20+ Tips for All Kinds of Eco-Travel
Have you been considering eco-travel? While most of us opt not to travel often or far in our efforts to live sustainably and cut down on emissions associated with long distance travel, especially when it comes to flying, there are times when it may be necessary: the holidays, business or other special occasions, for instance.
And then sometimes travel is the way you connect to the earth, celebrate culture, or even give back to global communities through volunteer efforts. Of all the footprints I can and do minimize, travel is one of the things that ranks high on our values and priorities list.
If you're planning on traveling any length of distance now or in the future, here are some tips to make it as green as possible.
General Eco-Friendly Travel Tips
The less you pack, the more fuel-efficient you'll be because the less weight you have to move. This goes for any method of eco-travel transportation: bus, car, plane, etc.
Try to keep your luggage to one carry-on size bag. It may seem impossible, but if you search Pinterest or YouTube, you'll find lots of tips for maximizing a small amount of luggage space by choosing the right clothing pieces that complement each other well. You can often leave some things at home, too, like your hair dryer. Those can usually be found in the hotel instead. (I still bring my own toiletries, as descried below.)
Perhaps you're planning a family reunion, wedding, or other event. If you happen to have a very large family spread out across the US, see if there might be a central locale where you could all meet, so instead of the majority of the family traveling all the way from one coast to the other, you'll consider a place that gives shorter travel distance all around. The goal is less total miles for the group as a whole, so you'll need to weigh this out to see if it really applies.
If you'll be lodging in a hotel, try and find the greenest one possible. Ask things like:
- Are you 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?
- Are you locally owned?
- Do they use any local/organic food in their restaurant or breakfast buffet?
Along with what the hotel does, here are a few things for you to do:
- Turn off and unplug all the appliances when you leave the room.
- Minimize use of A/C and heat, just as you should at home.
- Opt out of daily housekeeping and fresh sheets and towels to save on energy and water.
- Bring your own toiletries, rather than using the pre-packaged, disposable little bottles.
- Bring your own mug and use it instead of the paper cups (or ask for a mug from the kitchen).
- Recycle: A quick Google search of "recycling dropoff in [city name]" will tell you where to go if the hotel doesn't offer recycling.
Just because you're "traveling" or on "vacation" doesn't mean that you should have to compromise your values. Eating organic and locally like you do at home can be done anywhere, as with recycling, walking to the grocery store instead of driving, purchasing less, etc.
In general, attempt to live just as you do at home, with just the same efforts at being green.
Eco- Travel Tips by Transportation
The Best Eco-Travel Options
Whenever possible, opt for bus or train over planes for long distance eco-travel. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), two people traveling by bus instead of air can reduce CO2 emissions anywhere from 55-75% depending on the length of the trip. A bus is even better then using or renting a hybrid car and should use just half the emissions the two would build up in the car.
Traveling by Car
For greatest fuel efficiency, make sure your tires are correctly inflated, the oil is changed, and your car has had a recent tune up. Drive like you're not in a rush, even if you are. The more aggressive you drive, the lower your MPG will be. If possible, see if you can find rideshares or carpool with others who might be headed to the same area. You'll save on gas in addition to lowering negative environmental impact, and you might make some cool new friends. Read here for more tips on improving fuel economy.
Traveling by Air
If you're traveling by air, you may want to consider purchasing carbon offsets that can help balance out the negative impact your air travel will create. Some airlines will even give you the option to purchase your offset at the time of purchase of your tickets! When applicable, try to get flights with Virgin, Continental and Horizon, the top three rated green airlines based on a variety of factors. Also, opt for electronic tickets over paper and try to find flights that have in-flight recycling options to add to your eco-travel efforts.
Regardless of how you're traveling (even if it's just your day-to-day commute), please consider offsetting your footprint with eco-travel carbon offsets. With a company like TerraPass.com you can purchase credits equal to the amount of travel you've done; these credits go toward eco-friendly initiatives and projects.
Remember, little things add up, as do our bigger choices. If you're remaining mindful, eco-conscious, and oriented to your values, you can travel without the guilt!
Share your eco-travel tips in the comments below!
Freelancer, Jocelyn Anne, is a green content writer for Air & Water, Inc. and covers everything from energy efficient appliances to eco travel.