The Environmentalist’s Travel Guide

Blogging again from Montreal. Actually, I don’t travel nearly as much as I used to, but when I do I’m amazed at how much travel contributes to pollution, waste and the use of non-renewable resources. If we had to pay the fully loaded cost of energy (including the cost of replacing exhausted reserves, remediation for pollution damage and other ‘externalities’ that neither consumers nor producers currently pay — part of the Tragedy of the Commons), the whole travel industry would grind to a halt. Even if we stopped allowing these wasteful travel costs to be deducted as a business expense, there would be much less needless travel.

But sometimes, face to face meetings are essential, and sometimes you just need a vacation. When that happens, here are some ideas to at least mitigate the damage you do to the environment as a result of your travels away from home (and save some money in the process):

  1. If possible, take the train. It consumes less energy and produces less pollution per passenger-mile than driving, boating, cruising or flying. And it’s an interesting way to travel. Plus it allows you to get things done, if you have to, during the voyage.
  2. If you stay in a hotel, minimize your footprint. Reuse your towels, minimize use of your room heater/air conditioner, and don’t waste water. Better yet, stay with a local — you’ll learn more, conserve more, and save more, and probably have more fun.
  3. Use recyclables and reusables. Take your own travel mug. Avoid disposable dishes. Don’t contribute unnecessarily to garbage, and recycle whenever possible.
  4. Buy local, natural, organic, vegan foods. And buy other local goods instead of imports, including crafts and souvenirs.
  5. If you’re on vacation consider cycling, sailing, hiking, cross-country skiing, walking tours or eco-vacations instead of combustion-engine powered trips. At your destination, take a coach or public transit (if it’s safe) instead of a car or taxi.
  6. Turn stuff off at home. Don’t waste a lot of heat or electricity if there’s no one there.
  7. If you have to drive, use cruise control, don’t speed, make sure your tires are properly inflated, and ensure that your car’s tuned up. Dress appropriately rather than using car air conditioning or heat unnecessarily.
  8. If you have to take your computer, use it sparingly and turn it off when not in use.
  9. If you’re visiting businesses, help them save energy, money and the environment by conserving resources, especially by turning off or down heat, air conditioning and electricity at night and when otherwise not in use.
  10. Buy stuff that lasts. Avoid disposables, cheap clothing, poorly-made souvenirs, overpackaged goods, non-rechargeable batteries, and stuff in non-recyclable containers.

When you follow these steps, let the suppliers — train companies, hotels, restaurants, stores, travel companies — know that you’re doing so, and why, and that you care about the environment. Give them some extra incentive to care too. By educating others, you multiply the benefits and savings you receive yourself.

Thank you!

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12 Responses to The Environmentalist’s Travel Guide

  1. Jon Husband says:

    Dave .. if you’re in Montreal today all day .. so am I .. are you going home tonight, or staying for a day or two ? Wanna connect ?

  2. Dave, I understand where you’re getting at, but I don’t feel your coming from the right angle. I mean, your list is, as a matter of fact, correct me if I do an overinterpretation, based on an algorithme that says : save as much energy as you can, pollute the less you can.By doing so, and if we do a rational interpretation of it, we can always mitigate the damage by adding items to your list and optimizing the ones already there.In a way, there is always place for improvement (and so far the list is pretty useful) but if I have to push the envelope, I have to kill myself one day or the other to reach the perfect score (what your list, by essence, is proposing) in order to achieve what would be the the perfect respond to eradicate human pollution.As you can see, this angle is logically irresponsible (as far as I’m a slave of my DNA that dictate my life – we may do rebellion and unchain ourself from this dictature but this is another story). This seems to me a wrong angle to start a list for the perfect Environmentalist’s Travel Guide.I’ll rather ask for ‘positive’ acts (instead of refraining people) :a. plant a tree each time you travel.b. be a volunteer for one day for the recycle shop near you everytime you take your car.c. distribute food to elders than can’t walk to the grocery for one year each time you buy a new card. open a late afternoon kindergarden at home for your neighbours to use transit instead to drive home in rush to pick there children…This list, if you get me right, should bring you to a tipping point than is open to infinite instead of close to the dead point…

  3. Today, wednesday 6th, it is the First Wednesday of this month, and it is the (Montreal’s) YULBLOG monthly meeting at La Cabane (3872, rue Saint-Laurent). 08h00PM let you know, if you want to meet some bloggers…

  4. Beth Crowley says:

    Hey how about stop blogging? it will use less energy & water

  5. Funny, comments here make me think of a discussion that came up at Grist and The Oil Drum:

  6. Beth Crowley says:

    Sorry I should have put a :) next to my post… it was that I just find it funny that we use this format to get our point accros yet it to takes energy and water. Beth

  7. Beth, I think that the energy used is worth it if it makes tens, hundreds or thousands of people realize things about the environment and change their ways. After all, the energy used by Dave’s blogging has been compensated many times, I’m sure, by people who have read his writings and started conserving more energy.

  8. Unfortunately, it is the corporations that need to do MOST of the changing…and they WON’T.

  9. Beth Crowley says:

    You are right…

  10. Andy M says:

    Point 2 – (stay with a local), why not try couch surfing?http://www.couchsurfing.comLove this idea … interesting blog by the way, Dave. I find this one of the most thought provoking sites I read at the moment.

  11. Fiona says:

    When I travel, I avoid chain hotels like the plague (unless there really is no other option). I tend to stay in hostels where water consumption is lower due to shared showers (you don’t take so long when others are waiting!), towels and bedding are not washed every day, and you can buy local food from the market to put in the shared fridge. The best travel gift I ever got was for speaking at a conference – they gave me a zip up cutlery wallet with two sets of knives, forks, etc and a bottle opener and mini cheese board. I have used it on three overseas trips. In Sienna we sat in the sun, eating our picnic of fresh bread, cheese and fruit from the market while other tourists paid an enormous sun to sit in restaurants with poor quality food just a couple of metres away. I am conscious that flying uses an enormous amount of fuel and energy. I am also conscious of the impact on the environment – I live under a flight path. However I do not own a car, so I am hoping that the two balance out.

  12. Dave Pollard says:

    Martin: I see your point, but I don’t see my suggestions and yours as mutually exclusive. Thanks for the invitation — if I’m in Montreal on ‘first Wednesday’ any month I’ll give you a call.Beth/Mike: Thanks. I got the ironic humour even without the ;-) and Mike those are excellent articles on practicing what we preach in an accessible more than just virtuous way.Patty: What might change corporation behaviour is tax changes — a tax shift from employment to resource consumption, and an end to tax deductions for travel and other expenses that could be avoided if there was a motivation to do so.Andy: What a great find and a wonderful idea! Thanks, I’m going to research and write about this.Fiona: Great ideas; and making your own natural meals in your own hotel room (or nearby park) also avoids the discomfort of eating alone in restaurants, or paying for room service, which is rarely a good value.

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