Eco-friendly travel tips
One of the highest impact ways to cut back on emissions and reduce your carbon footprint is to fly less often. But for those who want to explore the world, there are ways to make your trips eco-friendlier without overhauling your vacation. We’ve put together some tips that you can implement along your journey to make a positive impact on your next holiday.
There is no way around it: travelling and sustainability don’t really go hand in hand. In recent years however, the concepts of conscious traveling and eco-tourism have emerged, which foster the idea that not all forms of tourism are inherently destructive.
What is sustainable tourism?
As defined by the UN World Tourism Organization, sustainable tourism “takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.”
Travel has the power to be a catalyst for positive change. It can be used to promote the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, support the livelihoods of local communities, and educate people on the urgent need to care for our planet’s biodiversity.
At its core, travelling sustainably is about shifting our perspectives on the purpose of our trips. Travelling should be a mutual exchange, where we consciously think about what we are getting out of the experience, and what we are giving back.
Before the trip…
As a general rule, the shorter the distance you travel, the lower your carbon footprint. Opting for trains and buses over planes and cars is also the better option. But sometimes, that long-haul flight is inevitable, and then it is important to put some thought into choosing the destination.
Off-peak & off-beat
The global phenomenon of over-tourism is putting a strain on infrastructures and ecosystems. When there are too many visitors in one place at the same time, the quality of life for the local community can diminish and negatively affect the surrounding nature.
Travelling off the beaten path and visiting places during their off-season is often cheaper and helps avoid overcrowding in certain popular destinations. It also supports businesses that struggle outside peak season.
Choose a sustainable destination
According to the 2022 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which scores countries based on biodiversity, air quality and climate policies, among other factors, Denmark, the UK, Finland and Malta take the top slots as the world’s most sustainable nations.
In 2016, Slovenia was recognized by Green Destinations as the first green country, with over a third of the country protected for nature conservation, measures implemented to prevent over-tourism and several enforcements to preserve natural and cultural treasures.
The island country of Palau is the first nation in the world to change its immigration policy for the sake of environmental protection: upon arrival, visitors must sign a passport pledge to protect the ecological and cultural heritage.
Namibia became the first African country to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution, and over 42% of the land is under conservation management laws.
There are many places that, in one way or another, ensure that the conservation of local resources is prioritised. Do your research beforehand and make sure that your trip incorporates something that will add value to your destination.
Book through sustainable platforms
Use an eco-friendly booking site for accommodation and activities.
Bookdifferent.com calculates your carbon footprint per night based on your choice, and their listings only include green alternatives.
Wayaj – Earth Friendly Travel is a female-founded sustainable travel platform offers tools and resources for people to help them minimise their negative impact while maximising the benefits to local communities.
Kind Traveler – Do more Than Travel is a public benefit corporation with a give & get concept, inviting visitors to make a donation to a charity to unlock exclusive offers and rates on accommodation.
Booking.com recently launched their “sustainability badge”, which gives guests a clear indication of which properties are taking visible and viable efforts towards being more environmentally friendly.
Lokal is a travel agency that takes out some of the legwork by organising eco adventures and cultural experiences that bring you closer to local people and nature.
On the road….
Less is more. Packing less will not only make your daily life easier, but it can also help reduce your overall emissions, as your luggage is lighter and easier to transport.
Bring your own water bottle & take-away coffee mugs. You can take them through the security check at the airport, so long as they are empty. Most airports offer free water stations and in many places water is safe to drink, but do check this before!
Bring your own bags. Your tote bags or reusable shopping bags from home take up almost no space in your suitcase and save you money.
Avoid single-use plastic. Straws, cutlery, airplane headphones, complimentary hotel toiletries, disposable razors… the list of unnecessary plastic is long, so bring your own items and leave disposable ones for another visitor.
Avoid printing your tickets. Electronic tickets on your smartphone are an option almost anywhere – from your boarding ticket at the airport, on the train or bus, to entry tickets to museums, parks or festivals.
Be a conscious traveller. Leave no trace. Pick up trash (your own and other people’s). Use existing trails and campsites when hiking. Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
Safe Sunscreen. Many sunscreens contain oxybenzone, a chemical that is harmful for coral reefs and other marine life. Make sure you choose a reef-friendly UV protection.
Seek out local experiences. The food you eat, the activities you do, or the things you buy – make sure it’s local and seasonal.
Animal welfare. Wildlife should be left to be exactly that – wild. No travel experiences should jeopardise the natural behaviour of any animal. Think: look, don’t touch.
Slow down. While it can be tempting to jump from destination to destination and to see every possible thing when you travel, slowing down and not rushing your experiences can be just as rewarding and reduce your carbon footprint.
After your trip…
Give feedback to the accommodations you stay at and leave a helpful review for future visitors. Recommend your experiences to family and friends to inspire others to choose a more conscious travel style.