Sustainability Efforts Do Not Affect Statler Guests, Professors Find

Image for ilustration purposes.

Hotel guests do not find themselves inconvenienced by environmental conservation efforts, a Cornell Center for Hospitality Research study revealed last week.

Prof. Rohit Verma, operations management and executive director of CHR, and Prof. Alex Susskind, food and beverage management, conducted the study between August and December 2010.

Two years ago, Philips, the electronics company, approached Verma and Susskind about conducting an experiment to test people’s reactions to energy-saving technology. From there, Verma and Susskind brought the idea to The Statler to determine how guests react to energy-saving technology — such as LED light —  and whether such initiatives detract from the guest experience, according to Verma.

In the experiment, the professors used eight rooms in The Statler Hotel as a testing ground. The rooms featured either compact fluorescent lights or LED bulbs. In addition, they each had an LCD television, which could be set to the standard setting or three energy-saving settings — low, medium and high. The professors arranged the study so that each of the four settings were being tested in two rooms.

192 guests unknowingly became participants when they filled out a survey evaluating their stay at The Statler. Among various questions about their stay, the survey asked guests to evaluate the quality of lighting and television, Verma said.

“The biggest thing that we found was that the customers perceived the quality of new sustainable technology to be equally attractive as the more traditional technology, which consumes more energy,” Verma said.

A hotel would save approximately $6,000 a year by programming televisions with the most energy-efficient settings, according to the study.

Richard Adie ’75, general manager of The Statler, said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the study results regarding television — especially the amount of money that they suggest hotels will save. The Statler has already started making plans to replace TVs with energy-saving ones, he added.

Susskind considers LCD TVs to be reasonably priced, saying that they are not significantly more  expensive than non-energy-saving TV sets.

Although Adie also expressed interest in changing the CFL light bulbs that are currently in use at The Statler to LED bulbs, he said the price of the bulbs poses a problem.

“The challenge that I have right now is that the bulbs are expensive,” Adie said. “They are about $27 each. That’s about $100 per room, which is a pretty big investment.”

Although LED lighting is initially more expensive, it has a longer life than the CFL bulbs and will therefore reduce hotel costs in the long-term, according to Susskind.

Looking to the future, Adie said The Statler will be taking a methodological approach to the switch from CFL to LED bulbs; As the current CFL bulbs die out, LED bulbs will replace them.

“Secondly, we found some indication that people may be willing to pay more if we can prove to them that we are taking our own positive actions to our system,” Verma said.

45 percent of the participants in the survey indicated that they would pay more to stay at a hotel that practiced conservation. Furthermore, 30 percent said they would specifically seek out hotels with sustainability initiatives, according the study.

“If they can make these conservation moves — and it doesn’t affect the guests’ experience — it’s a win for everybody,” said Jim Prevor, a guest at The Statler last weekend.

Although the study shows that 30 percent of participants look favorably upon hotels with sustainability efforts, Adie remains hesitant about making such changes.

“I think that everyone that travels is price sensitive no matter what price range they’re in. I don’t think we’re at the point where people are willing to pay a premium to stay in a room that’s sustainable,” Adie said.

He expressed doubts that guests would be willing to pay a sustainability premium for a commercial hotel.

“I think it’s a different thing if you’re developing a resort in Costa Rica that is focused on every aspect of the stay being eco-friendly,” Adie said.

Prevor echoed Adie’s sentiments.

“I’d like to say that I would choose a hotel based on their conservation efforts, but in most cases the practicality of the situation dictates the situation,” Prevor said.

CHR is planning a broader follow-up study for the summer of 2011, Verma said.


Autor: Jesella Zambrano

Fecha: 17/03/2011

Google entra en el negocio del biofuel

Google, imparable en la carrera de las renovables, entra ahora, mediante su división de capital riesgo Google Ventures, en el accionariado de CoolPlanetBioFuels. Se trata de una empresa con sede en Camarillo (California) especializada en la fabricación de combustibles a partir de la celulosa de residuos vegetales (hierba, maleza, astillas de madera, residuos forestales, etc). Google toma esta decisión después de que fondos como GE Energy Financial Services o North Bridge Venture Partners ya hayan invertido 8 millones de dólares en la empresa.

Según el sitio web de la empresa, ésta es capaz de producir biocombustibles carbono-negativos, de una calidad equivalente a la gasolina y apto para todos los coches.

