Sunday, June 29, 2008

Going For The Green: Thoughts on Greenwashing and Guilt

"These days, it seems just about every business is finding a way to go green, making it that much harder for well-intentioned consumers to distinguish companies with green products and services." --Entrpreneur Magazine

Green guilt, extreme green, green washing—the over-exposure to green messages leaves me feeling eco-fatigued. Businesses greenwashing in hopes of getting attention has created a backlash of cynicism against the green trend. What's an easy going green gal to do?

I confess, I'm not a purist, I find it to be rigid and confusing. Twenty percent of going green requires expensive, complicated, difficult choices about which most people disagree. I focus on the 80% that is clear and has impact instead of giving up because of the debatable 20%.

The way I see it, lots of people doing 80% makes a bigger difference than a few zealots doing 100%. I set a rational, reasonable example that people can follow, rather than condemn those who are unable or unwilling to adopt a perfectionist’s all-or-nothing approach.

Is that a cop-out? Is that nurturing? Economists say it is the law of diminishing return. The last 20% isn't worth the trouble it takes to go after.

Having said all that, I lose respect for businesses that claim to be green for common sense things like recycling. Lodgings that claim to be green because they ask guests to use less water or because they switched to flourescent light bulbs make me laugh. I give my business to those who assert their green-ness in writing with green policies. Certification from third parties that verify their claims offer credibility, and I have a few for my business just for that reason. But the field of listings is so crowded, most consumers can't tell one from the other so many green businesses don't bother.

Savvy consumers expect socially responsible practices from all businesses and won't just hand over their money because of marketing.

The Latest Trip

The latest guilt-trip seems to be going green. And now it's time for summer vacation--bringing more opportunities to feel guilty about the jet trails from flying, gas prices, and our "footprints," --click to measure yours in a fun quiz, no ads.

If you know me, you know what I say about guilt, "No way!" Here's how I'm making my summer vacation green and guilt-free:

Do what I can to save on gas when renting or buying a car and then don't sweat it. Hybrids do get better gas mileage, but the verdict is still out on how green they really are with their toxic batteries and carbon producing manufacturing. Enterprise Rentals let's you add carbon offsets to the price of your rental at booking. Offsets for my two week rental in Phoenix was just $2.90. Couldn't have been easier. This site has a gas mileage comparison tool and rates the 100 Top Green Cars. I pick a car with great gas mileage and GO.

Fly nonstop and fly during the day. Take off and landing takes most of the fuel used on a flight. Jet emissions do more damage at night.

Try these easygoing green vacation tips (ad-free pdf). Print out a few copies on recycled paper for fellow travelers or vendors who may need encouragement to go green or who may feel overwhelmed by all the environmental bafflegab.

Take FREE tours. I get locals to show me around for free through Couch Surf. This social networking site verifies users at three clever levels and connects you with people offering a place to crash or a cultural education of their area.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Florida Nature Vacations? Oxymoron or Best Kept Secret?

You've heard the jokes about Florida, "Why is it so hard to find a dentist in Florida? Because everyone just mails in their teeth."

Or as my Delray Beach friend, Buz likes to say, "It's not all the old people, it's their parents." And then there's the one that gets applied to the entire Gulf Coast, "It's not the heat, it's the stupidity."

I confess, in the past I have not been a fan of the Sunshine State. Growing up, my father called it, "God's Waiting Room," and insisted no respectable intellectual would set foot in the state. The rest of my family hated the heat and the tourist traps. But I was born in Fort Lauderdale and once I got past the population density and BLING of places like,"Boca Dunes Phase II," I discovered a natural wonderland that isn't crawling with tourists or 90210 Wannabe's--it is in northeast Florida. For nature and romance, nothing beats St. Augustine.

Ten reasons to Vacation in St. Augustine, FL:

1. The Old Florida Lifestyle. Easily found and has not been boxed like a commodity the way Cajun and so many other cultures have been commercialized. Details? Check out Minorcans, especially their food and plants on your walking tours. You can also email me and I'll send you a map and itinerary for a self-guided culinary tour.

