Kimberly and I have known each other since our middle sons started preschool, almost fifteen years ago. We both love adventure, travel and writing. Throughout the years, we’ve enjoyed numerous cups of coffee sharing stories about raising our boys, living in Orange County and our dreams. I’m so proud of Kimberly. Not only did she complete the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California, but she is now the author of Global Warming is Good for Business: How Savvy Entrepreneurs, Large Corporations, and Others are Making a Profit While Saving the Planet. She offered to write about eco-travel as a guest blogger, and I thought that would interest all of us in today’s changing world. Please check out her website, and blog.
Eco-travel in any Economy
When I think about taking an eco-vacation, I imagine roughing it in exotic places that are teaming with wildlife and a rich cornucopia of plants and trees. Then I look at my budget and sigh. I live in Southern California, home to some of the hottest tourist attractions in the world, yet my idea of the perfect vacation spot is anywhere but here. The reality is that my chances of taking an eco-vacation in this economy are probably slim to none. At least that’s what I thought until a week ago.
My trip to Northern California began as a business/pleasure trip. I planned to attend the Green Business Camp in San Francisco for one day and to stay the night with old friends whom I haven’t seen in far too long. As the author of a newly released book on business and the environment, the irony of jetting up to the Bay Area to discuss eco-friendly topics with others was not lost on me. I began to feel guilt about my carbon footprint, which slowly morphed into a kind of decision—or maybe it was more of a dream—to go the whole trip without a car.
I realize that in many places, going without a car is no big deal. But this is California, and Northern Californians love their automobiles just as much as Southern Californians…even if they do drive Priuses. It took several hours of pouring over Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) maps and Municipal or MUNI bus schedules to figure out how to get around town. I thought I had everything down, but things looked a whole lot different on the ground.
I got off the plane in Oakland International Airport and made my way to the AirBART to go into town. I only had one day on my own, so I wanted to make the most of it by seeing the Living Roof at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. I made it from the airport to the main BART line, no problem. So far, so good; however, my first BART stop was at 16th & Mission, which was not an area I would want to be in after dark…or during the day, for that matter. Maps tell you where you can go; they don’t tell you where you should go.
Heart pounding, hand clutching my rolling suitcase, I avoided eye contact with some of the more vocal characters and made my way to the corner bus stop. There, an elderly Chinese couple, a young Hispanic mother with her child, and two young African-American youths stood next to me, their various dialects and languages ebbing and flowing around me in a tide of humanity.
When the bus arrived, I was carried up and onto its steps by a rush of people, intent upon being the last to squeeze on board. There I stood, like one of an eclectic mix of sardines, standing in the middle aisle. No need to hold on; there was no room to fall. Suddenly, I no longer felt threatened by these strangers; I felt like I belonged. That’s when I had my first epiphany: If you want to feel the pulse of a city, then ride the bus.
The California Academy of Sciences was as amazing as everyone said it would be. The living roof was truly spectacular as was the rainforest exhibit. I spent the better part of an hour walking up a spiral ramp that wound three or four stories from under the water up to the canopy at the top of the rainforest.
When I was done, I made my way back via bus and BART, no longer intimidated, to the Danville exit, where my friend Julie picked me up to hike the hills around Mt. Diablo.
The next morning, I carpooled into the BART station with my friend John, who routinely uses this as his way to-and-from work. I was not the only person to take the eco-friendly path in to the Green Business Camp, which was held at the GreenV Sustainable Center in South San Francisco. Some carpooled, others walked or rode their bikes. On the way back, I decided to take a stroll along a beautiful little bike path with green grass and wild flowers, which somehow ended at the depot. The wind was blowing slightly but the sky was a brilliant blue scudded with fluffy white clouds that played hide-and-seek with the sun. I almost forgot that I had to meet John at the Walnut Creek station to carpool home. That’s when I had my second epiphany: You will get where you are going, even if you forget to rush.
The following morning was full of rain, and Julie and I got a cup of coffee on the way to the airport. The flight home was uneventful and boring. My husband picked me up on his way home from work up in LA. That’s when I looked in my wallet and realized that I had virtually all of the cash I’d started out with. In fact, except for the dinner I bought for John and Julie and the entrance fee for the museum, I didn’t spend much at all. That’s when I had my third epiphany: It is possible to eco-travel in any economy, and you don’t have to go to some exotic locale to travel richly on a sustainable budget.
greenhotels.com Green Hotels Association:
Before you leave
*Turn the water heater to its lowest setting
*Turn your thermostat down or off
When you travel
*Use e-Tickets rather than paper tickets whenever possible
*Walk or use public transportation
*If you do drive, turn your engine off rather than idling to see the sights
*Throw trash away in trash bins (this seems obvious but it’s always amazing where people chose to throw their trash when they’re not home)
If you stay at a hotel
*Tell the cleaning staff that they don’t have to change the bed linens or towels every day
*Turn off lights and appliances when you leave the room
*Turn the thermostat down or off when you leave
*Ask the hotel to recycle complimentary newspapers
*BYOB – bring your own bar of soap and let the hotel keep their little amenities
If you eat out
*Avoid Styrofoam and carry your own water bottle or cup when possible
*When offered napkins or condiments, take only what you will use
*Reduce fast food consumption (I always like to experience the unique tastes of the city you are visiting)
*Take only those maps and brochures that you will use
*Use a digital camera rather than a disposable
Kimberly B. Keilbach is the author of Global Warming is Good for Business: How Savvy Entrepreneurs, Large Corporations, and Others are Making a Profit While Saving the Planet. A graduate of the University of Southern California’s Entrepreneur Program and Master of Professional Writing Program, Kimberly writes about innovation, creativity and people’s responses to change. She is also a member of the International Eco-Tourism Society.
Visit Kimberly on her blog at kbkeilbach.blogspot.com.
As someone who now lives in Stockholm, it is strange to think how hard it is for others to be without their cars. (Just as it is if you live in the north of Sweden because of the huge distances having a car is unavoidable.) What I find strange is that people feel as if they need cars in big cities where there are plenty of buses and tubes etc. to help them get round.
Glad to hear you saved lots of money too!
We have always taken advantage of local transportation when we travel and it makes the experience so much more real, you really see stuff. When we went to Thailand we took the subway, skyrail, tuk-tuk, taxi and water taxi. We talked to people who knew and followed their advice. Ideally, its best to talk with a local who can give you the best tips for which modes of transportation to take (so you aren't stuck at 16th & Mission!).
I think its freeing to be with out a car.
Elizabeth Spann Craig says
Thanks for all the tips and the reminders on what to do when we go out of town. I love the fact that you rode the bus to your event! You really are “walking the walk.”
Wow–looks like it was a great trip! Thanks for sharing all the pics and for the green tips. 🙂
Jungle Mom says
It’s always best to look around and observe how the locals get around and then try that.
Your comment gave me a chuckle. I did not count the ants. The 24 is a type of ant. A large, inch long, ant that bites and stings at the same time. It wont kill you but for 24 hours you will wish it had. Thus the name, 24.
Hit 40 says
Great post and pics! Thank you for sharing your travel info with us!!
I am always looking to save $$$
K. B. Keilbach says
Thanks for hosting me, Sonia. It was wonderful to visit, and I appreciate all the great comments.
Cairo Typ0 says
Very interesting tips! I wouldn’t have thought of some of those things as being eco-friendly (as opposed to cost conscious). I’m more eco friendly than i thought! :p
Karen (KayKay) says
Looks like a great trip. Thank you for all the tips.