It's that time of year to start thinking about summer vacation. While your mind may be on vacation, that doesn't mean your green behavior should be packed away until you return. Why not take a green approach to travel?
Most hotels, especially the large chains, offer a so-called “eco” service. This simple service includes some easy green choices, such as hanging up your wet towels if you don't want them changed out, which essentially saves water, energy, etc. Some hotels even have a “No, Thank You” door hanger for maid service, which saves the maids some time in their schedule, green for efficiency reasons.
The hospitality industry has been going green for the sake of guests, including the green certification of hotels through associations. For example, the South Carolina Green Hospitality Alliance (www.GreenHospitalityAlliance.com) has certified several in the Myrtle Beach area including the Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort, the Embassy Suites at Kingston Plantation, and the Wyndham Ocean Boulevard Resort. To become a certified green property, the business must fill out an application about its practices such as environmentally preferred purchasing, waste reduction and recycling, energy and water efficiency, air quality, catering and green cleaning. The certification works like a point scale, so some businesses may turn out to be very green and others may be lighter green. Overall, at least they are doing something to be greener. For more about green hotels, visit www.EnvironmentallyFriendlyHotels.com or www.greenhotels.com
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If you are on the road and have a smart phone, download the app “iRecycle” to find locations of recycling centers wherever you go. Regardless, we all should feel responsible for our green practices and choices. I personally can't throw away a plastic bottle simply because a place doesn't offer recycling. Some of us are recyclers of convenience, in that we only recycle when it’s easy and accessible. If you recycle at home, then you should recycle away from home. Look for recycling bins and if you don’t see any, ask about it. If you have time before you hit the road, go online at www.Earth911.com to seek out recycling options for your destination. I have been to areas where recycling options were way out of reach, so I just placed my recyclables in a bag and hauled them in the trunk of my car until I got home. Sounds like a chore, but I'm dedicated.
Eating out is an obvious facet of traveling. One of my closest friends, Karen, has a personal rule when she travels. Avoid the chains and only eat at local restaurants, “why eat at a place you can get anywhere when you can try something new and different for the experience of the trip?,” she says. This is an excellent rule to follow and a great resource before you visit includes www.Yelp.com for real reviews from other visitors. Plus, you get to support the local businesses. Some restaurants have take the extra effort in getting certified green, such as California Dreaming, Fiesta del Burro Loco and Drunken Jack’s in the Myrtle Beach area.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
No matter how you get to your destination, you can always make efforts to go greener. Passenger transportation accounts for 20 percent of the U.S. energy consumption. Traveling mass transit is always the better alternative to renting individual cars or taking taxis. However, if you must rent a car, go for better fuel efficiency for your benefit and the environment’s. According to a 2009 study by the University of California at Berkeley, airplanes have the smaller carbon footprint than that of cars when the vehicle life cycle and travel costs are accounted for. The study says that the total life-cycle inputs and greenhouse gas emissions contribute 63 percent for on road, 155 percent for rail and 31 percent for air. Another random travel tip: Bring an empty reusable bottle through airport security and save yourself from buying bottled water on the other end.
Summer vacation doesn’t always mean leaving your hometown. The idea of stay-cations have been quite popular for those who not only wish to save some green, but want to spend the time exploring their own backyard.
Here are just a few interesting local areas to explore this summer, if you know of any others, please e-mail me:
Alligator Adventure – Visit thousands of reptiles and other animals in one place; 361-0789, www.alligatoradventure.com
Black River Outdoors Expeditions – Naturalist guided kayak tours of local rivers and preserves; 546-4840, www.blackriveroutdoors.com
Brookgreen Gardens – Visit the country’s oldest and largest outdoor sculpture garden with historical and cultural exhibits, including a zoo; 235-6000, www.brookgreen.org
Carolina Safari Jeep Tours – History/nature tours of barrier islands, pirate legends, ghost stories and more; 497-5330, www.carolinasafari.com
Hopsewee Plantation – National Historic Landmark and birthplace of Thomas Lynch Jr. signer of Declaration of Independence; 546-7861, www.hopsewee.com
Hurricane Fleet Dolphin Adventure Cruises – Cruise along side a working shrimp boat to view dolphins, sharks and other marine life; 249-3571, www.hurricanefleet.com
Ripley’s Aquarium – Visit with fish, sharks, stingrays and other marine life in this 85,000-square-foot aquarium and ask for the local discount because it applies every day; 916-0888, www.ripleysaquarium.com
South Carolina Parks – including, Myrtle Beach State Park (238-5325) and Huntington Beach State Park (237-4440) – Visit natural beaches, marsh and trail exploration. Castle Atalaya is a National Historic Landmark. - www.southcarolinaparks.com
T.I.G.E.R.S. Preservation Station – Visit tigers, monkeys and more for free at Barefoot Landing. Get your photo taken with them and help support conservation efforts; 361-4552 – www.tigerfriends.com