Australian eco-tourists are embracing 'green travel'


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More Australians are catching on to the idea of green travel.

They are voting with their hip pockets to use sustainable hotels, restaurants and transport that seek to protect and preserve the environment.

Travel can be tough on the environment, particularly when we fly and drive to reach our destination.

green travel

Often travellers go in search of luxury and that comes at an environmental cost: over-use of air conditioning, over-packaged products, water wastage and too much food.

It's important to travel light and think like George Clooney in the movie Up in the Air who mastered the art of packing the rolling carry-on bag.

Every kilo of weight shed from a bag saves 115,000 litres of fuel each year. For years hotels have urged us to use the towels more than just once rather than dumping them in the bath to be replaced and washed each day. It's time to hang up the towels which means you will use them again.

Think of all the water and energy you will help save.

I've also noticed that instead of tiny plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner and lotions that are not recycled, some hotels have replaced them with refillable, pump action dispensers, and are using biodegradable products.

Luckily some accommodation is going much further and there is an increasing range of green accommodation.

You can find websites such as that list eco-friendly accommodation in a range of locations around Australia.

Many of the hotels and cabins are in pristine natural settings where the local ecosystem can be easily damaged or even destroyed if great care isn't taken with waste, water and the environment. But you can also find hotels and serviced apartments that run along sustainable lines in the middle of cities too.

The Melbourne-based Alto Hotel on Bourke Street goes all the way when it comes to being sustainable. One hundred per cent of all electricity used is wind generated, 95% of all lighting is based on energy-efficient FCL or LED globes, and rooms are fitted with energy-saving key-tags (made from biodegradable corn starch) that switch off lighting when you leave the room.

The Alto's six-star rated air conditioning uses movement sensor technology, while rain water is used for public toilet cisterns, gardening and cleaning duties. It also uses water flow restrictors to all showers and taps. Guests are provided with two bins, one for recycling and the other for waste. The hotel has an impressive composting system on site too.

The Alto measures its carbon footprint and says guests use on average 123 litres per night, 36.3 megajules of electricity and gas per night, and create 3.9 litres of landfill per guest.

A one-night stay at the Alto Hotel produces an average 13.5 kilograms of carbon, according to a carbon audit conducted by the Carbon Reduction Institute, compared to the estimate for hotels as set by Sustainable Tourism CRC of 24 to 26 kilograms.

The Alto has beaten hotels worldwide to be the overall winner of the Conde Nast Traveler World Savers Awards 2010 for environmental preservation.

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.