that it impedes on the five-star experience. If anything, it enhances it. It’s certainly not many hotels that can boast a chemical-free fresh water outdoor pool, filtered by reeds and dotted with floating water lilies and hovering dragonflies. Or two log-fired hot tubs perched on the edge of a cliff. The blend of natural assets, stunning views and pampering luxury is remarkable.

For the ultimate taste of how well The Scarlet looks after its guests, book yourself a spa “journey”. While many hotels – even those that are plush enough to know better – fob you off with a “spa” that is little more than a couple of treatment rooms in the basement, The Scarlet offers the real deal, with an extensive sprawl of treatment rooms, relaxation spaces, steam rooms, hammams and pools (the outdoor fresh water one and an indoor one, too).

The therapies offered are a blend of Ayurvedic and more conventional, with the four-hour journeys at the heart of the experience. These begin with a hammam body scrub using organic seaweed and sea salt, followed by a massage and relaxation. This last part takes place in a dark, silent room, filled with hanging cushioned “pods” into which you climb to doze off. And I mean really doze off. The combination of gentle rocking, massage-induced relaxation and subdued, moody lighting sent me into a deep slumber.

A visit to the “light therapy” room comes next. Overlooking the outdoor pool and the ocean beyond, this sunny area offers drowsy guests a choice of loungers or bean bags in which to slump. I also make the most of the warm weather by heading outside to snooze in a rocking chair while the sun warms my face and the lifeguards on the beach below yell into their loud speakers to warn swimmers of the treacherous surf. Bondi, eat your heart out.

With plans for an outdoor sauna this year, this spot will be unbeatable.

A final word of praise for The Scarlet’s food. Think organic, local and pretension-free. If you’re in search of Michelin-starred foams and tricksy flavour combinations, look elsewhere. As you’d expect from the seaside location, fish lovers are spoilt for choice and most of the produce is home-grown – even the breakfast apple juice comes from a tree in one of the owner’s garden. And if you do fancy a change of scene, Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen is a cliff-top walk away in neighbouring Watergate Bay.

That’s if you can drag yourself away from The Scarlet. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it.

The writer was a guest of The Scarlet.

TRIP NOTES

WHERE The Scarlet, Tredragon Road, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, phone +44 1637 861 800 +44 1637 861 800, see scarlethotel.co.uk.

HOW MUCH Low season B&B rates start at £180 ($324) a night for a “Just right” room.

TOP MARKS The Scarlet is a “grown-ups only” hotel, so blissfully free of screaming kids. Perfect for anyone — including frazzled parents — who wants a peaceful getaway. Families can book into the next-door Bedruthan Steps Hotel, which has the same owners.

BLACK MARK The main dining room is gorgeous but avoid the secondary, smaller one that feels hidden away and forgotten.

DON’T MISS A four-hour spa journey followed by a cliff-top walk to see the spectacular Bedruthan Steps.

Source: The Sun-Herald

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Big Sur Post Ranch Inn, Eco-luxury Hotel

Hotel Review: It’s a new year, but the focus on environmental focus and conservation has been growing and evolving for the better part of the past decade. Now, people have integrated “green living” so far into their lives it is no longer just at home or at work, but on vacation as well. Boutique hotels are applying their astute focus on their guests to their surroundings, and are becoming a quick favorite in the luxury boutique market, bringing many small, eco-luxury resorts to the forefront.

One of the most notable, and remarkable, is the small Post Ranch Inn nestled on the cliffs of Big Sur, California, home to some of the most beautiful scenery on the west coast. Towering redwood and oak trees surround and camouflage Post Ranch, making itself a part of the environment. One of the most secluded and romantic boutique hotels on the coast, the property is a haven for those looking to celebrate an unforgettable honeymoon or anniversary, or simply escape to peaceful comfort. Post Ranch Inn has met, and then raised, the bar for excellence in this category.

Recently updated from 30 rooms to now 40, each of the Post Ranch Inn’s guest rooms are suites, elevated to the highest level of accommodations. They boast breathtaking views of either the spanning Pacific Ocean or the looming, majestic mountains and cliffs of Big Sur through floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights. Enjoy the sunset on your private deck or the ceiling of stars in your indoor-outdoor bathtub. Each room also has king-size beds and wood-burning fireplaces, perfect for warming up on a chilly night.

With complimentary activities offered to the guests, your days will not be boring, even if you can find yourself able to leave your amazing suite. You can begin your day with morning yoga or join one of their experienced guides on a nature walk and tour through the forest. Finally, enjoy stargazing with the Post Ranch astronomer and take advantage of their location far from any city and the pristine view of the starry sky.

But anyone will tell you that a stay at the Post Ranch is not well spent until you experience one of their exceptional spa services at the hands of their talented aestheticians. From unique body therapies to a rejuvenating stone massage, all of their treatments are performed in the privacy of your suite or on your private deck, and can be enjoyed side-by-side with your spouse or loved one, making them a great addition to a romantic getaway.

So many that have indulged in the Post Ranch Inn have returned again and again, proving their excellence in service and accommodations. As a family venture, their attention to detail and guest experience is unparalleled, earning them their status as a truly luxurious vacation spot for the discerning traveler. You can rest assured that, upon your visit, you’ll be hard-pressed to be disappointed.

Posted: Jan. 14th, 2010 | By Kamran Razavi
Just Luxe

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Adrere Amellal: The Perfect Getaway for the Eco Adventurer

If you are craving to break away from the clutches of the modern world and are in need of simpler living, the Adrere Amellal Desert Ecolodge is possibly one of the most perfect escapes imaginable, especially for the culturally aware and environmentally sensitive global traveler.

Make a Booking RequestRecently awarded as one of the top Ecolodges of 2009 by National Geographic Adventure, Adrere Amellal is an absolutely beautiful Nature Lodge overlooking Lake Siwa, built by hand with mud and salt brick blending into the foot of the White Mountain cliffs in Egypt.

Leading the way in sustainable development, this luxury lodge has been built with indigenous material using traditional Siwan building techniques and styles which have a proven minimal impact on the environment. Along with construction, the operations of the ecolodge’s goal is to provide no interference with the natural habitats of the area.

One of the most exciting features of Adrere Amellal is that is has an extremely low energy consumption mostly due to the fact that they have no electricity whatsoever. The rooms and surrounding area is lit up by beeswax candles and the starry desert sky, which make evenings absolutely breathtaking. On cooler evenings coal-filled braziers are used for heating and adequate ventilation is used for warmer days so no air conditioning is necessary.

Every spacious room here is unique and is decorated with local artisan furniture and crafts, paying tribute to nature and the native heritage.

Adrere Amellal also offers some of the most delectable cuisine imaginable. Food prepared at the lodge is organically grown on the grounds or is sourced locally allowing for food to be of the highest quality and bursting with flavor. Meals are served in a different location each day adding a special touch to your dining experience.

Being set among the desert sand dunes, this is an exciting area to explore. From the Siwa’s salt lakes, guided excursions, the ruins of Shali Fortress and the local market place with full of locally made handicrafts, you will surely be swept away by this areas amazing culture and heritage.

With a commitment to preserving the natural and cultural heritage of the destination as well as the overall environmental sustainability of the location, Adrere Amellal is more than just a luxury getaway; it is a place unique unto itself and is one vacation that you will truly never forget.

by Melanie Zieba
January 14th, 2010
The Kiwi Collection Jetsetter

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