An eco-travel guide to Bend, Oregon

January 7, 2020 by  
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Bend, Oregon is a sunny spot in a state known for rain. This area of central Oregon is the fourth fastest growing region in the country. About nine people move there daily, often because they want a healthy outdoor lifestyle and a smaller town. Tourists love this town of 81,000, too. If you’re venturing that way, leash up Fido; Dog Fancy magazine once nicknamed it Dog Town, USA. Bend outdoors Start your Bend adventure with an easy walk around downtown. Incorporated in 1905, Bend has many attractive, century-old buildings that now serve as cafes and boutiques. Crow’s Feet Commons is a must-visit for outdoorsy types who stop in for ski boot fitting, bike shopping and Oregon craft beers. If you’re ready to pick up the pace, check out Bend’s 51 miles of in-town trails. For a short run, the 3-mile Deschutes River Trail loop is very pretty, and you don’t even have to leave town to enjoy it. Visiting runners can pick up trail maps and connect with locals at FootZone , a running shoe store that sponsors running events. Bend is probably best known as a magnet for rock climbers. About 25 minutes outside of Bend, the 651-acre Smith Rock State Park attracts climbers from around the world. It offers challenges for all levels, from newbies taking their first lessons with local climbing schools to pros ready to tackle the 500-foot volcanic rock walls. If you prefer to keep your feet firmly planted on a trail, the park also offers a lovely, flat trail along Crooked River and a steep climb to the tops of cliffs. Seventy miles southeast of Bend, the Fort Rock State Natural Area makes for a geologically intriguing day trip. Fort Rock is a volcanic tuff ring that rises 325 feet above the surrounding high desert plain. This is a magical, quiet place, with soft, sandy trails, scrubby bushes and orange and chartreuse lichen coating the rocks. The nearby Homestead Village Museum is an interesting collection of old buildings, including a small church and a one-room schoolhouse. Did you bring Fido? After a day of exploring Bend and environs, stop by Pine Nursery Park so he can cool off on the seasonal splash pad. Join a canine-friendly canoe adventure with local outfitter Wanderlust Tours . Don’t forget a doggy life jacket made by the Bend-based company Ruff Wear. Bend wellness Jinsei Spa is a local favorite for facials, massages and body treatments using natural and organic ingredients. Namaspa Yoga Community offers public yoga classes in the Baptiste power and yin styles, as well as yoga for groups such as seniors, people in recovery and inmates at the local jail. They also provide Reiki, massage, cupping and energetic healing. Those who like to drink while doing yoga will enjoy Bend Beer Yoga . While these teachers usually hold classes in craft breweries, they may also add the odd cocktail, cider or glass of wine . Plant-based restaurants in Bend For vegan burgers, milkshakes and fries, visit the original location of the Bend-based chain Next Level Burger . Its house-made burger patties feature combinations of quinoa, mushrooms, beans, chia seeds and other nutritious ingredients. Taj Palace has an excellent lunch buffet with several vegan dishes. In addition to curries, Taj Palace also serves South Indian specialties like idlis, vadas and dosas. The cheery interior and friendly staff make it an extra nice place for a meal. Bethlyn’s Global Fusion is a cute cafe with a wide-ranging menu. Vegan choices include a Thai coconut curry bowl or a Vietnamese lettuce wrap. Lots of menu items can be made vegan upon request. For a fancier night out, Joolz is a Mediterranean-themed restaurant that uses the tag line “where the Middle East meets the Wild West.” Delicious menu items include dukkah nuts, an appetizer of toasted bread, olive oil and crushed mixed nuts flavored with coriander and cumin. The vegetarian platter provides a good variety of Mediterranean foods, such as tiny stuffed grape leaves, garbanzo beans and roasted cauliflower. Ice cream-lovers flock to Bonta Natural Artisan Gelato . The shop crafts inventive flavors, including a few sorbets and coconut-based ice creams for those avoiding dairy. Bend’s public transit While a car is very convenient for traveling outside Bend to places like Smith Rock, it’s possible to fly into Bend and get around town without driving. Cascades East Transit provides bus service in Bend and to nearby towns. It also operates recreation-based shuttles, including the Ride the River bus during the summer for folks floating the Deschutes River and the Mt. Bachelor shuttle in winter for skiers . The Ride Bend shuttle cruises around downtown and the Old Mill District during summer. There’s also a bike share program run by Oregon State University – Cascades. It’s open to the public as well as students. Uber and Lyft operate in Bend, too. Sustainable hotels in Bend The Oxford Hotel in downtown Bend is especially known as a chic, boutique eco-hotel. It was built with sustainable materials and operates on 100 percent renewable energy . The Riverhouse on the Deschutes is Oregon’s only LEED Silver hotel and convention center, featuring high-efficiency HVAC and renewable energy. If you want to go for LEED Gold, the Helios Eco-House is available as a vacation rental. The McMenamins Old Saint Francis School is a 1936 schoolhouse that was turned into a hotel . Highlights include a movie theater and an extensive collection of works by local artists . Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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An eco-travel guide to Bend, Oregon

