For many people, travel is a necessity whether for business or vacation and relaxation, and for some, it’s a bucket list. But the impact of travel can change the very world we’re trying to explore. Here are several ways to experience all this planet has to offer without leaving a giant carbon footprint in your wake.

1. Hire an eco-travel agent.

Travel agents know all the ins and outs of popular destinations, and whether your trip’s focus is business or pleasure, it’s handy to have an expert on your side. An eco-friendly agent will know the best places to stay near the center of all the fun so you can enjoy environmentally green accommodations, attractions within walking distance, and can experience local crafts and foods. It’s maximum impact on your trip with minimum impact on the planet.

2. Stay in a green building.

With modern engineering advancements, hotels and resorts all over the world are able to provide comfort while maintaining environmentally friendly imprints. From the simple—not having the hotel staff wash your sheets and towels every day—to the sublime such as solar heaters that create ambiance as well as heat, an eco-conscious hotel can help you enjoy everything about a travel destination without the waste.

3. Rideshare.

If you have a meeting in 15 minutes three blocks away, walking might not be the best solution. Check with your hotel or your company to see if they do rideshares. Whether the hotel offers them for guests going shopping or sightseeing, or your company can arrange it, sharing a ride is more comfortable than public transportation and more eco friendly than a rental car or taxi.

4. Walk where you can.

By choosing a hotel in the center of everything, you can strap on your walking shoes and find anything you need. The added benefit is seeing and exploring more. Whizzing by a line of shops in a taxi isn’t the same as window shopping, and who knows? You just might find that perfect souvenir.

5. Check into locally owned and fair wage accommodations.

One of the gems of a great vacation is finding unique and beautiful places to stay. What if you could stay in a beautiful beachfront house yards from the water, or that mountain chalet where nobody will bother your solitude and peace? How about a trendy condo in the heart of the action? Locally owned property rentals may be just the thing, and entrusting your hotel budget with locals all but ensures the money you spend goes to support the local economy. Not to mention, there are some beautiful places off the beaten path that could be just the thing for an unforgettable stay.

6. Eat locally and buy locally.

Restaurants can provide some of the best memories of your trip, from that unforgettable appetizer and the melt-in-your-mouth dessert. Smaller, local restaurants please not only your palate, but feed the local economy in return. Locally grown produce is fresher and cuts down on pollution with less transport. Why are all the best seafood restaurants right on the coasts? Because fresh is best, and local food not only gives you a taste of how others live but can help keep local businesses going for the long haul. Staying local can keep your taste buds singing for the duration of your trip.

Local craftsman are also important for keeping a trip environmentally friendly. Purchasing direct from the artist is rewarding in an increasingly mass-market world. In this way, you can ensure your money is helping to sustain the local economy. You can also ask questions direct of the artist. Was the coral for that necklace obtained from areas where coral is being harvested to protect the natural ecosystem? Are the materials for this key chain not part of a poaching industry? Is that bracelet carved from renewable materials? The more you know, the more comfortable you can be about what your money supports, and often, the artist themselves can be a great source of information about the pieces you buy. It’s more personal and translates to a great story when you return home.

7. Hire a local guide to see the sights.

A local guide can show you the secrets of an area, the treasures not always on the same beaten path other tourists walk. They can help you overcome language barriers and steer you clear of any not-so-safe neighborhoods. If you’re on limited time, a local guide can maximize how you spend it and you can make specific requests of them for environmentally friendly places to stay, eat, and shop. If you’re more into nature, they can share expert knowledge of plant and animal life an untrained guide could not. In short, a local tour guide can take the guesswork out of eco-travel.

Now you can plan a year of new adventures, vacations and exploration--without a huge environmental impact.

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