A new eco-conscious expo in South Korea

At the Expo Digital Gallery, you can watch the advanced IT and LED lighting art interwoven to create an outdoor marine culture art gallery. That amazing overhead LED screen measures 218m by 30m. — Photos by MAJORIE CHIEW/The Star and courtesy of Expo Yeosu Korea 2012

THE exhibition halls are fully booked and impossible to get into, says our tour guide, Jinny Kim. And it wasn’t even opening day at the International Exposition Yeosu Korea 2012!

Our group, though, has special permission to enter, as we are there to report on this extraordinary expo. Even before we get in, though, we hear details that are jaw-dropping: The expo, which began on Saturday and runs until Aug 12, will draw 10 million visitors, and its expected economic effect will be 12.2 trillion Korean won (RM32.7bil) as well as the creation of 80,000 new jobs, explains Yeseul Oh, a spokesperson for the expo’s organising committee.

To draw all those visitors, the 93-day expo will be jam-packed with over 3,000 cultural programmes, with 40 performances and events daily!

The venue is Yeosu’s 2.71sq km New Port development where the expo site covers an area of 250,000sqm. The result of four years of work and US$10bil (RM31bil) in investment, Expo Yeosu is the country’s second international fair since Expo Taejon (Daejeon) in 1993.

While that event was about development, this year’s theme is “The Living Ocean and Coast” and emphasises the importance of the marine environment. To quote the expo’s website, the event “will provide an opportunity to enhance the international community’s perception of the function and value of the ocean and coast, share knowledge on the proper use of the ocean and coast, and recognise the need for cooperation in the marine sector.”

In keeping with that very green spirit, the entire expo site was constructed using environmentally-friendly methods and recycled materials to produce the least amount of waste possible. All preparations and events are designed to leave a limited carbon footprint.

Basically, the expo forms a model city exhibiting the low-carbon lifestyle of the future. It is an open-air gallery housing artworks of architectural grandeur and providing a glimpse of a high-tech city circa 2050 against the backdrop of the sea.

The Aquarium is well worth visiting as it is the largest in Korea and offers an up close look at rare marine species such as beluga whales.

The construction and operation of the expo facilities and exhibitions are based on South Korea’s cutting-edge information technology allowing for novel experiences involving virtual and augmented reality.

The major exhibition facilities are the Theme Pavilion, the Korea Pavilion, and the International Pavilion, which comprise a joint pavilion hosting 56 developing countries and the individual pavilions of 49 countries.

Among the areas our tour takes in on the expo’s second pre-opening day are the Aquarium and Japan Pavilion. (Our guide informs us that the Malaysian Pavilion would be worthy of a visit but that it is, unfortunately, not ready at this time.)

Just getting to the International Pavilions is fascinating because a supersized LED screen with fantastic digital shows stretches over the walkway; the 218m long by 30m wide screen is part of the Expo Digital Gallery, which is a pedestrian mall offering a variety of electronic art.

After that experience, we head to the Japan Pavilion where we are treated to footage of the beautiful seas around that country and receive sobering information about the sea’s connection with forests, cities and the March 2011 tsunami disaster. There is also a screening of an animated story about a Japanese boy, Kai, a tsunami survivor who rides a magical flying bicycle to see residents restoring their hometowns.

Dazzling: The night-time musical fountain show at the Big-O, one of the iconic structures at the International Exposition Yeosu Korea 2012.

Visitors are also introduced to Japan’s advanced ocean technology that help people enjoy the bounties of the sea.

If you can’t make it to every facility at the expo, do be sure to get to the Aqua Planet Aquarium – it is definitely worth a visit. It is the largest in South Korea – comprising a 6-tonne water tank – and displays 280 species of fish and rare marine species such as beluga whales from Russia. It’s awesome when you walk through a transparent tunnel and find marine life teeming around you – makes you wonder just who is in the tank!

This facility has three zones: The Coastal Life zone allows visitors to see rare ocean animals such as white whales, Baikal seals and sea dragons; the Marine Life zone can be viewed in all directions, the first of its kind in South Korea; the Eco-Terrarium zone recreates the ecological system of the Amazon and houses rare South American freshwater fish such as the pirarucu and piranha.

While we can’t get to it, we hear that the Climate & Environmental Pavilion is a hit with visitors too, as they get to experience the extreme cold of the Arctic ice-edge in the Arctic Glacier Experience section.

A myriad of futuristic robots await visitors at the DSME (Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering) Marine Robot Pavilion. Meet Navi, the tallest robot ever introduced in South Korea. An adult comes up just knee-high to the 6.5m tall, 1 tonne machine.

Led by Navi, a fleet of robots present the performance of marine resource exploration and mineral mining in a 6,000m-deep virtual underwater environment.

There is also Ever, a feminine robot that has 30 different facial expressions, and Mero, which dances to famous songs by Korean boy band Super Junior. Also, a seven-colour robot fish and robots from other countries such as the United States, Britain and France, join a total of 73 robots on display.

The Sky Tower, the tallest structure at the expo, is a monumental piece of art, recycled and redesigned from a pair of abandoned 55m-high cement silos. It has a harp-shaped exterior, an embodiment of giant waves, but really, the tower is a fully functioning pipe organ that plays tunes related to the sea!

The main Theme Pavilion is the country’s first offshore pavilion

The Ocean Experience Park is part of the city’s concrete shore-protection project that has been turned into an eco-friendly park. It is a great venue to learn about the significance of coastal ecosystems while lapping up the pristine beauty of the sea.

And at Energy Park, you can have hands-on experience with the latest technologies using renewable energy sources such as wind and tides. This eco-friendly park also offers a place to rest while exploring these green technologies.

Apart from the different pavilions and other facilities, the expo also offers large scale events such as the state-of-the-art Night Multi-Media Show of a dazzling display of laser lights. The Big Ocean Show is a weekly performance that uses the sea, beach and ships to create different performances that reflect the expo’s theme. And the World Ocean Performance features artists on a floating stage, thus using the sea as a platform for cultural activities.

Celebrities gracing the Big-O shows include nine-time Grammy Award winner John Legend and a host of K-pop stars such as the Wondergirls, Dynamic Duo & Simon D, Beast, Jay Park, Apink, BTOB, Busker Busker, Leessang & JeongIn, 2AM, B1A4, 2PM, MissA, Infinite, Shinee, Super Junior, CNBLUE, MBLAQ, Ailee, FTIsland, and ZE:A & c.

And if you are separated from your travel companions amidst the throngs of people and carnival atmosphere at the expo, the Big-O is the place to converge. This 48m-tall round steel structure is the iconic centrepiece of what is truly an amazing expo.

For more information about the International Exposition Yeosu Korea 2012, go to

The writer was part of a eight-member delegation comprising representatives of the Malaysian media, Korean Air and Korea Tourism Organisation that toured the expo before it opened. The trip was organised by the Korea Tourism Organisation and supported by Korean Air.

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Eco-tourism may be good news for sharks

A massive female tiger shark, about 14-feet long, glides past a group of divers.

Imagine swimming in crystalline ocean waters shot through with sunlight when one of Earth’s most notorious predators swims into view — a very close view.

Such pulse-quickening encounters are, in fact, the whole point for visitors to Tiger Beach, an idyllic spot in the Bahamas where eco-tourists can get up close and personal with tiger sharks — indiscriminate eaters known to devour everything from sea turtles to kegs of nails (and occasionally a few unlucky humans).

Yet it is by playing to the sharks’ voracious appetites that dive operators are able to lure them into view, courtesy of generous offerings of chum — minced fish.

However, some have argued that the free meals — and resulting close encounters between humans and sharks — could have bad consequences for both species.

Shark meal
“People are concerned that it could be causing sharks to associate people with food,” said shark researcher Neil Hammerschlag, an assistant professor at the University of Miami. Some worry that, like cartoon castaways eyeing each other hungrily in a boat, tiger sharks might, essentially, begin to see humans as giant pork chops with legs.

“Shark attacks are so very rare, so it’s really hard to draw conclusions,” Hammerschlag told OurAmazingPlanet.

Another concern, he said, and one that is easier to test, is that all the free food might disrupt the sharks’ natural wanderings, and artificially limit their movements to areas close to tourist sites. (Why go hunting out at sea when the bipeds regularly serve up snacks?)

Since sharks are apex predators — a bit like the Godfathers of the ecosystem — and keep potentially disruptive ecological usurpers in check, such a change could have negative effects.

“They help keep balance,” Hammerschlag said, “so if this really changes their behavior long term, it could have ecological consequences.”

Neither idea has been properly tested, he said. To that end, Hammerschlag, heading up a team of researchers, designed a study to investigate.

Shark testing
They used satellite tags attached to the sharks’ dorsal fins to track tiger sharks in areas where eco-tourism packages offer plenty of free food to the sharks — the Bahamas’ Tiger Beach — and an area where the practice is forbidden — Florida.

All told, they tracked 11 Floridian tiger sharks and 10 Bahamian sharks, in near-real time, for spans of six months to almost a year. Hammerschlag said he expected the Bahamian sharks, with access to cushy meals, to travel far less than their Floridian counterparts.

“But, in fact, we found the opposite,” he said. The Florida tiger sharks traveled, at most, 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) from their tagging site.

In contrast, “the tiger sharks from the Bahamas diving site moved massive distances,” Hammerschlag said. “Definitely that area was important, but they didn’t rely on it.”

Some swam as far as 2,175 miles (3,500 km) out into the middle of the Atlantic and spent seven months there. The researchers noted that the difference could be related to size: The Bahamian sharks are bigger, and bigger animals tend to travel larger distances.

Their research is published today (March 9) in the journal Functional Ecology.

Shark people
Hammerschlag said that the work indicates that eco-tourism, when done right, may not be all bad for sharks — crucial predators that are disappearing from oceans around the world, many falling victim to the lucrative and devastating shark-fin trade.

With proper policies, he suggested, people could continue to see economic benefit from sharks, but in a way that keeps the animals alive.

“In the Bahamas, they’ve encouraged shark diving because it’s good for the economy, and because of that they’re protecting sharks in their water,” he said — something that Florida policymakers might want to keep in mind.

“I would say that before we ban these things outright, we should do some research,” he said. “Rather than basing our decisions on fear, we should base them on fact.”

The Best Apps for the Eco-Conscious Traveler

Image by AFP via @daylife

With the rise of ecotourism throughout the United States and the world, “green” travel has never been more in demand.  Ecotourism is the fastest growing sector of the tourism industry, boasting annual growth rates as high as 10-30%.

“Green” applications for your iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch can help to conserve while you travel, with functions that track your CO2 emissions for your vehicles, identify organic and sustainable businesses in your location, calculate the most environmentally efficient route to your destinations and measure your green footprint wherever you go.

1.  Green Globe – Certified Sustainability

Green Globe is the quintessential green travel app.  It finds sustainable hotels, resorts, cruise ships, tours and conference centers and provides photos of properties, videos and links to help you book travel directly.   Green Globe’s website details travel sustainability certification and the rigorous process involved for meeting the “sustainable” criteria for the Green Globe Standard for travel & tourism – so you can be sure you’re getting the real deal in green travel.

Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later

Cost: FREE

2.  Green Travel Choice

Green Travel Choice tracks your CO2 emissions, whether you’re driving in a car, taking the bus, flying on a plane or riding on a motor bike.  It keeps a log of your trips, travel distance and your emissions over time, helping you to choose your future “modes of transport” more wisely.  Green Travel Choice is also partnered with The International Tourism Society (TIES) who are known for their invaluable work in ecotourism since 1990.

Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later

Cost: $1.99

3.  In Bloom: The Eco App

The “See Goodness Nearby” button searches for green businesses, farmer’s markets, organic restaurants, green supply stores, ecohotels, grocery stores and biodiesel electric charging stations – it even indicates businesses that are powered by renewable energy.  In Bloom was created by musicians Andy Ross of OK Go and Eytan Oren of Eytan and The Embassy, who wanted to find a way to “make it easier for bands to tour more sustainably.”  In Bloom is currently formulated for the New York City area, but expect to see new cities added in the near future.

Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS      4.2 or later.

Cost: FREE

For those outside of New York City, GreenEco is a similar app that will work anywhere in the USA.

4.  This Is Green

Make informed and energy efficient choices with this green health & fitness app.  Save money on your energy bills, keep toxins at bay and fill your life with healthier, eco-friendly alternatives.  The app will help you find green products for your home as it imparts green tips and tricks for a more sustainable lifestyle.

Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later

Cost: $0.99

5.  Green Genie

Voted the #1 Green App by, Green Genie is more of an educational tool than anything else.  The app has a green glossary, descriptions of various types of plastics and their recyclability, tips on how to save money when adopting a greener lifestyle, certified green product lists and a submission tool so you can share projects and ideas with like-minded techies at Green Genie.

Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later.

Cost: $0.99

Take an eco trip and better your world.

BONUS: If you want to go green all the way, eco-friendly company Vers makes wood iPhone and iPad cases, and even wood headphones. Wood is inherently practical for optimal acoustics and crisp sound quality.  Their products are made of recyclable materials, naturally.

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The hot list: 10 hip and green UK destinations for 2012

Forget France; the UK is home to some of the coolest holiday spots on the planet. Whether you want scenery, natural phenomena or a dose of eco-luxury, there’s a British break to suit you

Not only does the UK boast some of the world’s most beautiful scenery, it also has wildlife watching opportunities galore and a wealth of historical sites. So why then, is the country so frequently written off as the ‘cheap’ option or the ‘green’ one? It’s both of these things of course but whatever you’re looking for, Great Britain has more going for it than flight-free and low-cost travel. ‘The only way to educate people is to do it in the location,’ comments Matt Spence, CEO of UK eco-tourism specialists, Natural Retreats. ‘When people see [what the UK has to offer], they start to understand.’ After a stellar 2009, domestic tourism has fallen slightly according to statistics released by Visit Britain, with around 96.4 million overnight stays taken by Brits in the UK last year. That might sound like a lot but it still represents a fall, with more of us than ever heading abroad.

In part, this is down to the quest for value (one of CheapFlights CEO Hugo Burge’s top travel trends for 2012) – with the UK often regarded as overpriced – but it’s also the result of a lack of knowledge about Britain’s beauties. Who knew, for instance, that the Northern Lights could be seen in Britain, or that the seas off the top of Scotland offer some of the best whale watching experiences in the world? ‘Up in John O’ Groats you can see the one of world’s largest predators (the killer whale) from the beach,’ says Spence. ‘There’s seals and you can go scuba diving to look at shipwrecks. What we have here is a pristine wilderness area that people really need to see.’ John O’Groats is the location for Natural Retreats’ newest venture – the retrofitted and renovated John O’Groats Hotel – but it’s not the only British destination that looks set to become a must-visit this year. From Cornish beach huts to Cambrian mountain cabins, the UK has something for everyone, whether you’re travelling with children or looking for a romantic retreat. We’ve rounded up 10 hip hotspots that offer combine chic surroundings with an emerald green eco ethos – and they’re all a short train ride away. If this doesn’t get you thinking about a British break, nothing will.

Orchard Carriage, Somerset

Why it’s cool: One for locomotive enthusiasts and lovers of all things quirky alike; until the mid-1900s, the Orchard Carriage was exactly that – a train carriage on the local branch line. After being decommissioned, it was used as a storage container for the Village Hall in nearby Bruton before being rescued and restored to its former glory. Set in a pretty orchard on a biodynamic smallholding, it boasts sensational Somerset views, a comfy double bed and has its own wood-fired sauna. In the area you’ll find a wealth of walking opportunities, plenty of pretty villiages to explore and some wonderful old pubs. Try the Archangel in nearby Frome, which offers seasonal, locally sourced fare in a historic building – parts of which date as far back as the Domesday Book.

Green credentials: Owners Zoe and Jonno have kept fossil fuel use to a minimum by using a combination of solar power and a woodburning stove for heating and lighting. Outside, you’ll find a compost toilet and the aforementioned wood-fired sauna.
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Natural Retreats, John O’Groats

Why it’s cool: Surprisingly for a town that’s so well known, John O’Groats has little in the way of decent accommodation and even less going for it in the eco department. All that however, is going to change when Natural Retreats launches its newest property in June. In partnership with Heritage Great Britain, the eco holiday specialist is giving a green makeover to the historic John O’Groats hotel, with local materials and green construction techniques incorporated into the build. The most northerly town in the UK, John O’Groats boasts a wonderfully wild coastline, with plenty of seals, whales and dolphins to spot. If you go in winter, you might just get a glimpse of the awe-inspiring Aurora Borealis.

Green credentials: Like the rest of the Natural Retreats portfolio, the John O’Groats property will be run along eco-friendly lines. Locally sourced, sustainable materials and local craftsmen are being used to complete the refit.
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Why it’s cool: It might be famous for its golden sand and creamy milk but 2012 looks set to be the year that Jersey becomes known for more than cows and beaches. With a packed events calendar that ranges from the charming (Battle of Flowers) to the choral (Tennerfest), there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Other top picks include the convivial La Faîs’sie d’Cidre (Cider Festival) and the June in Bloom Floral Festival. Away from the festivities, spend some time enjoying the island’s balmy climate on one of its many sandy beaches or hire a bike and take a trip round the island using its ‘green lanes’, where cyclists have priority over car drivers. Also worth visiting is the magnificent Mont Orgueil Castle, which offers wonderful sea views and a network of towers and spiral staircases to explore.

Green credentials: Along with its network of green lanes, Jersey remains largely unspoilt and as a result is home to a wealth of rare flora and fauna, including a puffin colony on the Piemont Headland. Although eco accommodation options are limited – think camping – the island does have an Eco-Active scheme to encourage businesses to do more to protect the environment and biodiversity. The Radisson-Blu St Helier is signed up.
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The Hebridean Trail, Outer Hebrides

Why it’s cool: A new experience launched for summer 2012 by eco travel specialists, Wilderness Scotland, the Hebridean Trail is a seven-day mountain biking trip through the Outer Hebrides, with local guides, ferry transport and accommodation all thrown in. The seven islands that make up the Outer Hebrides remain relatively untouched, with stunning coastline and plentiful wildlife spotting opportunities on offer. Among the non-human residents are the golden eagle and the red deer, and you’ll also get the opportunity to get to grips with the islands’ unique, Gaelic-speaking culture.

