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Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Traveling and looking for an environmentally friendly place to stay? Check out Energy Star certified hotels.

The Energy Star award, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Energy, means a commercial buildings actively measures and tracks its energy use and has obtained a certain score in an evaluation by a licensed professional. On average, Energy Star certified buildings use 35 percent less energy and generate 35 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than their peers.

Sheraton Princess Kaiulani on the Hawaiian island of Oahu is an Energy Star certified hotel. Photo credit: Sheraton Princess Kaiulani

A 2012 report by Vermont-based Brighter Planet said the nation’s hotels use 4 percent of all commercial building energy per year and generate 34.7 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

Hundreds of Energy Star certified hotels across the country ensure guests have an environmentally friendly stay, the EPA says.

To find green lodging, travelers can rely on TripAdvisor’s GreenLeaders Program, developed in collaboration with Energy Star, that identifies hotels and bread-and-breakfasts committed to green practices like energy and water efficiency, recycling, and alternative energy.

Travelers can also search for Energy Star hotels through Energy Star’s certified buildings registry. Just select ‘hotel’ under facility type and enter your destination to see if any super-efficient, climate-friendly hotels are an option as you travel this holiday season.

Visit EcoWatch’s TIPS page for more related news on this topic.

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Some of the world's most amazing sights are gradually disappearing because of climate change..

Here, courtesy of Fodor's Travel, are five places that are on the brink of disappearing or changing forever because of pollution. If you've thought of traveling to these destinations, you might want to see them soon.

1. Antarctica—The frozen continent of Antarctica is thawing. While it may be some time until it melts away, go while it's still possible to see incredible wildlife, immense ice shelves and outstanding mountain ranges. Meanwhile, efforts are in place to minimize the environmental impact of tourism. Cruise ships carrying more than 500 passengers are no longer allowed to sail the straits. Some stricter limitations are on the docket from the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, an organization devoted to promoting safe, responsible tourism. Book a cruise through Abercrombie and Kent for an eco-friendly journey.

Antarctica. Photo credit:
Shutterstock

2. Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania—Few spots in the world are as picturesque as the volcanic mountain of Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest peak. A study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says those snows are likely to be gone in 20 years. During the last century, 85 percent of the ice cap disappeared. To have the best Kilimanjaro climbing experience, strongly consider an operator like Alpine Ascents that's registered, has qualified guides, has porters' interests at heart and follows an environmental policy.

Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Photo credit:
Shutterstock

3. Great Barrier Reef, Australia—Known as one of the world’s premier diving sites, the Great Barrier Reef is suffering from rising ocean temperature, water pollution and fishing, which are causing erosion to the largest coral reef in the world. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the rate of disintegration to the 7,000-year-old reef is unprecedented. Some scientists say that the reef could be dead within the next 40 years, taking a significant amount of sea life along with it. With such a unique and spectacular array of coral, fish and other marine life, travelers should put this on their must-see list. But when visiting be sure to look and not touch—the coral is easily damaged.

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Photo credit:
Shutterstock

4. Taj Mahal, Agra, India—The world’s most elaborate mausoleum, built in the 17th century in memory of Mughal emperor Shal Jahan’s favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, welcomes 3 million visitors a year. However, the United Nations Environmental, Scientific and Cultural Organization and some preservation groups are urging India to close the Taj Mahal as air pollution, shoddy restoration, population explosion and tourism's impact have been eroding the structure’s exterior.

The Taj Mahal, Agra, India. Photo credit:
Shutterstock

5. The Dead Sea, Israel and Jordan—The salty, buoyant body is evaporating, sinking about three feet a year because border countries have been diverting water from the Dead Sea's main tributary for 50 years. The suggested answer: the “Red-Dead” project, which will channel the Red Sea into the Dead Sea. A group of local environmentalists, Friends of the Earth Middle East, claim the project will irrevocably compromise the Dead Sea’s ecosystem. If a solution isn’t put into place, the famed sea could dry up within the next 40 years.

The Dead Sea, Israel and Jordan. Photo credit:
Shutterstock

Visit EcoWatch’s TIPS page for more related news on this topic.

