As a traveler, it can be difficult to limit your carbon footprint – just do some simple math. For example, if you and your travel partner fly from Chicago to Barcelona and back, that’s nearly 9,000 pounds of carbon emissions, which almost equals an entire year of carbon dioxide output from a standard passenger vehicle.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to stop traveling or quit flying to be a more environmentally conscious, eco-friendly traveler, but you should start practicing some new habits that can help you minimize your carbon footprint.
The weight and amount of luggage you bring contributes to the overall weight of a plane and how much fuel it burns on each flight. That in turn impacts the amount of carbon dioxide that’s emitted. By packing a smaller bag, you’ll help to curb emissions, and you’ll be able to get around easier too without having to lug that heavy suitcase around. Of course, for many, that’s easier said than done as you’ll have to think carefully about what you’ll need while you’re there.
By bringing clothing that can be mixed and matched, it eliminates the need to bring so much. Think about packing, or investing in, a couple of key accessories that can easily change up an outfit so that you can wear it a few times, like a scarf. A scarf can serve as a fashion accent or help keep you warm when it’s chilly out. There are some incredibly useful items out there designed just for travelers these days, like travel dresses that can be worn as 20 different clothing items. Just imagine how much clothing you could leave at home just by bringing one “dress?” You might even have enough room in your bag to bring back a couple of souvenirs for your friends.
Wear Clothing That’s Ethically Made
Wearing ethically made, sustainable clothing not only helps our precious Earth, but it can benefit you personally as well. The fashion industry is one of the largest industries in the world, and one of the biggest polluters. Heavy-metal dyes from clothing often ending up in rivers, while trashed fabrics sit in landfills. Although the price of sustainably, ethically made clothing may be a bit higher than standard clothing, it also tends to be a lot more durable as its made with long-lasting material meant for the wear and tear that’s common when you travel a lot. That means that the overall cost per use is going to be lower, sometimes much lower, as the item will hold up over the long haul.
Carry a Daypack, Tote or Other Portable Bag
These days, there are bags for just about everything, with some great portable daypacks, backpacks and totes available so that you can tuck one into your suitcase without taking up much room. Use it while you’re at your destination for carrying your purchases instead of plastic shopping bags which are one of the biggest culprits of ocean pollution.
Bring a Reusable Water Bottle
Even if we don’t use them at home, many of us frequently turn to bottled water when we’re on the road, but those plastic bottles are some of the worst when it comes to harming our environment, and our own health too, as chemicals from the plastic can leach into the water. There are over two million tons of plastic water bottles overflowing in U.S. landfills alone, and it takes a whopping 700 years for each one of them to decompose.
While it can take some transition time to kick the water bottle habit, by bringing your own reusable water bottle, you can simply fill it up with tap water – most of which is just as safe, if not safer due to the more rigorous testing, than the bottled type. A reusable bottle is ideal for refilling after you get through security too to avoid dehydration. When you’re traveling in an area where you can’t drink the tap water, use a device like a Steripen Aqua Water Purifier, or something similar, to treat it.
- By K.C. Dermody -
K.C. has traveled extensively around the world, including 40 of the 50 United States, throughout Canada, Europe, the Caribbean, Central and South America and beyond. Typically, you can find her "on the road" at least 50% of the time. She's been published on Yahoo Travel, Travelocity (ghost writing), MapQuest, Trips To Discover (some of which has been picked up by Travel + Leisure), Travel Wise, Perfect Vacation, Movoto, Ideal Living and many other sites and publications, in addition to having her own published travel guide on Ireland that's been a top seller since it was released in 2013.