Love to travel but also love taking care of the planet? Join the club. It’s safe to say it’s a difficult predicament to be in. Travelling may be a bitch to the environment but don’t fret, I’m not here to tell you to quit travelling altogether! With these 43 easy sustainable travel tips, you can do bits for mother earth when heading out on your next adventure. Just how we like it, eh?
1. Travel less
Well, I thought I’d kick off this post by repeating a blatantly honest truth. Travelling is not sustainable. Shock horror! This first tip is perhaps a bit redundant but if you really want to reduce the environmental impact of your travels, just travel less. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, mate.
2. Make the most of your local surroundings
One of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint while travelling is to not travel far. Luckily, there are so many amazing places to visit in the UK, so I always welcome a good staycation with open arms! If you are looking for ways to maximise the most of local travel, read my blog on how to satisfy your wanderlust when you can’t travel.
3. Choose travelling by train, bus or ship over flying
If you have the time, travelling via bus, train or ship generally has a less negative environmental impact than flying. And it may actually lead to you having a more unique and fun experience too! Whether you just want to visit Paris via the Eurostar, or fancy travelling further abroad whilst interrailing on a budget, there are many ways to see more of Europe without ever stepping foot on a plane.
4. Invest in eco-friendly travel products
From reusable cutlery and make-up wipes to odourless clothing and “the world’s smallest ‘washing machine’”, I recently wrote a guide to the 27 best eco-friendly travel products that will change your life. These simple swaps will help you to live a more sustainable life both at home and abroad!
5. Do not engage in animal tourism
Just don’t be that kind of traveller, okay? Animal tourism is, frankly, nasty and it needs to stop. If you want to do better for the earth and the creatures on it, do not take any tour that promises hands-on encounters with wild animals, unless you are sure that it is 100% ethical. This means avoiding riding elephants, walking with lions or visiting tiger enclosures. If you do engage in animal tourism, you are tragically supporting an industry that illegally captures and abuses millions of animals every single year.
6. Opt for more sustainable hotels
Don’t just stay in any old unsustainable hotel chain. Instead, take the time to ask questions about the hotel or hostel’s sustainability initiatives. This could mean anything from solar power, wind turbines and rainwater harvesting to energy-efficient lighting and low-flow toilets. Luckily, environmentally conscious hotels aren’t necessarily more expensive than their unsustainable counterparts. For example, four years ago I stayed at Mosaic House, a hostel in Prague, which was the first hotel or hostel in the Czech Republic to utilise 100% renewable source energy. And the best part is that it was dirt cheap too!
7. Go camping or glamping
Unsurprisingly, one of my favourite sustainable travel tips is to go camping or glamping. I just love it, okay? In recent years, hotels have been accused of damaging the environment, especially when it comes to water and energy usage. Choosing to camp or glamp is not only better for the environment but you will also save a lot of money, and arguably get a more authentic experience. However, it is important that when you sleep under the stars, you leave the campsite as you found it – this means no littering and taking good care of the earth!
8. Take showers, not baths
I know it may be tempting to have a lovely, long bath on holiday because 1) you are on holiday, why the heck not, and because 2) you are not paying for the water bill. However, baths use up to 70 gallons of water, while showers use just 10-25 gallons. So if you want to be an eco-friendly traveller, use ya head. Top tip: to be even more environmentally friendly, take fewer and shorter showers too!
9. Hang up your towels after each use
This is by far one of the most frustrating things about travellers. I mean, you don’t wash your towels every day at home, so why do it when you travel? Hanging up your towels after each use is the universal sign that you’d like to use them again. So instead of chucking ’em on the floor, hang them up to save heaps of water and energy used to launder them.
10. Return maps, brochures, and other tourist info once you’re finished with them so that they may be reused by future travellers
Is there any greater waste than throwing valuable resources in the bin after just a single use? By returning all your tourist information guides either to the tourist information office or to your hotel, they may be reused by future travellers. This saves more copies being printed out in the future. Or better still, entirely save paper waste by going digital! You can download offline maps onto your phone so that even when you have no internet abroad, you can still get around easily.
11. When you leave your room, always turn off all lights, heat/AC, and television
Quite like the whole towel malarkey, this is one point that winds me up to no avail. You are not using any of these resources whilst you are out of the room so why on earth would you keep them on?
12. Walk or cycle to get around whenever possible
Choosing to walk or cycle instead of jumping in a taxi or hiring a car cuts down on petrol usage and saves you money – the best of both worlds! Eat your heart out, Hannah Montana. It will also give you a more local experience of the place you are in and it is a lot healthier for you too.
13. Leave the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door of your room for the duration of your stay
If you do decide to stay in a hotel, this is a great way of reducing your energy use! Leaving the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door, rather than inviting the cleaners in every day, cuts down on chemical cleansing agents, electricity used in vacuuming, and the washing of bed linens and towels.
