Category Archives: Green Travel

Is being green a luxury in developing nations?

Reflecting on being green in Cuba

Reflecting on being green in Trinidad, Cuba

This past week-end, i got back from a much needed vacation in Cuba. While there, I reflected a lot upon the feasibility of being green in a developing, socialist no less, nation.

Often in the developed world, we equate being “green” with “green” products. It’s true that making the switch from conventional to “green” or eco-friendly products is definitely a step in the right direction, but I think we’ve lost track of the essential meaning.  A green lifestyle should be about reducing consumption, not the buying of new “green” products. Check out the story of stuff if this doesn’t make sense.

It’s easy to be ethnocentric and judge other peoples cultures. Immediately upon arriving in Varadero, I was quick to judge the resort I was at for not recycling (shampoo bottles, pop cans, wine & rum bottles etc.) and bus drivers that would idle for half an hour at rest stops.

However, upon reflection, the Cubans did much more than I have seen Canadians do in a long time which probably impacts the environment even more. They live a lifestyle that we have long forgotten about. A lifestyle that embodies the basics of no waste, albeit for economic reasons. Continue reading

How to get the benefits of a car while staying eco

Benefits of car in an eco fashion

Car sharing gives you the benefits of a car in an eco-friendly fashion

Lets face it, in an urban world, there are just some times where we need to have a car. From  picking up friends or family at the airport and transporting furniture or big purchases to simply wanting to get out of town for the week-end, the use of a car is imminent.

In my day to day life, I fortunately do not need a car.  I use the metro (subway) to get to work and can walk to all necessary stores and services. This is one of the reasons I believe living in a urban centre is actually quite eco. However, there are times where I legitimately need a car. So here’s what I did, I became one of 20,000 Canadians that signed up for car-sharing. I did it with Communauto.

About car sharing:

Car sharing is one of the coolest trends in the “eco” movement and is practiced around the world, especially in Europe. It started in Switzerland in 1987 and made its way to North America via Quebec in 1993. It entails sharing a car with others through an organisation, only when you need it. It is the perfect compliment to someone like me who uses public transport but needs a car from time to time. It has apparently become so popular in the urban eco movement that new condo developments are being built with parking spaces available for cars from car-sharing companies only.

My experience with car sharing: Continue reading

How to naturally get rid of mosquito bite itch

Kayaking in the 1000 islands

Kayaking in the 1000 islands with many mosquitoes

Ah the summer! Finally we can shed our clothes and get out and play in the nature. The main hazard though, besides sunburns, is dealing with those damn mosquitoes. Whether you’re camping, horse back riding, hiking or canoeing, they’re everywhere. I’ll be honest, I’ve yet to find a deterrent that works. And when it’s hot, the last thing I want to do is cover up. Plus, I hate the feel of mosquito repellents on my skin, especially on my hands. Thus, here are (5) five natural remedies for mosquito bite itch relief:
  1. Baking soda and water (paste)
  2. Vinegar
  3. Apple cider vinegar
  4. Salt and water
  5. Crushed aspirin with a few drops of water

Does anybody have any natural mosquito bite prevention tips?

BIXI: not all it's cracked up to be

Urban Green Girl on BIXI

Urban Green Girl on BIXI

So much for being excited by something you end up being screwed by. $67 dollars later, I realise BIXI wasn’t exactly what I thought it was. Not ideal for tourists. Not ideal for ad-hoc bike rides. Is good for bike taxi needs. I guess this would have been clear had I read their press releases but silly me, excited by their presence everywhere, I wanted to ride one impatiently. I misread their confusing rental fee stickers on the machine, despite the fact I read them in detail. Continue reading

Montreal takes stand against climate change with the launch of BIXI

Whoever thought green initiatives wouldn’t be cool for urbanites never met BIXI!

BIXI with Montreal skyline

BIXI with Montreal skyline

Just over a month ago, the City of Montreal launched BIXI, North America’s first public bike system. It was part of the city’s overall object to improve public transport and reduce the amount of vehicles on the road. Continue reading

New York, Washington DC & Phoenix, still no public recycling!

As I’ve written before, recycling is not the answer; rather, the focus should be on reducing waste in the first place. However, in certain circumstances, like when you’re travelling in urban centres, it’d be nice to be able to recycle your water bottle rather than throw it out. I recently made a few trips south of the border to New York, Washington DC and Phoenix and was greatly disappointed by the lack of recycling bins in the downtown areas for glass and plastic bottles.

