Travel green on Earth Day with these eco-friendly gear outfitters

Though every day should be eco-conscious, Earth Day brings us a special reminder of what we can do to help the environment in our day-to-day lives. And for many of the Gadling readers, this means greener travel.

Most acts of travel come with an inherent negative impact on the environment, whether this is from the carbon dumped into the atmosphere during transit or the plastic used in disposable water bottles and packaging. One way that we can travel greener, however, is in how we pack and in what we wear. And to help us, a wide host of green outfitters are here to help the cause.

  • The elephant in the room, of course, is Patagonia, the environmentally conscious adventure outfitter named after the region in the dramatic southern tip of South America.. We haven’t got enough great things to say about their environment goals and accomplishments over the years, and a large part of is devoted to educating the public on these topics. Further, if you’re ever short on ideas for your next trip, a quick flip through their online or hard-copy brochure should provide enough inspiration for a lifetime.
  • Owned by the same group, Nau and Horny Toad both provide clothing in a similar eco-friendly vein. Both brands lean towards more of casual wear instead of the above tech gear, and with classy picks like the waterproof, packable riding jacket that’s 100% recycled, it’s easy to see both brands catching on.
  • Luggage is another key element that can easily be made greener. Bag companies from Freitag to Terracycle manufacture bags made out of 100% recycled goods, and some of them are pretty darn stylin’ to boot. One can even go so far as to purchase luggage completely made out of cardboard.
  • To keep your notebook safe on the road, Hello Rewind will actually transform one of your old t-shirts into a nifty laptop sleeve. Best of all, with the $49 purchase price comes a healthy donation to Hello Rewind’s charitable effort to fight sex trafficking.

Of course if you want to be eco-friendly, it’s always possible to follow the sage advice from senior-eco blogger Sean McLachlan, who proffers the following wise words:

The best way to reduce your impact on the environment is not to wash, since soap can be harmful to streams. My suggestion is to simply turn your underwear inside out after you’ve worn it for a day. Presto, you have clean underwear! At least the part touching your nether regions, which is all that matters. The following day you can turn them back again and repeat as many days as you’re hiking.

However you choose to celebrate Earth Day in your travels, keep in mind that the lessons we learn on this day are the ones that we should carry through the year. Travel safe and green!

Zip line fun at The Gibbon Experience

Ever had a chance to ride a zip line? It’s basically a steel cable stretched between two points, allowing adventurous travelers to clip on a harness and ‘zip’ along at speeds of up to 100mph. We recently put together a list of 10 great zip lines from around the world here at Gadling, but there’s maybe one more to add to the list. As part of my recent travels through Southeast Asia, I had a chance to visit the Gibbon Experience, an eco-preserve in Laos where I slept for two nights in a tree house and played around on the park’s numerous zip lines. Want to see what it’s like? Here’s a video of me crossing one of the longer stretches. Girlish screaming while you watch is optional…

In the Heart of Central America: Planning a wedding or honeymoon in Honduras

Imagine walking down a lush green aisle to a small open-air wooden structure where billowy white curtains frame a view of a valley spread below and blueish mountains in the distance. An intimate group of family and friends has gathered to watch you say your vows on this hilltop and after the ceremony, they’ll join you to celebrate as the sun sets and the lights of the village beneath you and the stars above begin to twinkle in the dark.

That fantasy, and several others, can come true in Honduras. Honduras is overlooked as a destination wedding or honeymoon spot, but the country offers just as many opportunities for romance as its Caribbean and Central American counterparts.

Whether you fancy yourself as a barefoot bride or want to go eco-chic, Honduras has a wedding locale for you. And because all-inclusive “wedding factory” resorts don’t exist here, brides can take comfort in knowing that their special day will indeed be special and private.

Those looking for an adventurous honeymoon in Honduras will find plenty of activities, like zip-lining, diving, horseback riding and white-water rafting here as well. Here are three location options to get you started planning a wedding or honeymoon in Honduras.

Hacienda San Lucas is situated on a hill just outside of the town of Copan Ruin as. From the hotel’s deck chairs, you can see the ruins of Copan and the town below. It’s a long walk from the Hacienda into town, but owner Flavia will arrange for pick up and drop off for guests. You can also hop into a moto-taxi for the $1 ride home.

The Hacienda was a labor of love, and it shows. Flavia was born in Honduras, but moved to Kentucky and lived there for three decades. She eventually returned home and took over the property that had been in her family’s name for a hundred years. It was in a sad state of disrepair, so Flavia set about restoring it piece by piece. As she says, she would sell one cow and have enough money to restore one wall. Another cow sold equaled another wall.

It was a long process, and by the time the renovation was complete, nearly ten years had passed, over 4000 native trees, including cacao and fruit trees, had been planted on the property, solar lighting had been installed in the rooms, and 50% of the employees were local Maya Chorti people, descendants of the indigenous Maya people.

