Throughout the years the tourism industry has been one of the most rapidly evolving, growing and damaging industries when it comes to the health of our planet and its atmosphere. Yet it has shown no signs of slowing down any time soon. With the rising awareness around the ongoing climate crisis, we find ourselves in, more and more people are looking to ecotravel going on more ecotours and visiting more green destinations. Going on an eco road trip and highlighting green destinations was a goal of mine going into 2020 and I am happy to showcase to you the carbon offset road trip of northern California. Below I show how I travelled through California offsetting my flights and car’s carbon emissions along my road trip through the northernmost regions of the state. Venturing through the pacific coast highway stumbling across, festivals, northern California wildlife, farmers markets and some of the largest trees on earth. If you want to sustainably road trip through California and experience some of the best green destinations you’ve come to the right place.
Where to start my eco travels in California?
Some of the most beautiful and relatively undiscovered regions, to the wider public, can be found in northern California and the best way for you to kick off your trip would be to fly into San Fransisco International airport (SFO) which is easily accessible by many international and domestic flights.
Prior to arriving organising a car rental for the duration of your stay is highly recommended. The best way to see California is by car and without one, getting to some of the best green destinations it has to offer will be relatively difficult without some form of vehicle. Although not to worry once in the airport it’s really easy to navigate to and pick up your vehicle once organized. Even if you don’t get the opportunity to arrange one beforehand, you will easily be able to do this at SFO airport at the vehicle pick up counters. Although for your ease I’ve placed a widget below where you can directly book your car rental for pick up at SFO. I recommend a 4×4 or compact SUV with 4 wheel drive, for regions in these green destinations where manoeuvring will be difficult without it.
The drive to Chico, located in Butte County California, from SFO airport is roughly 3.5 hours dependent on traffic. Average of 176 miles with an estimated output of 0.07 metric tons CO2 (Based on 2019 JEEP Compass Auto-6 4WD Gasoline).
Upon your first arrival, Chico seems like a small and unassuming town, however, so much more is going on here then first meets the eye. Unbeknownst to most visitors, Chico is powered through a vast amount of solar power, solar panels covering downtown parking structures even power their water pollution systems.
Located in one of the most agriculturally rich areas of the world, this distinct natural setting Chico find themselves in means they are home to a number of unique natural communities, and highly sensitive biological and wetland resources. In addition, Chico has a healthy urban forest that provides important aesthetic benefits, energy savings from its shade canopy, areas of refuge from summer temperatures, and foraging and nesting locations for fauna.
The city continually sets goals from protecting and conserving sensitive species and habitats; reducing greenhouse gas emissions citywide; preserving agricultural resources to providing a sustainable water supply.
Chico Hotels – Oxford Suites
My time in Chico was based around one of the highlighted events of the year. The Sierra Nevada pale ale hops harvest festival, which I’ll go into more detail below. During this time I stayed at the Oxford Suites Chico.
Located very close to the centre of town, Oxford Suites was in the perfect location for everywhere we wanted to go. Their rooms were large and made for a comfortable nights sleep after a busy day exploring the town.
The Oxford company have made a green hotel for a green destination. Oxford suites Chico was not only built from sustainable materials they continue to implement green practices throughout the running of their hotel. With in-room recycling, composting food waste, non-chemical cleaning systems, clean energy and electric vehicle charging stations to name a few! None of which impact the pleasure of your stay.
Things to do in Chico Ca – Hops Harvest Festival
When it comes to ecotravel there are a lot of different factors people tend to look for. Now, this is an event I truly believe could enthral everyone visiting. The Sierra Nevada pale ale hops harvest festival is one of the highlighted events of the year for Butte county California. Taking place annually in October and with tickets running between $30 to $75 dependent on alcohol consumption. I was lucky enough to experience their fifth-year showcase.
For those who don’t know much about the festival, much like me prior to going. The Sierra Nevada pale ale hops harvest festival is first and foremost a craft beer festival. This is where the best hop brewers of the harvest season in the US come to showcase their craft beers, the festival itself hosts over 100 beers and you get the opportunity to try them all as many times as you like …. until the keg runs out.
The festival boasts a wide variety of beer from throughout the USA, alongside panels, live music and food trucks. There is something for everyone even if you don’t like beer. As a limited beer drinker myself I found some great craft brews that really opened my mind to the world of beer.
Where: Sierra Nevada Hop Field, Chico, CA (parking at Silver Dollar Fairgrounds)
Tickets: Tickets are available online only.
