If you already make efforts to be a “green” traveler, what does it take to be even greener? This series explores various ways to step up your green travel efforts using our shades of green travel spectrum. If you’re not familiar with the spectrum, it ranges from “pea green” travelers who are least likely to make extreme efforts to travel green; to “Kelly Green” travelers who make moderate efforts to be eco-conscious while traveling; to “forest green” travelers who will go to almost any length to leave no impact while traveling.
If you already make efforts to be a “green” traveler, what does it take to be even greener? This Shades of Green Travel article explores various ways to step up your green travel efforts using our shades of green travel spectrum. If you’re not familiar with the spectrum, it ranges from “pea green” travelers who are least likely to make extreme efforts to travel green; to “Kelly Green” travelers who make moderate efforts to be eco-conscious while traveling; to “forest green” travelers who will go to almost any length to leave no impact while traveling.
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What is Green Travel ~ Definition of Different Types
Reduce your travel footprint by holidaying closer to home
How Green Are You?
Many of us are trying to be green a lot of the time. There are varying shades of “going green” just as there are varying shades of green travel. Just by being mindful, aware and conscious of green travel, you are a step ahead of many. It is easy to think, “I’m on vacation,” and ease up on some environmentally-friendly things you do habitually at home. Even without going to extremes, any step you take toward green travel is a “win.” You may think of green travel in a new way by thinking of shades of green travel. Many travelers want to be environmentally-conscious when they travel, but don’t want to go to great lengths to be greener. With all of the options out there, how do you determine the extent to which you want to go green? We like to think of being an eco-conscious traveler in “shades of green.” Green, greener, greenest. Or to be more descriptive: Pea Green, Kelly Green, and Forest Green. What does this mean?
Light Green Travelers
- Green / Pea Green travelers care about the environment. They want to make a difference; but they don’t want to make too many sacrifices to be greener. If the green choice is easy and cheap, they will take it. If not, they won’t go searching for a greener travel option. An example might be to ask for a glass of water at a restaurant counter instead of buying a water bottle. They may leave the “free” hotel shampoo and conditioner for the next person and use the products they brought instead. These are minimal things but if enough people did them, they would add up to make a big difference.
photo credit: SMercury98
Dark Green Travelers
On the other end of the spectrum are the two types of travelers who will make a conscious effort and purposefully look for ways to minimize their impact and conserve as often as possible.
- Greenest / Forest Green travelers will do almost anything to travel green. They don’t take planes. They’ll only eat in organic restaurants. They camp or couchsurf. You might refer to them as hippies or treehuggers. Ok, I’m clearly stereotyping here; but the point is, the greenest travelers do whatever it takes to leave no trace of their travels and minimize or eliminate their carbon footprint, regardless of cost.
- Greener / Kelly Green travelers fall somewhere in the middle. They make a conscious effort on every trip to be green and are always aware of their impact (whereas the Pea Green traveler only thinks about their impact some of the time). However, due to budget or time constraints, Kelly Green travelers may be less likely than their Forest Green comrades to choose the greenest method of travel. Some examples may be to always carry a stainless steel or glass reusable water bottle with them. Or they may try to stay in green hotels or stay in places with a kitchen so they can cook most of their own meals. The best part of “shades of green” traveling is that by thinking about and categorizing green travel like this, you better understand your green travel style and the choices you make. You can choose to make green travel choices in various parts of traveling. For instance, you can partake in green travel when it comes to hotel and accommodations; but you may be the greenest traveler in the food choices you make.
Shades of Green Travel: Accommodations
Accommodations Green or Pea Green Travel Accommodations
Green travelers who want to make some efforts to be more environmentally friendly with their accommodations, but don’t want to sacrifice their own room, bathroom and the comforts of maid service can look for a green hotel. Be careful when browsing green hotel directories, however, as some may “directories” are merely advertising websites where hotels pay for membership.
Greener or Kelly Green Travel Accommodations
If you want to be a more responsible traveler you can conserve electricity by opting for accommodations with shared space. Hostels and couchsurfing are both better for the environment because you are sharing lights, heat, air conditioning, etc with others. Plus it’s a great way to meet other green travelers!
Greenest or Forest Green Travel Accommodations
photo credit: Rick McCharles
If you want to be the greenest of travelers you should opt for leave no trace camping. Leave No Trace offers a great set of resources for leave no trace camping. Even if you are really set on green hotels as a green traveler and you have little desire to move to permanently become greener, consider staying one night in a hostel, or camping for a day or two on your next trip. It’s a great way to experience something new– that’s what traveling is all about!
