Last week, I offered a doomsday road trip of sorts, suggesting
around the world to visit before global warming and human folly change them beyond recognition.
To show that I'm not a total curmudgeon -- and to combat any notion that I'm not a fun travel companion -- I'm focusing this week on the umbrella-cocktail glass that's half-full.
Here are five ways to travel this summer to appreciate people and places that are finding a sustainable balance of commerce, tourism and environmental friendliness.
Indulge in Wine Appreciation
Napa and Sonoma wineries are exploring myriad ways to go green -- some by adapting organic farming and productions standards, some by going
and others by employing sustainable methods that combine the first two along with conventional farming in whatever mix they believe best balances their interests as business people and land owners who want to see their vineyards endure.
More than 100 wineries and 800 vineyards have taken a sustainability self-survey provided by the
well-known winemakers such as Beringer Vineyards,
Robert Mondavi Winery
, Wente Family Estates and the Gallo wineries.
For a behind-the-scenes look at how sustainable grape-growing and winemaking work -- with some beautiful Sonoma scenery thrown in for good measure -- head to the
Kunde Estate Winery
in Kenwood (Sonoma). Several times a year, chairman Jeff Kunde dons hiking boots and leads
that cover more than 1,800 hilly acres of vines, cows and lessons in grape growing that will help you to newly appreciate what you sip in the region's tasting rooms.
Or save on gas. Skip the wine country tour and head to
, a San Francisco wine bar that offers "environmentally friendly" wines from California and around the world.
Drive a Car of the Future
received some of the 10 hydrogen-powered
Priuses that Quantum Technologies shipped to Iceland as part of that nation's ongoing experimentation with alternative fuels for transportation.
You can rent one of these gasoline-free autos and cruise around Reykjavik as part of a vacation that would be almost entirely
. Check out this
for a sneak preview.
To experience the best of Iceland's love affair with alternative energies, head to the
, an other-worldly outdoor spa heated with water from geothermal wells.
Experience Sustainable Tourism Done Right
A growing number of developing countries have areas -- such as Peru's Inca Trail, Ecuador's Galapagos region, Vietnam's Halong Bay and Kenya's safari parks -- that rely on tourism for jobs and foreign currency. And they rely on sustainability to keep the tourists coming. Sometimes whole countries, including Dominica in the Caribbean and Bhutan and Laos in Asia, rely on this eco-friendly brand of tourism.
But protecting these places is sometimes easier said than done. Well-intentioned governments have a hard time keeping a cap on the number of visitors they allow when faced with pressure from citizens who want their shot at tourist-related money and jobs. Sometimes the governments don't commit the way they should. Sometimes there are issues, such as illegal fishing off of Ecuador, that are hard to control.
Costa Rica is one place that is recognized over and over again for getting the balance right. The government has implemented its own multilevel Certificate in Sustainable Tourism program that rates hotels, travel agents and other service providers on a scale of 1 to 5 for their commitment to sustainability. The CST's Web site has a
of certified hotels.
Choose Greener Hotels
If you equate R&R with someone delivering your cocktails poolside and someone else gently nudging you along to your 2:00 tee time, then at least check your resort's green credential before you head out on your trip.
Certifications are very much a hodgepodge of local accreditations, so one has to rely on web surfing and Googling to pick the green from the green-washed.
resort in Dominica is an independent hotel that's gotten attention for its mix of luxury and sustainability.
Fairmont Hotels, which owns properties from Mexico to Singapore, began working toward environmental responsibility long before the trend became hip. In 1990, Fairmont started developing a collection on green best practices through its
program. Steps to reduce waste and use energy-efficient light bulbs are taken across its properties, while programs such as one to recycle wine corks and another that focuses on coral-reef health are specific to certain destinations.
The Rainforest Alliance has an online
that can point you to sustainable hotels, restaurants and tourism services across the Americas.
Head Into the Wild With the Sierra Club
The not-for-profit offers everything from wholesome family weekend hiking and camping in the lower 48 to Alaska rafting and African safaris for the more adventurous to service-based trips (spend a few days repairing trails while you enjoy the views they proffer) in various places.
They're affordable, and the club claims that all of its trips invoke the spirit of its founder, John Muir, who said: "If people in general could be got into the woods, even for once, to hear the trees speak for themselves, all difficulties in the way of forest preservation would vanish."
Happy eco-trails to you.
Eileen P. Gunn writes about the business of life and is the author of "Your Career Is An Extreme Sport." You can learn more about her at
her Web site.