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The Three Best Cities for the Green Traveler

A vacation can burn through a lot of natural resources in a very short amount of time. From plane travel to taxis and buses and limited access to the basic eco-friendly things we do every day like recycling and avoiding the use of plastic bags, it can be tough for someone who thinks green to reconcile travel with their conscience. Luckily, there are some great eco-friendly cities out there where you can be sure that you won’t have to compromise your green ethos too much:

Austin, Texas

Austin made news recently with its plastic bag ban. A minor inconvenience if you forget your cloth bags while shopping, but the ban goes to show how important the environment is to the folks in this city. Austin is also a great place for locally grown food, locally brewed beer and locally made clothing and other items, which means less travel to get it from the factory or the farm to you.

Downtown Austin, TX

Seattle, Washington

Seattle is the birthplace of grunge music, home to real life superhero Phoenix Jones and the city where GM launched the world’s first hybrid public bus system back in 2004. Washington has also initiated efforts such as pushing their public schools to be more eco-friendly, and of course, it’s hard to find a city with more options for organic food than Seattle. Seattle is really one of the most forward-thinking cities in regards to environmental issues with a long history of being green, well before it became the trendy thing to do. If you want to learn more about Seattle, pick up a copy of Matthew Klingle’s “Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle.”

Seattle Skyline

Photo by Bryce Edwards via Flickr

Masdar City, Abu Dhabi

Yes, the Middle East produces quite a bit of oil, so it’s somewhat ironic that the United Arab Emirates are leading the way for green causes with an agreement to build Masdar City, the city of the future, and the most eco-friendly city on the planet. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist yet. The Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company is planning a city that will use electric pod cars to get people around, shaded streets that funnel cool breezes around the city, a total absence of fossil fuel based vehicles, and a perimeter wall to keep the desert heat out, which means lower energy needs for cooling.

Once you’ve selected an eco-friendly destination, you should also take care to make sure that you’re an eco-friendly traveler. Some travelers do better by the earth than others. For instance, the HCCMIS blog states that 71% of travelers polled participate in a hotel’s linen or towel reuse program where available. You can call hotels to see what sort of green efforts they’re making before booking your trip, of course.

Shorter flights and fewer flights with longer stays is another great way to reduce your carbon footprint when taking a vacation. On that note, some airlines follow more eco-friendly practices than others. If you have a choice of airlines to fly with, you may want to do a quick Google search on them to see where they stand on environmental issues.

Being green shouldn’t have to mean sacrificing travel. After all, why even bother saving the world if you’re not going to see it firsthand?

Randy Griffin, the author of this article, is a world traveler by day and writer by night. He studies eco-tourism and hopes to make the world a better place.

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