7 ways to travel more sustainably
Updated: Aug 24
Although traveling is a fantastic way to see the world and learn about other cultures, it isn’t always the most sustainable activity. As the climate crisis continues to escalate, it’s imperative to start thinking about ways to travel more conscientiously. Here are seven tips and tricks to help reduce your own environmental impact while you travel and how to help preserve the destinations you visit in the process.
1. Use sustainable products whenever possible
The next time you pack your suitcase, bring as many sustainable products with you as you can. In today’s day and age, there are many ways to incorporate renewable products into your everyday lives, especially while traveling. Some of these items could include reusable straws, reusable makeup wipes, reusable water bottles, bamboo toothbrushes, organic utensils and more. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be to say no to plastic throughout your stay. If you are overwhelmed about where to start, check out websites such as EarthHero and Grove Collective for all of your sustainable product needs.
2. Visit a sustainable destination
It’s also important to be mindful of how your travel destination impacts the environment. Perhaps on your next trip, consider going to a certified sustainable destination. According to the United Nations, destinations that have a Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) integrate the principle elements of sustainable tourism, analyze good management practices and are aware of the environmental and social effects of its services, among other criteria. Some of these destinations include: Costa Rica, Belize, Spain and Panama.
3. Opt for mobile boarding passes
This sustainable travel hack is simple but effective. Nowadays, it’s incredibly easy to opt for a mobile boarding pass over a printed one at the airport. By downloading you pass onto your phone to use for the duration of your travel journey, you have one less piece of paper to discard later. When it comes to traveling sustainably, even the little things count!
4. Pick a centrally-located hotel, hostel or Airbnb
It’s not a bad idea to already choose a hotel, airbnb, hostel or other place of residence that is centrally located within your travel destination. Not only will you have easy-access to amenities such as restaurants and tourist attractions, but it will also make it easier—and more sustainable—for you to get around in general. In European cities such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen, for example, it’s relatively easy to get around by walking or biking if you choose to stay in a convenient location downtown. By choosing these sustainable transportation methods over other modes of public transportation, you’re also bound to get some of the best views.
5. Choose your souvenirs with intention
Sometimes, it’s easy to pick up a touristy souvenir from your travels in a nearby market or at the airport, such as an Eiffel tower keychain or an “I Love NY” shirt. But, what seemed like a good idea at the time might end up in the trash a few years later. If you’re willing to spend the money and invest in timeless, authentic souvenirs, it increases your odds of bringing back mementos from your trip that you will truly keep and cherish forever. Some of these items could include artwork made by a local artist or jewelry made by a local artisan. When in doubt, keep in mind that photographs serve as wonderful and timeless souvenirs, too; they are also guaranteed not to break the bank!
6. Research your tour operators
Yes, eco-friendly and responsible tour operators do exist! In order to find a sustainable tour that’s right for you, the internet is your best friend. Visit websites such as Stride Travel to find over 120 eco-friendly and sustainable tour options available for every type of traveler. You can also do your own investigating into a tour operator that may interest you. Look for any certifications or awards on their website that indicate that they are a sustainable company. In fact, if you feel comfortable, you can even ask employees directly about how they operate. According to Drink Tea Travel, a conscientious travel blog, there are a variety of questions you can ask your tour operator to ensure that they follow appropriate standards for sustainable tourism. Some of these questions include: “Is the company locally owned?” “Where is the money from the tour actually going?” And “How does the company educate visitors about local nature areas, wildlife, energy conservation, and local culture?” If you are visiting places such as Asia and Africa, you can even visit websites such as I Like Local, which is an organization that uses tourist dollars to create incomes for local hosts and guides across 19 countries.
7. Seek out local experiences
If you want the true and authentic experience of the places you are traveling to, immerse yourself in local culture and participate in its local economy. Talk to locals and get their opinions on the best places to eat, the best ways to learn about that place’s history and art scene and how to avoid notorious tourist traps. Not only can you have a more sustainable experience, but you will most likely have a more memorable one, too.
Sustainable travel is more than a buzz-word within the travel industry; it’s a necessary and important form of traveling that is working its way to becoming the new norm. From reducing your own environmental footprint to immersing yourself in local cultures while traveling, you can help preserve the destinations you are traveling to and create a meaningful experience while doing it.