Posts Tagged ‘sustainable’

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Wee House: Your utopian home available now

by The Green A-Team

Wondering what house to build when you start that utopian community you and your friends have been planning since the economy imploded?

Why not build a weeHouseAlchemy Architects are the sustainable brains behind this elegant solution to the house that stands on it’s own both structurally and energetically.

First produced in 2003, the weeHouse with it’s painted rust finish looks something like a wooden shipping container with large windows cut out.  Ranging from one box studios to 4 box not-so-wee’s, predesigned standards are arranged in various ways, offering a host of sustainable sidings and interiors that best suit your tastes and budget.

Each weeHouse is designed with lighting and appliance features that are highly energy efficient. Renewable energy sources are available to take you even further from the grid.  WeeHomeowners can choose between solar or wind kits or, preferably, a combination of the the two which can provide up to 150 kilowatt hours per week provided there’s at least a light breeze averaging around 12mph.

All told, the price tag for the weeHouse studio module with full solar and wind energy kits stays around $100,000.   For more sustainable dwellings check out some of the following links:

Sustainable and recyclable house made from loofas (Inhabitat)

How to make sustainable housing happen (Treehugger)

A sustainable solution to affordible and sustainable housing (World Architecture News)

FabPrefab (Modernist Prefab Dwellings)

Have a look at these existing weeHouses already built and making people happy:

Photos by Ants Colony!

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Alchemy Architects on making prefabricated housing a reality

by The Green A-Team

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Office waste: Is paperless possible?

by The Green A-Team

Whatever happened to the idea of the paperless office?

As soon as CD-Roms replaced library card catalogs, the notion of swapping physical information for the magic of binary code has enticed business owners in every category to “go paperless.”  Those refusing the intangible wizardry have held onto their markers in place of Macs but have been paying for it not only in storage costs, but environmentally.

Alex Szabo, CEO of the

The better we get with technology and the more pervasive things like video conferencing are as opposed to just calling in on a conference call, the more easier that’s gonna be for folks to palette.

The resources to find a happy balance between the old ways and the new are abundant.  Little things like shutting down all your office equipment at night, setting printers to draft mode, and procuring planet-friendly paper may bring your office’s old ways to an acceptable present.

For the full interview with Alex Szabo, click here.

If your office mates are still too stubborn to follow some simple steps toward sustainable office space, check out some of the following links:

Smart Office

Stocking the green office: Sustainable Supplies (

The Sustainable Office

Sustainable office furniture (

Photo by whiskyx.

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Alex Szabo and his green office (dot com)

by The Green A-Team

Q: How did you come to found

A: I founded the company after a few years working in an area generally termed the sustainability consulting field and after working with too many clients who were looking to establish a green purchasing policy but were having a hard time finding a one-stop solution, eventually I set out to form a company that really served as, like I said, a one-stop resource for all of your office greening needs.  So, is focused on providing folks with all of the products they might need to fill their office and source those on line, shipped next day, with all the great prices.  Of course, we add on top of that a variety of services and information that help extend your office greening initiative beyond the purchasing of office products.

Q: What, as far as you can recall, is the real history of the paperless office as a concept?

A: Yeah, sure.  The concept of the paperless office, as far as I’m concerned, was brought about as we all started going online and began to process our information digitally, the notion that we might be able to rely less and less on the paper and pen started to come about.  I think that the notion is fundamentally a good one; perhaps what we’ve seen over the past decade or so is that our historical attachment to paper is going to be harder to break than some originally might have wished.  So the transformation to the paperless office has certainly not happened in a big revolution but we are seeing folks finding more and more ways to store information digitally or online in hard drives and rely less and less on the paper and pen.

Q: Why have companies been so slow to adopt the paperless office idea?

A: I think there are a few reasons why companies have been slow to adopt the mantra of the paperless office.  One is force of habit.  We’ve been using paper for hundreds of years if not thousands and the systems from our educational systems all the way up to the system we use to store valuable and invaluable information have for a long time relied on paper.  One reason is that folks are reticent to kind of go back on that and store all of their information that isn’t as tangible or easily accessible in a crisis perhaps.  I think other reasons are that there are certainly laws out there, in certain arenas, the legal arena would be one of them, where they are required to have physical hard copies and other systems in place in larger organizations will also require hard copies so there’s a variet of reasons.  I also think people like to put their hands on something.  For a variety of those reasons I think we’ve seen the transition a little bit slower than we otherwise might have.

