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Joanna Eng

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Joanna Eng is a New York-based writer and editor who covers travel, green living, food, careers, entrepreneurship, and more. Her travel experiences have ranged from hostel hopping in Mexico to staying with distant relatives in China to renting a beach apartment in New Jersey.

Whether it’s cookies from the vending machine at a rest area or yet another slice of pizza from the boardwalk, sometimes traveling makes us forget our healthy eating habits. It can be hard to stick to a diet or find the healthiest choices when you’re in an unfamiliar place. But thanks to technology, there are some easy new ways to get this information whenever—and wherever—you need it. Here are a few smartphone apps (for iPhone and Android) that can help travelers make better food choices while on the road or abroad.

If your Savannah St. Patrick’s Day celebration revolves around beer, why not take in some flavors of the region by indulging in locally brewed varieties? Not only will they taste more unique and memorable than your average mass-produced national or imported beer, your consumption will be lighter on the environment due to shorter shipping distances and the more careful production practices of microbreweries.

Just a block away from the river on Bay Street in Savannah, Moon River Brewing Company is a bar and restaurant that brews several award-winning varieties of beer right in the same building. On St. Patrick’s Day, Moon River is offering a special Irish menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in addition to all the goodness flowing on tap.

And of course, since Moon River is the only brewery located in Savannah, its brews can be found in bars and restaurants all around town. A couple of the best places to find a huge variety of craft beers in Savannah are The Distillery, a gastropub on Liberty Street, and Jen’s & Friends, a bar on Bull Street downtown. But if you can’t get Moon River, or want to try something different, there are plenty of craft beers coming out of Georgia and South Carolina that you can keep an eye out for:

If you can’t find these brands in the bars you’re going into, ask your bartenders what local beers they offer. And if they don’t have any, then by all means, request them! By tracking down, tasting, and asking for these microbrews, you’ll be supporting the local economy and promoting innovation and variety: craft beer makers are always coming up with bold, new flavors to keep your taste buds entertained.

Here’s to a greener (and tastier) St. Patrick’s Day!

Joanna Eng is a New York-based writer and editor who covers travel, green living, food, careers, entrepreneurship, and more. Her travel experiences have ranged from hostel hopping in Mexico to staying with distant relatives in China to renting a beach apartment in New Jersey.


by Joanna Eng

If you headed to the Gulf Coast or had your own Carnival celebration this year, the whole shebang probably involved lots of colorful plastic beads. Mardi Gras beads are tons of fun, but they can also create a lot of waste. Rather than throwing them away or letting them collect dust on your dresser, never to be used again, try some of these methods of reusing, “upcycling,” or even crafting your own beads.

Where to donate beads

If you’re in New Orleans, you can head to local nonprofit Arc of Greater New Orleans after the party’s over. They’ll take your used beads and re-sell them at next year’s festivities to raise money for their mission to serve people with intellectual disabilities and delays. There are four different bead drop-off locations.

Elsewhere, consider giving your beads to children’s after school programs or senior centers or recycled art supply centers, or anywhere else where colorful crafts are likely to bring people joy.

This Valentine’s Day, celebrating couples (or anyone, really) can feed their love of chocolate the ethical way with fair trade and organic chocolate. For the uninitiated, “fair trade” refers to goods that are produced under fair labor standards and with workers receiving fair wages at all stages of the process. Since cacao only grows well in tropical climates, it’s important that standards are in place so that we can trust in the process from afar. “Organic” refers to the lack of harmful chemicals used in the growing process. Both standards are worth considering when selecting the best chocolatey gift for your loved one.

Consider taking your valentine on a tour of a socially responsible chocolate manufacturer. In Seattle, Theo Chocolate makes organic, fair trade treats. Take a tour any day of the week for $6, and learn about where the cacao comes from, the difference between milk chocolate and dark chocolate, how chocolate is tempered, how truffles are made, and more. Then taste test all the varieties of chocolate in the store, and buy your sweetie his or her favorite bar.

Based in San Francisco, TCHO is a socially responsible business dedicated to a “no slavery” policy in sourcing its cacao. This company offers free daily tours of its factory, where you can learn about TCHO’s partnerships with farmers and how the raw beans turn into chocolate bars. Afterwards, visit the factory store for chocolate drinks and samples.