The eco-friendly wellness guide to Savannah, Georgia

January 2, 2020 by  
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Savannah is just as beautiful as it looks in pictures. Since Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil — both the book and the movie — came out in the 1990s, tourism has ramped up in this Southern town known for its 22 park-like squares, sultry summers and Spanish moss dripping from trees. But Savannah also has a modern overlay, thanks in part to the Savannah College of Art & Design, or SCAD, which has renovated deteriorating buildings and attracted talented youth from around the world since its founding in 1978. Today, this Georgia city of 145,000 appeals to visitors who appreciate history, art, ghosts, romantic architecture, Southern culture and a bit of quirkiness. Here are some sustainable stops throughout the city. Savannah outdoors The pace is slow in Savannah, especially if you visit in the summer. Walking around town, reading historic plaques in the squares and on the Savannah River waterfront, wandering into shops and talking with people is probably the best way to get a feel for the town. If you like a more structured outing, Savannah has a plethora of walking tours, with history, architecture and paranormal activity topping the list. It’s no wonder — Georgia’s oldest city, Savannah was established in 1733 and endured fighting in both the Revolutionary and Civil wars. Related: SCAD students save a piece of American history with vintage train car restoration In keeping with the paranormal and historical themes, Savannah has some of the country’s most beautiful graveyards. Bonaventure Cemetery, located on a bluff overlooking the Wilmington River, has the grandest monuments. The wide paved lanes are a nice place to stroll. Those who prize cardio workouts will enjoy an early morning visit to 30-acre Forsyth Park, where you’ll encounter locals running and doing walking lunges around the shady, 1.8-mile, figure 8-shaped loop. Historic mansions and monuments ring this flat course with a lovely fountain in the middle. Great Runs has also mapped a 6-mile running tour that hits every square and Forsyth Park. If you like to see places from the water, Savannah Canoe and Kayak offers tours of Little Tybee Island, or they’ll take you inland to see the forested creeks and wildlife of Skidaway Narrows. Because Savannah is only 18 miles inland from the Atlantic coast, many people also visit Tybee Island. This barrier island has wide beaches, a lighthouse and a fort. The League of American Bicyclists deemed Tybee one of the most bike -friendly communities. Several rental shops let you explore the island on two wheels. Wellness in Savannah Savannah’s many yoga studios include friendly Dancing Dogs Yoga right on the main drag downtown. Savannah Yoga Center offers events like learning to read tarot and pendulums, as well as a full schedule of yoga classes. Those who appreciate the healing power of felines will enjoy Pounce Cat Café and Wine Bar , where you’ll find approximately 20 adoptable cats cavorting or napping on any given day. If you’re pressed for time, you can get a 10-minute pass for just $5. Roots Up Gallery is an inspiring place to delve into Southern folk art . As the gallery’s website explains, the self-taught painters, jewelers, sculptors and potters they represent “possess a soulful style that is borne from within.” Vegan restaurants in Savannah The Fox and Fig Café is Savannah’s leading plant-based restaurant. The raw lasagna is deliciously flavorful, and the shakes, made with local favorite Leopold’s coconut ice cream, are very popular. You can even get a vegan truffle flight here. Kayak Kafé on Broughton, one of the main streets downtown, has clearly marked vegetarian and vegan dishes, including vegan tacos with walnut meat. Sit outside for optimal people-watching. People come to the Sentient Bean for espresso drinks and vegan chia yogurt in the morning, and plant-based dinners and local musicians at night. Wednesday nights, the Sentient Bean hosts meetings of the Psychotronic Film Society. Getting around Savannah When your feet get tired, you can hop on the DOT, a free bus that serves 24 stops in the Historic District and the Savannah Belles Ferry. It runs until midnight every day but Sunday, when service stops at 9 p.m. The Savannah Belles Ferry connects downtown with the convention center and Hutchinson Island. If you’re going farther afield, Chatham Area Transit serves Savannah and Chatham County. A shuttle bus service runs from downtown Savannah to Tybee Island in spring and summer. Uber and Lyft both operate in Savannah. Savannah eco-hotels How you feel about spectral visitors might drive your Savannah lodging decisions, because many of the hotels claim to have resident ghosts. The Marshall House generally wins accolades for being the most haunted, while the 1960s restored retro Thunderbird Inn might be the least. The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa follows a long list of sustainability practices, including irrigating with gray water, organic waste composting and salt water pool and hot tub systems. The Kimpton Brice offers guests free use of bikes and supplies a yoga mat in every room. Images by Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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8 attainable sustainability resolutions for 2020