Green credentials: Carbon emissions are kept to a minimum with all transportation done by bike or ferry. Wilderness Scotland are also willing to collect visitors from Inverness station – the nearest mainline station to the Hebrides – which means you can leave the car at home and rule out the plane entirely.
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Hell Bay, Bryher

Why it’s cool: Despite the apocalyptic name, nowhere could be further from hell than the Hell Bay hotel, located on the glorious Bryher island. One of the Scilly Islands, Bryher is home to thousands of seabirds and boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the UK, along with the world-famous Abbey clifftop gardens on the nearby Tresco. Perched on a clifftop with spectacular sea views is the Hell Bay Hotel, which boasts an impressive CSR policy, ultra chic rooms and a restaurant specialising in local fare. Art lovers will adore the plethora of locally made artwork, including pieces by Barbara Hepworth, while for wildlife fans, the hotel can arrange boat trips and diving excursions.

Green credentials: Hell Bay’s exhaustive stable of green initiatives, includes everything from composting food and paper waste to eco-friendly cleaning products. Use of plastics is kept to a minimum, while old glass is crushed and used as aggregate. The hotel also encourages water conservation and uses recycled rainwater as much as it can.
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The Culloden Estate and Spa, Belfast

Why it’s cool: With the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic just over two months away, all eyes are turning to Belfast where the doomed liner was built. The Titanic Belfast, a spectacular new museum and community arts centre designed with the shape of the ship’s funnel in mind, opens in spring, and will play host to a number of commemorative events, including the Titanic Light Show, from the 7th to 12th April, and the Titanic Proms on the 8th September. Away from the city, head to the Culloden Estate and Spa – a sympathetically restored manor house perched on Belfast Lough, five miles outside of the city centre. Not only is it within striking distance of Belfast’s nightlife and attractions, it’s a great base for exploring the surrounding emerald green countryside.

Green credentials: The Grade I listed house has been sympathetically restored using local materials and antique furniture, while the spa uses holistic naturals brand, ESPA.
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The Potting Shed, Tweed Valley

Why it’s cool: If you’re the sort of person who escapes to the garden shed when the going gets tough at home, then the quirky Potting Shed in Scotland’s Tweed Valley could be exactly what you need. You won’t be sharing space with the owner’s tool collection though, as the former shed has been totally revamped, with an open-plan living space, a bright bedroom (complete with linen bedsheets) and wonderful views of the River Tweed, courtesy of floor-to-ceiling windows. Often overlooked in favour of the Highlands, the Tweed Valley has plenty for nature fans to get excited about, and there are plenty of biking and hiking trails to choose from. The pretty town of Melrose is within hiking distance of the Potting Shed, while a short bus trip will take you to the historic town of Bamburgh with its magnificent mediaeval castle and vast stretches of golden sandy beach. If you’re feeling adventurous, there’s also the chance to take a boat trip to Lindisfarne where you can take a closer look at the island’s famous gospels and the ancient ruins of the abbey.

Green credentials: Heating at the Potting Shed comes courtesy of a wood-burning stove and an ultra efficient Everhot electric heat storage unit, which also provides power for the cooker. Organic Sedburgh toiletries are also provided.
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The Beach Hut, Cornwall

Why it’s cool: Forget visions of candy-striped beachside boxes; this beach hut is more of a cottage than a changing room. Built in 1920, the grey clapperboard cottage is set in the middle of a 52-acre property near Bude and boasts spectacular sea views plus doorstep access to a vast sandy surfing beach. Inside, the single room cottage has a king size double bed, a small kitchen area and stripped back décor, with a wood-burning stove taking pride of place. Perfect for surfers, the Beach Hut also works brilliantly for wildlife fans, with trips to view the endangered Basking shark available upon request. Miles of coastal paths offer ample cycling and walking opportunities, while the Eden Project is within striking distance.

Green credentials: A wood burning stove heats the property, and although logs are supplied, you can just as easily use driftwood foraged from the beach. A hamper packed with local goodies, including Cornish sea salt is provided.
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Limewood, New Forest

Why it’s cool: If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at foraging, the New Forest with its diverse array of habitats and carefully preserved coppices is the place to start. Limewood, an eco-chic retreat deep in the heart of the forest, offers bespoke foraging trips with resident expert, Garry Eveleigh. Expect to find wild berries, nuts and fungi, all of which can then be turned into something spectacular by chef, Luke Holder, on your return. If the thought of a woodland pick your own session hasn’t whetted your appetite, then maybe the idea of cycling, hiking and riding through some of the best-preserved ancient woodland in England will. There’s plenty of unique fauna to see en route, including red deer, fallow deer, adders, lizards, badgers, foxes and of course, the New Forest pony.

Green credentials: The Regency house has been carefully restored, with the environment in mind, while the restaurant serves up locally sourced and foraged fare. The spa uses British organic brand, Bamford, and has its own ‘herbary’, where it grows herbs for use in treatments.
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The Cabin, Cambrian Mountains

Why it’s cool: Located in a pretty wooded glade, the Cabin looks like a cross between an old-fashioned pavilion and an ultra luxe garden shed. What’s not retro, however, is the ridiculously chic Moroccan style interior, which wouldn’t look out of place in a Wallpaper spread. What’s more, with hydro powered amenities, local timber walls and wood-powered heating, it’s gorgeously green. Nant yr Onnen also has plenty for bird enthusiasts to love, with edkites, cuckoos, woodpeckers, nuthatches, buzzards, henharriers, goshawks and sparrowhawks all to be seen from the kitchen window. In the surrounding area, you’ll find the Upper Towy Valley, with its myriad walking and biking opportunities, the Dinas Nature Reserve and the spectacular Carreg Cennen castle, which sits on a rocky outcrop that commands stunning views of the nearby Black Mountain and Towy Valley.

Green credentials: The planet is a priority for owners, Fiona and Tim, who generate their own electricity using a micro hydro generator, and use their own sustainable timber in their wood burning stoves. The Cabin also has a compost toilet, while water comes direct from one of the springs on the property and is stored behind the owners’ cottage in an old milk tanker.
Find out more:

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Top 10 Travel Gadgets for 2012

EDINBURGH, Scotland, Feb 14, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) — With a dizzying array of gadgets emerging every day, finding the right one for you can often be a difficult prospect – nowhere more so than in the field of travel, where the right gizmo can make or break your trip and transform an otherwise tedious journey.

Phil Dalbeck, Skyscanner’s Tech Expert has been scouring the world for the latest in tip-top travel tech: “Travelling doesn’t mean gadget freaks need to be parted from their latest prize possession — in fact, we found that some of the best new gadgets emerging in 2012 are especially handy for being portable, rechargeable and most of all, fun!” he said.

Phil presents you with his round-up of 2012’s best new travel gadgets.

1. Polaroid SC1630 Smart Camera powered by Android

Launched at CES last month, the Polaroid SC1360 is backed by Google’s Android operating system and enables instant sharing through over 400,000 apps like Flickr and Twitter, as well as a 16.0 megapixel camera and 32GB memory via microSD card. GBP tbc,

2. i’M Watch

A serious piece of futuristic tech for your wrist, the i’M Watch connects wirelessly to your smartphone via Bluetooth and displays your texts, emails and calls on a small colour screen so that you can quickly and easily keep in touch at the flick of a wrist. GBP 129,

3. Mushroom GreenZero Wall Travel Charger

Unlike most other chargers on the market, this little alien-like device shuts off the charge from the mains when you’re device is fully charged, stopping your battery from being overcharged making it the must have eco-friendly charger. $30,

4. Recon Instruments MOD Live

The ultimate for snow-sport loving tech fans, these Alpine goggles are kitted with an HD display on the inside lens showing texts and GPS location plus real-time data and stats on your speed and performance. $240,

5. UWater G4 Chrome MP3 Player

The manufacturers of this product claim it’s the world’s smallest 100% waterproof MP3 player. Ideal for singing in the shower and, as it’s protected from salt water, even scuba diving to your favourite soundtrack. $80,

6. Powerbag

Laptop? Check. Tablet? Check. Smartphone? Check. Backpack that keeps them full of juice all day long with built-in charger and cables to suit all devices? Check. $139-179,

7. Sony HMZ-T1

Can’t bear to leave your home theatre behind? Then look no further than the Sony HMZ-T1, a head-mounted portable home cinema system with surround sound and a 150-inch HDTV screen projected to ‘appear’ 12 feet in front of you. GBP 799,

8. TripButler WiFi

TripButler is your very own rentable WiFi dongle which hooks up to as many as five devices, enabling you to stay connected when you’re on location and avoid nasty roaming charges in the process. That’ll be all, Jeeves. From $2,

9. Jawbone UP

This battery-powered colour wristband works with a clever iPhone app to track your activities and measure your metabolism, and the alert feature is ideal to remind you to take some exercise on holiday. GBP 79.99,

10. Jetlev R200

With a predicted ‘launch’ date of Spring 2012, the 20lbwater-propelled Jetlev R200 jetpack uses water to propel the users 30ft in the air. While owning one of these may break the bank (an estimated GBP 83k) the good news is they are to be made available for hire for just GBP 150 a day. tbc,

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Eco-tourism in Malaysia is a top priority for the government. The only country in the southeast asia region making a major government level commitment to responsible travel is Malaysia. The far-sighted approach to green travel and sustainable development is already beginning to draw the attention of travelers, with Sarawak, Sabah and Borneo, in particular, drawing the majority of the explorers.

Resources included in the directory, below, are selected on the basis of content, not sponsorship.

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This Tiny Electric Bike Delivers 80 Miles of Efficient, Eco-Friendly Travel

Eventually, the time will come when mankind can fully replace archaic foot-powered bicycles with the electric variety. Boxx Corporations clearly wants the same thing, as their stylish take on charged two-wheel travel is getting ready to roll into production, along with making the necessary rounds on the trade show and exhibition circuits. For a cool $3995 and some change, you can buy one of the first models and even slap a coat of “hot rod” red paint on your new eco-friendly ride.

In fact, it might be more accurate to call the Boxx a miniature electric motorcycle instead of an electric bicycle. According to the specs, it tops out at a pretty speedy 35 miles per hour, which is just fast enough to get you a ticket in most city areas. Considering that the entire thing’s only a meter tall, that’s pretty good speed in relation to the Boxx’s diminutive size. Speaking of which, it’s apparently a lot sturdier than it looks despite being so small — the Boxx’s aluminum build can support even the bulkiest drivers, up to 300 pounds of weight. Then again, weighing 300 pounds might be a good excuse to get out the old “foot pedal” bicycle anyway.

As Red Ferret notes, the real attraction for the Boxx is most likely the fact that you can easily store it inside your office cubicle or home. That’s a notable step up from mopeds, which have to sit outside and face the elements, although we can’t imagine that hunching over an even smaller vehicle is any cooler. Surprisingly, it also packs in features that you’d expect from a larger motorized gadget, such as onboard storage, all-wheel drive, and even an auto-braking system.

Of course, that 80-mile running length is only applicable if you pony up the cash for the optional “Core 2” modular power system, which boosts the price above 4500 dollars. And if you’re just feeling crazy about it, Boxx Corp can even throw in a one-hour charging unit and 3-year warranty for a little (well, a lot of) extra cash. If you want to get in on the Boxx early so you can ride to work in expensive-yet-eye-catching style, the developer’s taking orders right over here.

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Green Honeymoon Ideas

With increased awareness of environmental issues, many people are putting more of an effort into choosing green lifestyle options; this includes where to go and what to do on honeymoon.

It’s no longer popular to lie basking in the sun being waited on hand and foot, although plenty still class that as the ultimate luxury. Now honeymooners, keen to leave less impact on the planet and have more of an experience on their trip, are looking at various ecotourism projects, resorts or lodges in which to consummate their union… or just have a nice wee break if the union’s long been consummated! Well, it’s the rules of getting married isn’t it? Get married, have honeymoon. It’s the only reason people go through with it, right?

Eco-friendly Honeymoons Ideas

  1. Put some thought into the destination – do you really need to travel to the other side of the world when you haven’t explored what’s on your doorstep yet? There are ecotourism options practically everywhere so check out your own backyard (not literally) before booking a trip further afield. You may get an unexpected surprise.
  2. Make a list of all the places you’d like to go and then investigate them thoroughly. Maybe you could do a two centre holiday? Some people like to get involved in a community ecotourism project for one week and chill the next. Choose something that suits you both and book through a good eco travel company.
  3. Many popular honeymoon destinations have questionable practices. They build without any regard to the environment, pay pittance wages and treat staff with little respect yet they still manage to provide 5 star treatment to holidaymakers. So give a little something back by venturing out of your holiday haven and spending money in local communities rather than ploughing it all into an already wealthy resort.
  4. Book tours through locals when you get to your destination, not through your holiday rep. That way you know the local community will benefit directly from the money and you won’t have to sit on a bus with 50 other touros singing round choruses of Una Paloma Blancawhen all you want to do is experience things first-hand.
  5. Use local transport to get around and use a local guide to explore; after all they will know the area better than someone employed through a company back home. If you do have a wonderful guide, spread the word about their services, leave info on websites for other honeymooners looking for similar experiences, that way you’ll be generating more work for your guide and potentially other guides too.
  6. Eco doesn’t always mean hippy, there are a number of luxurious eco escapes worldwide that have been built sustainably and employ responsible tourism principles so you canhave your cake and eat it.
  7. As with any eco-friendly holiday, check the hotel or resort’s green credentials. It’s sometimes difficult to know whether the vacation you fancy is genuinely green or tainted with greenwashing tactics, so read up a few tips from Ecotourism Loguebefore you book.
  8. Dare to be different!

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11 Tips and Tricks for Greening your Hotel Stay

Let’s face it, as much as we love camping, hostels, and eco-lodges sometimes a hotel is the most reasonable option. Luckily, even when staying at the least environmentally-friendly hotel you have a lot of control over your environmental impact. Here are 11 of our favorite tips and tricks for being a little friendlier to Mother Earth during your next hotel stay:

  1. Unplug, unplug, unplug.The first thing you should do when you walk into a hotel room is unplug. 5 lamps? Unplug 4. Mini-fridge? Unless you’ve brought a turkey and mayo sandwich, unplug. Coffee maker? Unplug. Hair dryer? Unplug. Appliances drain energy even when they’re not on. If you just spend 2 minutes unplugging items you will already have made a difference.

    photo credit: trekkyandy

  2. Hang your towel. In my experience housekeeping is haphazard in their pledge to “save the environment one towel at a time.” Most times I hang the towel and come back later to find they’ve replaced it anyway; but about 50% of the time they leave it for me.
  3. Move the soap. An easy trick to reduce your waste is to bring the bar of soap with you to the shower when you shower and leave it by the sink the rest of the time. Seriously, when was the last time you used two full bars of soap at a hotel? (Or even one full bar?)
  4. Stick the “Do not Disturb” on your door. Or just call housekeeping and tell them you won’t need their services during your stay. To prevent the hotel from wasting water by changing your sheets and towels, wasting electricity by vacuuming, and spraying harsh chemicals all over your toothbrush, just ask them to refrain from cleaning your room during your stay.
  5. Adjust the thermostat. By lowering the temperature by 2 degrees in the winter or raising it by 2 in the summer you will save a lot of energy. And you won’t notice the difference.
  6. When you leave the room turn everything off:
    • Lights
    • TV
    • Thermostat (if the weather is mild)
  7. Flush less frequently. No need to flush every time. Practice the “if it’s brown flush it down, if it’s yellow let it mellow” rule.
  8. Bring your own toiletries. I personally know the pains of the 3 oz of liquids on planes rule. A liter of genuine, carried-back-from-Ireland Whiskey was confiscated from us on a 6 am flight the day the emergency (and now permanent) rule came down. True story. But think of all of the plastics that are used to create tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner. And all of the extra packaging in luxury hotel items. Plus, by bringing your own shampoo you can prevent a bad hair day from bad shampoo.
  9. Take shorter showers. Sometimes a long, hot shower feels incredible. But do you need that every day? The average US shower head spits out about 2.5 gallons per minute, which means in a 15 minute shower you use nearly 40 gallons of water. Yikes!
  10. Leave the pen (and other freebies) behind. I don’t know why, but I’m a sucker for free pens. Even the crappy ones that explode in my purse on the airplane ride home. Do the earth a favor and leave these items behind.
  11. Recycle. Find out if the hotel recycles. If they do, ask if they separate it out from waste-bins. If they don’t, take your free USA Today and empty cans and bottles and toss them in an extra pocket in your suitcase to recycle later. They weigh almost nothing.

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What tips or tricks do you have that help you be a (more) responsible hotel-goer? It takes less than 5 minutes only to do the above, go green to protect this earth.

31 Reasons to Travel Green: In Pictures

Every green traveler has those days where she just wants to give up. Pollution, global warming, bad environmental policy decisions – how much of a difference can one person really make?

We’re launching our 25 Days to Green Travel series with photos that remind us why traveling green – and living green – matters. We’re going with the “a picture is worth a thousand words” concept. All of these images except one are from Flickr, many from amateur photographers. No matter what shade of green traveler you are, I hope these photos motivate you to keep traveling green. As I searched for these photos, I was reminded over and over that our travel decisions don’t just affect us; they affect people and wildlife across the world, and they will for generations to come.

The post wraps up with some truly amazing photos of beautiful places, people, and creatures around the world, so stick through the depressing photos to the end and you’ll be rewarded.

