After creating Earth Day in 1970, Boomers have spread the good word around the world through their travels, retirements abroad and, of course, by raising Generation X and beyond to care about the environment.
The blossoming of the eco-tourism sector and attendant resorts, the exponential growth of activities focusing on the outdoors and a greater awareness of our carbon footprints (okay, did you even know what that meant a few years ago?) are all a result of 42 years of education from what used to be called the ecology movement.
Travel has been greatly affected by this new awareness -- but you have to be a conscientious consumer to make your voyages greener. There are many ways to reduce the negative impacts as well as positively affect the environment on your trips. Here are ten tips on what to look for and do:
1. Destinations: Rather than doing grand tours, travel to one place and stay longer. You'll use less fuel as well as get to know an area much better. Instead of seeing all of Eastern Europe, why not focus on just Bulgaria and get to know the culture, foods, arts and language?
2. Transportation: You may have little choice but to take a jet to your overseas destination, but once there take trains, buses, boats or cars rather than planes. These save on fuel (compared to planes), are cheaper and allow you to see a lot more of the country from the ground. Even better, bicycle or stay in one place longer.
3. Accommodations: Look for genuine eco-resorts and check out what, exactly, makes them green. Ban Mai Beach Resort, to be built in the next year on the coast of Vietnam, will feature innovative construction, alternative energy and organic farming, and will plant a tree for every guest.
4. Food: Don't let your paranoia get the best of you and avoid over-packaged foods. Instead, head for the markets, mom and pop establishments, organic shops and vegetarian/vegan restaurants.
5. Drink: Instead of adding to the millions of water bottles that aren't recycled, carry your own water bottle and refill it from the hotel/hostel multi-liter containers of purified water.
6. Packing: Don't over-pack as the additional weight results in every form of transportation using more fuel getting you there. Also, as much as possible, borrow travel gear and clothing rather than buying new.
7. Activities: Look for activities that don't use fuel, packaging or cause damage to the environment. Consider volunteering vacations for organizations that regenerate natural environments or assist abused animals such as the Center for Animal Rehabilitation and Education (C.A.R.E.).
8. Shopping: Buy locally-made souvenirs to help indigenous cultures survive and minimize the fuel used in the transportation of foreign-made goods. They're also less likely to be packaged in paper, cardboard and plastic which add to our landfills.
9. Guide Books: Rather than buy guidebooks, borrow from friends or do all your searching on line. Some can be purchased in pdf format, chapter by chapter, and can be left on your electronic device for reference such as Lonely Planet .
10. Reduce, Reuse & Recycle: Buy less to save both the environment and money. When you do buy use items until you can no longer get anything out of them. Then give the items to charitable organizations, such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army, which may be able to sell them to someone else for reuse. If not that, then recycle them.
There are so many ways to make travel more green -- it just takes a little bit of consciousness and effort -- and the rewards are usually obvious in the wonderful places we visit and want to preserve. That's why green travel tips should be practiced all year round -- not just on Earth Day.
(Note: The author is associated with the Ban Mai Beach Resort as Vice President of Marketing and was a volunteer at C.A.R.E., but receives no benefits from the organization.)
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