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By Laura Chapman

March 28, 2013 (San Diego's East County)--We all know about going "green" around our homes. Recycling newspapers, plastic and aluminum has become so commonplace that we actually look for recycling bins when we're out and about. How many times have you gone to a dinner party and helped with the cleanup by asking, "Do you recycle?" All of this is aimed at the goal of reducing our individual carbon footprints. If we can all lower the amount of carbon by-products released into the atmosphere we'll be taking proactive steps to bolster our fragile eco-system.

Now the green movement has spread beyond homes and businesses and out into the travel industry. Yes, you can see the world and still go green.

What is Green Travel?

Adopting green travel habits isn't really all that challenging. You might have already done some of these things on your last trip. Whether you're planning a trip to another state or another country keep these green travel factors in mind:

  1. Transportation: There may be no way to avoid a plane trip to your vacation destination but you can offset that carbon output by going green with your mode of transportation once you land. Whenever possible walk or cycle during your trip. Many popular tourist spots will accommodate you with convenient bike rental stations. Take public transportation or a train. Probably the best way to see a country!
  2. Spend Local: There is a temptation when traveling in a foreign land to gravitate towards the familiar when it comes to food. You'd be missing out on a lot by simply checking in at a European or Asian branch of your favorite fast food restaurant. Instead, try to spend your dollars at locally owned restaurants, cafes and shops. Ask your travel agent about which potential hotel or B&B is locally own and staffed by local residents. That's where your travel dollars should be spent. Bottom line: avoid the major chains and franchises and look for "mom and pop."
  3. Keep Up the Three R's: That would be reduce, reuse and recycle. Some countries might not have the green plastic recycling bins we're used to but that doesn't mean they aren't recycling. Ask the concierge about the hotel's recycling policies. Even if they don't recycle you can still be conscious of the natural resources your expending. Try to be as efficient as possible when it comes to buying sodas, water or other items that come in recyclable containers. Read local papers on your tablet or phone. In other words, try to do all the things you would normally do at home.
  4. Support Protected Areas: You might be able to plan out your next trip to a region which is working to protect natural habitats. By visiting these areas you'll be providing them with the much-needed financial support to help maintain those areas. You'll also be treated to some amazing sights.
  5. Embrace the Local Culture: On many levels, going green is about getting back to basics. This also applies to the culture you're visiting. Don't be an outsider but try for a total immersion experience in a local culture. Do a little research on their customs and don't be afraid to engage the locals in conversations about their heritage. You're sure to come away with many great memories and new friends.

Work With Your Travel Agent

As you prepare for your next trip you might want to alert your travel agent of your desire to "go green." Many agencies are embracing the desire for folks who want to be environmentally conscious on their vacations. Because of that you might find some great bargains on train tickets, electric car rentals and designated "green" hotels. Even the major cruise lines are getting into the green travel act. Many of the newer ships have adapted their designs to include things like solar energy and reprocessing stored water. For instance, the Royal Caribbean cruise lines recently invested over $100 million to design on board water treatment systems that convert wastewater into usable water. The Disney Cruise lines uses recycle air conditioning water to operate their laundry. There have also been restrictions put on cruise ships that travel to protected coastlines like Alaska. It's possible with a little research that you can cruise and stay green for a wonderful vacation.


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