1. Pick a sustainable travel destination instead of a popular one
A good way to travel sustainably is to choose a smarter holiday destination. Many countries are working towards becoming carbon neutral and Bhutan is the first country to become carbon negative!
It’s better not to follow the latest travel trends, based on popular movies or series. As an example, the Game of Thrones brought fame to Dubrovnik, Croatia. This caused problems for a destination that was not prepared for mass tourism. For instance, increased traffic, deterioration of historical sites, and increasing prices that are driving locals out.
You can find the top 100 most sustainable travel destinations here.
2. Research before booking
Research accommodations and tours, that you’re planning to book, based on how ‘green’ they are. You can normally find this kind of information on their website. Booking responsibly is a positive way to travel sustainably.
Hotels supporting sustainable travel
Many hotels are now involved in green travel programs or donate a percentage of their profits towards environmental action. For instance, Marriot is only using bulk dispensers in bathrooms, to eliminate single-use plastic. Even better, bring your own environmentally-friendly toiletries rather than using the hotel’s products at all.
Read here: how to reduce plastic while traveling
A jeep ride through the desert or feeding eagles may seem harmless. However, these practices can be damaging to the eco-system, nature, and wildlife. Seek advice from reviews, and via the company’s website, to find out if a tour service is practicing in a responsible way.
Many tour companies are focusing on the future of sustainable travel:
- Intrepid Travel – has been carbon neutral since 2010.
- Fairbnb – Donates 50% of the profits into community projects.
- B’n’Tree – Plant a tree for every booking you make (and are partnered up with Booking.com and Skyscanner).
3. Pack light – Easy Sustainable Travel Tip
Packing lightly and thoughtfully is a small, yet effective way, of helping with sustainable travel. The more we pack, the more fuel planes, trains, and automobiles will need. It’s also easier to carry lighter luggage. Try to halve what’s in your bag by carefully thinking about what you’re packing. For example:
- Pack a refillable water bottle, or a water purifier, to save you from buying single-use plastic.
- Try to pack eco-friendly products, or go completely plastic-free, by using shampoo bars, tooth tabs, deodorant bars, etc. They use up less space, are much better for the environment and are allowed in your hand luggage.
- Bring your own food on the flight. Airplane meals are generally served with a lot of single-use plastic.
- Bring your own cutlery and straw. This saves on single-use plastic given at cafes and markets.
- Consider bringing a kindle or an iPad to read books on. Books will make your luggage much heavier.
- Think about your clothing. Pack thin materials, that can be rolled up very small to utilize space.
4. Avoid animal entertainment
Wildlife is one of the best parts of traveling. Sadly, 75% of all wildlife tourism has a negative effect on animals. Taking part in animal entertainment can mean anything as obvious as watching dolphins performing tricks, to riding an elephant. It also applies to entertainment that seems innocent, like feeding an eagle, holding a snake, or trying Luwak coffee.
Animal welfare (riding animals)
Companies may seem to promote the welfare of the animal. However, there is not enough research to support ‘safe or humane’ riding of animals. Because of this, it’s a great idea to research animal-related activities beforehand.
A good alternative is to visit national parks, where animals roam freely like these national parks in Sri Lanka.
Feeding wild animals is not a good idea, because they may become dependent on food supplies if they are fed by tourists. Looking after wildlife in these ways helps sustain travel for the future.
Tip: A positive way to care for animals is by volunteering at a certified animal rescue center. (See all locations)
5. Be respectful of the environment
Respecting the environment ensures the future of sustainable travel. Over time, beautiful natural areas are seeing the effects of mass tourism.
For instance, avoid touching ancient temples and recognize that trails and fences are there for a reason. In short: read the signs.
Coral bleaching is another worldwide problem. Due to this, only look at the corals from a distance and never touch them. By doing this, coral growth is hoped to increase.
Another important and easy change is making sure to wear reef-safe sunscreen.
6. Leave tracks not trash & make travel sustainable
Protect animals and sea life from getting entangled and ingesting plastic toxins, or even prevent microplastics from ending up in our food. It is a relatively simple task to throw your garbage in designated bins. Remember that plastic can take up to 1000 years to decompose! As a result, it’s best to use compostable alternatives, avoid buying plastic, or travel plastic-free.
