Friday, October 24, 2008

Top Green Rating for Greensboro, North Carolina Hotel

How appropriate -- the hotel with the top green rating in the world is in the city of Greensboro. It's the Proximity Hotel, one of the few hotels anywhere to achieve the top LEED Platinum rating. And don't think you have to give up luxury to travel green -- this hotel has an AAA Four Diamond rating. Platinum and diamond -- that's a great combination.

The hotel was built to use 40% less energy and 30% less water than a comparable hotel, and

features such innovative technologies as the first installation in North America of the regenerative drive for Otis' Gen2 elevator, which reduces net energy usage by capturing the system’s energy and feeds it back into the building’s internal electrical grid. It's the same idea as regenerative braking in hybrid-electric cars like the Prius.

There are 100 solar panels on the roof -- they cover some 4,000 square feet of roofop and produce enough hot water for one hundred homes. The hotel's solar panels provide more than half of the hot water needed for guests to shower and the restaurant to wash the dishes. And the hotel saved two million gallons of water the first year it was open thanks to high-efficiency plumbing fixtures.

So, all you hotels names Marriott, Hilton, W, Westin, Ramada, Hyatt, Holiday Inn -- get on board and go green. Proximity did it. So can you.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sushi at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Somehow, I can't picture having sushi dinner at an aquarium. But, California's Monterey Bay Aquarium thinks this is a good way to teach us all about selecting what they call 'ocean-friendly sushi' -- avoiding eating fish, raw or cooked, from threatened species.

The dinner on October 22 is part of Sustainable Sushi Week, sponsored by Seafood Watch. And you can support the program without leaving home, without eating at the aquarium. Sushi lovers who sign up online to become Seafood Watch advocates will get a tool kit to help spread the word about the many ways to enjoy fish and seafood without harming ocean habitats.

Each kit includes printed copies of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s new Seafood Watch Sushi pocket guide, a set of reusable, biodegradable chopsticks and colorful cards to leave behind at a favorite sushi restaurant. Use the cards to thank chefs who serve sustainable seafood, or to alert them when they’re serving something on the “red list,” which is seafood that was caught or farmed in ways that harm the ocean.

The pocket guides incorporate human health recommendations from the Environmental Defense Fund, and flags seafood items that could contain levels of mercury or PCBs that may pose a health risk to adults or children. Fisheries researchers from the Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium evaluated the seafood species included on the guides.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ten Tips to Save Money on Travel

American Express knows a thing or two about travel, and not just because the one of the Amex cards you should never leave home without is a green card. These top ten tips for saving green -- dollars -- are from Amex Business Travel for business travelers, but they work for leisure travellers as well.

Plan Twice, Book Once - Airlines are charging $150 or more if you change your ticket after it's been booked, and many hotels now charge "no show" fees of $50 or more -- as much more as the cost of your entire reservation. So, double-checking appointments before booking can help you save on these potential added charges.

Pack Light - Minimize checked baggage fees by packing and checking less. For longer trips, the cost of dry cleaning may be cheaper than checking extra luggage for additional shirts and pants. Also look into overnight delivery and luggage forwarding services -- for materials or samples to bring on a business trip, or your skis, snowboard or golf clubs for a leisure trip.

Check Your Paperwork - Make sure your passport is current and that you have any necessary visas for your trip in advance. Expired or missing paperwork can delay your trip and add expensive charges for expedited applications. Most travel management companies can provide visa/passport support before you travel.

Be Flexible To Find Savings - For travel to or from an area with multiple airports, search alternate airports or use this option in your online booking tool. For example, in New York City, fares may be less expensive enough at JFK to offset the incremental taxi fare difference for a trip to LaGuardia.

Watch for Waste - Millions of tickets go unused, even though most non-refundable fares are valid for travel for up to a year. While there may be change fees, you can still save money by not letting these unused tickets go to waste.

Stay Together, Save Together - If you are arriving on different flights than your co-workers, friends or family, plan ahead to arrive around the same time and meet at an airport lounge. That way you can travel to the hotel together and save the cost of multiple taxis or shuttle services.

Big Ticket Items Can Mean Big Savings - If you are planning a complex international or multi-city US itinerary, use a travel agent. It will save you planning time better spent on your family and/or your business, a travel professional is better equipped to find the best airfare deals to ensure you get the lowest fare, with or without a land package.

