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First LEED-Built Ritz-Carlton Opens

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With so many people—and companies—“going green” these days, it’s hard to know who’s in the Eco Revolution for real. When it comes to buildings, however, there is one way to be certain: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.  The strict guidelines developed by the U.S. Green Building Council focus on construction and energy consumption. In the world of travel and hotels, this seal of approval helps separate serious change agents from so-called green properties touting towel re-use programs. Every little bit helps, but there are shades of “green” to be sure.

To date, there are only 16 LEED hotels in the U.S., with a handful more pending the arduous certification.

On October 1, Ritz-Carlton will open its first-ever LEED-built property in Charlotte, North Carolina’s Uptown neighborhood. (We even hear the president, CEO, and founding chairman of the USGB, Rick Fedrizzi, will be doing the ribbon cutting.)

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Look Ma, No Wheels!: Tips for World Carfree Day

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Tomorrow, September 22—besides being the first day of fall—also marks the 10th annual World Carfree Day! It’s not that we’re anti-driving (far from it), but it’s a great moment to consider using public transportation when you’re on a trip. The bonuses: you travel like a local, save money, and usually get there faster. Here are some tips to get you started:

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Off the Grid in Zion National Park

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Zion National Park in Southern Utah, is a spectacular place to hike. If you are considering a vacation there, and being completely immersed in the quiet, scrubby, gold and green desert with otherworldly red rock domes towering above sounds appealing, I recommend renting Los Gatos Cabin (below).

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New Golf Shirt Made from...Corn?

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Call it Corn of the Loom. Verterra Sport has unveiled an eco-friendly golf shirt made from corn. Though corn fibers have been used before, this durable and blendable formula the cream of the crop. The shirts come in two varieties: 52% corn available in five classic colors and 88% corn available in green or black.

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Go Green and Save by "Jetpooling"

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Has the recession forced you to sell your Gulfstream? If you love to fly private, but the current economic crisis is cramping your jet-set lifestyle, there’s a unique new option in the skies. The Greenjets shared-ride service lets you buy a seat on a private jet at a fraction of the cost normally associated with such a luxury. Flights from New York to Florida are as low as $1,100 each way, a bargain compared to owning or renting your own plane—and you avoid the lines and regular security headaches at the airport. Not to mention the added good karma you get from reducing the number of jets in the air when you “jetpool,” if you will.

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Sweet! Lesbians Offset Carbon Footprint of New Cruise

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This one's for the ladies only, guys. Sweet, recently launched by gay travel guru Shannon Wentworth, is a new tour operator for lesbians who care about the world they live in (which is most of you, right?). Wentworth teamed up with CarbonFund.org to figure out exactly how her trips could be carbon neutral (answer: by helping to reforest a large area along the Tensas River in Louisiana). Wentworth also plans to incorporate humanitarian projects into each of her trips.

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An Affordable (and Eco-Friendly) Weekend in Woodstock, NY

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My mission was simple: for my husband and me to get some desperately needed time out of New York City among trees, fresh air and wildlife, and open space for our active toddler boy to run, climb and explore. Also important: finding a reasonably priced place to stay for the weekend near Woodstock, NY, where our friends were getting married. 

After much research into different inns and B&Bs (many of which do not allow children), we decided to stay at The Retreat at TreeGap, an eco- and family-friendly B&B about a mile outside town with a focus on organic food (and big breakfasts!) and sustainable living.

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TRAVEL NEWS: August 6, 2009

Today's top travel headlines:

- Hurricane outlook in Atlantic cut to as few as three, NOAA says [Bloomberg]
- On-time arrivals soar at O'Hare; credit given to new north runway [Chicago Sun-Times]
- Putin bares torso in Siberian vacation shots [CNN International]
- Swiss seek Pope's blessing to stop glacier melting [Reuters]
- Antigua mountain renamed after President Obama [Caribbean World News]
- NYC subway officials seek new voice of the trains [NY1]

Trash or Treasure? A Second Life for Hotel Furniture

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I love hotel remodels—the gleaming bathroom fixtures, the springy pillow-top mattresses that feel improbably cushier than any I’ve owned. But as someone who gets guilty throwing out a paperclip when it could be reused, I've always wondered: What happens to the original (perfectly good) furniture when a property decides to revamp?Are the superfluous fittings recycled, or tossed in a landfill where they’ll form en suite mounds of trash?

According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, there are nearly five million hotel rooms in the U.S., and most have their mattresses and couches updated every 6-8 years (it’s every 12-13 years for less worn-and-torn “casegoods,” like headboards and dressers). When they do get replaced, the majority of hoteliers sell their old furniture to liquidators, who then hawk it to the general public (In the market?Try Hotel Surplus Outlet near Los Angeles for glass-paneled armoires from the Beverly Hills Hotel & Bungalows, and Chicago’s Fort Pitt Hotel Furniture Liquidators for Four Seasons headboards).

Thankfully, though, more and more properties are combining décor overhauls with philanthropy. Recently the Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa in Groton, Connecticut, remodeled and gave holdover furniture to local charities. They donated over 300 beds, 285 sofas and chairs, and 500 floor and table lamps to people living without them. Now, doesn’t that help everybody rest easy?

Kathryn O'Shea-Evans is a freelance editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of Sasha Panasik

Fueling Flights with Algae

On January 7, a Continental 737 took a two-hour test flight from Houston, burning a 50-50 blend of petroleum-based jet fuel and an oil made from algae and a scrubby weed. Similar tests have been conducted in New Zealand and England, and another is planned in Japan later this month.

The tests, sponsored by Boeing, were initiated in response to rising petroleum prices, but also address aviation industry goals to reduce carbon emissions before a 2012 European Union deadline.

Though current aircraft design requires some petroleum in the fuel blend to ensure that engine seals work properly, the most efficient and beneficial mix of bio- to fossil fuel has not yet been determined. Chemists continue to experiment with the blend and with the plant feedstocks being used in the biofuel portion in hopes of reducing the greenhouse gases created by flight and a Boeing spokesperson hopes that biofuels play a "significant part of the commercial fuel supply by 2015."

- Scientific American

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