If the idea of eco-travel with hundreds of miles on a bike or in a canoe toting a heavy backpack gives you goose bumps, relax.
You can create your own version of an eco-style vacation that’s fun for you and helps the planet, too. Here are 8 ideas to try:
1. Choose eco-friendly transportation.
How will you get to your dream destination? Nearly all — 90% — of tourism-related global greenhouse gas emissions are generated by transportation. The best option is to travel close to home, getting there on foot or by bike. But since that’s not doable for most trips, look for transportation that generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions and has a smaller carbon footprint. For example, travelling by train is better than travelling by plane or by car.
2. Drive eco-friendly.
A car is often the most convenient (or only) option to get to your destination, but you can still drive in a more eco-friendly way. Before you hit the road, make sure your car is in good condition and the tire pressure is correct. Extra weight reduces fuel efficiency, so take off that roof rack if you don’t need it. Avoid starting and stopping abruptly by anticipating events on the road ahead, such as traffic lights, traffic congestion, construction, brake lights and cars passing. Not only will you be a more eco-friendly driver, you can save 5% to 25% on gas.
3. Use technology to save paper.
Buying a ticket online is fast and convenient — and when you keep it on your smartphone instead of printing it, you also save paper. If you’re planning to visit a popular museum or other attraction, buying online in advance can also save you time waiting in long lines. Just be sure to charge your phone and take a power bank with you so you don’t get to the turnstile with a blank screen. You also can use your phone instead of paper maps. You may not have a cell signal in remote areas to use navigation programs, so plan ahead by using Google Maps to save selected map images to use offline.
4. Pack reusable bottles or mugs.
Your own water bottle is a must-have for any eco-friendly traveler to avoid generating a lot of garbage. You might even want to pack a mug or thermal flask for hot beverages at your destination. And yes, you can bring a reusable bottle on a plane (just remember to empty it before going through the security checkpoint). Many restaurants and service businesses have drinking water taps for customers. Use the Tap application to find the nearest place to refill.
5. Recycle as you go.
Even if you try to live a zero-waste life, you’re going to generate some trash during your trip. If you’re hiking or camping, you must collect and haul out the rubbish you produce along the way. In civilization, be sure to dispose of plastic, glass, metal and waste paper in dedicated containers. Segregating recyclables is still black magic to you? Learn the basics at Earth911.
6. Make a list of necessities to pack.
Avoid expensive emergency purchases on the road by making a list of travel toiletries — shampoo, soap, razor, makeup and the like — and check it before you leave. Consider packing an eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush and toothpaste tablets instead of a big tube. Use lightweight, reusable containers for lotions. Many companies offer eco-friendly makeup products, manufactured according to the zero-waste principle.
7. Sleep and eat eco-friendly.
If you’re staying in a hotel, one easy way to save water and energy is to use one set of towels and sheets during your stay. If you have your own toiletries with you, use them instead of the disposables provided by the hotel (set them aside with a note to the staff letting them know they’re unused). When eating out, try to avoid individually portioned products in disposable containers, such as butter, honey, jam and condiments.
8. Save on souvenirs.
A photograph will always be the best and most unique souvenir. Mass-produced souvenirs in many shops are often plastic, of poor quality and have nothing in common with the visited destination (check the bottom of the item to see where it was made). If you want to buy souvenirs, choose those produced from local materials by local people. And of course, remember not to leave trash behind as a “souvenir” for others.