The Bad

Destruction of Wildlife

Oiled bird from Black Sea oil spill. photo credit: marinephotobank

Polar bear on melted ice near Barents Island, Norway. © Arne Naevra

Dead fish in a polluted riverbed, Buenos Aires, Argentina. photo credit: blmurch

Global Warming

Exposed coral reef in Gili Meno, Indonesia. photo credit: yeowatzup

Fragment of a melted iceberg. photo credit: nick_russill

Floating iceberg chunk in Patagonia. photo credit: lrargerich

Melting icebergs in Jökulsárlón, Iceland. photo credit: csproete

Water Pollution

Polluted river in Cambodia. photo credit: davilla

Man finding plastic bags in River Yamuna in Delhi, India. photo credit: Koshyk

Metal barrel in a green river. photo credit: jantik

Air Pollution

Taj Mahal choking in early morning smog. photo credit: mshandro

Beijing smog. photo credit: diggingforfire

ir pollution in Nova Scotia. photo credit: ojbyrne

Car pollution in Cremona, Italy. photo credit: Simone Ramella

Mexico City smog. photo credit: arndw

Los Angeles, California smog. photo credit: cwsteeds

Santiago, Chile smog. photo credit: philliecasablanca

One way to avoid breathing polluted air in Tehran. photo credit: kamshots

Plane pollution, Anywhere. photo credit: mshades

Forest Destruction

Deforestation in Guatemala. photo credit: Pati’s Moment in Time

Deforestation in the Amazon. photo credit: dgidsicki

Deforestation in Wakayama, Japan. photo credit: T.Hagihara


Electronics waste in China from the Western World. photo credit: art_es_anna

Chinese baby surround by electronics parts from the Western World. photo credit: art_es_anna

The Good

Preserve the Sites and Wildlife

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland. photo credit: atomicpuppy68

Mountains in Brienz, Switzerland. photo credit: pilou

Elephants in Kenya. photo credit: wildcat_dunny

Moose in Alaska. photo credit: Paul Resh

Support the Local Economy and Way of Life

Fish vendor in Seoul, South Korea. photo credit: neaners

Indian street vendor. photo credit: utpal.

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All the pictures above have speak a thousand words. The pollution will getting worst if we still haven’t aware of it and no action is taken.  Let’s do our part when we travel to other countries so that others can enjoy the amazing view as well.

3 Important Reasons to Go Eco-Friendly

We hear it every where – reasons to go eco-friendly, green products, save the environment and recycle. But what does it all really mean and why do we need to become more eco friendly?

  1. One obvious reason is so that we can save our planet. Just thinking about the stash of plastic bottles that are thrown away every year which cannot disintegrate into the land.
  2. Saving animals from extinction is another reason. So many of the various breeds of animals and insects and all manner of living creatures are becoming threatened because of our habits.
  3. Greener, environmentally friendly products are kinder to our health.

For example when using plastic bottles the likelihood is those dangerous chemicals will leech into the liquid inside. We don’t know that it is happening because it neither discolours the liquid (even if it is transparent like water) nor has a nasty taste.

The manufacturers of these products do not put any warnings or labels on the bottle stating this fact and the poor unsuspecting customers (us!) are the innocent victims.

Chemicals such as phenynol A are toxic and can cause cancer. These bottles and food containers may be lighter in weight and cheaper to produce but is it worth the possibility of using something that could cause you to become ill?

I always buy stainless steel drinking and food containers even though they do weight slightly more and they do cost a bit more. I am more concerned with the health of my family.

But another reason to go eco-friendly is to be able to use organic fresh foods that will not be tampered with in any way. There is absolutely no point in having a environmentally friendly product and filling it with junk food or ready made meals that already contain certain chemicals and additives.

The same applies to drinks. I first filter my water from my own filtering system at home and I then fill up the children’s school bottles. I know that I am doing all that I can to keep my family safe.

I know that you too, wouldn’t want to see your family suffer with painful, life threatening diseases just because you didn’t make some changes.

It is very important to keep your water pure as this is a liquid that we use on a constant basis and without filtering it you have no idea what chemical compounds are being put into your body.

Be safe, be healthy and filter your water today. For more information on how to filter your water and the very best filters for giving you healthy mineralized water visit my website today. And find your reasons to go eco-friendly.

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5 Tips for Finding Vegetarian on the Road

This post is by contributing author Lauren Fritsky of The Life that Broke.

As a proud Iowan, I’m a lover of red meat; so, when I’m on the road backpacking, my biggest challenge is finding a steak that can compare with good, Iowa beef. Contributing author Lauren Fritsky has a different problem: finding vegetarian food while traveling the world. Check out these five tips for finding veg-friendly food on your next backpacking adventure.

“Do you have a vegetarian option?”

As someone who doesn’t eat red meat or pork and dates a straight-up vegetarian, I’ve heard a range of laughable responses to this question — everything from:

“Yes, we have fish” to “Just take the ham off.”


If you’re tired of dealing with similar confusion from servers who think that vegetarian means that if the meat’s white, it’s alright, try these tips for actually finding food you can eat on the road.

1. Find restaurants online

Anyone who has stood on a street corner in Asia and watched a shop owner kill a live animal might seriously doubt that vegetarian cuisine is possible in all parts of the world. But it is! Sites like Happy Cow let you plug in your destination and eating preferences to find restaurants around the world.

Veggies on the Road is another resource listing eateries across the globe that offer at least three vegetarian dishes. If you have some semblance of an itinerary, look up your next destination and print out the list of vegetarian and/or vegan restaurants these sites. Don’t forget to smile as you walk away from the cleaver-wielding shop owner to your plate of mock chicken with veggies.

2. Say it right

Some people are unsure of what vegetarian really means. The same goes in foreign lands where definitions for the practice may differ and language barriers can make it difficult to find what you want. This resource from the International Vegetarian Union supplies key phrases in many languages to help you find veggo on the road.

You can also use the Veggie Passport iPhone app to translate your food preferences into 33 languages.

So the next time you’re in the Czech Republic, you can confidently ask “Mate take nejaka vegetarianska jidla?”

3. Get aPPetizing

Speaking of apps, you’ll never go hungry looking for vegetarian or vegan food again if you have an iPhone. Apps like VegOut and VeganSteven let you find restaurants near you and even pull up the menus.

4. Don’t eat at local restaurants

Weird tip, huh?

If you’re having trouble eating meatless at the local restaurants, try hotel dining areas — even if you’re not staying there — and pubs.

Many people don’t think to try and dine at accommodations they haven’t booked into, but the public is free to eat at places like Marriot. Hotel menus often have a wider variety of options than some of the local eateries, including vegetarian, depending where you are in the world.

Pubs might also have bar menus full of non-meat fare. Even if you have to build your dinner by ordering a baked potato, side salad and hummus with bread, it’s better than nothing.

5. Eat what you want, where you want

Did you know that Minnesota actually has a law allowing anyone on a restricted diet to take their own food into any restaurant and eat it right there? Individuals can also ask the wait staff to heat up their food in the oven or microwave.

It’s worth checking if areas you’re traveling to have similar laws.

Even if they don’t, other vegetarian travelers have had success asking restaurants to heat up or cook their tofu, rice or veggies. Sweetness will take you a long way here, so be polite and overly thankful if you’re accommodated. Convenience store microwaves are another option for heating up your homemade or store-bought vegetarian meal if you find an obliging clerk.

Depending on where your travels lead you, you might always have to stay on your toes to find vegetarian. But a little Internet and iPhone savvy plus some local know-how should keep you up to your elbows in tofu from Tampa to Tokyo.

What are your tips for finding vegetarian on the road?

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Go Green or Go Home: Tips for Being Eco-Friendly on the Road

This is a post by contributing author Lauren Fritsky of (@LaurenFritsky).

Using eco-friendly products, recycling and eating locally-grown food can be easy — at home. Yet if you’re on a RTW trip backpacking in Thailand, Sydney or Vancouver, you might find it difficult to keep up with your environmentally-conscious lifestyle. To help you stay green while backpacking around the world, we asked some globetrotters for their tips on staying green on the road.

Check out these green travel tips from some travelers in the know…

Creative Commons: MikeBehnken

Christine Amorose of C’est Christine

“I try to minimize my carbon footprint by limiting my use of plastic whenever I can. Instead of using plastic shopping bags at markets or shops, I use my Chico Bag. It’s lightweight and small enough to fit in my purse every day — and doubles as a beach bag or picnic basket when necessary. Instead of constantly purchasing plastic bottled water, I just fill up my stainless steel Klean Kanteen with cold tap water.”

Lara Dunston of Gran Tourismo

“When my husband and I travel, we will always choose a holiday rental over a hotel if we can — and primarily for ‘green’ reasons. By staying in an everyday house/apartment, we’re using an existing resource and one that uses a lot less energy than a hotel, so we’re leaving a smaller environmental footprint. We will recycle if we can, re-use our towels, and not waste food — all things that hotels make difficult to do!

We’re also contributing to a local community, shopping at local markets and using local businesses, and we’ll always buy local, seasonal produce rather than imported products, so all in all it’s a much more sustainable and responsible way to travel.”

Creative Commons: The Wandering Angel

Caroline Eubanks of Caroline in the City

“I’ve been using the same knockoff Nalgene water bottle for the last probably five years. It’s good to refill before a flight instead of spending $5 on one you will throw away. I’ve also stored my toothbrush inside so it doesn’t get dirty, as well as filling it with boiling water to keep my bed warm. Multi-purpose!”

Ben Lancaster of Amateurs in Africa

“Pay a little more. It’s not much difference in price, but using accredited local tour guides makes a huge difference to the sustainability of the local tourism industry and the local communities you’re visiting. The guides are also way better and funnier. Fact.

Unfortunately with limited infrastructure for processing waste, packaging from Western manufactured products is an issue [in Africa]. As such, you’ll often see rubbish being thrown into the streets due to a lack of knowledge and understanding — lead by example and hold on to your waste until you find a bin. Also, ask companies what they are doing to help combat the issue in communities from which they are profiting.”

Lindsey Tramuta from Lost in Cheeseland

“I think one of the best ways to maintain a green lifestyle during travel, aside from choosing means of transportation that will keep your carbon footprint to a minimum (trains, public buses, hybrid vehicles, etc.), is to immediately seek out local recycling centers upon arrival at your destination. If necessary, ask locals where you can recycle plastics, glass, paper and other products to not only maintain the eco-habits you practice at home but to respect the environment you are visiting.”

Nicole Schwab of Chasingwonderlust

“When I travel, I would say that the most ‘green’ thing I usually do is take public transportation and/or walk most places I go. I usually try to see most places on foot for a number of reasons. First of all, I think that’s the best way to get to know a place & discover things you might otherwise miss. Also, it gives me a bit of exercise to work off all the calories I typically eat when I’m on holiday!”

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Tips for Finding Green Hotels

How do you know if a hotel’s program is truly environmentally friendly—and not all smoke and mirrors?T+L’s Andrea Bennett separates fact from fiction. By Andrea Bennett

As I write this, I’m in a hotel room on the Vegas Strip, looking out my window at the construction site of what will be the largest green hotel in the world, set within MGM Mirage’s $7.4 billion City Center. The hotel is pursuing certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, which sets standards for environmentally sustainable construction. Among the measures it’s taking: recycling 80 percent of construction waste and building a monorail to the Bellagio. But if you check in when the hotel opens in 2009, you might not notice it’s green the property’s casino (not LEED certified) allows smoking.

What Does “Green” Mean?

Photo: Ryan Heshka

Unless you stay in an eco-lodge, you’re not always likely to see a property’s efforts to reduce its impact on the environment. Sure, you might be asked to recycle towels and use a key card that controls your room’s lights and climate. But subtler measures, such as building with recycled materials and landscaping to use less water, aren’t so apparent.

You can look for some proof of certification, but dozens of countries, several U.S. states, and a number of industries have their own labeling programs with varying standards, so it’s difficult to know just how green your hotel really is. (See five of the most reputable programs at right.) To complicate this scenario, many properties are bypassing accreditation in favor of developing their own sustainability plans. The Willard InterContinental in Washington, D.C., for instance, uses renewable wind electricity and purchases organic food whenever possible.

What’s Next?

Eco-construction is a growing phenomenon. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, there are now 118 hotels that have registered for LEED certification. So far, only one hotel—the Gaia Napa Valley—has earned the Gold certificate (the second highest level). Striving to be the next property to get Gold (or perhaps Platinum, the highest LEED certification, which no hotel has yet achieved), the Proximity Hotel, in North Carolina, will use rooftop solar panels, install elevators that generate a portion of their own power, and use an air-exchange system to reduce its energy consumption. And LEED is expanding to international hotels. Easter Island’s Explora Rapa Nui, set to open in December, seeks to obtain Gold status.

What Can You Do?

Every property in T+L’s “Favorite Green Hotels” filled out an eco-questionnaire to ensure that they’re meeting high environmental standards. You can put the same questions to a hotel before booking: What has it done to reduce carbon emissions and waste?How does it conserve energy and water consumption?And does it have programs that support its community?You’ll be doing the environment a favor.

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Green Ideas: Tips For Eco-Friendly Travel

Assuming your vacation is more than just a hike, you’re going to be making a carbon footprint.

That doesn’t mean you should skip your next trip though. In fact, most environmentalists agree that traveling helps raise crucial awareness and appreciation of the earth.

Whether you love to drive your Hummer, or you’re happy to pedal your bike, take these simple eco-friendly tips to change your habits while on the go.

Before You Leave
All transportation requires the combustion of fuel, so the greenest thing you can do is use public transport. When possible, take the train or bus instead of flying. If you’re driving, try to get as many people in the car as possible, instead of taking multiple vehicles.

If you have to fly, book direct.

“Taking off and landing requires a tremendous amount of fuel, so flying direct is greener than making stop-overs,” explained TreeHugger and editor, Meaghan O’Neill.

Before you leave the house, be sure to adjust your heating and cooling systems. Unplug all of your appliances and chargers.

O’Neill warned that many electronics, even while on standby, still use a huge amount of so-called vampire energy. In fact, the Department of Energy estimates that vampire energy waste accounts for five percent of total electronic consumption in the United States.

Anything that recharges will continue to suck power out of the walls after they’re charged. Plasma TV’s, microwaves and chargers are the biggest culprits.

What to Take With You
Travel-size packages might seem quick and convenient, but all that extra packaging takes a heavy toll on the environment. O’Neill recommends filling re-usable containers with the products you need instead of buying additional sundries.

Take a water bottle with you. It’s difficult to find a recycling option when you’re on the go. And besides, plastic does not biodegrade. If and whenever possible, take your re-usable version with you. Many models even have a handy carry strap too!

Travel light and take only what you need. This will make it easier to take public transportation and get around. Hopefully, there will even be room left over to bring home souvenirs, which are an important contribution to local economies.

Where To Go
Regardless of where you go, choose environmentally-friendly accommodations. New green hotels and resorts, from the bare bones to eco-luxury, are rapidly popping up around the world. Check out the “Green” Hotels Association for more ideas.

Seek out destinations that practice geo-tourism. Geo-tourism, according to National Geographic, is “tourism that sustains or enhances the distinctive geographical character of a place — its environment, heritage, aesthetics, culture, and the well-being of its residents.” So far National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations has already signed geo-tourism charters with Honduras, Norway, Romania, the Cook Islands, Arizona, Rhode Island, Montreal, Guatemala and Senora, Mexico, and is busily signing up more.

The Center for Sustainable Tourism also offers environmental scorecards. Click here how to find out how your next vacation spot ranks.

Bennett also encouraged travelers to “re-invest” in locations and avoid “drive-by tourism.”

“Slow down and invest in a single destination,” he said. Rather than spending two days in three different cities, choose one stop and experience it more fully.

On the Road
“Don’t check you green habits when you check in,” O’Neill said. Just because you might be staying in a hotel, you still need to remember to turn off the lights when you leave the room, turn off the air conditioning and not waste food.

Once you’re there, walk instead of hiring a car. Check if your hotel has a shuttle or try public transportation. If you have to rent, ask for a hybrid. O’Neill also recommended Zipcar.

Reuse your towels and sheets whenever possible.

“Hotels use a huge amount of energy for laundry,” explained green blogger Olivia Zaleski.

She also recommended letting your hotel know you’re grateful they offer greener service and encouraging those places that don’t yet have a re-use option to adopt one.

Think about your impact once you get there.

“Try to minimize extractive activities and emphasize ones that help bolster the local culture,” said Paul Bennett, a founder of Context Travel, an environmentally conscious travel agency.

For example, eating at a small mom-and-pop establishment is much better for the local economy than going to McDonald’s.

When You Get Home
Once you’re back at home, even if you feel you’ve treaded lightly, there’s still more you can do.

“Offsetting your flight is a quick and easy way to green your trip,” Bennett said.

The basic idea is to compensate for your carbon footprint by enabling an equivalent reduction in greenhouse gas by donating a carbon offset coupon. Options range from investing in wind energy to planting trees. Prices range accordingly depending on the scheme.

Bennett also recommended re-investing in your favorite destinations to ensure their future.

“Look for charities or foundations that invest in the place and medicate the impact of tourism on it,” he said. “Make a donation, or volunteer to help on your next trip.”

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Pull plastic from the holiday picture

Did you know 20 million Australians use around 4 billion bags every year?” – Flip Byrnes

When you’re swimming on holiday, the last thing you want is a mouthful of plastic. Likewise, exploring an ancient ruin, the unwanted discovery of a heap of disintegrating supermarket sacks would kinda … suck. But there are towns all over the globe that are plastic bag free (wahoo!), so spend your green tourist dollars and keep not-fantastic plastic out of the picture. Just don’t forget your canvas shopper!

The war on plastic bags is being waged and communities from the UK to Australia are being declared plastic bag free. Currently, 20 million Australians use around 4 billion bags every year. Four effing billion. With each bag taking 15 — 1000 years to break down, it’s no wonder tourism authorities can see the light in stemming the tide on plastic.

Modbury, a small town in south-west UK, lead the charge in becoming Europe’s first plastic bag free town in 2007. But when plastic eradication was just a twinkle in their eye, Coles Bay in Tasmania had already gone gangbusters on the concept all the way back in 2003.

Coles Bay, population 250, was Australia’s first plastic bag free town. Located next to Freycinet National Park, the town was well aware it was in their interest to protect their best tourism lure — nature.

Not only is there not a single eyesore sack to be found in town, but disposable knives and forks are all wooden, straws are made of paper and recycle bins dot the landscape. Picture an entire world of greenies — utopia!

Sandra Kain, founding member of the Going Plastic Free association, said tourists are complimentary about the state of the town and plastic ban. “The response has been fantastic”, she says. “They are all impressed, especially that it is a little place like us down in Tasmania. Nature is our draw card down here, so we’re protecting it.”

Likewise, don’t expect to bag up your groceries in plastic in Zanzibar; the picturesque island on the coast of Tanzania, Africa. Renowned for diving, snorkelling and marine life, the island banned plastic bags in 2006.

“We have to put the environment above everything,” Zanzibar’s Director of Environment Ali Juma said. “Besides being an eyesore, plastic bags are very damaging to land and marine life and we are already threatened by the rapid pace of development.”

