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Dispenser Amenities Pairs With The Nature Conservancy in The Pelee Island Project

This summer we sat down with Linda Branderhorst of The Nature Conservancy after meeting her while organizing our event for the 2012 Nature Conservancy “Picnic for the Planet” which was an attempt to set a world record of Picnickers around the world on Earth Day.  Due to poor weather conditions, unfortunately, the record was not obtained but instead, a wonderful relationship with Linda and The Nature Conservancy began.  During our meeting with Linda this summer, we agreed to make a commitment to their efforts on the conservation of Pelee Island.  Dispenser Amenities will begin by renovating the Ivey Research Center which is a key location that allows Nature Conservancy researchers to live and work on the island.  We have also made a five year financial commitment to support The Nature Conservancy’s effort to monitor and protect the over 200 species of plants and animals that are considered of conservation significance.

Dispenser Amenities’ love affair with Pelee Island actually began 15 years ago.  Senior staff here all share a lifelong passion – Birding!  Sales and Administration expert at Dispenser Amenities, Heather, told me “Birding is something I’ve done my whole life.  Officially I started birding as a hobby around 15 years ago, but I have always noticed birds and been interested in birds for as long as I remember.  Ian (company President), Liz (Executive Accounts Manager) and I started birding on Pelee Island because it is unique, quiet and beautiful.” 

Shortly after they started birding on the Island, the Spring Migration became an official event known now as “Spring Song”.  This event is a celebration of birding and a fundraiser for the Island.  Recently hosted by celebrities such as Wayne Grady, Merilyn Simonds, Margret Atwood and Ian Davidson, the event has become a hit in the birding community.  Heather recalls the past when she worked for a wild animal rehabilitation center, how she was able to get Robert Bateman (shown left) involved in a fundraiser for the animals.  After meeting him at a Spring Song event, Heather contacted him and he agreed to sign 20 of his books to be used as prizes for the fundraiser.  Liz, who is a huge David Suzuki fan, remembers the 2007 Spring Song event where David Suzuki was a guest speaker.  “He is just so passionate about the environment and has kept up his efforts for such a long time.” says Liz.  “He seems to know everything there is to know about nature and sustainability.  To have him come and speak at my favorite birding function just blew me away – what a great surprise!” 

We are making this commitment not only because we love the island but because we feel that Pelee Island is such an important place to preserve.  Aside from being our favorite birding destination and key stopover for the so many species of bird’s migration, Pelee Island has what is considered a Carolinian Climate Zone, which is a rare habitat to find in Canada and supports a number of animals many of which are at the northern limit of their range.  The Blue Racer snake and Small-mouthed Salamander for example cannot be found anywhere else in Canada.  The Lake Erie Water Snake have populations on Pelee Island as well as other small southern extremities of Canada.  The Grey Fox  has been sighted in Canada close to U.S. access points like Windsor, but the population on Pelee Island is considered the only Canadian resident breeding population. (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources)  All of these species are listed as endangered and have suffered greatly because of habitat destruction.  The Blanchard’s Cricket Frog, Fowler’s Toad and the Eastern Hog-Nosed Snake are all believed to be extirpated from the island (Nature Conservancy) and we want to prevent any other species from meeting that same fate.

From our years of spring migration bird watching on Pelee Island, we have come to love the island, its people and its superb environmental uniqueness.  The marvel that is spring and fall migration and the habitat that the island affords these avian long-distance travelers must be preserved.  “Dispenser Amenities is committed to protecting the very special ecological environment of Pelee Island and the Nature Conservancy already has significant human and financial resources committed to this conservation challenge.  They have the ability to take our contribution and allocate it where the greatest needs exist.  Their stewardship of the Island will ensure that the special areas like the wetlands, the alvars and the forests will thrive for all time,” says Ian Wallace, President of Dispenser Amenities Inc.  “We are proud to be able to support their work in keeping Pelee Island such a special place in Nature.” 


The Vacation That Lasted a Lifetime

What started as a casual conversation between guest and staff on a Baltic Cruise has landed a Room Stewardess in Canada on a life changing course.

In 2008, my wife Judy and I, Dispenser Amenities’ President, Ian Wallace, were on a Baltic Cruise, enjoying three days in St. Petersburg as well as stops in Helsinki, Estonia, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Belgium.  During this cruise, we struck up a conversation with an employee of the cruise line, which was the beginning of a relationship that would become a life changing journey for both of us.

