Wisconsin’s hidden eco-wellness hotspot

March 24, 2020 by  
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Madison,  Wisconsin  is defined by water. It’s only one of two cities in the US built on an isthmus (the other is Seattle), and it has five lakes. The population of just over a quarter million is overwhelmingly young and educated, thanks to the massive University of Wisconsin. Mad City is one of the Midwest’s more progressive places and regularly features on “best of” lists. But you have to be tough to live here. Winter temperatures regularly dive below freezing, while summer temperatures often top 90 degrees. Outdoor activities in Madison Madison’s outdoor recreation revolves around its lakes. If you like kayaking , stand up paddleboarding or water skiing, you’re in luck. This is also a place to try more extreme water sports, such as wakeboarding, kiteboarding and flyboarding (where water can propel you almost 50 feet in the air). Those who are looking for something more contemplative will enjoy a trip to  Olbrich Botanical Garden . The 16 acres look their best in spring and summer, but even in winter you can enjoy orchids blooming in the sun-filled glass Bolz Conservatory. The garden’s 30-foot high Thai pavilion was a gift from the Thai royal family. The red lacquer and gold leaf structure was built in  Thailand , shipped by sea, rail and truck to Madison, then reassembled by Thai artisans without using screws or nails. At the  UW Madison Arboretum , you can meander through woodlands, wetlands, savannas and restored prairies on more than 17 miles of  trails . You can also see rare effigy mounds built more than 1,000 years ago. The arboretum features events like fungi workshops and expert-led nature walks. In the winter, it’s a popular place to snowshoe and cross-country ski. Wellness in Madison The Garver Feed Mill building is the latest wellness star in the Madison scene. After the US  Sugar  Company constructed this brick behemoth in 1906 for beet sugar processing, it became known as the Sugar Castle because of its dramatic arched gothic windows. Later it was a factory for formulating livestock feed, before sitting derelict for a couple of decades. But just last November, it reopened as a spectacularly popular event space, site of the farmers’ market during winter, and home of wellness providers and artisan food makers. The whole building is gorgeous, with lots of exposed brick walls, big windows and chandeliers. For the perfect wellness-focused day at Garver, take a class at  Perennial Yoga , eat a healthy meal at plant-based Surya Café, then visit  Kosa Wellness Spa & Retreat  to relax in the steam room and sauna or to get an Ayurvedic treatment.  “Something society doesn’t afford us is quiet and space,” said owner Shilpa Sankaran, who aspires to provide Madison with just that. “Where do you hear your own voice? That’s where the remedy lives, in our own knowing.” She sources most of her spa products from Wisconsin and has a special interest in supporting women in business. Women in  India  who have escaped sex trafficking manufacture the spa’s robes. I especially liked how they left some of the more attractive graffiti in place on the treatment room walls from the years that squatters filled the building. If art uplifts you, the  Chazen Museum of Art  on the UW campus houses lots of work by famous artists, including Miro, Picasso, and Louise Nevelson, plus interesting installations by UW art faculty. This big  museum  is free and well worth visiting. Dining out in Madison Madison is an easy town for vegetarians and  vegans . The  Green Owl Café , Madison’s first all-veg restaurant, is a cheerful and comfortable hangout spot for bowls, veggie burgers, vegan wings and vegan desserts like lava cake and coconut cream pie.  Surya Cafe , in the Garver Feed Mill, features more adventurous — some might say startling — combinations, such as a curried cauliflower waffle with maple-cumin kale and mango jalapeno sauce. Himal Chuli serves Nepali food, with several veggie and tofu-based options. The roti is so excellent I ordered a second serving.  Ian’s Pizza has several locations and is one of my favorite Madison eateries. You can custom order a gigantic salad with more than 40 mix-in options, and they often have vegan slices. For vegan dessert, don’t miss  Bloom Bake Shop . This bakery has a whole case of vegan cupcakes. Public transit Since Madison is largely a college town, you’ll find lots of public transportation and  bikes . It’s known as an extremely bikable city, so if you like biking, check out Madison  BCycle , the local bike share program. This program is designed for short trips of under an hour. If you want a bike for longer-term use, the  Budget Bicycle Center  rents various kinds of bikes. Metro Transit  is Madison’s bus company, serving the greater Madison area. Eco-wellness lodging The white dome of the Capitol filled my window at the  Madison Concourse Hotel . In addition to this stunning view and a convenient downtown location, the Concourse has been refining its eco measures for a decade. The  hotel uses energy-efficient lighting, offers reusable glass cups instead of plastic in guest rooms and is a member of REAP Food Group, which works on shortening the distance from farm to table. The Concourse’s Ozone laundry system and high-efficiency water heaters save an estimated 400,000 gallons of water per year. For an out-of-town sojourn, the  Holy Wisdom Monastery  in nearby Middleton has private rooms in its retreat house and two additional secluded hermitages.  Holy Wisdom offers the choice of a communal spiritual experience or lots of solitude as you hike trails through its prairies or read in the  library . You can even wear a silence tag if you want to take a silent retreat, and people won’t talk to you. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Wisconsin’s hidden eco-wellness hotspot

