Wednesday, 29 May 2013

From eco-lodges to beautiful bike rides...

The first stage of the Grand Tours Project (see my previous post about it, Planet Bicycle and the Grand Tours Project) finished on the weekend - the 3,388km Giro d'Italia bike race around the coast of southern Italy and onto the icy, snowy mountain roads of the north.

That means that my 21 daily eco stories on the Grand Tours Project website - which cover everything from eating sustainably to electric cars - are all done now too. They'll be live until the end of the last grand tour on 15 September, but for now I thought I'd reprise three of my favourite posts, on eco travel:

Treehotel's Mirror Cube, Sweden
The green room: 10 of the world's most beautiful eco-lodges

It wasn't long ago that eco-lodges were the domain of hard-core conservationists who didn't mind roughing it for the sake of the planet. Times have changed and eco-lodges aren't what they used to be - they're better, way better. Following are 10 of the best - as beautiful as they are environmentally, socially, culturally and economically sustainable. Read more.

The Tour de Timor
Ride on - 8 of the world's best adventures on two wheels

No matter how you look at it, or where you look, bikes are booming, with cycle-friendly cities, bike rental schemes, rail trails (disused train lines converted to bike paths) and guided cycling tours all over the world. It's just as well cycling has a small carbon wheel-print. In the spirit of low-impact travel, here's a hand-picked selection of eight of the best adventures you can have on two wheels. Read more.

Avenue de Baobabs, Madagascar
Now you see them ... 7 precious places to see before they disappear

You've heard of endangered species. Now there are places endangered by climate change and its handmaidens: deforestation, ocean acidification, rising sea levels, extreme weather events. 

Glacier kayaking in the Arctic
For some of these places, it's best to admire them from afar than to visit them. For others, first-hand experience can be a good idea. Not to pay our last respects or witness the end of an era, but to motivate us to become advocates for their protection. 

In this way "climate change travel" as it's now called, can be a moral duty to the Earth, as long as the benefits outweigh the carbon footprints (offsetting flights and travelling responsibly go without saying). Following are seven of the world's most precious places to see, before it's too late. Read more.

The next grand tour is the big one, the Tour de France, on 1-21 July 2013.
See you there.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

25 ways to tread lightly when you travel

Last weekend my latest story for The Sydney Morning Herald made it onto the cover of the travel section - which felt like a coup for responsible travel because it's about 25 ways to travel with a conscience. 

My dream is that one day there'll be no such thing as "sustainable travel" or "eco travel" - because low-impact travel will be the norm. Until then, read on for ideas on how we can all minimise our travel footprints...

Tip #5: Buy locally made souvenirs
Think big, start small
Not so long ago, responsible travel meant taking only photographs and leaving only footprints. 

Then came ecotourism, ethical travel, voluntourism and sustainability measures introduced by just about every player in the travel game from airlines to cruise ships to high-end resorts. Now travelling responsibly is more broadly defined than ever.

Don't be put off by the killjoy term "responsible". It's all about being sensitive to your surroundings, remembering that everything is connected and making choices to travel in ways that are environmentally, socially, culturally and economically sustainable.

As Linda McCormick, the Melbourne-based founder of one of the world's first ecotravel blogs, Eco Traveller Guide, puts it, minimising your footprint when you travel "doesn't necessarily mean never flying, sacrificing luxury or volunteering during your holiday; just travelling with a different attitude and looking at how your travels impact this well-trodden world".

Tip #24: Travel under your own steam
And let's not forget that tourism can have positive impacts by, for instance, supporting developing economies and generating funds to protect threatened species and pristine places.

There are hundreds of ways to make your travel make a difference without adversely affecting the natural wonders we want to experience, the people and cultures that change our world views, the wild animals we safari to see. 

It starts with respecting the environment and people we're visiting, and supporting organisations (whether they be hotels, tour operators or transport providers) that do the same. Beyond that, here are 25 tips to help you tread lightly on your next trip. 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Moving pictures

Last night I had 11 adventures - and I wasn't even asleep - thanks to the Banff Mountain Film Festival world tour, which is in Australia until late June (see dates), presented by my favourite adventure tour operator, World Expeditions.