That employee was our Cabin Attendant, Tetyana, from Ukraine.  “Both she and her assistant, an Indian gentleman named Vijay, were simply delightful people who greeted us with the biggest, happiest smiles every time we saw them,” says Judy.  In chatting with them further, it was learned that they had become more than just working associates and had become a couple.  Over a quick glass of wine one afternoon, we learned that Tetyana had been working at sea since 2003 to support her son who lived with his grandmother in Ukraine.  Tetyana was an Electrical Engineer by trade, but she could not find a job in that field within Ukraine, so she began taking jobs aboard cruise ships out of necessity.  That however, left her little or no time to see her family, so she regularly sent money home to help support her son Andrusha and her mother.  Likewise, Vijay sent money home to India to help support his parents and siblings.

Both said they would love to start a new life that would be a better life for them in a new country like Canada.  It was a dream and the seeds were planted on that cruise.

For a year and a half, we continued communication with Tetyana and Vijay by Skype.  When we began planning a cruise in Asia, we told Tetyana our plans to be on a different ship for this trip.  By true coincidence Tetyana and Vijay had also changed ships and, sure enough, they would be on the same cruise voyage through Asia.  During check-in, cabin attendants assist the travellers to find their cabins and probably twenty attendants rotated through the newly arriving passengers. Who was waiting for the next passengers when it was our turn? Tetyana.   Great joy and hugs ensued and it was such a treat to see each other again.  The discussion about Canada continued but it was apparent that the couple could not leave their jobs because their families needed the money they sent back home.

We planned another cruise in 2011, this time in the Mediterranean on a new ship.  Fate again intervened and Tetyana and Vijay had changed to this ship, so we would see them again!  Amazing!  Once again, as we boarded the ship, you guessed it, Tetyana’s turn to take the guests to their cabin coincided with our timing at arrival, so another round of hugs and joy was exchanged.  By now, Vijay had been promoted to a Butler and looked a most handsome guy in his stunning black tuxedo.

Now after having worked on cruise ships for 8 years away from her family, Tetyana was really ready to do whatever it took to find a way to be with her son and live a normal life.  After more talk about the possibilities of coming to Canada, it was determined that the only viable approach  was if they could get an international student Visa to attend college.  So, against all odds, we set about to try to make it happen.  Tetyana had to pass English proficiency in written and oral ability and she was successful in that test.  She was conditionally admitted to the accounting program at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario but still had to obtain a Visa from the Canadian Embassy in Kiev.  Time passed and it was looking as if the school year would start before the Visa would be approved, if it even would be approved.  But on Friday, August 31st, a delighted Tetyana called to say that she and Andrusha had their Visas to come to Canada.

Judy immediately sent emails to everyone we knew asking for help with anything anybody had, to set up an apartment.  The tired travellers arrived at Toronto airport the next Wednesday evening where we picked them up to begin their new life.  We had found a nice two bedroom apartment close to our home and on Saturday morning, just eight days after the Visa phone call, they moved into an apartment that had been completely furnished and outfitted by donations!

They are so completely amazed and thankful to everyone who had helped to make this amazing day possible.  Tetyana is enjoying her accounting classes and learning about strange English terms like Assets and Liabilities.  “Andy”, who is now a ‘Canadian boy’ is in ninth grade, starting secondary school.  Their most used word is “unbelievable!”

Vijay, is still on the ship and everyone hopes that he will be able to join the family in London in the New Year to study Hotel Management in the same college.  Hopefully there will be more happy chapters to this story, all started over a glass of wine.


Top 5 Hotel Animal Mascots

First

Matilda the Algonquin Cat, from the Algonquin Hotel, New York City is, to my knowledge, the only cat with her own Email address (matildaalgonquincat@algonquinhotel.com).  She comes from a long line of Algonquin Feline mascots dating back to the 1930’s when a stray cat named Rusty sought shelter in the hotel.  Frank Case, owner of the Algonquin at the time, took Rusty in and renamed him Hamlet.  Since that time the hotel has always kept a feline mascot, Matilda being the 10th.  All male successors have been named Hamlet and all Females Matilda.  Matilda writes all pets who visit the Algonquin a welcome letter that includes her favorite things to do in New York.  Matilda’s favorite food is Kitty Caviar and she loves to host charity events.  According to the Algonquin, the current Matilda was contacted by her predecessor (also Matilda) to take over as she was ready to retire.  The former Matilda was rumored to “roam the hotel” and frequent “private parties”.  She also, at one time, had her collar stolen which was dubbed as “the Algonquin Cat-Burglary”.

