Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Happy 122nd Birthday to the Automotibile

January 29th is generally regarded as the birthday of the automobile, because --

It was Jan 29, 1886 that a young German engineer named Karl Benz applied for a patent for his "vehicle with gas engine operation".

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Free Parking for Hybrid Vehicles

As part of its on-going program of Green Initiatives, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is giving free valet parking to guests who arrive in a hybrid vehicle.

That's a saving of $23 per night, over and above the savings drivers get at the gas station.

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess joins five Fairmont Hotels in California and one in Quebec offering this hybrid perk. The hotels are the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, the Fairmont San Jose, the Fairmont Miramar Santa Monica, the Fairmont San Francisco, the Fairmont Newport Beach, and the iconic Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City.

The free parking perk is just one part of Fairmont's award-winning environmental program. It was the first major hotel chain in North America to go green, before it became fashionable, with programs for waste management, energy and water conservation, and a strong program to involve the local community.

In Scottsdale, Fairmont has helped create an eco tour called the Sonoran Trail, adopted a rescued Desert Tortoise, which is a threatened species in the Sonoran Desert, and instituted a recycling program that generates more than 200 tons of recycled products each year.

Preferential parking for fuel efficient vehicles definitely is a trend -- check my recent post on the Lake Tahoe ski resort doing something similar.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Winter is Ideal Time to Visit USA National Parks

Whether you want snow or sun, you can find it in one of the USA's National Parks.

From Alaska to Massachusetts to the warm beaches of California and Florida, there's something for everyone, anytime of the year. Including January.

Many parks offer special winter programs in addition to their regular programs – such as these three --

De Soto National Memorial in Florida runs an annual camp from December through the end of March. Camp Uzita brings visitors back in time to 1539, when 650 Spanish conquistadors came to Tampa Bay and changed the lives of its native inhabitants forever. Programs focus on the meeting of these two very different cultures. Living history interpreters demonstrate Native and European arts and crafts. Children are invited out on Saturdays to learn about Native American mask painting and paint one to take home for themselves.

At Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, one of the most enjoyable winter activities for any national park occurs is ranger-led snowshoe hikes. These hikes take place everyday, and the park supplies visitors with classic wooden Yukon or Alaskan-style snowshoes. You'll learn about how the harsh conditions of winter determines which animals and plants survive here as they amble over hill and dell in search of wildlife and/or signs of wildlife. The trip eventually brings you to the banks of the Snake River, and an incredible, unforgettable view of the Grand Tetons sparkling in the sunshine.

Death Valley National Park in California is the answer to the question -- where can I go that is not cold or snowy or damp. January -- or anytime in winter -- is an ideal time to visit this park. There are no crowds and no searing heat here in winter, and some of the best and clearest skys in the country make star-gazing memorable. Ranger guided activities include living history guided tours of Scotty's Castle, a 1920s mansion with original furnishings and stories to match. Or, you can hike some of the park's 3.4 million acres,

The National Park Service recommends stopping by a park’s visitor center to get the latest, most up-to-date park information on programs and hiking paths.

And by the way -- that photo of me standing in the middle of an empty road to the right of this posting -- was taken in Death Valley National Park. If you look carefully at the printing across the fronf of my t-shirt, you might be able to read the words "Death Valley".

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Whale Watching Season in California

Here's how to have a whale of a time in Southern California -- go on a whale-watching cruise .

Now through through March is prime whale-watching season, to see these massive mammals off the coast of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Spirit Cruises offers two-hour narrated cruises that sail between one and three miles off the coast of San Pedro. Whales are seen 95 percent of the time, plus sea lions, dolphins and other marine life.

The most common whale seen is the Gray Whale. Fin Whales and Blue Whales have also been spotted, along with Humpback Whales, Orcas and Minke Whales.

There's more than marine life to enjoy. The cruise around Long Beach and Los Angeles Harbors travels under four bridges and past the Queen Mary and Terminal Island Federal Prison.

Tickets are $18 for adults and $10 for children.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Two Dozen Orlando Hotels Certified Green

The number of Florida hotels going green is increasing by the dozen. Two dozen, to be exact, all in Orlando.

