Category: green traveler

Green Traveler: BikeSurfBerlin

TGBSB logo Green Traveler: BikeSurfBerlin

BikeSurfBerlin logo: “Two legs good. Free wheels better.” Designed by Tim Warden. Image courtesy of BikeSurfBerlin.

Graham Pope and Andrew March wrote this post on BikeSurfBerlin and cycling tips in Berlin. Pope is the co-founder of BikeSurfBerlin – – a project which lends out bikes for free (donations welcomed) in Berlin. March is an environmental engineer, sorts out the tricky IT stuff for the project and has biked thousands of kilometers within the Berlin city limits.

BikeSurfBerlin is our bike lending service in Berlin.

We differ from other bike lending services in that our users (aka BikeSurfers) are under no obligation to pay for riding our bikes. However, donations of bikes, bike parts and cash are welcomed to help keep the project sustainable. We utilize the same trust system as BeWelcome and Couchsurfing and this obviates the need for us to take a deposit or documentation from the BikeSurfer.

In 2012, Pau Simo and Graham Pope founded the bike lending service in Berlin to enable people to have free access to green transport in a bike-friendly city. Since its inception, over 170 BikeSurfers have used the service and the number of bikes available has increased from three to twelve.

BikeSurfBerlin (BSB) now has ten members who provide their expertise in the areas of bike mechanics, logistics, promotion, information technology and fundraising. We organize events including bike rides, puncture repair classes and BSB T-shirt making to help promote both the project and a cycling culture.

By minimizing the costs of running such a service, developing an efficient booking system and relying on the expertise of our team of volunteers, our project has been a success. We are always looking for more volunteers to help us run and expand the service.

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BikeSurfBerlin Critical Mass 04/11/13 – BikeSurfBerlin team members (Fabian Barkhau, Graham Pope, Brianna Stracuzzi, Vincent Hermann and Samuel Bryson) with BikeSurfers and supporters. Photo credit: Jerry Springfield.

The process of requesting a bike from BikeSurfBerlin is:

1. Check availability of the bikes on the website
2. Fill in a BikeSurf request form
3. Receive the location, name and combination number of the bike
4. Collect the bike on appointed day
5. Bring back the bike at the end of the lending period

This non-monetary, trust-based system is viable. To further encourage the growth of a network of BikeSurf projects, we are developing and guidelines on setting up your own BikeSurf branch can be found on our website. Other plans include establishing our project as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) and finding appropriate sponsors to help financially support us.

TGBSB Green Traveler: BikeSurfBerlin

Graham Pope and Pau Simo (July 2012) heading to Pottsdam for a weekend. Photo credit: Samuel Bryson.

5 Berlin Cycling Tips

Cycling Berlin is fantastic with many rewards, use these tips to make your ride even better:

1. Are you a vehicle or pedestrian? Bikes, like vehicles, stay in their lanes, signal to pass and turn, and wait behind lights. Pedestrians are slow and use sidewalks and crosswalks. Not only is this the safe option, but the legal one – you can get fined for sidewalk riding and running red lights.

2. Suitable locks and locations! You want to keep riding, so it’s good to invest in a lock, then attach it securely. Try a heavy chain lock or U-Lock or combination to go around your frame and wheels. Be smart, attach securely.

3. Avoid cobblestones, they are uncomfortable. Check Google maps for the “Bike” view and try to follow streets with solid green lines (bike lanes) or dotted lines (bike-friendly streets).

4. – Discover this route planner for cyclists in Berlin. Make bike-friendly route calculations, this will also help you find dedicated bike paths.

5. Park love: Berlin has a great number of parks that are fun to explore by bike. Try Treptower, Hasenheide, Tempelhof, Volkspark Friedrichshain, or tackle the hill at Viktoriapark.

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Green Traveler: Walks of Italy

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Cinque Terre’s Via dell’Amore. Photo credit: Amanda Ruggeri/Walks of Italy.

In this Green Traveler, Stephen Oddo writes about walking in Italy.  He is co-founder of Walks of Italy, a responsible travel company that offers walking tours, day trips and authentic experiences all across Italy. Previously, Walks of Italy has written A Florence Green Guide; A Rome Green Guide and A Venice Green Guide.

Walking has for centuries been a major method of trans-Italian transportation.

The ancient Roman troops marched to battle across their vast network of roads; pilgrimages in the Middle Ages crisscrossed borders to reach holy sites. Nowadays, it’s far less necessary to make long walking treks, but adding a bit of walking into your Italy holiday can bring you closer to the country’s hidden gems and rural hamlets.

