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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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Recent blog posts

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.

Like many of us during this time of year, I love taking the time to reflect on how well my plans compared to reality, and, more importantly, how grateful I am for the little surprises that came along the way in 2011. One such surprise was during our family trip to the small Aegean island of Alonissos, Greece.

If you are like me, you enjoy purchasing children’s gifts that inspire, educate and delight! If you are also running short on time to buy those last minute Holiday gifts like me, here are some suggestions for Holiday gifts that help children appreciate the wonders of renewable energy resources as well as the flora and fauna around them.

One of the primary aims of Greenloons is to educate consumers to understand both the similarities and different nuances among the various tourism certifications that exist across the globe today.

While we have offered an easy reference guide to help consumers, it can still be confusing. So much so, even tourism suppliers themselves, who are only trying to operate their businesses in a responsible, ethical and environmentally-friendly manner, can be puzzled by the distinctions.

Lately, I have received a few questions about the difference between Rainforest Alliance verification and certification, which has prompted this posting.

When you travel to a new region or land in the world, there is always an experience that sticks with you. It could be something ordinary, such as a brief moment of complete relaxation when you learn something new about yourself or something quite profound, such as a chance meeting with a wise local that provides you with a different perspective about life.

Last October, when I traveled to Mexico for the Adventure Travel World Summit, I had such a profound moment when listening to Pati Ruiz speak, laugh, sing and cry about her mission for empowering the communities of the Sierra Gorda region of Mexico.

Perhaps it's the American mindset of independence, but the concept of working with a travel guide is not as popular for seasoned travelers. I admit that for many years, I was of the belief that traveling on my own offered the most authentic travel experience given that I could vacation without a schedule or a timeline – and not be bothered by a so-called expert guide.

Posted by on in Greenloons

A few days ago, a recent college graduate, Jessica McGarry, submitted her story on the Community section of this website detailing her educational credentials, passion for the environment and professional experience within tourism and hospitality industries.

By describing her career since graduation, she also offered (perhaps inadvertently) some job counseling advice to readers and other new college graduates. At the end of the article Jess then asked the question that may be on many readers’ minds and which has prompted this Blog post, “I'm wondering if you could suggest how to connect with Ecotourism operators that are looking for my type of profile?”

Posted by on in Eco Travel Tips

One of my most favorite moments during a vacation comes when another tourist asks me (or my husband) for directions.  That gesture represents a couple of concepts to me.  First, it means that we do not look out of place – even in a foreign country – and second, it means that our family is doing as the locals do and therefore we are appearing relaxed with our surroundings.

When I first heard that this year’s Adventure Travel World Summit was to be held in Chiapas, Mexico in the small, colonial town of San Cristobal de las Casas, frankly I was a bit nervous. I, along with everyone else, had been inundated with graphic and violent images of tourists, seemingly innocent civilians and other not-so-innocent people being killed and wondered whether it was worth traveling to Mexico right now.

Posted by on in Eco Travel Tips

It is never too early to teach children about the wonders of nature. In honor of the back to school season, here are my recommendations for kid’s travel books that focus on environmental issues in an informative, yet empowering manner.

Posted by on in Asia Pacific Green Travel

Diwali or the “festival of lights” is a celebration of the inner light that exists in all humankind. The holiday is as important to Hindus as Christmas is to Christians. This year, the festival will begin on October 26 and will continue for five days. It is very much a family celebration with traditional activities including preparing colorful entrances to homes and businesses, baking special foods including sweets, wearing new clothes and jewels, lighting candles and incense sticks, and setting off lots of (not so eco-friendly) fireworks.

Bar Harbor, Maine has the distinction of being the second most popular outdoor adventure area in the United States (behind Yellowstone National Park). And, it is easy to understand why as this is the area where the Atlantic Ocean meets the mountains of scenic Acadia National Park.

Located on Mount Desert Island in Maine, Bar Harbor offers families a low-key eco-travel adventure, and during the fall foliage season, it puts on a spectacular show of colors! In and around Bar Harbor, there are many miles of shoreline to explore, 125 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage trails. In addition, there is a wide variety of ranger-led programs that will introduce your family to Acadia's diverse natural and cultural history.

Green is big. And, so is greenwashing! Last week, I participated in the Ecotourism & Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC) that was held on Hilton Head Island. The conference was held at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa and it brought together hundreds of ecotourism business professionals, government officials and students to discuss ecotourism trends, business opportunities, and case studies.

