Launch of EcoHelpLine.org

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Announcing the launch of  EcoHelpline.org – www.ecohelpline.org

The all new Ecohelpline.com lanched on September 19th 2009. The Ecohelpline.org will include the world’s first ever totally free on-line green training program for hotel staff.

This new and innovative course is split into 5 modules, aimed at covering the essentials of environmental preservation. Energy efficiency & renewable energy, water health & efficiency & waste water, nature conservation, community, and waste & recycling; they are easy to follow and understand. The course is designed for all hotel staff, and anyone else who is interested in ways to make their home or business a little bit more eco friendly, offering some simple, and cost effective, greening solutions, in an easy and simple way. Register today, and start your free learning.

The Ecohelpline will also be offering greening advice and tips for your hotel, home or other business, as well as eco consultancy services for tourism eco best practices, and renewable energy planning & installation services for all forms of renewable energy, including, * BioGas, Solar, Wind and Hydro, for home or business.

Background of The Ecohelpline :
The Eco Helpline has been established to promote environmental best practices in the tourism industry and beyond, in an easy to understand, simple to implement manner. As the course is totally free, there is no reason why every tourism worker in the world cannot participate, learn, and make a difference.

The Ecohelpline is an all new international partnership of experienced industry stakeholders from a range of areas across the tourism spectrum; the Eco helpline team is:
1. Hemant Thite, Renewable energy expert from India. Also Managing Director of The Biogas Helpline. The BiogasHelpline is a professional body based in Singapore, formed to promote and develop biogas. The BiogasHelpline provides online support for queries, funding, partnering, consulting, courses and careers.
2. Lise Tyrrell, managing director of Eco Tropical Resorts, based in the United States. Lise Tyrrell’s travelling experiences sparked her interest in eco tourism, which in turn led to the idea of compiling a directory web site for eco lodges. She developed an Eco Rating for hotels to fill out and get a score as to how “eco” they were. This helps guard against “greenwashing”. The Eco Helpline modules are based on the Eco Tropical Resort’s butterfly club eco questionnaire, which was designed by Lise, in collaboration with Jem Winston.
3. Jem Winston, Managing Director of Rosalie Forest Eco Lodge, and formerly of 3 Rivers Eco Lodge in Dominica, Caribbean. The eco lodge has won numerous international awards for its environmental Best practices and community tourism projects. Jem is also the Director of Education at The Sustainable Living Initiative Centre (S.L.I.C.) Dominica, offering community workshops in renewable energy and assisting participants with funding to purchase their own systems. We look forward to welcoming you to the ecohelpline.com

For more information visit www.ecohelpline.com or write to info@ecohelpline.com or make a regional phone call to us.
U. S. – Lise Tyrell- 916-838-1525
Dominica, West Indies. – Jem Winston – (+1 767) 275 1886
India – Hemant Thite – +91 9423219300

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Kosrae Village News from Micronesia

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We have always known about the Japanese freighter that was sunk during World War II, the PBM that crashed on takeoff following the war and the 1800’s wooden whaling ship.

Last week we spent a day and a half with Bob Swanson, a guest from Kwajalein, exploring Lelu Harbor with his side scan sonar. We got images of the wrecks we know about and quite a few others. We only had time to check a few of them and we hit the jackpot! One turns out to be a plane wreck that does not seem to be documented.

I’ve posted (really bad) photos, sonar images and details on this page http://kosraevillage.com/wrecks.shtml.

I’ve also added a few more (better) photos to my underwater gallery.

One of our coral monitoring volunteers has had to drop out due to illness, so if you are thinking about it – we really need you!

If you have questions or comments please use my personal address, katrina@kosraevillage.com.
To go to our hotel site: Kosrae Village

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Turtle releasing at Eco Paraiso, July 2009

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The Carey Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) arrives to the beaches of Yucatan from April to June to nestle during the night. This turtle is fast and agile in the water, but slow, clumsy and unfortunately endangered in land, because its shell is sold in the black market as earrings and rings. Its eggs are also sold illegally because it is wrongfully thought that they cure asthma, having also high cholesterol levels.

Since 1980 “Pronatura” civil organization verifies that the Sea Turtles can nest their eggs in the Mexican shores. The members of this organization collect the eggs where they can be vulnerable and relocate them in areas where they are safe (in places with less predators, away from luminous spots, tides and humans).

