You have probably heard of the terms: Green travel, organic, eco-conscious, eco-friendly, responsible, sustainable, eco-tourism, but what do they really mean? In the past several years, these environmental catchphrases have cropped up everywhere — in newspaper articles, online, in stores. But what do they all mean in the context of travel? Since these concepts are still in their formative stages, defining them is tricky. But we’ve compiled definitions from reputable sources and added our own two cents.
Definition of green travel and how to travel green
Green travel is about making conscious decisions to reduce your environmental and social impact when traveling. From sustainable tourism to eco-friendly transport, learn how to travel more responsibly and enjoy the world around you. Learn what green travel is and how to reduce your impact on the environment while exploring the world. Get tips on sustainable travel, eco-friendly activities, and ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Find out how to make a positive impact with green travel today
Conscious means being aware of something. Eco means concerning the environment, so “eco-conscious travel” essentially means being aware of the environment, and your impact on the environment, when you travel.
Again, eco relates to the environment, and we all know what friendly means, so “eco-friendly travel” means being nice to and having little impact on the environment when you travel.
From our good friends at Ecotourism Australia, “Ecotourism is ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary focus on experiencing natural areas that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation.”
This concept expands beyond the traditional notions of environmentalism and encompasses socially-conscious travel. It means understanding, respecting, and supporting the cultures and people in the area you are visiting. We have paraphrased the definition from Lonely Planet, which seems to really hit the mark. Lonely Planet describes it as travel that considers the “triple bottom line” issues of the environment; social/cultural; and economic. Exploring Asia with Responsible Tourism
travel that strives to minimize negative environmental impacts. If possible, seeks to make positive contributions to the conservation of biodiversity, wilderness, natural and human heritage.
travel that respects traditions and culture; and looks for ways to foster authentic interaction and greater understanding between travelers and hosts.
travel that has financial advantages for the host community and operates on the principles of fair trade.
From Detour Destinations, this is defined as “a level of tourism activity that can be maintained over the long term because it results in a net benefit for the social, economic, natural and cultural environments of the area in which it takes place.”
Because so many people now associate the term “organic” with the food they consume or the clothes they wear, this term could have many meanings and interpretations. It could mean to take “staycations” where you travel close to home, visiting the museums, parks, and downtown areas. Maybe it is easy to drive to or maybe you take the bus or train to get there. Perhaps instead of taking the bus tour, you seek out a walking tour or bicycle tour. It could mean being as local as you can be wherever you are.
As an example, while on a vacation, or anywhere and anytime really, seeking out local produce from the grocery, farmers market, or road stand. It could mean eating in a local, rather than brand name, restaurant. It could mean staying in a small, local bed & breakfast instead of the larger, often more wasteful, large hotel chain.
As defined by the staff at GoGreenTravelGreen, we consider green travel to mean:
- Thinking about your impact on the environment (both the physical and social environment) when you travel
- Doing your part to minimize your impact on the environment — so that tourism in your destination can be maintained in the long run
- Understanding eco-friendly choices you can make
- Making eco-friendly choices when they are options
- Doing your research to be a responsible traveler
- Saving money by making low-impact choices
Definition of What is Green Travel
There are many answers to the question of what is green travel. By being mindful of your choices, it can easily become a habit. Just seek out and implement the eco-friendly options when you can.
Green Tourism: A PR Trend or Something More?
Lately, I’ve noticed a number of city or state specific green tourism sites popping up.
- For instance, Wisconsin has a green tourism site.
- Boston has a green site.
- San Franscico has an excellent site.
- Minnesota (through the University of Minnesota) has launched a site.
- Virginia was one of the first states I saw with a green tourism site.
- Even a city in Vietnam has put forth a green tourism initiative.
I’m curious about what others think about these sites and promotions. Is it just tourism hype? Or a good conscious effort to make a city green? Or somewhere in between? Personally, I think the green tourism trend seems to be a good thing. The tourism sites I’ve seen are (for the most part) really well put together with useful information. Even with the economy as it is, green tourism is growing. And it’s nice to see that cities are still pushing green travel.
Tips for meeting other green travelers
Meeting fellow travelers can be intimidating, especially when you first start traveling. But it doesn’t have to be. These tips and tricks will help you find fellow green travelers to join you on the next leg of your journey. Whether it be a day in a nearby village or a month in Costa Rica. Using these 13 tips for meeting other green travelers can be a wonderful way for everyone to benefit from conserving our earth’s precious resources.
Become a couch surfer
At Couch Surfing, you search for locals to stay with in thousands of destinations across the world, from Switzerland to Sri Lanka. You can search based on language, gender, age, and key words, so it’s easy to find someone with interests and passions similar to yours. Odds are if people are hosting couch surfers, they probably couch surf themselves so you could meet a future travel companion. It’s our kind of organization – it’s free, it’s a non-profit, and it has a conscience. According to its website, Couch Surfing’s mission is “to internationally network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance and facilitate cultural understanding.” For other couch surfing sites, check out The Top 5 Couch surfing Sites from the Times Online.
Volunteer for the environment
At Volunteer Abroad you can search for volunteer opportunities by region, city, and interest area, including “environment.” Volunteer Latin American focuses on sustainability and conservation and offers a variety of green volunteer opportunities throughout Latin America. At Idealist.org, you can choose an interest area and a location to search for volunteer opportunities and jobs. For more green volunteering abroad ideas, check out this Green Guide post.
Use social networking sites
MySpace alone has over 20,000 groups categorized under “Places and Travel,” including World Travels, Travel Thailand, and Brazil. Join an international group or find your destination and post a call out for other green travelers in the forum.
Take the bus or train
In addition to being less environmentally-friendly, traveling by rental car is isolating. It’s hard to meet other travelers while you’re locked inside your Prius. But intra-country public transportation sets you up to be much more social. If you’re looking for traveling friends, choose to sit near other backpackers and when you get the chance, take the opportunity to talk with that German couple in your train car.
Seek out group activities
Ask the person working the hostel desk what kinds of low-budget group activities he or she would recommend. Find something that sounds interesting and sign up for it. Whether you’re whitewater rafting or taking a day trip to a nearby city, spending an entire day with other travelers will help you get to know them. And if you pick a green activity, odds are you’ll meets lots of other green travelers.
Arrange a group activity
Can’t seem to find a prearranged group activity? Set one up yourself. Ask other hostelers what they’ve done and if they’d recommend it. Look online or in your travel guide for day trips or local activities. Pick some interesting activities and invite your fellow hostelers to come along. Don’t be shy – you’ll be surprised how many others will take you up on your offer.