14. If you want to travel by tour, do so with eco-friendly tour companies
There are many eco-friendly travel companies to choose from – just do your research! However, be careful to watch out for greenwashing, the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, service, or company practice. Not good!
15. Honour local customs
Being a sustainable traveller isn’t simply about how you treat the environment. It’s all about treating the people and local customs well too! Do a little research before you travel to learn about the destination’s local cultural traditions so that you can speak and behave appropriately. For example, this may mean covering up in Muslim countries or religious sites.
16. Pack light
One of my favourite sustainable travel tips is to pack light when flying.
Not so fun fact: the more a plane weighs, the more carbon emissions it produces. Every kilo counts when flying. Pack only what you need, and the environment (and your bank account) will thank you!
17. Carbon offset your flight
While it may be on this list of sustainable travel tips, cutting out flying isn’t always going to be possible! However, one way to reduce your carbon footprint when you fly is to carbon offset your flight. When you book your next flight, just tick the little carbon offset box and for very little extra money, your emissions will be compensated for. The funds generally go to projects involved in tree planting, renewable energy or conservation.
18. Visit a ‘green’ destination
It will come as no surprise to you that some countries are more environmentally sustainable than others. Countries such as Costa Rica, Norway and Denmark are on top of their sustainability game, especially when it comes to sustainable tourism. These so-called ‘green’ destinations support the celebration of local culture and tradition, involve the local business community, and protect scenic views, habitats and wildlife. So by visiting these countries, you are benefiting their local economy, putting more money into countries who are doing good for the world.
19. Don’t buy new clothes just for travel
Unless they are an absolute necessity, that is. The fashion industry is the second highest polluting industry in the world as it has drastic effects on the environment in terms of energy, water, land and chemicals used. So if you can avoid buying new clothes for travel, do it. However, if you do have to purchase new clothes, favour charity shops, second-hand shops or sustainable fashion stores over fast-fashion brands.
20. Don’t print your boarding pass, hotel reservations, etc.
In a world where almost everybody owns a phone, it’s easy to just download your plane, train or bus boarding passes and store them on your phone. This will save a hell of a lot of paper waste. Just be sure to select the mobile ticket option at checkout!
21. Pick up litter when you can
Whether it’s on the beach, in a city or when you go hiking, pick up litter when you can. Sometimes it’s just the little things like this that make the biggest difference. I mean, imagine the impact we could make if we all just took five seconds out of our walk to pick up even just a few pieces of crap. You don’t even need to go out of your way to do it – just pick it up each time you see it and dispose of it correctly! Simple.
22. Don’t fly first class
I mean I can’t say I have ever had – or will ever have – the money, to fly first class, but if you do, I would think twice before you next fly first class. Booking first class is worse for the environment than flying economy since first-class flyers take up more space in the cabin and consume more on board. Plus, this area of the plane is always going to be heavier. And we already know the effect weight has on a plane!
23. Keep your aeroplane rubbish
Airlines have been slow to hop on the recycling bandwagon so while it may seem easier to just chuck your rubbish in the on-flight bin bags, do mother earth a solid and dispose of it correctly at home.
24. Use public transport not taxis
If you are not one to walk or cycle anywhere (isn’t it supposed to be a holiday, after all?), stick to public transport rather than hopping in a taxi. Believe me, the metro will be your new best friend.
25. Avoid cruises
Sorry cruise lovers. One of the most impactful sustainable travel tips on this list is to avoid cruises. Whilst they may be convenient and a lot of fun, these bad boys have devastating effects on the environment. Not only are they notorious for polluting the oceans but they also do not benefit the local communities where they dock. This is because cruisers rarely spend much in the towns that they visit because everything is already pre-paid for onboard.
26. Opt for slow travel
Slow travel may seem like a pretty elusive concept but it’s simply about staying longer in each destination you visit, rather than picking up and moving every other day. It is all about choosing experiences over sights and quality over quantity, which helps to reduce your transportation usage when on holiday. Plus, you’ll get more time to immerse yourself in local life. Win, win!
27. Stay in a multi-person hostel dorm
If your hostel days are far behind you, you can maybe move past this point. But if you’re young and you’ve never tried staying in a hostel dorm before, what are ya doing mate? Private hotel or hostel rooms require far more energy to power and keep comfortable than dorm-style accommodation. So when you are embarking on your next adventure, opt for shared rooms to treat both the planet and your bank account!
28. Eat local produce and cook in your accommodation
Skip the Maccies and Starbucks this time around pal. Imported goods ain’t too good! If you have a kitchen at your disposal, try to dine out less when travelling. Instead, hit up a local street market, farmer’s market, or ethical supermarket for your produce. However, when you do fancy eating out, look for local independent restaurants that use locally sourced ingredients.
