Everyone has their own special way of celebrating the holidays. Some take advantage of time off and get some skiing in, while others avoid the cold and find a nice sunny spot with big palm trees. For many, it’s a special time to get together with family and friends to celebrate the end of the year and the start of a new one.
Whether you are planning a trip or celebrating at home with family, there are many things that you can do to help ensure all that holiday cheer doesn’t lead to post-holiday regret. This is not a suggestion to forgo holiday traditions, but rather an invitation to introduce some new ones or modify some of the ones you love.
To make it a little easier, we gathered some of the best tips for reducing your holiday-travel footprint.
Holiday Travel - Choosing the Best Option for You and the Planet
One of the greatest impacts on the environment is travel; over ¼ of all energy used in the US is exclusively travel. By choosing a holiday location closer to home you can significantly reduce environmental impact. Perhaps, this year try skiing in the Rockies instead of the Alps.
Another option to reduce travel emissions is to utilize technology. Opposed to traveling across the country, bring your family together and celebrate across the miles by setting up a webcam at each location. Open presents together on Christmas morning, have a latke making party, decorate Yule trees, and/or watch the ball drop in each timezone. You can still enjoy your favorite traditions together without all the hassle of travel or the emissions associated with it.
Not quite ready to give up your annual trip? Worry not! There are still plenty of ways you can reduce the impact of your travel. Here are the top ways to reduce your travel footprint, assuming walking, biking, or swimming isn’t a possibility.
Traveling by Car: Your best option for travel is a fuel efficient car filled with loved ones; driving solo or in a vehicle with low fuel economy both have a greater footprint than traveling by rail or bus.
If your vehicle is not as efficient as you would like, consider renting a car for the trip. Many companies offer great deals around the holidays and with the money you save on fuel, you might even save some by renting, plus you won’t have to worry about maintenance or rush to get a service before your trip. With low fuel prices this year, driving could also save your family lots and reduce your holiday travel budget.
* Before you head off for your road trip, pack snacks, download a couple good audio books, and remember to bring reusable water bottles and coffee/tea mugs for your whole crew. This will make a better trip for everyone and reduce waste associated with impulse truck stop buys.
Traveling by Rail/Bus: This is an especially great option if you are traveling alone or with just one other person; it is also the more sustainable option if your vehicle is low on fuel economy. Taking a train or bus might take a bit more time than the other two options, but it will also reduce the stress associated with travel by letting someone else do the driving. Depending where you travel to/from, taking a train or bus can even be more economical than flying. Another bonus of mass transit travel is that you will be able to catch up on your end of year reading list, visit with travel companions, or catch up on work that would otherwise nag you throughout your holiday.
Traveling by Air: Flying has the greatest environmental impact of all, but with families working more hours and having less vacation time, sometimes traveling by plane just cannot be avoided. If you need to fly, here are some of the top suggestions from the David Suzuki Foundation on how to lessen the impact of your trip, most of which will also lead to a more enjoyable trip, win-win.
Combine Your Visits - If you have family in many different locations, try to bundle your trips opposed to visiting everyone each holiday. This way you will be able to spend more quality time with loved ones, opposed to having to rush off from destination to destination. Although we often feel obligated to see everyone, being present and enjoying some downtime with family can lead to unforgettable memories and experiences.
Choose a Direct Flight - If you have the option always choose the direct flight to eliminate the fuel waste associated with the takeoff/landing of the plane. It will also reduce your travel time and make it less likely that any of your luggage will get lost along the way.
Avoid the Red Eye - Overnight flights have been shown to have a greater impact on the environment, so choose a day flight, reduce your travel-footprint and arrive a little more refreshed.
Opt Out of the Upgrade - This one may be a little bit of a groaner, especially as airlines are reducing seat size and leg room each year, but maybe you can find comfort in knowing more seats mean less environmental impact. I am not sure this is enough to help relieve the crick in your next after a 4+ hour flight, but it is something.
Pack Light - Packing light will reduce fuel needed for travel AND as a bonus, you will save time by not having to wait for a checked bag and it will simplify your morning routine with less options to review. Check out this article from HuffPost for tips on lightening your load without sacrificing style.
Here are additional resources if you would like to read more about reducing your holiday travel footprint