The green certification is from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which designates a hotel, inn, resort or B&B as a Florida Green Lodge when it meets certain standards and practices.

These include water conservation measures through low-flow plumbing fixtures, a linen reuse program, and energy efficiency and programmable thermostats.

Other criteria include recycling ink and toner cartridges, purchasing items in bulk, and purchasing recycled materials. All Green Lodges must also use green cleaners and high efficiency air filters.

Here's the list of the newest Florida Green Lodges -- you should seek these out for your green travels. Alphabetically, they are:
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge,
  • Disney's BoardWalk Inn,
  • Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort,
  • Disney's Contemporary Resort,
  • Disney's Coronado Springs Resort,
  • Disney's Old Key West Resort,
  • Disney's Pop Century Resort,
  • Disney's Port Orleans Resort,
  • Disney's Saratoga Spring Resort & Spa,
  • DoubleTree Guest Suites in the Walt Disney World Resort,
  • Embassy Suites Orlando International Airport,
  • Embassy Suites Orlando International Drive/Convention Center,
  • Embassy Suites Orlando North,
  • The Florida Hotel and Conference Center,
  • Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground,
  • Hawthorn Suites Orlando International Airport,
  • Hilton Walt Disney World, Rosen Centre Hotel,
  • Holiday Inn Orlando International Drive,
  • Renaissance Orlando Hotel Airport,
  • Rosen Plaza Hotel,
  • Rosen Shingle Creek,
  • Royal Plaza in the Walt Disney World Resort,
  • Walt Disney World Fort Wilderness.

As said at the beginning of this list -- seek these out for your green travels to Orlando. Look for the Florida Green Lodge logo.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Green GEICO Gecko Tours Zoos and Aquariums

A live gecko exhibit to is on a national tour to highlight wildlife conservation.

The tour is funded by the automobile and motorcycle insurance company GEICO, whose radio and television commercials featuring the animated gecko spokes-creature are among the most popular advertisements on the air.

The live gecko tour is in cooperation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and kicked off at the San Diego Zoo and Aquarium.

The traveling GEICO Gecko Exhibit is located in the San Diego Zoo’s Children’s Zoo from January 5 - February 17, 2008, and features giant Day geckos, a unique group of lizards native to Madagascar and the Indian Ocean islands.

Visitors will have the chance to meet the GEICO Gecko costume character at the zoo every weekend the exhibit is there.

The three-year partnership between GEICO and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums will take the traveling GEICO Gecko exhibit to AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums across the United States. At each stop GEICO will make a contribution to wildlife conservation.

The GEICO Gecko is already using his star power on behalf of zoos and aquariums, with a series of television and radio commercials highlighting his wild cousins. To see those commercials, click here.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Learn to Ski or Snowshoe for Free on Sat., Jan. 12

Ski resorts in 24 states are offering free on-the-snow activities this Saturday, January 12th. It's the 13th annual Winter Trails Day, to promote outdoor exercise during the winter.

More than 100 ski resorts and locations are offering learning opportunities for cross country skiing or snowshoeing on Winter Trails Day, including in National and state parks and on U.S. Forest Service lands.

Getting outdoors and burning off some unwanted calories is a top priority for many of us after too many eggnogs over the holidays, and these two easy-to-learn sports can burn 45 percent more calories per hour than walking or running at the same speed.

Winter Trails is part of Winter Feels Good, a national initiative to promote the health and fitness benefits of snow sports.

It's not just cross-country and snowshoe -- there are lots of opportunities, as well, for free or low-cost lessons in downhill skiing and snowboarding.

Resorts that are members of Ski Utah, Vermont Ski Areas Association, Pennsylvania Ski Areas Association, Colorado Ski Country USA, New Hampshire Ski Areas Association and others, are offering special equipment and lesson packages to encourage newcomers to try skiing or snowboarding.

So if you are a downhill demon -- and I admit that I am -- this is an ideal day to encourage your significant other or favorite aunt or uncle to join you on the slopes.

