Monday, December 31, 2007

New Airplane Baggage Rules for 2008

The rules are changing -- again -- for airplane carry-on luggage and checked baggage.

Starting January 1, 2008 -- tomorrow -- you may no longer put spare, back-up lithium batteries for your digital cameras, computers, cellphones, etc., in your checked baggage. They must be in your carry-on luggage.

The reason? The US Department of Transportation is worried that lithium batteries travelling all by themselves in your suitcase could rub up against your socks and the friction could cause them to explode and start a fire inside the plane's cargo belly.

But, obviously, DOT and does not believe these same lithium batteries rubbing up against your paperback book in your carry-on would cause a fire.

There's no word from DOT whether the chargers for those batteries can travel in checked luggage, or must also be in our carry-on.

It is okay to pack your computer or camera into checked baggage -- as if anybody in their right mind puts expensive and delicate computers or digital cameras into their checked baggage.

So, you can put your expensive electronic gadgets in your checked luggage, but not the spare batteries to power them. This makes no sense.

Also, the new rules prohibit more than two spare lithium batteries in your carry-on. Okay, I generally travel with two cameras and laptop. Which of my lithium battery powered "children" will have to starve to death for lack of battery power because I am now limited to carrying a back-up battery for only two of them? This makes no sense.

Wait -- there's more. DOT is now requiring that we carry our two -- only two -- spare lithium batteries in their original packaging. Yes, friends -- the very same paper and plastic you threw out before DOT made this new rule. Or, you have to pack them in another plastic baggie, the same kind that holds your three-ounces-or-less toiletries. Loose lithiums can be confiscated!

So, Happy New Year from DOT and the harried airport "police", who will have to carry out this new carry-on rule. The TSA, whose full name is the Transportation Safety Administration, now protecting us airline passengers from the dangers of lithium batteries, in addition to water, mascara, deodorant, hand lotion, cuticle nippers and pumped breast milk.

Here's the official word from the TSA website, Safe Travel.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Eat Your Tofu -- and Wear It, Too

Tofutech is a new knit fabric created from soy. So now you can wear your tofu as well as eat it.

Tofutech is from ExOfficio, a top manufacturer of travel apparel, including high performance

Soy contains 16 amino acids which can be absorbed into human skin. Such absorption benefits the collagen protein which strengthens skin and blood vessels, helping skin become healthy and radiant. So, wearing fabrics made from soy will actually help your skin, the company says.

Natural soy fabrics offer natural odor and bacteria resistance, moisture wicking comfort, wrinkle resistance, quick-dry convenience and a soft, natural hand for added comfort. These are properties ExOfficio builds into the design of its 'regular' performance travel fabrics.

Right now, there are just a few Tofutech designs, but the company hopes to add more in 2008.

The good news is Tofutech travel clothing is no more expensive than comparable shirts from ExOfficio. And the other good news is that since soy is a renewable commodity, you will be wearing green when you travel, even if your green travel shirt is in a different color.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Take the Trolley Back to the Future

Cities across the US are taking a new look at an old idea: the city streetcar.

Vintage, electric trolley systems, like Tucson's Old Pueblo Trolley, provide an authentic streetcar experience that mixes public transportation with entertainment for visitors. Everybody loves old streetcars, with their wooden seats, clanging bells and windows that open.

Besides being lots of fun, the Old Pueblo Trolley is a demonstration light-rail project. The future includes expansion of its rails and overhead wires into the downtown business district.

Light-rail systems are a green way to move people around downtown -- they are energy-efficient. Just ask cities like Salt Lake City, which built one to help transport visitors to the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Tucson's one-mile route connects the Fourth Avenue shopping-and-entertainment district with University of Arizona, passing beautifully restored historic homes along the way.

You can see more historic trolleys, plus vintage busses and more at Tucson's Southern Arizona Transportation Museum.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Looking for the Loch Ness Monster

The Loch Ness Monster, affectionately called "Nessie", may or may not exist. Even so, more than 1,000 people have claimed to have seen it lurking in the loch.

The fairytale myth has been adapted for the big screen. ‘The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep’ is the imaginative re-telling of Scotland’s most famous mystery. It's a charming, magical movie for kids of all ages, and sure to generate interest in travel to green Scotland.

Loch Ness is the largest volume of fresh water in Britain, measuring between 750 and 820 feet deep in places, allowing plenty of hiding places for it’s most elusive resident.

The most comprehensive collection of evidence on the famous mythical monster is at the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre at Drumnadrochit.

Or, try finding Nessie yourself. Explore the mystical waters of the Loch on one of the scheduled cruises and tours, which visit hiding spots such as the Caledonian Canal, the deepest parts of the loch, and the picturesque ruins of Castle Urquhart, one of the most evocative and romantic parts of the area.

Another breathtaking natural attraction is the Falls of Foyers. These are two waterfalls, the smaller upper falls and the spectacular 100 foot lower falls. Viewing platforms let you get up close to see this ancient ravine. There also are twisting, winding trails to discover around the narrow wooden gorge. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes and a spray-proof jacket.

At the end of the day, stop off in one of the pubs in the village of Killin alongside the lake, or loch. Perhaps you'll hear stories about Nessie from some of the local residents. Perhaps over a glass of the famous local beverage of Scotland. You know what it is. Unlike Nessie, that's no mystery.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Recycle or Freecycle

New toys for the kids, upgraded BlackBerry or iPod for you, home theater plasma TV for the family. What will you do with the old 'stuff'? Ditto the gifts you hate, like that green alien cookie jar you just got from Aunt Tacky Taste.

Some things can be donated to charity, of course. Instead of putting the rest out with the trash and adding to the landfill, Freecycle it.