Where else can you travel plastic-neutral? The Irish and the Germans are currently forced to pay for plastic when hitting the shops, and similarly Denmark and Switzerland are places where people put plastic last. And closer to home, South Australia has just won the war on unsightly rubbish and been declared plastic free.

What are your thoughts on going plastic free? Would you feel better spending your tourism bucks in a community of enviro-friendly shoppers?

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Many countries are participate on plastic bag free campaign and there are charges if you want to get plastic bag from your purchase especially in supermarket. This is a good idea so that everyone could aware and take action together.  We could make a big different and save our earth from getting worst by a simple action. Let’s do our part!

World Car-Free Day September 22, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR: Could city folk, particularly those in congested business districts, be willing to do without their cars for only one day — the World Car-Free Day on Sept 22?

Although awareness of environmental concerns brought about by emissions and the need to ease traffic congestion seemed to be on the rise, little efforts to garner public involvement towards solutions have been in place.

The Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) is calling attention to the World Car-Free Day from the public and the authorities.

“This is now a global effort, but so far, Malaysia has never been part of the World Car-Free Day, let alone organise our own car-free days,” said MNCF deputy president Datuk Naim Mohamad.

The World Car-Free Day was initiated in 1994 upon a presentation by the EcoPlan team at the International Accessible Cities Conference in Toledo, Spain.

The project states that car-free days should generally be held on Thursdays as they demonstrate the effects of doing without cars on a regular working day.
This has resulted in cities around the world, even some of the most congested like, Jakarta, adopting the project, either on a once-a-year basis, or with more frequency.

Jakarta holds car-free days on Sundays fortnightly, where a triangular connection of the city’s three busiest roads are closed to motorised vehicles.

Millions of the city’s inhabitants swarm those streets to cycle and jog on those car-free Sundays.

“A car-free day is when people do without cars and find other means of commuting, be it by public transport, bicycles or a combination of the two,” said Naim.

He added that the MNCF had been part of discussions to conduct programmes with the Kuala Lumpur City Hall and other government agencies to promote bicycles as a healthy and environmentally-friendly means of commuting.

“Nothing has been done before, but we can start with this year’s World Car-Free Day. The government, too, has to take notice.”

Naim said the MNCF’s Cycling For All Committee was willing to work with the government and the public to draw up plans to ensure cities were made more conducive for those willing to commute by bicycles.

“The public transport system needs to be more bicycle-friendly.

“We need to find out what the barriers are and propose projects to solve these issues. The public needs to be heard and the government needs to listen.”

The MNCF has monitored the growth in the recreational segment of cycling and believes there is room for such an idea to be developed.

“A number of corporate figures and even politicians are avid cyclists who cycle for fitness,” said Naim.

“We have respected figures who can set the example, but whether they see their bicycle as a suitable mode of commuting remains to be seen.”

Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek will begin his quest to lead by example today, when his entourage rides from his office in Putrajaya to Bukit Jalil, where he will evaluate the progress on the ministry’s Hari Raya Aidilfitri open house venue.

Article excerpted from
Do you think you can ditch your car, for just one day? Well that is the aim of the World Carfree Network, in hopes that people will embrace alternative modes of transportation on a bigger, more indefinite scale.  Thursday, September 22nd is World Car-Free Day and people are organizing events all over the world to help. I’m sure this is one of the method to travel eco too.

Would you sleep easier in a green hotel?

It is reasonable to expect that we might be able to control our eco-behavior in the privacy of our own homes, but it definitely gets a lot tougher when you travel, especially when it is for business. Let’s start with the fact that priority No. 1 for your corporate travel department is going to be finding the cheapest price for your lodging, not whether or not a certain property conserves water or is committed to renewable energy.

But some hotels are definitely trying to do their part. A couple of years ago, I wrote about the gamble that Starwood is taking with its eco-hotel chain, Element, which is pitched as an alternative to extended stay properties such as Courtyard by Marriott. (An update on Element in a moment.) More recently, I touched on the fact that a number of really high profile companies are working together to at least try to standardize the way they talk about their impact. The effort is being spearheaded by the International Tourism Partnership and the World Travel & Tourism Council.

Now, hotels interested in operating more sustainably have some additional help in the form of a green toolkit from the United National World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The toolkit is part of the Hotel Energy Solutions initiative, focused on helping hoteliers evaluate energy consumption, source renewable power and improve their overall energy management profile. Aside from the UNWTO, other partners backing the effort are the UN Environment Program, the International Hotel & Restaurant Association, the European Renewable Council, and the French Environment and Energy Management Agency.

The toolkit was tested at approximately 100 European properties in Haute-Savoie in France, Palma de Mallorca in Spain, Bonn in Germany, and Strandja in Bulgaria. It focuses on what you might expect, helping managing when linens are laundered, ensuring that thermostats are adjusted appropriately, and controlling lighting throughout properties so they are on only when necessary. The original premise of the project was that it could help small and midsize hotels save up to 20 percent of overall energy consumption through focused efficiency measures and by reminding guests about eco-friendly behavior.

The initial target for the hotel toolkit is Europe, where something like half of the world’s 5.9 million hotels are located, but it will eventually be extended to other markets. Figures from the European Action Plan for Energy Efficiency estimate that hotels could cut their energy consumption by up to 30 percent by 2020. Overall, the sector could save as much energy as, say, the residential or transportation sector.

So, obviously, this is a European initiative. I’m happy to report that I continue to hear inklings of good ideas here in the United States. I’ll go back to Element, which I’ve been wondering about during the continued sluggish economic recovery.

After poking around a bit for some updates, I discovered that Element’s hotel in Ewing, N.J., was designated as the first New Jersey hotel certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program in May 2011. All hotels under the Element brand are striving for LEED certification, and the Element Ewing Hopewell is the fourth one to do so. Starwood, overall, now manages 15 properties worldwide that have been LEED-certified — the most of any global hospital company.

The property has 127 rooms that are all outfitted with EnergyStar-rated kitchen appliances, eco-friendly bath fixtures, and recycling bins for paper, plastic and glass. Filter systems for the drinking water help decrease the number of disposable cups. The carpets are made out of 100 percent recycled content and the paint is low-VOC. Natural lighting is used copiously; it is supplemented by compact fluorescent bulbs that save about 75 percent electricity over the incandescent alternative.

The hotel even features a ChargePoint electric vehicle charging station, which is part of a nationwide rollout by Element.

Said Perry Hansen, the hotel’s general manager:

“Our LEED certification is gratifying because is recognizes our team’s efforts to conserve resources and reduce waste. But even more important, guests keep telling us how much it means to them. There’s a real appreciation among guests for all of the thoughtful practices that have become an integral part of the Element experience.”

Article excerpted from

Thanks to United National World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), hotels now have the much needed additional help in building a strong eco-friendliness of their property. This is considerably a major step taken in making a more sustainable future of mother earth. Kudos to UNWTO!

12 Aims of Making Tourism Sustainable

The World Tourism Organization (WTO) declared in 1988 that sustainable tourism is [1]

“envisaged as leading to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems.”

Making Tourism More Sustainable

The twelve aims for making tourism sustainable were described in “Making Tourism More Sustainable: A Guide for Policy Makers” as [2]:

  1. Economic Viability: To ensure the viability and competitiveness of tourism destinations and enterprises, so that they are able to continue to prosper and deliver benefits in the long term.
  2. Local Prosperity: To maximize the contribution of tourism to the economic prosperity of the host destination, including the proportion of visitor spending that is retained locally.
  3. Employment Quality: To strengthen the number and quality of local jobs created and supported by tourism, including the level of pay, conditions of service and availability to all without discrimination by gender, race, disability or in other ways.
  4. Social Equity: To seek a widespread and fair distribution of economic and social benefits from tourism throughout the recipient community, including improving opportunities, income and services available to the poor.
  5. Visitor Fulfillment: To provide a safe, satisfying and fulfilling experience for visitors, available to all without discrimination by gender, race, disability, or in other ways.
  6. Local Control: To engage and empower local communities in planning and decision making about the management and future development of tourism in their area, in consultation with other stakeholders.
  7. Community Well-being: To maintain and strengthen the quality of life in local communities, including social structures and access to resources, amenities and life support systems, avoiding any form of social degradation or exploitation.
  8. Cultural Richness: To respect and enhance the historic heritage, authentic culture, traditions, and distinctiveness of host communities.
  9. Physical Integrity: To maintain and enhance the quality of landscapes, both urban and rural, and avoid the physical and visual degradation of the environment.
  10. Biological Diversity: To support the conservation of natural areas, habitats, and wildlife, and minimize damage to them.
  11. Resource Efficiency: To minimize the use of scarce and non renewable resources in the development and operation of tourism facilities and services.
  12. Environmental Purity: To minimize the pollution of air, water, and land and the generation of waste by tourism enterprises and visitors.

It can be conclude that “making tourism sustainable” or “sustainable tourism” is the drive to make every tourism business and traveler ecologically and culturally sensitive by building environmental awareness and practice into all aspects of the travel product and its consumption.

Three aspects of sustainability

Three main aspects usually mean that we do “sustainable” activities or the activity in the same or similar way for the indefinite future (sustainable in time):

Environmentally – the activity minimizes any damage to the environment and ideally tries to benefit the environment in a positive way (through protection and conservation).

Socially and culturally – the activity does not harm, and may revitalize the social structure or culture of the community where it is located.

 Economic – the activity does not simply begin and then rapidly die because of bad business practices; it continues to contribute to the economic well-being of the local community. A sustainable business should benefit its owners, its employees, and its neighbors.

The principles of sustainability, can be applied to any type of tourism – mass or specialty; city, beach, or wilderness; large or small. They also can be applied to all sectors of the tourist industry: lodging, tours, agencies, ground operators, guiding, and transport.

Ecotourism is one kind of sustainable tourism, based on nature, and usually following the principles of sustainability.

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Six Steps to Sustainable Travel

Here at Context, Sustainable Travel has been one of the main themes of 2010 and it will continue to be in 2011.

Our efforts span from the basic recycling of paper, glass and plastic in our offices to sponsoring projects through our Context Foundation. However, to make a real difference, we strive to go even further. We believe that along with in-house initiatives, it is our role to educate travelers on what sustainable travel means, how it effects the cities and countries we visit, and what we can do to preserve them.

The web is full of suggestions, but we decided to make our own list of Sustainable Steps to Travel, a sort of guideline that will help travelers visiting our cities “tread more lightly”.

Context’s Six Steps to Sustaining our cities

While we understand the desire to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre or the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, these sites are overwhelmed by tourists, and thus often fail to leave you with a profound effect. If you wish to have a true understanding of the great cities of the world, you will gain much more insight at lesser-known museums, monuments and city neighborhoods, bustling with real life and culture.

With a few simple choices you can make your trip more environmentally friendly. Stay in an apartment rather than a hotel; walk or use public transit rather than take taxis; opt for green businesses; and consider offsetting the carbon produced by your travel.

Chain stores, large touristy restaurants, and tasteless souvenir shops give little back to the community. Locally-owned business which provide higher quality services and goods, and are often found just a few blocks away from major sites. This mutually beneficial exchange will sustain artisans and small authentic restaurateurs, and allow us to also find a genuine cultural momento.

Tourism has a way of being insular. Staying at hotels, eating in big impersonal restaurants, and visiting only the big, touristy sites do not provide us with many meaningful opportunities to interact with locals. Seek experiences outside of this structure. Search out things like workshops, language lessons, and adventures in real neighborhoods. Take a chance to chat with someone. You might get a new perspectives on the city.

See the differences between the destination and your home as an opportunity rather than an annoyance. We may not have ice in our drink or being staying in as large a hotel room as we are used to; however, we may find inspiration in the difference—maybe a spectacular view of some square or access to some unusual neighborhood. These are the experiences we can only have through traveling.

Preserving and maintaining the patrimony of these great cities requires financial resources. Look at ways to support sustainable efforts, such as donating to the French Heritage Society, the Philadelphia Mural Arts program, Friends of Florence or Save Venice. One excellent way is by supporting the Context Foundation, a pass-through organization that donates to these institutions and other worthy projects.

Article excerpted from

Guyana: Eco-travel’s next frontier

Often confused with the African country of Ghana, South America’s Guyana took a tough reputation hit 30 years ago with the infamous Jonestown Kool-Aid incident. Thankfully, past that dark chapter (perpetrated by Americans), the only English-speaking country on the continent is now entering a new era focusing on eco-tourism.

Guyana means “land of many waters” in the indigenous language, and that’s certainly truth in advertising, as its many rivers — some of South America’s biggest — drain an immense swath of the Amazon basin. The country’s lush surroundings and relative isolation results in an incredible biodiversity that begs for eco exploration.

Travel here is mostly by 4X4, light aircraft and river boat, because the vast majority of roads — if they exist at all — are unpaved. But however you go, all roads lead to uncharted adventure. In fact, current statistics from the Guyanese government show that the country received only about 4,000 tourists last year. So if you’re the type of traveler looking for the world’s best-kept secret, this is the place.

From unrivaled wildlife discoveries and eco-lodges run by indigenous tribes looking for new ways to maintain ancestral lands to a distillery making one of the world’s best rums, Guyana is the place for a seasoned world traveler longing for something off the beaten path.

Adventure-filled Eco-Lodges

Feeling like a colonial outpost from another century, the scruffy capital of Georgetown serves as your starting point. Just a few hours from here lies Arrowpoint Lodge, an ideal place to start your eco-adventure. The journey to Arrowpoint involves a boat trip up the Kamuni River, its banks a patchwork of heavily forested areas and open savannah grasslands. After arriving and dropping your bags in the simple, clean cabins, hop on one of the lodge’s mountain bikes and ride jungle trails to the nearby Arawak settlement of Santa Mission. Here you can buy artfully designed basketry woven by villagers here in traditional patterns.

In the heart of the rainforest at the confluence of the Rupununi and Rewa rivers, where sightings of scarlet macaws, jabiru storks and black caimans — the largest species of alligator — are common, you’ll find another must-stay, the Rewa Eco-Lodge. Operated by the Makushi tribe in partnership with several other native communities, it sits on the banks of the mossy green Rewa, and offers access to lush rainforest, vast green escarpments and natural wonders like Green Pond — an oddly modest name for a mile-and-a-half-wide lake where you are almost guaranteed sightings of black caimans and arapaimas, the largest freshwater fish in the world.

One of the best experiences from Rewa is the several-hour trek to Awarmie Mountain. Waiting for you at the top are epic vistas that stretch past the Rupununi to distant mountains, savannahs and endless treetops. The birding is spectacular, with the chance to see species such as the ornate hawk-eagle, red fan parrot, white bellbirds, and pairs of macaws soaring over the rainforest canopy.

Because the Makushi village is nearby, Rewa also gives you the rare opportunity to spend some time in the community to see firsthand a culture in transition. In quick succession you may see kids in their tidy uniforms learning English and practicing Makushi, a man tinkering with a solar panel, and a woman making cassava bread the same way her ancestors have been doing for millennia.

Both literally and figuratively, the million-acre Iwokrama Forest preserve lies at the heart of the country’s decade-old sustainable travel initiative. Located in the center of Guyana and home to an ecological research center and two guest lodges, Atta Rainforest Lodge and Iwokrama River Lodge, Iwokrama has to be on your checklist for several reasons. The first is a spectacularly engineered suspended catwalk, the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway, that will have you gingerly treading 90 feet above the forest floor. Stretched between four platforms lashed to massive Brazilian Cedar trees, the 450-foot-long walkway, built several years ago with the assistance of Canadian engineers, is a highlight of staying at the Atta Lodge.

The Iwokrama is also a starting point for off-the-beaten-path adventures, like hikes to isolated Turtle Mountain, with its jungle canopy views and chances to see up to five eagle species, spider monkeys, parrots and if you’re lucky, a jaguar. Paddle through the Essequibo River in a kayak and wave to Sankar, an old three-legged caiman with no tourist cravings who hangs out in front of the lodge. When the day is over, travel by launch to Michelle’s, a local hangout serving cold beer, coconut juice and reggae blaring from the sound system. On the way back, your guide will point out caimans and iguanas lurking on the riverbank.

Near the Brazilian border in the country’s southwest, a 4X4 from the frontier town of Lethem can get you to the Makushi village of Nappi. From here, it’s mostly mud, muck and thick jungle growth before you arrive at the native-owned and operated Maipaima Eco-Lodge. Nestled in the old-growth forests of the Kanuku Mountains, this is one of those magical places that will leave you thinking you’re definitely not in Kansas (or Silver Lake) anymore. Massive mora trees of staggering height, scarlet macaws squawking and wheeling above the canopy and a sense of welcome isolation await as you step out of the mud-splattered vehicle.

Accommodations are humble — simple wooden benabs, or cabins , on raised platforms to avoid seasonal floodwaters — but who cares, you have a clean bed, en-suite bathroom (cold water from an exposed PVC pipe never felt so good) and excellent local fare like riverfish, cassava bread and cold starfruit juice just a request away. But the main attraction is the surrounding rainforest. Cross nearby Maipaima Creek via a fallen tree, and you’re in primal rainforest. There are short hikes, such as the one to the “Bat Cave” where you won’t find Christian Bale, but you will see pre-Columbian pottery, bats naturally, and possibly, a glimpse of Guyana’s national bird, the elusive cock-of-the-rock in all its gaudy, Caltrans orange glory.

Water and Power

If you’re really up for a quest, a much longer 8-mile trek from Maipaima through untouched rainforest leads to Jordan Falls. Besides sturdy hiking shoes and water, the other requirement here is being in shape. This all-day hike (about six hours) isn’t Griffith Park: You’ll be fording streams over slippery stones and boulders, dealing with mud and humidity, critters like inch-long bullet ants and maybe a snake sighting or two. But just repeat this three-word mantra: It’s worth it.

At the top, you’ll be rewarded by the rush of cool breezes and the chance to take a refreshing dip in natural rock pool Jacuzzis atop 300 foot stair-step falls that drop to the forest below. Your Makushi guides will set up your hammock for the night while you dine alongside the banks of Wamacarro Creek, waiting for billions of stars to put on a light show like you have never seen. As you lay out on the sun-warmed river rocks staring up at the confetti of stars above, you can note in your journal that you are one of only several hundred outsiders to have ever visited this place.

