For the eco-conscious traveler, staying green on the road can present a wide range of problems. There’s little to buy in the airport that isn’t vacuum-sealed with plastic and unfortunately, bottled water is a necessary evil in developing countries. That said, there are still many options available, just as long as you consciously apply those green principles you use at home when you’re traveling.
Choosing a Hotel
Many hotels are slapping the word “green” next to their name these days, so be sure to use a resource like the Green Hotels Association to find properly vetted places. If you can’t find one in your destination and price range, take preventative measures, like leaving a note asking housekeeping not to change your sheets and towels unless you ask them to. Also, bring your own reusable water bottles and toiletries so the staff won’t have to throw out your partially used soaps at the end of your stay.
Just like at home, turn off all lights and electronic equipment, switch off both heat and air conditioning when you leave for the day and take short showers.
Getting There and Back
By far, the place where travelers have the highest environmental impact is on getting to and from their destination. You can offset some of those emissions by using a carbon exchange, by opting for the train if you’ll be traveling a particularly short distance (especially in Europe), or by renting a hybrid or electric car. No matter what mode of transportation you choose, packing light will use less fuel.
Once You’re There
Get to know the local culture by shopping for snacks in farmer’s markets, and make sure the products you buy really are local. Don’t take any brochures or maps unless you’re sure you’ll use them, and instead, use your smart phone when you can. If you’ll be out in the wilderness, stay on the trails and don’t touch the wild life. And, most of all, get around on your own two feet. Walking and also biking are great ways to immerse yourself in a local culture. Using public transport is another good option and will get you oriented to you new surroundings much more quickly than a cab ever will.
Staying green while you’re traveling is well within your means, as long as you think it through ahead of time and stay on your toes. Happy trails!