Northwest Portland Hostel

Centrally Located – in the Heart of Portland

Northwest Portland Hostel Blog

The Greenest Ways to Travel

Monday, October 5, 2015

In the modern world we have many choices available to us for travelling from place to place – how do we decide which is the best? An important criteria on this ever-warming planet is “how sustainable is it”? Of course, the bicycle is the ultimate in human-powered, emission-free transport, but if you are travelling long distances, it is not always practical to hop on a bike.

After human-powered transit, tram light rail and buses are nearly tied for efficiency – so if you are travelling to an urban area where public transit is available, this is a great way to mitigate your carbon footprint while seeing the sights. Plus, by skipping the car, you save money and you don’t have to worry about parking in a strange city!

As you can see from the graph, even heavy rail or electric/diesel powered rail make a significant jump up in energy usage per passenger. Of course, these modes become more efficient as the length of the journey increases – so for example, a cross-country train journey could actually be more efficient than a short, stop-and-go trip by city bus.

Cars, planes, and taxis (at least, in their current fossil fuel-dependent state) are the clear losers in the game of eco-friendly travel. Single-occupancy cars are particularly bad, but carpooling or ride sharing is another great way to save money and lessen carbon emissions at the same time. And for those long trans-oceanic flights, a great way to counteract their pollution could be simply renting a bicycle or taking public transit wherever you happen to land.

In the future, perhaps we will have renewably-powered electric vehicles or hydrogen-based fuel that emits only clean water – these technologies are already being tested. But in the meantime, we can still do the best we can with what’s available to make green, healthy choices for ourselves and our planet.

Swift Watch 2015

Monday, September 14, 2015

SwiftsDecendingFalconStoopingsmall@MikeHouckEvery year in September, Portlanders enjoy a unique and seasonal display as the Vaux’s Swifts come home to roost in the Chapman Elementary School’s chimney. This natural phenomenon really has to be seen to be appreciated, as the birds form a living vortex that slowly funnels into the chimney – and drama usually ensues as a Cooper’s hawk tries to pick off an unlucky swift for its dinner. Volunteers from the Audubon Society will be on hand to help spectators learn more about these fascinating birds.

Vaux’s Swifts are native to North America, and tend to pick the same places to roost during their migration to Central America for the winter. The group in Portland, which is the largest group in North America and includes thousands of swifts, has been coming to Chapman Elementary since the 1980s. If you are visiting Portland in September, be sure not to miss this unique event! Chapman Elementary is located right in our neighborhood at NW 26th and Raleigh, and the swifts will be roosting every night in September, beginning about one hour before sunset.

A Brief History of Labor Day – and things to do around Portland

Sunday, September 6, 2015

-ac8a53f6b0123259Labor Day, along with its springtime cousin, May Day, both grew out of the American labor struggles of the 1880s. The first Labor Day in the U.S. took place in 1882 at Union Square in New York City, as over 10,000 workers took an unpaid day off to march in support of workers’ rights. Congress had passed an 8-hour-workday law back in 1862, but it was largely unenforced; it was this issue along with rampant abuses of mostly Irish tenants by their landlords that was a spark that finally ignited direct action by the people of New York.

As a result of this and other actions around the country, Congress finally set aside Labor Day as an official, paid holiday in 1894, ensuring that workers no longer had to take an unpaid day off to show their solidarity. Of course, in modern times, there are many businesses who choose to remain open on Labor Day, including most of the retail and service industries, which employ a total of about 25% of the U.S. workforce. But for those lucky enough to enjoy the extra day off, here are some events around Portland:

“A People’s History of Portland” – Walking Tour by Know Your City. Before it became Portlandia, a mecca for young hipsters and rich Californians, Portland was built on the backs of immigrant laborers and working-class people of all kinds – this history tour is free (donations suggested) and runs every Thursday-Sunday at 10 am, meeting at Dan & Louis’ Oyster Bar, 208 SW Ankeny St.

Art in the Pearl, an annual Labor Day weekend festival featuring local theater, artists, music, and hands-on activity. The festival is totally free and requires no tickets for entry, taking place in the Pearl District’s North Park Blocks.

