Make every day Earth Day
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It’s a beautiful world and so much to discover. Knowing that travel contributes to my carbon footprint, I look for ways to travel responsibly and sustainably as much as I can. It does require intentional planning, but so worth the effort to protect our beautiful world. Here are just a few tips.
Lighter bags means lighter planes, which means less fuel burned. Packing light is an area of constant development for me – but I am learning. And will be put to the test when I travel to Madrid, Spain next month as I’m challenging myself to fit seven days in a carryon.
Shopping totes make great souvenirs
We used to buy and collect souvenirs every place we traveled – magnets, tshirts, shot glasses, playing cards. Most of which just collects dust or ends up donated. Now I’m making a habit of packing a reusable shopping tote from where I’ve visited or purchase a new one at my destination. It can also serve a dual-function as a beach bag.
Or you can pack a day backpack to serve the same purpose. My favorite is Arkadia’s Sea to Sky waterproof daypack that fits in your pocket. It’s lightweight (only 5.5 oz) and compact (folds into a small pouch that can literally fit in your pocket), yet holds a lot (24L).
Make a practical purchase made locally
I’m also a fan of purchasing practical and local items as a reminder of my vacation. Just last week, my friend and I visited Asheville, N.C. On a rainy day, we checked out the historic Grove Arcade and I fell in love with the locally produced hats and story behind Asheville Homecrafts.
Nearly 17 years ago, two women opened up the smallest space to try selling not only their homemade quilts, hand-woven baskets and hand-knitted hats, but also those made by two dozen local women. All the wool was locally produced from the owner’s prize-winning sheep. They sold out in two weeks.
They’ve since expanded, but their business model remains the same – putting money back into the pockets of local women. I can’t wait to visit again and purchase another hat (or two).
Pack a reusable water bottle
I’m guilty of forgetting to pack a reusable water bottle or usually have a difficult time finding room to pack one. No more excuses. I just purchased a que collapsible water bottle – BPA-free and plastic-free. With each purchase, 10% is donated to The Rainforest Trust to acquire and protect an acre of land in the Peruvian Amazon forest.
Plastic straw alternatives
Find an alternative to single-use plastic straws. Or do without. But if you’re not quite ready to go strawless, try some alternatives. However, be careful of greenwashing. I recently ordered paper straws thinking I was doing the responsible thing. Not so much when they arrived in a large plastic bag and the paper straws were individually wrapped in plastic. And they are still single-use. I’ve tried the stainless steel straws, and then the reusable Softy Straws are also a good alternative.
Compare modes of transportation and carbon-offset programs
Of course, it’s usually more environmentally friendly to use mass transportation, and driving is better than flying when it comes to the carbon footprint. However, if flying is your only option, take a direct flight whenever possible as it uses more fuel to land and depart several times.
Also check if your carrier offers a carbon-offset program. It’s where they fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in other areas. I live in the Twin Cities where Delta is our main airline carrier. They were the first airline to offer such a program, where you can help offset your carbon footprint by donating to The Nature Conservancy. On Earth Day 2019, Delta offset the most carbon emissions in a single day for more than 300,000 customers.
Dine at farm-to-table restaurants / craft breweries
One of my favorite and easiest ways to promote sustainability is to dine at farm-to-table restaurants and/or craft breweries. You can easily find highly rated establishments on tripadvisor.com.
Skip housekeeping service at hotels
To help save on water and labor, consider skipping housekeeping services at your hotel. Some hotels even offer a discount or a dining/beverage coupon for declining to have your room cleaned. I use my towel more than once at home, so I make a habit of at least hanging my towel up to reuse again when staying at a hotel. And I can certainly make my own bed without needing to change the linens during my stay.
Stay at an eco-friendly hotel
When choosing a hotel, consider their sustainability practices, which you can find on their website. And for third-party verification, search for environmentally friendly hotels on EarthCheck.org. It’s the world’s leading scientific benchmarking certification and advisory group for travel and tourism.
A few EarthCheck-certified hotels include InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), Sandals/Beaches, Xcaret, Melia, Hard Rock Cafe, and more.
These are just a few examples of how we can reduce our carbon footprint and become a more responsible traveler. Please share other recommendations in the comments below.