At first glance, a green travel adventure would suggest a getaway to a tropical paradise, away from civilization and surrounded by natural beauty. While admiring nature, however, do you ever wonder if the hotel you’re staying at has adopted green protocols for waste disposal, energy conservation, or recycling?
Would you feel better if it did?
We’ve chosen three destinations that combine natural beauty with green activities and properties that will satisfy eco-friendly urges to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
It’s been more than 40 years since Minneapolis was featured as the hometown to the beloved Mary Richards, WJN television producer on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Today, the city may be more famous as the home of the Mall of America (MOA), or Target but it’s also the largest city in a state that’s known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” so how can it not appeal to nature lovers?
Well, it does get cold in Minneapolis but the fall and spring are lovely times to visit and escape the heat in other states.
For starters, Minneapolis has 197 park properties. They include a 13.3-mile path for biking, walking, and running, encircling the entire Chain of Lakes parkway. There are 50 miles of paved trails that showcase lakes, parks, gardens, historical sites, beaches, golf courses, and diverse Minneapolis neighborhoods. The Grand Rounds, National Scenic Byways, composed of seven districts, creates a 50-mile loop around the city.
Fans of The Mary Tyler Moore Show might like to visit the Lake of Isles to see the carriage house where Mary’s apartment was supposedly located and where she can be seen in opening credits walking along the lake. There’s also the exterior sculpture garden at the Walker Art Center or the Science Museum to learn more about how the Earth functions.
With a growing Latino community, Minneapolis also offers a Latino district in Midtown with more than one mercado and authentic Mexican food restaurants.
Power shoppers, however will find the MOA, the largest indoor shopping mall in the country, irresistible, but don’t let green concerns stop you because the mall is greener than expected.
MOA does not use a central heating system; instead, it maintains a 70-degree temperature year-round with passive solar energy from 1.2 miles of skylights and heat generated from store fixtures and lighting and the body heat from more than 40 million visitors. MOA recycles more than 60 percent of its waste—an average of 32,000 tons per year or the equivalent of more than 18,000 cars in a landfill. It also recycles more than 2,400 tons of food waste to a local hog farm.
There are only four Blu properties in the Radisson family, and two of them are in Minneapolis, downtown and at the MOA.
Beautifully accented inside by the work of interior designer Jim Hamilton and local artists, the Blu’s green focus includes reclaimed local wood used in the floor, walls, and furniture of the Firelake Lounge—all food waste is also recycled to area pig farms—triple-pane windows conserve energy as do LED lighting in 90 percent of the hotel and auto on-off switches in the rooms.
Attached to the MOA like a casino, the hotel also offers shuttle rides to the airport.
A list of green destinations isn’t complete without one of the greenest in the country, Portland. Perhaps the great Northwest, with its majestic forests, mountains, and coastal views inspires residents to keep the smog clouds away, but whatever the reason, the city, and state for that matter, take pride in their eco-friendliness.
We encourage the boldest of eco-travelers to head west and take an emission- and gasoline-free road trip to enjoy the scenery. Working with Nissan and Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Travel Oregon has constructed multiple routes that include free charging stations to accommodate electric vehicles (EVs).
Other perks include no state sales tax, four National Historic Trails, fourteen National Historic Districts, and more than 750 vineyards in Oregon producing more than 70 different varietals of wine grapes.
All of the above can be accessed in an EV thanks to the charging station infrastructure along state highways. Home to more than 225 wineries, the Willamette Valley stretches for more than a 100 miles along Highway 99 West. A short drive from Portland, it has many charging stations along the way.
Visit the state’s most picturesque mountain, Fort Hood, and view the Columbia River Gorge along the way on Interstate 84 without contributing any emissions.
Families can head out along Interstate 5 to visit several highway stops with family attractions like the Enchanted Forest, “a magical place of cottages and gingerbread houses nestled on the side of a mountain,” or A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village, a riverfront park.
The best time to charge an EV is overnight so it only makes sense that travelers who opt for an EV road trip should stay at a hotel that makes charging stations available. The Crowne Plaza is one of two in downtown Portland with this service but you will pay to charge the vehicle. It’s also one of the first Crown Plaza properties to achieve a silver level certification from Green Seal. Additional green initiatives at the property include hotel-wide recycling, kitchen composting, an energy-efficient HVAC system, a propane fueled airport shuttle, and a bike-lending program.
San Luis Obispo County, CA
Beautiful scenery may be essential for a green vacation, but sometimes, natural wonders need to be cleaned. Strolling on the beach is nice but not when you stumble upon plastic bags, cigarette lighters, and old tires.
Eco-friendly travelers who’d like an opportunity to give back to nature will appreciate the Stewardship Travel Program offered by San Louis Obispo County. Travelers who head west can select a variety of activities to help re-beautify WineCoast Country, the coastal region of San Luis Obispo County along the Highway 1 Discovery Route, midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. With more than 70 unique activities, or ways to contribute, travelers can spend a few hours meeting elephant seals in San Simeon, planting seedlings at the Audubon Sweet Springs Nature Preserve (Los Osos/Baywood), or cleaning up Avila Beach.
Afterwards, reward yourself with whale watching, kayaking, wind surfing, visiting area state parks, aquariums, museums, or historical monuments. Many more activities are listed on the website, winecoastcountry.com including a Pacific Coast Wine Trail to savor and the Hearst Castle to explore.
During this time, local restaurants will also serve special seafood dishes that support environmentally responsible choices.
For those who can’t make the tour in February, there’s another annual beach clean up in September.
All properties along Avila Beach offer beach clean-up kits but the Avila La Fonda may offer particular appeal to Latino travelers. While modern amenities abound, the inn was constructed to emulate a nineteenth century Mexican village. Built with couples in mind, the property’s casitas include two-person Jacuzzis, thermostat controlled fireplaces, and a complimentary VIP welcome bar. Each evening offers wine tasting from local wineries with hors d’oeurves. On the green side, all wine bottles are recycled saving 200–300 bottles from the landfill. They’re sent to a local company, Glassed Over, and turned into candles. Ninety percent of hotel trash is recycled, and housekeeping uses green cleaning products. Guests also receive a reusable tote bag to comply with San Luis Obispo’s bag free ordinance.