Ecotourism: A List of Resources for Going Green in Florida

    By Lauren Tjaden

    Whether you’re looking for a Florida bike-share program, camping options, or a farmers’ market, this guide to ecotourism resources can help you find it.

    ACCOMMODATIONS

    The Florida Green Lodging Program boasts almost 400 properties, making it easy to find lodging committed to conserving and protecting Florida's natural resources.

    Southwest Florida Sustainable Travel recognizes 36 local accommodations that have been named to the Florida Green Lodging Program for their commitment to conserving and protecting Florida’s natural resources.

    CARBON OFFSETS

    Buying carbon offsets is a way to compensate for the planet-warming carbon dioxide you’re creating with "carbon repair" elsewhere, ideally resulting in an equal balance of damage and repair. Here are some places you can help restore the balance.

    ·        Most popular and best carbon providers by Conserve Energy Future

    ·        Terrapass  

    ·        United Airlines Eco-Skies CarbonChoice program

    Beautiful ocean-side campsite with a picnic table in Bahia Honda in The Florida Keys

    Florida State Parks offer some of the best and most beautiful camping in the state at reasonable prices. This stunning site is at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys.

    - Lauren Tjaden for VISIT FLORIDA

     

    CAMPING

    National Parks in Florida offer camping options, from primitive to developed, everywhere from the white sands of Perdido Key in Gulf Islands National Seashore, to Dry Tortugas National Park, an exotic, remote island that’s home to a 19th-century fort.

    Florida State Forests offer trailer sites, group campsites, tent sites and even equestrian campgrounds.

    Florida State Parks also offer some of the best and most beautiful camping in the state at reasonable prices. Book early; they fill fast.

    The Good Sam Club lists camping sites and RV Parks all over Florida. You can filter the results by tent camping, size of your RV, amenities, and location.

    DINING

    Farm-to-table restaurants

    This series of VISIT FLORIDA articles highlights farm-to-table restaurants by region.

    ·         Farm to Table Dining in Northeast Florida

    ·         Farm to Table Dining in Northwest Florida

    ·         Farm to Table Dining in Orlando

    ·         Farm to Table Dining in South Florida

    ·         Farm to Table Dining in Southwest Florida

    ·         Farm to Table Dining in Tampa

    Farmers’ markets

    ·        The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services provides this list and map of Florida Farmers’ Markets, as well as questions to ask, and when various crops are in season.

    ·        Local Harvest lets you search the entire state or by a specific city for farmers’ markets.

    Organic Florida farms

    ·        Local Harvest lists 615 Florida farms offering natural, organic and local products. You can search the entire state or for listings by a city, including farms, farmers’ markets, restaurants, and groceries.
    localharvest.org

    ·        Sustainable North Florida offers a green directory for local organizations. sustainablenorthflorida.org/organic-farms

    Seafood

    Seafood Watch lets you check what seafood is sustainable and which kinds you should avoid.

    a rescued sea turtle swims in a blue container at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon in the Florida Keys

    Meet rescued sea turtles-- and learn how to help them -- at Marathon's Turtle Hospital.

    - Lauren Tjaden for VISIT FLORIDA

     

    ECO-ATTRACTIONS AND ACTIVITIES

    Animal Sanctuaries

    ·        Small sanctuaries

    ·        Other sanctuaries

    ·        More options, from Humane Decisions

    Beaches

    ·        Beaches from TripAdvisor

    ·        Beaches, by city: Many destinations on the coasts of Florida have websites with pages dedicated to beaches.

    ·        Beaches, from VISIT FLORIDA: Find beaches by category, such as hidden gems, dog-friendly, and family-friendly, or use the Florida Beach Finder for suggestions tailor-made for you.

    Biking
     

    Boat tours in Florida
     

    Botanical gardens and arboretums in Florida

    Canoeing and kayaking in Florida
     

    Dolphin tours in Florida
     

    Ecotours in Florida
     

    Florida State Parks
     

    Gear rentals  
     

    Hiking trails
     

    Horseback riding tours
     

    Mountain biking trails
     

    National Wildlife Refuges in Florida
     

    Nature and wildlife tours
     

    Nature centers and environmental education centers in Florida
     

    Paddling trails
     

    Scuba and snorkeling
     

    Springs in Florida
     

    Stand-up Paddleboarding
     

    Surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing
     

    Walking tours
     

    FISHING

    NOAA Fisheries share their responsible fishing practices, such as catch-and-release and seabird release.

    Florida go Fishing explains why catch-and-release fishing is becoming the "wave of the future" in order to protect our fisheries, and how to enjoy the sport in a mindful way.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission explains what licenses you need, and how to get them.

    The Jolley Trolley parked outside a resort in Clearwater Beach

    The Jolley Trolley will take you everywhere you want to go in Clearwater Beach.

    - Lauren Tjaden for VISIT FLORIDA

     

    TRANSPORTATION

    Biking

    ·        Destinations all across Florida offer bike share programs. Check out listings by city from the Florida Bicycle Association.

    ·        In southwest Florida, a volunteer organization called TEAM Punta Gorda offers a free bike loaner program.

    Public Florida Transportation

    ·        Railways, trolleys, people-movers, intercity buses, and other options: Wikipedia lists them all, including links.

    ·        GoToBus offers bus routes and tickets all over Florida.

    ·        Rome 2 Rio reveals ways to get from one Florida city to another – and the cost – whether it’s by car, bus, shuttle or train.

    Transportation by city

    Looking for transportation options in a certain city? The visitor services departments of Florida destinations have websites with pages dedicated to “getting around and transportation.”

