Cayman Islands launches solar-powered electric rental cars

solar powered electric carThe Cayman Islands are taking steps to preserve their fragile island ecosystem by launching a fleet of eco-friendly, electric Wheego rental vehicles and installing solar panel charging stations for electric vehicles throughout Grand Cayman.

The new stations, produced by U-Go, generate electricity using pollution-free solar cells, reducing carbon emissions to zero. Over the next year, 12 stations will be installed throughout Grand Cayman, the first in Governor’s Square. The initiative is part of a move toward nationwide Green Globe certification, an industry certification program for sustainable tourism. Members of the Green Globe alliance are recognized for saving energy and water resources, reducing operational costs and contributing positively to their environment and communities.

“We are thrilled to be able to introduce this technology to the Cayman Islands in an effort to further preserve our treasured ecosystem,” said Hon. McKeeva Bush, Premier of the Cayman Islands, in a release. “Our natural environment, including the Mastic Trail, the Blue Iguanas, and our pristine waters, is a source of national pride, which we plan to maintain for years to come. This development is crucial to our success.”

10 travel resolutions to make in 2012

ecotourism It’s the beginning of a new year and the time when people start thinking of ways to improve themselves in 2012. Instead of just focusing on how to make yourself better, why not think about ways to make your travels more worthwhile? Here are 10 travel resolutions to make this year.

Go green

Eco-tourism is a hot topic in the world of travel right now, and for good reason. There are myriad global issues facing the planet right now, from climate change to resource depletion to land pollution and damaged ecosystems. Instead of just wandering through a region and potentially having a negative impact on the land, educate yourself a bit and participate in environmentally-friendly travel. There are tons of Eco-friendly accommodations, tours, and even entire cities, such as the new Yoyogi Village in Japan. Find a destination and try to educate yourself on how to travel while leaving as small a carbon footprint as possible.Learn a new language

Instead of using obscure gestures and stuttering your way through a translation dictionary, why not take the time to actually learn a new language? Going to Spain? Take a cultural immersion class and learn Spanish. Taking a trip to Ghana? You’ll feel a lot more comfortable interacting with Ghanians if you can speak Twi. Locals respect you more when you speak their language, and it opens up the chance to have more meaningful interactions.

romeKnock something off your bucket list

Most people have bucket lists, even if they only exist in their minds. “I would love to go skydiving one day” or “I wish I could take a trip to see the Colosseum and learn about Roman history”. What are you waiting for? This year, instead of just letting that bucket list grow, why not scratch some things off. Don’t let work and family hold you back but instead, use your vacation days and include your family in your plans. Also, certain activities, like extreme sports or taking a romantic getaway, don’t always require long-distance travel.

Visit an endangered site

Don’t expect sites like the Belize Barrier Reef, the Tropical Rainforest in Honduras, or the crystal glaciers of the Swiss Alps to be around forever. If you want to see them, go now before it’s too late. Just recently, in October 2011, the beloved Cinque Terre in Italy was damaged by flash floods and landslides, and while it is currently being rebuilt at a swift pace, it is a good example of the unexpected disasters that can happen. You can also check out the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are in danger to learn more.

volunteer Volunteer abroad

I’m a big fan of volunteering abroad for many reasons. For one, you get to help people in need as well as support a cause you’re passionate about. Moreover, it gives you a unique perspective into the culture, especially since many times you get the chance to live with locals. Each time I’ve volunteered abroad, I’ve used International Volunteer Headquarters as a middle man and found them extremely reliable and affordable. You can also contact NGO’s abroad directly using SE7EN or go on a trip with an international volunteer organization from your home city that plans trips abroad, for example, Habitat for Humanity or UNICEF.