Search online forums
Before you head to your next destination, check out travel or backpacker message boards and forums. There are country-specific forums, like Backpacker Board in New Zealand, and international ones like those on Eurotrip.com, Trip Advisor, and Hostels.com. Try a search for “travel buddy” or “travel partner” if you’re seeking a fellow green traveler to join you on the next leg of your trip.
Strike up a conversation
It’s easy to be intimidated in new situations, but remember that everyone in a hostel is in the same boat. Start a conversation with other travelers in the hostel kitchen or the town square. Ask people where they’re from, what they like to do, where they’re headed next. If you share the same interests, suggest going out for dinner at the local organic restaurant you heard about.
Go to a meetup
Meetup.com is a free way to organize online and in-person around just about any interest. You can find meetups in your hometown before you start your travels or you can look for meetups in your destination. Join the meetups that look interesting to you and make friends with people who share your interests. In addition to great travel advice, you might also meet some future travel buddies. You can start by browsing the travel, backpackers, and environment meetups.
Contact a green travel organization
Ask around about or search online for green travel associations in the country you’re visiting. Organizations like Camp Green, Canada, which is “a national campaign of Canadians working together to improve the environment,” will be able to tell you about local green activities and connect you with other green travelers.
Take an Ecotour
Ecotours are becoming increasingly widespread to the extent that even non-environmentalists are checking them out. It’s a double-edged sword – it’s good because it means people who wouldn’t otherwise care about the environment are doing something to help it, but bad because it means it might be harder to meet other sincere green travelers. Planeta.com, which “has provided tips for travelers and locals who share a vision of eco-friendly, people-friendly and place-friendly travel” since 1994, is a great place to start.
Peruse online classified ads
Community-based online classifieds like Craigslist in the U.S. and other countries and Gumtree in Australia are good places to look for green travel events and travel partners. On Gumtree, click the “travel/travel partners” under “community” to browse ads other travelers have posted. As always with situations when you’re meeting strangers, be smart and use your better judgment. If you find a perspective green travel buddy, meet him or her in a public location.
Talk to your friends and family
Even if they don’t travel much, friends and family members likely know people who do. You never know – your mom’s college roommate’s daughter who’s majoring in environmental science might be in Costa Rica when you are. Keep your family and friends in the loop on your next travel destination and let them know you’d like to meet up with anyone they know in that country.
Environmentally friendly travel
If you follow the motto of leaving everything as you found it, then you are on your way to being kinder to the places you visit. When on a walking holiday you need to think about your impact on your surroundings and there are a few things you can do to reduce this. Travel in small groups and choose an operator that is environmentally responsible. You should also bring your own water bottles and bags to reduce the amount of plastic waste and stick to the main paths to prevent interfering with the local plant and wildlife.
If you want to have the minimum affect on the place you are visiting then you should only use facilities and stay in places that have a benefit to the local community. Sustainable tourism is also about supporting the local businesses. Think about where you plan to stay and eat, steering towards establishments that are independently owned and run, meaning the profits stay in the local community.
Green Travel Hacks
Tips for green travel should not be only an opportunity to revel in the beauty of the destination, but to also practice being eco-friendly. Keep on reading and learn about some of the ways by which you can be green during your holiday. And once you’re done these sites have more green travel tips!
Buy Local Products
Fond of shopping? Forget big shopping malls that are filled with global brands. Instead, head to smaller markets where locals are selling their handmade arts and crafts. This is especially true when traveling. Always buy sustainable souvenirs. Buy local produce too, especially when you are home.
Use Reusable Bottles
Replenish with water whenever you are traveling. But rather than buying bottled water, bring your own bottle. You can have it conveniently refilled in various locations. It is also cheaper!
Book Non-Stop Flights
This is your own little way of helping minimize the emissions and energy consumption of an airplane. When everyone does this collectively, a huge environmental impact will be apparent. Non-stop flights are “less worse” for the environment.
Choose the Right Accommodations
Make sure to have a thorough research so that you will know which accommodation to pick. Choose one that is participating in efforts to be kind to the environment. Choose eco-friendly hotels that support local advocates or those utilizing alternative sources of energy. By choosing an LEED or green hotel, you can make a big difference.
Even better, go camping! You will use less resources camping than when you stay in a hotel. You will also most likely want to bring your own food instead of eating at restaurants all the time. This is also more eco-friendly.
Limit Use of Energy
When you are out of your hotel room, make sure to turn off the air conditioning. Turn off all the lights in the room when you are about to go to sleep. There are so many things you can do to green your hotel stay.
Use Eco-Friendly Transport
When having a city tour, rather than riding the cab or renting a car, consider alternative modes of transportation, such as a bike, or even an e-bike. You could rent a campervan to get closer to nature and be more eco friendly if you choose a fuel efficient one.
When you are flying, every kilo in your baggage will count. The heavier the baggage is, the heavier the plane will be and consequently, the more carbon emissions can be produced.
Go Around with a Companion
- Taking the cab to a certain attraction?
- Make sure to do it with someone else.
- Ask people from the place where you are staying to join you in your ride if they are going the same route.
Before using the bath tub, think of the amount of water that it will consume. Turn off the shower when you are lathering your body in soap or shampooing your hair.
Mind Your Trash
Whether it is a small candy wrapper or a cigarette butt, make sure to have them thrown only in the proper bins. This is especially true if you are in the ocean.
Lastly, make sure to put your energy into good use. Look for organizations offering volunteer work, such as tree planting, marine conservation, and ocean clean-up, among other activities that are enjoyable while also helping you do your part for the environment. WWOOFing is a great way to give back while traveling.
Best green travel tips
Green travel can easily become a great habit that you can share with others and continue year-round at home. Engage in outdoor activities like hiking the trails around Niagara Falls. These best practices will make a big difference.
Green Travel Plan Road map to Green Travel – Green Travel Plan
A Road map to Green travel is part of our plan to create a green travel plan, we’ve created this road map guiding you through some of our favorite posts so far. Plus we explain why they’re an important part of your green travel plan.
Start With Green Vacation Planning
The best place to start in your green travel plan is to begin with simple green vacation planning and brainstorming.
Look at Green Destinations and the Top Green Cities
We put together this list of the top green cities. If you’re looking for a great green destination these are the places to visit.
