A Greener Vacation

Our family just returned from a vacation. We really enjoyed the chance to get away from home for a while. We traveled from our home in suburban Vancouver to Vancouver Island, which involved a 45-minute drive to the ferry terminal, just under 2 hours on the ferry, and then a 45-minute drive to our destination. While we were there, we stayed in a townhouse that had its own kitchen, and prepared most of our own meals.

We made most of our travel choices for economic and practical reasons. Staying closer to home, and avoiding restaurants, is cheaper and easier when you’re traveling with a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old. My toddler, especially, is no fun to dine out with. And I definitely don’t relish the idea of taking my brood on a long airplane ride.

Amber on the beach
On the beach during our vacation

While I was away, I noticed how some of my choices on the road are different than my choices at home. I started to wonder about the environmental impact of my trip. How many more resources did our family use during our vacation than we normally would? What was the carbon footprint of our trip? What did we do that reduced the impact of our travel, and what did we do that increased it?

The Good

Here are the things that I think we did right on our trip:

  • Our resort did not change our sheets or give new towels during our stay, unless requested. During our 5 nights there, we were able to re-use our linens with no problems.
  • Cooking in reduced our impact, especially compared to take-out. We washed our own dishes and cutlery and prepared food from scratch. We recycled most of our waste, too.
  • By staying closer to home we reduced our carbon footprint. The farther you go, as a rule, the more carbon it takes to get you there.
  • We stayed in one place and enjoyed local attractions. A long road trip will have a bigger impact than a short one.
  • We brought our toiletries from home. Using travel-size disposable bottles means more packaging waste.
  • We carried a re-usable water bottle wherever we went, and drank tap water.

The Bad

We were far from perfect – here are some things that we did wrong:

  • We bought a lot of pre-packaged snack and convenience foods. At home, we avoid them. But on our vacation we needed convenience and portability, and we told ourselves we deserved a treat.
  • We didn’t bring re-usable bags with us, like we normally have at home. This meant that when we bought anything we received a single-use bag, some paper and some plastic.
  • The jury is out on ferry travel. Some ferries, for example, release untreated sewage and emit a lot of carbon.
  • I visited the spa. It was heavenly. While I was there I sat in a heated pool filled with mineral rich water imported from Europe. That can’t be environmentally friendly.
  • We didn’t really think ahead in terms of toys and ended up taking a trip to the local dollar store to stock up on some beach-friendly playthings.

I am glad that our family took the chance to get away. We will do it again. And when we do, we will probably make a lot of the same choices, good and bad. But next time I will think ahead a little more first. With a little work up front, I could have reduced our impact more, which is a good thing. After all, if we want to have beautiful places to visit, we need to consider how we’re treating them.

What about you? How do you reduce your environmental impact when you travel? Does being on the road make being green harder? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

You can catch up with Amber’s adventures, at home and on the road, at Strocel.com.

One Response to A Greener Vacation
  1. Sharon Heritch
    July 10, 2010 | 11:34 pm

    Nice article, important topic.

    My contribution to the topic is this: Goodwill stores. When my husband and son #1 were about to go to a Green Bay Packers game, I suggested we stop at the local Goodwill store, where an entire section was devoted to all manner of Packer clothing. They were kitted out with nearly new Packer gear for next to nothing. You can imagine what a new sweatshirt costs at Lambeau Field.

    It gave me the inspiration to make a stop at another local charity shop for beach toys, extra towels, and sand chairs the next day for our time on the shore of Lake Michigan. I just brushed it off as best I could and donated it all back to the same shop before we drove home. :-)

    I read a blog about a family that had invented a technique of feeding their family on their car trips. It involved bringing along a crock pot, carefully planned ziplock bag ingredients, and locally-purchased fresh food. Adventurous, creative, green, and frugal.