Over the years, I’ve started to pay more attention to the impact my travels have long after I leave. Where the trash ends up. How the local businesses fare in slow tourism seasons. What becomes of places that become so hyped because of travel writers like me that they don’t have the infrastructure to handle it. So when Hostelling International told me about their Pack Your Impact initiatives, I wanted to check them out during my trip to Boston. I found that it’s easy to travel responsibly, even in a big American city. And it’s more important than ever, especially as we see climate change’s powerful effects.
Going Green in Boston
Bring your own water bottle, which you can fill up for free around town, including at the Boston Public Library, Boston Public Market, and on the Harvard University campus. Get your morning coffee (free at the hostel!) to go in a reusable mug like my favorite from HydroFlask. And instead of bringing styrofoam containers of to-go food, an item that’s not recyclable, bring a collapsible container to keep in your accommodation’s fridge. Don’t forget your reusable shopping bag, which can be used as a purse or can carry all the souvenirs you picked up. There aren’t trash cans on every corner like in other cities so you might need to hold onto your trash until you find one.
Skip the car entirely, relying instead on the city’s extensive public transportation network that includes buses, trains, and trams. Much of Boston is completely walkable and if you are in a hurry, borrow a bicycle from Hubway, Boston’s bike share program. For day trips, Zipcar is a good resource.
According to experts, giving up beef helps limit carbon more than giving up your car. In Boston, I found a number of healthy eateries that didn’t make me miss the meat. Dig Inn, Sweetgreen, and Cocobeet are just a few of the options. The Budget Backpack has a whole list of vegan and vegetarian restaurants in town. It’s also better to dine at restaurants that source locally rather than bringing in from elsewhere like Luke’s Lobster for your lobster rolls and chowder.
Sightseeing in Boston can also be green. HI Boston runs a free walking tour, which allows you to skip the sightseeing bus. Kayak around the Boston Harbor Islands or follow the Freedom Trail to get that step count up. Soak up the oxygen from the trees in Boston’s green spaces. Boston Common, the Kennedy Greenway, and Arnold Arboretum are a few favorites.
Check out this guide on how to travel sustainably in Boston.
Pack Your Impact at HI Boston
Hostelling International’s Boston location is the perfect place to base yourself if you’re concerned about the environment, especially as it was the city’s first LEED-certified accommodation option. In the center of it all, the hostel has bike rentals as just one of their perks, along with daily activities like pub crawls and tours. Breakfast and lockers are also included.
The property has won awards for its eco-friendly efforts, which is unique for such a large hostel. There are bins for your recycling and composting, making it easy to dispose of your recyclables and trash. Shared rooms like dorms mean less cleaning costs. Rooms have lights on timers and motion sensors, which, while not ideal for late-night arrivals, keep unnecessarily electricity down. And Dyson hand dryers cut down on paper towels. The hostel has a full kitchen so you can cook meals for you and your friends to limit leftover waste.
Pack Your Impact is the national non-profit organization’s initiative to encourage travelers to think about where they’re going before they leave in order to connect with locals. I went on a pub crawl with the hostel with a Bostonian, who took us to a few of the neighborhood’s best watering holes. There’s nothing worse than never actually seeing where the locals go, sticking only to the tourist paths.
General Green Travel Tips
In addition to the tips mentioned previously, you can shop from local businesses rather than chain stores. Don’t do any activities that exploit people or animals. Take pictures of brochures and guidebooks instead of wasting paper. Fly an airline that offers carbon offset or take a lower energy form of transportation like train or bus. And pack light! You can re-wear items instead of laundering every item.
For more on how to travel green, check out this guide on Lonely Planet.
How do you travel responsibly?
This post was created in partnership with Hostelling International, who hosted me in Boston. There are also affiliate links that help support this site without costing you anything.