January 1, 2020 by  
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Setting goals is a ubiquitous part of ushering in each new year. With a renewed vigor for healthy living, embrace the opportunity to incorporate more eco-friendly habits into your routine. This task can be achieved in a variety of ways, from changing your diet to reducing waste . Wherever you are on your sustainable living journey, we’ve got some ideas for how to lower your carbon footprint and enhance your sense of commitment to the planet. Commit to less driving Reducing miles equals reducing carbon emissions . To minimize personal auto usage, use public transportation for your daily commute. If subways and buses don’t take you where you need to go, set up a carpool to eliminate multiple cars going to the same location. Over the course of a year, replacing your 10-mile drive to work or school at least one day each week will greatly reduce emissions. If possible, skip the car altogether by walking or using a bike. Alternately, look into electric cars if you’re in the market for a new vehicle. Even if you must rely on your car daily, you can still reduce miles by combining errands when you head to town, organizing a carpool for kid drop-offs and pickups, sending the kids to school on the bus, eating your lunch in the office instead of driving to a restaurant and walking or biking to places in your neighborhood instead of jumping in the car. Related: People for Bikes is making cycling safer with Ride Spot Start a garden There’s nothing better than having fresh, organic vegetables at your disposal and no better way to achieve that goal than by starting a garden. If you have the space, plan for the seasons with cool weather leafy veggies and carrots in the spring, a salsa garden in the summer and squash in the fall. In a small space, prepare a container garden on your patio with cherry tomatoes, herbs and peas. If you don’t have space for your own garden, bring together like-minded people and start a community garden. As the saying goes, “Many hands make light work,” so having help with planting, maintaining and harvesting plants benefits everyone. If outdoor space isn’t an option, consider setting up a hydroponics system to grow indoors instead. Join an environmentally focused group Finding ways to help the environment can feel somewhat overwhelming, but when you join a group of like-minded people sharing in a common goal, you can achieve great things. Whether your passion is cleaning up the oceans or planting trees , find a local group that supports your cause. If there isn’t one in your area, set a goal to start one. Budget for the environment We are surrounded by prompts to constantly buy more stuff. Every billboard, bus and storefront is filled with enticing marketing meant to convince you that you need whatever they offer. But each product contributes to emissions from sourcing materials, manufacturing, transporting, maintaining warehouse and retail space and disposing of post-consumer waste. Of course, it’s important to make conscientious decisions about avoiding plastic and plastic foam, buying in bulk when possible and investing in durable products that will last many years rather than disposables, but avoiding the purchase in the first place is the best thing you can do for the planet. Boil purchases down to the essentials. Give experiences rather than physical gifts. Only buy in quantities you’re likely to use. Focus on multipurpose items that can suit alternate needs. Really evaluate whether you will use an item long-term. Set a goal to reduce unnecessary purchases, and do your budget a favor at the same time. Hint: Sharing or renting equipment, tools and supplies is another easy way to save money and reduce environmental impact. Take a class There are endless ways to lower your carbon footprint , so target a topic of interest and learn more about it. Some examples include beekeeping, preserving food, woodworking, sewing, gardening or learning how to build solar and wind technology. Become more self-sufficient by obtaining skills in homesteading, identifying edible plants or using plants in alternative ways. Reduce waste Becoming conscious of your waste is a huge step toward reducing it. Take a look at your typical waste. Do you fill a 64-gallon street container each week? If so, see if you can reduce that to a 32-gallon instead. If you don’t already, start recycling . Capabilities of local recycling centers vary widely across the nation, so educate yourself on the regional process. Most facilities accept glass, tin cans, large plastic containers and paper — at a minimum. Also, always return your bottles and aluminum cans for recycling or redemption. Related: Recycling Identifying Device takes the guesswork out of figuring out what is recyclable To repeat an earlier sentiment, the best way to reduce garbage is to keep it from entering the house in the first place. Look at the packaging when you make a purchase, and support companies that ship in recyclable or biodegradable containers. Set a tangible goal for yourself to reduce your waste production by half. Maybe next year, you can halve it again. Write a letter Believe it or not, companies want to know how you feel about their products. When you notice something you like, such as a commitment to carbon offsetting or sustainable material sourcing, let them know with your buying power and your word. Conversely, let businesses know when they miss the mark. Write a letter to the CEO or owner, and let them know you would be a loyal customer if they worked toward corporate responsibility. Near and far, make companies aware of changes they can make to be more sustainable. Offer suggestions to local restaurants to replace plastic straws or single-use plastic tablecloths. Ask if to-go containers are cardboard, and refuse them if an establishment only provides plastic foam. At a city, state or federal level, get your representative involved. Drop them a note each month of the year to let them know what is important to you. Educate them about issues they may not be aware of. Ask for representation around topics like reducing petroleum reliance, protecting nature and supporting organic farming. Make your voice heard by speaking out for what you believe. Clean your plate Feeding the planet’s population puts a burden on our limited resources, but there are many things you can do to lessen your individual impact. Start by buying as local as possible. Source food from the farmer’s market seasonally, and purchase directly from farms in your town. Buying organic produce supports farmers who make the extra effort to keep pesticides and other chemicals out of our waterways. You don’t want to eat chemical-laden food, anyway. Cut back on animal products, because animal farming is a major producer of methane. Skip meat a few days a week or altogether. Cut out dairy products where you can, too. Don’t buy more food than you need , and use up leftovers rather than throwing them out. Do most of your cooking at home. A commitment to home-cooked meals is better for your health, your budget and the planet. Setting resolutions for the new year is a healthy way to guide yourself toward your sustainability goals, which is a win for you and for Earth. Happy New Year! Images via Shutterstock

