Traveling doesn’t always have to be so taxing on the environment. By finding ways to travel greener, you’ll be making less of a negative impact on the planet with each trip.
Here are seven great ways to be more eco-friendly while you’re traveling. Small changes we make on an individual level do add up to have a powerful collective effect.
7 Ways to Be More Eco-Friendly While Traveling
Fly Less Often
One of the best ways to curb your environmental impact when traveling is to fly less often. This won’t always be possible, but many destinations offer fantastic transport in the form of trains, buses, car rentals, or bikes.
Transport has a significant impact on the environment because of its major energy consumption. Transportation generates air pollution, and this pollution is one of the main contributors to global warming caused by the emission of carbon dioxide.
According to Small Business Trends, trains often use 50 percent less fuel per passenger than airplanes, and taking a train ride will also give you the chance to see more of the beautiful natural landscapes as you travel.
Buses are known to use considerably less fuel than airplanes as well. Renting an electric or a hybrid car to drive places can also help reduce the emission levels that contribute to air pollution.
If flying is unavoidable, carbon offsetting can be a great way to remedy your carbon footprint. This “offset” funds a project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and you can buy this when you purchase a plane ticket – all major airlines now offer this option.
Be Considerate of Ecosystems
You should definitely make an effort to be as considerate as possible when visiting natural areas that have fragile ecosystems. Follow the simple rule of leaving nature as you found it.
This means things like bringing a reusable water bottle (so you don’t have to throw out countless amounts of plastic), avoid littering, and use the established campsites and trails.
Trampling on grass, plants and flowers can harm the local vegetation, so it’s best to stay on designated walking paths whenever possible. Stepping on coral can also be harmful to the environment when you’re diving or swimming in natural areas.
Even your sunscreen may have a harmful effect on the local environment (the chemicals in it being detrimental to marine life and coral reefs), and using sunscreen that’s made with safe, natural ingredients can help minimize the impact.
Keep in mind that beyond the basics that apply to every country, specific countries will have specific considerations, for instance, not making Cairns in Iceland. These are carefully arranged piles of stones, and while ancient cairns are a natural part of the cultural landscape in many National Parks, it has become an increasing problem that tourists are deciding to stack rocks to build their own.
Bring Reusable Items
It’s best to bring items that can be reused instead of disposable items that will end up in the trash after you’re done using them. The biggest way you can apply this to your travels is by avoiding the purchase of plastic water bottles.
Bringing portable water filters that are reusable can leave you with a supply of clean drinking water without harming the environment. Reusable shopping bags can also come in handy when buying souvenirs.
Another tip is to have your towels laundered less frequently by housekeeping and reuse them multiple times to cut down on water and energy use. If you’re planning to go camping, bringing along some reusable eating utensils can help keep landfill levels lower and reduce pollution.
It’s also much more eco-friendly to travel using packing cubes, because regular plastic bags can take up to 500 years to biodegrade. And it’s a lot easier to stay organized when using them too!
Speaking of packing …
Bringing fewer items won’t just make your travels easier, it can help reduce your carbon footprint too. More weight on an airplane from luggage will cause the plane to use more fuel to travel, and your heavier load could contribute to more air pollution if you fly.
You might be thinking, ‘me shedding a couple of kilos isn’t going to change much, let’s be real’. But if everyone packed lighter, it really would make a difference.
Our individual actions have huge power collectively.
To lessen the weight of your luggage even more, try packing some lightweight clothing and travel underwear. Taking smaller travel-sized bottles of shampoo and other beauty and grooming products can also help lighten your load.
Some travel and lifestyle websites also recommend taking suitcases and other luggage pieces that are designed to be lighter in weight. And if you can travel with only carry-on – go for it!
Stay in Eco-Friendly Lodging
Many resorts and alternative accommodation options these days have been designed to be as eco-friendly as possible. So a great way to lessen your impact is to support eco-friendly, sustainable lodging initiatives (above picture is Sala Lodge in Siem Reap, Cambodia)
The best eco-friendly lodging facilities have been able to lower their carbon footprints to zero by finding ways to conserve energy, and blend in with the natural environment as much as possible.
Certain resorts of this type are located in wilderness settings and don’t have televisions or phones in their rooms so that less energy is used. Some facilities use harvested rainwater to supply water instead of getting it from city sources.
You might even have a chance to stay at a facility that runs on solar power from the sun or uses wind instead of gas or electricity as an energy source. There are some truly impressive hotel initiatives around the world today!
Even when you’re traveling, it’s still important to practice good recycling habits to help the planet. Any maps, brochures or fliers that you receive and no longer wish to use should be recycled instead of tossed in the trash.
Food wrappers from snacks are also usually made from recyclable materials. If the place where you’re staying doesn’t have recyclable material receptacles, you can try finding some in the public areas in the city or town and discarding your items in those.
If you’re in an area that doesn’t have recyclable material receptacles or trash cans, you should bring along a bag to hold your discarded items instead of littering them.
Just like when you’re at home, buying local can help support the local economy along with the environment. This is frequently thought of through a socially conscious lens, of only having economic benefits, but the environment benefits too.
Foods and other items produced locally don’t have to be transported long distances, which saves on energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. And when you buy your food locally you’ll also be reducing the amount of the new land development needed, since everything that you’re buying will be produced by local farmers.
Locally grown food is also known to have fewer of the pesticides and other toxic agents that can wreak havoc on the environment, and, let’s be honest, it’s always fresher and more yummy!
Whether you’re traveling a short or long distance, good environmentally friendly practices can go a long way toward helping preserve the planet so that more people will be able to continue to travel for years to come.
What do you do while traveling to be more eco-friendly?