The Green Leaf Inn
I recently came across the Green Leaf Inn via a conservation on Twitter and became very interested in what they are doing up there in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. This Inn redefines what is means to be green in the American travel industry. It is powered by a large (151 ft. tall) wind turbine that generates an estimated 112,000 kwh per year. The goal for this energy system is to have net zero energy transfer to the grid. The unpredictability of wind makes this difficult, but the size of the turbine ensures a constant power supply because it feeds power directly to the lines.
One of the issues that immediately comes to mind with wind turbines is the effect they will have on birds. Their site states that they will take this into consideration. We must weigh this concern against the benefit of having clean energy with almost zero greenhouse gas emissions. Considering the weight of climate change in recent years, it seems that having clean energy is the more important issue.
The Inn will use graywater/rainwater catchment to minimize water use and it will include a learning center for green technology, five garden areas and a pottery studio. They have created a long list of green technologies and incentives they are considering to implement as they construct the Inn. One of the most interesting technologies the Inn will have is the entry system to individual rooms. The room will “energize” (everything electrical will turn on) when the guest enters his/her room and it will “de-energize” when the guest leaves the room, thus wasting no energy because someone leaves a light or appliance on when they leave the room. As this is a relatively rural area with access to the major metropolitan areas of Chicago and Milwaukee, they seem well placed for consumers that are open and willing to have a green vacation experience close to home.
A more fundamental question for new hotels remains: is it better for the environment to build new structures for hotels or remodel old buildings into new, more energy efficient hotels? Well, often getting rid of the old materials in older buildings has the environmental cost of disposing of these materials…asbestos, lead paints, etc. One benefit of utilizing an old building is that we are not covering more potential wildlife habitat. Perhaps the optimal situation is to use a space that had a building on it at one time and construct a new green hotel here so as to not encroach upon more habitat. Construction for the Green Leaf Inn is a combination of remodeling and building on new ground. Considering all of the green features that the Green Leaf Inn is going to employ, it appears that the environmental benefits far outweigh the small costs incurred by building over new habitat for some portion of the Inn.
Overall, The Green Leaf Inn promises to be the one of the first truly green hotels in the United States! Here is an interview with the owner that gives some detail about the experience guests can expect at the Inn.
Jade Yoga Mat
I have been doing yoga for over ten years so I decided I should make a good investment in my next yoga mat. I bought a Jade yoga mat and I have been quite satisfied with it so far. However, I wanted to know more about how green this mat really is, so I did some research. The mats are made of natural rubber and you can definitely smell it when you roll them out. The rubber smell is a pleasant change from the the old PVC mats that I used before. Not only are the PVC processed with some fairly toxic chemicals, but they also do not grip nearly as well as the Jade natural rubber mats.
The Jade yoga mats do not contain any heavy metals or ozone depleting chemicals. They do contain rubber pigments that are organic and inorganic, which are used to make colors in the mats. The mats are manufactured in the United States. Jade Industries plants a tree for every mat they sell through their partnership with Trees for the Future.
I like to do vinyasa flow yoga, which means that I often sweat a lot during my practice so grip is very important to be able to stay on the mat for the entire practice. The Jade yoga mat is also thicker than any PVC mat I have used. This is very important when you are doing poses where your knees or ankles are on the mat. It greatly reduces the stress on these joints. The mat is heavier than other mats I have used, which may be a drawback for someone that is carrying their mat long distances.
The rubber of which the mats are made is sourced from southeast Asia, not Brazil, which is a big plus environmentally because they do not contribute to the deforestation of the Amazon region. However, the rubber from southeast Asia has a long transit from this part of the globe so the carbon footprint is an issue. The price range for a Jade yoga mat is about $40-100. This is somewhat higher than the price of a PVC mat, but the Jade mat will last much longer than a PVC and you will be more satisfied with its cushioning and grip. Overall, the Jade yoga mat is the best I have found!
2010 Toyota Prius
The green product review focuses on the Toyota Prius this week. It is one of the pioneers in the hybrid vehicle business, but how well does it stand up to the claims made about it?
Claim 1: superior fuel efficiency- the 2010 Toyota Prius is rated by the manufacturer at 5o mpg city/highway combined. After driving the vehicle extensively, I have concluded that 50 mpg is a good average, but this number varies quite a bit based on how quickly;y one accelerates. driving at low speeds (35 mpg or less) in town with a light foot can yield almost 80 mpg! However, for the more aggressive driver, the likely output would be closer to 40 mpg.
Claim 2: Enhanced styling – the Prius has a very aerodynamic look and feel; the computer screen offers lots of info on GPS, radio and rear camera. This is great for those that use such features, but the panel is a bit overwhelming until you get used to it. Perhaps a more simplified version would be nice. Another point of contention on the styling is the rear window.
The separator between the upper and lower sections of the rear window make seeing out the back a bit more complicated. Also, the windshield area, while very aerodynamic, has a bit of an awkward look to it from the driver’s position. The ride for this vehicle is surprisingly comfortable for a car that gets such great mileage. It handles well and has a good turn radius.
Overall, the Prius is a great vehicle. It has become much less expensive than in its early years and very popular among consumers. The new Nickel-metal hydride battery is safer environmentally due to the absence of cadmium, which was in the battery of the older models. However, this depends on exactly what metals are used in the Nickel-metal hydride battery and what the extraction process involves.