We’ve all heard plenty of horror stories about the environmental damage caused by traveling these days, from getting stuck in traffic jams to having to lug our dirty laundry back home. But while there are plenty of reasons to be cautious about traveling, there are many more reasons to be excited about going eco-friendly. Besides being a way to get away from it all and enjoy life’s little luxuries (read: fancy toiletries and tasty coffee), it can be a fun way to learn about the world and save money in the process.
Being eco-friendly in our world today is not only the right thing to do, it is a smart career move. Whether you want to promote animals or the environment, being green is something that many are interested in, and it is seen as the right thing to do. However, being green and traveling at the same time is a challenge, especially when it comes to having to think about the impact that we are making on the planet. However, there is hope! If you want to travel green without hurting the environment, you can take steps to make sure you are doing it right, and there are many ways to make sure you are on the right track.
Of all the things we take for granted about travel, the most important is destination choice. The world’s largest travel corporations have decided to empower us with the illusion of choice. Everywhere we turn we are asked if we’d like to go to “this one”, or “that one”, or “the other one”. It’s been said that “choice is the greatest of all luxuries”.
When planning a road trip, whether close to home or across the country, the environmentally aware traveler does not have to go far to discover eco-friendly locations.
There are choices for everything from accommodation to destination to mode of transportation.
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Planning a trip that does not damage the earth requires being aware of the effect our decisions have on our fragile ecosystem.
Look for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accreditation while looking for a hotel to stay along your route. The grades range from Green to Platinum, based on the degree of environmentally friendly design and construction materials used.
Syracuse, New York’s Skyler Hotel (Photo via Susan Young)
Hilton has a number of LEED-certified facilities, including the Skyler Hotel in Syracuse, New York. This hotel, which is part of their Tapestry Collection, is housed in an ancient Jewish synagogue that has fallen into ruin. A geothermal heating and cooling system with vertical wells “to harness the constant warmth of the earth” was part of the renovation, which earned them Platinum status.
A key card may be used to indicate when the tenant is not in the room, turn off the cooling/heating system, and control lights, among other things. They also preserved some of the old building’s architectural elements, such as stained glass windows rescued from the former St. John’s Church in Oswego, which decorate the foyer.
The 5-star Conrad Hilton in Washington, DC, received a Gold LEED certification for its environmentally friendly features. The hotel provides free EV chargers in its basement-level parking garage, which was built from the ground up on the former convention center site. Reclaimed water is used to nourish the rooftop plants that help insulate the structure, thanks to a water-cooling system and tower. The roof and many terraces have a floating surface that gathers rainwater and prevents runoff, and visitors may dine on the Summit rooftop space’s trademark slow, solar-cooked barbecue. The guest rooms also include a motion sensor that adjusts the temperature when the room is empty.
A bed and breakfast is generally a safe option in terms of ecologically friendly operations if you’re searching for a cozier type of accommodation. A recent visit to the Bridges Inn at Whitcomb House in Swanzey, New Hampshire, provided a chance to sample a lovely green choice. Using “farm to table” cuisine, such as local maple syrup, handmade bread, locally roasted coffee, and fresh herbs and vegetables from the garden, lowers “food miles,” lowering fossil fuel use and pollution. As part of the area’s attempt to repair, reuse, and conserve these significant historic buildings, the Monadnock region also has many covered bridges to explore.
Fallingwater is a home in the Laurel Highlands in southwest Pennsylvania built by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1939. (Photo courtesy of Susan Young)
It may not be as tough as one would assume to choose eco-friendly and ecologically sustainable locations. Fallingwater in Pennsylvania is an example of organic architecture that was planned and constructed in harmony with nature. “A structure should compliment its surroundings rather than degrade it,” said architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Interior and exterior tours of the house and grounds are available to the public. You will be treated to nature at its best if you hike the numerous paths surrounding the property. Because the number of visitors is restricted, this is one location where you will not encounter crowds.
Niagara Falls State Park is a great place to go for a walk (Photo via Susan Young)
Niagara Falls State Park is another ecologically friendly bucket list item. 3,160 tons of water pour over the Falls per second, producing more than 4 million kilowatts of power. Water kinetic energy is used to power the Niagara Falls Hydroelectric Power Plant, which serves southern Ontario and western New York State. The US and Canadian sides of the Niagara River canyon are readily accessible through a stroll over the Rainbow Bridge, which spans the valley.
Park Street Charging Station for Electric Vehicles. (Photo courtesy of nrqumi/iStock/Getty Images Plus) )
Of course, taking a long-distance road trip in an electric car is the most ecologically friendly option. There are many misunderstandings regarding electric vehicle range, charging station availability, and cost. In terms of range, depending on the brand, expect to go 300 miles or more on a single charge.
Near charging stations, which are plentiful along main roads, there are usually restaurants and retail options. If you drive a Tesla, its SuperCharger network has over 1,000 stations throughout the United States. Thousands more choices are available from other manufacturers such as Chevrolet, Porsche, Ford, Nissan, and BMW, which may be discovered via applications like PlugShare, EVgo, and Electrify America.
The ability to use the HOV lane on most roads and the cost of charging vs. filling up are two benefits of driving electric cars. Although recharging on the road will cost about twice as much as recharging at home, it will be much less than the cost of gasoline. The entire electric cost for a recent two-week road trip spanning almost 4,000 miles was $241.50 at 24 to 34 cents per kilowatt.
Rest breaks are a necessity for every vehicle, but they don’t have to be dull. The Sharon Welcome Center in Vermont received a lot of positive feedback when they erected a Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the property. The roadway and mountains in the background, according to veterans, reminded them of Route 1 in Vietnam. However, as the location grew in popularity, there were issues with the sewage infrastructure keeping up with the demand.
The Living Machine was born as a result of this reaction, and it recycles wastewater via a system of tanks holding different types of flora and fauna, which organically cleans the sewage. Travelers coming from New Hampshire will find the site on Interstate 89, while those departing Interstate 91 would find it on Interstate 91.
It is not difficult to be a responsible, environmentally conscious traveler as long as one is aware of the effect produced throughout the trip. We can make our personal interactions with nature pleasant by selecting locations that provide sustainable tourism choices. We can leave the planet in better shape than we found it, whether we’re trekking through a national park or driving across the country, as long as we leave a small imprint.
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