 

man in black shirt sitting on bench looking at the sunset
Photo by Jozsef Hocza on Unsplash

If you're like many busy Americans, you may feel the need for an extra boost of energy to stay focused and perform at your best throughout the day. Whether you experience the age-old 3 p.m. slump at your desk, or you need an extra jolt to power through a morning workout, you may be looking for a natural way to increase your energy levels.

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If you're planning a vacation and considering taking a cruise, you may want to consider choosing a ship that's environmentally responsible. As you'll read, not all cruise lines are good stewards of the planet.

Friends of the Earth's 2013 Cruise Ship Report Card says some of the 16 cruise lines graded are getting greener, but more than 40 percent of the 162 ships still rely on 30-year-old waste treatment technology, leaving behind treated sewage with levels of fecal matter, bacteria, heavy metals and other contaminants harmful to aquatic life and people.

By law, wastewater dumped within three nautical miles of shore must be treated, but beyond that ships are allowed to dump raw sewage directly into the ocean.

The report card, which Friends of the Earth put together through an analysis of federal data, showed that cruise ships dumped more than 1 billion gallons of sewage in the ocean last year, much of it raw or poorly treated.

The report card is meant to draw attention to the environmental impact of the booming cruise industry and help cruise-goers choose the most environmentally responsible cruises.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says an average cruise ship with 3,000 passengers and crew produces about 21,000 gallons of sewage a day—enough to fill 10 backyard swimming pools in a week. That adds up to more than 1 billion gallons a year for the industry—a conservative estimate, since some new ships carry as many as 8,000 passengers and crew and the report card doesn't include the entire worldwide fleet. In addition, each ship generates and dumps about eight times that much graywater from sinks, showers and baths, which can contain many of the same pollutants as sewage and significantly affects water quality.

Sewage pollution can cause gastrointestinal diseases, diarrhea, hepatitis and other illnesses in people exposed through contaminated seafood or water. Fish, shellfish, coral reefs and other aquatic life can suffocate due to surplus nitrogen and phosphorous from ship sewage.

In response, Friends of the Earth is calling for stronger rules to protect oceans, coasts, sea life and people.

"It's time for cruise ships to stop using our oceans as a toilet," said Marcie Keever, Friends of the Earth oceans and vessels program director.

"This is an industry worth billions of dollars that could install the most advanced sewage treatment technology available for the cost of a single can of Coke per passenger," Keever said. "We're encouraged that some cruise lines are taking incremental steps to improve their performance, but the entire industry must stop hiding behind weak regulations and take action to make sure the oceans their ships travel remain as clear as the photos in cruise brochures. But we also need the EPA to adopt tougher treatment standards to protect our oceans and coasts from the waste of these floating cities."

Cruise ships are also responsible for significant amounts of air pollution from the dirty fuel they burn. Even at the dock, cruise ships often run dirty diesel engines to provide electrical power to passengers and crew.

According to the U.S. EPA, each day an average cruise ship is at sea, it emits more sulfur dioxide than 13 million cars and more soot than 1 million cars. Starting in 2015, cleaner fuel standards in the U.S. and Canada will reduce the amount of sulfur emitted by each ship about 97 percent and the amount of soot by 85 percent, in addition to the interim cleaner fuel standards already in place in North America.

Disney Cruise Line, based in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., was ranked as the most environmentally responsible line, earning an A for sewage treatment and an overall grade of A—the only line to score that highly—and the first A ever issued to a cruise line. Keever said all four Disney ships have advanced sewage treatment systems and three are equipped to plug in to shore-based power.

At the other end of the scale, Carnival Cruise Lines of Doral, FL received an F for sewage treatment and an overall grade of C-minus. The company has the world's largest fleet of 24 cruise ships but only two with advanced sewage treatment technology.

Carnival Lines' parent company, Carnival Corp. & PLC of Miami and London, also operates six other lines graded by the report card. Although the Carnival-owned Seabourn and Cunard lines both received an A for sewage treatment and Holland America and Princess received a B and B-minus respectively, two other Carnival lines—P&O and Costa—received extremely low grades for sewage treatment and overall grades of F.

"As the industry leader, Carnival Corp. has to step up its environmental game throughout all of its different lines," Keever said. "How can Carnival Corp. justify having more than half of its fleet continue to use outdated technology that pollutes our oceans and threatens our marine ecosystem health, sea life and all of us?"

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