By Gay Browne
Many of us who love to travel are continuously seeking ways to preserve the places we adore and find greater purpose on our trips. The travel and tourism industry is leading the way in sustainability, from establishing philanthropic projects to striving for cultural and environmental preservation around the globe. Beyond choosing to travel with companies that hew to sustainable practices, one solid step is to make a conscious effort to reduce your carbon footprint and take your green lifestyle on the road. Here, four easy ways to travel with sustainability in mind:
Choose an airline leading the way in sustainability.
We know that air travel creates a substantial carbon footprint (the amount of greenhouse gasses released into the air by a person, event, or product), but there are ways to balance it. Some airlines are investing in alternative fuels, while others have created plans to improve sustainability in the areas of energy, greenhouse gases, and water. According to the International Air Transport Association, airline manufacturers have improved the overall overage fuel efficiency by 1.5 percent every year since 2009. They’re targeting a reduction in net aviation carbon emissions of 50 percent by 2050. On average, each new generation of aircraft is 20 percent more efficient than the model it replaces.
Here’s what you can do now: Travel with an airline that is committed to supporting sustainability, such as Delta, United, Qantas Airways, and SAS.
Purchase carbon offsets.
Buying carbon offsets lets travelers counteract the emissions emitted when they travel via air. When you buy a carbon offset, you’re funding an organization or specific project that’s working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a small but significant impact, especially when you consider the more than 4 billion travelers projected to fly this year.
Several airlines have carbon offset programs and online calculators that let a traveler determine their trip’s specific offset. I tend to choose carbon offset programs that buy trees and clean up water. I support Terrapass, which is one of the first nonprofit organizations to offer flight carbon offsets. Virtuoso’s director of sustainability, Costas Christ, also recommends U.S.-based NativeEnergy and Europe-based MyClimate.
Pack a reusable water bottle.
This simple step yields big results. Americans use about 50 billion plastic bottles annually, according to the Earth Day Network. These never break down, which leads to clogged oceans and landfills. (And think about all the trucks, trains, planes, and ships it took to get that plastic into your hands.) Carrying your own bottle dramatically lightens your carbon footprint, plus it’s healthier. Many plastic bottles are made with BPA (bisphenol A), and research shows that microplastics can enter your body every time you drink from a plastic bottle. I prefer glass when I’m at home, and always have a stainless steel bottle while traveling, such as one from S’well.
Bonus Tip: Bring your own (healthy) snacks.
This is a smart choice for your body and your mind. I never leave home without a bag of mixed, dry-roasted (but not salted) organic sprouted nuts or dried fruit. I also usually carry-on an apple and some non-dairy yogurt, Paleo or chickpea granola (I choose to eat gluten-free), and a bag of Justin’s almond butter packets for quick protein hits on the road.
If I’m really on top of things, I’ll also bring along a thermos of homemade soup and some free range organic hard-boiled eggs. I tend to avoid bars, but sometimes grab one if I have a flight before 6 am. My favorite brands are RX, Lara, and Kind Bars, without chocolate, caramel, or sugars other than fruit. Another evergreen tip: Drink a ton of water.
Gay Browne is an environmental expert, the founder of Greenopia, and the author Living with a Green Heart: How to Keep Your Body, Your Home, and the Planet Healthy in a Toxic World.
Top Image: Ronald Paras/Getty Images