This holiday season, when you look at your reflection, do you see Ebenezer Scrooge staring back at you?
Chances are you probably aren't a Scrooge, but the holidays can sometimes really bring out the "Buhumbug!" in you. Greed, work, family, commercialized holidays, lack of time, wrapping paper and dead trees adding to the landfills...whatever your stressors are, they have you upset and you are just not in the mood to celebrate the holidays this year. Traditions and family are a wonderful part of your life, but sometimes a change can be a good thing too and you need a change. You need to go somewhere where you can get away and relax for awhile. Lucky for you, the Ghost of Green is here to lead the way. Below are 5 luxurious places that don't just pretend to be eco friendly, but actually are.
1. Winter Park Resort
Winter Park Resort is top on the list because of its remarkable efforts to be as environmentally friendly as possible while still providing its guests with fun winter and summer activities (scenic chairlift rides, scenic snowcat tours, climbing wall, disc golf, human maze, leaps & bounds bungee, mountain biking, rock 'n roll gyro).
Every year this green resort recycles approximately 2,500 gallons of used oil, 5,000 lbs. of scrap iron and 200,000 lbs. of recyclable paper, aluminum and glass. All the paper bought is made from recycled paper and both shop and terminal cranes are made of recycled scrap steel. The parking lots are made of recycled Asphalt from old roadways and the grease and fryer oil from the kitchen is recycled as well.
In addition to recycling, reusing and restoring, Winter Park does what it can to conserve water, energy, plant and animal life. An example of their efforts is a large purchase of 60,000 ladybugs in 2002 for their garden. Why? Ladybugs eat other insects and are not harmful to plants. This eliminates the need to use pesticides. Also to cut down on air pollution, Winter Park provides free bus rides to employees and guests.
In recognition of its dedication for green living, Winter Park Resort has received various awards since 1993 and continues to offer quality outdoor recreation experiences for its guests every year. See Green Retreat
2. Thyme in the Country
Where: Heart of Columbia County, NY
If you've never had the luxury of enjoying the comforts of a bed and breakfast and you would like to, I encourage you to give it a try. It is a wonderful experience, provided you go somewhere that provides the relaxation and courtesy a bed and breakfast (B & B) should provide.
How is a B & B any different than a hotel? B & Bs tend to be much friendlier than hotels and provide a sense of a home away from home without the repairs and chores your real home often requires. You don't have to have a companion to go to a B &B either (though sometimes it helps).
With fresh fruit, freshly made juice, freshly baked breads, weekend tea, homemade pie and organic meals (vegetarian and non vegetarian), Thyme in the Country, an old farmhouse on five acres of land, seem to offer the best of any B & B available - a happy tummy. Yet as delicious and relaxing as the meals may be, Thyme is not on my list for its food but for its environmental practices. For example, the cow. That's right, instead of buying a traditional gas lawn mower, the owners bought a cow to keep their grass trimmed.
Now, don't just assume this place is old fashioned because they don't have a lawnmower. With solar panels, compact fluorescent light bulbs, energy efficient appliances and motion sensor lighting for the outside, Thyme is doing what it can to keep up with today's eco friendly technology. Additionally, this lovely green B & B recycles, restores, uses natural non-chemical cleaning products (ex: vinegar and baking soda) and consciously turns lights off.
For entertainment you are welcome to take a swim in their non-chlorinated salt-filtered pool, walk through their gardens or by the pond, relax in their library or even dine out at a near by restaurant. See Green Retreat
3. Balamku Inn on the Beach
If you want to visit a place a little more exotic for your vacation- somewhere between the sea and the jungle, I suggest Balamku, south of Mahahual, a little fishing village. Along with activities such as: deep sea fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, horseback riding, walking along the beach, touring the Mayan ruins and bird watching, this extravagant place offers clean and healthy beaches through its environmental efforts.
Balamku Inn takes pride in its green practices and is known best for its low-flush composting toilets. Low-flush composting toilets help reduce water usage and help reduce waste; a great thing to have when building so close to the sea. Balamku also reduces water usage by reusing its water supply. How? Any water from showers or sinks goes into constructed wetlands and helps maintain healthy plants. Balamku also sustains healthy plant life by composting and growing its own hibiscus, bougainvillea, bananas, papayas, lime trees, mangoes, salvia and herbs. This beautiful green inn conserves the land as well, by protecting endangered trees, such as: palms, zapotem, and sea grapes.