Portland Film Festival – A non-profit film festival that focuses on storytelling and local filmmakers. Click the link for a full list of showtimes and locations – in our NW neighborhood, participants include McMenamins Mission Theater at NW 16th and Glisan, Living Room Theater at SW 10th and Stark, and Cinema 21 at NW 21st and Glisan.

As many of us enjoy a day off work this Monday, we can remember to thank the brave men and women of years past who fought to bring us the 8-hour workday, minimum wage, paid time off, safety regulations, and other workers’ rights – and also remember that as long as some Americans are still forced to work on Labor Day, current minimum wage lags far behind the cost of living, and so many of our fellow human beings live in poverty or on the streets, that the struggle is still not over.

OMSI presents: the Science Behind Ripley’s Believe It or Not

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The last week to catch the special Ripley’s exhibit at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is coming up soon! OMSI is kid- and adult-friendly and has a great planetarium and a movie theater in addition to the regular exhibits. There are also guided tours through a U.S. Navy submarine, the USS Blueback, which was the Navy’s last non-nuclear fast-attack submarine, and has been featured in the Hunt for Red October and other films and documentaries.

Robert Wadlow (12)The Ripley’s Believe It or Not special exhibit is at OMSI through September 7th and explains the science of the extreme and unexpected in our world.  Stand next to an animatronic replica of Robert Wadlow, the tallest man in recorded history, crawl through a giant prehistoric snake knows as the Titanoboa, or enjoy the  world of pixel art and optical illusions. If you are intrigued by the very large, very small, or just very strange – this interactive exhibit will be a great stop while visiting Portland!

For more weirdness, try out the “freaky-but-true” Peculiarium right in our own neighborhood at NW 23rd and Thurman, or take an underground Portland tour through the Shanghai Tunnels, which leave from Hobo’s at 120 NW 3rd Ave.

The How & Why of Sustainable Eating

Sunday, August 16, 2015

With the convenience of modern supermarkets, most of us put little thought into where and how our food is produced, yet eating in a more sustainable way is one of the most important things we can do to help our planet. After all, we humans have to eat every day, so why not focus on keeping our food habits sustainable, healthy, and delicious?

Portland is a fairly eco-conscious city, and has a number of restaurants that feature locally-produced, organic foods. Right in our neighborhood in Northwest Portland, we have Dick’s Kitchen, featuring locally-sourced grass finished burgers and other local ingredients; the Bent Brick, an upscale restaurant that uses the best locally-sourced foods in the northwest region; and for dessert, Salt & Straw ice cream starts with cream from a dairy right in Eugene, OR.

IMG_20141220_134721_346-goats in pasture

The best way to start on a sustainable food path is to begin at the top of the food chain with animal products. Choose local, pastured, humanely raised meats, eggs, and dairy. These products have the most impact because of bioaccumulation – a factory farmed animal has a much higher load of pesticides, herbicides, and hormones than a non-organically farmed vegetable. Factory farms also create considerable environmental damage through chemical and sewage runoff, so the next best thing to pasture-raised animal products is to forego them altogether and have a vegetarian meal.

This article has some more handy tips and information on how and why sustainable eating is a great idea for the planet and for your own health. Happy eating!


This Weekend – Bite of Oregon

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Bite-of-OregonStarting tomorrow, August 7th, and running through Sunday the 9th, join Oregon’s top food, wine, and beer producers for a weekend of tasting. The Bite of Oregon festival showcases everything this region has to offer your palate, along with live music and chef demonstrations. The festival will benefit Special Olympics Oregon.

Also attending the event will be some of our local “celebrity chefs” – restaurant owners, brewers, vintners, and chefs from around the state of Oregon. You can meet & mingle with the chefs, or watch cooking demonstrations at the chefs’ stage!

Bite of Oregon takes place in scenic Tom McCall Waterfront Park and is a cash-only event. Advance tickets are $5 per day, or $15 for an all-weekend pass; if you buy tickets in advance you can skip the entry line, and also qualify for a “Bonus Bite” raffle entry. Admission is $6 at the gate.


