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Caneel Bay in St. John, US Virgin Islands: A True Hidden Eco-Gem

Caneel Bay

It’s tempting to conceal how incredible of an experience my boyfriend Bryan and I had in St. John this past February. Those who’ve visited the island share one thing in common: a deep-seated fear the masses will flock to their hidden gem.

It was my maiden voyage and our first official vacation together. It’s a magical, ecologically rich place that promotes happiness and love.

In a Caribbean increasingly defined by overdevelopment, St. John remains an exception. It’s the smallest, least developed and the most stunning of the three major United States Virgin Islands. Approximately nine miles long and five miles wide, St. John is home to breath-taking white-sand beaches, framed by the forests of Virgin Islands National Park, which covers 60 percent of the island.

Caneel Bay Resort was a highlight of our trip. Set on a 170-acre peninsula amid the Virgin Islands National Park, it’s an ideal eco-destination for those who prefer a mix of nature and luxury. Bryan and I enjoyed relaxing on the beach (they have seven!) and the most delicious organic lunch at Caneel Beach Bar and Grill. Go for the locally caught lobster tacos.


Although we didn’t stay at the resort, the accommodations sound lovely. All of the 166 accommodations are free of modern day distractions like telephones and televisions so you can connect to your beautiful surroundings. Just keep your iPhone handy; you’ll want to add Caneel Bay to your photo map on Instagram.

Sunset at Caneel Bay Resort in St. John.

Sunset at Caneel Bay Resort in St. John.

The Resort is as rich in history as it is in nature. Discovered by Laurance Rockefeller who was a steadfast environmentalist and preservationist, Rockefeller purchased the land to create a unique vacation destination that would preserve and protect its natural environment by developing very little and preserving a great deal. Caneel Bay is one of only a few marine environments within the U.S. National Park System and is home to abundant wildlife as well as colorful coral reefs that teem with underwater life.

As summer winds down you’ll inevitably begin to daydream about your next warm-weather escape. And, I’ve let the cat out of the bag…

Killington Ski Mountain’s Gondolas are Powered by What?


I had been looking forward to a family ski trip over this past New Year’s for quite a while. I was ready to hit the slopes again. The last time I had skied was several years back when I made a frantic descendance down the mountain with tears streaming down, and freezing on my face. I thought I had frostbite on my hands and feet.

As it turned out, I did not have frostbite and I hadn’t gone insane. I learned I had developed a pesky condition called “Raynaud’s Phenomenon” which can make the cold very painful. For years, I’d get attacks of Raynaud’s where my fingers and toes turned white and went numb. It’s really not very attractive or comfortable, at all.

I limited my exposure to the cold during the winter, or as best as I could living in New York. Walking down the refrigerated isles in supermarkets was miserable, and skiing was most certainly off the table which really bummed me out. I grew up skiing, and with every winter that passed, I missed the thrill and the serenity of the sport more and more.

More recently my sensitivity to the cold hadn’t been bothering me as much and my Raynaud’s attacks were less frequent. So I figured ‘what the heck,’ why not give skiing one last shot.

My first day of skiing in years was this past New Year’s Eve at Killington Resort. Fittingly, I rode a gondola powered by cow manure up the mountain for my first run.

killington 2

Killington partnered with Green Mountain Power to cleverly use uses cow manure — a byproduct of dairy farming that already exists in abundance throughout the state — as an energy source.

Under GMP’s Cow Power program, manure is collected from Vermont’s dairy farms: 10,000 cows from 13 farms across the state produce roughly 300,000 gallons of manure per day. That is a lot of manure.

Under the process, farms collect cow manure throughout the day, mixing it with wash water from the milking equipment which is then pumped into an anaerobic digester. The slurry flows through a digester for about three weeks at 100 degrees Fahrenheit allowing bacteria to convert the manure into biogas, about 60% methane gas and 40% carbon dioxide. The biogas is then delivered to a modified natural gas engine, which drives an electric generator to create electricity. Finally, the energy generated is fed onto the GMP electrical system which ultimately powers the K-1 Express Gondola.

Costa Rica’s Parador Resort and Spa in the Heart of Manuel Antonio


Nestled high above Costa Rica’s scenic Pacific coastline, on acres upon acres of teeming-with-wildlife rainforests and adjacent to stunning Manuel Antonio Park, sits Parador Resort and Spa in Punta Quepos. It’s a sustainable jewel of a resort you must visit.

I stayed at Parador for nearly four unforgettable days a few weeks ago. It far surpassed my every expectation with its impeccable service, commitment to sustainability, and raw beauty. The resort was honored as a worldwide leader in sustainable tourism by receiving the Platinum Level “Leader in Sustainable Tourism” Adrian Award from National Geographic traveler, as well as having been recognized by TripAdvisor as one of the “Top 25 Luxury Hotels in Central America” just this year.

It was a first-time trip for me to the beautiful country; sincere thanks to Costa Rica’s tourism board. I had heard so many wonderful things about Costa Rica, and I received more advice than I could take on where I should visit, things I should do, and what I should eat. But there’s nothing better than letting moments overcome you when traveling. Rather than carefully plotting out and orchestrating my every move in Costa Rica, I decided I’d go for the ride and experience the country and its people. I wanted this trip to be as authentic as possible.


One of many richly beautiful views from our room


Costa Rica’s Tourism Board Gave Me a Green Gift of Happiness!


