Eco-friendly Travel

by Michele McKay

If you will be taking advantage of lowered airfares this fall or planning a trip for the holidays, consider ways to make your trip eco-friendly.

“Green” rooms

Staying at resorts or hotels that care about the environment is a great way to be gentle on the planet when traveling. To conserve water and reduce pollution, many lodgings offer guests the option of not having linens changed daily. Some offer on-site recycling facilities, earth-friendly cleaners, low-flow toilets, and motion-activated lights. There are even “eco-chic” resorts that go the extra mile by providing guests with organic cotton towels and by replacing water-thirsty lawns with native plant landscaping. To locate eco-friendly “green” lodgings, visit:


For travelers who enjoy tours, but want to “go green,” there are opportunities for eco-tourism worldwide. Not to be confused with “adventure travel” (which can be harmful to travelers and ecosystems alike), eco-tourism is based on an appreciation of ecology and culture. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) defines eco-tourism as travel that fosters “the observation and appreciation of nature as well as the traditional cultures prevailing in natural areas.” Though many companies have jumped on the bandwagon by slapping the word “eco” into their name, the UNEP definition states that true eco-tours must be run by locally owned businesses, must be organized for small groups, and must include educational and interpretive elements that increase awareness about local conservation. In addition, they must minimize impacts on the natural and cultural environment, and they should generate income that can be used by local communities to conserve and sustain their natural and cultural resources. Visit these sites for eco-tour inspiration:

Happy Travels!

Keeping the "Eco" in Ecotourism

by Michele McKay

Ecotourism: Nature and culture based tourism that is ecologically sustainable and supports the well being of local communities.
(Hawaii Ecotourism Association definition)

Here in Hawaii, where tourism is big and the aina is fragile, “ecotourism” is a hot buzzword. Visitors and locals who want to support environmentally sensitive tour industry operators might wonder which enterprises are simply using the word as a marketing ploy, and which truly feel a commitment to protecting Hawaii’s ecological and cultural heritage. To help ensure that the ‘eco’ in ecotourism describes a meaningful standard, not merely a term that operators slap into their names to attract business, the Hawaii Ecotourism Association has developed an industry review and evaluation process.

The Hawaii Ecotourism Association (HEA) is a non-profit organization made up of tour operators; lodging, travel, and media agents; community, environment, and economic development organizations; government agencies; and educational institutions. Travel- and tour-related businesses, organizations, or agencies can apply to HEA for an evaluation that considers the following business practices:

  • Compliance with all local regulations, permits and codes for use of natural areas
  • Conservation actions that have been taken to prevent damage to natural areas
  • Demonstration of cultural and historical stewardship
  • Contributions to local communities
  • Education and training of staff members

Businesses and organizations that meet the review criteria may display the HEA logo, a statement of their commitment to these high ecological and cultural standards:

  • Promoting communication and education about ecotourism issues
  • Providing an information and resource network
  • Promoting a visitor industry that is environmentally and culturally sensitive
  • Promoting community-based, sustainable development that benefits local residents
  • Enhancing visitors’ experiences through effective interpretation
  • Promoting resource conservation
  • Encouraging repeat visitors, longer stays and multi-island itineraries
  • Providing continuing education, professional development and training
  • Encouraging volunteerism among members
  • Advocating for small group, low-impact tours that are culturally and environmentally sensitive

For more information about ecotourism in Hawaii visit or contact Annette Kaohelaulii at From Oahu call 235-5431 or toll free at 1-877-300-7058.

Heal the Heart of Mother Earth

by Michele McKay

February is the month to express our caring for those we love – the perfect time to give a valentine to Mother Earth. When we give to the Earth from our hearts, we are also giving to ourselves because each of us is intrinsically a part of the Earth. When we make the effort to heal the Earth, we heal ourselves.

Healing valentines for Mother Earth can take many forms. Some involve an increase in our connection to nature, and others are actions to lighten our “footprint” on the planet.

