An unfortunate side effect of traveling is that it can have a negative impact on the environment. One study by the University of Sydney found that global tourism accounts for 8% of total carbon emissions. According to a TripAdvisor survey, nearly two-thirds of travelers say they “often” make eco-friendly travel decisions, such as their choice of hotel, transportation, or food source, so it’s definitely something that travelers are aware of. Thankfully, with a few simple changes to the way you travel, it’s easy to limit the impact you have on the Earth as you adventure around it.
Avoid The Airplane
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, aircraft produce 12% of all U.S. greenhouse gases generated from transportation. The next time you’re planning a trip, think about all of the great places close to home that you haven’t yet explored, and that you can get to by luxury motorcoach, instead of flying halfway around the world just to see something new.
Don’t Forget About Home
We go in depth into all of the things you should do to Prepare Your Home For Your Next Trip but it’s important to remember that not only are these tips good for your home, they’re good for the environment as well. Turning down your water heater, adjusting your thermostat, and unplugging appliances while you’re away can help reduce the amount of energy that your home uses while you’re away, so it’s not consuming unnecessary resources.
Take Your Toiletries
It’s fun to sample a new soap or shampoo brand when you travel, but those tiny hotel toiletries come in plastic bottles and other packaging that create a lot of waste. Pack your own soap, shampoo, lotion, and other essentials to keep them out of the trash, and if you happen to forget something and do need to use the hotel’s offering, you can always bring it home to use on your next trip by refilling the bottle with your own products. Even better, save space AND the environment with non-liquid toiletries like Dr. Bronner’s All-One Bar Soap that can be used for everything from shampoo and body wash to shaving cream.
Stay In Green Hotels
One of the biggest decisions you can make when planning a vacation is where to stay, and picking a location that’s committed to green practices like recycling, serving local and organic food, cleaning with non-toxic products, and providing electric car charging stations can go a long way towards reducing your carbon footprint. An easy way to find somewhere green to stay is TripAdvisor’s GreenLeaders Program which showcases eco-friendly hotels and B&Bs, from budget to luxury.
Skip The Laundry
You don’t wash your towels every day at home, so why change that routine just because you’re traveling? Getting a fresh set of towels each day means that the old set has to get washed, and laundry is one of the most environmentally damaging parts of hotel operations. Save water, and energy, by just using the same sheets and towels for the duration of your stay.
When you travel, chances are you’re going to be eating out and on the go a lot, and that can mean a lot of single-use plastics and other disposable goods. One easy way to reduce your environmental impact is to bring along your own reusable bags, straws, utensils, and food containers.
Pack A Water Bottle
Traveling often means a lot of activity, which means you’ll need to stay hydrated. Instead of buying a bunch of plastic water bottles to quench your thirst, bring along your own bottle that you can refill regularly. Even better, if you’re in a place where the water might not be 100% safe to drink, even if you’re getting it from a restaurant, you can bring along a water bottle with a built-in filtration system like the LifeStraw Water Bottle.
Collapse Your Coffee Cup
If traveling means you’re staying out late and waking up early, then you’re probably starting each day with a cup of coffee, and many travelers love to start their day by visiting the local coffee shop since it gives them a sense of what the locals do on their regular schedule. Unfortunately to-go coffee cups create a lot of waste, but you can avoid that by bringing your own, like this Stojo Silicone Collapsible Cup that packs down into a small container so it’s easy to throw in your day bag and it’s always available.
Walk It Out
Instead of taking a Taxi or an Uber from one destination to another, consider walking. It’s better for the environment, and gives you a chance to get up close and personal with different parts of a city, seeing things that are off the ‘Must See’ list for most tourists, and giving you a more cohesive experience instead of just jumping from one activity to the next.
It can be tempting to grab a familiar bite to eat at an international chain restaurant, but many of those restaurants source ingredients from far away, and ship them around the world just to fill up their menu. By eating at smaller local establishments, you’re more likely to support a restaurant that sources ingredients locally, which is better for the environment, helps support more of the local economy, and probably tastes better and more authentic anyways!
Avoid The Animals
If you want to go out and see nature, you need to get out into nature. Plan a hike, hire a guide, or just keep an eye out for the natural wonders that surround you. If you go somewhere that promises hands-on encounters with lions, tigers, bears (oh my!) or other wild animals, chances are those animals weren’t captured in the most humane way, aren’t being kept in conditions that are suitable for their needs, or are being mistreated.
Trash The Tchotchkes
If you’re looking for something to remember your trip, buy locally made (preferably handmade) products, rather than those that have been imported from other countries just to fill up a gift shop. Items that are flown or shipped in have a much larger carbon footprint, and who wants yet another cheap, cookie-cutter souvenir made on an assembly line? Instead, check out these 6 Unique Travel Souvenirs To Remember Your Experience.