Hotels. I'm finding many hotels around the world that offer "green" laundering choices. In many rooms there will be a card or sign that says something like "Every year billions of gallons of water and millions of pounds of bleach and detergents are wasted cleaning hotel sheets and towels, not to mention the energy wasted. To help our environment, re-hanging your towels means you don't wish to have them changed, and if you do, place them on the floor." I look for this type of sign now in every hotel, and always re-hang my towels. I mean, who needs their towels washed after just one use? If there is no such sign, I mention it to the management and remind them that they can save money by such practices, and tell them that hotels all over the world are doing it. I also ask them to please not change the sheets until I check out. Some maids are so used to doing this that they do anyway, in which case I remind the management of my request, and ask them to please abide by it, in the hopes that they will start to get the message.
I also only open one soap. Usually there are two or more little bars of soap, and if you open more than one they might change them for new ones the next day. In one hotel in Thailand new soap and shampoo, which both came in little bottles, arrived like clockwork every day in my bathroom, in spite of the fact that I wasn't even using it! I think this is a waste of soap and energy, and helps pollute the environment. Now I have just taken to ask that NO room service be performed while I visit. That way the maids don't get the chance to be wasteful, and probably appreciate the break. And I don't have to straighten up the room before they come, either!
I also never, ever go into American fast-food places that are now all over the world. I don't want to support the globablization of KFC, McDonald's, or Starbucks. When exploring the winding, cobblestoned streets of a cute little village in Europe, the last thing I want to see is a Burger King in the town square--which unfortunately I do, all too often. There's no telling how many local places these chains have put out of business, but I'll certainly never help them do it.
I also try to eat locally and seasonally. If someone visiting London for Christmas demands fresh strawberries, for example, she would get them, but they'd either be flown in from South Africa or grown in heated, energy-gobbling hydroponic farms. I've also been asking at tavernas if the tomatoes and such are from that island or area, but often there's a language problem. They often smile and say, "Yes, very fresh!" leaving me to wonder what the real story is.
And I'm starting to see why the travel guru Rick Steves loves picknicking; it's fun to nip into a little mom & pop store and buy some bread and cheese, and maybe some fruit (I also used to get salamis, more's the pity) and walk around munching it or find somewhere to sit and people-watch. It's easier on the budget and fun to try new things to eat. And of course I always try the local beer or wine. Only a moron would go to, say, Prague, and ask for an American beer.
Spreading the Word. When I go places, I ask questions; not necessarily to get answers, but to make people think. For example, in a cafe, when I'm finished with a bottle of juice, I hand it back to the person behind the counter and ask if they recycle. If they say no, I ask, "Why not?" Or say I'm in a tourist souvenier shop and they're selling skins of their native animals; I might ask them if this is how they want tourists to see what they think of their own wildlife (then I tell them that I'll never shop in their store, and tell them why). If I buy milk in a store or eggs in a restaurant, I might ask if they know anything about how the cows or chickens are treated where they get their produce-- for instance if the cows are treated with BGH and antibiotics, or whether the hens are kept in battery cages. The people are usually baffled, but perhaps if enough customers start asking questions like this, they'll get the message that visitors actually do care about such things.
I've asked bookstores why they had so few educational books and so many romance novels, and pet store owners if they knew how the native birds they sold were trapped or bred. I've written to heads of state and asked why they don't do more to support the care and rehabilitation of their own native wildlife--even the species that they tout as their country's 'symbols', and told them that their lack of interest was noticeable even from an outsider's point of view (I have yet to get an answer from any of them on this one). Along the way I've probably annoyed quite a few people with my hard questions, but it's my little way of showing that some tourists actually care about the environment, even if they're not in their own countries.
Pollution. Finally, I never, ever litter; in fact, sometimes I'll clean up other people's litter, especially if local children are watching, to demonstrate by example that it's ok to care about their environment. And I rarely buy a new bottle of water; most places I've been able to refill my bottle (a used juice bottle from the U.S.) with good water from taps and have had no problems. Only at the Elephant Nature Park were we asked to drink their bottled water; I figured I've saved over a hundred bottles worth of plastic so far on this trip, and the energy to transport the water. Not bad considering I'm on the road and traveling in questionable countries; I wonder how many people from developed countries with modern purification plants can make the same claim.