By Kristen Pope
For a mountain community that relies on winter sports for both its economy and lifestyle, the impact of climate change can be profound. So, as a family embarking on a summer holiday, how can we reconcile our desire to explore with our passion to protect the planet from climate change?
Work these tips into your mindful vacation planning:
1. Research. Ask about a hotel’s energy and environmental policies and see if they are Energy Star certified. If you’re heading to the beach, choose a Blue Flag beach, which meets strict criteria for water quality, environmental education, management, and other environmental practices.
2. Unplug. Before heading out on your trip, make sure all appliances are off and unplugged, including chargers, microwaves, televisions, kitchen appliances, and other gadgets. Leaving them plugged in drains energy.
3. Pack Light. One study found that for every ten pounds a U.S. airline passenger brings aboard, an additional 350 million gallons of jet fuel is required per year.
4. Reuse. Bring a reusable water bottle (and filter, if traveling somewhere with nonpotable water). Reusable shopping bags or totes will ward off the ubiquitous plastic bag. And pack small reusable containers, instead of purchasing travel-size containers or portions, for toiletries and snacks.
5. Conserve. It’s easy to forget to turn off hotel lights and conserve water while on vacation, but to offset your impact, you need to be even more vigilant than usual. Reuse hotel linens and towels and, if the weather is cool, open the curtains on sunny days to heat the room.
6. Transportation. Enjoy the local culture and go carless. Use public transportation, bike, or walk. Take advantage of bike-sharing and rental programs, available in a growing number of destination communities.
7. Get Creative. Before leaving, purchase carbon offsets. Offered by many organizations, offsets make up for unavoidable energy use by investing in projects that reduce or capture pollution. TerraPass.com and Carbonfund.org both allow users to choose the project they want to support and feature calculators for determining the amount of greenhouses gases used. For example, a flight from Jackson Hole to New York City, with one stop, would equal 1,926 pounds of carbon dioxide, requiring an offset costing approximately twelve dollars—a small price to pay for doing the right thing.
Protect Our Winters
Organizations like Protect Our Winters (POW), founded by pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones in 2007, help the winter sports community focus on the impacts of climate change. POW’s efforts include educational initiatives, advocacy, and supporting community-based projects. POW also helps educate kids on climate change, providing them with everyday steps they can take to help. Additionally, the group lobbies government officials to take action.
Jones, frequently featured in films by Teton Gravity Research (a local film company founded by his brothers), created the organization in response to the changes he’s witnessed while traveling. “Through a lifetime in the mountains, I saw a definitive change,” he says. “I realized that—as a snowboarder who is out there every day—skiers, snowboarders, and winter enthusiasts needed to come together to protect our winters.”
When Jones travels, he minimizes his airplane trips, while maximizing his time at a destination. “I definitely travel to snowboard,” he says. “[But] I try to do fewer trips and make them longer. When I’m getting on a plane, I want to get more out of it.”
Check out POW’s efforts, or become a member, at ProtectOurWinters.org. -KP