Introducing -- One Step Better Than Reusing Your Hotel Towels.

09/24/2010 12:18 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

How much energy are we conserving when we reuse our hotel towels? Sure it's a good thing, but the cynic inside many of us says this small effort does more for the bottom line of the hotel than it does for the environment.

If we really want to make a difference while we travel, we need to make better, more informed choices. Real sustainable travel is about more than reusing towels, turning off lights and hotel recycling programs. These days, it has to be.

Today we can travel wisely and consciously and support businesses that are committed to sustainability, without sacrificing quality or luxury.

The Rainforest Alliance has just launched, a global database of hotels, lodges, B&Bs and resort accommodations that are committed to sustainability. The businesses that are listed are verified by the Rainforest Alliance. This means they have had to prove that they are committed to protecting local wildlife, or they support staff training and education programs, or that they are implementing technologies that help save energy, or of course, all of the above.

The new site shows some of what you would expect: canopy level eco lodges tucked into Costa Rican cloud forests, and bungalows in Belize. But, they also have larger resorts in Aruba, Turks & Caicos and Jamaica, places you might not think to associate with sustainability.

Travel, especially for a vacation, is a leisure activity. It's a time to escape some of our daily responsibilities, but by making a choice to support a hotel or resort that's committed to sustainability, we're doing more than taking a break from life, we're helping to sustain it.