My least favorite part about going on vacation is preparing to go. We just got back from a fabulous week in Arizona where we attended our niece’s wedding. The days leading up to going were hectic, even more hectic than they’d been for past vacations. Why? Not only did I have to prepare to go away, I tried to do it in an environmentally efficient way.
Many people are beginning to plan their summer vacations now. If you’re one of them, I’d like to encourage you to keep in mind how your travels will impact the environment when you go. I’m not one of those extremists who believe we should never travel more than 25 miles from our own homes. I do think, though, that there are many things we can do to reduce the impact that our travels have no matter how far we’re traveling.
Since this was my first time traveling keeping the environment in mind, I didn’t do all I could because frankly I didn’t think of all of them. So this list of suggestions contains both things I did and things I realized I should have done.
- Pack lightly – Whether you’re traveling by air or by car, the weight of all you pack will cause more fuel to be consumed. As I was debating how many pairs of shoes I would NEED, my husband smiled slyly and said, “You know every pair of shoes you take wastes more fuel. That’s not very green, you know.” After shooting him a sneer, I realized he was right. Back went a few pairs of shoes into the closet. If you’ve got the ability to do laundry while you’re away, you don’t need an outfit for each day you’re gone.
- If you’re flying, book a direct flight if possible. If you’re driving, plan a fairly direct route. The less meandering you go from point A to point B, the less fuel you’ll use (if you’re driving this will save you money, too.)
- Pack snacks wisely. Car trips call for snacks on hand and we all know by now to bring our own snacks on the plane. That doesn’t mean you need to buy individually wrapped packages that generate a lot of trash. You can buy snacks in bulk and put them in reusable containers.
- If you’re renting a car, rent the most fuel-efficient vehicle you can. Some rental companies now carry hybrid vehicles. We tried to do this on our trip, but when we got to the counter, they didn’t have the car we reserved. They gave us something they said was comparable, but their idea of comparable was something the same size.
- When eating out, choose restaurants that have reusable dishes and utensils – not disposable ware. We went out for tacos one afternoon, and I was horrified by all of the Styrofoam we ended up throwing in the trash when we were done eating. Next time, I’ll check out eating establishments more thoroughly.
- Support the local economy. Eat at an independently owned restaurant, not a chain. Buy one of kind souvenirs from local artists, not from souvenir shops that sell plastic key chains made in China. If you see a farmer’s market, by all means stop. Load up on some local produce, cheese and bread and go have a picnic all while supporting the small farmer.
- Before you leave home turn everything down or off. Adjust the thermostat so energy is not used to cool or heat a house that is empty. Power down all electronics and unplug any appliance that is not a necessity. The few minutes it’s going to take you to reset your alarm clock or reprogram the stations on your under the counter kitchen radio is well worth the energy saved.
- Clean out the refrigerator before you go. Give away food that will spoil to your neighbors so it doesn’t go to waste. Put anything that you can freeze in the freezer and you’ll have something to eat upon return.