El fraccionador de biomasa desarrollado por la empresa produce, después de la extracción del hidrocarburo, un residuo sólido de carbón que, enterrado de un modo adecuado, se puede utilizar para mejorar la calidad de los suelos segregando así el carbón de la atmósfera durante cientos de años. De ese modo, el uso del biocombustible de CoolPlanetBioFuels no sólo es carbono-neutral (no contribuye con carbono a la atmósfera) sino es carbono-negativo, es decir, hace desaparecer de la atmósfera una cantidad adicional de carbono igual a la cantidad de biocombustible producido.

El fraccionador de biomasa es una tecnología propietaria que la empresa planea empaquetar según una arquitectura abierta y modular de contenedores fácilmente transportables, cada uno capaz de producir 1 millón de barriles de combustible al año.


Autor: CoolPlanetBioFuels

Fecha: 21/03/11

Responsible Travel Means Not «Haggling Over Wooden Beads»

PARIS, Mar 15, 2011 (IPS) – Tourism as a concern found its way onto the agenda of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro because of its potential for development but also due to its adverse effects on some populations and natural resources, particularly in Africa.

Sustainable tourism was defined at the summit as tourism that «meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future».

The many definitions of «responsible travel» all insist on the conservation of nature, of cultures, and on economic and social development. Meanwhile, the market has been booming.

Global figures are hard to come by. But «Responsible Travel», a British tour operator that sells «travel which respect and benefits local people and the environment», says it has sold 3,900 holidays since 2004.

ATES, the French Association for Fair Tourism, says it has sold holidays to 20,000 «responsible travellers» since 2006. Their annual numbers doubled between 2006 and 2009.

Tourism has indeed been hailed as the key to development in many countries. But its unintended consequences have included environmental degradation, as well as community factionalism and social stratification whenever communities do not enjoy a fair share of jobs and revenue.

«The history of tourism has been mostly negative for local communities and ecosystems,» says Amanda Stronza, an environmental anthropologist who teaches at the Texas A&M University.

«Cannibal Tours», a 1988 anthropological documentary which follows bright- eyed, camera-laden tourists asking village elders when they last ate human flesh, and haggling over two dollars’ worth of wooden necklaces, is a vivid illustration of the underbelly of tourism.

«During the height of modernisation in international development in the 1970s, large-scale tourism was heralded enthusiastically and often uncritically as a veritable ‘passport to development’,» argues Stronza.

«Entire nations advertised themselves as pristine paradises and promised plenty of sun, sand, sea, and sex. The goals of tourism investment, then, were almost purely macroeconomic,» she says.

Sustainable tourism, by contrast, aims at empowering local communities to manage and benefit from environmentally sound accommodation and tours.

«It’s a model in which the tourist encounters genuine inhabitants of a place, who benefit from and run tourism ventures,» says Julien Buot, coordinator of ATES.

«It’s at the crossroads between cultural travel, development economics, fair trade and international solidarity,» he says.

The San, from the Kalahari desert in southern Africa, have had first-hand experience of the virtues and drawbacks of tourism. Scattered across Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, they have organised to benefit from the numerous tourists eager to meet «Bushmen».

«One of the big problems with tourism in San communities was the problem of unfair distribution of tourism benefits,» says Robert Hitchcock, who chairs the department of anthropology at Michigan State University.

«Social costs include greater access to alcohol, with contributes to community tensions, and the spread of diseases, including HIV and AIDS and tuberculosis,» he explains.

In the 1970s, the Botswana government shifted to the position that the San should not be exploited as ‘‘tourism objects’’, and that Gaborone should not be engaged in what some felt to be the ‘‘exploitation of the San’’.

«In some communities, responsible operators have worked out agreements with local people to hire them as guides, to provide some benefits for development projects and to run social services like medical care and professional training,» Hitchcock says. «But this is rare.»

Most sustainable tourism ventures are too recent to assess the long-term benefits to locals. Responsible operators now know what doesn’t work. But successful sustainable tourism remains a tricky formula.

«Three-way partnerships between local communities, private companies, and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) seem to be ideal for making ecotourism work for triple goals of conservation, development, and profit,» says Stronza.

«When all three actors participate, local people are able to contribute their knowledge and resources; tour operators can provide investment capital, business acumen, and managerial experience; and NGOs can help with networking, skills building and cultural brokering,» she explains.

There are dozens of sustainable tourism labels, many of which are not subject to a robust certification scheme.

