Monday, September 29, 2008

Spread the Love: Easy Tip For Greening Your Travel

Encourage vacation rental and hotel owners to go green by sending them this link or printing the suggestions on this form and leaving them when you check out.

Study Shows Toxins in Laundry Products

This is why we use only green products to launder the linens at Eco Luxury Lodging. And I always ask if "green cleaning" at other lodging includes laundering. Often, it does not.

SEATTLE—A University of Washington study of top-selling laundry products and air fresheners found the products emitted dozens of different chemicals. All six products tested gave off at least one chemical regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal laws, but none of those chemicals was listed on the product labels. “I first got interested in this topic because people were telling me that the air fresheners in public restrooms and the scent from laundry products vented outdoors were making them sick,” said Anne Steinemann, a UW professor of civil and environmental engineering and public affairs. “And I wanted to know, ‘What’s in these products that is causing these effects?’”

View article

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Top Ten Things Vacation Rental Owners Won't Tell You

1. It's a renter's market, so let's really make a deal. The number of vacation rentals in some areas like Florida have doubled in the six months. Owners can't sell or rent, so they're looking for quick cash from a vacation rental. When supply exceeds demand you can not only get better rates off-season, you can negotiate perks in-season. Ask the owner to pick up the bed tax or cleaning fee. Or see if they'll have a bottle of wine or supplies for you at check in. Ask questions to be sure you'll be booking with experienced owners. No point in taking a break from work just to break in a new owner.

2. You Can Get a Guarantee, Free. HomeAway offers a gaurantee for properties listed on their website. Amateur owners won't stay in business for long if they can't meet tough standards that guarantees like HomeAway demands. This is one reason I list my properties with HomeAway. And I don't make any money for saying so.

3. A Picture Isn't Always Worth A Thousand Words. For an example, see the picture in my July post showing a vacation rental promoting their view and outdoor dining. The table is actually in a driveway. Another picture shows the view, it is actually a photo from the Chamber of Commerce, not the view from the property.

4. "Sleeps Four, Must Eat Out." You can't save money eating-in if the vacation home is furnished with a cafe table that seats two. New owners often focus on getting beds and sofas and skimp on the dining. I visited one rental that used the outdoor furniture for the dining table.

5. Good Rate, Lot's of Extra Fees. Owners sometimes lower the rent and add a key fee, a parking permit fee, bed tax, security deposit, or a processing fee. Stick with owners who disclose fees upfront or better yet, book with owners who include fees in the rent.

6. Extra Paperwork. Do you really need a complicated lease, more forms for key pick up, and an extra stop at the management office when you want to relax? Make sure the hours for key pickup aren't limited, you may not want to rush your drive just to make the office hours. Look for rentals where you don't have to deal with a third party and the owners keep things simple by handling paperwork online. New laws mean you don't have to use fax or mail for signatures and credit card payments mean you have added security from your financial institution if something should go wrong.

7. Great Views, And Road Construction. Highway 89A in Sedona, AZ will be under construction for nearly a year. The heavy equipment, trucks, and traffic jams echo in the canyon walls, amplifying already ear crushing noise. Add a house on the hill with a view and you've got round the clock headaches and dust. Always ask owners about nearby construction.

8. What's an Air Filter? Indoor air is usually more polluted than outdoor air, especially in homes where the heating and air conditioning filter isn't changed regularly. Manufacturers recommend changing standard air filters every 30 days, but many owners cut costs by stretching the life of cheap filters. I've stayed in 12 vacation rentals in the past two years and had to buy or request a new filter at each one. Ask that the filter be changed for your arrival and support owners who spend the extra for permanent or HEPA filters changed on a regular basis. Who needs to go on vacation and get sick?

9. We Spray. You get respiratory problems. Bug spray, pest control may get rid of roaches, but it also aggravates allergies, asthma, and can weaken your immune system.

10. Lots of tennis courts, pools, and golf--NO ACCESS. Make sure you don't have to wait for play time. Find out how crowded the pool gets and what availability is like for recreation sites.

