Sustainable Travel: Going Green in the Smokies

Today, many people are looking for at least some ways to “go green.” What does going green mean? It means reducing your carbon footprint (your impact on the earth) through the 3 Rs method: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. It’s all about finding ways to ensure our beautiful earth stays beautiful, safe, and healthy for generations to come. The less waste we produce, the better. But going green doesn’t have to be a big thing. Little steps make a big difference.

And remember: before you go through your cabinets and toss out all your plastic wrap and solo cups, start by using what you have. After all, throwing all that out in favor of reusable options just means more waste! Once you’ve gone through what you have, then start making small changes! Going green also doesn’t have to be an at-home-only thing. Sustainable travel is increasingly popular and actually a good way to save money! Here are a few tips on going green in the Smokies when you travel.

Bring a reusable coffee mug + water bottle.
Pack your favorite tumbler for hot drinks and reusable bottle for water. You’ll save on buying bottled water while you’re out, and some coffee shops offer discounts for bringing your own container! They even make water bottles with built-in filters if you’re concerned about drinking tap water. And if you must buy bottled water, be sure you choose a recyclable option and actually recycle it!

Leave it better than you found it.
This is a popular saying when talking about national parks in particular, and it’s something my mom always ingrained in us. When you head out for a hike, bring along a small trash bag and pick up what you find. At the very least, never drop trash along the way – pack out what you packed in.

Pack snacks from home.
Instead of grabbing pre-packaged chips and trail mix in the store, pack your own and bring them on your trip. And instead of packing in plastic baggies, bring your homemade snacks in reusable sandwich/snack bags or wrap them up in beeswax wrap!

Buy local produce.
The Gatlinburg Farmers Market provides locally grown produce and homemade goodies, all sourced right here in the Smokies. That means no using big trucks to (gas, fumes, etc.) carry your goods over a long distance. You get fresh food, you support the Smokies, and you reduce your impact on the environment!

Stay on marked trails.
Wandering off marked trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park can cause major destruction – even if it doesn’t immediately look like it to you. Climbing off the trail can cause erosion and kill local flora, so please watch signs and stay on track!

Take the trolley – or walk!
Instead of driving everywhere, hop aboard the local trolley! Both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge have trolley systems, so you’ll have plenty of options. And the trolleys are very affordable (starting at $0.50), so it’ll save you money as well. Especially in downtown Gatlinburg, take the opportunity to walk if you can! You’ll see much more by exploring up close.

Get reusable containers for your bathroom essentials.
Instead of buying sample size conditioners and soaps, get a set of reusable travel bottles and refill with your full size items at home! Bonus: you don’t have the small selection of what they’ve already pre-packaged, and you can have your favorite things!

Once you’re done with maps & brochures, put them back.
There are a lot of attraction brochures and maps in a touristy area like Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Instead of tossing them in the trash, take them back for the next person to use!

Turn off the lights when you leave.
Keep the lights off in rooms you’re not using and always turn off lights before you leave the cabin. This also applies to fans, TVs, and other electronics you’re not using.

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