At the beach of Eco Paraiso Hotel in Celestun, Yucatan (www.ecoparaiso.com) “Pronatura” established a safe nesting zone, at the top of the first dune. This is the perfect place for nesting because the sand is harder, which allows the turtle to dig easily.

The turtle nest has a shape of a clay pitcher of 23 to 30 inches deep, and a base diameter of about 30 inches. The turtle caves the sand with its back legs for about 2 hours (you can hear the turtle breathing while caving, similar to a human breathing through a snorkel). When the turtle finishes to cave, it places from 100 to 200 eggs, depending on its size and if it nested the previous year. The turtle always nests in the same beach, but sometimes the nesting zone is far away, so instead of coming back the next year, they nest every two years.

The eggs are hatched around 60 days under temperatures from 82 to 86 Fahrenheit. This is critical because it defines the baby turtle sex: if the temperature is below 82 F the babies will be male, but if it is above 86 F the babies will be female (that is why Global Warming could make it very hard for turtles and other reptiles to survive).

Sunsets, just after dawn are the perfect time for baby turtles releasing, because during this time the diurnal animals are at their resting areas: pelicans, seagulls, herons, lizards and iguanas are sleeping and the diurnal fishes are resting. Also, the nocturnal animals are just waking up. The first 110 yards journey at the beach and sea is crucial for the baby turtles survival, because it is when most predatory activity occurs.

Sea turtles have between 0.07% and 1% chances for survival. Although their probability chances with the “Pronatura” liberation program are still uncertain, the suppression of the diurnal predators activity helps them a lot. The surviving turtles can live up to 120 years, and they reach their reproductive maturity between 20 and 30 years old.

How can you help the turtles to survive:
– Don’t buy their meat
– Don’t buy jewelry made with turtle bones or shelves
– Don’t consume their eggs
– Don’t take the shells or the sand from the beach; it can cause erosions making the soil impossible for the
turtles to nest.
– If you watch the turtles nesting don’t use lamps or flashes and keep your distance by at least 7 yards.
– Avoid bonfires during the nesting season.
– Pick up sunloungers, chairs and other objects on the way of turtles.
– Pick up plastic bags and other garbage near the nesting places.

Eco Paraiso Hotel
Celestun, Yucatan Mexico
Eco Paraiso

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Rivertime Resort and Ecolodge Ecotourism Practices

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There are many considerations when designing, building and operating an ecotourism resort that differ from more general tourist accommodation. Compliance with a wide range of requirements is necessary for inclusion in the important ecotourism associations as well as to satisfy green-minded guests. For example: air-conditioning is not considered necessary for ecolodges, but hot water showers are a must; energy consumption should be kept to a minimum; the ecolodge should cause minimal or no damage to the local environment; local communities should be supported; waste should be recycled, etc. etc. (a very useful and detailed description and CD-ROM on ‘Designing and Operating an Ecolodge in the Lao PDR’ produced by the Mekong Tourism Development Project can be obtained from the Lao National Tourism Administration).

However, no ecolodge can claim to be 100% ‘green’ and we are no exception. Basically, what distinguishes Rivertime and other ecolodges from other forms of accommodation is that ecolodges make serious, sustained efforts to build environmentally-friendly facilities and procedures into their operations.

International eco-tourism associations define ecolodges as:

• minimizing forest destruction and supporting conservation of nature both generally and in the local area

• maximizing the use of local, organically-grown fruits and vegetables

• using local architecture and labour

• minimizing the use of energy

• minimizing negative impacts on nearby villages

• employing local people

• supporting the local community in terms of education, development, etc.

• minimizing water use and managing waste

Here is a detailed description of how our resort tries to live up to these goals.

• minimizing forest destruction and supporting conservation of nature both generally and in the local area

The resort was constructed without the cutting down of a single tree in the densely forest area of the resort grounds. This was achieved by carefully and respectfully locating each lodge, sala and other constructions in whatever space was naturally available within the forest. This was also the case with the extensive, one-metre-wide, forest footpaths which were designed to wind through the forest, flanked by dense natural growth (grasses, bushes, flowering plants as well as trees). The dense forest canopy covering most of the resort was also left undisturbed and the forest continues to be a sanctuary for many varieties of insect, reptile, amphibians, birds and butterflies.

• maximizing the use of local, organically-grown fruits and vegetables

All our fruit and vegetables are local and organically-grown. During the dry season, we cultivate organic vegetables on the banks of the river near the floating restaurant. When the river rises up the river banks, we are still able to use home-grown organic vegetables from the organic vegetable garden in the garden restaurant.

