A Practical Eco Friendly Guide to Sustainable Travel

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Awareness about climate change and the ways our travel habits impact our environment and world has captured the attention of the conscientious traveler. If you’ve chosen to Carpe Diem and seize today as the day you’re going to plan more environmentally friendly travel adventures, we’re here to help with these tips and an eco friendly guide to sustainable travel.

Eco Friendly Guide to Sustainable Travel

eco friendly guide to sustainable travel

Book with responsible and trusted tour companies

Research and spend you travel dollars with eco-conscious tour companies and operators. Look for an environmental mission statement and policies on what they do for the environment on their websites. Or straight up ask them via email. Many of the best tour operators partner with local companies on the ground, leaving dollars in those destinations.

Bring your own amenities

Stock up on your own packaging-free products like reusable straws, collapsible cups, BPA-free water bottles, and hair and body products for travel. Say no to single-use plastic water bottles or cups on planes. Use reusable silicon food pouches for portable snack bags which also great for storing leftovers at home.

Fly less

Flight shaming is a thing. In countries like Sweden, air travel plummeted in 2019 as Swedes embraced their excellent train system. In many other destinations, other modes of transportation are neither as convenient or available. Or the places are so vast (hello Canada’s 5.5 time zones) that air travel is the only real option.

But we can consider travelling less. Or at least to travel more slowly, maybe by car or train, stay longer, and book non-stop flights where possible to reduce the amount of takeoffs and landings that contribute to emissions.

Offset your carbon

There are a number of ways to calculate how much carbon you ‘produce’ on your trip, and the cost of offsetting that impact. Consider this just a new transportation budget line item for the eco-conscious traveler. Check out Gold Standard to find resources, as well as Carbonfund or Terrapass.

Or, as energy economist and author Mark Jaccard suggests, take your offset dollars and donate them to a pro-climate group that can identify and support climate-sincere politicians committed to getting carbon out of the atmosphere in a top-down way. The reality is that government regulations and climate action policies are essential to achieve the systemic change that is necessary.

When booking directly with some airlines (like Air Canada), you can also purchase carbon offsets while purchasing your plane tickets. Green travel options can be as easy as click-and-pay.

Go public

Use public transportation when and where possible. That’s buses, streetcars, subways, and trains. Carpool or car share with likeminded travelers.

Hotel habits

Booking a hotel? Ask about its sustainability practices and standards. Look for programs like recycling, water conservation programs, and community connections. And practice good guest sustainable travel tips. Take short showers, skip housekeeping for a day or five, and reuse towels.

Leave no trace

And bring back only memories. If you’re reducing your single-use plastics through the use of resuable utensils, cups and water bottles, good stuff, Mother Earth is grateful.

Now think about doing more by picking up the litter that others leave behind. Practice plogging. Plogging is the art of picking up garbage whenever you see it. You can be jogging or running while doing this, but you can plog while walking or hiking too pretty anywhere.

Join a My Green Trip meetup while on vacation. It’s a worldwide community of travelers cleaning up the planet one piece of trash at a time. Or order their Clean-up Kit and take it on the road.

Pack Light

Be honest, you probably could pack better and carry less with you, am I right? If you pack exactly what you truly need, you’ll have to less to lug around, and help reduce an aircraft’s carbon emissions. Our tried and true carry on-only packing list will help, we promise.

eco friendly guide to sustainable travel

Reduce your food waste

One of the greatest climate offenders is food waste. In the United States alone, the FDA calculates that food waste is 30-40% of the food supply. The best way to reduce food waste is to not create it in the first place. Avoid the buffet, order and eat from the a la carte menu.

Shop and support local

Do your tourism dollars stay in the destination and support the people living and working there? Consider staying in locally owned hotels, lodges or B&Bs.

Buy only local handmade arts and crafts that have a purpose. And never from endangered animal or plant sources. One of my favorite souvenirs from Jordan is a set of olive wood salad spoons purchased from a local market in Aqaba. They bring joy and good memories every time I use them.

Sun and reef safety steps

Everyone needs protection from the sun, but make sure that protection doesn’t harm you or the special places you’re visiting. Use plastic-free, reef-safe sunscreen that doesn’t harm the environment.

Support sustainable destinations

You can put your travel money where your eco friendly priorities lie by supporting destinations already working hard at preserving their environments and ecosystems. Places like Bonaire, the Azores in Portugal, Bardia National Park in Nepal and much of Slovenia have been highlighted in annual sustainability awards for their focus on going green.

Stop geotagging on Instagram

Our love of sharing on social media has had some major negative consequences on some of our favorite places. Consider Joffre Lakes in beautiful British Columbia. It’s become so oversubscribed (an visitor increase of 168% since 2010) that access and safety concerns have become critical.

Think of the children

Lead by example for the next generation. Raising those traveling kids to be responsible travelers is a necessity, and truth be told, the young are leading the charge to a great degree, hello Greta. Develop your own family’s eco friendly guide to sustainable travel. Talk to your kids about how you can do more as a family to get around by walking, bike or public transit, and travel with less impacts. Chances are they’ll have some pretty incredible ideas to share.

Book stays at accommodations offering eco friendly programs where kids can participate. Country Kids is a farm-stay in southern France where kids get a bucket to distribute meal leftovers to the farm’s animal residents. The luxe Fairmont Maldives has coconut tree and coral planting, and turtle release programs where children are welcome participants. In Scotland, the Wildland group supports a large rewilding effort of 200,000 acres of mountains, moors and streams.

Veg out

Embrace those chickpeas and lentils! Think about eating a more plant-based diet. Start once a week at home and then simply continue the habit on your travels. It’s easier and tastier than you think.

eco friendly guide to sustainable travel

More food for thought

This article in Outside Magazine raises some thought-provoking questions about whether travel is worth the carbon footprint. The author speaks about the value of experiencing the things that need our protection, that it moves people to action more than simply reading about them.

That may be true. But one could argue it’s a position that stems from a privilege that few of the world’s population can enjoy or actually afford.

You can do that at home in your own backyard, state, province or country. You can also be profoundly moved by visiting and becoming advocates for the places that need our protection. The key is to do it in as sustainable a way as possible.

Happy sustainable travels!

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eco friendly guide to sustainable travel

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support.

Photos: Shutterstock

Claudia Laroye
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