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Maybe you spend all week commuting to work, and your idea of adventure doesn’t involve anything with an engine – electric or otherwise. For two years, Sedona Adventure Outfitters & Guides has offered land and water eco-tours, as well as agricultural tours of the Verde Valley wineries. Owner Richard Lynch says he’s passionate about educating locals and tourists about the Verde River, one of the top 10 endangered rivers in the country, according to the national organization American Rivers. Interestingly enough, it’s not the Southwest’s never-ending drought or even pollution that’s hurting the Verde: it’s the growing northern Arizona population, pumping groundwater that feeds the river.
“If you don’t realize what’s in your own backyard, how are you going to protect it?” says Richard. “If we lose the Verde, we’re going to lose lots of critters like the eagles that nest in the cliffs above the river, and the river otters. The Verde Valley might not be the Galapagos, but right here we have an endangered environment.” Sedona Adventure Outfitters performs routine maintenance on the river, cutting away brush and removing trash and debris, especially after flash floods. Richard says being green is something he learned 17 years ago when he worked as a river guide and had to adhere to strict National Forest and National Park Service rules. “We recycle everything, but it’s about more than that,” says Richard. “It’s about education and connecting tourists to the real people and environment in the Verde Valley.”
Eco-Rides at Hillside Sedona
Sedona Offroad Adventures with locations in Uptown and Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village
Sedona Adventure Outfitters & Guides in West Sedona
We’ve all stayed at hotels and resorts that provide towel rack hangers and sheet cards requesting guests use their linens more than once to save water. The “Green” Hotels Association created those cards 15 years ago and estimates at least 70 percent of hotel guests participate in the program. But many hotels and resorts take conservation and environmental awareness a step further by instituting recycling programs, installing low-flow showerheads and toilets, and using fluorescent light bulbs. The 13-year-old Southwest Inn at Sedona has been a member of the “Green” Hotels Association for several years, but when Craig and Cindy Phelan purchased the property in August 2007, they really stepped up the inn’s commitment to the environment.
“We started remodeling and renovating immediately, and it was our concern for the environment driving us,” says Craig, who commutes between Ketchum, Idaho, and Sedona.
The Phelans ditched the inn’s paper plates and plastic utensils in favor of southwestern earthenware and metal silverware. The energy-efficient dishwasher washes dishes in 90 seconds while the $5,000 Hydrochanger water conditioner reduces water usage by 25 percent while automatically softening and purifying the water. Native plants grow on the hotel’s grounds, all light bulbs were replaced with CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) and a newspaper recycling box sits in the dining area while a brightly painted can-and- bottle-recycling receptacle resides between buildings. All of the 28 rooms are decorated with real bamboo and include low-flow toilets, organic bathrobes and towels, hypoallergenic bedding and energy-efficient flat-screen TVs and air conditioning units (Craig says each unit saves him $200 each year compared to the previous models). The rooms were painted with low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint and the carpets are regularly shampooed using a hypoallergenic shampoo. Of course, each room is also non-smoking.
The big question: What does this mean for Craig and Cindy’s bottom line? “People appreciate that we’re members of the ‘Green’ Hotels Association,” says Craig. “We have a guest from Scottsdale who stays with us once a month. She has major allergies and comes with machines she uses to test each room before she can stay, but she stays with us every time because she knows what we do to create a healthy environment for both our guests and the earth.”