McCabe: Consider sustainability when summer traveling

Ahhh, summer. The smell of freshly mown grass. Hot sun beating on your head. Sipping icy drinks and laughing with loved ones.

Summer is a time to rejuvenate from the nonstop grind of class work by camping, taking car trips and chilling at the lake with family and friends. However, many of us overlook numerous environmental consequences when planning summer fun.

While the negative impacts of travel play a factor into the heavy footprint humanity has upon the environment, this should not cause one from completely stopping all summer trips. After all, adventures must be had.

Mia Werger, junior, feels the weight of her actions on the environment when she travels.

“I’ve often struggled with wanting to travel and do fun things but feeling guilty about using extra resources to do so,” Werger said. “I try to find a middle ground, where I recognize that I am not personally at fault for our environmental problems, but that I still have a responsibility to set a good example for others.”

This middle ground can be reached through thoughtful actions we take when planning for and going on vacation. The website REI has a list of eco-friendly vacation tips. One suggestion is DIY snacks. The many wrappers from single packaged snacks overflow trash cans and pollute nature.

Homemade protein and granola bars are easy to make and perfect fuel for a long hike. Instead of buying multiple bottles of flavored water, buy a water flavor to squeeze into your water bottle. Try to find used gear to rent to prevent buying brand new gear. This will save you money and reduce environmental impacts industries have. Toothpaste, soap and lotions such as sunscreen can have chemicals that pollute water systems. Buying non-chemical lotions and biodegradable toothpastes and soaps is another step in the right direction when traveling in an eco-friendly manner.

Dave O’Hara, the sustainability director on campus, suggests focusing on both water use and food localism when traveling to reduce one’s environmental footprint.

“Food production can be ecologically expensive,” said O’Hara. “Choices like eating small fish rather than big fish, or shifting your diet toward local and traditional grains, fruits and vegetables can make a big difference.”

O’Hara adds that packing light, spending money on local businesses and restaurants, walking, using mass transit whenever possible and learning about the natural ecosystems of different places can also positively impact the area one is visiting.

Werger suggests another tip for eco-friendly traveling that is both simple and inexpensive.

“If we want to travel more sustainably, I think we need to challenge our love of convenience. For example, even though air travel is faster than ground travel, it can be more polluting,” Werger said. “This summer, think about slowing down your travel plans. Enjoy the journey, experiment with simplicity and challenge yourself to make your next vacation the most sustainable one yet.”

This summer, think of why you are traveling and focus on the present moment of each individual spot. Find a uniqueness in each place and delve into the process of travel instead of the next destination.

O’Hara asks an important question we need to consider when we embark on our next summertime adventure.

“What if, instead of traveling for photographs and pub crawls, we traveled to observe and to learn, to subject ourselves to the disciplines of learning to live as others do for a little while, eating and sleeping and walking as people in other places do?”