There’s nothing like winter to freeze your wanderlust in its tracks. Biting cold, dwindling daylight, slippery streets and sidewalks — no wonder we feel like just curling up inside until things melt, thaw, and brighten up. The good, if ironic, news? One of the most effective ways to overcome this seasonal malaise is to actually head out and experience the quiet charm of a winter escape. Picture the serene snow-laden landscapes, the glow of twinkling lights, the inviting warmth of crackling fires — winter beckons with the promise of magical moments. Tempted to pack your bags and travel somewhere near or far? Then be sure to also adopt sustainable practices. After all, the planet can always use a break, too. Read on for travel tips for your eco-friendly winter getaway.
Choose sustainable transportation
Key to an eco-friendly trip is choosing how to get to where you’re going while keeping your carbon emissions to a minimum. In general, the least sustainable way to travel is by plane. And if flying is unavoidable? You can calculate your carbon footprint and offset it when traveling by plane. There are many ways to do this, but here is one option.
Conversely, the most sustainable way to travel is by boarding a bus or train. Depending on where you live, this may or may not be available to you. When public transportation is out of the question, think about carpooling with your other travel companions in an electric or hybrid vehicle. If you have a staycation in mind and the weather is accommodating, consider cycling. What better way to add some adventure to your trip?
Seek out eco-friendly accommodation
Whether it’s a cozy eco-lodge or a high-end sustainable boutique hotel, be mindful when picking a place to sleep. Seek out smaller, locally-owned hotels. You can find these on many of your favorite hotel booking platforms — many have implemented “travel sustainably” ratings — or try out EcoBnb for a curated line-up of eco-friendly accommodations for your winter vacation.
What makes an accommodation eco-friendly? Put simply, these properties prioritize sustainability over convenience. For example, they might emphasize energy efficiency with renewable sources, employ water-saving systems, or reduce waste through recycling and composting initiatives. Some even use green building materials and landscaping with native plants to minimize their environmental impact. These accommodations often have environmental policies, engage with local communities, and may hold certifications signifying their commitment to sustainability.
Practice sustainability at your accommodation
Not every destination is going to have inviting winter eco-lodges or boutique hotels with innovative green-minded practices. However, you can still be eco-friendly while staying at a hotel by following a few simple tips:
- Limit your water and energy use by taking showers under 10 minutes and keeping the water temperature below the hottest setting.
- Keep the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the doorknob to prevent unnecessary cleanings and towel changes.
- Avoid using the laundry service, as they wash each guest’s clothes separately, which consumes excessive water.
- Turn off the lights when you leave the room for the day.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible.
- Don’t waste food at breakfast. Only get what you know you’ll eat.
Pack smart and light for your winter trip
Every pound requires more energy to get you where you are going. While layered clothing like wool coats, boots, and sweaters will add weight, you can counter that by only packing what you need and bringing lighter layers, avoiding bulky sweatshirts and sweaters. You can swap out these heavy items for lightweight merino wool or thinner, insulating alternatives. If you are traveling with a carry-on, wear your bulkiest layers and boots on-board. This will help prevent your bag from being too heavy to carry or over the weight limit if you’re traveling by plane. And be sure to save room in your suitcase for SaltyLama eco-friendly laundry detergent sheets. The biodegradable packaging is lightweight, slender, and hardly takes up any space. It’s the green-minded way to do laundry on the go.
Plan sustainable activities
Helping to safeguard the environment and wildlife doesn’t mean compromising on a good time. Embracing nature through outdoor adventures like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or hiking offers a low-impact yet exciting way to experience the wintry landscapes. On top of that, exploring local wildlife preserves or engaging in birdwatching tours can allow you to connect with nature while promoting conservation efforts. Just be sure to not damage the landscapes, bother animals, or pluck natural foliage or species off the trails.
If you’re seeking a slower-paced winter vacation, stop by local artisan markets and restaurants, or join craft workshops or classes hosted by residents from the area. Immersing yourself in the culture through culinary tours with locally sourced and organic produce is another amazing way to travel slowly and sustainably this winter.
Be wary of ski resorts
Ski resorts are energy-intensive operations, often powered by fossil fuels and powdered with artificial snow. If you want to visit a resort this winter, seek out ones that use natural snow and green energy practices. Check out these sustainable ski resort options, including Colorado’s Wolf Creek.
Eat at local restaurants
A huge part of any travel experience is sampling new foods. Just remember to visit locally-owned restaurants, grocery stores, and cafes during your winter vacation. Bonus points if it’s a restaurant that prioritizes organic, seasonal ingredients in an eco-friendly setting.
Act responsibly in nature
Speaking of hiking and outdoor adventures, practice responsible tourism by respecting natural habitats and wildlife. You can do this by not disturbing animals, refraining from feeding them and adhering to designated trails to prevent environmental damage. There are many reasons for this, but the main one? Disturbing or feeding wildlife can put them and yourself in danger.
When we feed wildlife, it disrupts their natural foraging instincts and can make them dependent on humans. This dependency poses risks to their health and survival. For instance, reliance on human-provided food can lead to malnutrition since it may lack essential nutrients. Plus, interacting may lead to aggressive behavior in animals, resulting in injuries to humans or the animals themselves. Maintaining a respectful distance and allowing wildlife to live undisturbed is crucial for their well-being and the health of the ecosystem. So, keep a safe distance during your winter travels.
By integrating these sustainable practices into your winter vacation, you can enjoy a memorable and low-impact getaway while also doing right by the environment. So, go out and explore and experience the beauty of winter destinations!