As you know from reading my blog, I love to travel and have been lucky enough to visit five continents and 49 of the 50 states. One of the highlights of my travels has been the month I spent in Greece. Greece holidays are unforgettable, thanks to the golden beaches, alluring scenery, and exceptional accommodation found throughout the islands. But traveling to a place like Greece can also take a big toll on the planet. As you make your own summer travel plans, hopefully these tips will help you tread a little more lightly.
Reduce Your Environmental Impact When You Fly
* Fly Direct
There’s no getting around it. Flying has a greater environmental impact than pretty much any form of travel other than rocket ship! For starters, airplanes burn enormous amounts of fuel, especially during take off and landing. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends flying direct whenever possible to cut down on the amount of carbon emitted when a flight begins and ends. Fewer stopovers = less impact on climate change. Of course, if you have the option to travel by train or bus, or can bicycle or walk, you’ll reduce your carbon footprint significantly. But when you have to fly, minimize the stop-overs.
* Offset The Amount of Energy Your Flight Uses
Many airlines help “offset” their energy impact by contributing to projects that advance the use of solar energy and wind power. These “carbon offsets” aren’t particularly expensive, but over time, they can provide substantial support to a renewable energy initiative. Sometimes I’ve flown on airlines that offset their own flights; other times, the airline has given me the option of buying my own carbon offsets to compensate for the fuel burned during my flight. Before you book your tickets, check with the airline about the kinds of carbon offsets they offer. If it’s up to you to buy an offset for your trip, it shouldn’t add much to the cost of the ticket, and may be tax deductible if the offset program is being managed by a non-profit organization.
* Pack Lightly – The less you and other passengers take, the lighter the plane will be and the less fuel it will use. Bonus: lighter bags are easier to load into overhead bins or to lug up stairs in the event you end up at accommodations without elevators.
* Use E Tickets – Rather than print out a ticket, save paper and download your ticket to your smart phone or tablet and show that to the ticket taker at the gate.
* Don’t Forget Your Reusable Bottle or Coffee Mug – It’s easy to skip throwaway bottles and cups on a flight. I fill up my own water bottle before I board, and use my own mug for coffee or tea or drinks served on the plane.
Book a Green Hotel
* Choose a hotel that has been certified to be environmentally responsible by an organization like Green Seal, ENERGY STAR or Green Leaf. Many hotels will also describe the steps they’ve taken to reduce their environmental impact on their websites. Look for those that have installed energy efficient lighting, offer in-room recycling programs, reduce water and energy use by giving guests the option to opt out of daily linens and towel replacements, and recycle room toiletries.
* Stay close – Ideally, you can choose a hotel that’s located relatively near to the place you’ll be visiting so you can walk, bicycle, or more easily take mass transit.
* Self cater - As much as possible choose a hotel or inn that offers a self-catering kitchenette in the room so you can make simple meals there, rather than have to dine out every night.
* Save energy - Turn off the lights when you leave your room, and adjust heating and cooling when you leave for more energy savings. If your destination is a warm climate, close the drapes during the hottest part of the day. Or, if you have Venetian blinds, angle them up to bounce the sunlight off the ceiling and keep the room cooler. Conversely, let the sun warm up your room during the day if you are in a cooler climate.
* Use your phone or table for maps and directions - Otherwise, grab only the maps and brochures you’ll use while you’re visiting. If possible, return them to the concierge when your vacation is over.
Unplug Before You Leave Home
* Remember to unplug all appliances that don’t need to be left on. Those include TVs, VCRs, stereos, toasters, microwaves, computer printers and fax machines, and other electronics. Set your thermostat and water heater at low settings so that energy isn’t wasted while you are away.
* Cancel the paper – If you still have a newspaper delivered to your home, cancel it before you leave. You might like the idea of catching up on the news when you return, but I know from experience that I just end up recycling old newspaper because I don’t have the time to read them all. Plus, the news is OLD by the time I get home. I’d rather be up on what’s new.
Other Ideas? Do you pack you own in-flight meal in reusable containers? Rent a bike to get around when you arrive? Camp out rather than stay in a hotel? Please share your best recommendations for eco-friendly travel, especially by air.