Are Eco-Resorts Really Green?

Pricey hotels that call themselves environmentally-friendly sometimes offset guests' carbon footprints.

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As I was reading the latest issue of one of my favorite magazines, Food & Wine, one article, called "Green Escapes," struck me as a bit odd. The magazine highlighted five luxury hotels that claim to be "green," including an eco-resort in Thailand that leads guests on rainforest treks and a lodge in Montana that serves local, organic produce and free-range meats. The specifics of what makes these resorts green wasn't detailed, but I had to wonder, how green can a vacation be if you have to fly in a jumbo jet to get there? Wouldn't it be better for the Earth just to stay home, or at least to limit your vacations to local spots?

I asked Ivan Chan, marketing and communications director for Carbonfund.org, which promotes the reduction of carbon footprints, what he thought of these green claims. He said that, according to his organization's nonprofit, people should "reduce what you can, offset what you can't," which means no one needs to sit home in an un-air-conditioned apartment all summer. But they might want to consider asking questions about why an eco-resort is calling itself green, and how they can reduce their carbon emissions while they're traveling.

Carbonfund.org, in fact, works with several vacation spots, including a bed and breakfast in Oregon and eco-tour operator in Jackson Hole, to help ensure the vacations they offer are as green as possible. These companies tend to express their environmental commitment clearly on their website, may offer discounts to visitors who use public transit, and encourage guests to reuse their linens, among other things. They also offset the rest of the carbon footprints generated through Carbonfund.org by supporting wind energy projects, reforestation, and renewable energy.

So I stand corrected. I haven't investigated the destinations mentioned in Food & Wine, but it seems that you can have a green vacation, even half-way across the world. In fact, that eco-resort in Thailand looks pretty tempting. Too bad the doubles start at $1,190 a night.

Have you ever planned a green vacation or visited an eco-resort? What did you think?