The best eco tourism spots in Montreal

December 31, 2019 by  
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Montreal is a lively city where there’s always something going on. Perhaps you’ll arrive in the middle of an enormous Pride celebration, with pink balloon-festooned streets blocked off for a huge party. Or maybe you’ll play on 21 Balancoires, a set of musical swings — notes play as people swing — that appears downtown every springtime. Montreal has long been a major port city. It’s located at one end of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which stretches from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of two million, Montreal is Canada’s second-largest city. It’s a bilingual city with a European feel. While more than half of Montreal’s residents are bilingual in French and English, quite a few only speak one language or the other, depending on their family’s native tongue and their education. Americans, especially those from the west coast, may love being in a place with Euro-style buildings dating back as far as the 1600s. It’s the mix of picturesque old and totally modern that makes Montreal so beautiful and fun. Outdoors Montreal For a more urban outdoors experience, check out one of Montreal’s many street fairs. May through June are the top months for closing off streets to traffic and turning them into party zones. Unless you’re extremely hardy, summer is the best time to partake in Montreal’s outdoors activities. Winter is long and cold here. You’ll need serious gear to have a good time outside. Mount Royal is a small mountain that overlooks the city and serves as a 692-acre city park that has it all. You can hike , rent a paddleboat, get your cardio workout by climbing the 550-step staircase on the south side, picnic or participate in a drum circle. During winter, people tube, toboggan, ski, snowshoe, or skate on a manmade lake. The Mount Royal Chalet rents winter equipment. Whatever you’re doing on Mount Royal, you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the city. The Montreal Botanical Garden is lovely in every season. Check out cultural gardens within the larger garden — Chinese, Japanese and First Nations are all represented here. In autumn you can stroll beneath golden leaves, and in winter you can cross country ski inside the garden . Don’t miss the Insectarium to get a close-up look at bug life. Did you know that 91% of the world’s maple syrup comes from Quebec? If you visit Montreal between late February and late April, get out to the countryside to experience a sugar shack. Many offer games, tastings and maple-themed meals as part of the fun. At La Cabane À Tuque , maple producers harvest maple sap the old-fashioned way, with buckets. Visitors can join in. They run an eco operation with a hempcrete -insulated house, a wall made with recycled bottles, and they even serve vegan meals. Montreal wellness scene Montreal is a secular city, but you’ll quickly notice the gorgeous churches and French Catholic influence. Nuns opened and ran the first hospital, the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal, in 1645. For a historical look at the local wellness scene, at least from a European perspective, the Musee de Hospitallers chronicles Montreal’s early medical efforts. For one of the best modern spa experiences anywhere, pack your swimsuit and flip flops and head for Bota Bota , an old river ferry turned floating spa. It’s docked in the old port on Saint Lawrence River, where you can soak in a water circuit, fill your lungs with clouds of eucalyptus in the steam room, eat spa cuisine and relax in hanging chairs, all while gazing at river traffic. Bota Bota lets you choose between a quiet zone and a large area where you can visit with friends. Wanderlust Montreal , known for its Wanderlust Festival, is based in Montreal. Check out their website for current studio classes, concerts and yoga events. Eating out in Montreal When I asked local vegan activist Élise Desaulniers why Montreal has so many vegan restaurants, she said, “We hate debates in Canada . We like to find the middle ground. So, the conclusion is you should eat less meat. But being vegan 100% of the time is considered too extreme.” So that means Montreal’s omnivores support the vegan restaurants, making the city full of choices for veg visitors. Montreal has a vegan festival every fall, which Desaulniers co-founded. For some of the most interesting vegan sushi anywhere, Sushi Momo’s creations range from simple eggplant and avocado rolls to complicated concoctions full of exotic ingredients beyond my comprehension in French or English. I let the server choose for me. If you’re with a group, order the 2-foot-long wooden boat filled with assorted sushi. Lola Rosa draws people from all walks of life to its four locations for hemp burgers and international-inspired comfort food. Panthere Verte stays open late and is known for its falafel and organic vegan cocktails. Café Chat L’Heureux features a vegetarian menu of soups, sandwiches and salads, plus eight friendly kitty hosts. This is the place to get your feline fix when traveling through Montreal. Public transit Montreal’s subway system is relatively easy to figure out. Best of all, trains run every eight minutes on average, and every three minutes during rush hour. A robust bus system rounds out the public transportation network and will get you to all major landmarks. An express bus called the 747 Shuttle runs 24 hours a day between the airport and downtown, and only costs ten dollars. Ride-share services also operate in Montreal. The BIXI bike share system runs during fairer weather months, from April 15 through November 15. Since bike shares are aimed at shorter rides, consider renting a bike from Montreal on Wheels if you want one for a whole day or the duration of your stay. The bike rental shop also offers guided group bike tours. Eco-hotels For an upscale eco-hotel, stay at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth . Its impressively long list of sustainability initiatives includes employing three beekeepers , no using palm oil in its menus and turning old sheets and curtains into cleaning rags. On the more affordable, communal end of the spectrum, the Alternative Hostel of Old Montreal offers dorm or private rooms with shared bathrooms and an airy, plant-filled space with a full kitchen. The Hôtel de l’ITHQ , run by the Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec, is a clean, modern hotel run largely by tourism students. As a member of Canada’s Green Key eco-hotel program, it also follows many sustainability practices. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat and Bota Bota

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The best eco tourism spots in Montreal

