Well-being: travel goes green.

AuthorDougherty, Patrick

From Death Valley to the East End, Eco-Tourism grows into its own

From 30,000 feet, nature's sublime beauty shines. As cities reduce to motes dotting a vast expanse of wilderness, humankind's place on this earth is brought into perspective. The epiphany this majestic aerial view brings holds special significance for even the most casual environmentalist. But as puffy clouds and shimmering seas pass below, there is a sobering reality to confront: by the very nature of travel, we destroy the earth as we explore it. A cross-country flight burns 100 gallons of fuel per passenger, and global air travel pumps half-a-billion tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year.

The environmental affronts don't stop when your plane lands. Consider rental car exhaust fumes, chemical concoctions keeping resorts' pools crystal-clear and bathrooms sterile, hotels consuming enormous amounts of water during daily linen washing alone, and waste of all sorts left behind after every vacation. For environmentally-conscious tourists, traveling can be challenging. But like green shoots poking through rich soil, eco-friendly hotels and resorts are sprouting across the country, introducing vacationers to a new travel philosophy: we need not destroy the earth as we explore it because we can make a choice where we spend our tourism dollars.

Desert Genesis

An oasis blooms amidst Death Valley National Park's arid desolation--and this desert paradise is green in more ways than one. Furnace Creek Inn & Ranch Resort, part of the Xanterra "sustainable tourism" network of parks and resorts, is spearheading the enlightened tourism revolution, pursuing environmentalism with dedicated, stringent sophistication.

Utilizing an environmental performance metrics system dubbed Ecometrix, Furnace Creek Inn--along with all Xanterra-managed resorts--painstakingly analyzes environmental impact data from virtually every aspect of resort operation. Elements like conventional energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions, and sustainable product purchases and sales are accounted for--all with the intent of realizing Xanterra's credo: "You can't conserve what you can't measure."

Furnace Creek Inn's amenities are consistent with its eco-friendly mission. Its water system is completely spring-fed, powered by gravity from two water tanks above the Inn property. The spring-fed swimming pool is chemical-free, with a pleasingly consistent 85-degree temperature. Cuisine is sustainable, using...

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