Eco-tourism is hardly a new industry, but sustainable tourism is still a patchwork of efforts, with no uniform standard of greenness. Still, there are good sources of information on where to find environmentally conscientious businesses -- hotels, tour operators, restaurants -- and how to tread lightly as you travel.
· General information. For a clearinghouse of information and links on green tourism, visit the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations (202-828-8045, http://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/sustainable). Conservation International (703-341-2400, http://www.conservation.org) provides a cogent look at the big picture and how it relates to individual travel, with an excellent carbon dioxide emissions calculator. Worldwatch Institute (202-452-1999, http://www.worldwatch.org) also has lots of info on the phenomenon of climate change, as well as lists of environmentally safe products.
To learn more about the variety of green standards, the Rainforest Alliance (888-693-2784, http://www.rainforest-alliance.org) has a good directory of the various certification programs aimed at encouraging sustainable tourism.
· Hotels. The Green Hotels Association (713-789-8889, http://www.greenhotels.com), which has been supplying towel-rack hangers and sheet-changing cards for more than 10 years nudging guests to use their linens more than once, has an international membership of lodgings, suppliers and other vendors, listed on its Web site.
· Restaurants. Members of the Boston-based Green Restaurant Association (858-452-7378, http://www.dinegreen.com), listed on the Web site, agree to use comprehensive recycling for all products that are accepted by local recycling companies; not to use plastic foam products; and to complete four defined environmental steps per year of membership.
· Travel resources. The Independent Traveler (609-730-9155, http://www.independenttraveler.com), run by a subsidiary of TripAdvisor, has myriad links to green travel resources; click on "green travel." For searchable directories of green businesses and organizations, albeit using a variety of standards, check with Australia-based Green Globe 21 (011-61-7-3211-4752, http://www.greenglobe21.com); the International Ecotourism Society (202-347-9203, http://www.ecotourism.org); Brighton, England-based ResponsibleTravel.com (011-44-1273-600030, http://www.responsibletravel.com); Sustainable Travel International (720-273-2975, http://sustainabletravelinternational.org); and Worldsurface.com ( http://www.worldsurface.com).
-- Margaret Roth