The other waterworks that cannot be missed is considered by many Guyana’s signature attraction. Located in 350-square-mile Kaieteur National Park, Kaieteur Falls amazes with its nearly 800-foot single-drop waterfall, which is five times higher than Niagara Falls and considered one of the tallest and most powerful waterfalls in the world. Your first sighting will probably be as you arrive by light aircraft, which, if you have a pulse, will leave you awestruck. After landing and as you approach the rim of the deep gorge and take in the thunderous sound, avalanche of coffee-tinted water and plumes of white spray vaulting hundreds of feet in the air, you can add heart-stopping to your reactions as well.

Toucan Guyana’s Most Potent Legacy

Water also plays a role in another of Guyana’s biggest points of pride, Demerara rum. Named for the river that flows through the capital of Georgetown, this regional style is notable for its use of a particularly sweet local sugar cane, dark amber color and distillation style that incorporates the use of the oldest wooden stills in the world. If you’re into fine spirits, take time to visit the tasting room at the DDL distillery in Georgetown. Rum has been produced in Guyana since the late 17th century (this is where British Navy grog originally came from after all) and the Guyanese have mastered the craft.

The history is important, because this centuries-long rum cred has made it possible for DDL, the makers of renowned El Dorado rum, which is named after the legendary city of gold, to incorporate in their distillation process the oldest wooden column and pot stills in the world. What in other countries might be museum pieces is a vital component in helping produce legendary rum that any bar chef worth his muddler is finding a way to use in their cocktails. Particularly sought after are the multiple award-winning 12- and 15-year-old aged, blended rums noted for their dark amber hues, complex aromas and multilayered flavors of sultana, dark chocolate and honey, finished with oaky spice.

Travel smartly and you just might find yourself sitting on a jungle mountain top sipping the world’s best Demerara rum, realizing you have found eco-travel’s new El Dorado.

Note: Tourism in Guyana is still in its infancy, and some lodges, particularly on native lands, have limited ways of communicating with outsiders. We recommend working with experienced tour outfits in the region, such as Wilderness Explorers, for the best experience.

Photo: A view of Kaieteur Falls in Guyana; a river guide from Rewa Village relaxes at  Rewa Eco-Lodge; Nappi children pose for a photo; a toucan in the wild. Credits: Eric Hiss (first three); Jim Danzenbaker

Article excerpted from

Laos throws doors open to ‘eco tourists’

Vang Vieng. Photo credit: Edmund Lou

In a hilltribe settlement in the forest of northern Laos, an old man sits on the ground weaving a basket while another villager hangs out her washing to dry.

It is a scene of everyday life for the Akha communities living in the Nam Ha Protected Area, where elephants, gibbons and leopards roam among giant bamboo near villages perched on the banks of a tributary of the Mekong river.

The 220,000-hectare national park is at the forefront of efforts by the landlocked, impoverished nation to become a leading eco-tourism destination – an effort that appears to be paying off.

Lured by the wild beauty and cultural riches of the numerous ethnic minorities, almost 250,000 tourists visited northwest Luang Namtha province in 2010, up from 20,000 in 1999, according to the Laos tourism administration.

“Compared to Thailand it is definitely a lot more authentic, better run and the fact that we were just a small group, just four people, makes it a much more genuine experience,” said 28-year-old British tourist Joe Park.

“We perhaps leave less of a footprint and not too much of our own culture in the area, so I think it was fantastic,” he said during a trek inside the park.

While some ethnic villagers, such as the Lanten, still wear their indigo traditional clothes, they make no particular effort to dress up for tourists and go about their normal lives as much as possible when they come.

It is the fruit of years of planning by the Communist nation to attract more foreign visitors while preserving its cultural heritage.

After opening up to foreign visitors in the 1990s, Laos “quickly saw that being a country in the middle of the Mekong region, with many visitors going to the surrounding countries, that it would be a good opportunity to develop the economy and create local jobs,” said Steven Schipani, who was involved in the Nam Ha ecotourism project as a UN advisor.

“But they were also aware that tourism, if not properly managed, can cause a lot of negative impacts,” added the American, who is now in charge of the Asian Development Bank’s Southeast Asia tourism programme.

The Laotian authorities, who have created 20 national parks covering 14 percent of the country, attempted to manage the explosion in tourism so as to avoid queues of coaches or rows of concrete hotels.

“Laos will become a world renowned destination specialising in forms of sustainable tourism that, through partnership and cooperation, benefits natural and cultural heritage conservation and local socio-economic development, and spreads knowledge of Laos’ unique cultural heritage around the world,” proclaims the state run website

The Nam Ha national park, thanks to a partnership with UNESCO dating back to 1999, has served as a model of development for ecotourism aimed at benefitting local communities.

“Before, only backpackers, who often only rent a motorbike and drive around, not stopping in the villages, came to Namtha,” said Adrian Schuhbeck, a development expert with a German-backed agency in Luang Namtha province.

“But this is changing. People with more money come, which is good for the communities – they get more return.”

Thanks to the Nam Ha project, several dozen villages have signed agreements with local trekking agencies to supply guides, maintain the paths, share their traditional cuisine and offer a roof for the night, no more than twice a week.

For welcoming eight tourists – the maximum allowed in a single group – on a two-day trek, a village receives about $135, or more than a third of the ticket price, said Chittaphong Chanthakhoune, a local tour agent.

Hundreds of similar projects are being set up elsewhere in the sparsely populated country, one of the poorest in the world.

While it is not the answer to all the villages’ problems, Laos has at least avoided the pitfalls seen by its neighbours, where tour operators bring hordes of tourists to villages without consulting the locals.

Signs on the walls of local trekking agencies give advice to foreigners: take off your shoes before entering a home, respect sites of worship and do not take photographs without asking the subject’s permission.

The villagers for their part have been educated about the needs of their visitors and ways to improve hygiene.

While it lures avid adventurers to its steep-sided valleys and villages lost in the middle of the forest, Laos has also equipped its capital Vientiane and the ancient city of Luang Prabang with a solid tourism infrastructure, capable of accommodating a rising number of visitors.

Tourist arrivals in the Communist nation have risen from scarcely 5,000 in 1991 to more than two million in 2009, according to official figures.

But the eco-tourism boom “will only be sustainable if both sides understand what is important for each other,” said Schuhbeck.

Article excerpted from

Road Trip? 10 Easy Ways to Save Gas and Money

Don’t let skyrocketing gas prices stop you from enjoying your spring break vacation and instead test-drive these gas and money saving tips.

photo of a Vanagon on a road trip

With gas prices gorging our pocket books it’s no surprise that many of us are canceling our spring break road trips and opting instead to spend “quality” time relaxing at home instead. Thing is, there are several steps you could be taking to actually save gas and money and still get out of town! Save green and be green by test-driving these tips:

Why? Keeping your car properly tuned up to improve gas mileage by about 4 percent. Keeping a mileage record will tell you when your gas mileage is slipping, which is a signal for a tune-up.

2. What? SLOW DOWN!
Why? Speeding, rapid acceleration, and rapid braking all waste gas and cut down your mileage potential by as much as 33 percent at highway speeds, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Stop sudden jack-rabbit starts, opting instead for slow acceleration. Keep in mind that speeding wastes gas and money. Each mile per hour you drive over 60 mph is like paying an extra 10 cents per gallon according to DOE.


Antonio Principe /

Why? When driving along long stretches of open road, cruise control can be a very valuable asset, maintaining your speed within the least gas-guzzling gear, plus keeping your chances of accidental speeding (and getting pulled over and ticketed) to a minimum. BUT, where cruise control can take a bite into your gas mileage potential is on hills where it tends to coast up the hill until it realizes that it is losing speed and quickly attempts to make up for it by pushing the throttle, increasing your speed and your gas use.

Why? Carrying as few as 100 extra pounds can decrease the average car’s fuel economy by 1-2 percent. Unless you golf on a daily basis, your clubs don’t need to travel with you. Always carry a bag packed in your trunk “just in case?” Lighten it up. That load is dragging you down.

Why? No, not to air out a foul scent, but to let the fresh breeze in instead of cranking up that air conditioner. Using the air conditioning can up fuel use by as much as 10 percent. Imagine saving 10 percent of the money you save on gas by just rolling down the window!


Djordje Veljovic /

Why? See a stop sign or red light up ahead? Instead of slamming on your breaks just before the line, slowly ease off the gas ahead of time, coasting to a stop. When the light changes green, forget that pedal to the metal mindset and, again, ease into. You will experience a more enjoyable and relaxing ride, save money, and minimize brake pad wear out- saving money on both gear and gas.

Why? A clean air filter keeps impurities from damaging the inside of your engine. How does that help you on a daily basis? Replacing a clogged or dirty air filter can improve your car’s gas mileage by as much as 10 percent. A clogged air filter leaves your engine gasping for breath, in other words you are probably running with a “rich” mixture that is more gas and less air. Many auto stores carry air filters, and thankfully they are simple to change. Not sure if your filter needs changing? Take it out and hold it up to the light. If you can’t see any light coming through, it’s too dirty. If you don’t trust yourself to replace it, ask a car expert to help you out. It’s worth it.

Why? The iphone’s map not only shows you the best and fastest route from A to B, but also has the option of showing you hoe trafficked that route is at that moment. By choosing routes with less traffic you not only will arrive to your destination faster, but you will also minimize the excessive stop and go gas use.

Why? Idling is one of the best ways to burn through lots of gas and get absolutely nothing out of it. And where do we spend idle time the most? The Drive-thru. Instead of polluting the planet and wasting gas, park your car, walk inside and order your food (if, that is, you must eat fast food in the first place). Getting up and stretching your legs will also do your body good, and maybe even the interior of your car- catching spills on the food tray instead of your seat.


Adrian Lindley /

Why? If your tires are low on air you could be consuming as much as 3 percent more gas. Why? Low tire pressure creates a slight drag on the pavement as your tires ease into the road with each rotation. Keep your tires properly inflated (but not overly inflated- which can be dangerous) and they will roll more easily, smoothly, and economically.

Now get out of town!

Article excerpted from

Travelwise: Sustainable travel in Malaysia

Village in Malaysia

Sustainable and responsible travel in Malaysia directly, or indirectly, benefits local communities throughout the country. (BBC)

When Rustam Roshandin got out of rehab, he wanted to do something with his life that would help recovering drug addicts like himself stay clean. He had no idea this desire would transform into the largest night bazaar in Kuala Lumpur.

KL Downtown Night Market now has 600 stalls, most of which employ former addicts who completed the same rehabilitation program Roshandin went through, and more than half are owned by recovering addicts. “It gives us a reason to stay clean and sober everyday,” Roshandin said.

The bazaar (open from 10 pm to 4 am) is a huge draw for tourists, he added, offering everything from local, handmade batik fabrics to street food to foot massages to five-minute haircuts. On weekends, the market invites local dancers and musicians to perform on its stage. A portion of all proceeds go to Kuala Lumpur’s Pengasih rehab centre.

Socially conscious businesses like KL Downtown are giving travellers the opportunity to do some good while on vacation. The timing is great, say responsible tourism advocates, because demand for sustainable travel in Malaysia is on the rise.

“Over the last couple of years, there has definitely been an upswing,” said Deborah Chan, programme manager of Wild Asia, a Malaysia-based NGO dedicated to promoting responsible tourism throughout Asia. Tour operators vouch for the increase in sustainable travel. Responsible Travel, a UK-based travel agency selling sustainable holiday packages, reports a 23 percent increase in customers buying trips to Malaysia from 2009 to 2010. “In particular we’re seeing an increase in travellers opting for orangutan based holiday experiences in Malaysia – Borneo in particular,” said communications manager Krissy Roe.

Locally, the award-winning tour operator Borneo Ecotours is finding the same trend. The company says that ecotourism attracts many people from Europe and the UK who want to learn about Malaysia’s natural history. “You have to be careful, though,” warned assistant general manager Susan Soong. “A lot of companies are into greenwashing. They are more marketing sustainability than practicing it. So it’s a bit important to know who you are [buying from].”

That is part of the reason that Wild Asia hosts the Responsible Tourism Awards each year – to support businesses that practice what they preach.

This past year, one of the winners was the Frangipani Langkawi eco-resort, located in the northwestern part of the peninsula in Kedah. The resort and spa offers a luxury getaway of beach relaxation in beautiful villas with private terraces. Nearby eco-activities abound, with chances for snorkelling, rainforest treks and island hopping. Travellers can feel good about staying here, too, since the hotel’s mantra is conservation. Frangipani implements a rainwater recycling system to water its sustainable gardens and uses solar panels to reduce energy use.

For travellers seeking adventure, Malaysia’s stunning wildlife lends itself to many opportunities for sustainable travel. Sea turtle lovers can visit the Ma’Daerah Turtle Sanctuary in Terengganu or Malacca’s Padang Kemunting Turtle Hatchery. Or, take a reforest trip and find endangered elephants at the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary or endangered guar (wild cattle) at the Seladang-Gaur Wildlife Conservation Center.

Local food enthusiasts may be more interested in agricultural tourism. Farms such as Kahang Organic Rice Eco Farm feature tours, activities and accommodations. Kahang, which produces rice, vegetables, fruits, herbs and seafood, has tours of its rice fields, prawn harvests and wild duck sanctuary. It also hosts trips for nearby mountain climbing, bamboo rafting and boat riding. Accommodations range from floating chalets amid rice fields to simply camping. If you are really committed to sustainable farming, Kahang is a great place to volunteer. Volunteers learn farming practices and work eight hours a day for a minimum of 10 days; meals are included.

It is also possible to support local communities just by shopping. In Kuala Lumpur, the Salaam Wanita eco-basket making project is a social enterprise through which local women living below the poverty line seek economic independence. The women are highly skilled in the local art of basket weaving. Interestingly enough, the beautiful baskets, boxes and totes they make are actually crafted from recycled magazines.

Even without embarking on an eco-trip, said Wild Asia, tourists can travel responsibly by merely exercising common sense. “In hotels, switch off lights and re-use linens,” advises Chan. “And respecting local cultures is also a big thing. In [some] provinces it’s not appropriate to dress skimpily, in a bikini for example… And if you go on a tour that brings tourists in to indigenous tribes, don’t walk into someone’s home without asking permission.”

From shopping to eating to sleeping, almost everything you do on vacation can involve a sustainable element. For a list of socially conscious tour operators in Malaysia, visit

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5 green hotels for business travelers

… welcome to the seventh installment of “Home is where the office is,” a special springtime series of posts celebrating the roughly 20 million members of the American workforce who shuffle to their dens, spare bedrooms, kitchen tables, mom caves or backyard office pods at least once a week to perform what would otherwise be performed in a soulless office block miles away.

Having tackled the basic necessities — desks, task chairs, lamps, supplies, and storage systems — needed to outfit an eco-friendly home workspace, this week, like last week when I covered laptop/messenger bags, the focus is on those very special occasions when work-from-homers put on pants (!) and venture outside of the home.

Today, I’m spotlighting a few hotel brands — ranging from LEED-certified extended stay options to eco-design-y hotspots — where traveling, green-minded work-from-homers will feel right at home. Sure, a comfortable bed, business amenities, and a substantial continental breakfast may trump dual-flush toilets, discounted hybrid parking, and vintage furnishings when it comes to booking a place to crash during work-centric trips. But thanks to serious greening initiatives within the hospitality industry, eco-conscious business travelers looking to stay at a hotel that’s just as green or greener than home, there are now plenty of options.

Below are my top five picks for mostly affordable, design-conscious hotel brands where going green is a lot more involved than a “leave your towels on the floor if you want them changed” placard in the bathroom. This work-from-homer has even spent the night at or dined in a couple of properties on the list. Do you have a favorite eco-friendly hotel that you stay at when traveling for work? Tell me about it in the comments section!

Element by Westin (Nine North American locations including New York City, Houston, Las Vegas, Omaha, Lexington, Mass.)

With locations primarily in suburban areas and near airports (a notable exception is the new Times Square West location which I recently had the pleasure of crashing at for the night), Element is a line of extended stay hotels with a twist: all locations are built “green from the ground up” to achieve LEED certification. No matter the duration of their stay, guests can expect to have a comfortable, eco-chic experience at Element — dubbed as parent company Starwood’s “green lab” — and enjoy unique green amenities/features like electric vehicle charging stations, recycling bins galore, amenity kitchens fully stocked with real glassware and utensils, and “Do Not Disturb” signs made from eco-friendly magnets instead of paper. And then, of course, there’s the presence of the oh-so-aptly named Westin Heavenly® Beds …

Andaz Hotels by Hyatt (London — Liverpool Street,  Los Angeles — West Hollywood, San Diego, New York — Wall Street, New York — 5th Ave)

Reflective of Hyatt’s impressive, brand-wide sustainability initiatives, Andaz Hotels — the company’s growing line of locale-celebrating boutique properties that are upscale but decidedly unpretentious — feature numerous eco-friendly perks. For starters, all Andaz guest rooms are of the Respire by Hyatt variety, meaning that they’re hypo-allergenic and subject to an intensive six-step process to ensure top-notch indoor air quality. In addition to numerous sustainable design elements and water- and energy-saving bells and whistles, restaurants within Andaz properties embrace the brand’s site-specific “kaleidoscope of culture” theme by offering organic, farm-fresh nibbles sourced from local purveyors.

Kimpton Hotels (Over 50 North American locations including San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Chicago, and New York City)

Eco-conscious travelers can rest easy at any boutique-y (read: trendy) Kimpton properties. After all, the company was a frontrunner in bringing sustainability to the hospitality biz. It all started with a greening campaign at San Francisco’s Hotel Triton (eco-friendliness aside, “busy” doesn’t even begin to describe the aesthetics of this joint) that eventually spread brand-wide with the employee-run EarthCare Program. Considered by many to be the gold standard of hotel greening initiatives, the mission of EarthCare is “to support a sustainable world, and reflect the values of our employees, guests, and investors, by using non-intrusive, high quality, eco-friendly products and services.” One of the many green perks of staying with Kimpton: At most properties, guests who pull up in a hybrid car will receive free or deeply discounted parking.

