As Earth Day 2014 approaches, many may be inspired to book a last-minute, low-impact vacation to a destination that takes green living seriously. From hydro-powered public transport to edible schoolyards at public schools to natural gas-burning garbage trucks, great cities throughout the U.S. offer a wide array of sustainable attractions for the eco-minded traveler. Following is a list of seven such places to consider for your next sabbatical.
They don't call it the 'Emerald City' for nothing. Roughly 85 percent of the electricity supply in Eugene comes from wind power and hydroelectric sources. As home to the University of Oregon, the city has attracted a young population of earth enthusiasts studying environmental conservation. Plus, residents place a premium on outdoor activities, such as hiking, birding, cycling and old-growth tree climbing.
When it comes to green initiatives, Austin isn't afraid to be a pioneer. From smoking bans in public places to garbage trucks that run on natural gas to annual tree plantings, the city's eco programs have often provided a template for others to adopt. In fact, Austin is well on its way to being carbon-free by 2020. And if all of that doesn't whet your appetite, it has a thriving music and restaurant scene to boot.
Even the hotels are greener in Portland, where chains such as Hilton and boutique properties like Monaco feature eco-friendly cleaning products and practices. The latter even offers a parking discount to those who drive hybrids. A green infrastructure has also encouraged healthy habitats, less watershed into sewers and a large cycling community. With so many outdoor attractions, you won't be spending much time inside. Begin at the 5,156-acre Forest Park, then head to The Portland Rose Garden, and be sure to hit the markets and festivals taking place in Pioneer Courthouse Square.
A longstanding incubator for the slow-food movement -- thanks in no small part to Alice Waters' renowned restaurant Chez Panisse -- Berkeley has cred beyond the culinary world too. It's a leader in solar power, wind power and hydropower, and most businesses have adopted a zero-waste policy. And you don't have to rough it to get your green on. The Bancroft Hotel offers 22 charming rooms made with repurposed resources: curtains made from recycled soda bottles, Eco-Timber FSC hardwood floors as well as Nandina bamboo towels and SDH organic cotton bedding.
In order to maintain its photo-worthy waterfalls and plentiful foliage, Honolulu has taken great care to reduce the footprint of its tourism industry and move toward sustainable food production practices of late. Waikiki Tower, as one example, promotes recycling, energy efficient lighting, non-toxic cleaning products and promotes public transportation and walking to local beaches.
Drink up the scenery and the tap water in this California city, as it boasts the cleanest in the nation. And if you work up an appetite touring the oldest wildlife refuge in the country, not to worry: organic and locally grown food options abound.
|St. Paul, Minn.|
Since 2007, this city has been encouraging its residents to bike, car-pool or take the subway to work, vastly reducing its emissions. Another incredible initiative is focused on educating denizens on how to grow and harvest food in their own backyards. If you're lucky, perhaps someone will invite you over for a truly locavore dinner.