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Easy Ideas for Sustainable Travel in California

Easy Ideas for Sustainable Travel in California

Going green doesn’t have to be complicated—a few basic steps can make a real difference

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Posted 6 months agoby Katrina Hunt

Any trip you take in California can be environmentally friendly—especially once you realize that the term “sustainability” can mean a lot of things. “It's not just about ‘eco-friendly,’ ” says travel blogger Oksana St. John, who recently road-tripped through California in an electric car. “It doesn't have to be [about] these big certifications and big programs. It's supporting local communities and making places better than you found them. Doing small bits definitely helps.” 

In the latest episode of the California Now Podcast, St. John and her husband Max join two other sustainable travel experts to discuss how a green approach to vacationing can be quite simple—and incredibly gratifying.

Jessica Blotter, founder and CEO of online travel agency Kind Traveler, starts by offering tips on booking a sustainability-minded trip. She tells host Soterios Johnson about the platform’s “give-and-get” program, in which travelers donate a minimum of $10 when booking a participating hotel; the hotel sends the donation to a local charity, then thanks guests with perks during their stay. “We'll tell the traveler first what that impact will do,” Blotter says, “and $10 can do some amazing things. It can clean up 250 pounds of trash with the Russian Riverkeeper up in Sonoma County. It might provide a day of care for a marine mammal patient at the Marine Mammal Care Center in Los Angeles.”

Blotter also tells Johnson about hotels making their own impact, such as Hotel SLO in San Luis Obispo, which has a refillable water system for guests, electric-vehicle charging stations, and easy ways to participate in beach cleanups. Lowering your own carbon footprint is simple, she notes. “Look at how you actually travel. Book direct flights instead of multi-leg trips, rent an electric vehicle, take a train, and walk more. Choose places that have good walkability, so you're not driving the entire time.”

Next, Johnson speaks to travel bloggers who put those principles into action. The St. Johns, the bloggers behind Drink Tea & Travel, took a Tesla road trip from the San Francisco Bay Area to Monterey County and Ventura. The Tesla they rented was a “basic version,” says Max, “but that thing has serious pickup and really cool tech.” Charging it was no problem either, he says: “We could have stopped every 20 or 30 miles for a coffee break—there were Tesla superchargers pretty much anywhere you looked.”

Along the way, they explored San Francisco’s Chinatown and rented an electric moped. “That was something we weren't expecting,” says Max. “It was a cool way to see all the sights.” They tasted wine (and tea) in Livermore Valley, saw wildlife at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve near Carmel-by-the-Sea, then went thrift shopping in Ventura. Oksana describes Ventura as “hip, vibrant, and just so colorful”—especially its walkable downtown.

Johnson’s last guest offers more ways to both see and help wildlife on a trip. Ida Kaller-Vincent, of conservation nonprofit Ocean Connectors, leads boat, bike, and kayak tours of San Diego’s fascinating ecology. “There is a vast area of marine life here that's quite amazing,” she says. “I didn't even know before I moved here that there's a healthy green sea turtle population in our bay.”

She shares details about different experiences, such as a kayaking trip into the wetlands of Chula Vista (where you might see those turtles) and the Sea Lion & Harbor Tour, which combines local landmarks with sea-lion sightings and some fun facts. (When sea lions “balance” a ball on their noses, for instance, they’re actually grasping it with their whiskers.) On some excursions, like the biking-and-birding tour and whale-watching tour, guests can use apps that help track wildlife, and the data is sent on to local researchers. “We do a little bit of citizen science,” she says, “so you can also be part of the conservation.”

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