I cringed when I read a recent NYTimes article in which it was reported that the carbon emissions from a single 2,500 mile flight (roughly the distance from New York to Los Angeles) is enough to melt 32 square feet of arctic ice. Another recent study found that tourism accounts for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Double cringe.
The truth is that travel, whether by plane, boat, or car is not exactly green.
With all of the good that comes from travel, like helping the economy and broadening our minds, comes the bad: carbon emissions, gas guzzling road trips and pollution.
So it’s about time that people consider their environmental impact when they plan their next journey. That goes for our pets too! We have a moral obligation to at least attempt to do what’s best for our planet.
Here are small ways that you can help the environment when traveling with your pet. They’re small interventions, yes, but every step forward is a step in the right direction.
1. Pack Compostable Poop Bags
Help reduce the environmental impact of dog waste and the amount of plastic going into landfills by using compostable poop bags.
But before you hit “add to cart,” do a little research. In 2015, the Federal Trade Commission cracked down on 20 poop bag companies, saying they “may be deceiving consumers with the use of their unqualified ‘biodegradable’ claim.” Make sure the bags you’re purchasing meet the ASTM D6400 criteria, which is only given to products that can actually be composted.
My brand of choice sells these, which are made of plant-based materials.
2. If You’re Flying, Book Direct Flights
Air travel accounts for 12% of all transportation greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Ouch. But sometimes, flying is the only way to get from Point A to Point B.
Since takeoffs and landings cause the most emissions, we can lower our carbon footprint by reducing the number of flights we take. Cut out that connecting flight (and bonus: avoid a boring layover) by flying direct.
But wait, we can do a bit more to offset our carbon footprint. Take a page from the NYTimes’ book, and give back. You can use an online carbon calculator to learn your flight’s emissions, and offset the carbon burned by funding renewable energy projects. The NYTimes uses Cool Effect, a site that shares carbon-mitigation projects around the world, to choose who to donate to. It’s not a total solution, but it’s a start.
3. Use Mobile Tickets
There’s no need to waste paper and print your boarding passes anymore. You can opt out of paper tickets and use your phone. Many airlines, bus companies, and trains now provide electronic tickets that scan straight from your mobile device.
4. Stay in a Green Hotel
Hotels can be super wasteful, so it’s nice to see some getting serious about green initiatives. These eco-friendly accommodations have made a commitment to green practices, like recycling, serving local and organic food, and offering electric car charging stations. You can use search engines like environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com or TripAdvisor’s Green Leaders Program to find them.
5. Bring a Reusable Water Bottle
It’s important for you and your pup to stay hydrated while on the road. Using a reusable water bottle reduces the number of disposable plastic bottles that you might otherwise be tempted to buy. Plus, it’ll cut down on costs. You an refill for free at your hotel, public water fountains and restaurants.
Pro tip: bring an empty reusable water bottle in your carry on and fill it up when you get past security at the airport. You won’t have to wait for the drink cart during your flight for fresh water.
This stainless steel one comes highly recommended.
6. Unplug Your Electronics Before You Go
Did you know that even when certain electronics are off or on sleep mode, they’re still using energy while plugged in? That’s right, electronics like chargers, cable boxes, video game consoles, and any appliance displaying a clock passively consume electricity even when off. You can save on energy bills and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by unplugging them when not in use.
7. Take Care of Perishables Before You Go
Americans throw away nearly half of their food every year. Yikes. Discarding less food would lighten the burden on landfills and save you money. Buy less food in the weeks leading up to your departure, and either freeze, give away, or compost your perishables before leaving. It’s better for the environment, plus it’ll save you the time of cleaning up rotten goods upon your return.
8. Bring Your Own Food Bowls, Tupperware and Utensils
Food waste in the United States translates to about $2,275 worth of discarded groceries per household per year. That’s a lot of lost food and money. I hate wasting food, and have made it a habit to store my leftovers. Pack a few reusable containers in your luggage and you’re good to go. Mason jars work too!
For the dogs, we also bring reusable utensils for dishing out food and silicone bowls for water and food. We also store their homemade food and treats in Tupperware.
9. Use Public Transportation
Ditch gas guzzling cars and use bikes, trains or buses. They’re better for the environment, and cheaper than renting a car. If you absolutely need your own car to get around, consider renting a hybrid or electric one.
10. Bring Tote Bags for Souvenirs and Groceries
Skip the need for plastic or paper bags by using reusable tote bags. Pack a few and bring them on shopping trips. I always keep an extra one on me in case of any unexpected purchases.
11. Eat Local
Say goodbye to chains and eat local. Local food doesn’t have to travel as far to get on your plate, reducing your carbon footprint. Farmers’ markets and local restaurants are also a great way to support the local economy and experiment with the cuisine. So, eat up!
12. Say No to Housekeeping
Cut back on laundry-related energy use by saying no to housekeeping. No one really needs a fresh set of twelve new towels every day.
What eco-friendly travel habits do you practice? We’d love to hear!
Click here for more dog-friendly travel tips.
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