Increasing Connection

There are many ways of taking healing action that will increase our connection to nature, and each person has his or her own preferences. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Consciousness – Observing, studying, listening, reading, and spending time in the natural environment will heighten our awareness of the condition of the Earth.
  • Intention – Directing our focus and intentions to healing the Earth. This can be done anywhere – it is the thought that counts.
  • Reverence – Cultivating reverence for nature through our own observations and through the study of other people’s experiences.

Leaving a Light Footprint

Our ecological “footprint” represents the ecological impact of our lives. Valentines to Mother Earth include treading lightly on her. Actions of highest priority are these:

  • Reduce or eliminate the consumption of animal-based products. (Consult your physician before making abrupt, substantial dietary changes.)
  • Avoid processed and packaged foods, and purchase organic, locally grown products whenever possible.
  • Minimize household waste and the use of electricity, water, and fossil fuels.

Commute or travel by public transportation, by carpools, and by biking or walking as often as possible.

5 Myths About Sun Protection

Photo: Couple Holding Hands and Running on the Beach

by Manjari Fergusson

While it seems like it’s summertime year-round here in Hawaii, that also means we’re exposed to the sun more – and now that we know the effects this can have on our skin, including skin cancer and age spots, it’s vital that we effectively protect ourselves.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, over 2 million people are diagnosed in the U.S. every year with nearly 4 million skin cancers that are not melanoma.1

Even more startling: it is estimated that 1 in 50 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma by 2050.2 Melanoma is considered by the Skin Cancer Foundation to be the most dangerous and aggressive form of skin cancer.

There are many myths out there about skin care that need to be dispelled, and we’ve identified five of them here:

  1. Only Fair Skinned People Need Sunscreen—Melanin produces the pigment in your skin. The more melanin a person has, the more helpful it is in protecting the skin from skin cancer and from aging. But the myth that people of color don’t need to take steps to protect themselves is wrong. While Caucasians are more likely to get skin cancer, it can be harder to detect in darker skinned people, and therefore may not be discovered until later stages.3
  2. The Higher the SPF the Better—SPF 30 protects against approximately 97% of UVB rays; after that, the protection against the other 3% doesn’t go up much. SPF 50 blocks 98%, and SPF 70 protects 98.5%. So, SPF 30 is usually the recommended sunscreen, and should be reapplied regularly.4
    From July 10-23, Down to Earth will have selected 4 oz. varieties of Alba Botanica Very Emollient Sunscreen on sale for $8.29, regular price $11.29.
  3. I Don’t Need Protection if its Cloudy—According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, up to 80% of the sun’s rays can penetrate clouds. So slather up or cover up.
  4. Sunscreen is the Only Way—While sunscreen is a great start, covering up with long sleeves, SPF swim shirts or using hats and staying in the shade are additional ways to protect yourself. Sunscreen doesn’t block out all the harmful sun rays and can wear off if not reapplied in the recommended time.
  5. Sun exposure will give you adequate Vitamin D—The main benefit of vitamin D is in aiding the absorption of calcium into the bones, and it also regulates communication between cells in the body.

The American Academy of Dermatology’s updated 2011 Position Statement on vitamin D asserts that “there is no scientifically validated, safe threshold level of UV exposure from the sun that allows for maximal vitamin D synthesis without increasing skin cancer risk.”  The Academy recommends the public to obtain vitamin D from a healthy diet rich in vitamin D, vitamin D-fortified foods and/or vitamin D dietary supplements. The Academy affirms that vitamin D should not be obtained from unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or indoor tanning devices.5 Consult your physician to determine if you are at risk for vitamin D deficiency.

  1. American Academy of Dermatology, “Skin Cancer”, American Academy of Dermatology,
  2. Rigel DS, Russak J, Friedman R. The evolution of melanoma diagnosis: 25 years beyond the ABCDs. CA Cancer J Clin. 2010 Sep-Oct;60(5):301-16
  3. Skin Cancer Foundation, “Skin Cancer and Skin of Color”, Skin Cancer Foundation,
  4. Skin Cancer Foundation, “Does a Higher SPF Sunscreen Always Protect Your Skin Better?”, Skin Cancer Foundation
  5. American Academy of Dermatology. Academy issues updated position statement on vitamin D. Retrieved on June 17, 2014.