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Do Summer Vacation – Eco Style

Originally published on Redefining Eco, and cross-posted here with their permission. 

It’s summertime. It’s hot, it’s sticky, it’s heavy. It’s time to get out of the city and out to somewhere cooler, or at least different.

You could hop a plane to the gorgeous beaches of the Caribbean, or take the next flight to the non-humid California, but that would demolish your carbon footprint for the year.  So how to get out of the sticky mess that is the east coast in July and August and still stick to your eco roots?

Here’s a few ways to do that:

Go somewhere by car.  I know, cars are still gas guzzlers and not great for the carbon footprint, but they are better than airplanes.  Head out to Virginia Wine Country for a weekend, or go down to Mount Vernon for the day.  Go somewhere where you can park your car and not use it again until you go home.

Better yet, take a train! Or a bus.  Both are relaxing ways to travel and use less energy than plane travel.  Also, train rides are really fun!

Train to Kuranda

Credit: Joan Campderrós-i-Canas

Take public transportation when you get there. I forget that other cities also have public transportation sometimes, or I don’t want to take the time to figure it out.  But it’s well worth it when you consider all the costs of driving in a place you don’t know (the frustration of finding parking is enough to make me sit down and figure out public transit!).  You can sit back and see the city outside the window of a bus, rather than missing all the sights because you are concentrating on driving.

Don’t leave your eco-friendly gear at home. Make sure to take your reusable water bottle, and any other items you might need with you.  If you are going on a day trip somewhere, pack a lunch with you! If you’re going to the beach, stop at a grocery store on the way or bring food with you to minimize having to go somewhere to eat out too – this is also easy on your wallet, and a great excuse to make things you’ve always wanted to try.

Think about what you take with you. If you’re going to a hotel, you probably don’t need to buy those little bottles of shampoo and conditioner.  Or, just refill the ones you already have, rather than buying new ones.  Think about what you’re bringing and if you will really use it on the trip, or just throw it out once you’re there.

Turn off things at home. This is one I always forget.  When you are headed out for a vacation, make sure to unplug things at home.  Things like the coffeemaker or the toaster use up a lot of energy, and will definitely not be in use while you are gone! You can unplug chargers that aren’t coming with you, and some lights.  I’d stop at unplugging the fridge or all sources of light though!

unplugging the machine

Credit: Chris Phan

Think about what you buy when you’re there. It’s so easy to get caught up in the novelties of a new place and buy, buy, buy.  But you don’t do that at home, so why do it on vacation? Think about what you really want to bring home – will your sister really use that ‘wish you were here!’ t-shirt? Take a nice photo to send to her instead! Photos are great souvenirs of a trip, and photo books make great gifts for people!

Simplify and leave those devices at home! It’s easy to get caught up in the big, vacation machine that tells us we need lots of stuff to go on vacation.  Simplify the way you do in your everyday life, and you’ll find it’s much more relaxing.  You’ll get a better understanding of the city you’re exploring, or feel more rejuvenated after reading all those books on your to-read list by simplifying everything.  Turn it off and tune it to your surroundings. That’s why you left home in the first place right? And, bonus points, turning it off means using less energy to charge it. Eco-win.

Credit: LWY

Traveling in an eco-friendly way means re-thinking some of our standard travel procedures.  But we live that way every day, so why not while on vacation? There’s plenty to see right around you!


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