GUIDEBOOK SMACKDOWN

The Ecolodge Authority

What's the most reliable resource when you're seeking a low-impact, spotlessly responsible place to stay? We asked three environmental bloggers to be the judge.

By , Tuesday, Mar 24, 2009, 12:00 AM

From left: Fodor's Green Travel, Green Places to Stay, and The Eco-Travel Guide

*Top pick!
A green star goes to the guidebook that our judges find most useful.

THE PANELISTS

Jessica Root
Blogs for the websites treehugger.com and planetgreen.com. She lives in Brooklyn.

Avital Binshtock
A resident of San Francisco, edits the Sierra Club's magazine and its Green Life blog.

Katharine Wroth
An editor for the eco-site grist.org. She telecommutes from her home outside Boston.

THE BOOKS

Fodor's Green Travel ($22)

Jessica Root: * The guide is a breeze to navigate and full of amazing photos. Plus, it has two things I love: a price key organizing hotels by "budget," "moderate," and "blow out," and an estimate of the amount of emissions it takes to fly to each one from New York.

Avital Binshtock: Some properties put more of a focus on social responsibility (hiring locals) than on environmental concerns—a bit secondary for a book purporting to list eco-hotels exclusively. Still, it does include some fantastic far-out spots, such as a yoga retreat in a Sri Lankan village.

Katharine Wroth: * The editors did their homework, with nice how-to-save details throughout. For instance, at the Bloomfield House in England, guests get a 10 percent discount if they arrive by bus or by train. It's the closest any of the three comes to being a bona fide travel guide.

Green Places to Stay ($22)

Jessica Root: Certain travel tips are stale: Minimize waste by reusing plastic bags! And the writing is far from smart—describing a hotel called Anna's House in Northern Ireland, the author gushes that "creative energy streams into their green crusade." Why pollute with mixed metaphors?

Avital Binshtock: This little caveat on page 46 made it difficult for me to take any of the reviews seriously: "Owners pay to appear in this guide." And then on the next page: "We make no claims to pure objectivity." I'm glad they differentiated between pure objectivity and the not-so-genuine kind.

Katharine Wroth: Dirt-cheap hostels and luxury lodges are listed cheek by jowl, which can make it frustrating to find a place in your price range. But my biggest complaint is the lack of listings for the U.S.—the closest the book gets to our mainland is the Virgin Islands!

The Eco-Travel Guide ($30)

Jessica Root: Best reserved for a Sunday morning when you have time to wade through the incredible amount of information. And they didn't edit for topicality, either. I have beef with the section on clothing and gear; a few items, like soccer balls and salad servers, were completely unrelated to travel.

Avital Binshtock: * The content is well researched and highly original, with interesting nuggets on new, affordable forms of transportation, such as micro scooters and solar-powered trains. Overall, it deftly walks a fine line; it's dense with detail, yet never boring.

Katharine Wroth: A bulky book that reads like an academic tome, with advice that borders on the unhelpful. It says, for example, that meeting people online is a good substitute for traveling. Thanks! Another problem: The section on green products comes across like an extended advertorial.