The popularity of Cinque Terre and its association with great walks such as the Via dell’Amore certainly makes it noteworthy. These quaint fishing villages enveloped by steep vineyard-covered cliffs boast breathtaking views and tourist-friendly locals. However, following the tragic flooding in October 2011 there are still frequent closures to many of their walking paths. Additionally, mass tourism to the area soared over the last 10 years, often turning the secluded, rugged feel to the paths into a crowded march of map-wielding tourists.

When traveling in the busier months, there are alternative hiking paths that boast equal beauty and, in my opinion, an even more authentic “off-the-beaten path” feel. One such path is the Sentiero degli Dei or Path of the Gods, high in the hills overlooking the Amalfi Coast.

People frequently confuse the Amalfi Coast’s location with its popular tourist lodging town Sorrento. In fact, Sorrento is found on the Sorrento Peninsula, whereas the Amalfi Coast forms part of the Gulf of Salerno. One of the best known towns on the Amalfi Coast is Positano, and it’s from here the ancient Sentiero degli Dei departs. It offers a similar experience to the Cinque Terre, and perhaps a little more: spectacular views across vineyards, vestiges of ancient ruins, and of course the sea as you’re drawn skyward from the coast. The path concludes at Agerola — an 8 km path with a 600-meter ascent in all — and takes about 5-7 hours depending on your pace. It is not for the faint of heart as much of it is uphill along steep cliffs with sheer drops, so if you suffer from vertigo, this walk is not for you. You can also take the walk in reverse and do most of your walking downhill.

The Sentiero degli Dei is not the only trail in the region. A bit of research into walking trails of the Gulf of Salerno yields many more options of differing lengths and difficulty levels. As for lodging in the area, there are a few agriturisimi — Italian farmhouses known for their hospitality, authentic feel, and amazing cuisine cooked up from ingredients grown right on the farm. And since you’re already in an area with so much to see, you can take walks of the more famous sights like ancient Pompeii, or along the crater of Mt. Vesuvius — both services offered by my company Walks of Italy. One thing is certain: adding walks in your Italy travels will only serve to enrich your experience!

Green Traveler: Sark Island Hotels

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Scenes from Sark: (TOP) Cyclists in Sark Vineyards; (MIDDLE) Beauregard view to Little Sark and (BOTTOM) La Coupee sunlit. Photo credits: Chris George & Sark Estate Management.

Hendrik Lessing wrote this post about Sark Island Hotels, a collection of four classic hotels on the island of Sark, Channel Islands. He has introduced over 80 eco initiatives at Sark Island Hotels.

On the car-free island of Sark, some 600 residents live surrounded by natural beauty, beautiful coastlines and crystal clear night skies.

Imagine a world without cars, where the only ways to get around are by horse and carriage, bicycle or a good old stretch of the legs.

Imagine a place so peaceful and quiet that you really could hear a pin drop; a place located in the middle of the English Channel, surrounded by beautiful, clear turquoise waters. Now wake up and find yourself there, in Sark – Britain’s hidden gem.

The Isle of Sark, located 19 miles off France’s west coast, one-and-a-half miles by three miles in size, feels like a place that time has forgotten. Little wonder that people visiting this island for the first time feel as though they’ve stepped back half a century, but with a few modern comforts thrown into the mix.

Wine expert Oz Clark on his first tasting of Sark wine. Photo credit: Sark Island Hotels.

Retaining Sark’s outward charms, Sark Island Hotels offers visitors to Sark luxury accommodation, superior service and high quality local cuisine.

Minimal environmental impact is the underlying theme supporting Sark Island Hotels’ ethos of sustainability that runs through every aspect of the Company and its operations. There is much that goes on behind-the-scenes at Sark Island Hotels in order to keep this unspoilt idyll the way it is including:

  • Recycling and up-cycling of waste streams into reusable products;
  • Energy and water efficiency;
  • Sourcing locally and
  • Community engagement.

A walk around the estate will open your eyes to projects that you would never have expected on such a tiny island. Vineyards, beehives, orchards, market gardens, wind-rows of compost, cardboard briquettes and biodiesel production to name a few.

Sark Island Hotels

St Peter Port

Guernsey, Channel Islands


Green Traveler: Stephanie Hogg

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Birds + Beach Flare in Sierra Leone. Photo credit: Emily Cussins/NearFar.

Stephanie Hogg wrote this post on her travels and work in Sierra Leone. She is the founder of the UK ethical fashion label NearFar.

Since my childhood, I have always been inspired by the raw beauty of Africa.