I go every year, but this year’s selection of 11 short films, ranging in length from 2 minutes to 44 minutes, are the best I can remember. Here's the trailer:

Some are epics, like the one about disabled climbing team The Gimp Monkeys – three climbers with four legs and five arms between them – tackling El Capitan in Yosemite.

There's Scottish trials rider Danny Macaskill’s incredible balletic bike skills in an old ironworks, in Industrial Revolutions. Some are exploratory - about whitewater kayaking in NZ, and first descents of slot canyons in the Grand Canyon.

Coming out of the Cremorne Orpheum (where it was a full house, I might add), I felt like running all the way home (which would have taken a while) and was still buzzing this morning. So I thought I'd revisit three of the films still whirring around in my head...

Pic by Cas and Jonesy
1. Crossing the Ice, which won three awards at the Banff Mountain Film Festival in November. "Epic" doesn't even come close. This sequel to Crossing the Ditch, in which best mates Cas and Jonesy kayaked from Australia to New Zealand, is about their 89-day, world-first, unsupported trek 2275km from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole – and back. It’s honest, raw, funny and moving; there’s even a crazy Norwegian, Aleksander Gamme, providing some narrative tension to rival Scott and Amundsen 's race for the pole 100 years ago.

2. Honnold 3.0 is about uber-free-climber Alex Honnold’s latest big “objective”: climbing the three biggest walls in Yosemite - Mt Watkins, El Capitan and Half Dome - within 24 hours. A-ma-zing.

3. Lily Shreds Trailside – about a Jack Russell terrier who loves to chase mountain bikes – on single track. She runs so fast, she flies through the air on jumps and even banks on turns. Click the link to watch Lily fly. So cool.

If ever there was a celebration of being alive on Earth, this digital record of people doing astounding things in wild and spectacular natural places is it. The only thing missing is water - unless you count the clip of another crazy Norwegian diving into some while ice-skating. Those Norwegians...

Monday, 6 May 2013

Planet bicycle and the Grand Tours Project

For those of you arriving here from the Grand Tours Project (more on this in a moment) welcome to No Impact land. Please, make yourselves at home. For No Impact Girl followers, meet the Grand Tours Project - which is not the name of a steampunk band but the brainchild of Keith Tuffley, an Australian now living in Switzerland and embracing the European obsession with all things two-wheeled. 

A couple of years ago, Keith rode in the Tour de France - not as a competitor, just for fun. Apparently keen cyclists can ride the Tour de France course, doing each "stage" the very same day as the professionals, on one condition: you have to start and finish before they come through. Last year, he did the same with the second biggest European road race, the Giro d'Italia

Gratuitous bike shot:
mountain biking (not road racing)
 in Tasmania (not Europe) 
Doing just one race a year is a big deal. Each one is a three-week, 3000-odd kilometre odyssey across Europe - up and down mountains, past excited spectators, through pretty villages. 

This year, Keith plans to ride in both of these plus the third "grand tour": the Vuelta a Espana (in Spain). Hence the "Grand Tours Project". You can read more about why he's doing it on his website, but one important reason is to raise awareness of sustainability and environmental issues.

That's where I come in. 

Every day of this first race, the Giro d'Italia, which started on Saturday (4 May) and ends on 26 May, there'll be a fresh new Eco Story - written by me - on the Grand Tours website, covering everything from the best eco-movies and most beautiful eco-lodges, to the latest electric cars and sustainable living ideas. 

Here are the links to my first two Eco Stories, which are now live:

It is about the bike
Why the planet needs more cyclists + 10 more reasons to ride

Welcome to the Grand Tours Project’s daily eco-blog. While Keith has his pedals to the, er, asphalt of Europe’s roads, you can swing by here to read up on environmental issues. Every morning there’ll be a fresh new post here full of inspiration, innovation, information, eco-travel ideas, sustainable living tips – all with the intention of motivating us all to do our bit towards a cleaner, healthier planet. Read the full post here

We're all going on an eco-holiday
10 back-to-nature European vacations

Sure, you could ride a bike 3,524 kilometres around Italy. But (sorry, Keith) there are plenty of other ways to have an environmentally conscious holiday. Here are 10 eco-holiday ideas in and around continental Europe. Walk, paddle or climb this way… Read the full post here

Come along for the ride? You can sign up for email updates at Grand Tours Project