Have a green holiday! (I)

Summer holidays have arrived, everybody going on vacation. The winds of change also have come to our holidays. Not just at home or work, but we can also have a green attitude on holidays and still enjoy them!

What is green travel?
"Green travel" is one of many catch phrases — like ecotourism, sustainable tourism and responsible travel — that are bandied about with increasing frequency these days. But what exactly do these terms mean?
There are various shades of difference among all these terms, but at the heart of the matter is the importance of protecting the natural and cultural environment of the places you visit. That means conserving plants, wildlife and other resources; respecting local cultures and ways of life; and contributing positively to local communities.

Why go green?

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. The potential negative effects of tourism are both local and global; oceanfront hotels contribute to beach erosion in Hawaii, rising numbers of visitors threaten the fragile ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands, and carbon dioxide emissions from planes are a growing contributor to global warming.
Taking a green approach to travel is an easy and essential way to protect the places you love to visit, not just for yourself but for the travelers who come after you and for the people who will continue to live there long after you've flown home. As an added bonus, it often makes for a more rewarding, authentic travel experience, encouraging deeper connections with the people and places you visit.
Contrary to popular belief, you don't necessarily have to pay more in order to travel green. While offsetting the carbon emissions from your air travel will set you back a negligible amount (usually between $10 and $40 per flight, depending on the length), you can find green lodging options in all budgets, from hostels to luxury hotels. And earth-friendly transportation options like biking, walking and taking public transit are often cheaper than taking a cab or renting a car.

Choosing a green hotel:
There are a number of Web sites that list environmentally friendly hotels, B&B's and lodges around the world; these are a good place to start. Keep in mind that each site has its own guidelines for rating properties, so you'll want to do your homework to make sure that the hotel meets the standards you're looking for.

A few questions to ask before booking your hotel:
Is the hotel locally owned and operated? If not, is it at least staffed by local employees?
What kind of recycling programs does the hotel have (aluminum, plastic, paper, gray water, composting)?
Do guests have the option to reuse towels and sheets instead of having them changed every day?
What programs does the hotel have to reduce consumption? Examples include energy-efficient lighting, low-flow toilets and showers, and alternative energy sources like solar or wind power.
How does the hotel contribute to the local community?
Sarah Schlichter, Independent Traveller