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Heading out of town for a fall foliage trip, a college homecoming event or to visit family members? While traveling does increase your carbon footprint, there are ways to minimize that impact by choosing wisely in terms of how you travel and where you stay. Keeping these tips in mind, it is possible to be environmentally-conscious as you plan your trip and thus to fulfill the Jewish principle of bal tashchit (reducing waste).

Getting There

Think about using rail service or express bus to get to your destination. Using public transit is better for the environment than using individual cars, and this is also a great way to relax and see the sights as you travel. If there is no way to get to your destination via public transit, consider using a smaller, more energy-efficient car for your trip. Save energy and save money by getting more miles to the gallon as you head to your destination. And, if you must fly, consider buying carbon offsets. The website www.climatepath.org has a simple calculator to help you estimate the monetary carbon “cost” of your air travel and allows you to offset that cost by donating to projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions (such as reforestation and alternative energy programs).

Questions to Ask in Choosing a Hotel

Before making your reservation, ask the following questions when you contact the hotel, motel or bed and breakfast:

•Does the hotel provide recycling bins in individual rooms and/or in common areas, or must all used items be thrown out in one bin to be sent to the landfill?

•Are compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) used to minimize energy use?

•Can check-in, check-out and other services be managed electronically to reduce paper use?

•Where continental or free breakfasts are provided, does the establishment make use of plates, cups, etc. that are reusable, biodegradable or compostable–or are all utensils and serving items thrown away after single use?

Where possible, choose the hotel that has the most eco-friendly practices so that your trip involves less water, paper and overall energy waste.

While at the Hotel

Wherever you decide to stay, there are things you can do while visiting to be more sensitive toward the environment. Some simple things you can do include:

•Let the hotel know your sheets and towels don’t need to be washed every day; in most cases for stays less than a week, you can use the same towels, sheets and pillowcases just as you do at home

•Every time you leave your room, turn off the heat or air conditioning, all lights, the TV and radio and also close the drapes

•If your hotel is in an urban area, walk to destinations during the day rather than driving everywhere

By combining as many of these practices as you can, you can rest easy and enjoy your trip knowing that you are doing your best not to expend more of the Earth’s resources than you need to. Happy travels!

originally posted on jewishinstlouis at http://www.jewishinstlouis.org/blog.aspx?id=345

Gail Wechsler is the Director of Domestic Issues/Social Justice at the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis. She is the staff person for the Jewish Environmental Initiative (JEI), a committee of the JCRC and a part of the JCRC's Bohm Social Justice Initiative.
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