• using local architecture and labour

Our resort buildings were designed to be compatible with traditional Lao rural architecture while including features (such as European-style bathrooms) to improve the convenience to non-Lao guests of the resort. All the lodges, the office, the floating restaurant and internal walkways and salas were built entirely by tradesmen from three local villages, often in family groups, who displayed tremendous skill, innovation and care in all the construction, including difficult tile work and glass installation, carpentry, installation of European toilets and shower facilities, much of which was new to them. An example of their diligence is that each of the resort lodges wooden roof times was individually carved, on site, by hand. Throughout the construction period, these village craftspeople made substantial design contributions and showed tremendous patience in dealing with the changing demands of the main designers (Philip and Khamkeun) for whom ecolodge construction was also a new venture. In addition to the resort buildings, all the furniture in the resort and floating restaurant was produced by local villagers, much of it built onsite by local craftsmen and women.

• minimizing the use of energy

Shower units in the resort bathrooms use on-demand heaters. The resort lodges and restaurant do not use air conditioners but use natural air flow and fans for cooling. All clothes, dishes and linens are hand-washed and air-dried. Low wattage fluorescent light bulbs are used in some, but not all, locations. The electricity used in the resort is produced by falling water (i.e. hydropower from the Nam Ngum hydro-electric power plant upstream from the resort). Hydropower is generally considered to be ‘green’ in the eyes of most environmentalists as, once established, the power plants produce no carbon emissions. However, we do lose some environmental ‘points’ in this category since we use no solar power such as solar water heaters. We looked into installing solar water heaters (which would have had to be on the lodge roofs) and would have liked to install them. However, we found that, for the heaters to be at all effective, we would have had to cut down the canopy producing trees which stop direct sunlight from reaching the roofs of all the lodges. To have cut down all those trees just to earn some more environmental ‘points’ would have been purely cosmetic and would have defeated the objective of preserving the forest environment.

• minimizing negative impacts on nearby villages

We have developed a very positive relationship with nearby villages since we began construction of the resort. The construction of the resort was achieved solely using local labour and expertise. People from local villages continue to benefit in many ways from our presence, for example: guests often buy handicraft items such as hand-woven Lao skirts, etc. which are produced by these villagers; older women from the local community are often brought in to provide traditional massages for our guests and local tuk-tuk drivers provide transport for our guests.

• employing local people

All our staff are local people from nearby villages. In addition to providing all staff with accommodation plus 3 meals a day, we pay salaries which are 20% to 40% more than other resorts, hotels and restaurants. Because we recruit locally in a rural area, it is usually not possible to find staff with high levels of education or English skills, and so on the job and English language training is an ongoing commitment we make to our staff and standard of service.

• supporting the local community in terms of education, development, etc.

Children in five local primary schools benefit extensively from donations of educational materials and school infrastructure as well as receiving English language classes from the resort operators and volunteer guests. Village community organizations receive annual contributions to village development funds in return for their commitment to preserving the natural beauty and cleanliness of the local area.

• minimizing water use and managing waste

We use low water use toilets. (We researched and considered the use of environmentally-correct, water-free ‘dry toilets’ but decided this would be a step too far us and, we believe, for our guests). Deep well water is used for toilets, washing clothes and dishes. High-quality, 3-stage, chemical-free filtration system is used to produce drinking water and water for food preparation. Linens, tablecloths, bed sheets and towels are only cleaned every 3 days or on demand. Our swimming pool uses flowing river water that needs no chemical treatment.

We reduce, re-use and recycle as much as possible. Organic waste from the restaurant and kitchen is used as natural fertilizer for our organic vegetable garden on the river bank. Synthetic waste is collected weekly, bundled up and sent to a recycling plant 8 km. from the resort location where it is graded, broken down into chips and sold on to a variety of industries around Vientiane .

The future

In the coming year, we will continue to develop and improve our resort, including further developing the Rice Farming Experience, which we offer to our guests, by adding to the existing Lao agriculture PowerPoint presentation and finding more local farm sites where guests can go into the field to experience actual rice farming work. Also, we are hoping to introduce a Lao Buddhism Experience component to the extensive range of activities we offer guests. We also hope to have enough funds to build a traditional Lao sauna and massage facility. We already offer Lao massages which are given in the private lodges by skilled elderly ladies from the nearby village and who greatly appreciate the opportunity to earn a little extra income.
For more information check out their website: Rivertime Resort and Ecolodge

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