In Boston (Somerville, to be exact), Taza Chocolate makes organic chocolate and is committed to other environmentally sustainable standards. Factory tours are offered five days a week for $5 per person, but note that you will only see chocolate being made during weekday tours. Compare tastes with the free samples in the store, and then buy your date some artisanal treats.

And in Brooklyn, New York, the Mast Brothers Chocolate factory gives tours for about $10. Mast Brothers partners with small, cooperative farms that produce organic cacao. The end result is artfully packaged bars that make beautiful gifts, as well other fresh treats that you can try at the tasting room, open six days a week.

Besides factory tours, you could also attend chocolate tastings in other settings. Look for events that pair beer and chocolate, or wine and chocolate, to bring bliss to your taste buds and minds during your Valentine’s Day date.

During San Francisco Beer Week this year, the schedule includes plenty of chocolate-themed events, especially since the festival overlaps with Valentine’s Day. Sign up for an event where you can make your own chocolates using ingredients brought from home, or pair TCHO chocolate with craft beer and artisanal cheese.

In New York City on February 9, d.b.a. and Mast Brothers are coming together for a craft beer and artisanal chocolate tasting event. The creative mixtures of bitter, sweet, salty, nutty, and fruity flavors on your palates will give you and your sweetheart something deep to discuss.

Or, if you can’t find a chocolate tasting near you, consider hosting your own chocolate tasting to educate yourself and friends about the most ethical ways to produce and buy chocolate. This guide from the Global Cocoa Project includes details on how to pair wine and chocolate and how to engage all of your sense while tasting chocolate.

Joanna Eng is a New York-based writer and editor who covers travel, green living, food, careers, entrepreneurship, and more. Her travel experiences have ranged from hostel hopping in Mexico to staying with distant relatives in China to renting a beach apartment in New Jersey.


Planning a vacation in the Big Apple, you already know all the tourist spots: Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, shopping on 5th Avenue. And these are worth seeing, once or twice. But if you’ve already done all that, or just aren’t interested because you know there are so many other things to do—and other neighborhoods beyond midtown and downtown Manhattan—let these atypical guide books lead the way.

Not For Tourists Guide to New York City: Even though it’s smaller and has a stylish black cover, you might still get pegged as a tourist if you walk around with your nose in this guide book. However, this little black book is more about living in NYC than it is about being a tourist. It covers 35 neighborhoods in detail, with maps and lists of local businesses: coffee shops, movie theaters, grocery stores, farmers markets, bike shops, drug stores. This way, you can get a feel for a variety of neighborhoods where New Yorkers go about their daily lives; plus, you can find out where to buy food to cook and get a bottle of wine to drink at “home,” and generally settle into your rental apartment. If you’re not staying in Manhattan, note that there are Brooklyn and Queens guides too. Beyond that, though, Not For Tourists can’t help you.

Clean Plates: When you want to eat out and avoid the tourist traps or mediocre spots, you’ll need some kind of guide. There are just too many restaurants in the city to know where to start. For those of you who are interested in healthy, local, organic, and simply high-quality food, this book will tell you where to go. The Clean Plates food critics and nutritionist have filtered through the massive restaurant scene to bring you options to meet your dietary restrictions (gluten free, vegetarian), health concerns (avoiding artificial sweeteners), and sustainable lifestyle. Suggested eateries range from fast food to fine dining, and you can choose between the Manhattan and Brooklyn guides (or try to work your way through both).

Forgotten New York: This book by Kevin Walsh is a celebration of the obscure, historical, and way-off-the-beaten-path spots of NYC. The fact that the first section of the book is about the Bronx tells you that it’s not for typical tourists. It’s for savvy, adventurous, curious folks who are intrigued by details that others don’t usually even notice, and who are willing to walk down alleyways and far away from subway stops to learn more about New York’s quirky history. Using this guide book, you can track down colonial cemeteries, bizarre sculptures, rusting ruins, and practically unheard-of museums in all five boroughs.

