Travel is quite often an eye opening, life changing experience.   As Mary Ann Radmacher put it, “I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”  And thanks to modern air travel, we can actually be on the other side of the world in little more than a day. The ability to move freely has given rise to one of the largest industries in the world:  tourism.  Over 1.1 billion people traveled abroad in 2014.  While travel has many positive psychological effects , byproducts of tourism can damage the environment.  As a traveler, one way to reduce the negative impacts is by choosing businesses that support the environment and destination communities.

So with summer upon us and a feeling of wanderlust tugging at our souls, what is the eco-conscious vacationer to do?  A staycation is the most eco conscious way to vacation, but if the seductive pull of adventure calls, don’t ignore it! But weigh your eco options.

Choose 1 Hotels– “Look for the Leaf” –  “Follow the frog”

Travelers are well acquainted with the ubiquitous hotel signs imploring guests to save water by using towels more than once. What they might not know is that hotels are looking for even bigger ways to reduce their environmental impact. Choosing a hotel with a mission is now easier than ever before.  For example, Starwood recently launched 1 Hotels.  These nature-inspired, boutique properties are built and furnished out of regional, reclaimed, and re-purposed materials.  More importantly, they are a brand built on a simple idea:  the world around us is beautiful and we want to keep it that way.

If you turn to travel engines when planning your family outings, consider TripAdvisor.  Their Green Leaders Program showcases a variety of eco-friendly hotels and B&Bs, from budget to luxury.  Best of all, the properties are committed to green practices like recycling, sourcing local food, and electric car charging stations.  Their system makes choosing a green hotel easy. Just look for the leaf!

Do the lazy days of summer call you to pristine beaches and crystal clear waters far from home? Then “follow the frog” and visit a Rainforest Alliance Certified hotel. Rainforest destinations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean are not only fun and beautiful, they also benefit local communities, ecosystems, and wildlife.

Make memories ... and a difference

For lots of parents, summer brings the chance to bond with their small humans.  However, your kids’ idea of a fun vacation and your idea…might be miles apart.  Instead of spending days trying to figure out a solution that will make everyone happy, let eco-conscious G Adventures do the work for you.  Their family trips promise to deliver a mix of adventure and education the whole family will enjoy.   

If vacationing with you (as cool as you are) is still the last thing your loveable teenager wants to do, send them on a trip through Sustainable Summer. Their summer programs combine environmental education with remarkable places and prepare today’s high schools students to become tomorrow’s environmental leaders.   

While the kids are away, the parents can play!  Consider taking time to explore one of National Geographic’s unique lodges of the world.  Each property shares the values that drive National Geographic: conserving wild places, celebrating the world’s breathtaking cultural diversity, and inspiring people to protect our planet.

Whether together or apart, a vacation that leaves little footprint, can still leave a big impression.

Don’t forget what’s left behind

The vacation you have been dreaming about is finally here!  The itinerary is perfect, your suitcase is packed, nothing but vacation bliss ahead. But before you close the door and jet off, remember to:

  • Unplug: Many appliances, such as televisions, use electricity even when turned off. Pull the plug to save money and conserve.
  • Turn down: If you cannot unplug an appliance, turn it down.  Use "vacation" settings found on some appliances. Adjust the thermostat or turn the air conditioning off altogether.
  • Conserve: Install timers that automatically irrigate lawns and vegetation after 10 p.m. to use water most efficiently and minimize evaporation.

Whether vacationing on the other side of the world or in your own backyard, don’t forget to include the environment and the community in your planning process.  Then, where ever you go, you can enjoy the wild, wonderful adventure that awaits knowing that you’re helping to preserve it for years to come.

Are you interested in more information about sustainable travel? Check out Sustrana's blog How to be a greener world traveler.