Green Travel Tips

It’s estimated that there are close to a billion tourists traveling across the globe each year. That’s a heck of a lot of sightseeing! Unless we plan carefully, and think before we travel, we run the risk of allowing our travel plans to take a harsh toll on the planet’s natural resources. Of course, nobody’s saying that you have to stay home during vacations – instead, it’s important to consider the small steps you can take to make your holiday adventures more enjoyable for you and kinder to the environment.

We’ve assembled a few of our top tips for Eco-friendlier travel. No doubt you’ll have some of your own suggestions to add too – so please share your ideas and comments below.

Carbon off-setting

Many of the major, reputable travel operators now give you an option to automatically offset the carbon emissions associated with your journey. The costs of offsetting are linked to the intended length of your travel, but most regular flights will charge between $10 – $50 to offset your carbon. It’s a small price to pay to travel to reduce your conscience! And if you are traveling by plane, select a direct flight where possible, to avoid multiple carbon emissions. Of course not flying at all is better….

Change your mode of transport

Do you really need to take the plane? Can you take the bus? Or a train? Or even cycle? These are certainly more environmentally friendly modes of transport which will decrease your journey’s carbon footprint dramatically. If you’re going to drive, rent a hybrid car – they’re more fuel efficient and emit less pollutants into the atmosphere.

Travel light

We’ve all been guilty of packing everything but the kitchen sink for our travels abroad. Try to be more disciplined when you pack your case. After all, the less weight you’re carrying, the less fuel your intended mode of transport will need to use. One good example is to collaborate with your traveling companions on toiletries. Instead of everyone bringing shampoo or shower gel or toothpaste, decide amongst you who will bring what – you’ll be amazed at how this small step lightens your load.

Research hotels

These days, more and more global destinations are developing eco-hotels and lodges which have strong environmental credentials. It’s easy to drop most hotels an email to find out more about their recycling programs, including:
• Waste recycling
• Towels and bedding – is there an option to re-use?
• Hotel energy efficiency
• Local corporate responsibility initiatives

You’ll quickly get an idea of the hotels that take their environmental responsibilities seriously – and you can reward them with your business.

Contribute to the local economy

If you’re staying in a half-board or all-inclusive resort, sometimes there’s a temptation to stay in the hotel grounds for the duration of your trip. However, exploring the local area, and frequenting local shops, restaurants and arts and craft stores can provide vital support to local people and the local economy. Hopefully, you’ll also have a more authentic in-country experience – and some great stories to share with friends and family on your return home.

Small changes in your travel plans can make a big difference. So, if you’re suffering from the winter blues, and you’re starting to plan your summer vacation, why not put these ideas into action?

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You’ve Heard Of Volunteerism – So How About Voluntourism? Here Are Some Tips

For many of us, vacations are all about sun, sand and sea. We spend most of the year planning and saving for our dream holiday, counting down the days till we can escape the rat race for sunnier climes, swapping coffee for cocktails and computers for cameras. Of course, we’re now more aware of the impact of international travel on the environment, and it’s usual practice for many travel companies to provide carbon off-setting services to customers, charging a discretionary fee based on your air miles, which in turn helps to fund a range of carbon reduction initiatives.

However, for a growing number of people, the idea of combining their vacation with something altogether more meaningful is on the rise. Instead of simply paying a fee for carbon-neutral travel, the more conscientious tourists are looking for opportunities to make a more significant contribution when they arrive at their holiday destinations, volunteering their time and talents to get involved in service projects. Forget sipping margaritas on the beach – and welcome to the wonderful world of Voluntourism.

A holiday with a difference
Voluntourism gives you the chance to combine sightseeing, exploration and cultural immersion – while helping local people to take action on some of the most pressing issues facing our planet. From well-digging and supporting the work of clinics and health centers to running education classes or helping with animal conservation – there are a variety of ways to share your skills and talents to make a real difference. Interested? Here’s a few tips if you’re keen to find out more:

Getting started
It’s important to put some time into researching your volunteering placement. Think about the kinds of causes and issues that matter to you, as this will help to refine your search. Idealist and Transitions Abroad both offer volunteer brokerage services, with searchable databases to enable you to find the right opportunity for you.