Second

In 1933 Frank Schutt, owner of the Memphis Peabody Hotel and friend Chip Barwick left live ducks in the lobby fountain after drinking too much Jack Daniels whiskey and a wonderful, near century-long tradition was born.  Since that day, the Peabody has kept live wild ducks at the hotel. Every day at 11am the official Peabody “March of the Ducks” takes place.  The ducks are brought from their rooftop palace down to the lobby where they walk down a red carpet to their marble fountain.  Here they remain, to the delight of guests, until 5pm when they again take the red carpet to make their exit.  A huge list of celebrities have come to witness the “March of the Ducks” including Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan and Justin Timberlake.  The ducks luxury rooftop palace was renovated in December 2008 for the 75th anniversary of the tradition at a cost of $200,000.  It includes granite floors and a bronze statue in the fountain and a scale replica of the hotel where they can huddle up.  The ducks are wild ducks that are caught every 3 months and then returned to the wild and a new flock is brought in.

Third

Higgins from Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar Dallas has been named Director of Pet Relations!  This adorable Beagle was adopted by the Hotel Chef Concierge Andrew.  Together they offer pet guests of the hotel the WAGS package.  This package aimed at VIPs (Very Important Pets) is aimed at making the hotel stay enjoyable for animals.  Upon arrival, all pets are greeted with a “goody bag” containing treats and amenities for pets.  If you don’t have a pet, don’t worry, all Kimpton Hotels offer a loaner pet goldfish to their guests!

Fourth

The Seaport Boston Hotel has a quarter million animal mascots – Bees. The bees in the region recently had problems with Colony Collapse Disorder, a problem that causes Colonies to mysteriously die.   So to help preserve the bee population the Seaport has adopted these cool little guys!  The Seaport’s Executive Steward Edwin Medrano is in charge of looking after the bees and attended “bee school” to ensure that they will be cared for properly.  The Seaport harvests honey from the bees which is served in their restaurant, the TAMO bar.  In a June 2012 Great Wide Open article, Edwin announced his goal to harvest 300 to 500 Pounds of honey in 2012 and it was reported by 1000 Words that on July 25, 2012 he harvested 400lbs.  The Bees are kept on a 5th floor roof deck.  They travel to the Rose Kennedy Greenway and the Boston Common, but always return home to their queen.

Fifth

How would you like to stay at a hotel where you are greeted with a big sloppy kiss from a Giraffe?  At Giraffe Manor in Nairobi Kenya it’s all part of the experience.  The hotel is called home by a herd of rare Rothschild Giraffes.  Guests at the hotel can interact with the Giraffes who have become quite accustomed to Humans and often visit guests by sticking their heads through open windows.  In a Trip Advisor forum chat one user commented on how she thought the younger Giraffes were better kissers!  Guests can feed the Giraffes and hotel staff will also take guests on safaris into the African plains to see the other magnificent animals in the area.  When you stay at the eco-friendly Giraffe Manor, a percentage of your accommodation charge is automatically donated to the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, which has set up a Giraffe Centre as a breeding place for the endangered and beloved Rothschild Giraffe.

Our Mascot

I couldn’t write this article without mentioning Dispenser Amenities’ own mascot – Nutmeg!  Nutmeg is our 6 years young Maltese poodle.  She lives with our sales and administration expert, Heather and has worked the 8 to 5 shift at our office since she was a young pup.  She has a life-long passion – eating Snauseges.  Nutmeg feels she should be rewarded with snauseges for every action in her life.  If Nutmeg has just come in from outside, sees anyone come into the office, or hears her name mentioned in any context, she gets all excited and jumpy,  ready for her reward.  Normally she is pretty calm.  She enjoys sun-tanning belly-up by the door where the sun shines in, barking at squirrels and riding home in a back seat tent pitched for her in Heather’s car so she won’t be scared of the window.  She spends her days patiently waiting for Carl (shown above with Nutmeg), our UPS driver to show up at 4pm and play with her.  Around 3:30pm she starts getting excited about Carl’s visit and pacing around the door.  When Carl finally shows up she gets so excited that she barks and jumps with her front paws frantically clawing the door.

Written by:  Michael Faulds


The Eco-Tourism Giant of Panama

Raul Arias de Para has created a family of eco-friendly lodges in the Panamanian rain forest that have set an example that the whole world should be aware of.  The Canopy Tower Family sole purpose for creation was to allow people to experience the magnificence of the rain forest without causing any damage to it.  He believes that eco-tourism is “an instrument of conservation” helping draw attention to the value of the Panamanian rainforest through these experiences.  This however, is actually the happy ending to a very interesting story.