New URL for this Blog

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

5 Places To Get Greener, Healthier Food

Grabbing fast food isn't my first choice, but it's usually unavoidable while traveling with my family. Can you suggest some healthier, green options?
- Megan Morgan, Columbia, South Carolina

We know how difficult (and expensive!) it is to eat out for every meal when your family's on vacation. Fortunately, some conscientious companies are working to change the artery-clogging, Earth-trashing image of fast food chains. Locally sourced and eco-friendly, here are our five favorite "green" fast food restaurants across the country. The kids will love it and you'll feel good about it, too. Read more on Yahoo

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Fall in Love with St. Augustine: Autumn in the Old City

Sometimes the best things in life really are free--including my Florida fall favorite things to do. The summer family tourists have cleared out and so has the humidity. Temperatures, prices, and hurricane threats drop and spooks and sparkling festivities go up. Read on if you like to skip the most of the touristy, admission, military, or golf activities. They're easy to find on many other websites with ads. I focus on local flavor, fun, and free or at least a fantastic deal.

If you can only do three things, see the holiday lights, take the kayak trip, and hit the chowder taste test. Be sure to try the Minorcan Chowder entered by Hot Shot Bakery. Click here to get the recipe or sample it at the Hot Shot Bakery across the street from Casa Monica Hotel. Say hey to Sherry for me.

FIRST FRIDAY ARTWALK (First Friday of Every Month 2008) - Self-guided walking tour of numerous art galleries. The cost of living is lower in St. Augustine than in many other quaint towns, so real artists can actually afford to live here. 5 PM - 9 PM Historic District

UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT - This is a locals' favorite which makes the turnout lively. The last Saturday of every month enjoy extended shopping hours, live entertainment and book signings as the quaint shops along San Marco Avenue host an evening of entertainment and socializing. Exhibits, wine, champagne, authors and music are part of the fun. San Marco Avenue, 5 - 9 PM.

LIVE MUSIC, HEALTHY FOOD at The Present Moment Cafe Friday & Saturdays at 9 PM. An eclectic mix of local music, soul to funk, bluegrass to Africa. Watch for the detour on King Street. Bring Your Own Mug for $1 Cup of Coffee.

HAUNTED ST. AUGUSTINE IS EVERYWHERE Oct. 16-31. Hayrides, ghost tour walks, trick or treat parties.

RIPLEY’S HALLOWEEN GHOST TRAIN: Not so free, but oh, so funny. Board the Ghost Train for a ride throughout the haunted streets of old St. Augustine. There are stops along the way where tales are told and guests can photograph orbs and use EMF meters to identify the presence of spirits or something gassy? Tours begin from Ripley's Believe It or Not at 7 PM. Fee: $24 for adults,$12 for children. See website for $2 off coupon.

ENCHANTED FOREST: Enjoy a magical "scare-free" walk through the enchanted forest loop at Anastasia State Park. The trees will be magnificently lit with sparkling lights for a scare-free walking loop filled with charming scenes. All proceeds benefit the non-profit Friends of Anastasia State Park. Enchanted Forest is located at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. For more information call 904-814-2113.

Indians of the Estuary Kayak Tour in St Augustine - (Oct 21) Come along on a leisurely paddle through one of Northeast Florida's most beautiful landscapes and discover how the Timucuans lived and loved this land. Explore with a professional naturalist/kayak guide and enjoy stories about the important role the Matanzas Estuary played in their everyday lives. Tour fee is $60 per person, includes all needed kayaking equipment, kayaking instruction, park entrance fees, catered lunch and bottled water. For info, contact Coastal Outdoor Center

28TH ANNUAL LINCOLNVILLE FESTIVAL - (Nov 2-4) Lincolnville is one of St. Augustine’s oldest neighborhoods with more than half of its buildings dating from the late 19th century black settlement. Historic visitors included Martin Luther King. The event kicks-off on Friday with live R&B music, food, games, and arts and crafts. Free Admission. For more information call 904-669-0739

BRITISH GARRISON WEEKEND AT THE CASTILLO DE SAN MARCOS (Nov 3-4) Experience what the fort was like during the British military occupation of 1763-1784. Reenactors and rangers will be dressed as British colonial soldiers as they provide historic weapon demonstrations, talks and displays. Hours: 8:45 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Admission: Adults $6, children 15 and under free. 904-829-6506