Home2 Suites by Hilton (Fayetteville, N.C., Salt Lake City/Layton UT; more than 75 locations planned including Baltimore and San Antonio)

Much like Element by Westin, Home2 Suites by Hilton is a green-minded mid-tier extended stay hotel concept ideal for business travelers looking to tread lightly on the planet. Guest bunking at Home2’s two existing properties — many more are the on the way — will find dual-flush toilets, EnergyStar appliances, recycling stations, recycled content carpeting by InterfaceFLOR, water-wise landscaping, chlorine-free swimming pools, and other eco-friendly features. Additionally, “hip and humble” Home2 Suites places an emphasis on hangin’ out (guests are encouraged to unwind in a comfy and communal ground-floor “Oasis” at each property) and workin’ out (along with swimming pools and exercise rooms, most properties will feature outdoor walking/jogging trails).

Ace Hotels (New York City, Palm Springs, Seattle, Portland, Ore.)

Popular, parodied, and Portland-based, Ace Hotels is in the business of transforming old, sometimes down-and-out buildings (halfway houses, old Howard Johnson motels, etc.) into boutique properties where all of the cool kids want to stay/play/work. Just call them Holiday Inns for hipsters. Although Ace targets a decidedly younger demographic, guests of all ages will appreciate the mini-chain’s focus on “bohemian, organic, and hip” design where recycled/eco-friendly materials and vintage/repurposed furnishings are incorporated into guest rooms and public spaces. Sadly, while guests can’t actually rent a vintage typewriter at one one the Ace’s four buzzy locations, they can borrow a turnable and a stack of thrift store vinyl. Or play bingo. And on a somewhat hyperbolic side note, the Ace Swim Club in Palm Springs is one of my favorite places that I’ve spent an afternoon at. Ever.

Other hotel chains with notable eco-initiatives: Fairmont Hotels & Resorts; Four Seasons Hotels & ResortsInterContinental Hotels Group; Joi de Vivre HotelsMarriott InternationalNYLO; Wyndham Hotels & Resorts.

For more eco-friendly lodging options, check out

Image credits: Element by Westin, Starwood Hotels & Resorts; Andaz, Hyatt Hotels; Hotel Triton, Kimpton Hotels; Home2 Suites, Hilton Worldwide; Ace Hotels.

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Green Getaways

A slow float through Utah’s canyons. A meditative moment on the Tibetan Plateau. A chance encounter with a hawksbill sea turtle. We looked into dozens of adventures and picked eight of the most tempting, responsibly-planned, low-impact journeys from some of…

A slow float through Utah’s canyons. A meditative moment on the Tibetan Plateau. A chance encounter with a hawksbill sea turtle. We looked into dozens of adventures and picked eight of the most tempting, responsibly-planned, low-impact journeys from some of the most forward-thinking tour operators. Most of these companies offset their emissions, and many of them reinvest a portion of their profits in conservation groups and other nonprofits, or use their purchasing power to foster community development. Some do both. All go well beyond recycling soda cans in their commitment to sustainability. Prices are per person, double occupancy.

Ladakh, India
Meditate in tranquil monasteries, trek over high passes, and meet local shepherds on a 21-day odyssey to one of the world’s most remote places: the dry, starkly beautiful Tibetan plateau. Life in Ladakh still revolves around ancient agricultural ways and small villages, though you might spot a solar panel here or a small water turbine there, thanks to recent projects by international aid groups. KE Adventure offers several trips to Ladakh; this one, Zanskar’s Wild West, isn’t the most strenuous but does follow a hardy trade route over 12 days on foot.

Standing on top of Mt. Kinabalu to watch the sun rise, lazing in jungle hot springs after a long trek, and spending a night in a traditional Malay village are all part of Intrepid Travel’s 22-day Borneo Adventure itinerary. On this jungle island, the company supports organizations that fight trade in illegal wildlife products and encourages villagers to live off the land without destroying it. The trip includes a look at conservation efforts—travelers visit hawksbill turtle nesting areas and an orangutan rehab center.

Get up close and personal with Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest on GAP Adventures’s 16-day Inland & Amazon tour. You’ll stay with a family from the Quichua tribe, canoe the Napo River (an Amazon tributary), and ride horseback in the jungle that stretches over the Andean foothills. Most of the country’s visitors flock to the Galapagos Islands, so you’ll have the lush mainland rainforests largely to yourself, though the government is trying to change that situation by encouraging more community-based tourism with Amazon tribes.

Manitoba, Canada
Polar bears may be among the early casualties of climate change—and their plight may teach us something about ourselves. On Natural Habitat Adventures’s six-day Classic Polar Bear Expedition, scientists from the World Wildlife Fund discuss climate change and polar bear life, while guests, safe in buggies, watch mothers tend to cubs and giant males brawl. On these outings, the tundra appears stark, but careful observation also reveals Arctic foxes and hares. Come evening, the Northern Lights flare across the sky.

San Juan River, Utah
Use gravity as your motor on a six-day rafting trip down Utah’s San Juan River organized by OARS. This stretch of the river meanders through crimson cliffs along the northern border of Monument Valley, and the long glide is interrupted by occasional rapids as well as hikes to ancient cliff dwellings. At night, camp on sandy banks under a sky thick with stars. All outfitters in this region follow the rules of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, including limits on the number of rafters plying the river, but OARS stands out for its offsets program and contributions to conservation projects.

After a disastrous experiment with large-scale, high-impact tourism, community-run lodges and services are now the norm in Kenya, and U.K.-based Journeys by Design arranges custom itineraries that sample some of the country’s best sustainable developments. A 12-day itinerary might start in a lava-rock lodge that sits amid fig orchards at Lake Naivasha; then move on to the Masai Mara, where millions of impala, zebra, buffalo, and wild cats roam the savanna; and culminate with a stay in a white-washed thatched cottage by the sea.

New Zealand
The South Island of New Zealand is a study of heady, pristine landscapes: farmsteads and charming towns, glacial lakes and misty mountains that drop precipitously to the sea. Adventure South’s Milford Wilderness bike tour takes you on a scenic ten-day journey from Christchurch to Milford Sound and back to Queenstown. Most days involve about six hours of cycling, but there’s time, too, for off-road hikes and a day in Queenstown reserved for more exhilarating pursuits, like bungee jumping and jet-boating.

The Nature Conservancy has worked with Panama’s indigenous communities for the past 22 years, training villagers to become guides and conservationists. The nonprofit now offers a peek behind the scenes on a ten-day trip jointly offered with Emerald Planet. Visitors amble the streets of the old colonial capital, spy exotic birds in a lush cloud forest, and kayak through mangrove swamps in a protected area established by the Conservancy. Staffers explain their work, while graduates of the program identify botanical wonders and introduce their guests to indigenous customs during village visits.

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10 New Eco-Friendly Travel Gadgets

1. Water-Powered Travel Alarm Clock

Photo: Courtesy of Bedol

From: Bedol

Price: $16

Why It’s Green: Tells time by using salted water; the device’s electrodes harvest energy from the liquid to fuel the nightstand-friendly gizmo’s simple digital LCD.

Why Buy: No batteries necessary, it’s small enough to stuff into any carry, and it’s especially easy and cost-effective to keep going the next time you’re cruising the coast of Sicily.

Practical Applications: Ensuring you’re prompt for massage appointments, walking tours, and naturally, dinnertime at Chateau Elan.

2. Solar-powered Battery

Name: Solio Magnesium Edition from Better Energy Systems

Price: $169.95

Why It’s Green: Fan-shaped solar panels can juice the portable power supply’s 3.7V rechargeable lithium ion battery. Long-lasting storage capacity provides an instant jolt up to one year later.

Why Buy: Universal adapters offer additional compatibility with digital cameras, cell phones, iPods, and PSPs, making it an all-purpose refueling solution.

Practical Applications: Keeping you from keeling over with boredom on transcontinental flights, on-call in emergency situations, and always just one GPS query away from a shortcut to Edinburgh Castle.

3. Photo Memory Card

Photo: Courtesy of Eye-Fi, Inc.

Name: Eye-Fi Explore from Eye-Fi Inc.

Price: $129.99

Why It’s Green: Shunning traditional prints and their chemical byproducts, this 2GB SD memory card stores hundreds of digital images instead. Automatic uploading to PC/Mac or picture-sharing sites via home network or Wayport Wi-Fi hotspot also nixes shipping waste, plus saves the time and energy you’d expend sorting and uploading manually.

Why Buy: Just turn on your camera to transfer scenes to desktop, online album, social network, or blog, and let friends and relatives ride shotgun on scenic detours. Optional location tagging adds geographic info when photos appear on Picasa or Flickr for quicker cataloguing.

Practical Applications: Eliminates film costs, saves time and energy.

4. Biodegradable Laptop

Photo: Courtesy of Asus

Name: Bamboo U6V-B1 from Asus

Price: $1,999

Why It’s Green: Clothed in resilient, biodegradable bamboo-wood trim, this svelte soon-to-be-released laptop will make an instant eco-fashion statement. Energy-efficient innards reduce CO2 emission and boost battery life without sacrificing environmental awareness.

Why Buy: Beyond its earth-conscious industrial design, it has a 2.53Ghz Core 2 Duo T9400 Processor, 256MB RAM, a GeForce 9300M graphics processor, and a 320GB hard drive suitable for Web surfing, word processing, and editing vacation snaps.

Practical Applications: Stows away easily on any voyage, letting you catch up on correspondence on the road, upload video diaries to YouTube, or play Peggle Nights from the veranda of your suite at the Four Seasons.

5. Ultimate Rechargable Battery

Photo: Courtesy of Moixa Energy Ltd.

Name: USB Cell from Moixa Energy Ltd.

Price: $20

Why It’s Green: These USB-powered rechargeables last for 500 charge cycles, so say goodbye to the 15 billion disposable alkaline batteries produced annually, and their toxic runoff.

Why Buy: Functions like your standard everyday AA battery. When empty, though, just pop the top to expose a USB connector, then connect to a laptop or other portable device to enjoy a quick refill.

Practical Applications: Powering in-flight movie marathons, mobile alarm clocks, and the odd automated German-to-English translator, so you need never again ask locals how to say, “Dude, where’s my bratwurst?“

6. Energy-Efficient External Hard Drive

Photo: Courtesy of SimpleTech

Name: [re]drive from SimpleTech

Price: $159.99

Why It’s Green: Built from bamboo and lightweight, recyclable aluminum, this external hard drive with Energy Star–qualified power adapter keeps files safe and guzzles less electricity. Its holistic approach even extends to recyclable packaging.

Why Buy: Virtually zero noise output, Turbo USB 2.0 speeds, and 500GB of archival space in which to cart along precious data or smuggle HD videos of wild times at Carnival.

Practical Applications: Avoid leaving home without your precious music collection, maps for your GPS, or all those episodes of Mad Men you’ve been meaning to see.

7. Solar-Powered Media Player

Photo: Courtesy of MediaStreet

Name: eMotion EM-SOL2GIG from MediaStreet

Price: $169

Why It’s Green: Harnesses the sun’s rays to enable music, movie, and photo playback; video game playing; and e-book reading. Plus, it acts as a portable charger for digital cameras, cell phones, PDAs, DVD players, and other lithium battery-powered electronic devices.

Why Buy: Makes a welcome pocket-size hub for all your multimedia content, provides emergency power relief and light, and even runs classic NES and GameBoy games.

Practical Applications: A Swiss Army knife’s worth of simultaneous functions. Example: recline by the pool to Coldplay’s dulcet tones while reading The Da Vinci Code before breaking to enjoy a couple rounds of Tetris or screen last week’s reality shows.

8. Solar-Powered Headset

Photo: Courtesy of Iqua

Name: 603 SUN from Iqua

Price: $69.99

Why It’s Green: The world’s first solar-powered Bluetooth headset translates sunbeams into infinite standby time and hours of active conversation given minimal exposure to natural light.

Why Buy: Stashes easily in your slacks, makes hands-free calling a snap, and presents an excellent excuse to get out and roam more.

Practical Applications: Phoning home to check on the kids while wandering Rome’s winding avenues, or leaving belated answering machine messages like “Call back next life—I’m on permanent vacation.“

9. Portable Eco-Friendly Speakers

Photo: Courtesy of Fashionation

From: Fashionation

Price: $14.95

Why It’s Green: Made from recycled cardboard, these minuscule 3.25-inch cardboardlike cubes let you blast music sans batteries by siphoning power from MP3 players themselves.

Why Buy: The lightweight, portable party-starters fold flat for easy transport and come in a rainbow of catchy colors. Connect them, and voilà—your digital music player immediately becomes a mobile boom box.

Practical Applications: Airing the perfect soundtrack for a lazy day by the beach or a romantic waltz beneath the tropical moonlight. It also makes a smart gift for the audiophile in your life.

10. Green Cell Phone

Photo: Courtesy of Nokia

Name: 3110 Evolve from Nokia

Price: $349.99

Why It’s Green: Not only is the phone constructed from more than 50 percent renewable biosourced plastics and sold in 60 percent recycled cardboard packaging, its efficient charger consumes up to 94 percent less power than Energy Star minimums.

Why Buy: Accidental tourists and hipsters alike will appreciate the tri-band GSM phone’s slick aesthetic and workmanlike design. Features include a five-way navigation key for easy control; 262,000-color screen; 1.3MP digital camera; microSD card storage expandability; FM radio; digital music player; and Bluetooth connectivity.

Practical Applications: GPRS/EDGE speeds enable brisk data and video transfer, with unlocked devices ready for calling in both North America and Europe.

Top 10 courtesy of

Plastic Water Bottles Shunned By Travelers, Airports

travelers turning away from plastic water bottles
Getty Images

Travelers are becoming increasingly eco-conscious, with many travelers and travel properties lessening their reliance on plastic water bottles.

In green gung-ho California, passengers at San Francisco International Airport’s refurbished Terminal 2 are being encouraged to refill their own water bottles at “hydration stations.”

That’s very nice of them, considering you can’t bring bottled water through security anyway.

The glorified water fountains, located after security, will dispense city tap water from “pristine Sierra snowmelt,” reports USA Today.

But the eco-friendliness doesn’t stop there.

Beginning last fall, visitors to Italy’s Cinque Terre were asked to pay one euro for reusable, metal flasks that could be refilled at public water fountains – with still or sparking chilled, filtered water. As The Telegraph reported, two million plastic bottles are discarded annually by the region’s 3 million visitors, with 400,000 being discarded in August alone.

Hotels, too, are going bottle free.

Chilean travel company Explora purifies and treats its own water, also providing guests at its three adventure lodges with refillable metal flasks. The flasks can be filled with filtered water available in guest rooms and on daily excursions.

At RockResorts, guest rooms are stocked with refillable glass bottles of filtered water thanks to the “Water on the Rocks” program. Guests can also purchase a reusable BPA-free plastic or stainless steel water bottle to fill at water stations around their resort. The program is expected to eliminate the waste of 640,000 plastic bottles.

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Top 10 reasons why sea turtle watching is a good family activity

This post was contributed by Brad Nahill, Co-Founder of SEE Turtles and SEEtheWILD.  I met Brad during last year’s Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC).  Brad started SEE Turtles with Dr. Wallace J. Nichols in 2007 to build the market for sea turtle conservation tourism.

Since its launch in 2008, the project has generated more than $200,000 in support for turtle conservation and nearby communities, educated millions about turtle conservation travel, and our volunteers have filled more than 1,000 shifts at turtle nesting beaches.  Brad co-founded SEEtheWILD in 2011 to offer travel experiences that support wildlife conservation efforts.

Below is Brad’s Top 10 List for why sea turtle watching is a great family eco-activity:

10. Sea turtles don’t bite (and if they try, they are easy to get away from).

9. They are easy to spot since we know when and where they are nesting in places like Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Southeastern United States.

8. Sea turtles are endangered and visiting their nesting beaches can help to protect them by providing income to conservation groups local communities.

7. Watching turtle hatchlings scurry to the water is better than any cartoon, video game, or nature show.

6. The beach where turtles lay their eggs are warm and most have great waves for body surfing and nearby places to snorkel.

5. Giant leatherback turtles are Earth’s last living dinosaur more than 6 feet long and up to 1,000 pounds or more!

4. A few turtle nesting beaches in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico, and India have “arribadas” where thousands of olive ridley turtles nest at one time.  Imagine that photo!

3. For older kids (16+), some turtle projects offer families the opportunity to play marine biologist and volunteer for several nights helping collect information and protect the eggs.

2. In places where turtles are well protected like Hawaii, you can swim near green turtles and watch how graceful they are in the water.  (Remember not to touch them!)

1. Your kids can watch a turtle laying its eggs at night (without lights) without bothering the turtle (they go into a trance while laying).

All photos by Neil Osborne

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7 Must-Have Phone Apps for Green Travelers

lonely planet iphone travel app photo
Image: iTunes

Forget the atlas, the train schedule, the guidebook, and the local restaurant guide: All you need to travel green in 2011 is your smartphone — and a few handy apps.

From city guides that let you leave the books behind to calculators that tell you exactly how many offsets you’ll need to buy when you get home, these are the seven apps that green travelers shouldn’t leave home without.

1. Lonely Planet

A solidly researched, well-written guidebook is an indispensable part of international travel — just ask the couple spending one day in Paris who didn’t know that the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays — but it can also be a pain to haul around (not to mention the carbon footprint of all that paper and ink).

Lonely Planet apps give you detailed guides to cities all over the world, from Hong Kong and London to Washington D.C. and Barcelona (oh yeah — and Paris).

2. Velo

velo bike travel app photo
Image: iTunes

It used to be that international travelers needed a handy guide to cab stands and car rental services, but with Velo all you need is an iPhone and your two feet.

The app is designed to help you find bike sharing locations throughout cities including Paris, Brussels, and Luxembourg; green dots show you where bikes are available for pickup, and red ones show you where you can leave the bike you’re riding. It’s faster and greener than driving, and offers unparalleled ways to see your city.

3. iTrans

itrans iphone travel app photo
Image: iTunes

If you’re traveling within the United States, the iTrans app lets you trade expensive, unreliable cabs for trips on the public transportation systems of major cities — New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Chicago (among others).

The app lets you stay up to date with service outages, timetables, and transfers, and even offers walking directions to get you from where you are to where you want to go.

4. Find Green

find green iphone travel app photo
Image: 3rd Whale

Formerly 3rd Whale Mobile, the Find Green app has all the same sustainability insights you need when you’re on the road, from the closest organic restaurants to the nearest local brewery. And since many of the businesses are submitted — and rated– by users, you’re really taking advantage of a ton of local knowledge (which is the best kind).