I was brought up in Ethiopia and Kenya but when I decided to return to the continent it was to Sierra Leone, a country where my father had also worked. Africa is often seen as one, but having lived in both East and West Africa it is obvious the differences are enormous.

After graduating from Goldsmith University in 2009, my boyfriend and I headed to Freetown, Sierra Leone, a country I had visited many times before. There is something magical about this country that kept drawing me back, a sensation many visitors have experienced. On our visit, I set up NearFar, an ethical fashion label working with tailors in the country’s capital.

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Seasalt Dress from the NearFar Summer Collection inspired by the beaches of Sierra Leone. Photo credit: Emily Cussins/NearFar.

To most, Sierra Leone is a country known for it’s brutal civil war. Although it ended over 10 years ago, it is still thought by many to be a dangerous spot. When telling people of your plans to travel there, it is normally met with shock. Little do they know it is one of the safest and most beautiful countries in Africa, a secret many want to keep!

The beaches are so beautiful here that they gave me inspiration for my recent NearFar Summer collection. If you drive just out of Freetown along the peninsula, you stumble across the most diverse set of beaches all situated a few miles apart. There is something for any beach lover here from the beautiful white sands of Tokeh to the dramatic mountain background of John Obey. One thing they do have in common is their stunning landscape and unrivaled tranquility.

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Tranquility on the beach. Photo credit: Stephanie Hogg/NearFar.

I have had the privilege to witness the rebuilding of the country as it continues to make vast progress after the war. In 2009, we were in-country at the same time UN troops were leaving. For me, this was symbolic. At a time troops were leaving the country, I was launching NearFar. This, I felt, was a reflection on how the times were changing for the better.

I decided to set up NearFar in Sierra Leone not only because of its natural beauty but also due to the people themselves. Having suffered so much for so long you would never know it. They are, by far, the most forgiving and friendly people I have ever come across. NearFar was set up to help support and train tailors and give them the opportunities they missed out on. With so many beautiful fabrics and a country where most are unemployed it seemed the perfect solution. A country that comes close to bottom of the UN index chart has made it a challenging experience but like a lot of things here the satisfaction outweighs the challenges.

Sierra Leone has still got a long way to go in terms of tourism but with so much beauty, it will not be long until it’s one of the most desirable travel destinations in Africa. Let’s just hope it stays quiet for a little longer!

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Green Traveler: Merlin Farm

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Coastal beauty: Mawgan Porth Beach, Cornwall, UK. Photo credit: Merlin Farm.

Lucy of Merlin Farm wrote this post about their Eco Cottages in Cornwall, UK.

On the North Coast of Cornwall somewhere in between Newquay and Padstow lies the unspoilt Bay of Mawgan Porth.

A short stroll inland and you’ll come across Merlin Farm, a small complex of Eco Cottages. Nestled in the Cornish Countryside, Merlin Farm is soaking in the sunshine through Solar PV, heating the water and flooding warmth into the cottages through cathedral windows.

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The Eco Cottages. Photo credit: Merlin Farm.

We developed derelict barns on our farm in 2009, opting for a sustainable design that in turn would be a viable business to pass down to our children.

Everything was researched thoroughly from the energy maximizing design concept through to the sympathetic interior design. Our vision came alive in April 2010 when the Eco Cottages opened their doors to their first guests.

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Green + design. Photo credit: Merlin Farm.

Over the years, we improved and increased our eco credentials. At the end of our second season, we decided to ask the Green Tourism Business Scheme to come and inspect our business. We were delighted that the Eco Cottages scored over 80% and were awarded a GOLD award.

December 2011 saw the arrival of 216 Solar PV panels, now making Merlin Farm virtually self-sufficient.

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Solar panels. Photo credit: Merlin Farm.

Sustainability lies at the heart of the farm from the free roaming chickens who lay varying colors of eggs for our guest’s welcome pack to the wonderfully photogenic Horace Donkey who provides organic hedge trimming.

Guests are encouraged to do their bit too, from recycling and composting their kitchen waste, to leaving their beach items for the next guests to re-use and even bringing and planting their own tree on the farm to offset their journey to Cornwall.

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Donkeys on the farm. Photo credit: Merlin Farm.

‘Car free’ days out are also encouraged, details of these and local bus timetables are provided in the guest information book. Anyone bringing their dog is encouraged to dispose of their dog’s mess in the Eco Dog Poo composter Darrel created.

Guests often have many questions regarding green technology intended for their own homes, something Darrel is always too eager and enthusiastic to discuss.

We hope a visit to Merlin Farm will be inspirational, open your eyes to the possibilities of sustainable eco living and provide a wonderful holiday in the process!

Read more Green Traveler here.