This will be my last scheduled post for this semester. How the time has flown! Since the holiday season is approaching, I wanted to take a moment and go over some green ways to travel. Some of these are common-sense ideas and others are ones I’ve come up with based on personal travel experience. I came up with the idea for this post partly due to taking a Water Sustainability class. My professor is compiling database of water-scare regions of the world and you would be surprised at some of the locations that come up! (See the image below for water-scare countries. Graphic from sustainablewaters.org) I’m personally doing my independent research project on the Bahamas. Many island countries are ideal travel destinations for people looking to get away from Old Man Winter, but it’s great to be conscientious if you’re traveling to a water-scarce place.
One of the things I consider when packing is “How much?” I used to pack way too many clothes on vacation and wouldn’t ever wear them. It felt like a waste of space in my suitcase and a waste of energy dragging the suitcase all through the airport! Plus, if you’re in a particular location and you plan to do laundry, consider the wash load (heavy, medium, light). Heavy washes tend to use more water so the less you plan to clean, the less water you can consume!
My solution to avoiding over- and under-packing is to outline what outfits you’ll wear on which day of your trip. If you’re like me and you tend to wear the same shirt more than once a week, take that into account. You’ll save space in your suitcase for fun souvenirs and won’t have to worry about your suitcase being overweight!
I love being able to try local dishes wherever I go. I came across a restaurant on one of my vacations that only served you water if you specifically asked for it. I think this is a great idea since I used to go to restaurants, get a huge glass of iced water, and not drink all of it. Now, I try to finish drinking my water glass before leaving the restaurant since the leftover water would otherwise go to waste. If a waiter or waitress comes by and asks to refill my glass, I make the call whether or not I’ll be able to finish another glass.
When Charlottesville, VA experienced a drought in 2002, many restaurants resorted to serving their meals on paper plates and using plastic disposable utensils. This way, they avoided consuming water to wash dishes. I wouldn’t be surprised if they served bottled water too! Again, going back to my point about traveling to a water-scarce area, be mindful of the fact that much of the water used in the restaurant business is from a local source.
Depending on your travel location, you may need to drive, rent a car, take a taxi, etc. I understand the need to do so. Some destinations aren’t by an airport or perhaps you’re visiting a place in a remote location. Maybe you’re in a city and need to take a taxi to your hotel (or other accommodations). Although I’ve rented a car with my family in the past, I still try to walk as much as possible during my vacation. Walking offers a time to really enjoy your surroundings and not be stuck in traffic. Alternatively, try a local bike rental shop! In places like Newport, RI and Key West, FL, there are many opportunities to jump on a bike and explore the town. Plus, who wants to pay for parking all the time? Nah, I’d say save the money that would have gone toward parking and get ice cream instead!
Ah, the big one. Most big-name hotels like the Mariott and many local hotels, B&Bs, etc. I’ve had the pleasure of staying at now have signs in the bathroom asking guests to reuse towels after initial use. My reaction: Why not? Sure, while a towel may be needed to clean up a spill or mud on your clothes, bath (or beach) towels can surely be reused over and over again. Look at it this way: You step out of the shower, squeaky clean, and use the towel. The next time you use the towel, once again, you’re stepping out of the shower all clean. The towel is simply absorbing the clean water. It’s not getting “dirty” with each use. So why bother leaving it on the ground as a signal to be washed? Alternatively, you could look at the same scenario with beach or pool towels. As they’re designated for use at a sandy beach or chlorine-filled pool, you’re still wiping off the same type of water. There’s no need to go for a “clean” towel if you plan to visit the pool/beach the next day. Reuse the towels to reduce water consumption!
While it may be difficult to adhere to all these green tips, being conscious of how much water you consume as a tourist is the first step! Sure, maybe you have to use your car all throughout the trip, but there are always small things and little ways to decrease water consumption or minimize greenhouse gas outputs. With that, enjoy the beginnings of the holiday season and travel safely!