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Biggest environmental news stories of the decade

December 31, 2019 by  
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As we begin a new decade, we’re taking a look over the biggest environmental news stories since 2010. There’s a little good news, and a lot of not-so-good news. Still, we can look back and learn from what is happening in the hopes of taking action and restoring a brighter future for our planet. Climate change moves into the mainstream, and more kids get involved While a few climate deniers still fill high-ranking political posts, climate change is much more widely accepted as fact — rather than something to “believe in” — than it was in 2010. According to the TED blog, only four TED Talks specifically on climate change were posted in 2010 and 2011, although speakers mentioned the phenomenon. By 2015, TED said, people had shifted to seeing climate change as happening now, rather than in the far-off future, thanks to debates about whether or not places like the island nation of Kiribati were already sinking. Related: 12 good things that happened for the environment in 2019 By the end of the decade, climate change is on the forefront of many people’s minds, especially young people. Worldwide movements like Extinction Rebellion use massive, nonviolent protests to urge politicians to slow the warming. Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg rose to international prominence, taking politicians to task about ignoring climate change and even being named Time Magazine’s person of the year in 2019. Deepwater Horizon The decade started with a tragic oil spill on April 20, 2010, one of the worst in history. The explosion on British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig operating in the Gulf of Mexico, killed 11 people. It leaked oil into the gulf for 87 days, for a total of 3.19 million barrels of crude oil polluting the coasts of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Images of people trying to wipe oil off pelican wings filled the news. Cleanup costs reached at least $65 billion . In addition to economic blows, especially to Louisiana’s shrimp and oyster industries, the animal death toll was high. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, about 82,000 birds, 6,165 sea turtles, 25,900 marine mammals and uncountable numbers of fish perished in the spill. Researchers are still gauging the long-term effects. Extreme weather events become more frequent As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned, global warming escalates weather disasters. The last decade saw 111 climate-related natural disasters that each cost more than $1 billion in damage. These include tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, drought, heatwaves and winter storms. In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, killing 2,981 people and costing an estimated $93.6 billion in damages. Notable U.S. disasters included Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the Missouri tornadoes of 2011. Animal extinctions Humans continued to edge out other animals in the struggle for habitat and resources. According to the World Wildlife Fund , species loss currently stands at between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate, which is the rate Earth would lose species if humans didn’t exist. In 2012, Lonesome George, the last Pinta tortoise , died at over 100 years old. Formosan clouded leopards no longer slink across Taiwan. The Christmas Island pipistrelle, a microbat, has ceased its ultrasonic squeaking. No more baiji dolphins cavort in the Yangtze River. In this last decade, the planet also lost Caribbean monk seals, West African black rhinos, Madagascar hippopotami and Liverpool pigeons. Rainforest deforestation The decade’s final year witnessed much of the Amazonian rainforest go up in smoke. Brazil and Bolivia were particularly hit hard. Many attributed this tragedy at least in part to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s push for development over preservation. Horrifying photos from the National Institute for Space Research revealed enormous bald swaths where trees once stood. During its peak in August 2019, more than 70,000 individual fires were burning. The rainforest plays a critical role in regulating the entire world’s climate, so concerns stretched far beyond Brazil. Related: Amazon rainforest might reach irreversible tipping point as early as 2021 Increase in ocean plastic During the last decade, plastic continued to fill the oceans. But awareness of ocean plastic also grew. A 2018 United Nations study reported that people dump approximately 13 million tons of plastic into the world’s oceans annually, and the researchers expected this number to grow. At the same time, many concerned citizens in cities around the world worked to decrease plastic waste by banning straws and plastic bags. Some hotel chains vowed to no longer stock beverages packaged in single-use plastic bottles. Many companies started developing products made from recycled plastic. Reusable water bottles became an important fashion accessory. China stopped buying American recycling Americans became more adept at recycling , but they weren’t necessarily aware where their recycled goods went. In 2018, China enacted a policy called National Sword. Suddenly, Americans realized their old plastic had largely been going to China , but China didn’t want it anymore. Now at the end of the decade, American cities are scrambling to save unprofitable recycling programs. Ironically, some cities have canceled these programs just when they’ve convinced people to recycle. Right now, it’s cheaper for American companies to produce new plastic than to recycle old. This is one of the many environmental problems that must be addressed in the coming decade. Images via Shutterstock

