Navigation Menu

Authored by Ashlea Wheeler

Many of us are doing everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint at home. We’re making an effort to recycle, catching public transport where possible, and reducing the amount of electricity we use. Now that global warming is at such a critical point, we’ve realized that we should be doing everything we possibly can to reverse it.

But what about when we travel? Do any of us think about what impact we might be having while we’re skipping and jumping between countries?

I know it’s not pleasant to think that we might be damaging the environment by exploring new places, but unfortunately travel leaves a carbon footprint too.

Maria Island Tasmania.

Travel can leave a carbon footprint too. Help keep the world as natural as Maria Island Tasmania.

Don’t worry, we don’t have to loudly declare that we’ll never leave the house again, though there are small steps we can take and to ensure we’re keep the environment happy too!

So what can we do to ensure our travels aren’t causing irreversible damage to our precious earth?

Buy carbon offsets on flights

According to the Air Transport Action Group, flights contribute a whopping 705 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere annually. This is about 2% of ALL man-made carbon emissions.

I have to admit; I was rather skeptical about carbon offsetting flights at first. How do I know that the airlines aren’t just pocketing the extra money? But after doing some research I found that in Australia at least, all carbon-offsetting schemes have to be in line with the government’s carbon neutral policies before being implemented.

The schemes are often implemented by a third party such as CarbonNeutral, who use the funds for carbon reduction projects such as renewable energy (wind and hydro power), conservation, and forest protection.

Buy carbon offsets on flights. Photo CC by William Cho

WWF has a great article detailing more ways that your travel carbon emissions are offset in these schemes.

It’s not usually a large cost – most domestic flights in Australia only charge a few dollars per flight for carbon offsets. It might be a little more for international, but the cost is still next to nothing in comparison to what you’ve paid for the flight!

Choose tour companies that have environmental policies

If you’re planning on doing any sort of tour, check their website first to see what their stand is on sustainability.

Companies such as G Adventures and International Expeditions have pages dedicated to sustainable travel, and detail the steps they are taking to make sure their tours don’t have a negative effect on the environment.

If the tour company has no such page on their site, it’s fairly safe to assume that you should steer clear as they don’t have any such policies!

Lake Titicaca with Banjo Tours, Bolivia.

Carry a tote bag

We’ve all heard about the devastating effects plastic bags have in oceans and as landfill. I made myself a tote bag to use (yay for sewing skills!) but you can buy them just about anywhere.

Get one that folds up fairly small and make sure you carry it everywhere. Then when a shop assistant starts packing your purchases into plastic you can proudly present your new tote bag and feel super good about the fact that you’re reducing plastic bag consumption.

Seek out recycling bins

This can be really hard when you’re travelling. I’ve noticed in my current home of Sydney that there are barely any public recycling bins, and I’ve been known to carry around recyclables all day until I get home to dispose of them correctly.

Not all cities are like this – many have bins for both garbage and recyclables, so be sure to check your trash for anything that can be recycled and be an awesome person by finding the correct bin for it.

Eat vegetarian

Not only does this reduce the risk of many forms of food poisoning while you’re travelling, reducing the amount of meat you consume has significant environmental benefits.

The CSIRO claims that 16% of Australia’s carbon emissions are from livestock, 67% of which is methane emissions from animals such as cattle and sheep.

Eating vegetarian does not entirely fix this problem (you’d have to go vegan for that), but it does make a huge difference!

So what should we do?

There are many ways to be a sustainable traveller, but the #1 thing you can do is to be aware of it.

When you book a flight, a tour, or accommodation, question whether your booking is with a company that supports sustainable travel. When you’re walking around in a new city or trekking through a national park, think about whether there is anything you can do to reduce your carbon footprint while you’re there.

Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints.

Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints.

Everyone (and I mean everyone!) needs to be doing this to ensure this planet stays beautiful for future generations. We want them to be able to travel too.

What steps do you take to reduce your carbon footprint while travelling? Share your tips with us in the comments!

Hear about new posts on Facebook: Please click “like”!

Ashlea is a 26-year-old colourfully clothed and excitable vegetarian who loves photography, cooking, and exploring the world. Currently blogging from Sydney, Australia, she lives a minimalist lifestyle and spends the majority of her modest income on whatever trip she’s planning next.

