Earth Week: 5 Popular and Green U.S. Vacation Spots
Editor’s Note: It’s Earth Week on the blog! In honor of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, The Window Seat editors are blogging about our favorite ways to go green while globetrotting. Ask us your eco-questions, join in the green conversation, and help us celebrate Mother Earth.
Happy Earth Day, everyone! In honor of the occasion, I hope that you can take at least a moment today and appreciate something about the natural world, whether it’s acknowledging the stars overhead as you scurry down the sidewalk on your way home from work, the new blooms pushing their way up and out of your backyard garden, or that sweet spring smell in the air that lingers after a lilting rain.
As you know, this week we’ve been celebrating the 40th anniversary of Earth Day here on the The Window Seat blog, and concurrently, Travelocity is running a Green Hotel Sale. But what about choosing a destination for your next vacation? Do some places offer up a greener welcome mat to tourists than others? Knowing that sustainability starts with choosing an eco-friendly destination, Travelocity encourages families to consider these five spots.
Las Vegas, Nevada
While we all can agree there’s nothing much that’s natural about Las Vegas vacations—it’s in the middle of the desert and takes vast amounts of water and air conditioning just to keep it going—the city has succeeded in instilling some greener practices. The new CityCenter, for example, is one of the largest complexes ever to achieve LEED certification and the hotels, including the Aria, around it are very green. Plus, there’s now a fleet of stretch limos available to tourists that run on compressed natural gas—so luxury can have a conscience.
In addition to being a densely populated city with great public transit, Chicago is well known for its Green City Market and open green spaces. Chicago has devoted 12,000 acres to public parks and waterfront space. Plus, the U.S. Green Building Council has awarded four city projects with a “Platinum” rating, its highest award.
Nominated America’s top green city by Popular Science, it’s been reported that half of Portland’s power comes from renewable sources, and a quarter of the workforce commutes by bike, carpool, or public transportation. They also have a large swath of the city that’s designated as a “Fareless Square” or the “Free Rail Zone,” which means that you can ride buses, trains, and street cars for free in that area. Plus, the city has a whopping 35 buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Taking care of these precious islands is a way of life for the people of Hawaii and now they’re encouraging visitors to get involved, too. In addition to having a huge selection of green hotels (like the Fairmont Kea Lani and the Sheraton Kauai), guests can now spend the afternoon volunteering (beach clean-ups, wildlife protection, etc) with their hotel or a local organization like Save Our Seas, NOAA, and others.
Colorado has always been on the forefront of the green movement. For instance, Denver now paves it streets with “green concrete,” an industrial by-product that reduces the amount of sulfur- and carbon-spewing concrete production needed to finish a job. The mayor has signed an executive order requiring the use of green concrete in new city projects, and a $550-million infrastructure bond makes demand for the mix likely to grow.
What’s your city doing to stay green?
My name: Rachel Berg.
Favorite way to get around: By Venetian gondola during starlit high tide, gliding past decaying and slightly spooky palaces, with perhaps a bottle of prosecco placed between the gondola seat cushions.
View that took my breath away: Unable to sleep in the mystical city of Sfat in Israel, I wandered outdoors predawn and was treated to a purple-on-purple sunrise below the mountaintop that seemed to emerge feet-first through ground-level clouds.
Greatest travel lesson learned: Sunny weather isn't everything. Some of my best travel memories involve go-karting through a deluge turned mud-fest in Mexico, drinking tea in the cold Denali tundra, and watching electric thunderstorms roll through national parks out West.
Most challenging travel moment: Getting leveled by altitude sickness in Cuzco and realizing that my body was forcing me to slow down and rest despite the fact that there was so much to do and see.
Travel ambition: To see the northern lights.