Published on April 29th, 2008 | by Sean Daily
GTR: Eco Spa Retreats with Perfect Earth Tours
Sean Daily, Green Living Ideas’ Editor-in-Chief, talks with Mike Mueller and Alana Nelson, co-founders of Perfect Earth Tours, about the new destination getaway for green tourists—the eco spa resort.
Hi and welcome to Green Talk a podcast series from Greenliving.com.
Green talk helps listeners in their efforts to lead more eco friendly
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from around the world. We discuss the critical issues facing the
Global environment today, as well as, the technologies, products, and
practices that you can employ to go greener in every area of your life.
Sean Daily: Hey everybody this is Sean Daily with Green Talk Radio.
Very exiting to be talking today about a topic that we have covered
on the show before. We talked about spas and the spa experience but
today we are going to be taking a slightly different angle on the
topic, which is talking about destination spas. In the past we’ve
talked about green spas and so this is really important for those of
you, who love to travel, like to pamper yourself but you don’t
necessarily like the excess that goes along with it in terms of living
greener and more sustainably. And so we are going to be talking about
other ways to achieve that experience with out, maybe, the guilt
associated with the normal spa or luxury travel experience. And to talk
with me on that topic today is Mike Mueller and Alana Nelson, who are
the co-founders of Perfect Earth Tours at perfectearthtours.com.
Mike and Alana thanks for being with us today.
Mike Mueller: Hey Sean. How’s it going?
Sean Daily: It’s going very well. How about you guys?
Mike Mueller: It couldn’t be better. The minus twenty-five and everything is beautiful.
Sean Daily: Now that’s right you’re in the Yukon province of Canada. It’s literally negative twenty-five degrees there?
Mike Mueller: Well I think it was twenty-two or twenty-three negative.
Yes. And that is Celsius so convert that into Fahrenheit
Sean Daily: Okay
Mike Mueller: and we meet at about minus forty. So we’re not quite at the same level.
Sean Daily: Oh! Wow! Don’t you go outside and your nose freezes and
you can’t breathe? I mean that’s the kind of cold you’re talking about
Mike Mueller: Absolutely! I mean its bone chilling cold except that
what most people don’t realize about the Yukon, especially Whitehorse,
is Whitehorse in regards to humidity and precipitation is actually
Canada’s driest city on an annual average. So it’s a very desert like
surrounding but it is cold, but it’s a dry cold so it’s survivable and
it’s actually when it’s blue sky it’s beautiful outside.
Sean Daily: Yeah I would imagine. I’ve seen the photos on all your
web sites and it looks breath taking. So I am serious, talking about
the resort itself, I know the company name is Perfect Earth Tours and
you’ve got this resort itself is apparently North Americas first and
only five star luxury ecologically sustainable Alpine spa resort. So
tell us about the genesis for the idea of the resort and, kind of, what
its intended purpose is.
Mike Mueller: Well, actually, I’m going to be so bold as to say
“Based on our research we’re not even only North America’s only
ninety-nine percent sustainable organic eco spa resort but based on
what we’ve found out there is no other facility on this planet that can
actually claim the same kind of organic sustainability.” It’s sad but I
think things are changing and our goal for Perfect Earth Tours for the
spa and resort was to create something that will showcase what’s
possible, at the same time profitable, and then on top of that totally
exotic and fun. So when Alana and I got together and figured out what
we wanted to do with the rest of our lives, and how can we help
everybody else, and make a living, and just do the right thing, we came
up with Perfect Earth Tours Spa and Resort.
Sean Daily: I am fascinated to hear about how you’ve gotten around,
I mean what would be an apparent dichotomy, in having this luxury eco
spa type of experience, you know, whether it’s eco spa or spa in
general with achieving that sort of sustainability. How do you, sort
of, achieve that balance?
