My family just got back from a rather spontaneous trip to a cabin in the woods of Northern Ontario. It was a beautiful property filled with pine trees and snowshoe trails. I took full advantage of the wood stove and cedar sauna in between writing, reading, walking, and, of course, cooking.
One evening, I was hand washing dishes and looking out the window at the wet dirt road and I started thinking about the eco-friendliness of our trip. What did we do right and how could we improve?
Not surprisingly, this sent me down a rather deep rabbit hole and spurred the inspiration for this post. I weighed the things we’d done right, like bringing our own food instead of eating out, and the things we could have done better, like reducing the amount of garbage and recycling we accumulated over the weekend.
When all is said and done, there will never be a 100% eco-friendly trip, but there is always something we can do better when we visit other places to leave a lighter footprint.
So, without further ado, here are the top eco-friendly travel tips to think about for your next trip.
1. Consider your location
If you can choose a location that doesn’t require air travel, you can immediately increase the eco-friendliness of your trip.
Air travel accounts for four-to-nine percent of the total climate change impact of human activity.David Suzuki Foundation
Decreasing your amount of flying means significantly decreasing your greenhouse gas emissions and contributions to air pollution from contrails.
Now, obviously this isn’t always possible. Trust me, I know—I live across the country from my parents, brother, and extended family. I know it’s not sensible to suggest taking a train or driving because doing so would eat up my entire vacation. Likewise, if you need to travel internationally for work, you’re obviously not going to tell your boss you need to bus there, right? In these cases, choose the flight with the most direct route.
When you do have a choice, consider shorter distance trips and explore your own province or state.
2. Pack with the planet in mind
If you’re known to overpack, now’s the time to challenge yourself to only bring the essentials. Every pound of weight you bring adds to the carbon emissions of the plane, train, boat, or car. Keep it light to keep it green.
3. Bring essential green cleaning and beauty products
You’ve worked hard to slowly switch out your green cleaning and beauty products, so why forgo your natural lifestyle while you travel? You can’t depend on hosts, hostels, or hotels to have eco-friendly alternatives, so best be prepared.
You might be thinking this is a lot to pack, but it’s really not—especially if you’re taking your own vehicle.
This past weekend, I grabbed a simple rectangular basket and filled it with my shampoo, conditioner, eye glasses cleaner, deodorant, wellness mist, toothpaste, brushes, and liquid hand soap dispenser. I didn’t spend time repackaging into tiny travel bottles or searching through my bag for what I needed when we got there. The only thing I wish we had brought with us in this basket was some dish soap. It wouldn’t have taken much space and it would have prevented me from using the host’s neon green, synthetically-scented soap that both made me sneeze and dried out my hands.
If you’re traveling by train, bus, or plane, you can choose which products are most important to you and put them into travel bottles.
4. Don’t forget reusable bags
Reusable bags hardly take any space at all and always come in handy. They can completely replace any need for plastic bags. Fold them up in your luggage or pack your clothes or food in them if you’re travelling locally.
Use them for your laundry and shopping needs, as a beach or book bag, or to pack extra shoes. You can even designate one for recycling and garbage if you’re traveling to places where you need to bring those things with you when you leave.
5. Turn the thermostat down and unplug appliances
Okay, so obviously you don’t want to unplug your refrigerator or deep freezer, but basically everything else is a go. Before leaving, I always unplug the coffee pot, kettle, lamps, computers, chargers, and toaster. I also turn down the thermostat a few degrees and switch off all the lights.
Not only does this simple habit reduce unnecessary power usage, it saves some money, too.
6. Make a menu and go to the grocery store
Having a food plan in place has several benefits: It helps prevent food waste; it helps prevent eating out and getting stuck with takeaway containers; it cuts down on carbon from driving to restaurants or getting delivery orders; it helps you eat healthier; it saves a lot of money.
It doesn’t have to be a big deal, either. You can bring your own condiments, buy some turkey meat and eggs, lettuce, tomato, and a loaf of bread for several days worth of lunches. Grab some fruit and nuts for snacks and keep dinner simple. Try to re-use as many ingredients as possible to cut down on how much you need to buy.
You can do this pretty much everywhere you travel, so long as you have a little kitchenette area.
7. Carry your reusable bottle everywhere
If you’re staying in an all-inclusive resort, take a look around at the tiny plastic cup waste. These single-use plastics are often forgotten on the beach and left to drift into the ocean. Plus, they’re small! Do yourself and the planet a favour and bring your own reusable bottle. Carry it with you whether you’re at the beach or not. Even when travelling locally, bringing your own bottle ensures you won’t impulse buy a plastic or glass bottle because you’re thirsty.
8. Keep your green goals in mind
I don’t know what it is about travelling that tends to make us act differently than we do at home. There’s a sense of carefreeness when we’re away from daily responsibilities that can easily turn into a sense of carelessness.
Remember your green goals when you’re in hotels, other people’s homes, and touring around new cities or natural spaces. Take short showers, re-use towels, recycle, eat sustainably, turn off lights and A/C units when not in use, shop sensibly, and always do your best to leave a positive impact on the planet.