Sleep Green and Save!
Hostels have always been a great way to save money. Now they're becoming a great way to help the earth, too.
In Crocodylus Village hostel (for addresses see below), located in northeast Australia's tropical rainforest adjacent to Cape Tribulation National Parks, hostelers stay in tarp-covered wooden cabins.
Very little damage had been done to the rainforest; it must be impossible to see the 'village' from the air, said Hansen Hviid, a recent visitor. They also generate their own electrical power.
Thousands of miles south of Crocodylus, the Australian Bush Settlement hostel operates as a pioneer farm that gives visitors a taste of life as an Australian settler. Besides running an organic vegetable garden, with which hostelers may help, owner Bronwyn Rayner raises orphaned wombats and other threatened species. The hostel borders Cathedral Range National Park in Victoria.
New Zealand hosts some of the world's most environmentally progressive hostels. According to Dennis Gaylor of Auckland Central Backpackers (ACB) hostel, Recycling isn't so much a task as a part of life. The ACB hostel, a member of the Environmental Hotels of Auckland (the New Zealand partner for the International Hotels Environment Initiative), sets a yearly environmental plan. They consider the environmental impact in every aspect of their operationwater, lighting, decoration, cleaning, and transport. A portion of the profits from their own ecotours goes to conservation projects.
On New Zealands South Island, Shambala Beach Farm is a model sustainable mini-community. Set on Golden Bay beach near the Abel Tasman National Park, the hostel runs an organic farm where hostelers can work for their room and board. The owners encourage travelers to stay at least a week to truly appreciate the hostels world-in-itself atmosphere.
In Southern Africa's Zululand, Amazulu Backpackers Lodge owner Tina Lewis, a dedicated conservationist, raises awareness about the plight of African rhinos and takes hostelers on trips to the Umfolozi/ Hluhluwe Game Reserve. The lodge has plans to begin a native plant nursery and have a local sangoma (traditional healer) give talks for the hostellers.
On this side of the world, the Southern Alberta branch of Hostelling International Canada developed an environmental task force to find ways to be more eco-friendly. The hostels plan to thoroughly integrate environmental initiatives into their operation and match guidelines outlined in American Youth Hostel Association's Sustainable Hostels Action Guide.
The Rara Avis youth hostel in the depths of Costa Rica's jungle includes a butterfly farm, gorgeous waterfalls, smoking volcanoes, and two rustic lodges. You can take the Aerial Rainforest Tram of Dr. Donald Perry, a renowned tropical biologist, to explore the rainforest canopy.
WENDEE HOLTCAMP writes from her bayou-front home in Texas. Her work has appeared in Discover Channel Online, Audobon, and Historic Traveler.