Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

speaking of the land down under

November 6, 2008

In the last post, I told you about a way to win a trip to New Zealand. This Saturday I won’t be heading to that magnificent land, but I’ll be going very close… to Australia!

And while I’m psyched about seeing cuddly koalas and kangaroos, sitting on pristine beaches, and eating shrimp on the barbie, that’s not the first thing I thought of when considering this trip. It’s the enormous carbon footprint my flight will create. The round trip flight from NYC to Sydney is nearly 20,000 miles of travel, equivalent to about 4 tons of CO2 emissions. Yikes!

I’ll definitely be buying some carbon offsets for this one. But I don’t think that’s enough. So I’m going to leave it up to you. What else can I do to make up for the carbon spewing flight?

Look for the survey, coming soon!

Okay, I’ve added the poll at the top of the page. You can add other suggestions in the comments section.

During my stay in Oz, what should I do to make up for the flight’s carbon spew?

  • Eat no meat for the entire trip
  • Buy only Australian made goods
  • Volunteer for a local environmental group
  • Other (add your own idea to comments)

wear wool and win

November 6, 2008

Does the idea of wool underwear make you itch? It shouldn’t if it’s deliciously soft merino wool from New Zealand. The only thing high performance, machine-washable, and eco-friendly merino wool clothing from Icebreaker will have you itching to do is hop the next plane to New Zealand to meet the sheep who wear this wool full time.

And a contest from Icebreaker is giving you the chance to do just that. Here’s how it works:

1. Get yourself an Icebreaker garment. Find its unique Baacode (that’s not a typo!). This tag will trace all of the steps of manufacture (see step 3).

2. Type in your Baacode number in the box provided on the site.

(If you can’t find a Baacode on your garment, you can use their demo Baacode: 213C3F390.)

3. Watch as your Icebreaker will be traced back through the supply chain — from animal welfare to the way the fabric was sewn together — to its birthplace in the Southern Alps of New Zealand.

An entry form will pop up once your Baacode has been traced. Then just submit your details and you’ll be in the draw to win a trip to a merino ranch in New Zealand!

Icebreaker is the real deal
Learn more about their commitment to sustainability.

You can get Icebreaker at these retailers.

tread lightly: eco travel

October 1, 2008

One of my eco vices is travel. I love to go to new places, especially if there’s a chance I’ll see some wildlife. The conundrum is this: in pursuing this desire to experience all of the planet’s wonders, I’m contributing to its detriment.

The only way to stop loving the planet to death is to sacrifice travel altogether — I’m not ready to do that. But I am willing to put some effort into reducing my ecological impact when I travel. For starters, I can pack less stuff, take my own water bottle (empty, of course, to get through airport security), offset my carbon output, and choose lodging that’s environmentally responsible.

National Geographic Traveler put together a comprehensive guide that offers 50 ways to travel responsibly (well, as responsibly as possible) and still have fun. It’s a great resource to consult before your next trip.

[National Geographic via Treehugger]

glamorous camping?

September 16, 2008

My boyfriend hates camping. The discomfort of sleeping on the ground, the syncopated cacophony of crickets and frogs, the inaccessibility to running water. But what about glamping?

This supposedly eco-friendly form of camping — think luxury safari complete with raised platform tents or yurts and real beds — might just appeal to him. The purist would probably disagree that this is actually camping or truly low-impact, but it’s less stressful on the environment than a conventional resort with reduced energy and water usage. And it’s one step closer to nature than a hotel or lodge would be.

[Image: Clayoquot Glamping Resort via Trendhunter]

From the NY Times:

At Mille Étoiles, a campsite with 14 yurts in the Rhône-Alpes region of France overlooking the dramatic Ardèche River gorge, the tents are built on oak and ash platforms and furnished (four-poster beds, oriental rugs, antiques) so guests feel, said Lodewijk van den Belt, one of the owners, “like you are in an Edwardian safari tent.”

