Is green travel possible?

Dear EarthTalk: I’m a travel agent and our firm has several clients wanting to go with green vendors, including for travel (airline or rental car) and lodging.  Our company is supportive so would like to know which airlines, hotels and car rental agencies are going affordably green?

Carol Biggar

via e-mail

Just like every other industry, going green has become a mantra among airlines, car rental companies and even hotel chains. The fuel crunch of a few years ago forced all the airlines into belt-tightening mode and the results — lower fuel consumption and fewer emissions — are good news for the environment.

Boeing, one of the world’s leading aircraft makers, is doing its part: Its new 787 is some 20 percent more fuel efficient than other big passenger planes. Beyond saving fuel — which also reduces emissions — airlines are instituting in-flight recycling initiatives, incorporating carbon-neutral biofuels and going paperless to reduce waste. Continental, British Airways, Singapore Air, American Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest and Virgin are among the leaders in the industrywide effort to go green, but most airlines have made huge strides in recent years to lower their carbon footprints overall.

With regard to lodging, going green isn’t just for youth hostels and campgrounds anymore. In a recent survey, upward of two-thirds of U.S. hotels said they had energy-efficient lights and had implemented towel- and linen-reuse programs — up from just over half five years ago. According to Budget Travel magazine, Accor/Motel6, Intercontinental, Marriott, Starwood, Hilton, Hyatt, Best Western and Wyndham/Super8 have all made huge strides in energy and water conservation, recycling and green design over the last few years. Beyond the chains, many independent hotels have taken up the green baton; you’ll likely find one or more at your destination via the Web site of the Green Hotels Association.

As for rental car companies, just about all of them offer large selections of fuel-efficient cars these days, if for no other reason than to meet the demands of both business and vacationing customers not interested in spending lots of money on gas. Hertz, Avis, Budget and Enterprise each have large fleets of hybrid and/or flex-fuel (ethanol) cars for rent at hundreds of airport and in-town locations around the United States. Advantage Rent-a-Car has pledged to turn 100 percent of its rental fleet “green� by 2010. For now, renting a hybrid still typically costs $5 to $15 more per day than an equivalent conventional car, but as rental car companies bring more of the vehicles online, prices should start to reach parity. And if you’re driving a long way in the car, you may just make up the difference in fuel savings. Travelers to the Bay Area should keep in mind that San Francisco International Airport offers a $15 credit for renting a hybrid from any of the rental car companies operating there.

Traveling by any means other than foot, bicycle or paddle always takes some toll on the environment, but those who watch their carbon footprints — and stay abreast of which vendors offer the greenest courses of action — can keep their impacts to a minimum. Stay tuned to Web sites like Go Green Travel Green for the latest info on what airlines, hotels, car rental companies and other travel-related businesses are doing to green up their industry.

Latest News

Walking among the ‘Herd’

Michel Negroponte

Betti Franceschi

"Herd,” a film by Michel Negroponte, will be screening at The Norfolk Library on Saturday April 13 at 5:30 p.m. This mesmerizing documentary investigates the relationship between humans and other sentient beings by following a herd of shaggy Belted Galloway cattle through a little more than a year of their lives.

Negroponte and his wife have had a second home just outside of Livingston Manor, in the southwest corner of the Catskills, for many years. Like many during the pandemic, they moved up north for what they thought would be a few weeks, and now seldom return to their city dwelling. Adjacent to their property is a privately owned farm and when a herd of Belted Galloways arrived, Negroponte realized the subject of his new film.

Keep ReadingShow less
Fresh perspectives in Norfolk Library film series

Diego Ongaro

Photo submitted

Parisian filmmaker Diego Ongaro, who has been living in Norfolk for the past 20 years, has composed a collection of films for viewing based on his unique taste.

The series, titled “Visions of Europe,” began over the winter at the Norfolk Library with a focus on under-the-radar contemporary films with unique voices, highlighting the creative richness and vitality of the European film landscape.

Keep ReadingShow less
New ground to cover and plenty of groundcover

Young native pachysandra from Lindera Nursery shows a variety of color and delicate flowers.

Dee Salomon

It is still too early to sow seeds outside, except for peas, both the edible and floral kind. I have transplanted a few shrubs and a dogwood tree that was root pruned in the fall. I have also moved a few hellebores that seeded in the near woods back into their garden beds near the house; they seem not to mind the few frosty mornings we have recently had. In years past I would have been cleaning up the plant beds but I now know better and will wait at least six weeks more. I have instead found the most perfect time-consuming activity for early spring: teasing out Vinca minor, also known as periwinkle and myrtle, from the ground in places it was never meant to be.

Planting the stuff in the first place is my biggest ever garden regret. It was recommended to me as a groundcover that would hold together a hillside, bare after a removal of invasive plants save for a dozen or so trees. And here we are, twelve years later; there is vinca everywhere. It blankets the hillside and has crept over the top into the woods. It has made its way left and right. I am convinced that vinca is the plastic of the plant world. The stuff won’t die. (The name Vinca comes from the Latin ‘vincire’ which means ‘to bind or fetter.’) Last year I pulled a bunch and left it strewn on the roof of the root cellar for 6 months and the leaves were still green.

Keep ReadingShow less
Matza Lasagne by 'The Cook and the Rabbi'

Culinary craftsmanship intersects with spiritual insights in the wonderfully collaborative book, “The Cook and the Rabbi.” On April 14 at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck (6422 Montgomery Street), the cook, Susan Simon, and the rabbi, Zoe B. Zak, will lead a conversation about food, tradition, holidays, resilience and what to cook this Passover.

Passover, marked by the traditional seder meal, holds profound significance within Jewish culture and for many carries extra meaning this year at a time of great conflict. The word seder, meaning “order” in Hebrew, unfolds in a 15-step progression intertwining prayers, blessings, stories, and songs that narrate the ancient saga of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery. It’s a narrative that has endured for over two millennia, evolving with time yet retaining its essence, a theme echoed beautifully in “The Cook and the Rabbi.”

Keep ReadingShow less