29. Try to book non-stop flights rather than stopovers
By now I am sure you are more than aware that flights are the main negative environmental impact that arises from travelling. However, did you know that it is the takeoffs and landings that create most of a plane’s carbon emissions? Uh-huh. So if you can, avoid stopovers and head straight to your destination on a direct flight.
30. If you have to drive, rent a hybrid or electric vehicle
Sometimes avoiding driving is impossible while travelling. I get it, I do. If you find yourself in this situation, opt for a hybrid or electric vehicle instead as they use less fuel and produce fewer carbon emissions than your average car.
31. Avoid voluntourism
Voluntourism is a huge and controversial subject to dive into with such little time, so I won’t dwell on it for long. However, what I will say is that voluntourism more often than not does more harm than good. So if you do want to volunteer abroad, ensure that you meticulously research volunteer companies in order to only work with organisations that are actually making a positive change.
32. Stick to marked hiking trails
While people often preach about getting off the beaten track, this can sometimes be very damaging for nature and local wildlife. When in doubt, stick to the path to avoid harming native flora and ruining the pristine landscape.
32. If you’re staying in a hostel, put your leftover food that you won’t eat in a free food box
Never, and I repeat never chuck food, What a bloody waste. If you don’t have space to take your leftover food with you, ensure it goes in a free food box for other’s to eat. Most hostel kitchens have them and a full box can often make a backpacker’s day!
33. Eat vegetarian or vegan food
Even if you are not usually veggie or vegan, you will be seriously surprised by how many scrumptious vegan options are out there these days. And this is especially the case when travelling abroad! Just by cutting meat out of your diet by, say, one day a week, you will be doing bits for the environment.
34. Avoid places suffering from over-tourism
Most travellers don’t think twice about how their next holiday destination will have an impact on the local community. They just go wherever they want, whenever they want. However, many places around the world are severely struggling with over-tourism. Over-tourism is where there are too many visitors to a particular destination. As a result, you may see rent prices pushing out local tenants to make way for holiday rentals, narrow roads becoming jammed with tourist vehicles, and wildlife being scared away. So next time you want to travel, trade the Venices of the world for the Trentos of the world.
35. Take any leftover soap, shampoo, or toothpaste provided by the hotel with you
not so fun fact: unused portions of complimentary travel-sized toiletries at hotels are often thrown away if you do not finish them. So make sure you use every last bit so that you can not only save on the product but also reuse or recycle the plastic bottles in the future.
36. If you’re feeling brave, hitchhike!
This is one of the sustainable travel tips that is certainly for the braver among us. I won’t lie, my only hitchhiking experience was far from rainbows and butterflies. However, there is, of course, an environmental benefit to hitchhiking as it is all about utilising shared resources! Whether you decide to hitchhike or not is your prerogative but remember to always stay vigilant.
37. Fly with airlines that use renewable biofuels
Another top tip for more eco-friendly flying is to fly with airlines that use renewable biofuels. Biofuels are produced using renewable feedstock such as plant oils, agricultural waste and wood chips, rather than nasty biofuels. Check out this article to see which airlines are all about those sweet ass biofuels.
38. Avoid all-inclusive holidays
In a similar vein to cruises, all-inclusive holidays are a big no-no for the environment. Because they include all accommodation, food, drink and activities, tourists don’t really need to go and spend money elsewhere. This means that tourist money does not benefit the local economy because all of the money goes to the resort accommodation instead. And these tend to be foreign-owned.
39. Fly with budget airlines
A common myth is that budget airlines are the most environmentally damaging. However, that could not be further from the truth. In fact, because budget airlines can carry more passengers per flight (because they are all squeezed into a very tiny space), the individual carbon footprint per person is far lower.
40. Utilise the shared economy
Big up the shared economy lads! This is definitely one of my favourite sustainable travel tips. Whether it’s ridesharing on Uber or staying in someone’s house, utilising the shared economy will do bits for both the environment and your wallet.
41. Prevent the air-con or heating escaping
When using air-conditioning or heating on holiday, make sure that your hotel doors and windows are closed so that you don’t lose any of the air. If you want extra eco-friendly brownie points, ensure that curtains are closed and there aren’t any draughts coming through!
42. Do not give gifts or money to local children
Hear me out, I’m not just a nasty person. Giving gifts or money to local children fosters a begging economy, which frankly isn’t great. Whilst we may think we are helping, our actions may actually have unintended negative consequences for those same children. If you wish to donate, get in touch with a tour operator or local school to ensure your money and gifts are distributed fairly and properly.
43. Take toxic waste back to your home country
Last but by no means least, it is always so important to take any toxic waste back to your home country with you to dispose of it correctly. This could include anything from batteries and photographic film packing to ointment tubes and aerosols.
So there you have it! 43 easy sustainable travel tips that will help you be a far more eco-friendly traveller. Do you have any other sustainable travel tips that I have missed off this list? Let me know in the comments below because I am always looking to improve.
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