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.”

New York City bike share program coming in Summer 2012

new york city bike shareAt last, an urban bike share program is coming to New York City, and planners are involving city residents through community workshops, bike demos, and an online map system for suggesting station locations.

Organized by the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) and Alta Bicycle Share, the program will be funded by private sponsorship and user fees. Though a fee schedule has not yet been released, organizers say that membership will cost less than a monthly public transportation Metrocard.

Coming off the success of networks like the Vélib in Paris and Capital Bikeshare in Washington DC, the New York City bike share program also hopes to capitalize on the popularity of alternative transportation methods among the city’s active and socially conscious communities. According to NYC DOT, commuter cycling more than doubled between 2005 and 2009, and it continues to grow each year. To cope with the demand, NYC DOT doubled the mileage of on-street bike lanes between 2007 and 2011. By 2017, they hope to triple it.

The new system will include more than 10,000 bikes at over 600 stations, and is part of a larger effort to make New York a more cycle-friendly city. The program is scheduled to kick off in Summer 2012.

In the meantime, check out this video celebrating the joys of New York City biking from my friends over at Holstee… and start shopping for a helmet.

[via NYC DOT, Flickr image via nycstreets]

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.

The ever-evolving language of travel

new travel terms and wordsWhile it is clear that travel itself has evolved in many ways in the past decade or so, it appears that travel language has, too. It is something that seems to happen overnight, without anyone really noticing that new vocabulary words are being invented but using them anyway. Check out this list of some relatively new lingo that has stuck in the language of travel.

Couch Surfing

While at one time we would have just said that we were “staying with friends”, there is now a global resource for travelers that has really made an impact on the niche. Couch Surfing allows backpackers and budget travelers to stay with local people in the regions they are visiting, as well as host travelers who come to visit their native land, for free.

Voluntourism

This is a specific type of trip that allows travelers to not only visit another region, but also help out a cause or organization while they are there. Some of my favorite resources for voluntourism include International Volunteer Headquarters and SE7EN.Agritourism

This type of travel involves staying with locals in a rural area. Basically, it is a farm stay or rural retreat.

WWOOFING

Related to agritourism is World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOFING). It is a global network that connects travelers with organic farms. The gist of the program is that in exchange for room, board, and the chance to learn about organic farming and local lifestyle, travelers help out with the daily work.

Digital Nomad

This term is used to refer to someone who is location independent and can work from anywhere in the world using technology such as smartphones, laptops, iPads, WiFi and other gadgets. Actually, an entire separate article could be written on the new technological terms for travelers that have come about in the past decade or so (hmmmm…).

Flashpacker

Staying on the topic of technology and travel, this term refers to the more affluent type of backpacker. While most backpackers are thought to be on a tight-budget, flashpackers tend to have a large disposable income and also carry lots of tech gadgets with them, such as laptops and smartphones.

Staycation

This type of travel became popular during the financial crisis of 2007-2010 and refers to relaxing at home or taking trips to nearby attractions.

Glamping

This is a type of trip for those who want to experience the great outdoors while not roughing it too much. For example, instead of staying in a basic tent, someone who is glamping will use more high-end camping gear, such as a tent with electricity and an air mattress.

Slow Travel

Slow travel is the idea of traveling more slowly to enjoy each place and experience it in more depth by, for example, spending a week in one city or opting for a vacation rental home.

Mancation

This term refers to a “men only” vacation (think girl’s weekend or all-girl’s getaway for guys). With the trend catching on, travel packages are now catering to this type of travel. Interested in a mancation of your own? Urban Navigator can help you book packages that include things like golf, camping, and hiking.

Five uses for carabiners (besides climbing)

carabiners
I’m a big multi-tasker. I’m also tiny, cheap, and a “lite” traveler. Even when I’m going on the road for a couple of months, I somehow manage to cram it all in my backpack. I use a daypack for carrying my essentials (passport, credit cards, cash, documents, sunblock, sunglasses, water, etc..), but it’s only so big. At 5’2″ I don’t like to haul around something the size of a parasitic twin.

This is why I love carabiners. These oval, pear-, or D-shaped metal clips–of the style used by rock and mountain climbers–are handy and versatile, and come in a variety of sizes, gauges, and prices. I never use professional carabiners, which are more weighty and costly than my intended uses (they also have screw, auto-, or triple-locks, rather than straight gates, which I find more handy for light use). I do, however, purchase heavier, stainless carabiners of the sort found at REI or other outdoor stores.

I seem to find a new use on every trip, and admittedly, I sometimes resemble either a pack mule or a bag lady after a day of exploring, shopping, or hiking. But who cares? It’s better than wrecking my back by using a bigger pack or traveling with shoulder bags that don’t don’t compress well (I do, however, keep a canvas tote rolled into the bottom of my big backpack so I can haul souvenirs home).

So what exactly can you do with ‘biners? Read on.

1. Carry your baseball hat or shoes on your backpack
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this, both on my daypack and large pack. Sometimes I don’t have enough room to pack my running shoes, Chaco’s, or hiking boots, or maybe I need a spare pair of shoes for a day trip (apologies to former seatmates who have endured the stench of my sweaty shoes during flights). I also wear a baseball hat for sun protection if I’m doing any kind of outdoor recreational activity, but once I’m done with it, snap.

2. Clip on some shopping bags
I travel with a nylon shopping bag in a stuff sack (I recommend ChicoBags) so I can cut down on plastic if my daypack is full. But it’s a pain to carry multiple shopping bags, regardless of material–especially if, like me, you’re easily distracted and tend to leave them behind at every stop. Clip ’em on to your day bag and they’ll make it back to your accommodation. I also carry my travel coffee mug this way (obviously, you want to purchase one with a full handle, which can be tough to find for some reason).

[Photo credit: Flickr user chriscom]carabiners3. Air-dry your bathing suit
Knot the straps or, if you’re a guy, use that little waistband tie (many boardshorts also have key rings in their pockets). Um, don’t forget a change of clothes.

4. Key ring
I love travel-size tubes of sunblock that come with carabiners on them. Not only does it provide me with an accessible way to reapply when I’m paddling, hiking, riding, or skiing, but I get a free key ring out of it once I’ve refilled the tube to death. When I’m traveling, I snap my hotel keys (card keys are few and far between on the budget traveler trail) to a carabiner, and attach them to my body or within my daypack. Some people prefer to leave keys at the front desk, but the control freak in me likes to hang on to them.

5. Makeshift/emergency zipper
I discovered this one last week when I acquired a few too many ponchos and woolen hats in Chile. My tote bag was overflowing, so I snapped a large ‘biner onto the handles. It helped contain the alpaca within, and kept my souvenirs from scattering throughout the overhead bin on the plane. The same concept applies if you have a zipper break on a bag. It won’t solve things if it’s an item that requires checking, but at least it will help keep your belongings together until you find a replacement.

Got any cool travel uses for carabiners? We want to hear about them!

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