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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

How to have a sustainable NYE party

December 30, 2019 by  
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With a New Year to ring in, what better time to begin your sustainable efforts for 2020 than during an eco-conscious NYE party? Here are some of Inhabitat’s recommendations for how to enjoy the festivities in green ways. Vegan treats For Earth-friendly food fare, offer fruits and vegetables as your smorgasbord. Source fruits and vegetables from your local farmer, farmers’ market or farm cooperative, or choose organic at the grocery store. For those guests who prefer a charcuterie board, choose vegan cheeses, and you can even find vegan jerky from FOREAL Foods Coconut Jerky , Pan’s Mushroom Jerky , Primal Spirit Foods Meatless Jerky , Unisoy Wholesome Wonders Jerky and Watermelon Road Jerky . Related: 6 sustainably crafted cocktails for New Year’s Eve Low- or zero-waste celebration Go digital by opting for email invites rather than paper invitations. Rather than excessively decorating for the party, opt for simplicity. Also, when decorating, avoid glitter or synthetic confetti, beads and especially anything sparkly, for those excesses can wind their way into the ocean or the environment to disrupt wildlife and their habitats. Try LED tea lights or soy candles to add more eco-conscious ambiance to your soiree without worrying too much about energy waste . If your celebration is being held outdoors, there are solar-powered lights, including fairy lights and garden lights, to set the scene for a celebration. Plastic-free party planning Rather than turning to unnecessary plastic decorations and party goods, choose sustainably sourced and biodegradable materials, such as bamboo, canvas, cloth, recycled paper or wood. Plastic-free decorations can be purchased at Bio & Chic , Botanical Paperworks and Eco Party Time . Paper lanterns and glass cloches are greener than balloons, too. Organic cotton, bamboo fiber and other sustainable fabrics are lovely for any New Year’s Eve gathering. Use these fabrics to make bunting and banners. Even the photo booth can be decorated with fabric to supplement and enhance makeshift structures devised from cardboard boxes. Make sure to raid your local thrift store for secondhand or vintage costumes. There are always wooden pipes, wool scarves, top hats, cloth togas and other unusual apparel to entertain your guests as they pose for pictures at the photo booth. Biodegradable or reusable serving utensils Dinnerware can be eco-friendly, thanks to palm leaf, banana leaf, bamboo , sugarcane and paper products that are both recyclable and compostable. Some of these can be purchased through online stores like the Eco Products store, Susty Party and TreeChoice . Choose real glasses over plastic cups. Not only is glassware eco-friendly, but it will certainly make your party guests feel classy and chic. If you don’t have quite enough glassware to cover your guest list, you can find more at your local thrift store. Horns, shakers and noisemakers No New Year’s Eve celebration is complete without noisemakers. How else will celebrants greet the New Year at midnight than with some form of triumphant, thunderous noise? For eco-friendly noisemakers, consider DIY versions of party horns, party blowers and rattles. For DIY rattles, stuff a metal container with coins, pencils or pebbles. For maracas, try raw beans or raw rice in wood containers. If you don’t have time to go the DIY route, consider visiting a thrift shop or even a music store. There, you can look for bells, cabasas, castanets, chimes, claves, cymbals, egg shakers, gongs, harmonicas, recorders, tambourines, triangles, whistles, woodblocks and other percussion instruments. Eco-friendly, functional party favors To go the extra mile, some hosts like to provide party favors. Why not gift eco-friendly ones that are functional? For example, Burt’s Bees lip balm might be appropriate for those shy about chapped lips before the New Year’s midnight kiss. Accessorize guests in allergy-free, cruelty-free, faux fur and featherless boas from Happy Boa . Add in a vegan leather or wood keychain. Include seed packets and mini succulents to help guests cultivate their green thumbs in the New Year. Organic champagne or sparkling cider Before you pop the bubbly, check the labels. Find organic or biodynamic varieties of champagne and sparkling cider to serve guests, who will enjoy toasting to the new year in green style. Related: The differences between organic, natural, biodynamic and sustainable wines Alternatives to fireworks Fireworks are harmful to nocturnal wildlife , especially migrating birds, insects, bats and more. The chemicals associated with fireworks also percolate into the water and soil, further harming ecosystems. Instead, replace fireworks with piñatas filled with vegan goodies. Another possibility is to have a light show indoors with DIY disco balls. There are also non-toxic bubbles that can be homemade from various recipes online. Images via Annie Spratt , Pen Ash , Swab Design , Tom Pumford , Sweet Mellow Chill , Joanna Kosinska , Freestocks , Frédéric Paulussen and Lumpi

