As many of us have become well aware, humans have had a sizable impact on their natural environment. From how we move between places to how we wash our dishes, many of our everyday decisions have an environmental impact of varying sizes. This is especially the case when traveling. While traveling itself is inherently not very eco-friendly, as energy costs increase as one travels further, there are nevertheless several simple practices that can significantly reduce your environmental impact. Interestingly enough, you actually might find that you get more out of your trip through some of these green travel tips.
If you need to travel long distances, forget taking a plane. Such transportation has a major impact on the environment through the high consumption of energy (ie, jet fuel consumption, luggage transportation, etc). Instead, try taking a bus to your destination. Taking a bus uses much less energy than flying, and as a result the environment will be receiving less greenhouse gases and less of an impact. Fortunately for your comfort, many buses are now either equipped with beds or seats that can recline very far back, so even though the trip takes longer than on a plane, you will likely be more comfortable on a bus. Additionally, you can actually see different parts of the world up close through the window of your bus, rather than having to observe it all from miles above.
Eat Locally Grown Food
Locally grown food is not only fresher and oftentimes cheaper than packaged foods, but it has a lower impact on the environment when consumed. Because the distance between the farm and your dinner plate is relatively small with locally grown goods, much less energy is being spent transporting them. If you are traveling in a rather foreign region, eating the local food may even give you a glimpse into the various cultures of that area.
Thinking about spending money on a taxi? Try spending some time walking through the area instead. If you’re looking to get somewhere less than a couple miles away, consider putting on some comfortable shoes and taking a stroll. Replacing motor transportation with walking greatly lessens your environmental impact and also greatly increases your familiarity with the area. Because it takes more time to walk than to drive somewhere, you have more time to take in all of the different senses around you, allowing you to understand and appreciate the area much better. And, if you need to get somewhere that is a little too far to walk, ride a bike! Biking provides similar environmental and personal advantages as walking does, in addition to being a fun form of exercise.
Take Public Transportation
If it’s too far or difficult to walk to wherever you need to go, try using whatever sorts of public transportation are available. Whether they are local buses, trains, or shared mini-vans, these modes of transportation cut down on energy costs for each rider, in turn reducing one’s environmental impact. From a tourist perspective, using public transportation has another significant benefit. Similar to walking, navigating an area’s public transportation lines allows one to understand the area at a deeper level. Plus, you might be able to impress locals with your ability to navigate their hometown!
If you had to carry 15 kilogram weights in your hands all day, you would be using more energy to carry those than if you didn’t have to carry them at all. The same logic applies to luggage. Everything you pack when preparing for a trip will need to be carried to wherever you go. The lighter your luggage, the less energy is required for you to carry it. When you put your luggage in a plane, bus, car, or any other transportation vehicle, you are making that vehicle use more energy to carry the weight. So, lose some of the weight, and you’ll lose some of that environmental impact! Think about what you are packing when you prepare for a trip. Do you need that extra pair of shoes? What about that sweatshirt?
Take Short Showers
Taking long, hot showers can be very tempting, especially to a tired traveler. However, resist that temptation by taking shorter showers, and you will be saving a great deal of water, reducing your environmental impact. Water is increasingly becoming a scarce natural resource throughout the world, and cutting down your water usage in any way can help provide water for someone who may need it more. Time your showers. See how long you take, and then try to cut that time down by a minute. Reducing your shower time by one minute reduces your water consumption by nearly 1000 gallons per year. Keeping your shower time under five minutes is ideal. A particularly good way to save water is to turn the shower off while you lather up and to turn it back on once you are ready to rinse. This is a particularly popular eco-friendly practice.
Stay in an Eco-Hotel
Hotels and other accommodation options that have adopted certain environmentally friendly characteristics in order to reduce their impact on the environment have become an increasingly popular trend among travelers these days. If you choose to stay in an eco-hotel, you will likely encounter various “green” luxuries like 100% organic cotton sheets, towels, and mattresses, renewable energy sources (like solar power), recycling bins, energy-efficient lighting, organic and local-grown food, gray water recycling, and a number of other environmentally friendly practices. Hotels can be major culprits when it comes to wastefulness, so eco-hotels are taking a commendable step in reducing their negative impact on the environment.
Next time you take a trip, think about these seven quick and simple green travel tips to help reduce your environmental impact. Though it is ideal, of course, you don’t have to employ all of these practices. Even doing a few of them will have a positive impact on not only the environment but also your traveling experience!
This blog post is by Rick Kirk, travel expert and environmental enthusiast. Rick is the owner of Chester hotels, a guide to hotels and travel for the lovely city of Chester, England.