Positive action, such as picking up litter is a fantastic way to help. Beach clean-ups are happening all over the world, so have a look online to see where your nearest one is. This is a great way to be a part of positive change, help the community and meet new people who are interested in sustainable travel!
7. Shop locally
Sustainable travel is about having a positive effect on your destination, its culture, and the community. One way to do this is by shopping at businesses that are locally owned.
Find local markets for food that is locally sourced. This is different from the big supermarkets that import food via planes, contributing greatly to carbon emissions.
Likewise, fast fashion is badly affecting the planet. Try to adopt a minimalist approach and ask yourself ‘do I really need this?’. If you feel like you absolutely must buy those shoes, make sure to shop second hand.
Must-read: Amsterdam Vintage Shopping Guide
Tip: When visiting your local street market, it’s a good idea to bring your own reusable bags/containers with you so you don’t need to use plastic bags.
8. Save Energy & Water
A lot of effort is made to save energy and water at home and these efforts can continue throughout our travels. Here’s how:
Protecting our resources is a huge part of sustainable travel. Save energy whilst traveling by:
- Unplugging – don’t leave items on standby and turn the lights off.
- Temperature control – Turn the heating down when leaving, turn off your air conditioning and adjust your refrigerator’s temperature. These use a huge amount of energy!
- Close the curtains – This keeps the heat out so you don’t need as much power from your air conditioning.
Saving water has never been more important. Water resources are low, and less than 1% of water worldwide is currently usable. Conserve water by:
- Leaving the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door – meaning that housekeeping in your hotel won’t wash your towels and sheets.
- Rewear your clothing more than once – or handwash.
- Have a shower once a day for less than 2 minutes – traveling somewhere warm? Have cold showers instead!
- Choose food that doesn’t require much water to be cooked – so avoid rice and pasta.
Fact: Laundry is 16% of a hotel’s water bill!
9. Eat a little less meat
Meat has proven to be one of the biggest causes of climate change, therefore, decreasing meat intake has a huge positive change.
“If all food crops grown globally were fed directly to humans instead of animals, around 70% more food would be added to the world’s supply, which would be enough to feed 4 billion additional people.”
This explains that the farming of meat causes massive deforestation, as forests are cut down to make way for crops and farming (as seen in the Amazon).
Additionally, meat causes high levels of methane production from cows and pollution of waterways from animal waste.
Veganism is not consuming any products of animal origin and it is growing fast! Numerous incredible plant-based cafes and restaurants pop-up around the world who create delicious food and crave people for more.
But if you can’t quit your chocolate and cheese just yet, then try to reduce your meat intake. This will help ensure the future of our planet and sustainable travel.
10. Change the way you travel
The airplane has opened up the world, by making it easier for us to get from A to B and to travel to places we otherwise wouldn’t be able to. However, they use a lot of fuel, so they have extremely high carbon emissions.
Short flights can be short rides too!
If you can, avoid flying, by taking buses and trains. Countries are renewing their rail systems, so now more overnight routes are available between countries. For this reason, research if a bus or train ride is available as well.
Will flying ever be seen as a form of ‘sustainable travel’?
Unfortunately, flying will not be sustainable anytime soon. But the good news is certain airlines now give you the option to carbon offset your flight. This involves the airline investing money in other environmental projects, to balance out their flight emissions. Carbon offsetting has its critics (people aren’t always sure where the money goes) and it definitely doesn’t solve carbon emissions. However, right now it is the best option to help if choosing to fly. Skyscanner also now shows which flights are the green travel choice, based on CO2 emissions.
The slow travel method
Once at your destination try the slow travel method, by taking things easy and walking or cycling. Spend more time at one destination, rather than rushing through the country. This method is a great way to really understand local life and customs! Take public buses or car share between destinations if you are traveling around a country. A great option is Bla Bla Car and Flixbus.
Tip: For tips and tricks on how to improve, think about using a carbon footprint calculator like this one. https://footprint.wwf.org.uk/
Creating positive changes to make travel sustainable
‘A Journey of a Thousand Miles, Must Begin with a Single Step’.Lao Tzu
We are united by our love for travel. By using these tips, the traveling community can drive forward an incredibly positive change in the area of sustainable travel. Swap your steak for local veg, cut down your shower time, and take that train instead of a flight. We can do this!
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- Book Tours & Attractions via Viator
- Book a Bus/Train/Transfer via 12Go
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Thank you so much for this article! It’s really worth to think about!