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how to plan an eco-friendly vacation

Photo by Mateusz Dach

Author: Simone Quenneville

Escaping from the dreaded Canadian winter and headed to warmer climates? Bare Market blogger Simone has a few tips to help you learn how you can be a conscious consumer and avoid waste during your travels.


For many of us, traveling is a time to indulge in the joyful things in life a little more than we’re used to doing at home (all-inclusive pina coladas anyone?). While there is no shame in wanting to live life to its fullest on vacation, we can sometimes get deep into ‘vacation-mode’ and produce more waste than we intended to. I know, I’ve been there; purchasing bottled water when I’ve forgotten to bring my reusable bottle on a scorching hot day.

Even though we’re away from our regular low-waste routines, all it takes is a little planning to make the next trip as eco-conscious as possible!

Before You Leave

Put your health first. Traveling to a country that requires you to get certain vaccines? Don’t forget to do your research beforehand. Even though they will use a disposable plastic needle to give you the shots, your health should really be the #1 priority. There are many other ways to stay green when planning a vacation - just keep on reading below!

Trains, planes, or automobiles? When choosing how to arrive at your destination – first take a look to see if getting there by train is an option. Trains use less fuel than an airplane and are usually way more scenic. Rome2rio is a great site to see what transportation is available. If taking a train is not an option, try to book a direct flight as it’s more fuel efficient.  

Pack light if taking flight! The greater the number of checked baggage on the plane, the more fuel the aircraft uses. Try taking carry-on luggage only. I know, this probably sounds like an impossible task for some, but why not challenge yourself! You’d be surprised by how little you actually need. Think about how many additional outfits you usually pack that never get taken out of the suitcase!  

Two percent of the world's carbon emissions are caused by global air travel. For emissions you can't avoid, consider carbon offsetting as a last resort. Now, some carbon offsets are better than others, but that's a conversation for another blog post. For now, check out, a Bullfrog Power company and the offset provider of Air Canada. Importantly, they are independently audited and they came out on top in a 2009 study by Pembina Institute. Finally, their international-based renewable energy offsets are derived from Gold Standard-certified projects

Stock up on travel-size toiletries,  sticking to only a carry-on means your liquids will be limited. Skip the plastic travel-size bottles and fill up your own containers with DIY or bulk makeup, deodorant, and toothpaste! Invest in a biodegradable toothbrush with biodegradable bristles.  Check out some other low waste travel essentials here.


    Photo by Pixabay

    On Your Journey

    Keep it paperless! Download your boarding pass as a PDF and get it scanned directly from your phone at check-in. Now you can worry less about forgetting (or losing) your boarding pass – as long as you remember to bring your phone!

    Say no to the airplane provisions -  Who’s a fan of airplane food anyway? Try to eat before you leave or at the airport if there are dine-in options.This helps to avoid the gross amounts of plastic waste from plane meals and snacks.

    Bring your own snacks or meal packed in reusable snack bags and stainless steel containers. Don’t forget the cutlery too! Aside from food, most airlines give out headphones, blankets, and pillows too that are covered in plastic. Hand them over to a flight attendant and turn your scarf into a blanket, and BYO headphones and pillow to avoid the waste!

    Most importantly, stay hydrated - Airplanes are super dehydrating and making sure you up your H20 can help you avoid jetlag. While airplanes provide you with water upon request, it usually comes in plastic cups or water bottles. Avoid the single-use plastic by carrying a reusable water bottle that can be filled up at the airport (just be sure to do so after going through security) and on the plane by flight attendants.


    Photo by June Liu

    At Your Destination

    Stay mindful of food waste. Food is a big source of waste, not only due to packaging but from the food itself. Choose to eat in restaurants instead of taking food to-go and order only what you are able to consume to avoid unnecessary waste. An even better idea? Choose accommodation that has a kitchen where you can prepare your own food! Find bulk stores and farmer’s markets around you to buy groceries with minimal packaging by using this app.

    In the end, what you’ll remember most are the experiences you enjoyed and less about what you bought. Many destinations offer (sometimes free!) biking and walking tours that are a green and fun way to explore.



    About the Author: Simone Quenneville is a graduate of the University of Toronto Master of Public Health program with a focus on nutrition. She is currently pursuing a career as a registered dietitian but was drawn to the Bare Market blog as a way to keep her passion for the environment and sustainability alive.


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