Florida's biggest attraction isn't Disney, but rather its natural resources. Thanks to some of the state's initiatives, keeping Florida green is becoming second nature. The Florida Green Lodging program, for instance, is a voluntary initiative of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection that designates and recognizes lodging facilities making a commitment to conserving and protecting Florida's natural resources. As of February 19, 2010, there were 621 designated Florida Green Lodging properties. In order to be considered for membership in this very exclusive, green group, motels, hotels, and resorts must: educate customers, employees and the public on conservation; participate in waste reduction, reuse, recycling, water conservation, and energy efficiency; and provide eco-friendly transportation. The designation is valid for three years from the date of issue and all properties are required to submit environmental performance data every year as well as implement at least two new environmental practices from any of the six areas of sustainable operations. For a list of these properties, go to www.dep.state.fl.us/greenlodging/lodges.htm.
Ecotourism isn't just a trendy catchphrase when it comes to tourism in Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates that outdoor activities have almost a $10 billion impact on the state's economy. The Everglades alone is an ecotourism hot spot where responsible tourism isn't an option but a mandatory requirement for anyone visiting or working there. In fact, in 2010, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan reinvigorated a restoration plan that will return some lands previously squandered for development to their formerly pristine, natural conditions. For a directory of sustainable, eco-conscious tourism, try EcoFlorida Magazine or its blog at http://ecoflorida.blogspot.com.
Contrary to popular belief, when it comes to responsible tourism in Florida it is, indeed, easy being green.
General Resources for Green Travel
In addition to the resources for Florida listed above, the following websites provide valuable wide-ranging information on sustainable travel.
- 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.
- Carbonfund (www.carbonfund.org), TerraPass (www.terrapass.org), and Cool Climate (http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu) 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.
- Volunteer International (www.volunteerinternational.org) 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.