Over the river and through the woods,

To Grandfather’s house we go….

Anyone traveling to Grandma’s, to another relative’s home or to visit a friend who is hosting Thanksgiving Day can look for green travel options.

Taking the train helps avoid long lines and high costs of air travel. Traveling by rail gives the driver a break as well and makes sense when going to nearby states such as Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin. Amtrak www.amtrak.com has information about trip-planning.

Going longer distances by train might require overnight travel and mean leaving a day or two before the big event. If that is  not feasible and flying is the only option, it may be wise to research air travel.

The “Better World Shopping Guide” (third edition, 2010) gave the highest rankings to Jet Blue, Virgin American and Alaska Air for environmental responsibility. If a destination requires flying another airline, travelers may wish to purchase carbon offsets for the miles flown. Native Energy or TerraPass have information about carbon-offset programs. Locally, Evanston Community Foundation has such a program, with the funds directed to environmental education programs.

This year, Southwest Airlines plans to reduce its carbon footprint by implementing fuel-efficient landing practices at 11 U.S. airports, among them Chicago Midway.  The others are Birmingham, Boise, Los Angeles, Oakland, Oklahoma City, West Palm Beach, Raleigh-Durham, San Jose, Amarillo and Corpus Christi.

If driving is a must, so should a fuel- efficient vehicle be. If the family car gets low mileage, a rental car for the holiday weekend may be the greener option. Car rental agencies may offer special discounts to get the business and with gas prices hovering near $3.50 a gallon, this could be the most cost- and fuel-efficient option. These sites offer green car rentals for longer trips: www.rezhub.com and www.hybrid-rental-car.com. 

Even for local Thanksgiving Day trips there are fuel-efficient car-sharing options available, such as I-Go Car Sharing or Zip Car. Both programs require membership to participate.

If lodging accommodations will be needed, Green Hotels or Green Vacation Hub will direct travelers to eco-friendly hotels and motels. For those who prefer staying at bed and breakfast inns, a look at www.bnbscape.com or lanierbb.com will help find innkeepers with sustainable practices.

As noted on Pamela Lanier’s website, green travel is not just about reducing carbon emissions or protecting wildlife. The number of people with allergies and chemical sensitivities has increased and is distributed widely across age, income, race and educational groups. Bed and breakfasts that use green housekeeping practices designed to avoid potentially irritating cleaning products are havens for those with environmentally triggered sensitivities.

Some basic green travel tips:

1. Taking short showers and shutting off the water while brushing teeth conserves water.

2. Air conditioning, lights and any other electric devices should be turned off when leaving the room.

3. Travelers may wish to bring their own toiletries or, if they use the provided toiletries, they may take leftovers home.

4. Positive feedback about green programs could encourage the innkeeper or bed-and-breakfast host. Express appreciation for any green programs offered.

Happy, green Thanksgiving travel planning!

Over the river and through the woods –

Now Grandmother’s cap I spy!

Hurrah for fun! Is the pudding done?

Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

     (– Lydia Maria Child, 1802-1880)

Contact Eco Gal at ecogal247@yahoo.com or read her blog at: http://askecogal.blogspot.com.