By Marnie Hunter
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(CNN) -- The environmental impact of your next business trip may be the last thing on your mind, but there are some simple ways to make your travel greener.
Start with things you might do at home to save money and energy.
"Certainly reduce, reuse and recycle, just as folks do at home. ... When people go out on vacation or on a business trip, they oftentimes forget about the little things," said Brian Mullis, president of Sustainable Travel International, a nonprofit that promotes conservation and sustainable practices among travelers.
Taking a travel mug or water bottle on the road with you is a good way to cut down on the number of empty containers you discard, particularly in places where recycling isn't readily accessible.
Mullis encourages travelers to research potential providers and ask about their environmental policies. If your company has preferred airline, hotel and car rental providers, it may be helpful to talk with a travel coordinator within your company to express your interest in supporting environmentally friendly businesses.
"Typically consumers, as far as research suggests, will not buy the more environmentally friendly option if price, quality and convenience vary, but if they're all equal, they will buy the more environmentally friendly option," Mullis said.
In some cases, technology can take the place of a business trip.
"Teleconferencing, videoconferencing are certainly options as opposed to sending folks all around the world to meet with other people," Mullis said.
If a face-to-face meeting is needed to accomplish your objectives, choose a hotel that is easily accessible by public transportation and close to your clients.
"The more you can take public transportation, the better off the environment is," said Amy Spatrisano, president of the Green Meeting Industry Council.
"If you have an opportunity to carpool, certainly do that. Not only do you save money these ways, but it also helps the environment."
Walking and using shuttle services also are good options.
If you're renting a car, Mullis and Spatrisano both recommend hybrid- or energy-efficient fuel vehicles, although they acknowledge that these can be hard to find in many locations.
EV Rental Cars and Bio-Beetle are the best bets for some locations in California, Arizona and Hawaii, and Hertz and Budget offer more energy-efficient models in some places, according to Mullis.
Whether or not hybrids or cleaner-fuel vehicles are available, choosing a vehicle that gets good gas mileage helps reduce the amount of burned fossil fuels.
If you want to reduce your footprint on the environment significantly, a number of organizations -- including Sustainable Travel International and Carbonfund.org -- allow individuals to purchase "carbon offsets." These offsets support environmental projects that mitigate carbon dioxide emissions that you have caused, and calculators help determine offsets appropriate to your emissions.
Green hotel chains in the United States are few and far between, according to Spatrisano and Mullis.
Ceres, a network of organizations and businesses working to advance environmental stewardship, offers a Green Hotel Initiative Guest Request Card on its Web site that is designed to help travelers request environmentally friendly services when they check into a hotel.
The card includes a request to reuse sheets and towels, to have toiletries replaced only when they've been fully depleted and to have lights turned off and air conditioning turned down when you're out of the room.
Limiting water consumption and closing blinds while you're away also help to conserve resources.
Mullis advises guests to present the cards and speak with management and staff on arrival to request these services.
He said he expects more hotels to adopt policies that promote energy efficiency and waste reduction because many practices result in economic savings for the properties.
This story first appeared on CNN.com in June 2006.
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