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Guide to Having a Sustainable Vacation in Washington, DC

Head to the US capital for a vacation, our guide will provide green travel tips to reduce your environmental impact.

16 May 2024- Being greener on vacation doesn’t have to take a lot of extra planning or effort. Use these tips to have a sustainable stay in Washington, DC…

01 Choose a more environmentally friendly form of travel

Take the train or bus if you can. DC’s Union Station receives roughly 40 million visitors per year. Its beautiful architecture, variety of shopping and dining options and status as one of the largest transportation hubs in the country make the station a popular transit option. Numerous transportation modes are available, including rail via Amtrak, which recently reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, which is equivalent to removing roughly 51,251 passenger vehicles from the road. Through several key initiatives like energy efficiency upgrades, improved train handling and more efficient locomotives, Amtrak has reduced fuel and energy use year-over-year. Over the next decade, the company is targeting a further reduction to 40%. In fact, rail travel produces up to 83% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than driving and up to 73% fewer emissions than flying, making Amtrak the best option to shrink your travel carbon footprint. According to the 2021 U.S. Department of Energy Data Book, traveling by Amtrak is 46% more energy efficient than traveling by car and 34% more energy efficient than domestic air travel.

Once you arrive to Union Station, you can hop on DC’s subway system, the Metrorail, with a dedicated Union Station stop serviced by the Red Line. The bus is equally as environmentally friendly, using significantly less fuel and exerting less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than a plane. Choose from an array of options, including MegabusBattle’s Transportation and Vamoose.

02 Book a sustainable hotel

Eaton Hotel

With an increasing number of LEED-certified hotels in the District, find a spot with environmentally friendly practices and amenities. The Motto by Hilton is a LEED Silver-certified hotel in the heart of Chinatown. While there, you will find refillable water stations throughout the hotel, a vegetated roof area for hosting events and smart LED lighting and air conditioning with infrared sensors that auto-shut when you are not in the room. The newly opened Eaton Hotel is another unique sustainable option. The LEED Gold-certified property features natural and organic mattresses, along with 100 percent natural bathroom amenities. The extensive rooftop houses an herb garden and wind turbine, while the cuisine at chef Tim Ma’s restaurant, American Son, is mindfully sourced, featuring organic meats and vegetable towers.

03 Walk or bike to navigate the city

Unlimited Biking

Walking and biking are among the greenest options and give you the advantage of immersing yourself in the arts and culture of the city, exploring more neighborhoods and passing through beautiful sustainable gardens such as the U.S. Botanic Garden’s Bartholdi Park. The region’s residents take advantage of these methods too, as 58 percent of commuter trips in DC are by bike, walking or public transit, according to Buildings Magazine. Washington, DC was the first city in North America to launch a bikeshare system, which now has more than 4,000 bikes and 500 stations. Capital Bikeshare is one of the most popular ways to get around, with a single trip costing only $2 and a 24-hour pass just $8. The first 30 minutes of each trip is free with a fee for each additional half hour. Visitors can easily get and return a bike at one of hundreds of stations. Or visit Unlimited Biking’s website for some interesting offers.

04 Seek eco-friendly tours

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Washington, DC has plenty of options for tour guide services that value the environment. With the largest inventory of rental bikes in DC, Unlimited Biking allows locals and tourists of all ages to explore the city by day or night, including various tours like “Capital Sites” and “Monuments at Night” and seasonal offerings such as “Blossoms by Bike” and “Christmas on Wheels.” There’s also REI, which offers kayak and paddle rentals at National Harbor and hosts guided day tours and classes, including trips to Shenandoah National Park and New River Gorge in West Virginia.

05 Eat local

Restaurant- Mita | photo credit: Jen Chase

There are plenty of restaurants throughout the District that are good for the planet and good for you as well. Chaia, with two locations in Georgetown and Chinatown, brings its “farm-to-taco” philosophy to seasonal vegetarian tacos. A Baked Joint is a short walk from attractions such as the National Portrait Gallery and features local and organic produce, as well fresh bread made on-site. Head to NoMa, where you can explore Union Market’s more than 40 local vendors, including everything from locally-produced kombucha at Craft Kombucha to 100 percent plant-based Israeli street food from ShoukExplore more delicious farm-to-table restaurants in DC such as the vegan and vegetarian restaurant Mita in NW Washington.










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