Amidst the chaos in the world these days and on our way home from Yellowstone, after 7 days of exploring the amazing landscapes we call home on this planet, the US president pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement. As we read that news on our drive home, I realized I find myself thinking more and more about the importance of responsible travel and how important it is for all of us to pick up that torch.
I don’t mean in the sense of being safe, being responsible people while traveling, but going beyond our normal courteous travel habits, going deeper in an effort to make sure that while traveling, we’re also being kind to this planet we call home and the places we see while traveling. You see, I think a majority of people my age as millennials will agree that climate change is real, carbon emissions are real, and green energy is the way of the future. Being in the design industry in a very sustainable state in Oregon, I know first hand how much damage we can do to the planet in the way we build, in the way we use energy. A lot of my day job as an interior designer is working with LEED, a green design standard in building and seeing how we can build buildings to cause less harm to this one and only planet we live on. And with so much going on in our government in the US these days, who seemingly doesn’t agree with the majority of the country on issues like sustainability, it’s becoming vitally important as citizens of this planet, we start realizing how much of impact each of us can have even on our own. And if, like me, travel makes up a big part of your life, it’s important that responsible travel also become more and more part of our routines.
To get down to it, travel isn’t very sustainable as it exists now. Air travel has a huge carbon footprint and relies on releasing harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. Once we get to a destination, we’re driving in cars using oil, we’re staying in hotels that require an enormous amount of energy to run. Overall, travel isn’t very “green.” However, that’s not to say that it can’t be or that we can’t offset some of the harms of travel to the planet in order to continue to see this beautiful Earth we call home.
When I travel, I’m constantly amazed at how incredible this planet is. From the coastlines of Australia to the lavender fields of Provence to the glaciers of Alaska to the mountain peaks of Peru, this planet is simply stunning and worth protecting. And it starts with us as travelers, to help protect this planet we reside on and here’s how we can help do that.
When you can, take public transportation or walk, over driving.
If possible, walking or taking public transportation like trains is a lot more ec0-friendly than driving while traveling. And if you have to drive, see if your rental car company offers a hybrid or battery powered car over gas.
If you have the choice, stay at a LEED or eco-friendly hotel.
There are an increasing number of hotels headed in a sustainable direction, whether registering their buildings with LEED, which is a green building rating system or just going the eco-friendly route. If you have a choice between an eco-friendly or LEED hotel, versus something else, you can support the environment by staying there over a conventional hotel.
Use water wisely, especially in places where it’s scarce or hard to come by.
This is good advice for everywhere, at home too, but even more important when traveling to countries that have water scarcities, but using water wisely is super important. Use it only when needed, for example when brushing your teeth, turn it off in between rinses or take a little bit shorter shower – you’d be amazed at home much water is saved just by doing those 2 things on the regular basis!
Buy local products.
This goes to both the sustainability of the planet as well as the economics of travel. Buying local products is both great for local business and their economy as well as not releasing more energy into the atmosphere to ship a product from elsewhere. Buy local whenever you possibly can!
Preserve energy when you can.
When you’re out for the day, be sure to turn off lights in your hotel room or AirBnB or when you’re out driving and pull over to the side of the road – turn off your car instead of idling. Preserving energy when we can is vitally important in the long run and every little bit counts!