The green solution to more energetic meetings?

23 Aug 2013

QHotels Pedal Power

Some people define a good meeting as one where problems are calmly discussed, intelligent solutions put forward, and tasks are equitably assigned, so whatever project they happen to be working on can sail smoothly onwards towards success.

For the Tank, however, a good meeting is one with donuts. Or, in special circumstances, those maple pecan Danishes. Ooh, or even cinnamon raisin swirls! In retrospect, we probably shouldn't have been writing this so close to lunch.

But we can probably all agree a good meeting is not one of those endless bore-fests where all that goes through your head is: "what kind of skin care regime is Phil from marketing using - that guy's face is like alabaster".

So, anyway, here's a neat method for keeping those time waster in check while helping the environment - pedalling to keep the lights on.

Gyms have already wised up to the idea of generating power from the people and now the smart cookies at QHotels have followed suit and put exercise bikes in meeting rooms at their Forest Pines Hotel and Golf Resort in Lincolnshire. Pedalling continuously should produce 100W - enough to charge a laptop - while replicating the experience of cycling up a gentle hill.

The wheeze is that the "Pedal Power" initiative helps QHotels to reach its own energy reduction target and meet client demands - an internal survey found 55 per cent of its customers thought environmental credentials were important for hotels.

Philip King, QHotels' director of property, chortled: "At QHotels we are committed to saving energy and providing an environmentally-friendly setting for guests and delegates. We have listened to delegates' feedback and, given that environmental issues are high on the agenda for our delegates, we ensure we try new initiatives and find ways to support their aims as well as our own."

If it sounds a little like the treadmills at Victorian prisons, only this time you're paying for it, QHotels' insists Pedal Power is part of environmental strategy that has also seen the company sign up to food and packaging waste initiatives and install electric car charge points at six of its 21 hotels.

To the Tank's mind, it's probably worth a try. After all, what could be better than watching pompous windbags run out of steam before collapsing as the lights go out? Especially if there are donuts for the rest of us.

Check in to your hotel, check out a new bag

09 Aug 2013

Marriott tote bag made from recycled linen

Right, the Tank doesn't have much time for this one, so here's what you need to know: the world is being overrun by six foot tall tyrannical lizards bent on enslaving all mankind hotels throw out a lot of bed linen.

Seriously - think a number, double it, times it by a million and even then you're not even close. Probably because this whole calculation has no relevance except to eat up space on a threateningly blank page. It's a technique we learnt from Jeffrey Archer while at Wellington.

Ok, so you don't believe us. Well, here's an expert, in the form of Andy Marks, founder and chief executive of SleepingBags,who says: "If laid end-to-end, bed linen condemned by the world's leading hotel chains in one year would go around the world more than twice."

Leaving aside the fact that such a futile exercise would leave many of the dirty sheets getting rather wet as they attempt to cross the Pacific, SleepingBags thinks it has the answer to this particular environmental problem. 

The social enterprise has teamed up with Marriott Hotels to take its old bed linen and turn it into useful things like tote bags.

The partnership will now see the launch of 1,000 limited edition bags made from 100 per cent recycled bed linen, each sporting an exclusive print by British luxury accessories brand, Lily and Lionel, famed for their iconic printed scarf designs - or at least that is what it says on this here press release.

Marriott adds that the "evocative" birds in flight print "helps to communicate the campaign's message of sleeping that little bit more soundly by offering support to this environmental cause". Although frankly, we've generally found the contents of the mini-bar much more conducive to some decent shuteye.

The company reckons it is the first major hotel to partner with SleepingBags and it has already introduced hairdryer bags, newspaper bags, and laundry bags made from retired bed linen into their guestrooms.

Anyway, here's Andy Marks again: "Reimagining Marriott's wonderfully soft bed linen to create this tote bag is an enchanting way of making people re-think what waste is. The bag looks great, feels great and has a story to tell."

The bag is on sale for £20, half of which will go to The Prince's Trust. Quite a bargain when you think what Tracy Emin's bedsheets went for.

My boy builds eco-friendly coffins

26 Jul 2013

Coffin chamber handle and by-Board panel - photo eco Rest

These last few months have been tough for the Tank as the zany schemes that are our very lifeblood pretty much dried up. Of course, it's mainly down to the global slowdown - "throw money at a solar-powered bikini? In this economy?! Shove it, Professor!"

But we also hold the media partly responsible. Let off the leash for "serious season" the press have had nothing but gloomy coverage of conflicts and political scandals for nigh on 10 months, not to mention wall-to-wall photos of pale men in suits proffering red briefcases and half-truths to a disbelieving populace - how the FT website makes any money from such unsensationalist coverage is beyond us.

So what a relief it is that summer has arrived and we can gauge exactly how Hot! Hot! Hot! it is from the number of scantily-clad teenagers plastered across the nation's red-tops.

And as the mercury rises the first proper news in months has already started flooding in to the Tank's inbox, which also doubles as the recycling bin by the printer. Yes, one missive couldn't fail to catch our eye with the pleasing, teasing title: "World First for British Coffin Manufacturer".

Now like most people, the Tank has a passing interest in the latest coffin technology and burial specifics, although in our case it's primarily driven by our appalling diet and disregard for road signs.