Hops Harvest Festival – A Sustainable beer festival?
When seemingly small events are thinking like this it really makes you think why the big ones hadn’t already. Oddly one of the highlights of the Sierra Nevada pale ale hops harvest festival for me was the sustainability efforts the event organisers had gone to. With only 0.2% of the waste produced during the festival going to landfill, the steps Sierra Nevada had taken to change the post-festival processing aligned perfectly with what I learnt the following day at their brewery tour.
Sierra Nevada pale ale – Sustainable Brewing
The Sierra Nevada pale ale brewery in Chico CA is the epitome of what brewers and companies alike should be looking to achieve when it comes to sustainable practices and one of the main factors making Butte county a green destination.
This awareness instilled into the Sierra Nevada pale ale brewery by its founder Ken Grossman who had started the company with repurposed/upcycled dairy tanks has built his company on a model of reduce, reuse, recycle. Leading to Sierra Nevada pale ale brewery Implementing a vast variety of practices throughout the brewery, from CO2 recovery, Solar Arrays to water conservation. Click here to see their sustainable brewing practices.
Not only has Sierra Nevada pale ale pioneered sustainable practices their now turning their hand to helping the local environment. With their action and advocacy program: Take Back Our Trails. Focusing on-hand trail restoration committing to the upkeep of the wilderness Butte county and Chico are surrounded by.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
A green destination perfect for those looking to ecotravel and shockingly previously unknown to me, one of the first established US National parks is one that I will now never forget. Lassen volcanic national park was established on August 9, 1916, and became the 13th national park in the USA.
Lassen volcanic national park is easily accessible from Chico, with two different routes leading you to the southern entrance. Highway 99 north is recommended as highway 32 is winding with limited mobile/cell service. Please note Lassen volcanic national park is closed in the fall season roughly late October onwards due to significant snowfall. So if you are planning a visit ensure to check in on the parks opening times.
Even on the drive up to Lassen volcanic national park, you are blessed with roads cutting through lush greens and river bends. We wanted to stop on every corner just to take in the views.
As you begin your arrival into Lassen volcanic national park you start to lose cell service which makes for the perfect no distraction experience of this beautiful park.
Lassen volcanic national park is known for its volcanic geology, with Lassen peak forming a dominant feature of the park as an active volcano. However, a primary reason Lassen volcanic national park is green destination is that it has a rich biodiversity, supporting over 700 different flowering species and 250 vertebrate and invertebrate species. Lassen volcanic national parks rich biodiversity can be attributed to its unique geographic positioning. Lying in the cross over of three biological provinces; with the Great Basin to the east, the Cascades of the north and the Sierra Nevada mountains to the south. Due to the ecological importance of the park rangers conduct full naturalist programs during the summer and modified ones of the winter.
Depending on the amount of time you find on your ecotravels or generally within Lassen volcanic national park you can visit various spots within the park limits.
Featuring hydrothermal activity, just north of the parking lot on Lassen Park Road. It’s around a 20 min easy hike trailing 0.2m/0.3km round trip.
Bumpass Hell Trail
More hydrothermal activity paired with forest, lakes and scenic views. Accessible from Bumpass Hell parking lot this is more of a time-consuming hike taking around 2.5 hours each way depending on your stops.
Now if you want a challenge or plan on spending the night at Lassen volcanic national park, summit lake is for you. Get ready for epic views but a long journey taking 6.5 hours and that’s if you chose not to swim.
A spot where I spent the majority of my time within Lassen volcanic national park was Manzanita lake. One of the most easily accessible and stunning spots within Lassen volcanic national park, Manzanita lake boasts incredible views of Lassen Peak mirrored on a clear lake surrounded by forestry and flowers.
Lodging near Lassen National Park
For those who truly want to experience Lassen National Park an overnight stay would be recommended. As camping is not to everyone’s tastes, there is a variety of lodging near Lassen national park available year-round during park opening seasons.
I had the opportunity to overnight at The Village At Childs Meadow, a stone’s throw away from Lassen National Park. Only 10 miles from the nearest Lassen National Park Hike. This beautiful property boasted quaint wooden lodges with comfy beds, perfect to sink into after long days exploring the Lassen National Park hiking trails. Their onsite shop is on hand to cover you for any amenities you may have left behind or forgotten on your travels. If not just sit back and relax in their onsite cafe serving three meals a day with fanatic views of the meadows and treelines of Lassen.
