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Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Ecotourism Blog!

Welcome to the Greenloons Blog, your go-to ecotourism / sustainable / responsible (or whatever term you feel comfortable with) travel resource. Here, you will find eco travel destination profiles, environmentally friendly travel tips, ecotourism certification information, eco trip reviews and much more! Read, share and let us know your thoughts about ecotourism!

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Irene Lane

Irene Lane

Irene is the founder & president of Greenloons. She is a dual EU citizen who has lived in 5 countries and visited 32 more in Asia, Oceania, Latin America and Europe. Drawing upon her professional and personal experiences to address authentic ecotourism from community, ecological and financial points of view, Irene is a frequent conference speaker, Huffington Post blogger and radio talk show guest. 

New Zealand has long been regarded as a clean and green destination as a result of its rich and fragile natural landscape. But in recent years, there had been controversy as to whether its official environmental policies and practices were doing enough to protect and conserve nature.

For example in 2008, New Zealand promoted the extension of its Qualmark certification program to include responsible tourism practices. Then in 2010, after certifying more than 500 tourism businesses, New Zealand announced the de-coupling of responsible tourism criteria from Qualmark, and the creation of the Qualmark Enviro eco-label criteria. Confused yet?

It may not immediately come to mind, but natural rivers and springs are abundant in Jamaica. With over 120 rivers flowing through the country from the central mountain region to the coasts, and several mineral springs recognized for their therapeutic value, Jamaica is an easy ecotourism getaway for families. The fast flowing rivers, namely the Black River, Rio Cobre, Milk River, Rio Grande and Martha Brae, are not only used for transport and irrigation, but for the production of electricity too.

The Netherlands, best known for its tulips, wooden shoes, windmills and canals, also has its own eco-label for environmentally friendly businesses called the Green Key (formerly called the Milieubarometer).

Originally created in 1998, the Green Key focuses on “internal and external communications, sustainability in the management of the company, use of energy, gas and water, waste management, transport, food & beverage, gardening, sustainable measures in the office, paper usage, type of printing, and sustainable procurement.

With the advent of words such as green, environmentally friendly, sustainable and eco as powerful marketing slogans, it should come as no surprise that many organizations within the tourism industry have adopted these terms to attract consumers. There are financially lucrative reasons for marketing hotels and vacation activities in this manner since surveys have indicated that consumers are willing to pay a premium for a product when they are aware that an organization is environmentally conscious.

Just because you are going on a family vacation doesn’t mean that learning should take a break too. Ecotourism is full of what educators call teachable moments or, more definitively, unplanned opportunities to explain a concept that has unintentionally captured a child’s interest.

Whether it is touring the rainforests of the Amazon, observing blue footed boobies throughout the Galapagos Islands or understanding the water issues that surround the Okavango Delta in Botswana, ecotourism is a vacation experience that provides boundless opportunities to teach younger generations about the fragility of ecosystems and the significance of heritage.

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  • Greenloons
    Greenloons says #
    A thought provoking article Irene. Living in South Africa and working in the travel industry eco-tourism initiatives are always of

While not the first place you would think of for ecotourism, Jordan’s natural landscape of waterfalls and canyons as well as the Dead Sea and the Mujib gorge, which enjoys the distinction of being the lowest elevation nature reserve in the world, are placing Jordan on the map of new ecotourism destinations.

Our last stop on our introductory tour through Costa Rica that included Finca Rosa Blanca and Pacuare Lodge, was San Jose, where the CST Level 4 certified Grano de Oro was grandly perched and waiting for our arrival. The Grano de Oro, which literally means “grain of gold” referring to the coffee bean and the effect it has had on the Costa Rican economy, is a small boutique eco hotel consisting of 21 rooms and a café restaurant.

If this is ecotourism, count me in! That was what my husband said after stepping off the inflatable raft we had been on for the last hour and a half. We had arrived at Pacuare Lodge in Costa Rica and had been greeted by the manager with a big smile and an even bigger cup of hot chocolate – just in case the tepid water temperatures were too much for us northerners.

