Time for a vacation? Be kind to the environment
These days, everything you do has to be eco-friendly – flying eco-friendly; eating eco-friendly; dressing eco-friendly etc. Before you know it, there will be eco-friendly marriages and births (assuming no one has thought of it yet.) So why leave out vacations from that list? So, how do you go from point A to point B without burning gazillions of fuel and being absolutely eco-friendly?
Well charity and being eco-friendly both begin at home. Our lonely homes, left locked up with their air conditioners and heaters, spew enough CO2. So, it’s always better to turn off all air conditioning and heating. Neither is worth keeping it on during summer vacations. If you need to keep the heater on, like in winter, leave the thermostat between 85 and 90 degrees F, unless you have pets at home. If it can be arranged, even the heater can be switched on and off using a timer. Or, simply arrange for a friend or landlord to turn it back on before you return from your vacation.
Many developed countries are now running awareness campaigns about “switching off appliances when you are not using them”. Even a decade ago, you would have said “duh?” Now, it’s actually a new habit to cultivate for many- switching off. Unplug every electric appliance before you leave. If your appliance has a “stand-by” light on even when it’s off, unplug them – these are electricity “vampires: which suck up power even when they’re off. Water heaters running on gas can be switched to pilot or vacation mode. Electric water heaters can be turned off as well. Take some time to clean out the fridge, switch it off and leave it open to dry at least one day before you go.
Packing can be the most exhausting part of the vacation – such as deciding between those killer boots and walking shoes, between sensible and looking hot! But you need to fine tune it too for eco-friendly points. If you are taking a car, pack lightly. Extra load uses up extra fuel. Take water bottles from home and fill them with tap water in your hotels instead of buying water bottles and disposing of them. Use old-fashion cloth napkins and light washable towels instead of paper napkins. Carry your own soaps and bottles of shampoo. Pile up your dirty laundry and carry it back home for a single wash instead of using laundry service multiple times during your vacation.
Cutting down on emissions is kind of like dieting- no fast food and everything in little portions. Avoid distance exotic destinations; rather, keep it close to home and local. We tend to put off nearby attractions because we can go there anytime, and we never really get around to them. If you want to spread out a little further from home, try and plan it so that so that you can reach it by car. You can cut down on the jet-fuel-induced emission levels this way. You can further cut down on emission by taking the bus, train or coach instead of the car. You might be able to combine a train or coach journey with a car to keep the emission level to a minimum while covering greater distances.
If you are using your own car, get it tuned properly, do periodic maintenance, use eco-friendly fuel and lubricant, and keep tire pressure as advised. This will keep your emission levels down to as much as possible. This is also a golden opportunity to drive that snazzy looking hybrid car that’s too expensive to own. It might be a little expensive that the general rental car, but it will make for that cost in fuel efficiency as well. And you can cut off your guilt complex by knowing how much less you polluted the earth. By the way speeding not only causes accident, it also uses up more fuel and emits for gases. So drive slowly and keep the earth green.
Apart from speeding, overloading and driving in old gas guzzlers that spew smoke like chimneys, even smart car travelers contribute a great deal to the green house gas emission by switching on the air conditioner. A little fresh air never hurt anyone! Try rolling down the rear windows instead. One tip here is to park in the shade and use reflective covers to keep the car cool so that you do not need to blast the a/c full on when you get back in.
How to make your stay eco-friendly? Don’t blindly book hotels and resorts who claim to be eco-friendly by virtue of some green towels or solar powered hot tub. Stay over at farms or country lodges. Bed and breakfasts and family run farm lodges let you enjoy the vacation while being as eco-friendly as possible. There you can eat farm grown local food, free range chicken and eggs, goat and cow milk from the animals – all cutting down on emissions of exported and packaged food.
Even cooler ways to stay is to rent cottage type accommodations where you will do your own cooking, stopping over at the local farmers market to shop for food can help you bolster food sustainability. Also, since these types of accommodations are well stocked with utensils, you will not litter the environment with food containers and plastic spoons etc. On the upside, they are also private and you can pretty much feel at home.
Souvenirs are a big part of tourism. But most often, if you check the tag, you will notice the cheap T-shirts that say spout the local tourist slogans and small statues and trinkets are often made in some far off Asian country. Why not pick up something ethnic, produced by local artisans. That way you can contribute to the community ad well. Handicraft is most often eco-friendly, hand made out of natural materials and rarely packaged.
If all the do’s and don’ts have got you huffing and puffing then perhaps you are too city bred and as far away from nature as possible. Give it a chance! Try some of the eco-friendly tricks once and find out for yourself how cost effective and hassle free they actually are. Most often our anti-green habits are, well, habits. Not necessities.
By Maria Belgado
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