Follow her travels on A Globe Well Travelled, or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

    45 Comments

    • Thanks Trev and Chris, I’m glad you found it useful!

  1. Carry a tote is such an easy thing to do, and something we all should do! Great tips Meg.

    • Glad you enjoyed them – Ashlea has some great knowledge to share :)

  2. Great list of tips, I should try eating vegetarian…I have tried before but why is steak so tasty!?!?

    • Thanks Carrie! It’s not so hard – there are tasty alternatives to meat, and you get used to not eating it after a while :)

  3. It really irks me when I see people throw trash on the ground when there is a recycling/garbage bin within sight. I try to be a sustainable traveller but I know I could improve, thanks for tips.

    • That’s one of my pet peeves too Adam! Especially with cigarette butts. Seriously, it’s not so hard to hold on to your trash until you find a bin nearby!

  4. Carrying a tote bag is a great tip, and I also try not to change the towels daily unless I really need to

    • Great tips also Suze! I’ve tried to start doing that as well, I mean there’s really no reason they need to be changed every day :)

  5. Great post. If only more people took these little steps, we could make a big difference.

    I love my big range of tote bags! And we our loving our new vegetarian lifestyle!

    • Thanks Karianne, aren’t tote bags just the best! And I’m also loving being vegetarian!

  6. Yes to the tote bag and going vegetarian at least. I’m a vegan and the reason I am one is due to the ecological consequences of meat production. And tote bags are soooo cute as well :-)

    • Kudos for realizing being vegan is better for the environment and taking action on it Nussaibah :) I’m trying to slowly start implementing more of a vegetarian influence into my diet now that I’m becoming more aware of the ecological impacts – baby steps where that’s concerned but slowly getting there :)

  7. Awesome set of tips! Some of them, like recycling, seem standard and obvious but I still see so many traveler’s ditching their crap without properly disposing/recycling it! Like just because they’re in another country it doesn’t count!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Alli – absolutely agree that you can never overstate recycling enough – you would think it’s a pretty straight forward tip though the amount of people who think that the rules they live by at home don’t apply because they’re in another country is truly ridiculous!!

  8. AH! I love that you mentioned going vegan. So many people overlook the small fact that factory farming of animals for meat/dairy/eggs produce a crazy amount of waste that harms our air and waterways. It is one big reason why I’m vegan! And I would also mention that people could just try to eat less meat/dairy/eggs for this, if you aren’t ready to give them up entirely – every little bit counts :) I never thought about purchasing carbon offsets before on flights, but for a few extra dollars, it doesn’t sound like a big deal! And I would feel way less guilty for flying places. Thanks for the fantastic list!

    • Being vegan is sooo much better for the environment, kudos to you Lauren for recognising it and making a difference!

  9. I’ve a friend who is a tour operator and the company she works for will only sell G adventures to make sure that they’re ‘sustainable’ which I think is pretty cool :)

    • That is cool! We really are starting to see a lot of awareness around traveling in a sustainable and responsible way, and travelers are really getting behind it. Proves that we really can make an impact with our wallets if we choose to only invest in socially responsible tourism!

  10. Great tips!!! Train travel is a very good way to reduce the impact of the ecological footprint of travelers

    • Very true – and I actually really enjoy train travel; gives you the chance to appreciate the countryside and enjoy the sights of a destination which you might not normally see.

    • Such an important point Raphael, public transport is SO much better for the environment. I don’t own a car anymore, and I use public transport or car pool with others whenever I need to get somewhere!

  11. Eating less meat is definitely a great way of reducing costs and helping the environment. Generally flying as little as you can helps too. Thanks for the tips- it’s an important part of travelling that we sometimes try to ignore.

    • We’ve started really trying to focus our travel on roadtrips for that reason and limit the amount of flying we do. Plus we’ve found overland travel makes for much more memorable experiences in general so it’s a win win!

  12. Great topic. I love how people bring their own cups and plates to gatherings at campsites. No more plastic and paper plates. German and Italian campsites usually have 5 different containers set up. People are aware here. Thank goodness.