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How to have a sustainable NYE party

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

Gift loved ones with classes that teach and build nature skills

December 20, 2019 by  
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Rather than gifting a material object this holiday season, opt to give an “experience” gift. Not only will it help minimize waste and clutter, but an experience gift can also be wonderfully green and intrinsically fulfilling. How so? Experience gifts, for instance, lead to quality bonding time, new skills and shared memories, all of which are priceless. Here are our top suggestions for nature courses and classes for the whole family, and be sure to check locally for nature courses near you. Wilderness survival There are various experience gifts out there, and Inhabitat celebrates those that teach about nature and cultivate an appreciation for the outdoors. Sometimes being in nature calls for wilderness survival skills for better preparedness, adaptability, endurance, resourcefulness and resilience in improvising during unexpected situations. Survival might require knowing how to tie knots and cordage, as well as knowing how to fashion and utilize stone tools. Wilderness survival classes will teach all of that and more. Related: 5 common weeds you can make into healthy (and free) teas Ice climbing and mountaineering The outdoors are best enjoyed year-round; even the winter can be an excellent time to commune with nature. What better way to do so than by partaking in ice climbing or mountaineering? Find a course near you to learn the skills needed to succeed in these athletic activities. Fly-fishing Fly-fishing appeals to many outdoor enthusiasts. This skill isn’t the same as catching fish with a simple fishing pole or net. To learn the angler intricacies of this pastime, check out Blue Quill Angler , Cabela’s Fly Fishing University , Fly Fishing Coach International , Lillard Fly Fishing and Orvis’ Fly Fishing Learning Center . Falconry lessons Falconry has been known as the “sport of emperors,” for it has long been a passion of many monarchs and historical figures. Modern falconry mainly cultivates a bond between falconer and falcon, birder and raptor. In other words, modern falconry is about avian stewardship , especially because one has to be licensed with the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife or a similar local organization, such as a state wildlife department or agency, depending on your location. But the experience is a rewarding one because of the meticulous care that must be given to falcons and raptors. To learn more, contact the North American Falconers Association (NAFA) , which has been protecting and serving North American falconry since 1961. Celestial navigation Seafarers have been known to orient themselves in the open ocean by the night sky. The night sky and its stars are all part of the natural world; hence, learning to identify the constellations and other astronomical wonders will instill a deeper appreciation for nature. You can learn how to orient yourself by stargazing, thanks to resources offered by the American Sailing Association , The Great Courses and U.S. Sailing , just to name a few. Foraging Foraging is all about searching for food and particular plants. One can forage for savory spices, edible mushrooms, herbs and even medicinal plants. Foraging courses abound including at establishments like Backyard Forager , Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine , forageSF , Grow Forage Cook Ferment , Herbal Academy and Wild Plant Guide . A directory of foraging organizations is also available here . Related: Incredible edible landscape map shows you where to find free food Identifying trees and shrubs Woody plants , like trees and shrubs, come in all shapes and sizes. You can expand your knowledge of them by taking courses on identifying their characteristics and learning about the landscapes in which they can be found. Identifying animals and their tracks Besides identifying plants for foraging purposes, there are also courses that assist with identifying mammals, birds and other animals , not just by their appearance but also by their calls and spoor. Some of the best places to learn more about obtaining these skills include Adventure Out (which also offers programs for corporate retreats and team-building events), Earth Skills , Earthwork Programs , Natural Awareness Tracking School , Nature Tracking , Naturalist Ventures , Tracker School and Tracker Certification from CyberTracker North America . Homesteading Homesteading is essentially a lifestyle of self-sufficiency, with reliance on subsistence agriculture and permaculture, preservation of food via canning and drying, a return to simple textiles and an affinity for the traditions of earlier eras. Modern homesteaders also tend to rely on renewable energy, be it solar or wind power. Courses on homesteading include aquaponics, beekeeping, bread and cheese making, organic gardening, permaculture, homemaking and farm management. Images via Shutterstock

