Summer is approaching, and the beginning of summer usually heralds a season for traveling. The travel and tourism industry can have a major impact on the environment, though. According to the United Nations, for instance, carbon dioxide emissions generated directly from the tourism sector of the global economy account for five percent of the total carbon dioxide emissions throughout the world. A study conducted by independent research firm STUDYLOGIC found that only 40 percent of travelers practice energy conservation and only 20 percent of travelers practice water conservation.
Do you need to travel to remote, exotic or extreme locales to travel sustainably? No! Essentially, you can travel green anywhere you go by remaining mindful of resource stewardship and by choosing businesses, goods, services and transportation methods that maintain and preserve the ecological integrity of the environment and contribute to local community development.
BEFORE YOU TRAVEL …
- Plan travel more efficiently. Travel less often, and travel for longer periods at a time.
- Research the environmental policies and practices of airlines and hotels prior to your trip. Choose airlines and hotels that operate sustainably, if possible. Also, consider a privately-owned hotel to support the local economy of your destination. Learn more at Trip Advisor.
- Research the language and customs of the region to which you will be traveling so that you can communicate with and be respectful of the locals.
- Request electronic versions of tickets, confirmations, receipts and boarding passes to reduce paper waste.
- Pack lightly. Decreasing your load increases your vehicle’s fuel efficiency and, if you will be traveling by air, your baggage fees.
- Choose reusable containers that can be refilled each time you travel for toiletries such as shampoo and soap. Avoid expensive, disposable toiletries that are discarded after one use to reduce waste.
- Conserve energy in your home before you embark on your journey. Unplug appliances and electronics, and set your thermostat at a higher temperature in the summer and a lower temperature in the winter. Do not leave lights on. Instead, use lights with a timer for security purposes.
- If you will be enjoying a road trip, ensure that your vehicle is in top form before your trip. Inflate your tires properly and perform any necessary maintenance to maximize fuel efficiency. Also, pack only what you need and remove any extraneous items from your vehicle. Unnecessary weight diminishes gas mileage.
- Use refillable water bottles instead of disposable plastic water bottles. If you will be flying, though, ensure that your bottles are completely empty before you reach airport security.
- Pack a supply of healthy foods to avoid the often unhealthy options along the way.
WHEN YOU HAVE REACHED YOUR DESTINATION …
- If you will be staying at your destination for several nights, use the same towels and bedding throughout your stay to conserve water and energy.
- Save water at your lodging facilities by shortening your shower and by turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth and shave. Save energy by turning off the lights, air conditioner, television and other electronics when you leave the room.
- Reduce waste by recycling as much as possible and by returning brochures, maps and other printed publications after you use them.
- Limit the use of rental cars. Travel the local region by mass transit. Or, walk or cycle around the area to reduce vehicle emissions and stay fit.
- Travel like a native, not a tourist. Embrace and honor indigenous traditions, and spend some time with the residents to learn about and indulge in the culture and cuisine that are unique to the area. Avoid tourist traps, and explore the best-kept secrets and the roads less traveled. Instead of purchasing cheap souvenirs, visit locally-owned shops and choose goods that are crafted by local artisans. However, be vigilant to avoid the purchase of endangered plant or animal products.
- If you will be visiting a natural area, take only photographs and leave only footprints. Do not disturb any native flora or fauna, and always dispose of trash in a proper container.