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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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Florie HopTrip Latin AmericaA few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Florie Thielin at the Ecotourism & Sustainable Tourism Conference in Quito and learning more about the Hopineo initiative.

It's a deliciously simple, but impactful idea! In exchange for sharing best practices and providing specific recommendations for how a responsible hotel can enhance their marketing efforts, Hopineo provides access to experienced sustainability, marketing and/or photo/videography professionals, among other skills, who only ask that their room and board accommodations be waived.

View of Hotel Verde from Wetland"We didn't even know this was possible!" the retired couple from England explained. They were vacationing in South Africa and due to a family issue had to quickly catch a flight from Cape Town back home. So, they checked into Hotel Verde for the night and found themselves as pleasantly surprised and intrigued by the hotel's green features and grounds as I was.

We were lucky enough to be given a personalized tour by Sarah, one of the most passionate and informed hotel marketing executives I've met in the sustainable travel industry.  While the 4-star Hotel Verde (owned by Bon Hotels) is primarily geared for the business traveler (with its complementary shuttles to the airport and the city center as well as ample conference room space), leisure travelers will find this hotel to be a treat as well.

Horseback riding at the foothills of Cotopaxi volcano

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Quito, Ecuador to give a presentation at the Ecotourism & Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC). Many speeches and declarations were made during the conference, but the most notable was when the Minister of Tourism, Sandra Naranjo, announced that Ecuador was partnering with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) to create standards for sustainability in tourism.

A fantastic step forward indeed! But, what does that mean to you as a traveler?

As you consider traveling to the beautiful country of Ecuador, here's some practical examples of boutique hotels located in the Cotopaxi region that are already implementing standards of sustainability, namely Hacienda El Porvenir, Black Sheep Inn and Chilcabamba Eco Lodge.

Cape of Good HopeOver time, I've come to realize that the destinations that affect me the most all over the world have been or are all a part of ancient trading routes.

Maybe it's the diverse mix of cultures that inevitably occur in port towns that translate to different architecture, food, music or art. Maybe, I just love the sea so much! Regardless, Cape Town was no different.

Although most of my trip was tied to a travel conference, I did manage to spend a couple of days exploring this beautiful city as well as discovering what individual communities and townships are doing to preserve their heritage and livelihood, which of course all translates to sustainability.  

Here is my list for exploring the eco side of Cape Town.

Jazz Safari in Gugulethu Township Cape Town South AfricaWhat is it that comes to mind when you find out that you are going on a Jazz Safari in Cape Town, South Africa? Sweet lyricism and melodies? Cultural viewing? Sharing a love of different Jazz styles?

Yes, yes, and yes with the added bonus of sharing a homemade meal along with some great conversation and laughs in a musician's home. While I am not a Jazz aficionado, I gained a greater appreciation for the struggles, stories, and triumphs that these musicians pour into their music.

Lumnishenca Wikipedia CommonsAfter what seemed to be an endless Washington DC winter filled with errant snow storms, sleet and frigid weather, our family realized that we desperately needed to experience the rejuvenating warmth of a sun, sand, and sea vacation.

So began the research to find a relatively uncrowded Caribbean island that would also fulfill our need for eco-adventure.

Eventually, we settled on St. Croix and although I was a little apprehensive about the traveler warnings for getting a mosquito-borne disease (Dengue and Chikungunya had been spreading for months), ultimately we were pleasantly surprised with St. Croix's vistas, quirky history, beautiful beaches, and hospitality – and I haven't yet even mentioned the great kayaking!

Musical Performance in front of Cathedral, ZagrebLast summer's travels with my son was part social experiment, part field research on how sustainability is viewed through the eyes of a nine-year-old child. Each country we visited, namely Cyprus, Greece, Croatia and Scotland had their own flavor of what sustainability and green travel meant.

For Croatia, sustainability generally translated to a more personal construct of preserving all things local rather than living what we, in the United States, have come to know as a green lifestyle filled with hybrid car or bus use and renewable energy resources.

Wild Atlantic Way SceneThere's so much that surprised me during my trip to Ireland last October from the people (extraordinarily friendly souls who have a penchant for going out of their way to help others) to the vistas (there's a reason people call it the Emerald Isle) to the music (celebrating humanity's full range of emotions from sadness and tragedy to joy and passion) to the food (sustainably sourced by necessity and simply delicious) that it's hard to pick out a moment that stood out above all!

