Earth Day is past, but cultivating eco-awareness should be a part of our daily routine. When it’s time to leave home, consider the planet as you make your plans. These simple practices take little effort but can make a big impact on the environment — not just for Earth Day, but every day.
1. Start before you go
Unplug your electronic appliances when you leave home for an extended time, especially those with digital or LCD displays such as TVs or microwaves — these suck a lot of power whether they are switched on or not. The Department of Energy estimates that so-called “vampire” or “phantom” energy waste accounts for 5 percent of total electronic energy consumption in the United States. You should also make sure your thermostat is turned down or off, and reduce the setting on your water heater.
2. Book a non-stop flight
Planes use the greatest amount of fuel during takeoffs and landings, so choosing a non-stop flight can help reduce the amount of carbon your trip adds to the atmosphere. There are benefits for you, too: By avoiding transfers, you’ll get to your destination faster and you’re less likely to lose luggage.
3. Pack light
Not only will you save money on checked baggage fees, but you’ll burn less CO2 when you fly if you leave the extra outfits and sundries at home. The heavier the plane’s load, the more fuel it requires to take off and reach its destination.
4. Take your water bottle
Stay hydrated on your flight and avoid wasting multiple rounds of plastic cups by bringing your own H2O along. Keep your reusable water bottle with you as you travel to avoid buying costly and wasteful bottled water. Just remember to fill up after you go through security!
5. Use public transport where possible
“Carpool” by taking a shuttle from the airport to your destination, rather than a taxi. Ride the bus or train instead of renting a car, if you can. And walk as much as possible — it can be the fastest way to get around in big cities.
6. Rent a fuel-efficient green car
If you do need to rent a car, choose a fuel-thrifty compact or a hybrid, which are available in increasing numbers through many major rental companies. You can also choose to offset your rental car’s CO2 output by opting to pay a small fee: For just $1.25 per rental, Alamo, Enterprise and National pay TerraPass to offset the average rental’s carbon emissions.
7. Stay at a green hotel
More and more hotels are cleaning up their eco-acts. It’s easy to find those that embrace environmentally conscious practices on a variety of websites. Look for LEED-certified properties (the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). LEED evaluates hotels for sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality to ensure a whole-building approach to sustainability.
8. Turn off the lights when you leave your hotel room
Shouldn’t this be a no-brainer? You do it at home, so be just as conscious when you’re traveling. Even though you’re not paying the hotel’s electric bill, you’re still adding to your carbon footprint. Ditto for not leaving the heat or AC on when you go out, or wasting water when you shower.
9. Avoid souvenirs made from animal products
It’s sometimes difficult to tell whether that memento for sale in a shop or market may have come from an endangered species: handbags made from reptile skins, jewelry from marine turtle shells or carvings from elephant ivory. The smartest approach is simply not to buy objects made from exotic wildlife. Many animals are threatened by illegal trade, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
10. Give back when you go
“Voluntourism” lets you take a vacation and serve the planet at the same time. Work alongside children in need while you volunteer at a nursery school in Quito, or focus on helping people in need through opportunities like the Nairobi Children’s Home, dedicated to keeping the children of imprisoned women safe and off the streets. The opportunities are truly unlimited!
Have you got any additional suggestions for our “Greener Travel Guide”? I’m sure your fellow readers would appreciate them. Please add your comments below!