I have found it just as interesting to attend to the planning and cultural awareness that goes in to the facilities. Planners and architects should be recognized not just for their adherence to LEED standards, but also to the cultural and ethnographic idiosyncrasies of their sites and localities.
Land Use and Urban Growth
by Sam Marquit
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, is a building certification process developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a non-profit organization (not a government agency) headquartered in Washington, D.C. As a contractor working in the commercial building industry, I have been able to see first-hand the progress of implementing the green building mentality into the tourism industry. The ultimate goal, of course, is for the facility to become LEED certified and self-sustaining.
Think about the travel and hospitality industry as a whole, and the numbers of structures they represent. The combined environmental impact of the trade is huge, but at the same time the opportunities for a hotel to make a positive impact by reducing their carbon footprint is equally vast. Every area of a hotel, from guest rooms to “back of house” facilities has operations that can negatively impact the environment. Energy and water management, waste reduction, sustainable and local purchasing, and use of alternative transportation are areas that offer relatively easy ways to improve green-friendliness. Hotels and resorts that achieve LEED certification also see cash benefits from energy efficiency and utility savings. Best of all perhaps is that such properties attract the growing market of eco-conscious travelers.
In Asia, for instance, I have noticed accommodation providers taking community and culture into account when developing properties. Wildlife and nature conservation and efficiency of resource usages are categories in an award called the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards. Strategies by property developers could be as easy as installing bathroom fixtures with automatic shut off valves or serving locally sourced foods.
Las Vegas has also filled properties with products that meet LEED standards. The Palazzo Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas was recently namednamed “Most Eco-Friendly Hotel in America”. It has many sustainable elements, including reusing its own waste. Las Vegas has not cornered the market for those wanting to take their green-mindedness on the road. While LEED certified hotels in Las Vegas are a great example of innovation, there are other destinations at the LEED forefront. New York City hotels are working to recycle waste and improve their sustainability scores. The ink48 Hotel program called Earthcare focuses on having a positive impact on the globe. It is a member of the Kimpton brand of boutique hotels, a chain that takes eco-mindedness seriously at all their properties. The program allows members to discuss methods on how they can play a positive role in boosting the health and environment.
Regardless of the methods, the location or the price tag, it is fantastic to see entrepreneurs taking on the task of making their operations sustainable and culturally meaningful. The integration of local populations, produce and activities further blends the facility with the land. As a builder, it is an honor to participate in this work. I hope it is something that more business owners in the travel and tourism market begin to take seriously to bring forth a better OurBlueSphere.
By Rod Harris
In a poem titled “The Rime Of the Ancient Mariner”, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, (1798), reference is made to “Water, Water Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink”.
Water is essential to survival on our planet, and our life on earth cannot exist without safe drinking water. Water covers 70.9% of the Earth’s surface. 97% is found in the oceans, 2.4% in the polar ice caps and glaciers, 1.6% below ground in aquifers and .001% in the air as vapor, clouds, or precipitation. Only about 0.024% of the earth’s vast water supply is available as liquid freshwater in accessible groundwater deposits from rivers, lakes, and streams. The remainder is too salty or is stored as ice, or is to deep underground to extract at affordable prices.
The Water Cycle or Hydrologic Cycle collects, purifies, and distributes the earth’s fixed supply of water. This cycle is considered to be a cycle of natural renewal of water quality. Through evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and transpiration (water loss through evaporation from the surfaces of plants) the Hydrologic Cycle continues to re-supply water to the “water planet”, earth. Surface runoff of water continually re-sculptures the earth. Groundwater replenishes streams and lakes. Water is the number one way in which nutrients are transported between ecosystems.
Humans alter the Water Cycle in three ways.
(1) We withdraw large quantities of freshwater from lakes, rivers, streams and underground sources faster than nature can replace it.
(2) We clear vegetation that increases runoff and reduce infiltration to replace underground aquifers. This also alters weather patterns by reducing transpiration by plants.
(3) We increase flooding by draining wetlands for farming and other purposes. If wetlands are not disturbed or altered they act as a natural flood control by absorbing the overflow of water like a sponge. When we cover many acres of land with roads, parking lots, and buildings it lowers the land’s ability to absorb water, which increases water runoff. The runoff often picks up a variety of harmful water pollutants.
It is estimated that by 2025 half the world will be facing water-based vulnerability. Water demands may exceed supply by as much as 50% making water an enormous commodity in the world economy. As stewards of all the natural resources our earth contains, protecting our freshwater supply is essential to sustaining life on Our Blue Sphere.
Photos by Susie Harris, HarrisPhotos.com
By Rod Harris
“If I do not use this resource, someone else will. The little bit I use or pollute is not enough to matter, and anyway, It’s a renewable resource”.
The idea that open and free access areas with renewable resources are available for use by anyone at little or no charge gave rise to the concept of the “Tragedy of the Commons” by Garrett Hardin (1915-2003). Examples of shared renewable resources, include clean air, underground water supplies, and open ocean and its fish.
There are three types of property or resource rights:
- Private property where individuals or firms own the rights to land, minerals, or other resources.
- Common property, where the rights to certain resources are held by large groups or individuals.
- Open access renewable resources, owned by no one and available for use by anyone at little or no charge.
When the number of users is small, the problem is minimal. However, the cumulative effect leads to exploitation that can ruin the resource. This, in turn, causes total loss of benefits. The concept of satisfying short term needs, causes long term economic and sustainability loss of open-access resources such as clean air or an open ocean fishery.
One solution is to use shared resources at rates well below their estimated sustainable yields by reducing use of the resources, regulating access to the resources or doing both. For example, governments could establish laws limiting the annual harvest of ocean fish that are being harvested above sustainable rates In their coastal waters. Nations could agree to regulate access to open-access renewable resources such as fish in the open ocean.
A second solution might be to convert open-access resources to private ownership. This approach is not practical for global open-access resources, such as the atmosphere, the open ocean, and most wildlife species that cannot be divided up to private property.
Our Blue Sphere is to be shared by all mankind. Environmental decisions whether local, regional, national or global, will ultimately affect our existence. Planet Earth, our home, must become sustainable for us and all future inhabitants!