When discussing your flight options, consider that nonstop flights are greener than stopping for connections. You can also donate to “carbon offset” projects that help you calculate your own CO2 emissions and offer suggested donation amounts to counter them. Check out terrapass for more details. If you are going to be traveling between several places on your next trip, the train could be a good option as well. Especially in Europe, the train systems are usually extremely reliable and cost-effective to boot! So you might save a few pennies, get to your destination quickly, and help the planet. Win-win-win.
Packing reusable items can be a great way to cut down on waste while you are traveling. Instead of bringing several disposable face wipes, perhaps bring a wash cloth. Instead of daily contact lenses, perhaps bring 2-week contact lenses. Bonus, you won’t need to worry about if you have packed enough! Other reusable items to consider are reusable bags for shopping and possibly even reusable utensils if you are planning on frequenting street food vendors or anywhere that plastic silverware would be distributed.
Avoid Certain Toiletries
Soaps, scrubs, and sprays with microbeads, sulfates, and aerosols might be best left behind. Microbeads do not break down easily and can end up polluting local waterways. Sulfates also end up in waterways and are toxic to local plant life and wildlife. Aerosols present their own environmental problems but empty cans are flammable and are actually considered hazardous waste in the US.
Eat, Drink, and Shop Locally
Choosing local shops and restaurants can help boost the economy of the region you are visiting but is also a great environmental choice. Why? There is not as much shipping involved in getting that product to you. Chain restaurants who fly in their lettuce from a large distributor cause more emissions than a local eatery who picks up their arugula from Farmer Dan down the street. Yes, local craft beer counts!
Choose Green Accommodations
See if your favorite hotels have any green initiatives. Air conditioning, lighting, and even choice of bath products can all make a difference! Accommodations account for 20% of all travel related emissions so small changes can go a long way. You can be a green guest even if you don’t see any posted sustainability polices by re-using your bath towels instead of leaving them on the floor for housekeeping. You can also cut down on the use of chemicals and plastics by politely refusing housekeeping services at all and throwing that Do Not Disturb sign on your door handle before you leave for the day.
Bring Your Own Water Bottle
Bring your own water bottle and refill it instead of purchasing bottled water several times a day. You’ve heard this before, but what if you are in an area where it is not recommended to drink the tap water? Wait for it…. use a Steri-Pen! A Steri-Pen is a UV Water Purifier that can eliminate 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa in as little as 48 seconds. It destroys the DNA of these microbes so that they cannot multiply and cause illness. Genius!
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Written by Carol Gabbert, Van Zile Travel