The term ecotravel doesn't have to conjure images of heavy backpacks and sweaty tents—or a trip without luxury—anymore, although a "staycation" remains the most environmentally friendly form of vacation. The drive to be green has swept through all kinds of travel now, from urban hotels to sleek trains.
Though the overall impact of tourism on climate change is difficult to assess, the United Nation's World Tourism Organization says our vacations contribute about 5 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, which reached 8.47 billion metric tons in 2007.
Actual transportation is the biggest part of the problem, generating 75 percent of all emissions from tourism, with airplanes accounting for more than 50 percent of that figure, and cars and trains responsible for about 13 percent. Hotels and other accommodations generate about 20 percent of emissions—through heating, cooling and electricity use.
It's important to remember, then, that any travel increases your carbon footprint, so if you need a break, consider choosing something that is either going to lessen the damage or give back to local communities—or, better yet, both. Think about the following eight options as you plan your break for 2009.