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Saturday, August 6, 2011

“Green” Travel is Good For Your Wallet 8.6.11

The term “green” is everywhere and I’m sure it’s starting to sound a bit old to everyone, but it’s still an important thing to be green in our everyday lives and also in other things we do, like traveling. Just because we have two weeks off to go have fun doesn’t mean the environment gets a break. It still has the same problems in Brazil or India or New Hampshire as it does wherever you live. Sure, you may not be able to live as eco-friendly as you would like on your travels as you do at home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try your best. I realize how much of a recycle freak I am when I travel, because I’m constantly asking people if they have recycling bins and where they were. I feel guilty finishing off a box of cereal or granola bars and then having nowhere to put it but the trash. Often, I’ve just flattened the box and brought it back home with me. That’s a well-traveled piece of cardboard I have in my bin!


I was really surprised when we were cruising and there was nowhere we could separate our trash items. When we asked if they recycled onboard, they said to throw everything in the trash, because they meticulously go through it to separate trash and recyclables. That’s dedication and one of the coolest things I found out about cruise ships. Another thing they do is repurpose food. Food that isn’t eaten at the buffet or in the dining room gets ground up and used as fish food. And food that isn’t high enough quality for the guests aboard the boat, like wilty lettuce and veggies? They may drop it off at one of the ports for animals to nosh on (say, at the zoo or somewhere similar). Very little goes to waste, which is an awesome part of cruising.

Hey! Have you signed up for the Shereen Travels Cheap newsletter yet? If not, go do it! Once a week you’ll receive a fancy recap of all things STC, including new blog posts (in case you missed them!), deals you might want to take advantage of, news on the STC book – now it’s in editing! – current giveaways and anything else that seems like something you’d want to know. It’s gotten some great feedback so far, so try it out and sign up. You can always unsubscribe if you want but we hope you won’t want to.

If you aren’t cruising, there are plenty of things you can do to “go green” on your vacation. Let’s look at some of them:


Take public transportation – Duh, right? Well, even though it still emits carbon dioxide, you’re doing your part, because there are fewer cars on the road for everyone on that bus, train or subway. By not renting a car or taking a taxi, you’re saving pretty big. Make sure you buy a multiday pass if you’ll be at your destination traveling around for more than a day or two, it will save you money, too! The only way to help the environment more for ess while traveling around is to:

Walk or bike around town – Using your own power is the best way to help out our great planet. It requires no fuel, except the food you eat, and also gets you exercise, which is great for you, too. While not free, bicycle rentals can be found at many destinations. You just need to search online for them. In fact, a rental company like Bike and Roll rents bikes for the whole family at major tourist destinations in the U.S.



Stay in an ecolodge – Now, if you’re like me and not necessarily entirely sure what an ecolodge is, I can tell you that they aren’t all the same. I stayed in one in Ecuador, not fully understanding the concept, and that was an interesting experience. For a full description of ecolodging, you can check out The International Ecotourism Society website. For the most part they should be owned and staffed by locals, provide comfortable rooms and common areas that reflect the local heritage, use reclaimed or sustainable building materials, be located in a natural setting that preserves the land/animals/plant life, serve food grown locally (or even better, grown on the property) and use environmentally friendly water, waste and energy systems. Now, some of these ecolodges are luxury and some are basic, so it depends on your preferences. You might want to spend your night in a fully-furnished tent or an enclosed and cushy cabin. Either way, you’ll be doing a lot by staying here and making your environmental impact as small as possible.

            What you DO need to know is that just because they use energy systems, this does not mean that it extends to your “room”. Many ecolodges only have electricity in the common areas, where they make and serve your food, etc. If the place you want to stay doesn’t specify, you may want to call and confirm whether they do or not. While I’m not going to freak out when it gets dark out and I need to use a candle to get to the bathroom, I will freak out when I see giant bugs in my room that think they belong in there with me. If you don’t care, then an ecolodge is especially for you. One thing you might want to bring is a good flashlight though, or even one of those emergency LED lights that are super bright and run on rechargeable batteries (like that one on the left). Those would be really helpful in trying to get ready for bed in the dark. It’s hard to brush your teeth when you can’t see where any of your stuff is.

Not all ecolodges are budget-friendly, since the use of sustainable products and growing your own food aren’t always cheap, but it depends on your destination and the luxe level of your accommodation, so you’ll have to do your research, just like with everything else. The advantage of most ecolodges is that the entertainment is built in with being in the middle of nature, so it’s both relaxing and fun (if you like hiking and swimming and nature-watching). You usually get all your meals provided, which helps your wallet, too.
Eat local – We’ve talked about the benefits of eating local here, so you already know how doing so can save you money. Eating locally can also save the vendors/restaurants money that they pass on to you. Food is much cheaper if you can have it delivered from outside of town instead of outside the country. One of the places I recently dined at in Portland (Café Castagna – Delicious!!!) grows all their own herbs right outside. If you eat on their patio and you can watch the cooks come out to pick fresh thyme or rosemary for dishes they’re preparing just a few steps from your table. It’s inspiring, really, and made me want to broaden my own garden with even more herbs and veggies. 