Sustainably shop, eat and travel your way through Vancouver

December 30, 2019 by  
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Vancouver is Canada’s most temperate area, known for forests, sea, cosmopolitan entertainment, lots of rain and a high cost of living. The densely populated city in western Canada has more than 610,000 residents with a total of nearly 2.5 million in the metro area. Visitors can easily get around on bus, foot and bike share. Just be sure to pack an umbrella and a rain poncho! Here are the outdoor activities, vegan restaurants and eco-hotels to visit during your trip to Vancouver. Vancouver’s great outdoors Stanley Park is Vancouver’s most popular outdoor spot. Once the homeland for the native Squamish people, it has been a park since 1888. You can rent a bike and cruise around to see the gardens, totem poles and views of English Bay and Lions Gate Bridge. To learn more about Canada’s First Nations culture, contact Talaysay Tours and sign up for the Talking Trees tour to learn how the Squamish used local plants as food and medicine. Related: Vancouver Food Tour showcases the city’s vegan side The Capilano Suspension Bridge, built in 1889, is an engineering marvel — a 450-foot walking bridge over the Capilano River. Visitors also get high up in the canopy on a series of shorter, tree-to-tree bridges. For those who believe fitness never takes a vacation, there’s the Grouse Grind. Hikers climb 2,800 feet in 1.8 miles, then take the gondola back down Grouse Mountain. Both Capilano and Grouse Mountain are a short distance outside Vancouver, but free shuttle buses depart from Canada Place. Vancouver also offers splendid kayaking opportunities. Perhaps the best is at the Indian Arm fjord in the Deep Cove neighborhood. Rent a kayak from Deep Cove Kayak Centre or join a tour for additional company, security and/or information on history, geography and wildlife. You might see purple sea stars, moon jellyfish, 1,800-year-old petroglyphs, baby seals or even a cougar lounging on a rock. Looking to kick back and relax? Take a silent, zero-emissions cruise on a whale-friendly electric boat . Electric Harbour Tours offers public and private tours from Coal Harbour. Vancouver wellness Vancouver loves yoga . If you’re visiting in summer, check out the outdoor classes offered by the Mat Collective at Kitsilano Beach and pop-up locations. Do Peak Yoga atop Grouse Mountain on summer weekends, weather permitting. For a spa experience, visit Miraj Hammam , where you’ll open your pores in a steam room, then lie on a golden marble slab while an attendant exfoliates your body. Some of the most deluxe spas are at the big hotels, such as the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Pacific Rim and the giant, new spa at the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver. Vegan restaurants in Vancouver The historic Naam restaurant has served vegan and vegetarian food 24 hours a day since 1968. Its versatile menu ranges from enchiladas to a crying tiger Thai stir fry to vegan chocolate carrot cake topped with hemp icing for dessert. For a modern take on vegan comfort food, MeeT has three locations serving burgers, fries and bowls around the city. The Acorn is Vancouver’s most upscale vegan restaurant, creating complex dishes that showcase seasonal vegetables . For dessert, Umaluma Dairy-Free Gelato serves inventive gelato flavors like blood orange jalapeño jelly and salted caramel seafoam. There’s even a dedicated plant-based pudding store, Vegan Pudding and Co. Getting around Vancouver If you’re already in the Northwest, consider taking the Amtrak or bus service to Vancouver, then getting around on foot and by public transportation . If you’re flying in, you might be able to take the SkyTrain to your hotel, depending where you’re staying. The SkyTrain light rail system serves downtown Vancouver and many suburbs. Walking is an ideal way to get around Vancouver . Check out the Walk Vancouver site for good sightseeing routes. Bright blue Mobi bikes are everywhere in Vancouver. If you want to try the local bike share , you’ll need to download an app and keep your eye on the time, so you don’t rack up overage charges. Rent a bike by the day at one of the shops near Stanley Park. TransLink is the public bus system that will take you around the Vancouver metro area. The SeaBus 385-passenger ferry crosses the Burrard Inlet, bringing you from downtown Vancouver to the North Shore. The West Coast Express commuter railway connects Vancouver to the scenic Fraser Valley. Eco-hotels in Vancouver Vancouver has many excellent hotels, but be prepared for sticker shock. Wellness-focused guests will appreciate the amenities at the Loden . The hotel’s garden terrace rooms on its second floor sanctuary include special tea, yoga props, a 30-minute infrared sauna treatment and access to an urban garden, reflection pond and waterfall. The Fairmont Waterfront Hotel partners with Hives for Humanity , a nonprofit that educates people about gardens and beehives . You can tour the hotel’s rooftop gardens and learn about the pollination corridor connecting the city’s green spaces. Even the Vancouver police department hosts four beehives. The Skwachàys Lodge is a First Nations-focused social enterprise hotel combining 18 uniquely decorated rooms, studio space for First Nations artists and a ground-floor art gallery. Visitors can book private sweat-lodge ceremonies. Travelers on a budget can stay in the tidy and colorful YWCA Hotel . Not only do you get a comfortable place to stay and access to excellent fitness facilities and exercise classes; some of your money goes toward services for women and children in need. Images by Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Sustainably shop, eat and travel your way through Vancouver

