The arrival of summer means more than digging out your well-worn flip flops from the back of the closet and dusting off your mix CD featuring all of Will Smith’s summer time anthems, it also means, for many of us, the arrival of some well deserved time off. That is right: Vacation time!  At this very moment millions of people are sitting in their overly air conditioned cubicles fantasying about laying on a beach somewhere; far away from deadlines, water coolers and that mouth breather whose desk is adjacent to yours. Not to burst into your fantasy with a hard dose of reality (nice Speedo, btw) but this summer try to remember that there is no vacation from eco-conscious living. No need to grab the bug spray and point it at my eyes in a threatening manner- I will let you get back to your tropical mirage in a moment.   Following any combination of these simple tips will decrease the size of your vacation’s carbon footprint.

1)  Take a “Staycation“: As obnoxious as this hybrid word may sound,  Staycations are an excellent way to keep your next vacation eco-friendly. Staycations, for those of you not familiar with this word,  are vacations spent staying where you live (see what they did there?).This is not as boring as it sounds; a staycation is the perfect opportunity to explore where you live through new eyes. A little research and planning will probably reveal to you a bounty of experiences right outside your front door that you have never thought of partaking in. Explore your city or town’s history or look into your State’s park system- the possibilities are surprisingly limitless once you open your mind and choose to step outside of your comfort zone. If you envisioned more relaxation than exploration, feel free to spend a few days lying in your hammock sipping on the adult beverage of your choice. As an added bonus, staycations help eliminate that feeling that you need a vacation from your vacation that occurs when returning home from far off locales. Just remember: No Work!  This means not even checking your work e-mail. I know it only takes a second, but it can be opening a can of work style worms. Step away from that PC and into the sunshine! A staycation is still a vacation.

2)   Stay Local: If the idea of spending your vacation at home is not quite far enough away from your mouth breathing officemate, try to travel somewhere close by.

The closer the better.

The less physical traveling you partake in, the less fossil fuel you will unleash into the environment. It is likely that there are many relaxing locales within a couple of hours of your home.

3)  Greening Your Journey: No, I am not referring to the band of “Don’t Stop Believing” fame, I am talking about the way in which you travel to your vacation destination. Make every effort possible to avoid air travel, it is the super villain of getting around- think Darth Vader or Lord Voldermort levels of wickedness.  If you are driving to your destination, try renting a fuel efficient automobile, such as a hybrid. Perhaps, even try to bring some bicycles along with you so you can get around the area you are staying without being car dependent for the duration of your stay. If you are athletic and feeling up to a challenge, you could  even reach your vacation spot on a bike. Then  you would be a super star of eco-travel, the hero among vacationers- the Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter of getting out of town. This may be the only case wherein I would encourage smugness for your achievement. You’ve earned it, long distance bicyclist. Well done.

4) Lodging: When deciding on a place to hang your hat during your travels, a little research goes a long way. Come on now, no eye rolling, research is hardly a  chore since the advent of the internet. A little Google research goes a long way. Take a few minutes between rewatching David Goes to The Dentist and checking your Facebook to find the most eco-friendly lodging you can. Sites, such as ecotourdirectory.com, make this process even easier. If you are person who enjoys getting  in touch with mother nature, camping is a very eco-friendly and affordable way to make a home away from home.

5)  Souvenirs : Spotting a tourist is not a particularly difficult task. Camera hanging around neck? Check. Fanny pack fastened around waist? Check. Bag of over priced souvenirs? Check. This vacation, try to avoid the temptation of loading up on souvenirs. Most of these tacky trinkets are not produced anywhere near where you are staying and the negative environmental impact of the shipment of these spoons, magnets and key chains overseas is massive. If you still feel the hankering to take away a tangible keepsake from your trip, support a local business that produces their products nearby. Get extra brownie points with the environment if you make sure these purchases are Fair Trade. Think more a jar of organic jam vs.. a plastic harmonica with the name of the city you are in printed crookedly on it.