Go out of your comfort zone

You can learn a lot about yourself and what you’re capable of when you try something that’s out of your comfort zone. Are you afraid of heights? Try bungy jumping. Scared to visit a city where you don’t speak the local language? Buy a plane ticket to Brazil (unless you speak Portuguese…then buy a ticket to China). Think you can’t handle the “strange” foods in Asia or Africa? Go there and eat as many new dishes as possible. It may sound crazy, but it’s really inspirational when you realize you can handle uncomfortable situations, as well as eye-opening to people, places, and situations you may never have experienced. I am actually terrified of heights, and when I was in Australia my friends made me go bungy jumping. Literally, they pulled me screaming and crying. While the jump itself was terrifying, I also realized it was a lot of fun. By the end of that year, I’d gone bungy jumping (again), skydiving, and cliff diving, all things that I didn’t think I would ever do but now love.

hiking Take a staycation

By taking a staycation, you can actually add to your vacation time. Instead of waiting until you’ve saved up enough money for a plane ticket somewhere far, you can enjoy a budget-friendly trip for the weekend. Not only that, but it can help you experience your own city and nearby towns, places that often have a lot to offer but many people take for granted. For example, while I often try to hike as much as possible while traveling, I barely go outside when I’m home. Last summer, I decided to change that and began going on local hiking trips around my home state of New York. It’s not only helped me make new friends, but has also helped me to explore a lot of areas that I didn’t even know existed.

Turn off the technology

Thinking about it, this could actually go under “Get out of your comfort zone”. People are literally addicted to technology nowadays. Not that it’s their fault, it’s the world we live in. Business is conducted via Skype and teleconferencing, singles meet their future spouses online, and people post their entire lives on social media. However, turning off your smartphone, ditching your laptop, and turning off the TV can be a really powerful experience. You will learn about a city in a deeper way, without distractions, and will be able to focus on exploration instead of wondering who texted you in the last five minutes. If it’s something you could lose your job over, try doing it for just a day, or even a few hours, and learn what it feels like to be completely disconnected from the rest of the world while being in tune with yourself.

food Stop being cheap

There’s a difference between being budget-conscious and cheap. You don’t need to stay in a 5-star hotel to have a great trip, however, you do need to experience the culture, and that means spending a little cash. If there’s something you want to do or see remember that you’re only a visitor in the city, meaning you only have limited time to see the sites. Don’t let cash, or lack of, ruin your entire trip. If you’re really having issues with money but still want to travel, visit a budget-friendly destination, like Thailand or Ghana, and help stretch your dollar further. When traveling through Germany, I was with a girl who was so cheap she would literally hoard bread from the hostel breakfast and eat it for the entire day, and wouldn’t enter anything, a church, castle, museum, or park, if there was any kind of charge. In the beginning I felt bad leaving her, but eventually decided that just because she didn’t want to spend money didn’t mean that I should miss out on great food and interesting museums. We ended up parting ways, and I ended up having a more worthwhile experience.

Attend a major festival

Burning Man, the Full Moon Party, the New York Film Festival, Calgary Stampede, the Winter Music Conference. Whatever you’re into, find a festival that celebrates it and go. I’ve gotten to attend numerous festivals, from Mardi Gras in Sydney to Carnival in Sitges to Crankworks in Whistler, and they’ve all allowed me to be part of enormous celebrations. You meet all kinds of interesting people and get to attend something that people fly from all over the world to attend, sometimes returning year after year. This year, add being a part of something really big to your to-do list.

New eco-friendly destination for 2012: Yoyogi Village, Japan

yoyogi villageWhile the existence of the Yoyogi Village in Tokyo, Japan, is nothing new, it has never been much of a tourist destination. Aside from Yoyogi Park, one of the largest parks in Tokyo, there has never been too much there to draw the attention of visitors. That has all changed this past November, as the rarely-noticed area has been completely remodeled to be an eco-friendly hub of activity.

The project is one of many for innovative thinker, Takeshi Kobayashi, who has been involved in many initiatives to help people live a more simplistic and natural life. With this latest project, Kobayashi aims to show the enjoyable side of sustainable goods and organic foods.