«Ecotourism can never be a panacea for any community’s array of economic or social challenges,» Stronza says. «But NGO support may be ‘the secret ingredient’ for making ecotourism not just an end in itself, but also a catalyst for broader social, environmental, and cultural initiatives,» she believes.

However, some sustainable tourism operations are fragile, have failed in the past because of political instability or civil unrest in the region.

«This has happened to well-established operations, as in the Kenya safari industry a few years ago when violence over presidential elections erupted, or in northern Ecuador, where coca eradication is associated with guerrillas and terrorism,» Stronza points out. (END)


Autor: Hilaire Avril

Fecha: 15/03/2011

Costa Rica sería de los más afectados por cambio climático


  • Político señala a Costa Rica como sitio con potencial de sequía para el 2090
  • Exvicepresidente menciona también posibilidad de serias inundaciones

Costa Rica figura entre los países que podrían verse más afectados por sequías prolongadas e inundaciones destructivas debido al cambio climático.

En el peor escenario previsto por NCAR para el 2099, Latinoamérica estaría en riesgo de sequías.
Así lo advirtió este miércoles el exvicepresidente de EE. UU. y premio Nobel de la Paz, Al Gore.

El político, quien dictó la charla de clausura del Foro Empresarial sobre Sostenibilidad y Ambiente 2011, alabó el liderazgo del país en la lucha contra el cambio climático. Sin embargo, también sorprendió a los 350 asistentes afirmando que, si el planeta no reduce la emisión de gases de efecto invernadero (GEI), Costa Rica sufrirá serias consecuencias.

Según Gore, el aumento global de la temperatura –a causa de los GEI– contribuye a que se evapore cada vez más el agua del océano y también el de los suelos, lo cual los deshidrata, favoreciendo sequías severas.

Para sustentar su advertencia, Gore mostró diapositivas con una serie de mapas. Estos representan escenarios creados por el Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Atmosféricas (NCAR) de Estados Unidos con base en 22 modelos climáticos ofrecidos por el Panel Intergubernamental sobre Cambio Climático en su informe del 2007.

En el último mapa se mostró el peor escenario posible, es decir, si no hay recorte de emisiones y la temperatura global continúa en ascenso. En él, Costa Rica se tiñe de morado.

Según detalló , esta coloración representa los sitios del planeta que se enfrentarían a las peores sequías generalizadas para finales de este siglo (entre el año 2090 y el 2099) en ese escenario (el peor de ellos).

Aiguo Dai, autor de la investigación citada por Gore, aclara en un comunicado de prensa del NCAR que las conclusiones reflejadas en estos mapas “se basan en las mejores proyecciones de las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero disponibles hoy”, pero que lo que ocurra en las próximas décadas dependerá de muchos factores, incluyendo las emisiones reales de gases de efecto invernadero en el futuro y los ciclos naturales del clima como el fenómeno El Niño. Ese estudio tiene el aval de la Academia Nacional de Ciencia de EE. UU.

La humedad extraída del mar y de la superficie terrestre se va a acumular en el aire, favoreciendo precipitaciones o lluvias mucho más fuertes e intensas, dijo.

Finalmente, Al Gore utilizó el llamado “efecto bañera” para explicar el porqué. “Mientras se emita más carbono de lo que la atmósfera y los bosques puedan absorber, la temperatura del planeta aumentará”, explicó.

“El carbono extra tarda mucho tiempo en ser drenado de la bañera”, dijo parafraseando al científico John Sterman, del MIT.

Luego de brindar estos datos, Gore invitó al público a imaginarse el impacto de sequías e inundaciones extremas en la infraestructura del país, y los ajustes presupuestarios que tendrían que hacerse para intentar paliar los daños. También lo invitó a pensar en las consecuencias en la producción de alimentos. “En un escenario donde la temperatura global sube 2° C más que en la época preindustrial, la producción costarricense de arroz caería un 31%”, sentenció.

“La única solución a la crisis del clima es la prevención” , concluyó, alentando al país en su meta de ser carbono neutral.


Autor: Alejandra Vargas M.

Fecha: 17/03/2011

How to Grow Organic Vegetables the Cheap and Easy Way for the Lazy Gardener

How to Grow Organic Vegetables the Cheap and Easy Way for the Lazy Gardenerthumbnail

Vegetable Garden Lettuce Gone to Seed

When a novice organic gardener learns to grow vegetables organically, they must learn about composting. Composting is a way of fertilizing the soil without synthetic fertilizers. They may also learn about saving seeds. Organic and heirloom seeds can be quite expensive to purchase. Below are some cheap and easy ways to fertilize an organic garden and save seeds from heirloom vegetables.

