For many people, the occasional getaway isn’t just a luxury; it’s an absolute must. The thrill of uncertainty–of new scenery and fresh faces–promises to break us from the mundane patterns of everyday life. Amid the ecstasy of departure, it’s easy to lose sight of simple responsibilities, like reducing our carbon footprint. But no matter where we end up, the impact that our daily activities have on the environment doesn’t change.
Some might be tempted to abandon eco-friendly habits out of convenience, or to save money. Luckily for them, staying green while traveling is oftentimes easier and cheaper than traveling wastefully. Here are a few tips on how to have the adventure of a lifetime, while keeping the environment in mind.
Packing and Travel Prep
Traveling green doesn’t start once you’re on the road; it begins with knowing what to pack, and how to prepare your home for an extended period of emptiness. Knowing what to bring along is as simple as considering what you’ll actually need, and keeping luggage as light as possible: the less weight your form of transport has to carry, the less fuel it will use. A refillable water bottle and a cloth shopping bag are good additions as well. Home prep steps include recycling the packaging of any new products you bought for the trip, unplugging electronics and switching heat/AC temperatures from comfort settings to just those necessary to protect your home from frost or from overheating. If you have a newspaper subscription, putting it on hold will save paper and also make it less obvious that the home is empty. Most home water heaters also now have a “vacation” setting.
Buses generally emit the least amount of carbon per passenger. According to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the average car trip produces 1.17 pounds of carbon dioxide per passenger per mile, while traveling by bus produces a full pound less. At .41 pounds per passenger mile, trains are an eco-friendly option as well. Plane travel is by far the most environmentally expensive option, producing 1.83 pounds of carbon dioxide per passenger mile. This means that when possible, It’s best to travel by bus or train. If traveling by air is the only viable option, aim for non-stop flights. Certain airlines have modified their planes to be more fuel efficient; a quick google search can reveal an airline’s environmental policies.
Once You’re There
Most hotels practice some form of conservancy, whether it’s developing an efficient recycling program, or any number of energy-reducing practices. No matter where you end up staying, it helps to stick to tried-and-true green habits, like keeping showers short, and turning off the TV and lights when you leave. When you’re out, stay green by using public transportation, shopping at family-owned stores, and eating locally sourced food.
It is very possible to enjoy your vacation while maintaining a low carbon footprint. Not only will you be saving yourself money with an environmentally-friendly trip, you also be helping the environment.
Nowadays, travelers are more likely to type their destination into Google Maps than pull out the paper alternative. But even in today’s wired-in world, there are still wild places. Places that wifi can’t reach, where satellite signals dissipate and phone chargers might as well be rocks. Also, GPS, for all its convenience and simplicity, relies on sophisticated technology to function. And digital tech is notorious for breaking, crashing; malfunctioning: problems which–as Murphy’s Law dictates–occur more frequently the farther you are from an easy fix.
Whether you’re adventuring deep in the wilderness, or simply avoiding the possibility of a GPS glitch, knowing how to read a traditional paper map is undeniably useful. Cartography doesn’t require wires, wifi, or electronics of any kind, but beyond that, there are several advantages unique to navigating with a map.
A Wider Perspective
Google maps is only about 15 years old. Before that, opening a map meant expanding your reach, and learning about far away places. In addition, opening up a map means freedom from the tunnel vision of the GPS navigation arrow. Instead of staring down a singular path, map readers can better grasp context, and view the entirety of a geographic space. Nearby natural features, interesting side trips, and more: all of this is missed when focusing purely on an “efficient” path directed by GPS.
The unexpected is always possible when venturing off the well-trod path, even for those equipped with satellite navigation. Putting your safety in the hands of a gadget could prove perilous in certain situations; for example, a path you were following disappears under heavy snowfall, or a sudden downpour drenches your device. Maps can survive water, and they let you know where you are without forcing you down a specific trajectory. This allows for flexibility when facing unforeseen circumstances.
Maps don’t just provide your location, they orient you in relation to surroundings. From elevation levels to the location of every nearby trail (as well as everywhere those trails lead) maps offer a complete snapshot of the land, and all of its features. Map reading may take a bit more spatial awareness than simply obeying the nav arrow, but for hikers, adventurers, and anyone slightly curious about what lies beyond sight, the payoff is more than worth it.
Many years ago as a graduate student, I was faced with a predicament. I was studying the natural and political history of the Florida Keys, but very little information about the area from the 15th through the 18th century seemed to be available. An extensive search at the General
Archives of the Indies in Seville, Spain confirmed that here was little written by contemporary writers and explorers. In addition, as I sought documentation of indigenous records, I learned that a large percentage had been destroyed in the course of the Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica. What to do? It turned out that the best sources of historical information were contemporary maps – artistic, fascinating maps – some drawn by passing navigators or by explorers, but all providing a wealth of detail about the contemporary, evolving understanding of at least the areas geography. And these maps could be found and studied in the extraordinary map collection of the Library of Congress.
An Enjoyable Hobby
There is a beauty in the precision with which each line of a map is crafted; each detail devised and laid to create one of the most successful vehicles for information ever invented. For millennia, maps have carried us beyond the borders of immediate perception. Old maps feature remarkable artistry and imagination; one of my favorites, and perhaps the most striking example of imaginative art in a map, is the “Leo Belgicus”: a 17th century motif in which many similar maps of Europe’s Low Countries were drawn within the frame of a massive lion.
Leo Belgicus, and many other maps of the period, can be a pleasure peruse, and offer a glimpse into how mediaeval and renaissance thinkers interpreted the world around them. And though lacking modern knowledge, they still managed to inject a sense of certainty into a world overflowing with mystery.
