From an abandoned rail line-turned-urban oasis in the Big Apple, to urban farming in San Francisco, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy culture and have some fun, without making a big footprint on the environment.
Frommer’s defines sustainable tourism in many of its international travel guidebooks as “conscientious travel—in other words, being careful with the environments you explore and respecting the communities you visit.” This includes minimizing environmental impacts, while boosting income for the locals and helping to build cultural awareness.
Here’s a snapshot of a few earth-friendly destinations in the US. For more on how to travel green in general, visit ecotourism.org.
Stroll the High Line In New York
What used to be an abandoned 1930s-era elevated rail line on Manhattan’s West Side is now one of New York City’s newest parks. The High Line was resurrected in 2006 after Friends of the High Line converted the rail bed into a handsome elevated garden and promenade.
The High Line is divided into sections; No. 1, which opened in June 2009, starts at Gansevoort Street and continues up to 20th Street and 10th Avenue; Section 2 opens later this year. Take your time and walk the whole thing, passing by the Washington Grasslands and Northern Spur Horticultural Preserve en route. Stroll like a local and snack on oysters at the nearby Chelsea Market.
Enjoy the Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary on Hawaii’s Big Island
Before you hit the Big Island’s beaches and scour its streets for ultra-fresh sushi, head over to the Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary for a peaceful afternoon walk amidst gigantic ferns and towering palm trees. At 900 metres above the Kona coast, the sanctuary’s fragrant, lush greenery gets nearly 40 per cent of its water directly from cloud moisture.
Many rare and endangered species of plants and animals call this forest home, and the sanctuary’s dedicated team of workers hopes to keep it that way. The botanical tour is a living, breathing classroom that teaches the importance of protecting this extraordinary ecosystem. Strolling through the sanctuary only takes about three hours. (konacloudforest.com)
Take a Rickshaw Tour in Orlando
As home to Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld, Orlando is the theme park capital of the world. There are Mickey sightings a-plenty, but you’ll also spy hoards of so-called “pedicabs” zipping from bars to restaurants.
Just hire a rickshaw driver to do all the pedalling while you kick back and enjoy the sunshine, knowing your carbon footprint for the trip is nil. The two largest companies serving the Orlando area are Redi Pedicab and Earth Shuttle Pedalcab.
Shop the Farmers Markets in Orlando
Nothing equals the experience of noshing on just-harvested strawberries and sugar snap peas, or biting into fresh-baked ciabatta drizzled with clover-honey. These are the types of treasures you’ll find at farmers markets in Orlando, FL. They’re festive and fun places, and you can trade recipes with the growers, too.
Slow Food Orlando gives you the low-down on where to find what. The Audubon Park Community Market in east Orlando is held every Monday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., rain or shine. Cheese-lovers should look for Winter Park Dairy’s bleu sunshine cheese, swiss, tomme and black peppercorn and bleu cheese at the Winter Park Farmers’ Market.
Tour a Farm in Phoenix
As one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S., Phoenix often gets slagged for its urban sprawl, car culture and smog. But, if one man can make a difference, Greg Peterson can. The 50-year-old resident is a green guru who has created an urban farm paradise on his little piece of suburbia.
Peterson’s quarter-acre plot in Phoenix boasts an impressive array of 75 fruit trees, broccoli, peas, arugula and others. The place also doubles as a lab and permaculture classroom. Check out his online events calendar and attend a workshop on topics such as gardening in the desert and edible landscaping.
Stay at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs
Palm Springs, has long been called Hollywood’s playground, the land of the glitterati, golf and Bob Hope. But the 180-room Ace Hotel and Swim Club, which opened in 2009, is also hoping to appeal to “environmentalistas.”
For one thing, there are electric car charging stations, compost and recycling programs, and even bikes you can borrow to pedal around town. An on-site garden also provides ingredients for the hotel’s restaurant, The King’s Highway.
Visit the Little City Gardens in San Francisco
The next time you dine at Bar Tartine, a swanky restaurant on San Francisco’s Valencia Street, it’s likely two poster girls for the Bay Area’s growing urban farming trend nurtured the greens on your salad plate.
Caitlyn Galloway, a part-time sign painter, started Little City Gardens—an experiment in the economic viability of small-scale urban market gardening—with Brooke Budner in 2007. The duo recently expanded their property to three-quarters of an acre that grows kale, purslane, lemon balm and lettuce in their backyard farm.
These hard-working ladies believe in the idea that urban farming can be as oft-seen a career in San Francisco as, say, a Google exec or software code writer. Little City Gardens supplies Bar Tartine and a handful of caterers, and also holds occasional gardening workshops.