Whether you travel by plane, train or automobile, your vacation is going to take an environmental toll. But you don't have to travel by foot or bike or to lessen some of the impact that your travel has on the planet. You can follow a few simple steps to help make your vacation more eco-friendly, without staying in a tent. In fact, you can stay in a hotel room-not even a LEED certified green hotel room-and still lessen your impact.
Your carbon footprint is the impact you make on the earth with the contributions you add to global warming. When you're home, you probably take care not too make too large an impact, but when you're traveling you may be more relaxed about the choices you make. Here are some things you can do to help offset your carbon impact when traveling.
Before you leave for your trip, visit a site like Carbonfund.org to calculate your carbon footprint. Then, calculate your carbon impact on your planned trip, including your transportation, whether it's plane, boat or train. Then, take steps to reduce your increased impact on the environment.
For frequent travelers you may want to develop habits, like frequent flyer and "green" comedian Dan Nainan. As a self-proclaimed tech junkie, when Nainan travels, he not only impacts the environment in the air, but with all his energy-needing gear. Here are some of his tips that he uses to offset his carbon footprint when he travels:
To save the water, chemicals and energy the hotel uses washing and laundering sheets and towels, place the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door to prevent the maid from unnecessary cleaning. You most likely don't use clean linens everyday at home, so you don't need to use them when traveling either.
Unplug anything in the room you're not using. If you don't watch TV, unplug it. If you use your cell phone as a watch and alarm clock, unplug the clock provided by the hotel. Unplug the air conditioner and ask for another blanket instead of using the heater. Cell phone chargers aren't the only electronic devices that use energy simply by being plugged in, so unplug any electronic devices you don't use, like the hairdryer attached to the wall in the bathroom.
Airplanes are most likely the biggest emissions contributor on your trip, so once you arrive at your destination, take mass transportation or walk. Flying commercial is not only budget-friendly but also more eco-friendly (think public versus private car). In fact, because a major part of carbon emissions as a result of travel stems from airline travel, a number of airlines have created carbon offset programs so that environmentally aware fliers can find out their carbon impact and then offset it, making their trip carbon neutral. Airlines that offer programs include Virgin, United, and Delta to name a few. You simply make a donation towards a carbon reduction program that helps to restore the environment and you can often use airline miles in these joint efforts so that you don't have to dip into your travel funds.
You may not be able to entirely offset your trip, but every little bit counts