We were in the middle of the rainforest approximately 70 miles due east from San Jose and it was gorgeous scene. The Pacuare River is one of the Top 5 Rivers for whitewater rafting mostly due to its length, natural scenery and variety of class rapids. Almost every day, unless the water is too high, day trippers line up to tackle the six hour journey through Class II, III and IV rapids toward the Caribbean. But alongside those day trippers were a few of us couples and families who wanted the extra excitement of staying at the Pacuare Lodge.

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  • Henry A Villegas
    Henry A Villegas says #
    Dear Irene Lane, I love your web site and newsletter that I get every month from GreenLoons. Please consider my invitation for yo

Our first impressions of San Jose reminded us of the surrounding hills and valleys of the San Francisco Bay Area in California. My husband and I had just landed (via San Salvador) and the warm, moist air was a lovely change from a winter up north that just cannot seem to lose its grip on the Washington DC metro area. The next impression we had was that while we were most definitely in a developing country in Central America, the people are some of the friendliest, sincerest and well educated in the entire region.

In general, European vacationers view ecotourism as a way to minimize their carbon footprint entirely by first traveling by train, for example, and then staying in rural areas where they can hike or go camping. To that end, a European Charter for Sustainable Tourism (CETS) was developed in 1995 to “to improve the sustainable development and management of tourism in protected areas, which takes account of the needs of the environment, local residents, local businesses and visitors.”

As one of the top tourism destinations in the world, Greece is best known for its relaxed lifestyle, white-washed buildings, beautiful beaches and seas, gorgeous blue skies, ancient culture and mythology, and delicious food. Perhaps, I am a little biased since I was born there, but Greece is an extraordinary family-friendly destination as well. Now, with a burgeoning ecotourism industry that is emphasizing the contrasts of its spectacular landscape and ecosystems, Greece is actively appealing to nature conservationists worldwide with its wide range of eco-activities including hiking, mountain climbing, paragliding, skiing, rafting, bird-watching, snorkeling and sailing,

Recently Alfredo Ferreyros, the President of Explorandes Peru, which is a sustainable tour operator offering authentic ecotours to the Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley and the Amazon Rainforest in Peru, answered some questions about the process his company went through to obtain ISO 14001 designation.

As a manner of introduction, the intention of the ISO 14001 standards for Environmental Management Systems (EMS) is to provide a framework for a holistic, strategic approach to an organization's environmental policy, plans and actions. ISO 14001 is a management tool that enables an organization to identify and control the environmental impact of its activities, products, or services; improve its environmental performance continually and to implement a systematic approach to setting environmental objectives and targets.

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  • chetan
    chetan says #
    Why Iso Certification Service ...
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    Greenloons says #
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  • Greenloons
    Greenloons says #
    Organizations applying ISO 14001 only have to take a few steps to become registered under EMAS: The two main differences involve a
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For generations, nature and wildlife conservation has been a part of the Indian culture and heritage. From its highest peak at Kanchenjunga to the Indian Ocean, amazing India also spells variety and adventure. A land of rich and varied geography including the Himalayan Region, Kerala and the Andaman, Nicobar and Lakshdweep Islands, India offers such diverse activities such as elephant and camel safaris, and yoga and meditation retreats, to thrilling whitewater rafting adventures.

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  • Sweety Jamgade
    Sweety Jamgade says #
    India has vast potential in te...
    Thanks Irene for the information and your contribution towards promotion of real ecotourism. India has numerous untouched pristine
  • Rebecca Rubin
    Rebecca Rubin says #
    India is certainly a magical place! I'm planning a trip there for next fall and will certainly keep these locations in mind!
  • Jamie Fernandez
    Jamie Fernandez says #
    I'm a pretty avid skiier and have always wanted to hit the Himalayan slopes, and see the colorful Indian culture.

