07 September 2009

travellin' thru

Photo: Akhila Vijayaraghavan ©

Like the option of greening everything, travel too can be 'greened'. The biggest environmental impact of travel comes from the mode of travel and where you stay. This is why it is recommended that you take a train, bus or drive rather than fly. Avoid taking flights for short-haul trips and definitely try to travel long-haul during the night time only. Ensure that you use a e-ticket as that reduces paper wastage. Whatever your mode of travel, pack light as every kilo increases the amount of fuel expended and this is especially true with car travel. If you are renting a car on your travels, rent a hybrid and whatever car you use, ensure that the tyres are properly inflated and employ driving techniques that ensure low fuel wastage. Other options to get around include bicycling and taking walking tours - the slower pace of both ensures that you will not miss a lot and if you like taking photos on the way (like me) both modes will ensure that you don't miss the perfect shot.

Things you can do before you travel:
  • Ensure that your AC and heating are turned off
  • Turn water off at outside connection (to prevent flooding should a pipe break while you're gone)
  • Unplug appliances such as TVs, computers etc because they can draw or 'leak' as much as 40 watts per hour even when they're off
  • Decant lotions, shampoos etc into smaller bottles and reuse these bottles instead of buying travel-sized bottles everytime
  • Carry reusable water bottles with you and try not to buy bottled water
  • Ensure that you have the most eco-friendly accommodation which is why going camping, forest lodges etc are great options
  • Let your hotel know that you do not want replacement towels and sheets everyday
  • Turn off the electricity when you leave your room
  • Take your dirty laundry home to be washed
  • Pack your used soap to reuse or decant body wash into small bottles for use whilst away
  • Do not open complimentary bottles of amenities if you do not want them
For more eco tips look here. In order to ensure that travel becomes a greener experience, many hotels and hostels are going green not only as a USP but also because running a hotel is very energy intensive and employing green initiatives also includes a cost-saving benefit. Travelocity is a great website that gives you travel tips and a list of eco-friendly hotels. Treehugger also has a list of twelve great eco-hostels.

For your next holiday try something different - toss the beaten track and tread on the path less followed. If you have always enjoyed spa breaks and staying in five-star hotels, consider eco-holidays that bring you closer to nature. Think about going on an expedition or even trekking, scuba diving or river rafting. Ecotourism begins first with the choices you make. Wherever you go learn to respect natural surroundings and follow basic rules like not littering, harming local wildlife, making loud noises etc.

Holidays with my family have always left me feeling refreshed because we have always tried to explore the quieter vistas and get away from the city. As naturally inclined travellers rather than tourists, we prefer to stay in places that encourage ecotourism. From this I have learnt that holidays that refresh the mind and body need not cost the earth.

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