Green Travel- Pack In/ Pack Out
While I (N.) would love to be able to convince my boss to let me expense an Airstream like the one above I really don’t see it happening. I think if I crunched the numbers it would be cheaper to purchase it instead of paying for me to stay in hotels 5-10 nights a week plus I would get a free (to me that is) airstream after a couple years but it’s just not “the norm.” It would be green, well relatively I mean I could eat local and organic in it, use homemade cleaning products, conserve water etc but it takes a bit of fuel to get that thing around and convincing them to spring for solar panels would be impossible :).
In the absence of my own eco Airstream I’m forced to travel in rental cars and hotels rather frequently. Many times I’m in different places every night so it’s hard to minimize the waste I generate. Hard but not impossible. I’ve already talked about greening up your transportation and I’ll talk about green lodging later. Right now I want to talk more generally about the camping principle of packing things in and packing them out. Now that I’m traveling more I’ve realized there are certain things I need to bring. Now I bring my own towel and washcloth, my own coffee mug, my own soap, my own battery charger and GPS. Each own of those helps me be a little bit greener and generate less refuse.
My bringing a towel and washcloth I can make sure I’m using own that hasn’t been washed in harsh chemicals and screaming hot water. I only wash my towel at home (cold water, eco friendly detergent, and line dried) and while eventually I’d like organic cotton or hemp my current towels work just fine. This means I use one towel instead of dirtying five towels in five different hotels, the same with the washcloth.
At home I don’t drink a lot of coffee but on the road sometimes it’s a neccessary evil and while I suppose I could carry around my own coffee maker to garuntee I’m using fair trade organic that’s not really practical. But having my own mug means I can get my day started without the paper and or plastic used in to go cups. I rinse it out with hot water as soon after I’ve used it as possible and then when I go home give it a soap and water cleaning.
The battery charger is just handy, some of my equipment uses batteries almost everything else has a wall plug but I don’t ever want to be in the position where I need to run out and buy nonrechargables at the store. The GPS is another nice to have and it does prevent me from printing out pages and pages of mapquest directions while preventing me from inadvertently getting turned around and wasting gas and emissions trying to find the right path.
My new “toy” is a hand cranked flashlight. It’s made of plastic and was a giveaway from an oil company… but hey it serves as a light in the car or the hotel room so I don’t have to turn on a light to find the bathroom or in case the power goes out. For real camping it would come in more handy.
Soap is an easy one and most of us bring our own toiletries anyway. The key is to leave as many things as possible untouched. You don’t want to use the plastic in your hotel or the local restaraunt or the gas station if you can avoid it. Because once you touch it you are responsible for it. Or at least that’s the approach I’m taking now.
I try to “pack in” light but smart. I also make sure to “pack out” as much as possible. In hotels it’s pretty easy to avoid using anything. Most of us bring water bottles (which I forgot to mention) so you don’t need to use the plastic cups and we’ve already talked about toiletries. What is a bit harder is what you eat and drink. The key is to eat in as many sit down resteraunts because they will use glass, real dishes, and real silverware. You don’t want to go to a place with plastic and cardboard and heaven forbid styrofoam. The reality though is you aren’t going to avoid it 100% of the time. So when you can’t you need to do it smart. I look now at the type of plastics that I use because Philly only recylces 1 and 2. So if I fall off the wagon and buy a bottled soda then the empty bottle spends the rest of the week with me until I can bring it home to recyle. The same with the daily newspaper at the hotel. I could abstain but then they would just throw it out anyway. I’d rather take it home to my worms or at least to recycle. I know the idea of schlepping around recyclables isn’t fun but it will certainly motivate you to use less things and its really not that hard. You stick it all in a bag and at the end of the trip into the recycle bin it all goes.
If we all followed these simple steps we could avoid creating more waste and what we do create we could recycle more then would have been recycled otherwise. Just because we are traveling or on vacation doesn’t mean we should abandon on green principles.