Dates and times:

Friday August 7th:  11 am- 10 pm

Saturday August 8th:  11 am – 10 pm

Sunday August 9th:  10 am – 8 pm

Things to Know About Oregon’s New Marijuana Laws

Thursday, July 23, 2015

oregonmjWith the recent legalization of marijuana, many residents and Portland visitors have been quick to celebrate the new laws by lighting up! Here are some useful tips for navigating the rules and regulations surrounding this widely celebrated plant…

Where can I use marijuana?

Marijuana and marijuana use is expected to stay out of public places and public view. Your home or a friend’s house are permitted, but parks, public transportation, bars and restaurants are off limits. And though you own your car – if it’s out on public streets, even if you’re parked, you can’t use marijuana.

Renters will need to look over their lease agreements to see what their landlords’ rules are about smoking on the property.

I’m visiting friends in Oregon; do I need to be a resident to possess marijuana?

Any adult 21 and older can legally possess marijuana in Oregon.

How much can I legally have?

You can have 1 ounce of marijuana on your person in public or in your car. At home you can have up to:

– Four marijuana plants

– 8 ounces of dried marijuana flowers or leaves

– 16 ounces of marijuana in solid form, like edible products

– 72 ounces of marijuana in liquid form, such as oils

However, it doesn’t matter how many adults live at a residence. The list is for total amounts per household.

Which retail stores will have marijuana on the first day?

No retail stores will open on July 1. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is still sorting out rules and has until January 4 to start accepting business licensing applications for growers, distributors and sellers. Sales could start as soon as October 1. The joint House-Senate committee is moving to possibly make retail pot available sooner through medical marijuana dispensaries.

So if I can’t buy marijuana, then where can I get it?

Marijuana can be given away, so if you know anyone who has a medical marijuana card, they can legally share buds, seeds or plants with you. A few events in Portland will handout seeds and samples.

Can I drive to Washington and bring marijuana back to Oregon?

Because marijuana possession is against federal law, it’s illegal to take marijuana across any state border even though recreational marijuana will be legal in Oregon and Washington.

Those are the basic facts – if you are interested in more information, this is a good place to start. And whatever you do, be safe!

Sustainable Tourism in Costa Rica (& How We Can Learn From It)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

In the past decade or so, sustainability has become an increasingly important aspect of the tourism industry. One of the main leaders of this movement is Costa Rica. Over the years they have developed a thriving industry that successfully balances the economical benefits of tourism while also ensuring that the impact on the environment is not too large. Costa Rica has successfully done this by implementing a nationwide certification process. This process is known as the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) and is managed by the Costa Rican National Accreditation Commission. Their top priority is to improve the way that natural and social resources are utilized, promote active participation of local communities, and support competitiveness in the business sector.

Within this system there are 5 levels of achievement and they are based off of four main categories of performance. These categories are physical-biological parameters, infrastructure and services, external clients, and socio-economic environment.











A business’s level of achievement (measured by 5 leaves) is only as high as their lowest category. For example if a business receives 5 leaves for 3 categories but only 2 leaves for one, their overall rating is just 2 leaves. This can be a very long process for many hotels and tourism businesses but it is important that no aspect of sustainability be neglected.

Sustainability has played an important role in the HI Northwest Portland Hostel & Guesthouse since the beginning. There is no nationwide system such as the one in Costa Rica but all HI-USA hostels and affiliates are required to participate in some sort of 3rd party sustainable certification. The hostel currently receives 3rd party audits from the Sustainable Travel International (STI) accreditation service. The extremely extensive and uniform certification process of CST is something that the tourism industry here in the United States can learn from and continue to work towards achieving.

Portland’s Bastille Day Festival – this weekend!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

bastillelogo_downtown Saturday, July 11th marks the 13th annual Bastille Day festival, hosted by the Alliance Française de Portland. This year the event will be held at the Portland Art Museum, coinciding with the museum’s Miller Family Free Day.


Currently the museum is exhibiting “Gods and Heroes: Masterpieces from the École des Beaux Arts”, adding to the French theme of the day. Come enjoy street performers, music, French cuisine, family-friendly activities, and la marché (the market)!


