Earth Day or not, it seems that every hotel, airline and tour operator nowadays is shouting from the (solar-paneled) rooftops about their environmentally-friendly initiatives.
Of course, many companies are genuinely improving themselves, both environmentally and ethically. But there are plenty of others guilty of "greenwashing" – making exaggerated or false claims about how earth-friendly they are – which makes it difficult for travelers to know what they're booking.
With that in mind, we've done the work for you when it comes to your next adventure-minded getaway. The following companies were focused on sustainability long before "carbon" and "emissions" were dirty words, so book with them in honor of Earth Day 2010 and you'll get a green star for yourself – and perhaps save some green along the way.
Intrepid Travel: For more than 20 years, Intrepid has been focused on creating "meaningful" experiences for travelers seeking an off-the-beaten path experience, working closely with vetted local non-profits. More than 90 destinations are available, with a staggering array of activities, and nary a chain hotel among them. The "Overland" and "Active" style-trips are designed for adventure-minded travelers. In addition, over the past several years, the Intrepid Foundation, which matches travelers' gifts up to $250, has raised more than $426,000 for 30-plus projects.
Going Green: In 2010, 500 trips will be carbon-offset; the company is moving forward with its 2006 pledge to become completely carbon neutral.
Saving Green: Book by April 30 and save 10 percent on trips to China and Nepal and 15 percent off Morocco. In addition, the company offers a 20 percent discount on destinations that aren't booked close to the date (currently, Laos, Cuba and Cambodia were among them).
BikeHike Adventures: Adventure-minded types go crazy (and not in a good way) when they're forced to see a country through a pane of glass, a fact that the Vancouver-based BikeHike understands better than anyone. Take your pick of more than 25 countries, which you'll pedal, paddle and hike through, staying at local guesthouses and lodges and interacting with locals at every step.
Going Green: Check out the Turtles and Trails trip in Costa Rica. This nine-day adventure combines adrenaline-fueled activities like ziplining and river rafting with two days of active volunteerism to protect the endangered green and leatherback sea turtles. You'll work with researchers to patrol beaches on the country's Caribbean coasts, looking for hatchlings (and poachers).
Saving Green: Book during May or June for a trip three months in advance and save $200 off with your deposit.
Elevate Destinations: For her thesis, founder Dominique Callimanopulos studied the impact of tourism on the Seychelles Islands – which made quite the impact on her, too. Inspired by what she'd learned, she founded Elevate Destinations as a way to combine exotic travel with a way to give back to local communities from Botswana to Bhutan. At the same time, there's a nice swank factor on these trips, which cater to higher-end travelers who prefer well-appointed eco-lodges over bunking up with strangers in musty cabins.
Going Green: Consider a green honeymoon in an exotic locale like Belize or Honduras, where you can add local service to your agenda.
Saving Green: Since each expedition is tailored to fit the needs of its travelers, regular discounts are not normally offered. However, the company donates 5 percent of the net costs of a trip to screened non-profits in its destinations.