Over the river and through the woods… Ah, holiday travel. The very thought brings up a host of conflicting emotions. The joy of seeing family, the hassles of travel during busy times, inclement weather and more. Unfortunately, travel can also do a number on our planet. But we’ve got some tips to minimize your impact, without canceling those reservations!
Getting there—before you even start packing, start thinking about how you’ll get there. The greenest method of transportation depends in part on how far you’re going. In terms of CO2 emitted per mile, buses, trains, hybrid cars and coach seats on narrow jets are all fairly low. Regular cars, and coach and regional jets come next. Taking a bus is actually better than driving a hybrid! Compared to flying, a couple on a bus will cut their emissions by 55 to 75 percent. For shorter trips, where time is less of a factor, take the bus or train. For trips over 500 miles, if you need the time, choose a non-stop coach flight. And if driving is the way you’re going, consider renting a hybrid to get you around. No matter which method you choose, consider offsetting your travel to further reduce your overall impact.
Before you leave—before you even get on the road, spend a little time prepping at home. Pack light to reduce weight (lighter load means more fuel efficiency). Make sure to include a reusable water bottle and shopping bag in your suitcase and recycle any packaging before you leave so you don’t have to locate a recycling center on the road. Turn off, and unplug, everything you can at home to stop energy vampires. Lower your thermostat and even your water heater, there’s no sense in heating an empty room. Suspend any newspaper deliveries and have your mail put on hold while you’re away.
Green hotels—this is a constantly evolving arena. Do a little research and find a reputable green hotel that’s not just engaging in greenwashing. While you’re there, keep up your green habits – keep showers short, turn off the water while brushing your teeth, ask for a recycling bin, reuse towels and sheets instead of having them changed every day. Look for hotels that use local products and have green options for guests like bike rentals, and alternative-fuel or electric carts for guest transportation on site. Does the on-site restaurant use seasonal, locally-sourced foods whenever possible? Is the hotel using alternative resources like solar or wind power, or geothermal heating?
Going green when you travel does require a little extra effort, and each family has to decide what’s right for them. But every little step we can take is another drop in the bucket to changing our world for the better. You don’t have to do it all, just do what you can, and what makes sense for you.