Search for Green Travel and Green Plane Tickets (Non Stop Flights are Best)
To give back to the environment the best way you can check out our post on green air travel (and don’t forget about searching for direct flights and giving back to the environment just by searching for plane tickets.)
Get Green Travel Gear
Carbon Offset If You’d Like
Here are some of the best carbon offset companies.
Book a Green Hotel
Here are our top posts about green hotels. And you’re off. It’s that easy to create a green travel plan. Who knew?
How to Find a Travel Agent for Your Green Trip
Every once in awhile you need a travel agent. Travel agents are great for a number of things when it comes to trip planning, especially for complicated trips. Travel agents can be helpful for green travel because they can point you to specific eco-friendly destinations and tours. If you’re unsure of where to turn to or don’t have time to plan your green trip, you might want to find a travel agent. Here are a few places to where you can find a travel agent for green travel: You just fill out a few details and travel agents will contact you with a customized trip itinerary.
ASTA ~ The American Society of Travel Agents offers a special green certification.
Use their search feature to find a green travel agent. We are not travel agents, but we do offer some green travel consulting. If you’re interested, contact us. With this searches it’s really easy to find a travel agent.
It’s easy to search Green Travel
Can you save the environment with reusable water bottles, shopping locally, and public transportation? Yes! All of it helps. Yet in the past, it has been somewhat challenging with regards to traveling. It was difficult to travel as green as you live at home. We are at the mercy of what is available when traveling. While there may ultimately be viable green choices, we may not know about them or where or how to access them. Fortunately, there are options we have now that weren’t available years ago.
When you are online searching to make your travel plans, your first stop should be to search Green Travel. Traveling green is easy, and it allows you to make a bigger environmental impact. Having all the prices right at your fingertips, you can see if purchasing the greener option fits in your budget. Here’s how to search for green travel.
Search Green Travel for Plane Tickets, Hotels, Rental Cars & Trips
It is easier than ever to find eco-friendly travel options, and the choices are plentiful. You can now find everything from environmentally-friendly rental cars, green and LEED hotels, direct flights, green dining options, ride shares, hotel shuttles, public transportation, green cruise lines, green tours, and more.
Which companies are really green?
Research companies you travel with to determine how green they are.
- What are the company’s environmental and social policies, practices and performance?
- In what ways do they give back to their community?
- What steps are they using to use local products and equipment?
- Where are their goods produced?
- How do they care for their employees?
- What are they doing to focus on preservation and sustainability worldwide?
Looking for green travel deals
What is great about searching online is that you are no longer at the mercy of travel agents. You can easily find out all the prices, compare them from company to company, and make a purchase/schedule a reservation immediately. It is simple to find the best travel deals on the web.
The easiest way to travel green is to search green travel
Now, you can be green from the start of your trip planning. Take advantage of advanced search options to further your green search. Then do your homework by comparing prices. If you have time, take it a step further and not only pick the greenest transportation or trip possible, but also the greenest company.
Check it out and spread the word
Make an even bigger difference by telling your eco-conscious traveler friends and family about it. When you are traveling with others, make sure they are aware of these green travel search options. Alone, we can’t stop melting glaciers, receding coastlines, or disappearing forests. But together, we can do a little bit more to make sure our favorite destinations are still there when we go back. Eco-conscious travelers already know the impact of recycling and other green practices. Continue to make a positive difference and give back each time you search green travel and choose a green travel option.
Shades of Green Travel: How Green Are You?
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.
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
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
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 couch surf.
- You might refer to them as hippies or tree huggers.
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
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.
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 couch surfing 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!
photo credit: Rick McCharles
Greenest or Forest Green Travel Accommodations
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!
Transportation Green or Pea Green: Drive a hybrid
Pea green travelers are a bit trepidation 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.
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.
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?”
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.
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
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.
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.
Travel Green In Pictures
Reasons to Travel Green – We’re launching our 25 Days to Green Travel series with photos that remind us why traveling green – and living green – matters. We’re going with the “a picture is worth a thousand words” concept. As I searched for these photos, I was reminded over and over that our travel decisions don’t just affect us; they affect people and wildlife across the world, and they will for generations to come. Read on for many reasons to travel green. The post wraps up with some truly amazing photos of beautiful places, people, and creatures around the world, so stick through the depressing photos to the end and you’ll be rewarded.
One way to avoid breathing polluted air, Tehran, Iran. photo credit: kamshots
Gorgeous mountains and water, Brienz, Switzerland. photo credit: pilou
All of these images except one are from Flickr, many from amateur photographers. Every green traveler has those days where she just wants to give up. Pollution, global warming, bad environmental policy decisions. How much of a difference can one person really make? The answer is, each of us can make a big difference. There are so very many reasons to travel green. No matter what shade of green traveler you are, I hope these photos motivate you to keep traveling green.
Eco-Conscious Traveler Green Travel Tips to Travel Green
Maybe you’ve heard of green travel tips before and thought it applies exclusively to jungle safaris and hiking up mountaintops. But that’s not the case at all, because you can still do your part even if you’re sightseeing in the city. All you need to do is make the effort to stay in environment friendly hotels as well as taking certain steps when you’re out traveling by foot or renting a vehicle.
Green Travel Tips to Travel Green
Here are tips to get you started on being a more eco-friendly traveler and going green.
Travel Green Transportation Tips
Whenever possible, walk instead of taking a car: walking is good for you and it also gives you more time to enjoy the scenery. If the trip is short you can take the train which is just as enjoyable as riding on a plane, if not more so. If you’re going to rent a vehicle, go for a hybrid car, as these have been manufactured specifically to reduce the impact on the environment. If you’re going on a long road trip and you have a large gas guzzling car, opt for a smaller one that has better mileage. Vehicles are the biggest air polluter in the US, but you can do your part minimizing this by walking, biking or taking public transport instead of your vehicle, reducing the number of cars on the road.
Being a Responsible Green Traveler / Tourist
As you go sightseeing, follow this simple rule: don’t leave anything behind except your footprints, and don’t take anything but photos. If you’re going to eat, make sure you have containers to dispose of wrappers and the like. In other words, leave the place as you found it.
Go with an Eco-Friendly Tour Operator
Many tour operators now pride themselves in being green, so you’re bound to find more than a few advertising how green their services are. Here are some suggestions: before booking, inquire about the group size, and go with the smallest group possible as they produce less of an environmental impact. While you’re at it, ask the tour operator how they’re giving back to the local community and what kind of lodging they provide.
