Tips for sustainable vacationing


Squeeze in and don’t go far.

To limit energy use, the trip distance and number of people in a vehicle matter more than mode of travel, says Lisa Aultman-Hall, a University of Vermont engineering professor who studies long-distance travel. In general and assuming all seats are filled, options rank from best to worst: train, bus, car, airplane.

“The shortest trip is the optimal trip in terms of absolute energy, there’s just no sugar-coating that,” says Aultman-Hall. Also, try public transit while traveling in a different city.

Sleep thoughtfully.

Try to find out what hotel or other accommodation options are doing to have a more positive impact on their environment and community, says Samantha Bray, cofounder and executive director of the Center for Responsible Travel.

Factors to consider include how they dispose of trash and whether they use a sustainable source of electricity. Also think of the economic impact: Does the place pay local taxes and does staying there limit housing options residents?

Eat smart.

Look for locally sourced, sustainable food. If you’re camping and cooking and expecting sunshine, ABC 10 meteorologist Monica Woods suggests bringing a solar cooker to cut down on your use of kerosene or charcoal.

Leave no trace.

Dispose of waste properly, camp only in designated areas, don’t bother wildlife, stay on paths and well-trodden ground and follow rules and regulations. If you’re fishing or hunting, use lead-free sinkers or ammunition. Visit to learn about the principles of “leave no trace” and guidelines for specific activities.

You are more than a consumer.

If you care enough to make sustainable choices while you’re vacationing, you should do the same in daily life. Still, systemic change is needed to make a real difference. To have a lasting impact, don’t just think about your choices as a consumer but think about your role in a democratic society.