This unisex T-shirt is naturally dyed with Japanese cherry blossoms

December 30, 2019 by  
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Acutely aware of the massive waste in the textile industry, material development company PANGAIA (pronounced Pan-guy-ya) uses plants to make natural fabric dyes, skipping the need for harsh, synthetic additives. One of these natural dyes is sourced from the petals of the Japanese Sakura tree, which only blooms for a few days each year. The result is a gorgeous, light pink T-shirt made from organic cotton and dyed from the discarded cherry blossoms. Dozens of varieties of these cherry trees supply petals for specialty Japanese cherry blossom teas. These specially bred trees provide large quantities of blossoms that fall naturally following the brief annual bloom. Only petals that have already dropped are collected during this time, called sakura fubuki. The trees are never cut or harvested during the process. Related: Collection of plant-based shirts raise awareness of endangered species PANGAIA works in conjunction with the tea companies in Nagoya, Japan to collect the blossoms they reject. This gives the unwanted petals new life. In the lab, the petals are converted into a pink dye with bioengineering that uses no chemicals in the process. The waste- and chemical-free dye is then used to color the Sakura T-shirt, one of many clothing products the company has designed using natural or recycled products . The non-toxic, natural dye provides a subtle pink hue that enhances the GOTS certified organic cotton material. The Sakura T-shirt is made with a relaxed unisex design. The shirt is currently available for $85 and will be sent in biodegradable packaging. Similar products are available as part of the botanical dye T-shirt line, all of which are colored from dyes created from food waste and natural resources. Plants, fruits and vegetables are sourced to achieve the rich tones. PANGAIA reports its “supplier dyes textiles in a way that uses less water, is non-toxic and biodegradable.” To ensure transparency throughout the manufacturing process, each garment tag includes blockchain technology that shows the full history of the garment. A blockchain cannot be altered and provides a record of each stage of the journey, with complete traceability and authenticity. + PANGAIA Images via PANGAIA

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This unisex T-shirt is naturally dyed with Japanese cherry blossoms

Your essential guide to eco-wellness in Tampa, Florida

December 23, 2019 by  
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Tampa is a big city that loves to live outside. The city of almost 400,000 has gone from old-time Florida to explosive modern growth, surprising some long-time residents to find that their city is suddenly hip. Tampa’s setting on Tampa Bay lends itself to water sports. Thanks to recent development along the Hillsborough River, including a 2.6-mile Riverwalk, Tampa is very pedestrian-friendly. It’s a winning combination of sunshine, beaches and big-city amenities. Outdoors Tampa The Riverwalk is probably Tampa’s most popular place to run, bike, or walk your dog. It’s even well-lit at night, with locals and visitors strolling until late. You can also rent a kayak or stand up paddle (SUP) board from several shops along the Riverwalk. “You get a different perspective from the water,” said Aida Perez, manager of paddle rental outfit Urban Kai . “You get that feel of a really live and active city when you’re paddle boarding on the river.” Urban Kai also offers lessons and guided expeditions. It’s fun to SUP under bridges and get your photo taken with Tampa’s tallest buildings in the background. Just north of Tampa, Thonotosassa offers a completely different view of the Hillsborough River. Rent a canoe from Canoe Escape and you’ll see alligators. A lot of alligators. Plus roseate spoonbills, herons, snakes and birds I’d never heard of, like anhingas and limpkins. “We always tell people you’re visiting their home,” said Mike Cole, general manager of Canoe Escape, as he calmly paddles by 6-foot gators drowsing on logs. Wellness Tampa’s warm weather lends itself to outdoor fitness classes. It seems like every night of the week offers free or low-cost group exercise, from Zumba in parks to weekly yoga sessions in the courtyard of Armature Works, a converted streetcar barn which is now a lively public market.  Kodawari Studios offers lots of wellness under one roof, including chiropractic care, energy work, a float tank, sauna , cold plunge and a robust yoga schedule spanning styles from power to yin. Yoga Loft Tampa has locations in downtown and Ybor, and offers aerial as well as lots of flow classes. Spa Evangeline gives facials and massages. For a specialty couples experience, soak in a two-person Jacuzzi , followed by side-by-side massages with agave rubbed into your scalps while drinking champagne. Eating out in Tampa Tampa has lots of healthy eating options. Both bowl specialist Fresh Kitchen and Taco Dirty work on the customizable plan. Pick a combo of bases, protein, veggies, and sauces. Vegans might choose kale slaw or braised lentils at Fresh Kitchen, or lime jalapeno sour cream and vegan cauli queso at Taco Dirty. Plant-based Dixie Dharma debuted in Tampa in 2019. Top vegan takes on Southern classics include Carolina jackfruit, chili dogs, and the orange bird — a sloppy joe with orange barbecue sauce and house slaw served on a toasted potato bun. Vietnamese restaurant Bamboozle has vegan pho, vegan tofu lemongrass banh mi sandwiches and three types of vegan fresh rolls — avocado , veggie and tofu. They make each roll fresh as you wait and also craft three different vegan dipping sauces. Sweet Soul SoHo is a can’t miss for vegan dessert lovers. The brownie sundae is a big bowl of soft serve topped with chocolate granola, cacao nibs, brownie chunks and your choice of drizzle. “Everything here has a nutritional benefit,” says owner and Tampa native Taylor Winter. The gray vanilla ice cream takes a little getting used to, but the charcoal adds a detox benefit without altering the flavor, Winter says. Same with the Blue Majik algae that makes the coconut soft serve a glacial blue. Public transit If you’d rather not fly to Tampa, check out the Amtrak timetable. Tampa is right on the New York-Miami Silver Star line, with two passenger trains daily. You can also take Amtrak trains or buses to many points within Florida. Tampa must have the most beautiful streetcars in the country. Streetcars were a common way to get around the city from the 1890s until just after World War Two, when cars took over. But Tampa brought back electric streetcar service in 2002. Now about ten historic replica streetcars carry folks around, plus one refurbished original that plied Tampa’s tracks from 1923 to 1946. All have gorgeous wood interiors. Take the streetcar from downtown to Ybor City, a historically Cuban neighborhood once famous for cigar manufacturing, and now known for nightlife and colorful chickens in yards. Tampa also has an extensive bus network. You can also download the Coast Bike Share app and cruise around town on one of the program’s ubiquitous blue bikes . Eco-hotels The Tampa Marriott Water Street is the top wellness hotel in town. Its Stay Well rooms, located on the 15th floor, have spectacular river views, comfy Stay Well mattresses and an air purification system. The circadian lighting system is fun to play with. You can set it to modes like “energize,” “relax,” and “play,” which makes lights cycle through shades from light pink to magenta. There’s even a special shower infuser which promises softer skin and hair. Embassy Suites by Hilton earned a 2-palm rating from Green Lodging Florida, which means they pay attention to things like waste reduction, recycling , water conservation, indoor air quality and energy efficiency. For a funkier, more communal experience, stay at Gram’s Place . This independent hostel is in a residential neighborhood, a short walk or bike ride from downtown. Dedicated to the late musician Gram Parsons, the hostel has two fully equipped kitchens, a sundeck, clothing-optional hot tub, small backyard bar, dorms and private rooms. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Your essential guide to eco-wellness in Tampa, Florida

