Surrounded by saltwater and sprouting strange, extraterrestrial-like vegetation, the islands of the Outer Banks, NC transport visitors to another world.
This largely unspoiled region offers a year-round escape into a natural treasure of ecological beauty.
As practitioners of nature-based spirituality, we place a paramount importance on experiencing and protecting these few remaining environmental jewels.
So, when I contemplated eco-friendly destinations to feature for Moody Moons this year, I went on a mission to find a vacation rental with equally eco-friendly accommodations.
That’s when I met Marcia Amidon and Ted Rowe Bonner.
Why should you care about ecotravel?
Before I tell you about my experiences with ecotourism, you may be wondering: What does this have to do with a nature-based spirituality blog?
The question almost answers itself.
Natural living practices are foundational to nature-based spirituality. As an avid traveler, I believe firmly that our obligation to honor the Earth extends well beyond monthly moon rituals and locally-sourced fruit bowls.
So today, we’ll talk about what to look for, and what to avoid, when selecting properties and rentals on the basis of respect for the environment.
(Please note: As is standard industry practice, the owners of offered me a complimentary stay at their location. I had many options for press stays this year, and I assure you, I chose this one among many for a reason. However, I always disclose press stays in the interest of industry ethical standards as well as compliance with FCC guidelines for best practice. All opinions are my own).
The Cutting Edge of Sustainable Travel
“Our philosophy is that we need to walk as lightly as possible on this planet.” Bonner sits with me on the balcony of one of his energy-efficient units in the tiny island town of Avon in the Outer Banks.
It overlooks a tranquil-looking, marshy inlet streaked with sea birds that dart back and force in search of dinner.
Owner of Rubicon Seven, Bonner dedicates his business model to genuinely sustainable practices with the lowest possible impact on the environment.
“Our goal is to [control the temperature of each unit] using the equivalent of about 15 lightbulbs.”
Bonner points out that even though they set the thermostat to a number higher than what most people call their “comfort range,” people rarely ask them to turn it down.
His company is able to significantly cut energy consumption without reducing guest experience by using high-quality insulation, dehumidification and what I can only describe as ultra modern, space-age looking ceiling fans:
What is “greenwashing”?
Rubicon Seven’s properties intrigued me primarily because leadership seems so genuinely invested in environmentally protective practices.
This is in contrast to shadier, more self-interested policies adopted by larger hospitality corporations and often disguised as ecofriendly.
Sometimes called greenwashing or green sheen, this article defines the term well. But succinctly put:
Greenwashing is promotion or adoption of business practices that appear environmentally conscious, but really prioritize corporate profits and business interests more than the environment itself.
If you travel in large hotel chains frequently, you probably run into this more than you think.
For example, you know that tiny cardboard sign in your hotel bathroom? It usually says something like:
“Save our planet! Leave your towels on the hooks and our cleaning staff will know you want to reuse them because you care about saving water!”
This practice appears to support positive environmental policy.
But mostly, it’s a PR-friendly way of saying, “Water and housekeeping payroll is expensive. It’s way cheaper for us if you skip towel service a few times a week. Meanwhile, we still use toxic commercial chemicals in our laundry room, which pollute the water supply we’re pretending to care about and expose our staff to corrosive poisons. But you know, yay for trees!”
The authentically sustainable experience.
That’s where sincerely environmentally-conscious tourism entrepreneurs like Ted Rowe Bonner and Marcia Amidon come in.
Part of a growing movement of small-scale hospitality professionals, Bonner and Amidon take sustainability to a precision art form.
From hyper-natural toiletries in the bathroom to water-saving shower heads, this place makes the most by utilizing the least amount of resources possible.
That night, I head to bed.
It’s mid-October, which probably sounds like a chilly autumn day to those of you up North. But on the Carolina coastline, it still gets over 80 degrees on a pretty regular basis.
The thermostat reads 76 degrees–about 6 degrees hotter than I keep it at home. I’m trying to keep an open-mind here, but I’m 6 months pregnant and skeptical.
Yet, I am strangely comfortable. The intergalactic-looking fan even hums quietly enough that I hear the sounds of the wildlife outside.
Most importantly, I sleep way better knowing that wildlife is a little more protected.
How to Find Earth-Friendly Vacation Rentals
So, what if you can’t make it to North Carolina to experience the rental I did?
If booking an environmentally-friendly, low impact vacation is important to you, there are lots of ways to achieve that goal:
-Book properties with inherently low-energy profiles, like glamping tents and or other outdoor accommodations.
-Avoid large hotel chains, luxury properties and resorts.
-Eat at restaurants that source ingredients locally and ethically.
–Always cleaning up after yourself and respecting local rules that protect wildlife.
-Consider homestays (living with local hosts). Not only does this minimize impact, it makes for some amazing cultural experiences.
-Never patronize attractions that exploit wild animals (dolphin shows, elephant rides, ect).
Blessed be you, and the Earth you came from.