With more free time and warm weather, summer makes a perfect time to plan vacations. However, irresponsible traveling can have negative impacts on our environment. Here, we’ll take a look at some eco-friendly travel tips to adventure sustainably and practice responsible tourism this season.
Find Local Adventures
The further you go on your travels, the greater your environmental impact will be. Try staying close to home to avoid emissions caused by driving long distances or flying. Massachusetts and the rest of New England has a wide range of eco-friendly summer activities including world-class restaurants, museums, mountains, hiking trails, lakes, and beaches. Try to explore these local activities before traveling to a further destination. You might even find a hidden gem right in your hometown.
If you’re planning a local trip, consider bringing your own food along with you. For example, stopping at a farmers market before heading to the beach is an eco-friendly way to have fresh fruits and vegetables on your trip while also supporting your local community and keeping your environmental impact low. Remember to only buy and bring food that you are going to finish to prevent you from creating excess waste. This also prevents you from buying from grocery stores that tend to package their food in unnecessary plastic that takes hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years to decompose.
Visit Eco-friendly Destinations
Instead of going out to a big city, consider visiting a national park, marine sanctuary, conservation zoo, or local trail or park. These places are vital in protecting wildlife and preserving biodiversity, and often rely on tourism for funding. Paying entrance fees and for park-associated accommodations directly helps preserve the nature and wildlife in the park, which makes it an eco-friendly way to get once-in-a-lifetime experiences while giving back to our planet at the same time.
Try to avoid going to overly popular destinations. It’s tempting to visit big cities or locations that are talked about frequently, but consider looking beyond the “top 10 sights” lists. The popularity of these locations puts a huge strain on local resources, especially water. Try to explore lesser-known destinations to support less popular places and reduce your environmental impact. If you do really want to see a popular sight, try planning your vacation during one of your destination’s off-seasons. This will not only help you avoid the crowds, but also prevent you from exhausting local resources.
Consider going somewhere that is committed to sustainability. There are many countries that are putting significant effort into protecting our planet. New Zealand is one of the best green countries to visit because they have been passing extensive laws in an effort to become carbon neutral by 2050. Costa Rica is also an eco-friendly destination because the country’s electricity production is derived 100% from renewable sources. You could also consider choosing a local Airbnb that is powered by solar or other renewable energy, or one that is dedicated to having energy-efficient features and sustainable practices.
Find Eco-Friendly Accommodations
When choosing where to stay, be mindful of your accommodation’s sustainability practices. One of the best ways to be eco-friendly is to stay at a locally-owned bed and breakfast opposed to a large hotel or chain. If you are staying in a hotel or chain, try booking with a company that is dedicated to being environmentally conscious. Websites like bookdifferent.com can help you understand the environmental impact of your hotel and how you can prioritize being eco-friendly.
When you’re looking for where you’re going to stay, look for eco-certifications. Locations that are eco-certified are committed to using sustainable practices. This can include energy and water efficient systems, extensive waste reduction programs, and using renewable resources to power their establishment.
Once you arrive at your accommodation, do your best to conserve water and electricity. Turn all devices off when you leave your room for the day and only request cleaning for your room when it is absolutely necessary. Also, consider taking showers opposed to baths and try to keep your time in the shower at a minimum. Remember to keep the thermostat at a conservative temperature to not overdo your electric usage. This will ensure that you are doing your best to preserve the local resources of your destination.
Choose Clean Transportation
Not all travel destinations will be in your hometown, so when you do need to travel long distances, focus on reducing your environmental impact where possible.
If you need to fly to your destination, try taking a direct flight opposed to one with layovers. When choosing your airline, focus on flying with companies that are making significant efforts to lower their carbon emissions. Airlines like Alaska Airlines, KLM, Delta, and JetBlue are some examples of companies that have been making strides towards carbon neutrality on their flights.
