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, 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

We went to the beach Photo By SanyamStudioWe are now in the middle of July and summer is finally here! Summer is the time for vacations, and in this modern era most of us tend to travel via jet plane. So you may be wondering with all the air travel, is this really environmentally sound? Ok, so we love to travel all over the world and take great pleasure in riding the skies, so we don’t want to sound anti-travel. But the truth is jet fuel is extremely toxic for the environment and puts off a tremendous amount of carbon emissions. So much so that it has been shown that going vegan or vegetarian for an entire year cuts as much carbon as skipping a 5 hour flight!!! As Planet Green reports “5 hours on a place going across the country has roughly the same impact as 8,765 hours of making green food decisions.”

Airplane over the Autobahn Photo By poolieThat being said it is really important to understand how much emissions your summer flight plans will cause. There are a few easy ways to do this including CNN’s Carbon Calculator that simply allows you to plug in your airport origin and destination. It will then spit out 3 facts for you: distance traveled, how many tons of CO2 produced, and how much of the rainforest it would take to absorb this pollution. For instance if you took a roundtrip flight from New York to San Francisco, you will have traveled 8310 km, produced 1.001 tons of CO2, and it would require 1.001 hectares of the rainforest a year to consume the CO2!  Although this calculator is very simple and does not take into account the size of plane, amount of people on board, and exact flight route: it is a quick and simple way to get an estimate of your impact when traveling. 

Corbett national park forest Photo by netlancer2006Now that you know how much you are polluting due to your travel plans, there is a couple things you can do about it! Purchasing carbon offsets is a great way to go, as they put your money towards funding a reduction in greenhouse gases. There are several companies that will do this for you including Climate Friendly, Atmofair, and Native Energy. If you want a breakdown of several companies comparing price and projects, check out this Carbon Emissions Survey. Be sure that you also consider radiative forcing when purchasing your carbon offset. Carbon offsets are a great way to make an impact while globetrotting, but are there alternatives to plane travel? You can choose to take a bus or train across the country, however these require time and patience. And you could carpool with several friends in an alternative fuel car or ride a bicycle! But if you are traveling overseas, besides sailing across the oceans there isn’t really an alternative at this moment. 

Enjoy the summer and all your globetrotting you may have planned. Just remember that every time you fly, you are adding to a rise in greenhouse gases. Be conscious of this factor and please do something about it! Either fly less (which we know is difficult) or purchase those carbon offsets, or better yet do both. Bon Voyage!

Summer is a time for relaxation and vacations. Eco-tourism or Green Travel has been around for a long time, but with the Green Movement taking hold, it is now a part of the mainstream traveler’s mind. So what exactly is Eco-Tourism and how do you take part?

Most people think of hiking through the wilderness or sleeping a tree fort when the words Green Travel are used. This is just simply not true! Although, hiking and camping out is a great way to spend a vacation, it is not the only way to travel the world and still be environmentally friendly! Eco-tourism is defined by a vacation or trip that leaves minimal impact on the environment and culture one and is traveling to. There are plenty of hotels, resorts, and tour companies that boast their Green Travel attributes. But there are a few things you can do to minimize your own travel footprint and still enjoy your dream vacation. Below is a simple 5 step guide to making your summer or year round travels just a little more helpful for the environment!

  1. Alternative Transportation: Instead of the traditional summer road trip or the long flight across the world, try taking an alternate and more environmentally friendly mode of travel such as biking, train travel, bus, or sailboat. Of course if you do decide to drive you can always rent a hybrid or drive a veggie fuel car. Not only will you be helping environment, you will be saving yourself some sweet cash by dodging those ever-rising gas prices. Finally, if you are traveling somewhere by air, try offsetting your carbon impact with one of these companies.
  2. Stay Local: If you really want to make an impact, travel locally. Explore the exciting culture inside your own city or town. Or for a bit more excitement, adventure in the natural habitat close to your home. A good resource for local travel is your city or town’s local paper, chamber of commerce or the National and State Park System. It may seem boring to stay local, but you would be surprised by what your own backyard has in store for you!
  3. Choose Eco-Friendly Companies: When booking a lodging or tour company, make sure to research their environmental practices. You can always contact the particular company yourself or there are a number of websites that do the work for you! Check out these helpful websites when booking hotels, bed and breakfasts, tours, and restaurants. And if you really want to be sure the lodging company you are choosing is in fact Green, there are a number of Green Certification websites, that will assure you are making the greenest choices. Also, a great resource for finding green hotels is IStayGreen.Org, suggested by reader larryvance. This site not only lists hotels, but rates them on their “greeness” and provides social networking between travelers.
  4. Volunteer: Instead of just traveling to exotic locations, try combining your getaway into a experience that will not only help the social or ecological environmental you visit, but will also make you feel involved. There are a ton of organizations that will put you to good use while you explore the world! Instead of just rewarding yourself with just a vacation, reward your soul with a Volunteer Getaway!
  5. Be Responsible: Remember to be responsible when traveling in your own backyard or abroad. Take reusable items such as water bottles and always recycle. You can also conserve energy in your room, by turning out all lights and shutting off electric devices when not needed. Also, you can conserve water and energy by not using hotel laundry service everyday. And lastly, NEVER litter whether you are in a city or out in the wilderness.
Please keep these tips in mind as you plan your next holiday and rest easy as you ride off into our ever greening world. Bon Voyage!

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