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Gift loved ones with classes that teach and build nature skills

Pamper your partner with these eco-friendly gift ideas

December 18, 2019 by  
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Getting your significant other a holiday gift can be a daunting task, but if you go green, you’ll win every time. Here are Inhabitat’s recommendations for eco-conscious gifts that will show your partner and the planet plenty of love this holiday season. Repast Supply Co.’s wooden kitchenware and dining furniture Repast Supply Co. is a woodworking company that plants 10 trees for every piece of furniture it builds. Its furniture includes credenzas, dining tables, side tables, seating and benches. The Repast Supply kitchenware product line includes wooden rolling pins, ravioli boxes, bigolaros, polenta boards, cutting boards and wine totes. As an added bonus, it has recipes on its website for dishes like gluten-free ravioli with port-poached pear filling or ricotta-goat cheese ravioli with radishes for the refined palate. Any of these items are a great set-up for many romantic dinners to come. Related: Eco-friendly subscription boxes to gift this holiday season JOCO reusable, glass coffee cups JOCO has been a strong advocate for the “Refuse all plastic, stop disposable waste” message. The company has thereby created reusable coffee cups “designed for a lifetime of use,” thanks to being 100 percent plastic-free and certified non-toxic. Moreover, these reusable cups are “made by artists, not machines,” for they have been “artisan-blown.” Besides the coffee cups, JOCO also offers bottles, glassware and accessories. Accessories include silicone thermal sleeves and splash-safe lids that are 100 percent BPA-free. Recycled glass artworks Upcycling glass is a good way to minimize waste and create eco-art for all to enjoy. For example, Kitras Art Glass makes hand-blown ornaments from recycled glass. Refresh Glass , meanwhile, has rescued over 1.5 million bottles and continues to upcycle them into gifts, like self-watering planters, carafe and glass sets and personalized glass sets. EvrBottle similarly gives bottles new life as tumblers, vases, lamps, jars and candle holders. Bureo sunglasses and skateboards All of Bureo’s products are made from recycled fishing nets . Its top-sellers include skateboards and sunglasses, and it also has the first Jenga game ( called Jenga Ocean ) made from 100 percent recycled fishing nets. Bureo’s gift sets include insulated canteens, flying discs, mugs and surf fins, all made from recycled fishing nets as well. ReFleece ReFleece sources reclaimed textiles from the outdoor industry and makes felt from recycled bottles. The company makes all of its products in the U.S., too. ReFleece merchandise to gift this holiday season includes zippered pocket pouches, slim wallets, e-reader cases, iPad sleeves and wine totes. Personal care products from The Humble Co. Vegan , cruelty-free and certified organic, The Humble Co. has many eco-friendly and socially responsible products on offer. The Humble Brush is described as “the world’s most-sold bamboo toothbrush with a handle made from 100 percent biodegradable, sustainably grown bamboo.” The toothbrushes can be accessorized with a bamboo storage case or a bamboo stand to hold the Humble Brush. The Humble Co. also has natural toothpastes, including tablets, and non-toxic mouthwash that would all make for great stocking-stuffers. Because bamboo is The Humble Co.’s material of choice, it also sells bamboo cotton swabs and reusable, natural bamboo straws. Sleep masks and bedding from SOL Organics For a good night’s rest, consider organic cotton eye masks. Optimal health depends on getting enough sleep, and that can be helped with a sleep mask that both fits comfortably and blocks out the light. Plus, with organic cotton as the material, your partner will sleep better knowing it is eco-friendly. SOL Organics ‘ sleep mask is a fair-trade eye mask that is made of 100 percent organic cotton and has the GOTS certification. SOL Organics’ product inventory also includes sheets, bedding bundles, duvets, downs, and even robes and towels. Birdhouse succulent planter For those who love birds, plants, gardens or all of the above, then Shop Succulents’ living succulent birdhouse kit planter is sure to be a well-loved gift. Made from natural wood and supplied with succulents to plant atop for a green roof , this birdhouse will certainly make your partner smile. Cork yoga mats Yoloha cork yoga mats are comfortable, biodegradeable and recyclable. They also have a great non-slip grip, and cork is naturally antibacterial. With a Yoloha cork yoga mat, your partner can better their personal health and wellness and that of the planet, too. Images via Shutterstock, Repast Supply , JOCO , Jana , Bureo , ReFleece , The Humble Co. and Yoloha Yoga

