For the eco-conscious, traveling can present somewhat of a conundrum. For one, you aren’t guaranteed easy access to sustainable food sources and recycling. Luckily, there are several options you can take to reduce or off-set your carbon footprint during travel.
Before you leave make sure you unplug any electrical devices that you can. Your entertainment system, coffeemaker, extra lamps, modem and other household appliances suck up energy, even if they are off. Unless Fido will be watching TV and drinking espresso while you’re away, unplugging will save both energy and money. (Pro tip: You probably shouldn’t leave Fido alone for an extended period of time if you value your shoes and belongings. My dog went through a period where he loved to tear up carpet if I wasn’t paying attention to him.)
Turn your heat (or air) down (or up). If you’re leaving your home in Fairbanks, Alaska in the middle of the winter, feel free to ignore this and keep your heat on so your pipes don’t burst. In some climates, you might be able to get by with turning your heating and/or air off completely.
Consider alternatives to flying. Depending on the distance from your destination, a train trip may be more carbon efficient than flying. Your journey may be slightly longer, but consider that an opportunity to finally read Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking Silent Spring.
Buy carbon credits. If you need to fly to your destination—for whatever reason—consider purchasing carbon credits to offset your carbon footprint. Websites like Terrapass will allow you to calculate your carbon footprint and donate the difference to environment-saving projects. Projects range from planting trees to directly soak up the additional carbon to clean energy projects such as capturing methane gas at landfills or distributing energy efficient lightbulbs.
Book environmentally friendly hotels. Groups such as Green Hotels Association and Audubon International’s Green Lodging Program provide lists of hotels that follow environmentally friendly operating standards. Furthermore, consider booking a hotel within easy walking distance of your primary destinations or one on major public transportation routes. Both methods of travel are more environmentally friendly and cheaper than a taxi.
Use eco-friendly practices in your hotel room. More frequently, hotels are minimizing their water use by making it easy to opt out of new sheets every night or giving you simple ways to signal that you’ll reuse your towels. Even if your hotel doesn’t provide this signage, you can request that the housekeepers not change your towels or bedding. Separate your recyclables from your trash and ask the front desk where to drop them off. When you leave your hotel room, make sure the window shades are drawn and all the lights are off.
Check in and out of your hotel using modern electronic systems that reduce paper waste. Many hotels now offer mobile check-in apps. In some cases you can even check in and enter your room with your smartwatch. With mobile check-in, you’ll be able to communicate your room preferences directly to the hotel, text requests (for example, for housekeeping not to change your bedding every night) and eliminate your wait at the front desk upon arrival.
Eat at local restaurants and shop at local stores. If possible, try to spend money at locally-owned businesses to help the community. A quick Yelp search can bring up a variety of restaurants that emphasize locally-farmed, sustainable entrees.
For work-related trips, see if you can make it a virtual meeting. Video conferencing tools will help minimize your travel carbon footprint, lower the costs of your travel program and make you an all-around work hero. Check out our tips and tricks for a successful virtual meeting here.
Look into alternate services through your travel providers. Travel and Transport business travel customers have access to a wide range of services that help companies with their sustainability initiatives, including reporting that tracks CO2 emissions, our Dash Mobile app, which allows travelers to access paperless itineraries, airline check-in and more, as well as our Points 2 Points gamification program which can be configured to reward travelers for making good travel decisions. One client has even used this program to help reforest Haiti. Contact us today for more information on how Travel and Transport can help support your company’s environmental initiatives.
Have more tips for reducing your environmental impact while traveling? Comment below!