Eco Friendly Hiking Tips
When you’re trekking or hiking, make sure to follow the local laws so you don’t damage the environment. In addition, stay at the marked trails and keep your distance from creatures you might run into, both for your sake and the animal’s. Dispose of your trash in the designated receptacles, and if there are none just store it in your backpack and dispose of it when you’re back at the hotel. Do not litter anywhere on the trail. Finally, make sure you set campfires in places where it’s permitted, and don’t leave until they have been extinguished completely.
Camping is an eco-friendly way to travel as well.
Advice for the Eco-Conscious Traveler
If you’re going to go snorkeling, learn safety measures first and follow the advice of your instructor. If you’re snorkeling alone, don’t make contact with the coral because it will damage the ecosystem. It’s also best if you select a sunscreen that’s reef safe because some sunblock lotions harm coral.
Tips for Eco Friendly travelers to consider:
No matter where you’re traveling, do not eat or buy products made from endangered species. Stay in an environment friendly hotel: there are plenty of these available and you can find most of them online. These hotels’ commitment varies however, so you need to do some research to determine just how eco-friendly the place is. Stay in hotels that support and use recycled bottles and participates in recycling programs. You can find this information on the hotel’s website or you can ask them.
If given the option, ask to have towels and sheets reused. Get in touch with hotel staff and ask what steps they’re taking to reduce energy consumption. This may take the form of alternative energy sources, low flow showers and toilets, energy saving lighting and solar or wind power. Even if you’re just staying in the hotel, there are a lot of things you can do to lessen the impact on the environment.
- Your showers should be short and sweet
- Turn the faucet off as you brush your teeth
- Turn off the TV, lights, air conditioning and other electronic devices when you leave your room
- Bring your own drinking up and toiletries instead of using the ones offered by the hotel.
If you do decide to use those offered in the hotel, bring the unused ones with you and use them at home so they’re not simply discarded. Sort your trash and dispose of them properly. If the hotel doesn’t support recycling then you should take the bottles you used up and bring them to a recycling center when you go back home. Let the hotel know you support their recycling and eco-friendly programs, as this will encourage them to continue.
In addition to these you should also pack light especially if you’re going to fly. The heavier the aircraft is, the more fuel it’s going to require and the more pollution it’s going to release in the atmosphere. If possible, bring only a carry-on, as this will limit your contribution to pollution and reduce your baggage fees. It will also ease the strain on your body and your mind. Packing less means less stuff you have to worry about, rummage through, and manage. There are so many brands available that are lighter than ever.
Rather than buy a new guidebook, you can just download a free app on your mobile or borrow from the nearby library. You’ll be saving not just money but also do your part in reducing waste and reusing available resources. And remember too that you can always buy cheap empty bottles and fill it with shampoo, sunblock, conditioner etc. Since you’ll be able to reuse the bottles, the cost will be recouped quickly, and you’ll be reducing the number of travel bottles dumped in the trash.
By simply following these green travel tips you’ll be doing your part in helping nature, and while it might not seem like much, what you do makes a lot of difference. Your actions will be seen as an example for others to follow and this will have a tremendous, positive impact on the planet wherever you travel.
How to Travel Green Internationally and Save Money
Travel Green Internationally and Save Money: Traveling internationally is a great way to experience various cultures, learn new languages, and go on unforgettable adventures. Unfortunately, visiting foreign countries – especially international travel destinations. Usually involves a fairly large investment of money and can, due to the nature of traveling long distances, make quite a high carbon footprint. While you always want to save money when traveling, it’s also crucial to prioritize making your travels as green as possible. There are a number of ways to remain environmentally conscious while visiting foreign places and saving money:
Travel Green Internationally Transportation
When visiting another country, walk as much as possible or use public transportation. When my wife and I traveled to France, we spent nine days in Paris and never once used any method of transportation that burned fuel, aside from the taxi rides to and from the airport. Walking everywhere allowed us to get a much better feel for how Parisians live on a daily basis, and we got inside glimpses of life in France that we never would have experienced had we taken buses or subways. Furthermore, a one-day pass for metro travel to all areas of Paris costs about $25 per person, so by choosing to walk, we saved nearly $450 during our trip.
Travel Green Internationally and Save Money on Dining
Although dining out at an upscale restaurant or two is certainly part of the overall international experience, you can still do your best to purchase locally produced fare and save money on food while on vacation. When visiting Moscow, my wife and I rented an apartment and purchased most of our food from street vendors or other small grocery stores. The food was fresh and delicious, and we were also able to negotiate prices with the sellers. We found virtually every kind of fruit or vegetable at these stands for about half of what one would pay in the States.
During our week in Moscow, we spent an estimated $225 on groceries. We ate out at three restaurants during our stay and the bills for these meals alone exceeded the total of our grocery expenses, so the savings were tremendous. And make sure you remember your reusable bag.
Travel Green Internationally Lodging
You don’t have to stay in an eco-resort to go green – chances are you won’t have much green left in your wallet if you choose this route. Fortunately, many international hotels have integrated water-saving strategies and other initiatives to reduce their impact on the environment. But these still are often quite expensive. To go green and save some green, do what seasoned budget travelers do: Stay in a hostel. There is an abundance of hostels worldwide that offer budget lodging and amenities, often with eco-friendly features.
These establishments tend to cater to young travelers who, as a group, are most interested in saving the environment. With a little research and planning, you could find a hostel with an organic garden or one that runs off solar power. Plus, you’ll usually have access to a shared kitchen and common areas. Not only will you save money when it comes to eating and finding a place outside your room to relax, but it’s the perfect environment to meet and interact with other world travelers and pick up tips on where else to stay and visit.
Travel Green Internationally and Save Money on Flights
When traveling great distances, select an airline that offers carbon offset flights. In addition to what you pay for your fare, you can contribute an additional amount which will be used to plant trees or fund a number of other renewable energy projects. Beyond that, there are many ways to find cheap airline ticket deals to overseas destinations. I once used a travel agent who offered tips on the best times of the year to fly depending on the destination.
You can also consider purchasing a consolidator ticket – consolidator companies purchase tickets from airlines that would otherwise go unused, and then resell them at significant discounts. They’re typically only available for coach seats, and generally include stopovers.
There could be other restrictions, so do thorough research before purchasing a fare. Furthermore, take public transportation to and from the airport if you can, and avoid the hefty parking fees. Travel with minimal luggage to avoid airline checked baggage fees, and get an electronic ticket to reduce the amount of paper being used.
