How to Travel More Sustainably Without Sacrificing Comfort or Convenience
Sustainable travel has become an increasingly popular topic as more people aim to reduce their environmental impact. The good news is that with some small changes, you can travel in a more eco-friendly way without having to sacrifice the comforts and conveniences you’ve come to expect. Here are some tips to get you started:
Choose Greener Transportation
Transportation is one of the biggest contributors to travel-related carbon emissions. When booking trips, look for greener options to get you from point A to point B.
Fly Less Often
- Air travel leaves a huge carbon footprint. Try to fly less often if you want to be more sustainable.
- For short distances, opt to travel by train or bus instead of flying. Trains and buses emit far fewer emissions per passenger mile compared to planes.
- When you do need to fly, choose nonstop flights which are more fuel-efficient than connections requiring extra takeoffs and landings.
Rent an Electric or Hybrid Car
- Many rental car companies now offer electric and hybrid vehicle options.
- Renting one of these greener cars leaves less of a carbon footprint compared to standard gas-powered rental cars.
- Even in a standard rental car, aim to carpool whenever possible to split the emissions between multiple passengers.
Walk or Bike for Short Journeys
- Once you arrive at a destination, consider walking or biking for short in-city trips instead of hailing rides or renting cars.
- This avoids extra emissions and lets you experience the location at street level.
- Apps like Google Maps make it easy to get walking or biking directions to nearby attractions.
Choose Eco-Friendly Accommodations
Where you rest your head at night can have sustainability implications too. When booking lodgings:
Look for Green Certified Properties
- Numerous certification programs like Green Key, Green Globe, and LEED identify hotels and resorts committed to environmental best practices.
- Favor eco-certified properties when choosing where to stay.
- Certifications indicate properties are taking steps like reducing energy and water waste, sourcing local foods, and using green cleaning supplies.
Consider Home Rentals Over Hotels
- Property rentals like Airbnb, VRBO, and Vacasa offer home, apartment, and condo rentals as an alternative to hotels.
- Often home rentals use less energy and resources per guest compared to large resorts and hotels.
- When using a rental platform, search for hosts who have identified their listing as eco-friendly.
Camp in Nature
- For an immersive outdoor experience, go camping or glamping.
- You’ll leave less of an environmental footprint than driving to and staying in a hotel each night.
- Stay at campgrounds that prioritize sustainability, like those certified by Leave No Trace.
Make Eco-Conscious Purchases
You can make sustainable choices in the products you buy while traveling too.
- Bring reusable versions of common travel items, like:
- Reusable water bottles and coffee mugs
- Reusable shopping bags and tote bags
- Reusable utensils and straws
- This prevents waste from disposable versions of these items.
Choose Sustainable Souvenirs
- Look for souvenirs and gifts made locally using sustainable materials and methods.
- Wood products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council ensure wood comes from responsibly managed forests.
- Items made from recycled or upcycled materials, like art made from repurposed metals, keep waste out of landfills.
Buy Carbon Offsets
- Some airlines let you pay extra to “offset” the carbon emissions from your flight through reputable environmental projects.
- Consider opting into these offset programs when offered to help counter your flight’s impact.
- You can also offset a trip’s emissions independently after booking through sites like Terrapass.
You can make sustainable food and beverage choices during your travels too:
Frequent Farm-to-Table Restaurants
- Restaurants boasting farm-to-table menus source ingredients locally when in season.
- This supports area farms and reduces emissions from long-distance food transport.
- Apps like HappyCow can locate farm-to-table or sustainability-focused restaurants in an area.
Seek Out Organic Wines and Local Brews
- When dining out or buying drinks, look for organic wine selections on menus and in stores. Organic grapes are grown more sustainably.
- Opt for local craft beers to reduce the environmental footprint of transport while supporting local economies.
Carry a Reusable Water Bottle
- Instead of buying plastic water bottles everywhere you go, take a reusable bottle you can fill up.
- This prevents waste and lets you drink tap water in many destinations.
- Some apps like Tap can even help you locate drinking fountains to refill your bottle on the go.
Choose Responsible Tours and Activities
It’s easy to enjoy more eco-friendly tours and activities on your travels too:
Do Your Research
- When booking excursions, vet providers for responsible practices like using efficient vehicles, following animal welfare guidelines, and keeping groups small.
- Seeking out B-Corp or sustainable tourism certified operators can take the guesswork out of choosing responsibly.
Volunteer Your Time
- Consider volunteering on your trip to help local communities or conservation efforts.
- Options like hiking trail maintenance days or beach clean-ups let you give back and offset your travel footprint.
- Choose lower-impact activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, or snorkeling to reduce your environmental footprint.
- Actively explored natural areas yourself rather than relying on motorized tour vehicles.
- Stick to designated trails and follow Leave No Trace outdoor ethics.
Make Smart Choices, Travel Sustainably
With some intentional planning, it really is possible to see the world and tread lightly at the same time. Choosing greener transportation, efficient accommodations, responsible operators, and eco-friendly products can dramatically reduce your travel footprint. And taking the time to get to know local cultures and landscapes often enhances the travel experience. Start implementing some of these sustainable best practices into your next trip. The planet and future generations will thank you.