Travel is one of the great joys of life. Here’s how to travel greener. Being eco-conscious will cut your travel budget and help save the planet without giving up luxury. Go green on Earth Day and year-round.
Re-use – Start with water bottles. Instead of buying and discarding water bottles that add to the landfill, travel with a refillable water bottle. Look for one that’s both BPA-free and phtalates-free. It will pay for itself in just a few refills. I always pack one in my carry-on bag, so I can re-hydrate in flight without waiting for the cabin attendants to serve me. Here are two great choices:
- Eco Vessel’s Boulder water bottle with patented triple-insulation technology that keeps water cold for up to 36 hours or hot for up to eight hours. The double-duty top can be used either as a wide-mouth opening for dropping in ice cubes or eating chunky soups, and the smaller spout unscrews for easy drinking.
- Get a water filtration bottle if you are traveling to areas where you worry about the safety of the water. Brita, probably the best known brand of portable filters for the home, now makes refillable sport bottles for travel. Sign up online for discount coupons.
Use bio-degradable sunscreens – Most sunscreens contain ingredients harmful to the water, and to the fish and coral which live in the water. Some eco-parks, such as Xcaret in the Riviera Maya, even check your bag on arrival for such contraband sunscreen.
- Reef Safe SunCare sunscreen lotions and sprays are 99% biodegradable. The company also sells t-shirts and other apparel treated with biodegradable sunscreen. It’s the only such product line I know of that hired the world renowned Mote Marine Tropical Research Laboratory to test the toxicity of its formulations on fragile corals. The testing concluded no visual signs of stress, bleaching or mortality to tested corals at any level of sunscreen treatments.
Turn off the lights – You do that at home when you leave for the day, and it should be routine in hotel rooms, as well. Ditto the TV. Many hotels now have energy-saving devices that require you to use your key card to engage the room’s air conditioning and electricity, and cut off the air conditioning when you open the terrace door to cut wasted energy use.
Choose a hotel chain with a strong sustainability policy – Being green is good business, many national and international chains now advertise their eco-friendly policies. The best go well beyond putting a trash bin in your room for items to recycle. Telling you about wastewater treatment isn’t sexy, but it’s important for eco-friendly operation. My two top choices for sensible environmental practices are the Kimpton Hotel group, which operates Monaco and other brands and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts which also operates the Raffles and Swissotel brands. Their eco-friendly policies are proof that green and luxury go together.
Skip the housekeeping services – You don’t change your sheets or towels every day at home, and even if that’s your hotel’s policy, you can skip a day by leaving the “do not disturb” sign on the door. You’ll be avoiding the harsh chemical cleaning supplies many hotels use, along with the electricity of vacuuming and washing towels and bed linens.
Choose an eco-friendly tour operator – There’s more to being an ecoxplorer than recycling the trash. Look for operators, that actively protect the environment and the environment along with supporting the local communities with education and training programs, and employment. This is especially important in Africa and the Far East. One of my top choices is Myths and Mountains, which sets aside a portion of each traveler’s fee to to build libraries and community centers in Nepal, Bhutan and Northern India, where the tour company brings tourists.
Take only photos, leave only footprints – That’s the mantra of experienced hikers and backcountry rangers, and it should be yours, too. Stick to established hiking and biking trails to avoid harming delicate native flora. Be even more eco-friendly by picking up trash left behind by others. It could prevent local wildlife from eating bits of plastic or paper, and it will help keep the scenery beautiful – which is the reason we are visiting it to begin with.
Use public transportation – Simply, it’s better for the environment, your travel budget, and your travel time. Subways and buses everywhere have a stops near popular sites and attractions, and they are usually faster than a taxi. Besides, traveling the way the locals do gives you a better understanding of how the locals live in the cities you visit. As a native New Yorker, it’s an integral part of my travel experience to compare other city’s subways, busses and trolleys with the ones at home. Reduce your carbon footprint by avoiding taxis and keep more money in your travel fund.