Green destinations are a plus for travel, by Travel Writers
By Victor Block
As Daniel and Martha Everett and their two children enjoyed a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida, they focused on the fun and excitement rather than the environment. When Barbara and Andy Allen checked into a Boston hotel, they thought about the many sites they wanted to visit during their two-day visit. They have given little thought to the impact of their stay on the ecosystem.
Even if they didn’t know it, these people were combining a bit of R&R with examples of efforts to help preserve and protect the Earth’s environment. They did not know that places of entertainment, housing, travel agencies and the like are taking steps, large and small, to reduce any negative impact of human activity on Mother Nature. Some efforts, such as replacing high-energy light bulbs and high-flow showerheads, are well known. Others are more imaginative and can be even more impactful.
Walt Disney Co.’s commitment to environmental stewardship dates back to its founding almost a century ago. Current activities range from the mundane, such as disposing of single-use plastic and using non-potable water where possible, to operating excursion trains and riverboats with fuel made from it. ‘recycled cooking oil and the installation of a solar installation to power two theme parks in Orlando. In addition, people interested in hydroponics come to study this activity.
Hotels play a key environmental role, and Boston’s Saunders hotel group has long been at the forefront of this effort. It has put in place more than 115 measures to reduce the environmental footprint and raise awareness among staff, customers and local communities. One imaginative project involves maintaining beehives on the roof of his Lenox hotel and serving honey to guests.
Saunders’ latest project is the construction of a five-star Raffles hotel and residences, the first of this renowned firm’s properties in the United States. It will be a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold building that will further demonstrate why this company has won a Presidential Gold Medal and other accolades for its programs.
Smaller accommodation places are also on the environmental bandwagon. The efforts at the 33-room Boulder Hot Springs Inn, Spa and Retreat in Montana are aligned with its goal of “living with the planet, not destroying or using it.”
In addition to joint conservation projects, others include redesigning the heating system to take advantage of local geothermal waters and studying the possible use of the water to generate electricity. The hostel is also restoring the adjacent natural wetlands, which have been drained to provide pasture. This has resulted in the return of moose, antelopes, deer and other wildlife to what was previously a protected sanctuary.
While the Disney Company has been an environmental pioneer, it is not the only entertainment company with a green thumb. Destiny USA is a mega-mall near Syracuse, New York that, in addition to places to shop and dine, offers a variety of entertainment options. The 26 million annual visitors produce a torrent of trash and other waste that the center deals with responsibly enough to make it the largest commercial building in the world to achieve LEED Gold certification.
Efforts were made during construction, when they used over 90% material recovered from landfills and made flooring from crushed cork and quickly renewing walnut shells. A “cool roof” reflecting the sun conserves energy and harvests rainwater to save 4 million gallons of water per year.
Speaking of water, cruise ships have implemented various measures to reduce their environmental impact. New passenger ships use advanced waste management systems that crush waste, compact glass and metal, and incinerate paper and plastic.
One of the leaders in this field is Un-Cruise Adventures, whose ships travel to the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Hawaii and Central America. As a member of the Passenger Vessel Association’s Green Waters program, the airline adheres to its motto “leave no trace” on all trips. Every effort is made to reduce fuel consumption, conserve energy and clean water, and reduce the use of harmful chemicals.
Ground outfits follow many of the same self-imposed rules. Overseas Adventure Travel, part of the Grand Circle Corp. family of companies, connects clients with the people and cultures of the destinations they visit around the world. It seeks to instill knowledge and respect for local communities and supports a variety of business, philanthropy and entrepreneurship projects.
The OAT emphasizes sustainable transport to natural areas such as the Galapagos Islands and the Serengeti region of Tanzania, with an emphasis on environmental conservation and improving the well-being of the population. The company supports water and sanitation projects in the communities it visits, helped finance the construction of a women’s center in Morocco, and helps cooperatives, orphanages and other facilities to worldwide.
The TravelStride.com website is a source of information on group tours and other trips, and a search for “eco-tourism” brings up a choice of alternatives. For example, Global Basecamps takes participants to Costa Rica, which has been called the birthplace of environmental travel. From bird watching and the tiny turtle hatching and racing for the water to experiencing the beautiful cloud forest of Monteverde, nine people have a better appreciation of the world we live in and added a momentum to protect it.
Whatever its name – ecotourism, environmental travel, responsible travel, sustainable tourism – the trend is here to stay. Whatever your preferences, there’s a good chance the hotels and transportation you use are helping to make the world a better place.
WHEN YOU GO
A worker at the Walt Disney World-Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida demonstrates hydroponics to visitors. Photo courtesy of Joe Sohm / Dreamstime.com.
Baby sea turtles hatch and flee to the sea in Costa Rica. Photo courtesy of Shakeelmsm / Dreamstime.com.
Victor Block is a freelance writer. To read articles from other Creators Syndicate authors and designers, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.