Archive

March 2011

Browsing

Situated in the small car free village of Oberlech, arrival is via a short cable car ride up from Lech. Oberlech village really is picture perfect and the Hotel Goldener Berg sits near the top with stunning Alpine views.

 

It blends traditional Austrian hospitality and food with all the modern facilities you’d expect of a star superior hotel. The staff are dressed in traditional Austrian clothing and are knowledgeable, friendly and polite, making you feel most welcome.

The restaurants, totalling 3, offer something for everyone and are all of the highest standard. The hotel offers a ‘dine around’ package which enables you to taste the delights of all three stunning restaurants – from the historic Alter Goldener Berg to the panoramic main eatery. The food was, in our opinion, no less than 5 star, with an international wine list to match, including local treats from Austria, as well as the high rolling Premier Cru’s you’d expect at such a place. (For added luxury during your trip why not take a peek at their very own wine cellar – they also offer private wine tastings should you want to really kick back after a day on the slopes!)

Daniela Pfefferkorn is the driving force behind this wonderful hotel and helps to achieve inspiring quality while being sympathetic to the natural environment. Skiing from and to your front door with access to the 160 miles of terrain in the Alberg Massif area makes it difficult not to have the perfect holiday, and at 6000 feet you can be guaranteed there’ll be plenty snow.

After an energetic day’s skiing we popped down stairs to the outstanding alpin spa to relax and sooth tired muscles. The spa’s open architecture is based on the idea of bringing outdoors indoors, and being made with local materials it really has sustainability at its heart. Not leaving a pool smelling of chlorine is a great benefit of the natural spring water, the solid granite and wood interior also add to the outdoor feel. All the products are natural and locally made. The outdoor whirl pool is heated via solar energy reminding you that decadence doesn’t have to cost the earth.

The room we stayed in was full of pine wood, well known for its ability to reduce stress and improve sleep. It had a feel of being very natural ,and with splashes of lime green and pink it seemed to be uplifting. The balcony gave us a perfect view over the whole valley (it really was a room a view) which was just wonderful to wake up to.

All in all this is one hotel that hasn’t compromised on luxury, yet at the same time hasn’t become fussy or overly formal and provides a perfect base from which to enjoy skiing the whole of the fantastic Alberg Massif area.

 

 

To book this stunning hotel, visit http://www.goldenerberg.at/ To read more on Lech & Oberlech check out our review.

Hidden away deep within the Austrian Alps the postcard perfect Lech is a village in the Alberg area, filled with exclusive hotels and restaurants, it is not immediately obvious what a pioneer in sustainability it is.

Lech, awarded the title of ‘most beautiful village in Europe’, maybe the perfect eco ski resort with the ingrained appreciation of nature the locals have stems back to their humble farming origins 600 years earlier. Living in this area in the 1400’s people were very respectful of the harsh and dangerous environment around them and that to damage it could be fatal. Today the area still has much game, including marmots, chamois, ibex and deer and in spite of the potential financial gains of cutting down their habitat the decision was made to not expand. Rather than investing in expansion, money seems to be directed in evolving the quality of the resort, resulting in everything being of a wonderful standard not to mention being pricey.

Rules preventing people having a second home in Lech ensures an atmosphere many villages have lost. It has the perfect geography for skiing with ample snow every year and a sheltered landscape. Due to the cattle farming history it has cultivated grassy fields rather than more rocky terrain meaning the snow does not need to be as deep to ski on. The river water is almost of drinking quality and this water supplies the snow making machines – maintaining at least a few inches of snow protects the sleeping meadow beneath, so that it blooms soon after the snow melts in May.

We were fortunate to meet the passionate and very knowledgeable Dr Hermann Fercher who had been director of tourism for 40 years in Lech. Learning about Lech’s popularity, we discovered that the Alberg region was one of the first areas in the world to have downhill skiing, where it dates back to before the war. It seems numerous world champions have come from this tiny village providing the perfect PR campaign to increase tourism and growth. Furthermore many writers have included Lech in books due to its natural beauty solidifying its reputation as the original ski resort. In the early days of ski holidays, many ski instructors that moved out of Lech set up ski schools all over the world – including the US and Australia, perhaps leaving Lech and Zurs as the mother resort.

He explained that his vision was to have a resort with people from all over the world creating an interesting cosmopolitan vibe rather than have it dominated by one nationality or culture, and this certainly is the case. In Lech cars are kept underground – the idea being out of sight out of mind – and travel around the Alberg region is supported with a free bus service. To compliment such eco credentials, a biomass heating system is used to heat 223 hotels and guesthouses in Lech, and coupled with the bus service the air pollutants are kept to a minimum.

Moving up to the satellite resort of Oberlech, a car free area 700 meters up the mountain, it seems magical the way hotels and bars function – until you find out of the underground tunnel system. 60% financed by the private hotels, the delivery of goods and removal of waste is conducted via an underground transport system using electric carts. The benefit of this is in the reduced noise and air pollution as well as enhanced beauty. While in Oberlech we had the pleasure of staying at a hotel leading the way in sustainability – The Hotel Goldener Berg. Lech is a magical resort with some of the best skiing we’ve ever had – it was a real pleasure to visit a place boasting a strong community feel with both locals and visitors looking out for our environment. We’ll definitely be back for some excellent skiing next season…

For more information on Lech and the Alberg region, please visit http://www.lech-zuers.at/

Hello Eco Living have teamed up with Shropshire Petals to give you the chance to win two beautiful Keep-Me Cases, Lilac Blooms and Pink Blooms, perfect for your big green wedding!

