In line with its reputation as a country of extremes, Russia offers some of the best and worst that nature has to offer. Vast tracts of untouched Siberian forest and wildlife, and pollution-choked cities with little regard for recycling or emissions limits. Its attitude toward transport is similarly polar: Its trains and trolleybuses carry millions daily and have offered efficient, carbon-free travel for a century, and most Russians do not own cars. But those that do generally own the dirtiest kind: fuel-thirsty SUVs and Hummers, or Soviet-era models built when emissions were of no concern. One positive development is that the collapse in Russia's industry in the 1990s means office buildings and apartment towers took over factory grounds that used to cough pollution into downtown Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Navigating both cities with the environment in mind is challenging but possible. Nearly every site listed can be reached by public transport. Bikes are available for rent in both cities.
In St. Petersburg, try Skat Prokat, for 300 rubles a day plus deposit. (3 Glinka Ulitsa, inside the Kitsport store; tel. 812/325-7198).
None of the car rental agencies currently offer hybrids.
Few hotels or restaurants pay much heed to environmental concerns. An exception is the Alexander Hotel in St. Petersburg. To be more certain about the provenance and contents of your food, try the open-air markets in the city (Mikhailovsky Market in St. Petersburg). The older women camped out on the edge of the markets are often selling goods from their own gardens.
Though caviar is a centerpiece of Russian cuisine, the Caspian Sea sturgeon that produce them are desperately endangered. If you are keen for a taste, favor the red caviar, or salmon roe, on many restaurant menus.
Recycling has yet to catch on in either city, as the excessive packaging we know in the West came only recently to Russia. An exception are Soviet-era machines that allow you to exchange empty aluminum cans for cash, though they are often out of order.
The best way to stay "green" is to visit the parks. The St. Petersburg island Krestovsky Ostrov has sporting facilities near the main entrance but thins out into lush, peaceful forest farther back. St. Petersburg's botanical gardens host some 12,000 plant species.
The Typhoon Experimental Meteorology Research Institute sets ecological standards for the country (www.typhoon.obninsk.ru/english/main.htm).
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.