1. Composting
Long before there were synthetic fertilizers and compost tumblers to buy, people were composting. Anything that grows from the ground including fruits, vegetables, plants and trees help feed the soil when they decompose. Allowing this decomposition to occur and feed the soil is what composting is really all about.
Anytime you cook with raw fruits or vegetables, save the scraps and return them to your vegetable garden. You can bury them, but it is not necessary. As the plant material decomposes, it will feed the soil. Grass clippings and leaves also make excellent plant material to use as compost. Putting the leaves and grass clippings on top of the soil in your vegetable garden will block weeds and feed the soil at the same time. Grass clippings and leaves are full of nitrogen, which your plants need.
2 Saving Seeds
Before there were stores to purchase seeds, people considered seed saving to be a crucial skill for their existence. Saving seeds from this years crop to produce more food the next year was a way to avoid hunger. You can buy organic and heirloom seeds, but they can be much more expensive than conventional garden seeds.
You can save money by saving seeds from your fresh garden vegetables as you use them. This is the cheap way to get seeds for next years garden, but if you have ever saved, dried, and stored seeds for the next year you know this can be time consuming. Another benefit of composting plant material directly into your vegetable garden is that nature saves the seeds for you.
I regularly have vegetable plants popping up all over my garden in the spring without planting anything. The seeds from vegetables I composted the year before are growing. Of course, this type of gardening will not give you neat rows, but it will give you vegetables with little to no effort. I use my properly saved seeds to fill in empty space in my vegetable garden between the plants that popped up voluntarily.
3 More Easy Ways to Seed Your Garden
When you harvest or eat many vegetables, such as cucumbers, or squash, you are actually eating the fruit of the plant, which holds the seeds. Some other types of vegetables, such as lettuce, bolt and «go to seed.» Gardeners typically try to harvest vegetables before they bolt or «go to seed,» because the plants becomes bitter when they bolt. Lettuce leaves for example, become bitter.
To garden organically, the cheap and easy way, allow a few vegetables drop to the ground and reseed the ground. Allow a few plants to «go to seed,» also. By allowing the seeds to drop to the ground you will reseed your garden. This year I let a few of my spring lettuce heads go to seed. I had lettuce growing voluntarily in the fall from the spring seeds.
When you harvest or eat many vegetables, such as cucumbers, or squash, you are actually eating the fruit of the plant, which holds the seeds. Some other types of vegetables, such as lettuce, bolt and «go to seed.» Gardeners typically try to harvest vegetables before they bolt or «go to seed,» because the plants becomes bitter when they bolt. Lettuce leaves for example, become bitter.
To garden organically, the cheap and easy way, allow a few vegetables drop to the ground and reseed the ground. Allow a few plants to «go to seed,» also. By allowing the seeds to drop to the ground you will reseed your garden. This year I let a few of my spring lettuce heads go to seed. I had lettuce growing voluntarily in the fall from the spring seeds.


Autor: braniac, eHow Member

Fecha: 19/03/2011

La revolucion solar esta cerca, paneles que funciona de noche.

Utilizan los infrarrojos emitidos por la tierra durante la noche con eficacia superior a la energía fotovoltaica tradicional

Un panel solar que funciona en la noche es una contradicción de términos. En una palabra: imposible. Pero Steven Novack, en el Idaho National Laboratory, del Departamento estadounidense de energía, ha desarrollado un nuevo concepto de paneles solares que tiene por objeto crear una auténtica revolución en el campo.

energiasolarnocturna thumb La revolucion solar esta cerca, paneles que funciona de noche.

La investigación de Novack parte de un hallazgo: cerca de la mitad de energía solar disponible llega a la Tierra del espectro en forma de rayos infrarrojos (Ir),y parte de esto se vuelve a emitir en forma de calor durante la noche. En una noche con el cielo nublado, los infrarrojos son reflejados hacia el suelo. Esto demuestra el por qué en los desiertos, donde no está presente la cubierta de nubes, por la noche la temperatura desciende considerablemente: el calor fluye a través de la atmósfera y se dispersa como radiación infrarroja en el espacio.