The drive to Redding, located in Shasta County California, from The village in Childs meadow (Lassen National Park) is roughly 1-2 hours dependent on traffic and routes taken. Averaging between of 67-107 miles with an estimated output of 0.03-0.04 metric tons CO2 (Based on 2019 JEEP Compass Auto-6 4WD Gasoline).
Driving north on Highway 89 through Lassen Park can see you reach McArthur Burney Falls State Park. This short but scenic drive into redding town is the perfect way to take in the extended sites of Lassen national park.
Burney Falls Hike
One of the smaller state parks, McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park will be reaching its 100th year since conception in 2020. One of the highlighted green destinations during my eco travels in northern California, is the centre point of McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, the 129-foot Burney Falls. The Burney falls hike is relatively easy and suitable for young and old visitors alike with a gentle decline to the base of the falls it is accessible to most.
Landscaped by the historic volcanic activity of the area, the various peaks and troughs of McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park provide beautiful panoramic views of wildlife.
Driving into redding town you can place yourself right next to the best attractions this town has to offer at the Sheraton Redding Hotel. This LEED-certified hotel is in perfect walking distance to both the Sundial Bridge and Turtle Bay exploration park.
Turtle Bay Exploration Park
Turtle Bay redding was one of the highlights of my eco travels in California. This not for profit exploration park is located next to a well-known attraction in Redding California, which is the Sundial Bridge. Turtle Bay exploration park is over 300 acres of an interactive immersive experience with Californian wildlife right in the heart of the Redding community.
Turtle bay was established to inspire wonder, create connections and foster appreciation for the diversity and magnificence of wildlife through conservation, education and entertainment. All of the animals at Turtle Bay are non-releasable and most are rescued.
I was lucky enough to be shown around and introduced to their many adopted animals by a fellow scientist and conservation worker at Turtle Bay, Jonelle. She chose to work at turtle bay after an injury had pulled her away from mega-fauna no longer allowing her the capabilities of carrying out the intensive work large animals require. Now at turtle bay, Jonelle uses her experience and background in an educational manner working with a variety of animals and discussing with the park’s visitors about the natural world and the animals they encounter every day.
One of the animals I got up close with during my time at the park was Timber, the North American beaver, who was born at Minnesota Zoo and came to Turtle Bay at only seven weeks old.
I definitely believe there are many pros and cons when it comes to keeping animals in captivity. Personally still being very torn on the subject. Animals and plant life play an important role in balancing the ecosystem no matter how large or small. In certain circumstances by having wildlife in captivity, we help conserve and preserve their continued species existence whilst also educating the wider public with on-hand experience, crucial in particular areas around the world. These circumstances ring truer now than ever, as we witness regions around the world is grossly affected by climate change, with acres of lost habitat. allow their visitors to connect with area’s around the world through interactive and scientifically managed experiences such as their parrot playhouse. Their vibrant and curious Australian lorikeets are being heavily affected in their natural habitat by the Australian bushfires, to which total species loss is still unknown.
Shasta Dam Visitor Center
Located only 20 minutes away from Redding CA, Shasta Dam was a really interesting site to come across. Laid out across the Sacramento River, the drive up provided you with beautiful views of the Valley and Mt Shasta in the distance.
On-site you can find the Shasta Dam visitors centre, located along the rim of the Dam, providing an in-depth history of the dam. One thing that really stood out for me was that the dam itself is a great source of, sustainable green energy via, hydropower for the state of California capable of generating 676 megawatts (MW) from five turbines. Although there have been ecological issues with the Dam, in the past which have negatively affected the number of Pacific salmon. The federal government constructed the Coleman National Fish Hatchery In an attempt to save the plunging salmon populations, which restored 87 per cent of the fallen population.
Overall the dam stands as a vibrant visitor attraction and speaks as a reminder of California’s historic use of green energy and wildlife awareness making Shasta dam a must-see green destination in California.
Mt Shasta Hiking Trails
When it comes to natural sites, roughly 60 miles and just one hour north of Redding via Highway 5, are some of the most beautifully maintained green destinations northern California has to offer. There are a variety of Mt Shasta hiking trails you can take along highway 5, however, I found the best views of both Mt Shasta and Castle Crags was at Castle Crags State Park – Root Creek Trail. After a moderate and paved trail, Rook Creek Trail leads you to a seated vista point with stunning views of both Mt Shasta and Castle Crags.
Even though geology never personally interested me, I doubt I could find one person unimpressed by the stature of Castle Crags. Featuring soaring spires of ancient granite over 170 million years old towering above you at all angles it’s hard not to be in awe of this earthly structure.
