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The Green Life: Family Vacations: The Good, the Bad, the Eco-Friendly

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June 17, 2009

Family Vacations: The Good, the Bad, the Eco-Friendly

Greenfamilyvacation When it comes to family vacations, we all have vivid memories, be they fond, bizarre, or somewhat stressful. But how green were those trips? With marathon driving sessions, constant dining out, and nights in inefficient hotels, probably not very.

So here are some ideas for lower-impact travel, which can save money and stress along the way.


•    Try taking a train instead of a plane or car – on average, train trips produce just a fraction the carbon emissions of a plane flight. Bonus: your chance for lost luggage dramatically decreases.

•    If you take a car, pack light: Extra weight in the trunk decreases fuel efficiency. Also, that ride will feel a lot shorter when everyone has ample leg room.

•    Eat locally when possible – not only are you supporting sustainability in the region, but you’re experiencing the flavor of it. Plus, eating well reduces the chance of candy-bar-induced backseat hysteria.

•    If you choose staying in a hotel over camping, check out greenhotels.com or environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com to find lodging that conserves resources and reduces waste.

•    Pack reusable shopping bags and water bottles, reducing overall consumption, waste, and the cost of buying several power drinks at each pit stop.

•    Once at your destination, travel on foot or by bike as much as possible. It minimizes impact, and car tours are overrated anyway. Does this sound familiar? “Susie, quit putting marshmallows in your brother’s nose and enjoy the blankety blank scenery!”

•    Consider staying local. It’s easy to overlook the parks, museums and attractions that are close to home. Travel expenses will be lower, logistics will be simpler, and there’ll be lots more time to enjoy your destination.

•    Volunteer your vacation: The Earthwatch Institute offers family expeditions that allow both parents and kids to engage with scientists in research in amazing natural locations, whether it’s following whales in British Columbia or identifying medicinal plants in Kenya.

For more information on green travel, check out these resources:

The Green Year, by Jodi Helmer, provides daily tips about how to minimize your environmental impact.

Responsibletravel.com is a travel service with a focus on sustainability and helping local economies.

Want to see how green your travel is? Take the Sierra Club's  “How Green is My Getaway?” quiz.

--Jamie Hansen

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