Travel Green Internationally and Save Money
Being a conscientious eco-tourist is surprisingly simple and straightforward, and can even save you money. However, there are many other ways to save on the overall cost of international travel. Sign up for a travel aggregate site like Kayak.com, which will monitor fares for your destination so you can get the best rate. Research the best lodging options, and always remember that you can often rent an apartment overseas, which may be less expensive than a hotel room. Green overseas travel and saving money can go hand-in-hand.
What to Do – Green Activities
The great thing about traveling is once you’re at your destination, it’s much easier to be green. Most of your carbon consumption comes from the actual travel itself. That’s not to say that if you’ve done your best to be a green traveler getting there (who says you can’t bike around the world?) then you’re off the hook. But you have more options.
photo crdit: SMercury98
Favorite green activities while traveling:
- Sit in a park and watch the locals, read, or write in a travel journal
- Wander through non-touristy neighborhoods (you can spend days doing this)
- Stop at cafes in those neighborhoods
- Take public transportation to a random stop and get off and wander around (check with a hostel worker/concierge/local first to make sure the neighborhood is safe)
- Visit museums
- Browse local shops and businesses
- Play pick-up sports with the locals
- Visit the local library
- Spend time on a university’s campus
- Spend time in a university neighborhood – there are often fun and inexpensive bookstores, restaurants, and coffee shops near colleges
- Go to a religious service (make sure you are dressed appropriately and know enough about local customs as to not offend anyone)
- Windsurf, canoe, or kayak
- Go for a run before the city is awake
A good rule of thumb is if an activity doesn’t cost very much, chances are it has less of an environmental impact. Of course, there are exceptions like eco-safaris, but that is not a norm. And generally, avoid any activity that doesn’t seem native to the local environment – such as snow-skiing in Dubai. When you’re getting to and from these activities try to bike or walk. If you need to take another form of transportation, map your route.
Arrange your trip so that you see museums in area on the same day, which will prevent zig-zagging across the city. To be a green traveler, you need understand exactly what you’re aiming to do and what green travel is. There are many definitions of green travel, but here’s what we believe green travel is really about.
When most people think about green travel they immediately think of the environment and making choices that will minimize environmental impact and damage. For example, you might take public transportation instead of driving a car because it will cut emissions, or use less paper because it will save trees. But while the environment is a key piece of green travel, it’s not the entire picture.
Green travel is also about respecting people in the local environment. That means respecting their presence, their values, and their way of life. It also means saying “hello,” “thank you,” and “excuse me.” Basically, treat people with respect. The way you would like to be treated.
Traveling green is also about getting to know the local culture. From attempting to learn the language and customs to dressing appropriately. Plus, you’ll have more fun when you immerse yourself in the culture. You’ll have new experiences and broaden your understanding of other people.
Green travel is about giving back to the local economy. By buying local foods, taking tours with local operators, and patronizing local businesses, you’re supporting the local way of life and reducing your environmental impact. Your goods and food doesn’t have to travel far to get to you and your experience will be more authentic.
Green travel is about protecting your personal health. By paying attention to chemicals in your water bottle, shoes, and toiletries, you will protect yourself from toxic chemicals. In turn, your choices will benefit the environment because the chemicals from your products won’t end up in the environment.
Green travel is about more than just the environment. It’s about supporting local culture and economy, reducing your environmental impact, and improving your personal health – separate but overlapping issues. By buying local you not only support the local economy, but you also reduce your impact on the environment because your goods don’t travel as far.
Learning About the Local Culture
Now that we’ve laid out the why, what, and where of green travel, we’re going to discuss the how. To kick off Before You Go, I’m going to delve a little deeper into how to choose a destination for green travel. Kimberly’s post outlined a variety of options for where you might travel green. But how exactly do you choose the best green travel destination for you? Picking your destination doesn’t just depend on the place (e.g. whether there are LEED certified hotels or extensive public transportation); choosing a destination for eco travel also depends on you. How easy will it be for you to be a green traveler there?
Respect the Culture When Green Travel
As we said in our definition of green travel, to be a green traveler in any destination – be it eco-lodge-filled Costa Rica or pollution-ridden Beijing – you must understand, appreciate and respect the culture.
Learning About the Local Culture
When you’re deciding where to go and after you’ve gotten there, you should research the culture. This includes learning about the local customs, traditions, and religion, as well as respecting local dress codes. You should also attempt to learn at least a few key phrases in the local language. Not only is this respectful, you never know when it will get you out of a bind. Here are some resources that will help you learn more about culture and language:
Green Travel Culture Resources
Search the web for country-specific information which you can often find on study abroad sites and blogs. Use keywords in your searched like the name of the destination, plus “customs” “culture” “etiquette.” Also, if you’re not finding anything add “business” to the search, since there is a multitude of resources for business travelers in need of etiquette information. This website also has a few links to country-specific culture information. Head to your local library and check out books, fiction or non-fiction, or videos like travel videos, documentaries, and foreign films to gain further insight into the culture.
There are several book series that describe cultures of other countries, such as the Culture Wise series. If you are really interested in learning as much about the culture as possible, check it out. Fun video showing how they count money in various countries
Turn Any Vacation Green
Of course, we all know that the most responsible way of going on vacation is to go green (i.c. vacation green), but sometimes that just isn’t possible. While we would all like to find a hotel with a LEED certification at our destination, the reality is that this often isn’t the case. However, no matter where you go or where you stay, there are always ways to make your vacation green’er.
One of the main things to consider when you go on vacation is transportation. Of course, if you are taking a flight, there isn’t much you can do to actually reduce carbon emissions at the time – although you always buy carbon offsets. However, ask yourself if you really need to take a plane at all. Catching the train instead is often a very good alternative. Particularly if you are traveling in an area of the world such as Europe or Japan that has a highly developed rail network. The thing about trains is that they are just about the most environmentally friendly way of traveling.
For example, if you take the train from London to Paris, you will only generate about 10% of the carbon emissions than you would if you took a flight. The same principle applies once you arrive at your destination. If you do have to rent a car, then choose the most fuel-efficient one that you can. However, if you can avoid it, don’t rent a car at all. If you are staying in a city, try to use public transport wherever you can, and when you can’t take a taxi. In fact, if you are vacationing somewhere like Europe, it’s perfectly possible to use public transport in urban areas, and then take the train between towns.