On the California coast an hour south of San Francisco is Costanoa (, a lodge and camp surrounded by 30,000 acres of state parks and wildlife preserves, visitors would be hard-pressed to call their 76 tented bungalows “tents.” They are like stand-alone rooms with canvas walls and ceilings, hardwood floors and made-up beds with heated mattress pads (“So we can save energy by keeping the bungalow’s heat lower,” said Trevor Bridge, Costanoa’s general manager.)

While guests can choose to stay in the lodge or in a cabin, Mr. Bridge says the bungalows are sold out every summer and are popular even through the autumn (there are three comfort stations with bathrooms and showers). Campers can cook their own food on grilling stations throughout the campsite (picnic food and coal are available at the general store), or eat meals at the restaurant. There are an outdoor hot tub and a 24-hour dry sauna and spa. Weekend rates for a tented bungalow that can sleep three starts at $115.

Unfortunately, glamping isn’t always quite as economical as regular ol’ camping. At Paws Up in Montana, the rate starts at $695 per night for two (with all 3 meals included). And at Clayoquot on Vancouver Island, Canada, it’s about $4500 US for the minimum 3-nights’ stay — on par with the price of a luxe African safari.

Read more about glamping in the NY Times.

vast expanses of america

July 6, 2008

Nothing but peaks and valleys, green fields, vast plains for as far as the eye could see. Nothing but cows and their calves, destined for a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation). Nothing but horses and ranches, for hundreds of miles — from park to park, nation to nation.

On the US side, little in the way of renewable energy resources. With the abundance of land and sunshine, I expected to see solar panels gracing the pastures. None that I could see. On the Canadian side, adjacent the cattle were wind farms.

On both sides of the border, much talk about the consequences of receding glaciers. Drought. Fires. The lengthening summers and conversely shortening winters. The related changes in animal behavior.

Passing Butte, MT, my jaw dropped. As if someone had a giant chisel, the entire landscape was sliced out.

This is the America I experienced on my recent trip out West. Both amazing and alarming, at least from a passerby’s perspective. It was beautiful, but I can’t help but eco-scan everything I see.

snow in the parks, both blessing and burden

July 1, 2008

Some of the things we wanted to do while in Yellowstone and Glacier were just not possible because of an obstacle. Snow. In June — an anomaly for us Northeasterners. But it is a possibility in the higher elevations out West. While it was a minor annoyance that we couldn’t hike Mount Washburn in Yellowstone or drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier, we still had an incredible time. I’d rather see some relief from drought — as they’ve been experiencing in states like Wyoming and Montana — and miss out on a few sights than deny the area some much needed precipitation. How timely that the New York Times published an article about this mixed blessing, check it out here.

how i am spoiled

June 30, 2008

After being away for over 2 weeks, I have a greater appreciation of the kind of food I have access to. I live 2 blocks from a weekly farmer’s market where I can get seasonal produce, pasture-raised beef and chicken, humanely raised pork, fresh dairy, good breads, etc. There are countless supermarkets and gourmet shops selling amazing food products. In the parts of NYC that I frequent, organic is just as accessible as conventional. I can go to restaurants that sell local, market ingredients not mystery meat from a mass distributor like Sysco. I don’t have to rely on Wal-Mart for all of my shopping (more on that in a later post).

Being away from this cornucopia is eye-opening. In and around the national parks, from Wyoming to Canada, it was mostly the same menu no matter where we ate. One night we went to a place just north of Yellowstone that served trout. I asked the young waiter if it was caught locally. “Oh I don’t know, it’s from Sysco.” That’s as far as the provenance went, the largest nationwide food distributor. My boyfriend ordered something I wouldn’t go near: chicken fried steak. I’m not sure you could call what was on his plate “steak,” it was indeed mystery meat. Outside of Glacier, 400 miles north, we went to another place and I swear the menu was the same, barring a few personal twists. I wonder if the people living out there think about where their food comes from.

