NEW YORK, 27 May 2006
Dear EarthTalk: I hear a lot about "eco-travel" and "green tourism" in
far-away exotic places, but don’t we have some environmentally-friendly
vacation spots right here in the U.S. and Canada?
-- Paul Howe, San Francisco, CA
While it is true that tour operators in other countries play up their
green-friendly itineraries, there is no shortage of eco-travel options
right here at home. Eco-travel is alive and well in North America, too.
Not to be confused with "adventure travel," which may take one to wild
places but which may also do harm to them, genuine "eco-tourism"—according
to the United Nations—must satisfy several criteria that speak to both the
enjoyment of the traveler and the well being of the host community. For
the traveler, eco-tourism’s main motivation should be the observation and
appreciation of both the local ecology and the local culture, and it
should contain "educational and interpretation features." And to truly
benefit the host community it should be organized for small groups by
local businesses, it should minimize impact on both the natural and
cultural environment, and it should generate income for the host community
and increase awareness of the need for conserving its natural and cultural
According to Natural Home and Garden magazine, top U.S.
eco-travel choices that live up to these guidelines include: the El Monte
Sagrado Living Resort and Spa in Taos, New Mexico; Inn Serendipity Bed
& Breakfast in Browntown, Wisconsin; Papoose Creek Lodge in Cameron,
Montana; the Sadie Cove Wilderness Lodge in Homer, Alaska; and any of the
options available within Yosemite National Park in California’s Sierra
Nevada Mountains. In Canada, the magazine named the Cree Village Eco-Lodge
on Moose Factory Island, Ontario; Forest House Eco-Lodge in Air Ronge,
Saskatchewan; and Wilderness Outpost at Bedwell River in Clayoquot Sound,
British Columbia as its top picks.
For those looking to go a little farther afield, Maho Bay Camps and the
affiliated Concordia Ecotents on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands is a
well-known green hotspot. These primitive lodges provide guests with
treehouse-like platform tents tucked into a rainforest canopy overlooking
the Caribbean. The minimal impact accommodations and other lodge
facilities are linked together via a series of intricate and
environmentally-friendly boardwalks, some of which deposit hikers onto
trails in Virgin Islands National Park while others make a bee-line down
to the beach where surf and sand abound.
Meanwhile, a sultrier option might be any of the tours and lodges
available through the Hawaii Ecotourism Association, which provides a free
online clearinghouse of pre-vetted eco-travel trips and accommodations.
For more information on how to judge the eco-friendliness of any lodge
or tour one needs only to look online. The website of the International
Ecotourism Society lists its criteria for judging a given operation’s
sustainability, and Sustainable Travel International (STI) goes so far as
to certify lodges and tour operators who run environmentally responsible
trips. STI also provides ideas for travelers to keep in mind in order to
keep their impact as minimal as possible. Conservation International does
the same, providing tips on traveling conscientiously on a special website
devoted to eco-tourism.
CONTACTS: International Ecotourism Society, www.Ecotourism.org; Sustainable
Travel International, www.SustainableTravel.com;
Conservation International Ecotourism, www.EcoTour.org.
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