Green your absence. Green your trip.
Listen to my Travelin’ Green Divas podcast—I talk to Green Diva Meg about how to make your travel adventures the healthiest and greenest they can be. Then read on for the ultimate green travel checklist…
Here’s how any green diva (or dude) can turn a trip into green travel.
Before you go …
Be direct & plan to go longer. Choose a direct air flight, if possible. These spew less carbon into the atmosphere than flights with stopovers (it’s not just the extra flying miles—takeoff is the most fuel-intensive segment of any flight).
Be carbon neutral. It’s not the perfect solution (not traveling would be, but who wants that?). Still, when booking your flight, car rental, even your hotel stay, offset the carbon emissions your trip will create. Remember that everything counts when it comes to reducing climate change.
Rent a hybrid or biofueled car. Public transportation is the greenest choice, but if you rent a vehicle, major car rental companies now offer green vehicles in many U.S. locations. Search the Web for independent car rentals that offer green vehicles. Choose the most fuel-efficient model that suits your needs.
Pack organic toiletries. Whenever possible, use refillable containers to take home again.
Leave the excess at home. Recycle everything excess, like the tags and wrapping on that new outfit, before you do your packing; anything disposable in plastic, especially, leave behind.
Bring a green shopping bag. Reusable shopping bags made of recycled materials are easy to pack and make a convenient carry-on for airplane snacks and other items.
Bring green beverage containers. Avoid adding all those empty water or other beverage bottles to the waste stream by refilling your own container from larger sizes.
When you’re there…
Don’t be bashful—ask questions. Ask restaurants if they use local, organic ingredients. If traveling in a group, ask your tour company about their green practices and how they respect (and give back to) the local community and culture.
Buy local and organic, choose sustainable seafood. Support local farmers and others who are green. It’s a fact that organic food packs more cancer-fighting antioxidants! Ask your server or fishmonger for seafood that is local, not over fished, or is responsibly aquacultured. Sustainable means fishing local waters only in the proper seasons, without seriously depleting fish stocks or damaging the marine eco-system.
Stretch the linens. OK, every decent lodging does this now, but do take seriously your invitation to reuse your sheets and towels, and do so for at least 3 days. If everyone did, we’d save oceans of water and energy in the laundry room.
Time that sunscreen! Buy a biodegradable, natural brand of sunscreen and apply it at least 30 minutes before you hit the beach. If you wait to slather it on just before diving in, even many of the waterproof varieties will add to coastal pollution. (On super crowded beaches, you can actually smell and taste the sunscreen oil slick.)
Conserve your energy. The cheapest and most energy-efficient light and heat source is often right outside your window. Turn off—better still, unplug—electrical appliances such as televisions, radios and computers when you’re not using them. As much as 75 percent of a product’s electricity use can be in standby mode. Upwards of half a building’s power bill can go toward air conditioning. Take a shorter shower, not a bath.
Go green from Point A to B. Whenever possible, take the stairs, not the elevator or escalator; walk or bike. Good for you, good for Mother E. And, hey, why not take the first parking space instead of circling for 20 minutes in search of the “perfect” space? Try out the bus, train or trolley and enjoy rubbing shoulders with the locals along the way.
Recycle it. Fortunately, recycling bins for bottles, aluminum, plastics and paper are increasingly common; use them, obviously. But lodgings lag in providing them for guests in their rooms. If they aren’t in evidence, ask your innkeeper to recycle items for you.
Respect the human & natural environment. Act always like a guest at someone’s home (because you are). Treat locals with courtesy and local custom with respect. Admire but don’t disturb native plants and wildlife—and never get so close to a wild animal that it reacts to your presence.
Get involved. Write a letter to the editor of a local publication on a green issue where you’re traveling—the opinion of a visitor, especially in a tourist-dependent locale, is often taken very, very seriously. (Example: In Hawaii, the multinational corporations that dominate the genetic engineering industry are conducting experimental open-air field trials of genetically engineered crops. If you are concerned about the effects these GMOs may have on the state’s fragile environment, public health and local agriculture, why not let your voice be heard?)
Volunteer for a green cause. Add an extra dimension to your travel experience (and do some good in the process) by spending a day or even an afternoon volunteering with a local green organization. Opportunities abound in many locales.