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Staycation: The Green Way to

Summer weather hails the beginning of vacation season, and all around the country, people are planning trips to exciting destinations. Whether it's the mountains, ocean, or something in between a summer vacation usually means getting far away from the city where you live and work. Unfortunately, all of this summer travel can be quite expensive, and depending on where you go and how you get there, it can take a big toll on the environment as well.

In 2008, transportation sources contributed approximately 27 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA. Transportation is also the fastest-growing source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 47 percent of the net increase in total U.S. emissions since 1990, and is the largest end-use source of C02, which is the most prevalent greenhouse gas. That means that piling into the car or onto a plane has a significant impact on our environment as well as your own carbon footprint.

Staycations are vacations that happen much closer to home, sometimes even in the very same city that you're already living. By staying local, you not only avoid the cost and hassle of long-distance travel, you also help support the local economy by keeping your money close to home as well.

PLANNING A STAYCATION

You may have heard that when people want to reduce the carbon footprint of their eating habits, they commit to eating only things grown or raised within 100 miles of their front door. When planning a staycation, limiting yourself to destinations within the same circumference can be a good rule of thumb. You might be surprised how many fun things there are to do, see, and eat within just a few hours of your own bed! If you live in a small town, think about traveling to the nearest big city to take advantage of all the activities and attractions it has to offer.

Museums

Not only are museums cheap, and sometimes free, they also allow you to expand your mind while enjoying free air conditioning!

State Parks

Who needs a fancy hotel when you could sleep in the magnificence of Mother Nature? State parks offer affordable campsites, usually within a few feet of bathrooms, BBQ pits, hiking trails, playgrounds, and opportunities for swimming or boating. Be sure to plan in advance for this one, as campsites and backcountry camping permits tend to be snatched up quickly in the summer months.

House Swapping

Sometimes all you need to feel like you're on vacation is a change of scenery. Lately, house swapping has become a popular trend. For a small fee (or sometimes nothing at all!) you can exchange dwellings with someone else who's looking to get away for free. Although many house swappers look for destinations far away, there's nothing to prevent you from getting a vacation rental somewhere closer to home. You'll be able to stay in the comfort of a real home without spending an arm and a leg. Check out sites like digsville.com,homeexchange.com, and lovehomeswap.com to learn more.

Local Attractions

How long has it been since you've been a tourist in your own town? We get so caught up in our daily responsibilities, we can often forget why we moved to our home city in the first place! Head over to your local Chamber of Commerce or Visitor's Center and spend a few minutes browsing the brochures. You might be surprised to find festivals, white water rafting, zoos and aquariums, local farms and ranches, breweries, historical tours, and lots of great restaurants you've never tried. Grab your camera and act like you're new in town.

New Experiences

There's nothing like being shown around a new town by someone who lives there. Check out experience-based websites like Vayable, Gidsy, GrubWithUs, and SideTour to find something extraordinary to do, and amazing people with whom to do it!

Beth Buczynski is an environmental writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. Follow her on Twitter as @ecosphericblog

Photo credit: By MDGovpics