When the resort first opened, it was just two rooms. Now it’s grown to eight rooms spread amongst three buildings. Rates for rooms that are basic but comfortable start at $125 for low season. Rooms don’t have A/C, TV, radios or telephones, but they do have hammocks and there is wi-fi at the main house. There’s also a restaurant where Flavia serves a four-course dinner ($30 per person) made of grown-onsite or locally purchased ingredients. Because she only buys as much as she needs each day, reservations are required.

On the night I dined by candlelight at Hacienda San Lucas, were were served a salad of cantaloupe and fresh cheese, a velvety cream of corn soup with chipilin flower and macadamia nut powder, and a rich creamy dish of chicken in lorocco (a native flower) sauce, baked in a corn husk and served with avocado and rice. For dessert: Kentucky rum cake. After tasting her delicious food, I could see why Flavia’s cooking retreats at the Hacienda were popular.

Hacienda San Lucas also has one feature that makes it perfect for a destination wedding. Gaia, the Hacienda’s yoga center (where Flavia also runs yoga retreats) is one of the most picture-perfect wedding locales I have ever seen. Perched at the top of a hill overlooking the whole valley of Copan, it feels incredibly intimate, romantic, and natural. As soon as I saw it, I told my husband that I’d found the spot where I’d someday like to renew our vows.

For couples who get married here, the planning couldn’t be easier – Flavia does it all. She’ll decorate Gaia and bring in chairs for guests (unless you want them to sit on pillows on the floor), arrange for flowers, a band, an officiant and a photographer.

Dinner will, of course, be served at the Hacienda restaurant. Afterward, guests can dance under the stars, relax with a view of Copan Ruins, or sit by the fire at the Hacienda’s firepit.

Rent out the whole place for your wedding, or just book a room for the bride and groom and then encourage guests to stay down in town. Flavia will arrange for round trip transportation for your party.

Pre- or post-wedding, spend a few days exploring Copan, venture off to visit an eco-lodge in La Ceiba or relax on the beaches of Roatan.

If getting married barefoot in the sand is more your style, head to Roatan, where resorts like eco-friendly Palmetto Bay Plantation allow you to get married on an empty beach on the shores of the Caribbean.

Divers looking for an intimate ceremony can say “I do” to their scuba sweetheart at Anthony’s Key. The resort will handle all details and offers several ceremony locations to choose from. The honeymoon package includes 7 nights accommodations, all meals, 3 dives per day, 2 night dives, all equipment, dolphin snorkel and open water dolphin dive, wine and flowers on arrival, horseback riding, kayaking, canoeing and other excursions for $1789 per person.

La Ceiba
If you prefer a more traditional wedding reception but want a natural setting, try the Lodge at Pico Bonito, named for the mountain that rises over it. Rooms start at around $200 and there are 22 rooms onsite. Set on 400 acres of tropical rain forest, the resort is home to hundreds of species of birds, which you can see on guided hikes around the property. There are two nearby waterfalls for swimming and the resort features a restaurant, pool, butterfly house and serpentarium.

Rooms are wooden huts built on stilts. Clean, with soft beds and ceiling fans, each cabin has its own hammock for lazy afternoons.

The reception space is air conditioned, seats up to 200 guests, and serves dishes like coffee crusted beef medallions from the restaurant.

Spend your honeymoon days zip-lining through the jungle, white-water rafting, and wildlife viewing, or explore the rest of Honduras.

Requirements for getting married in Honduras
Most resorts will help you with the paperwork and provide an officiant for the ceremony. Generally the paperwork is due 14 days before the wedding will take place. You’ll need to provide a certified copy of your birth certificate, a certified copy of your police record and an affidavit of single status, as well as a valid passport.

If you’ve been married before, you’ll need a certified copy of either the divorce decree or your previous spouse’s death certificate. You’ll also need two non-related witnesses, who must have valid passports.

This trip was paid for by the Honduras Institute of Tourism, but the views expressed are entirely my own.

You can read other posts from my series on Honduras here.

Eco-friendly packing – and how you can do it too

I’ve long been a supporter of eco-tourism and have tried (and many times failed) to be a fully-aware eco-traveler myself. In this world of technology and modern equipment, it’s sometimes hard to find your way back to the basics and just enjoy travel for what it is rather than enjoy it alongside all of the gadgets and gizmos that we’re buried under in this 21st century.

It’s time to rethink how we approach eco-travel, and that begins with our attitude and what we take with us. In many ways, what I’m providing for you here is my own wish list of eco-friendly travel gear that I’d like in my own eco-friendly travel pack. But more than that, it’s a reflection of how I’d like to see travelers shift their outlook on travel — from the self to the world.

So, let’s get packing, shall we?

