Farm fun at Costales Nature Farms

Here’s an endeavor that I’m throwing my full support behind: organic and sustainable farming at Costales Nature Farms!

The Philippines with its more than 7,000 islands is best known for its gorgeous beaches. How many people go there to visit a farm? Not many, I suppose. But I read about Costales Nature Farms and it piqued my curiosity. Sustainable and organic. No pesticides and chemicals. Zero waste. How do they do it? I decided to find out.

The drive from Quezon City to Majayjay, Laguna took three hours straight via C-5 and the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). The drive back to Quezon City took four hours. Whew!

Costales Nature Farms offer different tour packages (you can find it here). I managed to do the 3PM Lakbay Aral Tour (PhP260 = US$5.20). It included vegetable snacks and a guided farm tour, plus free WiFi access (which I didn’t get to use during my visit).

Before the tour began, what turned out to be “vegetable snacks” were a vegetable salad and a refreshing glass of fresh cucumber juice! The salad had lettuce, radish, carrots, cucumber and alfalfa sprouts – all grown on the farm.

Here are the photographs I took during the farm tour.

The secret behind Costales Nature Farms is best summarized in four words: Effective Microorganism Activated Solution. You’ll find out more about it when you visit. If you want to experience farm life, they offer cottages that accommodate two to twelve persons. Tip: If you’re going there, wear boots. The farm has muddy areas, of course, so traipsing around in sandals is a no-no.

I was very impressed with their organic animal farm. If you’ve ever been to a regular animal farm, then you know that most of the time, the smell isn’t really quite up to snuff (or sniff). But the piggery at Costales does not smell bad. The pigs also look lean and healthy, and they have ample room to roam. Even the chickens were walking about; one went rogue, roaming outside of its cage, but the tour guide told me that it goes back to the right cage anyway, so I shouldn’t worry.

An interesting discovery for me was magic fruit (or miracle fruit) given to me by my tour guide. She peeled a calamansi for me, told me to eat the magic fruit and then eat the calamansi. The magic fruit made the calamansi taste sweet! Amazing.

After visiting this place, I decided that a longer visit next time is definitely in order, especially since I didn’t get to eat at Apong Damian’s Organic Resto. Have you been to Costales Nature Farms?

Costales Nature Farms
Brgy. Gagalot, Majayjay, Laguna
Website, Facebook

The current state of eco-friendly travel in the US

The whole eco-friendly craze is over…because more and more people have adopted it as an actual way of life rather than as an alternative. Travel is definitely one aspect that should grow increasingly greener. So how is eco-friendly travel doing in the US these days? A Federal Times article entitled “Green of the road: Airlines, hotels, cars more eco-friendly” reports that everything is a lot greener these days, from aircrafts to hotels to rental cars.

Green things spotted on our Massachusetts holiday

So this post is severely late, because my sister Lani and I were in Massachusetts for a quick holiday in October last year. Still, I figured any green news is good to hear. We hung around the Berkshires on our trip, spending a day at the Kripalu Center where we went on a two-hour hike around the area, had some pretty good meals, attended two yoga classes, and in the evening, attended a sort of concert featuring Danya and Eyal. When we had some free time, we walked around Kripalu’s grounds and saw the Annex.

Kripalu Annex

The building was designed by Peter Rose of Boston’s Rose+Partners Studio. It uses a radiant heating and cooling system, and also uses “raw wood salvaged from the Hurricane Katrina tidal surge”, according to The Berkshire Eagle (PDF). It also has linoleum floors made from linseed oil. Check out more info on the Kripalu Annex here (PDF).

As part of our trip, we visited the Hancock Shaker Village. We walked around after the tour and came upon solar panels used to power the village.

Hancock Shaker Village
in Lenox gave us a taste of some yummy, organic food when we were in town. I did a review of the place in my food blog. The restaurant pledges to stay local by getting their ingredients from local farmers.

Overall, it was a very good holiday, and it really was very nice to see so many places that operate with the environment and sustainability in mind.

Making resorts greener, one by one

While writing an article about the Philippine Green Building Council, I learned that they have teamed up with the European Union’s Switch Asia program to launch and implement the Zero Carbon Resorts project. It sounds like an excellent project, and it’s currently underway in two El Nido resorts in Palawan, Philippines. Changes are afoot in these resorts, starting with making the switch from the use of fossil fuels to renewable energy. Recycling will also be implemented, and as with any new program, training will also be provided for the staff of the resorts so they can fully understand the goals of the project. It’s still in its infancy, so it will be nice to see if it works out and if other resorts can be encouraged to make the same changes. After all, it’s not exactly a good idea to go to a seemingly clean and unspoiled destination and then find out that the resort or hotel where you’re staying is actually polluting the entire place.

Green guilt-ridden

My sisters and I are Vegas-bound next week. I’m the official travel arranger and as a budget-conscious traveler, I’ve been snagging good deals starting with the airfares and lodgings. But now that I’m doing the car rental, I’m in a fix.

We’re definitely getting a midsized car. We’ll be doing a lot of long driving on highways. I know that we should rent a hybrid, but it’s expensive. Here’s why:

Assumption: an estimated 600-mile trip total with estimated gas price of $4.20 per gallon (either in NV or UT)

For a hybrid:
estimated 60 miles per gallon
a 600-mile trip would require 10 gallons
rental fee – $325 (courtesy of Orbitz)
gas expense total – $42
TOTAL: $367

For a non-hybrid:
estimated 20 miles per gallon
a 600-mile trip would require 30 gallons
rental fee – $125
gas expense total – $126
TOTAL: $251

Costs-wise, it seems a non-hybrid is the way to go, unless I computed it the wrong way. But a part of me thinks that the savings from airfares and lodgings can very well be directed to the hybrid rental.

So now I’m confused. Help!

Kenya’s KWS builds eco-lodges to boost domestic tourism

In Nairobi, attempts are being made to encourage domestic tourists to visit national parks and reserves by building eco-lodges. It seems like Kenyans are reluctant to travel due to high accommodation costs. KWS, the agency that manages most of Kenya’s parks and reserves, aims to make the lodgings affordable and green, with the hope that locals will come and visit. For more information, read the article “KWS builds eco-lodges to woo locals“.

Why not travel green?

It’s not impossible to travel green. It can be done, but it DOES require a lot of planning. Here are some tips that I personally try to do:

1. Select an eco-friendly destination. Visit parks – be it local, state or national parks. Better yet, go to the National Park Service website.

2. If you’re flying, choose non-stop flights and get electronic tickets.

3. If you’re going to cities, use public transportation. You cut costs on car rentals and gas emissions.

4. Stay in hotels that have green programs.

5. Don’t use the toiletries in hotels if you brought yours.

6. Go on walking, biking or hiking tours. Better yet, try stargazing at night. It’s free.

7. If renting a car is inevitable, choose a car with good mpg.

8. Pack light, smart and green.

9. Use a digital camera. If you’re still toting around films in their little containers, reuse the little containers to hold coins, etc. Disposable cameras are worse.

10. Get the brochures and maps you’ll need, nothing more. The excess usually ends up in the trash bin.

Have a safe and green summer!