At our house, December 2009 was a blur of working, crafting and traveling. Somehow, in all of the excitement and frenzy of the holidays, the 31 days of 2009’s final month felt more like 13 days. There just never seemed enough time! That must be why, almost a full week into the new year, we are just now getting around to replacing all of the calendars in the house. In past years, I have always grabbed a big, glossy shrink-wrapped calendar from the big-box bookstore, but this year I am looking for something different. Because we are going to have to live with it for the next 12 months, I want something unique, clever and, of course, eco-friendly.
I am writing this week’s article from a hotel room in Toronto. Earlier, while I was waiting in a seemingly-endless line at the check-in desk, I had a few moments to peruse the hotel’s “environmental pledge”. It got me thinking; as diligent as we are to remain environmentally-friendly at home, it seems that many of us slip into bad habits as soon as we check into a hotel. How soon we forget that the little things, like leaving the light on when exiting the room and taking extra-long hot showers, can quickly add up. You probably don’t wash your bed sheets every day or use a fresh towel (or two) for each shower that you take at home, so why should you expect it elsewhere? I’ve compiled a few tips to help you “go green” and reduce your impact when you travel. Of course, I’ve also included a few eco-friendly, handmade items to make your trip a more pleasurable one, too. (Upcycled suitcase, above, by Get Ready, Set Go!)
Have you ever wanted to throw a dart at a map and travel to the spot that it hits? While that idea has a certain spontaneous appeal, perhaps a little more thought should go into not just the location, but the timing of your trip. Traveling during the high-season can mean a higher stress level for the traveler and for the destination itself. By shifting your travel plans to even just a month after a peak period, you allow the area to recover and rejuvenate itself. Plus, chances are that you and your family will get to see things that high-season visitors don’t and you will be get a more authentic experience. It’s a great way to get to see a culture at it’s relaxed and natural best. (Passport holder, above, by My Paper Garden.)
Eco-conscious travelers choose tour operators and facilities with strong environmental sustainability policies Before you book, do a little research and ask questions about the property that you intend to visit. If they have good practices in place, then they’ll be happy to brag about them! You might be pleasantly surprised to learn that your hotel composts kitchen waste, or that they are taking actions to conserve water and energy. Ask about low-flow toilets, water-saving showerheads and earth friendly housekeeping, then reward companies that put these polices into practice by giving them your business. And, don’t forget to write home – recycled map stationary (above) by Dote.
As the old saying goes, “take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints”. While those little single-use shampoos and soaps are cute, they tend to generate more garbage than they are worth. Before you depart for your adventure, buy small, refillable containers to port your own toiletries. Not only will you reduce waste, you’ll be using products that you know are good for you, rather than leaving it to chance. Even better than bottled, the Lemon Basil shampoo bar (above) by Beautiful Soaps contains conditioning rose hip seed and neem oils and is 100% spill proof – perfect for the suitcase or backpack.
Whether you are hostelling or staying in 5-star comfort, you can always try to make a positive impact on the places you visit. By treating your home away from home with the same care that you treat your own, you help to ensure others who follow will be able to experience and enjoy it, too. We can all can make a difference, especially if we take the steps, both large and small, together. What else can we do? I would love to hear your eco-friendly travel tips – please comment and share them with us. (Travel journal, above, by Blue Toad.)
Hitomi Kimura is the designer and screen printer of kalla Design, textile and surface design studio based in Ibaraki, Japan.
In 2007, after studying graphic design and working for a publisher in London, England, Hitomi started her own small business in Japan, selling her screen printed matters.
All the printed products are hand screen printed with water-based eco-friendly inks and then some of them are carefully machine sewed by the designer herself.
Stephanie Weber of Pickle Things has lived in Portland for the past five years. In her own words, ‘I love it here. Of all of the places that I have lived, I feel the most at home here. I like that it is so beautiful, has a great neighborhood/community feel, progressive and eco conscience and has fabulous restaurants.’ She lives with a dog, birds, fish and soon a cat and roommates who actually own all the animals. A self-described independent, perfectionist who cannot sit still, Stephanie loves fabric (specifically vintage patterns), cool glass jars, 70s embroidered wall hangings, screwball comedies from the 30s-40s, macaroni and cheese, vegetable gardens and rain. Don’t miss Stephanie’s shop and her blog.
So, you’ve taken a pledge to give only handmade gifts this Christmas. Your ornaments and decorations are all one-of-a-kind creations gathered from the local craft fair and visitors to your home are going to be treated to local artisan cheeses and breads before being sent home with homemade fudge and gingerbread from your own kitchen. It sounds like you’ve got the bases covered…but you’re not planning to use boring old store-bought wrapping paper, are you? Of course you’re not!
I have always been a proponent of the fabric gift bag. Not only do they look so cute under the Christmas tree, they are almost infinitely reusable. Considering the cost (and waste!) of paper wrapping and plastic ribbon, fabric bags will pay for themselves within just a couple uses. These colourful, reversible gift bags by Pidoodle are doubly-good for the environment because the fabric used to create them was repurposed from thrifted garments. A dedicated thriftier and “fickle crafter”, Carissa seeks out used (and sometimes damaged) pieces at charity shops and gives them a second life by dying, silk-screening and sewing them into gift bags. She even includes a piece of tulle to replace expensive and fragile tissue paper. How clever!