By: Nalee Vang, Communications Intern
As many of my peers are going off on their spring break adventures, I will be sitting all cozy at home on my couch (most likely binge-watching shows on Netflix). Although I wish I could be enjoying my spring break elsewhere, I am quite alright with the fact that I can stay home and relax. More relaxing leads to less driving, which also leads to less greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. So, to my peers, I thought I’d give a few tips on how to be eco-friendly, even while traveling.
Before Your Trip: Packing & Leaving Your Home
Pack light. The more weight trains, planes, and automobiles have to carry, the more fuel they use, and the more greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere (which is why it’s nice for me to stay home, as mentioned earlier).
Bring a reusable water bottle and shopping bags. Toss the bag in the suitcase and keep the water bottle handy for water fountain fill-ups — using both items will help cut down on wasteful packaging during travel.
Recycle before you go. If you purchased new products before the trip (an iPhone charger, a new tube of toothpaste), recycle the cardboard wrappers before leaving home. That way, you won’t have to worry about your recyclables sitting at home or trying to find room for more when you get back.
Turn off — and unplug! — lights and electronics. Unless your roommate is staying put for spring break, nobody’s going to use that couch-side lamp while you’re gone. Turning off electronics saves on the electricity bill and cuts down on energy usage. To make an even bigger dent, unplug all electronics, since they can “leach” power even when they’re not turned on.
Turn down the thermostat. Same reasoning as above: An empty room doesn’t need to be heated, and keeping it warm unnecessarily uses up energy. If you have your own water heater, go ahead and turn that down, too.
Getting There: Choosing How to Travel
For shorter trips: Take the train or bus instead of flying. Doing so emits three to seven times less gas than air travel.
Renting a car: Choose the smallest vehicle possible and rent a hybrid if one’s available.
Traveling by air: Use the most direct route possible. Did you know that take offs and landings use the most fuel? If you can book a non-stop flight, that’d be great! You can also try to choose an energy-efficient plane. This one can be tough, because the information isn’t always available. Some airlines, like Southwest, have started retrofitting their planes to make them more energy efficient, and some newer plane models are being designed to burn up to 20 percent less fuel. If you’ve got the time and inclination, call up the airline and ask them about their environmental practices.
During Your Trip: Stay Green
At the hotel. Follow some simple practices to minimize energy use: Keep showers short, and shut off the water while brushing your teeth. Turn off the TV, lights, and heat or air-conditioning whenever you leave the room. If staying for multiple nights, reuse sheets & towels instead of having them washed and changed every day.
Or just scrap the hotel. Instead, stay with family or friends.
Getting around: Use public transportation, bike, or walk whenever possible. If driving, follow these tips for green driving: Avoid fast starts and stops, avoid idling, keep the tires properly inflated, combine trips, keep cargo light, and stick to the speed limit.
Shopping: Purchase meals, foods, and other products from local vendors (and use that reusable bag to carry your stuff!).
Eating: The basic principles of eating green apply pretty much anywhere. Challenge yourself to include one local or organic ingredient in every dish on the family table (just make sure to suggest it in a friendly way to the chefs). Also, you can visit Dine Green and search for certified green restaurants in the area!
Not only is it possible (and pretty easy) to keep the environment in mind while traveling, but in a lot of cases green travel practices can save everyone some (green) money as well! Whether you’re traveling for spring break or going on vacation just because, remember to keep it green! Safe travels!