2010 Innovation Award Finalist: Institute at the Golden Gate
Organization: Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy – Institute at the Golden Gate
Nominated by: Paula Vlamings, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy (Organization Category)
The Institute at the Golden Gate’s mission is to advance environmental preservation and global sustainability by facilitating cross-sector dialogue and collaboration, encouraging new partnerships, and promoting action.
We bring together environmentalists, business executives, philanthropists, inventors, venture capitalists, scientists, social entrepreneurs, youth activists, and engaged leaders from across all sectors committed to advancing global sustainability. We create opportunities for nonprofit and government entities to join this network by providing affordable green meeting space, and connecting emerging leaders and organizations through their shared vision.
To help accomplish this mission, the concept of 21st century “guilds” were formed at the Institute, which are communities of accomplished, visionary individuals who share a commitment to solving Earth’s most pressing environment and social challenges. The guilds are a means to connect, inspire, and facilitate ongoing partnerships and action. Face-to-face collaboration occurs at the Institute, as well as through correspondence, virtual meetings, joint project ventures, and other activities.
In 2008, a Sustainable Communities guild was formed around the concept of fostering next-generation tools for sustainable tourism development. Over the next two years, a series of meetings with leading practitioners from the tourism industry, NGOs and government were held at the Institute, and their work was highlighted this year through the Institute’s annual environmental forum, Turning the Tide.
The travel and tourism sector is the key economic sector for small island states with tourism accounting for a significant share of their foreign exchange earnings. Warming seas threaten the livelihood of small island developing economies worldwide, in part because of their dependence on healthy coral reefs. A lack of basic sanitation and the continued rise in sea levels due to climate changes are significant environmental stress factors impacting fragile coral reef systems throughout the world.
Estimates by the United Nations Environmental Programme (2008) indicate that less than 10 percent of wastewater is treated in the developing world, and over 70% of coral reefs in the world are impacted by the discharge of untreated sewage. Although coral reefs play an important role for ecotourism, they also act as essential barriers from storm surge and provide critical habitat for fisheries vital to the local island economy and welfare.
Addressing water pollution by adopting innovative wastewater technologies is fundamental to the protection of coral reef systems. For these reasons, innovative waste water technology will have a key role to play in the mitigation and adaptation of islands worldwide to climate change.
The hotel and resort industry is well positioned to assist with maintaining pristine island and coastal environments and social well being and has a fundamental role to play in addressing the impacts of climate change.
Presently water treatment systems producing re-usable water are expensive to buy, install and operate. The plan is to provide systems which are low cost, low maintenance, have a small carbon footprint and produce high quality water that can be reused in many ways. It is understood that resort owners will see the financial return on their investment and have total customer satisfaction from the system, which must be reliable and reduce present risk from rising seas and storm surges.
Mike Freed, guild member and co-owner of Passports Resorts, installed similar energy-efficient, low-cost waste water management systems in two of his resorts. One is at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort and the other is at Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, California. Both are award-winning properties. In Fiji, this system has improved water quality while protecting the adjacent coral reef, and also provides irrigation to the property. This technology served as the basis for the project.
The Institute is now incubating the development of a social business to deliver low-cost, waste water reclamation systems for small and medium resorts worldwide. A group of experts in sustainable tourism, marketing, social business, waste water engineering, hotel and resort management, and coastal and ocean ecology gathered in Institute guild meetings to create a new technology that can serve as a tool to reduce the impacts of tourism worldwide.
The waste water engineers have collaborated to create what they believe will be the most cost and space effective waste water treatment system available in the world, and there is growing excitement regarding the innovation that has resulted from the collaborative process that took place.
Megan Epler Wood, Senior Fellow at the Institute and TIES founder provided the spark to bring this program to life. She had the vision to use the Institute and its array of extraordinary experts in green solutions to focus on a very specific tool to lessen the impacts of sustainable on global environments, and avoid vague deliberative sessions with only academic results.
The extraordinary individuals involved are part of the extensive network of the Institute, which extends from our partnership with the National Park Service to the Bay Area’s leading entrepreneurs and educational institutions. They have collectively developed these creative solutions which have the potential to greatly improve water treatment at the resort level. This project also has the potential to bring new funding and incentives to improve water treatment for a reasonable cost, with new green approaches beyond the resort. This effort has great potential to improve local well-being and the environment in entire regions in the future.
Through this working group guild process, the Institute at the Golden Gate has demonstrated its leadership in developing innovative planning and collaborative thinking in the field of sustainable tourism.
“The Institute’s Sustainable Communities guild has taken on a very important project. The water reclamation/waste water system we installed in our Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort, has significantly improved the quality of the coral reef in front of the resort, benefiting both our local community and our guests. It is a model that is easily duplicated – we even incorporated reusing plastic Fiji Water bottles into the system. With the support of the Institute’s Sustainable Communities guild, we believe that more island resorts, and coastal developments in general, will have the opportunity to install this next generation of this sustainable technology throughout the Pacific and beyond. We are developing a plan with the Institute with the potential to have a huge impact to improve the coral reefs, and I’m thrilled to be involved.” – Mike Freed, Co-Owner, Passport Resorts
“The Institute’s Sustainable Communities guild has provided a set of new collaborators that opened up my world and inspired new innovative ideas. Our group includes industry leaders, new technology specialists, cutting edge business planners, leading community development thinkers, and environmental gurus. The creative experience and the progress we have made together is breathtaking.” – Megan Epler Wood
Learn More about the Institute at the Golden Gate
The ESTC 2010 participants and visitors will have the opportunity to get to know the Institute and to learn about their projects during the conference exhibition program this year in Portland, Oregon, USA. All conference participants are encouraged to visit the Exhibition Hall during the conference days. The Exhibition hall will also be open to the public on Thursday September 9th, 2010 between 2:00pm and 5:30pm.