To follow up our last post on “staycations” in Arlington we wanted to provide tips for those of you who are planning to head away from the area. I personally just spent two amazing weeks out on the West Coast with my family. Of course, flying across the country had a significant impact in terms of fuel and emissions. I used this carbon calculator from terrapass and learned that my flight contributed 2,261 lbs CO2. It would take 26 trees to sequester the carbon from my plane trip alone! Knowing this, I found myself wondering how I could do more to minimize my energy use and overall environmental impact away from home. My parents don’t like to be inconvenienced by my efforts to be more sustainable, so I thought of a series of family friendly ideas to use while visiting:
- I made sure all lights, fans and air conditioning units were turned off in my apartment before heading out. Whenever we stayed in a hotel, I made sure to do the same as well when we left for the day.
- We were traveling in the countryside so we had to rent a car, but if you are traveling to a large urban area, take advantage of public transportation systems, bus routes, or bikesharing programs instead. In places like Paris, London, and New York City, for example, it’s easy to move around without four wheels. If renting, ask for a hybrid or electric vehicle.
- I also brought my own shampoo, conditioner and soap in reusable containers. I shared them with my family so we avoided using the hotel products (hotel shampoos and soaps, once opened, are usually thrown away; although a few hotels have begun sanitizing soap bars and sending them to developing countries for reuse). Also, I took notice of any signs about how to reduce hotel water use. Usually you can signal that you don’t need a new towel or a change of sheets by making the bed or hanging your towel back up.My mom had already chosen our arrangements, but look out for environmentally friendly accommodations when possible: http://planetgreen.discovery.com/travel-outdoors/find-green-hotels.html. Many hotels nowadays are LEED or Energy Star certified.
- For food, we stopped at a local farmer’s market and stocked up on a variety of fruits and vegetables. We then packed a cooler full of food to eat along the way. If you can’t find a farmer’s market in the area, you can also choose to patronize restaurants that source local food.
- Finally, we planned outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and kayaking. You can cut your energy use substantially by sleeping outdoors! I found the fresh air, gorgeous mountain vistas, and starry night skies to be a relaxing break from the real world. This is also a great way to instill a love for the environment in kids from a young age. My dad constantly took me on hikes in the mountains of Alaska when I was growing up, and I believe it is what led me into the environmental career field.
How will you consider the environment with your summer plans?
By: Kelsey Kerle-O’Brien