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Going green on vacation

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As summer approaches and school ends, you may soon be among the millions of Americans who go on vacation. As people flock to beaches, lakes and the state of Florida, they prepare for a range of concerns, from travel expenses to the correct SPF of sunscreen. Important though a good tan may be, vacations are also a good time to reconsider your effect on the environment.

The journey can be more fun than the destination, a fact that anyone who has ever traveled to New Jersey knows well. Travel can also be among the most environmentally unfriendly activities. To reduce your carbon footprint, try driving more slowly. You can increase your fuel efficiency while decreasing the chance that you're going to have a car accident. As President Barack Obama pointed out during the election, you should also make sure your tires are fully inflated.

When you arrive at your vacation spot, try to eat local food. Fruits and vegetables usually have to be shipped long distances, contributing to global warming. Eating local also gives you the chance to get an insider's perspective on your vacation community.

At the beach, don't pollute. Pollution led to more than 20,000 beach closings last year, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Most of these closings resulted from rain runoff, but beach-goers can contribute. To help prevent pollution, pack reusable silverware and food containers, not plastic ones.

If you do have to throw food away, put it in a lidded container. This won't attract wildlife to your leftovers, most likely in the form of birds that would love nothing more than to defecate in your formerly pristine sand. If you can't throw it away safely there, pack it up and take it with you.

As for your tan, consider organic sunscreens. Not only do they protect your skin, they are also free of the potentially harmful chemicals of synthetic sunscreens. Just think about swimming in water with the combined chemicals that have washed off other people. On second thought, don't think about that.

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