Whenever you travel, whether it’s by plane, train, or automobile, you need to make some decisions about how you’re going to handle your travels. The best way to be a sustainable traveller is to minimize the negative impact your travels have on the environment and try your best to leave the place better than you found it. That means being mindful of not just your destination but also of your fellow travellers and their destinations as well. Here are 10 ways you can be a sustainable traveller and keep your carbon footprint low.
1. Avoid Single-Use Plastics
Whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure, one surefire way to be more sustainable is to cut down on single-use plastics. To do so, bring your own reusable water bottle, coffee mug and silverware with you—this way, you won’t have to purchase a pack of plastic bottles every day.
Additionally, if you must purchase something in a plastic container or bag, reuse it as many times as possible before recycling. This can be as simple as washing out your coffee cup from breakfast and bringing it with you throughout your day. If you drink from disposable cups at lunch and dinner, use those containers as a trash can liners after they’ve been emptied.
2. Stay in Eco-Friendly Hotels and Hostels
The hotels and hostels you stay in during your travels will account for about 30% of your footprint. Find accommodations that make an effort to be environmentally friendly, or at least follow eco-friendly practices, like taking out organic linens each day instead of using one set that’s washed frequently.
It’s also important to look at where these establishments are located—being mindful of their impact on air quality, noise pollution and wildlife conservation is just as important as what they do behind closed doors. Not only will you be making an effort towards sustainability when you stay in one, but it could give you valuable perspective on ways you can lead more sustainable practices back home. Your trip might even give you ideas for a new business idea while you're at it!
3. Read About Ecotourism
If you’re going off-the-beaten-path, make sure you do your research. Find out what ecotourism means in that part of the world. How much carbon emissions are considered good? Is it worth it to hike up a mountain when there’s a road available? Are there eco-friendly hotels available, and should I stay in them? Find out everything you can before booking any flights or making any arrangements.
There are tons of travel sites that offer tips on being an eco-friendly traveller. Like magazines and blog articles that cover issues on sustainable living and Eco-friendly hotels to stay. When you know how to be an eco-friendly traveller, you won't just be helping yourself, but also everyone else.
4. Eat Organically Grown Food at Restaurants
It may be difficult, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. Just because you’re eating at a restaurant doesn’t mean you have to indulge in an organic-free meal. Talk with your server about what kind of food is available for purchase, if it's local or imported, and how far away it was grown or caught.
If enough people are interested in buying green food, restaurants are likely to start carrying it regularly. If no one shows interest, they won't change their menu for just one customer—even if that customer pays extra! And remember: Not all organic foods are sustainable. Make sure you know where your food came from before trying to make any grand claims about your sustainability efforts! Use Reusable Bags.
Did you know that single-use bags are banned in many countries, including Bangladesh, Chile, France, China and Ireland? In the United States, towns are starting to impose fees on these plastic items. Disposable plastic is non-biodegradable, meaning it can sit in landfills for thousands of years. Not only is it an eyesore but it also pollutes rivers and oceans. With reusable bags being so cheap nowadays—usually under $5—there’s no excuse not to get rid of these items. If you’re still hesitant about taking on an extra bag, there are alternatives like silicone green straws or even bags made out of paper if nothing else is around.
5. Buy from Local Markets
Products purchased in local markets are often handmade, but they’re usually cheaper than you might think—sometimes even more affordable than mass-produced goods. Buying from locals provides work for people in rural areas, allowing them to stay close to home instead of migrating away in search of employment. It also helps cut down on pollution caused by transporting items over long distances. If you need something specific, try hitting up local markets first—you just might find exactly what you’re looking for.
6. Go Off the Beaten Path
If you’re looking for traditional tourist destinations, skip the beach resorts and high-rise hotels. Instead, head out into rural areas, travel off-season (that way, resorts won’t need air conditioning) and find hostels or smaller guesthouses. You can also keep costs down by hitching rides with locals instead of renting cars or using buses and trains—the former is easy as pie on islands such as Santorini or Cuba, while mainland Europe has an entire hostel system built around hitchhiking. This way you avoid getting stuck with unexpected gas expenses at every turn.
7. Consider Volunteering During Your Trip
Volunteering is an incredible way to travel and do good in one go. Whether you volunteer at an animal shelter, teach English abroad or construct houses in developing countries, it’s possible to stay somewhere for free and contribute positively to your new community. This will not only improve your experience but also help spread awareness about important issues like poverty and environmental preservation around the world. Think of it as travelling with a cause rather than just travelling for thrills.
8. Use Public Transport
There’s no denying that plane tickets can cost a pretty penny, but if you’re looking for an affordable way to get around—as well as lessen your carbon footprint—you should consider taking public transport. The bus system in most large cities is relatively easy to navigate and allows you to move from place to place without having to worry about parking or traffic.
In some countries, trains are also an excellent option for getting from city to city at a reasonable price and with minimal environmental impact. Alternatively, if you really want to save money on transportation and don’t mind longer travel times, there are also options like carpooling and hitchhiking that will allow you to save money and help avoid traffic congestion.
9. Use Cloth Instead of Paper Towels
While many hotels do provide amenities such as soap, laundry detergent and paper towels, they don’t always consider that these items might not be used by all their customers. Many environmentally-conscious travellers look for ways to limit their use of non-renewable resources and avoid using single-use products like paper towels. Bring your own cloth towel and dry off with it—it dries faster than you think! If you’re looking for something even more eco-friendly, try bringing along a washable shower pouf as well.
10. Don’t Wash Clothes So Often
Most of us have been taught that frequent washing is better for our clothes. That’s not always true. Many quality manufacturers say their garments will last longer if you wash them only when necessary, and some will even add a special protective coating to fabrics so they can stand up to more abuse before being cleaned. Plus, using less water in your laundry routine isn’t just good for your garments—it’s also good for nature! You can save hundreds of gallons of water each year by simply allowing your clothes to become dirty before laundering them. All in all, you can reduce your impact on our planet significantly just by changing how often you wash clothes while travelling.