7 Ways To Travel More Sustainably

Forbes April 22, 2024

Lifestyle

7 Ways To Travel More Sustainably

Sustainable travel is surging in popularity, but what does it mean? The vague term can refer to traveling in a way that’s conscientious of the environment and local communities, leaving less of an impact on a destination and perhaps even bettering the location in the process. Sustainable tourism, in many ways a reaction to overtourism, helps protect the planet, to ensure destinations are liveable and worth visiting for years to come. And while travel can certainly takes its toll, creating carbon emissions, waste and more, responsible tourism is an essential step in protecting the planet.

 
Sustainable Travel Tips

Responsible tourism helps the environment by limiting ecological impact, supporting indigenous wildlife, respecting cultural heritage, and not taking away from a destination as a visitor, be it removing a shell from a beach or littering on a hiking trail. Plenty of responsible travel itineraries are easily replicable, but many trips can be adapted to be more sustainable. There are so many ways, big and small, to travel more responsibly and sustainably. Here’s how to start:

 
1. TSA-Friendly Doesn’t Need To Be Earth Hostile

You can buy single use and tiny versions of pretty much every care product these days, but do you actually need to? Opt for refillable travel bottles to decant your normal products into, and you’ll always have TSA-friendly bottles of shampoo, lotion, whatever you need at the ready. If you prefer to travel without liquids, consider switching to bars of shampoo and conditioner toothpaste powder and other products, which are eco-friendly wherever you are.

Friends using binoculars in a forest

 
2. Opt For Public Transit

Public transportation — buses, trains, light rail, etc. — is always more sustainable than a private ride. If possible, use public transit to get to and from your destination and learn your destination’s public transit system to navigate while you explore. Not only will you likely save money as well as lower your carbon footprint, you’ll get a taste of how locals live. If public transit isn’t an option, consider booking shared rides to the airport and excursions, or renting an electric or hybrid vehicle if driving solo is the only option.

 
3. Pack For Low Waste Experiences

A bit of planning ahead can save considerable landfill waste. Bringing a reusable coffee cup for morning coffee runs and reusable water bottle will hopefully cut down the amount of single-use items you purchase on the go. Other easy to pack items including a reusable travel utensil set, reusable straws and reusable earplugs can help avoid creating more waste on the road. If you’re someone who discards beach reads, consider switching to an e-reader. Pack tote bags to carry souvenirs or other items purchased on the road that won’t require disposable plastic bags.

 
4. Eat Conscientiously

Eating local is the best way for your diet to support local eco-systems. Not only does dining at independent, small businesses (e.g. not chains), support local business people, but can often have lower environmental impact than major franchised restaurants that ship ingredients and supplies across the country. Making lower impact choices, including eating mostly plant-based, when possible, can also make travel a bit greener. If you don’t have anything to do with leftovers, consider ordering with a bit more restriction so you aren’t creating an excess of food waste.

 
5. Book A Sustainable Hotel

Staying at a property dedicated to sustainability can make a big impact, especially by showing the travel industry that this is a priority for hospitality. Hotels are offered various certifications to prove their sustainable status, which can be achieved as a remote eco-lodge or luxury property in a major city. Several hotels are seeking LEED certification, the Green Hotels Association has a collection of vendors who prioritize sustainability, and the Leading Hotels of the World has a sustainability collection of five star properties.

 
6. Buy Carbon Offsets

While we technically can’t undo the damage we cause to the environment, there are initiatives to at least mitigate it. Carbon offsets allow consumers to compensate for their carbon footprint by funding projects that reduce carbon dioxide pollution. CoolEffect.org can help you decide how much to give, based on trip itinerary and logistics. For example, to offset air travel, a roundtrip, 6-hour flight would add about 1.89 tons of CO2 per passenger, and $31.17 of carbon offsets would help mitigate that.

Airplane taking off at sunrise, travel and tourism

7. Slow Down Your Travel

Slow travel is a buzzword that’s emerged in the 2020s, when work and leisure travel aka bleisure have melded more than ever, and the concept of working and even socializing remotely is totally normalized. Rather than a quick jaunt back and forth, slow travel emphasizes taking your time with tourism, be it living in a rental property for a month and enjoying the sights on the weekends, going backpacking, biking or hiking for an extended off the grid period, or traveling via train instead of air. Slow tourism has been proven to have a positive environmental impact.


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