Freecycle is an international group whose axiom is that one person's trash is another person's treasure.

No buying or selling involved. Actually, that is strictly prohibited. This is not eBay. No money is exchanged. You give what you don't want to somebody who does, indeed, want it. Simple.

Register with your Zip code to find a Freecycle group near you, post information about what you want to give -- or get -- online, and you avoid the dreaded cycle of buying the same thing over and over. And you are also helping the planet.

There are some 4,000 Freecycle groups around the planet, with a combined total of more than 3 million members. Somebody wants your old BlackBerry.

Monday, December 24, 2007

We're Driving More This Holiday Season

Despite higher gas prices for our vehicles and more expensive airline tickets, the AAA estimates more of us will be travelling at least 50 miles from home this holiday season than last.

It's just a 0.7 percent increase -- from 65.2 million last year to 64.7 million this year. That percentage increase is a good bit less than the price increase we are seeing for gas and airfare.

According to the AAA, airfares averaging 16% more than last Christmas have a double-whammy. Since airfare bargains are harder to find, and many of us are deciding to drive, instead of fly, to grandma's house, despite $3 a gallon gas.

Just so you know -- gasoline costs an average of 70 cents a gallon more this holiday than last.

More than 80% of all holiday travelers will be in their vehicles on the road this week. That's a total of 53 million, and all of them will be on the same road as you are.

And another projected 3.3 million will traveling by train, bus or what the AAA called "other mode of transportation", whatever that is. Broomstick? Segway?

Because of those more expensive airfares, due in part to higher jet fuel prices the airlines have to pay, just under nine million of us are travelling by plane this week. Hotel prices are up, too, by as much as 9% since last year's holiday week, according to the AAA.

It all adds up to a lot of people on the move this week, and pay more for the privelege.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Chile Seeks to Create World's Largest Whale Sanctuary

Half of the whale species on earth can be found in the waters around Chile at any given point in the year, so whales, and whale watching tourism, are of crucial importance to Chile.

That's why a combination of activists and politicians from Chile and elsewhere in Latin America have proposed forming the world's largest whale sanctuary there, which could eventually make Chile the world's top whale-watching destination.

The sanctuary proposal is being presented to Chile's Senate Environmental Commission, with the goal of receiving government approval before the next meeting meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), to be held in Santiago in June 2008.

Marine biology research centers such as Whale Sound already recognize the tourism potential of a whale watching sanctuary. Located near a humpback whale feeding area within the Francisco Coloane Marine Park in the Strait of Magellan, Whale Sound offers 3-day/2-night package journeys with dome-style lodging and daily excursions led by degreed biologists to view whales and other aquatic life.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Learn About Yellowstone in Winter

Head for Yellowstone National Park this winter for seminars on such topics on wildlife, geology, history, art and outdoor skills. Some seminars are outdoors, and transportation is by snowshoe.

The seminars are taught by college professors, research scientists, park staff and other experts, offered by the Yellowstone Association. This winter, there are new courses focus on writing, park explorers and winter wildlife.

Most of these Winter Institute Field Courses last from one to four days and are limited to 12 participants. Many courses are held at the Institute’s Lamar Buffalo Ranch field campus, where simple, comfortable log cabins are just $25 per person per night. Other courses are based at Yellowstone Park lodges.

Learn about the wolves and bear Yellowstone, and more, including how to photograph them. Many people believe the park in winter is even more beautiful than in summer. Snowy fields dotted with bison, glistening, partly frozen waterfalls, and few tourists to spoil the spell.

I attended a summer program recently, and it was memorable. Did not even mind getting up at dawn to watch wolves and bear looking for breakfast in the Lamar Valley. We watched through high-powered binoculars -- not close enough to actually become their breakfast!

The Institute is a non-profit field school founded in 1976 and operated by the Yellowstone Association in partnership with the National Park Service. The Institute was founded in 1976.

The Yellowstone Association was founded in 1933 to foster the public’s understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of Yellowstone National Park and its surrounding ecosystem, including managing educational bookstores and a membership program. These have generated more than $10 million for Yellowstone, for the National Park Service.

This is all good. We help the NPS and ourselves at the same time.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tips for an Eco-Friendly Holiday Season

Between Thanksgiving and New Year's, each one of us produces an estimated 20% more trash than usual.

Just think about how much trash is around every gift you buy and give. Wrapping paper, gift boxes, tissue paper, ribbon, greeting card envelopes, fancy department store paper shopping bags.

All of that winds up in the landfill. Unless you recycle. Unless you make your holiday season more eco-friendly. Consider it your gift to the environment. Travel green, drive green, give green.

These tips for a greener and simpler season are from the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Some require little or no throw-away wrapping.

Homemade baked goods are always welcome gifts— and they never end up in a landfill! Anybody can bake cookies, even though not all of us can turn out mouth-watering cakes, jams, sauces or pickled vegetables.

Send mail-order organic food, including a holiday ham. This is a double-green gift, since you are supporting organic farmers, who are almost all small and indenpendent family farmers, and giving fresh, healthy food.

Give the gift of your time, such as an IOU for a night of baby-sitting or an hour or two of yard work.

Buy greeting cards made from recycled paper. For wrapping paper, you can create a unique look with pictures from out-dated calendars, maps, or magazines. That's an especially creative way for children to wrap gifts for their friends and relatives. Of course, you can also reuse gift bags.

Give entertainment, such as a museum membership, tickets to the movies, the theatre, concerts or to sporting events. Or, a gift of learning, such as language or music lessons, classes in cooking, photography, or other favorite hobbies.