Looking around this green destination you feel buried in nature. Everywhere you look there are lush greens and depending on the time of year (autumn/fall) you may be lucky enough to see bursts of vibrant oranges and yellows. The ecology of this area has been naturally preserved by the Mt Shastas volcanic soil. Volcanic soil is one of the richest and fertile soils on our planet. Volcanic ash combined with rainfall, warm summers, and mild winters allow these regions to produce abundant crops and the vast forests that surround them
The drive to Eureka, located in Humboldt County California, from Redding is roughly 3 hours dependent on traffic and routes taken as you make your way towards the Californian coast. Averaging between of 150-170 miles with an estimated output of 0.06-0.07 metric tons CO2 (Based on 2019 JEEP Compass Auto-6 4WD Gasoline).
Arriving into the Eureka, Humboldt County the town exudes an old-time charm with many listed buildings including the towns iconic Carson mansion built-in 1886. If you truly want to envelope yourself into a unique getaway in Eureka I would recommend staying at non-other than The Inn at 2nd & C – at Eagle house.
Humboldt County is completely self-sufficient. Due to natural water irrigation and farming, the county is not reliant on food imports, which is an added bonus to know that your food consumption in the area has a minimal CO2 footprint.
Humboldt County has not only taken into account its food production but also its waste management. The Arcata Wastewater Treatment Plant and Wildlife Sanctuary is a waste management system created by Humboldt county. A series of oxidation ponds, treatment wetlands and enhancement marshes are used to filter sewage waste. The marshes also serve as a wildlife refuge, for over 327 species of birds alongside numerous plant, mammal, fish, insect, reptile and amphibian species.
Trinidad in California? Welcome to Trinidad State Beach in Trinidad, California. Located just a 30-minute drive up the pacific coast highway from Eureka, Trinidad State Beach spans from Elk Head located on the north end of the beach to Trinidad Head south end.
Beaches are always a highlight on my eco travels. Trinidad State Beach boasts epic cliff lines with mountainous islands growing out of its oceans. Pewetole Island, with the most trees, divides Trinidad State Beach into two coves.
You can lose yourself in this, pet-friendly, beach. It’s worth noting due to cold water temperatures and dangerous surf, Trinidad beach is not a swimming beach and is best for those evening strolls. I recommend coming just before sunset, to soak in the golden light that shows the beauty of every island crevice Trinidad State Beach has to offer. It’s worth noting due to cold water temperatures and dangerous surf, Trinidad beach is not a swimming beach and is best for those evening strolls.
Redwood National Park
Going along your ecotravel of the pacific coast, you’ll find yourself in the ideal redwood territory. Located around 50 minutes north of Eureka, California and home to the tallest trees on earth Redwood National Park should be the top green destination for anyone looking to ecotravel Northern California.
Evergreens are found throughout the northwest, growing from the Californian Big Sur right up to the Oregon border. The oldest and largest trees (Sequoia sempervirens) are found north of Humboldt County! The coast redwood is one of the world’s fastest-growing conifers. 50% of the virgin redwoods are found north of Humboldt County including 20 of the tallest redwoods on earth.
Created in October 1968, Redwood National Park system protects over 110,000 acres of forest, of which 40,000 is old growth. Redwood forests are crucial in providing a healthy, stable climate. Studies show that coast redwoods capture more carbon dioxide (CO2) from our cars, trucks and power plants than any other tree on Earth. Because California’s coast redwood forests are so efficient at capturing and transforming carbon, protecting them can have a significant impact in slowing global climate change. (Sempervirens, 2020). Currently, there are more than 382,000 acres of protected redwoods which is 23% of their range.
The redwoods support an abundance of biodiversity, allowing many wild species to thrive including black bears, bald eagles, flying squirrels and the Roosevelt elk which I was lucky enough to come across.
The Roosevelt Elk (Cervus canadensis) is the largest in North America and are primarily found widespread through the Pacific Northwest. The UK biological classification of this particular animal is not ‘Elk’ but rather the American ‘Moose’ (Alces alces) is what we would refer to as Elk, as their name when derived from Latin literally means Elk. As seasonally migratory animals, your opportunity to spot a gang along your eco travels can be quite sparse.
Heading further southward along the pacific coast highway, along Highway 1, it will take roughly 4 hours dependent on traffic and routes taken as you make your way to Mendocino. Averaging between of 190-200 miles with an estimated output of 0.07-0.08 metric tons CO2 (Based on 2019 JEEP Compass Auto-6 4WD Gasoline).
