5 Ways to Have a Small Footprint Vacation

Eco-friendly travel tips

Every time you travel, it takes a toll on the environment. From bottled waters bought on-the-go to cranked-up air conditioning in the hotel room, little conveniences on vacation add up quickly. And don’t forget the carbon footprint that trails you to and from your destination.

Transportation accounts for about 28% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. While cars leave behind their fair share of carbon dioxide and other climate-changing gases, flying does the most damage. A 2017 article in The New York Times reported that one round-trip flight between New York and California emits 20% of the greenhouse gases transmitted by your car over a whole year. Yikes!

The best way to make your trip eco-friendly is to stay within your region and avoid flying altogether, but that will definitely put a damper on your bucket list! Luckily, no matter where you’re headed, there are some simple steps you can take to go green while going on vacation. Here are a few to follow:

1. Travel the most eco-friendly way possible.

Consider every leg of your trip. If you have to take a flight to a faraway location, be conscientious of how you get to the airport. Rideshares and public transit are both better options than driving there alone. Renting a car? Opt for a hybrid or electric vehicle. Once at your destination, explore on foot or by bike as much as you can. Bonus: You’ll be more immersed in your new surroundings!

2. Stay at a green hotel.

Your best bet is to look for lodging with LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, or ENERGY STAR certification by the EPA. Both designations assure you that the hotel you’re booking is sustainable and energy-efficient.

3. Be a thoughtful guest.

When staying in a hotel, help save water by hanging your towels rather than tossing them on the floor to be washed, and by requesting that housekeeping not change your linens daily. Always double-check that you’ve turned off the TV and lights before you leave for a day of adventures — and consider lowering your A/C.

4. Bring your own bottle.

This is eco-friendly rule #1, but it can be hard to follow on vacation when you’re worried about drinking unsafe tap water. If that’s the case, pick up a portable purification tool or a bottle with a built-in filter. Also try to avoid other single-use plastic, such as sandwich bags, by packing beach lunches and hiking snacks in reusable containers instead.

5. Shop local.

It’s always better to buy goods made nearby rather than ones imported at the expense of the environment. This is true for souvenirs as well as food: Go to restaurants that use local produce and you'll know their transportation cost was low, while also getting a true taste of regional flavors.

Image: Susanne Nilsson/Flickr