Tips for Traveling Green

Even with the best of intentions, it's easy to generate waste and pollution while traveling. By following a few simple guidelines, you can reduce your impact on the environment and save money at the same time. Here are a few tips for traveling green.


Get There Greener

  • Airplanes: Purchase electronic tickets to reduce paper waste.

  • Automobiles: When renting, request the smallest you can get away with and request fuel efficient models. Unnecessary engine idling wastes fuel and contributes emission pollutants. Turn off your engine when idling and encourage tour bus drivers and cab drivers to do the same. If you drive your own vehicle, you have it tuned-up and properly serviced before you travel.

  • Motor Boats: Unless you have a new boat motor, you're probably still using a 2-stroke engine. Upgrading to a 4-stroke engine is quieter, 40 times cleaner, and 2-4 times more fuel-efficient than a 2-stroke engine. Gas up the motor on land instead of in the water to avoid fuel spills. Protect wildlife from lead poisoning by using non-lead sinkers for fishing and keep campfire ash away from lakeshores to protect water quality.

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  • Cruise Ships: Cruise ships generate enormous amounts of waste and the industry has long been notorious for unfriendly environmental practices. Each year, dozens of popular cruise lines pay millions of dollars in fines for illegally dumping contaminated bilge wastes at sea. Recently, some cruise lines have voluntarily adopted initiatives to reduce their impact on the environment. Royal Caribbean, for example, now employs environmental officers onboard their ships and regularly schedules themselves for outside environmental audits. Before booking your next cruise, research the environmental practices of the cruise lines you're considering sailing to find out what steps they are taking to protect the environment.

    Green Travel
    Each year, dozens of popular cruise lines pay millions of dollars in fines for illegally dumping contaminated bilge wastes at sea.

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  • Go Public and Motor-free: When possible, utilize public or non-motorized forms of transportation. Share taxis, use hotel shuttles, take buses and sign up for walking and bicycle tours. Do your part to help curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Be a Green Guest

Many hotels and resorts have adopted conservation practices. Book your lodging at places clearly interested in protecting the environment and make sure you let them know that is why you've chosen their establishment.

  • Leave the little complimentary bottles of bathroom amenities unopened. Take shorter baths and showers to help conserve water, and let housekeeping know that it's not necessary to provide fresh towels and bedding each day.

  • Close the drapes and turn off the lights, television and air conditioner when you leave your guest room. Be sure to turn off exercise equipment, whirlpool or sauna lights or lights to the tennis courts or game room when you're finished using them.

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  • Participate in your hotel's recycling programs and if available, use the hotel's electronic checkout program (review and approve your bill over the room's TV) to reduce paper waste.

Greener Ways to Eat

  • The best way to reduce food waste while traveling is to bring along your own. Pack a cooler with bulk foods (which usually have the least amount of packaging) like meats, cheeses and snacks and buy fruits and vegetables without packaging. Carry reusable (not disposable) flatware, plates, napkins and travel mugs.

  • Look for organic restaurants and grocery stores that buy their meat and produce from local producers. Ask for smaller portions eating out and forgo the straws, extra plates and napkins. If you're taking food to go, consider going without a bag (or bring your own) for smaller orders. Refrigerate your leftovers promptly to avoid waste.

Set Eco-Friendly Examples

Eco-tourism is a philosophy. Use reusable bags, totes, storage containers, napkins and towels. Try to rent equipment when you can, and take only as many brochures and maps as you really need. Be an example for others by picking up litter and showing respect for the environment, especially at places with lots of tourists. Protect the environment by leaving nature's "souvenirs" where you find them. Take pictures and leave only your footprints.

Reward Green Heroes

Businesses respond to their customers. Let them know you appreciate their environmental efforts by passing along compliments to owners, managers and staff. Likewise, when you have a suggestion on how a business might improve their environmental performance, let them know and tell them you appreciate businesses that show an interest in protecting the environment.

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at


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