Going green: How to support Earth as you travel
While you're at it, cut out the road trips in that gas-guzzling car.
Staying home is a drastic solution, however; here are some things you can do to start traveling in a more environmentally responsible way.
Pay for emissions: Erase the impact of your trip through carbon offsetting. That means you'll help reduce carbon emissions somewhere in the world in proportion to the damage caused by your travels.
At www.climatecare.org, you can calculate the amount of carbon your flights will emit by keying in your departure point and destination.
The formula includes a suggested payment to Climate Care, a British environmental organization. Climate Care uses the money for projects such as building wind farms in India; installing energy-efficient lighting in South Africa; and providing energy-efficient stoves in Madagascar, where unique habitats face deforestation.
Flying round-trip from Seattle to Costa Rica? For a $21.70 carbon-compensating payment to Climate Care, you can travel with a lighter conscience.
The Lonely Planet guidebook publisher now has its entire staff tracking air miles with Climate Care in order to offset the collective impact of the company's travels.
"We pay them every six months," said Jason Shugg, Lonely Planet's global product marketing manager in Melbourne, Australia, "and they use that money for sustainable energy projects."
Green tours: REI Adventures, which offers outdoors-oriented trips worldwide, from kayaking in Mexico to trekking in Bhutan and small-ship cruises in Alaska, will go "carbon neutral" on all its tours starting in 2007 by helping fund renewable energy projects.
The Seattle-area company, part of Recreational Equipment, Inc., has formed a partnership with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to compensate for the greenhouse gas impact of its trips, including ground, water and air travel.
REI Adventures will purchase Green Tags, or renewable energy credits, from BEF to offset the greenhouse-gas impacts of travel on all its excursions.
The Green Tags are created when renewable energy such as solar and wind power are substituted to local utilities for energy generated by burning fossil fuels (that are linked to global warming).
Each Green Tag offsets the carbon produced by 1,030 miles of air travel. REI Adventures expects to purchase more than 52,000 Green Tags in the coming year. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's list of top renewable energy purchasers, that would place REI among the 20 largest purchasers nationally.
Get details at www.reiadventures.com, or phone 800-622-2236.
Stay green: Patronize hotels, lodges and spas that are "green." For example, Inn Serendipity in Browntown, Wis., about 150 miles from Chicago — www.innserendipity.com or 608-329-7056 — uses wind power and solar power, serves food from its organic garden and composts leftovers. Even some major hotels and resorts are developing environmentally friendly policies. Vail Resorts announced in August that it would offset 100 percent of its energy use by purchasing nearly 152,000 megawatt-hours of wind energy for its five mountain resorts, retail stores and other lodging properties. Vail Resorts is also offering a free one-day ski lift ticket to anyone who purchases wind power for his or her family's residence for one year with an energy company called Renewable Choice (details at www.renewablechoice.com).
Going green: Spend your travel dollars ecologically; get ideas from the newsletter of the International Ecotourism Society at www.ecotourism.org (click on Travel Choice).
Get ideas for your next trip from Lonely Planet's "Code Green." The book offers advice ranging from taking your used batteries home when you travel in developing countries, to vacationing on a windjammer in Maine — www.sailmainecoast.com/ or 800-807-9463. These historic wind-powered schooners use their back-up engines only when coming in and out of harbors; a few have no engines and rely on small motor boats to tug them along.
Get more ideas at the Google Groups discussion on green travel by clicking on "Share your green experiences" at http://maps.google.com/green. The site also profiles "green" attractions in five cities — Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando and San Francisco — such as L.A.'s Audubon Center at Debs Park, considered one of the country's most environmentally friendly buildings — http://www.audubon.org/chapter/ca/ca/DEBS/birding.htm.