Of course, you may have to walk a little further at the end of your journey to reach your destination, but that’s just a great opportunity to get to know where you are visiting. You can also significantly reduce your environmental impact if you stay at your hotel. For example, if you book a hotel through Royal Holiday or even directly, then the hotel will normally give you the option of telling them that you will reuse your sheets and towels. This can save significant amounts of energy, up to 40% of the hotel’s hot water consumption, in fact. In addition, you will reduce their detergent usage, which lowers your impact on the environment.
Another way of going green and Vacation Green, is at your hotel is to reduce the amount of energy that you use in your room. Some hotels require you to put your key card into a slot in the room to turn on the lights. Which is a great way of saving energy, because you need to take the card out when you leave. However, if this is not the case, then remember to turn the lights out when you step out of your room. It’s also a good idea to turn the heating or air conditioning off when you are away. It will only take a few minutes for the room to warm up or cool down when you get back, and this will save huge amounts of energy.
How to Plan a Green Vacation is Easier Than You Think
Have you finally managed to save up enough vacation time to really take off and spend some consecutive days away from the workplace? If so, the idea of how one combines “green” and “vacation” has probably crossed your mind more than once. Obviously the idea of hopping in a jet plane and then bouncing across cities, draining energy in hotels and supporting restaurants with a less than optimum focus on green practices would do little to say “Hey, I’m a green advocate!” However, you also shouldn’t feel trapped within your own home for fear of creating some un-measurable carbon footprint just by enjoying yourself on vacation. Here are some easy ways on how to plan a green vacation.
Planing a Green Vacation
Getting There! Stay “closer” to home. While I’m not saying don’t leave your living room, I will suggest staying within a 100-150 mile radius. It’s also worth considering renting a more eco-friendly car for the purpose of the trip. If you opt for a hybrid instead of an SUV, you can potentially cut your carbon footprint in half.
Consider taking public transportation whenever possible
Including: buses, trains, ferries, subways, etc. Trains happen to be one of the most eco-friendly ways to travel. You can cut CO2 by as much as 85% by traveling via train in lieu of an airplane.
If staying in a range close to home simply isn’t an option, nor is traveling via train
Admittedly, I too dream of a tropical beach), then take the plane, but consider purchasing credits to offset some of your carbon emissions. Both Travelocity and Expedia now allow you to purchase the offset right along with your tickets! Super easy to do, and you can arrive without any guilty feeling… Major plus!
Staying in the area doesn’t mean you have to stay within your home and twiddle your thumbs. Check out new museums, visit local attractions you’ve never had the time to see, go to the zoo. Think of the things you enjoy most about vacation. If it’s the new food, then commit to picking and trying a new restaurant every day. We’re incredibly fortunate in this day and age to be able to get genuine food from all types of cuisine within our own cities. If it’s the escape from media and communication with the outside world, then re-create that at home. Turn off the computers and the TVS, unplug the landline, hide the cell phones and tell yourself you are on vacation and don’t need to know anything until you “come back.”
Drive/bike/walk, etc. to the nearest place where you can really discover some nature. Go hiking, kayaking, boating, skiing, etc., whatever it is that interests you and that you can make happen at a nearby area. If none of those apply, try escaping to something like a botanical garden for a day.
Find a B&B in your area.
You don’t actually have to travel around the globe to check yourself into a get-away location and be pampered and spoiled. You might think it sounds silly to rent something close to home, but if you need that “get-away” to really feel on vacation, then do it! You’ll save tons of expense in travel, and you’ll get some of the same vacation feel.
Reconnect with nature.
Consider a camping trip! There’s almost no better way to escape, to relax and to re-create that passion and zest for why we try to live in all the sustainable ways that we do. All you need is your tent and the great outdoors.
If Going Abroad
Consider a vacation that has a purpose beyond simply entertaining yourself. Look into something like a global volunteer project. Search out the area you dream of heading to and see how you can get your hands dirty, so to speak. Serve the local community by helping to build a house, or get involved in community development, helping children, animal welfare, poverty, etc.
Search for green and eco-friendly hotels and bed and breakfasts.
There are countless lodging options where the motto is to conserve resources and cut down on waste. Ask if they are part of the Green Hotel Initiative, and check out GHI for yourself to see how you encourage hotels to go greener. Do your own part. Turn down the temperature in your hotel room. Ask that your sheets and towels not be changed every day. Walk and bike instead of driving. You’ll get a better feel for your destination! Eat locally. Consider bringing back “souvenirs” made by locals that help support sustainability.
Awesome Green Vacation Travel Ideas
This Earth Day, why not treat yourself to a green vacation? In honor of Earth Day 2012, Groupon has a number of excellent, eco-friendly trips. You can stay off the grid in a eco-lodge or live it up in luxury at a sustainable retreat. From Nicaragua and Thailand to Botswana and Hawaii, there’s sure to be a trip that fits your budget and travel style.
Tips for Choosing a Green Travel Destination
With going green on the rise, cities across the world are attempting to become more sustainable. That’s great news for the green traveler because it means your options are constantly expanding Choosing a Green Travel Destination. But it’s not always easy to tell if a city is really cleaning up its act, or if it’s just for show.
Check Public Transportation Options
If your destination is a city that you’ll want to explore extensively, make sure there is a good public transportation system so you won’t have to take cabs or rent a car. Most cities have decent websites about their public transportation systems. You can also check travel forums and talk to other travelers who have been where you’re going. Better yet, rent a bike and use it as your primary means of transportation.
Look for Greener Accommodations
Choosing a low-impact place to stay is not only greener, it’s often less expensive. If the weather is nice, look for camping options. Otherwise, make sure there are hostels. If you’re looking at hotels, research the country’s hotel energy/environmental standards, then find a hotel that meets those guidelines. For more info check out Finding Environmentally Friendly Hotels through Green Accreditation Directories.
Scope Out the Area for Green Space
Are there nice parks in the town, or at least within walking or biking distance? What about lakes and hiking trails? There’s nothing better than waking up in the morning and walking out the hostel door onto a hiking trail. Of course, that’s not easy to do in all places. But if you love the outdoors, make sure your destination has options for green recreation.
Think About Walkability
Will you be able to walk from your hostel to restaurants and entertainment? If the town is spread out, see if there’s a concentration of places you want to see, then book a hostel near those places to make your trip more walkable. Walking is one of the easiest ways to reduce your impact.