Let's give credit to some of the sponsors of Winter Trails Day -- it's a long list that includes --

Cross Country Ski Areas Association and American Hiking Society; equipment manufacturers Alpina, Atlas Snow-Shoes, Atomic, Exel, Fischer, Rossignol, Salomon, Tubbs and Karhu. And outdoor clothing manufacturers Columbia, Turtle Fur and Sorel.

See you on the snow on Jan. 12th?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Nissan Gets Eco-Award for Helping Combat Climate Change

The non-profit Carbon Disclosure Project has recognized the environmental efforts of Nissan, listing it for the first time in its 2007 Climate Disclosure Leadership Index.

Five automakers—BMW, Ford, Renault, Toyota and DaimlerChrysler, as the German automaker was known then —made the list in 2006 (since the 'divorce' it's back to two separate companies, Daimler and Chrysler).

Nissan has been trying to reverse its image as playing environmental catch-up with Toyota and Honda, the leading makers of gasoline-electric hybrid cars. Nissan seem to have succeeded --

Its environmental action plan focuses on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, including a pledge to cut emissions at its factories by 7 percent in 2010 from 2005 levels. Also, Nissan now is producing hybrid vehicles. now.

Okay, the Altima Hybrid sedan uses Toyota technology. More than okay -- the Nissan Altima Hybrid costs less than the comparable Toyota Camry Hybrid, when you include the tax credits that still apply to Nissan hybrids but no longer apply to Toyota hybrids.

The Carbon Disclosure Project surveyed about 2,400 companies worldwide this year, choosing 68 for the index.

Pictured -- Nissan Altima Hybrid 2008

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Saving Endangered Turtles in Hawaii

Nearly 70,000 endangered Hawksbill turtles have hatched in Hawaii, thanks to the dedicated volunteers and staff of the Hawksbill Turtle Recovery Project, based out of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Since the Hawksbill Turtle Recovery Project started in 1989, staff and volunteers have tagged 81 nesting hawksbills, protected 656 nests, and helped nearly 70,000 hatchlings scurry to the sea. Last season, volunteers helped more than 4,300 hatchlings safely reach the Pacific Ocean.

Each hatchling represents hope for the survival of the endangered turtle species.

Their efforts have just been recognized -- by receiving the 2007 Hawaii’s Living Reef Award, created three years ago by the Coral Reef Outreach Network.

During a six-month nesting season, forty volunteers searched beaches for signs of turtle activity. Nests were discovered and protected at five beaches. Crews held around the clock vigils on thirty-six nests to safeguard the eggs and hatchlings from predators, including mongooses, feral pigs and cats -- and human predators, too.

The project operates on a small budget and relies on dedicated volunteers who hike miles over lava rock to camp on remote, sun-baked beaches. These volunteers are not deterred by centipedes, pounding surf, or tropical storms. In addition to helping hatchlings, the volunteers collect the turtles’ tag data and record their life histories.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Quebec Winter Carnival and City's 400th Birthday

The annual Quebec Winter Carnival is three weeks of parades, concerts, snow sculptures, ice skating parties.

One of the most popular events is a canoe race on the St. Lawrence River. If the river is frozen solid, teams pull their wooden canoes over the ice instead of paddling them through the water. Another event is the snow bath, in which hardy partyers strip to their bathing suits and roll around in the snow.

Usually, the Quebec Winter Carnival is the biggest party of the year in historic and picturesque Quebec City, the end of January and beginning of February. This year is different.

That's because 2008 is the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City, with celebrations and festivities throughout the year. Just part of the list includes a special exhibit of hundreds of artworks from the Louvre in Paris, and a Cirque du Soleil show specially created for the year-long birthday party.

What makes this green travels?

Quebec City is the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in North America, a magnificent walled city -- the only walled city in North America.

So, it's important to Quebec's residents, businesses and government to protect the city's history and resources -- its architecture, parks, the river that runs through it, and the lakes and waterfalls a few minutes outside the city.

Any time in 2008 is a great year to visit Quebec City, and be part of a 400th birthday party.
Picturted -- Winter scene in front of Quebec's iconic hotel, the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac.