26 - 2007

Thanksgiving travels: Not cheap, but surprisingly green

This weekend, we hit the road for a break from everyday life. We drove from Denver to Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico, for a few days. The trip wasn’t exactly (OK, not in any way) a money saver, but it was a much-needed respite from the daily grind — and turned up several surprisingly green results.

1. Photos: I came back with scarcely any photos — a handful, like the one above, from our drive between Taos and Santa Fe, and a handful of Little Cheap sleeping, because it is so seldom that she is sleeping in good light so that I can take a snap without the flash waking her — and she still looks like, well, an angel when she sleeps. All the photos were digital, and I use recyclable batteries in my camera.

2. Heat: At our hotel in Taos, we had a wood-burning fireplace in the room to warm us up in the evening. Wood is the traditional heat in this area. As a result, we didn’t touch the heater even though we had 6″ of snow on Friday morning. While wood smoke is a pollutant, wood has the advantage of being a renewable resource.

3. Dining: At the restaurant where we ate our Thanksgiving dinner, Doc Martin’s (located in the hotel), we enjoyed many local ingredients in the fine cuisine.  We were even able to celebrate with a bottle of locally made sparkling wine — and then drove past Gruet signage all the way to Santa Fe. We have been fans of the sparkling wine made by these native-French brothers for years, and the sommelier was boasting about their other wines as well.

4. Park it: In both Taos and Santa Fe, we paid a premium to stay at a good hotel in the central district, but this meant that (especially in Taos) we parked the car when we arrived and didn’t move it until we left.

5. Low-impact shopping: We bought souvenirs in Taos — some (fairly local) llama wool for me to spin and a Mexican doll made from twigs and wool for Little Cheap at LaLana Wools.  (In fact, we gave Little Cheap $20 spending money for the four-day weekend to work on those financial skills while we traveled — although she wound up also taking a small loan from Mr. Cheap (repaid with saved allowance) to accommodate her desire to have the wool woman, a toy llama (from real fiber) and, alas, a plastic toy horse.) We also bought some gifts that are relatively low impact — drinkable or burnable — as well as a couple that will be around longer. And although we did more shopping than we usually do, most of it was for holiday gifts, not just killing time.

6. Surprisingly green hotel: Our hotel in Santa Fe was a Priceline find.  The rooms are really small at this elegant place, and we had one king-size bed for the three of us (luckily, we have experience with cramming two adults, a child and a dog into our queen-size at home). I suppose we inadvertently saved on linens by staying in one bed. But the hotel did its part, with a low-flow shower head, low-water-use toilet, and CFL bulbs in all the lights! That was a pleasant surprise … although, unfortunately, housekeeping changed all the towels on day 2 despite their sign saying they were required by law not to change them oftener than every four days.

7. Carbon offset: All told, our trip was 804 miles of driving (about 32 gallons of gas). This morning, I paid my dues by purchasing a carbon offset from NativeEnergy. After all, what’s another $12 on top of a vacation’s worth of outflow? And while there seem to be several good offset company, this one seems particularly appropriate for a visit to a state where we visited the statue of the first Native American saint.

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