By Sophie Knight
One of the biggest trends in the past 10 years is that more and more people are favoring experiences over products. And by experiences, we largely mean travel. According to The Adventure Travel Trade Association, millennials take an average of 4.2 trips yearly compared to 2.9 for past generations. While adventuring all over our beautiful Earth is a life (and Insta) booster, tourism accounts for around 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new study published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change. But this generational change can increase emissions almost 50%. So here are five ways you can curb your carbon footprint and have a guilt-free getaway.
1. Be book(ing) smart
For some, planning is half the fun—and that’s great! (For the record, it’s the least fun for me; I’d rather have someone else do it. I just want to be out there.) But did you realize you can actually help the environment while you search? While you log serious screen time planning your perfect escape, use a search engine that gives back. Ecosia.com uses the profits made from your searches to plant trees where they’re needed the most.
2. Get there green
While ideally we would all hop on a zero-emissions sailboat, à la Greta Thunberg, sometimes we all need wheels. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, aircraft are the worst culprits, producing 12% of all U.S. greenhouse gases generated from transportation. Air-polluting emissions from cars and other vehicles are an even bigger number. Whenever possible, pass on the Uber and hit the rails—for short trips as well. Aside from the environmental savings, there’s no traffic, and trains are faster than cars.
3. Fly Friendlier
Totes obvi, you have to fly the skies sometimes—but a little preflight prep can make a big difference. Takeoffs and landings create the majority of emissions, so book direct flights whenever possible. Bring your Hydro Flask, and fill up with water once you’re through security. Also, bring your leftovers from the night before so you can avoid leaving food in your fridge and help reduce plastic waste on the plane. And download your boarding pass on your device so you can head paperless into ticketing.
4. Stay sustainably
Steer clear of large resorts and hotels and rest your head at a hotel that is certified as sustainable. Green Destinations and Global Sustainable Tourism Council have online directories of international eco-certified hotels that they have vetted. Traveling stateside? See if the hotel has LEED Certification from The U.S. Green Building Council, which lets you know how your future digs scores on sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, material selection, indoor environmental quality, and innovation in design. Remember: Don’t fall for words like eco-lodge—often, this is simply a case of greenwashing.
5. Do as the locals do
Once you arrive at your destination, act like a local and keep in mind that you are a guest in their world. Bike, walk, explore, and roam in carbon-neutral ways. Bring a small bag on hikes and toss in any garbage you spy along the route. Support local businesses—walk past anything you recognize from home. Instead, eat and shop what is produced locally and (preferably) made from natural materials...and no cheesy plastic souvenirs! Clean up after a day of adventure with a shower, not a bath: Showers use 10–25 gallons of water vs. 70 gallons for a tub. On a couples getaway? Hey, shower together and save even more water! And don’t forget to pack your own reusable bags, straws, and utensils when you head out each day.
The Raw Truth
You don’t have to compromise comfort or sacrifice style when you travel. Going green doesn’t mean roughing it. You can have a five-star getaway and be eco-chic, saving money, time, and the environment along the way.
Have any other ideas to travel earth-friendly and eco-chic? Please share them below.