Mother Nature doesn’t get a vacation. So the next time you’re on holiday, remember that it’s easy being green.
1. No reservations about your hotel. Green travel isn’t about taking cold showers. “It’s really a painless way to help us preserve our beautiful natural resources here in Florida, which is why you're visiting our state,” says JoAnn Shearer, coordinator of Florida’s Green Lodging Program. You may find a recycle bin in your hotel suite, or perhaps you’ll see a sign in the bathroom encouraging you to reuse your towel. But much of a hotel’s eco-friendly efforts happen behind the scenes, so guests won’t even feel the pinch. To find green accommodations in Key West, check out the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s list of designated properties.
2. Food for thought. The locavore craze is good for reducing fuel emissions. It also happens to be delicious. The annual Key West Lobsterfest, coming up Aug. 8 to 11, is your perfect excuse to indulge in fresh seafood. “It’s all locally caught lobster,” says Eric Adams, Lobsterfest show manager. All the participating restaurants are local, too, “each offering their own version of the perfect Key West lobster meal,” Adams says. Think lobster tacos, lobster pilaf and tempura-battered lobster with honey glaze. Going green never tasted so good.
3. Free wheeling. Celebrated Key West resident Ernest Hemingway once said, “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best.” Getting around by bike rather than by gas-guzzling car just makes sense in this town, where parking can be scarce but bike racks are plentiful. Countless local businesses offer bicycle rentals, including many hotels. Bicycle culture is so pervasive in Key West that the city even hosts a Holiday Lighted Bike Parade and -- if you dare -- Zombie Bike Parade. To get started, try pedaling the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage State Trail.
4. Voluntourism de force. Volunteerism plus tourism equals voluntourism. There are lots of long- and short-term ways to help take care of Key West’s flora and fauna. “We see over 1,200 wild birds a year, so it’s a big job,” says Tom Sweet, executive director of the Key West Wildlife Center, which rescues and rehabilitates sea life. With only two full-time staffers, the center relies on volunteers for everything from feeding birds to cleaning cages to exercising the animals in pools. There are also plenty of indirect ways to help the animals, such as planting, bookkeeping and fundraising. Sweet says the need for voluntourists is particularly “major” during spring and summer, because most of the seasonal residents have left town. To find a volunteer opportunity that’s a good fit for you, check out KeysVoluntourism.com.
5. Picture this. The best souvenirs are memories, so skip the kitschy mementos and instead make a list of must-do photo ops. Snap pics on the beach, next to a Duval Street sign, in front of the Hemingway House and of course the Southernnmost Point. The Facebook photo album will make your friends green with envy.
For more ways to go green in Key West, visit Fla-Keys.com/GreenTravel.