Daily Manhattan garbage

Absolutely unacceptable - Manhattan garbage

Let’s start off with New York City, an avant-garde city that starts positive trends. Yet, I was horrified by the amount of waste that was thrown out each night in front of boutiques and restaurants, not to mention, the lack of recycling bins throughout Manhattan. I remember asking an employee at Burger King (yes, I ate there but I had the veggie burger) where I could recycle my water bottle and the girl looked at me like I was crazy! I stayed at an awesome boutique hotel called the Room Mate Grace right in the Continue reading

Europe's grass-lined railways provide beautiful solution to rising city temperatures

Grass-lined tram and railways in Europe

Grass-lined tram and railways in Europe

I just read a  great article this morning that I wanted to share with you. It’s about green urban design that is not only beautiful but ecological. It seems that certain cities across France, Spain, The Netherlands and The Czech Republic are implementing grass-lined railways in the city. The benefit, aside from being more beautiful then concrete, is that it helps to reduce urban heat island effect which is when the temperature in cities is more warm than surrounding areas. This happens because dark surfaces, notably cement, absorb the sun’s heat as opposed to vegetation which cools it down.  The imbalanced ratio of dark surfaces to vegetation in urban sprawls increases the temperature. The result is higher air pollution due to smog which occurs in hotter climates and increased energy consumption from air conditioning needed to offset the heat. It also provides a permeable surface for storm water absorption and reduces pollution.  Reading articles like this leave me feeling optimistic for a green future. Not to mention, wanting to travel in Europe!

The Toyota Prius proves not so fuel efficient afterall

Toyota Hybrid vs BMW 520d A test conducted by The Sunday Times in England proved that a BMW 520d diesel is more fuel efficient than the Toyota Prius hybrid, on a race from London to Geneva, 560miles.  They covered about 200 miles of highways, 200 miles of B roads (windy, mountainous conditions) and 100 miles of urban settings. In fact, the drive is only 460 miles to Geneva, but they drove an extra 100 miles to give the Toyota Prius some advantage in urban settings. The results were surprising! The BMW 520d had done the entire trip on 49 litres and averaged more than 50 mpg whereas the Toyota Prius Hybrid averaged only 48.1 mpg.  I should note that Toyota claims that the official fuel consumption for the Prius is 65.7 mpg. You would think with all the hoopla surrounding the benefits of the Toyota Prius that it would still manage to be more fuel efficient in highway driving than a midsize car. However, to the Toyota Prius’s defense, it’s main purpose is for city driving where fuel consumption is at it’s highest. Not to mention, this is the type of condition that most of us drive in on a regular basis. We all know that you get more mpg in highway driving as you’re not stopping and going every 5 minutes, so frankly, for the Toyota Prius to have been beaten by less than 2 mpg, it’s really not, in my opinion, that big of a deal.

Stay green while backpacking with a water purifier

Water bottles in landfill

Water bottles in landfill_Photo:M Erikkson

If you are like me, you LOVE to travel but hate the fact that you can’t recycle your water bottles along the way. I’ve been known to bring them back with me in my suitcase because I don’t have the heart to throw them out. My friend Monica just completed a one year backpacking trip around the world with her husband and gave me a great tip to share with you here.

SteriPEN water purifier

Instead of buying countless bottles of water that will end up in the landfill or on the sides of roads (Ex. South America or India) try buying a SteriPENwater purifier. It will sterilise the water in your reusable water bottle (Eg. Nalgene bottle).  According to the manufacturer:

[SteriPENis] a water purifier and pre-filter that uses shortwave ultraviolet light to disinfect water. When you immerse the lamp in the water it disrupts the DNA of bacteria, viruses and protozoa, rendering them harmless. The pre-filter can be used to help clear particulates and debris from water.

The SteriPEN is easy to use:

  1. Fill up your reusable bottle with water from your hostel, hotel or a water tap
  2. Insert the SteriPEN
  3. Wait 45 seconds per .5L of water
  4. Voilà! You’ve got clean water and just saved a bottle from the landfill

The ultraviolet light will last up to 8000 treatments. The SteriPEN uses 4 AA batteries. The best is NiMH rechargeable batteries. Four will treat up to 90L-105L of water. Note, when buying a battery recharger (recommended for cameras as well) get one that comes with a universal adapter. SteriPEN can be purchased in Canada at Mountain Equipment Co-op or REI in the states. Otherwise, you can consult the SteriPEN store locator. It retails for about $88 CAD or $90 US.

Happy green travels!

SteriPEN package