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3 Aspects to Ensure Your Summer Vacation Is Environmentally Friendly

04/22/2013 11:53 am ET | Updated Jun 22, 2013
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Summer is upon us. The sun is out and it is time to get tanned, take a break, and go on a holiday.

Taking a vacation is a an optimal chance for relaxation, adventure, and exploration--but what about the impact on the environment? Living a green lifestyle means doing it 100% of the time, not just at home and, unfortunately, some vacations negatively impact the environment more than others, but there are avenues to lightening carbon footprints while still having a blast on a trip.

Before planning that next trip, consider how vacations can harm the environment, the criteria for eco-friendly vacations, and some ideas on how to go green while on a getaway. This three-prong approach can help ensure that a vacation is both enjoyable and environmentally friendly. It's also a lot easier than many people think. Here are the three aspects of green vacations and how to pull them off flawlessly.

How Can a Vacation Hurt the Environment?

First of all, simply getting there costs a lot in gas--leading to fuel emissions. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but once a person gets to where they're going, they can opt for things like public transportation in lieu of renting a car.

Additionally, once you arrive at your destination, it is important to respect the environment you're in. Most top-rated vacation spots are full of natural resources and native animals and plants that suffer from too much tourism - and too many handsy tourists. Paradise isn't foolproof, and destinations like Hawaii, Costa Rica and other must-see places are quickly running low on resources. So while you're there, try your best to leave the surrounding as is, stay on paths while hiking, and avoiding hunting or eating endangered animals.

What Qualifies as a Green Vacation?

This can vary depending on the travelers, but in general there are some good rules of thumb. If there's a hotel that's certified as eco-friendly, always choose to stay there. Whenever possible, lighten that carbon footprint by choosing public transportation or a scooter in lieu of a car rental. Little things like eating at restaurants that use only local produce and meats, or choosing to skip having towels washed daily, can all add up to a green vacation.

Limiting resources while traveling is a great way to stay green. Instead of choosing those imported goods, shop locally and support small businesses even while traveling. The extra bonus is that it's a much more authentic experience.

Ideas for a Green Vacation

The ultimate green vacation doesn't require a plane. Instead, opt for public transportation to see a relatively nearby vacation destination. A region that's walkable once travelers get there is perfect. Many American destinations feature eco-friendly hotels and shopping at farmer's markets while there or eating at local, sustainable restaurants is easy. Keep the camper's motto in mind and "pack out" (or recycle) anything that's brought in or bought.

For more adventurous travellers, it may take a little more structure to stay green. For example, those looking to go on an African safari might want to try a guided tour as trained, local guides will have a superior understanding of the delicate ecosystem you are travelling through. Additionally, a professional will help keep you and the animals safe.

Another idea for environmentally-friendly adventure seekers would be participating in an international farming program or to volunteer time in a reserve. There are tons of organizations (like WOOF) that allow travelers to experience life in a completely different community while simultaneously making a great impact on the environment.

Is going green easy all the time? Of course not. However, the end result is definitely worth it, and travelers get points for creativity.