Plan an Eco-Friendly Escape for Spring Break

Plan an Eco-Friendly Escape for Spring Break

Wherever your spring break takes you, there’s no getting away from the planet. So, whether you’re a student headed to a tropical beach somewhere or simply — and inexpensively — to your old childhood bedroom, there are ways to enjoy your spring break vacation while also being sustainably-minded.

Remember, spring break season — which peaks mid-to-late March for most universities and colleges across the U.S. — often comes with a costly environmental price tag. So, why not do your part to swap out mainstream plans like massive cruises and all-inclusive resorts and enjoy something more responsible — and immersive — with these sustainable spring break vacation ideas? Don’t worry — you’ll still have plenty of time to rest, party, and recharge. 

Instead of a cruise, go backpacking

Cruises are often synonymous with partying, meeting new people, and hopping from destination to destination. However, there’s an environmental cost associated with most major cruise lines. After all,  cruise ships emit massive amounts of air pollutants and greenhouse gases through waste discharge and ballast water. They are also responsible for toxic oil spills, coral reef damage, and dumping tons of waste into the ocean. So, why not opt for something far more immersive while still offering a fun travel experience to new places? Namely, backpacking. Fill up your backpack with essentials for the week, buy a plane ticket to some far-off place, and set off on a far more sustainable spring break vacation. 

Whether you want to get a rail pass and take trains around Europe for a week or explore a South American destination by bus, these spring break alternatives offer opportunities to connect with local cultures, meet new people, let loose, and soak up new experiences. 

Skip massive resorts for an eco-stay in Costa Rica

With its plethora of biodiversity, nature reserves, and sustainable accommodations, Costa Rica is a top eco-tourism destination. So, instead of heading to a mega-resort in Cancun or Playa del Carmen — a travel experience where many don’t even leave the resort grounds — opt instead for a more authentic vacation in Costa Rica.  

This Central American country is home to numerous small-scale eco-resorts on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. So, if you’re longing for a Caribbean getaway but don’t want the spring break madness of the Riviera Maya region in Mexico, you can still soak it up in Costa Rica. Instead of avoiding local culture and wildlife when staying at a resort, Costa Rica offers plenty of opportunities to see sloths, monkeys, sea turtles, and other species while trying local cuisine, trekking through jungles, and visiting sun-kissed beaches this spring break season. 

Instead of Panama City Beach, visit Sanibel and Captiva Islands in Florida

Panama City Beach — or PCB — has long been a top spring break destination for college students, but the influx of people takes a toll on the environment. In addition to an uptick in violence and vandalism, spring break often leads to increased pollution on the beaches, including littering, plastic waste, and damage to sensitive coastal ecosystems. The excessive foot traffic and partying can also disrupt nesting sites for sea turtles and shorebirds. 

So, if you’d like to have one of the best spring break vacations in Florida while reducing your carbon footprint, consider visiting Sanibel and Captiva Islands off the coast of Fort Myers.  These barrier islands are known for their pristine beaches, wildlife refuges, and commitment to environmental conservation. That means you can engage in eco-friendly activities like birdwatching at wildlife refuges, searching for seashells along the beaches, and biking through the island’s scenic trails.  

Tips for a sustainable vacation this spring break 

After you’ve chosen a more responsible spring break destination, keep these eco-friendly travel tips in mind. 

Choose sustainable accommodations 

When booking a hotel or accommodation, check out the company’s website to inspect their sustainability priorities. If you can’t find any information about how they prioritize lowering their carbon footprint, then it’s probably not a priority. 

However, if you search for eco lodges or hotels with certifications like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), you can ensure a more sustainable experience. And regardless of where you stay, be mindful about your own impact. Pick up towels so they can be reused, turn off the lights when you leave your room, and keep the “Do Not Disturb” sign up to prevent unnecessary cleanings. 

Pack light and bring reusable items  

Every pound counts, so pack light to reduce the weight of your luggage. To travel sustainably, you should also bring reusable items such as water bottles, shopping bags, and utensils to minimize single-use plastic waste while traveling. No matter where you’re traveling — perhaps only back to your hometown to visit family — consider packing eco-friendly toiletries and SaltyLama laundry detergent sheets to keep things fresh on the go.  Our detergent sheets are easy to use and effective, boasting a plant-based formula that’s kind to both your skin and the environment. Plus, they come in lightweight biodegradable zero-waste packaging. Just rip a strip — two strips per sheet — and toss it into the washing machine for a medium-sized load. Remember, you can also save money and ensure you never run out of detergent, subscribe and save. Just schedule when you want your order. You can cancel, pause, or skip an order on your subscription whenever you want.

Bring reef-safe sunscreen  

Traditional sunscreens often contain harmful chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have been found to contribute to coral bleaching while also damaging coral DNA. When these chemicals enter the ocean through swimmers, snorkelers, and divers, they can accumulate in reef ecosystems, posing a threat to marine life.  

However, reef-safe sunscreens exclude those harmful ingredients while still offering the protection you need during a spring break vacation. Do a quick search for reef-safe or mineral-based sunscreen to find what you’re looking for. Just double check the ingredients list before buying.

Support local businesses and communities 

Part of the travel experience is getting to know the places you visit. One of the best ways to do that is by dining at local restaurants, visiting markets, and supporting businesses within the community. So, certainly soak up the good times with your friends by exploring local bars, wineries, and eateries throughout your trip. 

Respect natural and cultural sites 

When visiting natural and cultural sites during your spring break vacation, respect wildlife, stay on designated trails, and avoid activities that could harm the environment or disrupt local ecosystems. 

Always, be mindful of cultural norms and traditions, and seek to learn about the history and culture of the places you travel. It will enrich your entire experience. And if you do go to the Riviera Maya region, please don’t be that person who tries to climb the stairs of Mayan pyramids. This is a big no-no when it comes to sustainable tourism. 

Engage in responsible wildlife tourism  

“You can look but you can’t touch” should apply to wildlife tourism. If your travels involve wildlife encounters, don’t disturb these animals and prioritize visiting wildlife reserves with a local guide. You should also always avoid activities that involve animal exploitation, such as elephant rides or dolphin shows — these animals are often mistreated and used for profit. However, responsible wildlife sanctuaries and conservation projects offer a much kinder alternative. 

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