So your family totally hangs up its hotel towels for another use while on vacation. Still, there’s always room for a little creativity to help minimize your travel footprint.
“Eco-friendly families understand their impact on the Earth and make decisions that positively affect it,” says Samantha Hogenson, managing director of the Center for Responsible Travel. “It’s important to them that their vacation destinations will be enjoyed by others for years to come.”
Traveling with minimal impact isn’t just good for the Earth—it’s also good for your kids. It shows them how important protecting the planet is and inspires a sense of environmental stewardship. So try these easy, low-impact ideas the next time your family travels. (But you still gotta hang up that towel.)
Trains, Planes, and Automobiles
Great vacation stories don’t start with, “So we were sitting in the Baltimore airport …” Unless you’re a fan of long security lines, consider drivable vacations closer to home, since planes burn much more fuel than cars. Air travel also produces some of the most harmful emissions on takeoff and landing, so if flying is necessary (and hey, we’ve been there), look for direct flights, or flights with the fewest legs. What’s almost as exciting to kids on vacation as the hotel pool? The restaurants! Research your destinations to find locally sourced eateries, which have smaller carbon footprints because not as much fuel is burned importing the food. Or go straight to the source: Then challenge kids to guide the family through the mass transit system. This might sound terrifying, but public buses and trains are much more environmentally friendly than taxis or rental cars. Plus they’ll learn about navigation and geography. Enjoying the ocean? Many beach communities have easy-access bike paths, so think about bringing your own or renting them (and support local economies!) to get around town.
And though it might seem easier to just grab plastic silverware at a theme park, pack reusable bamboo utensils to use instead. You can also bring along a stainless steel straw, which is especially important at the beach. Plastic straws are one of the top 10 items found at beach cleanups, so avoid using them as much as you can.
All the Things
Souvenirs are a must—but keep them local. It keeps money in the community and ensures the materials haven’t been shipped over long distances. “Ask questions,” Hogenson says. “If the shop- keeper doesn’t know where the item came from, it probably wasn’t locally sourced.” Of course you know not to buy souvenirs made from items whose production would negatively impact wildlife or habitat, like things made with rare feathers, fur, or ivory. But also think about stuff your kids might randomly pick up that could affect the ecosystem. Are they picking flowers that butterflies need to live? Are they carrying away seashells that might be something’s home? Here’s a thought: Buy one recycled holiday ornament that will become part of your family tradition each year. That way you’ll hit all three eco-vacation R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle!