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From start to finish: tips for taking a green vacation

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Inspired by last week’s gorgeous eco-hotels of California? Whether you decide to trek across the valley to wine country, or across the country to an unknown valley, there’s more to taking a green vacation than choosing eco-lodging (but that’s definitely a big part of it!) Read below for tips on how to plan mindfully, so your carbon footprint is small and your steps of wanderlust are meaningful.

Preparation

Like any trip, the key is to plan, plan, plan (but also plan for spontaneity!). When you care to travel with respect to not only the ecological environment, but also the cultural environments and communities of interesting places, it’s necessary to do a bit more investigating and understanding of the who, what, when, where, and how. It’s estimated that emissions from tourism will grow 2.5% per year until 2035, and that’s excluding aviation! Making small, educated efforts to reduce your vacation’s impact makes a big difference.

Turn preparing for an eco-trip into a fun activity; get your family or friends involved with researching hotels, things to do, and how to pack. Don’t let finding every and only eco-friendly details bog you down ¬ ¬– your plans can and will be stress-free with the right resources. Avoid complications or overplanning: visit one city, make a list of eco-activities and let the good times roll. Check out ecotourism.org and download the Green Globe and Green Travel Choice apps for excellent resources before and during your trip!

Packing is an important part of preparing: keep it light and simple, just like the rest of your green vacation. Fill up reusable containers with shampoo and conditioner instead of one-use travel size products, bring sunscreen without parabens or chemicals that can harm you and the ocean, an extra reusable bag for souvenirs, a solar powered charging station, reusable water bottles for post-flight or post-activity hydration, and pack all of your goodies in an upcycled duffle or suitcase.

And don’t forget your comfy, earth-friendly travel gear for the train!

Destination

The best way to have an eco-friendly travel adventure is to explore what’s in your backyard – the next town over probably has a delicious new vegan joint, or maybe that hiking trail a few hours away is calling your name. Keeping it close means less impact, adventure on the cheap, and less hassle. Even long-distance destinations can be done with conscious; make up for those airplane emissions by paying the air-friendly, carbon offsetting upcharge, and make sure to greenify your vacation in other ways.

Transportation

Public transport is always the way to go, as buses and trains are often hybrids or working to reduce emissions. If you're keeping it local, the bus ride over the car ride won’t be so daunting or expensive, and the reduction of emissions is more than worth it. Walk or bike to the bus or train, or at least take public transportation to the airport. Any and every mile counts. Even better if you have a hybrid or electric car to consciously fuel your trip!

Accommodation

We’ve got you covered for California, but what about everywhere else? Do your homework on what hotels are actually mindful of their resource usage and eco-consciousness ¬ – and which ones are just following the green trend without proper practice. TripAdvisor rates hotels on a Silver/Platinum/Gold standard and many institutions award accommodations with certifications and recognitions for being standout green leaders; the hotels that meet LEED standards are especially praiseworthy. You’ll notice that hotels that focus on conscious practices will reserve a page or tab with a list of what they do exactly – like reduce water usage with x or have y and z programs implemented. Those that simply call themselves green and provide a recycling bin are probably not the accommodations you want to book if you’d really like to reduce your impact. Check the facts and accreditations!

Action

Choosing a close and intriguing destination and hotel are fairly simple ¬– but the activities available can be endless and sometimes it’s hard to know which ones are actually earth-friendly. To cut down on the mind boggle, remember to choose a fairy small locale and explore it fully; it’ll ease your stress and your impact.

Keep respect for the environment at the forefront by finding a conservation-conscious tour operator for peace of mind, choose outdoor activities like hiking over air-conditioned malls and fuel guzzling tour buses, and always contribute to the local community and environment by supporting small businesses instead of big touring corporations or chain restaurants. Also improve your social impact by volunteering in the community; think charitable causes run by religious institutions, schools, or recreation centers. You could help restore ecosystems, build a garden, or construct a family's home.

The little details count too – conserve water and energy, and reduce and recycle by participating in your hotel’s initiatives, use local transportation, and be weary of souvenirs that were tested on or use materials from endangered species – or just forego shopping altogether, and focus on breathing in the fresh air of the destination previously unknown.

Planning and enjoying a green vacation doesn’t have to be a headache: read up to stay informed, keep it simple, and prepare to see a new place with fresh eyes – witnessing and being mindful of the effects of climate change on your destination can help you be greener at home. So will it be renting a bike to cruise around a beach town or taking a volunteer vacation in Costa Rica? See Kate of TripLogic's suggestions for some unique ideas. Better start booking!

Happy planning and preparing, and let me know what you decide to see and do in the comments!

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