A guide to zero-waste holiday travel

November 19, 2019 by  
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It’s the year that the Swedish concept of flygskam, or flying shame, hit headlines around the world. Now, it’s November and time for holiday travel. Unfortunately, you might feel like you’re choosing between hurting the environment and hurting Grandma’s feelings. If you find yourself traveling this time of year, here are some zero-waste tips to take the edge off your travel shame. Planning for zero-waste travel A green trip starts with good planning. If you’re traveling by plane and/or staying in hotels, check out their sustainability policies. Airplanes use a staggering amount of plastic, which they mostly don’t recycle, but some carriers are striving to improve. Air France pledged to switch out 210 million single-use plastic items with sustainable alternatives by the end of this year. Qantas is ditching single-use plastic by the end of 2020. Alaska Airlines traded plastic stirrers for ones made of bamboo or white birch. Related: Designers aim to reduce the waste and impact of airlines Consider buying carbon offsets. Because flights were responsible for 2.4 percent of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2018, carbon offset programs aim to balance human destructiveness by investing in projects that reduce greenhouse gases, such as planting trees or improving forest management. Several airlines offer this option. Most hotels post info about their sustainability efforts on their websites. You can also opt to stay in an Airbnb or similar, where you’ll be able to cook your own food and eat on reusable plates. Learn more about sustainable hotel resources at Green Key , Green Traveler Guides or Kind Traveler. Don’t forget to prepare your house for travel. Eat, freeze or give away perishables. Unplug lamps and other small appliances. If it’s plugged in, it’s sucking energy . Turn the thermostat down — but not so low that the pipes will burst if you live somewhere cold. Packing for zero-waste travel In a world of disposability and access to cheap stuff, it’s easy to throw something away when it is only slightly damaged. I was going through security in Canada when the agent wanted to look in my backpack. The zipper stuck because of loose threads around a rip. I said, “Oh, I have to get a new one … or maybe sew it.” I truthfully had no intentions to do so. She looked at the tear and said, “It’s a good backpack. You should fix it.” Of course I should! I’ve sewn that tear a couple of times now (I’m obviously not that good at sewing), and the backpack is still traveling with me. Aim to repair, not discard. Most travel experts advise packing lightly, both for ease of travel and to keep weight down on airplanes. I’m more of a medium packer, because I know from experience that if I travel too light, I’ll buy more stuff while traveling. Capsule wardrobes have garnered a lot of press lately as a light packing strategy. This is a set of clothes like tops, pants, skirts and sweaters that can be endlessly mixed and matched together, often in a neutral palette like tan, gray, black and white. If you go neutral, consider including some bright scarves or big necklaces to rev up your look. Related: The sustainable wardrobe — it’s more accessible than you think Pack reusable versions of things that get trashed the most while traveling. Freelance travel writer and animal advocate Lavanya Sunkara said, “I always bring my S’well water bottle, so I never have to purchase a plastic water bottle, plus it keeps the water cold for a long time. I just decided to bring my own coffee mug as well as some non-disposable forks/spoons for the road. I also bring my own soap, shampoo and conditioner in reusable bottles.” For even lighter packing, consider shampoo bars. Don’t forget to pack a reusable bag for grocery shopping or souvenirs, too. Greener transportation Some countries have great train service. In most regions of the U.S., trains are infrequent and cost-prohibitive. However, if you have the time, live in a busy train corridor or are traveling a short enough distance overland, look into trains and buses. People in the Northeast have more trains to choose from. New bus services like Flix Bus, Bolt and Megabus are trying to make bus travel more pleasant; even Greyhound has on-board Wi-Fi now. Consider whether you’ll need a car at your destination. If you’re going to a city with decent public transportation , a bike share program, walkable areas and/or plenty of cabs and ride-share services, maybe you can forego a rental car. Related: How to make American cities bike-friendly If you find yourself soaring through the skies in an airplane, avoid the so-called “service items” — i.e., trash. You brought your own water bottle , right? Well, fill it up at the airport (after you’ve made it through security) so you won’t have to waste cups on the plane. Bring your own snacks and say no to straws, napkins and ice. Minimizing waste at your destination Think how you can be most environmentally conscious at your destination. If you’re snorkeling in the tropics, use reef-safe sunscreen . If you’re strolling the streets of Paris, sit at a sidewalk cafe and drink out of a real cup, rather than getting a disposable cup to go. Travelers doing their own cooking in an Airbnb kitchen can shop for ingredients at farmers markets or in the bulk sections of grocery stores to minimize packaging waste. One of my biggest sources of eco-shame has been using plastic bottles while visiting countries where waterborne diseases are prevalent. But Terry Gardner , an inspiring sustainability warrior who writes for the LA Times and other publications, has convinced me to try a SteriPen next time. “I’ve used a SteriPen in China , Mexico and twice in Peru,” she told me. “I’ve also used it to purify water from lakes in the U.S. I like the USB one that is rechargeable. In China, where we were encouraged to drink bottled water from single-use plastic, I refused and used my SteriPen. I felt good about avoiding the plastic and remained healthy. In Peru, the SteriPen worked great in Lima, Cusco and Machu Picchu, but I couldn’t use it in some places in the Amazon where the water was polluted by hazardous waste (I think it was uranium or some mining byproduct).” In keeping with the zero-waste ideal, Gardner advises, “One of my most important sustainable travel tips is focused on trying to treat every place like a national park — do your best to Leave No Trace.” Depending on your destination and the length of time you’re staying, considering volunteering in some capacity. Maybe instead of trashing a place, we can learn to leave it just a little bit better. Images via Shutterstock and Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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A guide to zero-waste holiday travel

