Eco travel has always been in my blood.
I grew up in the woods of New Hampshire and have always had a love for nature, animals, and adventure. From a very young age I had the joy of experiencing some of North America's most special and beautiful places.
My father was a hippie at heart and spent his years prior to having a family as a ski-patrolman in Colorado, river guide in the Grand Canyon, and backpacker all over the world. It was no surprise that he shared that love with my sister and I as soon as we entered the world. We spent vacations driving cross country through Yellowstone, traversing mountains, skiing in Salt Lake, and climbing the stairs of Chichen Itza.
Eco-travel has always been in my blood. It is this upbringing that drives my passion everyday to encourage others to live at peace with nature, protect our planet, and explore everything!
I have visited some of the cleanest cities in the world as well as some of the most polluted. I have seen some of the world’s worst air pollution in Beijing, rivers in Malaysia that are so overrun with litter that a boat hardly moves through. But I have also visited places like Costa Rica working hard to protect species and natural habitat and cities like Vancouver where green roofs, renewable energy, and full-scale recycling and composting are standard. Tourism can wreak havoc on our world, but when we take the extra effort to educate ourselves on our surroundings and travel with companies that make our planet a priority, travel can have more benefits than any other industry.
Before reading on for the green travel tips, listen to my interview on The Green Divas Radio Show (around minute 37):
Here are some of my tips to find the perfect place to stay that minimize harm to the environment plus some tips every traveler should know.
How to pick the right green hotel
1. Green certified.
On some of the search travel search engines you will see an icon next to hotels that have been awarded a green certification. A few recognized certifications are GreenKey, AAA Green Hotels, TripAdvisor Green Leaders, Green Tourism UK, and Green Hotels of America. Look for a new global green travel database called TravGanic where you can search and book green certified hotels all over the world.
Green certified hotels have passed stringent guidelines about their water management, waste management, energy consumption, food and beverage management, staff training, heating and cooling systems, and several other categories pertaining to buildings, staff, and resource consumption and disposal.
2. Water conservation.
Hotels have a moral and a commercial need for conserving water. Water can account for more than 10 percent of a hotel's utility bills as they often end up paying for both clean potable water and the price of disposing of it as wastewater. However, most hotels can save up to 50 percent on their water usage by changing certain policies and monitoring their water usage. Many global hotel brands are enacting big changes in their business models to do just that.
I’m seeing more and more hotels around the world installing their own grey water treatment plants, enacting consumer involved towel and linen reuse programs, planting native plants, and filing pools with salt water instead of chlorinated fresh water.
3. Energy consumption.
Did you know that commercial buildings are responsible for almost 40 percent of energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions? So when hotels around the world start reducing their consumption, it can make a huge difference. Green hotels often have their own in-house renewable energy or buy from renewable sources when available. Installing in-room occupancy controls that turn the power off when unoccupied can save thousands of kilowatt hours. Hotels are also maintaining a standardized room thermostat temperature which saves energy and heating costs.
Wherever you go in the world there are great green amenities at thousands of hotels worldwide.
There are eco-tourism places you can visit all over the world.
Popular and up-and-coming countries are Costa Rica, Patagonia, Iceland, and Zanzibar where you can glamp at an eco-resort while viewing lions and rhinos in the day. This is fantastic for a vacation… but what about the everyday traveler? Well, never fear because even if we aren’t doing an epic excursion there are hotels all over the world that still keep us comfortable and help the environment.
Here are a few…..
The Fairmont in Downtown Vancouver offers free bikes to all its Fairmont members and sustainable farm-to-table food. They also have a state-of-the-art energy conservation program.
The Intercontinental Barclay in New York has a rooftop Bee Colony. They also buy their electricity from renewable power and have on-site composting.
The Empire State Building underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation replacing all the windows with Low E panes. This—plus a new heating and cooling system and integrated tenant management—has reduced the energy consumption of this US Treasure by over 50 percent.
Even Las Vegas has some green certified hotels. Like the Palazzo, which stays green by having salt water pools, in-room occupancy controls for energy, heating, and cooling as well as sustainable fare and a towel reuse plan.
More green travel tips…
1. Traveling by air? Purchase carbon offsets. Delta, Spirit, and Air Canada ask you before checkout if you want to add these on to your ticket price. For short flights this can be as little as 410 additional dollars. Or you can go to Terrapass.com and purchase anytime.
2. Take public transit whenever possible. Find hotels that have airport shuttles and walk or bike if you can instead of driving. If you do have to drive look into a low-E or hybrid car rental.
3. Pack smart. The heavier your luggage the more fuel it takes to go from point A to Point B.
4. Be water conscious. People’s need for water is expected to exceed our supply by as much as 40 percent by 2030. The hospitality industry is an industry that relies heavily on water and businesses often operate in highly water scarce areas.
~Always bring a reusable water bottle with a filter (depending on what country you are visiting)
~Ask for your linens and towels to not be changed unless you really need them to be. Just because we are on vacation, doesn’t mean we need to be wasteful
5. Turn off your TV and lights when you are not in your room.
6. Be mindful of where you are. Don’t take an hour-long shower when you are in a drought-pillaged area, even if you are at the Four Seasons.
7. Get educated. More hotels are finding that when they educate their own staff and guests about local issues they become more involved in wanting to help out and conserve.
8. Pick mindful activities
~ Get out and experience nature wherever you travel.
~ Visit a national park or World Heritage Site.
~ There are great companies like Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, and WWF that offer scheduled excursions around the world that get you up close and personal with nature. You can learn directly from experts in their fields about numerous topics like animals, photography, marine eco-systems, and many more.
~ Looking to do something good without breaking the bank? You can volunteer on an organic farm for free room and board by visiting WWOOF.net.
~ If you’d rather get close to animals or help people, there are thousands of charities around the world needing volunteers and catering to volunteer vacations.