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Save the earth and money, too

SmarterTravel

With the 33rd annual Earth Day celebrated on April 22, we are again reminded of how precious the natural world is, and of the power humans have to either protect or destroy our planet. At the same time, the coming of spring turns our thoughts to planning summer travel.

It is the goal of environmentally-concerned travelers, or eco-tourists, to make their adventures more responsible in order to preserve the places they visit for future generations. To help you learn more about eco-tourism, we’ve compiled a list of “green” travel providers, both domestic and international, as well as other ways you can help save the earth while continuing to save money on travel.

How to be an eco-tourist

Most eco-travel experts agree on several key ways to make your trips greener. Here are some of their tips:

  • Use your own power for transport as much as possible. This may include walking, biking, or canoeing, as opposed to driving or traveling by powerboat.
  • Act locally: Respect the customs of the place you’re visiting, buy from small businesses, stay at local inns and hotels.
  • Hire the services of a knowledgeable guide who can make sure that you’re taking care not to disturb the environment you’re exploring.
  • Always carry out what you carry in, or as the phrase goes, “leave nothing but your footprints behind.”
  • Eco-travel close to home

    Staying in your local area not only allows you to experience the beauty around you, it also reduces your consumption of gasoline because you haven’t traveled very far. If it’s convenient, biking to a nearby destination is another green option.

    In terms of accommodations, you can ask your friends for their favorite local inns and even campgrounds, depending on the time of year and the climate you live in. And, besides the benefits for the earth, you’ll minimize your travel expenses by using less fuel or sleeping outdoors.

    If you want to meet other people in your area while you enjoy short trips, there are several options. You can join the American Hiking Society and be connected to a network of hiking clubs across the country.

    If you’re interested in a more environmentally-focused group, The Audubon Society is dedicated to preserving natural ecosystems and wildlife habitats. As a part of its mission, the organization maintains areas throughout the U.S. that are great places to visit for those who love the outdoors. To find out more about your local chapter, click on your state name at the Audubon’s website.

    The Sierra Club is another national group working for environmental protection that has many local outings of interest to eco-tourists.

    The financial advantages of local eco-tourism are clear. Whether you choose to visit an Audubon sanctuary (the majority of which require no membership and are free and open to the public), or you take one of the many free daytrips with your local Sierra Club chapter, you’ll protect your travel budget while you protect the earth.

    Exploring the nation and the world

    Of course, part of the appeal of travel is to see parts of the world that are very different from your own. If you’re interested in eco-travel, there are many possibilities, both in the U.S. and around the globe. Once again, the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club are among the leaders in organizing longer trips that will take you to places as diverse as the glaciers of Alaska or the rainforests of Belize.

    Though the Earthwatch Institute is not strictly an eco-travel provider, if you’d like to have the hands-on experience of working on conservation projects with environmental scientists, there are many opportunities for you to volunteer for an expedition and then travel with your team to some of the world’s amazing places. Volunteers are usually required to pay their trip expenses, but there are lower-priced special offers, as well as fellowships that will reduce the costs of an expedition. And, if you’re a college student, you can save an additional 20 percent on Earthwatch expeditions.

    The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) is another non-profit organization that will help you to be a responsible traveler while you explore the Amazon by riverboat or watch the wildlife of Africa on safari. Many of the WWF’s trips may run up to several thousand dollars per person, but the trips are mostly all-inclusive, and there are less expensive, shorter nature tours available.

    Even if you’re not planning a full vacation, you can still be more environmentally responsible when you travel domestically. With the emergence of electric, natural gas, and hybrid electric vehicles, you can cut down on automobile pollution while spending less money on gas. And now, EV Rental Cars has a number of locations in the U.S., so you can rent a green car for your next trip.

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