With the United Nations designating 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, there has never been a better time to be more environmentally conscious when traveling. And, it’s not hard to do, according to Costas Christ, director of sustainability for luxury travel network Virtuoso. “Being greener on vacation doesn’t take a lot of effort or mean sacrificing pleasure,” he said. Here are Christ’s top tips on traveling green:
Book hotels with green practices: Many properties include green efforts on their websites, or you can ask the concierge about the hotel’s green programs. It could be an extensive recycling program or using LED lighting, he said. Two of his favorite properties with a green footprint include the Brando in French Polynesia, which operates on renewable energy, and Three Camel Lodge in Mongolia, which composts its kitchen waste for use in a solar greenhouse producing fresh ingredients for the restaurant.
Carry a reusable shopping bag: Traveling with a reusable bag is a way to avoid contributing to plastic bag pollution. Use it to carry souvenirs. Locals will welcome it, as well. Christ said when he was buying fruit at a roadside stand in Belize in January, the vendor thanked him and said it saves her money as she has to buy fewer bags for her shoppers, and it makes for less litter, as well.
Say no to plastic water bottles: They are readily and inexpensively available, but the waste from plastic bottles clogs up landfills and pollutes the ocean. Christ advised taking a reusable bottle from home.
Transportation can be green, as well: Rely on biking or walking to explore your destination. Both create minimal carbon emissions and give the traveler a better sense of place. If you’re flying to your destination, use a reputable carbon offset provider, like MyClimate, a nonprofit group that supports climate-protection projects, and pick nonstop flights versus connections — fewer flights mean fewer carbon emissions. Also, go for a fuel-efficient rental car, an option with many companies today.
Eat local: Enjoying meals that emphasize local ingredients, Christ said, means fewer fossil fuels are involved because they didn’t travel far to reach your plate. Also, he suggested avoiding shrimp. “Unless otherwise specified, a lot of shrimp comes from aquaculture ponds bulldozed out of tropical mangrove forests,” he said. “Basically, the environment was destroyed to produce that shrimp.”