11 Surprisingly Sustainable Vacation Activities

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When visiting a new place, it’s important to be respectful and considerate—of the people and customs, of course, but also of the environment. Here are some tricks for planning a vacation that’s as green as it is fun.

1. Shorten the Flight

Flights to faraway places use a considerable amount of resources, so choose a location closer to home in order to decrease your carbon footprint. A flight from New York to Hawaii, for example, can take over 10 hours, while a trip to Costa Rica takes half the time. Traveling by train, bus, or boat —which are much more efficient than planes—can also conserve a lot more energy.

2. Visit Eco-Friendly Tourist Spots

Do a little research to find the best places for a green vacation. There are plenty of websites that detail the top tourist attractions and activities for any destination, so you can plan your day-to-day activities in advance. Destinations with abundant natural beauty are ideal because you can enjoy the great outdoors without needing to change a thing.

3. Check Into Sustainable Lodging

Check online to find hotels that are environmentally conscious. Green accommodations boast a variety of sustainable features, from recycling to more efficient lighting. Better yet, pack your tent for the most eco-friendly lodging of all!

4. Pack Light

Only pack the essentials for your next vacation to avoid a heavy suitcase. Check the weather of your location, decide on your activities, and make a list of necessary items. Then cut down the list as much as possible. Remember, certain articles of clothing can be repurposed for other outfits— layering is your friend! If traveling with a group, share items to increase extra bag space. Only one person needs to bring sunscreen and toothpaste.

5. Head Outside

Talk to your hotel concierge or park ranger about activities nearby. Avoid anything that would use a lot of energy or emit harmful pollutants (such as jet skiing or helicopter rides). Things like kayaking, hiking, and exploring the nearby towns are great ways to enjoy your vacation without harming the environment.

6. Carry In, Carry Out

When hiking, stay on paths and try not to disturb the foliage or fauna. Don’t litter— take all your belongings back with you. A good rule of thumb is to leave everything cleaner than you found it. And as pretty as that flower may be, avoid plucking anything from the landscape.

7. Go Biking

Instead of taking a taxi or bus, try renting a bike. Biking is great for the environment as well as fantastic exercise. As an added bonus, bicycles can go places other vehicles cannot so you can explore even more of your new location.

8. Unplug to Unwind

Once you’re settled in to your home away from home, be mindful of how much energy you use. Always remember to turn off the lights and unplug your chargers. (Or, better yet, leave your electronics at home to more fully immerse yourself in the beautiful nature around you.) If you’re in a hot area, don’t blast the air conditioning. Keep the drapes closed while you’re out during the day to stave off sunlight and keep things cool.

9. Go Shopping

Exploring the great outdoors isn’t the only way to keep your vacation activities green. Patronize locally owned shops and restaurants in order to give your money directly to your hosts to help grow their economy.

10. Engage the Community

Seek out local programs in the area while you’re on vacation. Participate in a gardening event or help build a compost pile. Volunteer work allows you to make a positive impact on the place you are visiting.

11. Cut Down On Your Paper Use

Don’t waste paper by grabbing all the brochures you can find! Try to do research online and only print out what you definitely need. Bonus points for printing double-sided, or hand writing your itinerary on recycled paper.