05/17/2012 07:26 am ET Updated Jul 17, 2012

Green Travel On The Rise

These days just about everyone is aware of the impact humankind is having on our fragile environment. As such, we've seen a global shift toward more "green" living, from homes to businesses and now to travel. More and more people are taking a more sustainable approach to their vacation plans. In fact, according to TripAdvisor, of the 700 U.S. travelers they surveyed, 71% said they will make a conscious effort to select eco-friendly travel options over the coming year, a number that all indications predict will continue to increase.

Why Green Travel?

It's no secret that the Earth is overpopulated. Our natural resources are continuously being exhausted by overconsumption and deforestation, while pollution is disrupting our delicate eco-system. By choosing travel alternatives that offer a more eco-friendly approach, you can help to reduce your carbon footprint and preserve the fragile environment that is being seriously threatened. Best of all, you can do so without sacrificing the quality of your travel experience.

Green Travel Options

There are a number of simple ways travelers can choose more sustainable options when they travel. For instance, they can choose to stay at hotels that provide guests with the opportunity to participate in more eco-friendly activities such as towel and linen reuse, recycling programs and water-efficient low-flow toilets and showerheads. Guests can take it a step further by committing to turning the lights off in their rooms when leaving the hotel and adjusting the thermostat to reduce waste.

The problem many eco-conscious travelers face, however, is a lack of knowledge about what green plans and policies actually exist, and where. The TripAdvisor survey revealed that 17% of travelers were unaware that such sustainable options existed. Still others know there are options but say they don't necessarily trust that a hotel is truly eco-friendly unless they actually witness or experience such practices first-hand during their stay. Fortunately, a growing number of hotels now include a write up of their sustainability practices on their website or in their guest handbook.

For those travelers who want to expand their sustainable efforts to include eco-friendly activities as a part of the travel experience, there is a growing interest in eco-tourism or "voluntourism" options. These trips are designed to allow the traveler to give back to the countries and communities they are visiting, in a real, hands-on way.

"With the growing awareness of global environmental issues, more and more travelers are shifting their focus from pure leisure to something that is more meaningful," commented Dominique Callimanopulos, founder of sustainable travel provider Elevate Destinations. "Eco-conscious trips, or as we like to call it, responsive travel, incorporates community projects and short-term service and volunteer opportunities into the overall experience, making it impactful both for the traveler and the destination itself. Guests can get involved and see first-hand the difference they are making, without having to compromise on things like aesthetics, amenities, service or security."

Taking a more sustainable approach to travel is a simple way to help protect the places you love to visit, not only for yourself, but for future travelers and for those people who call these destinations home. As an added bonus, responsible travel also tends to provide a more rewarding, authentic experience, because it encourages deeper connections with the people and places being visited. Simply put, it's travel that matters, and it's something to think about when you plan your next getaway.

To view a wide variety of green travel options visit Elevate Destinations.