Eco-travel is one way to travel smarter both for the environment and for your pocketbook. It’s a way to enjoy sites and time together as a family without creating a lot of trash and while enjoying the natural, the local, and the less commercialized.
Some of us absolutely LOVE to travel. Yes I am a travel junkie. But sometimes this means being less frugal, less resourceful, and less green than we might be at home. Many times it means making sacrifices in diet and consumption of non-recyclable resources. However, as our world realizes more and more the importance of being a little greener and embracing more of an eco-friendly way of life, it is becoming a bit easier to not have to splurge too much even while on vacation.
While day trips can be fun and tend to reduce our carbon footprint in terms of gasoline consumption and in general green living, I personally get the travel bug that makes me yearn to move beyond the day trip or the local hiking excursion and explore something new, something far away.
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7 Tips for traveling smarter and enjoying eco-travel
1. Travel light. Learn to Wash. My husband and I went on a trip overseas to Italy and Spain for a couple of weeks and were able to use one medium sized suitcase for both of us and then 1 carry-on each. The medium suitcase even had extra room to bring back anything we may have acquired. We consistently travel light, bring one pair of shoes, minimal shirts and pants, and only the necessities. In traveling light, you have to learn to wash clothes. This can be in a washing machine or in the sink. It doesn’t matter, but it just means you are not weighing yourself down, nor are you weighing down an airplane or cluttering your car. (Bring a couple of wire hangers in your suitcase for drying purposes). Recently our family of 3 was out of town for 2 weeks with two sets of pants each and a max of 4 shirts each. We re-wore and washed to stretch the use and minimize our packing.
- Some great things to invest in are
- Eagle Creek(my husband even uses this for business trips). We have both sizes of the pack-it folders and love them. They even are great to be able to slide into a backpack or laptop slot!
- Hiking Sandals as your only pair of shoes (easy for airports too) I have some Abeos by the Walking Co that I wear everywhere. They can be worn with black socks to make them look like tennis shoes or as sandals. Even my daughter has a pair of Keens that she wears everywhere and that seem to match everything.
2. Bring your own snacks and goodies. This means you can maintain more of your healthy lifestyle on the go! If you dehydrate snacks, you should be able to bring those with you anywhere in the world without problems in customs. If you are doing a road trip, use a cooler. We just recently took a 3 hour trip and were able to take all of the food that we needed in a cooler and 2 reusable grocery bags. You can even easily skip the wrappers by making your own jerky, apple chips, potato chips, etc..
3. Shop Local. Ok so this may seem really odd, but “local” is everywhere. The idea of buying local is that you do not buy into big businesses, rather you invest in small mom and pop shops and town grocers. It means fresher food and pouring your tourist dollars into the place you love to visit. So, when my family heads to Maui each year, we buy our groceries for the week at a local farmers market. This means we are supporting the place we love and helping keep their economy going. It also means getting great local food that we cannot buy at home… macadamia nut pesto and orange water kefir are two that come to mind that we buy at the farmers market in Maui.
4. Eat Fresh & BE ADVENTUROUS! This goes along with shopping local. If you are eating truly fresh food, (Picked when ripe) then you must be supporting local. But beyond that, if you go somewhere where you can fish or hunt, do it! We spear fish for food in Maui and come up with some fun and unique recipes. Hunting, gathering, fishing and more can become new hobbies that also provide food. Try the local food that you can’t get at home. (Have you eaten Poi? No? then try it!)
5. Do your research and plan ahead. Many times when we travel and stay at an establishment, we ensure that it has cooking and laundering capabilities. We love staying at WorldMark by Wyndham resorts because they have all eco friendly products in the room (including cloth diaper safe detergent), they use eco friendly chemicals to clean the rooms, don’t have chlorine pools, and more.
Staying with friends and family might also be a fun option that allows you more flexibility than just going out on your own. But in the end, it’s typically the food that is most important. Not only in terms of being healthier by cooking, but also saving money because of not eating out all of the time.
6. Bring re-usable. Bring reusable bags to use while shopping and don’t put your toothbrush and toiletries in a plastic ziplock. Packing toiletries can easily be done in reusable pouches and zip bags or even wrapped in a wash cloth or placed in a simple toiletry bag.
7. Drink Tap water. This goes with bringing reusable. Even in Italy, there were fountains to refill our water bottles everywhere. I realize that’s not the case everywhere (I drank the water in Mexico and yes, I paid for it.) Water is not a commodity and its becoming a huge problem worldwide, so having a water bottle to refill is not only handy, but a huge way to reduce your consumption and impact both daily and while traveling. Depending on the vacation, we have also brought camelbaks with us to re-use and refill.
What would you add? Where have you been and maintained at least a partial “green” lifestyle in the process?
Happy traveling! And hope to see you back for Part 2 on Eco-Travel with kids!
Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!