Travel Tip: 8 Great Ways to Help Travel Companies Be More Environmentally Kind

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle is one of the most powerful tag lines, ever. I first used personal computers in 1978 and I am still waiting for the promise of a paperless society to come to fruition.

Travel companies are some of the biggest resource wasters. Here are some ways to combat.

  1. Reduce Travel. Dang, that is a tough first step. Do you really need to take that trip? The less we travel, the less resources we use. Tremendous carbon output would be avoided if instead of flying across the country or the world for a meeting, make it work via email, IM, phone, teleconference, and so on.
  2. Use Digital Boarding Passes. For flights this month, I used eight sheets of paper to print boarding passes for my party of four. Sure, I recycled the paper but would have preferred to not use any paper. Some airlines offer electronic boarding passes on iPhones and other mobile devices. I will send that airline a note requesting that they implement a paperless boarding pass option.
  3. BYOB – Bring Your Own Bottle. Flight attendants on the same airline passed out dozens of small plastic bottles of water. For every passenger that brings an empty bottle to the airport and fills it with water (from a fountain or soft drink dispenser) vast resources are saved.
  4. Encourage Travel Companies to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. The same flight attendants collected the plastic water bottles in the same bags with trash, newspapers, and magazines. I doubt that it is all sorted later into recyclables and trash. I will also send the airline a note encouraging it to implement a recycling program.
  5. Avoid Renting a Car. To say it another way, use mass transportation. If your hotel provides a shuttle, use it. Use rail, buses, trolleys to get around town. Even better, walk or bike. I love that many US cities are setting up bike rental stations.
  6. Rent Hybrid Vehicles. OK, if you must rent a car, rent a hybrid vehicle. Hybrids use less fuel and resources.
  7. Reuse Towels. Do you launder your bath towels every day at home? If you are staying in a hotel, B&B, etc., for more than one day, use the same towels for the entire visit. Be diligent about helping the property save water by not washing your linens. Most annoying are hotels that have a policy but do not follow it. If they have a sign in the bathroom saying they will only replace towels on the floor or in the tub but then replace all of the hanging towels anyway–then notify the manager.
  8. Eat Local. Local equals authentic. Farmers markets are good for the local economy and for you (healthy, fun). Local restaurants use the freshest possible ingredients. Resources are reduced because transportation issues are reduced. Quality is often better. One of London’s best restaurants is The Roof Gardens’ Babylon Restaurant, a sustainable entity of Richard Branson’s Virgin empire.

These are only a few steps. There are countless others. One of the most important aspects, I believe, is awareness. Contact travel companies are let them know that they need to do a better job of reducing their use of natural resources. Perhaps I will re-visit this topic in one year to assess the progress.

What are your suggestions?

Charles McCool is an independent consumer travel advocate.

For frequent travel deals, follow me on Facebook (McCool Travel) and Twitter (@CharlesMcCool).

© 2011, Charles McCool

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