A Greener Way To Travel

While Spring Break travel in the past may have included the stereotypical and played-out college trips to Cancun or Cabo, nowadays a more environmentally conscious student is looking to have fun without the guilt of harming exotic ecosystems and native cultures. This sentiment is not just limited to students or younger generations. This change in society’s perception of travel has led to an increasing number of destinations that offer Eco-Tourism options for the green-hearted vagabonds in all of us. But before you jump on the next tour that promises an environmentally sound experience, it is best to understand what the definition of Eco-Tourism really means, what its popularity has given to communities, and where some of the best locations are around the world.

What is Eco-Tourism?

Eco-Tourism has been defined as an “insightful, mindful, and participatory travel experience to natural and cultural environments, assisting the well-being of the local cultures and environments for future generations.”

How do you know if it’s really “green”?

In this age of “green-washing” it is easy to be misled by businesses that proclaim to be environmentally responsible. These days eco-conscious consumers have to be wary of hotels and resorts that deem themselves to be green based on little more than an effort to avoid the costs of washing your towels and a recycling program.   The best way to avoid this dilemma is by simply asking questions. A normal phone call will get you closer to the truth than any website or advertisement.   A good start is by asking: How do you reduce waste? How is the hotel’s water heated? How do you reduce water usage? What chemicals does the staff use when cleaning?

“58.5 million Americans say they would pay more to use a travel company that strives to protect and preserve the environment” – According to Sustainable Travel

The modern traveler is now becoming a blend of explorer and tourist, seeking education and enlightenment instead of self-indulgence and inebriation, all while leaving as small of an ecological footprint as possible.  From the ocean to the mountains, Eco-Friendly resorts and hotels can be found all around the world becoming increasingly popular, below we have spotlighted a few that we feel stand out amongst the rest.

Best Tropical Eco-Resort

La Loma Jungle Lodge, Panama – Located in the Boca Del Toros archipelago off Panama’s Caribbean coast, La Loma’s 57 acre site is a three cabana lodge in the midst of a fertile jungle and is surrounded by a working cocoa plantation. Its cabins were constructed from fallen trees and inspired by local architecture. The owners serve sustainably harvested fish like Yellow Jack. All of the employees are local, including your guides through the rainforests and beaches where you can expect to see Sloths, Armadillos, Caimans, tropical birds, and giant butterflies. The resort is rated as the #1 Eco-Resort in the world on many top-ten lists. Rates start at $110 a night. www.thejunglelodge.com

Best Beach Eco-Resort

Centro Ecologico Sian Ka’an, Mexico – Nearby Mayan ruins set the stage for the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve on the Yucatan Peninsula. This area is the largest protected area on the Mexican Caribbean and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The raised cottages are surrounded by 1.3 million acres of white sand beaches and gorgeous wetlands with incredibly diverse ecosystems. The resort runs completely on sun and wind energy, uses rainwater for all water needs, and utilizes a wetland waste treatment system. All proceeds fund education and conservation programs at Sian Ka’an. Cabins start at $70 a night. www.cesiak.org

Best Urban Eco-Hotel

The Ambrose, Santa Monica –  Being the first hotel in the nation to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED-EB Silver Certificate in 2008, The Ambrose continues to search for new ways to be ecologically responsible. The contemporary hotel utilizes energy and water conservation, non-toxic housekeeping practices, waste reduction, alternative transportation, staff and guest awareness, and community service to offer guests with affordable luxury while committing to low-impact living practices. Rent an onsite hybrid vehicle to visit the best that L.A. has to offer. Rooms start at $225 a night. www.ambrosehotel.com

By Ryan Richardson

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