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.
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.
The Green Key Global Eco-Rating Program evaluates and certifies properties in North America on the scope of their sustainable initiatives. The program is recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Check here for a list of Florida properties.
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.
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.
This series of VISIT FLORIDA articles highlights farm-to-table restaurants by region.
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.
Sustainable North Florida offers a green directory for local organizations. sustainablenorthflorida.org/organic-farms
Seafood Watch lets you check what seafood is sustainable and which kinds you should avoid.
ECO-ATTRACTIONS AND ACTIVITIES
More options, from Humane Decisions
Beaches from TripAdvisor
Beaches, by city: Many destinations on the coasts of Florida have websites with pages dedicated to beaches.
Virgin Voyages, based in Plantation, bans all single-use plastics on its ships, and has eliminated buffets to reduce food waste. It also has teamed with a Norwegian company to transform organic wastes into usable engery. For more, see Virgin Voyages' sustainable cruise page.
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.
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.”
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
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:
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.
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.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium volunteers are dedicated individuals interested in a hands-on approach to preserving the environment and marine life.
Pensacola Parks and Recreation always has room for folks looking to get involved and make a difference in the community.
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
· 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 Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission manatee and sea turtle decals. Donate $5 to buy one of these high-quality stickers, featuring original artwork, to support the research, rescue and management efforts that conserve these species and spread the word about the challenges they face. The waterproof decals are designed to look good on a vehicle’s bumper or the side of a boat, and they can also be found on laptops, water bottles and coolers throughout the state. Get yours when registering or re-registering a vehicle or boat at local tax collector’s offices across the state.
· 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 Keys Eco-Discovery Center. The Center invites you to take a journey into the world of the native plants and animals of the Keys, featuring over 6,000 square feet of interactive and dynamic exhibits including a mock-up of Aquarius, the world's only underwater ocean laboratory. Be sure to check out the Mote Marine Laboratory Living Reef exhibit, which includes a 2,500-gallon reef tank with living corals and tropical fish, a live Reef Cam, and other displays that highlight the coral reef environment.
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary protects the waters surrounding the Keys-- and once once you set foot in Keys waters, you are in the sanctuary. This special place offers spectacular, unique resources such as coral reefs, shipwrecks, seagrass beds, and fisheries that are the source of commercial and recreational activities like diving, fishing, and boating.
· 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.
· 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.