Advice for an Eco-Friendly Vacation
Environmental issues are an international concern, which means any eco-friendly practices that are done at home should travel with you. By definition, traveling green means traveling responsibly, paying attention to the ecology, and respecting the environment and sustainability of your travel destination, your travel practices and in your everyday travel plans. Traveling green may sound difficult or as though it may hinder your plans to just relax and not think about anything serious while on vacation, but traveling green is not time-consuming nor is it challenging. Here’s how you can easily travel green…
Eco-Tourism Is A Fit For Every Kind Of Traveler
Many travelers are keen to explore the great outdoors when they travel. And many more are eager to help protect the destinations responsible for their special memories. But traditional eco-tourism (traveling green) doesn’t carry broad appeal for every traveler. Many envision barebones accommodations and strenuous mountain hikes. But the truth is that any traveler can incorporate eco-tourism principles into their next trip and, in fact, may find their experience is all the richer for it.
Planning Your Green Trip: Protecting the Earth With Little Steps
- Whenever possible, buy your gear and guidebooks second hand. Not only will you save a lot of money, but you will also keep unwanted travel supplies from being discarded into a landfill. And there’s a very good chance you’ll get a higher standard of gear “pre-loved” than what you could afford buying new. Expensive specialist items like backpacking tents and ultralight parkas often resell for pennies on the dollar.
- Pack biodegradable toiletries. Chemical free, organic, biodegradable toiletries are kind to the environment and gentle on travel-worn, sensitive skin. “Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap” enjoys a cult status among environmentalists and fans of light packing.
- Bring along a lightweight, reusable shopping bag and keep it with your day bag. When you come across a lovely cheese shop, bakery, or farm stand, you won’t need a plastic bag to bring your treats home.
Cut Down on Waste
When packing for your trip, think of the three “Rs” of environmentalism: reduce, reuse and recycle.
Instead of purchasing bottled water everywhere you go invest in a reusable water bottle. While you are not permitted to pass airport security with a full water bottle, you can fill it once you have passed security, so carry it with you in your carry-on or attach it to your handbag so it is within reach. It is estimated that Americans discard approximately 50 billion plastic water bottles a year and only about 23% of those are recycled; not to mention even though many locations offer plastic bottle recycling, more often than not the cap is not recyclable.
In addition to a reusable water bottle, also carry a reusable shopping bag. This will come in handy during tourist shopping, or if you plan on food shopping while you are traveling. Tourists often throw souvenirs in their suitcase, so getting a new plastic bag with each purchase is a waste. Pack a reusable shopping bag in your carry on and it will be there when you need it.
Another way to reduce plastic consumption is to avoid purchasing travel-sized toiletries and instead invest in reusable travel-sized containers and simply fill them with the products you use at home. This includes shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, lotion, sunscreen, and hand sanitizer – just to name a few.
All of these products can easily be found at your local drug store or department store and once they are purchased you will never have to buy them again!
Related: Eco Friendly Products for Travel
Adjust your Heat or Air Conditioning
If you are not home for more than a few days an empty house does not need to be heated or cooled and consumes energy unnecessarily. If you can, turn the thermostat off completely, but if you have a house cat or fish that someone will periodically be checking on, simply adjust the temperature to a livable level.
If you are a frequent traveler consider investing in a thermostat that can be adjusted via an app or website. It’s easy, convenient and you may be surprised at the money you will save!
Visit the U.S. Department of Energy website for more tips on saving energy and money at home while on vacation.
Unplug Small Appliances
If no one will be home to use the toaster then there is no point in leaving it plugged in. Leaving lamps, televisions, coffee makers and even the microwave plugged are wasteful. Believe it or not, unplugging small and larger appliances conserves energy and saves on electricity costs since many appliances consume power even when they’re not on.
When You Arrive At Your Destination: Eco-Tourism in Action
- While on the road, support sustainable travel by spending your money responsibly. Choose hotels, restaurants, and stores that have a local base of ownership so more of your money stays within the community.
- Even if you think you’re past the days of crashing in a dorm room, consider staying in a hostel run by Hosteling International. Most locations have private rooms. Some even come with ensuite bathrooms. And all have an outstanding environmental record and are actively engaged in ways to reduce their carbon footprint. And travel insurance will protect your gear in a hostel just as it would in a hotel.
- Don’t forget that some of the most old-fashioned environmental tips are still the best when it comes to hotels. Hang up your towels after you use them so housekeeping staff knows they don’t need to be refreshed. Take advantage of programs that offer bonus rewards points if you forgo housekeeping. And turn off the lights and television when you leave the room. Mom would be proud!
