10 Ways You Can Travel Green, And Save Some Too!
“He who would travel happily must travel light.” – Antoine de Saint Exupéry
When hapless Lloyd Christmas and his equally befuddled sidekick Harry Dunne crossed the country on a minibike with little more than a backpack and a briefcase full of cash as luggage in the 1994 cult classic Dumb and Dumber, they unwittingly made one of the eco-friendliest road trips in movie history. While you certainly don’t have to go to that extreme, you can still take specific steps to travel green, reduce your carbon footprint and save money in the process! As world-renowned primatologist, activist and conservationist Jane Goodall once remarked, “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” As a matter of fact, sustainable travel is all about making simple and smart choices to lessen your negative environmental impact while vacationing. Therefore, by following these handy eco-friendly travel ideas, tips and tricks, you can not only travel green and do your part to help save the planet, but also save some green while you’re at it. Whether it’s the planet or your pocketbook, the time to save is now!
1 | Eco-Proof Your Home Before You Leave | Before you take a vacation, make sure you have done everything possible to ensure that your home is not wasting unnecessary energy while you’re gone. For example, adjust your thermostat and water heater to its lowest setting, turn off any running appliances and unplug your electronics, including TVs, computers and cell phone chargers. Don’t forget to suspend daily newspaper service while you’re gone. Utilize these eco-friendly habits while you’re on the road as well.
2 | Pack Light | If you pack light, you use up fewer resources transporting your luggage (thereby saving money on dreaded baggage fees if you are flying). Try to lighten your load by determining which clothes you can reuse during the trip or whether you have access to a washer/dryer. Don’t forget to pack a reusable water bottle, which will come in handy during your entire trip. (According to the Pacific Institute, the amount of oil used to produce plastic water bottles provides enough energy to fuel more than a million cars and light trucks per year.) Finally, make sure to pack your own shampoo, soap, lotion, etc. so you don’t have to use hotel toiletries and waste even more plastic bottles. To avoid using plastic bags during your trip, consider bringing your own reusable bags.
3 | Go Digital | By storing your boarding pass on your smartphone, you will save paper and time when you get to the airport. In addition, consult online travel guides and apps rather than carrying around those cumbersome printed travel guides that waste a lot of energy get produced. Also, instead of making copies of important documents like passports and IDs, simply take photos of them on your smartphone. If you must use printed maps and brochures, be sure to return them when you’re finished so other travelers can take advantage of them.
4 | Use Greener Transportation | If possible, opt for a nonstop flight, which will save you time and use the least amount of fuel. Also consider flying with one of the more than 30 International Air Transport Association (IATA) member airlines that offer carbon offset programs. For shorter trips, consider using buses or trains to get to your destination. Once you arrive at your destination, use public transportation as much as possible such as electric buses, subways and commuter rails. Look into the possibility of renting bikes or simply sketch out a plan to walk to nearby attractions. (By the way, according to CBS News, the “10 Most Walkable Cities in the United States” are New York City, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Miami, Minneapolis and Oakland.) If you must rent a car, choose the smallest model available and ask about the possibility of renting a hybrid or other fuel-efficient vehicle. Look for rental cars that are SmartWay Certified, a program initiated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to categorize the cleanest, most fuel-efficient vehicles.
5 | Choose Eco-Friendly Destinations | According to a recent landmark study in honor of Earth Day, approximately 87 percent of global travelers stated they want to travel sustainably (primarily with the goal of staying in green or eco-friendly accommodations). In addition, nearly one-third of American travelers are willing to pay more for green travel. According to Smarter Travel, you should seek out “destinations that make preservation and sustainability a priority.” Another great option to save energy is to simply take a “staycation” and vacation close to where you live. If you are considering traveling with a tour group, research businesses that are affiliated with respected organizations like The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Rainforest Alliance and others. Traveling overseas? Look for seals of approval from such eco-friendly certification programs as Green Globe, Rainforest Alliance, Green Tourism Business Scheme (United Kingdom), EarthCheck (Australia) and The International Ecotourism Society.
6 | Stay at Green Hotels | Do some research before you book your vacation and always choose environmentally friendly hotels during your travels (organizations like the Green Hotels Association are good places to start). Look for green building certification programs such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) to ensure that you are staying in a green hotel. Seek out hotels that use such eco-friendly practices as energy-efficient lighting, low-flow toilets and solar power. Several resort properties have initiated their own eco-friendly programs. For instance, Westgate Resorts has adopted an extensive green initiative by embracing many eco-friendly hotel concepts and adding green technology and cutting-edge energy conservation improvements to each of its resorts throughout the United States. In addition, many hotels and resorts provide guests with the choice of reusing their towels and sheets rather than wasting energy changing them daily. When in doubt, simply hang the “do not disturb” sign on your door to alert housekeeping not to enter your room. Here are some other energy-saving tips for use in your hotel room:
Don’t forget to turn off the TV and lights whenever you leave your hotel room.
Set the air conditioner/heat in your hotel room at a reasonable level.
Opt for showers (which use 10-25 gallons of water) over baths (which use up to 70 gallons of water).
Turn the water off while you brush your teeth and shave.
If traveling during the summer, make sure to close the blinds and curtains to help keep out the heat.
Take any leftover hotel shampoo and soap with you, since unused portions are normally just thrown away.
7 | Eat Local | Who wants to eat at a chain restaurant that wastes energy shipping food across the country when you could be sampling delicious local cuisine in a new destination? By enjoying the local fare at an independently owned eatery, you are saving resources while taking in the local culture. According to actress and activist Ellen Page, “I find a lot of people say, ‘Oh organic and local’s expensive and I just don’t have time.’ And I’m like, well how much TV do you watch? Where are your priorities right now? I always take the time to eat well and eat locally because it’s common sense.” In addition to eating local, try to patronize locally owned businesses for souvenirs to bring home such as arts and crafts rather than imports. Don’t just opt for a cheap T-shirt made somewhere halfway around the world that has a much larger carbon footprint.
8 | Recycle Trash | Did you know that, according to the EPA, recycling just one can of soda saves enough energy to run a 60-watt light bulb for 20 hours, a computer for three hours and a TV for two hours? Plastics require anywhere from 100 to 400 years to break down at the landfill and approximately 1 million years for a glass bottle to break down, according to the EPA. Therefore, do your best on the road to consistently recycle your trash whenever possible. Upon checking in at your hotel, ask the front desk if they have a recycling program and what it entails.
9 | Leave No Trace | Nothing beats a refreshing hike in the wilderness during a vacation getaway, but make sure to stay on marked trails at all times, keep a safe distance from any wildlife you encounter and deposit any trash you accumulate in designated receptacles. Learn the seven “Leave No Trace” principles for the great outdoors: Plan Ahead and Prepare, Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, Dispose of Waste Properly, Leave What You Find, Minimize Campfire Impacts, Respect Wildlife and Be Considerate of Other Visitors. The National Park Service, in general, has been severely stressed over the past few years by a major influx of visitors along with diminishing resources.
10 | Spread the Word | Share your green experience with others and try to convince them to travel responsibly. If everyone starts engaging in eco-friendly travel, green travel practices will truly go mainstream. As legendary Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once remarked, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
Going green is much more than a catch-phrase, if you really take the time to think about how the small changes you make can make a big difference. And most people would agree that you definitely want to leave a place looking better than when you found it, so the next time you're gearing up for a getaway, take this list to heart and try a few things,... because those few things might go a long way to keeping things green, clean and good for generations to come!
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