Whether you fly or drive, hotel or camp, bike or trek, spa or sport, ski or sun – you’re leaving carbon footprints all over the place! Tourism is no doubt hard on the environment, but yet ironically enough it can be counterproductive to just stay home. Why? Because people are more likely to protect the planet if they are able to interact with it – all senses engaged. So go ahead and get away but try to do so in a way that reduces the impact of those footprints.
Fortunately, this isn’t the feat it used to be thanks to the eruption of eco-tourism and budding green standards throughout the travel industry. Things have come a long way since the hotel industry’s first foray into conservation by way of those cards asking us to reuse our towels! There is now worldwide recognition that “green travel” must encompass environmental, social and economic sustainability. So bringing your sustainable sensibilities along with you on vacation is now easier than ever.
Check out these resources that will help guide you onto a greener path the next time you head out for some R&R.
Green Travel Certifications and Memberships
With so many companies trying to jump on the green bandwagon, certifications weed out the ones that are just green-washing versus those that are actually making a difference. They set up standards and ensure compliance. There are certifications for any type of travel and destination, such as; Green Globe, Sustainable Travel International and Travel Green Wisconsin.
Another type of structure for upholding green standards is membership programs such as the Green Hotel Association. This particular group consults its members on how to incorporate and maintain environmental practices.
You can also turn to organizations that publish sustainability ratings of various travel operators.
For example, if adventure is your thing, check out National Geographic’s list of top ecotourism adventure outfitters that can take you everywhere from jungle safaris to white water rafting.
Heading for the slopes? Get the score card for ski resorts compiled by the Sierra Nevada Alliance. Every year they rate ski resorts based on four criteria; habitat protection, watershed protection, addressing global climate change and environmental practices and policies.
To look into the airline and hotel industries, Climate Counts compares efforts to counteract their impact on global warming and publishes the rankings.
Even the mainstream travel sites have developed dedicated green travel sections. Check out Travelocity’s “Travel for Good” and Expedia’s Green Travel Guide.
After the destination is locked in it’s time to zero in on the details of the journey. Whether you are flying or driving, consider purchasing carbon offsets. TerraPass and Native Energy are great sites that have carbon calculators and then walk you through offset options.
Road Trip Tips
If you’re hittin’ the road, the goal is to increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions (and save money!). Get a tune-up, avoid aggressive driving (including quick breaking and fast acceleration), reduce idling, reduce speed, inflate tires, change oil, use the recirculation feature when a/c is on, and keep the load as light as possible. If your vehicle is a gas guzzler, rent a hybrid.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Many more sustainable travel resources are out there, and will continue to expand, making it easy to incorporate some green elements into your next trip. The survival of our local economies, endangered habitats and fragile ecosystems depend on it.