Give fitness or pampering, such as gym memberships, personal training sessions, or classes in dance, yoga or Pilates, a massage, facial or manicure and pedicure.

Give nature, such as flower seeds to plant next spring, or a hummingbird feeder.

String your holiday tree with edible and biodegradable items like popcorn or cranberries for ornaments, rather than tinsel — which you can feed to the birds in the backyard after the holidays are over.

Find out if your local sanitation department has a tree recycling program. In New York City, the annual Mulchfest program collected more than 177,000 trees last year, which were mulched to help the trees in the city's parks.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Preferred Parking for Hybrid Vehicles at Tahoe Ski Resort

Sierra-at-Tahoe is rewarding skiers and snowboarders who are helping to reduce their carbon footprint.

New this ski season, guests who arrive in a hybrid vehicle will be able to park in the lot closest to the lifts. In this “green lot”, the parking lines are painted green instead of yellow. The preferred parking lot is located front and center at the resort, which also provides skiers and snowboarders arriving in gas guzzlers the chance to walk past a veritable showroom of hybrid vehicle choices.

There some one dozen models of hybrid cars, both sedans and SUVs, already on the market, with more in the pipeline, from nearly all your favorite manufacturers. These are some, not all --

Hybrid Sedans -- Toyota Prius and Camry, Honda Accord and Civic, Nissan Altima, Lexus LS 450H, Saturn Aura Green Line

Hybrid SUVs -- Ford Escape (pictured, above), Mercury Mariner, Lexus RX 400h

New Hybrid Models Expected in 2008 -- Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler Aspen

Okay, back to skiing and snowboarding. At Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort, "Project:Green" program includes mini-green tags, which help offset vehicle emissions associated with ski trips. Complimentary resort shuttles from nearby South Lake Tahoe help minimize vehicle trips to the resort.

Other resort-wide projects that have been in place for several seasons include installing solar panels and occupancy sensors that turn off hallway and bathroom lights when nobody is there.

Wow, a special, preferred parking lot for green cars. How brilliant is that! Invite the good guys up front and send the bad guys to the outer limits.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Smarter Travel: Avoid Airport Delays

Remember to pack your patience along with your holiday plans. These packing rules for smarter travel this holiday season will save time and reduce stress.

Never put valuables like medicines into checked luggage. Ditto your house keys, cameras, itinerary with all the addresses and phone numbers you'll need when you arrive. It will save inconvenience, even a life-threatening emergency if your luggage is delayed.

Remember your Passport. You won't be allowed on an international flight without it. Even if you are boarding a cruise ship in the USA, a passport alwo is required if that ship is making international port visits.

Only two carry-ons allowed. It isn't an airline rule -- it is an FAA rule. The policy is one piece of luggage and one personal item such as a purse or briefcase per person. And the rules can be different internationally -- London's Heathrow airport limits you to one item, not two. That means you can fly into Heahtrow with two carry-ons, but you can leave carrying only one.

Dress comfortably. Wear clothing that is soft and breathable, and wear shoes that can slip on and off easily at security check points. And wear socks, so you aren't barefoot in the airport. Wear a zip-up or button-front jacket or sweater to speed the screening process -- these layers will come in handy as a makeshift pillow or blanket in flight.

Carry on snacks and reading material. That is especially important when travelling with children. Pack healthy snacks -- I never leave home without a bag of dried fruits and nuts, a granola bar, or both. It has saved me and my family from starvation on more than one delayed flight.

Expect delays. You probably don't need to be reminded that this is the busiest travel season of the year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Last Minute Holiday Travel Advice

You probably don't need to be reminded this is the busiest travel season of the year.

Here are six tips to reduce airport stress and delays for your Christmas holiday visit with family or your annual Caribbean escape or ski safari to get away from them.

1- Check in early. Many airlines now allow check-in from your computer up to 24 hours prior to departure time, even printing out a boarding pass. Many airlines, including US Airways, now provide updated information on gates and flight delays through text-enabled Treo and BlackBerry devices and mobile phones.

2- Allow plenty of time. For parking, check-in and security. Although rules vary by airport and airline, you will lost your seat and your baggage will not make it on board unless you check in at least 30-45 minutes before your flight.

3- Avoid extra baggage charges. Curbside check-in is faster, but many airlines, including American and United, now charge $2 per bag for curbside check-in. Another reason to check in early and take your bags inside to save money.

4- Use check-in kiosks. Generally faster than conventional check-in lines. Swipe a credit card to print out a boarding pass. Some new kiosks can read a US Passport.

5- Pack carefully. Most airlines limit you to two pieces of checked luggage per ticket. Overweight and extra bags can cost as much as $100. Bags are generally considered overweight if they weigh more than 50 lbs.

6- Remember the 3-1-1 rule. Carry-on liquids are limited to tubes and bottles of three ounces or less, all visible inside a single one-quart see-through plastic bag. Whatever doesn't fit inside the zip-close baggie will be confiscated. Some airports provide properly sized plastic bags at the start of the security line as a courtesy. Better to have your carry-on mouthwash, hand lotion, hair gel and other necessities already packed and ready.

More tomorrow.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Get Smart. The Smart For Two Car Arrives Soon

The Smart Car is a compact, energy-efficient little car that's been popular in Europe and Asia for nearly a decade now. But until now, the United States has not been smart enough to have the Smart Car.

Finally, Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler is bringing it to the United States. Arriving in January 2008, the American version is called 'smart fortwo'. So small it does not even get capital letters for its name.

Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of Daimler AG, says 'smart fortwo' is the right car at the right time for Americans, who are facing volatile fuel prices, increased urban congestion and a mindset of environmental responsibility. Something drivers in Europe have faced for generations already -- exactly why the Smart Car is so popular there.

