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Each time you take a flight or drive a car CO2 is released into the atmosphere. You can help neutralize this danger to our planet through "carbon offsetting" -- paying someone to reduce your CO2 emissions by the same amount you've added. Carbon offsets can be purchased in the U.S. 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.

Although one could argue that any vacation that includes an airplane flight can't be truly "green," you can go on holiday and still contribute positively to the environment. In addition to purchasing carbon offsets from the companies mentioned above, you can take other steps towards responsible travel. Choose forward-looking companies who embrace responsible development practices, helping preserve destinations for the future by working alongside local people. An increasing number of sustainable tourism initiatives can help you plan a family trip and leave as small a "footprint" as possible on the places you visit.

Responsible Travel (www.responsibletravel.com) publishes a compendium of information and is a great source for sustainable travel ideas.

You can find eco-friendly 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, with National Geographic Traveler, annually presents World Legacy Awards (www.wlaward.org) to those travel tour operators, businesses, organizations, and places that have made a significant contribution to sustainable tourism. Ecotravel.com is part online magazine and part ecodirectory that lets you search for touring companies in several categories (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 British Travel Agents (ABTA) (www.abtamembers.org/responsibletourism) acts as a focal point for the U.K. travel industry and is one of the leading groups spearheading responsible tourism.

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.

For information about the ethics of swimming with dolphins and other outdoor activities, visit the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (www.wdcs.org) and Tread Lightly (www.treadlightly.org).

Tips: It's Easy Being Green

We can all help conserve fuel and energy when we travel. Here are a few simple ways you can help preserve your favorite destinations:

  • Whenever possible, choose nonstop flights; they generally require less fuel than those that must stop and take-off again.
  • If renting a car is necessary on your vacation, ask the rental agent for the most fuel efficient one available. Not only will you use less gas, you'll save money at the tank.
  • At hotels, request that your sheets and towels not be changed daily. You'll save water and energy by not washing them as often, and you'll prolong the life of the towels, too. (Many hotels already have programs like this in place.)
  • Turn off the lights and air-conditioner (or heater) when you leave your hotel room.