    • Glad you enjoyed it Angelika! We travel with our own silverwear, cups and plates too – sure you have to wash it up but it really reduces the amount of trash you end up carrying/needing to dispose of :)

      Great to know that Germany and Italy are so socially aware re recycling – hopefully other countries will catch on!

    • Plastic and paper dinnerware are one of my biggest pet peeves! Such a waste of resources when we could be washing reusable cutlery and crockery. Thanks for your comment Angelika!

  13. I can do all of those, apart from being vegetarian ahah!
    Seriously now, there are a lot of tiny little ways we can be more sustainable while traveling. Even by reusing the water bottle you just bought, or by walking instead of taking public transportation. It’s all a matter of perspective and of how much you can actually contribute to the World :)

    • Lol I’m the same. I’m trying to ease a more vegetarian influence into my diet, though having had such an influence of meat in my diet for so many years it might just take a little while!

      And absolutely – every little action adds up and can accumulate to make a big difference – thanks for the additional tips :)

    • Ah, it’s not so hard to be vegetarian once you get used to it :P But really, all we need to do is make little differences here and there, even being vegetarian one or two days a week is enough, and reusing water bottles and walking more are a great start!

  14. Great tips–thanks for sharing! We are always looking for ways to be more green and travel more sustainably!

    • Thanks Jenna! I’m always on the lookout too for more ways to sustainably travel, let me know what else you find!

  15. I’d add that you should carry a water bottle (and, depending on the country, a portable water purifier/filter). Buying bottled water is so wasteful in terms of both plastic and transportation costs!

    • Thanks for the tip Rachel! Fantastic point :)

  16. Love these tips. The biggest impacts come from being vegetarian and avoiding flying as much as possible.

    Bringing your own water bottle and drinking tap water – where it is safe – is a huge one too.

    We also carried our own bamboo cutlery, with fork, knife, spoon, and chopsticks. Not only did this save us from plastic forks and disposable chopsticks where ever we went, but it allowed us to save money by having picnics every day for lunch.

    J

    • There’s nothing more infuriating to me than disposable cutlery! Crafting your own from bamboo was a great idea. I did something similar by purchasing some bio-degradable cutlery, which I keep it in my handbag at all times :)

  17. Such great advice. I’m at 3 of 5, better get to work on those last two!

    • Glad to hear Dearbhaile! Happy travels and keep up the great work!

  18. Love this! I had never heard about the carbon offset on airlines, I will definitely check it out. Thanks! I would add to this – do your shopping at small, local shops and eat at family owned restaurants so that your money is benefiting local communities, rather than tourist giants. Volunteer to give back.

    • Fantastic points to add, thanks Rachel! Shopping small and local is definitely one of the best ways to make sure your money is going directly to the local community. I attempt to do this while we’re traveling as best and as much as we can.

      Keep traveling well!

  19. Brilliant tips! Especially the one about eating vegetarian, and going vegan! Every little bit helps! :)

    • Thanks Amanda, so glad you enjoyed the post – and absolutely – every little bit really doe help – every small piece adds up to form the big picture :)

  20. Thanks Ashlea and Meg for sharing your tips!
    I have another one to share, it’s about travel money. It pretty close to what Rachel said above. I believe that there is a sustainable way to get your travel money, nurturing the local economy of the place you are visiting and another one:
    By using an ATM, you don’t only increase your carbon footprint (ATM consume local electricity when nobody in front most of the time), but you also prevent your money and the exchange fees from circulating locally. They just go to bankers and international intermediaries.
    On the contrary, when you go to a local currency exchange office (most of the time they are family businesses), your help a family that lives and consume locally, that have local employees, etc. And guess what, the exchange rate displayed on their rate board is probably more interesting than your bank rate (that you will never know), or at least you can compare and bargain. Do you prefer transparency and human contact? We do.
    Traveler after traveler this can do the difference. Join the move!
    We wrote a small article about that: http://www.cochange.com/local-travel-money-13189
    Thanks and keep traveling!

    • Thanks for the tip – that’s a really fantastic point, I had honestly never really considered this, though it makes absolute sense! Fantastic way to continue to invest your money locally – thanks!

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share182
Tweet82
Pin307
Flip
Share2