The Live Green tab also includes “crowdsourced sustainable living tips with quantified benefits of how much energy, emissions, water, waste and money you’ll save doing them.” (Though 3rd Whale says the app is available for the iPhone, we couldn’t find it in the iTunes store; however, Find Green did show up in the Android Market.)

5. iLocate Vegan Restuarants

ilocate vegan restaurants photo
Image: iTunes

Finding a restaurant that offers something more than chain-spot hamburgers, limp salads, and overpriced pie is hard enough — finding a vegan restaurant can be even tougher unless you have iLocate Vegan Restaurants on your side.

You can put in your zip code or find nearby restaurants using your GPS — and then sit back and tuck in for a meat-free meal complete with maps and directions.

6. Locavore

locavore iphone travel app photo
Image: iTunes

You may know what’s in season in November in your home state of California, but do you know what you’re looking for when you visit your parents for the holidays? And maybe you’re an East Coaster who thinks citrus is blooming year-round in Florida — is that true?

Locavore helps you see what’s in season wherever you are, and even helps direct you to the nearest farmers market, for those chefs cooking while on vacation.

7. Twavel

twavel green travel app photo
Image: iTunes

Keeping track of your carbon footprint while you’re on the road can be tiring — you end up just guesstimating, and then you buy carbon offsets when you get home (or maybe you just forget).

But with Twavel, you can see just how important those individual choices are: The app lets you total up your travel plans as you you go, and then keeps a running total of your carbon footprint that it compares to other users. Plus, the handy community page lets you set up a carpool or find like-minded walkers in your area.

Article excerpted from

Go Green – Go Paris


The chic city of Paris in France is aiming to improve its green credentials with ten top planning firms submitting ideas on how Paris will look in 2030.

The designs for Paris were submitted to the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, who aims to steer the city to becoming the most environmentally sustainable city in the world. The ideas submitted will form part of a new exhibition, “Le Grand Paris” which has just opened at the City of Architecture and Heritage Museum.

In the coming years Paris could be sporting an abundance of greenhouses and rooftop gardens and could be powered by wind and solar energy.

Article excerpted from

Water beds: a luxury ecolodge in the Cambodian rainforest

There’s more to Cambodia than beaches and temples. A luxury waterborne ecolodge offers a wilderness break in style.

Four Rivers Lodge
Four Rivers Lodge on its idyllic bend in the Tatai.

It’s pitch black as I set off tentatively in my kayak, the starless sky merging seamlessly into the inky river. The only sound is of my paddle in the water and a faint chirping of cicadas. Suddenly the darkness is broken – a tree decorated in a thousand fairy lights is frantically flickering on the riverbank.

“It’s the firefly disco,” says Chilly, my guide, pointing at the twinkling display.

I am, it’s fair to say, in the middle of nowhere. This is the Tatai river, east of Koh Kong, in the southern reaches of Cambodia‘s Cardamom mountains. Half-way between Bangkok and Phnom Penh, this is a pristine area of rainforest and coastal mangroves that barely features on the tourist trail.

What’s more I’m camping – though it’s not exactly pop-up tent and baked beans. I’m staying at the Four Rivers Floating Lodge, which takes glamping to a whole new extreme.

The spacious tents at Four Rivers
The spacious tents at Four Rivers.

The brilliant idea of Romanian owner Valentin Pawlik, the entire resort is waterborne. You get here by boat, arriving at one of a series of floating wooden platforms. A central pontoon houses bar, restaurant and library. There are 12 huge and super-luxurious South African safari tents (six more are planned), with private decks and sunloungers, double-sinked en suite bathrooms, and flatscreen TVs and DVD players that seem a tad incongruous in the heart of the jungle. But, hey, this is wilderness in style.

It’s all very eco-friendly too – largely solar-powered, and staffed mostly by locals – so you needn’t have a guilty conscience. Move it away and there’d be little sign that it had ever existed.

Leaving the fireflies to party I paddle slowly back home and feast on spicy shrimp and freshwater fish with coconut, cooked in banana leaves, before heading for a blissful night’s rest, lulled to sleep by the gentle bobbing of the water.

Most visitors to Cambodia flock to the revitalised capital of Phnom Penh further east, and the temples around Siem Reap in the north. This coastal region, part of the Koh Kong Conservation Corridor, is home to some of the country’s most impressive natural sights. The long civil war kept developers and loggers at bay, and the potential for ecotourism is huge (although the threat of hydroelectric power plants looms).

Four Rivers, with its gorgeous setting on a bend in the river, is magical at all times of day – misty in the morning, glowing at sunset and prettily lit up after dark – and as tranquil a place as you could wish for. I spend much of my time here kayaking through the mangrove maze (spotting those fireflies, and watching monkeys gather at the water’s edge at dusk), swimming in the river from steps outside my tent (a pool is planned) and visiting waterfalls, where the pounding torrent gives a great back massage.

There are excursions into the jungle, led by a former poacher, to spot wildlife and to visit villages and fruit plantations (overnight camping is a new option too). As I’m here at the end of the rainy season, when leeches and mud make trekking treacherous, we take a boat downstream instead. Thick mangrove forests line the banks, and dolphins can sometimes be spied in the estuary opening on to the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Kong island appears on the horizon, an as yet undeveloped paradise with pristine beaches and untouched rainforest.

Village life on Koh Sra Lau.
Village life on Koh Sra Lau.

We stop at Koh Sra Lau, an island with one tiny fishing village, and wander around while women sit mending nets and offer us fried fish with tamarind sauce and papaya. There’s no tourist fatigue here, just friendly welcomes. A little boy grabs my hand and leads me to the village school, where children proudly sweep the classroom before the teachers appear.

I’m keen to explore more, so the next day head to Chi Phat village, and a community-based project started by conservation charity Wildlife Alliance in the Southern Cardamoms Protected Forest. It aims to preserve the rainforest by helping villagers earn a living from ecotourism, instead of illegal logging or hunting endangered animals, and giving tourists a unique green adventure. It’s a winding bus journey down to the port town of Andoung Tuek and a two-hour boat ride along Phipot river to the village. There are several guesthouses, but I choose a homestay on the outskirts of town with Chou and her young family, who sit underneath the stilted wooden house, a cow curled at their feet like a pet dog. A far cry from the luxuries of Four Rivers it may be, but it’s clean, comfortable and a great way to see everyday village life.

Chi Phat is all about outdoor adventure: you can trek or cycle into jungle and mountains for days at a time, sleeping in hammocks or rustic campsites, go birdwatching, take boat trips or check out the nearby bat caves and an area dotted with mysterious ancient burial jars. I sign up for a 28km mountain bike tour to O’Malu waterfall. Crossing grassy plains and traditional farmland, we follow Lucky – a 23-year-old from the village who’s been trained in everything from bike maintenance to wildlife spotting – up steep paths through the tangled jungle, with gibbons calling high overhead. It’s a challenging ride in parts (yep, I end up on my bum in a puddle at one point) but jumping into the cool pool at the base of the waterfall is a great reward.

There’s no one else around as we tuck into lunch, sitting on rocks in the sunshine, surrounded by rainforest, the waterfall roaring. Marvellous though the sights of Angkor Wat and the buzz of Phnom Penh are, I can’t help thinking that it’s Cambodia’s more remote natural attractions that offer the best adventure – and one it would be a shame to miss.

Article excerpted from

Eco-tourism village to make Indonesian history

Habitat for Humanity Indonesia today announced it is partnering with Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) to create Habitat’s first eco-tourism village of more than 420 homes and guest accommodations near some of Indonesia’s most picturesque ancient temples.

The development will take place in the village of Soran, located near the famous Prambanan Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built around 850 AD. The village is also located near Mount Merapi, the nation’s most famous volcano, which erupted last year.

Soran has a long tradition of creating music and crafts, but 60 percent of families there live below the poverty line.

The project will improve housing for most villagers, while establishing a sustainable, eco-friendly hospitality business built on the community’s historic cultural traditions. The development will share the area’s natural and cultural treasures with the world by creating accommodations for tourists who wish to tour the sacred temples, visit nearby natural landmarks or enjoy the cultural performances.

“This is the first Habitat project in the world that creates shelter and economic opportunity for an entire community, and it is precisely the kind of project needed to combat Indonesia’s poverty,” said James Tumbuan, National Director of Habitat for Humanity Indonesia. “This unique program not only improves housing for most of the community, it also allows Soran villagers to economically benefit from the art and culture they have preserved for centuries, and to share it with the world.”

Aida Greenbury, sustainability managing director for APP, said the company’s support of the project is part of APP’s ongoing commitment to preserving Indonesia’s national treasures – both natural and cultural.

“The Soran project will help the world better understand Indonesian culture by making it more accessible to international visitors,” she said. “It will protect national treasures while creating sustainable economic opportunities. We are proud to add Soran to our list of commitments. With it, we plant another seed that will flourish into lasting prosperity for the nation and the world.”

The three-year project will outfit family homes with additional space and facilities to accommodate eco-tourists who visit the historic Central Java area. The homes will have either:

– Guest quarters where visitors can sleep.
– Laundry facilities to wash guests’ clothes and bedding.
– Expanded kitchen facilities where guest meals can be prepared.
Homes will also be made earthquake-proof and 20 percent of APP’s annual contribution to the project is being set aside for ongoing disaster relief.

While details of the development initiatives are still being finalized with community members, the initial plan is to train more than 250 villagers to operate eco-tourist accommodations:

– 50 villagers will be trained on laundry management.
– 100 villagers will be trained to properly prepare traditional foods for visitors.
– 100 families will be trained on cultural performance and marketing traditional arts.

In addition, several hundred villagers will be trained in disaster risk mitigation.

“Our husbands are farmers and laborers. But I want my children to go to the university,” said Partini (many Indonesians only use one name), a Soran resident. “As a housewife, I can do crafts and arts. Sometimes, housewives practice [the traditional performance art of] gejog lesung. But we don’t know how to make gejog lesung into a money tree or make our crafts marketable. I hope this program can help me and others improve our family incomes. We will work hard since we all share the same dream: moving forward.”

Work has been expected to begin on the new development last year, but was delayed because of Merapi’s eruption. Soran was covered in volcanic dust, but villagers completed a cleanup with the help of cleanup kits and cleaning materials donated by APP. As with all of its programs, Habitat Indonesia will engage community leaders, local stakeholders, and the villagers themselves in all stages of the development – from planning through construction.

Article excerpted from

Green getaways

With so much awareness surrounding simple ways to achieve a greener lifestyle, it was only a matter of time before eco-friendly holidays were created for a niche market. Whether it’s a tree house getaway in Sweden or a tipi tent escape in Cornwall, there are now holidays which cater for all Earth lovers.

The first problem many face in their venture for a green friendly holiday are the transport options, especially when it comes to air travel, which is essential for overseas holidays but is notorious for increasing carbon footprints.

However, websites like J.P Morgan Climate Care can help lessen the impact flying can have on your individual carbon emission. The site features a calculator which can calculate carbon emission for most flights around the globe.

Tipi tents makes camping relaxing. Photo: Shea Gunther

There is also the option to offset the carbon emission by paying a small sum which goes toward helping projects around the world.

These projects focus on reducing harmful emissions in other countries, such as supplying wind power in Shangdong, and more efficient stoves in Uganda. This means that guilt-free flying is in full force.

The first, and probably most unique “green holiday” out there is the Tree Hotel in Sweden. It opened in July 2010 and offers a tranquil retreat from the chaos of the outside world.

Set deep in the heart of the Swedish forest, the hotel offers its guest the chance to stay in a one-of-a-kind room: “We have a group of unique rooms created in harmony with nature, and with our ecological values. They are all set in the forest where we live, a refinement of the local conditions. “Dig where you stand” as the saying goes,” they state on their website.

The rooms vary from the amply named “bird nest”, a room nestled high in the treetops camouflaged by sticks and branches, to the “mirror-cube” which gives guests beautiful views of the untarnished forest through a one-way mirror.

If slumming it in a tent, which inevitably means waking up with a face full of canvas, isn’t your thing, maybe a holiday in a traditional tipi could tempt you. Many companies are branching out offering these as an alternative to the usual camping holidays, with tipirent offering ‘tenting’ solutions with a little more charm.

Tipi’s can be a home away from home, with most offering firebowls, eco-friendly, smokeless firelogs and authentic Moroccan lanterns.

TipiRent can deliver authentic tipis to anywhere in the South of England; just tell them where you would like your campsite and they do all the work. From arranging transport, to making sure your tipi is pitched when you arrive, TipiRent equals a no-hassle holiday.

As more and more companies latch on to the idea of green holidays, creating getaways for eco-warriors, travelling around the world doesn’t have to mean destroying it.

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Sabah is world’s top eco-tourism spot

Rainforest at Danum Valley (photo by Cede Prudente)

Rainforest at Danum Valley (photo by Cede Prudente)

Sabah, Malaysia—The Malaysian state of Sabah has further bolstered its image as the world’s eco-tourism haven with the recent discovery of new wildlife species and its increased tourist arrivals.

The discovery, made by the Heart of Borneo project of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, found 123 new exotic species, 67 plants, 29 invertebrates, 17 fish, five frogs, three snakes, two lizards, and a brand new species of bird.

Most of these animals are found in Sabah, which occupies the northern part of Borneo, the world’s third biggest island.

Incepted in 2007, the project aims to conserve the rainforests of Borneo Island, which scientific estimates place at 130 million years old, the oldest in the world, and is home to ten species of primates, more than 350 birds, 150 reptiles and amphibians, 10,000 endemic plants, and 10% of the world’s known orchid species.

The Heart of Borneo project hopes to conserve 220,000 square kilometers of rainforest, described by noted evolution scientist Charles Darwin as “one great luxuriant hothouse made by nature for herself.”

The undertaking is supported by the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei which share Borneo.

Sabah boasts of 70,097 hectares of wildlife, bird and marine sanctuaries, 909,401 hectares of forest reserves, and 265,749 hectares of parks, including coral reefs, which are well managed by the state government agencies.

According to Hector Ceballos-Lascurain, ecotourism consultant to the United Nations, the new findings will further strengthen Sabah’s position as a prime ecotourism destination.

Wildlife studies made by the National Geographic revealed that 10 square kilometers of Sabah has more flora and fauna than North America and Europe combined. The state also belongs to the Coral Triangle, comprised mostly of Southeast Asian nations, which is the center to three-quarters of the world’s marine biodiversity.

On the tourism front, the Malaysian state was ranked as one of Southeast Asia’s top 10 tourist spots in 2009, with 5.4 million tourist arrivals, and took second spot in Global Traveler Tested Awards’ list of best travel destinations.

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah’s capital city, is host to the 75,370-hectare Mt. Kinabalu Park, home of Southeast Asia’s tallest peak and a Unesco World Heritage Site, as well as the marine parks of Tunku Adbul Rahman and Pulau Tiga.

Meanwhile, the eastern city of Sandakan has been dubbed Sabah’s nature city because of its nature-oriented attractions such as the Sepilok Urang Utan Rehabilitation Center, the Rainforest Discovery Center, Gomantong Cave, Tabin Wildlife Reserve, and the Maliau Basin and Danum Conservation Areas.

Also in the city is the Turtle Islands Park, one of the world’s most important nesting areas of sea turtles because of the massive conservation efforts by the Sabah Wildlife Department. Composed of three small islands, it is situated near the waters of the southern Philippine province of Tawi-Tawi, where the Turtle Islands Heritage Protected Area (TIHPA) was formed in 1997, the world’s only trans-frontier protected area for sea turtles.

Sources at the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) say that the TIHPA has been inactive for the past seven years, and they are looking forward to reactivating it with their Philippine counterparts.

Sandakan’s iconic tourist spot is the 540-kilometer long Kinabatangan River in Sukau district which has the largest concentration of wildlife in all of Malaysia. A favorite site for wildlife watching and photography, it is habitat to tropical animals such as hornbills, various bird species, proboscis monkeys, and the Bornean pygmy elephant, the world’s smallest elephant species.

Sandakan will also host the second International Bird Festival in October which will gather bird watchers and conservationists from all over Asia to determine collaborative efforts to conserve the remaining endemic species in the region.

Cognizant of its biodiversity, the SWD recently set up the Wildlife Rescue Unit to undertake wildlife rescue and translocation operations throughout the state. The first of its kind in the country, it will also carry out enforcement, monitoring, and liaison with the stakeholders such as WWF Malaysia and the plantation sector.

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Top 10 Greenest Countries

Recently, you’ve probably heard all about “going green” and how it seems to be the new fad.  A lot of people from all different parts of the world are doing their part in order to keep the earth healthy. More and more people are switching to behavior that is safer for the earth: they are driving hybrid cars, using solar and wind power, recycling, and cleaning with “green” products.

While one person going green doesn’t make much of a difference, there are whole countries that have upped their efforts in order to reduce their impact on the environment. Some of these countries may be more motivated because they are witnessing the effects of global warming first hand. For example, Norway, just like many of the other Arctic nations, has experienced a higher average temperature by 5.2 degrees, and glaciers and snow-covered slopes have been melting for years.

Below is a list of ten countries that have set the stage to creating a “greener” earth. All of these countries in some way or another have found ways to reduce their carbon and sulfur emissions, which leads to cleaner air and water. The list is based on each country’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI) rating which is provided by Yale University. For the complete list, visit

10. Colombia – 76.8

European countries dominate the EPI list and Colombia is one of the few countries from the Americas green enough to rank. While you may not hear too many news stories about Colombia, you may have heard all about the deforestation that was going on in the country due to oil palm plantations as well as those who were illegally selling coca through the country. Because of this, the country was starting to become known for its violence and political strife, but somehow, Colombia has taken the negative as a learning lesson and begun to turn things around for the better of the country as well as the earth.

It is said that Colombia is home to 10% of various species found throughout the world. Scientist have also discovered that it may be home to as many as 10 new amphibious species, including the orange-legged rain frog  as well as transparent-skinned glass frogs.  With this in mind, the Colombian government has made efforts to turn the country into one that is eco-friendly. To do so, numerous national parks, some including native medicinal plants, have been opened, one of the most notable being the Orito Igni-Ande Medicinal Flora Sanctuary. Also, architects in Colombia have put down the steel and started to use bamboo, which they say is just as durable and reliable as a means to building structures. Even fashion has gone green in Colombia: designer Maria Nubia Ayala has created a line of clothing using leaves and flowers.

