Episode 105: Perfect Earth Tours with Mike Mueller and Alana Nelson
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.
Sean Daily: Hi and welcome to Green Talk a podcast series from Greenliving.com. Green talk helps listeners in their efforts to lead more eco friendly life styles through interviews with top vendors, authors, and experts 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 right now.
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 sustainable?
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 we went.
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 company.
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 that happen.
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 northern Canada.
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 com.
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 resort?
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 our guests.
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 is about.
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 businesses.
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 on living a greener lifestyle visit our web site at www dot green living ideas dot com. We also love to hear your comments, feedback, and questions. Send us an email at editors at green living ideas dot com.