6 Ways To Be An Eco-Friendly Traveler

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Summer may be coming to an end, but some of you may be looking at flight prices for your winter holiday travels in the meantime (I am!) It’s a fact that air traveling is one of the biggest pollutants to the environment, but for most people, it’s also unavoidable and makes them feel very ecoguilty.

So what’s the verdict? Is it better to travel by car/train/bus/ferry? When it comes to other modes of transport that also use fuel, it depends on the destination and miles traveled, so there isn’t one clear definitive answer. If you’re traveling short distances, opting for a car or public transportation is better. When flight is the only option, there are still ways to reduce your environmental impact and carbon footprint during your travel.

1. Reduce energy before you leave your trip
Turn off and unplug all your electronics and appliances before you leave. Energy still runs when something is off, but plugged. If you use power strips, simply flick the off switch to truly turn everything off. This is also a good habit to try if you’re normally a person who rushes out the door panicking about getting to the airport on time because it forces you to be prepared before you leave.

2. Bring a reusable water bottle
I will forever repeat this tip because it’s that important and that easy. Why pay for $5 water at the airport when you can just refill your bottle for free? A lot of airports have upgraded their water fountains and are now specifically designed to have a bottle underneath rather than tilting your bottle awkwardly only to have it filled halfway. Now you can say, “no thanks” to the flight attendant when he/she comes down the aisle with the beverage cart. If you do have to buy a bottle at some point, keep it and refill it so you don’t have to buy new ones every time you’re thirsty.

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3. Take public transportation to/from the airport
The last time I took a cab to the airport, I found out I cannot sit in NYC traffic with a stranger driving because I embarrassingly got car sick as a result. So after that, I’ve been taking the subway and air shuttle to the airport and I very much prefer it for many reasons other than the obvious one of cutting down carbon emissions. It forces me to pack lightly since I’m schlepping a suitcase on the streets and subway platforms (I’ve gotten used to the sound of wheels rolling against concrete.) In a lot of metro cities, public transportation from the airport to the city is very accessible and common. I’ve been to Paris, Stockholm, Montreal, and Chicago, where even locals prefer public transportation to and from the airport.

4. Take public transportation there
While we’re on the topic of public transportation, continue using it if it’s a norm in the city you’re visiting! I love exploring cities through public transportation. Not only is it less expensive and probably faster, it’s an easy way to get to know the city. If public transportation is not an option, rent a hybrid car. Plan your trips accordingly so you’re not wasting gas (and time!) getting lost or going back and forth between the same neighborhoods and sights.

5. Take a non-stop flight on an eco-friendly airline
A lot of fuel is dedicated to the take-off and landing, so taking a non-stop flight reduces carbon emissions immensely. Non-stop flights are also less stressful and that’s always a good thing when it comes to traveling, right? Bonus points for airlines that are dedicated in sustainability and do their best to reduce their footprint like recycling, carbon offsetting, alternative types of fuel, and investment in new aircrafts. Virgin America and Jetblue are up there in the ranks of most eco-friendly airlines in the U.S., while Air France and Lufthansa take the lead for international airlines.

6. Choose a green hotel or stay at an Airbnb
Hotels by nature are known for using a lot of energy – think all the rooms, washing linens after every use, single-use toiletries, and air conditioning running all the time. Each room can cost an average of $2,196 in energy. A lot of hotels have now implemented greener options including installing LED lights, only washing linens upon request, or offering activities that support the local community. Airbnbs are another good option because the energy used in a home is significantly less than a hotel building. Everything is cleaned after your stay, reducing water waste and many hosts offer green choices like recycling, travel mugs, and reusable totes.


4 Ways You Can Literally Protect Parks and Beaches

Now that it’s the height of summer, I love spending as much time outdoors. Whether I’m traveling or staying in the city, I always make an effort to visit local parks and beaches and bask in the sun. The feeling of sand sticking to my skin and smelling the salty ocean air or running my hands through the grass and picking off bugs make me feel connected to nature. When I was at the beach the other day, I thought to myself, “This is beautiful. What a gift it is to be able to sit on the sand or throw yourself into the ocean.” Sounds cheesy? Maybe, but is it totally accurate? Yes, definitely.

If you enjoy going to the beach or the park, or traveling to other beaches and national parks in the world, then you automatically appreciate nature. And if you appreciate nature, I encourage you to not take it for granted and think about the literal definition of “environmental protection.”

According to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the definition of environmental protection is:

“Environmental protection refers to any activity to maintain or restore the quality of environmental media through preventing the emission of pollutants or reducing the presence of polluting substances in environmental media. It may consist of:

(a) changes in characteristics of goods and services,
(b) changes in consumption patterns,
(c) changes in production techniques,
(d) treatment or disposal of residuals in separate environmental protection facilities,
(e) recycling, and
(f) prevention of degradation of the landscape and ecosystems.”

This sounds like a lot, but it’s actually do-able on a personal and consumer level, especially options A, B, E, and F.

