Despite the weather reports from the eastern part of the United States and record snowfall in an Italian village, spring really is upon us – and for many people, that means we’re seeing lots of green. So, naturally, the theme we chose for April’s Italy Roundtable is GREEN.
I’m going to take this opportunity to talk a bit about traveling in a responsible way when going to Italy. The goal isn’t to be preachy – I think we’ve all done somewhat irresponsible things when traveling – but rather to give you something to think about the next time you’re planning a trip.
I have heard of people who choose not to travel by airplane any longer because of the impact of all those carbon emissions on the environment. I am not that virtuous – I’m going to keep flying to get to far-off places. But I do my part to travel in a more environmentally-friendly way, no matter where I go – and that doesn’t just mean riding the train instead of renting a car.
Here are a few ways you can engage in “green travel” when you visit Italy, or, really, just about anywhere.
Italian public transportation makes this an easy thing to do, and in many cases the train or bus or Metro is really the best way to get around, anyway. In some areas, you’ll definitely need to rent a car in Italy in order to get around – and in those cases, if you’ve got 3-4 people in the car then you’re doing far less individual damage to the environment than if everyone had their own set of wheels.
(And, yes, you’ll learn everything you need to know about taking trains in Italy in my ebook, “Italy Explained: Italian Trains.”)
During a hot Italian summer, it’s a very good idea to carry a water bottle with you to stay hydrated throughout the day. What’s not a good idea, however, is continually buying new bottles that you’ll drain and then discard. Plan ahead and bring a collapsible water bottle that won’t take up any room when it’s empty and is easily refilled.
Making an effort to keep the money you spend in the community is a great way to bolster the local economy. It’s not the same category as maintaining a light footprint for the sake of the planet, but it certainly helps the local environment instead of a bunch of people who don’t even live there. Choosing smaller hotels over big chains and booking tours with locals are two ways to keep the money you’re planning to spend anyway from leaving the community.
Italy’s cities offer plenty of opportunities to buy cheap knock-offs of designer brand goods, and to anyone on a budget that fake Prada bag for €15 sure sounds better than the real thing for hundreds or even thousands. But those fakes are made in China, so the carbon footprint to get them to Italy is huge. Besides that, it’s actually illegal to buy fakes – let alone sell them. There are lots of Italian-made goods that don’t bear famous names if you want something in the middle-ground.
Italians are good at eating primarily what’s local and seasonal, so you have it easy – just follow their lead. As with the fakes made in China, any food that has to be transported to your table from far away has a greater environmental impact.
Learn what ingredients or dishes are traditional in a city or region (an excellent way to do this is to see what’s for sale in the outdoor markets), and you’ll be well-equipped to order from any restaurant menu. You’re also much more likely to get the tastiest food that way, too, since it’s fresh and a dish any respectable local chef grew up eating.
No matter where you stay in Italy, whether it’s a hotel or a hostel or an apartment rental, you can make some eco-friendly decisions as a guest.
Many hotels these days offer guests the option of not having sheets and towels changed daily, so take advantage of this. There’s really no reason to get brand-new linens on a daily basis – you don’t do it at home, right? – so it’s an easy and reasonable thing to do.
Pay attention to the air conditioning and heat – turn them off (or at least down) when you leave. It’s an enormous waste of energy to leave the A/C blasting all day long when you’re out sightseeing.
You can take all of this a step further by looking for a green hotel before you even leave home. Some have LEED certification, and others may promote eco-friendly practices such as recycling rain water, using green cleaning products, etc.
When you get home, you can consider buying carbon offsets for things like your flight or car rental. Some companies that do this are TerraPass, CarbonFund, and Carbon Neutral – they help you figure out the carbon footprint of your trip, and the offset you purchase will go toward things like renewable energy or planting trees.
How do you travel green when you travel?
What greenery are my cohorts writing about this month? Click along with me through to the following links to read each of their posts – and please leave comments, share them with your friends, and tune in next month for another Italy Blogging Roundtable topic!
And in case you’re wondering, yes – that’s a shorter list. Two of the regular bloggers are busybusybusy this month and will return to share their wit and wisdom next time.
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