By Elizabeth Valerio
It’s hard enough being environmentally conscious when you’re at home and even harder when it comes to travel. Eco-tourism isn’t just for vegans and forest-lovers; luxury travel can be had while simultaneously helping your environment. Different locations practice different forms of eco-tourism, so what exactly is it?
The Nature Conservancy, a leading green organization, defines eco-tourism as “environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples.” Most advocacy groups like The Nature Conservancy support this kind of travel, and encourage support of the National Parks and lodge or ranch accommodations in the Western United States. Perhaps this definition explains why many travelers view eco-tourism as an earthy-crunchy experience.
But there are other resorts and hotel chains that seek to provide an eco-friendly atmosphere in city settings or areas that don’t seem to be busting with greenery. Kimpton Earthcare Hotel Group (kimptonhotel.com) has more than 30 hotels and resorts located throughout the U.S. and Canada and each of them is completely eco-friendly. They sustain this earth-friendly environment through the use of recycled goods, organic foods and drinks, eco-friendly cleaning supplies, soy ink and energy-conserving means of electricity among other factors. It is the company’s mission to lead the hospitality industry in supporting a sustainable world, by delivering an optimal guest experience through the use of non-intrusive, high quality, eco-friendly products and services. Kimpton is the only eco-friendly hotel chain, though other individual resorts can be found.
So whether you’re looking to plant trees or for a place to relax by the ocean, eco-tourism’s got you covered. Check out these destinations that make an attempt to better our planet.
Catch a flight (or a boat – better for the environment) to St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands and book a stay at Harmony Studios, (maho.org) to live in your own private cottage on the ocean. Rooms have king-sized beds, kitchens, large private bathrooms and a spacious dining area. Additionally, a deck wraps around the front of the house and is complete with furniture so that guests can watch the Caribbean Sea from sunrise to sunset. Most importantly though —all electricity is solar-powered and the individual cottages — constructed with recycled materials, do not disrupt the tropical setting. Rates vary per the season, but currently, large cottages can be rented for $145 a night.
Take a trip to the wine country — Napa Valley, California — and stay at the energy-conserving eco-friendly-supply-using Gaia Napa Valley Resort and Spa (gaianapavalleyhotel.com). Restrooms use recycled tiles and granite, all materials are wood-based, environmentally-friendly products are used to clean the premises and landscaping is completely chemical-free. There’s even an all-natural salt-water pool. Accommodations feature king-sized beds, WiFi and organic bathrobes as well as a refrigerator and microwave. Special packages can be booked depending on your interests — spa, romance, wine or wedding — and prices range from $109 to $299 per room, per night.
The wind-powered Keystone Lodge (keystonelodge.rockresorts.com) is located in the Rocky Mountains in Keystone, Colo. Guests have the opportunity to enjoy the mountain scenery while dining, playing a round of golf or even sleeping – many rooms feature balconies overlooking the mountain range. The spa, equestrian center, and extensive biking paths ensure that guests are always busy and constantly enjoying what Colorado has to offer. Rates vary depending on the month, but for the summer 2007, one-bedrooms start at $200 a night while two-bedrooms go for around $307 a night.
If you’re looking for some urban tourism, Boston has plenty to offer with an even blend of history, shopping, theater and restaurants. The Boston Park Plaza Hotel (hotelbostonparkplaza.com) is located in the middle of all these opportunities in the city’s theater district and boasts energy conservation and all-natural products. Guests of the hotel are offered exclusive reservation opportunities at some of the city’s most popular restaurants and use of the extensive fitness center. Eight onsite restaurants and lounges are available ranging from steakhouses to Boston’s renowned seafood restaurants and rates start at $119 a night.