The more I travel this big beautiful world, the more I want to protect it. Thankfully, today eco-travel is a veritable buzzword and there are as many ways to make a difference as there are shades of green. Read on for ten ways we can all conserve resources, show respect to local culture and environments, minimize our impact on our destinations, and ultimately “green” our travels.
1. Say Goodbye to Plastic Water Bottles
You might be surprised by how many destinations offer safe drinking water straight from the tap – check before your departure and if it’s all clear, simply pack a reusable bottle. Otherwise, add a SteriPEN Handheld UV Water Purifier into the mix. After 90 seconds of agitation, tap water in locations from Thailand to Tunisia is safe to drink, saving the world from yet another single-use plastic water bottle being chucked into a landfill.
Bonus: You’ll spend less of your travel budget on buying water, and this purchase will eventually pay for itself.
2. Transport Yourself Thoughtfully
Flying in and out of international destinations is often unavoidable, though you might consider a carbon emission offset program. Once you’ve arrived, walk or bike when possible and take public transportation when it’s not. If you must rent a car, look into renting a hybrid.
3. Shower Yourself Green
Hauling heavy liquids is not just bad for your back, it’s bad for the environment, too. Lush solid shampoo bars are as light as a feather and the equivalent of three bottles of the liquid stuff! The convenient tin holders are endlessly reusable, unlike plastic shampoo bottles you have to hunt down a recycling center for. Best of all, Lush is committed to using environmentally-friendly, ethically-sourced ingredients, eliminating unnecessary packaging, and fighting animal testing.
Bonus: No more exploded sticky shampoo seeping through your suitcase after a flight.
4. Go Paperless
In today’s digital world, there is little reason to waste ink and paper on information that could easily live inside our smartphones. Mobile boarding passes mean one less thing to lose in the airport scramble, online banking means you’ll never miss a bill abroad, and digital guidebooks mean a much lighter daypack.
5. Take Away the Take Out Guilt
Eating take-out is an unavoidable aspect of travel, whether you’re grabbing lunch to eat on a train or spending a night in after an exhausting stretch of sightseeing. Eliminate the guilt associated with styrofoam boxes and plastic forks by packing your own supplies. Collapsible tupperware, lunch skins and travel bamboo utensils take up little room and make the perfect to-go dining set – just hand them over while your meal is being made.
Bonus: You’re all set to go for a trip to the market followed by a picnic in the park.
6. Shop Responsibly
In general, it’s best to focus on collecting memories instead of stuff. But if you can’t resist the lure of the souvenir, focus on buying local and supporting native artisans. Also, stay away from items made from endangered plant and animal parts, or scarce natural resources – they’ll likely be scooped up at customs anyway.
7. Carry with Care
Avoid single-use plastic bags by always having a reusable one at hand. Eagle Creek Packables fold up to the size of your palm and come in tote, duffel, and backpack form. Stash one in your day bag, rental car or purse to avoid headslaps at the checkout counter when you unexpectedly decide to stock up on souvenirs or sundries.
Bonus: Packable totes can double as a beach bag, packable duffles can double for the gym, and packable backpacks can be used on day hikes or bike rides.
8. Protect Yourself and Others
Heading somewhere tropical? Avoid a sunburn and a guilty conscience by looking for a sunscreen free of CFCs, the harmful toxin still found in many aerosols. Florida-based brand Sunbum’s Continuous Spray Sunscreens, Face Sticks, and SPF Lip Balms are three products that are animal testing-free, environmentally friendly, and stylishly packaged to boot.
Bonus: You’ll smell amazing even after a long day at the beach.
9. App Up
There are plenty of eco-friendly apps out there just waiting to help you green your travels at the swipe of an index finger. Green Travel Choice lets you see the different carbon emission outputs that various transportation methods will produce based on your destination, Green Map shows you nearby hotels, restaurants, and other business committed to sustainability, and Seafood Watch helps you make eco-friendly seafood choices based on your location (here’s an easy one: don’t eat whale meat in Iceland.)
10. Talk Green
Remember that your voice is the most powerful tool you can pack for traveling green. Thank tour operators for using environmentally-friendly practices, ask your hotel to start a recycling program, let housekeeping know they don’t need to change your sheets and towels everyday, and when you refuse a plastic bag in the checkout line, tell the cashier why. Good decisions are infectious!
What do you do to travel green?