Zinester’s Guide to NYC: You don’t have to know what a “zine” is to make use of this book by Ayun Halliday and her zine-making friends. You just have to be open to activities that are quirky, DIY, budget, participatory, irreverent, and non-touristy. The most lighthearted of all these alternative guide books, the Zinester’s Guide suggests attending events with names like Nerd Nite, the No Pants Subway Ride, and Elephant Walk; and visiting unusual spots including a troll museum, a ship graveyard, and a room full of soil. It’s also the only guide book that can tell you things like where to spot rats on the subway tracks, where to find black-and-white photo booths, and where to see the best bathroom graffiti. And at the bottom of the pages, you’ll enjoy the handwritten list of books, movies, and songs about NYC, as well a silly Q&A and a scavenger hunt of sorts.

Joanna Eng is a New York-based writer and editor who covers travel, green living, food, careers, entrepreneurship, and more. Her travel experiences have ranged from hostel hopping in Mexico to staying with distant relatives in China to renting a beach apartment in New Jersey.


Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and sledding are some of the greenest activities you can partake in come winter. They require no fuel or landscaping and allow you to spend some time outdoors, appreciating the winter beauty while generating your own heat rather than sitting by the fireplace or radiator. There are several FlipKey-listed rental homes that provide sleds, cross-country skis, or snowshoes to guests.

Snowshoes

This thousands-of-years-old tradition provides a practical way to get around when there’s snow on the ground. If you like hiking during warmer months, you might want to try strapping on a pair of snowshoes over your boots this winter vacation. You’ll get a chance to spend some quiet time in nature and won’t have to worry about getting lost, as you can follow your own trail back.

Near Killington in Vermont, this five-bedroom house provides plenty of outdoor activities so you can skip the popular slopes if you want to set out on your own. The rental comes with snowshoes and nearby trails, as well as ice skates and a skating pond. Another alternative to the downhill action in Vermont, this 10-bedroom place in Stowe offers 12 pairs of snowshoes so you can explore the property – located on a horse farm within the ski resort – with a large group.

You can check out the beautiful Adirondack region on snowshoes too. A two-bedroom farmhouse on a lake offers two sets of snowshoes during winter, and other activities include ice fishing and watching race car tournaments on the frozen lake. This one-bedroom rental on the same Lake Algonquin provides two pairs of snowshoes to guests as well.

Out west, enjoy the winter scenery at a two-bedroom cabin in Colorado by making use of the four sets of snowshoes and poles available to guests. There’s a fire pit and a hot tub for relaxing your sore muscles afterwards. In the Lake Tahoe area of California, this four-bedroom vacation rental is adjacent to a forest preserve which you can explore on the two pairs of snowshoes provided.

Cross-Country Skis

Another quiet way to enjoy the serenity of the season is on cross-country skis. It’s not as common to find a rental home that comes with ski equipment, but we have tracked down a couple for those of you who want to give the sport a try.

Visitors to Rocky Mountain Escape in Alberta, Canada, get access to cross-country ski equipment, along with snowshoes, and there are guided day hikes and meals included in rental rates. It’s quite the way to experience winter in the Canadian Rockies.

Further afield, this two-bedroom chalet-style apartment in Germany comes with four pairs of cross-country skis, a wooden sleigh, and two pairs of Nordic walking poles, so you’re all set to enjoy the picturesque rivers and mountains of the Bavarian countryside.

Sleds

Obviously a more kid-friendly activity, sledding can also fit into a romantic getaway or a large reunion. All you need is a hill and some snow and the thrills can rival those of an amusement park. Plus, getting yourself and your sled back up the hill is all the exercise you’ll need on a winter day. And it’s much easier (not to mention cheaper) than lugging all of that ski equipment.

Enjoy the slopes out west the simple way: At this three-bedroom cabin near Lake Tahoe, not only are sleds and saucers provided, but there’s also a binder of information that includes the owners’ “favorite secret sledding spots.” This expansive four-bedroom getaway in Montana is near ski slopes but also offers sleds and a nearby sledding hill for guest use. Or take a bigger group to a five-bedroom rental near Park City, Utah, where winter-friendly amenities include sleds, fireplaces, a boot dryer, and a hot tub.

Which low-impact winter sport are you going to try this season?

