5 Super Easy Ways To Travel Sustainably

The idea of traveling sustainably appeals to a lot of us, and yet most of us still don’t do it. It’s not that we don’t care enough about the environment … but it’s just that once we start thinking about calculating carbon emissions, or buying offsets, the whole concept suddenly seems so complicated.

The thing is, being an eco-conscious traveler doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, some of the simplest actions can have a huge impact on the environment. And the good news is many of those actions won’t cost you anything – and some of them will even save you money in the long run. Want to know how you can travel and still do your bit for the planet? Read on to learn five super easy ways to travel sustainably.

1. Unplug household appliances. Traveling sustainably starts even before you step out through your front door and onto that airplane. All those electronics you have at home are sucking up power even when you’re not using them – standby mode does not mean the device is actually off. So if you’re going to be away from home for more than a couple of days, go ahead and unplug everything you can. Televisions, DVD players, stereos and computers are some of the biggest power drains, but don’t forget smaller appliances too. If you want to see just how much juice your appliances are drinking, there’s a handy chart here. Of course, there are some things – such as your DVR or alarm clock – that you may not want to shut down. A great option for these kinds of devices is to plug them into a smart power strip. These power strips stop the appliances from consuming power when they’re done charging or operating.2. Use refillable toiletry containers. When you’re trying to stick to the carry-on liquid restrictions, it makes sense to go out and buy the travel-sized version of your shampoos, lotions and cleansers. The problem is, all those little containers get used up quickly and generate a ton of trash. So instead of rushing out and buying mini products, pick up a couple of empty, reusable containers and fill them with your regular products. By topping them up rather than discarding them once they’re empty, you’ll stop a lot of plastic from ending up in landfill. Your wallet will thank you too, since those miniature products don’t exactly come cheap.

3. Reuse hotel towels and bedding. There’s something luxurious about fluffy, white bath towels that have been freshly laundered, and when you’re staying in a hotel, it’s so easy to just drop once-used towels on the floor and have housekeeping bring you bright, clean, new ones. The problem is, this practice uses up huge volumes of water. Believe it or not, it takes 6-8 gallons of water to wash one set of towels and another 6-8 gallons to wash one set of bed sheets. It’s not hard to see how that would quickly add up in a hotel with hundreds of rooms. So, tempting as it may be to discard that barely used towel or ask for fresh sheets, hold back. After all, do you really change your sheets and towels everyday when you’re at home?

4. Carry a reusable water bottle. There are lots of places in the world where it’s unsafe or unadvisable to drink the tap water, and many travelers end up buying little bottles of water every time they’re thirsty. You can see where this is going, right? Most of those plastic bottles end up in a dump somewhere (recycling isn’t the easiest thing when you’re traveling, even if you’re so inclined) with about three quarters of the plastic bottles produced in the U.S. making their way to landfills each year. If you really want to go green, pick up a water bottle that comes with a built in water filter – this way you can fill up with tap water and the liquid will purify as it flows through the filter. You’ll eliminate the need for bottled water entirely and save a ton of cash in the long run. If you don’t want to go that far, at least buy a regular reusable bottle and then purchase large bottles of water (like the multi-gallon variety) to keep in your hotel room and fill up from. By avoiding the single-serve bottles, you’ll be one step ahead in the sustainability game.

5. Eat local foods. The world is so globalized and interconnected these days that it seems like you can get whatever you’re craving, no matter where you are. Got a hankering for a cheeseburger while in India? No problem. Want some pizza while traveling through Africa? Done. The problem is, if you eat foods that aren’t local to an area, you get what you want while the environment pays a price. Shipping ingredients half way around the world causes a lot of pollution, mainly in the form of carbon dioxide, which is the gas that leads to global warming. If you want to travel more sustainably, one of the simplest things you can do is eat foods that are local to the area you’re visiting. Not only does that help halt climate change, but supporting small mom and pop restaurants is also great for local economies. As an added bonus, locally sourced ingredients are fresher and tastier, which should be all the incentive you need.

[Photo credit: Flickr user epSos.de]

The Vine Retreat: An Eco-Friendly Escape In Kep, Cambodia

eco-friendly hotel cambodia

Sometimes you just need a hammock and a view. At least that’s how I felt after six weeks of life as an ex-pat in the loud, congested capital city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

I found respite at The Vine Retreat, a rustic eco-friendly hotel in the southeastern Cambodian province of Kep. There, simplicity is the name of the game. With little to do but relax, read, and enjoy the scenery, The Vine offers a peaceful getaway from inland Phnom Penh, without the drunken beach bum backpacker scene of nearby Sihanoukville.

Tucked away in the rice paddies near the Phnom Vor mountains, The Vine Retreat is constructed from natural, locally sourced materials and powered by an off-grid, low-carbon power system. A highlight of the property is the recently completed naturally filtered swimming pool – a great way to escape the mid-afternoon heat. Meals are taken at a communal table with a revolving menu that includes organic produce from the garden and fresh seafood from the nearby Bay of Thailand. Kampot pepper, widely said to be the best in the world and grown in a small plantation on-site, is always on the table.

%Gallery-158764%The Vine’s rooms are simple, but well-appointed, with canopy beds and handwoven textiles. Hot water is provided by a solar heating system, and the provided coconut-scented soap is handmade by a local women’s cooperative. The guesthouse is also committed to economic development in the surrounding villages. In partnership with a local non-profit, they offer sustainable tourism excursions, including trekking, biking and tours of nearby Chamcar Bei village, and they reinvest all excursion fees into community education and training. I opted for a bicycle tour of Chamcar Bei’s craft cooperatives, which create home and lifestyle items out of coconut shells and recycled plastic bags.

Rooms start from $25/night for basic accommodations, but off-season Facebook specials offer deals as low as $10 (yes, you read that right). To arrive at The Vine Retreat, hire a tuk-tuk (about $8) from nearby Kep or Kampot, or a car from any of Cambodia’s major cities.

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