When it comes to being environmentally responsible, travelers often find themselves in confusing situations. Air travel, hotel stays and eating out are intrinsically bad for the Earth, yet these things are hard to avoid when on the road. So in honor of Earth Day, here are a few quick and easy ways to reduce your footprint while traveling. These tips will not only help you go green, but many of them will save you some green, too.
Ditch The Plastic Bottles
On the road, it's easy to quench our thirst by reaching for drinks in plastic bottles. But the environmental impact of using these "disposable" containers comes with a far bigger price. Consider taking a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go, or at the very least ensure your plastic bottles get put into a recycling bin.
Plan to Go Green
Seek out hotels and tours that carry environmental friendly certifications or memberships. Although the level of "greening" can vary, these companies may participate in water conservation programs, may reduce energy consumption through fluorescent lighting, and may only use local foods and more. Besides selecting accommodations at these types of hotels, travelers can reduce their impact by booking hotels close to public transportation.
There's some simple math involved here: the lighter the plane, the less gas is used. Take any nonessential items out of your suitcase, which might include guidebooks (especially if you can download a travel guide), and remember to pack layerable clothing instead of separate outfits for each day. Sure, it might not seem like just a few articles of clothing can make a difference, but every little bit counts.
Walking isn't only good for your body, it's also good for the environment. This mode of exploration is also the best way to discover things you might not have noticed, especially in new cities where you might want to take in your surroundings at a slower pace. If walking isn't an option, public transportation produces less carbon emissions.
Purchase Eco-Friendlier Souvenirs
The things we bring home have an impact, too. Put money into the local economy by seeking out souvenirs from local artists and craftspeople instead of purchasing magnets and postcards that are likely imported from another country. Never purchase anything made out of a scarce natural resource, and if you think a flower or seashell is beautiful, take a picture of it. For example, in the picture above I was tempted to take home some black sand from a beach in Ecuador, but instead I'll always have this picture. By focusing on memories instead of physical objects, you'll leave feeling much better.
Do Your Homework
Before you go, do a little research about the environmental concerns of the location you're visiting. In many places, water is a scarce environmental resource, and should be used sparingly (and we don't just mean not always requesting clean towels in your hotel room). In other locations, recycling programs and even trash disposal are unavailable. If you do your homework before setting off, you'll land with a greater understanding of the place you're visiting, and hopefully that outlook will rub off on other travelers and locals.
[Photo by blogger Libby Zay]
Filed under: Learning, Ecotourism, Consumer Activism