Ask most international travelers about the eco-label that most comes to mind for sustainable tourism and the common answer given will be Europe's VISIT eco-label. Yet, the European VISIT (Voluntary Initiative for Sustainability in Tourism) eco-label is actually a collaboration of existing tourism certification schemes throughout the continent. It's not an eco-label as much as an association of sustainable tourism business and certification organizations.

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  • Rebecca Rubin
    Rebecca Rubin says #
    Interesting. I had no idea there was such a diversity in standards for this particular certification. Thanks for clarifying!
  • Jamie Fernandez
    Jamie Fernandez says #
    This sounds awesome, so many Americans want to visit Europe and these eco-friendly initiatives and activities are great ideas to s

In the age of travel alerts, political uprisings and airport security lines, it is no wonder why so few people travel outside of their home regions. A recent article posted on CNN.com gave a grim view of Americans who prefer to not travel internationally for a myriad of reasons ranging from our general lack of interest and intense work culture to expensive airfares and logistics.

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  • SAK
    SAK says #
    hmmmm........
    This is a pretty good review
  • Rebecca Rubin
    Rebecca Rubin says #
    I couldn't agree more! Nothing brings me greater joy than traveling to a new and far away land, and this joy began in early childh
  • Jamie Fernandez
    Jamie Fernandez says #
    I definitely think everyone should do some international travel in their life. It can really open doors, change perspectives, and

This past week, the National Geographic Society played master of ceremonies for the premiere of Dereck and Beverly Joubert's "The Last Lions". The extraordinarily powerful documentary film by the award-winning couple focused on the plight of one lioness, Ma di Tau, and her determination to keep her three cubs safe and thriving despite numerous obstacles.

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  • Rebecca Rubin
    Rebecca Rubin says #
    I loved the film, so beautiful and well done! I was surprised by how deeply engrossed I became in the plot, those baby lion cubs w

As the popularity of environmentally-friendly products has grown over the years, consumers have been conditioned to believe that green goods or eco products equate to more expensive merchandise. In the specific case of ecotourism, this is simply not the case. Indeed, it is possible to participate in ecotourism and stay well within your vacation budget. The options for ecotourism travel range from the luxurious to the rustic, so your standards do not need to be adjusted for a responsible travel experience.

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  • Eco Central Park Tours
    Eco Central Park Tours says #
    Central Park Tours
    Ecotourism is becoming more popular and people are preferring it. http://ow.ly/O08ct
  • Central Park Tours
    Central Park Tours says #
    Central Park Walking Tours
    That is great if we get Eco tourism in budget.
  • Rebecca Rubin
    Rebecca Rubin says #
    Good to know! It is really a shame that "eco" has become so strongly equated with "expensive". Thanks for posting this important a
  • Jamie Fernandez
    Jamie Fernandez says #
    A long vacation to Costa Rica that's inexpensive and eco-friendly! I'm in. Definitely a misconception that ecotours are more expen

Posted by on in Family Eco Travel

Canada is a large country with ample wilderness to explore, ancient forests to survey, mammals to discover, and native peoples artifacts to appreciate. The country offers many opportunities both for self-discovery as well as quality family time.

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  • Rebecca Rubin
    Rebecca Rubin says #
    Canada truly does have one of the most visually breathtaking landscapes in the world!
  • Jamie Fernandez
    Jamie Fernandez says #
    Canada is definitely one of the world's best kept secrets in terms of vacation spots. The natural beauty is unparalleled.

Probably best known for the rolling hills featured in the film The Sound of Music, Austria is a country with an immense geographic diversity of mountains, forests, and lakes that account for a wide variety of flora and fauna. Most of what constitutes ecotourism in Austria includes nature-based hiking or mountaineering at one of its national parks or nature reserves and staying at an eco-labeled hotel or agritourism site. The country is safe to travel, clean and offers many activities for all age groups.

