The arrival of summer means more than digging out your well-worn flip flops from the back of the closet and dusting off your mix CD featuring all of Will Smith’s summer time anthems, it also means, for many of us, the arrival of some well deserved time off. That is right: Vacation time!  At this very moment millions of people are sitting in their overly air conditioned cubicles fantasying about laying on a beach somewhere; far away from deadlines, water coolers and that mouth breather whose desk is adjacent to yours. Not to burst into your fantasy with a hard dose of reality (nice Speedo, btw) but this summer try to remember that there is no vacation from eco-conscious living. No need to grab the bug spray and point it at my eyes in a threatening manner- I will let you get back to your tropical mirage in a moment.   Following any combination of these simple tips will decrease the size of your vacation’s carbon footprint.

1)  Take a “Staycation“: As obnoxious as this hybrid word may sound,  Staycations are an excellent way to keep your next vacation eco-friendly. Staycations, for those of you not familiar with this word,  are vacations spent staying where you live (see what they did there?).This is not as boring as it sounds; a staycation is the perfect opportunity to explore where you live through new eyes. A little research and planning will probably reveal to you a bounty of experiences right outside your front door that you have never thought of partaking in. Explore your city or town’s history or look into your State’s park system- the possibilities are surprisingly limitless once you open your mind and choose to step outside of your comfort zone. If you envisioned more relaxation than exploration, feel free to spend a few days lying in your hammock sipping on the adult beverage of your choice. As an added bonus, staycations help eliminate that feeling that you need a vacation from your vacation that occurs when returning home from far off locales. Just remember: No Work!  This means not even checking your work e-mail. I know it only takes a second, but it can be opening a can of work style worms. Step away from that PC and into the sunshine! A staycation is still a vacation.

2)   Stay Local: If the idea of spending your vacation at home is not quite far enough away from your mouth breathing officemate, try to travel somewhere close by.

The closer the better.

The less physical traveling you partake in, the less fossil fuel you will unleash into the environment. It is likely that there are many relaxing locales within a couple of hours of your home.

3)  Greening Your Journey: No, I am not referring to the band of “Don’t Stop Believing” fame, I am talking about the way in which you travel to your vacation destination. Make every effort possible to avoid air travel, it is the super villain of getting around- think Darth Vader or Lord Voldermort levels of wickedness.  If you are driving to your destination, try renting a fuel efficient automobile, such as a hybrid. Perhaps, even try to bring some bicycles along with you so you can get around the area you are staying without being car dependent for the duration of your stay. If you are athletic and feeling up to a challenge, you could  even reach your vacation spot on a bike. Then  you would be a super star of eco-travel, the hero among vacationers- the Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter of getting out of town. This may be the only case wherein I would encourage smugness for your achievement. You’ve earned it, long distance bicyclist. Well done.

4) Lodging: When deciding on a place to hang your hat during your travels, a little research goes a long way. Come on now, no eye rolling, research is hardly a  chore since the advent of the internet. A little Google research goes a long way. Take a few minutes between rewatching David Goes to The Dentist and checking your Facebook to find the most eco-friendly lodging you can. Sites, such as ecotourdirectory.com, make this process even easier. If you are person who enjoys getting  in touch with mother nature, camping is a very eco-friendly and affordable way to make a home away from home.

5)  Souvenirs : Spotting a tourist is not a particularly difficult task. Camera hanging around neck? Check. Fanny pack fastened around waist? Check. Bag of over priced souvenirs? Check. This vacation, try to avoid the temptation of loading up on souvenirs. Most of these tacky trinkets are not produced anywhere near where you are staying and the negative environmental impact of the shipment of these spoons, magnets and key chains overseas is massive. If you still feel the hankering to take away a tangible keepsake from your trip, support a local business that produces their products nearby. Get extra brownie points with the environment if you make sure these purchases are Fair Trade. Think more a jar of organic jam vs.. a plastic harmonica with the name of the city you are in printed crookedly on it.

6) Eco-Volunteering:
Speaking of Brownie Points, I am fairly certain if you spend your vacation doing some Eco-volunteering that the environment will be forced to send you an appreciative organic muffin basket at the end of your trip. If you have a big heart and an appetite for adventure, check out eco-volunteering opportunities. Spending your vacation time helping save the environment may not allow for much downtime, but it will likely be more fulfilling than working on your tan line while chugging a Margarita on a beach. And who knows, you could find your calling while on your adventure. You may never have to listen to Captain “can’t breath through his nose” ever again.

If you are not feeling altruistic and just want to relax, do not feel guilty. You have worked hard and have earned the right to do with this down time whatever it is that will make you the happiest. But while you recharge your batteries, remember to not put a drain on Mother Earth’s. She works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year to keep herself habitable for your vacationing buns. It takes minimal effort to keep the environment in mind while planning and taking your next vacation, and the positive consequences of these efforts will benefit generations to come.

Have fun, people! Don’t forget your sun block and do not forget there is no vacation from ecological living!

-Meghan Hurley

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