Take only pictures, leave only footprints. We’ve all heard it, but how many of us actually heed it? Today, with more than one billion people traveling every year, any traveler with a conscience is honor-bound to engage in sustainable practices that tread lightly on the Earth. To that end, several new sites and apps have emerged to help us be greener globetrotters before, during, and after the journey. The following are five of the best, with functions that range from finding fuel-efficient flights or seasonal produce to locating choice bike rentals in that delightful, distant neighborhood you’ll discover this afternoon.
This 501(c)3-listed charitable organization runs on a simple slogan: Small Space + Little Effort = Big Impact. First, browse through the site and identify participating hotels in the region or city to which you are traveling. Next, read about that community’s current projects and what they might need at the moment. And finally, pack the items in your suitcase then drop them off upon arrival. Items range from pencils and calculators for local schools to Band-Aids and eyedrops for free clinics. Pack for a Purpose partners with major hotels such as Ritz Carlton, Fairmount, Sandals, Raffles, and more. The site suggests packing five pounds or less, and all donations are tax-deductible.
If you like eating local, this free app will be your friend for life. Locavore uses your phone’s GPS to help you determine which fruits and vegetables are in season wherever you are in the world. In addition, it pinpoints the location of nearby farmers’ markets, farms open to the public, and community-supported agricultural venues. The app, which is available on both Android and iOS, also offers quick and easy recipes for an extra fee and prompts users to share their finds on Facebook, inspiring other farm-to-table travelers to join the locavore movement.
A marketplace created by two Swedish programmers, Glooby provides a search engine that allows travelers to compare data from more than 20 booking sites, highlighting the most fuel-efficient flights and eco-friendly hotels. The site lists flights with the lowest C02 emissions first in its results, inspiring people to travel more responsibly by selecting flights with the least environmental impact (as opposed to offering people the opportunity to buy offsets).
Aside from your own two feet, cycling is hands down the most eco-friendly way to get around town. That’s where Spinlister comes in. The app locates bike rentals (as well as skis, snowboards, paddleboards, and surfboards) from “peers” in over 100 countries on six continents. The renter uses the app to confirm rental and arrange a meet-up. Pricing varies but runs at about $15 a day for a cruiser bike, though something sexier could cost up to $150 a day. In addition to peer-to-peer lenders, the app includes rental shops and bicycle trail guides to help you make the most of your wheels; it shows you a map of the surrounding area and highlights spots where bikes (or bike trails) are available. Think of it as Airbnb for bikes—it’s a great way to spend a few hours in a new city or a few days touring a picturesque coastline.
Founded by former publishing executive Eric Zimmerman, TripZero helps offset the carbon footprint created by your trip at no cost to you. Through a partnership with Expedia, the site has access to millions of hotel rooms at guaranteed low prices. Those hotels pay a commission to TripZero for attracting customers; a portion of that money goes toward buying carbon offsets for projects such as forest protection in Kenya or wind turbines in Indiana. The offsets are certified by reputable third parties, including the Verified Carbon Standard and the Green-e Climate Standard. While hotels and airlines already invite consumers to pay extra for offsets, the difference with TripZero is that these offsets come at no cost to the traveler. Earth-friendly and wallet-friendly, TripZero is a win-win start-up with sustainability at its core.