Family Walking on Ski Vacation

Travel after the Coronavirus: An Easy Guide to Sustainable Travel

In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, something beautiful has happened. The Earth has had space to heal.
 
We’ve been forced to practice social distancing and self-quarantine. Quick trips to the grocery store, let alone travel to another country are frowned upon, or even prohibited. But with that we’ve also been forced to be still in our surroundings. We’re growing closer to our inner compass and as a result we’re also reducing our carbon footprint.
 
In the short time that travel bans have been in place, the Earth has been given a chance to rest and recover. With less people in motion, real changes are happening: the canals in Venice are becoming clearer, the skies in China less smoke-filled, 475K sea turtles laid their eggs due to empty beaches in India, and the list goes on.
 
During this slow season, I’ve been thinking more and more about travel and our impact. The ability to travel and explore the world with our family is a blessing, but at what cost? Sustainable travel does not need to be expensive or overwhelming, but it DOES matter. The travel bans will lift and life will resume. But what will you do? Rush back out there and leave a mark? Or proceed with thoughtfulness and grace?
 
If you’re new to the sustainable travel scene and are unsure where to start, read on! I’m sharing my top tips on how to travel eco-friendly with ease.

1. Rent Your Gear

One of the most gratifying ways to protect the Earth is by consuming less. By no means do I live a minimalist lifestyle (not yet, anyways!), but I am very aware of what I’m purchasing and why. Despite traveling to various climates or needing specific gear for the kids, I really try to limit what I buy in preparation for a trip. Why buy something that you may not need again for years?? Instead, rent it! As consumers, every purchase we make is critical. We all can make an impact.
 
My favorite rental companies for travel include: Arrive Outdoors, a premium outdoor gear rental company where you can rent anything from ski and snow gear to camping and hiking equipment; LensRental, the largest online rental provider for photography, videography, and lighting equipment in the United States; BabyQuip, the #1 Baby Gear rental service that provides everything from full-size cribs, car seats, high chairs, bath tubs, beach gear, and more; and lastly, Rent the Runway, a subscription fashion service that allows women to rent designer styles for a flat monthly price.
family on vacation in hot tub

2. Cut Back on Flying

According to the Environmental Performance Index, air quality is the leading environmental threat to our public health. Luckily, we live in a region where there are endless family-friendly vacation spots within a days drive. And although it isn’t always feasible to drive to some of the world’s greatest destinations, we do try to limit our air travel as much as possible.
 
Flying less doesn’t necessarily mean cutting back on travel. It could look like combining multiple short trips into one long vacation, flying nonstop when possible, or traveling by train or bus. And when you do fly, opt for newer planes that are more energy efficient.
pacifica in front of family home

3. Choose Eco-Friendly Hotels

There are some incredible hotels that are making real changes in the world of sustainable tourism. And in a time when environmental awareness is at an all time high, finding an eco-friendly hotel is not the issue. Instead, it’s a matter of weeding through all the options since most search engines don’t filter for ‘environmentally responsible’. My recommendation? Compile a list of your top choices for a destination and then research their website to determine first, are they eco-friendly? And secondly, what exactly does their commitment to sustainability look like?
 
A great example is Sugarloaf Mountain, from snow-making and educating their guests, to waste management and a Snowfluent plant, Sugarloaf stands behind their commitment to reducing their carbon footprint to zero by 2030.
 
**Pro- tip: If possible, take it one step further and stay in locally owned hotels as a way to put money back into the local community you’re visiting.
Mother and son enjoying vacation

4. Say NO to Plastic

Eliminating single use plastic from your life, whether it be at home or away, is the single most important thing you can do to protect the environment. Once these products are tossed they usually end up in the environment in some form. The effects of plastic on marine life cannot be understated. It is estimated that 10-20 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans each year, and 5.25 trillion plastic particles are currently floating around in the world’s oceans. [1]
 
Fortunately, it’s not hard to eliminate single-use plastic from your life. By making small investments and swapping out single-use plastic straws, water bottles, shopping bags, and cutlery, etc, for reusable options, you can make a big impact.
 
My favorite non-plastic travel essentials: Hydroflask, Miir thermal mug, silicone travel containers, and bamboo utensils.
child enjoying beach

5. Pack Light

Less is always more and this certainly applies to travel. It’s quite simple: the lighter your luggage, the lighter the plane, the less fuel used, and fewer carbon emissions from your trip.
 