Fiji’s Cousteau Resort launches a new botanical program for guests

November 8, 2019 by  
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For travelers who want to learn more about the environment they are visiting, the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort , a leading eco-luxe property in Fiji, is helping guests do just that with a recently expanded program for botanical education. Guests to the resort can take new tours, where they learn about medicinal and edible plants as well as rare palms. The initiative is part of a larger goal to protect the island’s natural environment. “At our resort, we’ve felt firsthand the great impact nature can have on the mind and the body, so we’re trying to preserve the traditional knowledge of this area, and, in turn, preserve culture,” said Bartholomew Simpson, general manager of the resort. Related: Jean-Michel Cousteau eco resort showcases traditional building Billy Railala, the resort’s expert on traditional herbal medicine , leads the Fijian Medicine Walk. The resort has offered this walk for several years, but recently expanded it to feature more than 120 species of Fijian medicinal flora and fauna. For example, the bark and stems from Fagraea berteriana flowers, or “bua ni viti,” are pressed into liquid and used to treat asthma and other respiratory problems. Fijians dry and burn a feathery bamboo called “bitu,” then mix the ashes with coconut oil to treat burns. Liquid from the small tropical tree Syzygium gracilipes , or “leba,” is used to increase fertility. Edible plants like papaya, guava, taro and avocado flourish in the resort’s two-acre organic garden. Kids can participate in an organic farming program and dress up in chefs’ uniforms to help prepare their own meals. The resort has also been collecting rare palm trees endemic to Fiji. Most are threatened, critically endangered or even extinct in the wild. Horticulture expert and nursery manager Jim Valentine is working with the resort to propagate these rare palms and repopulate Fiji with them. Simpson said, “This initiative not only serves to pay homage to Fijian culture, which is a key mandate of the resort concept, but also serves to remind the younger generation of Fijians of the important uses of these plants and how the elders used them in centuries past; preserving the fragile Fijian culture , which is eroding quickly in the modern age.” + Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort Images via Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort

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Fiji’s Cousteau Resort launches a new botanical program for guests

Designers aim to reduce the waste and impact of airlines

October 11, 2019 by  
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Exhibitions of art can, and perhaps should, be thought-provoking, which is exactly the goal of the temporary showing ‘Get Onboard: Reduce. Reuse. Rethink’ by design studio PriestmanGoode at the Design Museum in London. Unlike typical art , though, this exhibit is a concept design that could change the way we travel, or at least the environmental impact when we do. With its eyes on a future of eliminating single-use plastic , PriestmanGoode has focused its problem-solving skills toward airline travel. The studio has looked for ways to eliminate the estimated 2.2 pounds of waste created per passenger per flight, a weighty problem that adds up to around 5.7 million tons of cabin waste annually worldwide. PriestmanGoode has taken a multifaceted approach to the problem, beginning with the meal tray and eating accessories on long flights. Related: San Francisco airport bans all plastic water bottles The designers have come up with functional and surprisingly attractive plastic alternatives for in-flight eating. Some of the plant-based items are washable and reusable: serving trays that are made out of coffee grounds and husks; dishes made from wheat bran; and sporks made from coconut wood. The cups are a two-part design, with a reusable outer layer made from rice husks and a PLA binder. The disposable interior liner is made from algae. Other packaging saw sustainable upgrades, too. The main dish is covered in a bamboo lid, an earth-friendly alternative to petroleum-based plastic. For side dishes, the lids are made out of algae or banana leaves, and the dessert lid has a wafer design that distinguishes it from the other lids to easily identify what is underneath. Single-use condiment containers were tossed in favor of capsules made out of soluble seaweed. For easy composting, everything packs into the main meal lid. PriestmanGoode also presents a refillable water canister designed to fit in a seat-back. It has also worked with airline representatives to design a central water refill station as a comprehensive, sustainable alternative to plastic water bottles. Although the design elements of the concept meal tray are innovative, an equally important goal of the exhibit is to raise awareness about the impact travel has on our environment, and not just in the food consumed. While there are still many steps the airline industry needs to take to lower its environmental impact, PriestmanGoode wants travelers to consider their own consumption habits by only using long-lasting and reusable products that they need. The exhibit will show until February 9, 2020. + PriestmanGoode Via Dezeen Images via PriestmanGoode