Plan Ahead, Stay In Touch - The earlier you book air tickets and hotel rooms, the more likely you’ll find a lower rate. Ask for price guarantees -- many airlines and hotels offer you a lower rate if the price for your trip drops after you’ve booked it.

Stretch Your Stay to Stretch Your Dollar - Some airlines are bringing back "minimum stay requirements," so you can safe money by postponing your return trip from a Friday until a Sunday or Monday. Or, take the overnight red-eye flight home -- that's usually the least expensive flight of the day for an airline.

Oldies But Goodies - If you are bumped, be sure to get a free voucher, and try to travel in the so-called "off-season" or "shoulder season" for lower travel costs.
And a final tip from me -- Evelyn Kanter -- buy travel insurance to protect you if you have to cancel a trip.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Golf Courses in Mexico's Riviera Maya

There are lots of golf courses surrounded by white sand and the turquoise Caribbean sea. But only links in the Riviera Maya also offer golfers views -- and perhaps the distraction -- of teeing up within sight of an ancient Mayan pyramid temple. Here are some great greens in Mexico that will keep you swinging happily, and since most are attached to their own resort hotels, you won't have to travel far from your room to the 18th hole.

The Executive Golf Course of Mayan Group of Riviera Maya Golf is designed by the Jack Nicklaus company, Nicklaus Design. It's an 18-hole Par 54 course, 2,923 yards, with white sand traps, lakes surrounded by natural rock, and jungle vegetation

Playacar Spa & Golf Club was designed and built under the supervision of famous architect Robert Von Hagge. It's a Par 72 in a field of 7,144 yards in the Mayan jungle, dotted lakes and lush vegetation.

Iberostar Playa Paraíso Golf Club, designed by the world-famous P.B. Dye, incorporates the native Mayan jungle into the layout. The course features narrow fairways, undulating greens and deep bunkers. There's also a lighted driving range, the first one in the Riviera Maya, for those of you who like to practice your putts after sundown.
El Camaleón Mayakoba golf course was designed by Greg Norman. This 7,000 yard field bends through tropical jungles, dense mangroves and oceanfront stretches of sand with holes bordered by massive limestone canals. An amazing feature is the resort's one-of-a-kind canal system, where golfers can step from their rooms to a thatch-roofed boat, which will whisk them to the first tee.

The Moon Spa & Golf Club is another golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus. It’s composed of three distinctive fields with 9 holes each, surrounded by mangroves and exotic wildlife. An unusual “all-inclusive” golf plan includes transportation from anywhere in the Riviera Maya, plus food & drinks at the club house.

Riviera Cancún Golf & Resorts is a new course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, with a difficulty of 76.2/ Slope of 146. Playing on this course is being a part of a dynamic game, rolling through fairways and greens, wooden bridges, and the couple of holes along the ocean shore. The club was built in accordance with the local wildlife preservation law.

If that's not enough for you, there are more golf courses scheduled to open this winter in Riviera Maya and neighboring areas of Cancún and Cozumel. For information on those new courses, check the Riviera Maya golf course website.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Travel Websites to Help you Save Money

With stock prices falling like acorns, budget-centric websites are rising to the top of more vacationers' bookmark lists. That's the opening sentence of an article in today's USA Today to help us save green when we travel.

Budget Travel Sites to Keep you Out of the Red lists 25 websites to help you find cheap airfares, hotel bargains and more. Some, of course, you've heard of already and probably even have used -- like Kayak and Hotwire. But there's also some great new dollar stretchers to check out as well.

A new one I was glad to find out about is, which lists car rental companies that sit outside expensive airport real estate, and are usually cheaper than the 'brand name' on-airport companies.

Another is, which offers discounted lift tickets for major ski and snowboard resorts in North America.

So thank you Laura Bly who compiled this list for USA Today, for giving us all some ways to save green when we travel.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Boo! Haunting Happy Halloween Events

Halloween is an excuse to get dressed up in a costume that's either scary or funny, green or some other color, and go have fun. It doesn't matter what age you are, although that can determine whether you trick or treat, and how. So here are some family-friendly ways to say Boo!, and others that are best reserved for grown-ups.