    Car rentals

    Most major car rental companies offer hybrids and other green rentals. Here are some offerings. You can find more options from your destination’s visitors services:

    Alamo Rent A Car, Standard Hybrid Car Rental in United States

    Avis Rent a Car, Toyota Prius (Hybrid) Car Rental or similar

    Budget Car Rental, Toyota Prius Rental or Similar Hybrid

    CarRentals.com, Hybrid Rental Cars

    Enterprise Car Rental, Full-Size Hybrid Car Rental - Ford Fusion or Similar

    Hertz, Toyota Prius Hybrid Rental Car

    VOLUNTOURISM

    Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.

    You can give something back on your getaway, joining the efforts to make Florida and the world a little brighter and better. Whether you donate an hour or a week, or volunteer on an ongoing basis, you can help restore coral reefs, get involved with beach clean-ups, or spend time working in a wildlife refuge.

    Here are some places and organizations that offer volunteer opportunities:

    South Florida

    ·        The Florida Keys have organizations that could use a helping hand, from fish surveys to working with wild bird patients.
    Fort Myers and Sanibel list opportunities with Habitat for Humanity, Friendship Center, and the Animal Refuge Center, among others.

    Central Florida

    ·        Hands On Orlando urges you to “Sign Up, Show Up, Have Fun, MAKE A DIFFERENCE!” The organization plans, manages and leads volunteer projects that you can join. Projects typically last three hours.

    North Florida

    ·        Pensacola Parks and Recreation always has room for folks looking to get involved and make a difference in the community.

    Statewide

    ·        Florida State Parks schedule beach clean-ups, invasive exotic plant removal, trail maintenance, and special events that include alternative spring breaks, National Public Lands Day, and Earth Day.

    ·        Volunteer Florida, the lead agency for volunteerism and national service in Florida schedules frog listening and eagle watches among many opportunities.

    ·        Keep Florida Beautiful invites volunteers to join them in transforming communities, improving the environment, and creating beauty.

    OTHER GREEN RESOURCES

    Florida Organizations

    ·        Keep Florida Beautiful. strives to engage and educate citizens, visitors, and communities to improve Florida through litter prevention, increased recycling, education, and beautification efforts.

    ·        The Florida Keys Green Page. The Florida Keys embrace responsible tourism, environmental stewardship, and the future of the island chain, offering advice like “The 10 Keymandments,” travel tips, links to green dining, and transportation.

    ·        Southwest Florida Sustainable Travel. As this site points out, “There’s no shortage of sustainable ways to explore Southwest Florida.” The page provides lists of resources at the local, state and national levels to help visitors and residents go green.

    ·        Audubon of Florida. Hailed as Florida’s most influential conservation organization, Audubon works to protect the Everglades and coastal bird habitats, as well as sanctuaries encompassing thousands of acres. The organization also manages two popular nature centers.

    ·        Florida Clean Marinas Program. The Florida Clean Marina Program encourages marina facilities to incorporate environmental practices exceeding regulatory requirements, aiming to create partnerships with local communities and businesses to protect natural resources and promote economic growth.

    ·        Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. Anything you need to know about fishing licenses, alligator management, and where to see manatees … you’ll find on this site.

    ·        Florida Green Lodging Program. If you’re looking for accommodations that leave less of an impact, this is the place to find them.

    ·        Florida Greenways & Trails Program. If you enjoy hiking, biking, paddling or horseback riding in Florida, you owe the Office of Greenways and Trails a “thank you.” They provide statewide leadership and coordination to establish, expand and promote non-motorized trails that make up the Florida Greenways and Trails System, and they have an abundance of information about the trails.

    ·        Florida Healthy Beaches Program. This website reports routine bacterial monitoring results, and guides you to other sites for information on other water quality issues.

    ·        Florida Paddling Trails Association. The association develops paddling trails, protects the environment along the trails, and is a resource and voice for paddlers.

    ·        Florida Shore & Beach Preservation Association. Functioning as a "league of cities and counties" on beach issues, as well as representing hundreds of private citizens concerned about beach preservation, the association is a respected voice on beach matters in Florida, including erosion.

    ·        Florida Society for Ethical Ecotourism. The society is dedicated to authentic ecotourism, which is defined as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people."

    ·        Great Florida Birding Trail. Where to see native birds and butterflies. The trail is a network of 510 premier wildlife viewing sites across the Sunshine State.

    ·        Mote Marine Laboratory. Mote helps stranded sea life, reports on red tide and researches solutions, untangles coral disease, and runs an aquarium.

    National Resources

    ·        American Canoe Association. This nonprofit organization serves the paddling public by providing education related to all aspects of paddling; stewardship support to help protect paddling environments; and sanctioning of programs and events to promote paddlesport competition, exploration and recreation.

    ·        American Shore & Beach Preservation Association. The ASBPA is committed to preserving, protecting and enhancing our coasts by merging science and public policy.

    ·        American Trails Association. The Association states that “trails are irresistible and indispensable to the physical and mental well-being of everyone and form the basis of basic transportation in most areas of our world.” With this in mind, they work to establish trails, to elevate the trail industry into an influential national role, and help its related organizations solidify their relevance among the communities they serve.

    ·        Kids recycling guide. This fun guide includes games and puzzles to help your little ones understand how to recycle and why it’s important.

    ·        National Audubon Society. By protecting birds, the society also safeguards the Western hemisphere's natural heritage for future generations.

    ·        Sierra Club. Dedicated to protecting our earth, Sierra champions climate crisis solutions; works for clean air, safe water, land protection, and a vibrant natural world; fights for environmental and social justice; and believes in getting people outside to enjoy the outdoors.

    For more information about Ecotourism, check out this article, Tips for Going Green in Florida.

     

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