For energy usage, Balamku depends on solar panels and wind generation. Light bulbs and fans are energy efficient as well.
In recognition for its green practices, Balamku has recently been published in a book called Green Places to Stay by Alister Sawday's and as a guest you may see more of the inn's environmental efforts on the two page list provide to you. See Green Retreat
4. Campi ya Kanzi "Camp of the Hidden Treasures"
Where: Southern Kenya
As a guest here you will not only take parts in the preservation of animals, but you will help sustain the Maasai people. For every guest and every day, a conservation fee of $30 is set aside and then given to the Maasai for education, medicine or other needs.
The camp lies within a 400-square-mile private ranch in southern Kenya (in sight of Mt. Kilimanjaro) which means as a guest you will have the chance to enjoy mountain forest, grasslands, river woodlands, bush and savanna, and the wildlife surrounding the Camp.
Part of the activities included are: nature walks, walking safari expedition, excursions to national parks, authentic cultural interaction with Maasai community, wildlife watching, bush breakfast, picnics, bush dinners and sundowners. The camp only accommodates 12 to14 guests at a time and as a guest, you will have your personal Maasai attendant bring you coffee, tea and such.
As part of the environmental practices, Campi ya Kanzi, collects rainwater from roofs. All gray water is cleansed and recycled through lava filters and then used in vegetable gardens and to supply ponds where animals come to drink. Electricity is provided through solar power and water is heated through solar heaters.
In addition, the camp was built with the lowest environmental impact: thatched roofs, lava rocks and Maasai crafts. Not one tree was cut to build the camp and yet each tented cottage at the camp is elegant with wooden floors and Italian décor. See Green Retreat
5. Sadie Cove Wilderness Lodge
If your image of Alaska is stone cold snow, polar bears and Eskimos, then you've never been to Sadie Cove Wilderness Lodge. There is a whole lot more about Alaska than you think and Sadie Cove is the perfect example of more. In the middle of beautiful mountains next to the sea, bald eagles soaring above, whales coming out of the water, fresh seafood, organic gardening, tall water falls, giant trees and beautiful flowers, Sadie Cove will take your breath away. To list a few, some of the activities include: fishing, river rafting, beach-combing, hiking nature trails preserved only for Sade Cove guests and sea or glacier kayaking.
Owned and operated by Keith and Randi Iverson - Sadie Cove represents green in the biggest way, taking care of your home and yourself. Here, nothing is wasted and everything is of use over and over again. Milk jugs become flower pots and what ever can no longer be reused goes into the recycle bin. Fresh organic food is also grown and used on the property.
Sade Cove was custom built by Keith in the 1970s, with no money, and no power tools. Driftwood was used for the lumber for the cabins. Piece by piece, one by one, the lodge was built by hand. At first the lodge was only catered to fisherman and now, thanks to his wife Randi, the lodge is available to any eco conscious person looking for a place to retreat for a few days.
In addition, the lodge is run completely year - round on a non-polluting alternative energy system of wind and hydro power. The system is made by Pelton and consists of a water wheel, a wind charger, and a battery bank. Solar panels are being taken into consideration for back up power, but are not in currently needed.
Sadie Cove Wilderness Lodge is a member of the Green Hotel Association and is recommend by "E" The Environmental Magazine, Small and Elegant Hotels, Green Globe, Green Hotels, Luxury Travel Magazine, and The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, to name a few. See Green Retreat
So pack a light bag, book a quick trip to the green destination of your choice and get ready to give yourself a nontraditional but much needed holiday vacation this season. It is up to you whether you would like to bring your family along or not. Either way, may you come back home, happier healthier and ready to take on the next year and all its stressors. Don't forget to spread the cheer and let everyone you know know how easy it is to travel green.
If it's too late for you to change your plans or you don't have the money this holiday season, feel free to travel green next year or whenever it becomes possible.
If you have already traveled green, feel free to let us know where, when and how you liked it.
*Remember to take proper safety precautions when traveling. You can find out destination specific safety tips at their websites or by contacting them.
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