Planning A Green Vacation

Climate change is real. While travel, by its nature, will increase your 'carbon footprint', there are things you can do to help minimize thje effects.

Fighting climate change does not mean giving up on modern life and retreating to a cabin in the woods. It does mean that we all need to be aware that every action we take has consequences. Some studies say tourism accounts over 5% of man-made green house gas (GHG) emissions. While the total amount of GHG is staggering, taking steps to reduce our carbon footprint helps ensure that the places we love will be there for our children and grand-children.

Before You Go

  • Turn down the temperature on your hot water tank. (Check your user’s manual to see if you can safely turn it off.)
  • Adjust your thermostat. While you are away, your house doesn’t need to be as warm in winter or as cool in summer. 
  • Keep your drapes closed. Use your judgement, here. While keeping the drapes closed will, depending on the season, keep your house warmer/cooler, it may also signal —  no one is home.
  • Many electrical items, including power bars, draw current even when they are turned off. A good ‘rule of thumb’ is if it uses a remote control —  unplug it. (The exception being anything needed for your security system.)
  • Cancel you newspaper deliveries. It really doesn’t save energy, but is a good idea anyway.

Transportation

Flying There

  • Travel light —  just pack what you need. Added weight burns more fuel. 
  • Have a collapsible water bottle and fill it inside the secure area. Save money and use less plastic.
  • Take-offs use a lot of fuel, the plane is at its maximum weight and is climbing rapidly. The shorter the flight, the larger the percentage of fuel used during takeoff. When ever possible —  fly direct to your destination.
  • Some planes are more efficient than others:
    1. Boeing 777-300ER and all the 787 series
    2. Airbus A320, A321NeoLR and A330neo 900
    3. Complete list on Wikipedia
  • Your class of service will determine your personal carbon footprint. Economy class passengers generate the least and first class passengers the most.
  • Take a shuttle service or public transit to your hotel. Some hotels offer airport pickup, but you may be the only person taking that shuttle. (Not very “green”) Look for a shuttle service that serves a number of hotels.

Take A Cruise

Cruise ships are seen, by some, as giant pollution factories. As with many things, this holds a grain of truth. A study by Griffith University found “Cruise ship emissions make up 0.2% of all global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production.” It also found that, on average, a passenger generated 0.83 tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent for their cruise.

The two biggest cruise ship companies are actively trying to reduce their carbon footprint. Carnival Corporation has the most aggressive carbon reduction program with twenty new LNG powered ships being added to their fleet by 2025. The first, the AIDAnova, went into service in Dec. 2018. 

The AIDAnova is part of Carnival’s AIDA cruise line and caters to German speaking customers. It is currently hosting cruises in the western Mediterranean and around the Canary Islands. However, Carnival is currently building a LNG fuelling station at Port Canaveral Florida. It will be the home port for the Carnival Cruise Line’s first LNG powered ship.

[Carnival Corporation owns AIDA, Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, Holland America Line, P&O Cruises, P&O Cruises Australia,  Princess Cruises, and Seabourn Cruise Line]

Other cruise option that have a significantly lower carbon footprint are river cruises and sailboat cruises. Both these options are more expensive than the average ocean cruise. 

Trains & Buses

Smiley.toerist [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Use public transportation when ever possible. In most countries, public transport within the city is safe and reliable. Intercity, long haul, travel varies considerably from country to country and even between bus companies. Do your homework —  there is a lot of information about bus travel online.

In Europe, Japan and parts of Asia, trains are a great way to travel. The high speed intercity trains are much less hassle than flying. Train stations are often in the centre of the city. In many cases the time from hotel-to-hotel is faster taking the train. Instead of spending an hour, or more, to get to the airport, dealing with security, flight delays and waiting for you luggage to be unloaded —  relax on the train.

Green Hotels

So far, I haven’t been able to find a single source for ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘green’ hotels. There are some places you can look, but in the end you will need to do your own research.

Not all hotels that say they have a ‘green’ program actually have one. While staying at the Hotel Soho Malaga Boutique, as they suggested, we only put the shower mat on the floor for cleaning. However, all the towels were still changed every day. 

TripAdvisor —   For many people the ‘go to’ site for hotel information.

Their ‘Green Leaders’ program rates hotels as a GreenPartner (minimum requirements) or Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels based on compliance with their standards. While the program seems to have value, TripAdvisor makes it extremely hard to find hotels in the Green Leaders program

There doesn’t seem to be a way to filter for ‘Green Leaders’ nor do search results list only hotels within the program. The certification is in the ‘About section—  so you have to visit each hotel listing to see the certification.

An alternative is to do a Google search for:
TripAdvisor Greenleaders “city name”
Putting the city name in quotations will give you all the hotels in the GreenLeaders program. To further refine the search use one of the four levels — for example:
TripAdvisor Greenleaders Gold “city name”

Book Different —  An extensive listing of hotels ranked based on four factors.

  • Effective sustainable management and compliance with law
  • Fair and equal treatment for employees and destinations
  • Respect for local traditions
  • Nature and the environment

The site is easy to use and has extensive filtering of the hotel listing. An icon next to each listing shows how the hotel rank —  from not at all to perfect. Another icon displays your approximate carbon foot print while staying at the hotel. There is also the number of reviews the hotel has received —  but there is no indication where the reviews are from.

NOTE: You can book your hotel on the site. However, I have only used the site for research.

Eating Green 

Eating green or finding ‘green’ restaurants can be more challenging that finding a ‘green’ hotel. While some restaurants have recycling programs, they don’t seem to advertise the fact. However, there are things you can do to reduce your ‘carbon footprint’ while still having a enjoyable dining experience.

  • Eat local. Don’t travel half way around the world to go to Burger King. Every city has its own unique eating experience featuring local products, check them out.
  • Go to the local market place. Not only are the local markets great places to explore, they have the freshest food.
  • Carry a knife, eating utensils and a small cutting board — great for picnic or even a quick snack in your room

Carbon Offsets

Carbon offsets have been liken to the Medieval Catholic Churches selling of indulgences, buying forgiveness for one’s sins. Like indulgences, carbon offsets are of value only if they are effective. The effectiveness of indulgences was based on faith, the effectiveness of carbon offsets has no such basis. Some are effective, some are not. Evaluating the different plans available are beyond the scope of this article.

To rephrase Martin Luther:

Carbon offsets must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think that they are preferable to other good works of love.