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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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By now, you are probably experiencing the lazy days of August in the run up to September, where school starts, fall sports and cooler weather change the dynamic of weekend getaways. However, if you’ve got one more weekend getaway left in you and want to do something really different – check out these great festivals in the United States and around the world.

If you are looking for some eco travel inspiration, start by visiting the towns across the United States that host some of the greenest college campuses. Compiled by Online Colleges Guide, this infographic depicts how many colleges are leading the charge in building LEED certified buildings, growing their own crops in organic farms and gardens, and offering degrees in sustainability.

Croatia has been receiving a lot of press lately as the “new” and relatively untouched area of Europe for wanderlusts to discover. The country offers pristine beaches, hiking trails and vineyards for adventures and culinary enthusiasts alike.

In addition, since 1993, Croatia has also instituted the Environmental Label, so that consumers could understand the “environmental friendliness of a product…and an indication of continuous efforts (toward) environmental protection”.

Rolling hills, castles, churches, potatoes, shamrocks and leprechauns – that’s what Ireland means to me! Since 2004, Ireland has also stood for a practical ecotourism standard. Developed by the organization, Ecotourism Ireland, and in association with Failte Ireland, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the (Ireland) Environmental Protection Agency, the National Standards Authority of Ireland and the (Ireland) National Parks & Wildlife Service, the eco-label aims to expand the concept of environmental sustainability and stewardship through extensive training and accreditation procedures.

This short video (shot entirely on June 8, 2012) encapsulates the festive nature of Warsaw during the opening day of the Euro 2012 football (soccer) championships. Co-hosting with Ukraine, Poland's capital city was well prepared for guests ensuring plenty of public transportation for fans to get to the big game, and open areas with large screens so revelers could watch Poland play Greece.

Our family visit to Poland earlier this month came about because we had the opportunity to attend the opening game of Euro 2012 (Poland versus Greece) in Warsaw. While it was a thrilling match (not just because I’m Greek and my husband is Polish) in a pretty city, I found Warsaw to be too austere for my taste and was happy to get on train south to Krakow for a different view of Polish life.

From the moment we stepped off the train in Krakow and within minutes, found ourselves walking down pedestrian-only Floriańska to the main market square (Rynek Główny), our family felt that we had just arrived in a very special place that not only had a long history - one look at the architecture alone tells this - but proud and deep cultural roots that were not going to succumb to commercialism anytime soon. That notion made my little ecotourism heart so happy!

It’s just about time for the start of one of the most hallowed traditions in football (aka soccer for us Americans). It’s time for UEFA's Euro 2012 and the host countries of Poland and Ukraine are ready to showcase their stadiums, culture and sportsmanship to the world.

Posted by on in Ecotourism Trip Reviews

Last March, I had the pleasure of staying in three distinct green lodgings in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, which emphasized the city’s culture, history, diversity, and ecological sensitivity. Quito Turismo, the tourism office for the capital, sponsored my stay at a lovely trio of accommodations that was affordable, centrally located and comfortable.

The following guest post was written by Nick DiMatteo, who is the President & Founder of Nomadico Travel. By coincidence, we were both staying at the lovely Anahi Boutique Hotel in Quito for a couple of nights before heading into the Amazon Jungle and had a lovely time sharing our experiences in the city.

While I've already discussed my visit to Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, I wanted Nick to share the life-changing experience he and his family had while visiting the Huaorani community (in Central Ecuador).

There’s an abundance of quality travel guides available, but none that focus on engaging elementary school students who want to learn some kid green travel tips for the foreign country they are visiting with their family. Therefore, Greenloons has developed a green informational guide to Costa Rica designed for children in elementary school.

It was a surreal experience to visit the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve in Ecuador last March. Surreal because there was an emotional tug-of-war going on inside me to enjoy the ecological wonders of the area, while at the same time uphold the principles of ecotourism.

Marinus Gisolf is a man on a mission – empowering tourists to become an active partner in sustainable tourism. Marinus began his professional career first as a tour guide and then as general director for Ecole Travel, in Costa Rica. As part of his duties, he was not only responsible for the company’s sustainable operations, but also for setting up Ecole Travel agencies throughout Ecuador, Argentina and Panama.

In 2005, he published the book, The Functionality of the Tourism Supply Chain and followed it up with Tourists and Sustainability in 2009. After Ecole Travel obtained its Level 5 Certification in Sustainable Tourism (CST) accreditation in 2010, Marinus decided to start his next venture, Tourism Theories. I had the opportunity to ask him some questions about where the sustainable tourism industry stands today.

This short video depicts the natural beauty of Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. Located in the northeastern part of Ecuador, near the border with Columbia, the relatively new national park contains rivers, swimming lagoons, and a floating forest. It is also abundant with life.

Last month, I spent five days in the Quito area of Ecuador and was enthralled by the region’s austerity, beauty, history and green mindset. Upon first glance, Quito’s topography is breathtaking - simply astounding! Over the course of my short stay, I visited many conservation-minded sites all within a 2 hour radius of Quito and was amazed at the diversity of culture and colors.