Minimize your Carbon Footprint
You can minimize your carbon footprint while traveling by choosing green methods of transportation. This could mean renting a hybrid car or even just a smaller sized vehicle instead of a gas-guzzling SUV or choosing a nonstop flight to reduce the increased fuel consumption made each time an airplane takes off and lands.
Once you have arrived at your travel destination use public transportation as much as possible or combine trips so you are not driving across a busy city more than necessary.
Stay in an Eco-friendly Hotel
As the importance of sustainable living and travel becomes increasing important some hotels are accredited as green hotels. A quick online search will reveal a list of accredited hotels. Things to look for when selecting an eco-friendly hotel include whether or not there is a green sticker in the hotel lobby that signifies that it is an accredited green hotel. Also, look at what kind of recycling programs are in use and how the hotel works to reduce energy consumption i.e., are guests encouraged to use their towels more than one time?
If there are no eco-friendly hotel options at your travel destination you can still practice green habits by turning the water off while you brush your teeth, taking short showers, turning off any unnecessary lights, and adjusting the thermostat when you leave your hotel room. You can also leave a note letting hotel staff know that you plan on reusing your sheets and towels.
Environmentally Friendly Practices While Eating Around The World
- If water safety and cleanliness is a concern at your destination, research your options before you go. Bottled water is an environmental disaster, as well as an expensive choice. To make matters worse, it’s not always as safe as it looks. And relying on it is troublesome in the event of store closures. As an alternative, there are many extremely efficient water treatment devices that are built into water bottles for the ultimate convenience. Meanwhile, the time-honored method of heating water to a roaring boil and letting it cool in the fridge overnight is an easy, economical option for apartment guests.
- Decline unnecessary, single-use plastic at restaurants. Be proactive about refusing straws. Tell the cafe staff that you want to eat on real dishes. If nothing else, it’s a good chance to practice your language skills! Other plastic offenders to look out for? The bag that your (likely plastic) container of leftovers is put in, takeaway plastic cutlery (wrapped in its own plastic pouch) and all the little plastic containers for condiments. Keep your reusable market bag on hand, invest in a “spork”, and speak up before staff begins decanting every imaginable sauce into its own tiny plastic dish.
Invest in Travel Medical Insurance
What does travel insurance have to do with being an environmentally conscious international traveler? Everything. Just because you are traveling green, doesn’t mean you should travel without a quality travel insurance plan.
Imagine becoming injured or ill while traveling abroad and not knowing which medical facility or hospital you can trust to help you? With the right travel medical insurance plan, a quick phone call will give you access to a reputable hospital or doctor of your choice, saving you time, money and potentially reducing your carbon footprint.
If you plan on participating in eco-friendly activities while traveling, such as a cycling or tree planting, travel medical insurance will protect you should an accident or injury occur. You will not only have access to quality medical care but will also have Rx universal pharmacy coverage should you require antibiotics or other prescription medication.
Travel insurance can also assist you should a direct flight not be possible and you experience travel delays, cancellations or miss a connecting flight.
Investing in insurance is your best way to be protected against the worst-case scenario – even while traveling green. If environmental consciousness is important to you, ask your insurance provider if they offer paperless statements to reduce paper consumption. You can also ask if your insurance company donates to or volunteers with any environmental organizations or inquire to see how they encourage green travel within their own company or with their clients.
Related: Trip Cancellation Insurance
Leave Nothing But Footprints: Sustainable Exploring and Green Travel
- The most environmentally friendly choice – to walk – is also the most travel-friendly. It costs nothing at all, it keeps you in shape and helps to beat jet lag. And it’s the perfect way to discover the world. As a backup plan, make note of public transit options in your area. Buses and subways are an inexpensive, easy way to explore further afield.
- For long-distance trips, consider alternatives to flying, including buses, trains, and carpooling. They all offer a lower carbon footprint, arguably a more enjoyable experience, and they may even be just as time efficient.
- Only take what you need. A handy map and helpful coupon booklet are fine. But you don’t need a museum guide or promotional tourism magazine for every member of your family.
- When hiking and exploring nature, stay on the main trail to avoid damaging delicate plants or disturbing animal habitat. And consider organizing all your hikes to take place in a national park, where there are excellent resources on hand and you’re supporting a committed team of environmentalists. It’s an easy step to ensure your travel memories are all the more wonderful.