Come the holiday season it seems like just about everyone goes somewhere. Whether it's through the woods on your bike to your grandmother's home or cross-country in a plane to visit family, the environmental impact of the holidays goes beyond gift giving. Here are some tips to reduce your environmental impact as you plan your trips for the holidays.
For the past three years, my family of two has opted to skip the cross-country flight "home" to avoid the airport delays and stress of traveling over the holidays. What we do instead is visit with friends locally and save the family trip for later in the year when the weather's nicer, the crowds are smaller and time can be spent relaxing with loved ones.
In addition to treading lightly and reducing stress, money is also a concern. Here are some ideas, from the easily doable (packing lightly, which can save you money and back ache) to the unthinkable (telling Mom and Dad you won't be home for Christmas).
- Pack light: avoid checked luggage, back pain and added expense at the baggage counter. If flying for the holiday, you'll probably be bringing gifts. With only one bag, you have a couple of green options to appease those expecting gifts: purchase tiny gifts or purchase them locally once you get there. Additionally, the reduced weight will lower fuel consumption in whatever vehicle it happens to be you're traveling in. Onebag.com offers useful suggestions on how to pack lightly.
- Turn off everything: When you leave your home, unplug your TV, computer, and anything that might require a phantom load so your home isn't expending unnecessary energy. Also, lower your thermostat but do keep it above 60 to prevent your pipes from freezing. Additionally, it could be wise to turn off your main water line "just in case." Mine has sprung a leak twice this year so this is something that I'm sure to do next time I travel.
- Carpool if possible: it seems like college students have this down. Because many college students lack cars, they seek out friends from nearby hometowns, load up and travel together. If only we could be so accommodating as we grow older. See if other family members or friends might be traveling nearby and could offer a ride.
- Take public transportation: even if it's only to the airport. Sure, it'd be great if we could all take the train to grandma's, but even cutting down on one taxi by carpooling or taking a bus to the airport can reduce emissions.
- Bring your own snacks: Avoid overpriced meals that aren't produced in environmentally-conscious ways by bringing your own food on your trip. You make the choices at your local grocery store on what you want to eat and it's better for everyone.
- Video conference: if you do decide to stay home, you can still connect with friends and family via Skype or other online video calling applications. You phone in for business meetings, so why not do the same for family and friends?