As summer approaches, your thoughts are probably turning to planning a vacation. If you’re already making eco-friendly choices in your daily life, there’s no reason to ignore the benefits of going green while on vacation. With some planning and creativity, you can enjoy a vacation getaway that’s as fun as it is good for the environment.
Choosing a Green Destination
Your vacation destination should be determined, in part, by how you plan to travel. In terms of carbon emissions, it may seem that driving is preferable to flying. Depending on the distance you plan to travel, this may not be the case.
Traveling on a full plane with a direct flight path is often more environmentally friendly than a long drive in a car or RV with frequent stops. A train is one of the greenest travel alternatives, if you’re not planning to cross any oceans and have some extra time.
Camping is probably the most eco-friendly type of vacation, especially if you follow “leave no trace” guidelines and minimize your impact on the landscape.
You can also look for eco-friendly hotels and resorts that embrace sustainability. Most green hotels have energy-efficient plumbing and lighting fixtures, and make an extra effort to recycle.
If you’re unable to find green accommodations near your destination, cut down on water and energy use by letting the staff know that you don’t need to have your sheets and towels washed each day. Make an effort to turn off lights, air conditioning and heat when you leave your room.
For more information about eco-friendly hotels in the United States, visit the Green Hotels Association website.
Before Leaving Home
When packing for your vacation, concentrate on reducing waste and recycling. Use refillable bottles for shampoo and other toiletries, and bring a reusable water bottle to avoid the expense and waste of plastic water bottles. If you’re worried about the quality of the water on your trip, bring along a water filter or water purifier tablets.
Use rechargeable batteries for cameras, flashlights, alarm clocks and other battery-powered travel gadgets.
Before you embark, take some time to leave your home in an energy efficient state. Unplug all appliances that won’t be needed while you’re gone. If you want to leave a light burning at night for security, put it on a timer. Turn off (or way down) heating and air conditioning, and make sure that all windows are closed and sealed tight.
Green Transportation, Dining and Shopping
When you reach your destination, seek out green modes of transportation. Rent a hybrid car, use public transit or add some adventure to your trip by riding a bike. And of course there’s always walking, which will allow you to see your destination up close and personal, all while protecting the environment.
Make your dining eco-friendly and enjoy local cuisine by avoiding chain restaurants and eating as much local food as possible. Visit farmers’ markets for fresh fruits and produce for snacking.
When dining in restaurants or ordering food to go, take only the napkins, condiments and other disposable items that you will actually use. Reduce food waste by carefully planning your meal orders.
If you plan to shop for souvenirs, buy items made by local craftspeople. Besides supporting the local community, you’ll be bringing home meaningful items that represent your destination instead of knick-knacks imported from other parts of the world.
Avoid typical souvenir shops and look for unique items offered by street vendors. You can also ask locals about the best places to buy regional treasures.
Make a Difference with a Volunteer Vacation
If you’d like to invest your vacation with greater meaning, consider a volunteer vacation. For example, the American Hiking Society is looking for people to spend a week building and maintaining trails in beautiful natural locations across the nation.
If you would rather volunteer in an international setting, the Conservation Volunteers International Program has volunteer opportunities in some of the world’s most spectacular environments.
Volunteer vacations allow you to help save the earth by leaving your destination a little bit better off than when you arrived.
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)
Erica Moss is the social media outreach coordinator for the Online Masters in Nursing program at Georgetown University, offering one of the nation’s leading nurse practitioner programs. Outside of work, she is passionate about community building, photography and University of Michigan football.