I've seen Smart cars parked sideways, like a motorcycle, in cities including Paris. And I've seen them keeping up with the big boys on the legendary German Autobahn.

So if you have $99 for a deposit, get in line behind more than 30,000 other smart consumers to reserve one of these little green gem cars.

Mercedes parent Daimler says the market for the 'smart fortwo' is first-time buyers looking for something affordable, city dwellers looking for something functional and easy to park, baby boomers needing a third car for commuting, and empty nesters who no longer need a large car with a back seat and a roomy trunk. That pretty much sounds like everybody, except perhaps a large family.

Here's the downside -- just 70 dealerships nationwide, and only those in major cities, will be selling the 'fortwo'. Maybe, if we are smart enough to make the 'smart fortwo' a best-seller, then maybe Daimler also will bring to the USA the four-person Smart that I've seen also on the streets and highways of Europe and Asia. Check out some 'smart for two' video on You Tube.

Friday, December 7, 2007

New National Preserve Opens for Winter Sports in New Mexico

This winter, New Mexico is opening 6,000 acres of the new Valles Caldera National Preserve for winter sports.

The preserve is New Mexico's newest public land, a huge, stunning former private ranch that sprawls across some 89,000 acres. It is located about one hour from Santa Fe, even less from Los Alamos.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing enthusiasts can enjoy 35 Kilometers of X-C trails, a combination of set and flat track. Or, head off anywhere in the entire 6,000 acre area designated if you want to break your own trail.

A yurt to yurt program for overnight skiers and snowshoers will be available through a special lottery. The Valley Caldera National Park has been off-limits to all recreation for decades and holds true treasures including old-growth forest, remarkable geology, and huge views.

VCNP is the newest member of Ski New Mexico, which includes world-famous and legendary resorts like Taos Ski Valley, and also lesser-known gems such as Pajarita Mountain, Angel Fire and Ski Santa Fe, which is just outside town.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Take the Train Downtown from the Copenhagan Airport

A new stretch of Copenhagen's speedy, "driverless" Metro service has just opened, connecting Copenhagen Airport with the city center.

The trains travel along the eastern shore of the island of Amager then west into the city and beyond to the Frederiksberg and Vanløse neighborhoods. Although the modern trains are driverless, there is a Metro Steward aboard to ensure everybody's safety.

The trip from the airport to Kongens Nytorv in the city center takes just 15 minutes and costs just $4 - or, it is free with a Copenhagen Card.

After you finish travelling green, you can eat green, too, since eating organic in Copenhagen is incredibly easy with organic produce, meat, milk, cheese and other products widely available at supermarkets and restaurants.

Danes have long been world leaders in organic food production; in Denmark eco-conscious eating is simply a way of life!

Top organic spots in Copenhagen include the casual café BioM - where even the paint on the walls is eco-friendly - and Gourmandiet, both in the Østerbro section of town, as well as Cap Horn (arguably Copenhagen's first organic restaurant) located prominently on Nyhavn, the historic canal district.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Green Holiday Gifts to Save African Wildlife

You can help protect Africa’s lions, gorillas, elephants, and other imperiled species with a gift from the African Wildlife Organization.

There are t-shirts and tote bags, of course, some with images of the very animals whose future is in jeopardy, plus some lovely beaded bracelets and other handicrafts made by tribeswomen in Kenya.

But the most unusual gift is to adopt an entire family of animals for $75 or just an individual animal for $25.

No, the animal doesn't show up at the doorstep of the recipient. What does arrive is a plush toy representing the species you have chosen, a Certificate of Adoption suitable for framing, a photo fact sheet on the species, and a year’s membership in AWF, which includes a subscription to the quarterly newsletter. Or, give a gift certificate and let the recipient choose which animal he or she wants to support.
It's an ideal gift for any child on your list. Grown-ups, too.

It's the kind of gift that does several things at once --

  • protects African savannahs, forests and wetlands from commercial logging or other development, which, in turn,

  • protects giraffe, impala, zebra, chimpanzees, leopards, rhinos, wildebeest and other wildlife,

  • provides work to impoverished families in Africa.
A child on your gift list would be captivated by the story of Leperit, the Grevy’s zebra rescued by two Samburu boys when he was just six months old. A giraffe named Kakuda and a lioness called Auntie Botlhe have equally interesting histories. And there are several new species in AWF’s Wildlife Adoption Center this year, including Loli the leopard and a warthog named Wally.

Oh, and did I mention your gift is tax deductible?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb Voted Best Australia Sports Attraction

The Bridge Climb across the Sydney harbor bridge has become one of Australia’s prime tourist attractions, along with the scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef and hiking around Uluru, the world’s largest monolith and an Aboriginal sacred site also known as Ayers Rock.

Since the BridgeClimb tour operator started taking people across the girders in 1998, more than two million climbers have taken the adventure trip, including country western entertainer Keith Urban, an Aussie native.

Join an organized tour, and don't look down. Bridge Climb takes adventurers on a a unique journey through the heart of the bridge along the inner arch before ascending to the very top, some 700 feet (134m) above sea level.

Climbers can touch the raw steel and infinite rivets – maybe even hold on to them in terror -- as you scramble over mesh catwalks, up stairs and past the historic point where the bridge was first joined.

There are awesome views of Sydney and the amazing sense of accomplishment when you reach the summit. The climb takes 3-4 hours and all climbers receive a commemorative certificate and a photograph of their group at the summit.

There are guided climbs at dawn, day, twilight and night, with departures evey ten minutes, seven days a week, and you can choose between a climb over the top or one through the heart of the girders.

