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The Ecolodge Authority

March 6, 2009
From left: Fodor's Green Travel, Green Places to Stay, and The Eco-Travel Guide
What's the most reliable resource when you're seeking a low-impact, spotlessly responsible place to stay? We asked three environmental bloggers to be the judge.

*Top pick!
A green star goes to the guidebook that our judges find most useful.

THE PANELISTS

Jessica Root
Blogs for the websites treehugger.com and planetgreen.com. She lives in Brooklyn.

Avital Binshtock
A resident of San Francisco, edits the Sierra Club's magazine and its Green Life blog.

Katharine Wroth
An editor for the eco-site grist.org. She telecommutes from her home outside Boston.

THE BOOKS

Fodor's Green Travel ($22)

Jessica Root: * The guide is a breeze to navigate and full of amazing photos. Plus, it has two things I love: a price key organizing hotels by "budget," "moderate," and "blow out," and an estimate of the amount of emissions it takes to fly to each one from New York.

Avital Binshtock: Some properties put more of a focus on social responsibility (hiring locals) than on environmental concerns—a bit secondary for a book purporting to list eco-hotels exclusively. Still, it does include some fantastic far-out spots, such as a yoga retreat in a Sri Lankan village.

Katharine Wroth: * The editors did their homework, with nice how-to-save details throughout. For instance, at the Bloomfield House in England, guests get a 10 percent discount if they arrive by bus or by train. It's the closest any of the three comes to being a bona fide travel guide.

Green Places to Stay ($22)

Jessica Root: Certain travel tips are stale: Minimize waste by reusing plastic bags! And the writing is far from smart—describing a hotel called Anna's House in Northern Ireland, the author gushes that "creative energy streams into their green crusade." Why pollute with mixed metaphors?

Avital Binshtock: This little caveat on page 46 made it difficult for me to take any of the reviews seriously: "Owners pay to appear in this guide." And then on the next page: "We make no claims to pure objectivity." I'm glad they differentiated between pure objectivity and the not-so-genuine kind.

Katharine Wroth: Dirt-cheap hostels and luxury lodges are listed cheek by jowl, which can make it frustrating to find a place in your price range. But my biggest complaint is the lack of listings for the U.S.—the closest the book gets to our mainland is the Virgin Islands!

The Eco-Travel Guide ($30)

Jessica Root: Best reserved for a Sunday morning when you have time to wade through the incredible amount of information. And they didn't edit for topicality, either. I have beef with the section on clothing and gear; a few items, like soccer balls and salad servers, were completely unrelated to travel.

Avital Binshtock: * The content is well researched and highly original, with interesting nuggets on new, affordable forms of transportation, such as micro scooters and solar-powered trains. Overall, it deftly walks a fine line; it's dense with detail, yet never boring.

Katharine Wroth: A bulky book that reads like an academic tome, with advice that borders on the unhelpful. It says, for example, that meeting people online is a good substitute for traveling. Thanks! Another problem: The section on green products comes across like an extended advertorial.

Keep reading

Born-Again Bags

Vy & Elle Nicola Freegard and Robin Janson let nothing go to waste: The designers craft about 30 styles of bags from old vinyl billboards and have the remains made into floor tiles. vyandelle.com, computer pouch $41. (view photo) Alchemy Goods After hunting unsuccessfully for a stylish waterproof pack years ago, Seattle cyclist Eli Reich decided to make his own using a material he knew well: bike tire inner tubes. alchemygoods.com, haversack $98. (view photo) Friends-International Artists at this Cambodian collective create bags from comics they clip from newspapers pitched at the French Embassy in Phnom Penh—a French lesson and a fashion statement in one. globalgoodspartners.org, messenger bag $48. (view photo) Worn Again Old Virgin Atlantic coach-class upholstery is given new life by this British design firm—the fabric is stripped, dry-cleaned, and then repurposed as limited-edition bags. wornagain.co.uk, Lydia purse $94. (view photo) Demano Vinyl exhibition banners from Barcelona are turned into chic totes by a trio of eco-conscious Colombian designers. Customize your own by choosing from among 50 signs. demano.net, Marbella bag $90. (view photo) Terracycle (Best buy!) The New Jersey recycling firm salvages more than 42 million Capri Sun pouches from schools and factories each year and then stitches them together to produce reusable sacks. target.com, shopping bag $10. (view photo) Green savings If each passenger carried a suitcase that was five pounds lighter, every aircraft in the sky would save 18,000 gallons of fuel annually. Leaving that extra weight behind could also help you skirt the $25 checked-bag fee.