Alana Nelson: Well, I mean, if you think
in terms of what luxury is, one of the things that we thought of when
coming up with the idea of Perfect Earth Tours was where would we go
right now in the world traveling ourselves where we would feel
comfortable staying and using the products and services knowing that
they were having an impact? And well, as Mike pointed out, there
doesn’t seem to be anywhere. You can go to certain places that have
standards for green but they don’t quite go all the way. So for us what
luxury means is being able to go into the spa and have potions and
lotions applied to your body that you don’t have to be thinking “Okay
what is this exposing me to? Is it going to make me sick? What happens
when it goes down the drain?” So in our spa and resort we’ve really
focused on making sure that everything we do has minimal impact on the
earth. And, of course, if it has minimal impact on the earth that’s
minimal impact on us as well. And everything we’re doing is based on
low impact, and sustainability, and organics. And how can we not feel
good about that?
Sean Daily: Well definitely. But I’m curious. You mentioned the
products, you know, as far as the products going down the drains and
the ecological consciousness of what you’re using there. And I
certainly know that spas use a lot of products, you know, from, you
know, oils and lotions and creams and what have you. What else about
the property? Can you kind of give us a virtual idea of what it’s like
to be on the property and what other ways you guys being organic and
Mike Mueller: I mean, yeah, it goes back all the way to what can we
do in order to claim to be ninety-nine percent, we’re just not going to
use the word one hundred percent there is always something that we miss
or forget or whatever, what can we do to earth to actually claim the
status that we’re claiming? We’ve gone all the way down to the fact
that, simple example, the staff clothing that all of our staff we have
over thirty staff on hand, all of the clothing that we supply is based
on organic cloth or organic hemp, down to the underwear, the socks, the
shoes, The building material is a hundred percent sustainable organic.
And we go to the extent that the actual resort, when it gets built in
the spring, operates through out the season and the entire resort gets
dismantled in the fall so that when the migratory animals go through or
when the wintering animals go through there’s no trace of any human
activities during there main traveling time. So we’ve tried to figure
out anything and everything that’s involved in regards to the bedding,
organic cotton, organic mattresses. We’re having some Amish mattresses
from an Amish mattress factory that we’re looking at and putting in.
And the bed frames are made of organic wood. I mean, it goes down to
basically everything that we put into the resort we would only take it
if it was built and produced with an organic sustainability, fair
trade, no child labor, and all that kind of stuff involved. If it
didn’t fit that category we wouldn’t even consider it. And if it did
fit that category it had to also be ultra luxurious. So that’s how far
Sean Daily: Okay. Well it sounds like sort of a soup to nuts type of
approach. In terms of, I don’t think I have ever heard of anything to
that level. So how do you get around, you know, speaking of dichotomies
or apparent dichotomies how do you get around, or do you get around,
the idea that in order to get people to the resort, you know, it really
involves travel that which in most forms, you know, involves jet travel
and things that are obviously not very green for the earth? I mean do
you accommodate that element in any way?
Mike Mueller: Yeah! I mean, the beautiful part is that we’ve teamed
up with a Swiss company called PlanetAir. Planetair is probably one of
the two or three leading offsetting companies on the globe. It’s
actually the same company that does the Agornin offsetting tours. And
they approached that and show cased an offset ramp. So every single
guest that flies in from there home departure airport to our tours and
the travel on the private plane to the resort, every single mile that
these guests are in the air, is immediately off set through that Swiss
off set company. So that we can actually claim even the travel, as
controversial as the offset program may be, but it’s the only
alternative that we have and even the travel that the people do, we’re
doing our part in order to participate in a program and we charge the
customers accordingly. And the money goes straight to the offset
Sean Daily: Okay. Yeah! Because, I mean, certainly that’s an element
that would be difficult to change. If somebody needs to get from say
across the world or, you know, even from the United States, or so
forth, it’s difficult to do it in a completely green fashion. Travel’s,
unfortunately, ungreen in many ways. Unless you’re traveling, you know,
a certain radius from your home if you are under a hundred miles or so
you might be able to do it.
Mike Mueller: Right
Sean Daily: But not anything past that. And, you know, I mean I am
guilty of that myself. You know, that’s one of my guilty pleasures. I
pretty much enjoy traveling because I love to go into other cultures
and, you know, speak other languages, and enjoy other environments. And
so it’s one of those things where, you know, I don’t think we can all
be perfect and I if we’re going to do it, I think, we have to pick our
battles and make it count. And make sure it’s a good experience.
