Green Ideas: Tips For Eco-Friendly Travel

Assuming your vacation is more than just a hike, you're going to be making a carbon footprint.

That doesn't mean you should skip your next trip though. In fact, most environmentalists agree that traveling helps raise crucial awareness and appreciation of the earth.

Whether you love to drive your Hummer, or you're happy to pedal your bike, take these simple eco-friendly tips to change your habits while on the go.

Before You Leave

All transportation requires the combustion of fuel, so the greenest thing you can do is use public transport. When possible, take the train or bus instead of flying. If you're driving, try to get as many people in the car as possible, instead of taking multiple vehicles.

If you have to fly, book direct.

"Taking off and landing requires a tremendous amount of fuel, so flying direct is greener than making stop-overs," explained TreeHugger and PlanetGreen.com editor, Meaghan O'Neill.

Before you leave the house, be sure to adjust your heating and cooling systems. Unplug all of your appliances and chargers.

O'Neill warned that many electronics, even while on standby, still use a huge amount of so-called vampire energy. In fact, the Department of Energy estimates that vampire energy waste accounts for five percent of total electronic consumption in the United States.

Anything that recharges will continue to suck power out of the walls after they're charged. Plasma TV's, microwaves and chargers are the biggest culprits.

What to Take With You

Travel-size packages might seem quick and convenient, but all that extra packaging takes a heavy toll on the environment. O'Neill recommends filling re-usable containers with the products you need instead of buying additional sundries.

Take a water bottle with you. It's difficult to find a recycling option when you're on the go. And besides, plastic does not biodegrade. If and whenever possible, take your re-usable version with you. Many models even have a handy carry strap too!

Travel light and take only what you need. This will make it easier to take public transportation and get around. Hopefully, there will even be room left over to bring home souvenirs, which are an important contribution to local economies.

Where To Go

Regardless of where you go, choose environmentally-friendly accommodations. New green hotels and resorts, from the bare bones to eco-luxury, are rapidly popping up around the world. Check out the "Green" Hotels Association for more ideas.

Seek out destinations that practice geo-tourism. Geo-tourism, according to National Geographic, is "tourism that sustains or enhances the distinctive geographical character of a place -- its environment, heritage, aesthetics, culture, and the well-being of its residents." So far National Geographic's Center for Sustainable Destinations has already signed geo-tourism charters with Honduras, Norway, Romania, the Cook Islands, Arizona, Rhode Island, Montreal, Guatemala and Senora, Mexico, and is busily signing up more.

The Center for Sustainable Tourism also offers environmental scorecards. Click here how to find out how your next vacation spot ranks.

Bennett also encouraged travelers to "re-invest" in locations and avoid "drive-by tourism."

"Slow down and invest in a single destination," he said. Rather than spending two days in three different cities, choose one stop and experience it more fully.

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