Eco Summer Travel Guide

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Believe it or not, it was high time that the vacation scene got a new makeover to make it more eco friendly. Summer is quickly coming, and with it comes the time when people take their vacations looking for some fun and relaxation. With everything else going green today, isn’t it time that your vacation gets a green makeover as well. Whether you want a relaxing vacation where you can sleep in and relax, or a high energy touring vacation full of thrills and chills, you can still choose an eco friendly option this summer. So, if you’re planning your summer vacation, here’s your eco summer travel guide to a great green getaway.

Ecotourism in Your Area
While many people think of ecotourism and instantly start imagining far off lands like the beautiful South African Coast or the lovely rainforests in Brazil, you can actually experience the wonder of ecotourism in your own corner of the world. In fact, the closer to home you go on vacation, the greener your vacation you will be. Vacations that are closer to home actually known as bioregional vacations help to protect the environmental resources by leaving a carbon trail that is much smaller. Instead of those long international flights that use up more resources, you’ll be able to choose a short flight or even drive to you destination.

There are many great places across the U.S. where you can enjoy an eco-adventure. One of the best ways to make sure that your vacation is eco friendly is to drive to your destination. This is especially helpful if you are driving a hybrid vehicle or a vehicle that will use bio diesel fuels as well.

Not only does ecotourism in your region of the world help to save on natural resources, but it also helps to support the economic stability of your own country. There are a variety of different places across the United States that have suffered economic problems for a variety of reasons, and vacationing in their area allows you the opportunity to help rebuild the economy in the area and experience life elsewhere within your own country.

If you are looking for local travel destinations that are eco friendly and educational, there are many to be found within the United States. Let’s take a look at a few great choices.

- Volunteer Hiking Vacations – If you enjoy the outdoors and you’re looking for a trip with excitement and daring along the way, then a volunteer hiking vacation may be just the thing for you. These trips are organized by the American Hiking Society and they focus on hiking various trails and fixing up shelters and rebuilding the trails at various state parks throughout the country.

- Audubon International Ecotourism Alliance Golf Courses – For those golfers who enjoy teeing off and seeing nature, there are a variety of golf courses today that are not a part of the program offered by the Audubon International Ecotourism Alliance. These golf courses help to support environmentally friendly golf courses and also offer sanctuary programs for birds. You’ll be helping the environment and helping to educate others about it as well when you spend your money on a vacation at one of these courses.

Going Abroad on a Eco Friendly International Vacation
While many people working on helping the environment have viewed international travel as an unnecessary luxury, with wasted time, expensive plane tickets, and the use of natural resources, today international eco traveling opportunities are actually on the rise. Today there are great alternatives for people who want to enjoy an adventure to another culture. There are a variety of volunteer based vacations and nature based vacations available today that support the ideas of environmentally friendly vacations. So, a variety of programs and organizations are not helping to bring about trips that make trips abroad affordable and environmentally responsible as well for those who are eco tourists.

When tourists visit these international destinations that have been non-commercialized, there are two main concerns that need to be addressed.

- Natural Resources Should be Fostered and Protected – It is important that the natural resources encountered should be left alone. Also, travelers should make sure that they don’t leave anything behind either so that they can leave the area they have visited totally untouched by their visit.
- Avoiding American Expectations – Many people travel to other countries with their own expectations. It is important that eco tourists leave their expectations behind them when the visit places abroad to protect themselves and the local communities that they visit as well.

Today there are actually endless opportunities for those who are interested in eco tourism. You’ll find many volunteer vacations available as well as trips that are nature based as well. Some organizations that may be able to help you find some great international vacation options include Sustainable Travel International, The International Ecotourism Society, and the ECOCLUB.

If you are interested in international nature trips, they take place in a variety of countries around the globe. Many people especially enjoy the experiences of culture and nature that are available in Latin America. Other popular places that eco tourists visit include New Zealand and Australia.

For a very different type of experience can be found with a volunteer trip abroad. These trips afford eco tourists the opportunity to provide volunteer work at interesting places around the world, such as helping to save giant otters in Bolivia, working on sites in Indonesia to help protect the orangutans, or even to helping in Thailand with elephant sanctuaries.

Finding Accommodations that are Eco Friendly
In recent years the entire travel industry, including companies that provide accommodations, have been known to have very little concern for the environment, excessively using water and energy. This has lead to many green tourists avoiding these accommodations altogether on their vacations. However, today there are now people in the industry who are recognizing how important going green is in this business and they are now offering alternative accommodations for those travelers looking for environmentally friendly options when traveling today.