Mike Mueller: Yeah! I mean, it comes down to the fact, Sean, people
are going to travel. I mean until the people stop traveling we’ve got
to deal with the fact that if you have the money, if you can spend
twenty, thirty-two thousand , whatever the amount is, you can spend
money and you have a good time, people are going to travel. So besides
that fact what do they do once they reach their destination, in regards
to minimizing the impact on the environment, how do you minimize their
effect of the environment during their travel. And the only thing we
have right now, when it comes to air travel, is these offset programs.
Sean Daily: That’s true. I mean there aren’t a lot of options. We
are hearing announcements from airlines like Virgin and others that are
trying to make, you know, “greener”. But it’s a relative term right?
Mike Mueller: Yeah
Sean Daily: You know, “greener” airplanes and such. You’re talking about jet fuel.
You’re talking about, you know, carbon emissions that are sort off the scale.
Mike Mueller: Exactly
Sean Daily: Yeah. It is unfortunate. But, you know, I don’t want to
go too far down this tangent because I want to talk more about the spa
aspects. But, you know, it’s another thing that my concern would be, my
dream is of, a global state of travel in terms of technology delivering
that possibility because a lot of the world’s problems today are based
on cultural divides and that are based on not embracing one another’s
understanding of one another’s cultures. So, you know, if travel was
to, I don’t think, you know, Americans as a culture travel enough,
quite frankly, outside of our country. So, you know, that’s again you
run into this, sort of, a split there where itsis difficult to
reconcile the two together.
Alana Nelson: At least we’re thinking about it.
Sean Daily: That’s right.
Alana Nelson: And were trying to come up with different ideas to make it work better.
Sean Daily: Well and it’s true. And I think, quite frankly, at least
Silicon Valley is dumping enormous amounts of money into the
technology. And that’s really where it comes from. The bottom line is
it takes money, it takes investment, it takes the technology, to make
Mike Mueller: Another thing is, on this subject, and then I’ll let
it go, one of the things that’s happened over the last couple of
months, actually, is that through the media attention that Perfect
Earth has gone through from other sources, people have contacted us and
approached us with the thought that, you know what, you’ve got this
thing up and running in the Yukon. What’s stopping you from putting
three, or four, or five, locations all over the plane in order to
minimize traveling from other locations?
Sean Daily: That is a good point.
Mike Mueller: And that is one of the things that we are going to be
looking at in 2009. You know, Perfect Earth can not only happen in the
Yukon. It can happen in Russia. It can happen in China. It can happen
in Germany. As long as you have the location and the whereabouts it
doesn’t matter where it is. If you have it if you have the scenery to
go along with it, and you put four or five or six locations all over
the planet, then all of a sudden you cut the travel by a majority of
the people down to a fraction of what can happen in order to get to
Sean Daily: That’s a good point and I want to hear more about that.
We’re going to take a quick commercial break to hear from our sponsor
for the show for today and then we will be right back with Mike and
Alana from Perfect Earth Tours. Online at www dot perfectearthtours dot
Sean Daily: Hey everybody were back with Mike and Alana from Perfect
Earth Tours. They’re the cofounders of the company. It is North
America’s first and only five star luxury ecologically sustainable
Alpines spa resort. That is a mouth full. We were talking about going
global with this. We were talking, you know, before the break we were
talking about the idea, you know, that when you only have one location
versus multiple locations, obviously, this is a business and a
financial issue to make to create that scenario. But, you know, that
brings me to another question. Which is, what is the operational budget
like in dealing with the decision to go green and be ecologically
sustainable at this point as a resort? I mean, just running a resort
normally I know is very expensive. My family has been in the hotel
business my whole life. And that has been my father’s work. So I am
intimately with the costs of running properties and things. So I can
only imagine that this just takes it to another step. How can you make
that sustainable from a financial standpoint?