6) Eco-Volunteering:
Speaking of Brownie Points, I am fairly certain if you spend your vacation doing some Eco-volunteering that the environment will be forced to send you an appreciative organic muffin basket at the end of your trip. If you have a big heart and an appetite for adventure, check out eco-volunteering opportunities. Spending your vacation time helping save the environment may not allow for much downtime, but it will likely be more fulfilling than working on your tan line while chugging a Margarita on a beach. And who knows, you could find your calling while on your adventure. You may never have to listen to Captain “can’t breath through his nose” ever again.

If you are not feeling altruistic and just want to relax, do not feel guilty. You have worked hard and have earned the right to do with this down time whatever it is that will make you the happiest. But while you recharge your batteries, remember to not put a drain on Mother Earth’s. She works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year to keep herself habitable for your vacationing buns. It takes minimal effort to keep the environment in mind while planning and taking your next vacation, and the positive consequences of these efforts will benefit generations to come.

Have fun, people! Don’t forget your sun block and do not forget there is no vacation from ecological living!

-Meghan Hurley

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Labor Day is already upon us. I know it snuck up. I know it’s not fair. I know we work all year and all we get is one lousy day off, right? On top of all that many of us are dealing with ever shrinking funds. That and a nagging conscience about carbon footprints makes many of us think twice about participating in that grand tradition of the Labor Day Campout. But fear not, a safe cheap and guilt free camping adventure is within your grasp.

First, take a look at your local city, county, regional, state, and (local) national park. You may find hidden gems at your doorstep, you never knew existed. The closer the better. Just be aware of fees and restrictions (think dogs, campfires, alcohol, etc.) Another way to turn your trip in to a fun and fulfilling adventure is to volunteer with one of many groups helping to clean up the environment for the future enjoyment of all.

The next step is preparation. In order to keep packing down, try to prepare your meals ahead of time and freeze them if you are car camping. That way it cuts down on potential waste at the campsite and your meals actually help keep the ice chest cold. Many companies offer eco friendly camping supplies, including recycled and organic gear. One good idea is to get yourself a Kleen Kanteen. They are BPA free, super rugged, and no warm plastic taste. Just make sure you bring organic biodegradable soaps and always take care of your poop. If you are looking to go backpacking, try to keep it ultra-light and self contained. Be prepared to load out as much as you load in. One classic adage of camping though is always leave your site better off than you found it. For ideas on how to accomplish this, check out Leave No Trace’s program.

The last and final step is getting there! If possible avoid spending the gas traveling far or with many cars! If you are traveling solo, check out a bus line. These are affordable, less stressful, are more environmentally friendly, and you can get some reading or work done on the way! And if you are really feeling adventurous, why not make  the bus your adventure! Remember the closer to home you camp, the less of an impact you have and the more in tune you can be.

So get out and enjoy that environment we all are trying to save,  celebrate your hard work with a relaxing labor day,  dnd don’t forget to bring the (vegan) Smore’s!

Postcard of Ft. Lauderdale Beach during Spring Break, 1960s Photo by StevenM_61College kids and families across the country will be taking a week off in celebration of Spring! Thousands will use this time to travel the world, especially to warm beach climates like Florida and Mexico. But before you pack your bags and jet set across the world, take a moment to think about how you could green your Spring Break Travel!! There are some quick easy ideas to keep your Spring Break as green as the season of Spring!  

Before booking your Spring Break plans, we recommend reading our entry, written earlier this year on Eco-Tourism for some great green ideas such as staying local and green tour companies. But beyond that post, we have some great tips on greening your Spring Break.

Bike On The Beach Photo by Rodger E Clark-Green City Guide: A great resource to find out which cities to visit and how to travel through them. Check out Planet Green’s Green City Guide. This is a terrific guide to how to travel green in Top Spring Break locales such as Ft Myers, Buenos Aries, Miami, and LA. Under each city, this site explains how to enjoy yourself in these cities, including local public transportation, green hotels, and green dining. This guide can not only be used for Spring Break locations, but for travel all year long, including cities in the Northern parts of the world.

iWood Eco Friendly Sunglasses at GreenLoop.com-Green Beach Products: Most Spring Breakers spend 90% of their vacation on the beach. Many products used for fun in the sun unfortunately are not only harmful to the environment but they are made from petroleum bases. There are several great companies that make non toxin and organic sunblock. Also you might want to bring your organic beach towels and  beach totes.  And how about protecting your eyes from the sun? Yes you guessed it! There are green sunglasses, and they are made of natural wood!! 

