Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Going Green when you Travel: Five Favorite Eco-hostels

by Isabel Clift

As demand for greener travel services grows, a new kind of affordable, environmentally-friendly accommodation is springing up in the form of eco-hostels.

Eco-hostels reduce the environmental damage generated by hostel stays in a number of ways, from cutting down on water-usage to recycling waste to running off renewable energy. Rural eco-hostels also help protect and sustain their local area’s wildlife.

Staying at an eco-hostel helps you lighten your trip’s carbon footprint, plus you get to save a few pennies and enjoy the fun and friendliness of budget travel. Browse the list below to discover five fantastic eco-hostels from around the world, and get inspired to plan a greener trip…

Canada: HI Montreal lets you explore all sides of Canada’s coolest city, from bar crawls through its party-central downtown location to picnics and urban bike tours. The hostel uses only biodegradable cleaning products and energy-efficient light-bulbs, and there’s Fairtrade coffee on offer in the cafĂ©. It even gives you reusable grocery bags for runs to the shops!

England: A converted 17th century stable on Norfolk’s eco award-winning Deepdale farm, Deepdale backpackers sits on a gorgeous stretch of coast where you can enjoy everything from watersports to traditional pub lunches. The hostel saves energy with solar panels, low-consumption lighting and ultra-efficient roof insulation and under-floor heating, and there’s a recycling program in place. You’re also encouraged to leave the car at home and explore the local area by bike or public transport.

Ecuador: With 2000 hectares of privately-owned land surrounding the lodge, Sierr Azul Cloud Forest Reserve is the perfect base for discovering the unique plants and wildlife of Ecuador’s best-protected cloud forest. Wildlife-spotting includes spectacled bears and pumas (though you’re more likely to see their tracks!), plus over 300 bird species. Explore on horseback or go on a guided eco-trail deep into the forest, which you can take as a daytrip or a three-night camping expedition.

Italy: Part-way through renovations that’ll give it LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Milan’s Hi Hostel Piero Rotta has grand plans to become one of Italy’s most environmentally-friendly places to stay. The checklist of what’s being installed is impressive to say the least: geothermal heat-pumps will heat the building in winter and cool it in summer, while solar panels will generate energy to run them as well as heat water for showers. Renovations are going on bit by bit so as to cause the least disruption when you stay.

Brazil: Close to Imbassai Beach, the sea and the mouth of the Imbassai River, and situated in a palm grove with monkeys and primates for neighbours, Eco Hostel Lujimba lets you discover a diverse cross-section of the Brazilian natural world. Water is heated by solar panels on the roof, and you can spot humpback whales off the coast in June and July or see baby turtles hatch on the beach from November through to March.

- Isabel Clift writes for HostelBookers, the best place on the web for booking hostels and budget accommodation. As a London-based travel writer and blogger, she’s obsessed with all things Scandinavian and has reviewed hotels from New York to Berlin to Tetbury on past travels. She also has a thing for long-distance train journeys.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Going Green with a push reel mower

A conventional gas powered lawn mower emits on average nearly 90 pounds of carbon dioxide and over 50 pounds of other pollutants into our air every year according to the EPA.

Manual reel mowers are making a comeback and have come a long way in the last few decades. Today's reel mowers are a far cry from the one your grandfather used. "Reel mowers are light, quiet, and virtually maintenance-free," notes L Hundley, Chief Gardening Evangelist at Clean Air Gardening. "The mowers are environmentally friendly, and also better for your grass.

"Rotary mowers tear the grass -- reel mowers cut grass like scissors, leaving a fine spray of clippings as mulch for your yard," he explains. They do take some effort, but they aren't any harder to push than an 80-pound gas mower that isn't self-propelled.

While it does take a bit longer to mow with a manual mower than a power mower, it is a much more pleasant experience. Instead of the roar of a mower, you hear the pleasant mechanical sound of the blades, the chirping of birds and buzzing of insects. Instead of the smell of gas exhaust, you have the smell of fresh air and fresh-cut grass.

With a reel mower, you have a lower purchase price, lower maintenance costs, and much lower environmental costs. And it saves you a trip to the gym.