April 22 is Earth Day, an initiative originally conceived in 1970 to raise global awareness about environmental issues worldwide.
Calling for “a billion acts of green” in 2015, this annual day of support has grown rapidly over the years. Gradually, awareness about our collective responsibility to live sustainably seems to be taking hold. This year Earth Day events will take place all over the world to promote the idea that we should be protecting the environment in every way we can, and the responsible travel movement in particular has been gaining speed in recent years.
But we shouldn’t wait for Earth Day to start being conscious of our impact on the planet. There are a huge range of little things that everyone can implement into their daily lives and travel routines to start making a positive difference. For the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, here are 45 simple going green tips for travelers wanting to make a difference, both at home and abroad.
• Cut your water usage by installing a high-efficiency showerhead. A low-flow shower head should only cost around $20 and is easy to install. When traveling, simply turn off water while shaving or shampooing to conserve water.
• Make sure your dishwasher and washing machine are full before using them. These appliances consume large amounts of energy and water, so reduce their usage as much as possible by running them with completely full loads.
• Use cold water when doing laundry to save electricity. This one tip can save up to 80% of the energy required to wash clothes.
• Place your water heater as close as possible to the point of the highest water use (i.e. bathroom or kitchen). This makes it quicker for hot water to reach the tap or shower, saving both water and energy.
• Look for Energy Star models when purchasing electronics. Televisions, DVRs and stereo systems all use a lot more energy than you think.
• Look for an energy-efficient model when choosing a refrigerator or freezer. These units account for one-sixth of a home’s total energy use alone.
• When you clean, clean green! Stock your kitchen cabinet with as many natural cleaning products as possible, including baking soda, white distilled vinegar and essential oils. Sponges and reusable cloth towels are cheaper than paper products, and don’t contribute to waste in landfills.
• Use lemons for removing tough stains on countertops. They have antibacterial qualities and will leave your kitchen smelling fresh!
• Avoid using chemicals when dusting. Plain water on a cloth works great!
• Eat less meat, and consider prioritizing more vegetarian meals into your diet. Not only does this reduce the risk of many forms of food poisoning while traveling, but reducing the amount of meat you consume has significant environmental benefits. Livestock is a top contributor of greenhouse gases.
• Eat organic foods. Not only is this a healthier option, but it also composts well. Plant a sustainable garden and consider buying your seeds from local family owned businesses that offer organic options.
• Empty your refrigerator once a week, and keep it stocked with only fresh product. Spoiled product allows bacteria to spread.
• Choose eco-friendly coffee, drink from a reusable cup and never use single-cup brew systems. Some coffee companies even offer a discount for bringing in your own cup, which is one less paper cup that ends up as waste. Around 58 billion paper coffee cups are thrown away annually.
• Improve fuel efficiency by sticking to the speed limits and driving at a smoother pace. Driving sensibly saves gas and increases your car’s fuel efficiency by up to 33%.
• Remove excess weight from your car, and remember to never overload your vehicle. Every extra 100 pounds equals 2% less miles per gallon.
• Ride a bike. Pedal power is one of the best ways you can help reduce harmful carbon emissions.
• Build or buy a used bike. This not only saves you money, but it also conserves the energy and mineral resources required to manufacture a new bike.
• Consider purchasing (or renting) an electric car. Cleaner and better transportation, electric vehicles are the way of the future.
• Carpool! Not only are you contributing less carbon emissions, but you can often zoom past traffic jams by using the HOV lane!
• Be conscious of your impact. When you book a flight, tour or accommodation, question whether (and how) the company supports sustainable travel. When you’re walking around in a new city or discovering a national park, think about whether there is anything you can do to reduce your carbon footprint while there.
• Choose a “green hotel” that prides itself on using alternative energy sources, hiring local employees and using locally sourced products, offering recycling options and giving back to the local community.
• Unplug! Make sure the lights, heating unit/AC and television are switched off each time you leave your hotel room. Remember to also do this at home before leaving for vacation!
• Leave the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door to stop housekeeping from cleaning your room every day. The cleaning supplies and electricity of vacuuming and washing bed linens you save adds up. This also means you will end up re-using your towels for several days, just as you would at home!
• Use just one bar of soap for both the sink and the shower, and take any leftover soap with you. The hotel will just throw it out if you leave it behind.
• Return brochures and maps to the concierge for re-use after you’ve finished using them.
• Shop local, seeking out souvenirs from indigenous artisans, and take the time to learn about their craft and their culture.
• Travel with a tote, which allows you to shop but avoid accepting plastic bags. Get one you can carry everywhere and then present your tote before the shop assistant reaches for a bag. This way you’re contributing to the reduction of plastic, which lasts for centuries.
• While you’re on the road, swap clothes, books and magazines with other travelers you meet in place of buying something new.
• Before you buy, think “do I really need this”? Around 42% of US greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the energy used to produce, process transport and dispose of goods.
• Opt for reused products over buying new. If you’re shopping for a disposable item, reusable is always a more sustainable option.
• Ask questions! Find out if the product is made to last (the more durable it is the less like you will have to replace it), if it is made of recyclable materials, and if the company who makes it has green values and practices sustainability.
• Buy carbon offsets on flights. The schemes are often implemented by third parties such as CarbonNeutral, which use the funds for carbon reduction projects such as renewable energy (wind and hydro power), conservation and forest protection.
• Use public transportation wherever possible. This will also save you money on cab fare.
• Walk. The best way to discover a new city is to explore on foot, and you can feel good about combining exercise with offsetting carbon emissions!
• “Take only photos, leave only footprints.” Stay on marked paths to avoid damaging native flora, and use your tote to collect any trash you find along the way.
• Attend an Earth Day event! Use EarthDay.org to find a local event no matter where you are in the world, and share it on social media to raise awareness about protecting our earth.
• Use electronic boarding passes over paper tickets.
• Choose tour companies that have eco-friendly policies. If you’re going on any sort of tour, check the company website to first see what their stance is on sustainability. Companies like International Expeditions have pages dedicated to sustainable travel, and detail the steps they’re taking to make sure their tours don’t have a negative effect on the environment.
• Pack light. If everyone were to pack a little less, there would be less luggage which burns less fuel. Less fuel = less emissions!
• Drink responsibly and travel with refillable water bottles. Forget about plastic and find a reusable metal or glass container.
• Travel with rechargeable batteries, and purchase electronics which run accordingly. There are very few places around the world that recycle disposable alkaline batteries. Learn how to dispose of these correctly.
• Travel with a handkerchief. Even the humble tissue can cause quite an impact on the environment.
• Seek out and use recycling bins. This can occasionally prove difficult while traveling, but disposing of recyclables responsibly while abroad is just as important as doing so when at home. Many cities now have public bins for both garbage and recyclables, so be sure to find the correct bin.
• When camping, use designated campsites and build a low-impact campfire. Bring your own firewood, or use dead branches which have already fallen to the ground. Select small pieces of wood to ensure it burns completely, and make sure to never leave flames or coals unattended for risk of starting a forest fire. –Meg Jerrard
Megan Jerrard is an Australian journalist, and the founder and Senior Editor of Mapping Megan, an award-winning blog bringing you the latest in adventure travel from all over the globe. With the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure, Megan and her photographer husband Mike believe travel has the potential to inspire change in people, and in turn inspire change in the world. They embraced travel as a lifestyle in 2007, and are dedicated to documenting their journey through entertaining, candid articles and brilliant photography. Follow their journey on Facebook, Twitter, Google+,
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