Before I went to Austin, TX for South by Southwest Interactive earlier this year, it had been about 7 years since I had last been on a plane or even on a trip that didn’t include a stay with family members. Since then, I’ve been on another trip to Chicago for BlogHer, and it’s not unreasonable to think I may have to fly again this year. I try to avoid flights in general, because there’s nothing green about airplane travel, at least not yet. But when I do find myself needing to take a flight, I try not to forget all my eco values just because I’m away from home.
While we’re out and about, it can be easy to forgo our green values in favor of what is convenient. Here are some tips that even I try to remember when I’m hitting the road:
1. Turn out the lights and unplug
Most hotel rooms come equipped with more than a few lamps and lights. Chances are, you’ll use one or two of them at most. First, unplug the ones you’re unlikely to use. Next, be sure to turn them all off when you leave the room.
2. Reuse your towels
When you’re at home, you probably use your towel for a couple of days, minimum. Why should it be any different when you’re on the road? Sure, the housekeepers will come in and give you fresh towels every day. But if you put your “do not disturb” sign on the door, they’ll skip your room and you can save your towel from an unneccessary spin the washer.
3. Adjust the temperature
In my experience, hotel rooms are generally pretty chilly in the summer and toasty in the winter. Most rooms also come with in-room temperature controls. Turn the temp up or down a few degrees to help conserve energy.
4. Find out if the hotel recycles, and if so, do it
Some hotel chains (most notably, Fairmont) have extensive recycling programs that make it easy for guests. But other hotels haven’t quite caught up to the demand for this type of service, so you may have to get a little creative. When I stayed in the Sheraton Chicago for BlogHer, I had to ask around to find out that I could recycle my paper and plastic in the business center. It took me a few extra minutes to find it, but I felt good about reducing my waste. Check with the front desk or concierge to find out 1) if the hotel has a recycling program, 2) where you have to take your stuff and 3) what can be recycled.
5. BYOS: Bring your own soap
Taking any personal care supplies on an airline flight can be a bit of a pain given all the restrictions on liquids, but you can avoid the hassle altogether in two ways: Either skirt the restrictions by traveling with your own solid bars of soap and lotion, or if you have toiletry bags for travelers, pack all your toiletries inside those and have them checked instead of your carry-on. You’ll be a lot more likely to use your own soap and you’ll avoid having to toss a bunch of empty, hotel-sized bottles of shampoo, lotion and body wash.
6. Pack light
While checking a bag can help you avoid the restrictions on liquids, you’re really doing yourself and the airline a favor by packing lighter. This may mean taking just a carry-on bag or checking one larger bag and taking nothing else, depending on where you’re traveling to and from. In the end, less luggage means a lighter plane that will burn less fuel.
7. Find stuff to do â€” not stuff to buy
WhenÂ folks travel, we have a tendency to come back with a bunch cheap, mass-produced trinkets to remind us of our journey — keychains from the airport newsstand, flimsy t-shirts from the corner store and magnets from the hotel gift shop. Do you really need any of that stuff? It’s a better idea to come home with experiential memories and photos as evidence of your jaunts. For my last trip the best hotel in Broome was full of in house activities and offered tons of excusions at a discounted rate. We came home with so many fun memories, and that’s what travel is all about! Visit local landmarks, take a trip to the zoo or just walk around your destination and keep your eyes and ears open for all the sights and sounds that are new to you. If all else fails, ask the concierge what there is to do nearby. And if you can’t resist at least one souvenir, at least try to find one made by a local artisan.
8. Eat local, organic fare
When it comes to food, I am VERY picky, so I’m comfortable with familiarity. That means I could fly hundreds of miles across the nation, or even internationally, and still end up eating fries from McDonalds. Sad, I know. It’s a habit I’m trying hard to break. I’ve made a promise to myself that the next time I travel, I will try some local cuisine that is also made from local, organic ingredients that are in season and therefore more sustainable.
Those are my easy tips for making your next trip a little greener. What eco habits do you take with you when you travel? Share your experience in the comments below.