Eco-Friendly Travel: 13 Ways to Travel Green
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”
But, the real question here is, how do you intend to become rich? By stealing from nature or by giving back to it?
Who doesn’t love a little adventure once in a while? However, while we explore nature’s beauty, our footprints do a lot more than leaving a mark on it.
Did you know you leave a carbon footprint every time you take a flight or do something as simple as eating food in a hotel? Vacation or staycation, the ripple effect of your little escapade is quite huge than you might think.
Many travel buffs are blissfully ignorant about the negative environmental impacts of their addiction. That said, we are not asking you to ditch your dream trip. Instead, we want to help you make sustainable choices along the journey.
From planning the entire trip to actually going on it, here are some insightful tips that will guide you at every step to pull off an eco-friendly excursion.
#1 Opt for Eco-hotel
Admittedly, there are not many hotels dedicated to sustainability out there. However, you can always use a green booking engine to find one. For instance, the TripAdvisor Green Leaders program and Green Pearls showcase a variety of hotels that offer a unique sustainable experience.
#2 Check for green certification
If you’re planning to travel in the U.S, check if the hotel is LEED certified. The certification program verifies ‘green buildings’ on the basis of several features covering design, construction, operation, and maintenance. Here’s a detailed guide to finding a LEED hotel.
#3 Do your Hotel Homework
Dig deeper and find out how actively a hotel carries out sustainable practices. You wouldn’t want to be a victim of greenwashing.
Here are some tips that will offer you a good start:
- Find out if the hotel conducts recycling and waste-reduction program.
- Inquire about the hotel’s sustainability initiatives, including energy-efficient lighting, solar panel installation, low-flow faucets, water conservation, and green bath amenities.
- Go over the hotel’s menu and food practices to see if they integrate fresh organic produce and other natural ingredients that offer a healthier and sustainable food experience.
#4 Break up the routine with a road trip
If your destination is not too far away, consider taking a road trip with your family and friends. It is eco-friendly compared to train and flight. Besides, nothing can beat the thrill and adventure of a road trip.
However, before you hit the road, ensure that the car you choose consumes less fuel and produces fewer carbon emissions. Try renting a hybrid or an electric vehicle.
#5 Trains before Planes
By choosing train travel over flying, you cut down on carbon emissions by 90%.
The aviation industry is claimed to be one of the fastest growing contributors to climate change, with 4% to 9% of total climate change contribution by humans.
#6 Fly Smart; Fly Green
Air travel doesn’t exactly promise an eco-friendly experience, but with careful forward planning, you can minimize the environmental cost of flying.
- Avoid connecting flights if possible. It’s the takeoff and landing that causes most of the carbon emissions.
- Save paper by requesting tickets and boarding pass via email. Simply scan the ticket on your phone and you’re good to go.
- Balance out your carbon cost of traveling with offset credits. Popular airlines, like the Emirates, United Airlines, and Delta Airlines, offer carbon offset programs to even out your carbon footprint per travel. The company basically evaluates the carbon emission associated with your flight and the monetary equivalent that you need to pay. The amount paid is then funded to reduce greenhouse emissions, plant trees, and similar environmentally-friendly activities.
- Bring your own snacks, reusable napkins, and travel cutlery set (except the knife, of course) to avoid paper and plastic products offered during the flight.
#7 Downsize your vacation wardrobe
Everybody wants to look good and feel comfy on a vacation. However, that doesn’t mean you should fit your entire wardrobe in a suitcase. Carrying around excess baggage demands excess energy – both from you and the plane.
Pack light and ditch all the ‘just-in-case’ clothes and accessories. If you want to take it up a notch, try the travel capsule wardrobe.
#8 BYO reusable travel essentials
- Always carry a reusable bottle to avoid plastic coffee cups and water bottles on the trip. Additionally, pack a portable water purifier to treat low-quality water – especially when you’re camping or hiking.
- Prepare a day pack with reusable utensils like a bowl, cup, and cutlery set to eat at local markets and authentic food joints.
- Bring a mason jar along to carry compostable food waste created along your journey.
- Reusable tote bags are a must-have travel accessory for shopping and carrying souvenirs.
#9 Pack Travel-size Toiletries
Those mini shampoos and toiletries are too darn cute to turn down. But, the environmental cost of using them is too high. The unused soaps and shampoo bottles are usually tossed into the trash.
Skip the freebies and do this planet a favor. Pack your own toiletries in reusable, TSA-approved containers. Make sure they do not take up too much space though.
#10 Follow Eco-Etiquettes at the Hotel
The quintessence of living sustainably at a hotel is to live like you’re at home. Why go reckless with your carbon footprint just because you’re at someplace new? Treat your hotel room just like your own house. This simple mind-shift will help you a long way down the green road. Start off with these basic eco-etiquettes:
- Request to skip housekeeping. Declining housekeeping services equals less energy use, less water use, and less waste generation. In fact, many hotels offer incentives to skip housekeeping. Simply hang a “Do not disturb” sign on your door.
- Limit energy use. Turn off all the energy sources before leaving your room. This includes tv, lights, and heater/AC.
- Take shorter showers. Showers will help you save water. Baths use up to 70 gallons of water, whereas, showers consume 10-20 gallons. Additionally, turn off the water while you shampoo, shave, and brush your teeth.
- Avoid laundry services. Hotel laundry usually washes clothes separately for every guest, which subsequently consumes more water. Try wearing clothes multiple times and use the service once a pile of dirty clothes is ready to be washed. If possible, try to avoid the hotel laundry at all, and wash all the clothes once you’re back home from the trip.
- Reuse towels and sheets. Do you change your sheets every day, or use fresh towels thrice a day at your home? Yeah, we didn’t think so.
- Take the leftovers home. In case you forget to bring your own toiletries or, for whatever reason, you had to use hotel offerings, make a note to bring the unused soap, shampoo, and toothpaste home. You can reuse the toiletries and bottles or donate them to organizations dealing with homelessness and sanitation issues.
#11 Prefer walking, biking, or public transportation
They offer a cheaper and eco-friendly means to get around the city. You get to save a few bucks, interact with the locals, and cut down on gas usage. It’s a win-win!
#12 Eat and drink local
Eating authentic food sourced from natural and native ingredients is altogether an exquisite experience. Grab this opportunity to support the local community. Moreover, having food at familiar global restaurant chains involves more carbon emissions as the food is usually imported from far away locations.
#13 Shop sustainably
Prefer locally-made products over imported ones. They have an authentic touch to them and reflect the indigenous culture. Most importantly, handmade items cause a lesser negative impact on the environment.
Avoid buying any item made unsustainably, like products made from endangered species or ancient artifacts. Also, do not forget to carry an eco-friendly bag to hold all the souvenirs.
Which are your favorite green travel tips? We’d love to know your ideas on spending an eco-friendly vacation. Share with us in the comments section below.