But, I can and that moment was during an e-biking trip along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Highland Games CompetitorsIf you are the parent of a pre-teen, then most likely you have heard of the online game, Clash of Clans. For the uninitiated, the premise of this game is to build a village, join a clan and then smash another player's village for its resources so your village grows larger and stronger.

For our son, the village has the honor of being the first thing he checks in on the morning, right after school and again after he's done with his homework. If this scenario sounds familiar to you, I would recommend incorporating this theme with the unique history and fun of the Highland Games into your next family summer vacation.

ParenzanaViewTake the imagery of Tuscany (without the crowds) and combine it with a family-friendly biking and hiking trail that meanders through various villages offering comfortable accommodations and fantastic culinary delicacies, and you have Croatia's Parenzana Trail in a nutshell.

The 123 kilometer (approximately 77 mile) biking and hiking trail's history is quite comical. Originally built as a train rail line that transported goods and passengers throughout the region of Istria to and from the Italian port of Trieste, the slow train operated from 1902 to 1935.

Scotland BikingThis past summer, our European family vacation was dedicated to experiencing all things local. Whether it was touring a family-owned organic vineyard or seeing a cultural dance performance just outside of Dubrovnik in Croatia, spending a sun-drenched few days on the island of Hydra in Greece, or enjoying the spectacular Highland colors and absolutely delicious family-style meals at the Fraoch Lodge in Scotland, we wanted local and sustainable, and we wanted it to be the best.

So, when my nine-year-old son declared that of the many great experiences he had "Scotland was my favorite because (Fraoch) lodge felt like home", that was saying a lot!

Bus Travel from Split CroatiaWith classic rock music playing, reliable Wi-Fi access, and spectacular scenery (think of the Pacific Coast Highway in California times two for beauty), who knew bus travel in Croatia could be so fun!

Last summer, my nine-year-old son and I traveled for 17 days throughout Croatia. We started out in Dubrovnik and continued on to Split, then Opatija, Rovinj, and finally to Zagreb.  It was a fantastic trip filled with historical sites, great food, outdoor adventure, and friendly people.  

Taking a bus, however, was not my original plan for traversing the coastline.  Instead, I wanted to travel by train or boat as I thought it would be more fun for my son and more green. However, I quickly figured out that the only reliable form of public transport in Croatia is taking a bus.

Picking Vegetables and Fruits from Backyard Farm on Family VacationOver the years, I've come to realize that one factor that makes a family vacation a fantastic vacation is picking out the right accommodations.

For us, that means renting a locally-owned home, wherever possible, as it is more environmentally conscious and more fun.  We've rented apartments and villas in many countries including the United States, Italy, Canada, and Spain, and during this past summer, we rented a villa in Cyprus.

Rock Farm Slane Communal AreaI had just landed in Dublin, after an overnight flight from Washington DC, on a sunny morning a few weeks ago and found myself once again caught in those beautiful in-between hours when the adrenaline for starting another sustainable journey kicks in and the complete exhaustion that I knew was going to set in during the late afternoon.

Well, I certainly made the best of those beautiful hours thanks to the help of Carina Mount Charles at Rock Farm Slane!

View of Dubrovnik from FortressDubrovnik, Croatia is high on many people's travel bucket lists – and with good reason!

When our family traveled there this summer, I was awestruck by this beautiful coastal city from the moment we first walked through Pile Gate into the Old Town.  The sound of the birds, the lively chatter of families strolling along the Straden, and the lack of advertisements and restaurant hawking were apparent.

I also was immediately struck with the idea that Dubrovnik was completely different from any other southern European city we've visited because of its compact layout, focus on local products and provision of numerous family-friendly activities.

Travel SkillsI'm of the belief that children need to start traveling while they are still young. The mere act of going to a place that is unfamiliar in terms of landscape, food, culture, history and maybe even language encourages children to develop organizational skills, a sense of independence and greater responsibility.

This was put to the test this summer when, armed with one rollaway bag and two backpacks, my 9-year-old son and I went on a seven week trip through four countries: Cyprus, Greece, Croatia and Scotland.

