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You may be the most earth-conscious person at home — diligently sorting your recycling, always minding the thermostat, and speeding through your showers — but what about when you’re on vacation? It can be hard to stay green when you don’t know where the green recycling bins are — or if they’re even green for that matter. To help out, we’ve gathered together some of the best ways to make sure your eco-friendly habits don’t go out the window when you turn on your out-of-office reply.
Pick a location that makes it easy to stay green while you’re away. The Global Green Economy Index is a great resource for finding out which nations prioritize our planet’s health. Of the 130 countries in last year’s list, Sweden nabbed the highest accolade, followed by Switzerland and Iceland. Taiwan, Singapore, and Japan were named the most eco-friendly in Asia; Colombia and Costa Rica in Latin America; and Kenya and Zambia in Africa.
Just because a destination didn’t top these eco-friendly rankings, doesn't mean you should bypass it. For example, Namibia’s constitution includes the protection of natural habitats and resources, and 47 cities in Brazil meet at least 70% of their energy demand from renewable power.
If you want to narrow things down a bit more, look for cities with an extensive public transportation system, walkable neighborhoods, plenty of green space, designated bike lanes, and volunteer opportunities. Cocofloss favorites Copenhagen, Reykjavik, and Vienna are regularly applauded as some of the world’s most sustainable cities.
Cocofloss on a beach in Brazil
There’s no way around it. Airplanes are major carbon emitters. But you can take steps to shrink your carbon footprint when you fly. Airplanes guzzle fuel during take-offs and landings, so book nonstop flights whenever possible. And while we’re all about first-class floss, when it comes to flying, the best ticket for the planet is a coach seat on a high-occupancy flight with a sustainably minded airline. The emissions associated with first-class are about nine times greater than economy. Business class is about three times as bad as coach.
Once you’re back on the ground, hit the streets with your feet. Not only is walking the most sustainable form of transportation, it’s also the best way to explore a new place and stumble upon unexpected delights — like a cozy local bookstore or a bar that makes a perfect pisco sour.
Ready to pick up the pace? Use pedal power. An increasing number of cities around the world are crisscrossing their urban terrain with protected bike lanes. Serious cyclists can skip the cities and embark on a cross-country adventure.
When your feet need a break, hop on a city bus, subway, or train. Public transportation is another great way to get to know a place and its people and spare the air.
Take Coco on the go!
What you bring — or don’t bring — on your trip can greatly reduce the environmental impact of your visit. In the simplest terms, it’s important to reduce what you use and select reusable items over disposable ones. Here are few specific suggestions on how to keep your suitcase slim and sustainable.
Dress with less. Do you really need to pack a pair of shoes to match every outfit? Probably not. The bulkier a plane gets, the more fuel it consumes. Help lower emissions by keeping your luggage light.
Having a hard time decreasing your clothing load? It turns out mixing and matching isn’t just a fun way to freshen up your floss routine — it’s also a great packing technique. Pick multipurpose items in three coordinating colors so that you can create many ensembles out of a few essentials.
Think tiny toiletries. Yes, it can feel like a nuisance, but it’s worth it to pour your toiletries into little reusable bottles — even if you plan to check your bag. It keeps the weight down (see above) and it means you can forgo all the adorable but not-so eco-friendly toiletries at the hotel. Along those same lines, pack your own multi-use razor, toothbrush, shower cap, and, of course, floss.
Avoid food packaging. Opt out of the airport’s plethora of packaged foods by bringing your own meal and munchies for the flight in a reusable container or beeswax wrapping.
Sip sustainably. Although it’s important to pare down your baggage as much as possible, there are a few items that are well worth their weight. Chief among them: a reusable water bottle. Even better? A bottle that works for both hot and cold liquids so you can steer clear of disposable coffee cups (which are difficult and expensive to recycle) too.
Here are two sobering statistics to help motivate the shift: Globally, people purchase one million plastic bottles every minute. And in the U.S. alone, we throw away 100 billion disposable cups each year.
Put a fork in it. One of the great joys of traveling is sampling tasty street food. Downside? Plastic utensils. Skip the disposable cutlery but not the delicious eats by tossing a bamboo set in your tote.
Bag it up. Speaking of totes, scientists estimate that the typical plastic shopping bag will take anywhere from 500 to 1,000 years to degrade. Yikes! Instead of stashing your souvenirs in a bag that will outlast us all, carry a canvas or nylon tote with you. (Pssst — may we recommend this blissfully cute tote?)
Look for an energy-efficient hotel that recycles and composts, reclaims its gray water, and uses renewable energy like solar or hydroelectric power. A seal of approval from a respected certification program, such as Green Key, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, and the U.S. Green Building Council, which oversees LEED certification, is a good sign.
A locally run ecolodge is often an even better place to rest your head. Cocofloss cofounder Chrystle Cu loved her stay at EcoCamp, a series of geodesic domes in Patagonia.
Camping ... the ultimate eco-friendly lodging accommodation. 🏕
Of course, it’s not all on the hotel to keep things kosher with Mother Nature. Stay on her good side by being a responsible guest. Use the “Do Not Disturb” sign to decline housekeeping. Your teeth may need daily flossing, but your towels and linens do not need daily washing.
To help conserve water, consider rewearing clothes or rinsing them in the sink with cold water and hanging them to dry. (Or at least accumulate a full load before you do laundry.) Take short showers and turn off the tap when you’re sudsing up at the sink. And remember to turn off lights, the heating and air conditioning, and any electronics when you leave the room.
Similarly, avoid imported trinkets and shop local businesses and craft markets instead. Vintage and antique boutiques are also planet-friendly places to find a special souvenir. They offer a unique window into the area’s history and don’t create any new consumer waste.
There are seemingly endless eco-friendly ways to have fun and discover new sides of your destination. Some of our go-to options include hiking, jogging, bicycling, kayaking, snorkeling, and birdwatching. In the winter, snowshoeing offers cold-weather travelers a chance to get off the tourist track and keep their footprint light.
You may also want to consider volunteering for a day during your vacation. The concierge at your hotel should be able to connect you with a local conservationist program. Helping other people counts, too! Chrystle recently returned from her second volunteer trip to the Philippines, where she provided dental care to elementary school kids. Lending your hand to a beach cleanup, tree survey, food bank or any other environmental or social effort allows you to give back to your holiday hosts and get to know the community on a deeper level.
Conservation is a high priority at Cocofloss. Whether you’re about to trek through Patagonia or picnic in Paris, our upcoming floss refills will help keep your smile and the planet healthy. They come in biodegradable packaging and will easily snap into your previous Cocofloss container.