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17 Incredibly Easy Things You Can Do to Be a More Eco-Friendly Traveler

by Matt Hershberger May 2, 2016

1. Buy reef-friendly sunscreen if you’re going to swim in the ocean.

Some sunscreens contain a chemical called oxybenzone. Even small amounts of this chemical can do a lot of harm to coral reefs, so if you’re going to go swimming, try and buy a reef-friendly sunscreen instead. A bunch of them are available at this link.

2. Get a reusable water bottle.

The water restriction in airport security is a pain, but there’s no reason you can’t still bring an empty reusable water bottle and fill it once you’re through security. The less plastic you use, the less plastic ends up in the oceans and in landfills.

3. Take a bus or a train.

Motorcoaches and trains have way lower emissions than planes, and are usually better options than driving a car.

4. Travel close to home.

If you’ve got a long weekend, instead of traveling far away, check out someplace close to home that you’ve never been. This not only helps reduce your carbon footprint, but it also makes you look at your home in a new light.

5. Rent a hybrid.

Or an electric car, if possible.

6. Don’t overdo your hotel electricity use.

Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you should overdo it with the hotel’s electricity — if your room doesn’t have a key slot that turns off all of the power when you leave, do it yourself. And keep the A/C low when you’re in the room, and off when you’re out.

7. Don’t use the hotel soaps.

All those little plastic bottles get restocked with every visitor. Don’t open them — just bring your own.

8. Make use of the “Do not disturb” sign.

Hotel cleaners at nicer hotels want you to feel like you’re in a hygienic environment, so they’re going to overclean, if anything. If you don’t want them washing your sheets and towels and wasting water, just keep up the “Do not disturb” sign. Some hotels also have posted policies — towels on the floor get cleaned, towels hung up don’t. Look out for these signs and help the hotel be greener.

9. Stay with friends when possible.

Get rid of all that energy that would be expended on you at the hotel: stay with friends.

10. Spend locally once you’re at your destination.

Aside from helping the local economy, spending your money on food that’s grown locally or on crafts that are made locally is generally better for the environment.

11. Stay on the trail.

If you’re hiking, don’t leave the trail. You don’t know what you might be damaging by blazing your own trail.

12. “Take only pictures…

“…leave only footprints.” Pictures are better souvenirs anyway.

13. Stay at eco-lodges or accredited hotels.

Some hotels are better than others. Check out this resource to find an accredited green hotel.

14. Take care of your home before you leave.

TVs that are plugged in still draw power from the socket. So unplug your appliances at home before you leave, and put a halt on your newspaper delivery (if you have it) so as to not waste that extra paper. Better yet, go for a digital subscription.

15. Fly direct.

If you want to limit your carbon emissions but still have to fly, you can cut back on them by simply taking the most direct flight. If you have to make a layover, try and pick the flight that has the layover that’s the least out-of-the-way.

16. If you’re trekking, do your washing indoors whenever possible.

If you’ve been on a long hike and want to get clean, it can be tempting to just take a bath in the lake with some soap. Just go for the rinse instead: soaps, even biodegradable ones aren’t great for local water ecosystems. So just hold off until you get back to the lodge. It’s okay to be stinky for a few days.

17. Fly coach.

The more people who fit on a plane, the more ways the emissions are split. Flying first class (while delightful) means you’re taking up more space that might otherwise be used for another seat. So fly coach, and fly on planes that have more coach seats and fewer first class seats.

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