Monday, Dec. 22, 2008 | 05:35 PM AT
Okay, as an immigrant and avid traveler, I'd be the last person in the world to tell you not to travel. Please, GO TRAVEL. It's important. It helps you see firsthand the impact the west has on the world, the way other cultures do things, and the way underneath all the superficial stuff, we're all the same. So by all means travel, but do so responsibly. Most of us may not want to admit it, but the moment we leave the west, we're walking dollar bills. And the choices we make when we travel have a huge impact on the environment and the cultures we visit.
So how can you plan a green vacation?
Actually, it's easy.
If you're still in the planning stages, it might make sense to:
* Travel in your own back yard: Most Canadians haven't really explored their own amazing, exotic country. So if you can (and if you can convince your stubborn Canadian spouse) plan a local trip. A ski trip is way greener than a plane ride to Cuba
* Take the bus or train instead of driving of flying. You'll leave a smaller footprint.
If you ARE going to fly, stop packing liquids and gels in your hand luggage! You're not going to get away with it, they ARE going to take them away and all of it's going to end up in the landfill. So don't!
Also, pack light: Easier said than done when being green, but the lighter your bags, the less fuel you'll consume if you drive or fly.
Pack lunch (in reusable containers): Not only will you be eating healthier for less money, you'll save on fast food waste.
Buy carbon credits: For those on longhaul trips or with a painful case of scruples, you can buy "carbon offsets" or credits. Basically your money will go towards green or sustainable businesses that will then emit fewer greenhouse gases. Too complicated? Think of it this way: You're going to be eating more than your fair share. So pay someone else to eat less.
By the way, carbon credits are a complicated business (but worth your while). To figure out which credits are good (and to avoid scams) check out the David Suzuki Foundation's primer on carbon offsets.
Meanwhile, have a little cash and want the trip of a lifetime? Take a tour with Kepri. It's a Montreal travel agency co-founded by Anthony Chamy, the charming gentleman in the photo above. They will show you a side of your destination that isn't in any guidebook and will help you make choices that are environmentally AND socially sustainable.