Given the dangers of global climate change, travel sometimes seems hard to justify. But there are ways to significantly minimize the environmental cost of your vacation. These five tips even make for more personally rewarding travel by allowing you to connect with the community and environment of the place you’re visiting. You’ll feel less like a disconnected tourist and more like a local, all while giving back to the planet.
1. Traveling Green Use Mass Transit
Instead of renting a car or using taxis once you arrive at your destination, consider using trains, subways, and buses whenever they are available. In addition to saving on fuel and reducing carbon emissions, you will see more of the real landscape of the area you’re visiting. Traveling as the locals do will get you off the traditional tourist path and let you find exciting new sights to see.
2. Staying Green by Avoiding Chains
Sure, they’re familiar and convenient, but chain hotels and restaurants are a real drag on local economies. The money you spend at the large corporate owned chains will never benefit the residents of the country you’re visiting, and it’s environmentally costly to maintain global franchises. Besides, what’s the point of traveling hundreds of miles just to pay for something you could have found a mile from your door? To support the environment and kick-start your vacation, step away from worldwide chains and take a risk on that hole-in-the-wall seafood restaurant or beach-side bar. Shopping at small grocery stores or farmers’ markets is another great way to try new things and support the local economy—and save yourself money, too!
3. Buying Carbon Offsets
Many airlines and travel companies offer carbon offsets to counteract the environmental costs of travel. Given simple information about your destination, means of transportation, and basic lifestyle expectations, a carbon offset calculator will present the environmental cost of your trip and suggest a small monetary donation to an organization devoted to conservation, renewable energy research, or another ecological cause. It’s an easy way to give back to the earth.
4. Traveling Green with a Purpose
To combat the environmental cost of travel, consider a package trip with an eco-tourism travel company that organizes volunteer conservations projects for travelers in beautiful destinations worldwide. You might work to preserve a forest, maintain a wildlife sanctuary, or contribute to local infrastructure. Don’t worry, it won’t feel like work: your efforts will take up some of your time, but most programs schedule plenty of time for sightseeing and going out on the town. You may even make friends with other socially responsible travelers from all over the world. Maybe your next trip could be to their home country!
5. Traveling Locally
Remember, you don’t need a jumbo jet to get away. Flying accounts for most of the environmental impact of many vacations, so you can minimize your carbon footprint simply by staying closer to home. Consider a destination you can reach by car or train—or better yet, be a tourist in your own city for a while. Unplug your phone, forget about routine obligations, and check out all the local sights you never have time to visit during “real life.” In addition to saving the planet, you’ll probably save yourself money–not to mention the time you would otherwise have spent on flying and recovering from jet lag.
Do you have any traveling green tips? We’d love to hear from our readers so leave us a comment with your ideas for going green on vacations!