Lilac blooms
Lilac blooms

This lovely prize is a perfect way to display the confetti of your choice for your guests to throw over you, serving as keep sake boxes to keep all of your memories in after your big day.

The prize includes;

-2 Keep Me Cases (Pink and Lilac)
-32 Confetti Cones
-5 litres of the confetti of your choice (enough for the cones and extra for decoration)
-Tissue paper to line the boxes
-Message Card for your guests

To enter our competition, simply enter online.   

Everyone who enters will be signed up for our e-newsletter that you can unsubcribe from at any time.

Winners will be drawn on 31st March 2011 and notified within 7 days.

If you can’t wait to get your hands on these beautiful petals, we’re offering our readers a discount code which will give you 2 for £65 on Shropshire Boxes, just enter the code – ECO2011 – at the checkout; http://www.shropshirepetals.com/

This wasn’t supposed to be the article you’re reading now. I had written a piece on the government’s disastrous plans to sell of 15% of Britain’s woodlands to private companies, a plan which would have subjected part of our national heritage to the brutal, and in this case wholly unnecessary grasp, of the free market. Thankfully, that isn’t the article you’re reading, since the government saw sense and dropped the policy, honestly and openly saying they were wrong and that they were sorry. At least that’s the accepting and sympathetic way of looking at it.

eco magazine

The more cynical, or rather sceptical, way of looking at it is probably one which is closer to the truth. What almost certainly happened is that in the face of fierce protests from the public, the government realised that the policy was politically unviable and dropped it as quickly as they could. It wouldn’t be untrue to say that if the public didn’t protest against it as vehemently as they did, the government would have gone ahead with the plans and sold off our forests for what would have amounted to a yearly saving of 30p per person.

This indicates two things. Firstly, the power that people have to stand up to government plans to privatise anything and everything within their reach but secondly, that when it comes to environmental policy they really do have their priorities wrong. If anyone in the government, even for a second, thought that it was a good idea to sell of 15% of our forests to private businesses and corporations then they can’t possibly claim to be “the greenest government ever”. If anyone in the government, even for a second, thought that it was a good idea to sell of 15% of our forests to private businesses and corporations, no one is looking carefully enough, and devoting enough time and attention to environmental policy as they need to. What the government need to grasp is the idea that the environmental issues such as this and many others are some of the most important issues they face. They have to understand that both the departments dealing with environmental issues are two one of the most important departments, up there with the Home Office, the Treasury and the Foreign Office. Why? Because environmental issues are some of the most important facing the world today. Fighting climate change is just as important as fighting international terrorism. Cutting our carbon emissions is just as cutting our deficit. Stopping the devastating effects of deforestation is just as important as stopping the world slipping back into recession. There can be no doubt that preventing the catastrophic damage that climate changes is causing is just as important as another government business.

Providing that this increasingly fragile coalition holds, this government has, at the very least, another 4 years to run. Let’s hope that in that time they, along with everyone, will realise that environmental policy is of unshakable importance and isn’t to be made rashly and carelessly as it was with this forest fiasco. After all, anyone at all who thinks that our woodlands aren’t worth 30 pence per person need to have another look at the importance they place on the environment.

Last year we had the ‘Year of Biodiversity’, next year we’ve got ‘The Year of Sustainable Energy for all’, but in their ever increasing effort to promote environmental issues, the United Nations has officially declared 2011 ‘The International Year of Forests’. green magazine

As with most United Nation’s ‘years of’, the year of the forests is designed to “raise awareness at all levels to strengthen the sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests for the benefit of current and future generations”. In that rather wordy sentence there is a rather good idea. Instead of concentrating on raising awareness of the dangers of deforestation we should raise awareness of what can be done to combat it.

People know that deforestation is a major problem, contributing 20% of the world’s greenhouse gasses through the C02 released when trees are cut down. People know that deforestation leads to flash floods and landslides and people know that deforestation leads to a devastating loss of biodiversity. In short, people know that deforestation is a huge problem, one that causes massive amounts of both environmental and human suffering.

Knowing all the facts however doesn’t mean that we have an easy solution. With an ever increasing third world population needing more land to farm and cultivate crops, and with huge multinational companies destroying hector after hector in order to satisfy public demand for commercial products such as palm oil, it’s a viciously difficult problem to overcome.

Despite the enormity of the problem however, people have had plenty of ideas. One of the most interesting is the United Nation’s ‘Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation’ scheme, otherwise known as REDD.  REDD is essentially a way of paying poor countries to protect their forests. For rainforest nations such as Indonesia and Brazil, their forests are currently worth more to them dead than alive due to the levels of income generated by the lucrative logging trade as well as income gained from the acquisition of more land. The idea therefore is to make trees and forests more economically valuable when they are alive and intact rather than when they are hacked down and destroyed.

Inevitably however, an idea as brilliantly simple as REDD is not so simple in reality. It’s a simple idea but putting it into action is going to be extremely complicated and fraught with potential pitfalls and problems.

Despite the complications however it is promising to know that progress is being made on a viable scheme to cut the levels of deforestation in the world. A scheme that doesn’t work by judging those countries that do it but a scheme that works with them to tackle the causes of the problem.

Tackling deforestation with schemes like REDD is not going to be an easy or quick task, but with perseverance and support it is entirely possible. The United Nations has declared 2011 a call to arms: a year where real progress could be made on tackling one of the world’s most extreme environmental issues and to show us just what a difference a year can make.