Q: What are the pros and cons associated with digital vs. physical these days given the technology?

A: I think there are clearly a lot of pros for storing, manipulating information on your computer whether it’s using word processing like Word or an Excel sheet, very very powerful tools so there are a lot of pros there.  The cons are again, folks who are concerned about loss of information to a machine they may not fully understand.  Of course, there are risks of having information corrupted and compromised especially when you’re online.  So those are a few pros and cons on the digital space.  Of course, you have similar issues with hard copy.  You may only have one hard copy especially if you’re writing on it by hand, a piece of paper gets wet, the ink smears, it burns up, so there are risks on both sides.  There are risks on both sides and like I said, I think the clear trend is closer and closer to the paperless office but I still there are some vestiges out there that are going to be harder to remove.

Q: I agree.  Now, there are a whole lot of other things that you can do on the procurement side and policies there but what are your thoughts on telecommuting and the elimination of the traditional office environment altogether?  Is that realistic?  Where’s that going?

A: Again, I think technology and the better we get with technology and the more pervasive things like video conferencing are as opposed to just calling in on a conference call, the more easier that’s going to be for folks to palette.  There is a very visceral difference between just talking to someone on the phone, hearing their voice, as we are now, and meeting with them face to face, there’s a lot of information that’s communicated through body language and so forth.  So I think, more and more we can see each other, hear each other better the more immediate it is and easier it is for us to digitally walk into each other’s offices the more that’s gonna become prevalent.  So that’s one thing and then just, again, force of habit; people getting used to working that way, adjusting working styles, and honing communication skills when you’re not necessarily in the same room with them.

Q: What about new innovations?  Have you seen anything come past your desk that’s caught your eye in recent days or months?

A: Yeah, we’re certainly seeing new products that are moving closer and closer towards the ideal that we call cradle to cradle design where you take into account the full life cycle impact of a product and work to reduce any of the negative impacts along the way.  So we’re seeing all sorts of papers moving closer and closer, 100% post consumer recycled paper has been around for a little while now, now paper is being process without the use of chlorine which is a chemical that can be harmful to the environment and tree-free papers where you’re using other agricultural materials, of course printing tools, we’re seeing more and more printers that are more and more energy efficient.  You have printer settings where you can reduce the amount of ink used you can turn it onto fast or draft mode.  One of the coolest things I’ve seen recently is something we’ve been looking for for a while, our customers have been demanding it and we’re finally seeing the market respond, it’s a toner product petroleum free toner product made with a remanufactured ink and toner cartridge, it’s actually a soy-based toner.  So you combine the energy efficient electronics with recycled or tree-free paper and you’re starting to move closer and closer to a very low-impact printing process.  Something that I like to talk about with folks and I used to advise my clients in the sustainability consulting work I did, you start by looking at what are your real needs for printing?  There are basically two cases where people use paper: they print it up on a traditional printing machine or they’re taking notes, they’re writing with a pen.  So look at each of those two cases and ask yourself when is it really necessary that I do this, and there might be some cases where that’s true and just by doing that, you start to eliminate the use of paper alone.  And then, you switch over when you do actually do need to print something out, you go to a system where your using again energy efficient electronics, soy-based printing, using less by setting your software to draft mode, printing on both sides, using recycled and tree-free papers, you can really start to make an impact.

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Jay Golden, visionary storyteller and environmentalist

by The Green A-Team

It’s fitting that a new generation of storytellers must adapt to the challenges faced by our future generations, namely kids.  Jay Golden, Vice President of New Media at SustainLane Media, is humbly and whimsically leading the charge with a passion for making change fun.

Q: What’s the purpose of creating a cartoon like this?

A: The purpose is very basic; it’s about making change fun.

Q: That’s it.

A: That’s it!  It’s straight up.  Our objective is to create an inspiring media property that shows kids taking action, having a blast, creating great music, collaborating, and changing the world around them through very simple steps.

Q: How old are the kids that you’re trying to reach?

