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Travel: Five Tips to Green Your Summer Vacation

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With warmer weather in full swing and you've likely already planned your family’s summer vacation. I know the to-do list is long, from stocking up on sunscreen and bug spray to bringing the sandals and bathing suits out of winter storage. This year, don’t forget to add Mother Nature to the list and kick off an annual tradition of making your vacations eco-friendly, too. Being green this summer doesn't require a complete lifestyle upheaval; there are tons of simple changes you and your family can make together to your summer vacation plans. 

How to Green Your Summer Vacation

Here are five of my favorite tips for greening your vacation:

Pack light—leave the extra pair of shoes at home.

When packing your bags, consider scaling back and only packing the essentials. That extra pair of shoes will make the plane just a bit heavier, increase fuel consumption, and lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions. Multiply that pair of shoes by one thousand summer travelers, and we’ve just made a huge impact. Alaska Airlines actually found that they could save $10,000 per year in fuel costs just by removing five magazines per plane. Packing a lighter bag is better for your back and for fuel usage.

Take the scenic route by train or bus.

Sit back, relax and enjoy the view from a train or bus this summer vacation. Train and bus travel leads to fewer emissions per passenger than traveling alone in a car or by plane, and it is often cheaper! Per passenger mile carbon emissions by plane: 0.48 kg. By train: 0.21 kg. By bus: 0.056 kg. Reducing your environmental impact while on vacation: priceless. (Carbon emissions data sourced from Amtrak and American Bus Association.)

Bring a reusable water bottle.

Did you know 86 percent of plastic water bottles in the U.S. are still NOT recycled? This year, instead of buying a case for your road trip, take a stainless steel, aluminum, or bio-plastic reusable bottle; you never know when you will have easy access to a recycle bin on the road. Also, there is no need to toss your bottle before going through airport security—just empty it out and refill it inside!

Practice “Leave No Trace” Camping.

The National Outdoor Leadership School developed the Leave No Trace (LNT) program to educate campers about the eco-effects of their outdoor pursuits. One vital tip is choosing durable surfaces like rocks, sand, gravel, and hardy, sparse, or dry vegetation, for all your activities. Staying on these less-vulnerable surfaces prevents erosion and long-term damage to sensitive wilderness areas. Other LNT tips include bringing your trash home with you and keeping a good distance from wildlife.

Give your appliances a vacation.

By turning off your hardworking, energy-sucking devices while you are gone, you will be helping your energy bill and the environment. Electronics with digital displays, instant-on features or remote controls consume energy even while not in use, so give them a rest! Remember to unplug TVs, cable boxes, DVD players, computers, printers, digital clocks, etc. when you leave home.

These are just a few ideas for greener travels.

Do you have any other great tips to share that are simple and fun ways to go green with your family?

Ali Kalis is the senior director of digital marketing at Recyclebank, the company that rewards people for taking everyday green actions. Ali has always had a personal interest in social entrepreneurship, sustainability, and healthy living, and holds a certificate in integrated nutrition as well as an MBA. She and her photographer husband, Amani, live in Brooklyn with their young son, Satchel, and miniature pinscher, Jinx.  

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