Living sustainably is hard.
You, I’m sure, are well aware of this fact. It requires huge shifts in how you approach everyday tasks: grocery shopping, using electricity, cleaning, going to and from work. It can get pretty dang overwhelming. But the good news is you don’t have to start with the big changes first! Our brains like small steps, so once you make small changes it will be easier to meet those bigger goals you have in the back of your head (maybe becoming carbon neutral, living off-grid, etc.). So here are ten easy-peasy ways to make your vacations more sustainable.
1) Pack Less
No matter which form of transportation you use (plane, train, automobile), less luggage immediately decreases the amount of fuel needed to transport your luggage. Here are a couple good resources for steps to pack less on your trips:
How to Pack Light
2) Walk More
I don’t just mean the “if it’s under 1 mile then walk” rule. Sometimes it’s easy to choose to walk. When my husband and I went on our honeymoon we were under 25, so it was either impossible or too expensive to rent a car; we spent a lot of our honeymoon walking. But even when it’s not so easy to make the decision to walk, walking is a great choice because lets you experience your destination more deeply, especially in a city. Walking in Denver—to museums and brunch—was a lot of work, but it was also fun to explore a city with nothing but our feet and ourselves!
3) Buy a Reusable Water Bottle with a Filter
If you travel adventurously, you’ll inevitably go to a destination where you can’t drink the tap water. It seems like bottled water is the only solution, but it’s not! To avoid a similar consuming embarrassing amounts of bottled water, buy a water bottle that can filter bacteria and other unwanted particles out--keeps you and the environment healthy!
4) Purchase a Carbon Offset
Carbon offsetting is the practice that allows you to purchase credits to reduce your carbon footprint. There are a large amount of companies that let you purchase carbon offsets for your travels. And while reducing your carbon footprint from the start is more ideal, remember this post is about easy-peasy ideas to help move your travels in the direction you’d like. These are some companies to look into:
5) Pick up Others’ Litter
Unfortunately not everyone is as environmentally-conscious as you are. It’s still common to see wrappers and cans even in the most pristine national parks. Make it a habit to carry a container in which to put litter you pick up.
6) Make a Donation
Did you visit somewhere you really, really liked? Give them a little extra money. Sustainable travel destinations can only flourish if they’re also economically sustainable.
7) Unplug Unnecessary Appliances
Have you ever actually looked in a hotel room to see how many things are plugged in? Well, there are a lot of things plugged in. A good habit to develop is to unplug everything you won’t need during your stay. Do you really need seven different lamps ready to go at the flick of a switch? Probably not.
8) Take Recyclables with You
Many vacation destinations do not have easily accessible recycling options and others, like cruise ships, don’t have them at all. If you use something that comes in recyclable packaging, just take it home with you so you can recycle it at home. Chances are it will be something—like a bottle of shampoo—that you brought with you anyway, so you’ll have room in your luggage.
9) Reduce the Souvenirs
On my cruise to the Dominican Republic I bought three souvenirs: sustainably-sourced chocolate, cards and envelopes made from recycled paper, and a sustainably-harvested higuero. (You can read more about my trip here.) Every single one of these souvenirs I bought directly from the people who made them, and I knew in great detail where the materials came from. If you’re unsure about a souvenir ask questions or don’t buy it. Pictures (and travel journals) make fantastic mementos too!
10) Use a Travel Agent
Gasp! I bet you didn’t see this coming ;) Since I specialize in sustainable travel, I have a lot of knowledge about sustainable suppliers and destinations that can save you a lot of research time. But on top of that, when planning a trip, travel agents like to plan the most efficient route. So if you’re going on a driving tour of the national parks, for example, using a travel agent makes your trip more efficient and therefore more fuel efficient.
Have any other ideas to make your travel more sustainable? Let me know in the comments below!
Now get out there and go!