Just think, bridge painters get to do this every day.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Costa Rica Edo-Lodge HelpsSave Endangered Sea Turtles

The Lapa Rios Ecolodge on the stunning Osa Peninsula has come up with a unique way to save Costa Rica's sea turtles. The lodge has teamed with a local women's group to collect the plastic bags and bottles that litter the beaches, and cut and weave them into usable things.

The program is creating a new handicrafts industry which is providing income to local families, at the same time it is helping save the endangered sea turtles. These are the large and lumbering Olive Ridley, Pacific Green and Leatherback sea turtles.

Sadly, many of these beautiful creatures are dying from improper plastic bag disposal and poaching, which is impacting the area's natural ecosystem in a dramatic way. Sea turtles often mistake the plastic bag litter for a favorite food -- jellyfish -- and the sea turtles suffocate when they try to eat the plastic.
More than 1,000 sea turtles visit the area each season, and this effort will help save many of them.
The Lapa Rios project does four things at the same time --
  • reduces littered plastic bags,

  • saves sea turtles,

  • cleans up the environment

  • creates micro business opportunities for women who might otherwise be unemployed.

Now that's what I call a win-win program.

The eco-lodge even has sponsored a workshop to teach local women how to make the beautiful, recycled bags, which are being sold at the Lapa Rios gift store, as well as on-line. The lodge has teamed up with Women of the Osa, ASCONA (Asociacion Costarricense para la Conservacion de la Naturaleza) and others to support the Osa Sea Turtle Conservation program, Weaving for Nature.

The the multi-colored plastic bags are cut into long strips, and knit or woven into new, attractive handbags and purses. The recycled bags are sold in the lodge's gift shop, and via the lodge website.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Best Adventure Travel Gifts for the Holidays

What to give your favorite intrepid traveler this holiday season? Something that promotes green travels, such as these environmentally sensible gift ideas. No batteries required.

There's no reason to lose touch when the power goes out, or when you are camping out miles from the nearest electrical outlet. Norm Thompson has an emergency radio that's also an emergency siren and flashlight. Just wind it up with the hand crank on the side to make it work. It even charges cell phones.

Stop buying all those throwaway water bottles everywhere you go -- the ones that fill up landfills and litter the sides of highways. Instead, choose the SteriPen from Magellan's, which harnesses the power of ultraviolet light to purify your drinking water. UV light has been used by water treatment plants and hospitals for more than 50 years to eliminate dangerous bacteria, viruses and protozoa without chemicals or boiling. Sure it's pricey -- $79 for the regular version and $99 for a smaller travel-size, but consider that an investment that will pay back in just a few restaurant meals and hiking excursions.

Sometimes, you just don't want to go barefoot on questionable hotel carpeting. You don't have to with these Toe Sox from FootSmart. The little nubs on the bottom prevent slipping, and the socks do double duty in Yoga and Pilates exercise classes. And the five-toe design lets your toes wiggle

Find more holiday gear and gadgets gift ideas for your favorite adventure traveller here.

Sensible gifts these are, for your favorite green travels. And that includes yourself.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Canada Airline Goes Completely Carbon Neutral

The world's largest all-seaplane airline plans to be completely carbon neutral by the end of 2007.

The airline is Vancouver based Harbour Air began began purchasing high quality carbon offsets in October to mitigate the climate impact of all scheduled service, charter and tour operations.

This made Harbour Air the first air carrier of any kind, seaplane or jet plane, in North America and the only seaplane airline in the world to make all its flight services 100 per cent carbon neutral.

This year to date, Harbour Air has contributed more than $15,000 to carbon neutral programs and is further pledging to offset its corporate emissions to become the first carrier in the world to achieve complete carbon neutrality in all aspects of its business.

Harbour Air flies between Vancouver, Victoria, Richmond, Nainamo and the Gulf Islands of British Columbia.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Holiday Gifts That Fight Poverty

The best gifts are the ones that will be appreciated, even life changing, and I am not talking about a pair of mittens or a fruitcake. I'm talking about a gift that will help a poor family to survive.

My vote for one of the best places to shop for gifts this season goes to Heifer International, which fights hunger and poverty around the world one goat, sheep, pig, cow, chicken, rabbit and human family at a time.

Here are some gift suggestions --

$120 will buy a dairy goat for a destitute family, perhaps in Guatemala or Kenya. One goat can supply a family with up to several quarts of nutritious milk a day. Whatever the family doesn't drink can be sold to make cheese, butter or yogurt. And the manure fertilizes the family vegetable garden.

$120 will give a sheep to a poor family, perhaps in Peru or Ecuador, to be sheared for wool that can be knitted into warm ponchos and sweaters for the family, or sold to others support the family.

$60 will buy a trio of rabbits for an impoverished family, perhaps in Nepal or China, to help fertilize the garden and multiply and its offspring shared with a neighbor who is similarly improverished.

Your friends and family, including the kids, will not miss receiving a silly tie or duplicate of a toy they already have. You'll both feel good about helping the world's poor and hungry, and helping the environment, too.

Oh, and did I mention that your gift is tax deductible, too?

Recycling Old Tires Into Art

Artist Chakaia Booker is known for her sculptures that utilize old tires that are cut, shaped and folded, then woven into dynamic, highly textured designs.

What better place for an installation of artwork made of old tires than Indianapolis, home of the world-famous Indianapolis 500 auto race held each May.

Booker is creating at least nine original, site-specific sculptures for a temporary public art exhibition in Indianapolis, opening in May 2008, and ending April 1, 2009.

The New York based artist has produced acclaimed shows in sculpture parks including Storm King in New York and Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis, and has been included in important museum and gallery exhibitions including the 2000 Whitney Biennial.

