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Celebrate Clean Energy on 6/21/09: Solar Day 2009

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What does Solar Day have to do with travel? Not much yet -- but the solar powered sunroof option on the 2010 Toyota Prius is a start.

Solar chargers for cell phones are an obvious travel application. But perhaps one day, beyond biofuels, some planes may get some of the power from the sun. The International Air Transport Association hopes aviation will have carbon neutral growth by 2020, so solar could play a part. Nasa's website discussed its solar plane research last June, and in July 2008, a unmanned solar plane, the Zephyr 6 flew for over three days.

Rather than combat global warming by staying home, I recycle and reduce my carbon impact at home and on the road. I value the educational component of travel too much to stop, and I believe cultural interaction can build bridges across religious and political divides.

Although transportation to a destination emits carbon into the atmosphere, by flying an airline rather than in a private jet (if I had one), my emissions are inherently lower. I'm also more eco-friendly flying cramped coach than first or business class (since emissions are calculated based on the number of seats in a cabin).

By traveling as eco-citizens we may have a greater impact in China or on Rush Limbaugh by leading through example. When Marriott, Hyatt, or Westin offers you the option to reuse your linens seize the opportunity to measurably reduce the impact of your travel (since laundering linens consumes water, energy, etc.) If your hotel doesn't have any green options, you can be your own green initiative by calling up and requesting that housekeeping let you re-use your towels and linens.

On Sunday, the first day of Summer, San Francisco is giving birth to Solar Day. If you'll be in the Bay Area, you will have the option of seeing a solar water heating exhibit at Justin Herman Plaza and even possibly taking a tour.

If you won't be in the Bay Area, consider creating your own solar celebration. Solar Day's founder John Reed suggests creating a Solar Day 5K Walk or Run. You could raise proceeds to fund an eco project in your community. Reed's other suggestions include creating your own eco or solar tour to see what "green" things are happening in your town. Even spending the day reading outside rather than inside unnecessarily burning a light bulb (even if it is a CFL) or running air conditioning saves energy. Not only will the sun supply free lighting, you'll get a dose of Vitamin D.

On the Solar Day website, you can enter to win a three night stay at the Gaia Napa Valley Hotel & Spa. Just south of Napa, California, the hotel is the world's first Gold LEED certified hotel and it's solar-powered.

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