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Sustainability

Tips for a More Sustainable Vacation

By
Jenna Schwerzmann
on
July 10, 2018

Aiming to become a more responsible traveler? Here are a few simple tips to help you make your next vacation more sustainable.

If you’re like me, you make a lot of effort to be a sustainable citizen in your own home town. But what about when you’re traveling? 

In the hustle and bustle of exploring a new place, it can be easy to forget about making responsible choices for the environment. Before you start planning your next trip, remember these tips to make your visit as green as possible.

Transportation

Driving yourself a long distance may have the biggest release of emissions than other ways of travel. Consider your other options! 

According to this article, driving solo can be as costly to the atmosphere as flying a plane that’s only 80% full. If a plane is booked solid, it’s actually more efficient than the car. Taking a train or bus instead of a plane can also cut your per capita emissions in half.  Of course, it all depends on mileage and other factors, but you can get a better understanding here.

If you want to go the extra step, you can even pay a little extra to offset your carbon footprint. Many airlines and other forms of transportation offer this before you book, but if not, Terrapass is a reputable company! I was curious what it might cost me to offset a roundtrip flight, so I looked up New York to Mexico and found it would only be about $13. 

Accommodations

Would you consider an eco-lodge over a resort? 

Eco-lodges use sustainable practices to reduce their impact on the environment, compared to the enormous waste that hotel chains might create. For instance, in an eco-lodge you might not have your sheets and towels changed daily, and your water use might be restricted.  But it’s a fun, unique experience and supports local business.

How about an Airbnb? You might even find one that uses solar power or maybe you can stay in a tiny house (with a tinier impact)!

Or, forgo electricity completely and surround yourself in nature with camping. Just remember to follow my responsible packing tips below. ;)

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An ecolodge doesn’t have to be rustic. This one in Costa Rica had a jacuzzi in every room!

Packing

Always bring a reusable water bottle. Not only will the save you a ton of money, but you won’t be using up water bottles while you explore.  

Pro tip: make sure it’s empty before you go to security, or they might make you toss out the whole thing. Once you’re through security, you can refill it at a water fountain or in the food court.

Never underestimate the power of a Chico bag. I did, until I saw all my friends whipping them out whenever we made spontaneous purchases. They won’t take up much space in your luggage, but can be really handy when you’re shopping.

Bring reusable utensils. I have a bamboo set that I sorely missed when I found myself eating a continental breakfast with plasticware, the only option provided. Bonus points if you also pack a reusable straw.

Choose better sunscreen.  Ever think about what happens to the gallons of sunscreen after tourists hit the beach? Yeah, most of it washes off into the ocean – not good for coral reefs! Look for sunscreen that’s free of oxybenzone, the chemical that has the most potential for damage.

Don’t buy new. Even if your budget allows you to make lots of fun, new, shiny purchases before your trip, consider buying used or borrowing items instead. Maybe you know someone who wouldn’t mind lending out their GoPro or once-used hiking backpack. When you reconsider buying your own, you’ll reduce emissions in the production process and the number of items that will most likely end up in a landfill someday.

This is a small one, but remove the packaging of any new items before you pack them. This will decrease the amount of waste you’re contributing in your host country.

 Exploring

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Exploring Reykjavik by foot.

Rather than take a taxi everywhere, use public transportation, rent a bike, or walk.

Renting a car? Why not go hybrid?

Coffee: stay a while! Order your cup of joe to stay and skip the to-go cup. Similarly, dine in, don’t take-out.

Buy local. Rather than buying into the standard souvenirs that are cheaply made in other countries, look for something authentic. You’ll support a local business and know that the items you’re buying didn’t create a big carbon footprint traveling to the gift shop.

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Slow down and take in the scenery as you sip your tea or latte, rather than taking it on the go.

So that’s it! I hope some of these ideas might be new to you and you can start implementing them on your next trip.  

Did I miss anything? If so, feel free to tell me in the comments!

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Jenna Schwerzmann
Jenna recently finished her master’s degree in marine conservation and is searching for the next adventure. Besides traveling, she likes to do yoga, drink coffee, play with pups, spend time outside, and hang out with family and friends.

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