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A Challenge to Travelers: Go Green

Aug 17, 2007
While environmentalists have been promoting a "green vision" for almost 35 years now, it seems like the general public has just realized that each and every one of us has a negative, and lasting, impact on the environment. It's about time.

From a traveler's perspective this realization is important because travel can have significant impact on the environment: air travel consumes tremendous amounts of fuel, hotels are wasteful of water, people move without consideration through untouched natural habitat, simply for entertainment value.

Fortunately, if travelers are willing to make concrete and relatively easy changes to their everyday travel behaviors, the overall positive benefits can be enormous.

When you get down to it, being aware of the environment helps protect everyone's favorite travel destination: the earth.

Travelers already know they carry a considerable amount of sway with service providers: hotels, attractions, tour operators are all keenly interested in the opinions of their clientele. Take advantage of this. Travel businesses are particularly responsive to customers who present concerns; that means when you speak to a hotel manager about the environment, you are sure to get their attention.

What can you do? Well, to start, simply consider how much water a regular hotel consumes in a single day, and take that concern to your hotel operator. Your voice carries a tremendous amount of weight, so be proactive and let them know that you want them to lower water and energy usage and reduce solid waste.

But don't only react in a negative sense; acknowledge service providers who are making efforts to help the environment. Write a note to the operator or manager of your hotel, to your airline, or a tour company or cruise line with your compliments and impressions of their green program. Thank them for their green program if they have one, and, if they don't, ask why not.

The impacts of tourism and travel can be quite severe, that's why it's important to spend your travel dollars with organizations that are actively protecting the beautiful destinations of the world.

When you get right down to it hotels and airlines which have an environmental agenda deserve your attention, because they make it easier for all of us to be good environmental citizens.

Book your stays with hotels that show a clear interest in protecting our environment, and let management know that's why you've chosen their hotel.

What can hotels do? I suggest all hotels should be encouraged to implement water-saving measures, execute energy-saving techniques and reduce solid waste. And, they should be very public in doing so, so that they can get guests involved in the process. Environmentally conscious hotels offer towel and sheet-changing options, soap and shampoo dispensers, guestroom recycling baskets and reduced food-related waste. Environmentally conscious guests let their accommodation providers know that it is not necessary to change sheets and towels every day, and they turn off lights, television, heat, and air conditioners before leaving the room.

By showing a willingness to help protect our favorite destinations, green hotels make travel and tourism a much more sustainable industry.

What else can you do? Use public transportation when visiting a city. Choose airlines that recycle waste created when serving food and beverages to passengers. Two good examples are British Airways and Southwest Airlines, both of whom recycle cabin waste, and offer electronic ticketing.

Before you leave on your vacation, take a couple of simple steps to green up your travel: turn down the thermostat on your hot water heater, stop your daily newspaper delivery, and make sure the heat or air conditioning is off. Also, did you know that electric appliances such as TVs and microwave ovens can draw or "leak" as much as 40 watts of electricity every hour, even when they're off. So don't just turn them off; unplug them.

So to simplify it, here are a couple of key suggestions:
- Enjoy walking tours rather than bus tours
- take advantage of public transportation when available
- use the hotel van instead of renting a car, or share taxis. This results in less pollution, and you leave the driving to others
- If you are driving, turn your motor off when idling
- don't litter

Hundreds of millions of people travel to destinations across the globe every single year. If each of us takes a little extra time to help the environment while we travel, the world will be a healthier and greener place for generations to come.
About the Author
Michael Lee-Smith enjoys experiential travel, and particularly enjoys reading about adventure travel and European vacations .
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