A: Depending on who you ask, it could be anywhere from 6 to 60 but it starts from 6-10.

Q: So parents can get involved too?

A: Yeah, definitely.  Our show is kind of like an antidote to An Inconvenient Truth.  There’s a fair bit of gloom and doom in the media - global warming impending, economic dire straits - and our show is about simple ways to understand complex problems like, for example, mountain top removal.  Well, if you flip a switch in any one of our cities, you are contributing to somewhere a mountain coming down because of coal.  The way we tell that story is that there’s a giant worm, a giant mechanical worm that eats mountains and the kids find out about it and basically they have to come up with a way to turn it around.  So, it’s applicable to all generations but really we’re aiming at kids.

Q: You guys also have a show brining up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  Can you tell me a little about that?

A: Yeah, that was our pilot show.  The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is basically about the North Pacific Gire which many people know is this swirling patch of garbage in the North Pacific about twice the size of texas.  How do you tell that story in a way that’s digestible so that people can understand and realize that when we take these little plastic pieces and toss them in the trash, sometimes they float off the heap and go into the ocean or sometimes plastic bags will float away and go into the ocean.  So in our story, the kids find out that there’s a big island of plastic bags in the North Pacific and they have to go out there, they have to research, figure out what’s going on, all in a kind of fun way, trace it back to what the cause is and then they have to come up with a solution to turn it around and we do it all in a fun and pumpin’ musical way.

Q: It’s definitely fun, the music is awesome, and a lot of the evil goes back to the villain, Wormulus and Dr. Hufflebot.  How did you guys come up with those guys?  Is it one guys with a worm brain?  Tell me a little bit about this character.

A: Dr. Hufflebot has a worm in his head named Wormulus and actually that’s the character that I play.  (Modulates voice) He sounds like this!  “I want results!  Results I need! Not meaningless mush!”  So the worm represents the worm that’s in all our heads, that worm that when you get an idea that you just wanna block off the realities and the natural connections we have to the earth, just that compelling drive that we often feel to just accumulate as much as we possibly can.  In the show, Hufflebot is always trying to please the worm in his head.  He creates this island of plastic bags for him so the worm can have his great dominion over the plastic bags or he helps the worm to create this evil maniacal, mechanical monster that eats mountains so that Wormulus will basically have all the power that he ever desired.  And the kind of back and forth is that if Hufflebot pleases Wormulus, if Hufflebot pleases the worm in his head, then eventually the worm will let him be free.  Of course, the illusion is that that never really happens, it’s an ongoing journey.  The next episode you see Hufflebot back again with the worm in his head on some scheme he’s driving him towards.  So we’re all the Hufflebots, really.

Q: KJ, or Kijani the Green Gorilla, who’s kind of the Yoda mystic character.  How did you come up with him and how did the kids find him?  How did this character come about?

A: Kijani actually means “green” in Swahili.  So he’s our green gorilla character that sits in the greenhouse in San Francisco that’s kind of a concealed greenhouse.  Basically it was an idea that our company, Sustain Lane’s founder, James Elson, came up with and he really wanted to see this green gorilla character but he didn’t have the other pieces to it.  So we kind of put the kids together with this mystical green gorilla who basically represents indigenous wisdom.  It’s earth wisdom so when the kids find a problem like Scoot skates into the greenhouse covered in plastic bags then KJ gets a hint and he starts beatboxing and basically bringing down a vision and he brings down a vision and he paints it with his fingers and colors in the air but they’re in symbols, like drawings on a cave.  Now the kids have to interpret it, so in the first episode he draws plastic bags and an earth and a swirl in the ocean and the kids have to translate that.  They talk amongst themselves, they do the research on the web, and they pixelate out to other places around the world so they can come up with the answers and figure out what the solution is.

Q: I wish I was a part of the pitch meeting for this show… it sounds like so much fun!

A: It was a blast!  I put together the smartest people that I know and I got everybody in a room and I said, “Here’s what we wanna do: We wanna create the most inspiring show to help kids take real world steps towards a healthier planet and we wanna make it as fun as possible and we wanna bring in kids all around the world.  How do we do this?” And this incredibly intelligent, creative, amazing group of people they all put their heads together and I was fortunate enough to be in the room.