Hours: Saturday July 11th, 12:00 pm-6:00pm

The Importance of Using Green Cleaning Products in your Home (or in our case, Hostel)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Over the years our views on household cleaning products have changed. It used to be accepted that cleaners using toxic ingredients and harsh chemicals were the only way to get grime off of toilets, kitchen counters, and floors. These were also the only things that could clean your laundry and wash your dishes to give them that shiny and fresh clean scent. After all, there were no other options. Natural cleaning products just didn’t quite seem to do the trick and tended to leave you home with a less than fresh smell. However, with new reports from the EPA and National Geographic, many are beginning to realize that this however, is not the case. Over the past several years there has been a dramatic rise in number of people looking towards natural oils and substances such as citrus oil, vinegar, beeswax, cleaning salt, coconut oil, baking soda, lavender and rosemary to remove grime and bacteria from their home. Companies such as Mrs. Meyers, Dr. Bronner’s, Method, Eco Nuts, Molly’s Suds, Laundress, Eco-Me, and many others are using these natural substances to create effortless cleaning products that don’t require time and effort to make yourself (and clean equally as well as those traditional cleaners. Many of these products are not only better for your health and safe to use around kids and pets, but they’re also environmentally friendly. Below are 6 reasons why people have begun to make the switch, including us here at Northwest Portland Hostel & Guesthouse.


The Reasons

1. Chemicals May be Unregulated
Many cleaning products include chemicals that emit fumes that are not safe for humans and animals. Since the mid 20th century, 85,000 new chemicals have entered the market through various products, many of which after not being approved by the EPA. This number is a bit concerning and there’s more. More than 70 percent of traditional cleaning products used in homes contain these harmful chemicals.

2. Phthalates, Sodium Hydroxide & Ammonia
Have you ever checked the labels of cleaning products under your sink? Oftentimes a label will warn that a product can be harmful to people or pets, which is a major reason to not have the product in your home. Some potentially harmful chemicals you want to watch out for when researching cleaning products include phtalates (in fragranced products), triclosan (in liquid dishwashing detergent), 2-Butoxyethanol (in multi-purpose cleaners) and even chlorine (in laundry whiteners and toilet bowl cleaners).

3. Keep Kids Safe(r)
We can’t protect our kids from all the evil in the world, but we can limit their access to harmful chemicals. Using natural cleaning products will reduce the chance of an accidental poisoning. In fact, it’s shown that household cleaning products rank within the top 5 causes of childhood poisoning cases. So in addition to switching over to green cleaning products, be sure to keep the products stored in child-safe cabinets.

4. You May Be Poisoning the Water Supply
Various household cleaning agents can contain toxic chemicals like ammonia, phosphorus, alkyphenol ethoxylates and petroleum. So when you wash your clothes, do the dishes and even flush toilet bowl cleaner you may be sending these chemicals back into the water system and nearby rivers, lakes and streams. This could make its way back into your water, but it can also have a negative impact on wildlife and the environment.

5. Breathe Deep. Breathe Clean.
While they help make your clothes and rooms smell better, some fabric softeners and antibacterial spray cleaners contain quaternary ammonium compounds (a.k.a. quats), like benzalkonium chloride. These agents have been known to contribute to otherwise healthy people getting asthma. In fact, according to the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning, about 53 percent of cleaning products they tested contain ingredients that can harm the lungs while 22 percent can cause asthma.

6. Green Products Help Keep the Air Greener
Many household products, especially sprays and aerosols, can contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can have short- and long-term health effects associated with your central nervous system, liver and kidneys. When you use a spray, the chemicals can linger in the air long after the initial mist dissipates.






When choosing green cleaning products for your facility, we recommend that you choose the products that meet the standards of the following organizations: and
You can also check out for additional information on certification organizations, product lines and criteria for environmentally safe products, services and practices.
So before you travel, do some research! Is the hotel or hostel you’re staying at use safe and environmentally friendly cleaners to clean the space that you will be staying in?

Abe’s Market: 6 Reasons to Use Green Cleaning Products in Your Home
The Daily Green: What Toxic Chemicals Lurk in Your Household Products?
Experience Life: 8 Hidden Toxins: What’s Lurking in Your Cleaning Products?
National Geographic’s Green Living: How Does Household Cleaner Affect the Environment?
EWG: Guide to Healthy Cleaning
ABC News: Household Cleaning Products Still Pose Risk to Kids
EPA: Introduction to Indoor Air Quality