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I care about the environment, but when it comes to making my family vacations environmentally friendly, it’s hard to know where to start. So I did a little research, talked to some experts, and found that planning eco-friendly travel doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, you may already be making planet-friendly decisions each time you travel. As we approach Earth Day, these sustainable travel tips are simple ways to make a huge difference in protecting our natural resources. Whether you’re worried about climate change, eager to conserve national parks for future generations, or just want to see what responsible travel is all about, you’ll make a positive impact, even with just a few small changes.
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Use Eco-Friendly Planning Tools
The first step, according to Matt Berna, Managing Director, North America, for sustainable tour operator Intrepid Travel, is to calculate the carbon footprint for your trip, Tools like MyClimate and Atmosfair offer an easy way to calculate the carbon emissions for your flights, while Carbon Footprint lets travelers add car and rail travel as well. All three services offer carbon offsets to help lessen the environmental impact of traveling.
If you want to start simpler, check out the International Council on Clean Transportation’s terrific guide on which flight-planning tools (like Kayak.com and Google Flights) can help you find travel options with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions. (Hint: Direct flights tend to be better in this department.)
You can also check certification organizations for the tourism industry, such as the Rainforest Alliance, EarthCheck, or Green Key Global, to see which vendors meet their qualifications for sustainability.
Look for Green Transportation
When planning your vacation, dig deeper to find transportation options that use renewable energy. United Airlines recently tested a flight from Chicago to D.C. that used 100% biofuel, and KLM uses a small percentage of biofuel on each one of their flights.
Since air travel is a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, that’s a good reason to consider alternative ways to travel. If you’re exploring Europe or Asia, use electric-powered train networks and other public transportation to move to a new city or region instead of short flights. And when you’re staying closer to home, consider using electric vehicles. (Yes, this is that excuse you’ve been looking for to rent that Tesla!)
Book a Sustainable Tour
If doing the planning yourself feels a bit overwhelming, find a trustworthy sustainable tourism company that can build an eco-friendly adventure for your family.
“With great travel comes great responsibility,” according to Intrepid Travel, which seeks to create positive change as they help travelers explore the world. Intrepid offers family-oriented tours on several continents, and Matt Berna says that Intrepid has been climate-neutral since 2010. The company is dedicated to sustainability in all forms, including supporting local communities, local culture, the environment, animal welfare, and equality.
Natural Habitat Adventures is another carbon-neutral company that offers “conservation travel” in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund. Their kid-friendly tours include African safaris and excursions to the Galapagos Islands.
Whether you’re flying or driving, more stuff = more fuel. Pack as lightly as possible to conserve energy. This is easier said than done for families with small children, but start brainstorming to see what you can reduce. Book lodging that includes a washing machine so you can take fewer clothes and wash them during your trip. Borrow or rent pack n’ plays or high chairs at your destination. Make a packing list, then see what can be combined or eliminated. Find out if baby food or diapers will be available locally when you arrive (can confirm, the diapers in Austria work just fine).
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Find Green Lodging
I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that many popular hotel chains are incorporating sustainability practices, with everything from buildings with LEED certification to toiletry dispensers that use eco-friendly products and discourage waste. Ask your favorite hotel chain what they are doing to battle climate change, and you may find that the places you already stay are doing well in that category.
If you want to take it to the next level, research lodging options that have built their business on being sustainable. For example, the Mother Earth Vegan Hotel in Costa Rica incorporates solar power and a water recycling system into their plant-based resort. And Beyond Green member hotels have committed to rigorous environmental standards, like reducing plastic waste, embracing renewable energy projects, and connecting with local people.
Planning eco-friendly travel doesn’t have to be hard. As we approach Earth Day, try these sustainable travel tips to make a difference.
When you travel, think of ways to reduce your waste as you go. Grab some stainless steel straws and utensils at the Package Free Shop and keep them with you on excursions. (I once saw a mom in line at an ice cream shop pull out reusable bamboo spoons before her family sat down to eat. Next. Level. Mommying.) Keep packable, reusable bags with you to avoid the dreaded, single-use plastic bags at local markets or the grocery store.
Products like toothpaste tablets and bar shampoo are easy to pack and help keep your luggage light. And don’t forget your reusable water bottle and collapsible coffee cups!
When thinking about the best ways to keep our planet green, one of the first stops is right at home. As much as we all love to travel, visiting beautiful spots just down the road here in the United States is one of the greenest choices we can make.
But when you do plan international travel, think about the impact your trip can have on the local community you visit. As tourists, we have the opportunity to support local restaurants and artisans. We can choose food that is sourced nearby and supports local farmers, shop at businesses to support the local economy, and enjoy activities that conserve natural habitats for local wildlife.
Ultimately, it’s up to all of us to keep our planet green and happy. In recent years, the travel industry has gone a long way in improving its environmental footprint and offering sustainable options. Now is the perfect time to include a few of these eco-friendly travel tips into your sustainable lifestyle and make a positive difference for the future.
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