I was rather excited to visit Hilton Head Island and this Westin in particular with its emphasis on wellness from the rooms to its surroundings to its restaurant menus. Although not a golfer, I thought it would be fun to explore the area, learn more about its history including the Gullah culture, and sample some great seafood and barbeque. What I didn’t expect was the blatant use of green marketing methods to confuse visitors into thinking they were being environmentally conscious.

The Lake of Stars Music Festival is a three-day international arts festival held on the shores of Lake Malawi, the third biggest lake in Africa. Now in its 8th year, this festival will run from September 30 through October 2 and promises to offer its best line up of Afropop, reggae, folk performers yet.

The festival is the brainchild of Will Jameson, who wanted to find a way to promote Malawi as a tourism destination, raise money for the country, and expose Malawian artists to international crowds. It is entirely run by volunteers and proceeds are donated to charitable projects close to the festival site as well as to UNICEF, Build Malawi, Malawi Health Care Support and the Microloan Foundation. Even the stages are built entirely from sustainable bamboo!

Stanley Selengut, dubbed as the father of sustainable resort development, opened Day 2 of the Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC) with an inspiring speech about how eco-lodge developers can bring properties into ecological balance within a surrounding area.

The Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC) 2011 commenced on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina this morning bringing participants together from 21 countries around the world.

Posted by on in Eco Travel Tips

Oktoberfest, which is the world's largest annual fair and one of the best festivals in Germany, starts on September 18. Each year, millions of people from all around the world come to beautiful Munich to drink beer, eat sausage, admire traditional costumes and join together in song with Bavarian bands. If you are participating this year or perhaps making your plans to attend next year, here are some eco-travel tips for an eco-Oktoberfest to remember.

As new parents back in 2005, we naively decided to take our 7 month old across ten time zones for his first Christmas. My husband and I were just itching to go on a trip since we had been homebound for more than a year (between the pregnancy and the now the early infant months) and we foolishly thought "the baby is sleeping all the time – what difference does it make where he sleeps!"

Well, we were wrong, very wrong. It was during this trip that our cherub turned into an entirely different baby – and we learned the true meaning of surviving baby jetlag. Now that he's six (and we still drag him across many time zones), we have picked up a few tricks along the way for de-stressing and managing jetlag.

As an Athenian born Greek, I had the pleasure in my younger years of discovering archeological treasures such as the Acropolis and Delphi as well as traveling to many beautiful Greek Islands including Zakynthos, Sifnos, Tinos, Mykonos and Santorini. I’ve also traveled to Athens during one of many taxi, garbage, journalist, metro, pharmacist and even public worker electricity strikes. The electricity strike was particularly fun since we would be sitting in the dark wondering when the lights would come on again. But, it would only last a few hours every few days, so no one got particularly upset.

It still astounds me how the Greek people accept these strikes as a way of life. And, to be frank, I have said to myself more than once, that this will be the last time I come back to Greece for a very long time. Yet, every couple of years, I feel an attraction or pull that makes me long to visit this crazy, but stunning country again.

The United Kingdom, which is made up of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales is consistently a top international destination for travelers. Earlier this year, even our family visited London to both introduce the city to our young son and discover what it had to offer eco-conscious travelers.

While our son immensely enjoyed visiting Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, and some of the city’s parks, we also appreciated the great variety of sustainable restaurants in London. However, venturing out of the city offers the responsible traveler many more choices to appreciate the pristine areas of the nation, including the wide selection of 28 natural and cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The term family invokes specific images for some people. Traditionally, the rather rigid image was one of two parents (one man and one woman) with their 2 younger children in tow. Frankly, those Ozzie & Harriet days are over and, dare I say, have evolved to include the many variations of the types of loving families that exist today.

Tourism is the largest industry in the world and as such has the power to greatly benefit communities and elevate people’s standards of living. I had an opportunity to ask Enrique Valdes Garcia, who is the Cultural and Sustainable Tourism Director at Mayaland Resorts, which has been family owned and operated since 1921.

Its founder, Fernando Barbachano Peon, is credited as the nation’s first tourism industry pioneer that helped to introduce many travelers to the glories of the Yucatan and the magic of the Mayan culture. The properties have also been verified by the Rainforest Alliance.

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