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“Green travel”, “ecotourism”, sustainable tourism and responsible travel are thrown around like common catchphrases these days. With nearly 1 billion tourists crisscrossing the globe every year, it’s more important than ever for travelers to minimize their individual impact on the earth’s natural and cultural treasures. Considering the transportation sector is a huge of fossil fuels (and producer of CO2 emissions) and travellers can have a huge impact on the local economy and culture of their destinations, our vacation decisions can have a huge impact.

Yet in traveling green, there are a lot of misconceptions about the cost of more sustainable travel and how exactly to make it work. That being said, with the increase in eco-friendly accommodations, sustainable sight-seeing options and knowledge about our impact on natural habitats, it is easier than ever to “travel green”

1.    Preparing to travel: Pack light (the less you have the less fuel is used by your mode of transportation and it’s also easier to travel with), carry a reusable water bottle and shopping bag, recycle packaging of any new products you purchase for your trip, turn off and unplug any lights and electronics in your house before you leave, turn down the thermostat in your house and suspend and newspaper or magazine deliveries until you return.

2.    Transportation: For shorter trips consider alternative options to flying such as the train or the bus. This might be cheaper and protect the environment through less emissions. If you do decide to fly, consider a flight route that is as direct as possible (as take-offs and landings use the most fuel), fly coach (more people = more bang for fuel’s buck) and offset the carbon emissions of your flight. If you rent a car, choose a vehicle that has low emissions or is hybrid. When driving, avoid fast starts and stops, avoid idling, keep the tires properly inflated, combine trips, keep cargo light, and stick to the speed limit. Once there, use public transportation, walking or cycling whenever possible.

3.    Accommodations: Choose a green hotel that is locally owned and operated, has sustainable operating practices and contributes positively to the community. While there, reduce, reuse and recycle: Keep your showers short, turn off the lights and other things that use up energy, reuse your sheets and towels, bring your own toiletries and ensure you recycle Make sure you give your hotel feedback about their eco-friendly practices to encourage them and help improve their impact on the world. If possible, consider staying at a friend or family members in order to avoid the extra energy consumption of staying at a hotel.

4.    Be responsible as you sightsee: Choose environmentally friendly tour operator. When hiking or snorkeling, ensure you follow the proper routes, deposit your trash in the appropriate places, and avoiding touching vulnerable environmental elements (such as coral reefs). When shopping for meals or other items, use local products whenever possible and treat the locals with respect. Consider eating green by using local or organic ingredients.

Therefore, taking a green approach to travel can be stress-free and not overly expensive. At the same time, travelling green can lead to a more rewarding, authentic travel experience, encouraging deeper connections with the people and places you visit. More importantly, we need to ensure that we protect the places we visit, not just for ourselves but for the travelers who come after us and for the locals.