I started traveling long before anyone worried about the carbon footprint it left behind. I inherited the travel bug from my mother who had been an airline stewardess before she was married. We traveled as a family, then it was off to school, going to Europe after graduation and then to California where I eventually worked as an ad sales rep for Travel and Leisure Magazine where I really earned my wings with a territory that included Asia Pacific and the Southwestern United States and kept me in the air 120 days a year! There was a brief hiatus when I retired from that position to raise my children and settle into a greener, and slower paced life until I launched Greenopia. As Willie Nelson would say I was "back on the road again."
Lightening your carbon footprint is the most obvious way to travel greener however, here are some of my favorite tips for a greener and healthier and less stressful personal environment when traveling.
Get authorized for PreCheck. This will make all the difference in the world. You can start the process at TSA PreCheck. If you travel a lot, it's the best investment you can make. There are sixteen carriers that participate in this program, but is ever expanding.
Check in with your airlines the night before. Airlines can oversell seats without notifying you. Therefore, if you don't get a confirmation in an email with a seat assignment the day before, immediately - without passing "go" - get online or call the airline.
When traveling for business always confirm your meetings, hotel, and restaurant reservations the day before. I can't tell you the number of times that people have emailed me to cancel meetings over the weekend and I didn't see it because I don't read emails after dinner or over the weekend. Having learned my lesson the hard way, I bend this rule when I'm traveling.
Check the weather in the area you're traveling to. Having bought many a raincoat and umbrella while on the road as a result of not listening to my own advice, I always check weather.com.
Leave for the airport fifteen minutes before you think you need to leave. The extra time will not only relax you but help keep your disposition as positive as possible until you get to the airport, which is so important when traveling.
Once inside the airport start smiling at everyone as if you're leaving on vacation, even when it's a business trip. The old adage "fake it until you make it" applies specifically to this situation. Neuroscience has proven that the muscles used to smile also create endorphins that make you feel an overall positive all over your body, a good thing to feel no matter if you're traveling for business or not.
Assuming you get through security unscathed, find the nearest watering hole for a refreshment. This is the only time when I recommend eating chocolate, drinking coffee or doing whatever makes you happy while in transit. It soothes the soul.
Some airports make waiting for your plane to board easier than others. My favorite is San Francisco whose Terminal 2 was the first airport terminal in the US to received LEED Gold certification from the US Green Building Council due to the steps it has taken to reduce greenhouse gases, waste and water use. It also offers lots of organic food options as well as yoga and mediation rooms in the newer terminals. SFMoma also has a permanent and rotating art collection to give yourself something beautiful to look at when you are passing through.
Once boarding the plane, continue pleasantries and help others. This includes ignoring crying babies and snoring passengers and sharing your armrest. I rarely talk to my fellow seat mates but occasionally when I have I learn interesting things! The secrets people like to tell on a plane are incredible, and the number of people who drink vodka at 8 am is even more incredulous!
Once landed you can begin breathing again. At the very least you can take off part of your environmental armor. You're heading into the good part of the journey or at least the reason why you got on the plane in the first place.
Buy carbon offset credits. Carbon offsets are a great way to neutralize the damage you've done to the atmosphere and are becoming more popular and easier to find. Essentially a donation to an organization that will do something to give back to the atmosphere what carbon dioxide emissions or green house gases have taken away because of your trip, carbon offsets are available from a number of sources.
The EPA has a calculator that can help you determine how much damage your trip has done so you can estimate how big an offset credit you want to buy.
Although perhaps the most challenging aspect of living with a green heart for me is traveling, it has also brought me the most happiness and when I listen to my own advice, I continue to make the experience greener for everyone- including the planet.