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3 Easy Ways to Green Your Vacation

Since Saturday, my family and I have been enjoying the fresh mountain air of the Sierra Nevadas of eastern California. Despite wanting to just leave behind all of our cares, we've been conscious of our environmental impact and have been thinking green (hard not to, when you're surrounded by beautiful green pine trees and pure, blue skies). Thought I'd share a few of the easy things we've done and are trying to do to make our vacation a little greener:

1. Traveling close to home. Any vacation is going to have its mileage footprint, but try thinking about places closer to home that you can visit and still feel like you're escaping. My family has been coming to the mountains for years, and while we could probably find a place a little closer to home for vacation, the drive to our favorite mountain town is only about 2.5 hours and we never have to think about carbon offsetting due to plane rides. Not to mention that going someplace closer to home costs less in gas and you don't have to worry about security lines at the airport. It's also fun to find new places, especially ones nearby, that you can fall in love with and feel connected to. Traveling to far off places is surely fun, but if you stay in your own state or closer to home, you can build a better sense of your local area or state and you might feel less like a tourist. Travel by foot or pedal: Once to get to your destination, find ways to walk or bike around. Maybe you can rent a cabin near town or bring bikes with you.
Source: The Kitty Packard Pictorial

2. Bring your own bags, bottles, and mugs. For those of us who strive to bring our own wherever we go at home, we fall into a routine that's easy to stick to. But packing for vacation and spending time in a new place can unsettle that routine and make us forget our own bags, bottles, and mugs. Add these items to your packing list early on so you don't forget to bring them, and then make sure you remember to bring them with you when you go shopping, to that local coffee house, to the beach, or on a hike. It's easy to want to relax and not worry about these things, but just keep in mind why you do it at home; chances are, the beautiful place you're vacationing will not be as beautiful if we continue to consume and waste. You might even find it easier to be eco-conscious when you're surrounded by the natural beauty of your chosen vacation spot.

Our shopping cart after getting food for the week at a local market. We used all reusable bags!

3. Unplug and go outside. A vacation away from home is also a perfect time for a vacation away from electronics: television, iPod, laptop, email, smartphone, etc. Spend time with your family face to face, without the interference of electronics, and enjoy the fresh air and natural beauty. Take a walk without your iPod and listen to the sound of your children's voices, or the birds chirping, or the ocean waves. Unplug the television set in your hotel room or cabin (reducing vampire energy usage!), and play a board game or put together a puzzle. Set a vacation reminder on your email and actually stick to it--don't check even though it's tempting. Set a status update on Facebook before you go, alerting your friends that you'll be gone, and actually stay off of Facebook until you return. Post your vacation photos when you get home. While I must admit that I'm not following all of these suggestions, I have been trying to spend less time on the computer and more time reading and enjoying the company of my family. It feels really nice to unplug, but I understand how challenging this can be. The important thing is to take advantage of those moments with your family that you cannot always get at home; go on that walk even if you tend to say no, jump in the pool with your kid or sibling even if you would rather just sun-tan, and turn off the phone. Life is about real experiences, not ones facilitated by electronics and screens. Give it a try next time you're away--no, better yet, give it a try right now.

Good thing I wrote that third suggestion last, otherwise this post wouldn't have been written and I would have signed off earlier. I hope these suggestions are useful to you, even if you've heard them before. May they be a reminder to truly live and be a little more kind to our planet... and ourselves.

Happy July! Thanks for reading. Now get off the computer! :-)

Green Gal