April 24, 2008 Ecologically responsible tourism is becoming big business around the world, particularly with young backpackers who wish to see the glory of nature without contributing to its destruction. The same concept is now starting to trickle through to resort and leisure tourism - such as this block of condos on the Mississippi in Iowa. Using recycled materials, renewable energy and a small fleet of solar-powered houseboats that contribute solar and wind turbine energy back into the grid when they're moored, the Holiday Shores Condo-Tel development will provide 64 suites for the environmentally conscious.

For the most part, the experience for those who stay at the Holiday Shores Condo-Tel won't be hugely different from any other leisure complex. Beautiful scenery, quiet times in the middle of the forest by the banks of the Mississippi. But in order to reconcile our wish to be close to nature with our habit of negatively affecting it through our presence, the developer has gone out of his way to make this property as ecologically neutral and sustainable as possible.

The entire development is geared towards minimal energy usage, water conservation and renewable energy generation, as evidenced by the rows of photovoltaic cells and wind turbines on its roof. Land usage is minimum, and entirely on previously developed sites. No new roads or outdoor parking spaces will be built as a result of the development.

The condos' residents will time-share a small fleet of solar-diesel hybrid houseboats built by Australia's Solar Sailor. These boats will feature large, moving photovoltaic "wings" that not only capture solar energy by tracking the sun, but function as rigid wind sails as well, giving the boats the ability to move by electric power, diesel power or wind power.

When the boats are moored back at the main site, the energy they capture will be fed back into the grid to be used by the condos. IT is anticipated that these boats will spend their summers at the main site in Iowa but take residents South to warmer Mexico and Central America during winter.

While hardly revolutionary, it's good to see that environmental consciousness is creeping onto the radar in the leisure, retirement and recreation market.