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A greener way to travel

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Eco hostels are springing up everywhere, which is perfect if you’re after the fun and friendliness of budget travel as well as keeping your eco-conscience clean on holiday. Travel has huge impact on the environment (think about the carbon footprint of airlines, for one thing) but that doesn’t mean you need to make a lifetime ban on setting foot outside your neighbourhood. Eco travel’s possible; you just need to tweak your plans a bit to enjoy a greener trip – which includes the place you choose to stay.

For starters, think about the distance you’re going and your method of transport. Aviation fuel is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions, while trains produce less than a quarter of the emissions of one commercial flight. What’s the solution? Make the journey part of the experience and swap flights for long-distance trains or coaches.

Some destinations are trickier to reach just by land – if you have to fly, try to reduce stopovers to combat the impact of multiple take-offs/landings (where most fuel’s used). Also consider a more radical change: holidaying in your home country rather than going abroad. The rise of the ‘staycation’ makes sense financially as well as in environmental terms – you’ll spend less money travelling for much less time at a far-reduced environmental impact compared to longer journeys. Happy days!

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you should use local businesses to ensure your money’s pumped back into the economy. This can mean anything from picking up groceries at the market to taking a tour run by a local guide.

Finally, you need to think about where you’re going to stay – and if you’re after friendly, affordable accommodation, that’s where eco hostelling comes in.

Typical eco sins for hostels include everything from inefficient heating to wasting water to not using low-consumption light-bulbs or a recycling program. Eco hostels combat these problems in a variety of ways, ranging from the common-sense, like using non-harmful cleaning products, to the zanily creative, like cutting out toilet paper altogether in favour of a designated ‘pee garden’ (more on that below!). In many cases, eco hostels also serve up organic and locally-sourced food and drink, making it even easier for you to support local businesses.

Six Eco Hostels from around the World

Spain: CEL sits in the heart of the Catalan countryside just outside Girona. It has a naturally-heated outdoor pool and an organic veg garden with restaurant.

Philippines: An amazing treehouse accommodation overlooking forest and sea, Enigmata Treehouse Ecolodge sources water from a mountain spring and puts on eco-tours of the forest.

Ecuador: Enjoy a stay in a traditional hut, organic veg from the garden and activities like shamanic healing, acupuncture and meditation at Samai Center Hotel Spa.

USA: Hedonisia Hawaii Eco Hostel cuts down on toilet paper-usage with a girl-friendly ‘pee garden’. It also runs on power from a geothermal plant.

India: The Green Path eco-apartments have a restaurant serving local, organic food cooked in solar-powered kitchens. Its generator runs on bio diesel fuel.

When Hostelbookers asked whether they could write an article for EcoStreet about green hostels, I was keen to see what they would come up with.  I’ve enjoyed staying in hostels for years, both travelling solo and with my family.  I’ve always been careful to pick good ones, particularly more unusual, unique hostels.  And these green hostels would fall within the parameters that pique my interest.  Check them out.

Do you have any green African hostels you could tell me about Hostelbookers, seeing as that’s my stomping ground?