Whether you love sunrises or sunsets, oceans or mountains, our planet is a beauty — except for places mired in pollution and awash in plastic.
World Oceans Day, celebrated each year on June 8, reminds us all to show some serious TLC for the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic and Southern oceans. These are places we all love to explore when we go on vacation, but they also are profoundly affected by everything from trash to sunscreen.
Here are nine ways travelers can help Mother Earth’s vital waterways.
1. Refuse single-use plastics from bags, utensils and straws
Travel with a compact set of bamboo or stainless steel utensils and a reusable drinking straw to avoid plastic, the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach suggests.
Each year, almost 9 million tons of plastic wind up in the ocean. Hotels, airlines, cruises and other travel-related businesses are cutting back on plastics, particularly plastic straws.
2. Repair and reuse stuff.
Environmentalist and sci-fi author T.A. Barron said his gear holds memories. Don’t be so quick to discard something you think is ruined or broken.
“My rain gear is covered with duct tape,” he said. “Here’s where my sleeve was ripped by a thorn bush in Patagonia — a little duct tape and they’re fine.”
3. Fly less.
OK, we know this is hard when there’s an entire world to explore. But when you must take a plane, fly nonstop. Connecting flights create more pollution because planes burn most of their fuel during takeoff.
4. Calculate your trip’s carbon footprint and buy carbon offsets,
Airlines that offer carbon offsets include Delta, JetBlue and United (Eco-Skies).
5. Instead of driving, ride a cool bus
Pierre Gourdain, the Los Angeles manager of FlixBus, which launched last month in the U.S., said that in Europe, “70% of FlixBus passengers choose the bus even though they have access to a car, with most of our passengers opting to bike or walk to a stop, keeping the entire travel chain as green as possible.”
6. Explore car-free destinations.
San Francisco is another good car-free option. It is easy to explore on foot, by bicycle, trolley or BART.
7. Stay in eco-friendly hotels, hostels, etc. that follow sustainable practices
Check a hotel or brand website for environmental efforts. Hilton, Four Seasons, InterContinental, Marriott/Starwood, Radisson and Wyndham list their eco-measures.
8. Leave a place as is or better than you found it
The Colorado Tourism Office and Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics just released a guide that highlights how to take care of Colorado, but the principles apply everywhere.
9. Donate or volunteer your time.
Make your travel a give-back experience.
“Wherever you go, wherever you travel, try to do something that helps those places be protected and conserved. It may be leaving a donation for the local nature center,” author Barron said.
You can find more planet-saving tips in my recent “Money Matters” column for the L.A. Times Travel section that shows how going eco can save you money.