Look at Chains Versus Local Business and Restaurants
Are there a number of local businesses you could visit? Or is the city overrun with McDonald’s and KFCs? Going to local grocery stores and restaurants is one of the easiest ways to immerse yourself in local culture. And part of the fun of traveling is experience new things, which is hard to do if you stick to what you know and what’s available back home.
Check Out the City’s Recycling Policy
With all of the plastic building up in landfills across the world, a solid recycling policy is increasingly urgent. Even some small towns and villages recycle, so pick a destination that has a policy in place. If you really want to visit a place that doesn’t recycle, avoid buying plastic and other recyclables while you’re there; stick to reusable items instead.
Decide if You’ll Really Get to Experience the Culture
A big part of being a green traveler is striving to understand different people, cultures, and history. On the surface, it seems that traveling inherently facilitates cultural understanding. In reality, it’s far too easy to live in a bubble, even when you’re traveling. See if your destination is one that seems to exist exclusively to cater to tourists. If it is, pass it up and look for something that will get you out of your comfort zone and into the culture of your destination.
Traveling Green Tips
Happy Earth Day! If you’re looking for a way to help the environment while traveling – you’re in the right place. If you’re looking for things to do today specifically, check out Kimberly’s post about 10 Things to Do on Earth Day.
Earth Day best three tips for traveling green:
- Reduce the number of plane rides you take
- Reduce the number of multi-stop flights you take (opt instead for nonstop flights)
- Reduce the number of car trips you take (instead fix your car for hypermiling)
- Reduce your non local food consumption and opt instead to be a traveling locavore
- Reduce your energy consumption while staying at a hotel
- Reduce your energy consumption at home while you’re away
- Lots more about reduction in this series
- Reuse water bottles and quit buying bottled water
- Use storage containers like a Wrap-n-Mat for food
- Go thrift store shopping and reuse clothes
- Instead of buying new technology, buy used
- Recycle at home
- Recycle at work
- Recycle while traveling (even if it means having to carry it with you through the airport until you get to a recycle bin)
If you just do one thing this year, focus on reducing. You’ll save money and you’ll be traveling greener. Now, get off your computer and spend some time outside enjoying Earth Day! Not sure where to start? Check out our list of Top Green Cities: Where to Travel Green.
America’s Greenest Cities – Plan Your Next Getaway
If you are looking for an eco-friendly summer vacation destination, you’re in luck. With the focus on green travel on the rise across the America, all of America’s greenest cities on the list compiled by the Mother Nature Network offer a variety of green activities.
Most of us probably aren’t surprised that an Oregon city ranked number one in the list of America’s 10 greenest cities. With 200 miles of dedicated bike lanes, you can nix your gas guzzler in lieu of a bike in Portland. Dine in restaurants bursting with fresh and locally grown ingredients. Check out certified green accommodations and tours, like the Cutting Edge Green Tour where you can see the best of eco-friendly Portland.
San Francisco, California
The first US city to ban plastic bags, San Francisco, California is a great green travel destination. In the City by the Bay, Cable cars add a touch of nostalgia to your trip and provide an eco-friendly transportation option. Visit the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market, where you can buy San Francisco’s best organic and sustainable ingredients. Hang out in the green Mission District. Whether you are looking for an organic soy latte or an organic Mexican meal, the Mission District is the place to find it.
This New England city ranks high on the green list because of its sustainability efforts. With all there is to do in Boston, it’s no surprise it’s included in the list of green cities. Take the Museum of Science’s Green Tour, a self-guided tour of some of Boston’s eco-friendly buildings. Visit one of Boston’s 30 green restaurants.
This port city offers tasty fresh and organic food. Oakland is also home to the country’s cleanest tap water and gets 17% of the energy it uses from renewable sources. Hike or catch a summer concert at the 500-acre Joaquin Miller Park. Visit the Lake Merritt Park and Wildlife Refuge, one of the best bird sanctuaries in the state. You can also rent a kayak or a canoe.
The Emerald City is known for its green beauty. With 29 bike routes, you can ride on 150 miles of bike paths through the second largest city in Oregon. Ride along the six-mile bike trail along the Willamette River. Visit the King Estate, an organic winery. You can also grab a meal in the restaurant, made with produce grown on-site.
All new construction in this green city must meet LEED standards. Home to Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge is known for being a great walking city. Enjoy the rich history at Harvard Square. Explore neighborhoods and parks around MIT and Harvard, stopping at organic coffee shops and cafes along the way.
This California city is a leader in sustainability. If you are looking for great vegetarian restaurants, Berkeley is the place to find them. Spend a day at the University of California Botanical Garden, it is home to over 13,000 species of plants from around the world. Go rock climbing at Contra Costa Rock Park, Berkeley’s rock parks in the Northbrae area. It has great views and entry-level climbing.
Mostly known for being the unofficial coffee capital of the nation, Seattle is also incredibly eco-friendly. There are countless green hotels and green taxi options in this Washington city. Take a ride on Seattle Green Limo, a company using new and recycled vegetable based-fuel in their taxis. Spend the day at Discovery Park, a 534-acre natural area that offers breathtaking views of Puget Sound and both the Cascade and the Olympic Mountain ranges.
Today, the Windy City is one of the nation’s greenest cities because of the involvement of the government, residents, and local businesses. In fact, there are 7 million square feet of green roofs (constructed or under construction) in the city — more than in the rest of the United States combined. Take advantage of one of the many walking tours around the city. Chicago is home to two world-class conservatories, so check out both the Garfield Park Conservatory and the Victorian glass-house style Lincoln Park Conservatory.
It may be last on the this list of America’s 10 greenest cities, but this Texas city has devoted itself to green living. The green space in the city includes over 200 parks and you can hike on more than 50 miles of trails throughout the city. Cool off in the Swim in the 68-degree waters of Barton Springs Pool, a spring-fed swimming hole in Zilker Park. Check out one of the 4 locations of the SFC Farmer’s Market in Austin.
Enjoy America’s greenest cities
There is much to see and do across the United States. Make it a point to try to visit a city that strives to be environmentally-friendly and eco-conscious. For more green travel inspiration, check out our Ultimate Directory of Green Travel Destinations. Have you been to any of America’s greenest cities? What are your favorite eco-friendly activities there?
Top Green Cities: Where to Travel Green
What are the top green cities in the world? There are plenty of others in the publishing and green world who have created scientifically calculated (and not so scientifically calculated) lists of top green cities. We put together an ultimate list of the top green cities, including those inside and outside of the United States.
Top Green Cities in the World
- Reykjavik, Iceland
- Portland, Oregon, U.S.