Joanna Eng is a New York-based writer and editor who covers travel, green living, food, careers, entrepreneurship, and more. Her travel experiences have ranged from hostel hopping in Mexico to staying with distant relatives in China to renting a beach apartment in New Jersey.


After several hours of prepping and over an hour of eating Thanksgiving dinner (and other holiday meals), my family likes to go on a nice, long walk. Whether we’re in the city or countryside that particular year, we always find someplace to explore on foot, while burning off calories, catching up on stories, and breathing in the crisp air. Not only is it a tradition for us and many families, it’s also a green—and completely free—activity.

If you’re staying in a vacation rental for the holidays, look for one with easy access to great walks. There are plenty of notable FlipKey-listed properties that are adjacent to walking trails and paths that offer an active way to de-stress while exploring the natural and cultural offerings of the area.

You can get to know the rivers and lakes of the U.S. with stays at many of these vacation rentals:

  • This three-bedroom house in Tennessee is near a walking trail along the Little Pigeon River, which has several forks and tributaries and flows through Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the Great Smoky Mountains. Afterwards, relax in the hot tub or by the fireplace.
  • A one-bedroom cabin in Nebraska features a wooded path to the Platte River, a significant waterway that eventually flows into the great Mississippi and out into the Gulf of Mexico. While staying here, you can also try some catch-and-release fishing on the pond and keep your eye out for wild turkeys roaming the property.
  • If a lakeside retreat is what you had in mind, check out this four-bedroom rental home in Maryland with a walking path next to Deep Creek Lake, a reservoir bordered by a state park where black bears can be sighted. More family fun can be had at the pool table or foosball table, both available for guest use in the house.
  • Or look into this three-bedroom cottage in North Carolina that offers direct access to a path along Lake Tomahawk, a popular fishing spot with views of the surrounding mountains. If the weather allows for more outdoor activities, the house is also within walking distance of tennis courts and a public playground.

T-shirts, keychains and shot glasses are easy souvenirs, but they don’t carry a whole lot of significance for the giver or receiver. Besides, what’s the point of buying something made in Thailand when your vacation was actually to Costa Rica?

If you didn’t have time (or funds) to comb through artisan markets and pick out locally made crafts for all of your friends and family during your trip, it’s not too late to turn your travels into meaningful gifts… Roll up your sleeves and start making them yourself.

First, identify what materials you have to work with. Besides the photos you took, did you save any maps, brochures, currency, transit passes, newspapers, magazines, bottles, coasters, shopping bags? (If not, then keep it mind on your next trip!)

The list of objects you can craft from these salvaged bits of your travels is endless. Here are some ideas to get your imagination rolling:

  • Print your best photos and stick them onto business-card-sized magnets.
  • Cut maps into squares and make origami ornaments.
  • Construct a mobile or piece of wall art out of subway passes.
  • Cover a box with clips from travel brochures and fill it with homemade treats from a recipe you learned on your trip.
  • Use a page from a foreign-language newspaper or magazine to make a picture frame.
  • Craft maps into paper flowers and use exotic glass bottles as vases…

When it’s time for your next road trip, don’t you wish you could save on fuel costs and avoid spewing too much pollution into the atmosphere? For those who don’t own cars (or only need a car once they get to where their destination), there are some greener solutions out there than road trips and old-fashioned car rentals.

Car Shares

Car sharing is typically used by city-dwellers who don’t want the hassle of owning their own car. With these programs, vehicles are parked in convenient spots all over a city or region, and members can reserve times to take them for a drive, as needed. Rather than standing at some car rental desk, you can reserve online and be on your way with a car accessible from your own neighborhood.

Zipcar is probably the most well-known car sharing company. Its mission is to reduce the number of personally owned cars on the road by providing vehicles when and where people really need them. Hybrid vehicles are included in Zipcar fleet, and you can save on gas in the long run by only using a truck or SUV once in a while, like when you have to transport equipment or drive in wintery conditions.

There are other car sharing initiatives cropping up all over the country. Mint, in New York and Boston, offers tiny fuel-efficient vehicles including Smart cars. The Bay Area’s City CarShare program includes plenty of hybrids as well as traditional vehicles.