GreeceSwimmingWith almost 10,000 miles of coastline and 6,000 islands to swim, snorkel and sunbathe the days away, you may find it hard to narrow down your vacation options when traveling to Greece.  In my opinion, Athens is a must for the first-time visitor to Greece.  

Seeing the Acropolis, having a fresh fish meal beside the sea, visiting the Panathenaic Stadium (site of the first modern Olympic Games), learning about local turtle rescue center's conservation efforts, listening (and dancing) to bouzouki music, bargaining with the Plaka shopowners - it's all part of the fun of Athenian life!  

But, when the crowded city gets a bit too stifling and you want to take a break that's not far and car free, the island of Hydra is a great green getaway choice for the entire family.

Kenya mainDrinking a glass of water is something most of us take for granted, but more than 750 million people around the world still do not have access to safe water. Through ClimateCare, we are helping to address this, by supporting the award winning LifeStraw Carbon for Water project in Kenya.

A partnership between ClimateCare and global health company Vestergaard allows for this project to cut carbon emissions and provides safe water to over 4.5 million people in Kenya.

Certified Sustainable TravelIt may seem like a new phenomenon, but the concept of ecotourism has been around for more than 200 years when Alexander von Humboldt and botanist Aimé Bonpland traveled across Central and South America.

Since then, eco-conscious explorers have endeavored to support ecotourism that incorporates the values of S.E.E. (namely social empowerment, economic viability and environmental responsibility) and positively impact communities.

Finding Love While TravelingWhen my husband and I first met – almost 18 years ago – he didn't even have a passport. He had traveled to Canada and Mexico of course, but back then, one only needed a valid U.S. driver's license to cross the border back into the United States.

This may have sated him, but given my frequent inclination to travel overseas, I plainly declared a couple of months into the relationship, "If you want this to work, you're going to need to get a passport."

Male Gaur asiatic wild ox at Nagarahole wildlife sanctuaryThe vast and diverse landscape of India is embedded with a rich biosphere that is home to myriad species of flora and fauna.

I believe that with the evolution of technology and infrastructural development in India, today, there is a perpetual conflict between the Indian wildlife and humans.

Gaur bull at Nagarhole National Park, India. Photo by Dinesh Kannambadi (Wikipedia Commons)

Posted by on in Eco Travel Tips

Turkey resizeNot sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way - maybe between the marketing of hemp clothing and natural cleaning products - the concept of a having green lifestyle became a bit, dare I say, boring. Fortunately, this is not the case with green travel.

While there are many meaningful and unique travel experiences to choose from that also happen to benefit communities socially, economically and environmentally, some of these voyages are downright extreme! Here's a few that will get your heart-pumping!

Alaska AdventureAlaska is one of the least-densely populated places in the world, and much of the state remains wild and road-less. Travel to Alaska typically focuses on these remote areas, and enjoying the stunning scenery and abundant wildlife they offer.

To ensure that nature and eco-travel can continue, we must be stewards for the natural environment so that wild places like these remain for future generations to enjoy.

1-night-RaftI am fortunate to live in an area of Northern Virginia near the Potomac Gorge, which is a wilderness expanse with over 240 species of animals (including frogs, toads, foxes, raccoons, deer, possums, etc.) and where many migratory birds spend part of their year.

With its beautiful American elm, ironwood and redwood trees as well as many walking and biking paths that connect up to an extensive network of trails throughout the Washington DC area, it's no wonder why visitors are amazed at the expanse of mature trees and quiet solitude found so close to the city.

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    Wilderness has value in its diversity of living things; from the smallest to the largest; from the clean air to clean water; from

Responsible Tourism Campaign of Animal WelfareIn an increasingly urbanized world, wildlife tourism is gaining more and more popularity, and many travellers choose to spend their holidays getting to know – even volunteering with, wild animals.

Unfortunately, in the vast majority of activities with animals, what we see are creatures torn away from their natural habitat and placed into an artificial one where they suffer and are forced to perform in ways which are unnatural for them.

Every year, travellers, volunteers and animal lovers unwittingly contribute to the cruel exploitation of those very same animals they so badly wanted to see and help.

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