When you’re eco-packing, you have to think about the materials. You want to avoid materials like vinyl and polyester (unless it’s recycled). Nowadays, lots of gear is made from organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, and recycled plastic. Consider also how or if the fabric was dyed. Fabric dyes can be toxic and contain bad (BAD) chemicals like mercury, lead or heavy metals like cadmium or arsenic. Make sure your soaps and toiletries are small, made from the earth (all-natural), and biodegradeable. The chemicals in products can not only be hazardous to you but also contaminating for the environment! Throw it away, and it goes to a landfill, and then into the groundwater.

The first essential item is the luggage itself — a good, sturdy, eco-friendly suitcase or backpack. This technical hiking backpack from Lafuma is a keeper. It is made from hemp (65 percent) and recycled polyester (35 percent) and has a TPE coating that provides waterproofing without heavy metals. only the hemp fabric is dyed, avoiding another processing stage and reducing dyeing chemicals by 35 percent. If you prefer something with wheels, then this MLC wheelie from Patagonia is it. It’s made of 100% recycled polyester, and even has backpack straps just in case.

I’m a huge fan of the ultalight travel movement. That’s why I not only minimize the clothes I pack, but the lightness of those items. GoLite is my recent clothing company of choice. The company’s environmental focus is shifting 100% of its materials to identified Environmentally Preferred Materials (EPMs). Its current 2010 product line has over 50% EPMs by mass, and the goal is to use 100% EPMs by 2015.

I’ve also been a fan of Patagonia through the years. When you shop online, you can read about what each product was made from. You can even follow it’s eco-conscious blog, The Cleanest Line.

Okay, I admit it: I can’t travel without some electronics and eco-unfriendly accessories. BUT, even travel gadget carriers like myself can be slightly more environmentally responsible now by powering electronics using a solar charger. I recently purchased a Solio solar charger from Radio Shack, and I intend to carry it with me on my next trip to power all of my electronics. BONUS: If you buy a Solio charger with free gift-wrapping online, Solio will donate a Solio-powered LED light to a family in the world that lives on less than $1 a day.

For battery-operated electronics, consider using rechargeable batteries from USBCell. The batteries last for years and charge via any USB port!

There’s only one company I’ve come to trust when buying toiletries, and that’s Tom’s of Maine. All you really need is some toothpaste and soap — oh, and I guess the ladies should consider getting organic feminine products from Natracare.

So there you have it, guys: Gadling’s guide to eco-friendly packing. The great thing about the products I’ve mentioned is that they don’t break your bank, which proves you can travel green without spending a fortune. When you’re all packed and you set off on your next trip, don’t forget how to travel green. Think low environmental impact, and have a great eco-trip!

Where to research and book eco-friendly travel

There is no denying that eco friendly travel is “in”. As more and more travelers become aware of their own carbon footprint, many of us are also becoming more active in reducing our impact.

This could be as simple as paying a little extra for a green certified hotel, or paying to offset the emissions from a flight. The Internet is full of fantastic resources for anyone looking to research and/or book an eco friendly trip. We’ve listed a couple of these resources here:

Gadling – We’ll start with ourselves – we’ve covered eco tourism for years, and in our archives, you’ll find 100’s of great articles on green travel.
ExpediaExpedia has an entire section of their site devoted to going green. They provide a list of green hotels, tips on reducing your carbon footprint and a special booking tool for finding hybrid rental cars.

Orbitz – The Orbitz Eco-Tourism site is one of the most comprehensive of all the travel booking sites. Their section offers everything from carbon offset purchases to a list of EPA Energy Star rated hotels. These hotels use at least 40% less electricity. The site also links to hybrid rentals, and even explains how you can volunteer to clean up a national park, or help protect the ocean.

Travelocity – The Travelocity Green Directory is another great initiative. On this guide, you’ll find links to green hotels, eco-friendly partners and a focus on green destinations. Their green hotel list is compiled through information from the EPA’s Energy Star, the Rainforest Alliance and Green Key.

EcoTravelLogueEcoTravelLogue is a member of the Bootsnall network. This site does not appear to be updated very regularly, but it contains a huge amount of eco-friendly travel resources.

The Travel Channel
The Travel Channel Eco-Friendly resources are still quite limited – and only cover a limited number of eco-friendly resorts and hotels. The site links to most of the eco related content covered by the Travel Channel.

ManacaManaca is a travel agency that specializes in eco friendly trips. They sell trips to eco lodges, and complete eco friendly packages all around the world.

SustainableTravelSustainable Travel International is an organization supported by many of the major travel companies in the world. Behind this organization are airlines like Continental and United, a cruise line, a car rental company and various hotel chains. Their site offers a huge amount of information on eco-travel, as well as a searchable directory of eco-friendly providers.

Got a good eco-friendly travel site you’d like to mention? Leave it in the comments section below!