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7 Easy Ways to Go Green on Vacation

Travelling’s about exploring the world, and coming home a better global citizen. It’s important we leave the places we’ve visited better off, too. This creates a true win-win situation. Add a great tan to the mix, and we’re talking win-win-win!
Here are seven surprisingly easy ways and means to travel more responsibly this season.

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Having an eco-friendly, ethical vacation is easy. You can make green choices when travelling the world.

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1. Bring your own water bottle

This is important whether you’re traveling in Canada or abroad. Many places you’d think would have recycling actually don’t, meaning water bottles that are recyclable in theory will end up in the incinerator or landfill.

In areas where you’re unsure about the quality of the local water supply, carry a combination water-purifier/water bottle like the Pristine Microbiological Filter Water Bottle from Mountain Equipment Co-op.

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2. Use garden-grade disinfectants, not chemicals

On vacation, we can touch some yucky surfaces, like airplane trays and hotel-room remote controls. But why spray harsh chemicals on your hands when you can opt for completely biodegradable herbal alternatives? All-Natural Hand Sanitizer (available at local health food stores and online eco-retailer Lavish and Lime) kills 99.99% of germs on contact, including staphylococcus, E. coli and salmonella. Its active ingredient, thymol, is non-toxic, and safe for humans and animals.

The 30-millilitre travel bottle lends about 225 sprays-providing four times more sanitizing than a comparably sized alcohol-gel sanitizer. That means you’ll cut back on plastic waste, too. Make sure to bring the bottle home for disposal if recycling isn’t available locally.

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3. Travel ethically by thinking locally

One of the inherent challenges in tourism has always been “ensuring the benefits of tourism consistently reach local communities in destinations, and have a real developmental aim,” says Rachel Noble, a campaigns officer with the UK-based Tourism Concern, an NGO dedicated to fighting exploitation in tourism.

Ethical tourism operates on the principle that activities should be sustainable (and therefore as green as possible), and include opportunities for local communities. Although there isn’t yet a fair-trade certification label, you can travel more ethically by:

Choosing locally owned inns over global chain resort

Dining at local restaurants

Hiring a guide from the local community

Buying souvenirs direct from local artisans or arts collectives (not mass souvenir stands)

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4. Carrying greener shower products

Spending summer on the road? Avoid working your way through a series of miniature plastic shampoo, conditioner and body wash bottles with a 50-50 chance of being recycled, at best.

Solid shampoos from the Canadian company Lush clean and condition, are completely biodegradable, and last for up to 70 washes. That’s a lot of plastic bottles-and spills-averted!

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5. Book a greener resort or outfitter

As with household products, green can bring in the green (as in money). The downside: “There’s a great deal of window dressing and ‘green washing’ going on in the tourism industry, with many outfits dubbing themselves ‘eco’ simply as a marketing tool, without actually doing anything meaningful on the ground,” says Noble.

Some certification systems lack third-party audits. Noble says two “green” accommodations certifcation organizations respected by activists are the Rainforest Alliance in Central America and The Thailand Community-Based Tourism Institute. Look for their endorsement of lodgings in these trendy regions.

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6. Make biodegradable sunscreen your default vacation formula

A study in Environmental Health Perspectives claimed that ingredients in swimmers’ chemical-based sunscreens can damage delicate coral reefs. So if your next trip involves swimming, snorkeling or sea kayaking in sensitive marine environments, choose a biodegradable, or “reef-friendly” sunblock; they’ve become mandatory in some marine parks in Cancun and Cozumel, Mexico, by the way. Look for sunblocks labeled “biodegradable” or “reef-friendly” at sports or health food stores.

But why limit the safe stuff to foreign trips? Wear it and protect Canadian waters, too!

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7. Cool it with the shells and coral

Don’t buy souvenir shells and coral-or jewellery made from coral, in particular. They’re almost always harvested illegally and/or in a manner destructive to the reef system.
When snorkelling, don’t bring souvenirs out of the water with you.

Beachcombing dry land for washed-up shells and coral is generally regarded as okay. Rocky beaches and outcrops that get hit with big waves tend to yield more lucky finds than sandy beaches.