Energy-efficient transportation can be easy to obtain on your home turf. Drive hybrid car–check. Ride bicycle–check. Hop on bus or subway train–check. But maintaining normal environmentally responsible travel routines on vacation can be a struggle. It is possible to avoid chucking your low-energy-consumption values out the SUV window, but you may have to do some planning before setting off. Here's a look at the preparation you'll need in order to stay true to your green self while on the road.
Up, Up and Away
First, the flight. Flying contributes tons, literally, of greenhouse-gas emissions into the atmosphere. One trip from the United States to Europe and back, for instance, will add three to four tons to your carbon footprint, “more emissions than 20 Bangladeshi will cause in a whole year.".
So, if vacationing nearer to home is a viable option, choose it. If not, there are ways to reduce your airborne impact:
- Just say no to business and first class. Sure, it’s luxurious, but it’s also unnecessary and wasteful. Those folks in the back of the plane may not get the best nap and will surely have to stretch their legs once off the plane, but they’re reducing the carbon footprint. Why? Less space for passengers equates to more passengers per plane, which means fewer emissions per person.
- Find the path of least resistance. Ohio to California via South Carolina? That kind of backtracking is not only time-consuming and irritating, it’s also taxing on the atmosphere. Whenever possible, choose the most direct flight and save some fuel.
- Pay it forward. For a small fraction of the cost of that plane ticket, passengers can purchase carbon offsets. For a mere $5-20 per ton of carbon dioxide used, individuals can mitigate their emissions. Offset money is then invested in carbon-reducing energy projects like wind-farm construction, solar-panel installation or reforestation.
Just Can’t Wait to Get on the Road Again
Off the plane and baggage-claim cleared, phase two of energy-efficient travel begins. With abounding highways and luggage in tow, odds are it’ll be difficult to bike or walk to the hotel. So what’s the next best thing?
- Go with the flow. Public transportation is a sure-fire way to live up to your green ethics. Riding with the masses means fewer cars on the road and less carbon dioxide emitted. Head to the airport’s concierge desk and request information on local bus transportation. They should be able to help you out, but just in case, it never hurts to search for the information before leaving home.
- The polite hotel. Most hotels located close to the airport offer their guests courtesy shuttles to and from the airport. Though not quite as fuel efficient as a bus, it’s still better than hailing a cab.
- Rental-car-counter bliss. Trip necessity or splurge, a car rental doesn’t have to be too tough on the atmosphere. Reserve a hybrid or subcompact car in advance to ensure they have one in stock upon your arrival. And in the not-so-uncommon case they don’t have what you reserved and offer you an SUV “upgrade,” refuse it. Walk to another rental-car counter and try to strike up a deal. Oftentimes they’ll honor their competitor’s rate and provide your preferred car for the same online discount price you found weeks ago with that other car company—all to steal you as a new customer from their competitor.
Center of Attention
Location, location, location. Finding a hotel near all the action is going to please Mother Earth big time. Take advantage of the proximity and reduce emissions by seeking out alternatives to rental cars or cabs.
- Fancy footwork. Burn off that big breakfast and walk to your destination. Make sure to secure a good local map and plot out the quickest and safest route to your destination.
- Wind in my hair. If more than a few miles separate you from your destination, consider biking there. This option will require some pre-trip Internet searching to locate a nearby bike-rental shop, but once you’ve found one, odds are you can get a good week-long deal on a rental.
- Again with the public transportation. Unfold the bus schedule you jammed in your pocket at the airport, begin the unavoidable arguing over maps with your travel mate and score points with the Earth.
Being green on the road may pose some obstacles, but with a little planning it’s not such a feat after all. Walk, bike, travel en masse, rent a fuel-efficient car—or some combination thereof—and you’ll rest easy on your hotel bed knowing you did your best to be a good friend to Mother Earth.
[If you have a green traveling tip you'd like to share, please comment below. - Ed.]
Eco-Friendly Travel Made Easy
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