by Emmaline Pohl with Greenheart Travel
You have prepared for your long awaited trip, and have now arrived at your destination eager to take in the sights, smells and sounds of the new country and culture you are visiting. Take your green consciousness along as you explore your new surroundings with these travel tips to stay eco-friendly while you enjoy your adventure abroad.
While you are away:
Turn down your water heater: Change the setting to “vacation” or the lowest setting, to avoid wasting energy.
Set your lights to a timer: Link your lights to a timer that will turn them on and off automatically, instead of just leaving them on constantly in your absence. It is important to deter burglars but just as important to do it in a way that saves you money and reduces energy wastage.
Put a pause on your newspaper delivery Don’t keep having the newspaper dropped off at your porch while you are away, creating both litter and a massive pile of newspaper you will never read. A mounting collection of publications is also a sure sign that you haven’t been home for awhile.
Program your thermostat: Set your thermostat so that the air conditioning remains off in your absence. In the winter, program the thermostat to keep the house at roughly 50 degrees; it is important to have some heat on to prevent your pipes from freezing and bursting.
When You Are There:
- Bring reusable bags: When shopping, do everything you can to avoid using plastic bags, especially in African and South American nations where plastic bags are a major source of litter. Instead, use cloth or burlap bags—or even woven baskets! Show your bag to the clerk, so they know they do not need to put your items in a plastic bag and politely say “no” if a clerk offers to do so.
- Avoid visiting places which derive profit from displaying animals: Some restaurants, stores, and shows use animals to draw in customers and earn a profit. Zoos are especially known for mistreating animals. It is also possible, in some countries, that these places illegally house endangered species. Instead of supporting these establishments, visit national wildlife refugees, where you can view the animals in their natural habitat while supporting their conservation.
- Always shop local as much as you can: Support locally owned businesses, restaurants, hotels and products with your business. Farmers markets and exchange markets are great sites for shopping in this way. You will be improving the financial livelihoods of the local residents, instead of international chains or companies, while encouraging the continuation of traditional and cultural businesses. Plus, the experiences you have and the products you purchase will be much more memorable and meaningful.
- Never buy souvenirs made from wild animal products (such as skins, ivory or bone): It’s illegal and supports poaching practices which often kill endangered species.
- When purchasing wood products, look for items constructed of wood from renewable sources: Don’t buy products made from old-growth trees or taken from endangered forests. Ask for the source before you purchase an item. If you are shopping at a local market, there is a higher chance the vendor will know where the wood comes from. There are dozens of wood species you should avoid that are endangered as a result of over-logging.
Use public transpiration, bike or walk whenever possible: By using these modes of travel, you are minimizing your impact on the environment, increasing your opportunities to meet local people, saving money, and expanding your knowledge of where you are.
Decline to have your linens and towels washed every day: If you are staying in a hotel or other lodging place for more than one night, leave a note explaining your linens/towels do not need to be washed daily. This saves a large amount of water and, for the staff, makes their job easier.
Turn off lights, the television and air conditioning when they’re not being used: Just like when you are at home, shut off any appliances or electronic devices you are not using. This is especially important in countries with less resilient electric systems; if enough people are mindlessly using power, the entire system could experience a black-out.
Unplug phone, razor, and laptop chargers These are “vampire” energy users; items that use electricity even when not being used to charge. Although the energy used is small, it does add up.
Use your own shampoo, leave the little bottles behind Most hotels provide complimentary tiny “one-time-use” bottles of shampoo, soap, etc. Bring your own reusable containers of these supplies instead, conserving resources.