25 Unbelievable Vacation Deals

LAS VEGAS Stay at the Palace Station Hotel and Casino this week for $12.50/night through the Luxury for Less Sale on Hotels.com. Book a room at the 5-star Trump International Hotel and Casino for $89/night through the property's Suite Escape package. (You get a $50 spa credit, too!) Get roundtrip airfare from Denver to Vegas plus two nights at the Imperial Palace Hotel for $168 on Cheaptickets.com. FLORIDA Suites at Miami's Riviera South Beach hotel are $99/night from now through September—but they're going fast, so book ASAP. At Orbitz.com, you can find a room at the Regal Sun Resort in Orlando for $69/night. The site also offers a vacation package with roundtrip airfare from Fort Worth and two nights at the hotel for $275/person. NEW YORK Hilton Hotels is running a "New York on Sale" promotion with rates starting at $159/night for some of its properties, including the Millenium Hilton and the Waldorf Astoria. Rooms at New York's Pod Hotel start at $69/night all month long. A package including airfare from New York City to Niagara Falls, plus two nights at the Days Inn-Fallsview, starts at $194 at Lastminute.com. HAWAII Northwest Airlines is offering a vacation package that includes five nights at the Royal Kona Resort in Hawaii, plus roundtrip airfare from Seattle to Kona, for only $687. CHICAGO On Expedia.com, you can find a package including roundtrip flights between New York and Chicago and three nights at an aloft Hotel for $336. CARIBBEAN AND MEXICO The NH Real Arena Punta Cana, a 5-star all-inclusive resort, is now offering rooms for $67/night on Cheapcaribbean.com. Book a package with roundtrip airfare and it'll cost you $599/person for four nights. Roundtrip airfare from various points in the U.S. and four nights at the Villa del Palmar Flamingos Beach Resort and Spa in Mexico is being offered starting at $488 per person at Travelocity.com. Get four nights at the Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort and Spa in Puerto Rico, plus roundtrip airfare from Miami, for $449 at Cheapcaribbean.com. Plus, save $100 with the promo code PR100. EUROPE An Ireland Fly and Drive vacation package starts at $349 at Go-today.com, including roundtrip airfare from various points in the U.S. and a seven-day car rental. Virgin Airlines also has a Fly and Drive package in the UK that includes roundtrip airfare from the U.S. and a seven-day car rental, starting at $489. Fly roundtrip between Madrid and New York and get four nights at the Hotel Silken Puerta America in Madrid on Expedia.com for just $528. FLIGHTS Fly roundtrip between Portland, Ore., and Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines for $298. Regent Seven Seas Cruises is offering free airfare for certain cruises starting in May. HOTELS Best Western's Countdown to Savings promotion, which started this week, features deals in hotels from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, to Las Vegas, starting at $43/night. CRUISES Take a seven-night Western Caribbean cruise from Miami to Mexico, Honduras and Belize on Norwegian Cruise Line for $449. The deal is available at Orbitz.com. Or for $209, take a three-night cruise on Royal Caribbean from Port Canaveral, Fla., to the Bahamas and back, also available on Orbitz.com. Even lower! Cruise to the Bahamas from Miami for three nights for $119 on Norwegian Cruise Lines. Book on Expedia.com. At Cruisedeals.com, you can find a four-day cruise from San Diego to Vancouver on Holland America for just $195. Also at Cruisedeals.com, there's an eight-night Western Caribbean Cruise on Carnival, sailing roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale to Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama for $599. Take off from Seattle on a 4-night Pacific Coast cruise to Victoria, British Columbia and Nanaimo, British Columbia for just $369 per person. Book at Travelocity.com. * Prices valid as of March 6, 2009. Prices are subject to change. Think you can do us one better? Post amazing deals you've found on our blog.

