As the high-travel summer season kicks off, we’d like to refocus on the environment: particularly, ways we can all make our travels a little greener.
The United Nations designated 2017 as The International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Even the more traditional travelers can make a positive difference to the environment during their adventures. A little extra thought in planning and a little extra effort during your travels can mean reducing your carbon footprint and traveling more sustainably while not missing out on experiences—and technology can really help. Below, some of the best (and easiest) ways to stay green while traveling no matter your destination.
1. Opt for ecotourism
Travelers who are serious about seeing the world while remaining environmentally conscious can explore ecotourism, defined as “environmentally responsible travel to natural areas,” by the Nature Conservancy. Ecotourism emphasizes conservation, education, traveler responsibility, and active community participation, and it is a wonderful way to explore our world without stressing its resources.
2. Know the impact of your long-distance trips
In many cases, airplane travel is indispensable, especially if your travels will take you overseas or across long distances. But with regional travel, choosing a train, bus or even a car over an airplane can go a long way toward conservation.
The stats: Two people flying in an airplane from New York City to Washington D.C. create a carbon footprint of 945 lbs., while those same two people driving that same distance reduces the carbon footprint by a third, to just 343 lbs. This calculator can tell you whether plane travel or car travel is better for the environment, based on your trip particulars.
3. Consider car, bus, or train travel instead of flying
Driving is definitely better than flying, especially if you can pack a few folks in one vehicle for your road trip. And traveling by bus—especially one that uses renewable energy—can mean 55-75% fewer emissions than flying. Trains are another environmentally-friendly option, and with Amtrak, you can even offset your carbon footprint.
4. Donate to offset your carbon footprint
If plane travel is a must, you can keep it environmentally-friendly by calculating the carbon footprint of your travels (both Delta and United “equate the size of a trip’s carbon footprint with a dollar figure,” writes the New York Times) and then donating to carbon reduction projects.
5. Let technology help you travel green
Technology (apps, websites, electronics, and more) can help the conscientious person travel their greenest:
- You can have a positive impact on the community to which you’re traveling by learning about its specific needs and bringing items that can help—let charity Pack for a Purpose be your guide: set aside some space in your luggage for supplies you can donate to community projects around the world (all tax deductible).
- Easily find the most sustainable flights and eco-friendly hotels (and compare prices) using Glooby. You can search in Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania, North and South America and popular cities within.
- Eating locally can mean an incredible reduction in emissions that would be used transporting your produce and other perishables. But while you might know all the ins-and-outs of eating locally where you live, while traveling, it can be more difficult. The folks at Locavore solve this particular dilemma with their app—”If you like eating local, this free app will be your friend for life,” writes Afar. With Locavore, you’ll get details about local seasonal produce and nearby farmer’s markets.
- If you absolutely must take a car in a city (rather than take advantage of public transit), UberPOOL and other rideshare carpooling options is a more earth-friendly choice.
- Make smart decisions when booking your trips: “Many environmentally minded groups including the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club and the WWF offer eco-trips and outings that strive not to harm natural resources, wildlife or people. Backroads and REI Adventures also offer tours that aim to be environmentally low-impact,” reports the New York Times.
6. Build good recycling habits
For local or international travel, familiarize yourself with recycling processes and the different types of waste bins. Some areas separate recycling for paper products, plastic, and cans, and many also have public compost bins.
7. BYOWB (ie. reduce water waste)
Bring your own reusable water bottle along for the airplane travel, the road trip, the hiking, and even all the sightseeing you’ll do. One reusable bottle can mean 35 fewer plastic ones added to landfills per person over a seven-day vacation. If you’re traveling someplace where bottled water is important, try a bottle with a built-in filter. You can also bring a travel mug for coffee and tea on the go (and you might even get a discount on your beverage, depending on the establishment).
8. Take it easy on hotel resources
- By now those little cards hotels leave in bathrooms sharing how many gallons of water it takes to wash sheets and towels each day are so familiar that they can be easy to ignore, but in the interest of the environment, we implore you, don’t. Laundry accounts for 16% of an average hotel’s water usage. Cut down on the laundry load, save water and other resources. Simple.
- Another way to be greener while staying away from home: treat your vacation lodging like you would if you were paying the electric bill—turn off lights you’re not using, take shorter showers, and keep the thermostat reasonable.
9. Take public transportation
If you’re traveling to a city with reliable public transportation, the greenest option is a no-brainer. One subway train in New York City transports many people into the city, meaning many fewer individual cars on the road. Check out the public transport options in your destination city before departing—you might be surprised what you find.
10. Explore a city by bike
11. Sign up for a group tour
Walking tours, bus tours, bike tours – heck, even segway tours – are excellent ways to see the sights while remaining conscious of your environmental impact. For some #inspo, check out National Geographic’s picks for top walking tours and Travel and Leisure’s 43 favorite walking tours around the world.
There are plenty of ways to see and experience what the world has to offer while not ruining the planet. How do you make sure you stay true to your environmental ideals while traveling?
Originally contributed to Credit.com