When it comes to green travel, we could learn a lot from the Scandinavian countries, especially Sweden. Our series "how ecotourism brings about positive community changes" continues with our interview with Anders Junler, who along with his wife IngMarie, manages Vildmark i Värmland, one of our certified ecotourism partners. What became obvious during the interview was that nature preservation is such an endemic part of the Swedish culture that expectations are high for sustainable tourism companies.

One of our partners, EcoCamp Patagonia, has the remarkable distinction of opening the world’s first Geodesic ecotourism accommodation. Since EcoCamp’s opening in 2000, the environmentally-conscious design concept has sprung up throughout Chile, Argentina and Switzerland. I had the pleasure of posing some questions to Yerko Ivelic, co-founder of EcoCamp Patagonia about the catalyst for developing this innovative green building design.

In an effort to encourage the development of sustainable tourism in Alaska, one of our partners, Discovery Voyages, has been working with the Alaska State Parks, Chugach National Forest, National Wildlife Federation, and others to develop the Prince William Sound Marine Trail as a world-class water trail along the coast of Prince William Sound. I had the opportunity to pose some questions to Captain Dean Rand concerning the catalyst for developing the Marine Trail.

I had the pleasure of meeting John Kiseda, Education Coordinator for Sustainability for Florida’s Lee County Parks and Recreation Department, during last September’s Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC). I was thrilled to learn from John that the state of Florida had recently implemented its own eco-certification program for tourism suppliers.

Our ecotourism conservation spotlight continues with a profile of Ecoventura, a certified sustainable tour operator in the Galapagos Islands and its pledge to sponsor 12 local student scholarships for one Ecology Project International course to study conservation and ecology-related issues.

I had an opportunity to post some questions about this amazing program to Doris Welsh, Director of Sales & Marketing at Ecoventura and Ana Maria Loose, Director of Galapagos Ecology Projects at Ecology Project International. First, watch this video to learn a bit more about Ecology Project International.

How do you know that your eco-travels can make a huge impact on wildlife conservation? One practical tip is to investigate exactly how much an ecotour operator is contributing toward conservation efforts. One such example of true ecotourism can be found in Vietnam.

The Intrepid Foundation, which is a non-profit organization that supports non-governmental organizations in the areas that Intrepid Travel visits, has been supporting a range of conservation projects at the Cuc Phuong National Park, including endangered primates rescue and small carnivore conservation since 1997. I had an opportunity to pose some questions to Jane Couch, Responsible Travel Manager at Intrepid Travel to understand their impact.

Last September, I had the pleasure of meeting the Director of Spirit of Japan Travel, Masaru Takayama, who founded the company in February, 2008 so that local communities interested in ecotourism could market directly to travelers from America and Southeast Asia, rather than through mass tourism travel agents. I had an opportunity to ask him some questions about the state of sustainable travel in Japan in the wake of the devastating tsunami earlier in 2011.

What does the term “obtained a qualified third party eco-certification” really mean to travelers? Is it a “green” seal of approval? Does it mean that a tourism supplier is also operating in a sustainable, responsible, local and eco manner too?

In a newly released Greenloons Consumer Guide to Eco-Certifications, we explain that lure of playing in the billion-dollar annual eco-travel market means that over the last decade, there has been an oversaturation of loosely applied and misunderstood eco-labels that often set the consumer up to pay higher prices often associated with ecotourism. But it doesn’t need to be confusing or expensive.

Egypt has always captivated me not just because of the uprising that started one year ago today, but because a few generations of my family years ago lived in Alexandria, Egypt located north on the Mediterranean Sea. I grew up with stories about pashas, long walks along the Corniche, and, of course, huge family Sunday meals. While culture and heritage certainly can explain the draw for me, it is also the many natural treasures of the country that appeal to me as well.

Ten years ago, my husband and I went to Thailand for our honeymoon. While we were enthralled by the vibrancy of Bangkok and the lushness of Phuket, environmental responsibility was definitely not the first adjective that came to mind during our travels – instead we could describe Thailand’s phenomenal food, extraordinarily friendly people, scarily bad taxi drivers, and unusually painful Thai massages.

This is why I was so pleased to read last week about Thailand’s expanded focus on environmental protection – a process that began in 2003 and has expanded to the level that Governor Suraphon Svetasreni of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) announced a few weeks ago "The need to reconcile the economic and ecological impact of travel and tourism is critical to the balanced strategy that we are pursuing as part of our tourism development policies."

Posted by on in Eco Travel Tips

It’s that time of year when winter doldrums turn to revelry and fun in New Orleans. Considered to be the biggest free show on earth, Mardi Gras or “Fat Tuesday”, signifying the last celebration before Lent, will be held this year on February 21.

But Mardi Gras is not the only day of festivities. The Carnival Season in New Orleans actually began on January 6 and continues with celebrations each week culminating to the main Parade Krewes (complete with floats, music, and beads) starting on February 4. The experience provides a wonderful vacation break for the entire family.

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