As we all know, taking steps to live as nature-friendly as possible isn’t always the easiest—especially when you’re on vacation. We’ve asked men’s lifestyle and travel blogger Joe Miragliotta of JoesDaily.com to put together a few easy ways to help make your travels a little greener.
Whether you’ve been working hard to live environmentally friendly for a while or you’ve just recently jumped on board, you know some adjustments are easier than others. Remembering to bring your own bags and coffee cups, navigating ingredient lists, and reaching for reusables instead of disposables can be a little tough when you first get started. Luckily, it only takes a few weeks to change or build a habit, and these are no different. But what about when we’re pulled out of those routines we’ve worked so hard to hone? Vacations are thought of by many as a time to let go, to be stress-free and even a little bit mindless. The good news is, continuing the green work you’ve been doing doesn’t have to ruin this philosophy. Below you’ll find 8 easy ways to make any trip you go on more eco-friendly—most of which you can take care of before you even leave, so you don’t have to worry about giving up that holiday mentality.
1. Travel Smart
Let’s start with how you’re going to get there, shall we? If you’re staying continental, go ahead and skip to the next paragraph. If you’re going somewhere far from home, however, it’s safe to say that there’s no better way to get there than by plane. Unfortunately, as you probably already know, flying can be pretty dirty. While you might be inclined to think that there’s nothing you can do about it, the truth is you can. First, aim to fly direct or with as few connections as possible. As it turns out, the highest rate of fuel consumption happens during climbing. While this does only account for a small percentage of the flight, cutting this time down to the bare minimum still makes a notable difference. Second, try to book with an airline that works to reduce its emissions and offers carbon offsets. There are actually a pretty surprising number of companies doing this but, should you not be able to swing doing business with them, you can always purchase them yourself from another party.
Now, for the type of traveling that doesn’t require a plane, try to go with the cleanest option available. Instead of rolling around in a gas-guzzling car opt for walking, biking, public transit, or train, depending on what the situation calls for. We live in a time where there are so many green options for getting around. Why not take advantage? And, in those circumstances where you really do need to travel by car, do your best to go for an electric vehicle or a hybrid. Worst-case scenario, those carbon offsets don’t require a plane ticket for purchase. 😉
2. Pack Light
While it might not seem like a big deal when you first think about it, the truth is the weight of the individual items you take along with you on a trip adds up pretty quickly in terms of fuel cost and subsequent emissions. (I could go into the math, but I think this interactive infographic presents the information in a much more effective way.) Imagine if everyone on an international flight or a road trip reduced their luggage by even 5 lbs. When you take into account that 2.6 million people fly every day in the U.S. alone—yeah, not even looking at other places or means of travel—it’s absolutely nothing to scoff at. As for what to cut out, start by looking at your clothes. If you can get them down to a capsule set of 5-10 pieces including shoes, you’re probably looking pretty good. After that, move onto toiletries and other similar items. Chances are you’re bringing along things that are unnecessary or could be swapped out for something multi-purpose.
3. Avoid Packaged Food
Even if you’re really good about your disposable waste at home, keeping up with it can be a challenge when you head out for a vacation. In fact, grabbing a plastic bottle of water when you’re out and thirsty is not only easy but can seem like the only option. Fortunately, there are a few super simple ways to set yourself up before you even leave. First, the budget for food can be just as much a part of your experience as anything else. Really, it should be anyway. Experiencing local cuisine is an important part of taking in any region, even if it’s only a few hours away from home. Planning to have real meals will make you much less tempted to grab something quick like fast food. For things like water, coffee, and snacks, pack collapsible containers that fit easily in any bag. If we’re all being honest, you’re going to have those inevitable middle-of-the-night cravings that always seem to happen when we’re away. Prepare with some fresh produce, keeping leftovers from one of your meals, or something bulk you grabbed from a grocer (both ideally packed in a collapsible/otherwise responsible container). Finally, should you find yourself going out for a drink, stick to locally-made products like “near-beers”, as the weight of all that liquid and glass is anything but insignificant in terms of transportive emissions.
4. Choose Responsible Hotels
Picking a hotel that has the environment in mind is another great way to make your trip nature-friendly. While you’re likely to have more options available in more heavily populated areas and cities, going green seems to be a quickly-growing trend in all of hospitality. There is quite a range as far as how different hotels are going about doing it as well. In some cases, like the URBN in Shanghai, they not only practice sustainability in the way of water and energy, they even built the hotel completely out of recycled and locally-sourced materials. In others, it’s taking steps to eliminate single-use items and offering incentives for customers to take their own steps like reusing towels, turning off lights/air conditioning, and denying a room cleaning. However they’re doing it, it’s exciting to see—especially because it means another tool in your eco-trip-planning toolbox.
5. Support Responsible Businesses
If you plan on taking part in any tourist-type activities (and you probably are,) be as conscious as possible about who you’ll be doing business with. If you’re unsure about where to start, it’s as easy as asking yourself a few simple questions. What kind of carbon footprint does this business probably produce? When it comes to tours, try to opt for walking and biking over driving and boating. Does the activity involve animals in any way and, if so, does it make life better or worse for them? If wild animals are caught and held captive for the activity, it’s probably best to steer clear. If the company says they participate in rescue and/or charity, awesome! Just make sure to do a little research to substantiate their claim. And what kind of impact will you be creating if you participate? The specifics here will really depend on what you’re looking into. However, if it involves creating a lot of waste or burning a lot of fuel, it’s probably not going to fit into the environmentally-friendly agenda you’re trying to stick to.
6. Souvenir Wisely
When you go on an incredible vacation, it makes sense that you would want to bring a piece of it back with you. While there’s nothing wrong with a spectacular snow globe collection, opting for practical items as souvenirs instead of ones that will inevitably wind up gathering dust or in the back of a junk drawer is definitely an ideal practice. When shopping for yourself, find out what the area is known for creating. Is it something you’ve been needing to get anyway? Picking up cloth napkins or a serving plate instead of a keychain or magnet might cost a little more, but it’s well worth it when you consider you’ll be getting a fun conversation piece and helping the planet as a bonus.
7. Bring the Right Toiletries
Especially if you happen to be staying in a nice hotel or resort where the soaps are nicer than the ones you have at home, it can be tempting to take advantage of convenient travel-size toiletries. Unfortunately, the price we pay for this convenience isn’t really worth it when you consider how many millions of those tiny plastic bottles make their way into a landfill every day. For the next trip you go on, invest in a set of reusable silicone bottles or even take it a step further and go for an all-bar set. It may require packing just a little bit more if you were planning on using what they have for you, but we’ll go ahead and say this trade-off IS solidly worth it.
If you’re really looking to go above and beyond with the idea of having an eco-friendly vacation, why not volunteer? While the entire trip doesn’t need to be dedicated to it, you could set aside a day or even just part of one to join the community and do a little good. You’d get to offset a little of your carbon footprint and get to know some awesome locals while you’re at it. At the very least, it won’t be an experience you’d be able to have any other way—not a bad way to spend part of a holiday.
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