How to Consume Less … On Vacation

This spring, we’re dedicating our blog to the idea of consuming less, a good way to explore how much is enough for today. That doesn’t mean that you need to give up everything you own and go live in a tree (though that’s great if you do, and many of us feel like we’d love to do that about once a day!). This month, however, we’re dedicating our time to giving you ideas on how you can consume less in reasonable ways in things that you do every day. Today’s topic? How to consume less when you’re on vacation. (Be sure to scroll to the bottom for our handy infographic).

Vacation is an essential part of life. The chance to recharge, explore new parts of the world, learn about new cultures and food and just get out of the rat race altogether is important for mental health and stress reduction. Nobody would ever suggest that you not take much-needed vacation time. But there are things that you can do that will make your vacation friendly to the planet, less heavy on overall consumption and even easier on your wallet. How can you do this? Here are our favorite six tips for reducing consumption and waste on vacation.

Tip Number One: Don’t Confuse Vacation with “Free Pass”

The first thing that you want to make sure to keep in mind is that vacation is not the same as having a free pass. Yes, it’s true that you’re most likely on vacation for two weeks or less per year, but if you multiple out the “free pass” impact of everybody who goes on vacation, then you’ll see that the overall impact on the planet can be massive. For starters, think about the food and beverages that you consume on vacation and understand that vacation isn’t an excuse to add to the massive food waste problem (or to ruin your health or weight loss goals). You can still order exotic foods, just do so in moderation. Also, avoid “free pass” activities like running the hot water for hours or having your towels laundered every day. Enjoy your vacation, ease up on your life, but don’t just throw all awareness of what’s good for you and good for the planet to the wind.

Tip Number Two: Be Conscious About Souvenirs

Vacation souvenirs can be one of the worst cases of a free pass turning into something that ultimately becomes landfill and was most likely made using practices that are decidedly not eco-friendly (and possibly even exploitative of labor in developing worlds). We’re actually incredibly proud of this list of eco-friendly, consume-less vacation souvenir ideas that we came up with. Take a look at it and hopefully it will inspire you to find better alternatives to t-shirts and coffee mugs on your next vacation!

Tip Number Three: Some Vacations are Better Than Others

If you have your heart set on a trip to Disney, then you should go to Disney. Learning to find the satisfaction of enough for today is about knowing where you want to make changes and where you’re not ready to make changes. But when you make your decision about where you want to spend your vacation (and your vacation dollars), make it with the awareness that the “big box” theory of shopping applies to vacations as well. Huge resorts (like Disney, but not exclusive to Disney) and particularly all-inclusive hotels and resorts keep prices affordable by avoiding many environmentally-friendly practices. That’s not to say that all hotels and resorts are evil or that they’re not trying to be better at these practices. But it does mean that when you go “big box” for vacation, you’re buying into a system that may help your vacation budget but not reflect your ideals. More isn’t necessarily better. You should take the vacation that youwant to take, but be aware of the pros and cons.

Tip Number Four: Utilize Hotel Laundry Avoidance Techniques

One of the ways in which resorts and hotels have become much better at being eco-friendly is by offering you the option of not having your towels and sheets laundered every day. Typically, when you check into your hotel room, you’ll find a card on the bed or the sink with instructions. Most often the instructions are that if you want your towels laundered you should leave them on the floor and if you want your sheets laundered you should leave a card on the bed, but it may vary by location. It’s actually odd that in hotels traditional feeling is that we need clean sheets and towels every day that we’re there. Think about it. If you were at home, you’d only change the sheets weekly (and not even that for some of us!). If your hotel offers the ability to not launder your linens every day, take advantage of it. When you multiply out all of the water and energy that hotels and resorts can save by reducing their daily laundry by even a fraction, it’s significant.

Tip Number Five: Beware Hotel Sample Sizes

Oh, we all love the sample size shampoo and soap that is available at hotels and resorts. It’s a chance to treat yourself and avoid packing liquids. But those sample sizes create lots and lots of waste. Just consider for a moment all of the half-used bars of soap and tiny plastic bottles of shampoo across the world. Pack your own toiletries and use them when on vacation. If you are going to use hotel samples, try to encourage the hotels that you stay in to participate in theGlobal Soap project or take your unused toiletries home with you where you can finish using them and then recycle the containers.

Tip Number Six: Bring a Cooler With You!

Take-out food. Disposable water and beverage bottles. Mass-produced snack food. All of these things are frequent companions on vacation trips. Whether you’re traveling in a car and need food for the trip or whether you throw a soft-pack cooler into your suitcase and use it in the hotel and when out for day trips within your vacation, bringing your own cooler, snacks and reusable water bottles and utensils can have a big impact on the eco-consciousness of your vacation. Pack it right along with your extra jacket or your sun block!

Have another idea on how to consume less when you’re on vacation? You tell us. Comment below or tell us about it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.

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