TAKING THE KIDS and Traveling Greener

Posted by Eileen on May 20, 2010

I hate to be a nag, especially on vacation.

The kids hate when I nag them about getting up early or posing for next year’s holiday card. But now I’ve got new motivation to nag, and I don’t think my environmentally conscious gang will complain about traveling greener.

payday-lift6 (payday-lift6)If we turn out the lights when we leave home, why not do the same in a hotel room or vacation condo. The same goes for turning down the air conditioning (or the heat) and hanging up towels. No one needs fresh towels or sheets every day either. Think how much water and energy that could save!

Travelers say they want to travel greener, even if it costs them more. 78% of those polled by Travelocity said they would spend extra for an eco-friendly destination. At the same time, according to a TripAdvisor survey, travelers vow to travel greener in the coming year, doing more outdoors, at National Parks.

Yet, that resolve seems to crumble the minute we’re in a hotel. Most people just don’t think about it. They think the energy is free, says Rosamond Kinzler, whose responsibility as the senior director the American Natural History Museum’s s Center for Science Literacy and Technology is to engage kids in science.

Certainly it makes sense to tote a reusable water bottle rather than buying plastic ones every few hours. Not only are they cheaper and better for the environment, but they also make instant souvenirs, once the kids slap stickers all over them from the places they’ve visited. We could also carry tote bags or backpacks for souvenirs, rather than take new bags everywhere. We don’t need to drive everywhere either. Clearly, you get a better sense of a place on foot, on a bicycle or via public transportation. Even packing lighter makes a difference. The heavier the load, the more fuel it takes to get it there.

Even the way we eat on vacation can make a difference, suggests Richard Edwards, co-founder of www.Greenspot.travel, which is dedicated to helping travelers vacation greener. Local foods and local products, he explains, don’t have to be transported to that region. At the same time, you can introduce your kids to local flavors and the local culture. Check out a farmer’s market, like Park Silly Market in Park City, Utah.

Rent a greener or at least smaller, fuel-efficient car. Hertz, Avis and Budget, for example, all offer the option of renting a hybrid. .

It always pays to ask hotels exactly what they’re doing to be green, When you arrive, stage a scavenger hunt with your eco-savvy kids. Where are the recycling bins? Are there reusable coffee mugs in the rooms, rather than paper cups? Does the hotel use energy-efficient light bulbs?

Global warming, of course, is one of the most complex issues facing our planet today. But we can all help by using energy more efficiently, wherever we are. It’s the kids who are the drivers of change, observes Rosamond Kinzler.  “We want them to see what they can do and how their choices can make a difference.”

(For more Taking the Kids, visit www.takingthekids.com and also follow “taking the kids” on www.twitter.com, where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments.)



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