You sort your trash and recycle magazines, newspapers, glass and plastic. You recently created a compost pile in the backyard. Your thermostat is programmed for ultimate fuel efficiency and you just bought a hybrid car. Shouldn’t you continue the same eco-friendly practices on your next vacation? Eco-friendly tourism and green travel are huge buzzwords these days. But, this doesn’t mean you have to sleep in a hammock under the stars with your suitcase in your lap. You can still enjoy the comforts of home and relax in luxurious style on your next vacation, while continuing your eco-friendly and green practices wherever you travel.
This green travel guide is designed to jumpstart your plan to be eco-friendly at home and abroad-or anywhere you travel.
Let’s first start with the basics: Packing
The goal is to pack all of your items in one carry on bag for every trip. The less weight, the less fuel consumed, whether it’s by plane, car or train.
Packing tip #1: Pick a color scheme. I typically pack clothes that are black, white, and khaki-along with one pair of jeans. Each item can mix and match, thereby stretching the wardrobe options. I then accent with jewelry, scarves and accessories.
Packing tip #2: Buy moisture wicking t-shirts, shirts, and underwear from your local outdoor clothing store (like REI or L.L. Bean). You can pack just a couple and wash them by hand. They dry quickly overnight.
Packing tip #3: Check the weather for your travel designation. Know what the conditions will be in advance so you don’t over pack for chilly temperatures when it will probably be in the 80’s all week.
Packing tip #4: Lay out all of your intended travel clothes several days in advance of your vacation date. Then, each day try to remove one or two non-essential items. Last minute packing often results in over packing!
Packing tip #5: Tuck in several plastic bags to use for leftovers, avoiding Styrofoam containers. Reuse any plastic store bags to wrap shoes or use later for dirty clothes.
Packing tip #6: Instead of keeping the bathroom light on all night long in your hotel room, pack a nightlight to use in the hallway.
Wait…before you leave: Prepare your House
Adjust your heating or A/C to vacation mode. Turn down the heat to 65 or raise the thermostat to 80 for A/C. Just a few degrees will make a big difference on the total fuel consumption.
Unplug or turn off all unnecessary appliances (except fridge). I always unplug the coffee maker, toaster and any device chargers. I also insure that the computer monitors, printers, and assorted electronics are turned off.
You can also turn down the temperature on your water heater.
If you haven’t put energy efficient bulbs in all of your light fixtures, then at least put them in the lamps you’ve set with timers.
Research Your Travel Options
Does the city you plan to visit have plenty of mass transit available? Is your hotel convenient to the subway? Does the hotel follow eco-friendly practices? Here are some tips for how to research and plan your upcoming green vacation:
Research tip #1: Internet research using search words like “eco-friendly or green hotels” in city xyz will get you started. If the hotels you are interested in aren’t listed, call them and ask if they recycle, how do they use “grey water,” and overall, what energy efficient practices are in place. Do they have a hotel van for transport to and from the airport? And, is the hotel locally owned and operated or staffed mostly by locals?
Research tip #2: Find out about walking or biking tours at your destination.
Research tip #3: Don’t print an excessive amount of travel brochures, maps, and tour information from your computer before you go. Be selective about what you print. Do take advantage of e-tickets and any on-line coupons. Take notes, create an itinerary-complete with confirmation numbers, websites, phone numbers, addresses of places of interest and where you’ll be staying, save it in an email and send it to your hand held device.
Research tip #4: Know about all the local, state and national parks near your destination. Spend at least a portion of your trip hiking or exploring in nature.
Research tip #5: Determine all the eco-friendly vendors for everything from kayak or rafting trips to hiking or horseback outfitters that respect the environment.
Your Green Commute
Before taking off in your car, research any mass transit options. If none are conveniently available, consider renting a hybrid car-if you don’t already own one. While driving, remember to use cruise control, drive calmly, carefully plan your route to avoid wasteful wrong directions, and, of course, pack light to save fuel.
If flying, try to book non-stop, direct flights. The fewer take-offs and landings, the less fuel consumption and you’ll reduce emissions. When traveling to the airport, try to use an airport shuttle service that picks up multiple passengers at their homes. Or, if traveling with another family, carpool to the airport. Use e-tickets whenever possible.
During Your Stay
Continue your eco-friendly practices while staying at your hotel, bed and breakfast or inn. Your goal is to not waste hotel resources. Tell the hotel staff that you plan to re-use the towels for several days (just like you do at home!), and that there’s no need to change the sheets or clean the room every day. Put up the “do not disturb” sign and leave it there. Of course, take short showers, set aside trash items separately for recycling, turn down or off the A/C or heat when you leave the room, and turn off the lights when not in use. You should also bring your own toiletries in reusable small containers. If you don’t need that mini-fridge, unplug it! The same applies for any small appliances like the coffee maker or microwave.
When you purchase souvenirs, try to focus on items that are indigenous to the area and are made by local people using renewable or reusable materials-thus helping the local economy.
Overall, traveling green doesn’t mean it has to cost more green. In fact, many of these suggestions are helpful tips that can actually save you money in the long run. After all, it’s a lot cheaper to take a hike, walk, or ride a bike versus renting an expensive gas guzzling SUV to get you to your destination!