Eco-Friendly Travel Doesn’t Have to Mean Roughing It

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There’s an idea among some travelers that “eco” is synonymous with “roughing it” — but you don’t have to sleep in a 6′-by-6′ tent to do your part for the environment.

Why the misperception? “People were associating green with sacrifice,” says Irene Lane, founder and president of Greenloons, an online resource for sustainable travel. “Green is not about sacrifice. It’s not about camping and you’re uncomfortable and you don’t shower for days.”

It could be all that, of course, but if you want a little more luxury in your life, here are three spots where you’ll be plenty comfortable while still keeping your environmental impact in mind:

Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge, Alaska

Photo: Kirk Hoessle

Photo: Kirk Hoessle

“Unlike many of the other states in the U.S., Alaska has actually implemented their own green standard, going beyond waste management and water management and talking more about how they’re benefiting communities, whether it be economically, socially or environmentally,” Lane says.

Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge on the Kenai Peninsula offers beautiful views of Pedersen Glacier. The location “allows for the local village to provide naturalist guides as well as local products to be used within the lodge itself,” Lane says. “Travelers are staying in proper rooms with proper en suite facilities and have locally sourced food.”

During the day, you can work with naturalist guides to learn about the ecosystem and how things are changing in the area while becoming totally immersed in your surroundings.

Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica

Photo: Greenloons

Photo: Greenloons

Costa Rica has long marketed itself as an eco destination, and they’ve done a good job of training locals to be part of the sustainable solution. “Guides and managers are all coming from the community,” Lane says. “Community members were leaving because there weren’t jobs, and what was leaving was heritage and other traditions. They recognized this a couple of decades ago and said the way to do this is honor our way of life but ensure there’s money coming in so we can support our community.”

Pacuare Lodge is one example of this approach, and it has a twist — most visitors arrive via river rafting, which is quite a bit more exciting than your standard drive-up-to-the-front-door approach. The family-friendly accommodations span a range of budgets, and there’s no shortage of nature activities to partake in.

“Not one tree was cut down to build this lodge,” Lane says. “It was built around the landscape rather than creating a new one.”

Refugio Amazonas, Peru

Photo: Greenloons

Photo: Greenloons

Located on a private reserve, Refugio Amazonas “was built to protect the macaw birds,” Lane says. “There were changes taking place in the ecosystem; originally, scientists went there to discover what was going on and in essence built this lodge to bring in more research scientists and financially benefit.” Now, visitors can kayak, hike, talk to local guides about medicinal herbs, and explore the Peruvian Amazon — all with the comfort of hot water and private bathrooms.

“At the end of the day, it’s a vacation. Americans don’t get a lot of vacation time, and we want vacations to be fun,” Lane says. “There isn’t any reason why these types of vacations can’t be luxurious if that’s important to you.”

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Haley Shapley

Haley Shapley is based in Seattle, where recycling is just as cool as Macklemore, walking in the rain without an umbrella, and eating locally sourced food. She writes for a wide range of national and regional publications, covering everything from sustainability and health to travel and retail.

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