So, you may be wondering what actually makes hotels or other accommodations green. Well, they can have environmental practices that they use or they work on environmental sustainability within the entire business. However, when you are evaluating accommodations for your vacation there are three different categories you’ll want to keep in mind when trying to figure out how eco-friendly the accommodations actually are.

- Design and Physical Aspects – This includes the property and the building, including how the resources are used, energy efficiency, and the materials that have been used as well. You’ll want to look for building materials that have been recycled or materials that are sustainable. Also, look for pads, carpet, adhesives, and pains that are low volatile organic compounds. Energy efficient cooling and heating, natural furnishings, lighting that is eco friendly, and the use of alternate energy resources should be looked for as well.

- Daily Operations – This should include how the place is cleaned and maintained. Some of the things to look for include recycling, conservation of water and heat, organic linens, and cleaning products that are non-toxic. You’ll also want to look for soaps and shampoos that are chemical free and in containers that are environmentally friendly. Make sure that the staff is instructed and trained in using green practices as well.

- Impact on the Community – This will include how the business deals with the community, local organizations, the employees, and supply partners. Look for places that offer local employment, and land development that is responsible. Also, make sure that they give back to the community and that they also protect the environment in the area and pay attention to the diversity and local culture and heritage as well.

Now that you know what to look for in green lodging and hotels, you may be wondering how you can find them. There are a variety of places that can help you find a great eco friendly option for your accommodations. You can check out The Good Travel Company, which scores hotels and alternative lodging options scores based on how eco-friendly they really are. Also, you can look for the Green Seal certified hotels in the United States. Sustainable Travel International is another excellent place where you can look for referrals to accommodations that are eco-friendly.

While there are many great green hotel options out there today, you’ll also find that there are a variety of alternatives to the green hotel as well. You can find eco resorts and lodges that are designed for people who are adventurous and who want to travel without hurting the environment. There are also holistic spas available as well for those who want to find a retreat that is relaxing, healthy, and friendly to the planet. One great option out there is the home exchange program as well. People actually can trade homes for a vacation and it keeps them from having to stay in larger hotels that waste resources and damage the ecosystems in the area. Cabins, yurts, and huts are also available for rent to those who are looking for some cost effective accommodations that are environmentally friendly as well.

Environmentally Friendly Luggage for the Vacation Season
If you are going to be traveling this summer, no doubt you are going to need to take some luggage around with you, but if you are an eco-tourist, you are going to want to make sure that you go with the green luggage options that are available. Going green with your luggage can help to save on pollution and it also will help you support those merchants that use fabrics that are organic and those that avoid using child labor and sweatshops for production of their products.

If you take a look at traditional luggage, you’ll find that while it may be serviceable for holding everything you need when you travel, the suitcase has a story that sadly speaks of harm to the environment. Most standard luggage was made with chemicals that are toxic. The two chemicals that are commonly used include polyvinyl chloride, which is known to cause cancer, and Chromium, which is a carcinogen. Not only have these pieces of luggage hurt the environment as they were created, but once they are too old to be used, they end up in landfills and they’ll sit there for years, or even forever if they are plastic. However, today there are more luggage options that are friendlier to the environment so you can travel with eco-friendly luggage.

Today there are a variety of different alternative options that are available to you, including hemp, cotton, canvas, leather, or even nylon. You can be sure that these options are biodegradable or recyclable and non-toxic as well. So, let’s take a closer look at some of the options available to you today.

- Cotton – One great alternative that you may want to consider using is cotton for your luggage needs. You can find luggage today that is made out of organic cotton and cotton is biodegradable as well as natural. However, you definitely want to make sure that you go with cotton that is organic, since other cotton tends to be sprayed with pesticides. Just remember that cotton is not a waterproof fabric. Today there are some waterproofing methods that are green as well, so make sure that your cotton luggage is made to be waterproof with a green method.

- Hemp – One very popular option today is hemp. Many green people are going for hemp luggage since it has a variety of great qualities. It is durable and strong and it can also be combined together with cotton. You’ll be able to find hemp suitcases, duffle bags, and other luggage accessories for travel so you’ll be able to travel in green style.

- Leather – Leather is another great options for those who are concerned about their luggage and how it affects the environment. You can find leather bags that have been recycles, leather that has been tanned with vegetable oils, and there are also luggage tags, bags, and even wallets that you can find made out of recycled leather as well today.

- Nylon – Nylon can be another option for green travelers looking for an eco-friendly luggage option. However, you should only use nylon in a few conditions. First of all, it should be waterproofed using water repellent that is non toxic. Also, you can choose luggage that has been made out of recycled nylon as well.