Mike Mueller: It’s interesting. Our overhead our operational costs
are rather high but oddly enough Sean the reason for operational costs
to be high are more based on the luxury aspect then on the organic
aspect. Because, truth be told, after our research and ordering
products back and forth we have found that, in many many cases, if we
compare the purchase of organic products to the purchase of non organic
products the bottom line is the actual net bottom line in regards to
purchasing power the organic products turn out to be cheaper. And the
same goes for the actual operational budget of the resort. We have no
fossil fuel at the resort .Which means we have no generators. Which
means we have no malfunctions in that regards.Which cuts down on the
costs again to. So all in all, I mean, we did Perfect Earth Tours with
no bank financing and with no backers finanacingjust our own private
funds. And we found out that compared to what we would have had to have
spent to build a similar resort on a nonorganic base we actually saved
money doing organic. What we did have to do is spend a lot more time
researching where to get stuff and how to bring it into the resort and
all that kind of stuff.
Sean Daily: I see.
Mike Mueller: But the actual cost were at best even. In many many cases we actually saved money going green.
Sean Daily: Well that is very inspiring to hear because I know that,
and this is something that we have heard on this program before, is
that previous guests who really and I would say about eighty percent of
the cases where companies are running a green sustainable business
model or even consumers purchasing products, they can be when done
correctly it ends up being a net wash or possibly cheaper in the long
run, in many cases cheaper in the long run to go the cheaper route. But
in a luxury spa resort I would not have expecte it to be that. So that
is pleasantly surprising. I’m curious you guys have this sort of I
wanted to ask you can you give us sort of a , I know the resort opens
in May of 2008. Is that correct?
Mike Mueller: May 28th is the opening ceremony.
Sean Daily: Okay. So for what you’ve envisioned for the visitor
experience can you ygive us a quick walk through? I mean, literally
from, you know, we’ve already talked about the travel aspect but
landing on the door step what would I expect from my experience at your
Alana Nelson: Well when you arrive, we had originally envisioned
that people would ride horses for probably about an hour or two to get
to the site but we have realized that some people might be a little bit
apprehensive or unable to.
Sean Daily: Oh now I’m glad that I didn’t ask from the town because
I get it. What you’re saying, your saying it’s door to door. I
apologize my vision was lacking there. Okay so that’s very cool. But
please continue. I just wanted to interject that following.
Alana Nelson: Okay. No problem. So instead of actually have the
guests ride horses we will pick them up in a stagecoach or carriage
that will carry them here. And then they will get a long enough ride to
see the awe and inspiring view of the Yukon our area.
Sean Daily: And Alana I’m just going to ask you to speak up just a
little bit more and increase your volume if you can because it’s a
little bit difficult to hear you right now.
Alana Nelson: Okay. Sorry about that.
Sean Daily: That’s okay. Thanks.
Alana Nelson: Okay. In the resort we have the guest accommodations
are in twenty-four foot diameter teepees that we have been able to make
out of organic for the first time ever. Teepees with organic cotton.
The teepees are set up as luxury hotel rooms for our guests. Two
staying a room together with two queen size beds, a fire place in the
middle, a personal bar, a sitting area, dressing area, vanity table for
making yourself beautiful up there in the wild. As far as there is
going to be a dining pavilion with a lounge, a cooking tent for
Mike Mueller: For our chef.
Alana Nelson: for our chef, staff tent, we will have spa tents that
are another set of two eighteen foot diameter that will be set up for
our spa services and as well we are going to arrange to get a wet
lodge, a native wet lodge on the site so people can go and have a sauna
experience there. So there’s daily activities. There’s all sorts of
hiking, wild life viewing. There will be canoeing on the bay.
Mike Mueller: With the five day trip we have the air balloon excursion.
Alana Nelson: Right
Mike Mueller: We have our own air balloon on the resort. The entire
resort being in the middle of no where is satellite wireless hook up so
it is so if they have to bring their electronic equipment for power
they have internet access twenty- four seven.
Alana Nelson: And then we have our seasonal guest. On every trip we
are bringing in some exclusive human for a very intimate and close to
Mike Mueller: It’s actually rather interesting we have twenty-seven
different trips through out the season and each of these trips or tours
is accompanied by one singer or song writer celebrity. So they actually
fly into the resort base with the singer or performer, get on the tour,
get on the horse carriage, ride to the resort, spend three to five days
dong their thing and then on the evening of the last day everybody sits
down and very well known people that are part of the performance line
up do a little private concert for our ten guests.
Sean Daily: So you run this, it’s not a revolving door, it’s done as a group experience.
