It’s summer and thoughts may run to packing up the family for a day, a week, or maybe longer to take advantage of some much anticipated vacation time. Like so many, if your family takes steps to preserve and protect the environment at home, these ideas for continuing the practice while enjoying time away — what the Travel Industry Association calls ecotourism or sustainable travel — can help you protect the sites you visit (plants; wildlife; beaches; parks; mountains; waterways) and reduce carbon emissions that result from getting to and from your destination — and around in it. It’s even possible to choose lodging that participates in sustainable operations like recycling and composting. In the end, a green vacation may even be more cost effective. Here’s how!
While the concept of eco-tourism/sustainable travel isn’t brand new, more and more conservation-consciousness families are jumping on the green bandwagon by making deliberate choices to honor the Earth…no matter where they go.
For the Leite family of Little Compton, RI, choosing a vacation spot where ample green space, public transportation, emphasis on local/regional food, and active recycling were practiced was paramount in their vacation planning.
“We definitely want to reduce our carbon footprint wherever we are,” says dad Robert. “At home, we grow our own vegetables, recycle and repurpose household goods and products, shower in tepid water and turn it off while brushing teeth, and so much more.”
Sons, Jared, 9, and Eliot, 10, learned about composting at school and taught their parents (and neighbors!) all about it.
When researching a family vacation, the Leites’ priority was to find a venue where walking, cycling and public transportation got them everywhere they wanted to go: museums; restaurants; beaches; parks; monuments; etc.
Next, though it took some diligence on her part, mom Cheryl searched for a U.S. Green Building Council LEED- (Leadership in Energy and Environmental design) certified hotel, which focused on energy-saving and low impact elements such as recycled and/or locally-sourced building materials, low-VOC paints and carpeting, low-flow shower heads, updated HVAC systems, ceiling fans, and energy saving appliances and practices — for example, where guests can opt out of having their sheets and towels washed and dried every day, etc.
Supporting the local economy by choosing smaller restaurants with an emphasis on local/regional cuisine was also important to the Leites, who do the same as a rule at home. The family also took care to pack reusable water bottles so as not to have to purchase new ones every day.
Finally, toward the end of their vacation stay, Robert and Cheryl wanted to find a way to give back to the community that hosted them, which they did by volunteering with their sons at a local food bank.
“With a little research and planning, doing the right thing isn’t all that difficult,” says Cheryl, who is busy advising friends and relatives looking to take green vacations of their own. “Websites like www.greenhotels.com and www.responsibletravel.com can make options easier to find.”