How to Green Up Your Vacation
While environmental consciousness certainly starts at home, it doesn’t have to end there. Whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally you can still maintain a green lifestyle even on vacation. Being eco-conscious on vacation doesn’t mean you can only hike or camp, though those are great activities for nature lovers. However, if you’re not into either of those activities there are still plenty of ways you can reduce your impact on the environment.
Find An Eco-Conscious Hotel
Who says hospitality and sustainability cannot go hand-in-hand? Many aspiring hotel owners realize their guests are more concerned about the environment now than ever before. Many hotels have embraced the energy efficiency movement not only because it’s green but also because it saves them money in the long run. Of course other owners have gone a step further to create hotels that are as low impact as possible. One of the most well known eco-hotels is the Whitepod, which is located on the Swiss Alps. These “pods” run on solar power and only permit the use of skis or battery-powered ski-mobiles in the area. It uses a minimal amount of water and electricity which, in turn, produces less waste. Of course, plenty of hotels in major cities are also jumping on the green initiative. The best part is sites like expedia.com now have the option to search for eco-friendly hotels so it makes your search even easier.
Use Public Transportation or Rent Bicycles When You Can
Most major metropolises offer some form of public transportation to get around easily. Not only is it green it is also often faster to take trains or subways since most cities suffer from traffic congestion. If you’re visiting a foreign country, using the mass transit system might seem daunting, especially if you are visiting a country with an entirely different writing system. In that case, make sure you look up all of the information you need beforehand and try to memorize the characters for the stops you will visit. This will make your transit experience less stressful.
If you want to really explore a new city or town, renting a bike is a great way to get around. Many places offer day rates but often this is just for the bike. You might need to pay extra for helmets and bike locks. Just make sure you do your research beforehand and look at all the additional fees before making your decision. As well, some cities also offer bike share programs with numerous stations scattered around. Generally these do not offer day rates and instead charge by 30 minutes to an hour. If you don’t plan on biking the entire day this can be a great option. Of course, there’s always the excellent option of walking. Most cities are pedestrian-friendly and walking is a great way to find local watering holes, restaurants and galleries that might not be listed on any travel guides.
Rent a Hybrid or Compact Car
If you can’t get around without a car choose a hybrid or compact model. These will take you much farther on less gas. In fact the Fortwo Electric Drive car gets around 93 miles per gallon on the highway and 122 in the city. Even the most fuel-efficient standard car can’t hold a candle to this fuel-efficiency. Plus, with gas prices on the rise you’ll ultimately save a lot of money as you won’t need to refuel as often. To reduce fuel use even more make sure to:
- Drive no more than 65 mph. If possible reduce to 55 mph as that has allows for the best fuel economy.
- Reduce air conditioner use and keep the windows rolled up if you can. Instead use the flow-through ventilation system.
- Avoid driving during rush hour as the constant stop and start of traffic uses up a huge amount of gas.
Refill Water Bottles if Possible
Not all locations have clean tap water so this might not always be an option. However, if you are visiting an area with clean water running from faucets avoid buying bottled water as much as possible. If you must, some bottles the first day you arrive and then refill those bottles for the rest of the vacation. Not only are you eliminating unnecessary plastic waste, you’ll also reduce the impact you have abroad.
One of the best things about traveling is eating the local cuisine. When finding a restaurant to dine in, choose those that use locally sourced produce. Since the fruits, vegetables and meats are shipped in from farms in a 50 mile radius, the carbon footprint of these establishments will be much lower than those that ship produce from overseas. Plus, the money you spend will not only go to these restaurants but the local vegetable and meat purveyors as well. You can find a list of local, organic restaurants by searching the database of the Green Restaurant Association.
If you don’t mind cooking on vacation, one of the best ways to green up your vacation is to prepare your own snacks and food. Many cities have a Farmer’s Market where you can purchase fresh, local produce directly from the farmers, bakers and apiarists. Do some research to see when these markets are open and plan some time to visit them. You can easily find all the ingredients you need for a nice picnic on the beach, in a park or even at a highway rest stop. You’ll be supporting local business and reducing the amount of waste you produce since you won’t be dealing with disposable packaging.
There are plenty of ways you can make your vacation sustainable, but it’s all about how you operate. Something as simple as picking up stray trash or recycling bottles laying around on the ground can all help the environment even if the action might seem on the small side. And, of course, keep in mind that there are some destinations that should be off limits due to the fragile nature of the ecosystem. Places like the Galapagos Islands, Great Barrier Reef and Amazonian Rainforest should not be a tourist attraction as our presence can often do severe and irreversible damage.
Now that you’re armed with these tips, go forth and see how green you can make your next vacation!