You may have guessed that I’m not exactly the hemp backpacker type! I have to admit that I love a little bit of luxury on the rare occasion that I can tear myself away from a horribly chaotic life. That being said, it’s got to be a Gorgeously Green Getaway, or I wouldn’t go. Fortunately, it’s now possible to travel with comfort and a clean conscience. The travel industry is swiftly responding to demand from greenies like you and I, who want only the best – resorts and hotels who are ecologically responsible.
Have a browse through some of the resorts that I have personally reviewed and see what you think. Above all, you vote with your dollars: by choosing an eco-friendly vacation destination, you are sending a greatly needed message to an industry that could do with a bit of a nudge in the right direction.
Planning Your Trip:
- Look for hotel accommodations and tours that carry environmental friendly certifications or memberships in green industry associations – such as Green Seal or Green Leaf. Several organizations have developed standards to measure the environmental initiatives of hotels and tours. Standards vary depending on the organization; however, green hotels and tours include reducing energy consumption through fluorescent lighting, instituting recycling programs, conserving water either through installation of energy star products or by asking patrons to reuse towels and by purchasing local organic foods. When hotels and tours meet these standards, they are certified as “green.”
- If the hotel that you are considering doesn’t have a certification, don’t be shy to ask them a few important questions; if nothing else, it might spur them into action. Here are a few that I always ask in an email to the general manager:
- Do you have a recycling program?
- What do you do about energy efficiency?
- Do you serve any local/organic food?
- What are you doing to be more ecologically responsible?
- Consider a volunteer trip with an eco-organization.
- Plan an eco-friendly all-inclusive bus trip.
- Pick a trip that gets your family out into nature vs. out into an urban setting.
- Travel as close to home as possible.
- If you are the more adventurous type, I highly recommend visiting Earth Watch to find a vacation where you can participate hands-on with to help save the planet – a great fit for families with teenagers.
- When flying, book electronic tickets. It reduces paper waste and you are less likely to lose your ticket.
Before you leave:
- Turn your thermostat down if you’re traveling in the winter, and up if you’re traveling in the winter.
- Unplug everything.
- Cancel the newspaper and your mail.
- Turn your water heater to the lowest setting.
- Get e-tickets vs. paper if you’re taking mass transport.
- Make sure all the lights are off when you go.
- Pack lightly to reduce your travel weight. The more your bags weigh the larger the carbon footprint you create when traveling.
- Pull the plug on any unnecessary appliances – such TVs, VCRs, stereos, toasters, and microwaves. These items can still use energy in their off mode.
When You’re There:
- If the hotel has an environmental program, participate as much as possible. If you have any questions about how, simply ask when you check in.
- Never leave lights on when you are not in the room.
- Lower the thermostat when you leave the room for long periods of time.
- If your destination is a warm climate then close the drapes. Or, if you have Venetian blinds, angle them up to bounce the sunlight off the ceiling. This will keep the room cooler. Conversely let the sun warm up your room during the day if you are in a cooler climate.
- Leave unopened shampoo, soap, and other items in the hotel unless you are taking it home to use.
- Tempting as it is to use gazillions of those fluffy towels, reign yourself in and try to use one per day and then re-use.
- Avoid room service and carry-out which increase waste.
- Say no to a morning newspaper and read it online instead.
- Use water sparingly. In some places this is a very precious resource.
- Never buy items made from endangered species.
- Walk or use public transportation.
- Grab only the maps and brochures that you will actually use. If in a large group, share brochures whenever possible.
- Take pictures and leave the location as you found it. Never remove wildlife from its natural environment including shells, flowers, rocks and coral.
- When hiking or camping, stay only in marked areas to avoid destroying vegetation.
- Don’t feel you have to leave your “mark” behind by etching your name on a tree or rock – nature doesn’t need your autograph!
- Buy locally produced produce in order to reduce the pollution required to import goods.
When You Come Home:
- Write a letter or email to your hotel or tour guide telling them that you appreciate their efforts to minimize the impact on the environment. This will encourage them to promote and institute more environmentally friendly activities.
THE GREENEST OF THE GREEN ON THE BIG ISLAND, HAWAII
Of the 13 climate zones in the world, The Big Island is home to 10 of them. From snowy mountaintops and lush rain forest – to gorgeous sunny beaches, this is a perfect island for the G.G. girl and her family to enjoy. You’re probably going to want to situate yourself on the Kohala coast, which is on the West side of the island, because here’s where you’ll find the island’s most beautiful beaches/coastline. Once situated, you can then go trekking up mountain terrain to see the active volcano or go zip-lining across the jungle. There are plenty of great inland B&B’s and lodges, where you can easily vacation on a budget, but if you are up for a sandy beach deluxe resort, you may have to save up. There are quite a few eco-luxe, magnificent resorts dotted along the Kohala coast, however, only a few are eco-friendly, and those are the ones that I was lucky enough to visit.