Easy Tips for Environmentally Conscious Travel

The recent rage in ‘eco-tourism’, or traveling in ways that support the natural environment and local people, has made some folks nervous. They think they need to go to Costa Rica and save the sea turtles in order to qualify as ‘green’ travelers. Not true. While the more labor-intensive volunteer excursions are wonderful experiences for some, they’re not for everyone. Many people take vacations to relax and get away from the stresses of everyday life, and they don’t want to have to worry about the environment while they’re gone.

But lessening one’s environmental impact while traveling doesn’t have to involve a lot of exertion or self-sacrifice, and doing so can make you feel that you’re doing something to help while simultaneously kicking back on the beach. A report from the Green Hotels Association quotes a US Travel Data Center survey stating that 43 million American travelers are ‘ecologically concerned’. People care, they just don’t know what to do about it.

Green travel essentially means travel that is concerned with protecting the environment and the culture of the places one visits. This can be achieved in many ways, from the simple to the more complex. Some of the ways we can be greener travelers are mentioned below.

Before You Leave on Your Trip
Turn off or unplug all appliances in your home; some appliances can pull up to 40 watts per hour even if turned off.
Turn down the temperature of the thermostat and water heaters.
Temporarily interrupt your newspaper service or donate it to a local school.
Turn off your water connection.
While Traveling
Use electronic tickets for your airline flights.
Buy carbon emissions offsets from an organization like Sustainable Travel International. By paying a small extra fee when you travel by air, for example, the amount of carbons emissions caused by your flight (which can be equivalent to one person’s fuel use of an SUV for an entire month) can be offset with the organization’s contributing to sustainable energy in other areas, such as solar heating or wind power.
Opt for a hybrid rental car.
Choose a ‘green’ hotel or ecolodge. These are accommodations whose goals are to preserve the environment and reduce waste. Some of the best of these use 100% solar power for their hotels, automatically turn off lights and appliances when guests leave the rooms, have low-flow toilets and recycling bins in the rooms, use local organic products in their restaurants, and employ staff from the local community. The Independent Traveler website lists a ‘Top 10 Ecolodges and Green Hotels’.