If you could make your vacation more eco-friendly without a lot of hassle and little or no expense, would you be willing to you try a green vacation idea or two?
Does that first line have you thinking something along the lines of, “Get real? Vacation is about having fun and indulging yourself. When I am on vacation, I do not want to worry about the environment.”
That was the reaction of my family dinner table editorial board when I broached the idea of writing a post about greening your vacation. They emphatically stated that vacation is about getting away from it all, splurging, and just enjoying yourself.
Bravely, I countered with you can do all that and do something to green your vacation. They sighed. Clearly, I was not getting the point that no one wants to think about the environment on vacation.
Actually, I do get it, but rather than being deterred, I decided to challenge myself to present you with five easy and low or no cost ideas and attempt to convince you that you can do at least one these without decreasing your enjoyment or making you feel deprived on your vacation.
Vacation and the Environment
You do not need me to tell you that we all live on a big sphere where global warming, climate change, and pollution do not stop at state or country boundaries but I feel it is worth repeating so we are on the same page.
In part, a healthy environment is what makes a vacation destination a place you want to visit. Envision your favorite vacation spot disappearing under the ocean forever, vaporizing in the flames of a mega-fire, or devastated by an unending drought. Imagine a place you have been longing to visit so damaged or polluted that you no longer want to go there and even if you did, it would not be safe.
We each have a responsibility to live more lightly on Earth safeguarding not only the communities where we live and work but also the places we go to relax, refresh, and live it up for a short time before going back to our daily lives.
The number one thing you can do to green your vacation is to avoid air travel.
That said I realize that millions of people choose to fly to and from their vacation destinations for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, regardless of your travel method, making some part of your vacation more environmentally friendly is within your power.
If millions of vacationers, including you and me, did just one thing, we could collectively make a sizable positive impact. Every drop in a bucket does indeed fill it up.
Reusable Water Bottle
On your next vacation, bring your own reusable water bottle and keep it filled. Make a point of drinking fewer bottles of water that come packaged in single-use plastic bottles or aluminum cans or better yet skip it altogether.
Besides the negative environmental and social impact of bottled water, dealing with billions of single-use plastic bottles discarded in the trash, placed in recycle bins, and tossed on the ground is a challenging and costly problem for tourist towns, national parks, beaches, amusement parks, and transportation hubs.
So much so, that municipalities, recreational areas, and airports are increasingly installing drinking fountains and water bottle refilling stations in an effort to reduce their costs. This is good for you because it makes it easier for you to refill your bottle when you are out and about.
I travel with two or three reusable BPA-free 24-ounce plastic reusable water bottles and one bottle carrier with a strap.
You can buy a good quality reusable water bottle that will last indefinitely for $15-$25. Many organizations and non-profits offer reusable water bottles emblazoned with their logos for less than $10 or even free (it is good marketing for them).
Reusable Shopping Bag
A simple way to green your vacation is to stash a compact reusable shopping bag in your pocket, purse, daypack, tote bag, or rental car and then hand it to the store clerk before he or she puts the souvenir coffee mug or the makings for a picnic lunch you just bought into a disposable bag.
Unfortunately, single-use plastic bags are ubiquitous and like single-use plastic bottles, they have a large environmental footprint and generate tons of waste. Because they are lightweight, plastic bags tend to fly all over the place getting stuck on fences and trees, clogging storm drains, and ending up inside unsuspecting animals.
I travel with two or three reusable bags that roll up.
You can buy a good quality and attractive reusable shopping bag for about the same price as a reusable water bottle and sometimes organizations give them away.
Provisions and Packaging
Another easy way to reduce the carbon footprint of your vacation is to cut down on using throwaway packaging.
For instance, you can be green and forgo the exorbitant prices you often find at travel departure locations like airports, train depots, and bus stations by taking food with you such as nuts and raisins, pretzels, chocolate chips cookies, a sandwich, or a salad in a reusable bag or container.
Another eco-friendly practice is to eat at least some meals in restaurants with reusable flatware, dishes, and glassware. This requires no effort on your part other than selecting a restaurant.
If you are staying in a vacation rental with any sort of a kitchen, consider making some of your own meals. Breakfast is a good choice because it is a relatively simple meal to make and you are fresh in the morning. Give yourself extra green credit for packing up snacks or lunch for the day.
Just say no thank to excess packaging. You do not need a little, waxed paper bag for the raspberry truffle you are going to eat as soon as you leave the candy store. Nor do you need a paper bag to carry one sandwich and a bag of chips on your way back to the beach for lunch.
Bringing your own toiletries from home either in full-size original containers or in travel-size reusable containers is easy and cuts down on waste. Another benefit is that if you have sensitive skin (like me), you can avoid potential allergies and rashes from using unfamiliar products.
Those tiny plastic bottles of shampoo and lotion have a similar environmental impact to single-use water bottles and plastic bags.
I travel with small reusable containers filled with my usual 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner, shower soap, lotion, and bar soap.
You do not want toiletries leaking in your luggage so look closely at the containers before you buy them. An alternative is to buy travel-size containers of the toiletries you usually use and then refill them for future trips.
Shopping and Souvenirs
Buying souvenirs and shopping are an important part of the overall vacation experience for some people (including me) so this is probably a touchy subject. However, minimizing or eliminating shopping and buying souvenirs can free up your time for more sightseeing and other fun activities while decreasing your vacation carbon footprint.
To help you evaluate your vacation shopping habits and potential willingness to change them consider asking yourself the ten questions I raised in the post entitled Greening Your Vacation – Souvenirs and Shopping. I wrote this post past last year when I was grappling with own vacation shopping habits and trying to establish a balance for myself between buying nothing and buying too much.
Setting some limits on shopping before you leave home does not preclude you from being spontaneous or indulging yourself on vacation.
In September, I am going on vacation with friends to Omaha, Nebraska traveling by train from my home on the Central California Coast. I intend to implement my revised vacation souvenir and shopping philosophy on this trip.
After reading this post and thinking about it, I hope you can see yourself enjoying and greening your next vacation.
Featured Image at Top: Tiny Green Suitcase and Luggage Tag Made to Look like Plants on a Wood Background – Photo Credit iStock/Petmal
- Bottled Water – Cost and Sustainability
- Carbon Offsets – Air Travel
- Green Travel – Aboard the Amtrak Coast Starlight Train
- Green Travel – Airport Water Bottle Empty and Refill Stations
- Green Travel – Take the Bus
- Green Travel – Take the Train
- Greening Your Vacation – Souvenirs and Shopping
- Not So Green Vacation
- Take a Green Vacation – Go Camping
- Vacation – Let’s Take Our Green Habits with Us
- You Can Live Without Single-Use Plastic Bags – Here’s How
- A Plastic Ocean (film)
- Best Water Bottles 2018 – Trusted Beasts
- Fast Facts About Plastic Pollution – by Laura Parker, National Geographic, 05/16/18
- Let’s Bag Plastic Bags – by Joseph Curtin, The New York Times, 03/03/18
- Ranking the 10 Best Water Bottles of 2018 – Best Survival
- The 12 Best Water Bottles to Travel With – by Dobrina Zhekova, Travel + Leisure, 04/15/18