Skills
Many people are concerned that they may need specialist skills to volunteer in another country. Unless otherwise specified, most international volunteering opportunities require energy, enthusiasm and commitment – nothing more. The very best charities and NGO’s should provide pre-departure preparation, as well as in-country training on arrival. Many also offer great alumni programs, so you can keep in touch with fellow participants once you return home. Voluntourism can be great way to share your skills but also to learn new ones – which might help if you’re considering a career change, or simply want to pursue a passion or interest further.

Costs
Contrary to popular belief, volunteering is not free. Alongside the travel, visas, immunization and other medical costs, it’s likely that you’ll also be expected to make a contribution towards the overall management of your volunteering project. It’s important to remember that the charities or NGO’s you’re working for are likely to be operating with fairly limited resources – but they’ll want to ensure that you have a safe and worthwhile experience, hence the additional placement costs. However, before paying any fees, be sure to check the credentials of the organization you’d like to volunteer with – they should be able to provide a full breakdown of program costs. As a guide, some of the best NGO’s will aim to spend between 80-90% on the cause itself, with minimal additional project costs.

Fundraise
You’ve taken the decision to help a worthwhile cause, so why not fundraise to cover some of the costs of the trip? It may seem a bit weird to ask people to donate towards your holiday, but it’s important to bear in mind that you’re taking part in a service project. You won’t be spending donations on margaritas and massages, but rather on helping the people or ecology of your chosen destination, and most people will be happy to support you.

Voluntourism is a unique way to experience another country, and a fantastic opportunity to do something incredibly worthwhile. One thing’s for sure, once you’ve become a voluntourist, holidays will never be the same again!

Home Vacations – Cutting Your Carbon Footprint

With the recent economic recession, more people cross the US are looking to have vacations closer to home to cut costs and get more convenience from their annual break. The good news is that taking a vacation without going overseas is also much better for the environment than going on a long-haul trip when it comes to your time for rest and relaxation.

Air travel in particular takes a huge toll on the environment in terms of creating carbon emissions and adding to global warming, and many people are turning their back on flying in favor of enjoying their free time closer to home.

If you’re planning your fall vacation, the following tips are designed to help you go green as well as reduce costs, increase convenience and improve the impact you have on the environment with your annual break…

Pick hotels that operate ethically

When you book to stay in your chosen accommodation, look for hotels that have stated environmental policies. Eco-friendly hotels implement water-saving measures, execute energy-saving techniques and reduce solid waste. Initiatives may include offering towel and sheet-changing options, providing soap and shampoo dispensers instead of miniature samples, implementing guestroom recycling baskets and focusing on the reduction of food-related waste. All these activities add up to a huge reduction in the amount of energy generated by your stay, giving you peace of mind that you are being as green as possible.

Cut down on materials used for food and drink

A few tips for reducing your food-related waste include carrying a bottle for water with you and refilling it as needed, steering clear of fast- food joints by eating in restaurants to cut down on packaging, avoiding Styrofoam when you buy drinks, and carrying reusable containers for uneaten food. You can then wash them out after you’ve eaten the food and reuse them later. Steering clear of plastic bags is simple, just by making sure you take your own tote with you for any unexpected purchases while you’re away on vacation.

Turn things off at home before you go

It makes sense to cut down on energy usage as much as possible when you leave your house for any period of time. You can make your vacation time even greener by reducing the electricity used while you are away. Switch off your air conditioning unite and any heaters, and if you must leave it on to protect your plants, adjust the settings appropriately.

You can also check that any appliances are left unplugged including televisions, cable boxes and converter boxes, as they will use up power even if they are not being fully operational. Getting a friendly neighbor to look after your premises while you are away will eradicate the need to use lights on a timer switch, as well as giving you added security. If you get milk or papers delivered usually, don’t forget to cancel the deliveries for the time you are away.

3 Easy steps to a Green Short Break in Edinburgh

At the end of January I went away to see the bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond and to breathe some fresh clean Highland air.