The tire art will reflect the history and culture of Indianapolis, including the spirit and energy of Madam C.J. Walker, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and social activist; musician, producer, entrepreneur Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds; the Jazz, Blues and R&B of Naptown; and the Underground Railroad. And, of course, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The artwork also acknowledges the city's GreenPrint plan for a more environmentally sensitive future.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Eco-Lodge in Sri Lanka Uses Solar Power

The Kandalama Hotel is nestled in between two UNESCO World Heritage sites and a national wildlife refuge, on the edge of a pristine mountain lake in Sri Lanka, . So resource conservation is a no-brainer.

The simple task of replacing several hundred incandescent lightbulbs in rooms and public areas with fluorescents in this 162-room resort is saving 75,000 kwh per year. Using solar power to heat water is saving an additional 80,000 kwh annually.

The Kandalama Hotel is the first resort in Asia to be certified by Green Globe 21 and the first in the world to be certified by LEED.

Kandalama actively re-forests its surroundings, with an unusual and worthy dual-purpose tree-planting program -- it uses discarded coconut shells as seedling containers, and regional school children do the planting. That teaches them a great deal more than the just names of the seedling varieties they are planting.

Lots to do here.
  • Go elephant trekking.
  • Take a hike through the rainforest.
  • Visit Dambulla, a UNESCO site regarded as one of the world’s most important cave temples.
  • Watch the light and clouds dance around and behind Sigiriya, another UNESCO site, an almost inaccessible rock that was the site of an ancient fortress.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Green Spa in New Mexico

Absolute Nirvana Spa, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is one of the most comprehensively green spas in the country.

Here's some of the eco-friendly things you'll find here:

Facials are done with the all natural Naturopathica skincare line or with avocado, honey, cucumber, yogurt, and brown rice powder. Spa treatments are done with organic oils, spices, organic brown rice and brown sugar, papaya, seaweed, white clay, yogurt and honey.

The spa is cleaned using all natural cleaning agents which are chemical-free and non-toxic. And only earth-friendly, non-toxic fertilizers are used in the gardens.

80% of the electricity is from wind power. At night, the spacious grounds are illuminated by a combination of solar and motion detector lights. That eliminates the waste of all-night outdoor lighting. Light bulbs are compact fluorescent wherever possible

The spa has its own water treatment system and they recycle all of their rose petal bath water.

Menus and stationary are printed on recycled paper with soy ink. Decorations are long living plants instead of fresh cut flowers.

Cloth hand towels replace paper towels, and glass or plastic cups instead of paper. Also, no bottled water. Only filtered. That saves yet more plastic and paper. And what is used gets recycled.

Makes sense, especially the eco-friendly things you can do yourself at home, like using less paper towels, more flourescent light bulbs, and filtering tap water and a re-usuable container so you avoid those ubiquitous and environmentally damaging little throwaway water bottles.

Rockefeller Center Xmas Tree Goes Eco-Friendly

The most famous holiday decoration in New York City, perhaps the world, is the annual Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. And this year, it go eco-friendly with bright new LED lights that use a lot less electricity.

The new light emitting diode lights use less than half as much electricity as the conventional bulbs used until now. So, instead of using 3,510 killowatt hours a day, the number is now 1,297kw.

According to, the use of LED lights on the Rockefeller tree equates to a daily “savings” equal to the electricity consumed by a 2,000-square-foot house in a month. That's pretty significant. But, A posting on Design News isn't impressed, saying, "they would save even more energy if they just didn’t put the tree up to begin with".

Bah, humbug.

The engineering website did not mention that Paris, also known as The City of Lights, is using similar LED lighting to cut back on electrical usage for the hundreds of trees along the Champs-Elysses.

Close to one million of the new eco-friendly light bulbs decorate more than 400 trees along this famous boulevard, between the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde. The LED bulbs promise to provide eight times the twinkle, while cutting the electric bill by 70 percent.

New York City and Paris. Two of the world's most popular and most visited cities. Always setting trends. This one is a Green Travels trend.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Hampshire Ski Resort Using Biodiesel

Mount Sunapee Resort has started using Biodiesel fuels in its resort operations this winter.

Biodiesel B-20 will be used in snow grooming equipment and snow removal heavy equipment.
Biodiesel B-5 will be used to heat base area lodges and other buildings.

It's the most recent addition to the New Hampshire resort's expanding energy management program, which includes using wind energy. Its sister resorts, Okemo Mountain in Vermont and Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado, also use wind energy

The ski resorts off-set 100% of their electrical power consumption with wind energy that is put back onto the power grid.

Also in Colorado, Winter Park Resort is using wind power to power its new Eagle Wind chairlift.

Now, if we could only harness the energy of skiers hurtling downhill. Ah, but we do. It's called apres ski.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Bicycle-Friendly Santa Cruz, California

Pedal power is a great way to travel green. And the beachside community of Santa Cruz, California is a great place to bicycle.

The League of American Bicyclists has named Santa Cruz a Bicycle Friendly Community. It's an award, a recognition, to communities that have made impressive efforts to integrate bicyclists into the community. The designation is difficult to come by -- since it was launched in 2003, just 70 communities have earned the pedal power award.

The designation includes recognition of the all-around cycling program in Santa Cruz, and such specifics as strongly enforced guidelines to protect the safety of cyclists, pedestrians and disabled travelers.

One of the places to visit on your two-wheeled travels is Roaring Camp Railroads, up in Bear Mountain, which is offering a menu of rides from one hour to four hours long. Novice cyclers can take the train up the mountain.

You'll learn about the redwood forest, nature, ecology, conservation efforts and local history. From there, it's all downhill -- on a single track run back to Roaring Camp.

