One thing that continually amazes me about Turkey is its ability to leapfrog over many of the challenges that, traditionally, the "West" has had to grapple with. Turkey seems to be a cauldron of budding (and more recently, established) entrepreneurship, and all things organic, natural, vegetarian, healthy, and environmentally sound are being incorporated into the way hotels and restaurants do business. Indeed, Istanbul's iconic building, the Atatürk Cultural Center, is as I type undergoing a massive modernization project that will make it a model for environmentally friendly restoration projects.
Elsewhere in Istanbul and around the countryside -- even in the heartland where "natural" is assumed -- organic is the new buzzword, and establishments that are thinking about these issues are certainly letting the public know. One standout is the Five Boutique Hotel, the first entirely organic hotel in Turkey.
Istanbul boasts two organic outdoor markets, the Ekolojik Halk Pazari in Sisli, which was started in 2008 by the environmental group Bugday (www.bugday.org) and City Farm in the Istinye Park shopping center (two noticeably higher-income areas). The new Macrocenter grocery store brings all things wholesome under one roof, with, at last count, nine locations in Istanbul alone. In addition, Istanbul now has dozens of specialized grocers, shops selling all-natural products, and eateries serving only "whole" foods. For chemical-free produce at open markets, look for fruits and vegetables designated as bahçemden ("from my garden").
Many of Turkey's vehicles still run on diesel fuel, although kürsünsüz (unleaded) is also pervasive. The newer green city buses are also considered ekolojik, while the new hybrid Metrobuses (not detailed in Getting Around because they primarily serve the outer suburbs) reduce both energy consumption and travel time in Istanbul.
Throughout this guide, I've tried to highlight establishments with practices that are good for the planet.
General Resources for Green Travel
In addition to the resources for Turkey 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, 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 Eco Directory (www.ecodirectory.com.au) all offer sustainable travel tips and directories of green businesses.
- Carbonfund (www.carbonfund.org) and TerraPass (www.terrapass.org each 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.
- 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.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.