If ecotravel and unique accommodation are what you look for when you travel. Then Glendeven Inn is the dream you’ve been after. This Mendocino bed and breakfast located along the Mendocino coast is an adults-only 10-room inn which provides you with an experience unlike any other. Their 15 ace property with roaming llamas and chickens, wine bars and spas. They are truly in a world of their own.
Glendeven Inn’s accommodation definitely stood out as the perfect green destination. They offer visitors a sense of peace, beauty, and privacy. Surrounded by nature and very aware of it, Glendeven Inn strives to minimize its carbon footprint. Continuously looking to work on finding new ways to buy locally and maximize the use of environmentally sound cleaning supplies. They use all compostable and edible kitchen waste for composting or supplemental chicken feed. Using 100% recycled paper throughout the property they are committed to maximizing their recycling efforts and minimizing their contributions to landfills.
Away from the coast and going through Highway 20 east, will bring you to Yolo county. Roughly 3-4 hours dependent on traffic and routes taken as you make your way to Yolo will average you between of 170-900 miles with an estimated output of 0.06-0.07 metric tons CO2 (Based on 2019 JEEP Compass Auto-6 4WD Gasoline).
I hadn’t known much about Yolo county prior to arriving but it definitely exceeded any presumptive ideas of what I thought when driving into the small city. Whenever I travel I always like to find ways I can be more engrained into the community and experience the best of an area through the locals that live there. I find when this came to eco travels the best way to do this is find out where and how the locals really connect.
The Davis Woodland farmers market to me was one of the highlights of my California ecotravel road trip. The woodland farmers market taking place twice a week in Yolo county California brings together a community living and working of farming culture. The sustainability of that is soaked into everything they do which is why this one of the green destinations I truly recommend experiencing.
On the ground in the market, you can see the vibrant produce and smiling faces of those bringing it to light. Showcasing their livelihoods for you to experience and enjoy. Some of the fantastic products and stories I got to hear were that of Pure Honey, Yolo Press (Olive Oil) and Good Humus.
Good Humus in particular aim to establish a direct connection for the local people to the place where their food is produced. Educating them on the farmland they depend on through site visits to showcase their biologically diverse site and teach about agriculture, ecology, nutrition, and healthy living practices. They have even established an agricultural easement, which will ensure that this farm will be held in perpetuity for farming and food production for their community.
Around 25 minutes south of Yolo county, in the middle of local agriculture and farmland, you can find the beautiful property of Park Winters. This country luxury – private Bed & Breakfast and events venue is the ideal green destination getaway to immerse yourself in the surrounding greenery of Winters, CA whether for a day or a weekend.
Outside of celebratory event hosting, Park Winters also runs seasonal farm dinners, which I was lucky enough to experience during my ecotravels of Northern California.
The Farm Dinner at Park Winters truly allows you to immerse yourself in the green destination that is Yolo County projecting everything sustainable dining should be. Presenting the story of the season when it comes to food, all ingredients used in the diner are from produce that is grown on the surrounding property and at their peak ripeness.
Alongside zero food miles and high-quality organic produce, Park-winters also strives for zero-waste. All elements of the produce is utilised by their highly experienced chefs towards making multiple dishes, with any remaining food waste, put toward to on-site composting for future growth.
Tickets for the event can be purchased here.
How does Offsetting Help?
Throughout my ecotravels on this trip, my carbon emissions including flights and transportation on the ground totalled around 3 metric tons of CO2e.
Although Carbon Offsetting is still extremely debated amongst climate scientists. When investing in the right programs, it can be extremely beneficial for the climate and to counteract the effects of carbon pollution created by modern tourism. It is is important to always go carbon negative when possible, so rather than neutralising the effect you are having you are changing this into a positive.
Carbon reduction commitment projects or carbon offset projects not only provide carbon reduction but can provide additional benefits in the form of biodiversity, education, jobs, food security, clean drinking water and health & well-being in developing countries.
When looking at carbon reduction commitment projects, the aim is to find those with:
- Certified Emission Reductions (CERs)
- Gold Standard CERs
- Gold Standard Verified Emission Reductions (VERs)
- Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) certified credits
- Quality Assurance Standard (QAS) for Carbon Offsetting.
Well, I hope you guys found this article how to ecotravel California’s green destinations via a carbon offset road trip useful!
Let me know if you end up visiting any of the areas I did!
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