TIPS: Ways to Lighten Your Footprint

Sunday, July 15, 2007

With the growing public interest in climate change, travelers are finding they can contribute to protecting and preserving the world's attractions. A report released last week by the National Parks Conservation Association -- "Unnatural Disaster: Global Warming and Our National Parks" -- cites myriad threats to America's park system from climate change: More wildfires. More destructive coastal storms. Damage to historic sites. Increased air pollution. Degraded habitat. Rising sea levels. Bigger downpours and the ensuing floods.

Here are some ways to improve the climate situation, or at least keep it from getting worse.

· Look locally for vacation spots. Without flying and with minimal driving, you can often plan a great vacation and spend less money in the process.

· Travel less often and stay longer, rather than taking multiple short trips.

· Take the train; rail travel emits about half the carbon dioxide per person per mile as a car or a plane. If you have to fly, choose a nonstop flight over connecting service.

· When you get to your destination, walk, bike or take public transportation, or use fuel-efficient cars, to get around.

· Skip fuel-guzzling activities such as water-biking, snowmobiling and hot tubs, or enjoy them sparingly.

· Turn off lights that you don't need where you're staying. Ditto for computers and chargers.

· Request that hotel linens and towels not be washed every day.

· Buy locally grown food in places where you know it is safe to eat.

· Use environmentally healthy products. Worldwatch Institute lists ways to cut down on junk at

· Respect the natural environment. Leave animals and vegetation alone, and follow designated trails.

· Never purchase crafts, clothing, furniture or other products derived from protected or endangered species.

· Patronize "green" companies: travel agencies, hotels, resorts, restaurants and tour guides that promote energy and fuel efficiency, renewable energy, recycling, less packaging and other forms of environmental protection.

Over time, selective travelers can make a difference, says Jamie Sweeting, director for travel issues at the Washington policy group Conservation International. "Try to identify businesses and locations that try better to manage their environment," he says. "If they don't protect their assets, I think the more discerning consumer will say. 'I can choose between many hundreds of destinations.' "

-- Margaret Roth

© 2007 The Washington Post Company