Once you arrive at your destination, try taking trains or buses opposed to renting a car to get around. Especially if you’re going to a different country; most countries have a much more robust public transportation system that can easily take you anywhere you need to go. If you plan to use a rideshare app for transportation, try using their eco-friendly options. Uber Green and Lyft’s “Green Mode” allows you to only accept rides from drivers operating a fully electric or hybrid vehicle. If you do need to rent a car, try renting an electric vehicle or hybrid model. Many cities also have rentable electric bikes or scooters that allow you to get around quickly without releasing greenhouse gasses. If you are in a city, the most eco-friendly way to get around is to walk. Cities tend to have plenty of activities within walking distance of monuments and hotels. Consider taking your time to walk from place to place instead of driving or using other methods of transportation.
Try choosing a hotel that is within walking distance to the attractions that you plan to visit. If you choose a hotel that is close to what you want to see, you can easily walk or bike from your room as opposed to needing a car or Uber.
Slow Your Travels Down
It’s always tempting to pack your vacation with as many experiences as possible, but consider giving yourself more time to slow down and really explore your location instead of rushing from place to place. When people book a fast-paced vacation, they often end up producing a lot of greenhouse gasses by traveling around so frequently. If you slow down and give yourself time to explore and experience your surroundings, you can prevent some of these emissions and likely save yourself some stress along the way. Slowing down can also give you the time to walk or bike to your destination instead of having to drive there.
It might be tempting to go out and purchase travel-sized versions of your products for your flights, but many of these products are packaged in plastic or other waste that will end up in a landfill after your trip. Instead of purchasing single-use versions of the products you use, try purchasing reusable 3.4 oz containers. These are the largest containers of liquid that are permissible on airlines. Fill these containers with the products you need for your trip and then wash them and store them when you get home. These same containers can be used for future trips, preventing you from creating excess waste from your vacation.
It can also be appealing to go on shopping sprees to purchase new clothing or other needs for your trip. Try to avoid giving into this temptation. Sometimes you’ll end up buying things that you never use outside of your vacation, which leads to excess waste down the road when you throw away that item or piece of clothing. Make use of what you already have around your house. Even if something is old, if it functions fine, take it with you. This will help reduce the waste that you produce on your trip and save you some money as you prepare for it.
Shop and Eat Locally
To ensure that you’re being as eco-friendly as possible, focus on shopping and eating locally at your destination. This will help eliminate the emission costs of buying items or food that needs to be imported. If you plan to buy food at a grocery store, research what the local produce of your destination is. Purchasing local food is better for the environment because it reduces the “food miles” of what you buy. Food that is not grown locally needs to be imported, and shipping that food long distances creates excess greenhouse gas emissions. Not only are these foods more eco-friendly, they will usually be cheaper as well because local businesses don’t need to pay for importing.
Avoid purchasing too many souvenirs. But when you are looking for a souvenir, choose to buy local. Purchase souvenirs from stores that provide hand-crafted items created by locals. Purchasing locally made souvenirs and supporting local art is one of the best ways to give back to the communities that you are visiting. Shopping locally helps ensure that you are truly experiencing the culture of your destination and respecting the people who live there.
Respect Your Environment
Summer weather is perfect for outdoor activities like hiking and camping, but remember to be eco-friendly and respect the nature around you. Avoid bringing along items that you don’t need and ensure that you’re not bringing more than you can carry, especially if you’re hiking. Make sure you leave with everything you came with. Leaving behind waste can be detrimental to the local ecosystems.
When hiking, stay on marked trails. Wandering off of clear trails can lead to you harming wildlife or trampling plants that should not be disturbed. To preserve our ecosystems, we want to avoid being disruptive as much as possible, and the best way to do this is to stick to the path.
Remember Your Eco-Friendly Priorities
The most important part of responsible tourism is keeping your eco-friendly values in mind. It can be easy to get caught up in convenience, especially when you’re on vacation. Remember to slow down and really enjoy your destination. Keep asking yourself if your decision is a green one, and if it could be better, try something else. You might even find some new and exciting experiences solely because you’re practicing eco-friendly traveling.