Planning a much-needed summer getaway this year? Whether you’ve only just begun hatching those vacation plans, or you’re already zipping up the luggage bag, don’t forget to keep your carbon footprint in mind during your travels! There are many simple and helpful ways to experience an amazing journey while still being kind to the planet.
1. Travel nationally first
Choosing to travel domestic automatically reduces fumes from airline fuel- keeping those trails of airplane pollution out of our skies -and is also significantly cheaper than international trips.
2. Choose train over airplane when possible
For long distance travel, choosing to travel by train dramatically reduces carbon emissions typically associated with aircraft. Eurail prides itself on eco-friendly travel, for instance, producing 3 times less carbon emissions per person than a vehicle, and 4 times less than an airplane.
3. Walk or ride a bike as often as possible
Be it a month-long escape to southern France or a 3-day getaway to Denver, reduce those pesky vehicle emissions by choosing to walk and/or bike during your vacation. Not only is turning down that rental car healthier for the environment…it’s healthier for you too! If walking or biking isn’t an option, consider using the local bus transit.
4. Make your car as energy efficient as possible
If a personal vehicle is an absolute during your vacation, consider giving it a tune-up: check the tire inflation, make sure the oil is sufficiently changed, etc. The more optimal your vehicle performs, the less waste is will emit into the environment. Also, if possible, consider carpooling or renting a hybrid car.
Book rooms at eco-friendly establishments
Certain hotel chains are dedicated to not only providing you with luxury accommodations, but with promoting the health of the environment as well. For example: here in Austin, the Habitat Suites Hotel offers organic gardens and solar paneled rooftops for sustainable energy. Several earth-friendly hotels exist in cities across the globe, awaiting your arrival! (Click here for the Huffington Post’s list of green establishments)
Sustainable Baby Steps provides a list of questions to ask your potential eco-travel hotel/hostel:
- Are they a member of the Green Hotels Association or do you have any other eco-friendly credentials?
- What does the hotel do to reduce consumption? (energy efficient CFL lighting, low-flow faucets and shower heads, solar energy, etc.)
- Can I opt out of fresh towels and sheets every day?
- Do they use any local/organic food in their restaurant or breakfast buffet?
Less luggage, less weight, less burden on the vehicle, and less carbon emissions. It’s as simple as that! Hostel Bookers gives a wonderful list of hacks for travel packing, and National Geographic demonstrates the true efficiency of the “roll vs. fold” method here!
2. Pack reusable containers and bags
Swap out those disposable Ziploc bags for containers that not only can handle a little jostling, but can be reused after a quick wash. Shampoo, toiletries, snacks…anything that can fit can find a safe home in a reusable container. Cloth bags/pouches are also better substitutes to plastics, and can be easily rewashed.
3. Pack reusable snack bags
Have too many on-the-road snacks to handle? Consider using reusable snack lunch bags, or purchase a set of reusable snack bags (yes, reusable!) for your gauntlet of travel food. Nixi, Planet Wise, and U Konserve are just a few examples of brands encouraging sustainable travel. Also bring along that reusable coffee cup, which is vastly superior to paper cups or disposable plastic cups along the way.
Engage in the local community
Food is an incredibly important part of traveling, so why not eat the best that the city can offer? Stop by the local farmers markets in the towns that you visit, sampling the freshest produce in their organic stock. This encourages an organic diet, an adventurous spirit, and the local economy (going straight to the farmers themselves). And who knows– you may wind up falling in love with something exotic!
2. Volunteer around the globe
Global Volunteers, Global Volunteer Network, and Cross-Cultural Solutions are merely a few foundations offering meaningful travel opportunities in the name of humanity, service, and cultural understanding. There are also international programs for volunteer work in animal care and preservation, for instance Go Eco and United Planet— and if you want to scratch that humanitarian itch within U.S. borders, look to foundations like the National Park Service and Volunteer.gov.
Going on vacation doesn’t have to mean taking a vacation from green living! Remember these tips, bring along that natural sunscreen, and enjoy your escape from the ordinary!