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Sustainable tourism is conscientious travel. It means being careful with the environments you explore and respecting the communities you visit. Two overlapping components of sustainable travel are ecotourism and ethical tourism. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines ecotourism as responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people. TIES suggests that ecotourists follow these principles:

  • Minimize environmental impact.
  • Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
  • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
  • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation and for local people.
  • Raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental, and social climates.
  • Support international human rights and labor agreements.

Oregon has long had a big reputation for being environmentally aware and eco-friendly, and today many businesses throughout the state are doing what they can to become more sustainable.

Many restaurants around the state have adopted the mantra of "fresh, local, organic," and with the incomparable bounties of the Willamette Valley and Oregon coast close at hand, it is very easy to adhere to these tenets of sustainability. Wild salmon? No problem. Organic wine? Got it. Throughout this book I have made a point of highlighting restaurants that are doing their part for the environment. Check restaurant websites when you're planning your trip, and you'll likely find that other Oregon restaurants are also emphasizing sustainability.

Even bed-and-breakfast inns and major hotel chains are going green. The Oregon Bed and Breakfast Guild (www.obbg.org) has a green certification program. Major chains doing their part to become more sustainable include Starwood (Sheraton, W Hotels, Westin), Kimpton, and Hilton.

If you rent a car from Alamo, Enterprise, or National, you can opt to pay a small additional amount to offset carbon dioxide emissions. You can also choose to rent a hybrid from Enterprise and other rental car companies.

Of course, it's hard to get greener than by riding a bike, but if you're headed out on an organized bike tour, you'll still have a sag wagon. At Escape Adventures (tel. 800/596-2953; www.escapeadventures.com), which offers both road and mountain-bike tours in Oregon, sag wagons are fueled by used cooking oil in an effort to be as carbon-neutral as possible. In Bend, Oregon's Wanderlust Tours offers great adventure tours in central Oregon and also does a great deal to be sustainable, including dedicating $1 of each tour to planting trees for the purpose of carbon sequestration.

Riding a bike in Oregon isn't just about touring the coast or bombing down mountain single-track. Portland is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the U.S., so if you want to try going carless, this is a great city to give it a try. Currently, downtown Portland's Hotel Monaco even offers a "Carless Vacation" package. You can also just rent a bike and head out on your own. The city has a well-marked network of bike routes, including special bike lanes downtown. Of course, if you're not a cyclist, Portland also has a great public transit system that includes light rail, street cars, buses, and even an aerial tram.

Even wineries and vineyards in Oregon are doing their part to help the environment. More and more vineyards are choosing to grow their grapes organically or biodynamically, while others, by reducing runoff and erosion and otherwise improving salmon habitats in streams adjacent to vineyards, have received "Salmon Safe" certification from the organization Salmon-Safe (tel. 503/232-3750; www.salmonsafe.org). Many of the newer large wineries in the state are now using photovoltaic panels to generate electricity, and a number of them -- including the Carlton Winemakers Studio, Stoller Vineyards, and Sokol Blosser Winery -- have received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Association.

Because the citizens of Corvallis, a college town 80 miles south of Portland, buy so much alternative energy, the city has been voted the nation's top Green Power Community by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Many hotels in Corvallis even offer a 15% discount on room rates if you drive a hybrid, alternate-fuel, or zero-emission vehicle on your visit to town.

For information on volunteer vacation opportunities and other special-interest trips, see "Special Interest Trips," below.

General Resources for Green Travel

In addition to the resources for Oregon listed above, the following websites provide valuable wide-ranging information on sustainable travel. For a list of even more sustainable resources, as well as tips and explanations on how to travel greener, visit www.frommers.com/planning.

  • Responsible Travel (www.responsibletravel.com) is a great source of sustainable travel ideas; the site is run by a spokesperson for ethical tourism in the travel industry. Sustainable Travel International (www.sustainabletravelinternational.org) promotes ethical tourism practices and manages an extensive directory of sustainable properties and tour operators around the world.
  • In the U.K., Tourism Concern (www.tourismconcern.org.uk) works to reduce social and environmental problems connected to tourism. The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO; www.aito.co.uk) is a group of specialist operators leading the field in making holidays sustainable.
  • In Canada, Green Living (www.greenlivingonline.com) offers extensive content on how to travel sustainably, including a travel and transport section and profiles of the best green shops and services in Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary.
  • In Australia, the national body that sets guidelines and standards for ecotourism is Ecotourism Australia (www.ecotourism.org.au). The Green Directory (www.thegreendirectory.com.au), Green Pages (www.thegreenpages.com.au), and EcoDirectory (www.ecodirectory.com.au) offer sustainable travel tips and directories of green businesses.
  • Carbonfund (www.carbonfund.org) and TerraPass (www.terrapass.org) provide info on "carbon offsetting," or offsetting the greenhouse gas emitted during flights.
  • Green Hotels Association (www.greenhotels.com) recommends green-rated member hotels around the world that fulfill the company's stringent environmental requirements. Environmentally Friendly Hotels (www.environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com) offers more green accommodation ratings. The Hotel Association of Canada has a Green Key Eco-Rating Program (www.greenkeyglobal.com), which audits the environmental performance of Canadian hotels, motels, and resorts.
  • Sustain Lane (www.sustainlane.com) lists sustainable eating and drinking choices around the U.S.; also visit www.eatwellguide.org for tips on eating sustainably in the U.S. and Canada.
  • For information on animal-friendly issues throughout the world, visit Tread Lightly (www.treadlightly.org). For information about the ethics of swimming with dolphins, visit the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (www.wdcs.org).
  • Volunteer International (www.volunteerinternational.com) has a list of questions to help you determine the intentions and the nature of a volunteer program. For general info on volunteer travel, visit www.volunteerabroad.org and www.idealist.org.

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.