Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Swim with Polar Bears in Canada

Get in the water and swim with polar bears in Cochrane, Ontario, Canada.

Polar Bear Habitat & Heritage Village offers visitors the chance to get up close and personal with the furry animals in the water.

This is the world's first and only polar bear rehabilitation center with a special pool to allow guests to swim next to the amazing creatures – with a thick glass wall separating the two spaces, of course.

The non-profit polar bear habitat rescues polar bears whose well-being is endangered. Right now, the center is home to three bears – Nanook, age 24, and Nikita and Aurora, four-year-old twins, who are playful and cute and people-friendly, and safe to play with on the other side of a glass wall.

You don't have to jump in the chilly water with them, but it's more fun than watching them from dry land. The polar bear habitat and museum village is open year round, but chance to swim with the polar bears is only open from mid-May to mid-October.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

New Simpsons Ride is Designed to Save Energy

The Simpsons Ride opens in May at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando, based, of course on the blockbuster Simpsons movie and hit TV series.

Of course it will be a mega-popular ride. It's also a green ride -- an energy efficient green travel destination.

The ride was designed with new lighting technologies and new electric motor drives that save energy.

Through what Universal is calling a "green" conversion process, "The Simpsons Ride" will use some 55-thousand less watts per hour than the ride it replaces.

That adds up to power savings of 662,796 watts a day during the busy summer months, That's a pretty impressive power savings. So how are they doing it?
The environmentally conscious Simpsons Ride features the largest lighting installation of LED lamps in theme park ride history. Not just Universal, but all theme parks.

The Simpsons Ride is illuminated by more than 2,500 LED lights. These use one-third the power of standard incandescent lighting. So, instead of using up 82-thousand watts of electricity an hour, the LED lights need just under 28-thousand.

It's just part of Universal Studios commitment to green as a core business value. A company-wide "Green is Universal" initiative includes programs to increase recycling ratios, switches to alternative fuels, conservation of energy to reduce carbon footprints, and printing on recycled paper.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

How to Travel Green

Travel green, save green. These simple green living and green travel tips are not just Earth Day, but every day.

Don't litter. Even though others might dump their trash on the side of the road or on a pristine beach, don't join them.

Support the local economy -- buy souvenirs made locally. I was appalled on a recent visit to the West Point Museum to see t-shirts and other souvenirs bearing a Made in China label. The museum gift shop at the United States Military Academy sells things not made in America. Shameful.

Seek out souvenirs made by local artists and craftsman. You'll bring home something unique, plus you ensure your green travel dollars stay local.

Support the local economy -- skip the chain restaurants. Seek out locally-owned eateries. Again, that ensures your dining dollars stay local.

Use public transportation to get around. That will help save the environment as well as your green travel dollars. Plus, you'll have a better understanding of the city you are visiting.

In Buenos Aires recently, I went out of my way to ride the city's A-Line subway, becasue I grew up riding New York City's "A" train, made famous by jazz great Duke Ellington.What I discovered in Argentina was wonderful old wooden trains with windows that open and milky glass shades over the lightbulbs. It was a lovely, memorable ride.

Rent a fuel efficient or hybrid car. Save money at the gas station, save the environment.

Yes, it's easy to travel green.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Celebrate Earth Day with Three Easy Ways to Travel Green

Think about the environment everyday, not just on Earth Day, April 22. Being green also means saving green -- the green dollars in your wallet.

Here are three easy things to do to help you travel green, and be greener at home, too:

One -- Take a re-usable shopping bag to the store with you. If you are like me, you have dozens of plastic bags from the last supermarket trip and dozens of cloth tote bags, too. Use them. What is the logic in bringing home yet another plastic bag just to add it to your local landfill? In many parts of the world, shops don't give you a bag, you have to supply your own.

Buy yourself one of the colorful totes from Chico Bags. Light, reusable, and they fold up into an integrated pouch as small as your BlackBerry. Easy to keep in your purse or car glove compartment, so it's always handy.

Two -- Stop buying bottled water. Americans spend something like $16 billion on bottled water, and that doesn't count the cost of the oil to manufacturer and transport the bottles, including to the landfills where they wind up. An astounding 80% of water bottles wind up in landfill, according to Nalgene, which makes re-usable water bottles.

Filter your own tap water. That's what several of the dollar-a-bottle brands do. You'll save green -- both the environment and your wallet.

Three -- Slow down. Driving 65 mph, rather than 75 mph, can improve your fuel economy by 15 percent. There are more tips on saving money at the gas pump on my Great Drives blog.

Yes, my friends, it's easy to be green. Also less espensive.

Go Green! Celebrate this earth we live on, not just Earth Day 2008, but everyday.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Earth Day Events at Universal Studios

Universal Studios Hollywood celebrates Earth Day with free, family-friendly, eco-friendly activities -- including free parking for visitors who travel green in fuel efficient hybrid cars.

