Make Earth-first choices while traveling
It's sobering to realize how much waste we generate when we travel, especially compared with our usual patterns of recycling and reuse at home.
AS YOU PLUNGE into the last of your summer travels or Labor Day adventures, consider some Earth-first choices while on the road. It's sobering to realize how much waste we generate when we travel, especially compared with our usual patterns of recycling and reuse at home. Here are some ideas to help you cut back:
• Power your iPhone, camera, GPS and other travel devices with a solar-powered charging device from Better Energy Systems Inc. The company's Solio products use photovoltaic technology to capture energy from the sun's rays to charge handheld electronics that have a USB connection. Choose from a variety of size and power capacities that range from $70 to $150 at www.solio.com. You can also find them at some mobile-phone stores, REI and electronics shops.
• Forgo packing extra disposable batteries for your electronic devices by bringing along USB rechargeable batteries. Moixa Energy Ltd. has developed a battery that can recharge when plugged into a USB port. No extra charging unit is needed, and the batteries can be used time and again. You can order a two-pack of AA USB batteries at www.usbcell.com for about $20, including shipping. You can also find them at some electronics stores, including Circuit City.
• Plastic bags can be your best friend while traveling, but they can amount to a lot of unnecessary waste. Keep using those zip-lock plastic bags for your airplane liquids, but consider cloth bags for carrying sandwiches, snacks and other essentials. The company Wrap-N-Mat (www.wrapnmat.com) offers a cloth and plastic version that folds into a food container. ChicoBag (www.chicobag.com) sells cloth pouches that can accommodate sandwiches or your favorite snack. And Re-Pac Bags' water-resistant pouches (www.re-pacbags.com) are yet another counterpart to plastic bags. All three companies offer a variety of sizes and funky cloth patterns and colors, selling for roughly $6 to $16. Visit their websites for more information.
• Choose a hotel, resort or B&B that belongs to the Green Hotels Association, an organization that provides tips and suggestions on how properties can be more sustainable in their daily practices by cutting back on water use, laundry load and waste. Visit www.greenhotels.com and browse through a list of properties that have pledged membership to the organization. You can also read the recommendations for hotels to reduce their impact on the environment.
• If your favorite suitcase or travel bag is on its last leg, why not purchase luggage made from recycled materials and eco-friendly fabrics? Luggage inspired from the "Planet Earth" television series is made using low-chemical materials, and fabrics such as cotton and bamboo. A number of styles are available at www.luggagepros.com. Search for "planet earth."
Other tips to "green" your travel:
• Before leaving home, unplug unneeded appliances and switch off power cords to cut down on wasted electricity.
• Turn off heating and cooling systems if temperature extremes aren't an issue.
• If you have a smartphone, check in online and save paper with an electronic boarding pass.
• At your destination, opt for public transportation such as trains, subways and buses. Or hop on a rented bicycle.
• If you must rent a vehicle, choose a hybrid or fuel-efficient compact car.
• Stay at a hotel that offers eco-friendly options, including a choice to reuse your bath towels and bed sheets during your stay.
• Bring your own shampoo, lotion and soap in travel-sized containers to avoid using disposable products offered in hotels.
• Carry a reusable water bottle and coffee mug to avoid buying and discarding plastic ones. Use that coffee cup for beverages on the airplane, too.
• Take along a reusable shopping bag or two.
• Try to eat and drink from locally sourced restaurants.
• On road trips, pack a small cooler with food you've prepared at home.
Michelle Ma is a Seattle-based freelance writer.