Wednesday, September 5, 2007
This past March I found myself on my honeymoon in the small, whitewashed village of Torrox, Spain, nestled between the Tejeda and Almijara mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. My husband and I hiked, read, relaxed and ate like royalty. I felt some guilt about flying all the way to Europe, but by booking an eco-tour through responsibletravel.com and offsetting our carbon emissions, it was easy to plan a vacation that was green and relatively guilt-free.
Here's how you can do the same.
The closer you stay to where you live, the greener your trip will be, since you will be limiting your consumption of fossil fuels. This makes state parks and other natural areas a great choice for a getaway.
However, there are times when we really need to get further away. To make your far-flung trip greener, think about how your trip could benefit the area you are visiting, and look into volunteer vacations where you can spend time banding sea turtles, building trails or surveying local habitats.
If that sounds like too much work and not enough like a vacation, plan your trip around experiencing endangered species or threatened environmental landmarks.
Apply many of the common-sense practices for getting around close to home to your vacation. Do you have any friends or family members who are also coming on the trip? Carpool. Do you own a gas-guzzler? Rent a more fuel-efficient vehicle for your trip. Pack light. You might be able to reduce gas mileage and save money by fitting into an economy car. Opt for greener fuel choices such as BP and Shell, and avoid Exxon. And bring bags to store your cans and bottles in the trunk of your car to recycle once you get home.
Once you arrive at your destination, walk or bike to nearby attractions. Use public transportation as much as possible. Print bus, subway and train information from the Internet in advance. Major world cities may also offer hybrid taxis or flexcar options.
Lastly, offset carbon dioxide emissions through a reputable carbon offset company.
In your hotel room, adjust the thermostat away from sub-zero temperatures in the summer or a sauna in the winter. Dress in seasonally appropriate layers. When you leave, turn off lights and unplug electronics. Ask that your sheets and towels not be replaced each day.
For even greener accommodations, seek camping opportunities or eco-lodges.
When preparing for your trip, buy used or eco-friendly gear. Better yet, borrow. Do we all need our own tents to use a few times each year?
If you need a new camera, go digital. Digital cameras use fewer chemicals to development prints. They also eliminate waste, because you choose beforehand what to print.
Instead of buying a travel guide that will gather dust, get one from the library or print information from the Internet.
Rather than buying big, expensive equipment to bring with you, rent equipment when you arrive. Most ski lodges rent skis, for example. This reduces unnecessary purchases and eliminates the need for a larger vehicle.
Harness clean energy with a solar camping lantern or a shake-charged flashlight. Use rechargeable batteries in your portable electronic devices—and get a solar battery charger.
Bring a bag of powdered detergent and a clothesline to wash your clothes halfway through your trip and reduce luggage weight.
To stay hydrated, buy a Nalgene bottle to refill instead of buying bottled water, which consumes far more natural resources than tap water. If you travel in countries with unsafe water supplies, purchase water purification tablets.
Once you arrive, be sure to choose locally grown food and wine to enrich the local economy and decrease the fuel used for shipping. Seek out organic and fair trade products. Don't buy anything that might be made from endangered species or exploited natural areas.
You can now purchase carbon offsets for your flights when booking through Travelocity or Expedia.