9. Cuba – 78.1

Though many don’t agree with the communist government leading Cuba, those who are urging people to become environmentally friendly just may have a warm spot in their heart for the Cuban government. Despite being known as a government that demands full control, it seems as though that stronghold has been weakened and that the government has decided to focus a lot of attention on the many ways of transforming the country into one that is greener. Cuba has never been a country that has been extremely harsh to the environment. Most who live in the country either travel by bicycle or foot, and many make their money by selling crops and raising livestock. However, there have been times when illegal pesticides were used as well as land that was abandoned.

To fix this, the country has put forth effort to reuse farm land, decrease the use of harmful pesticides, and to lower the sea level to ensure that salt from the water does not ruin the rich soil. Cuba has also decided to only use organic products on all farms. On the other hand, while other countries may focus on wind or nuclear energy, Cuba has decided to put a lot of effort and money into using hydroelectric energy. In 2008, the country began connecting many homes and businesses located in Guamá to a hydroelectric power station. Once it is all said and done and the 30 rivers located near or in Guamá are used, almost 7,000 people will have clean electricity.

8. Austria – 78.1

Though Austria doesn’t have many problems when it comes to being green and environmentally friendly, they have found very unique ways to ensure that their country is going green. The 2010 Winter Olympics were just one place where Austria planted its green footprint. To house the Austrian Olympic Committee as well as several broadcasters, the country built a “passive house” in Whistler, B.C. The passive house doesn’t use cooling or heating systems. In fact, it is self-regulatory and is able to heat and cool when necessary. This happens through a system that was designed keeping air-circulation, thermal heat, and high efficiency windows in mind. It is said that these passive houses use only 10% of the energy used in a common Canadian home. As of now, there are 17,000 of these homes built throughout Europe.

Most recently, Austria has teamed up with the Czech Republic in order to plant various eco-friendly gardens across the border between the two countries. There are already 330,000 gardens in Austria and 6,800 of them are natural and eco-friendly. Most of these gardens contain fruit trees, flowers, and even herbs. There are no pesticides used to treat the gardens; in fact, Austria doesn’t have to put in a lot of effort to keep the gardens looking beautiful. They use natural compost and rely on the rain for a source of water. Photo: Passive House, Whistler BC,

7. France – 78.2

France is earning a reputation as an eco-friendly country.  France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy has been pushing for legislation that will conserve energy, as well as the environment. Some plans that Sarkozy has laid out include renovating all existing buildings to conserve energy, reducing greenhouse emissions by 20% in 2020, increasing the renewable energy rate from 9% to 20-25%, increasing organic farming, and creating an organization that will solely focus on reviewing and testing genetically modified crops. Along with all of this, sometime in the future, France plans to be home to a lot of nature reserves.

Though it seems like France is depending on a lot of hopeful proposals, it has actually made progress.  France now gets 80% of its electricity from the use of nuclear power.  Alès, a commune in France, is said to be one of the greenest locations in the country. The commune is home to one of only three buildings that utilizes solar panels as a means for energy. To encourage the use of solar panels, the country offers a reduction in taxes if a homeowner decides to use solar energy in their home. Outside of homeowners, France as a whole has decided to utilize more wood and straw bales; that’s right, straw bales to construct. It is said that straw bales are very sturdy, eco-friendly, renewable, and even provide for great thermal insulation. And no you can’t huff and puff and blow those structures down. Photo: Flickr, Jon’s Pics.

6. Mauritius – 80.6

The country of Mauritius is an island off the coast of Africa and east of Madagascar. Though not everyone has heard of this small country, Mauritius may make a bold impact when it comes to going green. Finance Minister Rama Sithanen has decided that now is the time to ensure that the island is eco-friendly and promotes green practices. For one, the country wants to focus on recycling and finding ways to reuse items. This includes burning solid waste instead of storing or dumping it somewhere. Sithanen also wants to rely on renewable and cleaner types of energy. Because of its location, Mauritius could probably make good use of the water it is surrounded by, especially for air conditioning in homes and buildings.

As of now, the country is focusing on wind power and using sugar cane plants to create fuel, especially for boilers. However, the process of going green is definitely much harder for the country, as there are limited resources that can be used. Though Mauritius does have resources, a lot of the items that are used are imports from other countries.

5. Norway – 81.1

By 2030, Norway hopes to be a country that is carbon neutral. This means that the country plans to find ways so that there are no greenhouse gases emitted. This seems like a very steep goal as Norway is heavily reliant upon its oil rigs for export as well as for a source of energy. To achieve their goal, the government will be making big purchases of carbon offsets.  But, before 2030 comes, the country also plans to cut its total emissions to 40%. Besides just focusing on reducing the amount of carbon put into the air, Norway has also planned to set aside large amounts of money to put towards other green-friendly ideas. For example, the country wants to focus heavily on utilizing railroads more, as well as finding an alternative source for fuel. Those who use diesel fuel will have to pay a higher fee for it. Outside of transportation, Norway hopes to have all businesses in the country run with flexible energy systems and from 2009 on, the use of oil-powered heating systems will be banned. The country will also focus on its great landscape, hoping to cut down on the amount of deforestation that takes place throughout Norway. The country is working closely with Sweden.

4. Sweden – 86.0

While the rest of the world deals with continuously fluctuating oil prices, Sweden has decided to make things a little easier for the country and its people by making a plan to phase out the use of fossil fuels by 2020; however, these efforts didn’t just begin. The change really started in the 1980s during the oil crisis. Efforts towards this new 2020 goal have already started and 28% of the energy and resources used in Sweden are renewable and eco-friendly. The country has really focused on the use of hydropower, nuclear power, and wind power to provide electricity and other necessities throughout Sweden.

One major way Sweden is going green is by using every piece of their forests. Though the trees are often used for various lumber projects, there is usually sawdust left behind. The government has decided that the sawdust can be manufactured into wood pellets, which are then sold to homeowners. The wood pellets are then used to generate heat. Sweden has also decided to cut back on the amount of fuel needed for transportation. Instead, many citizens in Sweden now power their cars using methane, which is taken from the entrails of cows. Seems a little disgusting but it’s green and low cost. Along with this, companies have even taken going green into their own hands. Companies that require their employees to drive train them to drive eco-friendly, which includes moderate speeds and no fast stops or starts, which means less fuel burned. Photo:

3. Costa Rica – 86.4

Coming in at third on the list, Costa Rica is a country that has set very high goals in order to go green, and stay that way. By 2021, Costa Rica hopes to be one of the few, if not the only country in the world that is carbon neutral. At this point in time, the country already utilizes plenty of renewable resources, which is very eco-friendly as there are less greenhouse gases that are polluting the air and even the water.  The country’s location definitely acts as an advantage to them, as they don’t have to worry much about heating homes and buildings, seeing as how the country usually has temperatures ranging between 71-80 °F.

For decades, Costa Rica has been plagued with deforestation, but has made plenty of effort to reduce the amount of forest that is cut down and often abandoned. Because the country is very agricultural and known for its export of food, including corn and bananas, there is a great need for land to farm and produce these crops. However, the country has made use of the forest land and actually began to utilize the shade that is created by the canopy in order to successfully grow the necessary crops. This not only saves space, but greatly reduces the amount of pesticides used to protect the produce. Now Costa Rica is focusing on reforestation and building up the land that was ruined. In fact, the country planted over 5 million trees in 2008. This is not only in hopes to build up the forest, but to hopefully reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. Photo:

2. Switzerland – 89.1

Though the leader in 2008, Switzerland has fallen to second place on the Environmental Performance Index. Switzerland has a long, proven record of being eco-friendly and protecting the environment. For instance, in 1914, the country created the first Alpine park located in the Alps, and the tradition has carried on, as the country plans to build at least 20 more of these parks. Not only has Switzerland added eco-friendly parts to their country, they’ve also taken a few things away. In some cities, cars are not allowed. You will only find people walking or riding bicycles to get to where they need to go. While it may seem a little strict, the country has even imposed a fee for disposing of trash in the country, though it is only 1 euro.  There are also fees for using waste management services.

Not only is the government pushing for eco-friendly living, but even hotels are joining in with hopes to show that going green does have its benefits. For example, a very popular hotel in Switzerland, Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, offers discounts to those who arrive at the hotel in a hybrid car. To show their own efforts towards going green, the hotel had an entirely new heating system installed which is said to reduce its carbon output by 80% each year. The new heating system gets all of its energy from a nearby lake, as do many other hotels and even schools. Photo:

1. Iceland – 93.5

Said to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world, featuring glaciers, volcanoes, and even waterfalls, Iceland tops the list of being the greenest country. Though a pretty small island, said to be the size of Kentucky, Iceland has found a way to ensure that despite its size, it would be making a huge impact on becoming eco-friendly. Because of its location, Iceland has focused on using its geothermal landscape to utilize clean electricity and heat. The most commonly used source for heat and electricity is hydrogen, and the country hopes to become the first to be entirely reliant upon this energy source.  Not only will the hydrogen energy be used by homeowners and those who occupy buildings, it is also used for transportation. The government of Iceland has provided hydrogen-powered buses to ensure people can get to their destinations in an eco-friendly way.

To go along with the buses, Iceland has put a lot of focus on the Mercedes Benz A-Class F-Cell. This car is also fueled by hydrogen and can go up to 100 miles on a full tank. Though the country wasn’t always so green, having depended on imported coal for 70% of its energy, nowadays, Iceland can proudly say that only 18% of its energy sources come from coal, the other 82% is pure hydrogen and geothermal power. While it may seem like a tough goal, by 2050, Iceland’s minister of industry and energy, Össur Skarphédinsson, hopes to have the country be carbon and oil free.

Article excerpted from

Do Not Fly at Night

Flying during the day is greener and bluer.

airplane photo
Digital Vision/Getty Images

We all know that flying in an airplane takes a terrible toll upon the environment. Skipping one flight saves as much CO2 as going vegetarian for an entire year. And going vegetarian is one of the greenest things you can do in terms of CO2 savings.

But in this fast-paced, modern world, plane travel is almost unavoidable. Our society revolves around being able to transport ourselves and each other over vast distances. Until we can change the way the world works, we just have to make decisions that are more environmentally friendly and hope we get it all figured out before global warming does some serious damage.

One thing that you can do to reduce carbon emissions when traveling by plane is by booking a flight in the daytime instead of at night. Contrails left by airplanes at night have a greater impact on global warming than the ones left in the day.

From News in Science

At certain altitudes, aircraft produce contrails – condensation trails caused when the plane’s hot exhaust hits the chilly atmosphere.

These contrails have a surprisingly big but also complex effect on the climate.

Because they are clouds, they trap heat that is emitted by the Earth’s surface, creating a “greenhouse effect” that adds to warming.

Yet during daytime, these clouds have a cooling effect because they are white and thus reflect some of the Sun’s energy back into space.
As weird as it sounds, flying during the daytime can help reduce your carbon footprint. So if you have a choice of when you are going to fly, opt for the afternoon flight. It’s the greener way to fly.

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Ecotourism Threats: Are We Really Following Environmental Protection?

Many argue that ecotourism does not offer enough  environmental  protection.  In fact, some believe that ecotourism threats will actually damage the very environments that ecotourism strives to preserve.

Ecotourism Threats
One of the problems that ecotourism poses is the overall impact that ecotourism has on the environment. Ecotourism does not only impact the areas where travelers visit. It takes energy in the form of airplane fuel, bus or automobile fuel and/or boat fuel to reach remote areas. The resulting energy consumption is not always taken into consideration when looking at the effects of ecotourism. In a sense, ecotourism might be considered wasteful.

When tourists travel, they need places to stay or “stage” before they start their journey. This means clearing land, building facilities such as hotels and developing support industries. Even though these facilities may not be in the area that ecotourists spend most of their time, they still must be available. This could be added as an indirect negative to the environment.

Another threat ecotourism poses is that some of the ecosystems where ecotourists travel are extremely fragile. Over time, even small groups of people who strive to be as careful as possible can still have a negative impact and upset the local ecosystem.

Since some ecotourists want to observe the drama of nature, tours for these types of travelers are scheduled to coincide with breeding or hunting seasons. Again, this could prove to be disruptive to the natural cycle of life.

Another problem associated with ecotourism is that if the moneys generated by this type of tourism are mismanaged, the environment will be the victim. In addition, corruption and greed could add to a negative impact on a local ecosystem as well.

One of the tenants of ecotourism is to have as little impact on local cultures as possible. The reality of this is that once different peoples come into contact with each other, they are both affected. It can be argued that as the world becomes smaller with this merging of cultures, it is inevitable that even remote cultures will change through exposure to other peoples. Whether this is a negative or positive advance remains to be seen.

Article excerpted from

What is Green Travel?

Green, organic, eco-conscious, eco-friendly, responsible, sustainable, eco-tourism
In the past year, these environmental catchphrases have cropped up everywhere — in newspaper articles, online, in stores. But what do they all mean in the context of travel? Since these concepts are still in their formative stages, defining them is tricky. But we’ve compiled definitions from reputable sources and added our own two cents:

  • Eco-conscious travel Conscious means being aware of something. Eco means concerning the environment, so “eco-conscious travel” essentially means being aware of the environment, and your impact on the environment, when you travel.
  • Eco-friendly travel Again, eco relates to the environment and we all know what friendly means, so “eco-friendly travel” means being nice to and having little impact on the environment when you travel.
  • Eco-Tourism From our good friends at Ecotourism Australia, “Ecotourism is ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary focus on experiencing natural areas that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation.”
  • Responsible Travel expands beyond the traditional notions of environmentalism and encompasses socially-conscious travel. It means understanding, respecting, and supporting the cultures and people in the area you are visiting. We like this definition from Lonely Planet:

    + Responsible tourism can be more-or-less defined as travel that takes into consideration the ‘triple bottom line’ issues of:

    + Environment: travel that minimizes negative environmental impacts and, where possible, makes positive contributions to the conservation of biodiversity, wilderness, natural and human heritage.

    + Social/Cultural: travel that respects culture and traditions and fosters authentic interaction and greater understanding between travelers and hosts.

    + Economic: travel that has financial benefits for the host community and operates on the principles of fair trade.

  • Sustainable Travel is defined as “a level of tourism activity that can be maintained over the long term because it results in a net benefit for the social, economic, natural and cultural environments of the area in which it takes place” (from Detour Destinations).
  • Organic Travel Honestly, “organic travel” doesn’t make sense. Organic, in the context of being green, generally means produce or dairy grown or raised without the use of pesticides or hormones. So strawberries can be organic, shirts can be organic, even sheets can be organic. But travel can’t be “organic.”
  • Green Travel: (defined by us)

+ Thinking about your impact on the environment (both the physical and social environment) when you travel

+ Doing your part to minimize your impact on the environment – so that tourism in your destination can be maintained in the long run

+ Understanding eco-friendly choices you can make

+ Making eco-friendly choices when they are options

+ Doing your research to be a responsible traveler

+ Saving money by making low-impact choices

Article excerpted from

Ecotourism & Eco-travel Defined

Ecological tourism, often condensed to ecotourism, is a question of thinking about the environmental impact that you make by travelling, and applying yourself to the question of how to travel in an environmentally responsible manner.

Backpackers, student travelers and hostel-goers in general, have been very much in the vanguard of those flocking to an important movement which the International Ecotourism Society defines as: “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.”

How can tourism harm the local environment?
The ways in which harm is done around the world in the name of the tourist industry are legion. In many parts of the world, governments and local business make assumptions about what tourists who come to their countries might want, when, in fact, they are only representing a small section of travellers and holiday-makers.

Accordingly, local people may be displaced from their homes and communities to install a new hotel complex and golf course. Naturally, a large influx of tourists inevitably also makes intense demands on local water supplies, that most precious of resources in many parts of the world.

How can you become an eco-traveler?
As a general rule, the central tenets of ecotourism include an emphasis on connecting with local culture, outdoor activities, and ecological programs designed to increase awareness, and promote protection of local wildlife.

It also frequently involves volunteer schemes designed to help local communities in some of the poorest countries around the world, by both improving their economic situation and encouraging the use of some of the latest technologies relating to energy efficiency, recycling and the reuse of water.

Where can you go to become an ecotourist?
Ultimately, ecotourism was alive and flourishing long before a term was coined to describe it. And it certainly isn’t exclusive to any one part of the world.

Whilst projects in far-flung jungles may attract more press coverage and disproportionately more tourists, there is almost certainly a highly worthwhile venture somewhere near you, of which you weren’t even aware. In fact, the industry has attracted flak from some quarters in recent years for enticing people to fly across the globe – thus creating a great, big dirty carbon footprint – whilst ostensibly en route to do something for the benefit of the environment.

The future of traveling…
The topic of mankind’s influence on the planet, and particularly the harm we do when we travel has never been more of an issue. From carbon footprints and composting toilets to sustainable tourism and solar-powered hostels, the travel world has to face up to the challenges of the future by asking itself the difficult questions.

The global traveler has come in for a lot of stick from environmentalists in recent years, some of it, at least, not altogether deserved. Aviation accounts for roughly 3% of total carbon dioxide emissions annually. This compares pretty favorably to the 20% that road transport and the heating of our homes each contribute.

The Carbon Trust reported that, of the eleven tons of carbon for which each person in the United Kingdom is responsible, only 0.68 (less than 10%) came as a result of flying.

What’s more, traveling can be an enormous force for the good, and act as a powerful redistributive device by which those who live in richer countries can share a small amount of their wealth with the developing world.

Tourism is, according to some sources, the world economy’s most profitable business sector, employing 200 million worldwide and making profits of $3.6 trillion. What’s more, in 80% of countries around the world (more than 150) tourism constitutes one of the five most important contributors to GDP. In sixty of these it is the single most important.

This is not to duck the issue: travel, even for those of us lucky enough to be able to afford it, is a luxury, not a right. But we feel that if we make changes – both big and small – in the way we travel, then we can have an impact on the damage that is done in the name of tourism, both to people all over the globe and the world in which we live, thus ensuring that it doesn’t (quite literally) ‘cost the earth’.

Article excerpted from

  1. Thanks for the info. Good to take into account on my next trip!

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