Q: That actually brings me to my last question regarding your contributors and your involvement with Free Range Studios.  Now, they produced something called the Meatrix and for anyone who’s listening to this who hasn’t seen the Meatrix, here’s a link!  You should now go watch it after you’ve finished listening to this podcast.  But, what was your involvement with Free Range?

A: I was fortunate enough to be the Entertainment Producer at Free Range for a couple years, I produced 12 movies for them.  Basically, what Free Range does is they create these amazing viral web pieces for social causes which are basically distinct messages kind of wrapped in stories that travel far and wide and Story Stuff is a great example.  In fact, The Story of Stuff just made 20 different language versions which is terrific.  I basically learned the trade from them and now we work closely.  We hired them, actually, to be our Animation and Art Direction group and so I couldn’t be happier.

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Sustainable skiing:
Know your mountain’s score

by The Green A-Team

While snowy slopes are fun for skiers and snowboarders, what are the environmental costs of this winter sport?

60 million vacationers will head for the hills this year and resorts are being forced to expand drastically.  This means more trees chopped to clear trails, more wildlife displaced, and more energy needed to run the lifts and lodges.

So is there anything to stop this?

Recently, the Ski Area Citizens Coalition (SACC) called foul an effort where resorts were required to assess their own eco-friendliness.  The problem with this self-evaluation, they said, is the absence of accountability.

The coalition fired back with their own environmental scorecards based on water usage, energy and waste management, and forest, air, and wildlife preservation.

By giving consumers the ability to choose destinations with higher scores, inadequately scored resorts are forced to steepen their efforts.

For more on skiing green, check out some of the following links.

How green are your vallées? (Guardian UK)

Ski resorts environmental impact (Suite 101)

How to become a greener skier (

How green is your mountain? (Time)

Is greener whiter yet?  The Sustainable Slopes Program after five years (SACC)

Photo by Mount Ararat Trek.

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New Year’s Revolution

by The Green A-Team

If becoming green is on your list of resolutions this new year, why not start with the party?

Planning a sustainable New Year’s celebration takes more than just balloons. It means working to ensure that almost everything from the lights to the decor produces little to zero lingering waste.

Here are some tips to stay green while tipsy:

1.) Buy food that’s locally and sustainable grown and put up a sign that lets your guests know it.

2.) Send web invitations for your party. With a colorful card on a computer screen, you can get more creative, invite more people, and generate no waste.

3.) Make an extra effort to recycle hard goods and compost your food waste.    If you don’t have a compost container, put it aside for someone who does.

4.) Organize a carpool and encourage public transportation. This will not only keep gas guzzling down but leave extra room for food & drink guzzling at your celebration.

For more sustainable party tips, have a gander at some of these sites:

Sustainable Party: Where your green event planning prowess begins!

Sustainable Table: Serving up healthy food choices

How to go green: New Years (

Having a green New Year’s Eve (

Photo by Tokyo Boy.

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Actress, model, green cosmetic leader Josie Maran

by The Green A-Team

Beauty is only skin deep but Josie Maran’s goes even deeper with her concern and contribution toward the health of women like her that are habitual wearers of cosmetics.

Whether it’s your modeling or acting job or simply your desire to feel more beutiful when you leave the house, the daily cosmetic consumer can avoid risk by using natuaral and organic products.

Our interview with Josie reveals her sincerity and belief in her product as well as insight on the larger industry and where we’re going as a country.

Q: How dangerous are conventional cosmetics really?

A: Conventional cosmetics are harmful because 60% of what you put on your skin, your skin absorbs.  20% of the ingredients are harmful so if you’re putting those on your skin every day, you have a likely chance of harming your body.

Q: How careful are you in making sure that the ingredients you’re using in your line of cosmetics are all natural or ogranic?

A: My mission was to create a line that was good quality and that was health.  That’s always been the most important thing for me, that I use non-toxic ingredients.

Q: Are you able to trace where the ingredients are coming from be it the coconuts used or the way the water is being process for the actual product.

A: I do as much as I can.  I’m not actually out there farming the products and so I have to put my trust in my labs. I do a lot of questioning, I go to the labs and look though everything so I do as much as I can to ensure that I’m getting quality ingredients and that they’re coming from sustainable sources as well.  It’s not just that they’re not toxic that they’re coming from a place that is employing women in their communities.

