Here are some of the smaller—but still interesting—stories that caught our eyes in the past couple of days.
U.S. airplanes have been spewing fewer nasty emissions into the atmosphere. Airplanes on domestic routes ran 13 percent cleaner between 2000 and 2006, despite carrying increasing numbers of passengers, according to this report from the Environmental Protection Agency. The pollution from planes—especially carbon dioxide—are said to hurt the Earth's atmosphere and create a greenhouse effect.
Apparently, rising prices for jet fuel have prompted airlines to burn less of it, which, in turn, has helped to cut back on pollution. (A related factor was the economic slump—and fall off in air travel—between 2001 and 2003.) Budding aviation expert Evan Sparks has read the report. He says that airlines have done several things to use fuel more efficiently. Perhaps the most vivid example is this one: "Alaska Airlines bought lighter aluminum beverage carts to replace their steel ones." Score one for market-based solutions to this environmental problem.
There's a new website with info for students studying abroad, called Students Abroad (studentsabroad.state.gov). It's run by the Department of State and it has a youthful look and feel. It's loaded with helpful info on the documents you'll need and how to handle travel emergencies. Blogger BrilliantTrips points out that you should click on the "To Go" tab in the top right-hand corner of the Students Abroad site. There, you'll find a print-and-go card listing emergency info, plus, handy prep-and-packing lists.
It's not too late to book a stay at a national park in the U.S. While more people may be traveling closer to home this summer, the number of people visiting the parks has been on dropping as a trend—down about 5 percent to 273 million visitors last year, from a peak in 1999. What does this mean? Last-minute planners can still find space in lodges. The key is to use online tools. For example, Xanterra.com, an online reservation site for several national parks, recently showed openings on the second and third weekends in July at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Similarly, weekends in mid-August were recently still available at Lake Yellowstone Hotel and Cabins at Yellowstone National Park.
Speaking of parks, California state parks have received a budgetary reprieve. In March, we blogged about how dozens of state-run parks were in danger of being shut down because of financial pressures. Well, the current budget plan now includes enough funding to keep most of them open, according to the LA Times Daily Travel & Deal Blog.