Eco-Adventures in Northern Arizona

Winter is an ideal time to visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument in northeastern Arizona.

Daytime temperatures typically range from 40 to 60 degrees, and at night they sometimes dip into the 20s, and while it does snow sometimes, it is rarely more than a few inches. There are no crowds, the air sparkles with brilliant sunshine, and the park's only hotel cuts its room rates in half.

The Thunderbird Lodge is built on the site of a 1896 trading post. Throuugh March 1, 2008, rooms are $69 for a double room, plus taxes, with a complimentary breakfast. And the gift shop still trades in some of the region’s finest examples of hand-crafted turquoise and silver Native American jewelry and colorful Navajo rugs.

Take a tour of the beautiful, mystical back-country in six-wheel drive touring vehicles operated by experienced and knowledgeable Navajo guides. You will learn about one of the most sacred, historic and culturally significant places in the Navajo Nation. The tour takes you to Anasazi ruins, pictographs and petroglyphs on the sides of cliffs, and sites where the Navajo fought to keep their independence from Spanish, Mexican and American governments.

Except for hiking the White House Ruin trail, travel in the canyons is allowed only with a park ranger or an authorized Navajo guide.

Canyon de Chelly is a beautiful spot, in any season.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Allergy Free Hotel Rooms in NYC

No sneezing, coughing or itching in this NYC hotel, which claims to be 98% free of bacteria and viruses.

It's the deluxe Premier Hotel in Times Square, part of the Millennium Hotels and Resorts group.
Their new "Premier Pure" rooms feature an allergen- friendly environment, which includes zapping the rooms with a 4-5 hour high ozone shock treatment to kill any of living organisms and their associated odors. That's followed by a bacteriostatic barrier applied on virtually all surfaces to minimize the growth of bacteria.

In addition, special hypo-allergenic pillow cases and mattress covers are used in rooms, to eliminate the dust, dander and dust-mite related allergens usually associated with common bedding.

The allergen-removal extends to the Penthouse suite and the hotel's fitness center -- which claims to be the first hotel gym using this new process, which includes removing allergens from the air flow.

Medical research shows that more than 70 million Americans suffer from various airborne allergies or asthma. But even if you are not a sufferer, the allergy-friendly rooms are a bonus because they reduce or eliminates biohazards and other irritants from all room surfaces -- including bedding, carpeting, walls and furniture -- and filter them from the air.

The hotel also is introducing therapeutic natural skin care products by LATHER as its bath amenities.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Coffee in a Cup Made From Corn

Americans drink through and toss away more than 16 billion paper coffee cups a year.
That's a lot of landfill. How much? Oh, about 25 million pounds just for the oil-based plastic coating on the paper cups, and millions more pounds of paper inside the plastic coating.

There's a new, environmmentally friendly coffee cup to fill our caffeine-addicted brains and un-fill our overflowing landfills.

It is part corn, so it requires less energy to manufacture -- and therefore generates less greenhouse gas to make. And the corn-based coating lets the cups be composted instead of landfilled.

It's called 'ecotainer' and its from Internataional Paper. One of the first and biggest customers for this new bio-degradable coffee cup is the Hilton Garden Inn chain of mid-priced hotels.

All 340 Hilton Garden Inns in the US will be using these eco-friendly ecotainers. Maybe the rest of the hotels in the Hilton chain will, too.

A cuppa joe in a cuppa corn. What will they think of next!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rent a Hybrid Car From Avis, Budget

Next time you need to rent a car, call Avis or Budget and ask for one of the hybrid or flex-fuel vehicles just added to their rental fleets.

It's a great way to travel green, and a great way to test drive a new fuel-efficient 'green' car that you just might want to buy when your current Old Breakdown needs to be replaced.

There are more than 2,500 gas-electric hybrids in the Avis and Budget fleets, with more models and additional rental locations being added. Models include --

  • Toyota Prius, the model which made hybrids cool to drive, in the compact class
  • Nissan Altima, which has licensed Toyota's hybrid technology, a full-size sedan
  • Ford Escape, a compact-size SUV, being added by the end of 2007
The 2,500 hybrids make up only a small percentage of the 360-thousand cars that Avis and Budget rent out, but it's a start.

Avis and Budget also rent "flex fuel" cars, which run on E-85, mixture of gas (85%) and ethanol (15%). E-85 ethanol fuel is sold at gas stations primarily in the Midwestern U.S. One of the beauties of E-85 is that flex-fuel cars also can run on 'normal' unleaded gas, without the ethanol mix. E-85 models in the two fleets include three Chevrolet models -- Chevy Suburban, Chevy Impala, Chevy Monte Carlo.

Avis and Budget also are introducing airport shuttle busses with the newest "ulta-clean diesel" technology, in Los Angeles and San Diego. Clean diesels kick out less sulfur thanks to more advanced engine and exhaust-control technology, produces fewer emissions than standard diesel fuel and engines -- a whopping 95% less.

Hybrids, flex-fuel, ultra-clean diesel. Yes, the roads are getting greener.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Solar Energy for Death Valley

One of the sunniest spots on the planet is about to make use of all that sunshine.

The just-announced Death Valley Solar Photovoltaic System will be one of the largest in the USA. Over the next 30 years, this solar power installation will eliminate the emission of more than 284,000 tons of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide. Those are the primary contributors acid rain, smog and global warming -- and this will reduce those emissions by more than 30%.

Another way of looking at these numbers -- this is equal to planting more than 54-thousand trees and removing nearly four thousand cars from the roads.

The Death Valley project will produce enough clean, renewable energy to power more than 400 average-sized American homes.

