By Maria Karagiannis
Travelling in a way that is in line with environmental values can be conflicting - we want to see as much as possible of this beautiful world that we are working so hard to preserve, and want to immerse ourselves in other cultures, but the emissions and waste associated with travel can make it difficult to justify to ourselves. Never fear! You can still have the honeymoon of your dreams and be kind to the environment! I'm Maria, co-founder of the Green Wedding Guild and owner of KaraMia Events, and I'm here to give you my top 5 tips for a greener honeymoon, based on my own experience!
1. Destination & Transportation
For the lowest carbon footprint, it is best to avoid travelling long distances and/or by plane. If you've always wanted to explore more of your own backyard, such as your home state, your country, or a neighboring country, there is always plenty to see, and your trip will have less of an impact on the environment. But what if the honeymoon you envisioned takes place somewhere else, in a faraway destination? Maybe somewhere tropical, or European, where your only options of transport are airplane or boat (and let's face it, few of us have the kind of vacation time to accommodate a trip across the pond by boat). While this means your travel footprint will be larger, there is still so much value in travelling the world and experiencing other cultures.
If you do decide to travel by plane, don't worry! There are still ways you can reduce your impact and even offset some of your emissions. In terms of your trip overall, regardless of how you get to your primary destination, keep in mind that the most eco-friendly modes of transportation are public transit (trains and buses), or by car (as opposed to plane).
For our honeymoon, my husband and I got to cross off the #1 place on my travel bucket list: Italy! I've wanted to visit Italy since I was old enough to comprehend that my family was Italian-American, so for me, getting to finally do that, and share it with my husband, made it the trip of a lifetime! Although we travelled by plane, we offset our travel emissions by purchasing carbon offsets from terrapass. Once in Italy, we travelled by tour bus, public transit, or walked.
2. Green Your Suitcase
Firstly, if you don't already own your own luggage, you can either borrow from a friend, shop secondhand, or purchase a sustainably made suitcase. If purchasing new luggage, you want to look for high quality that will be durable, preferably made with sustainable materials. I love my adorable rolling suitcase from Lily Bloom, made with recycled water bottles!
Here, I've put together a quick suggested packing list as a guideline. This can be completely different for you, depending on where you're going or what you plan on doing, but it's a good starting point! Ideally, it is best to pack light - if travelling by plane, avoiding checking a bag means avoiding extra baggage fees and less weight on the plane.
A few things to note, if you are packing a safety razor, you cannot pack the razor blade itself in a carry-on if travelling by plane. Either purchase blades at your destination, check your luggage, or explore other options, such as not shaving, or bringing a razor made from recycled plastic.
There are so many options for lodging when travelling! The most cost-effective and least impactful options are probably camping or staying in a hostel or communal space, but I doubt that's what most couples have in mind when they picture a romantic honeymoon. Staying at an AirBNB is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture, and can offer more control over your waste stream.
If you're staying at a hotel, avoid having your sheets changed unless they need to be - keeping the do-not-disturb sign on the door is a good way to ensure your room is not cleaned unless you request it. Bringing your own toiletries also means you won't be using the single-use ones provided by most hotels. Also, be sure to scope out the hotel and surrounding areas to find recycling and compost receptacles!
As we were part of a tour group, our lodging was predetermined by the tour company. Fortunately, it seemed they chose mostly local boutique hotels, and I almost always found recycling and compost bins somewhere in each Italian city. Many hotels are also starting to do away with single-use toiletries!
4. Dining & Hydration
Enjoying different cuisines is an important part of travelling. If you can, do a little recon on places you wish to dine, either by doing some online research or observing some of the tables when you walk in. If you're staying somewhere that you have access to a kitchen, you can shop at local markets to cook some of your own meals, which will likely save you money as well. Avoiding fast food will likely result in less waste, and of course, plant-based foods will generally have a lower carbon footprint.
Hydration is important. Do a little research about the water quality and access where you will be staying. Many cities have fountains throughout where you may easily refill your reusable water bottle! It also might be worth investing in a travel filter for some peace of mind, depending where you're going. It should go without saying, but I'll state it anyway for the record: do not let yourself become dehydrated just because you cannot refill your water bottle! Your health and safety should always be a top priority. If you're out in the sun all day and there isn't a refill station nearby, go get a water bottle from the nearest shop.
It really wasn't too challenging for us to mitigate our food and beverage waste while in Italy! There are water fountains located all over the major cities, especially in Rome! There is actually a map of all of the drinking fountains around the city. Of course, we weren't perfect - depending on where we were, whether or not we could find a fountain, or if the water quality was questionable (southern Italy), we did drink from plastic bottles, but opted for the largest size more often than not. The coffee culture in Italy is perfect for reducing waste, too - even at the rest stops, our espresso was served in ceramic cups! Be warned, though, there were a few instances where we were identified as Americans and it was assumed we wanted disposable cups...
I wish I had known about ecotourism before my honeymoon. The International EcoTourism Society is a great resource for learning more about eco-tourism and activities that are beneficial to the environment and local economy.
Ecotourism is defined as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education."
There are many things you can do on your honeymoon that can benefit the local people at your destination. Support small businesses and makers, dine at locally owned restaurants as opposed to chains, or take a class taught by a local resident!
While we toured museums and historical landmarks throughout Italy, we also made it a point to eat at authentic restaurants in each city and supported small shops when we did make a purchase. One of the couples on our tour had a wonderful idea: they skipped out on one of the group tours while we were in Rome and took a pasta making class that they'd found through Air BNB!
When In Rome...
The most important thing to take away from all of this is that there are things you will have control over (like refilling your water bottle when you see a fountain), and things that you won't (like the gelateria putting a very unnecessary tiny plastic spoon in your cone of gelato), and there are some things, that, well, "when in Rome!" (such as the plastic cup of wine I had in Rome because it's illegal to roam the piazza drinking out of glass, apparently).
You want to reduce your impact, but you also want to have an enjoyable and memorable experience, and that's hard to do if you're constantly worrying about the waste you're creating. Do what you can, be sure not to litter, and have a wonderful time together!
Maria Karagiannis is one of the co-founders of the Green Wedding Guild and owner of KaraMia Events. After planning her own low-waste wedding, it has become her mission as a certified wedding planner and eco-ethical vendor to help others reduce the impact of their events.