A Beginner’s Guide To Eco-Friendly Traveling  

A few tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint while vacationing.   

Traveling provides a window into alternative ways of life. It allows for the ability to meet new people and explore different cultures and history. It can make you feel closer to nature, but it’s also a significant portion of global greenhouse gas emissions and can put enormous pressure on natural resources.

If you travel, you will leave a polluting smudge in your wake – it’s inevitable. Transportation spews carbon emissions, hotels go through gallons of water every day, waste disposal and pollution is a huge problem in areas with high concentrations of tourism.

Don’t let guilt dampen your vacation though, as eco-friendly travel practices can help minimize your environmental impact of traveling and even help you experience a more authentic side of your destination! Here are a few easy tips to get you started:

Look for a “green” destination

No destination is going to be entirely earth-friendly, however, some cities and countries demonstrate deep commitments to eco-friendly policies and practices.

While researching possible vacation spots, look for places that include: robust public transportation systems, easily walkable neighborhoods, farmers markets, volunteer opportunities, acres of parkland, habitat conservations, and separate waste collections.

Ha Long, Vietnam. eco-friendly traveling
Ha Long, Vietnam. Photo by Ammie Ngo on Unsplash

Some of the world’s most eco-friendly countries include:

  • Vietnam
  • Iceland
  • Costa Rica
  • Namibia
  • Peru

Only pack essentials with plans for reuse  

Try to only pack what is necessary as heavy luggage requires more fuel during transport – not to mention is usually more expensive! Pack smart by bringing things that will help you eliminate disposable during your travels.

Packing list
Packing list. Photo by STIL on Unsplash

For example:

  • Utilize refillable containers for toiletries.
  • Try to pack items that have multi-purposes. A sarong, for example, can be used as: cover-up, scarf, towel, and blanket.
  • Bring clothes that are easy to wash on-the-go.
  • Before you leave, remove any unnecessary packaging from items to ensure the packaging is disposed of properly.

Avoid air travel when possible

Flying is a large part of traveling but it also makes up the largest portion of tourism’s carbon footprint. Did you know that just one flight can produce more emissions than some people produce in an entire year?

With this said, however, I realize that some destinations can only be reached by plane and that tourism is a key component in the economic growth in many of these places. Thus, I don’t advocate giving up flying altogether, rather that it is best to contain air travel to specific destinations or distances.

When vacationing closer-to-home or if your flight would be shorter than 3 hours, look into other methods to replace air travel with something more sustainable, including: trains, charter buses, and even carpooling.

Book a direct flight

Logan Airport, Boston, USA
Logan Airport, Boston, USA. Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

If you do travel by plane, try to book a non-stop flight. The bulk of a plane’s carbon emissions come from take-off and landing. Non-stop flights not only reduce these emissions but also take the most direct route to the destination, requiring less fuel than a trip with multiple layovers.

If you can’t find a direct flight, try to plan an itinerary that takes the most direct route and makes the least stops.

Choose an eco-friendly hotel

When booking a hotel, try to opt for one that is dedicated to reducing its carbon footprint as well. There are many ways hotels can do this, such as: utilizing renewable energy, automating temperature control, or installing energy-efficient fixtures and appliances.

To do this, check out the hotel’s website. If a hotel is taking action to combat their emissions, they are probably making it known. Look for practices or data, and if you can’t find any specific information, call a representative and ask.

Here are several eco-friendly hotels around the world:

Capella Ubud Resort, Bali eco-friendly traveling
FACEBOOK Capella Ubud Resort, Bali.

If you are unable to book a green hotel, there are still small changes you can make to minimize the impact of your stay, including:

  • Reuse your towels so that they are not washed and replaced immediately.
  • Use lights, heat, and A/C as if you were at home.
  • If you have leftover opened toiletries, take them, as they will be thrown out otherwise.

Be mindful of local resources

This is pretty straight-forward. If the place you are traveling to is experiencing a drought, be conscious of how much water you use. Don’t leave the tap running, don’t take long showers or shower twice a day, and don’t sleep in freshly washed sheets every night.

It is always important to be considerate of how your visit will impact the environment and local people.

Shop and eat locally

Try your best to avoid imported foods or goods which must be transported and require tons of packaging and refrigeration for preservation.

By doing this, you will not only reduce the carbon footprint of your meals and shopping, but you’re also supporting the local economy. An added plus, you’ll be able to better experience and learn about traditional cuisine and culture.

Implementing these steps the next time you travel will help you learn how to vacation in an eco-friendly and responsible way. There are so many ways you can lessen your travel emissions and help drive this industry towards a more sustainable future.

Every effort counts – big or small.

Lily Adami

Content Editor Associate

Having a silly and hard-working personality, Lily loves getting to know people and is passionate about human rights around the world. She is enthusiastic about other cultures, history, and international affairs. Lily has a deep appreciation for traveling, her favorite places include: Amsterdam, Amalfi Coast, and South Africa.

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