Looking to travel somewhere that fits your green lifestyle? Want to travel with a low carbon footprint? Dreaming of a destination that will be unique but supportive of your environmental ethics? Visit Carmel, California. Long a haven for those who followed their own muse, Carmel has always been a green community. It’s easy to practice sustainability here.
Carmel has a rich heritage for preserving its historic, cultural and natural assets. Once the first local grade school in the 1930’s, the world-class performing arts center, the Sunset Center, has become the home to the Carmel Bach Festival, the Carmel Music Society and other cultural institutions. The humble beginnings of this building have now evolved with a recent remodel, into an acoustically excellent 720-seat theater attracting world-class talent and productions. Other local gems, the Golden Bough Theater and the Forest Theater have long tenure as well, with the outdoor Forest Theater known as the oldest outdoor theater west of the Mississippi.
The Carmel Mission, built in 1771 by Father Junipero Sera, has been lovingly restored to become one of the most beautiful of the California missions. Also architecturally significant, The Robinson Jeffers Tor House, one of Carmel’s first homes, looks like it did when built by the poet Jeffers from stone gathered right here on Carmel beach.
When staying in Carmel, you can park your car once and leave your keys at your inn. Walk to the beach, shopping, wine tasting and fabulous restaurants all within a few blocks. While dining in Carmel, you’ll find over 50 bistros, cafes and fine dining establishments whose menus feature a bounty of regional fare including produce from the local Salinas Valley (the top lettuce growing region in the world) and sustainable seafood from Monterey Bay. It is a “localivore” delight.
Don’t forget to bring or buy a flashlight for your wanderings in Carmel because there are no stoplights and very few street lights. Streets and sidewalks that go around trees (because they are protected), are uneven and while you just have to walk at night – to the beach, to dinner, around the shopping district, and back to your inn - you will want some light to show the way. Clear views of the stars overhead and the moon reflecting on the crashing waves are a welcome result of the absence of light pollution. Dim lighting, charming settings and glorious surroundings are also quite romantic!
Local preservation has even included celebrities who could easily afford to do what they want in any part of the world. Clint Eastwood saved an old dairy farm, Mission Ranch, from being torn down and the grounds now include charming accommodations, a restaurant and Eastwood’s recording studio where he has produced music for many of his recent movies. Doris Day is a part-owner of a charming inn, Cypress Inn, which was once a sanatorium. She repurposed it into a pet-friendly hotel that hosts tea for dogs and their people every afternoon.
Carmel was one of the first towns in California to ban Styrofoam and is looking into instituting a single-use plastic bag ban. City ordinances protect the urban forest of coast live oaks, Monterey pines and cypress trees. Building codes also restrict the transformation of Carmel cottage into a mansions and remodels must be done in natural materials. There is no commercial development on the beach and no neon is permitted in business signs. Inns do have modern amenities, on the other hand, including wireless, but the ambient charm may get you to put away your technology. It is a dream destination for those who are looking for simplicity.
Recycling is the standard in this village, with locals and businesses committed to keeping what goes into landfills at a minimum. Since Carmel is adjacent to Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, care is also taken to prevent toxins and debris from entering the ocean and white sand beach through public education and community clean up days.
The Monterey Airport is only 10 minutes away so you can take public transportation to complete your car-free trip. If you do have a car, you will not want to miss the short trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Point Lobos State Reserve, regional open space parks and Big Sur. Bicycling, hiking, and scuba diving are all close by to round out your eco-adventure.
Call it what you wish - sustainable travel, green travel, global stewardship, social responsibility or caring for Mother Earth, for the beyond-the-ordinary traveler who wants something that suits them just fine, they are sure to find it here.
For more information, go to www.carmelcalifornia.org or call the Carmel Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center at 800-550-4333.