- Curitiba, Brazil
- Malmö, Sweden
- Vancouver, Canada
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- London, England
- San Francisco, California, U.S.
- Bahía de Caráquez, Ecuador
- Sydney, Australia
- Barcelona, Spain
- Bogotá, Colombia
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Kampala, Uganda
- Austin, Texas, U.S.
According to Treehugger:
- Portland, OR
- Freiburg, Germany
- Zermatt, Switzerland
- Montreal, Quebec, Canada
- Austin, Texas, USA
And my own contribution to the world cities list would be the World’s Greenest City: Masdar in the United Arab Emirates, which is not yet completed, but could be the world’s greenest city when it is.
Top Green Cities in the United States
According to Popular Science
- Portland, OR
- San Francisco, CA
- Boston, MA
- Oakland, CA
- Eugene, OR
- Cambridge, MA
- Berkeley, CA
- Seattle, WA
- Chicago, IL
- Austin, TX
According to Best Places.net
- Burlington-South Burlington, VT
- Ithaca, NY
- Corvallis, OR
- Springfield, MA
- Wenatchee, WA
- Charlottesville, VA
- Boulder, CO
- Madison, WI
- Binghamton, NY
- Champaign-Urbana, IL
National Resources Defense Council (large cities only)
- Seattle, WA
- San Francisco, CA
- Portland, OR
- Oakland, CA
- San Jose, CA
- Austin, TX
- Sacramento, CA
- Boston, MA
- Denver, CO
- Chicago, IL
So there you have it – the top green cities in the US and in the world. You can see that the top cities remain fairly consistent across all rankings. So if you’re looking for the greenest destination, check out some of the major cities on the West Coast.
How to Find a Green Hotel in San Francisco
San Francisco is a fantastic city full of excellent restaurants, historic sites, and a respect for the environment that’s lacking in many U.S. cities. Whether you’re visiting for business or pleasure, here’s everything you need to know to find an eco-friendly hotel in the City by the Bay.
Green Travel Tips to Travel Green for Eco-Conscious Traveler
If want to travel green tips but don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the top green travel tips and guides for becoming an eco-conscious traveler. Green is in, as they say. Every where, people and organizations are doing their best to protect the environment by undertaking steps to take care of Mother Earth. And while tourists may not have as much impact on the environment as say, miners, you should know that there are also green travel tips that every tourist should be aware of and follow.
According to the World Tourism Organization, the travel industry and WWOOFing is the fastest growing industry on the planet. The group says that there were more than 700 million international arrivals worldwide in 2014 alone. Tourism is also a main source of carbon dioxide emissions, which in turn causes climate change. For instance, aviation produced more than 700 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2013, or nearly 20 percent of the human-induced carbon dioxide emissions.
Overall, it is estimated that the transportation sector (where tourism is a part of) is responsible for 27 percent of human-induced CO2 emissions. And we’re not even talking about other aspects of environmental protection, like the efficient use of energy and proper waste disposal! That said, here are some of the green travel tips that you must know and practice the next time you travel:
If possible, explore the country or place you are visiting on foot. You might want to use a bicycle or opt for trolley service in going to your destination. Or take public transportation like buses or trains. Avoid taking rental cars to help save fuel and money. Visiting on foot not only helps you save on costs, but it also presents the best way for you to get to know the locals. Wouldn’t it be exciting to ask the locals how to get to a certain tourist destination? This may even win you some friends down the road.
Sure, there are really times when you can’t help but take a rental car. In case that happens to you, choose the smallest car possible as this often uses the least amount of fuel. Or choose a hybrid car, if there’s any. If you are planning a road trip, ask your family members, colleagues, or friends if they are interested in joining you. Individual tours have a greater environmental impact than traveling in groups.
Avoid buying plastic water bottles. Instead, bring along a jug that you can fill up with water. This will help in producing less garbage, reducing your environmental impact in the process. Don’t litter any garage while you are on the road. You might have to take your trash with you and then dispose these at an appropriate place, like at the hotel were you’re staying. While you are at it, bring a reusable plastic bag with you. This will come in handy when you shop for souvenir items, as you no longer have to ask for a bag for carrying the things you bought.
Opt for low-carbon activities. These include nature photography, swimming, trekking, horseback riding, caving, and mountain climbing. These activities are not only fun but they can make you appreciate nature even more. Immerse yourself in and be open about the differences of cultures. Learn more about the social norms and customs of the place you are visiting. You may even try to learn a few commonly used words in the country you’re visiting.
You can also be an eco-conscious traveler in many ways. For example, you can show your concern for the environment by wisely choosing the hotel where you will be staying. Did you know that there is an increasing number of websites that list down green hotels, lodges, and bed and breakfasts? You may want to find one of these websites and stay in one of the environment-friendly hotels listed there.
Questions you may want to ask before booking are:
- What is the profile of the hotel? Is it locally owned or operated? Does it employ locals?
- Does it have recycling programs?
- Does it encourage the reuse of towels and bed sheets?
- Does it have energy reduction programs like use of energy-efficient lighting or alternative energy sources?
When you are at the hotel, follow some simple energy saving practices.
- Turn off the TV and lights when not in use.
- Turn off the air conditioner when you are about to leave the room.
- Keep your showers short.
- Shut off the water while you brush your teeth.
- Reuse your towels.
Did you know that washing of towels and bed sheets is a major energy drain for most hotels? Experts estimate that it causes around 40 percent of the total water consumption of most hotels. Basically, treat your room as your own home. Be conscious of the amount of electricity and water you use while you are away from home.
When planning your trip, you must consider booking a direct flight. Why? Because take offs and landings use a lot of fuel, and you don’t want to be in connecting/multiple flights that further add up to the carbon dioxide emissions. Pack light. This may sound impractical especially if you have a big family, but this is very much doable. Bring only the things you would really need for the duration of your trip. Not only would this help you save money, but it can also have an impact on the plane’s carbon emissions. Generally speaking, the greater the load that planes (and even trains and buses) have to carry, the more fuel they will use. And this translates to more greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere.
As you can see, there are a lot of things that travelers can do to minimize their impact on the environment. So be an eco-conscious traveler! Keep these green travel tips in mind and practice them the next time you are on a holiday.
Green travel tips
What is Green Travel? Defining the latest eco-conscious travel jargon. We will take you from a novice green traveler to an expert. It covers how to get started, what to do before you go, how to travel green while you’re away, and what to do on your way home.
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