If you’re really into the idea of sharing, you can put your car on loan or borrow from fellow residents with one of these new peer-to-peer car sharing programs. Boston area drivers are turning to RelayRides to rent cars from each other. The Bay Area equivalent is Getaround, and the Standford University community is experimenting with Wheelz.

Greener Car Rentals

If you don’t need a car frequently enough to join a car sharing program, or there isn’t one close to where you live or vacation, you may need to stick to regular car rental companies. But you can seek out more fuel-efficient vehicles whenever possible.

Some companies are making it easy for customers to go green: Enterprise offers hybrids and/or electric vehicles in 33 cities and regions. The Hertz website allows you to filter searches with the “Green Traveler Collection” to quickly find hybrids and other fuel-efficient models.

It’s Electric

You can also try using electric cars to really reduce your environmental impact. If you’re trying out an electric vehicle (EV) for the first time, it’s sure to be an adventure on a longer trip. You’ll barely need any gas, but the newness of the technology means that getting charged up is not as easy as pulling over at a rest stop. Just prepare yourself with information about the EV network and you’ll be fine: check out the CarStations website or EVChargerMaps to get started.

Joanna Eng is a New York-based writer and editor who covers travel, green living, food, careers, entrepreneurship, and more. Her travel experiences have ranged from hostel hopping in Mexico to staying with distant relatives in China to renting a beach apartment in New Jersey.

Here in the Northeast, it’s fall harvest time! Those of us in the city are itching to breathe some of that crisp country air and reap the bounty of the season. Get ready to choose a weekend, round up your friends or family members, find a car (sometimes the hardest part of an escape from New York City), and go pick some apples or pumpkins. Here’s your guide to doing it sustainably, so your delicious, non-urban experience is all the more pure.

Apples

If you’re concerned about the chemicals used to grow apples, you should be. It’s not all that easy to grow fruit in the Northeast, so most farms use pesticides, herbicides and other substances. Even the most eco-friendly farms must use some chemicals for their apples to survive the climate; this means that, rather than looking for strictly organic operations, you’ll usually be looking for “low-spray” and “sustainably grown” alternatives.

A 90-minute drive north, near Fishkill, NY, you’ll find Fishkill Farms. Its pick-your-own apple orchard is home to low-spray varieties, and has been certified by the Eco Apple program. Fishkill Farms is so gung-ho about sustainability that it has gone all out to meet organic standards; its official organic certification is on the way.

About two hours from the city, Mr. Apples in High Falls, NY, offers minimally sprayed apples, with no herbicides used in the soil. This orchard offers fun features like a mystery apple variety (that sprung up all on its own) and historic educational displays. The pick-your-own bounty also includes pears and pumpkins.

Nearby, in Stone Ridge, NY, the Stone Ridge Orchard has also been certified by Eco Apple. Besides picking your own apples, you can stop by the farm stand for pumpkins, melons, cider, baked goods and more.

For something a little different, look into leasing a tree from Little Dog Orchard in Clintondale, NY (less than two hours from Manhattan). The orchard recently decided to forgo all pesticides, herbicides and fungicides—so the surface of the apples might not look pretty, but you’ll know you’re not ingesting anything you don’t want to. With the lease-a-tree program, you invest in a specific tree and choose a time to go harvest the bushels of fruit.

 


Pumpkins

Pumpkins aren’t as much of a health concern as apples since the skin is so thick and you don’t eat it anyway. But if you care about the environmental impact of what you buy, you’ll want to go for organically grown pumpkins this Halloween.

One place to pick them yourself is Organics Today, an organic farm in East Islip on Long Island—about an hour’s drive from Manhattan. Besides the pumpkin patch, you can enjoy seasonal delights like hay rides, apple cider, cider doughnuts and pumpkin pie, every day until Halloween.

Mr. Apples (mentioned above) also offers pick-your-own pumpkins and other kid-friendly activities.

So hurry up and get out of here, before the pickings get too slim!

Joanna Eng is a New York-based writer and editor who covers travel, green living, food, careers, entrepreneurship, and more. Her travel experiences have ranged from hostel hopping in Mexico to staying with distant relatives in China to renting a beach apartment in New Jersey.