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Tissue and Toilet Paper Guide

Wednesday, February 25, 2009 by Kyle Scribner

Ha! A guide for toilet paper. Funny stuff, you think.

Until you realize more than 400,000 trees would be saved if every family in America bought even just one roll of recycled toilet paper.

So says Greenpeace, which has released a Recycled Tissue and Toilet Paper Guide that shows which companies use recycled content in their paper products. It’s the latest salvo in Greenpeace’s ongoing feud with Kimberly-Clark – maker of Kleenex, Scott, Cottonelle and other tissue, napkin and toilet paper products – which Greenpeace claims is destroying ancient forests by using pulp from unsustainable sources and not using enough recycled content.

Greenpeace says Kimberly-Clark used 3.3 million tons of virgin (tree) fiber in 2004 produced from clearcut logging in ancient forests like the Canadian Boreal Forest.

Kimberly-Clark counters with its latest sustainability report, in which it claims 31% of the content in its products is recycled.

But with all the resources a multibillion dollar company like K-C must have, it feels like they should be doing more.

In its guide, Greenpeace highlights companies that ARE doing more, like Green Forest, which uses 90% post-consumer recycled content (and 100% recycled overall) in its toilet paper, paper towels and tissue; and others like Natural Value and Seventh Generation.

Do you make it a habit to buy recycle paper products? Let us know by commenting below.

Cacao Pearl Update

Monday, February 16, 2009 by Kyle Scribner

I recently wrote about an exciting concept: the environmentally friendly, nonprofit luxury resort.

Joël Céré, the CEO of Barefoot Resorts and the Cacao Pearl poobah, sheds more insight on what exactly they’re doing and how they’re doing it:

Can you give specifics on what types of renewable energy will power the resort?
100% renewable and sustainable: Solar, micro-hydro, wind and bio-fuels.

What sort of eco-activities will be available for guests?
Diving with 22 shipwrecks in the vicinity; snorkeling, sailing, windsurfing, kite flying, hiking in the forest; learning traditional arts & crafts (including cooking lessons with fresh produces from our garden) or just lazing on the beach. We’ll also offer yoga, relaxation in our open-air spa, a movie theatre, a well stocked library, organic restaurants, etc…

The Cacao Pearl is also within short sailing distance to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site). This park features a large limestone karst landscape with one of the world’s longest underground rivers (5 miles). The area represents a significant habitat for biodiversity conservation. The site contains a full ‘mountain-to-sea’ ecosystem and has some of the most important forests in Asia.

Tubbataha Reef Marine Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site). The Tubbataha Reef Marine Park covers 206 square miles, including the North and South Reefs. It is a unique example of an atoll reef with a very high density of marine species; the North Islet serving as a nesting site for birds and marine turtles. The site is an excellent example of a pristine coral reef with a spectacular 110 yards perpendicular wall, extensive lagoons and two coral islands.

How do you respond to skeptics who might say it's not possible to accomplish a zero-impact resort because by its very existence it impacts its surroundings?
Put simply, if we did not set-up the Cacao Pearl there, this island would have been snapped-up by another developer who would have been less concerned about the environment. The Cacao Peal will positively impact its surrounding economically, enviromentally and socially:
• Economically: The resort will create substantial economic opportunity for the local community through employment and local products/services sourcing.
• Environmentally: Cacao Resorts will provide an economic incentive for local communities to preserve the environment but will also contribute directly to the funding and activities of local marine reserves and environmental programs. Our development accounts for less than 20% of the island.
• Socially: Cacao Resorts will set-up a local fund to sponsor local social and economical programs. This can range from micro-credits to educational bursaries to infrastructure projects.

One of Barefoot's stated goals is "to ensure long-term value for our people, projects, investors and partners." With 100% of Cacao Pearl's net operating profits used to support local environmental and social programs, how will Cacao Pearl deliver ROI to investors?
Every Cacao Pearl eco-villa owner will enjoy capital growth and a very competitive rental yield. As a company, the Cacao Pearl is a commercial endeavour that seeks to make a profit. Like all resorts, our profit comes after deducting operational expenses, taxes and capital expenses (to allow the resorts to invest in their growth – thus generating more profits). What happens to this profit is the main difference to traditional resort operators, and in this we are closer to a not-for-profit business: We commit it to an independent and non-profit foundation for distribution.

While the focus obviously is on Cacao Pearl now, does Barefoot have any other properties on the horizon?
We are in talks with the government of Belize for a project in Cayo, western Belize, close to the important Mayan site, Caracol. We are also looking at a winter resort and are scouting for suitable sites in North America. We will also launch a new island adventure in Asia during 2009.

