Travel tips

10 ways to be a more sustainable traveler

Woman by lake

Though Earth Day was technically yesterday, we can always do our best year-round to be kind to Mother Nature and ensure her health and happiness.

Sustainable travel is a great way to see the world while at the same time mitigating the environmental impacts of travel. This kind of travel makes you more aware of your travel choices and behaviors and being mindful of how tourism impacts local communities and the environment.

Sustainable tourism aims to keep tourism dollars coming into communities and cities that benefit but reduce the negative impacts travel can bring. Many economies rely on tourism and tourists spending money on accommodations, transportation, dining, and activities. 

Sustainable travel isn’t saying you should never travel again, but that we should be responsible about it. 

We can all work together to be more responsible travelers and make sure we leave a place as good, or better, as we found it. As tourists, we can use our voice and influence to improve communities as unfortunately governments can be swayed to make changes faster when they impact tourism than the locals, such as infrastructure, transportation, and safety. 

If you’re looking for ways to be a more sustainable traveler, check out these 10 tips!

10 tips for sustainable travel

Train in Scotland

1. Travel by land 

If you can and have the time to travel on land can reduce your environmental impact compared to flying. Taking the bus, train, or taking a hybrid or electric vehicle can bring down carbon emissions. 

2. Book nonstop flights when possible

If you have to fly, look for nonstop flights. Not only is this more convenient for you, but takeoff and landing are contributing the most emissions and lessening your flight path has a big impact. You should also try to only book one round-trip flight and use land transportation between your other travel destinations. 

Another way to travel more sustainably is to look for eco-friendly flights. Skyscanner even promotes which flights emit less CO2 to help you fly with the right airline. 

3. Pack light

Reduce the load on your plane by packing light! This can contribute to a more fuel-efficient takeoff and landing, but who doesn’t want to travel as light as possible instead of lugging around gigantic suitcases?

Check out my tips for packing light here!

4. Choose an eco-friendly accommodation

Unfortunately, many hotels are not as eco-friendly as they say they are by laundering towels every day, wasting food, leaving that AC on blast, or throwing away half-used shampoos and conditioners. Find certified green hotels or do your research before booking an accommodation to make sure they’re being responsible with their resources.

Stay a night, plant a tree! Want to pay it forward with your travel? Book It Green plants a tree for every paid accommodation each month so you can feel good about your travel. 

You might also consider housesitting, couch surfing, or staying at an affordable hostel without all the bells and whistles. It’s like being back in college, a little bit awkward and a little bit fun. 

5. Walk as much as possible

Walking is the easiest way to cut your emissions while exploring a new city, plus you get right up close to the things you want to see!

Rick and I walk everywhere when we travel and only take Lyfts or Ubers when there’s no other option and we love it. You get to really feel the city, get lost in its sights, sounds, and streets, and can stop as often as you want to check things out or snap some pictures. 

Another great way to tour is the city is by bike as you can cover more distance, get around quickly, and have fun doing it. Stay at a hotel or B&B with included bike rentals, find a rental shop, or book a guided tour by bike.

6. Use public transport

Many metropolitan cities are investing in cleaner mass transportation. Even Denver uses fully electric buses for the free 16th Street Mall ride. A lot of cities also offer tourist cards or visitors passes that include rides on public transportation as well as access to the city’s top attractions.

Read up on how to use public transportation in your travel destination, and if you get lost or have trouble, all you have to do is ask! 

7. Reduce single use plastics

Bring your own reusable water bottle, metal straw, and reusable makeup wipes. You might also look at buying shampoo bars instead of in bottles, or at least take the half-empty shampoos with you when you go. 

I also like to reuse pill bottles to hold jewelry, pain meds, ear plugs, etc. instead of buying travel-sized versions. Plan ahead for what you think you might need on your trip, buy it in bulk, and portion out using bottles you already own. 

Invest in a set of snack tins or Tupperware to pack dry snacks in for your trip without using Ziploc bags or throwaway plastic containers.

8. Turn off the water

When shampooing, lathering soap on your hands, and brushing your teeth, the water should be off! We all got a refresher with COVID-19 that you need to scrub your hands for 20 seconds, so turn off the faucet to conserve water. Go the extra mile and shower with your partner to reduce water waste while you’re at it.

In a similar vein, reuse your towels! You don’t wash your towels every day at home so you don’t need to do it while on the road. Look for small ways to save water that can make a big impact.

9. Eat local

Eat local to directly support the community you’re in as well as cut down on emissions by not having food or beverages transported in. Farm-to-table dining has exploded in popularity and you should make an effort to check out the locally-owned restaurants while traveling. 

Try local produce, local craft beers, wines from the region, and typical dishes made with fresh ingredients. I promise the chains will be waiting for you in the American airports. 

10. Respect the local wildlife

We all love animals but we have to make sure we’re supporting businesses that take care of the animals instead of exploiting or harming them. This means no riding elephants! Animal sanctuaries, wildlife preserves, and National Parks are great places to start as they minimize human interference and let the animals enjoy their natural habitat. 

Do your research on animal centers and sanctuaries before visiting and don’t be afraid to ask questions about the care of the animals. 

Another way you can protect our wildlife and our oceans is by taking biodegradable sunscreen. Most sunscreens have oxybenzone in it which is known to damage coral reefs. Look for natural or reef-safe sunscreens for any beach vacations or snorkeling adventures. 

How do you travel sustainably? Tell us in the comments below!

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Hey, I'm Stephanie! I'm a copywriter living in beautiful Denver with my husband Rick, and our dog Rocco. I love traveling, writing, reading, and being outside as much as possible - unless I'm on the couch binge watching Stranger Things with a glass of wine! Thanks for reading and being a part of the adventure with Back to the Passport! ❤️

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