As more vacationers have begun to contemplate the impact of their travels on the planet, from the greenhouse-gas emissions of their flights to the litter they leave behind in scenic areas, mainstream travel publishers have devised a new category of books to address their concerns.
The new responsible- and ethical-travel guides, including Lonely Planet's
Code Green: Experiences of a Lifetime
and Fodor's coming
Green Travel: The World's Best Eco-Lodges & Earth-Friendly Hotels
, aim to give readers a way to judge the sustainability of operations, from lodges to wildlife treks. In a world where commercial enterprises are increasingly eager to tout their eco-tourist credentials, these specialty books help travelers distinguish environmental ventures from public relations.
has a short section on "How to Tell if Your Holiday Is Green or Just Greenwash," and Rough Guides has a similar feature in its recently released
25 Ultimate Experiences: Ethical Travel
Some publishers, such as the United Kingdom's Rough Guides and Australia's Lonely Planet, have integrated the concept into all their books and Web sites. They urge readers to reduce their global-warming emissions and to compensate for those they generate during a vacation. Both companies' Web sites allow visitors to calculate a trip's global-warming impact and to donate money to Climate Care, a British group that compensates for carbon emissions by funding initiatives that cut greenhouse gases.
Every Rough Guide also contains a section urging travelers to stay longer in a given location to minimize their climate impact.
Rough Guides' co-founder Mark Ellingham says guidebooks "should encourage our readers, and, by extension, airlines and governments, to treat the issue with the gravity it demands."
Brice Gosnell, Lonely Planet's regional publisher for the Americas, says readers are demanding this service and welcome the changes guidebooks have made. "It's just about giving people the information they need to make appropriate decisions," he says.
U.S. travel guidebook publishers, such as Fodor's and Frommer's, traditionally have confined this sort of advice to books targeting countries where environmental activities are most popular, such as those in Latin America. Fodor's has an eco-tourism chapter in its Costa Rica book, while Frommer's tackles the subjects in guidebooks on such countries as Belize, Panama, Brazil and Peru.
"In general, the U.S. market is just becoming aware of eco-travel, carbon footprint, and the impact of travel on the planet," Fodor's Travel publisher Tim Jarrell says. As Americans "increasingly become concerned about global warming, they will begin to examine different parts of their life."
Kelly Regan, Frommer's Travel Guides editorial director, says her company is working to educate readers about practical steps, such as reusing towels and linens to conserve energy and water. "It's a very small thing," she says, "but it can reap big benefits."
Fodor's and Frommer's are expanding their responsible-travel offerings, covering not only which hotels use solar power and sustainably harvested wood, but also which tourist activities improve the welfare of the local communities they touch. Fodor's
, which will be published in the spring, identifies three criteria as essential to responsible travel: environmental conservation, social and cultural awareness, and economic benefits for the communities that tourists visit. Lonely Planet's
and Rough Guides'
25 Ultimate Experiences
apply a similar standard to their trips.
Publishers also are exploring the possibility of introducing rating systems that would let readers know which accommodations are greener than others. Lonely Planet plans to publish a "green listing" that will establish criteria for comparing the climate effects of different lodging options.
These changes may seem minor in light of the massive carbon emissions that global travel produces each year: A round-trip flight for two passengers from California to Europe produces about the same amount of carbon dioxide that a U.S. car emits in a year. Air travel is expected to be the single biggest contributor to human-induced climate change by 2020.
But these books speak to travelers' sense of urgency to see natural wonders before global warming makes them disappear, Regan says. Her company hires local writers as often as possible, which cuts down on greenhouse-gas emissions, and tells its readers how to reduce their carbon footprint by taking nonstop flights, she says.
Over time, customers will get used to these new approaches to travel in the same way they've adjusted to stricter airport security measures, Regan adds:
"You kind of assimilate it, and that's the new reality."
Travel less and stay longer, rather than taking several short trips.
Take trains when you can, instead of flying or driving.
Take nonstop flights instead of connecting flights.
Reuse towels and sheets in hotel rooms instead of having them changed every day.
Use local public transportation instead of renting a car.
Travel domestically rather than internationally.
SOURCE: Washington Post
Starting Jan. 27