2. Charm. The oldest US city settled by Europeans reminds me of a tiny Spanish village washed up on a golden beach. No cars, just a walkable town with authentic history and architectural interest.

3. It's not as hot as the NE. It's cooler than most places in the NE and Southern US in summer. You won't miss the sweltering heat and air pollution from areas near Wash., DC, south Florida, or Georgia. Breezes from the ocean keep it cool, low population density and abundance of parks, preserves, and green space keep the air clean. Details? Compare the zip codes for air quality.

4. You don't even have to leave your vacation spot to get uplifted. Sunrise from the balcony of the Riverview a vacation rental, is amazing. You can watch the yachts and dolphins cruise the Intracoastal. When you book your vacation spot, be sure to SKIP the big box condos on the beach and get an updated vacation rental in a quiet location.

5. Learn about the birds and bees. In just six days I saw swallow-tailed kites, broad-tailed hawks, a ruby throated hummingbird, eight kinds of terns, three adolescent, pileated woodpeckers, red-headed and red-bellied woodpeckers, marsh wrens, wood thrushes, wading birds, a Chuck-Will's-widow, and a nighthawk.

6. You're 16 minutes from one of the best beaches in the world, Crescent Beach boasts an inlet and a beach wide enough to walk or bike for miles.

7. St. Augustine Beach boasts an undeveloped beach, Anastasia Park. Even if you don't like beaches, the natural wonder, history and sheer beauty might give you the inspiration to take a long walk or just nap on the sand.

8. Alligator Farm Park offers thrills and education. The nesting birds in the rookery make the trip worthwhile for even the most anti-zoo family members. Wild birds flock there to nest in the safety of the gator pens, no predators climb the trees to eat those eggs, not with the gators at the bottom of the trees.

9. Guana River State Park. Hiking trails to historic Indian ruins, canoeing, and fishing. A 2,400 acre coastal park at the tip of 12,000 acres of conservation and recreational areas. Shell mounds, over 226 species of birds, bobcats, sea turtles and other endangered animals make this a world-class nature preserve.

10. More Beautiful Parks. Princess Park for horseback riding, Old Florida flavor, boating, and beautiful flowers. Moses Creek for eagles nests, letterboxing and kayak or canoeing. Crystal River, Manatee Springs, Cedar Key, the list goes on...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Summer Travel Deals on Rental Cars

Many rental car companies have been running specials as steep as 50% off regular rates. The bad news is these rate specials end in June and most companies plan to increase rates over the summer.

There are a few exceptions. Hertz has a fleet of gas saving, green vehicles. To promote the new fleet, it will offer $25 off a weekly rental on these eco-cars this summer. If you're calling, use the promo code 113503 for the Green Collection.

And you can save 10% if you reserve with Alamo on its Web site and pre-pay with a credit card.

Click here for ad and guilt free green car rental tips and easygoing green hiking tips.

Get Away and Still Save Money: Staycation Trend

The hottest summer vacation? "Staycations" where you stay close to home, visiting sites within a day's drive or in your home town. Vacationing close to home or even staying home, saves money on air fare and cuts carbon.
Vacation rentals outside of major cities make a good choice for spending smart if you can't stay with friends. You can reach destinations like Sedona in a day from Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, and nearby states. A day's drive takes folks from Atlanta to posh locations in northern Florida.
If you're staying home for your vacation, a good way to return to work more rested is forget the chores. Those who choose to stay at home for their staycation tend to end up doing projects and tasks from their to-do lists. If you're going to skip the packing, airport check in lines, and traffic, you may want to skip the chores too.
Get tips on how to negotiate prices with vacation rental owners from the Wall Street Journal. Check rate specials the big vacation rental websites like VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) and HomeAway, which owns most of the smaller vacation rental websites, including VRBO. Free vacation planning available when you book at ecoLuxury, you'll have a personal conceirge.