Oregon Feature


Ecotourism in Oregon

The word ecotourism is believed to have been coined by Mexican environmentalist Héctor Ceballos-Lascuráin in 1983. According to Ceballos-Lascuráin, ecotourism "involves traveling to relatively undisturbed natural areas with the specific object of studying, admiring, and enjoying the scenery and its wild plants and animals." His original definition seemed a bit too general, so in 1993 he amended it with a line that stressed that "ecotourism is environmentally responsible travel."

Natural beauty abounds in Oregon, which has been a pioneer in sustainability and conservation. Famously "green" Portland is a model of eco-friendly urban planning, with its superb public transit, network of urban-growth boundaries, multitude of bike lanes, and abundance of LEED-certified buildings. Outside the city, six of the state's ski areas (Mt. Ashland, Mt. Bachelor, Mt. Hood Meadows, Timberline, and Anthony Lakes) are members of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation's Ski Green Program (www.ski-green.org).

Travel-related businesses that embrace the principles of environmental sustainability are common throughout Oregon. The state's tremendous stock of forests, parks, and preserves is a big reason there's been such a push here to balance growth with preservation.

Travel Portland, which is one of the only tourism organizations in the country with its own public relations manager dedicated solely to promoting environmentally responsible travel, lists green resources on its Web site (www.travelportland.com/portland_resources/green-resources.html). This compendium of eco-conscious businesses includes everything from wineries and microbreweries to hotels, restaurants, and shops.


Oregon has dozens of accommodations committed to sustainable design and operating practices. Many smaller properties are members of OBBG Green (www.obbg.org/oregon-green-travel.php), which is made up of more than 15 bed-and-breakfasts that qualify as eco-friendly.

Food and Beverages

Oregon has been a leader in the movement toward producing food, beer, and wine using sustainable practices and emphasis on local and organic ingredients. One excellent resource for learning about organic and sustainable pick-your-own farms and farmers' markets around the state is Oregon Tilth (www.tilth.org).

Two statewide organizations dedicated to sustainability in winemaking are Low Input Viticulture & Enology (www.liveinc.org) and Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine (www.ocsw.org). Dozens of wineries around the state have been recognized for their environmentally friendly practices. Additionally, local breweries with eco-friendly reputations include Widmer Brothers, Deschutes, Hopworks, and Full Sail.


EcoShuttle (www.ecoshuttle.net) is an environmentally oriented charter tour company that arranges winery, brewery, and ecotours. The popular Willamette River boat-tour company Portland Spirit River Cruises (www.portlandspirit.com) is a recognized member of Travel Portland's green resources program, as is Portland Walking Tours (www.portlandwalkingtours.com). To gain a better sense of the progress Oregon's logging industry has made toward sustainable practices, be sure to visit the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum in Portland's Washington Park.

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