Many people regularly follow environmentally friendly customs at home but may be unsure of how to “stay green” when away. Conscientious tourists will add these effective ideas to their travel plans.
Green Routines before Departure
Before leaving on vacation, lower the thermostat, unplug energy draining electronics and cancel or donate the daily newspaper. Set energy-saving lights on timers for security and ecological reasons.
Stay at Eco Friendly Green Hotels
Look for green hotels with a real commitment to recycling and saving resources. Choose accommodations that have low flow toilets, water-saving shower heads and salt water swimming pools. Large dispensers for organic liquid soap, shampoo and lotions are better than wasteful mini bottles.
Most hotels already ask patrons to have linens and towels changed every second or third day. Some establishments go further, reusing grey water for outdoor gardening, planting a green roof and recycling plastics and paper in-house and from guests.
Key cards can sometimes be used to control access to the room and the power supply within. When guests enter, they must insert the card into a slot to turn on the electricity. When they leave and remove their key card, all power shuts off automatically.
If such a system is not available, turn off the lights, TV and air conditioning when vacating the room. If necessary for security, leave on only a radio and/or one light. Some hotels now use energy efficient light bulbs. Close curtains during the day in warmer climates to keep the room cooler.
Carbon Offset Programs Reduce Flying’s Carbon Footprint
When booking a flight, check the airline’s website for information about carbon offset programs. Air Canada, for example, has teamed with zerofootprint.net . Travellers can calculate the amount of carbon dioxide one’s flight will produce and then contribute to environmentally friendly projects that compensate, or offset those emissions by an equal amount.
Choose a non-stop flight, as opposed to a direct flight whenever possible. A direct flight may stop for refuelling or a crew change but passengers will not necessarily have to deplane. Non-stop flights are less polluting.
Travel with one carry on bag. On board, reuse the plastic glass for refills of water and cold beverages throughout the flight. Assist the cabin crew’s efforts to recycle newspapers and magazines.
Take Greener Transport Upon Arrival
Most major cities have rail links and express buses from the airport to the downtown core. Once in town, walk, bike or use public transportation rather than renting a car or taking a taxi. These options are more eco-friendly and less costly.
When drinking bottled water, buy one small bottle initially and refill it from a larger one as needed. This uses less plastic and also saves money. Rinse the small bottle thoroughly with a little soap or shampoo if worried about germs or contamination.
Support Sustainable Tourism
Before traveling, become familiar with the area’s culture and customs.
Many destinations have associations or markets that sell local handicrafts and wares. Support small businesses that conserve heritage and non-renewable resources. Avoid purchasing items made from endangered or protected species.
Take it easy when bargaining. Haggling aggressively to save a dollar or two is not worth the effort or the potential loss of goodwill. Ask permission before taking photos of people, especially children. Consider whether organised visits to isolated ethnic tribes will help or hinder their existence.
Buy and drink local beers, wines and beverages where is is safe to do do. For a unique taste adventure, dine at restaurants specialising in regional cooking rather than at international chain eateries. If the food is delicious, consider enrolling in a cooking class to recreate the experience at home.
Green Conservation Ideas for Globe Trotters
Bring a tote bag for shopping as many developing countries are big consumers of plastic bags. In addition:
- Take photos with digital not disposable cameras. If still using film, buy 36 exposures rather than 12 or 24. It’s better value and requires less packaging. Dispose of dead batteries responsibly.
- Don’t leave trash or cigarette butts on beaches, roads or heritage sites.
- When gathering information from tourism bureaus, take only the necessary brochures. Leave or recycle the rest for other travellers.
Share Earth-Friendly Habits Globally
It is easy to leave a small footprint when traveling. It also encourages others – individuals, airlines, hotels and tour groups- to do the same.