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Travel Lighter: 6 Ways to Reduce Your Next Family Vacation’s Environmental Impact

How’s your carbon footprint looking these days? If you regularly travel long distances from home, it’s probably not as slim as it could be.

No one can begrudge you the occasional getaway, whether it’s a family vacation or business trip. But how you get away, and what you do when you’re on the road, dramatically affects your travel habits’ environmental impacts. The good news: you can easily live with these six sustainable travel tips and tricks. Try ‘em out and see for yourself.

  1. Try Glamping

Glamping is all the rage these days.

It’s “a way of enjoying the great outdoors without having to endure the great outdoors,” writes Laura of Make Life Love — literally, glamorous camping. Like plain vanilla camping, it’s far more sustainable than staying in a hotel.

The downside: glamping resorts charge about as much as their traditional counterparts, so they’re not ideal for super-frugal travelers.

  1. Leave No Trace

Whether you camp, glamp, or stay at a traditional hotel or resort, leave nothing behind. In the wilderness, that means packing out everything you pack in. With a roof over your head, that means using your host’s resources judiciously.

“We do everything possible to accommodate our guests’ sustainability preferences,” says environmentalist Lori Janeson, whose family owns a small, low-impact resort on Lake Winnipeg, in Manitoba. “Every little bit helps.”

Every little bit, indeed.

  1. Rent a Fuel-Efficient Car (or Drive Your Own)

If you’re planning a road trip, rent the most fuel-efficient vehicle possible. You almost certainly don’t need that full-size SUV you’ve been eyeing; hatchback trunks are roomier than you think. If you’re taking your own car, make sure it’s suitably fuel-efficient — and, if not, rent a more economical replacement.

  1. Take the Train

Speaking of inefficient: air travel accounts for more than half of all travel-related carbon emissions. Someday soon, we might hop oceans in ultra-efficient electric or solar-powered planes; for now, we’re stuck with exhaust-belching dinosaurs.

Looking for another option that doesn’t involve driving? If you’re staying on the same continent, and you have some flexibility in your schedule, consider swapping out your plane fare for a rail ticket. You’ll see more of the intervening countryside and use a lot less energy in the process.

  1. Purchase Carbon Offsets to Minimize the Impact of Air Travel

If you must fly, purchase carbon offsets from a reputable vendor. The money you put toward your offsets plows straight into sustainable power production or reforestation projects that reduce or reverse carbon emissions. Just be sure to read the fine print; some offset vendors have run into trouble for misrepresenting their remit.

  1. Take Fewer, Longer Trips

Business travelers may have no choice but to be on the road every week. Leisure travelers have no such constraints. Rather than jet off every weekend, schedule fewer, longer trips throughout the year, hitting multiple destinations along the way. Multi-leg itineraries often boast lower fares, too.

Shrink Your Footprint, Expand Your Horizons

The world is your oyster — with or without an SUV-sized carbon footprint. Try out these six sustainable travel tips, and any others that suit your lifestyle, and rest secure in the knowledge that you’re atoning for past excesses.

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