- 50 to 90 points: Your vacation is ecofriendly!
- 30 to 50 points: You're thinking about the environment, but there are still a few things you could be doing better. Read on for tips.
- 0 to 30 points: Ouch. Your vacation is the moral equivalent of a Hummer. Please read some of the suggestions below.
• If you're not traveling farther than 300 miles, you're part of a growing trend. "Staycations" is a term coined to describe vacations on which people explore destinations near their homes or even within their own city. A staycation is something to consider, especially if funds are tight this year and you don't feel like following these gas-saving tips. You'll get the relaxation of time off from work and also the chance to really get to know your area. Just be sure you fully disconnect to enjoy it—no BlackBerrying at the art museum, no business calls at the lake.
• Though traveling far from home is not as ecofriendly, you can still minimize a trip's impact. If you're traveling to another country, especially one with a weaker currency, use your American dollars to support the local economy. Don't barter down the locals for souvenirs, and purchase goods that have been made in the area. Use tour guides who are natives—you'll have a more authentic experience that way, and you'll support a local business.
• Buying carbon offsets is like paying to have your ecosins wiped away. They involve making a donation to an environmental cause, such as funding renewable energy or reforestation projects, in the amount that it would take to offset the greenhouse gases created by your trip. According to Sustainable Travel International's calculator, a round-trip flight from Akron, Ohio, to Kingston, Jamaica, generates 1.2 tons of carbon—more than an average car spews out in three months. You can purchase carbon offsets from STI or other organizations, such as Carbonfund.org.
• The best way to ensure that your lodgings are ecofriendly is to get reservations at a certified green hotel or inn. You can find green hotels online through websites such as Planeta, the International Ecotourism Society, and Sustainable Travel International. You can also ask your hotel or cruise line what it is doing to minimize the impact on the environment. Just be wary of "greenwashing," or misleading labeling of less-than-ecosensitive products and services.
• Do your part to conserve water and soap at hotels by requesting not to have linens and towels changed every day—especially if you are in a place where water is precious. If the local water is safe to drink, bring a reusable water container so that you won't have to purchase one.
• Special meals out are as much a part of a vacation as lounging on the beach or renting a kayak. Again, think locally when you choose a restaurant, instead of putting your vacation dollars into big chains. For an ecofriendly beach meal, pick up picnic ingredients at a farmers' market, and pack it in a basket with reusable plates and utensils—not plastic foam or plastic bags. And, of course, properly dispose of all waste. That way, the only footprints you'll leave behind will be the ones made by your feet.