Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, American families throw away over a million extra tons of garbage. And that’s just at home. Add to that plastic-wrapped pretzel bags and single-use plastic cups served on airlines, the water bottles and chip bags bought in rest stops and the sheer pollution exuded from cars and planes. Sustainability is a global crisis, and there’s no better time to watch your carbon footprint than the holidays. These tips for sustainable holiday travel will limit your negative impact on the environment.
To chronic over packers, the idea of packing light for any trip is daunting. However, every extra pound can make a difference in the amount of CO2 emissions emitted during a trip.
“The weight of your luggage also affects the CO2 footprint of your flight,” Sophie Castelain, CEO of Holiable.com tells Parentology. “Before you leave, go to the essentials and be minimal. Just because you are allowed 20 kg of luggage doesn’t mean you have to take it with you.”
The best way to conserve suitcase space? Roll clothes instead of folding them. Utilize shoes as valuable storage space for delicates and socks. Plan out outfits in advance of travels, allowing for about 20% fun (think party dress and high heels) and 80% basic mix and match (jeans, t-shirts, cardigans and others). Remember, minimalist goes a long way in terms of light packing.
Carry Reusable Water Bottles
Instead of buying plastic bottles at the airport — many of which end up in oceans, on sidewalks and landfills — bring a reusable drinking vessel (preferably one made from recyclable plastic or aluminum). Not only does this save the environment, it saves money, too.
Shop & Eat Local
Eating locally doesn’t just give you a better glimpse into the place you’re visiting, it reduces emissions caused by importing costly ingredients and supports the local economy.
“You’re on vacation, so take some time and enjoy your meals at a restaurant instead of grab-and-go,” Susy Borldio, co-executive director of Sustainable Works, tells Parentology. “Take-out produces a lot of waste if you think about it — non-reusable bags, food containers, plastic cutlery, straws and more. Even if these items are paper, they still contribute to waste and the whole idea is to reduce waste.”
Castelain recommends checking out local markets. “Markets are one of the best places to visit to discover the specialties of a region or a foreign country.”
Use Public Transit
Public transit may not be the quickest way to see a city, but it will help you less like a tourist and save your carbon footprint. Using public transportation is often the cheapest way to see a place, making it very cost-effective, especially when traveling with family.
Pack Your Snacks
Not only is airplane food loaded with unhealthy additives and sodium, it’s bad for the globe, too.
“Aside from the pre-baked and reheated “chicken or pasta?” tray, the rest is enveloped in single-use plastics,” Sara Quiriconi, author of Life Free, tells Parentology.
Instead, pack snacks and reusable utensils. Opt for food that doesn’t require reheating: a sandwich, trail mix, vegetables, fruits and peanut butter.
Stay in ECO-Resorts
If your aunt and uncles’ house is already filled with guests this year, opt for an eco-friendly hotel or resort. These places make sustainably a priority.
“Always choose a destination or hotel that places emphasis on sustainable practices, from composting waste and using large- format, refillable bathroom amenities, to eliminating single-use plastics and offering open, green spaces for travelers to enjoy,” Borldio says.
If you don’t have an eco-friendly option where you’re staying, be proactive in your choices.
“During your stay, turn lights off and raise the temperature on air conditioning when you leave the room; keep showers as short as possible; and opt-in to reuse towels and bed sheets,” Gerry Peck, General Manager of the Eco Shore Hotel in Santa Monica, tells Parentology.
Go By Rail or Road
As an avid traveler, it can be hard to admit flying is one of the worst things you can do for the world you so love to explore. Extra emissions, though, take a toll on our most delicate of ecosystems, so when you can, opt for a trip by rail or road.
“If cleaner alternatives to flying exist, like taking the train, they should be considered first, but if flying is the only option: taking a direct flight should be a go-to,” Castelain says.
Though these modes of transportation may take a bit longer time-wise, they emit fewer CO2 emissions. Mother Nature will thank you.
Sustainable Holiday Travel: Sources
Sophie Castelain, CEO of Holiable.com
Susy Borldio, co-executive director of Sustainable Works
Sara Quiriconi, author of Life Free
Gerry Peck, General Manager of the Eco Shore Hotel in Santa Monica, CA