The new Yoyogi Village is separated into zones that symbolize the balance of enjoyment and ecology. For example, in the Container Zone you can find venues like clothing stores, book shops, a travel agent, and an art gallery, while the Village Zone features a music bar, special VIP room, and an upscale dining facility called Code Kurkku. There is also a holistic mind and body center where you can enjoy reflexology, mind therapy, and aromatherapy.

It isn’t surprising that profits made from the new Yoyogi Village don’t go to board members, but to other farm and restaurant-based businesses to help continue the eco-friendly cycle.

To learn more about Yoyogi Village in Japan, click here.

Luxury resort harbors Tanzania’s last tropical coastal forest

Experience Tanzania's coastal forest at the Ras Kutani eco lodgeFor adventure travelers, the classic visit to Tanzania begins with a climb up Kilimanjaro, followed by a safari on the Serengeti, and is topped off with a relaxing beach experience on the island of Zanzibar. The first two items on that list are unmatched experiences that simply can’t be beat, but those looking for alternative to the beaches of Zanzibar may want to consider a stay at the Ras Kutani lodge, an eco-resort that offers access to the last tropical coastal forest in the country.

Located just 20 miles from Dar es Salaam, Ras Kutani offers beautiful and tranquil beaches along the Indian Ocean. The warm coastal waters are home to a vibrant and thriving coral reef system, which is home to dozens of species of fish, and is visited frequently by dolphins, sea turtles, and even whales. This makes it an ideal setting for snorkelers, although sea kayaking and boogie boarding are also popular activities when the surf is up.

But the main draw to lodge is the spectacular coastal forest that surrounds the resort. Charles Dobie, the owner of Ras Kutani, made it his mission to save and preserve the coastal forest there, and as a result, he now owns one of the last remaining examples of that amazing ecosystem. The lodge is surrounded by 100 acres of this lush forest, which is home to more than 130 species of trees, four different types of monkeys, a wide variety of birds, as well as baboons, wild pigs, and the rare and beautiful Civet Cat.

Visitors to the lodge can stay in one of nine unique and spacious cottages, or four hilltop suites, that have been designed to mesh harmoniously with the environment. In addition to the relaxed beach activities, they are also able to take a self-guided tour through the coastal forest, where they can explore its natural wonders for themselves. Afterward, guests can enjoy the lodge’s famous gourmet cuisine, and relax by the ocean, where if they’re lucky, they may catch sea turtles as they hatch, and make for the sea.

To learn more about the Ras Kutani lodge, and everything it has to offer, visit the resort’s website.

Eco-tourism gets edible with the Ritz Carlton, Charlotte’s, giant green gingerbread house

giant gingerbread house The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte, in North Carolina, is taking their eco-friendly hospitality to a whole new level. From Thanksgiving Day through December 28, 2011, the hotel will showcase a life-sized “edible eco-manor”, designed by architects and made by pastry chefs using all-natural and organic ingredients. The structure will be 12 feet high by 14 feet wide by 10 feet deep and will also feature LED lights and a green “moss” eco-roof.

So what goes into making a giant eco-friendly gingerbread house?

  • 350 pounds of organic white, brown and confectioner’s sugar
  • 70 pounds of organic egg whites
  • 300 pounds of organic bread flour
  • 100 organic eggs
  • 24 pounds of molasses
  • Four pounds of salt
  • Four pounds of baking soda
  • 120 pounds of shortening
  • 24 ounces of cinnamon
  • Two gallons of organic milk
  • Eight ounces each of nutmeg, allspice and cloves
  • Nine ounces of ginger

This unique exhibit complements The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte’s, already eco-friendly programming. The property is LEED-certified, meaning that the hotel’s construction and design follows the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design guidelines. Some sustainable practices of the Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte, include building materials that use 30% less energy than most hotels, reduced water usage by 35%, a green, vegetated rooftop, recycling more than 80% of construction waste, and having bicycles as available transportation for guests, among other initiatives.

For more information on the hotel’s green programming, click here.