Green your summer travel

Environmentalists have had some good news lately. Organizations like Brighter Planet are finding new ways to focus attention on our carbon footprints, the amount of CO2 and other damaging greenhouse gases we emit into the atmosphere. It has all become much more personal, bringing the issue home to us in many ways. With the summer travel season in full swing, whether you are traveling by train, plane or automobile, our vacation is likely to increase our carbon footprint. Climate Action Reserve, a nonprofit that registers and issues carbon offsets, offers five easy and affordable ways to reduce the impact of your summer travel on the planet.

“Once you discover how easy it is to calculate and reduce your carbon footprint this summer, you may find yourself using these tips all year round” says Gary Gero, president of the Climate Action Reserve.

1. One if by air: Calculating the carbon footprint of your trip is the first step to reducing its impact on the environment. If you are traveling by air, you need to factor in the plane and engine type, cargo load, passenger weight and fuel usage. The good news is that many major airlines will do this for you and also offer to offset your flight’s emissions as an add-on to the ticket price. If your airline doesn’t have a carbon offset program, there are easy online calculators to do it yourself, like TRX Travel Analytics.

2. Two if by land: If you’re opting for a road trip instead, you not only need to factor the trip’s total mileage but also your vehicle’s year, make and model when calculating emissions. TerraPass offers an easy-to-use vehicle emissions calculator for that. Then you can balance out your trip’s emissions by purchasing carbon offsets. For a list of reputable offset retailers, visit CRT Marketplace.

3. Low carbon sightseeing: In order to minimize your carbon footprint as much as possible, consider sightseeing by bicycle, public transportation or on foot. And when driving between sites, smart driving practices – like driving at the speed limit and turning down the air conditioner – can increase your car’s fuel efficiency and lower emissions. There are numerous tips on how to use less gas, be a greener driver and save money at

4. Greening your hotel stay: Another way to reduce your carbon footprint while on vacation is to choose a hotel that offers its guests green options designed to save energy and reduce emissions, like reusing towels, fewer housekeeping services, soap and shampoo dispensers, guestroom recycling baskets and reduced food-related waste.

5. Keep it local: Vacations and road trips can mean more meals out. Look for seasonal, local options on restaurant menus. Transporting food over long distances requires large quantities of fossil fuels and generates significant carbon emissions. Eating locally grown foods has the added benefit of supporting the local economy and helping family farmers stay in business.

Big companies too, along with non-profit organizations are putting a lot of effort into actually doing something to insure a healthy environment for future generations. Cruise lines are “plugging in” to cleaner shore-side power rather than running their polluting engines in port. Even the United Nations has jumped in, declaring 2011 as the “Year of the Forests” as it encourages nations to take sustainable actions, protecting the planet’s woodlands.

If they can do it, can’t we?

For more information on environmental issues and what you can do to make a positive impact visit the Climate Action Reserve web site and Gadling’s extensive library of articles on this and other related topics.

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