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How can you take a green vacation?


Green Vacation Stays
Which is greener -- this secluded cabin or a green hotel?
Which is greener -- this secluded cabin or a green hotel?
Tyler Stableford/Getty Images

When you think of green lodging, a cabin in the wilderness is probably the first thing that comes to mind. But eco-friendly facilities have moved out of the woods and into some of the world's largest metropolitan areas and bustling tourist spots.

What makes a hotel or resort green? For starters, some green hotels use composting to get rid of waste and are outfitted with gray water recycling systems, which purify and reuse laundry, bathing and dishwashing water. Many hotels also no longer automatically deliver newspapers to each guestroom in order to reduce paper waste and allow guests to reuse linens and towels instead of laundering them each day. Additionally, carbon-friendly hotels are equipped with solar or hydro renewable energy systems. Green resorts also support service projects and education to encourage sustainable energy practices in their communities.

The best thing about carbon-friendly lodging is that you don't have to sacrifice style and sophistication. Forget those plastic blue and green recycle bins. Many green hotels are fitted with sleek and stylish wooden recycle receptacles. And, there's certainly no scarcity of green hotels out there. Environmentally Friendly Hotels lists almost 3,000 hotels throughout the world that meet strict green standards.

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In the end, greener hotels are more profitable for hotel owners. Some of them report saving up to 30 percent on heating and cooling thanks to geothermal systems, which leverage energy stored beneath the surface of the Earth instead of fossil fuel [source: NY Times]. As a result, hotels can pass the savings along to customers, offering reasonably priced, chic and green vacation spots for the carbon-friendly traveler.

When choosing a resort, look for Green Key or Blue Flag signs. That means the resort has met the criteria to qualify as a green lodging site. The Foundation for Environmental Education endorses these campaigns and ensures the sites maintain sustainable practices. Green Key sites, for example, are investigated to make sure they use environmentally-friendly technical, managerial and communication processes. On the average, Green Key sites use 20 percent less electricity, 25 percent less energy for heating and 27 percent less water per guest than other lodging options [source: Green Key]. The American Hotel and Lodging Association also maintains lists of hotels that have been commended for their carbon-friendly practices.

But your carbon consciousness doesn't have to end with your lodging choice. There are many small things you can do on your trip to make it green:

  • Before you leave your home, set your thermostat to a higher level to save energy while you're way.
  • Bring your own drink bottle.
  • Bring your own shampoo and soap so that you don't waste those small plastic hotel toiletry bottles. And remember to keep your showers short.
  • Instead of buying kitschy t-shirts, buy sustainable souvenirs that benefit the community you're visiting. Since a green lifestyle not only benefits the environment but also the culture of a community, support local artisans and farmers on your trip.
  • Reuse sheets and towels so that staff doesn't change them each day. This will save both water and energy.
  • Once you've arrived at your destination, bike or walk instead of driving. You're likely to see the best sites in a more up close and personal way.
  • Need to rent a­ car? Choose a hybrid.
  • Invest in solar chargers for portable appliances.
  • Bring your eco-friendly travel habits home with you. You'll save money and help prevent climate change.

For more information on green topics, travel destinations and outdoor activities, visit the links on the following page.