The Boston area is a hotbed of eco-awareness. True, it's not Europe, or even California, but residents and visitors have a smaller-than-usual carbon footprint almost by accident -- driving in the area is such a headache that ditching the car makes sense for both the environment and your sanity.
Before you leave home, visit the website of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau (www.bostonusa.com/visit) and click "Boston Insider" to get the latest info about the bureau's Eco-friendly Traveler program. Here you'll find information about eco-aware attractions along with lists of hotels and restaurants that are certified green or working toward that status.
The industry-leading Lenox Hotel was one of the first American hotels to offer a towel reuse program and boasts an impressive portfolio of initiatives and awards -- in a luxurious property that makes sustainability matter-of-fact rather than inconvenient. The Lenox is part of the Saunders Hotel Group, which has demonstrated and encouraged green awareness in the hospitality business for 2 decades. The Comfort Inn & Suites Boston/Airport is the firm's other Boston-area property. They have plenty of company: Virtually all of the chain lodgings in the area and their independent competitors are on the bandwagon. The Colonnade Hotel Boston and the Seaport Hotel are particularly green.
The Chefs Collaborative (tel. 617/236-5200; www.chefscollaborative.org) is a Boston-based nonprofit dedicated to "changing the sustainable food landscape"; its website has a search function that locates member restaurants. The Green Restaurant Association (www.dinegreen.com) maintains a regularly updated list of members, which includes Taranta Cucina Meridionale in the North End and Cambridge's Upstairs on the Square. Carbon-neutral Taranta even uses corn-based-polymer drinking straws.
Huge proportions of Boston-area commuters get to work on foot or by public transit. Cambridge has been relatively hospitable to bicyclists for years, and Boston is catching up and even planning a bike-share program similar to the arrangements in such cities as Paris and Montreal (visit www.cityofboston.gov/bikes for information). Most subway stations and some bus stops have receptacles for recycling the newspaper after you finish reading it. Zipcar originated in Cambridge; your membership at home entitles you to use cars all over the Boston area, including locations at the end of most subway lines.
Awareness of the importance of recycling is nothing radical in New England, where one of the best-known sayings is "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." To take just one example, Massachusetts is among the national leaders in the campaign to reduce the use of disposable shopping bags. To learn more about statewide green initiatives, visit the Department of Environmental Protection's website at www.mass.gov/dep. Learn more about Boston's Environmental and Energy Services initiative at www.cityofboston.gov/environmentalandenergy.
In addition to the resources for the Boston area listed above, visit www.frommers.com/planning for more tips on responsible travel.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.