Saturday, April 26 is being designated at "Eco-Fair" day, with more than thirty displays and exhibits, including a “hands-on” lesson on the vital -- and positive -- impact that reptiles and insects have on the environment.

Some of the more animated critters will include an Australian Bearded Dragon Lizard named "Benny," Ironclad beetles that "play dead,” and a friendly Tarantula named “Rosey” who is eager to shake everyone’s hands. A friendly Tarantula? Since when are they friendly?

What's a fair without celebrities? Lauren Koslow from “Days of our Lives” will be just one of the celebs on hand to autograph eco-friendly bags and help dispense energy efficient light bulbs at the Environmental Media Association’s booth.

Another highlight of the Eco-Fair will be the collection of hazardous waste materials sponsored by the City and County of Los Angeles. Guests who bring in an item for safe disposal get free parking.

So, here's the chance for you Angelenos and your neighbors to get rid of -- safely and properly -- things like paint solvents, motor oils, cleaning products, pool and garden chemicals, auto and household batteries, monitors, printers, televisions, video games, cell phones, stereos and electronic toys, can enjoy free parking.

The Universal Studios Eco-Fair is part of the company’s ongoing “Green is Universal” initiative, a campaign to raise awareness and activate consumers to help save the environment, as well as a long-term commitment to green NBC Universal’s own operations.

Green is universal. And Universal is green.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Best Spring Gardens and Garden Tours

Colorful spring flowers and flowering shrubs and plants. What better way to enjoy green travel than visiting some of the world's best gardens.

Garden tours are an adventure of color and shape, for nature lovers, photographers, and, of course, gardeners, who combine green thumbs with green travels.

Perhaps the most famous spring garden is Keukenhof Gardens, one hour from Amsterdam, that blooms with more than seven million tulips, in nearly as many colors. Some of these blooms are rarely seen outside the garden's gates. Seven million tulips. It boggles the mind.

As much as the Dutch celebrate tulips, there are nationwide festivities on April 30th, which is celebrated as the birthday of Queen Beatrix. It is known as Queen's Day. There are parties and parades everywhere, most especially in Amsterdam, where the city turns into a giant street fair.

Back to the flower festivals -- pardon the pun, but they are blooming everywhere in botanical gardens. Nearly every city of any size has one.

The Brooklyn Botanical Garden is famous for its Japanese cherry trees, all pink and white and fluttery in the spring air. This may be the only world-famous garden with a subway stop at its doorstep. And the Brooklyn Museum is across the street.

As its name implies, The Huntington Library, Art Galleries and Botanical Gardens is more than just a walk in the park. Although you can sit and have traditional British tea here, too. Plan to spend the day in this lovely spot just outside Los Angeles.

The Denver Botanic Gardens offer a glimpse of the snow-capped Front Range of the Rockies in the distance, and orchids and other exotic blooms up close.

Ah, the flowers that bloom in the spring. Tra la. Definitely great green travel.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Whale Watching in Iceland

One of the most popular green travel adventure activities in Iceland is whale watching.

Tours are available from April to October and are ready to take you within an arm’s reach of a breaching humpback or a minke whale, and often dolphins, too.

Iceland's capital of whale watching is Húsavík, North Iceland. Whale-watching operator North Sailing owns three ships there, including an old-fashioned schooner.

After a whale watching trip, stop off at the Húsavík Whale Centre, run by Ásbjörn Björgvinsson, named one of Time magazine’s European Heroes of the Year for his environmental and conservation work.

Or, begin your whale-watching expedition from Reykjavik, Iceland's charming capital city, with Elding Tours. Their large cruiser holds 150 passengers with 3 viewing platforms. But I would choose the smaller yacht, carrying up to 38 passengers which is more maneuverable, so it can turn around more quickly to follow the breaching whales.

For more information about Iceland, including the world-famous Blue Lagoon, check the Iceland Tourist Board website.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Visit Pennsylvania Dutch Country via Antique Train

Take the train to visit picturesque Pennsylvania Dutch Country. An antique train, that is.

Rolling farmlands set the scene for a leisurely tour on the Strasburg Rail Road. It's a 45-minute ride to Paradise, Pennsylvania and back.

There are scenic tours during the day, attracting railroad buffs of all ages. It's a great family excursion.

There's also a sunset ride, for adults only, with wine and cheese, that combines the romance of antique railroading with -- well -- the romance of wine and cheese at sunset.

Strasburg Rail Road is America's oldest short-line, celebrating 50 years since its rebirth in 1958. That's when a group of twenty-four visionaries saved the line from abandonment, keeping it alive to introduce and entertain a new generation to the wonders of travel by train.

Train travel is green travel.

Check the Pennsylvania Dutch Country Convention and Visitors Bureau for more ideas about things to see and do in this charming and historic area.