Arias de Para has had quite a colorful life and a vast number of occupations.  He is the grandson of one of the founding members of the republic of Panama, has a Master’s Degree in Economics, worked in the banking industry for 10 years, founded many businesses, reached the top of a major Panamanian political party, wrote a best-selling book  and is Vice President of ANCON, Panama’s oldest conservation organization.  As the Financial Director of Public Security, Arias de Para helped demilitarize Panama after it was controlled for nearly a decade by the notorious drug-lord, Manuel Noriega.  He had a few run-ins with Noriega personally and was twice detained by Noriega’s men during the period of political turmoil.

After his political career came to an end, Arias de Para made what some nature lovers might call his greatest accomplishment.  He created the Canopy Tower from an abandoned U.S. radar station.  He spent two years convincing the Panamanian government that he could transform the tower into a specialty resort and do no harm to the forest before they finally allowed it.  He couldn’t find a contractor that was willing to work for an affordable cost under these restrictions so he took that job on himself as well.  He hired a crew and together they cut windows into the solid exterior and converted the radar dome platform into a bird-watching deck that overlooks the forest canopy.  He even thought of an idea to recycle soapy kitchen water to run the toilets and get double use from it!

The Canopy Tower eventually turned into the Canopy Tower Family after Arias de Para opened several other Eco-tourism locations in the country.  The Canopy Lodge is where Dispenser Amenities staff had the pleasure of meeting him.  For a birding adventure in 2009, Dispenser Amenities’ staff Ian, Heather and Liz all went to Panama to experience the Canopy Lodge in person.  Ian Wallace describes one exhilarating moment of the trip for him:

“On this trip we were guided by an extremely experienced person from Victor Emmanual Nature Tours, Barry Zimmer,  a Red Sox fan and nature lover who has led nature tours all over the world.  He undoubtedly had a life list of birds seen, well into the thousands.  But on this trip some locals reported having seen a bird that would be a ‘Lifer” for Barry and the hunt was on.  The “Rufous Vented Ground Cuckoo” is a rather large, very shy bird that feeds on the bugs etc. that are alarmed when Army Ants put in an appearance.  Army Ants travel in swarms of thousands and thousands and can throw the natural food chain in an area into complete disarray.  The Rufous Vented Ground Cuckoo uses the help of the swarm to find food in the area that has been thrown into chaos.

 We immediately left the area where we were birding and took the vans several miles to where the swarm of ants was located.  After a spirited hunt along the ground, virtually on our hands and knees, one of the locals saw the bird, skulking along, several meters into the bush.  Once we had all seen it, Barry erupted into fits of high-fives as this much sought-after bird had finally been added to his life list after years of not being able to find this Cuckoo, on his many trips to Panama.  He immediately called his brother Kevin, also a guide, to tell him of this immense achievement – It was celebration day!”

Arias de Para was at the Canopy Lodge through most of the week that Ian, Heather and Liz were there and joined them at dinner time, with his wife.  He became part of the group and even went birding with them one day.  He askedwhat they did for a living.   They told him that Ian owned Dispenser Amenities, a hotel supplier of eco-friendly shower dispensers and they all worked there.  He immediately said, “We need to have dispensers here.”  He invited the entire tour group to visit his home on the Pacific coast for a lunch one day and watch birds at the ocean there.  During their time there, Liz and Ian showed him the Dispenser Amenities online catalog and he immediately chose WAVE Dispensers.  He also offered for the group to all visit the Canopy Tower on their way to the Airport on the last day and he asked if Ian would check out the rooms to see if the WAVE units would work there too.  Upon returning to Canada, Heather was delighted when she checked her email and saw the order for the Canopy Tower Family.

When asked to research the Canopy Tower Family for this newsletter I was not completely convinced that this would be a stand-alone story.  I told Ian that it should be included in our Hotel Pioneers article which discusses some hotels that adapted eco-friendly practices well ahead of the trend – boy was I wrong!  This hotel did not adopt eco-friendly practices; it was created for the sole purpose of nature conservation.  When I told Ian all of the information I had found out about his friend Raul, he was astonished.  “I have admired Raul for quite some time as one of the world’s leading birding experts and environmentalists” says Ian.  “But I am totally flabbergasted to find out about his list of accomplishments and tribulations before he even began birding.  He has led a truly fascinating life that I was not even aware of and I am so proud our products can be a part of his lodging family that became the conclusion to such a legacy.”

A significant amount of information contained in this story was acquired from http://www.canopytower.com/.

Written by: Michael Faulds


The Pioneers of Green Hotels

Eco-travel and Eco-tourism are two very widely used terms here in 2012, but it wasn’t always that way.  The term eco-tourism first arose in the late 80’s as a term to describe vacations to undeveloped regions to explore nature.  During the 90’s people started to take a new approach to the concept and by the end of the decade sustainable travel or eco-travel started to become a wish for environmentalists.

