Planning your next vacation? And this time you want to ensure that you do so in an eco friendly way. So here are 10 tips on how you can travel 'green' and make sure that you do not leave a sizable carbon footprint while you tread the Earth.
1. Fly only if you must - Of course, flying is the fastest mode of transportation available today but it is also the most harmful to the environment. Airplane emissions are more detrimental to the ozone layer than ground transport because they occur higher up in the atmosphere. Hence, whenever possible try to travel by bus or train. If you have to drive to your destination, try to make room for as many people in the car as you can instead of using multiple vehicles. And if you simply must fly then book a direct flight.
2. Book an eco friendly hotel - The hotel industry has taken a step further to help protect the environment and there are many eco friendly accommodations available in tourist destinations all over the world. Hotels in this category ensure reduction in energy consumption through the installation of 'Energy Star' products or by using solar power, recycling programs or by asking their customers to buy local products and organic foods. For more information and ideas check out the 'Green' Hotels Association.
3. Invest wisely in a single destination - Instead of touring three different cities in two days, invest in a single destination and experience it more fully. This will give you an opportunity to truly explore your vacation spot, mingle with the locals and learn about their culture and enjoy some authentic delicacies. You can also seek out destinations that practice geo-tourism. National Geographic defines geo-tourism as - "tourism that sustains or enhances the distinctive geographical character of a place, its environment, heritage, aesthetics, culture and the well-being of its residents." For more information visit National Geographic's Center for Sustainable Destinations.
4. Plug out all electronic appliances before you leave home - Switch off all lights, fans, heating and cooling systems and plug out all electronic devices such as TV's, stereos, toasters and microwaves before you step out of your home. Electronics in the standby/off mode consume energy as well which is known as 'vampire energy'.
5. Stop your newspaper service - If you are going to be away for a while make sure you inform your newspaper to stop your service for that period or make arrangements for it to be delivered to your neighborhood school.
6. Travel light - Carry only what you absolutely must carry! This will also make it easier for you to take public transportation to get around. Instead of buying travel size versions for all products, fill up reusable containers with the products that you need to carry. Plastic water bottles damage the environment considerably and you may not find a recycling bin to dispose them while you are on the move. Carrying a reusable water bottle solves this problem.
7. Save energy during your stay at the hotel - Make sure you switch off all lights and adjust thermostats when you leave the hotel room. If you have not used any soaps, shampoos provided by the hotel, leave them in the unopened state so that they can be reused. Reuse towels and sheets whenever possible instead of requesting for fresh linen everyday. Open the drapes in the mornings to let in natural light instead of turning on the lights during the day.
8. Walk or rent a bike to check out the local attractions - Walking is the best way to savor any city and it is the most eco friendly way to get around! The other alternative is to rent a bike. There are many biker friendly cities all over the world and if you love to bike, here are some resources which you can refer for your next vacation.
9. Buy gifts and souvenirs from local craftsmen - Refrain from buying the usual t-shirts and plastic items (which may be actually made in China!) and look for more meaningful gifts and souvenirs to carry back home. Visit the local crafts fairs, farmer's markets and antique stores to pick up items that are locally sourced.
10. Write a letter of appreciation to your hotel for their services - Once you are back do not forget to write a letter or an email appreciating your hotel for their eco friendly services. This will encourage them to promote their services even further.
Have a safe and 'green' vacation!