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Resolutions Every Avid Traveler Should Make for Earth Day

We know there are questions around travel amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Read our note here.

April 22, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day! Since the annual event was first celebrated in 1970, people around the globe have participated by hosting environmental cleanup projects, planting trees, or speaking to lawmakers about how to protect the planet. But what about travel? "The Independent" reports that tourism is responsible for one-tenth of the planet's carbon emissions. What can travelers do to decrease their carbon footprint and make their global excursions more eco-friendly? Here are five resolutions you can make for your next trip in honor of Earth Day.

5

Bring Your Own Water Bottle

Red water bottle sitting on a rock with trees in the background
Credit: evanthewise/ Unsplash

Staying hydrated when you travel is a must. It can help you battle jet lag and ward off illnesses while on the road. How you stay hydrated can have a big impact on the planet though. "The Guardian" reported in 2017 that people buy one million plastic bottles every minute. While the materials that make those bottles are mostly recyclable, fewer than half of the bottles get recycled and approximately 7% of them get used to make new bottles.

So what can you do to stay hydrated? Switch to a reusable water bottle. While you might have limited packing space, you can buy plastic, metal, or glass reusable water bottles with a carabiner clip on them. This will allow you to easily attach the bottle to your backpack, purse, or suitcase so that you have it wherever you go. You'll find a lot of places to fill it up too. More public places are offering free water bottle refills to encourage the use of refillable containers.

4

Eat Local When You Can

View from above of people getting food from a buffet
Credit: Rawpixel/ iStock

Trying new foods is part of the adventure to a new destination. What, how, and where you choose to eat, however, could have a negative impact on the planet. A study published by the University of Sheffield found that sweets, alcohol, and restaurant food were actually worse for the environment than meat consumption. Eating out contributes to an average of 0.8 tons of carbon in the environment each year, while meat consumption contributes an average of 0.3 tons.

While you'll probably have to eat out when traveling, you can commit to making smarter choices about how you do it. First, ditch the fast-food chains. They typically have to ship in their food items from farther away, which increases the carbon footprint. Plus, most chains wrap their food in single-use items, which are bad for the environment. Choose to dine at restaurants that have a recycling policy and source their products locally as much as possible. Not only will you be making better choices for the environment, but you'll also be eating more locally authentic meals. If you stay at an Airbnb or somewhere else with kitchen access, make some of your meals there too. You'll cut down on waste and your travel costs.

3

Treat Your Hotel Like Home

Folded towels on a hotel bed
Credit: FabrikaCr/ iStock

According to the United Nations (UN), the hotel industry is responsible for 1% of global carbon emissions. Things like energy consumption, water consumption, and single-use plastics are all major factors in how hotels are harming the planet. The UN is encouraging hotels around the world to adhere to guidelines that will help reduce their carbon emissions and waste.

How can travelers help? By treating their hotel like they would their own home. That means doing simple tasks like hanging up and reusing towels after a shower. While it used to be customary to get clean towels every day, hotels can cut out water and energy waste when guests choose to keep their towels for a few days. You should also turn off lights and air conditioning when you aren't using them to keep the energy usage down in your room. These are small things you'd do in your own home, so continue to do them at your hotel. Also, don't use the hotel's shampoo and conditioner. Those single-use bottles get tossed into the trash — even if you only use a little bit of product.

2

Use Public Transportation

Train stopped at the airport
Credit: jimfeng/ iStock

When it comes to the environment, public transportation is a good thing. When you hop on a bus or a train, you minimize your carbon footprint — unlike when you use a personal car or a taxi. The "BBC" reports that using public transportation is the key to a cleaner environment. It gets people out of their cars and helps control climate change. The rapid growth of car usage is one of the main contributing factors to climate change.

Instead of renting a car on your next trip, head for the bus station. You'll end up seeing a more authentic side of your vacation destination when you are traveling the way the locals do. Plus, it's a lot more cost-effective for your travel budget. In most places, you can hop on a bus for a few dollars and travel without worrying about directions, gas prices, or where to park when you get there. Google Maps is a great source for helping you decipher bus routes.

1

Commit to Traveling Slowly

Person hiking through forest with backpack on, looking up at tall trees
Credit: benedek/ iStock 

The element of travel that contributes the most to carbon emissions is traveling itself. "The New York Times" reports that the airline industry's contribution to global emissions is growing faster than anyone expected — jumping 32% from 2013 to 2018. Concern over how much damage flights are doing to the planet have led to flight shaming, according to "Forbes." Some activists are swearing off airline travel in favor of other methods. For the average traveler, however, flights are the only option for getting from point A to point B.

To cut down on how much your flying habits are contributing to pollution, then simply slow down. Instead of hopping from destination to destination during your next two-week vacation, opt to spend the entire time in one place. If you still want to move around, look for overground transportation options like trains and buses. Slowing down your travel allows you to immerse yourself in the culture instead of rushing to complete a busy itinerary. You might find you actually end up getting more out of a slower schedule.

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