Few things bring us closer to nature than hiking through the wild. Whether you’re following a trail, or venturing deep into unknown reaches, one thing is certain: you’ll need to prepare. Packing for an outdoor excursion means balancing comfort with minimalism. Supplies are sparse once you’ve left civilization, so you’ll have to bring (at least) the bare necessities, while keeping total carry weight as light as possible.
As a rule of thumb, the net poundage of a full pack shouldn’t exceed 20% of its bearer’s bodyweight (10% for day packs), although those with good endurance and hiking experience may be able to handle more. For new hikers, staying on the lighter side is best; you’ll be surprised how heavy a 20-pound pack can feel after trekking for a few miles.
Below is a list of necessities that no wilderness explorer should start a trip without.
- Pack – Adjustable, framed backpacks with a carrying capacity between 50 and 65 liters are ideal.
- Shelter – Lightweight and quick to set up, tents are a typical form of wilderness shelter. Some tents can be bulky even when stored, however, so you may want to conserve space and select another option. Those looking for comfort in wooded areas may prefer a hammock.
- Sleeping Bag – Sleeping bags made specifically for backpacking are designed to compress into small, easily transportable packages. Synthetic bags are an affordable option. For those aiming to pack less weight, ultralight down sleeping bags may be a prime choice. Bags also come rated for sleeping in certain temperatures; 20-degree bags are great for spring and fall, while 40-degree bags are suited for summer.
- Clothes/Dry Bag – Bring a few layers of synthetic clothes including a t-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, shorts, yoga pants/long johns, 2-3 pairs of socks, a light rain jacket, and, depending on location and time of year, a heavier coat. (avoid cotton or denim, as they are slow to dry and take up weight when waterlogged). Store them in a waterproof bag, and you can use the bundle as a pillow.
- Footwear – Go with footwear optimized for long treks, such as hiking shoes, hiking boots or trail running shoes. You might also want to pack a pair of sandals, flip flops, or crocs to wear off the trail.
- Hygiene/Medical Supplies – Use a small, ziploc-style bag to store toiletries: toothbrushes, toothpaste, toilet paper and feminine products if needed. General first aid supplies might include ibuprofen for altitude headaches, benadryl to counter allergic reactions, as well as disinfectant wipes and bandaids.
- Portable Stove/Cooking Pot – Many camp stoves get their heat from disposable gas containers, but makeshift stoves can also be fashioned out of empty soda cans and denatured alcohol. Of course the age-old option for cooking in the wild is simply to light a campfire.
- Water Bottle – Be sure to take along containers capable of storing two to three liters of water. Those traversing desert terrain or other dry areas, or traveling in hot weather should consider packing even more if places to refill won’t be readily available.
- Food Bag – It’s a good idea to store food separately and in a closeable bag, as you’ll have to hang it up at night if you plan on camping in bear territory (bring a thin cord, around 30 feet long if this is the case). Keep in mind that each person will consume around two pounds of food per day when hiking. Also be sure to avoid perishables (they won’t last) and canned goods (unnecessary weight). Many veteran hikers prefer to pack dehydrated meals.
Honorable mentions include a flashlight or headlamp, pocket knife, pepper spray, and a guide map. Equip yourself with these essentials along with a sense of curiosity and adventure, and you’ll be properly outfitted to conquer the trip of a lifetime.
About Peter Jutro
Peter Jutro has a passion for travel and exploration, as well as cartography and the history of maps. Having traveled extensively over the past 50 years, Peter has had the opportunity to learn a great deal about people and the world as a whole. He is a firm believer in his wife Ellen’s adage that “the more you travel, the bigger the world gets.”
Whether traveling for business or pleasure, Peter Jutro is always excited about the opportunities that a new place and culture have to offer. Some of his fondest memories include his honeymoon in Switzerland, a country that has felt like a second home to his family, as well as a research trip to Central Siberia where he had the exciting opportunity to work with the Russians on environmental issues.
An intently curious individual, Peter Jutro is continually looking to explore what exists around the world. While he may be learning about a culture’s history, studying its environmental concerns, or he and his wife might be hiking and scuba diving in one of a number of countries for pleasure, Peter always appreciates how travel serves as a catalyst for education, personal growth, and developing friendships.
Biodiversity In The Florida Keys
Peter Jutro is currently in the process of writing a book about Lignumvitae Key, an island in the Florida Keys. He has been involved in research and in the preservation of this area since the early 1970’s. Dr. Jutro finds it an incredibly fascinating place for historical, political, and biological reasons. The Lignumvitae Key Aquatic Preserve encompasses 7,000 acres of seagrass meadows, deep water channels, hard bottom communities, and mangrove wetlands. The island itself includes the last pristine lowland tropical forest remaining in the United States.
Berlin: A Family Connection
Of German-Jewish descent, Peter Jutro has an extremely personal connection to Berlin, the city from which his family emigrated to the United States. Just prior to World War II, his late father spent several months as a concentration camp prisoner in a Berlin suburb. Recently, Peter was excited to find a journal among his family’s historical documents; This journal had been written in by his father in 1939, and detailed life in the concentration camp. This inside look at the concentration camp, as well as the close personal connection with the author, makes this find a unique historical document. Peter is currently in the process of transcribing and translating the manuscript into English so that his father’s experiences can be broadly shared.
Peter Jutro dedicated more than 35 years to Federal service, serving in a variety of positions involved with Environmental Policy and National Security. Most recently, Dr. Jutro was Acting Associate EPA Administrator for Homeland Security. Before that, he was Deputy Director for Science and Policy and Director of the Washington office of EPA’s National Homeland Security Research Center. This group is responsible for the research needed to provide the science and technology behind the EPA’s disaster mandates, which fall primarily in the areas of decontamination, water protection, risk assessment, and resilience. His earlier work in academia, on Congressional Staff, and with Federal Agencies, dealt largely with risk assessment, global climate change and biological diversity.