Adopting a more environmentally conscious lifestyle has become second nature for many of us, whether we're drastically reducing our consumption of single-use plastics, conserving water by taking shorter showers, or choosing to carpool on our daily commute. But what happens when we go on vacation, and stray from our daily routine? It’s all too easy to slip back into those old habits of convenience (especially when we’re weary from jet lag or dealing with a couple of screaming children on a long road trip - ouch), but with a little extra planning and organization, we can still take steps toward reducing our carbon footprint while traveling.
Here are some of our favorite ways to make travel a bit more eco-friendly this summer:
1. Bring Your Good Habits With You. Just because you’re heading somewhere unfamiliar doesn’t mean you can’t keep up some of your good habits from home - when packing your carry-on bag, make sure to include your trusty BPA-free refillable water bottle for hydrating on the go (many airports and hotels even offer filtered water stations these days), a fold-up reusable bag to avoid single-use plastic ones when shopping, and even some reusable metal straws or cutlery if you’ve got them. And when leaving your hotel room before a day of sightseeing, don’t forget to turn off all the lights and appliances - just because you’re not the one paying the electric bill doesn’t mean you should waste electricity.
2. Book Flights Thoughtfully. Before booking a flight, be sure to do your research - not all airlines and flights are created equal. For starters, some airlines are doing a lot more to offset their carbon footprint than others, so be sure to check out an airline's sustainability report before choosing a carrier. Also, try to book direct flights when possible, as takeoff and landing create the bulk of carbon emissions in air travel - sometimes paying a few extra dollars for direct may be worth it, both for your sanity and for the good of Mother Nature.
3. Pack Light. Reducing the amount of stuff you carry with you on a trip will not only make it easier for you to move around your destination unfettered, but it can actually help reduce your footprint at the same time. It’s simple when you think about it - the less weight your plane or car has to carry, the fewer carbon emissions are created. So next time you’re packing for a trip, think twice before tossing in that hairdryer or extra pair of heels - you look gorgeous the way you are, anyway!
4. BYO Meals + Snacks. Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile, you can do some serious good by bringing your own food along with you. Not only will you feel so much better when you consume a healthy meal made at home, but you’ll avoid putting another plastic or (gasp) styrofoam container into a landfill. Nobody really needs to be eating overpriced airport or rest-stop food, anyway - your body and your wallet will thank you later. We love to pack a little bag full of healthy snacks whenever we’re traveling to keep our energy levels high and to help fend off hangry tantrums (both of the toddler and the adult variety) - and of course, that bag includes plenty of our single-serve nut butter packs!
5. Use Public Transportation. When possible, take advantage of public transportation once you’ve reached your destination. It may take some pre-planning (like downloading maps and schedules to your phone before you arrive), but you’ll get an immediate feel for the city while saving money and reducing strain on the environment.
6. Be Selective About Where You Sleep. Staying at a hotel can be one of the biggest environmental strains of an entire trip (think of all the linens that need to be laundered, all the little plastic bottles of shampoo, and all the electricity it takes to run such a huge operation!) - but it doesn’t have to be. Before you book your stay, spend a little time searching for an eco-friendly or LEED-Certified option. Many hotels are taking the extra steps needed to offset their carbon footprint through the use of renewable energy, recycling programs, energy-efficient lighting, and nontoxic cleaning products, all without sacrificing the luxury you’re looking for in a hotel stay. Or, to keep it even greener, consider staying with a friend or renting a home from a local resident through VRBO or Airbnb.
7. Shop & Eat Local. You spent a lot of time organizing your trip, and you're probably shelling out good money to be there, so why not take the plunge and immerse yourself in local culture? By choosing smaller, neighborhood restaurants that source their food locally, you’re not only getting a unique taste of your destination, but you’re helping to support local agriculture and reducing the distance your food had to travel to get to your plate. The same goes for purchasing souvenirs - look for items that were locally crafted or handmade. You’d be surprised to find that many kitschy tourist items, especially in hotspots like the Colosseum in Rome or the Tower of London, were actually made in China!
While travel can be a huge strain on the environment, it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences in life! Fortunately, with a little extra work done ahead of time, we can help offset our impact and still take the opportunity to explore this beautiful Earth that we’ve been working so hard to preserve.