Not only does it cut down on emissions, since they don’t have to order these items, but there is virtually a never-ending supply, not to mention all the fresh and fragrant air the plants give off. So, you’re helping the environment, getting the freshest ingredients possible and helping a farmer (gardener, fisherman, etc.) keep their job and maybe open up even more jobs for locals.

One of the best ways to eat local is to peruse the farmers markets. Stalls are packed with yummy fresh ingredients straight from the local farms, which means cheaper prices and the best quality. You’re putting food on someone else’s table by way of putting money in their pocket and putting food on your own “table”.

Pack light – This seems to be my answer to everything, but it really is a great way to travel. The less you take, the easier it is to carry, but also you don’t have to pay a porter to take your bags, you can keep all your belongings with you when you fly and it also lessens to weight on the plane, which reduces fuel costs. You will use less water when you do your laundry and have some room in your bag to pick up some souvenirs from local shops and stalls (which brings me back to the same points as eating local). Need some packing tips? Go here.

Reduce waste – Bring a reusable water bottle with you and use that instead of repeatedly buying bottled water. If the tap water is no good, invest a little more for a bottle with a filter and you’re good to go. You can’t imagine how much money this will save you over the course of a week or two and you’re also keeping non-biodegradable material out of the landfills and, in the long run, out of our oceans. The fish and their fragile ecosystems thank you in advance!

Share a meal – First of all, if you are in a place with bigger portion sizes, or you’re just not that hungry, splitting an entrée is a great way to save money when you dine out. Another thing it does is eliminate waste in uneaten food and save energy by only creating one meal.

Kindle: Amazon's Original Wireless Reading Device (1st generation)

Get yourself an ereader – Something like a Kindle or Nook will help you travel lighter and eliminate the need to cut down trees to make another book. You can keep your whole library with you at all times and even share books with your ereading friends. If you have an iPad or iTouch, you can use the free Kindle reading app to have both an ereader and a web-enabled device in one.

Power your devices with solar power  One of the greatest sources of power we have is the sun. Charge your electronic devices, take only one charger with you and save electricity with a Solio Solar Charger or similar. It's compact and easy to use, can be used almost anywhere and takes up minimal space in a travel bag.

Take the stairs  Another take on "walk places", if your lodging has an elevator, you can opt to take the stairs to save electricity and also get your exercise. Not like you won't get enough, but if you've had a little extra to eat, claim you're burning off the calories even if you're tired. Of course, if you are on a cruise and prone to overindulgence, since it's hard NOT to do, taking the stairs is not only faster than the elevator, but pretty much necessary in not packing on the pounds. You want to look good in your swimsuit by the pool, don't you? Besides, stairs are free and you don't have to wait for someone to get off of them like you do the elliptical in the gym.

There have been so many great deals out there lately, now that summer is almost over and hotels and airlines are trying to fill rooms and seats. Want to take a vacation now that the kids are back in school, rates are cheaper and destinations are less crowded? Well, then lets see some of the deals out there:

  • Jamaica – 4-night lodging and round-trip airfare from $499 per person at American Airlines Vacations. Book at least 2 nights and save 50% off stays at the family-friendly all-inclusive beachfront Holiday Inn Sunspree Montego Bay. Your package includes 3 meals per day, snacks throughout, all drinks, entertainment and non-motorized water sports. Book by October 31 for travel through December 22.
  • San Diego – 4 day cruise starting in Vancouver, BC and ending in San Diego from $349 per person. This is fantastic for enjoying extra time at either end destination, relax aboard a Holland America ship and be pampered and entertained for 2 full days at sea. If you live in either Vancouver or San Diego, you'll save quite a bit, because you'll only pay for airfare one way. Perfect for a short getaway. Cabins selling out fast for this affordable September cruise.
  • San Diego – If you plan to stay in San Diego at the end of your cruise, or just want to visit for the heck of it, for $125 per night you can stay in the luxurious and ultra cool Hard Rock Hotel that has so many awesome things, you won't ever have to leave the hotel if you don't want. Book on SniqueAway by August 11.
  • Scotland – £99 (approximately $160) for a two-night stay for two at The Inch Hotel in Loch Ness, including a delicious breakfast selection each morning and a bottle of wine on arrival. Purchase from KGBDeals by August 11 and stay by February 12.
  • Malta – Stay at the Corinthia Palace Hotel and Spa in Attard from just $109 per night. Your stay will include daily breakfast, 15% off spa treatments, access to the resort's 6 restaurants and free shuttle service to a private beach. Book on Vacationist by August 11.
  • New Orleans – Save up to 50% off NoLa hotels and travel in time to visit one of the many festivals happening in the fall like the Seafood Festival.





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