Green travel has gone from obscure fad to a mainstream obsession in the past five years. An estimated 50 per cent of us now consider eco factors when booking a break, and – from guilt-free transport, to energy-efficient accommodation – the travel industry is responding by offering more and more exciting ‘eco-pportunities’.

So whether you’re looking for a beach retreat, adventure holiday or glamour, it’s far easier and cheaper to spare a thought for the planet when booking your holiday.

Eco accommodation

Earlier this year, the ‘World’s Greenest Hotel’ – the Crowne Plaza Copenhagen – opened in Denmark. With electricity from solar panels, groundwater-based air conditioning and biodegradable shower caps, the hotel has every angle covered. Eco-warriors can even have a go on the hotel’s electricity-producing bikes – anyone who produces 10kWh gets a free meal.

Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards, which recognises greener endeavours in the travel industry last month gave its star prize to another groundbreaker. Nihiwatu surf resort on the island of Sumba in Indonesia has been credited with single-handedly raising the life-expectancy of 20,000 people nearby, lowering the risk of malaria and water-borne illnesses as well as undertaking conservation projects (nihiwatu.com).

However, these are the expensive leading lights of the eco-world. Those on a tighter budget should seek out eco-lodges, where no electricity gives an authentic back-to-nature experience. Try Silent Arrow in the Israeli Negev desert, where cooking is by candlelight and socialising is watching for shooting stars around the campfire (silentarrow.co.il). Or how about Basata, Egypt’s first eco-lodge, where adobe houses on a wide sheltered bay give absolute peace and quiet just an hour from Sharm el-Sheikh airport (basata.com)? There’s a great selection on the Responsible Travel website (responsibletravel.com).

Most eco of all – of course – is the staycation. Make the most of Britain while we’re here with Canopy and Stars’ one-off ‘glamping’ trips to a Georgian treehouse in Somerset, a gypsy caravan with hot tub in Devon or a solar-powered Cornish ‘Ekopod’ (canopyandstars.co.uk).

Or how about a yurt – the latest craze for eco-accommodation – combining the back-to-nature idyll with home comforts? You’ll find them all over the country these days – from a luxury one in the Highlands, fitted with Victorian bed and wood-burning stove (inshriachhouse.com), or one of TheReallyGreenHoliday Company’s award-winners on the Isle of Wight, complete with locally-sourced organic food and composting, waterless toilets (thereallygreenholidaycompany).

Planes, trains and automobiles

Low-cost air travel is a bad influence but there are other ways of cheaply getting to our dream destinations.

While we’re waiting for the arrival of easyJet’s ‘eco-jet’, which claims it will reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2015, almost any other transport is greener than flying.

Car pooling, for instance. According to environmental news website grist.org, a car travelling from Philadelphia to Boston – equivalent to London-Newcastle – generates about 104 kg of CO2, regardless of the number of passengers, compared to four airliner passengers, who’d rack up 736kg between them.

Public transport’s even better: splitting the cost of emissions (and travel costs) between many more bums-on-seats. According to well-respected ‘The Man in Seat 61’ blog – train travel can cut your emissions by up to 90 per cent (seat61.com).

Seat 61 also has cheap deals on trains – £29 to Amsterdam with no flight in sight.

Obviously the ideal transport is carbon neutral, and that means pedal power. For those with serious time on their hands, like Justin and Emma (see box above), there are plenty of websites that can tell you how to get started on a long ride. Try cyclingaroundtheworld.nl, set up by two Dutch enthusiasts, or travellingtwo.com.

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Extreme green

At the heart of most extreme sports and activity travel is the joy of pitting ourselves against nature, but you can do this without damaging the natural world.

Most activity resorts are now very aware of the value of their commodities and – particularly in Europe and America – are good at putting rules in place to prevent damage to resources, although, sadly, in lesser-developed places, money often talks.

Ski and snowboard resorts are more on-the-ball about global warming than other sports, and there are plenty of new endeavours for the green ski-bunny.

Check out the independently run saveoursnow.com for the latest on what ski resorts are doing to reduce their impact. Reduce yours with the brilliant mountainrideshare.com, which was set up to carpool those heading from the UK, or various airports, to the slopes (mountainrideshare.com). Or take the train – Snowcarbon.co.uk, is the top website for train travel to the slopes, with all the hows, whys and whens covered (snowcarbon.co.uk).

Scuba divers should be aware too: always check a company’s credentials carefully and vote with your feet – it’s not enough these days to half-heartedly tell people not to step on coral. Go for companies – like the Camel Dive company in the Red Sea area of Egypt, for instance – that put money into conservation projects or have ‘eco-tribes’ so visitors can help with research projects (cameldive.com).

For watersports in the UK there’s Wild at Heart Eco-holidays, a company offering a chance to interact responsibly with the UK’s only bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth area of Scotland. Or why not invest in an Imagine Eco surfboard – the latest in non-harmful sports gear (imaginesurfboards.com).

Volunteer yourself

For the passionate eco-warrior, there are an increasing number of opportunities for voluntary conservation work.

Some projects are with big organisations – such as Global Vision International or Projects Abroad – and range from week-long mangrove or tree-planting holidays, to full-on eco-qualifications – in agriculture or marine biology – for months at a time.

Wherever you want to go and whatever you want to do, there’ll be a green option. We can all make a difference by selecting holidays that don’t just save us money, but which save the planet. It’s what all the cool kids are doing these days.

Offset your carbon when you fly.

Offset your carbon

Calling all flight addicts! Have you thought about rehab? You can now pay off your carbon debt by off-setting the extra CO2 produced by your plane ride.

Look for the check-box when booking flights online, with the option to off-set for an extra pound or two. Alternatively, you can choose your own off-setting company and have a say in where your money goes. It’s not all tree planting – your money can go towards sustainable energy businesses, or to helping people use power more efficiently. Private off-set company Climate Care (jpmorganclimatecare.com) offers one scheme for buying more efficient heating and cooking equipment for people in Cambodia.

And it doesn’t cost a fortune. According to Climate Care, a passenger flying from Heathrow to Geneva will travel 938 miles, emitting 0.19 tonnes of CO2. The cost to off-set this amount is £1.41, while off-setting a round the world ticket would be about £42. Not much for peace of mind.

– Sarah Warwick