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) or Climate Care (www.climatecare.org) among others.

Responsible Travel (www.responsibletravel.com) contains a great source of sustainable travel ideas run by a spokesperson for responsible tourism in the travel industry. Ethical Traveler (http://ethicaltraveler.org) is another excellent resource promoting responsible tourism practices.

Here are a few simple ways you can help conserve fuel and energy when you travel:

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  • 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.
  • 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.

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.