Mike Mueller: It’s not a group experience. Anybody can come,
individuals or singles, but because of the individual case and the way
the whole set up is we have a max capacity of ten guests. So when they
come in to our tours all of these guests come in on the same day. Then
we transfer them to our planes. Fly them to the resort base. Then they
get on the stage coach, get driven or carried into the resort. They are
three or five days there and get brought back out. But it is not, you
don’t have to come as a group. We have singles bookings. We have
couples bookings. It’s really up to the individuals what they want to
do and if they want to partake in the excursions they can. If they just
want to lounge around and get spa treatments or stay in the lounge and
have a couple drinks, walk, do whatever it is. It is a full facility,
full room service, twenty-four seven set up kind of scenario.
Sean Daily: Great I have some more question that I want to ask you
about the seasons and such. We will get to that after we have one more
break from our sponsor and then we will be back with Mike Mueller and
Alana Nelson the cofounder of Perfect Earth Tours online at www dot
perfect earth tours dot COM. This is Sean daily. We’ll be right back.
Hey everybody we are back and we are talking today about eco trade, eco
tourism, and specifically about destination resort spas and far away
beautiful remote locations. And I’m talking to Mike and Alana from
Perfect Earth Tours about that. And I was curious before the break we
were talking about, you know, some of the specifics of the group size
and that you do ten people on the property at a time, that’s your
capacity. So it sounds like a very personal sort of experience and very
special in that it is a very remote location. You really get to get
away from it all. I’m curious about, I know that we were just talking
about at the beginning of the podcast the temperatures and such there,
What are you looking at in terms of the seasons of travel? Is it year
round there? Is it only specific seasons of the year?
Mike Mueller: The lodge or the resort actually operates three and a
half months out of the year, June, July, August, the end of May to the
beginning of September are the seasonal operations. The whether that
part of the year is beautiful, I mean, it is eighty degrees out.. There
is no night time. It is the midnight that time of the year up there. So
you’ve got about twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three hours of daylight
and maybe an hour or two of dusk. Yukon is famous for not having any
flies because the actual environment if you look at is like a high
Alpine tropical paradise.
Sean Daily: Okay. Great. Sounds beautiful. And I’m also curious, I
wanted to ask you about are you guys really looking to serve. I mean
obviously you guys had a vision for this your achieving, but I’m
curious are you also looking to serve as an inspiration and a model for
other companies either individuals or corporations that are looking to
do this kind of travel?
Mike Mueller: Yeah! I think that is exactly the thought. If anything
comes from this besides Alana and I need to make a living for the
family and recouping our investment and things like that, If there is
anything that we’ve learned from this is that anybody can start any
kind of business, make it sustainable, make something profitable
without having an oil change pavilion draining down oil and build a
drainage in order to make a bigger profit. And we have been approached
by universities or by institutions in Canada interested in holding
speeches and seminars and show casing. You know you can make a
business. You can make it profitable. But at the same time it actually
has such a positive net effect on the environment. I mean, everything
we’ve calculated in regards to the travel, the staff, the organic
ingredients, the chef, the kitchen, everything combined once the guests
see the resort they actually have a net positive impact in regards to
lowering global warming. Because of their donations, because of the
offsetting program and so on and so forth. And if we ca inspire one or
two people to change their businesses around that is exactly what this
Sean Daily: Yeah! That makes a lot of sense. I mean that is what I
think creates changes is actually seeing whether it’s a film or a
direct personal experience, whether it is traveling on vacation or
other wise. Someone living in a business or having created a business
that is that depth of sustainability that is thinking. And that truly
is what I think creates change because people get inspired and they go
back and in many cases incorporate that into their own lives and
Mike Mueller: I mean the best example Alana has in regards to the
teepees. I mean, she can elaborate on that, but the effect on finding
those teepees and not another producer. I mean go ahead and tell them
what the story was there. It was beautiful.
