• Wed, Feb 2 2011

5 Ways to Be Eco-Friendly While Traveling

photo: Thinkstock

Snow days are like time-outs for grown-ups, except that they’re cold and wet, and you have to shovel the driveway. It might be time to plan a long weekend away to someplace warm. But before you Tweet your travel itinerary and shop for sandals and sunscreen, consider cleaning up your disappearing act. Are you as eco-friendly in a different city as you are in your own? Being aware of the planet is just as important as traveling it. So we asked eco-friendly living expert Sara Snow, host of Get Fresh With Sara Snow and author of Sara Snow’s Fresh Living, for the skinny on five ways to easily avoid committing eco-gaffes while traveling – hopefully to somewhere tropical.

Shut down the house.

Turning down the thermostat while you’re away is a no-brainer, but do you remember to unplug all of your appliances before you take off? Some household appliances use up to 40 watts per hour when they’re turned off but still plugged in. Be sure to yank the cord (or switch off the power strip) on everything from TVs to toasters. Finally, stop your mail service and newspapers for the time you’ll be away to prevent returning home to a paper pile-up.

Avoid layovers to conserve energy.

Takeoffs and landings burn more fuel than cruising (as much as 25% of the energy used on short trips), so choosing a nonstop flight can decrease your carbon footprint. The most eco-friendly way to fly is on a full aircraft (and not a private jet – who do you think you are, one of the Real Housewives?) with the least amount of layovers possible. If you’re venturing fewer than 600 miles, consider taking a train instead.

Avoid the mini bar.

Hotel products are cute, but if you’re using all the little bottles stocked in your suite, housekeeping will only replenish them – constantly. Invest in travel-size bottles to carry your toiletries and you’ll help to avoid wasted packaging of hotel mini bottles.

Treat your hotel like home.

Many of us treat vacations as an excuse to slack off on our normally eco-conscious ways. Pretend you’re staying with a friend and continue with your everyday conservation habits. Flip off the lights when you leave the room, turn down the heat or air-conditioning, and always shut off the TV. If the sun’s going to be hot, make sure to close the drapes. Save your indulgences for those poolside mango margaritas.

Do not disturb.

Unless you’re a complete slob, there’s really no need for the housekeeping staff to run the vacuum and change your sheets and towels every day. Be the opposite of a rock star and tidy up your on your own. Reuse towels by remembering to hang them up to dry instead of relying on fresh ones being replenished. When you leave the room, remember to hang up the “Do Not Disturb” sign to keep the well-meaning housecleaning staff out.

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