10 Tips on How to Travel Sustainably
There are countless reasons why travel is rewarding for the voyager. However, there are also many reasons why travel is detrimental to the environment. C02 emissions from flying, increased waste, and energy consumption are just a few of these reasons. I never really considered these facts until I came across a hotel that considered itself green. I was staying in one of the downtown Victoria hotels [in BC] and noticed that the hotel in question was a participant of a “Green Key Eco Rating Program”. It made me wonder about the burden of energy abuse when it comes to travel. Luckily there are many things you can do to offset some of the less desirable impacts of travel while still making the most of your time away.
Sustainability can start even before leaving your home. Take 10 minutes before you leave for the airport to walk through your home and unplug appliances that do not need to remain turned on during your time away. This includes TVs, computers, stereos, microwaves and any other appliances that drain energy even when they are not in use. As an added economic benefit, you will likely save some money on your next electrical bill!
Conserve Energy Abroad
Energy conservation should not end once you step into your hotel room. Just as you (hopefully) do at home, turn of the lights, heat/AC, and television when you leave the room. If you want to go a step further, you can unplug small appliances such as the coffee maker or even the TV when they are not in use. Hotels require large amounts of energy to function, so even small acts such as these have an impact.
Do you really need that 7th pair of shoes? Chances are you can go without them, and doing so can have a positive environmental impact. You can offset the CO2 emissions of flying by packing light. Lighter bags means a lighter plane, and therefore greater fuel efficiency. You will also save money on baggage fees!
Use Refillable Containers
Instead of stocking up on the travel-sized versions of your staple toiletries, invest in reusable containers. You can offset the waste (and the cost) incurred by purchasing travel versions of your lotions, shampoos, and ointments by filling reusable containers with a portion of the products you already own. NOTE: Ensure that the containers you get are within the size restrictions for air travel!
Reuse Your Towels and Bedding
While sometimes vacations are meant to be indulgent, there are some at-home customs that you can bring with you. Reusing the bedding and towels that are provided in your hotel room is one of them. Freshly laundered towels and sheets are fantastic, but they also require a great deal of energy (up to 8 gallons of water for one load). The fewer sheets or towels that need washing, the less energy is needed!
Bring a Reusable Water Bottle
Avoid carrying around plastic water bottles and instead bring one sturdy reusable bottle. If you are unsure if the tap water is safe where you are traveling, invest in a water bottle with a built in filtration system. Doing so will drastically cut down on waste, and like many other sustainable actions, will save you money in the long run.
Being conscious to turn off the tap when brushing your teeth or shaving, and even cutting down your shower time are all effective ways to conserve water when traveling. Many developing countries face water shortages, so preserving this valuable resource should be a top priority!
While you can find a McDonald’s in almost any country, opt instead to eat locally. Food that is imported requires a lot of energy and produces a lot of pollution during the transportation process. Spending money at local restaurant will boost the economy of that community, and also give you an authentic taste of the culture.
Instead of renting a car or taking a taxi, consider more environmentally conscious methods of transportation while abroad. Walking, biking, or even taking public transportation are great ways to not only be a more sustainable traveler, but to experience the local culture as well.
Take Pictures not Souvenirs
Even though the local flowers are pretty and the seashells are shiny, resist temptation and leave the natural landscape as it is. Take pictures instead. They’ll last forever!