23nd ANNUAL GREAT CHOWDER DEBATE - (Nov 2) More than 30 area restaurants will compete to see who has the best chowder – each special entry is available for tasting with taste tickets sold for $1 each. An astounding variety of chowders will be available – from local favorites like the Menorcan chowders to an assortment of New England chowders. The event starts at noon and runs throughout the day. The Conch House Marina is located at 57 Comares Avenue. Call the Conch House for info (904) 829-8646

10th ANNUAL WINERY HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE at the San Sebastian Winery. Wine tasting, great music, hors d'oeuvres. (Nov 17-18)

ST AUGUSTINE ART AND CRAFT FESTIVAL- (Nov 29-30) This two day event features art created from lace to limestone and crayons to crystal. The City's largest juried show means this isn't just a street market with palm tree potholders. Festival takes place at Francis Field behind the St. Augustine Downtown Historic Parking Facility located on West Castillo Drive in St. Augustine. Details on the St. Augustine Art Association website.

LEGENDARY FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS (Nov 18-Jan 31) Find out why there's very little occupancy at vacation rentals and local lodging at this time of year when you see the millions of white lights outline historic St. Augustine. This holiday season, the Nights of Lights will be illuminated at a special opening event scheduled to begin on November 18 at 4:30 p.m. in the city's historic Plaza de la Constitucion. After a high-energy musical performance the lighting ceremony will begin at 6:30 p.m. when a single flick of a switch will bathe the St Augustine historic district in the soft glow of two million lights.

HOMES FOR THE HOLIDAYS NIGHTS OF LIGHTS TOUR at Old St. Augustine Village - (Nov 22-30) A storyteller in period costume will tell of holiday traditions in the Ancient City covering over 400 yeas of history. The spectacle of the lighted city will be enjoyed along the way. Old St. Augustine Village is the final destination where an entire city block of historic homes will be trimmed and decorated to reflect the holiday season. After a guided lantern light tour through the homes, refreshments served. Hours: Fridays and Saturdays 7 PM. Admission: $20 WELL WORTH IT.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Do "Green" Cleaners Really Work?

After my August 13 post about the dangers of house cleaning, a few of you, including one of our house cleaners, asked me if green cleaning products really clean, can green cleaning sanitize surfaces like toilets and countertops? I say yes, because our homes can't be sterilized anyway, no surface stays santized for long.

If that's not enough for you, consider the alternatives. "Disinfectants can be poisonous--they're regulated as pesticides..." says Lori Bongiono, author of Green, Greener, Greenest.

~Water evaporating--air drying, is actually a good way to get rid of germs. I clean with hot water to increase the odds. Studies show air dried dishes have 74% less bacteria and germs than towel dried dishes.

~A super-hooked microfiber cloth and hot water is an affordable choice that works on 90% of household messes. Rubbing alcohol and baking soda work on tougher stains.

~I confess, I keep a caustic cleaner on hand, outside in the shed, for the remaining 1% I can't remove with my green cleaning methods. But almost all of the time, my house is fragrance and chemical free.

~The toilets get baking soda for scrubbing and vinegar for sanitizing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Green Lodging News

Unity Conference Center received LEED Certification, making it the first lodging to meet this classification in the Midwest. The Unity Village Hotel and Conference Center on the grounds of Unity Village, a National Historic Register site located 15 miles southeast of Kansas City has 49 double-occupancy hotel rooms and a multipurpose meeting and conference center which just received Silver LEED status. The building utilizes a ground-source heat pump system for heating and cooling. Thirty-seven ground wells were drilled to a depth of 350 feet. The system uses the Earth’s temperature to heat and cool the building. This is the most energy-efficient way to heat and cool a building, and it is longer lasting than traditional heating and cooling systems. Water efficiency is a key component of the building, with dual-flush toilets, low-volume showerheads, rain gardens and bioswales to purify stormwater runoff. Green cleaning products are used throughout.

Go to the Unity Village Hotel and Conference Center.