If you'd like to get the most out of your dollar and your trip, Pauline Frommer's Travel Guides are for you. I put a fresh spin on budget travel, showing you how to experience the best for less and how to see it in a more authentic way -- the way the locals do.
In this series of monthly tips, you'll find some terrific tips to help you get the most out of every trip. This time around, I share with you seven ways you can make your next trip better for the environment.
Ask a lot of questions.
There's no international organization setting standards for what makes a hotel, resort, cruise ship, or what have you, eco-friendly. Instead there are 100-or-so smaller organizations, each with their own standards, giving out certificates. It's a jumbled mess, and even in countries where the government is the one certifying that a resort or hotel is "green," such as Costa Rica, often the bureaucratic hassles for getting the designation are such that worthy organizations go without.
So travelers have to do the legwork themselves. When you call up to book, speak with a manager and ask how the hotel is husbanding its resources and protecting the surrounding environment. Some sample questions you might want to ask: "What types of lightbulbs do you use" (energy saving bulbs is the answer you're looking for); or what kind of water do you use to water the lawn ("grey water," which is recycled from the laundry or kitchen, helps conserve water). And if they tell you they get some of their energy from solar panels or wind mills: Ding, ding ding, you've hit the jackpot!
Pick an eco-friendly destination.
Costa Rica and Tanzania both have put aside 25% of their land as area that will be free from development. Scotland, too, is making a big eco-tourism push, as are many other areas around the globe. Seek them out and use your spending power as a thank-you for doing the right thing.
Travel with eco-friendly tour companies.
There are certain tour companies that adopt sustainable tourism models for their businesses. Some of the most prominent include:
- Intrepid Travel: On its tours, the group takes public transportation together, stays in local guesthouses, and eats in small, local restaurants (to help the local economy). It also donates a substantial amount each year to environmental projects. Intrepid goes throughout Asia, Africa, Latin American and Europe.
- The Sierra Club: This group not only lobbies Congress to protect the environment, but also runs trips to our National Parks to show folks what they're protecting. Some of these trips are called "Service Trips" and are partially vacation and partially volunteer work.
Consider renting a hybrid rather than a standard car.
In key markets across the U.S., Hertz, Avis and Enterprise have now added Toyota Priuses to their fleets. Renting one of these energy efficient cars costs more than a standard rental, but with the high price of gasoline, you may end up saving money in the end. And you're certainly cutting down on your carbon emissions this way.
Look into public transportation.
Don't assume that you have to rent a car at all. In many parts of the U.S. and Europe, it's actually preferable to rely on public transportation. This is certainly true in traffic-clogged cities such as New York, Paris, London, Rome, and San Francisco. Those traveling along the eastern corridor of the U.S. should look into the options Amtrak offers. In Japan, Canada, and Europe, taking the train between major cities is an efficient, affordable and quite comfortable option. Taking public transportation is also an excellent way to cut down on the greenhouse gases you're putting into the atmosphere.
Book non-stop flights when you can.
The largest emissions occur during takeoff and landings.
Don't buy ecologically-suspect souvenirs.
Avoid purchases of items made with endangered species or hard woods. If we all did so, the market would dry up and we'd have a better chance of regrowing our forests and repopulating threatened species.
Find out more about the Pauline Frommer Travel Guide series, read articles by Pauline, and listen to Podcasts on Pauline's page on Frommers.com.