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DIY: How to make an enchanting terrarium necklace to keep or give as a gift

December 17, 2019 by  
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Highlight life, nature, plants and the planet all in a tiny, encapsulated terrarium. Even better, turn it into a necklace for a unique piece of jewelry that is sure to be a conversation-starter. Since natural gifts are always en vogue, consider making extras for co-workers and family. This fast and easy nature craft is also fun to make with kids. Supplies: 1 glass vial with a cork — you can select the size of your choice, but don’t make it too bulky or so tiny that it is difficult to fill. Make sure it has a hook at the top for the chain, or get a small eye-hook to screw into the cork . 1 necklace chain — keep preferred length in mind Sand or fine gravel Soil Tiny succulents Tweezers Clothespin (optional) Instructions: 1. Create support Depending on your vial, it might need support. You can use a clothespin if your vial is unable to stand up straight. Simply open the clothespin, lower the vial into place and release the clothespin around the vial. Because the bottle is small and light, the clothespin will keep it from tipping over while you work. Related: How to make your own green terrarium to keep or give away for the holidays 2. Layer Once things are secure, begin layering materials into the vial. You can do this using a toothpick, tweezers or a skewer. You can also partially roll a small piece of paper to create a tube to pour materials in. Start with your sand or fine gravel . Depending on the size of your vial or miniature glass bottle, it might take ¼ teaspoon or so. This will help with air flow and drainage. Next, add soil; any enriched soil will work. Don’t worry about these materials collecting on the sides of the glass at this point. You can clean it up to make it pretty in a later step. 3. Add creativity Part of the fun of this process is being creative with your art. Play with different living plants to create the look you want. Moss can be your centerpiece, or you can add small pieces of succulents as a focal point. Just make sure your vessel offers enough space for any greenery you add. If you choose to add succulents, select baby shoots from the base of the plant or even those that have fallen off the plant. Then, allow the stem to dry out for several days before planting it in the terrarium . This keeps it from bringing too much moisture into the terrarium. Although the vessel is small, it still needs to remain balanced for the plant to survive, meaning it shouldn’t be too wet or too dry. If you find your terrarium misting up on the sides, release the cork to let some of the moisture out. 4. Attach chain Now, attach your necklace chain to your hook. Depending on the materials you selected, this can be done by simply sliding the chain through the eye of the hook or by using a small circle to attach the eye-hook to the chain using jewelry pliers or tweezers to pinch it closed. Make sure the chain is securely attached. Test your necklace for your desired length. 5. Cork it Add a drop of water to your terrarium. If this doesn’t clean up any debris that may have collected on the sides during layering, use a damp cotton swab to wipe the sides. Use tweezers to rearrange items as desired. Look at your terrarium from all angles to ensure things are just the way you want them. Then, insert your cork into the vial, and make sure it is firmly in place. 6. Care Your plant can survive in your terrarium for a long time with proper care. Add a tiny amount of water to your terrarium every few days as needed, and be sure to avoid leaving it in direct sunlight, which can dry out your plants. If it does dry out or die, you can easily replace the living plant with another without needing to replace the other materials. Speaking of materials, you will likely have enough to make several terrarium necklaces . Consider introducing the idea to a science classroom, a senior center or as a follow-up for a field trip. Images via Inhabitat

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