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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.

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