Here are some easy reminders, tips, and ways you can help the next time you visit a beach or park:

  1. Pick Up Trash: There is a shocking amount of trash in the ocean, up to 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic to be exact. So yes, it may seem obvious that you should pick up your own trash before you leave, but if you also happen to see other trash along your path, pick it up as well! Now, I know you’re probably asking, “why should I pick up someone else’s trash?” but try to be above it even if it’s just one scrap. I’m not saying turn your day of fun into a day of trash picking, but keeping parks and beaches trash free is the easiest way to preserve its beauty. Who knows, maybe you’ll inspire others to pick up trash as well!
  2. Zero-Waste Picnic: Try to avoid having trash altogether by preparing a zero-waste picnic at the beach or park. Pack your food and drinks in reusable containers and bottles or Tupperware and bring reusable utensils. Don’t leave anything behind, not even food for the ants. Pack anything that can be composted for later.
  3. Wear Biodegradable Sunscreen: This is especially important if you’re traveling and taking adventures like snorkeling or scuba diving. Non-biodegradable sunscreens have chemicals and ingredients like oxybenzone that damage and bleach coral reefs. Oxybenzone is also known to disrupt hormones in both fish and humans! Coral reefs are important for many reasons: they are habitats for thousands of types of fish and organisms which affect the fishing industry and food supply, they protect the coasts during natural disasters, and they generate tourism revenue. When buying biodegradable sunscreen, look out for active ingredients like zinc and titanium dioxide.
  4. Plant a Tree: Each year there are an average of 100,000 wildfires or forest fires in the U.S. Four out of five forest fires are caused by humans in situations including: campfires, disposing lit cigarettes, and playing with matches/fire. Trees are vital to the planet because they provide oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, literally cleaning our air. It’s important that we continue to plant them and take advantage of their many benefits. If you live in NYC, you can request the city to plant a tree near you for free. You can also look into tree planting organizations that will plant a tree in various parts of the world for just $1 like One Tree Planted.

It’s easy to take advantage of the beauty and serenity of our natural resources because it can be hard to see the effects of our damage indirectly. Our natural resources will only stay beautiful if treat it with respect and take care of it. If we continue to pollute, our natural resources get hit first and the damage can be irreversible.

Staycation-ing 101

For many of us, traveling for vacation is an important part of our lives, but I can’t be the only one who thinks it can get pretty exhausting and stressful sometimes, right? When I worked in an office, I would plan my limited amount of vacation days to make sure I had enough for each destination I wanted to visit. After being fortunate enough to make a few trips, I actually felt burnt out from traveling!

“I need a vacation from my vacation.”

We all know that feeling. I didn’t want to stress out about my ride to the airport or worry about exchange rates, but I also didn’t want to (and no one should) waste a vacation day, so I embraced a staycation instead, a vacation in your own home or city/state.

Prior to taking a staycation, I never thought about my carbon footprint while traveling. While I don’t think I can give up traveling completely, I’ve definitely been more conscious of my trips that require air travel and try to book longer trips visiting multiple cities or countries in an area, rather than booking one city per flight. I’ve also looked into airlines that pay a carbon tax, to offset my carbon footprint. A staycation not only reduces your carbon footprint dramatically by cutting the costs of jet fuel, you also can appreciate your home or city/state in a new way.

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Whether you’re driving to another city in your own state, venturing out of your 5 mile radius, or literally staying in your humble abode, treat your staycation as you would any other vacation. Here are a few tips to prepare for your staycation and how to keep it as pleasant as possible:

Before the staycation:

  1. Finish up household chores – It’s easy to use your downtime at home to take care of the chores you never got around to, but this is not the time for that! Make your living space as tranquil as possible by tidying up beforehand. Even if you book a one-night stay at a local hotel, it’s still nice to come back to a clean home.
  2. List the things you want to do – Whether that list has only one task or a few tasks, do what makes you feel good. Visit places that make you feel at peace or inspired. This is your time to finally get around to those hobbies or activities you were too “busy” for. Finishing up a book, treating yourself to a spa day, or visiting a museum and eating at a nice restaurant, there are no limits here. At the same time, don’t go cray and overbook yourself just to cure your FOMO.
  3. Let others know you’re unavailable – This is so important. Just because you’re physically still in the vicinity, doesn’t mean you’re available to catsit or check your work emails. This is your “you time” so politely let your close friends or family know you’re unavailable if things come up.

During the staycation:

  1. Turn off social media – This one is so hard, I know, especially if you’re like me and love ‘gramming or snapchatting your temporary carefree life. If I wasn’t glued to my phone all the time, this blog would have probably been launched in January like I intended. Point being: you might find yourself with a lot more time to do things if you don’t check your smartphone as often.
  2. Embrace solitude or company – Whether you’re spending your staycation alone or with a few friends, fully embrace it. Taking the tip above will help with this. When was the last time you were alone with your thoughts and surroundings or telling a story to your friends without any distractions? The other day, I was staring at a pigeon with a broken foot for ten minutes and was deeply concerned that I prayed for it. Be in the moment – it’s fun.
  3. Don’t stress out over a schedule – When I travel, I love following an itinerary. It’s my way of taking advantage of doing all the things and seeing all the sights because I don’t know when I’ll be back. When it comes to a staycation, I think following a loose itinerary is easier because there’s a higher chance you can revisit those activities you missed. I feel more relaxed when I can take my time and let go of any worries about not completing something.

Try taking a staycation next time you’re planning your days off. Are you planning days of boredom when you plan a trip to Italy? I hope not, so treat a staycation the same way. It’s only going to be as boring or as exciting based on how you set your intentions and expectations.