Here at Dispenser Amenities we got a few calls right at the beginning of the movement from hotels that wanted to take part in this new concept by, among other things, switching to shower dispenser systems to reduce waste from their amenity programs:

The Montreal Inn, located in Cape May, NJ was one of our first customers!  Drew Pearson, who invented our first dispenser – the Classic Dispenser, met Montreal Inn owner Larry Hirsch in New York City 1996 and told him about the advantages of dispenser use for hotel guest amenities.  Hirsch whose hotel had always been big on recycling told me he decided to invest in the dispensers because his hotel had to “throw away a lot of trash and plastic” at the time.  He felt that practice was harmful to the environment as well as a financial burden.  He made the switch to dispensers and never looked back.  He told me an interesting story about how when AAA did a rating of his property after he had first gotten the dispensers, they had wanted him to take them out.  He challenged them explaining that they were of environmental and economic benefit and not only did they agree by saying to keep the dispensers, but shortly after, the AAA began encouraging the use of dispensers by including them on their review check lists.

The Colony Hotel family includes, The Colony Hotel, Kennebunkport Maine and The Colony Hotel, Delray Beach Florida.  Having both been our valued customers since 1997 for the Maine location and 1998 for the Florida location.  They were some of the first hotels in their areas to make the decision to switch to a sustainable amenities program.  Their Maine location contacted us in the middle of 1997, looking to help set an example for other hotels by reducing the amount of waste created by their hotel.  We heard from the Delray Beach location shortly thereafter.  Both locations belong to the Historic Hotels of America group and between them they have won countless awards; many of which are for their environmental initiatives:

In 1996, The Colony Hotel in both locations won the prestigious Green Business Award from Florida Atlantic University,

Colony Hotel, Delray Beach is the Founding member of the “Green” Hotels Association.

In 2001 The Colony Hotel in Kennebunk, Maine won the “Conservation Award”, Business Category, Kennebunk,

“Recycling Hero Award”, Maine Chamber and Business Alliance, 1998

“U.S. Backyard Wildlife Habitat”, National Wildlife Federation, 1997, (the only hotel in the Northeast to be so designated) 

Best Western Plus Lamplighter Inn

Owner Sheldon Aaron has always regarded individually packaged small bottle amenity programs as wasteful.  The Best Western Lamplighter Inn located in London, Canada was one of the first Canadian hotels to implement Dispensers throughout the property, in 1994.  “It was the easiest of decisions,” says Mr. Aaron.  “I just could never see how throwing away more liquid than what was used made any sense whatsoever!  Dispenser Amenities provided a very simple, good-looking solution to the waste problem by eliminating all the individual packaging.”

The Lamplighter first installed white three-chamber ClassicDispensers which served the hotel well for well over 15 years.  “When we did a property-wide rooms upgrade in 2011, it just made perfect sense again to upgrade the Dispensers,” says Mr. Aaron.  This time they selected the Classicdesign again, but chose the Satin Nickel finish with Chrome Buttons.

Even with the more expensive finish, the ROI is measured in a few months.  As Mr. Aaron states, “I just don’t understand why any property wouldn’t make the switch away from the wasteful, expensive little bottle approach to guest amenities.  To me, it’s a no-brainer!”

Minto Suites

In 1999 we were contacted by the Minto Suite Hotel.  They had just undertaken a massive project to optimize their hotel to be environmentally friendly.  They installed Dispensers in all of their 418 suites drastically reducing the amount of plastics sent to landfill and at the same time saving money on shipping.  Even the 30 gallon drums which they have their bulk shower liquids shipped in are recycled and used for storage such as lost and found items, linen and small appliances.

Since then they have implemented countless eco-friendly techniques and policies such as composting organic waste, using environmentally friendly cleaning solution, collecting rainwater for the garden, motion controlled lighting, ultra low-flow toilets and showerheads…the list goes on.  They are very proud to have several awards for their green initiatives:

A 5-Key Eco Rating from the Hotel Association of Canada

 A 4 Green Leaf Eco Rating for Hotel form Audubon International

Boma Best Level 3

A 5 Green Key Eco Rating Program 

Dispenser Amenities takes great pride in our involvement with all of the hotels mentioned in this article.  We consider them all leaders and pioneers in the green hotel movement.  They were right there as soon as we opened our doors and have since continued on in their life-long quest to rid the world of pollutants.  Congratulations to all of you for your accomplishments and awards, we are so proud to have you as customers and friends.


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