by Trish Riley


Rancho Margot


Rancho Margot boasts nearly 200 hectares of rolling hills nestled against one of Costa Rica's marvels, the Arenal Volcano, which constantly rumbles, smokes, and, occasionally, tosses fire. Juan Sostheim and his family have created a fully sustainable ranch here. The staff of 43 and about 15 volunteers welcomes up to 100 guests at a time.


The ranch is powered by hydropower from streams running across the property as well as waste from the chickens, pigs, and cattle raised on the organic produce grown from the farm. "We throw away about what a family of four discards in the U.S. Every bit of the trash we produce is sorted through twice. We recycle everything we can here," said Sostheim. "One ton of compost produces 23 million BTUs, and that equals 5,000 kilowatts of power for us."


Sostheim uses excess power to heat the hot pool, a cave-like, stone-lined pool where guests can relax in the evenings. An open-air massage bungalow and morning yoga add to the ambience.


The ranch farm provides organic food for the hotel and produces its own soaps for guests. Horses are available for rides to mountainside waterfalls or the nearby volcano. Sostheim even has established a wildlife sanctuary to care for local squirrel and howler monkeys that have been rescued from civilian life and are released back to the wild when they're ready. 


For information on visiting or volunteering at the ranch, go to: www.ranchomargot.org.


From Hitesh Mehta, landscape architect and author of Authentic EcoLodges


"Considering the relative high temperatures in Florida throughout the year, it is important that the state embrace this form of roofing because of its many benefits. Five years ago, when I was interviewed by a radio station in Miami, I had spoken about the how all the concrete roofs in South Florida are creating an urban island heat effect, which was draining the energy usage of the state. Some of the most important benefits of green roofs are:

  • "Green roofs intercept the solar radiation that would strike dark roof surfaces and be converted into heat, thereby improving energy conservation. Because green roofs reduce the surface temperature of a roof by minimizing heat-absorbing surfaces, a green roof helps to reduce energy costs inside the building as well. Like urban forests and reflective roofing surfaces they absorb and/or deflect solar radiation so that it does not produce heat. The urban heat island effect increases the use of more electricity for air conditioners and it increases the rate at which chemical processes generate pollutants such as ground level ozone. It also exacerbates heat-related illnesses.
  • "A green roof can double the life span of a conventional roof. A green roof helps to protect roof membranes from extreme temperature fluctuations and the negative impact of ultraviolet radiation.
  • "Green roofs can work to reduce urban heat islands, minimize heat-absorbing surfaces, provide improved air quality, as well help with stormwater retention and filtration.
  • "Green roofs provide visual appeal and create a functional and aesthetic environment. Trees and shrubs can be included as well as other larger plants in a wider variety. This green space is often an inviting and well-utilized area providing a green respite in an urban setting.
  • "If green roofs conform to the rigorous Green Building Rating System standards created by the U.S. Green Building Council, there are inherent savings including Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for tax benefits."


Hitesh Mehta, FASLA, RIBA


Green roof resources from Damon van der Linde, communication and research coordinator for Green Roofs for Healthy Cities


"Every year we compile a list of the cities with the largest areas of green roofs in North America and issue the findings in a press release. The most recent is from 2009, and Chicago is still the leader."


(416) 971-4494, x224
406 King Street East, Toronto, ON M5A 1L4


Bell Book & Candle


A new restaurant in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, Bell Book & Candle takes a different twist on the green roof idea. The restaurant is supported by a rooftop of state-of-the-art hydroponics. Chef John Mooney grows a substantial amount of the herbs, greens, and vegetables served to his patrons in self-supported towers of greenery atop the restaurant. It's one of the first restaurant in the United States that grows its own food on its roof.


Space-saving vertical towers flood plants with nutrients, water, and sun. "The towers provide a nutrient-rich solution, using no soil," Mooney told CNN audiences. "They'll never see a refrigerator. They're not going to be gassed, and they're not going to be treated in any way for transport. I just pluck them straight from the vine. It makes a difference. This is the wave of the future for home and commercial use. Roots are attached, so they stay with the plant until it's prepared in the kitchen. I call it living lettuce."


Check it out at:
141 West 10th Street
New York, NY
(212) 414-2355


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