Green Sea Turtle Being Cleaned Photo by Peter Liu Photography-Volunteer: Instead of spending your Spring Break downing beers and sunning on the beach, why not volunteer! There are a ton of great companies that provide volunteer vacations. Where you can spend your vacation helping study climate change in Ecuador, help trace change in California’s trees, or track endangered seat turtles in Mexico. There are hundreds of volunteer vacations just like these to be found all over the world. So make your Spring Break really count and help save the earth!

4/19/08 ~ Day 235: Nalgene Water Bottle Photo by Snowfire11Ro is behind on...-Tread Lightly: Be aware of your surroundings and be sure to tread lightly. Meaning back your bags lightly and don’t be wasteful. Be sure to recycle any products you use in the area you travel to (especially those beer cans and bottles, you partiers!) Also, a great way to avoid using massive bottled waters is to bring a re-usable water bottle. And lastly, DO NOT leave trash around and make sure you clean up after yourselves. You want to respect the area you are visiting because you are a guest.  

Summer is a time for relaxation and vacations. Eco-tourism or Green Travel has been around for a long time, but with the Green Movement taking hold, it is now a part of the mainstream traveler’s mind. So what exactly is Eco-Tourism and how do you take part?

Most people think of hiking through the wilderness or sleeping a tree fort when the words Green Travel are used. This is just simply not true! Although, hiking and camping out is a great way to spend a vacation, it is not the only way to travel the world and still be environmentally friendly! Eco-tourism is defined by a vacation or trip that leaves minimal impact on the environment and culture one and is traveling to. There are plenty of hotels, resorts, and tour companies that boast their Green Travel attributes. But there are a few things you can do to minimize your own travel footprint and still enjoy your dream vacation. Below is a simple 5 step guide to making your summer or year round travels just a little more helpful for the environment!

  1. Alternative Transportation: Instead of the traditional summer road trip or the long flight across the world, try taking an alternate and more environmentally friendly mode of travel such as biking, train travel, bus, or sailboat. Of course if you do decide to drive you can always rent a hybrid or drive a veggie fuel car. Not only will you be helping environment, you will be saving yourself some sweet cash by dodging those ever-rising gas prices. Finally, if you are traveling somewhere by air, try offsetting your carbon impact with one of these companies.
  2. Stay Local: If you really want to make an impact, travel locally. Explore the exciting culture inside your own city or town. Or for a bit more excitement, adventure in the natural habitat close to your home. A good resource for local travel is your city or town’s local paper, chamber of commerce or the National and State Park System. It may seem boring to stay local, but you would be surprised by what your own backyard has in store for you!
  3. Choose Eco-Friendly Companies: When booking a lodging or tour company, make sure to research their environmental practices. You can always contact the particular company yourself or there are a number of websites that do the work for you! Check out these helpful websites when booking hotels, bed and breakfasts, tours, and restaurants. And if you really want to be sure the lodging company you are choosing is in fact Green, there are a number of Green Certification websites, that will assure you are making the greenest choices. Also, a great resource for finding green hotels is IStayGreen.Org, suggested by reader larryvance. This site not only lists hotels, but rates them on their “greeness” and provides social networking between travelers.
  4. Volunteer: Instead of just traveling to exotic locations, try combining your getaway into a experience that will not only help the social or ecological environmental you visit, but will also make you feel involved. There are a ton of organizations that will put you to good use while you explore the world! Instead of just rewarding yourself with just a vacation, reward your soul with a Volunteer Getaway!
  5. Be Responsible: Remember to be responsible when traveling in your own backyard or abroad. Take reusable items such as water bottles and always recycle. You can also conserve energy in your room, by turning out all lights and shutting off electric devices when not needed. Also, you can conserve water and energy by not using hotel laundry service everyday. And lastly, NEVER litter whether you are in a city or out in the wilderness.
Please keep these tips in mind as you plan your next holiday and rest easy as you ride off into our ever greening world. Bon Voyage!

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