Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Suggestions for a greener home 2: mail

You may be wondering what mail has to do with living in a greener way...
Well, look what I found a couple of days ago in my mail:

(Bottom right: my "legitimate" mail)
Have you ever calculated how much unwanted paper and plastic you receive every day in your mail? This not only means that you have to waste your time checking and throwing things away, but of course the biggest problem is that unwanted mail means more paper, more plastic, more travel, more ink, etc. and if you don't take the time to separately throw away it also means a great increase in undifferenciated rubbish.

And now you'll ask: and what can I do?
Well, first of all do take the time to separate the rubbish you receive in your mailbox (even those envelopes with plastic "window"... just tear the plastic bit up and throw separately).
And why not write (an e-mail!) to the publishing company that sends you your favourite magazine every month - all wrapped in plastic and with tonns of extra papers inside advertising things you're not interested in - and tell them that you'd rather have it wrapped in bio plastics or recycled paper.
You can also send the unwanted mail back. It takes some time but it works in the end... you should have seen my pile of mail a couple of years ago!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The first article of the year: Farmstays go global

Italy, Le Marche: Locanda della Valle Nuova

Just outside the Unesco World Heritage-listed town of Urbino, this is a rigorously organic farm (pure-breed Marchigiana cows, wheat, fruit, vegetables) with solar heating and other green initiatives, all set on 185 acres. It has a pool, stables with horses to hire and woods that, in autumn, have truffles. There are six chic, modern rooms (no roughing it here) and two apartments for two.

From £50pp per night, B&B, or £75pp, half-board; 00 39 0722 330303, Fly to Ancona, an hour’s drive away, with Ryanair (0871 246 0000,

This article was on the Sunday Times yesterday.

(we're on page two with a slightly wrong name, but I'm sure you'll spot us!)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Suggestions for a greener home 1: waste

I have been contacted by the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) that is running a project called Hotel Energy Solutions that will "deliver information, technical support and training to help small and medium sized hotels across the 27 EU countries to increase their use of energy efficiency and renewable energy".

In order to be included in a publication about "best practices" (accommodation businesses already working hard for sustainability), we were asked to fill in a very detailed questionary about our energy usage, renewable energy and many other features that make the Locanda a sustainable accommodation.
When filling in the questionary I realized that I consider quite a lot of the actions that we take as "normal" and I do not think about mentioning them unless specifically asked for. I also realized that it can be the other way round too.. I mean, quite often we do not realize how our daily behaviour affects the environment, so I will start posting a series of suggestions to keep your home and your life greener. I'm sure that most of you already practice most of this and much more, so please share your suggestions and thoughts.

Waste is one of the first things that comes to mind when thinking about a greener house, most of us recycle and are quite conscious about the importance of doing so. There are great differences from place to place regarding what you can recycle and how so I'll approach the issue from a different point of view.
Why not reducing the quantity of waste that you produce? Concretely, why not stop buying things that you will throw away straight away?

Some time ago I complained at my local supermarket because they changed the packaging of a cheese that I sometimes buy. Every piece is wrapped in plastic, put in a small polystyrene tray and wrapped AGAIN! The nice lady I was talking to assured me that they weigh the cheese BEFORE packing it so that I was not paying for the plastic.... I had a hard time explaining to her that we were ALL paying for it!
So my suggestion today is: when you buy something try to go for the minimum possible packaging and of course make sure that the packaging (if really necessary) is easy to recycle.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More electricity

We installed our photovoltaic panels this past summer and we're now producing enough electricity to power our inn and cow sheds, now we're taking a further step: we just signed a contract to install almost 50 Kw of photovoltaic panels (meaning 60.000 Kwh of electricity produced per year) on the roof of our cow shed.

This means that our roof will produce the electricity needed to power over 15 average households and we will feed it into the local network. This is our way to offset the carbon that we still produce with our tractors, our car, the gas we use for cooking, the cars that our guests use to reach us. Calculating the carbon produced is not easy but we consider that the whole farm and inn complex will be carbon-neutral.

Do not think that we are satisfied... we still have a long way to go and our next plans are about further reducing water consumption. I'll keep you informed!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Urbino Physics Laboratory & Museum of Scientific Instruments

In Italy we have too much art, architecture and museums... You may wonder how these things can be TOO MUCH, easy: we do not have enough resources to have them all open and available for people to see and/or we do not have enough interest in things that are considered "minor" only because of the abundance of the "major" ones.

A few days ago some friends from Spain came to visit and one of them has a special interest in representations of the "Noli me tangere" episode of the Bible. Months ago I could see a beautiful painting portraying the "Noli me tangere" by Timoteo Viti in Sant'Angelo Minore church in Cagli, I took some pictures and sent them over to my friend who was thrilled and wanted to see the painting. When she decided to visit for New Year's Eve we didn't hesitate in defining the visit to Sant'Angelo Minore as one of the highlights of her visit.
After a very nice meal at Alimentare we headed towards the beautiful little church that features a small loggia before the main entrance. ...of course the door was firmly locked...

Luckily in Italy we may have too many things to see, but definitely also many unusual ways to obtain what we want. We asked a kind lady next door if she knew when the church would open and she called a neighbour who directed us to Ermes, "down at the household appliances shop" who keeps the keys. When the shop opened he was very nice and opened the church for us!

Going back to where I started, something that I always wanted to visit and never could (it only opened for groups upon appointment) is the Gabinetto di Fisica e Museo di Strumenti Scientifici in Urbino. It's been just relocated inside the Collegio Raffaello in Piazza della Repubblica and is open daily from monday to friday 10,00/12,00 - 15,00/17,00.

It's a gorgeous collection of scientific instruments that range from optics to magnetism and from acoustics to atomic physics dating from the end of the XVIII century to the beginning of the XX century.