Shades of Green Travel: Transportation
Transportation Green or Pea Green: Drive a hybrid
Pea green travelers are a bit trepidatious when it comes to choosing greener transportation. Maybe the rigid schedule of a bus or train doesn’t fit into their itinerary, or maybe they enjoy the freedom a car gives them. But they still want to make less of an impact on the environment so they choose a fuel efficient car or hybrid over an SUV.
Greener or Kelly Green: Take a bus or train
Rather than rent a car, kelly green travelers will take publication transportation. They’re committed to reducing their impact on the earth, but, unlike forest green travelers, aren’t ready to bike 300 miles to get to their next destination. When the train isn’t departing at exactly the right time, the kelly green travel will rearrange her travel plans to make it work.
photo credit: skalas2
Greenest or Forest Green: Walk or bike
In their typical hardcore fashion, forest green travelers opt to walk or bike just about anywhere. They’d rather hop on a bamboo bike to cross the country than enlarge their carbon footprint by taking a train or bus. Even if it takes longer to reach their destination, it’s worth it for forest green travelers. If biking means one more stopover on the way from Spain to France, so what? Maybe they’ll see a cool city and meet new people along the way.
Shades of Green Travel: Bottled Water
Although water bottles may seem like an unimportant part of traveling green, with the sheer amount of waste produced by bottled water each, even one bottle can make a difference. So what are the “shades” of green travel with a water bottle?
Green or Pea Green: Buy Bottled Water
Green travelers may not own or want to carry their own reusable bottle on their trip, but they don’t want to buy and waste a new bottle each time. Thus, a green traveler might buy a bottle of water at the airport, and reuse that same bottle for most or all of their trip, refilling it many times.
Greener or Kelly Green: Bring Bottled Water
A greener traveler is also reluctant to bring her own reusable bottle – she thinks “maybe I’ll lose it, maybe TSA will confiscate it, maybe it won’t look professional.” So, the greener traveler brings an empty, non-reusable bottle from home. Then at the end of the trip she can recycle it. (Note that you shouldn’t refill bottled water bottles more than a few times, as it’s not good for your health.)
photo credit: aarontait
Greenest or Forest Green: Bring a Reusable Bottle
The greenest travelers bring their own reusable bottle. If you already own it, any reusable bottle is better for the environment than buying bottled water. Besides being environmentally friendly, bringing your own bottle of water can save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a trip. If you are concerned about what type of reusable bottle is best for your personal health, next week we will write a comparison post of reusable water bottles.
Shades of Green Travel: Food
Food Green or Pea Green: When it’s Easy & Cheap
The pea green traveler dines in when possible, shops at farmers markets when it’s convenient, and eats organic or local food when it’s easy to find and affordable. All things equal, he’ll choose the greener option. But if the organic spinach is more expensive than the conventional, he’ll buy the latter. The pea green traveler is conscious of his impact on the environment, but it doesn’t always dictate his travel decisions. He doesn’t mind eating out or getting takeout every once in a while. And, though he keeps an eye out for restaurants that serve organic and locally-grown cuisine, he’s not opposed to indulging in the occasional Big Mac or personal pan pizza to satisfy a craving. The pea green traveler likes to cook for himself, but he eats out more often than not when traveling.
Greener or Kelly Green: Even If It’s More Expensive
Unlike her pea green counterpart, the kelly green traveler prioritizes eating locally-grown and organic food, even if it’s not the cheapest or easiest option. She’s not a die-hard locavore, but she’ll walk three miles to the local farmers market before heading to the chain grocery store around the corner. And when she pays 50% more for organic eggs, she considers it an investment in her health and the environment. She regularly cooks for herself in her hostel and when she dines out, she opts for locally-owned restaurants that serve local or organic food.
photo credit: Tawheed Manzoor
She avoids takeout because of the waste it creates, but might pick up a street stand schwarma on her way home from a night out. After a long day of exploring, she might even pick up some local cuisine to go on her way back to the hostel. The kelly green traveler is very aware of her impact on the environment. She feels very strongly about eating locally-grown, organic food and will go out of her way to do so, but if it’s not available, she’s fine sampling the local cuisine – even if the restaurant she chooses uses ingredients that aren’t locally-grown.
