Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ecotourism - Top Ecofriendly Destinations

The buzz word in travel is Ecotourism. Stated plainly, it means responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and improves the welfare of the local people. But as with most ideas that become profitable, you must be a careful consumer.

Travel companies have distorted this definition to loosely include most any destination or cruise they wish to sell that month. Be savvy and ask questions if you truly want to go on a eco-friendly vacation.

One of the easiest ways to protect the environment and have a great vacation is to camp in the many national parks across the United States. Use the Boy Scout Motto of "Leave No Trace" and you will have a wonderful time communing with the great outdoors.

If you are not the tent type and want to travel outside the country, The Indepedent Traveler (www.independentraveler.com) has compiled a helpful list of Ecolodges and Ecofriendly places to stay all over the world. They've also included a helpful list of questions to ask when deciding on a Green Hotel.

Here are a few of the important questions to consider:

Is the hotel locally owned and operated?

What kind of recycling programs does the hotel have, aluminum, plastic, paper, gray water, composting?

Does the hotel use energy saving techniques like low-flow toilets and showers, energy efficient lighting or alternative energy sources?

How does the hotel or resort contribute to the community of which it is a part?

The Eco/Green Hotels on The Independent Traveler's list were chosen for their spectacular locations, outstanding guest amenities and extraordinary commitment to conservation.

Here are a few of their top picks:

San Francisco, California: Orchard Garden Hotel -The smoke-free, 86-room Orchard Garden Hotel in downtown San Francisco opened in November 2006 as the only hotel in the city to be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council for environmentally friendly design.

Chichester, England: Old Chapel Forge Bed and Breakfast - The beautifully restored 17th-century house and chapel of Old Chapel Forge provide an eco-friendly stay in the heart of England's Sussex countryside. Old Chapel Forge has been awarded the highest rating from the Green Tourism Business Scheme for its environmental programs, including the use of solar panels to heat water, and partnerships with local farmers and merchants to provide locally grown organic meals. Other green efforts include composting, grey water recycling and guest education. Doubles from $100 per night including breakfast.

Rurrenabaque, Bolivia: Chalalan EcolodgeBolivia's Madidi National Park is one of the most biologically diverse areas of the planet, and a stay at the Chalalan Ecolodge puts you right in the heart of it. Guests stay in Tacana-style cabins built from environmentally friendly local materials, with balconies overlooking the jungle. The lodge was founded in the 1990's by members of the indigenous community of San Jose de Uchupiamonas in an effort to support themselves and protect the beauty and eco-diversity of their homeland. The lodge is still community owned and operated. Environmental provisions include solar-powered lighting, a liquid waste treatment system, a water purification system and a composting program. Doubles from $187 per night (based on three-night stay) including meals, activities and airport transfers.

Siena, Italy: Tenuta di SpannocchiaLooking for your own place under the Tuscan sun? Try Tenuta di Spannocchia, a working organic farm that produces its own meat, eggs, grains, vegetables, honey, wine and olive oil. Guests can rent their own farmhouse for a week or stay for a few nights in one of two bed and breakfast facilities. Visitors are welcome (but not required) to learn about and get involved with the farm's day-to-day operations, which rely on sustainable farming techniques.

Wherever you chose to go with your family this summer keep in mind that low impact vacations, relaxed walks on forest trails and romps in the ocean can be just as satisfying and memorable as the annual trek to the Theme Park.

2 comments:

Sarah Schlichter said...

Thanks so much for mentioning The Independent Traveler -- I'm glad you found our green travel resources useful. It's an increasingly important topic for many travelers, and I'm glad you're helping to spread the word!

All of our green travel resources can be found in our Go Green Travel Center, in case you or your readers are interested. Thanks again for the mention.

Lisa McGlaun said...

Thanks Sarah. I found your site to be very helpful and loaded with good advice. I appreciate the job you are doing and I'm happy to pass the word.

Lisa