Eco adventures for a greener world

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

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.

Recently, I had an opportunity to pose some questions to Kym Cheatham, CEO of Ecotourism Australia, which is a non-profit organization that is Australia’s main ecotourism industry association. Here, she shares some great perspective on the importance of maintaining high ecotourism standards and encouraging triple bottom line sustainability.

Compared with the euro zone of Western Europe and some of the more summer tourist attractions in the United States, where economies are affecting the price of ecotourism services and price negotiations by consumers are relatively shunned, green travellers will be pleasantly surprised at how far their dollars will go in these nature and wildlife paradise areas.

These regions of the world have embraced the concept of ecotourism as a necessity not only for elevating their standard of living and conserving their natural and cultural heritage, but also providing a competitive edge in the travel industry.

The latest buzz word eco has unfortunately triggered travel suppliers to saturate the market with hundreds of loosely understood eco holiday-labeled travel products, causing consumer confusion as to what the term ecotourism truly represents.

Good intentions aside, while travelers want to make responsible vacation purchasing decisions based on ethical environmental standards for sustainability and conservation rather than marketing tactics, some common pitfalls befall most, including:

Most travellers mistakenly think that it is more expensive to travel abroad than vacation within the United States. Vacation planners often hear about the relative weakness of the U.S. dollar and automatically calculate that a trip overseas will break their vacation budget.

However, this not always the case if you consider that parts of Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and South America are relative vacation bargains given that the value of the U.S. dollar against the local currency remains high along with the abundance of green and sustainable travel choices.

Vacation time is upon us all! And, whether you planned your vacation six months ago or six days ago, there is always that last minute distressed feeling of how is this all going to come together?

My last vacation planning tips article hopefully provided some helpful insight to selecting a vacation destination that would be both adventurous and relaxing for the whole family.

It’s a fact of life today that many adults and children suffer from severe food allergies or have specific dietary restrictions. Sometimes, the constant vigilance to avoid cross-contamination or foods with hidden ingredients coupled with language barriers prevent people from traveling outside the United States. Select Wisely aims to change this sentiment.

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