Alana Nelson: Well when I first started looking into getting a
teepee there was just no market on organic fabrics. One of the first
calls that we had from a teepee maker was that it was impossible, cost
prohibitive because the machines are in Europe that they use to make
the fabric and then it comes into the United States and gets its fire
retardant and then that is where all the fabric comes into is one place
because it is a federal requirement. So after that call I was a little
bit depressed about, perhaps, where we were going to be able to go. But
then it was a matter of hours, I had another phone call from another
teepee maker. A native teepee maker said “This is exactly what we are
trying to do. Is lessen the impact of the Earth. How can we help?” And
what evolved from that is That today we’re dealing with a teepee maker
who is doing her own research into finding someone who can manufacture
or already does manufacture an organic cotton canvas that will be
positioned and will work well with the teepees that she makes. As well
as looking for alternatives environmentally friendly water repellant
treatment and as well as the fire retardant treatment. She’s had a
little bit of an issue with the fire retardant. There are,
unfortunately, to many laws at the moment that don’t allow us to do
exactly what we wanted to. But we are still pushing that issue and
trying to make it something. But this is that one percent that Mike was
talking about that we don’t really have the control over. But if we
have to go this year with something that doesn’t fit in with exactly
what we are trying to achieve we will not be stopping during the rest
of the year to try and make that happen. And ask the questions. And try
to get that to happen. And thinking and looking at alternatives and
hopefully somebody’s going to pop their head up one of these days and
go “ I’ve got what you need” and make this all happen. That’s been the
really beautiful thing about this whole process is listening to the
excitement and the enthusiasm from people that we talk to about it and
make it happen. These wonderful questions and getting people to think
differently about what we are doing. Talked about the impact and the
education that we are going to be able to provide to people about
having green businesses.There are businesses out there that are making
steps in this direction but there is just such a huge gap between
what’s possible and what’s being done. And we’re hoping to sort of
close that gap a little bit by going “ You know what there are people
out there that will provide these services and products that you’re
demanding from them.” And just make that whole business learn.
Mike Mueller: The business, the woman that is doing our teepees now,
or the business that is doing our teepees, she is now, based on the
research that Alana has done and that we found out, she is now capable
to call herself the first organic teepee maker in North America or the
world because this didn’t exist before.
Sean Daily: So you’ve facilitated her.
Mike Mueller: Yeah. Alana’s research helped her find a nitch she
isn’t just a regular teepee maker but she totally jokes about the whole
thing. I mean she emails and she is exited she says “I can now sell
organic teepees.” That is something she has always wanted to do. She
just thought it wasn’t something possible to have the whereabouts.
Sean Daily: So this is a good thing for the customer.
Alana Nelson: More importantly for her. What she had already been
doing when we got in touch with her she doesn’t have to expose herself
to these horrible chemicals that she is working with in the fabric. I
mean, they pressure grade the canvas with the chemicals to protect it
and she’s breathing that in while she is working. So the impact to what
we do to the products that we use, I mean, we talked about the cost of
going green it goes well beyond what I pay for a product. It goes back
to the children in India who are being forced to work fourteen hours,
sixteen hour days. And fixed the cost the conventional that is actually
doused with thousands of chemicals to make it grow better and these
poor kids are getting sick by that. if you talk about the cost of going
green there I mean its so.
Sean Daily: Yeah. It’s so amazing the story that goes behind each of
these things. You talk about the covering for the teepee for the resort
and the story behind that. Where does that come from and what are the
effects of humanity and the environment? It’s amazing and I wish we had
more time. We’re out of time, unfortunately, today to talk more. But I
want to thank both of you for being on the program. It was very
interesting, very informative and very exciting to here about this
business concept you’ve come up with here. I, certainly, we wish you
much success in your future endeavors and for your opening in May. My
guests today have been Mike Mueller and Alana Nelson founders of
Perfect Earth Tours. It is an eco wilderness spa and resort outside of
Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. And you can find out more about that online
at www dot Perfect Earth Tours dot com. Mike and Alana thanks again for
being with us.
Mike Mueller: Hey Sean it’s been our pleasure and honor and keep up
the good work you guys are doing at Greenliving, man. It’s all about
spreading the word.
Sean Daily: Thanks
Alana Nelson: Thanks for the opportunity.
Sean Daily: Thank you.
Sean Daily: Thanks as always to everyone listening in today.
Remember more free on demand podcasts and videos and other information
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