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It's Not Easy Being Green: How to Travel Sustainably

We all know that air travel is a major component of one's carbon footprint. And we all know that the more one flies, the larger one's footprint.

Image credit: Lars Leetaru for The New York Times

People who travel regularly for work often have little control over their mode of travel -- the clients' demands come first. But a study from last year shows that the carbon impact from voluntary travel, aka "tourism," is three times higher than previously thought and accounts for 8 percent of total global carbon emissions.

For those of us who strive to live our values, however, there are some things we can do to travel green. This New York Times piece from today discusses several options:

  1. Take a train -- 12 percent of all US greenhouse gases come from airplanes, and shorter flights produce more pollution-per-mile than longer flights. So take a train if you can. If not, fly direct.

  2. Stay in sustainable lodging -- check out the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, the Rainforest Alliance, and Earth Check, to find lodgings committed to resource conservation.

  3. Leave no trace -- travel with reusable straws and reusable beverage containers, and eat and shop on the local market. That way, your visit demands less from the environmental and social ecosystem.

  4. Support ecotourism -- non-profit organizations such as the International Ecotourism Society work hard to encourage the tourism industry to do better. Consider direct financial contributions to such organizations, and expect your tour operators and others to follow ecotourism guidelines.

There's no such thing as a small decision in today's world. So when the February weather has you dreaming of sandy beaches and sun-splashed holidays, remember always to take care of our home.

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