Visions

Can't Afford A Summer Vacation? Share Your Way To An Eco-Friendly Getaway

The power of the Internet is making non-corporate, nearly-free, low-carbon travel the new vacation trend

Photo Credit: Trevor Leyenhorst

Summer is just around the corner. No school and lots of heat makes us restless, and many will be planning vacations, road trips, and weekend getaways over the next few months. Summer trips only come around once a year, so we're prepared to splurge. But what about the environmental cost of those flights, hotel rooms, and rental cars? Quicker than you can say "painful sunburn," the negative impact really starts to add up. 

The good news is that sharing can help you plan the vacation of your dreams without costing you a fortune in carbon offset credits. Below are five easy suggestions for enjoying a low-impact, shareable vacation. Think we forgot one? Be sure to share your own ideas in the comments!

1. Choose an Eco-Friendly Destination


Credit: newtown_grafitti/Flickr

The first step in planning a low-impact getaway is to consider the eco-friendliness of the destination. The more a city is doing to reduce its carbon footprint and conserve natural resources, the eaiser it will be for you to do the same while you're there. A recent ranking by Tripadvisor named PortlandSan Francisco, and Seattle as the three greenest cities in the U.S., but any city known with a high bikeability/walkability rating, strong public transportation options, that supports local and urban agriculture, or offers eco-tourism options, is a worthy selection. It's also worth noting that staying local is the greenest vacation destination in town. Check our the Shareable "Staycation" series for more on re-discovering your town.

How to do it: Ask well-traveled friends and family members, contact the local Chamber of Commerce or visitors association, or use sites like Tripping or Triptrotter to get local opinions about eco-friendly transit, lodging, and entertainment options in a particular city.

2. Book Lodging with a Sharing Website


Photo Credit: Airbnb

Sharing alternatives to hotels and motels have been one of the fastest growing sectors of the collaborative consumption movement. Why stay in a stale hotel room when you could have an entire apartment (or house, or Airstream, or personal log cabin) to yourself? Finding shareable lodging means much more reasonable prices (sometimes even free!), all the comforts of home, and usually a great individual or family to let you in on all the local secrets.

How to do it: Check out these top travel-sharing websites to determine what kind of a lodging experience you need, as well as the rates that are available. This is an especially great way to have a new experience in your current city.

3. Use Car/Ride Sharing to get to Your Destination


Photo Credit: Emily Castor

Because you (hopefully) chose a destination that's close to home (or at least in the state) there's no need to rely on expensive options like flights, train rides, or your half-empty personal car. If you've planned a true staycation, think about using a car-sharing services to  help you get around to all the new venues you'll discover. Its cheaper than owning your own, can be rented by the hour, and many are hybrids or electric vehicles. If you're going a little further off the beaten track, consider sharing a ride (and the associated expenses) with others that are headed in the same direction.

How to do it: Check for the availability of car and ride sharing in your area. Start with sites like ZipcarGetaroundRelayRides, and other peer-to-peer options for car sharing; and Zimride, Ridejoy, eRideShare, or Carpooling.comfor ride sharing. And if you're worried it might get weird, you should also ready Emily Cantor's awesome post about Crafting Community On A Ride With Strangers.

4. Seek Out Eco-Friendly Activities Once You're There


Photo Credit: Christian Haugen/Flickr

Eco-tourism isn't a term that only applies to jungle resorts and remote hiking trips. Any activity that allows you to reconnect with nature, enjoy natural resources without consuming or polluting them, use your calories instead of fossil fuels, or support local growers, artisans, and business owners, is good for the environment. If you did a good job picking your destination, this should be easy. 

How to do it: Check out these experience-based websites that allow you to connect with the local community to plan unforgettable (and often low-impact) excursions while you're in town!

5. Use bikes or walk to get around


Photo Credit: jcracow/Flickr

So you've finally arrived at the eco-friendly destination of your choosing. After going the extra mile in plannign a low-impact trip, it sure doesn't make sense to spend your time tooling around in high cost taxis. And circling for a parking space in a rental car is a sure-fire way to look like a tourist. Instead, look for a bike sharing service to help you get around cheaply and in style. Bikes are also much easier to park.

How to do it: If you've got an iPhone, think about downloading the Spotcycle app. It's synced with some of the best bike sharing service in the country, and will help you find docking stations and explore the city. If you're city isn't included, try simply Googling "bike sharing or bike rental + the city."