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Eighty percent of American families will take vacations this summer, with the majority traveling by plane and staying at hotels. But growing concerns around the environmental impact of air travel and the hotel industry have many embracing the “green vacation” movement. If you are hoping to make your summer vacation more sustainable, there are a few key things to keep in mind.

Skip the plane

For many, air travel makes up a significant portion of one’s individual carbon footprint. Just one round-trip flight between the east and west coasts of the U.S. is equivalent to 20% percent of the greenhouse gases that the average car produces in an entire year.

So, if you are looking to keep your vacation clean, choosing a destination accessible by car or train is where you can likely make the biggest impact. But, if you have to fly, look for flights that have fewer connections, try to stay longer at your destination rather than fly to various destinations, and look for newer planes for fuel efficiency gains.

Your next best options are riding the train or taking a bus. According to Vacations By Rail, “Train travel makes it easy to stay green, using 30 percent less energy per passenger mile than cars and 20 percent less than planes.”

Finally, avoid cruises at all costs. Most ships burn a much dirtier fuel type than gasoline, dwarfing the impact of cars when it comes to emissions.

Where to stay

After you’ve chosen how to travel, your next step is to search for environmentally friendly accommodations. Hotels tend to be large carbon emitters from their frequent cleaning. Think about it; how often have you left towels that were barely used on the floor? Now imagine housekeeping doing laundry for every room. That amounts to a large quantity of cleaning chemicals used and water wasted daily.

Fortunately, eco-friendly hotels and resorts are on the rise, providing greater options for travelers with sustainable lodging in mind. The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system provides a helpful resources for those on the look-out for green hotels and resorts around the world.

Wherever you end up staying, remember to turn off the lights when you leave your room, and to reuse the linens and towels provided as often as possible. By doing so, you’ll help reduce wasted energy production. While the goal of your vacation is to relax and have fun, there are still small things you can do to stay environmentally friendly.

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