By packing less you’ll also have more space to enjoy your trip, physically and mentally. So leave that 49.5 lb bag behind and bring only what you NEED!

6. Invest in Sustainable Products

You can make a difference with your wallet by supporting brands who focus on sustainability throughout their entire production process. In sustainable travel, where less is more, quality also trumps quantity. If you need to purchase new items for a trip, it’s important you find products that will last forever.

stephanie graves destination graves family travel blogger
My fav go-to Athleta pullover
Here are a few brands that incorporate both eco-friendly practices into their businesses and produce high-quality products.
 
LLBean is passionate about keeping the outdoors healthy for current and future generations to enjoy. Since their establishment over 100 years ago, they have stood behind the ‘lifetime guarantee’ of their products. Not only do they make durable everything, they also focus on using responsible standards, taking care of the people they employ, and contributing to various environmental organizations.
 
Athleta is a certified B corp and takes pride in putting the planet and their people first. Goals for 2020 include: 80% of their materials made with sustainable fibers, 25% of products made with water-saving techniques, and 80% of their waste to be diverted from landfills.
 
The North Face is committed to reducing their footprint because they know that their success as a business is a direct reflection of the health of the planet. As a brand, they empower exploration and behind the scenes they work diligently to offset their carbon emissions, educate the youth, and evolve the way they make their products
dad and son skiing lessons
Daddy and Rory proudly sporting their North Face and LLBean gear

7. Leave No Trace

As we spend time exploring the great outdoors, it’s important to remember what effects our actions may have on certain animals, plants, etc. There’s no question that travel in this day and age has overexposed some areas, and in turn, led to significant resource and social impacts. But by following the seven Leave No Trace principles you can help protect the natural world and minimize your footprint. These principles are a framework for making good decisions and enjoying the outdoors responsibly. From knowing the special concerns of a specific location, to leaving all natural objects untouched, we all play a vital role in protecting the natural world.

FAther and son at waterfall

8. Buy Local

Food is a central focus of many cultures and what a better way to tap into a region than to eat local. It’s almost like a right of passage, you have to taste the local delicacies in order to really experience the culture.
 
Eating local not only means fresher and healthier foods, but it also translates into reduced emissions and less packaging as foods do not have to travel as far. And as a bonus, it’s one of the easiest (and tastiest) ways to support the local economy!
small cakes and treats

9. Support Local Businesses

Although it may be more expensive to buy local, it’s a great way to ensure that your contribution will have a direct, positive impact on its economy. I think we’d all agree a pristine beach is better than a dirty beach, right?
 
It’s important when visiting a new place to support local businesses and use them as a vehicle to learn more about its history and culture. What fun and unconventional things are there to do there? What makes that place unique?
 
Try to avoid the ‘bucket list’ items as this contributes to over tourism and takes away from that deeper experience. Instead look for more meaningful opportunities, this may include: visiting a historic museum, hiring a local guide, working with a local photographer, purchasing hand-made souvenirs, etc, etc.
girls surfing lessons

10. Lead by Example

Don’t leave it solely up to the local clean-up crew to pick up litter, be proactive in your travels. If you see a piece of trash on the beach, dispose of it! Our kids are watching our every move, so why not set a good example. Simple things like reusing your towels, flipping the lights off, walking or biking versus driving, or even seeking out a local sustainability project, are all easy ways to mold budding conservationists.
 
Being a responsible traveler isn’t just about using bamboo straws and eating local food. It’s equally as important to spread the word and share how you’re taking steps to protect our planet. Stand up and be a resource! By educating others on how these seemingly small changes can make a big difference, you can influence the way your friends, family, and even future generations approach travel. Don’t worry about making all the ‘perfect’ choices, simply focus on making better, more sustainable decisions. The small changes you make today influence those around you, and together we can create a global shift in the way people travel.
 
Let’s all play our part in letting Mother Earth continue to heal and reveal her true beauty.
 
 
What are your favorite sustainable travel tips and resources?
 
XO, Steph
ski lifts at sugarloaf mountain
beautiful forest photo
Resources:
[1] Jenny Griffin, Janaya Wilkins. Plastic Pollution: The Impact of plastic pollution on
our oceans and what we can do about it.

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