Mid-February: This is about the time every year that winter really starts wearing out its welcome. Those of us who reside where winter hits hardest – Midwest and Northeast, I’m looking at you – could use a vacation right about now, even if it’s just a long weekend away from snow, sleet, ice and all the hassles winter weather brings.
The point of vacationing is to escape the banalities of everyday life and kick back a little, but that doesn’t mean taking a vacation gives anyone an open invitation to be environmentally irresponsible. Instead of forgetting about the Earth when planning your next trip, follow the principles of ecotourism.
Ecotourism is any form of travel that benefits people, their land and its ecosystem. A good saying to keep in mind is the one you’ve probably seen at national parks or wildlife preserves: “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs.” Simply put, ecotourism is traveling while maintaining global consciousness.
Taking a volunteer vacation allows you to relax, enjoy nature and work to preserve it. The Colorado Trail Foundation offers such a vacation – volunteers work in teams to improve the trail, and for their efforts they’re able to stay for a discounted rate ($30 for a weekend, $60 for a week). Volunteer vacations reward travelers as they learn outdoors skills hands-on and contribute to environmental preservation.
Ok, let’s say you’re not the outdoorsy type and you prefer to stay in a city or at a resort. That doesn’t exclude you from taking an eco-friendly vacation in the slightest. Browse Bright Hub’s list of eco-friendly hotels and motels, and see which ones are nearest to your destination. Travelocity also has a comprehensive directory of green hotels.
Travel by Train
Trains may not strike you as being particularly eco-friendly, but on a per-passenger basis, they are. According to data from the U.S. Department of Energy, travel via Amtrak is 14 percent more efficient than commercial airline travel and 31 percent more efficient than driving. Amtrak trains service 46 of the contiguous U.S., so the odds are good that an Amtrak train can get you to your vacation destination (sorry, South Dakota and Wyoming).
Take a Staycation
It’s easy to get so caught up in daily life that you forget to appreciate your own city. A staycation during February might not be a great idea if your area is snow-covered, but if your local winter is mild, consider turning off the lights and spending a day at a nearby park. You don’t need to go far to get away, and by reducing your travel distance, the environment will thank you.
There’s really no good reason that any vacation can’t be made more eco-friendly. Even if you’ve already booked a trip that doesn’t fit the green trip criteria, there are always little ways to ease your burden on the planet. Even if it’s just swapping a cab ride for a bicycle rental or picking up a careless individual’s trash on the beach, every little bit counts.
Drop us a comment about ecotourism ideas or a memorable eco-friendly vacation you’ve taken.