Ed Begley, Jr., host of the green living show Living With Ed
on HGTV and author of the new book Living Like Ed
, spoke with Fodor's on the occasion of our publication of Fodor's Green Travel
. For more tips, visit Ed's website
Fodor's: Your recommendation to avoid air travel whenever possible echoes a growing concern among travelers these days. But sometimes you just can't avoid getting on the plane, be it for business or visiting Grandma across the country. How do carbon offset credits work, and do you have any favorites?
Yes– when I have to fly, I always buy a carbon offset. I work with TerraPass, who were one of the first offset companies to create an easy model for consumers. Their Web site allows you to select the type of offset you're interested in, whether it's car, airplane, or home. Plug in your "to" and "from" info, as well as the model of your plane or car, and they'll give you a calculation of the carbon emissions created by your travel paired with a corresponding offset dollar value. Plug in your credit card info and you're done.
Fodor's: But what am I actually buying if I buy an offset credit?
TerraPass offsets are investments in clean energy projects. There's nothing wrong with planting trees, as other offset credit companies do, but I prefer to have clean green electrons put back into the grid. The idea here is that increased demand for clean energy will shrink the market for dirty power, like coal, and eventually we will build more solar and wind plants to meet consumers' needs. I have TerraPasses for all my flights, my wife's hybrid car, and my home.
Fodor's: What cities/destinations (they could be domestic or international) do you think excel at being green?
All of the west coast cities are really good– especially San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. I've been to all of them multiple times this year and they are doing really well. Austin, TX is another top performer. But as I travel the country, everyone is really working hard at this. It's great to see. I don't do much international travel anymore, but clearly Europe and Asia are hard at work at solving these challenges too.
Fodor's: Are there any specific hotels you particularly like?
I've stayed at three different Kimpton hotels in San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle in the last year. They were all beautiful and very focused on sustainable strategies.
Fodor's: What criteria do you use to judge a hotel's ecological practices?
I ask whether or not they use organic cotton or another organic sustainable material in their linens. I make sure they use non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products and low-VOC materials in the rooms so they are healthy. I like to see low-flow shower heads, high efficiency toilets, and green switches that shut down the room power with a key card. Also, does the hotel itself recycle, and can guests recycle easily themselves? These are all great features of a green hotel. I also think about the location of the hotel. It needs to be close to where I want to be so I can walk everywhere. A green hotel doesn't do me any good if I have to drive dozens of miles to get from the hotel to where I need to go.
Fodor's: It may be a long time before green travel is an easy thing to do. In the meantime, what are the top three things we should be doing right now, every time, to make sure we have as minimal an impact on the environment as possible?
(1) Get out of the car when you travel. Walk, ride a bike, take public transportation, but get out of that car. (2) Turn things off. Whether in a hotel or even in your own home, cut your electricity usage and dial back that thermostat. (3) Use less water. Water may be our largest challenge of the next ten years. Staying in a hotel shouldn't be a license for the 20 minute shower. Be water smart.
Read more about Living Like Ed
For more tips on green travel:
10 Tips for Greener Travel
Talk travel: Share your green travel tips
Take a look inside Green Travel: The World's Best Eco-Lodges and Earth-Friendly Hotels