Eco-Friendly Travel: The How-To’s of Sustainable Tourism
While travel lets you see the world, it also has a significant effect on the environment. From the high carbon dioxide outputs of short-haul flights to wasteful single-use plastic containers, your travel habits might be having more of a negative impact than you think. Take your green thumb on the road and learn how to reduce your carbon footprint, limit your waste, and give back to local communities while you travel.
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The 6 Best Eco-Friendly Travel Tips
Want to be a more eco-friendly tourist but unsure where to start? We've collected our favourite tips for greener travel, from bringing your own reusable containers to offseting your carbon dioxide output through charitable donations. No matter where your environmental passion lies—climate change, deforestation, threatened coral reefs—there are easy steps you can take to reducing your impact and traveling responsibly.
1. Unplug and turn off
Waste not, want not. Before you leave for a trip be sure to switch off all lights and unplug everything in your home that could be sapping “phantom” electricity. Unplugging things like laptop chargers or game consoles before your holiday can conserve energy while saving you money on your electric bill! Unplugging doesn’t just apply to your pre-trip routine: before you head out for a day of sightseeing on a city trip or relaxing on the beach, be sure to turn off the lights and unplug chargers in your accommodation as well.
2. Be transport-savvy
It’s hard to book a holiday with zero carbon emissions (unless a local hiking trip is up your alley), but there are some things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint as you travel from point A to point B. As a general rule for short-haul trips, traveling by bus or train is usually your greenest option. The worst choices are planes and cars, particularly when the car only has 1 occupant.
For long-haul travel, taking a plane may be your best option, but you should try to take a direct flight when you can—the biggest emissions for flights are on take-off and landing, so flight patterns with layovers boost your carbon output significantly. If you're resolving to cut down on flights this year, try taking multiple minibreaks to destinations reachable by bus or train instead of choosing long-haul travel spots.
Once you’re at your destination, make fuel-efficient choices. Opt for public transport, rental bikes, or just walking from place to place when you can, instead of going for an Uber or a taxi every time you need to go a few blocks.
3. Be considerate of the flora and fauna
Eco-friendly habits aren’t just for city trips: your presence has an impact on your surroundings on nature trips and beach holidays as well. Besides the more obvious—leave no trace, pick up trash you find on the trail, don’t feed the animals—several conservation groups are asking snap-happy Instagrammers to stop geotagging their photos. Geotagging can lead to an upswing in visitors to a specific spot, which is particularly dangerous if it's more “off the beaten path”. Large numbers of visitors on these paths can lead to trail degradation and increased litter in the area, which park rangers may not have the resources to counteract.
Heading to the coast? While choosing a sun cream to protect your skin at the beach, protect the coral reefs as well by opting for a sun cream that’s oxybenzone- and octinoxate-free. These chemicals, found in many sun creams, can cause damage to coral reefs.
4. Pack smart
To avoid stacking up single-use plastics, bring your own refillable containers for shampoo, lotion, and other toiletries from home and say no to wasteful hotel plastics. Take it to the next level by packing a reusable container, set of utensils and portable mug as well—that way you can get your morning coffee or afternoon snack to go without creating unnecessary waste. This tip is especially good for budget travelers—hit up the local farmer’s market or grocery and pack your own lunch before you head out each morning to save money. Don’t feel like toting your Tupperware? Resolve to eat in instead of taking away when you can.
5. Keep it local
Tourism is often a major strain on an area’s infrastructure, which can negatively affect its residents. Do your part by shopping and staying at locally-owned businesses. For example, you can ditch the big supermarkets to do your shopping at farmer’s markets offering locally-sourced produce and stay at locally-owned bed-and-breakfasts instead of hotel chains. Shopping at independent local shops is also a great way to get unique Christmas, birthday, or holiday gifts for friends and family. Not only are you contributing directly to the local community, but you are also reducing your carbon footprint by choosing products that come from nearby and don’t need to be shipped in from other places.
6. Offset your impact
No matter how hard you try, most trips will inevitably produce some kind of carbon dioxide output. If you want to give back, use an online carbon calculator to measure the carbon dioxide output of your trip. These sites will usually offer suggestions for projects you can donate to in order to offset your travel, such as reforestation or clean energy initiatives. Some airlines even offer this offset option as you book your tickets online!
If you want to start your New Year off right with better eco-friendly travel habits, this is a great place to start.