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  • Rebecca Rubin
    Rebecca Rubin says #
    I had no idea that Austria was the first European company to enable renewable energies, so interesting!
  • Jamie Fernandez
    Jamie Fernandez says #
    I have a friend that lived in Spain and took a romantic weekend getaway with her boyfriend to Vienna. She had travelled all over E

As one of the 10 most visited countries in the world, Mexico is the personification of sun, sand, surf and cultural heritage. Given its importance of tourism to the economy, Mexico instituted, in 2006, a regulation that has "certified (more than 30) ecotourism businesses and provided small, rural tourism business owners with training, technical assistance, and marketing support".

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  • Jamie Fernandez
    Jamie Fernandez says #
    I had no idea ecotourism was so popular in Mexico, this is incredible!
  • Rebecca Rubin
    Rebecca Rubin says #
    Thanks for breaking down the SEMARNAT ecotourism regulation info so clearly!

Distinctive New Zealand is resplendent with nature, adventure, flora, fauna, and naturalist guides committed to conservation.  And, as the last major landmass on earth to be settled – humans arrived 1000 years ago in comparison to Australia, which was settled 60,000 years ago – New Zealand is also a constant study in evolution.

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  • Rebecca Rubin
    Rebecca Rubin says #
    New Zealand has always been on my list of places to visit, but after reading this, it has jumped to the top. There are so many int
  • Jamie Fernandez
    Jamie Fernandez says #
    New Zealand and Australia have always been at the top of my list of adventurous places to visit, but I had no idea it had wildlife

Italy's eco-label for sustainable tourism emphasizes the protection of nature, culture and heritage as well as the improvement of the environment. Since 1997, the Legambiente Turismo eco-label has been awarded to 426 accommodations including agritourism sites, restaurants, boat operators, beaches, natural parks, and tourist attractions that have raised awareness about running sustainable tourism operations as well as reducing the environmental impacts of tourism.

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  • Rebecca Rubin
    Rebecca Rubin says #
    So awesome to learn that the efforts are having such a great impact in Italy! Hope to continue to hear positive reports like this
  • Jamie Fernandez
    Jamie Fernandez says #
    Interesting to know these organizations are always improving their sustainability.

Alaska has the highest mountain (Mt. McKinley), the longest coastline, eight national parks, ten national preserves, four national monuments, sixteen national wildlife refuges, twenty-six national wild and scenic rivers, and two national forests. Nearly 16% of the state is designated as wilderness, compared to only 2.5% in the contiguous United States. And, although a bit cooler, it is an eco destination for all seasons as Alaska offers a special connection to nature, native culture and wildlife.

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  • Rebecca Rubin
    Rebecca Rubin says #
    I had a similarly lovely experience in Alaska, what a stunning place!
  • Jamie Fernandez
    Jamie Fernandez says #
    It's incredible to look at the immense size of those glaciers and just imagine how big they are over and under the water.

With over 900 million people traveling annually, tourism is the world's largest service sector industry and ecotourism is its fastest growing sector. In order to protect the surroundings upon which it depends, Greenloons, a family-focused eco travel website, has teamed up with the Rainforest Alliance to work towards improving environmental and social standards, as well as protecting wildlife habitats and workers alike.

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  • Rebecca Rubin
    Rebecca Rubin says #
    I'm so excited that two such amazing organizations have partnered up, it bodes very well for positive future growth in the eco-tou

Sweden has long exemplified family, sustainability, rugged terrain, and hospitable tourism. Nature´s Best is the first national quality label for nature tours in Europe. In 2002 and coinciding with the United Nation's declaration as the International Year of Ecotourism, Sweden launched the Nature's Best quality eco-label so that customers would know about the best offerings for Swedish ecotourism.

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  • rekha
    rekha says #
    Impressive, definitely great material. This blog is absolutely awesome.
  • Shree Reddy
    Shree Reddy says #
    Eco tourism is the best part of tourism. Eco-tourism focuses on local cultures, wilderness adventures, volunteering, personal grow

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