Have a Green Stay

In the lodging world, green has gone mainstream. Once chided for being wasteful, the big hotel chains are now constantly trying to one-up each other with smart eco-design upgrades and stringent water and energy conservation policies. Consider this fact: In a recent survey, 68 percent of U.S. hotels said they had energy-efficient lights, and two thirds had implemented towel- and linen-reuse programs, up from just over half five years ago. The number of properties trying to become LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, the most recognized standard for building sustainability, is also on the rise: Applications to the U.S. Green Building Council for the award spiked by 550 percent between 2006 and 2008. More than 500 hotels could soon earn the label; until four years ago, only one had the designation. Although all the major players are making strides toward better green policies, some are doing more than others. Here's what the leaders have achieved in four earth-changing categories: ENERGY CONSERVATION Replacing inefficient lighting, one energy-draining bulb at a time Accor More than 8,600 Motel 6 rooms* in at least a dozen states have been retrofitted with occupancy sensors that cause the thermostat to readjust when guests go out. InterContinental A trial program has been rolled out at 650 hotels that aims to cut energy consumption by as much as 25 percent. If successful, it could be expanded to all of the chain's 4,000 properties, including Holiday Inns. Marriott Over the past decade, 450,000 incandescent bulbs have been replaced with compact fluorescent ones, and more than 250 hotels (including some Residence Inns) have earned an Energy Star efficiency label from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Starwood The new Element brand's goal is for every hotel to be LEED certified. Its first property, which opened last year in Lexington, Mass., is fully loaded with Energy Star appliances, LED lighting, and top-notch ventilation systems. All together, that saves enough energy annually to power 236 homes. WATER CONSERVATION Tightening up on all the drips and drops in hotel bathrooms Hilton The company's aim: to reduce water use at all of its brands, such as Hilton, DoubleTree, and Embassy Suites, by 10 percent by 2014. Its nearly 90 European properties have taken the lead, installing water-saving toilets, showerheads, and faucets over the past three years. Home-turf hotels are next. Hyatt Nearly all North American properties have "low-flow" showerheads (which use a maximum of 2.5 gallons of water per minute) and toilets (1.6 gallons of water per flush). The improvements helped reduce the chain's overall water consumption by 3 percent in 2007. Marriott Over the past 10 years, the company has added some 400,000 low-flow showerheads and toilets to all of its locations world­wide. Marriott also buys 1 million towels annually that don't require prewashing, conserving 6 million gallons of water each year. Starwood All new Element hotels will have low-flow water fixtures in rooms and water-efficient landscaping; its Lexington star has led the way, saving up to 1 million gallons of water per year. GREEN DESIGN Thinking about the environment from the foundation up Accor The Motel 6 brand broke ground last year on an ultra-green building near Dallas, with laminate flooring made from recycled wood chips and a solar-powered water-heating system. Best Western Opening this year in Golden, Colo., the chain's first LEED-certified hotel will run partially on solar power and have a porous asphalt parking lot to reduce storm-water runoff. Hilton The company's green gem is in Vancouver, Wash.: a LEED-approved hotel with low-emission paint on the walls and special drains that funnel rainwater into wells for future use. Hyatt Seattle's Hyatt at Olive 8, which opened in January, has an 8,000-square-foot rooftop garden, water-efficient dual-flush toilets, outlets in the parking lot for electric cars, and lighting controlled by room key cards. Marriott In 2005, the Marriott in College Park, Md., was the first chain hotel in the U.S. to become LEED certified. Among the earth-friendly frills: kitchen composting, in-room recycling bins, water pitchers instead of plastic bottles, and an organic restaurant. Starwood All eight Element locations being built across the country this year have carpets and cushions made from recycled materials, art mounted on frames constructed from old tires, and priority parking for guests with hybrids. RECYCLING Allowing not a single can, bottle, or plastic key card to go to waste Hyatt Starting this year, the company will only use key cards and shampoo and lotion containers made from recycled plastics. Hyatt has also begun recycling its own aluminum, plastics, and paper in countries such as Russia and Chile where such programs don't exist. Intercontinental As part of a pilot program started two years ago, about 140 Candlewood Suites properties donated old furniture and linens to local families following renovations—helping to cut back on landfill. It hopes to replicate the initiative nationwide. Marriott Each year, the chain buys 47 million pens and 24 million key cards made from recycled plastics; it has also eliminated Styrofoam and plastic utensils at all of its locations. Coming soon: bed pillows made from the polyester fibers of recycled plastic bottles. Wyndham Debuting later this year at Super 8 motels across the country: new staff uniforms fashioned entirely from recycled plastic bottles. *CORRECTION: In the published article, we incorrectly said that, for Accor, more than 8,600 Motel 6 locations nationwide have been retrofitted with occupancy sensors. We should have said "rooms."

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