I have fond memories of my journeys during the guidebook era, when virtually every traveler lugged around thick, dog-eared editions of Lonely Planet or Fodor's. There was a sense of adventure that came along with combing the pages for places to eat, sleep and see. I'm a bit sad to admit that the days of those bulky destination encyclopedias are in the past.
Today, online peer-created travel guides and travel-related smartphone applications make it much easier to plan a personalized itinerary and then change it on the fly if necessary. Practical smartphone tools like GPS locators make it possible for people to find necessities such as gas and food without having the fear getting hopelessly lost in an unfamiliar city. And using information created online by like-minded travelers, rather than relying on the opinions of a single guidebook author, can lead to a much more personalized trip.
Green-minded travelers can find information online or on their iPhones to help them create an eco-friendly itinerary. Unfortunately, information is scattered all over the Internet and some of it is less than trustworthy. It seems that lots of hotels, restaurants and other travel services use “green” as a keyword to drive customers to their websites, even if it is not an apt description of their operation.
Enter Good & Green Guides, a small series of guidebooks that offer a comprehensive listing of eco-friendly attractions and activities. Unfortunately, this brand began with a limited scope, covering only the Netherlands, with editions focusing on Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the Hague in addition to a countrywide guide. Paper versions of the guides are widely available in shops across Holland. However, the books were not something that U.S.-based travelers could simply pick up on Amazon for a little pre-trip planning.
That has changed now that Good & Green has gone high-tech. An iPhone application that contains all the information found in the paper guides is now available for the Netherlands and for the cities mentioned above. The electronic version of the guides is comprehensive enough to create some positive buzz for Good & Green. Each place’s listings are divided into five categories, each with its own subcategories. The Eat and Meet section, for example, lists green restaurants, cafes and nightspots. There are also categories for shopping, accommodations, attractions and transportation. The Getting Involved section is an ideal resource for people who want to create an even more socially and environmentally conscious itinerary. The information in this category can help travelers who are interested in dropping in on aid organizations, visiting with social or environmental activist groups, and seeing the cities' eco-friendly features firsthand.
A free version of the Good & Green app is available from the iTunes app store. It contains only about 10 percent of the information published in the standard guides, but might be a good introduction to the service, especially for skeptics. A full version from the app store costs $11.99. The app will also work on iPads.
But what if you have no interest in going to the Netherlands? These apps seem like a great idea that will fill a much-needed niche, but they cover only a small corner of the world. Good & Green has announced the launch of a London guide, which will hit the app market ahead of the 2012 London Olympics. That is an interesting addition for the brand, especially given the number of people who will be in the UK for the Games and the organizers' hopes for a super-green Olympics.
It appears that the guides' developers will try to grow their brand further in Europe in the coming years. The Good & Green website lists additional cities slated to get their own guides in the near future. These include Barcelona, Spain; Bristol, U.K.; Budapest, Hungary; Copenhagen, Denmark; Freiburg, Hamburg and Munster in Germany; Oslo, Norway; Paris; and Stockholm. When these titles hit the market and are added to the iPhone app, Good & Green Guides will definitely become a useful brand for visitors to Europe with eco-friendly ambitions. If the scope eventually reaches beyond the borders of the EU (and if the guides become available for phones and tablets using non-Apple operating systems), the world will have a very useful, globally reaching green travel resource.
Though the Good & Green app bills itself as a true environmentally friendly travel tool, there are bound to be plenty of people wary of anything that uses the keyword “green” to sell itself. Yes, good tools are out there for environmentally conscious travelers, but so are plenty of guides that allow any hotel and restaurant to list itself as “green” with little or no information to back up the claim. It seems that to qualify for many guides and lists, all that is required is screwing in a few CFL bulbs and putting a recycling container on the curb on garbage pickup day.
The Good & Green guides do have editorial content and are thus somewhat objective (though there are high standards for what gets included). However, the guides give users the tools to look further into possible attractions so that they can measure the green factor for themselves. Each listing includes information about sustainability and also mentions the eco-certifications and awards earned by the venue. This will give users the tools to do further research should they choose, and gives the app more transparency than the average online travel guide.
Another reason to be excited about the release of the Good & Green iPhone version is its tech specs. Some of the more impressive features include integration with social media like Twitter and Facebook, GPS location and mapping so that users can find green attractions based on their current location, and rankings of attractions based on their overall eco-friendliness.
The Good & Green brand is still a ways away from being a universal tool for green globetrotters, but the in-depth nature of these guides and the company's expansion plans mean that environmentally minded travelers can expect the green travel guide niche to improve dramatically in the coming years.