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Birds, Birds Everywhere (Especially Up North)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 by Kyle Scribner

Doesn’t matter where you call home – from the heart of the city to the farthest-out exburb – birds flock (literally, ha!) to where you are. This makes it incredibly easy to observe them, which makes it incredibly easy for anyone to participate in a scientific study. “What scientific study?” you ask? We’ll get to the “what.” But first, the “why.”

This post was moved to the Captivate 'Out and About' blog -- click here to read the review in its entirety, and to follow Captivate's other ventures out of the elevator!

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Solving The Green Travel Paradox

Wednesday, February 4, 2009 by Kyle Scribner

While vacationing in Mexico’s Riviera Maya a few years back, I went for a walk along the beach just to see how far I could get, sand-shuffling my way past dozens of resorts to the point – and yes, this point exists, believe it or not – where the stretch of hotels ends and forest begins (probably not a coincidence that that point comes just as the beach turns into rocky shoreline – tough to set up a beach chair on crags, you know).

The forest is dense and vibrant, filled with movement and sounds and exhaling cool air that rushes over you if you decide to take the path that cuts through just its very edge (if you’re REALLY adventurous, you could find one of the holes in the wire fence that separates the forest proper from the beach and dive in, but I wasn’t up for contracting malaria or getting mauled by a jaguarundi).

But seeing that forest also got me to thinking about the forest that USED to be there, that used to run all the way back up to my hotel and well beyond, and it got me depressed because it was me and the millions like me who want to visit these places that give the developers incentive to level the trees – and destroy the habitat – in the first place.

It was thus a simple, carefree jaunt to nowhere landed me in the middle of a troubling paradox: How do we enjoy our natural resources without contributing to their destruction?

Many developers have come along to try to answer that very question, planting green resorts in ecologically sensitive areas all around the world that allow access even while limiting footprint. Places like Kenya’s Campi ya Kanzi, which works with the local Maasai community to responsibly open the wonders of the Mt. Kilimanjaro foothills to visitors; Ecuador’s zero-waste Black Sheep Inn, which teaches tourists about the local diversity from its perch high in the Andes; and Utah’s Park City Mountain Resort, which offsets all its energy consumption through carbon credits.

Eco-friendly tours also abound, such as the one a Captivate coworker of mine recently took during a visit to Mexico. Urban Escapes NYC and Alltournative balanced the thrills of tourism, he tells me, with environmental and cultural preservation in a trip that included a jungle zip-line, a rappel and swim in a cenote (a cave lagoon), a traditional lunch prepared by women of the Maya community, a visit to Mayan archaeological ruins and an expedition through a secret river that runs through a vast cave system (photo above).

Even a cursory web search will turn up hundreds of green resorts and tours like these.

But one resort in particular caught my eye, not only for its policy of strict environmental responsibility, but because it plans to give its profits to environmental and social programs.

You read that right: a nonprofit resort. It’s called the Cacao Pearl, a planned “luxury eco-community” on a 124-acre island in the Philippines. Right next door to the Palawan Biosphere Reserve, Cacao Pearl promises pampering without the guilty conscience.

You get to enjoy the comfort of homes designed by a Hollywood art director (does that mean you can’t lean on the walls?), an infinity pool, wreck & reef diving, a spa, organic gardens & bar, restaurant, and private media rooms, all the while easing your living-the-high-life pangs of guilt with the knowledge that your barely noticeable footprint (because of the resort’s sustainable construction methods and 100% use of renewable energy) will be erased entirely since your money goes back to the local community.

I sent some questions – like how exactly will renewables be incorporated, or what programs will benefit from Cacao profits – along to the CEO of the development, Joël Céré. I’ll post an update if/when I hear back.

But if Cacao Pearl can deliver on its claims, it’s the answer to the paradox that struck me those years ago in Mexico: a place where you take part, without taking from.

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Kyle Scribner is a born-again nature freak who also happens to be an editor at Captivate Network.

You know that exhilarated feeling you got as a kid when you would go down to the pond to catch frogs? It never really goes away; it’s just dormant. So I'm here to slap a mix of facts and borderline balanced opinion on you, to poke a stick at the nature freak slumbering in us all and maybe get him to once again come out and play.

And we might even learn a few things about the environment as we go.


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About Green Among Gray

How do you commune with nature or become part of the solution to the environmental crisis when you're trapped in a cement-and-glass, gas-guzzling, power-sucking, emissions-spewing metropolis 8 hours (or more) a day? How do you go 'green' in a world of gray?

Actually, there are plenty of ways, and Green Among Gray aims to show high-rise inhabitants how they can help ease the load on the environment and on their minds by exploring natural oases, conservation tips, and other ways to stay green while working in the concrete-built world of the big city.

Look for short updates on the latest environmental news along with periodic longer features on specific places and events that allow big-city workers to get close to nature.