After a long day last week, and a green event to cap off the night, I checked my mail right before I entered the subway and one particular email caught me off guard. It seemed way too good to be true. So I re-read it, and even walked back up to Columbus Circle to get better reception (to read it again).  Here’s an excerpt:


Because of the large readership of the Brown Loves Green blog, your influence through, and your involvement in other eco-friendly blogs across the web, Costa Rica’s Tourism Board would like to give you a free trip to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is sending out a select number of these Gifts of Happiness in the form of customized trips, and because your values align with Costa Rica’s belief in Pura Vida, you’ve been hand-selected to receive a trip for two.

Say what? I had that whole “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is” internal dialogue going on.

But as it turns out, I was not delirious from exhaustion.  Nor had I sniffed too many naturally scented eco-friendly products at the event that eve. And it wasn’t too good to be true.

Costa Rica’s tourism board really has so graciously given me a gift of complete and utter happiness: an all-expense-paid trip for two for eight days to their beautifully green country! But that’s not all …

My boyfriend Dan (whose arm needed no twisting on this one) and I were able to choose from five uniquely themed trips, all of which are absolutely incredible in every way imaginable! They each include top CST-rated (Certification for Sustainable Tourism) hotels (an honor reserved for the most ecologically friendly hotels), exotic excursions, and organic opportunities to truly experience Costa Rica — the happiest place on earth.

Costa Rica’s generous gift, which made me the happiest girl on earth, is all a part of their “Million Dollar Gift of Happiness”campaign which aims to spread good energy and happiness with a million dollars’ worth of free trips to the country. “Like” the Visit Costa Rica Facebook page, and you could win yourself a trip! And on Anderson Cooper’s daytime show today, he’ll present a Gift of Happiness to the couple in this viral video, making them the happiest couple on earth!


I met up with Costa Rica’s PR team while they were in NYC this past weekend, and they assured me that their email wasn’t a big hoax on me, and even made it official by hand-delivering a beautiful certificate, made using responsibly sourced wood.


When I shared the news with Starre she excitedly declared, “It’s PHENOMENAL! It’s really one of my fave places in the entire world! Literally every single person I know who has traveled there, has shared the very same sentiments with me.

But I decided to do my own pre-trip research and look into what exactly makes Costa Rica so green and so good. Here are a just few fun facts I found and adore (for obvious reasons!). I think you will too:

  • It’s considered one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world (they have 5% of the earth’s biodiversity)
  • Costa Rica is an ecological pioneer. The country aims to become the first carbon-neutral country by 2021
  • Costa Rica ranked third in the world, and first among the Americas, in terms of the 2010 Environmental Performance Index
  • Costa Rica ranks first in the Happy Planet Index. Here’s a great  NY Times piece on the country,”The Happiest People” by one of my favorite columnists, Nicholas D. Kristof
  • The National Park of Corcovado has been called “the most biologically intense place on earth” by the National Geographic Society
  • Costa Rica has a female President! Laura Chinchilla is the first woman to lead the nation. Would love to interview Laura for Heroines for the Planet one day!
But seeing is believing after all. What could be better than actually exploring all of the green goodness for myself? My trip promises to be well-documented, here of course, and I can’t wait to share my authentic adventures in the greenest and happiest place on earth!


Have you been to Costa Rica? If so, post a comment and share your favorite thing about the country! I’d love to hear about your experiences and any recommendations you could offer up too!


Summer Dopp Kit Essentials for the Eco Road Warrior


Whether you’ve planned a fabulous vaca this summer to an exotic locale or a weekend getaway an hour from home, you’ll want to pack your toiletry bag with some of our favorite summer travel products. Even if a staycation is on the horizon for you, these products will surely come in handy during these hazy, lazy days of summer.

First and foremost, you’ll want to keep the mosquitos at bay and avoid those dreaded red welts. I tested out EcoSMART’s Insect Repellent and not only did it keep the bugs far away, but I enjoyed it’s pleasant scent. Yes, you read that correctly. A bug spray that smells really good and works well! The kicker: It’s made with organic plant oils and it’s DEET-free.

Since bugs are on the mind, EcoSMART also makes a fantastic and effective travel size Bed Bug Killer and Repellent. Wherever your respite, you’ll sleep tight knowing the bed bugs won’t bite.

Suncreen is a must, but keeping toxic chemicals and a burn off your skin can be tricky. Loving Naturals makes a great sunscreen and we love Nature’s Gate mineral sportsblock. Both made Environmental Working Group’s list of best natural sunscreens. You should, at all costs, avoid any sunscreen products that contain the ingredient Oxybenzone as there is mounting evidence that is a possible photocarcinogen, meaning it mutates into a carcinogen when exposed to light. Also avoid the ingredient Retinyl Palmitate, as it is a vitamin A compound that makes skin more prone to sunburn and sun damage. Just be wary of using that sunblock from last year as many products lose their effectiveness after 1-2 years. You can learn more about your go-to sunscreen and whether it’s slather worthy at the EWG Sunscreen Database.

High altitudes, planes and AC can really leave your skin parched, so be sure to carry along a hydrating face mist in your travels. Fat & the Moon’s mist is created with organic and locally grown ingredients. Just one little spritz will leave you with that refreshed, baby skin we’re all after.

Every well-packed toiletry case has a toothbrush so why not bring along a better, lighter one? Radius makes small toothbrushes with detachable heads that fit perfectly into travel cases. Throw Tom’s Whole Care Toothpaste into that toiletry bag while you’re at it! And if you’re an active vacationer, be sure to pack all-natural deodorant from Kiss My Face. Your travel buddies will thank you.