I've boiled down some favorite tips and ideas from around the web for five easy ways to make your travel a more green next time you're on vacation or traveling for work.
Take direct flights. This may seem like a no-brainer for the sake of convenience, but it also has very positive benefits for the environment. Some estimates by eco-travel experts say that 50 percent of a jet's total flight emissions are created during takeoff and landing By avoiding a layover, you can shave up to 1800 pounds of jet fuel off your carbon footprint.
Stay at an eco-hotel. There are clearing houses of green accommodations at places like Eco Hotels of the World to get you started. Often, using a search engine with the term "eco-friendly + [destination name]" will also yield a host of independent and unique lodgings as well.
Hire companies with a sustainability policy. Massive groups of tourists passing through a monument or landmark corrodes the very place being visited. A lot of tourism companies are catching on that going green is a good idea, but some already have very strong policies in place on sustainability and their impact. Context Travel has walking tours in various cities around the world with a size limit of six people per group. A portion of proceeds go to their charitable foundation to preserve historical and cultural heritage, and their offices even purchase carbon offsets to reduce their own administrative footprint. GAP Adventures is another company with an established record of environmental responsibility, and operates with small group sizes. They also have an affiliated private foundation which gives back to communities in their operating area. PlanetTran is a new company providing exclusively fuel-efficient hybrid car service and airport transfers in Boston and San Fransisco, with plans to expand soon.
Only use gadgets you would use at home. Even travel gear packages marked earth-friendly create unnecessary waste if it's just extra stuff. But if there's something you need for camping, or another activity that does require specialty equipment, consider the possibility of hand-cranked gear.
Visit nature preserves and high-trafficked outdoor areas in the off season. Not only will you avoid the crowds of other tourists, you'll help prevent erosion. Places like the Cinque Terre National Park in Italy actively encourage visitors not to come all at once for this very reason. Visiting when hiking trails and camp sites are less trampled reduces the amount of waste removal, and going during less hot times of year can even help reduce the occurrence of forest fires.
There are lots of benefits to being an eco-conscious traveler, and one of them is knowing you've done your part to ensure the next generation can enjoy the things you've seen. Happy (eco) traveling!
Kim Mance is editor-in-chief of GoGalavanting.com and host of Galavanting.tv.