Realizando un sistema de micro antenas de la longitud de onda de los infrarrojos (menos de 700 nanómetros), pruebas de laboratorio han verificado la capacidad de recopilar el 84% de los fotones reemitidos por la tierra. Un sistema operativo real en gran escala podría llegar a 46%. Esto constituye, sin embargo, una mayor eficacia que los paneles fotovoltaicos actuales, cuyas células de silicio no superan el 20% en las mejores condiciones. De hecho, los paneles tradicionales tienen menor eficiencia, porque si las celdas no se colocan en un ángulo preciso en relación con el ángulo de incidencia de la radiación solar o se calientan demasiado, superando la temperatura óptima de ejercicio, o la producción de corriente eléctrica se reduce a fracciones de la producción nominal. Las microantenas son capaces de absorber una amplia gama de infrarrojos en una mayor apertura angular.

La células fotovoltaicas absorben los fotones libre de electrones y generan energía, mientras que las micro antenas trabajan de otra manera: entran en resonancia con la longitud de onda de los infrarrojos, generando una corriente alterna, pero con una frecuencia demasiado alta para ser utilizada. La corriente alterna, a continuación, debe convertirse en corriente continua, pero aquí hay un problema. Los diodos de silicio que convierten corriente alterna en corriente continua no operan en altas frecuencias, explica Song Aimin, ingeniero de nano electrónica en la Universidad de Manchester. También cuando se reduce el tamaño de los diodos a las dimensiones de las micro antenas, los diodos son menos conductivos. Pero Song y, de forma independiente, Garret Moddel de la Universidad de Colorado en Boulder, están trabajando para resolver esta desventaja decisiva mediante la creación de un diodo de nueva concepción que utiliza las frecuencias ópticas.

Una vez superado el problema de los diodos, lo ideal sería implementar un multi estrato capaz de operar a diferentes frecuencias, capaz de absorber la luz del sol durante el día y infrarrojos emitidos por la noche desde el suelo y también aquellos infrarrojos reflejados a la tierra de nubes, y a continuación, un panel que funcione día y noche.

Por el momento el grupo de investigación de Novack en Idaho Falls han creado micro antenas capaces de operar sólo en el infrarrojo lejano, pero considera posible lograr dentro de unos meses micro antenas que puedan trabajar incluso en el espectro infrarrojo medio y cercano.

Un gran impulso a esta tecnología que podría revolucionar el mundo de la energía solar, puede venir de la producción de nano tubos de carbono, desarrollado por Michael Strano, Han Jae-hee y Geraldine Paulus del MIT en Boston. El grupo, según publicado por Nature Materials del último 12 de septiembre, ha anunciado que había encontrado una manera de hacer realidad las micro antenas de Novack mediante nano tubos de carbono. Strano y su grupo han desarrollado una especie de fibra larga mil nano metros y 400 nano metros de espesor compuesto por cerca de 30 millones de nano tubos. El costo de los nano tubos de carbono se redujo a la mitad en los últimos años, y según Strano, en un futuro próximo llegará a costar unos pocos centavos por libra (un poco menos de la mitad de un kilo). Los nano tubos hasta el momento han logrado una eficiencia del 87% en la relación entre la energía producida respecto a la de absorción, pero el grupo de investigación está trabajando en una versión mejorada con una eficacia del 99%.

Los nano tubos están resultando muy prometedores y se estudian también en el centro de la nano ciencia en la Universidad de Copenhague. En particular, Peter Krogstrup, del Instituto Niels Bohr, en colaboración con otros investigadores financiados por la empresa SunFlake, se centra en la pureza de las nano fibras, donde la estructura es perfectamente uniforme en todo el material. Este es un aspecto importante, porque si el nano tubo es puro, mayor es su eficiencia. En Dinamarca, como publicado en el numero de noviembre de 2010 de la revista Nano Letters, la investigación se centra en nano fibras diferentes, no de carbono si de galio y arsénico.

Cerca de 2.000 millones de personas no tienen acceso a la electricidad, casi todos en países del tercer mundo. Las renovables, y en particular el solar podría satisfacer las necesidades de por lo menos la mitad de las personas sin electricidad, estima el estudio de Bernoni y Efrem llevado a cabo para la segunda edición del Good Energy Award. El desarrollo de la nueva generación de energía fotovoltaica de noche parece ser el medio para cerrar esta brecha, y sin aumentar las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero. Es sólo un problema de voluntad de invertir recursos en investigación en esta dirección.


Autor: Leonardo Bochini

Fecha: 11/02/11