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GREEN LIVING: Environmentally-friendly Traveling 101

The New York Times recently reported on a study that concluded the act of planning and anticipating a trip can boost happiness — before you even pack your bags! If you’re going to take a summer vacation this year, you’re probably in full-on planning mode right about now. As your happiness levels go up, make sure you think about green traveling. Keep reading for a few simple tips for taking a more sustainable trip:

You can start going green before you even leave for your trip. Adjust your thermostat to an energy-saving temperature, unplug chargers, electronics and appliances.

Participate in airlines’ carbon offset programs. Different airlines have different programs. On Continental, your contribution goes to Sustainable Travel International, a nonprofit with projects including reforestation, renewable energy and energy conservation. Also, book tickets on airlines with good recycling records. In February 2010, Green America released a report on airlines’ recycling rankings. Delta, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic and Southwest were at the top of the list (although the report acknowledges that airlines could recycle 500 million more pounds of waste annually).

If you’re planning to rent a car on your trip, rent a hybrid — or at least a small car. Besides reducing emissions, that free upgrade won’t seem free when you’re paying at the pump!

Book rooms in an eco-friendly hotel or bed and breakfast, or stay in a locally-owned hotel. Inquire about the hotel’s recycling program and participate.

If you’re visiting a city, take the bus instead of a cab — or better yet, rent a bicycle. When traveling from city to city, you’ll drastically reduce CO2 emissions if you take the train. When you factor in security lines and flight delays, it may be the quickest mode of transportation.
It may seem that one person’s decision to pack light is inconsequential, but a lighter load means the plane (or your car) needs just a little less fuel. Plus, with a lighter load you’re less likely to take a taxi at your destination — you can just hop on the bus!

Visit farmers markets for food (and fun!). Order dishes that highlight organic, local ingredients. Eat sustainable seafood; download the Seafood Watch app for recommendations on what to eat and avoid.

Going hiking, snorkeling or otherwise spending time in areas where you might run into wildlife or marine life? Stay on marked trails and pick up after yourself.

If you choose to buy souvenirs, spend your money on locally-made products — you didn’t go all the way across an ocean to buy something factory-made . . . across another ocean.

Travel closer to home. This is the advice nobody wants to hear, but trips that are most sustainable will probably be closest to your house, as you’ll need less fuel to get where you’re going. While you’re planning a trip, at least consider your (more) local options — many of which will be less expensive. Rent a cabin on a lake in Arkansas instead of traveling hundreds of miles to the beach. Visit an American city you’ve never seen, instead of going to Europe. Snorkel in Puerto Rico instead of all the way in Australia. Alternately, consider using your vacation as an opportunity for a volunteer experience.

A vacation is supposed to be relaxing, but it doesn’t mean your good habits can be thrown out the window. Carry a reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic. Turn off lights when you exit a room. Take short showers. Separate your recycling, and find out where to take it.
Many of these tips can easily fit into your existing travel plans . . . so keep planning, and bon voyage!


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