But now we can shuffle off this mortal coil safe in the knowledge there is an eco-friendly straw sarcophagus to cushion us through death's tight embrace.

The by-Board material developed by eco Rest, a curiously capital-letter-averse firm from Derbyshire, is derived from straw bonded together with a non-toxic resin and is apparently stronger than both MDF and chipboard. For those wanting to add a little je ne sais quoi to proceedings, oak and mahogany veneers from FSC certified sources are available.

The main selling point is that "rather than having to settle for wicker, wool, hyacinth leaf and cardboard" clients can have a traditionally-styled coffin with eco-credentials.

Managing director Dale Bywater said by-Board should be embraced by the funeral industry as "the product of choice for forward-thinking and environmentally-conscious coffin manufacturers".

"We are actively seeking national and international partnerships with coffin makers, funeral directors and coffin distributors to help bring these wonderful products to the attention of the general public," he intoned, presumably while trying to stop himself from humming the opening bars from Thriller.

So now we've got the coffin and the sustainable funeral suit to go with it. And not a moment too soon - given the rate burger joints are opening in London, the big day might be closer than we realise.

Noah's Ark sets sail for green-energy powered Elephant Eden

17 Jul 2013

A bull elephant in Addo elephant park - photo Brian Snelson

If the Tank remembers its Bible Studies class correctly, God flooded the Earth in response to man's irredeemable debauchery, but things got a little out of hand after He realised He hadn't got round to inventing plumbers yet.

Happily, this guy named Noah had a tip off this deluge was on its way - impressive in an age before the Met Office smartphone app - and built an ark to save not only his sizeable extended family, but also two of every animal. The Tank would happily have given the wrong embarkation time to spiders, wasps, and mosquitos, but that's probably why we've never been chosen to save the world. Not yet, anyway.

So, the animals went in two by two and the rest, as they say, is allegory.

Much more rooted in reality is the Noah's Ark Zoo Farm in Bristol, which is following in its illustrious forebear's wake by building a "Five Star hotel for elephants" powered by another Tank favourite, green energy.

At 20 acres, the £1.8m development, part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, is set to be the largest elephant environment in northern Europe - at least until George Monbiot gets his way - and will use solar PV, biomass heating, and rainwater harvesting to provide almost all the power required to operate the elephant house and fields.

Moreover, most of the food for the elephants will be grown on an adjacent farm, although there's no word yet as to whether that extends to their daily West Country scrumpy ration.

Noah's Ark expects to host a couple of elephants to start off with, but over time hopes to house a herd of up to six cows, a bull and two babies.

According to the Bristol Post, the pulchritudinous pachyderms will enjoy "specially erected dead tree scratching posts, hidden puzzles (buried tubes where the most searching trunks can find hidden food), and even an elephant-sized swimming pool". And you thought your cannonballs were impressive.

"Over the years the standard of elephant enclosures at zoos has been so poor, that the government last year said unless conditions were improved zoos would simply be banned from keeping elephants," Noah's Ark owner, the aptly-named Anthony Bush, told the Bristol Post. "We are keen to improve the reputation of zoos, by doing this properly."

Of course, if they were really doing this properly, they'd flood the whole place and perch the elephants on a creaky raft for 40 days and nights, but perhaps that's taking the Bible more literally than it was intended.

Turtle power!

24 May 2013

A loggerhead turtle makes its way to the relative safety of the sea - PRNewsFoto Dasal Architectural Lighting

For those of us of a certain age, the phrase "Turtle Power" will bring back memories of green, cartoon superheroes named after Renaissance masters, sticking it to the evil Foot Clan before returning to the sewer to chow down on pizza with an outsize rat. We'll leave you to guess which part of that is eerily reminiscent of the Tank's Friday night.

But it turns out not all turtles are ninjas - or even teenage - and many struggle to master the basic karate skills needed to defend themselves in the wild. So perhaps it's no surprise the bright lights of houses overlooking the Florida beaches is putting off the rare loggerhead, leatherback and green turtles from crawling up the sand to nest.

Even more worryingly, baby sea turtles are so confused by the lights they're heading inland rather than out to the sea and being picked off by predators or dying of dehydration. A polite enquiry as to whether the young turtles were simply heading for Disney World was rather brusquely dismissed.

But never fear animal lovers - help is at hand. Canadian firm Dasal Architectural Lighting has designed two new outdoor LED downlights that are not only energy efficient, but have been also certified as ‘turtle safe' by the good people at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Wildlife Friendly Lighting Program - much to the delight of conservationists.

"90 per cent of sea turtle nesting occurs on continental US beaches and all of these species are either threatened or endangered," said Karen Shudes, whose actual job title is ‘sea turtle lighting specialist' at the Sea Turtle Conservancy. "We appreciate those manufacturers who work collaboratively to give property owners more options and produce the right lighting for use near critical turtle nesting sites."

However, it seems there's still a battle to be won here. According to Dasal, "Many property owners choose amber LED replacement bulbs for sensitive nesting beaches, but unfortunately place them in light fixtures not designed for turtles or LEDs."

Now the Tank is no expert electrician - we have to pretend we understand the old "how many hipsters does it take to change a lightbulb' gag. But we're pretty certain a light fixture suitable for turtles has yet to be made.


The Sceptic Tank blog provides a unique take on all the latest weird, wonderful, and downright infuriating green stories from around the world

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