Traveling, especially with your family, can open your eyes to new cultures, places and ideas. Travel also helps you get away from the bustle of your normal life, and hit a reset button on relationships and stressors. Take these green travel tips into consideration and bring your next family trip to the next level of good feelings.
Before You Travel
Before you even leave on your trip, leave your home in an energy-efficient condition. Adjust your thermostat and your hot water tank to save energy and explain to your kids why you're doing it! Unplug any other vampire electricity users (think electronics with lights or clocks) and eat or preserve food in your fridge to minimize food waste.
Your Travel Mode
If you're renting a car, see if you can up your gas mileage with a hybrid or electric car. If not, do your best to conserve gas with the way you drive, and go for a smaller car. Flying is a fast way to move, but often the worst carbon creator. Do your best to find a nonstop flight to your destination since the most fuel is used at landing and takeoff. (Eliminating connections makes it way easier for little ones!) Although they are not perfect, consider purchasing carbon offsets. While it may not be the most fun or the fastest travel, a full bus is almost always the greenest mode of transportation. Mass transportation wins the trophy! Check out this Getting There Greener guide from the Union of Concerned Scientists for some interesting graphs and case studies to back this up.
With the bounty of hotel and stay options out there, I often have a hard time deciding which hotel our family should choose for our vacation HQ. I've recently realized that not all hotels are created equal when it comes to being green, however, and I'd certainly pick the more eco-friendly choice (nearly) every time! There are a few ways to know if your hotel is environmentally conscious. Does it have an LEED Accreditation? Even just the basic accreditation means that a hotel is doing its part to keep the planet cool from planning through construction and operation. You can also find eco-friendly hotels by state at GreenHotels.com, or look them up at Environmentally Friendly Hotels. Also try searching for sustainable hotels on TripAdvisor by selecting "Green" in the Style option. Finally, staying with family or friends is always a bit greener than a hotel—and less expensive, too!
While You're There
Hopefully, your hotel is in the green ranks and each room has its own recycling receptacle. But sometimes, recycling in hotels needs some creative effort and planning. You may need to pack up your waste and recycle in the lobby or even at a local community drop-off location. Ask the front desk where to find a drop-off or search for a local solid waste facility. There may also be a more green-minded store or community park if there's not a drop-off location nearby. Do learn the local rules about dumping and bins before you recycle away from home!
While you're away, keep up what you do at home to save energy, eat locally, and conserve water. While you're somewhere new, shop at farmer's markets to explore different foods and buy from local artisans for unique souvenirs.
A few more green travel tips for hotels include hanging up your bathroom towels after each use and leaving the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the doorknob the whole time you're there. Hanging your towels is not only a good habit (for a lifetime of being polite to your roommates and family), but also tells your room cleaner that you want to use those linens again. If you don't really need your room cleaned, don't ask for it. Not only will this cut down on electricity usage for vacuums and lights, it will also reduce the need to use cleaning agents and ensure that your sheets don't get washed if they don't need it.
Beyond just trying to be kind to the earth on your trip, do your best to immerse yourself in the culture of your new location. Understanding a different culture, even it if it's just across the state, helps us love people who are a little different from ourselves and makes the Earth a better place to roam.
What's the greenest thing you've done on vacation? What other green travel tips do you have to share?
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Why It’s Good
You consider your environmental impact when you're at home. Why shouldn't you keep up your great habits when you're on vacation, too? It may take a little extra effort to be green on the road, but the earth will thank you!