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Designers aim to reduce the waste and impact of airlines

Behind the scenes at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center

August 28, 2019 by  
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Gwyneth stands upright, supported by one member of her medical team as another scrapes away what looks like blue cotton candy from the cracks in her shell with a pointed metal tool. The yellow slider is stoic, silently opening her mouth, whether wishing to bite or scream. Gwyneth is a turtle, one who has endured a lot of medical attention at the Georgia Sea Turtle Rescue Center since being hit by a car on Jekyll Island. The impact fractured both her carapace and her plastron — her top and bottom shells. The guide on the behind the scenes tour, AmeriCorps worker Stacia Dwelle, explains that the blue stuff is bioglass and costs $175 for a small jar. It works “like scaffolding for the tissue in the fracture site,” she says. Other treatments are lower tech and lower cost, such as the jug of honey and chunks of honeycomb the staff use for its antimicrobial value. Related: Small cruise line treats the whole world as one ocean While the hospital is called the Sea Turtle Rescue Center, they don’t discriminate here. The fully functioning center cares for any type of injured turtle and also works on other reptiles and birds . Public Awareness and Education The center’s founder, Dr. Terry Norton, grew up in Utah far from sea turtles, but his affection for reptiles grew during his residency in Gainesville, Florida. In the early 2000s, Norton worked on Saint Catherine’s Island, 40 miles north of Jekyll. Part of his wildlife health program was developing a global assessment of sea turtle health. He saw the need for a sea turtle hospital on the Georgia coast and opened the Jekyll Island facility in 2007. Since then, he and his staff have treated more than 3,000 patients and welcome 100,000 visitors annually. Why involve the public in turtle medical care? The center “wanted to raise awareness and educate the public as well,” says Dwelle. Five of the world’s seven species of sea turtles swim through waters along Georgia’s 100 mile coastline, all either threatened or endangered . Jekyll Island is prime nesting territory, especially for the Loggerhead sea turtle. Leatherbacks and Green sea turtles occasionally nest here. Kemp’s Ridley and Hawksbill turtles also pass through Georgia waters. This year, center staff identified 198 loggerhead nests on the island, with about 120 eggs in each nest. During July and August, the hatchlings fight their way out of their shells, then pour out of nests on the beach and trek to the sea just before sunrise. Most visitors to the turtle center opt for the $9 ticket, which gets them into an exhibit area with interactive displays. They can peer through a large microscope and learn about trash in the ocean. They can also visit the rehab area, a sultry building full of turtles in tubs or look through a window into the medical treatment room. Behind the Scenes in the Hospital Devoted turtle lovers— and those with a little more cash to spend on their travels— can join one of the other tours the center offers. Depending on the month, visitors may be able to accompany staff to nesting sites at night or in the early morning, and there’s a sea turtle camp for kids. Instead of watching the treatment from behind glass, groups of six can stand right in the treatment room and watch Dr. Norton assess turtles. Visitors can also learn about the nebulization chamber where snakes with fungal infections inhale a mist of medicine . Most of the center’s patients stay two to six months before being released. The staff here sometimes give future turtles a helping hand by transferring wild-laid eggs into an incubator. This is especially true when turtles lay their eggs too close to the road on the causeway that connects Jekyll Island to the mainland. The causeway is “a high, dry place those ladies like to look to build their nests,” says Dwelle. “But unfortunately, who else is out there on the causeway? We are. In our cars.” Human transportation is hard on turtles. While on land, they risk being hit by car but in the sea, boat strikes are a top hazard. The center also participates in other reptile-related projects, such as radio-tracking the island’s Eastern Diamondback rattlesnakes. Turtle Gourmets “So our sea turtles might be eating better than us,” says Dwelle serving the turtles mackerel, shrimp and blue crab, which is considerably restaurant -quality seafood. New patients get their food filleted for them but once they’re stronger they get whole seafood and live fiddler crabs just before being released. Staff arrange greens in a PVC pipe with holes cut out, which they sink to the bottom of turtle tubs. This way the patients remember to look for seagrass on the ocean floor when they eventually return to the sea. Each turtle gets a personalized diet, sometimes fortified with special vitamins and calcium. Helping Turtles Many of the hospitalized turtles could easily have escaped injury if humans had been more careful. Keeping your distance from nests ensure that hatchlings stand a better chance at survival. And most importantly, don’t litter. “When you’re on the beach, be careful with fishing lines,” says Mary Van Gundy, a volunteer vet technician at the center. “Make sure you gather them up and throw them away.” She’s amazed by the trash she finds, especially cigarette butts. Slowing down, whether in a boat or a car, will prevent many accidents. Maybe that’s what the stoic Gwyneth is trying to tell me as she silently opens her mouth. Images via Inhabitat

