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.

Bowermaster’s Adventures — Overfishing the Galapagos Islands

The equation is straightforward: Too many people attempting to live permanently in the Galapagos + too few jobs to go around = a percentage are resorting to illegal economies to survive. Shark finning is one of those illegalities, and still growing. Financed by mafias based in mainland Ecuador, fins are taken – hacked off, the useless carcasses tossed overboard – and sent abroad for shark fin soup. Japanese are the biggest culprits though there are restaurants as far away as Norway and Germany, which sell the soup as well. The sad reality is that not only is it a complete waste of the shark but the fins have absolutely no taste, no nutritional value. It’s all about the show. If you can afford shark fin soup – at a business meeting, wedding, anniversary – it means you’ve got the bucks to spend on a frivolity.

You’ve seen the television ads recently promoting various shark weeks? Fear continues to sell mediocre TV, thus the boom of such shows. Another statistic: How many people are killed by sharks each year worldwide? On average, four or five. How many sharks does man kill each year, some for food, others for showy displays of money? More than seventy million. It’s the sharks that should be swimming away from us as fast as they can.
Over fishing around the globe is a huge problem. The over fishing of sharks, especially the big ones, known as “apex predators” (including the great white and reef sharks) is particularly damaging to the marine cycle since sharks maintain the populations of smaller fish that in turn feed on smaller fish that people consume commercially. Minus the predators, these sub-predators run rampant and decimate smaller fish stocks. While we may think there are unlimited numbers of fish in the sea, the more we rapaciously take the fewer species will live on into the coming decades. One more statistic? The World Wildlife Fund expects all of the fish that we know today to be gone by 2050. That’s what we should be scared of, not the very slim potential of becoming lunch while enjoying a sunny holiday at the beach. (To find a detailed chart and database of the world’s endangered sharks, visit the Shark Foundation.)

%Gallery-77072%Recent attempts to bolster international fishing laws may be getting an extra push in the U.S. pending the passage of legislation now being considered in the Senate (and recently passed in the House). The legislation is designed to close most of the loopholes in the current ban on shark finning in American waters. Hopefully other nations will follow suit.

In the Galapagos we spent time with Godfrey Merlen, who represents San Francisco-based Wild Aid there. A twenty-year resident, he leads the group’s local efforts against illegal wildlife trafficking. Small groups of paid informants keep him alert to who in the relatively small community are shark finning (as well as poaching sea cucumbers and other at-risk species). Unfortunately once the fins are back in mainland Ecuador, even when seized by officials they often end up back in the illegal markets. Corruption is a boom business in Ecuador too.
“Over fishing of a number species is a reality in the Galapagos and in some ways – for some species, like lobsters – it’s a little bit late to talk about. We also know that thousands and thousands of sea cucumbers are recovered from illegal fisheries every year, which has had a depressing effect on the remaining population and makes management of it near impossible.

Bowermaster’s Galapagos — Chapter V from gadling on Vimeo.

“Still, even though we know it’s going on, illegal sea cucumber gathering is an active component of the fisheries here and brings in considerable money. Just recently, at the end February, there was a capture of thirty sacks of cucumbers on the mainland, about 3,000 pounds, with an estimated value of about $200,000. This is a lot of money and a lot of sea cucumbers. Most of them came from right here in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Local fishermen say, What are we supposed to do, what are we supposed to fish? Lobster and grouper are nearly gone. So they get into the illegal market very, very simply and easily. Though the national park has patrol boats and keeps up vigilance the area is enormous and enforcement is difficult. As a result it’s been extremely easy to export illegal produce from the Galapagos.

“It’s exactly the same with the shark fin. Sharking finning, the removal of the fins and leaving the bodies to rot either in the ocean or on the shoreline, has become very common in Galapagos. Again, the fishermen say, “I have a lot of debt, I need to buy a new motor for my boat, and I don’t have any money.” Then someone comes along and says, Well, okay, I’ll lend you money but what I want is sea cucumbers, shark fins, sea lion penises, seahorses, whatever is the going mode especially in the far eastern countries where money is not a problem. Huge sums of money can be poured into a place like the Galapagos to fuel an illegal fishery. In the long run of course things can only go from bad to worse for the fishery.

“As resources decline whether through legal or illegal fisheries the resource is the basis of the fisherman’s economy. As those resources decline, incomes decline too and the cost of living keeps going up. Sooner or later the price of fuel will jump back up; currently it’s a very false $1 a gallon for diesel. What the fishermen fail to understand is that ultimately all these illegal activities combined with the lack of a sufficiently strong fisheries management, at a certain point the fishing sector of the economy will collapse.

“At the moment the fisherman finds himself in a really hot spot, partially through his own failure to appreciate the risks he’s running. He may make money today but tomorrow he will not make money. He’s already discovered that with the sea cucumber. Basically the fishermen have very little money because the resource is disappearing.”

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!