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By 2020, the number of tourists flying to international destinations will grow to more than 1.6 billion people per year [source: United Nations World Tourism Organization]. Many of these travelers will journey to some of world's most diverse and endangered ecosystems, which presents a moral dilemma for green globetrotters. How can I take this trip without leaving a carbon footprint? How can I protect the environmental wonder I've traveled so far to behold? Upwards of 55 million Americans are interested in the concept of sustainable travel, according to a study by the Travel Industry Association [source: NY Times].
Green travelers want to do two things: protect the places they visit and reduce or compensate for the carbon emissions associated with their travel. This means preserving the wildlife, plants, culture and other natural resources in the local communities they visit [source: MSNBC]. It also means making thoughtful choices about transportation and lodging. For example, the traveler may choose to stay at a resort that practices sustainable operating techniques. Since planes and cars emit the most carbon dioxide per traveler, green vacationers may choose to travel by bus or train [source: Greenliving]. If they must fly, they may purchase a carbon offset or stay in a green hotel to compensate for the flight's carbon emissions.
Contrary to what you might think, green travel doesn't necessarily cost more. Because sustainable operating techniques often save hotels money in the long run, many hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts and vacation condo buildings are beginning to convert their facilities into green lodging sites. And what saves them money, saves you money as a guest. And with gas prices as they are, you may find green travel is simply cheaper. Find out more about green transportation on the next page.