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Behind the scenes at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Small cruise line treats the whole world as one ocean

July 26, 2019 by  
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Cruising between ports in Canada’s Maritime Provinces, the passengers and crew gather in a bar for the fundraising auction. The crew members take turns playing auctioneer, spinning wildly exaggerated tales of the attributes of lighthouse-shaped magnets, a maple syrup cookbook and a bottle of whiskey. Passengers get into a bidding war over a maple leaf mug, with a winning price of $60. The One Ocean Expeditions’ flag that’s been flying on the ship goes for over $200. It’s a silly and fun event that raises almost $1,200 for the cruise line’s favorite ocean-related charities, including the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, Scott Polar Research Institute and the penguin-tracking Oceanites. Over the past eight years, One Ocean’s passengers have contributed nearly half a million dollars toward conservation groups. This is just one way that the small, British Columbia-headquartered company balances business with social and environmental responsibility. As stated in One Ocean Expeditions’ philosophy on its website, “We view the world as one large ocean containing a series of large islands. So, it stands to reason that our actions in one part of the ocean will trickle down and have an effect in another part.” The company strives to give guests a fun and memorable travel experience while being a model of ecological sensitivity. Respectful port visits One Ocean Expeditions gives a lot of thought to partnering with its destinations, whether visiting wilderness or developed communities. Since the company began with polar expeditions, biosecurity has always been extremely important. To be sure that passengers aren’t bringing seeds and other contaminants ashore, guests must check their zippers and Velcro for debris and scrape out the treads of their shoes. Passengers line up to vacuum backpack pockets and closures on jackets. Everyone must also dip the soles of their shoes in a special chemical bath before visiting certain ports. Related: Meet Maya Ka’an — Mexico’s newest ecotourism destination On the Fins and Fiddles cruise of eastern Canada , the only stop that requires biosecurity measures is Sable Island. This long, narrow island southeast of Nova Scotia is famous for its wild horses and enormous gray seal colony. Bird life is also abundant. Ipswich sparrows nest here, and roseate terns will let you know you’re getting too close to their quarters by dive-bombing your head. “In Canada, Sable Island is really special to a lot of people,” Alannah Phillips, park manager of Sable Island National Park Reserve , told Inhabitat. “It has kind of a magic and mystery to it that people want to make sure it’s protected.” Only about 450 people per year manage to visit this remote island. Visiting requires special permits, and nobody but Parks Canada staff and a few qualified researchers are allowed to spend the night ashore. One Ocean Expeditions is one of the few small cruise lines to obtain a permit. The boot wash is the most important part of biosecurity, Phillips said, because the chemicals kill diseases that could be transported from horse farms. “You get a lot of horse people who want to go to Sable Island.” This is one of the most as-is beaches people will ever see. Seal skulls, shark vertebrae, plastics — all sorts of things litter the beach. What looks like kelp turns out to be long, unraveled seal intestines. “It’s an amazing platform to teach people,” Phillips said. “Even though it’s 175 kilometers from the mainland in middle of the Atlantic Ocean, what you drop in the water wherever you are can end up on Sable Island.” Helium balloons, coconuts and sneakers regularly wash up. The most exciting find Phillips remembers was a message in a bottle dropped from a Scottish ocean liner in the 1930s. Other Canadian stops feature low-impact activities, such as biking the Confederation Trail on Prince Edward Island, hiking in Highlands National Park on Cape Breton Island and taking a guided history walk of the ghost town island Ile aux Marins off Saint Pierre and Miquelon. A fleet of kayaks and stand-up paddle boards offer other planet-healthy options. Sustainable cruising One Ocean Expeditions is a tiny cruise line. At the moment, it’s only running one ship, the 146-passenger RCGS Resolute, which burns marine gas oil, a cleaner alternative than the cheaper heavy fuel oil. The ship avoids traveling at full speed, preferring a leisurely pace that reduces emissions while interfering less with the navigation and communication of marine animals. Cabin bathrooms feature fragrant biodegradable soap, shampoo and conditioner in refillable dispensers, made by an ethical producer on Salt Spring Island, Canada. Every guest gets a reusable water bottle. This is convenient, as there’s a water bottle filling station on every deck. Announcements over the loudspeaker remind passengers to bring their water bottles on expeditions, and One Ocean hauls a huge water dispenser ashore in case bottles run dry. Even the on-board gym offers a water dispenser but no cups. If you forget your water bottle, well, consider walking back to your cabin to retrieve it as part of your workout. One Oceans Expeditions has taken the #BePlasticWise pledge and is part of the United Nations Environment Programme’s “Clean Seas” working group, which aims to drastically reduce the consumption of single-use plastic . The cruise line regularly hosts scientists who do on-board research ranging from collecting meteorological data to tagging and tracking migrant whale populations to measuring plastic pollution in sea water. “OOE also takes part annually in the ‘Clean-up Svalbard’ program to protect the fragile ecosystem of the Norwegian Arctic,” according to Victoria Dowdeswell, part of One Ocean’s marketing and business development team. “Here, both staff and guests collect rubbish and assorted debris from fishing vessels, which are carried via the Gulf Stream to Svalbard’s shores each year. OOE know that there is only one ocean and that we all need to work to protect it.” + One Oceans Expeditions Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Small cruise line treats the whole world as one ocean

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