Q: What steps do you take to make sure the packaging is environmentally friendly?

A: I think that was my biggest impact on the industry is that my packaging is biodegradable, recyclable and that was something that I saw no one was doing out there.  Packaging is actually as harmful as the ingredients when you’re looking at the whole environment.  Nobody was doing it and it was really hard to find that kind of packaging but it’s much more popular now and packaging people are calling me all the time and I’m encouraging all companies to use sustainable packaging because it’s totally possible and it can look stylish too.

Q: Do you see big cosmetic manufacturers following in a similar path?

A: I think it’s a slow movement but I definitely think the customers are asking for it so I do see some change.  The big companies are using natural and orgainic a lot more than they used to.  I think you have to be careful about their marketing and make sure that when they say it, they mean it.  You can tell they’re looking into it more.

Q: How do you think the new Presidential administration is going to affect environmental issues going forward?

A: There’s a new feeling in the world of hope for change.  I think that it’s gonna open the door for asking questions and making changes so I think  the new Presidential election is going to be very positive for the environment.

Photo by curl.d.up.

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How to build a ZERO impact rocket (for Halloween)

by Rich Awn

Woah!  Been a minute since I’ve posted in here… what HAVEN’T I been doing!!!???


Here’s how you deal with Halloween and stay green and save money -  FIND EVERYTHING!  Step by step on how to retrofit a sustainable rocket (as your costume).

1.)  Get lucky.

Riding by at break neck speeds on my Cannondale about two weeks ago, I noticed this fully formed cardboard structure on the side of the road.  Without stopping, having only seen it for 2 seconds, and about a half a mile down the road, using my powers of Halloween intuition, I thought it might’ve made the best rocket costume ever.

Sure enough, it turned out to be the coolest rocket I’ve ever seen made of cardboard, definitely some kind of Scandanavian kids toy judging by how well it’s crafted.  Kicking myself for not having come for it the night before, I found it the following day (luckily) to have been kicked in, stomped on, and pissed on.  The smell of stale urine actually tuned me away at first and I finally stiffened up and vowed to restore it to is original splendor in the name of all things hallowed.

2.) Cut out the urine-soaked base.

Working on the refurbishing and retro-fitting for the zero rocket, the foul odor emanating from it’s interior was stifling.  With a few quick slashes of a box cutter, the problem was solved and peace was restored to the restoration.  Be sure to cut out just enough for the structure to fit firmly on the hips without compromising the structures overall integrity.

3.) Add a harness.

Using the camel back attachment for my girlfriend’s hiking bag, I laced a piece of nylon rope though holes I made 1″ apart along the back, poking them through with a fillips head screwdriver.  Just like lacing a sneaker, I cris-crossed the rope over the back of the camel back and under the shoulder straps at the height necessary for the rocket to sit comfortably just below my waist and high enough for me to see out every port hole.

4.) Add an interior light.

Using rechargeable batteries and this cool old fluorescent light I found in the bottom of a tool box, I used the aforementioned “shoe string” principle to attaching the light.  Less holes were necessary and shorter rope but it worked just fine.

Et voila!  As you can see from the slide show, it looks amazing… and the best part about it is that it’s recyclable and/or you and an agressive mob of candy-crazed trick-or-treaters can bash the hell out of it at the end of the night.

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Logging Land Trusts:
Exclusive interview with Dan Tishman of the NRDC

by The Green A-Team

How safe is protected land and are logging, oil, and mining companies using our national parks for profit?

A land trust is a purchase of a large piece of real estate that in theory, remains protected from development.  But it’s known that some of the biggest corporations and investment groups use the land for profit through logging, drilling, and mining.

Dan Tishman, Chairman of the Board for the Natural Resource Defense Council.

One has to define what logging is.  There is good logging and there is bad logging.  You can’t just tie up land as an eleemosynary thing forever.  You have to understand that land is a valuable asset, it’s valuable for a whole host of reasons.  And if in order to preserve land you need to figure out how to have some economic stream to preserve land, good sustainable certified logging practices might be the right sense.

One thing we can trust regarding our land is that not everyone has it’s best interests in mind regardless of what they say.