Greenest or Forest Green: No Matter What
Of all the green travelers, a forest green traveler holds himself – and his food – to the highest standards. He’s passionate about eating only locally-grown, organic food. If he can’t find food that’s both local and organic, he’ll settle for organic or, if necessary, just locally-grown. He takes locavore to a whole new level. He may not be a vegan, but he avoids eating meat and other animals products because of the environmental impact of meat. He cooks most of his own meals at his hostel or campsite and makes sandwiches to bring with him on long days. He enjoys going to the local market, picking out seasonal vegetables, and trying his hand at cooking a dish native to the region he’s visiting. But the forest green traveler also appreciates the authenticity of local restaurants and likes to sample the cuisine there. He avoids places with styrofoam or paper plates and plastic cutlery, and opts to split a meal with a friend rather than having to take leftovers home in a takeout container or throw extra food away.
Shades of Green Travel: Money and Time
Money and Time
You might be asking yourself, “What does money have to do with traveling green? I thought by ‘green’ they meant environmental, sustainable, conscious – not dollar bills.” Well, money and time (and time and money) have to do with traveling green because ultimately traveling takes time and costs money. And to become the greenest of travelers we have to consider what we will have to give up (and not give up) in terms of money/time vs. environmental friendliness. This is not an easy set of issues to grapple with, but it is one that is well worth considering. The question to ask yourself is, “What’s more important to me? Time and money or the environment?”
Green or Pea Green: Choosing Money and Time over Green Travel
A green traveler will favor the environmentally-friendly activities when they are cheaper (e.g. camping over a hotel) or when they are simple (like turning off the lights in her hotel room). But, if something green is too expensive or too complicated, the green traveler will take the cheaper and simpler option even if the cost to the environment is greater.
Greener or Kelly Green: Choosing Green Travel over Money or Time
A kelly green traveler is willing to make some trade offs when weighing time/money against environmental impact. For instance, the greener traveler will pay more money for a non-stop flight because it is less harsh on the environment than the cheaper flight with a layover; but she won’t take the train or bus because she is not willing to sacrifice the extra time it would take (this was our philosophy on a recent trip to Florida).
photo credit: pfala
Greenest or Forest Green: Choosing Green Travel over Time and Money
The greenest traveler will nearly always choose the more sustainable and responsible travel option over the one that is cheaper and less time-consuming. For instance, in one of the most powerful pieces I’ve ever read, Tim Patterson writes about selling his stock in multinational corporations. Or Mark Smith, aka The Man in Seat 61, chooses only to travel by land. These choices are the greenest of choices – where individuals are choosing to place their value of environmental and social responsibility above time and money. I know where I would like to fall on this spectrum, but I’m not there yet. I hope someday I will be.
Some early posts at Go Green Travel Green were part of a series called “Shades of Green Travel.” The basic idea of the initial post, Shades of Green Travel, is that you don’t have to be the most eco-conscious person on the planet to be a green traveler. You don’t need to constantly worry about every little detail of your travels. Rather, you should focus on big categories and choose several categories where you can try to be a greener traveler. We laid out “shades of green” – pea green, Kelly green, and forest green – as ways of scaling how green you wanted to be in those categories.
For example, you might choose to green your accommodation and food. So you might camp or eat local as ways to be a “forest green” traveler. And then you could choose to worry a little less about transportation; for example taking a hybrid taxi instead of public transportation as a way of getting around. In the transportation category you might be a “pea green” traveler.
Thinking about your “shade” of green is just a fun way of thinking about how to be a little bit greener.
photo credit: the missiah
Ways for all of us to be more green at home.
As we’ve recently started writing about having a green home I thought about the shades of green travel post and how it’s applicable to our everyday lives. The best way to think about how to green your life is to consider the categories where you could be greener and then choose to make an environmental difference in those categories. Here are the categories I came up with and a few ideas about how to be greener in those categories. We may write more about certain categories in the future.
Green Home: Actually making your house and your energy consumption in your home eco friendly. For example, buy energy star appliances, use rain barrels, and turn off the lights.
Green Cleaning Products: Buy and use green cleaning products. Better yet – use vinegar and baking soda!
Children: Ensure that your children’s toys, food, and clothing has fewer chemicals and additives.
Pets: Feed your dog natural dog food and buy natural dog toys.
Clothing: Buy used clothing from thrift stores or new clothing made from organic or reused materials.
Cosmetics/personal care products: Ensure that your cosmetics and personal care products are paraben free.
Food: Eat locally grown and organic food. Dine in more.
Shopping/Green Products: When you need a new item reconsider if the purchase is actually necessary or if it’s just creating more waste. When you do have to buy something new try to get a more environmentally friendly product.
Transportation: Ditch the car and opt for public transit or biking.
In what other categories can we try to be a shade greener? There are lots of ways to green your day-to-day home life and your travel. Think of ways that you can increase your shades of green travel, wherever you are.