9 Ways to Travel Green in the San Juans
From eating local, to bringing your own cup, sustainable travel is in the air—and the water
Here in the San Juan Islands, our vibrant economy depends on our beautiful environment. Here are some ways you can lower your impact on the environment during your visit to the San Juans.
1. Travel without a car
Rather than rent a car at the airport in Seattle, let someone else do the driving and take the Bellair Airporter shuttle bus with it's scheduled stop right at the ferry terminal in Anacortes. Walk onto the ferry, sit back, and enjoy the ride. If you go all the way west to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, the ferry unloads right in town. Friday Harbor, at 1.2 miles, is entirely walkable for lodging, restaurants, museums, and activities such as biking and kayaking.
2. Sightseeing by shuttle
When you’re ready to explore the rest of the island, hop onto either San Juan Transit or the Friday Harbor Jolly Trolley and enjoy the scenic route of all the island has to offer. These shuttles run seasonally, and a stop at Lime Kiln Point State Park is a must; it’s one of the best places in the country to see whales from shore, the lowest impact whale watching there is. The rocky shores, abundant kelp, and deep upwellings make it an excellent habitat for all kinds of wildlife.
San Juan Transit also runs on both Orcas and Lopez Islands on the weekends in the summertime. Walk onto an inter-island ferry (there’s no charge), then catch a shuttle at the ferry landings; they will take you on a loop to the main attractions on each island. You can also travel on the interisland ferry by car; you pay traveling east to west (Lopez/Orcas/San Juan), but it is free going west to east (San Juan/Orcas/Lopez).
3. Two-wheeled travel
Rent a bicycle, or bring your own, and see the islands from two wheels rather than four. Each island has different terrain for different levels of experience. Take a look at our article on bicycling in the San Juans, which includes maps and helpful tips about cycling safely. If bicycling isn’t your speed, rent a moped or scoot-coupe instead of a car and save on fossil fuels.
4. Choose a Green Lodging
Many lodgings in the San Juans use various practices to help reduce waste and lower energy and water consumption. Here are a few examples: Pebble Cove Farm recycles waste, composts food scraps, uses non-toxic cleaning products, and line-dries their linens, weather permitting, which saves energy and makes linens smell divine; The Outlook Inn on Orcas Island gives visitors who choose not to have their sheets or towels changed during their stay a coupon for five dollars that can be applied towards the bill, in the restaurant, etc. Ask your concierge what they do to lower their energy footprint.
5. Eat Local
Find pastries, lunch and snacks at the Saturday Farmers' Markets on Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan Islands. Many local artisan producers sell their products at the Orcas Food Co-op, San Juan Island Food Co-op and Blossom Grocery on Lopez. Many restaurants focus on ingredients from local farms, and their own onsite gardens, such as Doe Bay Cafe and Inn at Ship Bay. These and other restaurants, such as Ursa Minor and Friday Harbor House, take it one step further, by foraging for salal berries, Nootka rose and other unique items that grow in the islands.
6. Gift Green
The best gift from any trip is something made by a local artisan. The islands are full of talented jewelers, painters, clothing designers, sculptors and more. Check out the farmers' markets, or shop Spring Street in Friday Harbor, or the villages of Eastsound on Orcas Island, or Lopez Village on Lopez Island.
7. Leave No Trace
San Juan County is the first county in the country to be designated a Leave No Trace area. Here are the 7 Leave No Trace principles, tailored to the San Juan Islands environment:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Stick to Trails and Camp Overnight Right
- Trash Your Trash and Pick Up Poop
- Leave It As You Find It
- Be Careful With Fire
- Keep Wildlife Wild
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors
8. Carry your own cup, banish plastic bottles, and skip the straw
When you get coffee, bring a travel cup, Mason jar or favorite cup along to avoid single-use paper cups. Most paper cups cannot be recycled, so avoid adding to the landfills by carrying your own.
Instead of buying bottled water, use a reusable bottle. Making plastic bottles to meet America’s demand for bottled water uses more than 17 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year.
Plastic is the most prevalent type of marine debris found in the Salish Sea. Reduce your use today and skip the straw! Over 50 restaurants and cafés on Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan Island have taken the pledge, including island favorites like Ursa Minor, The Mansion at Rosario, and Duck Soup. Find them all here.
9. Support fuel-efficient travel
If you drive, make sure your car is in good shape before you go, with no oil or other leaks. Studies estimate that 50 to 80 percent of the tires on U.S. roads are under-inflated. If every American motorist kept their tires properly inflated, we could save up to two billion gallons of gas each year.
There are about a dozen Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in San Juan County.
Looking to do even more? Make your San Juan Islands adventure a volunteer vacation!