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How to be an Eco-Conscious Traveler

The more you travel, the smaller the world gets. Meeting people from different areas of the world is a great reminder that we’re more alike than different. To enjoy a sustainable life on our shared planet, it’s a good idea to reduce use at home as well as on the road. To be an eco-conscious traveler, you need to understand the impact you have on your environment. This impact changes depending on where you go and what you do- but it’s always there. Be conscious about how frequently you are flying, using one-use plastics, and how you can improve the places you visit. Here are some things to consider for sustainable travel. 

Start in Your Own House

The first part of sustainable travel is leaving your house properly. If you’re leaving your house empty, unplug anything that doesn’t absolutely have to be left powered. For example, you can leave the refrigerator plugged in, but unplug the microwave and the mixer. Turn off all the lights, of course, as this can save a ton of money on energy too. If you will be gone a while, turn off your AC/Heating units, and make sure everything is locked up. 

Adjust your thermostat so your HVAC system runs as little as possible. Be aware that letting the space get too hot can impact adhesives in cabinets and carpets, as well as killing your houseplants. Letting your home get too cold can cause busted pipes. Be smart about this adjustment. If you’re gone for several weeks or months, consider having a friend keep your house plants/pets with them. This way, you won’t have to worry about a house or pet sitter keeping the electricity bill running up. 

Camp or Stay Near Water

The most basic form of evaporative cooling is perspiration. For a more enjoyable way to cool off, going for a swim in a gorgeous Pennsylvania lake. To stay comfortable on your Poconos camping adventure, try to book a campsite near the water. Camping itself is a fantastic way to vacation sustainably. If you’re located near a great camping spot, you won’t have to fly which will save the air pollution of a flight. Further, camping doesn’t use as much electricity or resources that hotels use. Camping is a great sustainable option for both the environment and your expenses. 

After a cool night of great sleep, you can get up, go for a hike as the world warms up, and head back to camp to put on your bathing suit for a dip to cool off. Whether you’re traveling with your own camping gear or glamping in a rented yurt in the woods, a good hike, relaxing swim and yummy food cooked over a camp stove is a great way to relax. These vacations are also more affordable than most alternatives. Be sure you pack everything you will need including food, a first-aid kit, and of course your gear. 

Use Existing Campsites

Even if you plan to hike out to a rustic campsite, make sure that you don’t

  • blaze new hiking trails
  • set up new campsites
  • build a new fire ring

The existing vegetation on your campsite may tolerate time under your tent, but why risk damaging the plants? Book your campsite early and call to confirm in the week before you get on the road. Use the existing trails, sites, and fire rings to avoid doing any damage to the local ecosystem.

Pack In, Pack Out

Pack in what you need. Never assume that you will find drinkable water or edible foods in the wild. Camping water can give you giardia, a nasty parasite that will take medical help to get over. You and your pet can both get this condition, so do your best to keep your pet from drinking from streams and standing water.

Pack in water for your trip. Plan for 1 gallon per person per day. Make sure that everyone has a water bottle that they can fill up for hikes as well. You can also buy a special device that can purify river water in case you get lost or run out of water on your adventures. Be sure to pack and use as many reusable products as possible while camping. Reusable water bottles, plates, and other utensils, as well as biodegradable trash bags. All of these are great products for sustainable travel. You don’t want to leave any mark of your visit there, especially if it’s litter you’re leaving behind. 

Food

Picking strange berries and mushrooms in the woods may look like fun, but it’s more likely that you face serious illness and even death if you choose to sample the wrong thing. Pack in food that is easy to prepare and convenient, and take care to avoid leaving any wrapper trash around your campsite. If possible, select foodstuffs that are easy to fit into a locker or cooler to avoid attracting wildlife. Further, consider packing reusable metal containers in case you have food leftover. Or sturdy bags to put food waste in. Otherwise, your food waste in the trash may attract wildlife to your campsite. 

Make sure you bring plenty of trash bags so you can easily pack out all trash. If fires are allowed, make sure you don’t put anything in the fire ring that won’t completely be burned away. If you’re not sure, bag it up and take it out of the park. Be sure to collect and hold on to any trash you find on hikes or while out in nature. Whether it’s your trash or not, we all have a duty to keep these natural areas clean and beautiful. An eco-conscious traveler never leaves anything behind. 

Hotel, Hostel, or Vacation Home?

If you can stay in a home rental such as a VRBO, you can save on fuel and restaurant fees. You can also eat a bit more simply and keep a looser schedule. If you’re flying, you may need to shop or set up a grocery delivery upon arrival. If you are choosing to fly and stay in a hotel on your vacation, consider looking into your options. Some hotels may have active eco-friendly projects and aspects of their service already. Other locations may take the environment as a pillar of their missions, such as locally sources restaurants. Supporting locales such as these is a great way to make up for the impact you made taking the plane over. Sustainable travel always includes interacting in an eco-friendly manner with the local area. 

Meal Plan

For those traveling by car, consider packing in food for simple, small meals. A bit of deli salad and a sandwich can be a quick meal before heading to the beach or visiting a museum. These meals will also take much less preparation labor. If you want to schedule one restaurant meal a day, look for locally produced food at a neighborhood eatery. Take reusable food containers with you so you don’t have to use the plastic utensils offered, and always be sure to throw away your waste or recycle it as appropriate. 

Traveling light, eating simply, and managing all of your own garbage when you leave your campsite is a wonderful way to be more conscious of our environment and the world we share. Slow down on your vacation, focus on sustainable travel practices. Plan for one activity a day and let your brain and body relax each day instead of rushing.

About stephcsnyder@gmail.com

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