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Wherever your travels take you, go green
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Summer vacation time is coming to a close, but if you plan to squeeze in one last weekend trip, check out these tips for “traveling green.” They were published in a recent “The Independent Traveler” article by Sarah Schlichter.
“Many people hear the terms ‘green travel’ or ‘ecotourism’ and picture someone sleeping in a tree house in the jungles of Borneo or canoeing down the Amazon. There’s no need to sacrifice comfort or go off into the middle of nowhere to be a green traveler… All that’s required is an effort to preserve and protect the environment of the place you’re visiting — and it’s easier than you might think.
With nearly 1 billion tourists crisscrossing the globe every year, it’s more important than ever for travelers to minimize their individual impact on the earth’s natural and cultural treasures. The potential negative effects of tourism are both local and global. Oceanfront hotels contribute to beach erosion in Hawaii, rising numbers of visitors threaten the fragile ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands, and carbon dioxide emissions from planes are a growing contributor to global warming. Taking a green approach to travel is an easy and essential way to protect the places you love to visit, not just for yourself but for the travelers who come after you and for the people who will continue to live there long after you’ve flown home.
There are a number of websites that list environmentally friendly hotels, B&Bs and lodges around the world. A few questions to ask before booking your hotel:
• Is the hotel locally owned and operated? If not, is it at least staffed by local employees?
• What kind of recycling programs does the hotel have (aluminum, plastic, paper, gray water, composting)?
• Do guests have the option to reuse towels and sheets instead of having them changed every day?
• How does the hotel contribute to the local community?
Even if you’re not spending the night in an ecolodge or green hotel, there are still several easy steps you can take to make your stay more eco-friendly.
• Keep your showers short, and shut off the water while you’re brushing your teeth.
• When you leave the room, turn off the air conditioning, heat, television, lights or any other electric devices.
• Bring your own toiletries and drinking cup rather than using the prepackaged ones provided. If you do use the hotel’s toiletries, take them with you and use them at home or during the rest of your trip.
• Know your hotel’s recycling program and sort your trash accordingly. If your hotel doesn’t recycle, consider taking your empty bottles or other items home with you to recycle them there.
• Give your hotel feedback. Express your appreciation for any eco-friendly programs it currently offers — or if it doesn’t, encourage the management to go green in the future.
Transportation — particularly air travel — is where most travelers have the biggest environmental impact. According to USA Today, a flight from New York to Denver produces as much carbon dioxide per passenger as an SUV produces in a month. To minimize your environmental footprint, try the following steps:
• For shorter trips, take the train instead of flying.
• When renting a car, choose the smallest vehicle that can comfortably accommodate you. Decline any “free” upgrades (which will cost you more in gas).
• Rent a hybrid car.
• Whenever possible, use public transportation instead of a taxis or rental cars. Better yet, walk or bike.
When visiting the world’s most beautiful places, the old adage rings true: Take nothing but photographs, and leave nothing but footprints.
• Travel with a tour operator that’s environmentally responsible.
• When snorkeling, do not touch the coral or stir up sediment, as these actions can damage the reef’s fragile ecosystem.
• Consider taking a volunteer vacation to give back directly to the place you’re visiting.”
So as you can see, being environmentally friendly doesn’t have to stop when you travel. By making a little effort and planning ahead, you can make a difference wherever you are.

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