For many of us, it's not hard to reduce waste at home. We've got our recycling systems in place, our reusable bags handy for shopping and we know what restaurants and stores are the most environmentally-friendly. Not so easy when traveling, right? And yet we don't have to drown in a sea of our own waste every time we leave the comfort of home. It just takes the desire to travel lightly on the planet and a little bit of planning ahead.
1) Don't waste fuel. This is the big one since transportation is usually the part of traveling that has the biggest environmental impact. Consider vacationing closer to home to reduce fuel miles. Or taking an alternative mode of transportation such as train or even bike. If flying is necessary, try and book the most direct flight possible. The more times you take off and land, the more fuel you burn. At the end of your trip, consider offsetting your emissions through a program like Terrapass.
2) Yes, you CAN take your water bottle through security! In the U.S., we can take our empty water bottles through security with no problem and fill them up at the drinking fountain before boarding the plane. Really, it's true. I do it every time I fly and have never had a problem. I have heard, however, that the rules are different in the U.K., so if you're traveling outside the U.S., check before risking losing your bottle. And if your flight is long and you need more water while on the plane, ask the flight attendant to refill your bottle. According to artist Chris Jordan, one million plastic cups are used on airline flights in the U.S. every six hours! Your bottle can be the exception to this statistic.
3) Have a picnic on the plane. Airline food, when you can get it, is crappy, loaded with preservatives, and full of packaging waste. And the take-on food at the airport is overpriced and overpackaged. We can do better! Bringing our own sandwiches and snacks in reusable containers not only cuts waste but is much more satisfying and nutritious. It just takes a little extra effort before leaving the house. Just remember to skip soft foods like pudding or apple sauce that could be considered liquids or gels
4) Don't forget your headphones. Do you have a collection of airplane headphones gathering dust in your house? Bring them with you to use again. Airlines are different. Some collect the headphones at the end of the flight and reuse them. Others consider the headphones disposable and expect you to take them. Why not bring them back instead of adding a new set to your collection (or worse, throwing them away) each time?
5) Free toiletries come at a price. You may feel like the hotel "owes" you something extra, like little bars of soap or shampoo, but at what environmental cost? All those little plastic bottles and wrappers add up. Pack your own personal care products and leave the sample size for someone else. Either pack liquids and gels in your checked baggage to avoid problems with security or bring small amounts of each in reused containers inside your zip lock bag. Or skip the liquids altogether and bring bar soaps, shampoos, conditioners, and lotions. Yes, they exist. Check out products from Lush, Burt's Bees, J.R. Liggett, or the sellers on Etsy.com (shampoo and lotion).
6) Your travel mug is actually for traveling! I've learned from experience that cafes all over the country give a few cents credit for bringing your own mug. And credit or not, I've so far never been refused coffee in my own mug. Bring it on vacation and use it. Were you freaked out after watching that dirty hotel water glass video a couple years ago? No need to opt for disposable plastic when you've got your travel mug. While you're at it, bring your own reusable utensils, too. And you know those containers you brought on the plane to carry your picnic lunch? Yeah, you get the picture. You can continue to use them throughout your vacation.
7) And your reusable bags? Bring those too. No, I'm not talking about stuffing your suitcase full of heavy canvas shopping bags. But if you've got some nylon bags that fold up small (like ChicoBags, for example) bring them along in your purse. Unless you want to end up like me and husband Michael in Anaheim last summer carrying bread, cheese, and produce out of Von's stuffed in our shirts because we'd forgotten our bags. It's actually not as extreme as it sounds. We were only going across the parking lot to the car, where my backpack was sitting empty on the back seat. It seemed more extreme to waste a bag for such a short trip.
8) Choose a green hotel and leave the eco-anxiety at home. Nowadays, more and more hotels are taking steps to reduce their environmental footprint by saving energy, water, and other resources. In addition to asking that you not have your towels washed every day and using energy-efficient lighting, some take extra steps to reduce waste. Providing bulk toiletries from dispensers rather than individual containers, recycling as much as possible, composting food waste, and using reusable utensils and dishes rather than disposables are just some possibilities. Environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com and Rezhub.com are two of the services that allow you to search for and screen green hotels by a list of criteria which includes the services listed above.
Here are a few others blogging about green travel:
Linda from Citizen Green writes about the challeges of Traveling Green.
Lisa from Condo Blues details her Zero Waste Roadtrip.
Go Green Travel Green has answers to all your green traveling questions.
What are your favorite tips for reducing waste while traveling?
Beth Terry writes about finding creative ways to reduce her plastic consumption and plastic waste at Fake Plastic Fish and encourages others to join the fun. We only have one planet. Let's enjoy it instead of junking it up with plastic!
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