San Francisco - Spend a spine-tingling evening touring Alcatraz, which once housed some of the world's scariest criminals. The Alcatraz Night Tour travels from Pier 33 at 4:20 p.m., and returns after taking you through some of the darkest corners of the island prison. Only a few hundred people an evening can be accommodated, and since Oct. 31 will be especially popular, I suggest you make reservations.

Disneyland - Spook-tacular entertainment includes the traditional giant "Mickey Mouse" jack-o'-lantern in Disneyland Town Square, Haunted Mansion Holiday in New Orleans Square and Candy Corn Acres in Disney's California Adventure, plus the Disney characters who wander the theme park year-round will be dressed in goofy Halloween costumes. Including Goofy. There's also a daily Happiest Haunt Tour, a three-hour extravaganza that includes the stories behind some of Disney parks' spookiest attractions, told from the perspective of Disney villains, with stops at the super-spooky Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Haunted Mansion Holiday, Snow White's Scary Adventure, and other rides. The tour fee is $59 -- on top of the park admission fee.

New York City - This year is the 35th annual Village Halloween Parade, and it promises to be one of the biggest and best, since this year Halloween falls on a Friday, and that means the parading and the partying that follows can go into the wee hours. This year's festivities feature more than 50 bands, hundreds of dancers, thousands of costumed participants, and as many as two million onlookers. The theme of this year's parade is Ghosts. Scary fun, for sure. Or, choose
the Halloween “Boos Cruise” aboard the Circle Line Downtown. This 2½ hour Halloween Cruise on the 143-ft luxury yacht Zephyr incluees a tour of New York harbor and a costume contest. Again, I suggest you make reservations.

In case you're wondering about the image I've posted here -- it is a lithograph by Edvard Munch, one of a series of paintings and lithographs of this iconic nightmare scream. One of the originals is on display in Munch's hometown, Oslo, Norway -- where I just will happen to be visiting a few days before Halloween.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Green Guide to Victoria, British Columbia

Victoria, B.C. just may be the most environmentally sensitive city in North America, which makes it a great green travel destination. It is home to Dockside Green, the world's greenest building, which boasts the highest LEED score possible -- Platinum -- and to Harbour Air Seaplanes, the first airline in North America to go carbon neutral airline.

Now, city is adding a green shopping guide for visitors that lists small, locally owned and operated businesses showcasing environmentally responsible products with a goal of fostering a greener, more sustainable economy. This green guide is called The Green Collective, and incudes stores featuring fashions and accessories, spa and body care, and food products as well as six eateries featuring organic and local products. One of these eateries is called -- appropriately -- Green Cuisine.

The Green Collective also hosts an annual Earth Day fashion show. The success of the collective recently sent green ripples all the way to Australia, and inspired the creation of a similar Green Precinct guide.

Victoria's British heritage is evident in its formal and popular afternoon tea at the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel. The Fairmont chain, by the way, is one of my favorites, for its commitment to the environment, long before it was fashionable and headline-making.

The influences of Canada's Native Peoples also are evident in the hand-carved totem poles in Thunderbird Park. Be sure to check out the city's Fan Tan Alley, which once was a seedy gambling and opium center, but has been gentrified now with boutiques and art galleries. Victoria also is the gateway to some of the world's best salmon fishing, and the sea kayaking isn't bad, either.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Fort Worth Hotel Buys Hybrid SUV for Guest Use

Even luxury hotels are giving the green light to green travel.

The all-new Omni Fort Worth Hotel will be driving guests around in the all-new Cadillac Escalade Hybrid SUV when the hotel opens in January 2009. The SUV will be a 2009 model, manufactured at the nearby General Motors plant in Arlington, Texas. It will be available to taxi guests to meetings, shopping or attractions such as the Fort Worth Opera, the world-class Amon Carter Museum of art, or one of the world's best honky tonks, Billy Bob's Texas.

Yes, the Escalade Hybrid is Texas-big. But it also has an EPA-estimated 50 percent improved city fuel economy over the traditional model. And it's just one of many environmental efforts built into the the hotel design. These include --
  • motion-sensor lighting system to conserve energy during non-peak hours

  • revolving doors to help reduce heating and cooling consumption.

  • more than 20,000 square feet of landscaped rooftops that conserve energy, filter rainwater and help mitigate the Texas summer heat.

So, I'm giving a hats off salute -- my cowboy hat, of course -- to the Fort Worth Omni for going green without compromising luxury.