Travelling Green Made Easy

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During the winter months, many come to tropical countries to escape the harsh bitter cold season. The maps, pads of paper, the pencils and the internet are tools of itineraries in the making. With so many things to consider, may I so kindly slip one small item of interest on your table - so small, but could possibly make all the difference in the world? The slip of paper would read: "Go green."

The biggest impact on our environment is travel, which means making decisions to take small positive actions that can go a long way to helping reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. What airlines, car rental agencies and hotels are environmentally friendly or at least making efforts to clean up? What can we do before we leave, while on vacation and when we return that can make a difference?

Well, I'm glad you asked! Here's a brief checklist of easy-to-implement ideas that can save you money, support businesses that are trying to do the right thing and lessen the negative impact of global warming. Enjoy and bon voyage!


Where to Go?

You can visit any State in the U.S. or any country in the world and remain environmentally friendly. The canyons are most spectacular and educational. The Niagara Falls is inspiring and inspiring. Prince Edward Island in Canada offers crisp, clean air and soft grasses you can sleep on!

The beautiful rain forests of Costa Rica are still preserved and Geneva is one of the best I've seen in Europe so far! And, of course, I must mention the best beaches are in Thailand (OK, I'm bias!). The Phi Phi Islands from the movie "Beaches" are truly breath-taking and the waters are so clear I can see the grains of sand while standing up!!!

Singapore is one the most environmentally friendly countries in Asia. I still have yet to find litter on the street. Sydney, Australia recently turned off the lights of the city in support of sustainability and has taken record-setting measures to improve the quality of their air and water. New Zealand is not only THE epitome of "Green" they also offer some of the most fascinating sports - Fear Factor anyone?


Where to Stay?

Many hotels across the world are taking the initiative to incorporate green business practices in their companies. They save energy and money and they remain competitive. There are directories, such as that are available online that will list green hotels and their environmentally-friendly practices.

Some directories rate hotels who recycles; uses updated water-saving toilets and shower heads; educate their staff and guests about the environment; uses alternative sources of energy such as biomass, solar or wind systems; donates to the community; participates or have received certification from green programs, etc.


How to Get There?

Air Travel

Continental Airlines have replaced their fleet with more efficient fuel-saving aircrafts reducing emissions by up to 5. They also have a full-time of environmentalists dedicated to helping the company improve their terminals and track carbon emissions and chemical recycling.

Virgin Air has focused their attention to using bio-fuels and to eventually wean themselves off fossil fuels. The founder, Richard Branson, has dedicated all his airline profits for the next ten years to global warming research (estimated $3 billion).

There are also CO2 emissions calculators available allowing you to pay a little extra to offset the carbon emissions generated from the flight. That money then goes to research, invested in environmentally-friendly projects and/or renewable resources. A great resource is Sustainable Travel International (STI). It's a non-profit organization that gives details about the various carbon offsets programs available.

On the Road

Many car rental agencies in America are still behind when it comes to offering hybrids. EV Rental in California and Arizona and Bio-Beetle in Hawaii are great if you're travelling in those areas. If you can get your hands on a hybrid, you can save gas and the atmosphere and they are competitively priced. This is also a great way to test hybrids if you're thinking of buying a car in the future.

If hybrids are not available, Hertz has a Green Collection program for fuel-efficient cars. Toyotas and Hondas tend to be the most energy-efficient cars. If you're looking for larger models, consider Ford.


Before You Go…

Here's a quick list that will help tremendously:

* Put a hold on the newspaper delivery until you come back.

* Turn down the water heater temperature (I've turn it off at the circuit breaker, but some feel uncomfortable with that idea.)

* Unplug the appliances. If you unplug the refrigerator, be sure to leave the doors open to prevent mold accumulation.

* Consider using a reusable camera instead of the disposal ones. It will definitely save you money and you'll have better control of your images.

* Consider using rechargeable batteries.

* Bring some comfortable walking shoes - walking or biking is the best way to see everything and get in touch with the locals!


While You're There

Alas, you've made it! Now enjoy the experience! Relax and learn from the locals. The best trips are the ones that allow you to get a taste of life from different perspectives.

Consider renting a bike and seeing all the sights not listed in your travel guide! If you can canoe or kayak, imagine the sights you can tell all your jealous friends! Share your green experiences with the locals and I'm sure they would appreciate the time and attention you put into keeping their community clean.

Here are just a few more tips you can use while you're there:

* Consider recycling your discards before you dump it. Many areas now have recycling bins available through their cities, especially in Europe and Canada.

* If you don't need fresh towels and sheets every day, tell housekeeping. They would appreciate it and it saves the water and energy.

* Turn off the lights, TV and the air conditioner before you leave. It may be warm when you get back, but the A/C will cool your room pretty quickly.

* If you already brought your own soap, shampoo, etc., consider leaving the hotel's complimentary soaps for the next guests. That would reduce the amount of waste.


Coming Back Home

Here's one small idea that can go a long way: write a quick note or send an email to thank the businesses for being green conscience. Offering a better ecological service is new to many establishments and some are making these changes as a test trial. Giving appreciation, and spreading the word, will not only encourage more environmentally sound practices, but it really feels good when someone appreciates your efforts. Bonus: you will feel good too!

Making a few changes or taking the time to consider greener options in your travels will save you money, help the environment, show others you care about their community and make you feel like you made a difference. PLUS, you can have the time of your life and unforgettable moments to be treasured for generations.
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