Normally, because I’m discussing lodging, I would be posting this under my Budget For Your Vacation series about different types of lodging. So far I’ve discussed hostels, B&B’s, Local Hotels vs. Chain Hotels, and Agriturismi. My intention was to write about eco-lodges and eco-hotels next in the series but because I don’t have specific experience in that area and most of this post consists of tips to help “green” up your vacation, I’ve decided that this post should fall under my Weekend Word to the Wise posts.

Ecotourism is a term typically used for travel designed to contribute to the protection of the environment or at least minimize damage to it, often involving travel to areas of natural interest in developing countries or participation in environmental projects. People also use it to describe volunteer vacations. Some countries have set up their own standards a “Green” or “Ecofriendly” hotel or lodge must meet in order to advertise themselves as ecologically friendly.

Based on the standards, hotels or lodges are then given a rating, similar to the “star” ratings used throughout North America and Europe. There are “Green” or “Ecofriendly” lodges or hotels virtually everywhere in the world but the bulk of them seem to be easiest to find in Costa Rica, Indonesia, Bali, Fiji, and places where rain forests and coastlines are prevalent. If you’re interested in making sure your lodging is strictly “green” or ecologically correct, it might save time to find a travel agent that specializes in “green” vacations. A great place to start is Gordon’s Guides Ecotourism Europe.

And as much as I like to talk about travel and share my hints, tips, and experiences with you, I am taking a moment here to share my little soapbox minute with you also… All of us are aware that there are changes going on in our environment that will impact future generations. Whether or not we believe in global warming or the wide-range effects of greenhouse gases, the fact of the matter is that everything we do impacts our environment and even if we aren’t around to see the horrible fruits of our labors, the next generations will.

One way to reduce our overall impact on this earth is to reduce our carbon footprint as much as we can.

I am a firm believer that even if we are only doing something small, it can have good results in a big way. If you’ve heard the term carbon footprint but were never really sure what it meant, it’s the measurement of the impact our activities have on the environment, and in particular, climate change. It relates to the amount of greenhouse gases produced in our day-to-day lives through burning fossil fuels for electricity, heating and transportation etc. 

There are several ways we can help to reduce our own carbon footprints and one of those ways is to make sure our travel is as eco-friendly as possible. If you’re not interested in making your entire vacation “green”, consider doing small things on vacation that work to reduce your own carbon footprint while traveling.

  • If you’re staying in a hotel for less than 2-3 days, consider not getting fresh towels or a sheet change. Those small things save water and energy from having them laundered.
  • Consider using public transportation throughout your vacation instead of renting a car. Yes, there are some places that only a car can get you to but if you’re visiting Europe for the first time, chances are most of the big sites you want to visit are easily accessible by subway, bus, or train. While these options still consume energy, you are not solely responsible for these emissions.
  • If you’re in a bike friendly country, rent a bicycle! Several European countries have lanes strictly for bicycles and vehicles in European countries are accustomed to sharing the road with bicycles so it’s a safer mode of travel than it is in the U.S.
  • If the country you’re visiting recycles, then make sure you’re doing your part when disposing of your litter and sorting trash for the recycle bins.

I’m sure there are plenty of other ways to “green” your trip or vacation. Feel free to post some of your own ideas in the comment section.