Step 1 Book your train tickets – I travelled from London to Edinburgh via the east coast trainline and tickets booked in advance with National Express are very reasonable. It takes around 4 hours from London King’s Cross station to Edinburgh Waverley station. Plenty of time to sit back, relax, read or just enjoy the scenery.

Step 2 Book your accommodation –There is a selection of organic bed and breakfast available at Organic Holidays  although on this occasion I stayed in a city centre hotel which did offer you the opportunity to reuse your towels and also allowed you to control the temperature in the room so you could turn it down when you went out in the morning and turn it back up on your return.

Step 3 Explore Edinburgh and take a trip into the Highlands – I chose to explore the Highlands and Loch Ness and to visit Loch Lomond and it was well worth the effort as Scotland is beautiful whichever season you visit.
 

Scottish Highlands

Scottish Highlands

 

I travelled with Rabbies Tours who are Scotland’s first first bus tour company to achieve a gold award for the Green Tourism Award, a world leading green accreditation scheme, demonstrating Rabbie’s high level of commitment to protecting the environment and to sustainable tourism practices. Eric regaled us with stories as we drove a full mini bus up to Loch Ness and back via Pitlochory. It was a great feeling to know that we had reduced the number of vehicles touring through this beautiful countryside. We had plenty of stops to see castles and also spotted red deer. You can easily book online or ask at the Tourist Information centre.

Edinburgh is a lovely city  to walk around with the castle, Holyroodhouse or climb Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park. It provides one of the best vantage points over the city to the countryside beyond. And after your walk check out the Urban Angel cafe and deli which had a delicious selection of organic produce to tempt you with. There is a large seating area at the back of the cafe so do not be put off if when you arrive the seats at the entrance are all taken!

So next time you fancy a break to why not consider Edinburgh and treat yourself to a green trip north of the border.

Ecobookers Celebrates Its 1st Birthday With A Redesign

Environmentally friendly travel site, Ecobookers, is one year old. Well it was at the start of September actually but I thought I’d take some time to look around the site as it’s been redesigned.

We first looked at Ecobookers back in November 2007 and liked what we saw. The new site is a bit easier to use and certainly more pleasing on the eye. Although I haven’t actually booked anything through it, I like the way all the accommodation is researched and the huge amount of information that’s given. Check out the review of the Lova Lava Land Eco-Resort in Hawaii for example.

Ecobookers

There are 130 eco-friendly accommodations in 38 countries around the world on the site, ranging from eco-friendly hotels, B&Bs and ecolodges to more unusual eco-friendly accommodation, such as yurts and treehouses. So check it out here.

Phrasebooks On Your iPod

Rather than shelling out to buy a paper phrasebook for your next foreign vacation, why not download one to your iPod instead?

Intelligent Travel reports that Collins have now released their popular phrasebooks in iPod versions. “They’ve taken the phrasebooks from the back of their Collins Gem dictionaries (about 500 different phrases) in French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish. The phrasebooks are split up into sections (food, accomodation, emergencies, etc.), and iPod users can both listen to how the phrase is pronounced and see its spelling on the screen.”

Each book is a bargain at $10 / £4.99 however they’re only compatible with iPod originals and Nanos and not those fancy Touch or iPhones.

iPods

Responsible Tourism Awards 2008

The Responsible Tourism Awards are now into their fifth year.

The idea behind the Awards is that all types of tourism – from niche to mainstream – can and should be operated in a way that respects and benefits destinations and local people. The Awards recognize individuals, companies and organizations in travel that are making a big commitment to the culture and economies of local communities and helping to conserve biodiversity.

They’re a little different from other awards schemes in that winners are nominated by travelers. The deadline for receiving nominations this year is Monday 16 June so you better get a move on! Nominations can be made there before that date, and I encourage you to do so if you’ve perhaps stayed in a great little lodge or perhaps traveled with a tour operator who you were impressed with their responsible attitude towards the environment.

Last year there were over 1,700 nominations, the video below shows you last year’s overall winner.