Today marks the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day, the grassroots environmental movement that has now grown into a worldwide celebration of nature with an estimated 1 billion participants. It’s important to give back to the environment all year long, and in an effort to help, we have compiled a list of ways that you can be more eco-conscious whether you’re taking a long vacation or short day trip.
Want to incorporate travel and the environment on this day and beyond? We’ve got some ideas for you.
The first place to start your research is the official Earth Day Network. The website has a database of activities and events worldwide, including river and trail cleanups, tree planting and festivals. So whether you’re planning to travel across the globe or to the local park, you can track down eco-minded organizations and communities.
The Sierra Club has more than 40 public events through the month of April, including river cleanups and removing invasive species. But even beyond that month, the Sierra Club hosts a series of outdoor adventures and volunteer vacations that are focused around helping the environment. The Sierra Club is also hosting a sweepstakes giveaway through April 30 with a grand prize of a trip for two to Hawaii.
The nonprofit American Hiking Society also sponsors at least 60 volunteer vacations a year involving cleanup and trail-building projects. These range from short-term, family-friendly trips to more intensive experiences for advanced hikers.
The bottom line is the idea behind Earth Day is to raise awareness for environmental issues. So while it’s great to commit to an earth-friendly activity on that day, it’s also possible to participate all year long.
Another way to remain eco-conscious is to spend your money at businesses that are dedicated to conserving the environment.
Make an effort to eat at farm-to-table restaurants that focus on using locally harvested food while supporting sustainable agriculture. A quick destination-based Internet search should provide options. If you are traveling in the U.S., the American Farm to Table Restaurant Guide will come in handy. Also, keep in mind that when in another country, eating at local establishments often better supports community-based agriculture.
Shop at establishments that are known for being committed to the environment. An example is health and beauty guru Aveda, whose mission revolves around setting an example in environmental leadership and responsibility. Aveda was the first beauty company to start using wind power, and is now starting to use solar power as well. Visit the Aveda website for more information, and order products for your bathroom at home and your travel bag.
Smart Car Rental
Gasoline prices are going up with practically no end in sight, but more and more destinations are offering the option of renting an electric vehicle. Sounds great, right? Well, not always. Although electric vehicles may seem like the smart option to save money while on the road, they may not always be the best solution when driving long distances or in rural places.
The biggest problem is obvious…you need access to charging stations. The first place to start is with a smartphone app, such as ChargePoint, that will navigate where you can recharge the electrical rental.
Honolulu, Hawaii already has hundreds of electrical-car-charging stations installed through its Hawaii E-V Ready program. In Rotterdam, Netherlands, they’re installing more than 1,000 charging stations and they’ll give free parking permits to people who use EVs. Hertz knew electric vehicles would be in high demand in China, especially in Shanghai where extra taxes are added for gas-powered vehicles. So they partnered with GE to set up charging stations across the country and shipped over a fleet of vehicles.
But while the concept is a great one for saving fuel and money, it’s not a widespread solution for travelers…just yet.
In the past few years, the term “LEED-certified” has become something of a benchmark. It’s certainly one of the ways to determine whether a hotel is green. But it’s not the only way. LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council is definitely one of the toughest in the industry, both for newly constructed and repurposed buildings. It’s also an expensive endeavor, in terms of research, equipment and yes, application fees.
But there are other types of certification that you can look for in your next hotel. Look for the Green Seal, which has three levels of pretty strict certification. These guys also certify items like cleaning and personal care products. Green Globe is a standard for hotels, restaurants and even golf courses, and it’s a process that is used worldwide.
Now, on the one hand, just because a lodge or resort calls itself “eco” that doesn’t mean it’s all that friendly. But the opposite is also true: Even if it hasn’t sought out that stamp of approval, it may still have some green elements. Look for practices like in-house recycling, native landscaping, using reclaimed materials and, perhaps most important, giving back to the local community through jobs and sustainable programs.
For more information on Green Travel, visit our Eco Travel Archive.
For more tips from green-thinking experts, check out Leslie Garrett’s How to Start Traveling Green
By Ashleigh Whelan for PeterGreenberg.com