The summer heat has arrived, prompting many Phoenicians, myself included, to leave town whenever possible in search of cooler temperatures. I recently was able to beat the heat by visiting Flagstaff. The cooler climate, green pine trees and general change of scenery was a refreshing break from the hot Valley of the Sun and definitely made for a bittersweet to return to our 100+ temperatures.
As we were preparing for our trip, I started finding numerous aspects of our packing that we could make more sustainable. From using reusable water bottles to taking our most fuel efficient car, there were some easy changes we made to our original plans to make our trip more earth-friendly.
So, before you shop and pack for your next weekend getaway, consider the following sustainable travel tips. Hopefully they will inspire you to make different purchase decisions and reduce your waste potential long before you leave the house.
1. Pack with reusability in mind
Whether you're going camping or staying at a hotel, there are easy ways to pack more reusable items. Instead of packing plastic water bottles, invest in a few reusable water bottles that can be used again and again throughout the duration of your trip. Choose a few metal utensils over disposable plastic knives and forks. As an alternative to packing toiletries and miscellaneous items in Ziploc bags, you can buy some longer-lasting and reusable fabric bags. Reusable food storage containers, bottles, and other items may cost a little more now, but will save you money in the long run and avoid massive amounts of waste.
2. Recycle what you can, when you can
Sometimes it can be hard to pack everything in reusable containers, which is where recycling comes into play to make your trip as sustainable as possible. Although Americans recycle and estimated 2.4 billion pounds of plastic each year, that only makes up about 27% of plastic thrown away. That means almost 6.5 billion pounds of plastic goes directly into landfills every year! Since plastic doesn’t break down, it is causing landfills to fill up at alarming rates. Lesson? Always opt for paper whenever possible, and reuse and recycle plastic whenever you can. You can also pick up biodegradable utensils and plates such as these.
3. Carpool with friends and family
Here in Phoenix, we have a couple of close and popular destinations to escape the heat. Flagstaff, Sedona, and Prescott all offer a relief from our hot desert temperatures, as well as a nice change of pace and scenery. If you're planning a trip with friends or family, try to plan it so you can leave together in the same car. By not taking multiple cars to reach your getaway, you'll cut down on CO2 emissions as well as save on the money your whole party spends on gas. If you choose the most fuel efficient car, these benefits will grow even more. It's a win-win!
4. Live like a local
Living like a local, no matter where your destination is, will also contribute to making your trip more sustainable. Instead of eating at that common restaurant chain, try a popular local haunt. Rather than buying items from Wal-Mart or Target, try to find a more local store to get any needed products from. By purchasing local items, you're cutting down on the energy used to transport products from where they're manufactured to their final destination, not to mention you'll also be supporting the local businesses and economy. You'll have a more authentic experience when you live like a local, too!
As you go about packing for your next trip, take a little extra time to think about whether or not an item could be replaced with a more sustainable option. There are many options for reducing your footprint, so we invite you to check out our blog for even more options.
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*This blog has been updated since it's original publication of 8/7/2017.