Each time you take a flight or drive a car, carbon dioxide (CO2) is released into the atmosphere. You can help neutralize this danger to our planet through "carbon offsetting" -- paying someone to reduce your carbon dioxide emissions by the same amount. Carbon offsets can be purchased from companies such as Carbonfund.org (www.carbonfund.org) and TerraPass (www.terrapass.org), and from Climate Care (www.climatecare.org) in the U.K.
Responsible Travel (www.responsibletravel.com) contains a great source of sustainable travel ideas run by a spokesperson for responsible tourism in the travel industry. Sustainable Travel International (www.sustainabletravelinternational.org) promotes responsible tourism practices.
You can find ecofriendly travel tips, statistics, and touring companies and associations -- listed by destination under "Travel Choice" -- at the TIES website, www.ecotourism.org. Also check out Conservation International (www.conservation.org), which presents World Legacy Awards (www.wlaward.org) for significant contributions to sustainable tourism. Ecotravel.com is part online magazine and part ecodirectory that lets you search for touring companies: water-based, land-based, spiritually oriented, and so on.
In the U.K., Tourism Concern (www.tourismconcern.org.uk) works to reduce social and environmental problems connected to tourism and find ways of improving tourism so that local benefits are increased.
The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO; www.aito.co.uk) is a group of interesting specialist operators leading the field in making holidays sustainable.
It's Easy Being Green
Here are a few simple ways you can help conserve fuel and energy when you travel:
- Each time you take a flight or drive a car greenhouse gases release into the atmosphere. You can help neutralize this danger to the planet through "carbon offsetting" -- paying someone to invest your money in programs that reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by the same amount you've added. Before buying carbon offset credits, just make sure that you're using a reputable company, one with a proven program that invests in renewable energy. Reliable carbon offset companies include Carbonfund (www.carbonfund.org), TerraPass (www.terrapass.org), and Carbon Neutral (www.carbonneutral.org).
- Whenever possible, choose nonstop flights; they generally require less fuel than indirect flights that stop and take off again. Try to fly during the day -- some scientists estimate that nighttime flights are twice as harmful to the environment. And pack light -- each 15 pounds of luggage on a 5,000-mile flight adds up to 50 pounds of carbon dioxide emitted.
- Where you stay during your travels can have a major environmental impact. To determine the green credentials of a property, ask about trash disposal and recycling, water conservation, and energy use; also question if sustainable materials were used in the construction of the property. The website www.greenhotels.com recommends green-rated member hotels around the world that fulfill the company's stringent environmental requirements. Also consult www.environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com for more green accommodations ratings.
- At hotels, request that your sheets and towels not be changed daily. (Many hotels already have programs like this in place.) Turn off the lights and air conditioner (or heater) when you leave your room.
- Use public transport where possible -- trains, buses, and even taxis are more energy-efficient forms of transport than driving. Even better is to walk or cycle; you'll produce zero emissions and stay fit and healthy on your travels.
- If renting a car is necessary, ask the rental agent for a hybrid, or rent the most fuel-efficient car available. You'll use less gas and save money at the tank.
- Eat at locally owned and operated restaurants that use produce grown in the area. This contributes to the local economy and cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions by supporting restaurants where the food is not flown or trucked in across long distances. Visit Sustain Lane (www.sustainlane.org) to find sustainable eating and drinking choices around the U.S.; also check out www.eatwellguide.org for tips on eating sustainably in the U.S. and Canada.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.