The solar generating station is being built by Xanterra, which operates lodges, inns, restaurant and more in many National Parks, including Death Valley and Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion and Crater Lake National Parks.

The system is skedded to be up and running by March 2008. And it's only the latest of a long list of environmental initiatives by Xanterra which include generating zero hazardous waste and reducing water usage by 25%.

All good. Let's hope this photovoltaic -- solar -- energy installation idea is copied by other resorts in places where they advertise about their sunshine. California, Arizona, Hawaii, Florida, etc.

Whale Watching in Australia

A record number of whales off Australia's South Coast this winter and spring lures whale watchers to the spectacular Grand Pacific Drive around Wollongong.

It is one of Australia’s most beautiful coastal drives, with lofty lookouts and sweeping views over the ocean to the migrating 40-ton mammals. And it's just one hour south of Sydney.

Or, get even closer to the whales aboard one of the area's whale-watching cruises. Look for large pods of whales, including the acrobatic humpback variety. Also, if you're lucky, you'll spot plus southern right, pilot, killer, fin and minky whales.

Peak viewing periods are late August through November for the whales’ southern migration, and June-July for their return to northern waters.

Kiama-based charter boat MV Signa offers two-hour whale-watching cruises.. Tickets are $55, including refreshments. The South Coast’s biggest whale and dolphin-watching operator, Jervis Bay Whales, has three-hour tours on 140-passenger catamarans. Pricing is from $55 adult, $28 children, or $130 per family, including morning tea.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wind Power for a Washington DC Hotel

We all know Washington, D.C. is full of hot air. Some of it now powers the city's most famous historic hotel, the Willard InterContinental.

A growing number of hotels in resort areas have switched to wind power, but the Willard claims to be the first 'downtown' luxury hotel in the United States to be powered 100% by wind power. All 332 rooms and suites in this landmark hotel in a landmark city.

Wind power for the Willard is being supplied by Pepco Energy Services, which also provides 100% renewable resources to the Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in New York City, and also to the headquarters of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington, D.C.

If the EPA can switch to wind power, why can't more U. S. Government buildings do the same? Like the White House and Congress.

That would demonstrate a serious commitment to improving the environment and reducing carbon emissions -- more than all that hot air from all those government officials who populate those two buildings. The ones who seem more interested in talking than taking action.

Wind power reduces the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), which we all know by now is the key component of greenhouse gas. Wind generators don't emit any.

The Willard is on Pennsylvania Avenue in the heart of the nation's capital, just two blocks from the White House and Congress, and has been hosting presidents and foreign heads of state since the 1850s. A chunk of American history has been written here --

It was at the Willard that Julia Ward Howe wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

This hotel also is where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King wrote his renowned "I Have A Dream" speech.

President Ulysses S. Grant popularized the term "Lobbyist" here for all the guys hanging out in the lobby bar, waiting to talk to elected officials. Lobbyists and elected officials still hang out and chat here, and you have to wonder how many deals are made over a glass or three.

My vote is for reducing hot air in Washington -- the talking kind -- and increasing the electricity generating kind.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Green Mountains Resort Gets Eco-Award

The new base area development at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont has become the first ski resort in the country to earn the Audubon Green Community Award.

It's Spruce Peak at Stowe, in the heart of the Green Mountains. How appropriate.

The recognition is from Audubon International, a non-profit environmental organization headquartered in New York State. It's a step toward earning the much tougher award -- rigorous designation as a Certified Audubon Sustainable Community.

Spruce Peak’s accomplishments include --

--Permanently protecting more than 2,000 acres of wildlife habitat through conservation easements donated to the Vermont Land Trust and the state Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.

-- Restoring ten acres of summit ski terrain to their natural state plus dense forests adjacent to the base village. That provides a crucial habitat for the Bicknell’s Thrush, nesting sites for Peregrine falcons, and also friendly habitats for moose and black bear.

-- Mountain cabins built to the maximum 5-star rating of the EPA’s Home Energy Rating System. Each cabin is expected to save $3,500 per year through these 'green' energy efficiencies.

-- The a new transfer lift between the Spruce Peak and the Mount Mansfield base area, which has eliminated the need for a fleet of smoke-belching diesel buses to shuttle skiers between the two mountains.

Delta Airline's Eco-Friendly Amenity Kits

Kudos to Delta Airlines.

No, they have not returned to serving real, free meals in economy --it's still just peanuts and friends. And, no, they are still charging for headsets and movies in the 'back of the bus'.

But Delta has gone 'green' in the front, in business class, at least on domestic flights.

No more fancy little amenity kit with a zipper and lots of plastic wrapping each individual item -- toothbrush, socks, eye shade, earplugs. Now, everything comes in a plain brown wrapper. Recycled brown paper, and everything is printed with biodegradable inks.

Here's what was printed on my paper bag --

"Take care of yourself and the environment. In keeping with Delta's commitment to environmental mindfulness, this amenity kit has been made Earth-friendly through the use of natural, biodegradable and recycled materials.

So, kudos to Delta. Except --

Everything in the amenity kit, including the biodegradable wrapping paper, is Made in China -- the biodegradable ink tells me so. Hmm, toothpaste Made in China -- hopefully Delta made sure it's not the kind with the poisonous ingredients that made headlines a few months ago.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sustainable Tourism

Earth Day is just one day each year. What happens the other 364? What happens when you travel?

The Rainforest Alliance is a group that works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior. Including travel.

They've spearheaded an innovative Sustainable Tourism Certification Network of the Americas to foster best practices in the world's largest industry, which just happens to be tourism. Here's where to find the most environmentally smart and sensitive destinations south of the border.