Traveling for the Holidays? Read This First.

Sarah Moore Impact Mill Contributor

According to Perry Como, there’s no place like home for the holidays. Or your sister’s house in Tempe, or that amazing beach shack in Barbados or…the list goes on and on. Simply put, travel seems to be an integral part of celebration, everyone getting together in one place to wine and dine and generally have a good time.

But while we often associate travel with eco-unfriendly activities such as burning fossil fuels and over-consuming, travel doesn’t have to be outrageously wasteful. These days, with the 21st century green mindset now well established, it’s possible to plan an eco-friendly vacation from start to finish. Even if you’re traveling to stay with family or friends, as opposed to planning a full vacation, you can still apply many of these principles.

Fly or Drive?


Check out what kinds of public transportation are available at your destination | image: Minamie’s Photo/Flickr

Whether flying or driving is greener has generated no end of controversy. The widely popularized ‘flyer’s dilemma’ has led many people to believe that dear God under no circumstances should you board a plane, you eco-terrorist jerk. But, the real story honestly isn’t that clear.

While vehicle for vehicle, plans are definitely more destructive, planes are also more efficient. They are, after all, a form of public transportation, while cars frequently contain only one passenger. This changes the math somewhat, making planes look like a greener option than we thought. Sadly, it doesn’t look like the end to this controversy is in sight and time soon…though it does point to the idea that you should try to fill your car with passengers before taking it on long trips.

Choose a “Green” Destination

Although heading home or to a family member’s house for the holidays is fairly common, it’s becoming more common to meet up with family around the globe. If you do, going green becomes simpler, because you can take your pick of eco-friendly resorts. While the word resort conjures images of Brangelina strolling the beach when they were still happy (too soon?), I’ve stayed at several green resorts within a very reasonable price range, say $80-$130 a night.

Some countries are also greener than others. If you want to be a true eco-tourist, helping the world as you see it, you should opt for countries that put sustainability and human rights high on their list of priorities.

Cut Waste Along the Way

When I travel, a lot of my good habits go out the window. While I try hard not to buy packaged foods at home, a granola bar, bag of chips and soda water seem a lot more acceptable when I’m blearily stumbling toward my gate at 6 a.m. I try to avoid falling into that trap by packing snacks ahead of time, which reduces the amount of trash I’ll have to toss mere minutes later.

This article includes a great list of potential snacks, though be sure to avoid the prepackaged foods listed at the top and scroll town for the items you can bring in bulk. When traveling, I keep nuts and dried fruit on hand at all times to sate my hunger, and when I do cave and buy airport food, I always hang on to the packaging until I can recycle it responsibly.

These are just a few ideas, of course, but hopefully they demonstrate that being wasteful isn’t a foregone conclusion, even when you’re on the road or in the air. May your holidays be merry and bright!

Sarah Moore is an Impact Mill contributor and freelance writer who focuses on sustainability, local food, and the weirder side of science. In her spare time she enjoys writing fiction, running, and cooking. Sarah lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, two children, two dogs, and an unshakable colony of June bugs.