Green Flying – Tips to Help You Fly Green
Today many travelers end up traveling by plane during the summer, since it is efficient as well as economic. However, traveling by plane leads to a lot of carbon being released into the environment. If you do need to travel by plane, there are some things that you can do to work on reducing the carbon footprint that you leave behind when you travel by air. So, take these tips into consideration to help make sure that you fly as green as possible.

- Tip #1 – Pick a Method of Carbon Offsetting – There are a variety of airways and travel sites today that are working to offset the carbon emissions that occur with air travel. In fact, passengers can even purchase these carbon offsets if they choose to. Some of the practices used for carbon offsetting include planting new trees and increasing the use of wind power. Both of these offsetting the techniques can help to reduce the carbon in the environment. There are several offset providers that you can consider using like TerraPass,, and CarbonCounter.

- Tip #2 – Reduce Your Waste on the Flight – Another thing you can do if you want to fly green is to work to reduce the waste while you are flying. You can drastically cut down on the package waste by doing a few important things. First of all, you can decline any drinks that are served in plastic cups to you on the flight. Also, the in air snacks, like bags on peanuts can be refused as well to help reduce the waste. If you need a drink and some snacks, then take long your own snacks or purchase water before you get on the plane that is in recycled plastic. Also, make sure that you recycle your trash, such as magazines and newspapers that you purchase to read on the flight.

- Tip #3 – Don’t Pack a Lot – When you bring a lot of luggage, the plane has to work harder to transport. The heavier planes use a lot more fuel, resulting in more carbon emissions, but lighter planes use less fuel. So, by packing lightly, you can actually cut down on the carbon that is emitted by your flight.

Green Car Travel
Of course not everyone is going to travel by air during the summer. However, if you are planning on traveling by car on land, it is going to be important that you take measures to go as green as possible. If you are going to rent a car to go a fairly long distance, you may want to consider going with a hybrid vehicle. Probably the best choice for fuel economy is the Toyota Prius, since it gets about 46 mpg on average, which is great.

When you are traveling, no matter what type of a car you are planning on driving, there are some things that you can do to get the best possible gas mileage, reducing the amount of emissions that you emit and the amount of gas that you have to use as well. Here are a few tips that will help you out as you travel by land to get the best mileage for a green trip.

- Tip #1 – Keep Tires Well Inflated – Make sure that you check your tires on a regular basis. Be sure to keep them well inflated. Tires that are inflated to their optimum air pressure will help your car to get much better gas mileage.

- Tip #2 – Change Oil Regularly – Another thing you can do to make sure that you get better gas mileage is to change your oil on a regular basis. It is inexpensive to have your oil and oil filter changed and will cost you between about $15-40 depending on where you go and the type of oil you need in your car.

- Tip #3 – Keep Your Car Serviced – You should also make sure that your car is serviced on a regular basis. About every six months is about right. Keeping your car serviced and tuned up can help you make sure that you get the best mileage possible for your car.

- Tip #4 – Don’t Pack Too Much – When you are traveling by car, you’ll want to avoid packing too much into the car. The more weight you have in your car, the more you are going to spend on gas. So, if you want to save on the amount of gas that you have to use, pack a bit lighter when you travel.

- Tip #5 – Ethanol – When you go with a gas that is about 10% ethanol, you can get better gas mileage as well. So, look for gas stations along the way that offer this option. It may cost you just a bit more, but when you save on gas mileage, you’ll find it well worth the few extra cents you pay per gallon.

Of course if you plan on traveling by land, cars are not the only option. If you can, you may want to consider traveling by train. Trains that travel at high speeds actually emit only about half the carbon that cars emit. Also, they are a form of public shared transportation that helps to keep more cars from traveling on the roads as well.

If you do drive your car, try parking the car whenever possible and using public transportation whenever you can. This can help to decrease the reliance on oil and vehicles and it will be a more environmentally friendly way for you to get around.

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  1. Jeff Wilson  November 13, 2008

    Check out our current solution to greening our family travel at We aim to balance the need to raise the next generation of conservationists (our two young daughters) with the environmental footprint of travel.

    The solutions are far from perfect, but they’re a great beginning. Supporting companies who offer green options today means that we’ll help to make a market for the next generation of green technologies tomorrow.

    With a Hybrid SUV, small, lightweight, low-profile camper, solar and wind power, and carbon offsets, we definitely made an impact in our impact this summer.

    jeff, sherr, winter, & sylvie wilson