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10 Tips For A More Eco-friendly Vacation
Going green when you travel isn't just about what you do while on the road, it's also about the steps you take before you leave home. If you want to make it look like you aren't away to prevent burglaries, leave your lights on a timer. Also, make sure to unplug all electronics. Even if they are turned off, simply having them plugged in uses electricity. You should adjust your thermostat. If it's winter, set it to 60 degrees Fahrenheit to keep the pipes from freezing and in the summer, turn off any cooling systems. Additionally, it is beneficial to stop all newspaper and magazine subscriptions while away, and compost any fruits, vegetables, bread and flour products, and expired boxed foods before you go.
While camping is inherently eco-friendly, there are ways to leave even less of a carbon footprint. Try to carpool when going to the campsite. Once there, do your exploring on foot or bike only, making sure to stay on the trails and wear soft-soled shoes. That being said, the closer to home the campsite is, the better. When at the campsite, try following the "leave no trace behind" rule, meaning if someone comes to the site after you leave, they shouldn't be able to tell you were ever there. If there are no recycling bins around, bring the trash home with you to dispose of. While many people think burning the waste is a good idea, it actually contributes to air pollution.
For those who don't want to rough it, don't worry, as there are now many other accommodation styles that are also environmentally conscious. There are eco-friendly hostels, hotels, lodges and bed and breakfasts. Moreover, if you've never heard of glamping, it combines the sustainability of camping with luxury travel. You can browse eco-friendly glamping properties by clicking here.
With that being said, when traveling to another area, you as the visitor should also be helping to put money into the local economy. This usually happens to some extent just by being in the country as you're spending your money in that place, but not always. When purchasing souvenirs and clothing, check the label to see where it is made. Moreover, try to eat at mom-and-pop type eateries or restaurants where ingredients are locally sourced. This not only helps the local economy, it also reduces the amount of waste and fuel emissions from the shipping process.
Sign up for an eco-tour
Now an eco-tour doesn't just mean you go outside on the tour or you learn about animals. An eco-tour should be locally operated and allow for participants to experience nature in a way that is educational, while fostering an understanding of the environment. Furthermore, the tour company should concentrate on conservation as well as putting money into the local economy.
If you're looking to book a longer group travel tour, two of my favorite companies are Intrepid Travel and G Adventures. While there are many excellent travel companies out there that place an emphasis on the environment, I can personally vouch for these two as I have toured with them both. Throughout both tours, their commitment to the environment and local people was obvious, which I also felt helped me to understand the places visited on a deeper level.
It may sound weird, but the weight of your luggage actually has an impact on the environment. Basically, the less you carry, the less fuel needed to carry it and the less carbon dioxide emitted. Added benefits include less strain on your body, less money spent on checked bags when flying and less stress about losing valuables.
Take transportation that uses less fuel
While nobody is expecting you to walk from city to city - although, if you can, that's great - you can make better decisions when deciding on transportation. If you can help it, try not to fly to your destination. The height of the plane in the air makes it one of the worst transportation options. When you must fly, try to book a direct flight to minimize the negative impact. Additionally, opting for the train or bus over a car is a wise decision. However, for those times when a car is necessary, try to rent a hybrid, carpool or, better yet, do both. Once at your destination, skip bus tours, cab rides and driving and see as much of the city as you can on foot or bike. Not only will you be helping the planet, you'll be seeing more and having a richer experience.
If you're feeling adventurous, you can also opt to try one of the more quirky, planet conscious transport options, like a pogo stick, couch bike, pedal-powered kayak or a mechanical walking rickshaw.
Reduce the amount of laundry you do
While you may think you need to wash every article of clothing after every wear this isn't always necessary. I'm not saying if you just went on an intense uphill hike or went jogging that you should re-wear your outfit, but if you wore a shirt out to dinner or a pair of jeans to go walk around a church, does that really constitute a need to do a load of laundry? If you really must, opt to hand wash your clothing instead of using a washer and dryer. Also, when staying at a hotel, try to reuse your towels and sheets as much as possible, as this helps save water and energy.
Choose one destination and explore it more fully
While you may technically see more by bouncing around from city to city every other day, your experience is limited. Think about it. When you only have two days in a particular city, how much can you really learn about the culture and the sites? By choosing one place and spending your entire trip there you open yourself up to learning more about the place. Not only that, but less moving around means less use of fuel emitting transportation.
Recycle, even when it's inconvenient
Luckily, many hotels, hostels and guesthouses are catching on to the ecotourism trend and are implementing recycling programs on their premises. That being said, this isn't always the case. If your accommodation doesn't recycle, try to bring some of the trash home with you or find a place where you can recycle nearby. You can also drink from reusable water bottles to eliminate waste. Some good brands to buy from include Klean Kanteen, Bobble and S'Well. Furthermore, you should start thinking about recycling before you leave for your trip. Take the packaging off any new items and dispose of it before you go.
Use environmentally friendly gear
Everyday, travel companies are getting more and more creative with how they produce their gear. For example, you can buy items made from recycled and sustainable materials or solar-powered gadgets. Doing a bit of research into which pieces of gear are sustainable is also beneficial, and companies that make this easy for you are usually best. For example, Timberland puts an "Our Footprint" label on their products to help consumers make informed decisions. Additionally, opting for used items is also a good idea because it keeps these things from being thrown out. It's also great to support organizations trying to help the Earth. My favorite eco-friendly company is R.E.I. Their gear is not only high-quality, but also they donate millions of dollars to help conservation efforts each year as well as reguarly host trail cleanups, fundraisers and nature hikes. Moreover, they have numerous sustainable goals for the organization like becoming climate neutral in their operations and a zero-waste-to-landfill company by 2020.
[photos via aloshbennett, Beth and Christian, Jessie on a Journey, Ceslo Flores, Pop Top Lady]