Top 10 Tips for a Greener Summer Vacation

Top 10 Tips for a Greener Summer Vacation
Go Camping!

Go Camping!

It’s officially summer, and for those couples and families not devastated by persistent recession and joblessness, it’s also time for that annual vacation. We’re thinking camping, or RVing, because as pricey as fuel is, it still beats the cost of one or more motel/hotel rooms and eating out every meal. To motivate you, we’ve turned our advice into a contest. Winners get a virtual pat on the back.

  • If you don’t have an RV or recreational vehicle – what the British insist on referring to as a caravan – you can rent one, which may help you decide what kind to buy if you are ever in the market. If you already have an RV, we’re hoping you bring a portable solar power station (give yourself 5 points). These systems can be used to run electric appliances (coffee pot, blender, and toaster), grooming aids (electric razor, electric toothbrush), computers and peripherals, and small power tools for stop-and-go repairs. They also allow you to install night or safety lights, in the form of LEDs, and power cell phones and other communications devices that might be lifesavers should you run into real problems 50 miles from Nowhere, Nebraska. To cut down on electric use and maximize your solar power, buy a wind-up clock or alarm, a hand-operated can opener and a manual toothbrush (and chalk up two points if you keep using them after you return home).
  • If your RV is older, get a tune-up (two points). This will make it run more efficiently and waste less gasoline or diesel so the air stays cleaner. Also check your tires, both when you start out and daily thereafter (one point per day). Tires that aren’t properly inflated not only deteriorate twice as fast as usual, but cause vehicles to use up to 15 percent more fuel.
  • If the kids are getting cramped in the RV, take a night off at an eco-friendly inn or lodge (one point per night). Simply Google “green” hotels, or go to the “Green” Hotels Association’s website. If you can’t find anything that appeals in your price range, call the regional Chamber of Commerce site, which is available from the U.S. Chamber’s website. These wonderful people are in business to make sure you visit their area and love it so much you return year after year.
  • If you travel via RV, instead of renting a car to tour local landmarks, rent a bike (1.5 points per biker). It’s the cheapest form of transportation going. In addition, the bicycle workout will trim any flab you’ve acquired sitting behind the steering wheel and eating like there’s never going to be another vacation!
  • If you can’t find rental bikes, make your choice an electric vehicle, or EV, for an automatic five points. This will also help you decide what kind of clean, green car you’re going to trade up to when the lease on your current vehicle expires (or when the vehicle you purchased passes that instant-obsolescence five-year mark).
  • If you absolutely must see Bali, then of course you will have to fly. Too bad for you that flying is the dirtiest, most polluting form of travel there is, and you automatically lose five points for doing so.  To get back two points, make a commitment that next year will be a staycation. Another two points if you spend your staycation building a rain garden or a compost bin.
  • Number six is halfway down the list, but probably the most important thing you can do for the earth (and your wallet). Turn off all unnecessary appliances in your home, for two points. Clean out the frig and put it in vacation mode, turn down the air conditioner to about 80 degrees and set it on Energy Saver mode (another two points). If you don’t have an AC with Energy Saver mode, turn it up to about 85. It will only take four hours to cool the average home down to a pleasant 75 again.
  • Patronize family-friendly green restaurants. Find restaurants dedicated to eating locally, and those that source their electricity from renewables like solar, wind and geothermal. You can plot your course using Google maps, and mark the green restaurants along the way using the Green Restaurant Association’s search functions. My personal favorite is the chain of Chipotle Grills, which serve Tex/Mex food using the solar energy from their 2009 renewable energy initiative. In fact, Chipotle’s Gurnee, Illinois operation was  the first restaurant in the nation to get a LEED Platinum rating! One half point for every “green” meal you eat (which isn’t much but you’re already having fun scarfing down superb food at an affordable price, aren’t you?)
  • Invest in stainless steel water bottles, one per family member, and fill up when you stop for meals. Let’s try to end the BPA nightmare in one generation. One point per bottle, but only if they are used and not lost on the floor of your RV.
  • Instead of Twinkies or candy bars, stock up on snack foods at a local farmer’s market or whole food store. Buy unprocessed nuts, dried fruits, granola mixes, beef jerky and popcorn in the aluminum foil camper pac. Also buy a solar flashlight to keep the monsters (and broken ankles) at bay. Now you can relax around your green campsite and let talking and telling stories become the highlight of this year’s family vacation.
  • El Monte Sagrado

    El Monte Sagrado

    For older couples, who no longer see the charm in roughing it (and whose children have left home), consider an eco-friendly spa, where you can let the staff pamper you for a change. In Wisconsin, this is the Sundara Inn and Spa. At the other end of the U.S., there is El Monte Sagrado in New Mexico. Rancho La Puerta, in San Diego, California covers the West Coast, and Koru Eco Spa at Block Island in Rhode Island covers the East. You’ll never want to go home, but duty calls, and just how many mud baths and hot stone therapy sessions can you handle, anyway?

How’d you do? Add up your points and respond with your comments to find out who is the greenest traveler this year. Let us know if you have any more tips of your own, too!

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