For more on American land trusts, visit some of the following links:

Creating Your Own Land Trust (

Photo by Куртис Перри

Click below for more of our exclusive conversation with Dan Tishman, Chairman of the Board of the NRDC.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Greenwashing 101

by The Green A-Team

Blinded by the barrage of eco-friendly stickers on your everyday products?

Deafened by the earthy tones of green marketing verbiage?

Greenwashing is the process by which companies mislead consumers regarding environmentally friendly products.  You see it everyday, stickers that read, “natural, green, earth friendly…” you know the drill.

Here are some key terms to watch out for:

1.) Organic - according to food industry standards, organic food is grown without conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers, human waste, or sewage sludge.  If you see the USDA Organic Seal, that’s a safe choice.

2.) Environmentally Preferred
- There is nothing about plastic or rubber that the environment prefers, so watch out for this term alongside unnatural or inorganic products.

3.) Sustainable - there is no standardized definition of sustainable in the context of commerce.  Sustainability implies permanence in nature so be especially aware of this term.

While there are many well-intentioned companies doing good things, protect yourself from greenwashing by understanding certain simple terms.

For more on greenwashing, click here.

Photo by MU_313679.

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Green Project in B.C. Burns Sawdust, Treats Sewage in Backyard

by The Green A-Team

Full Bloomberg article here.

Green Air Filter:

Like the bright but annoying kid in class that raises his hand whenever the teacher asks a question, Canada is running laps around the rest of North American sustainable design projects with this 15-acre master-planned sustainable community located along the harbourfront of downtown Victoria.

This keystone project from Windmill West is putting a price behind it’s platinum LEED promises, offering up $1 million to the city of Victoria if Canada’s Green Building Council doesn’t legitimize their claims.  With vocabulary like “natural capitialism” and “New Urbanism” entering the lexicon of developers and architects, sustainable communities may be a thing of the nearer future than expected… and not a moment too soon!  If you just can’t wait, there’s one in Sweden (pictured) where the residents look quite happy.

Photo by Ivonne de la Guardia.

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Word of the Day: Permaculture

by The Green A-Team

Word of the day - permaculture.

What does it mean for the future of farming and the survival of humanity?

It’s best understood through its roots, permanent and agriculture:  Something permanent exists perpetually without significant change and agriculture is the science and art of cultivating land, livestock, and crops.  The combination forms the basis of permaculture, where we give back to the land as much as we take.

Developed in the 1970s by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, this natural systems design model was born in response to the mistreatment of billions of acres of farmland jeopardized by overuse of chemical fertilizers and genetic mutation of crops.

Permaculture provides us with a toolkit for how we can inhabit our world through integration instead of domination.  By careful attention to life’s full spectrum from mammals to microbes, permaculture can sustain huge populations without disrupting nature’s delicate balance.

To find out where you can visit, volunteer, apprentice, and enjoy permaculture sites in your area, the links below should help get you started:

Midwest Permaculture

Northeastern Permaculture

Permaculture Research Institute, USA

Planetary Permaculture Directory

Illustration is the cover of Permaculture: A Designers Manual by Bill Mollison.

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Memorial Day Weekend:
Sustainable Travel

by The Green A-Team

With Memorial Day weekend upon us, the travel bug is biting. But does Green travel have to involve a backpack and a zip line?

Travel and tourism is a 1.3 trillion dollar industry in the US, according to the Travel Industry Association of America, and globally provides 200 million jobs or about 8% of total global employment. The way in which we travel and how this industry operates demands as much sensitivity, if not more, than how we go about our everyday lives.

To generate awareness, the World Tourism Organization adopted a few simple strategies for sustainable tourism.

1.) Make optimal use of the environmental resources afforded to you. Proceed with frugality in your expenditure of resources and you may notice some life left in your wallet by the end of your journey.

2.) Respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities. As they say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Everyday customs that may seem unfamiliar or downright intolerable may be vital to the survival of the host ecosystem.

and 3.) Provide socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders. Just because things are cheaper in some places abroad, shouldn’t stimulate the need to penny pinch more. Travel can be the best form of philanthropy so acknowledge your role as a guest in a foreign land.

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