We did find a few exceptions to the homogeneous dining rule. In West Yellowstone, a cute little cafe with some Thai-inspired dishes. Even within Yellowstone itself, wild Alaskan Salmon and locally caught whitefish that’s Marine Stewardship Council certified; plus fair-trade, organic coffee from Green Mountain (which my boyfriend said was delicious). On the way to Glacier, a cute little sandwich shop in a town called Ovando (pop. ~71). In St Mary’s, Montana, a great little cafe with lots of vegetarian options and good local food. In Waterton, Canada, a restaurant we went back to twice just because it was rare to find well-prepared, quality food elsewhere.

While we did find these rare gems — in most cases at the recommendation of park rangers (don’t worry, we won’t mention your names!) — they were few and far between. What I need to keep in mind is that these were seasonal places we visited. The parks aren’t fully functional for most of the year. They get most of their visitors from July to August with some coming in mid-June and September. And I’m sure most folks who live out there don’t eat out that often — if they do I’d hope there are some local hidden gems the tourists don’t know about yet. Somehow, I doubt it.

interspecies love, or at least friendship

June 27, 2008

As I’ve said a few times before, I freakin’ love animals. And I love it when animals of different species love each other. Like the story about the baby hippo orphaned by the tsunami who befriended an old tortoise. Or this story about the dog and sheep who have a special relationship (purely platonic, of course). There’s a whole blog dedicated to this stuff.

While in Yellowstone, we went on a guided horseback ride through an area of the park where over 100 elk had just settled for late spring (before heading up to the cooler mountainous regions for summer). The stablehands had just told us that they had only arrived two days prior to our being there. They also told us that the horses and elk get along really well. When we went on the ride, we spotted the elk or rather they spotted the horses and us. There were so many. They were gorgeous. But if it weren’t for one of the guides we were with, the elk would have come right up to the horses, and the horses would have forgotten all about us. So the guide did her best to corral the elk. It was an amazing sight. These beautiful creatures all herded together, signaling to each other in their eerie high-pitched calls. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take any pictures on the ride because if anyone dropped their camera it would spook the horses. (Image above is borrowed.)

In Waterton, Canada (the northern counterpart of Glacier National Park, Montana), I witnessed what could have been another instance of interspecies love. A bighorn sheep and a mule deer sharing a shady spot in the grass. I can’t be too sure about their relationship, but sheep usually hang out with their kind. Maybe this one was excommunicated? The mule deer in Waterton are very acclimated to humans, and are everywhere munching on people’s lawns all day long. Did this mule deer feel sorry for this sheep, who only had one horn, or was she merely tolerating him?

I’ll never know for sure.

amazing trip

June 25, 2008

There’s so much to say about my travels, including all of the eco-analyzing I did while on the trip. We went from Yellowstone to Glacier to Waterton (in Canada) within 10 days. Saw so much wildlife, mountain ranges, lakes and streams, geothermal activity, and plant life. Such vast open spaces, both in the parks and out. In the next week, I’ll be posting all of the goods, from the food we ate to the greenwashing we saw all around (and some genuine eco-efforts as well).

If you’ve ever thought about visiting this part of the country, I think this was the best time of year to do it (late June). It’s an amazing and unforgettable experience.

Of course, the pictures ain’t nothin’ like the real thing, but you’ll get the idea.

before i go

June 12, 2008

No one will be home to watch Letterman or to update the Netflix queue. There won’t be anyone looking for a late night snack in the fridge or listening to iTunes on the stereo. The only life stirring (very slowly) will be the plants, unless our little mouse friend returns in our absence.

So there are a few things we need to do before we leave for vacation:

  • Hold the mail
  • Stop the weekend paper
  • Unplug everything (powerstrips make this easier, at least until the whole house switch is available)
  • Eat all the perishables in the fridge (this can require careful planning)
  • Water the plants
  • Close the windows
  • Turn down the thermostat (in winter), turn off the A/C (in summer)
  • Give the keys to a responsible friend

Did I miss anything?