As a life-long and passionate traveler, I’m always on the look-out for ways to get where I want to go, enjoy myself when I get there, and still feel like I’m not taking a big toll on the planet. I recently came across some great e-tools that I couldn’t wait to share with you. They’ll help you plan a green eco-friendly vacation you’ll love! But even if you’re simply driving to the nearest beach or camping in the local state park, they’ll help save energy and water, keep wildlife safe, and minimize your environmental impact.
1) Green Hotels – Use this site to find a hotel that belongs to the Green Hotels Association. Green hotels are more likely to offer towel rack hangers and sheet changing cards, which ask guests to consider using their linens more than once to save energy and water. As a bonus, a lot of green hotels also offer in-room recycling bins, light with LEDs or CFLs, and compost food waste from their restaurants. Use their members directory to find certified green hotels in almost every state in America.
2) Spinlister, Bike Sharing – Biking is a great way to get around your destination – you’ll see the sights, get a great work-out, and have zero carbon footprint. Spinlister will connect you to someone who is willing to let you rent his/her bicycle for a set period of time. (NOTE – Depending on where you’re visiting, you can also rent someone’s surfboard here). This bike sharing site on Wikipedia lists all the bike sharing options available in a lot of cities and university towns. The site may not be totally up-to-date, so you can also search “bikesharing + your destination” to find opportunities.
3) Rent-a-Hybrid or Electric Vehicle – Sadly, there seems to be no one website that aggregates an easy way to find a highly fuel-efficient rental car. Fortunately, almost every car rental company seems to have some hybrids and even electric vehicles available. If you are flying to your destination and need to rent a car when you are there, search “rent hybrid vehicle + your destination” and review your options. You should be able to find a hybrid or EV, especially if you’re flying into a major airport.
4) Gear Trade – Keep the “reduce reuse recycle” mantra in mind if you’re preparing for an outdoors-focused vacation. Gear Trade sells used camping equipment, bikes, clothing, tents and a lot of other gear. You can sell your old stuff there and buy used but still perfectly good items, too. You don’t need to sell something to buy something, and vice versa.
5) Green Traveler Guides: Traveler’s To Do’s – What’s on this helpful list of “to do’s”? – Tips for saving energy when you leave on vacation; helpful things to take along, like your own reusable bag and water bottle, so you don’t have to use disposables everywhere you go; and suggestions on how to buy a “carbon offset” to help account for the carbon dioxide you’ll be emitting when you fly or drive somewhere.
6) VegDining.com – Use this website to help you find vegetarian dining options when you travel. Start with the continent you’ll be visiting – they have offerings on every landmass but Antarctica! Then choose the state/province and city, and you’ll be eating in no time.
7) TrailLink – This service of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy provides a comprehensive database on American’s thousands of rail-trails, plus many other canal towpaths, greenways and non-rail trails. You can get any one or more of seven regional guide books to help you plan a great trip.
8) Recreation.Gov – Recreation.gov is a one-stop shop for trip planning, information sharing and reservations brought to you by 12 federal Participating Partners. Seven of these partner agencies including the Army Corps of Engineers, Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Archives, offer advance reservations at 2,500 federal areas for over 60,000 facilities and activities. Recreation.gov makes it easy to discover which parks, forests, lakes, museums, and areas managed by federal agencies offer recreation opportunities near you or your destination. You can also use their interactive maps to get information, plan your trip, or to initiate a reservation on-line.
9) Sierra Club Outings – Want to go hiking, camping or exploring with people who share your passion for the outdoors? Start with Sierra Club Outings. They organize great trips for people of all ages and abilities, including families.
By the way, our friendly bear here asked me to remind you to ‘take only pictures, leave only footprints,’ especially when it comes to wildlife. Don’t intrude on an animal’s habitat, and stay on trails to avoid trampling plants. Before you buy a keepsake, take a close look. You may not realize that the souvenir you’re buying that contains an animal’s hide, body part or piece of shell actually contributed to the loss of an endangered species. Most travel and tourism guides will provide information on what souvenirs to avoid. Pay attention to them. Trade in wildlife and wildlife products seriously harms individual species and contributes to habitat destruction on a global scale.
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