Eco-friendly Travel More Popular than Ever: How to Plan a Green Vacation

Even though green is not be the most fashionable color this Spring/Summer season, it’s still “in” for many travelers. According to an Agoda survey (a Singapore-based online travel agency), around 58 percent of hotel guests would rather stay at an eco-friendly property. Meanwhile almost 40 percent said they didn’t mind spending an extra $10 a night to book a room in a sustainable resort. With eco-friendly travel so popular, how can you greenify your next vacation?

For hoteliers, simply hanging a sign on their door saying they’re green – even if they aren’t – is a revenue booster. Meanwhile, more than 60 percent of U.S. travelers have taken a trip to a sustainable hotel in the last three years. And according to estimates, they stay three days longer than the average guest. So why are so many travelers still skeptical about booking a green vacation?

RELATED: [Top 8 International Destinations for the Eco-Friendly Traveler]

If you need guidance on planning the ultimate eco-trip – the one that won’t make you feel guilty – here are some tips provided by a panel of green-travel experts. Follow their eco-friendly travel suggestions to turn your footprints greener at every step of the way.

1. Do Your Research

Before you take just any offer you find, you should decide what exactly you want from your eco-trip. What kind of hotels do you prefer to stay in? What is your budget? How can you reduce your carbon footprint? You just have to ask yourself the right questions to increase the chances of finding something that meets your desires. While numbers are important, you should ask for more than that.

  • Does that luxury hotel offer you the option to decline daily turndown service?
  • Do they have in-room recycle bins?
  • Are they using organically-sourced food?
  • What they do with leftovers?
  • What cleaning products do they use?

These are just some of the questions that can help you perform a thorough research before you book your stay. If you don’t like the answers your get – or if the hotel seems evasive – that’s your cue to start looking elsewhere. Let’s see what else you need to know for your eco-friendly travel plans.

2. Choose a Green Destination

Don’t fool yourself. No destination will check all the green standards you’re probably looking for. However, even though they still make environmental missteps, some cities and hotels demonstrate a continuous commitment to eco-friendly practices. Hundreds of lists are being published annually about the world’s greenest destinations, so you can have your pick. According to Dual Citizen, a consulting firm, Sweden is at the top of their list, closely followed by Finland and Norway.

If you want to experience a more exotic adventure, we can point you to some of the most exciting developing countries. Zambia, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, and Brazil can all tickle your green antennas. When it comes to the best cities, Copenhagen continues to hold the No. 1 spot. When researching a vacation destination, look for spots that embrace the green lifestyle. Acres of parkland, a strong public transportation system, designated bike lanes, walkable neighborhoods, and farmers markets are some of the things you should be on the lookout for.

Finland green destination

Helsinki, Finland / Credit

3. Choose Green Transportation

How can you make Mother Earth the most proud? By using your own power to get around. Many adventure tour operators arrange hiking, cycling, and walking holidays. While this is the cleanest and greenest way to explore, it’s not always a viable option. So what about trains and buses? While trains still depend on many factors – such as passenger load, route, and fuel type – they are the most eco-friendly among land transport.

On the other hand, if you plan to drive to your green destination, see if you can rent a fuel-efficient vehicle. A variety of models can bring you green points, such as the hybrid Toyota Prius and Nissan’s LEAF. With so many electric vehicles on the market, you can make sure your means of transportation leaves behind a smaller carbon footprint.

Cruising can be either very good or very bad. Firstly, catamarans and sailboats are not as harsh on the planet. Secondly, larger vessels can take a larger toll on the environment. Thirdly, it’s exciting to know cruise lines have been making strides to improve themselves. They are installing tinted windows and LED lights, curing gray and black water to near drinking standards, and recycling all types of debris.

And now for the worst offender of them all: airplanes. When it comes to flying, all you can do is minimize the time you spend in the air. To reduce your carbon footprint, experts say you should travel less but stay longer at your destination. Fly on a large plane from a fuel-efficient fleet, such as Alaska Air, Norwegian Air, Finn Air, or Virgin Atlantic. Also, pass on first-class: you’re just wasting space and fuel with the extra leg and elbow room.

toyota hybrid prius

Toyota Prius has a great gas mileage / Credit

RELATED: [Climate Change Could Increase Flight Turbulence]

4. Choose a Green Hotel

No pressure, but this is probably the most important step, environmentally-wise. If you don’t get the right hotel, you will make the greatest impact. Unfortunately, many hotels praise their own greenness without backing it up with hard facts. To avoid getting lost in their cacophony, simply focus on the issues that you care about the most. Decide what you won’t compromise on and start from there.

Because most major chains and independent hotels operate in-house green programs, your job is quite easy. If you can’t find a fact sheet online, you can simply call the front desk to ask your questions. Composting, disposal of graywater, bathroom toiletries, in-room recycling bins – these are some of the things you might want to know about.

You can also search exclusively for hotels that have been accredited by respected certification programs. The U.S. Green Building Council (giving out LEED certifications), Green Key, or the Global Sustainable Tourism Council are some of the names you should look for. Also, there are other ways you can stay green in a hotel.

  • Participate in the hotel’s linen-and-towel-reuse program.
  • Always turn off the lights when you leave the hotel room.
  • Don’t use the bottles of water in your room. Instead, refill your own water bottle.
  • Decline daily housekeeping and turndown.
  • Skip the plastic or paper water cups and coffee mugs. Use glass ones instead.
  • Avoid buffets. More often than not, they produce heaps of wasted food.
  • Recycle.

Header Image: Kura Costa Rica

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Lindsey Andrews

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