Whilst I absolutely love travelling; it is one of the things that brings me the most joy in life, it does worry me how much it can impact the environment. Flying from one place to another, taking other forms of transport, buying more than you usually would, and so on, all have a detrimental impact on the environment.
Therefore, I thought I would write this post, not just for you, but also as a reminder to myself, on how to reduce your environmental impact whilst travelling. Whilst I have already made many changes in my lifestyle at home (e.g. avoiding plastic, eating vegetarian, buying local and seasonal produce), I think that I can become even stronger on this front during my travels.
Top tips for travelling more sustainably
- Travel by car, train or bus when you can. This might seem like a very simple tip; however, there are many people who just take a plane without really thinking about it. Yes, Barcelona might be quite far from Madrid, or Edinburgh from London, but there are alternative options. For example, for my trip last year to Edinburgh, due to my limited time available I took the train one way and a flight on the way back. This was I was able to significantly reduce my carbon footprint on this trip, whilst not compromising too much time-wise. And, if you really cannot avoid flying you can always opt to off-set your carbon footprint by paying a little extra. Whilst this is not the ideal option, it is still better than not doing any of the above at all!
- Travel locally. Usually, when we plan vacations or trips, it is easy to immediately think about a destination that is far away. But have you thought about the amazing surroundings you have close to where you live? Or within the same country? For example, many people travel to the UK not only to see London, but also to see the Cotswolds, Seven Sisters in the south, the Lake District, or even cities like Manchester or Liverpool. So, instead of immediately looking for holidays abroad, you can instead explore your local surroundings or even a city or area within your country that is easily reachable by train, bus or car.
- If you do want to go further away, check out the sustainable top 100 destinations list. This list shows the selection of most sustainable places to travel to in the world. A new list is published each year based on the efforts of the locations to reduce their environmental impact from tourism.
- Respect your environment. Leave the places you are going to as you found them, or better. Again, it might seem obvious but try not to destroy any protected (or unprotected) parts of nature, don’t leave any of your trash behind and if you come across any trash, pick it up and dispose of it in a bin!
- Support local communities and book sustainably-oriented activities. Travelling sustainably doesn’t only have to do with the environment, it also means taking care of the communities you come in contact with whilst you are travelling. What you can do to support these is booking local activities and if you want to buy souvenirs opting for something that has been crafted by the local people. Both of these options are much better than commercially organised activities and industrial products, as you will not only help out the local people but you will also avoid having a larger impact on the environment as this type of activities is usually much more sustainably oriented. For example, if you go to Thailand and want to go see elephants, go to a sanctuary; if you want to take a cooking class find a small local restaurant that offers classes; if you want to take a tour, try to find one that is owned and managed by local people; and when you eat out, try to go to locally-owned restaurants instead of international chains.
- Avoid plastics. Whilst travelling it can sometimes be much more convenient to buy some takeaway food or drinks, which most likely come in plastic. Some examples of how to reduce your impact are: instead of buying food to go on your way, pack your own food; take a reusable water bottle with you; avoid using wet wipes; or sit down at a restaurant instead of ordering a takeaway meal. If you want to get some more inspiration, check out the Travelers Against Plastics website for more information.
- Book more sustainable accommodation. If you do some research you are more than likely to find a wealth of hotels and hostels that are more eco-friendly and try to minimise their environmental impact. An easy way to do this is by avoiding large hotel chains and opting for more local accommodation. For example, in Vietnam or Cuba, it is much better to stay in a Home Stay or Casa, as these are owned by local people and will therefore naturally take better care of the environment. This website, Book Different, is a great example of a resource for booking more sustainable accommodation, and it even lets you calculate your carbon footprint.
- Be green while you’re gone. Make sure that when you leave your house all of your appliances and other electricity-consuming products are plugged out, that your heating is off and to put your magazine or newspaper subscriptions on hold. Electrical appliances still consume energy even when they are turned off, so one of the easiest ways to be better for the environment is by just plugging these out whilst you’re gone.
- Stay green whilst you’re travelling. Some other super simple steps include using as little water as possible when showering, washing your clothes at a laundrette instead of washing them in the sink, only washing your towels when necessary (don’t let the hotel wash them every day!), opt for more sustainable transport during your trip, recycle when you can and if you are going to a hot climate turn off the A/C when you’re not in your room.
- Finally, pack more sustainably. This might not be as obvious, as most people think about the impact they have whilst travelling rather than when preparing for their travels. For example, try to avoid buying a lot of new clothes for your trip, be conscious of the types of toiletries you use and opt for a kindle instead of buying books. A great example is sunscreen. It usually contains oxybenzone, which is toxic to the algae that live in coral reefs, so opt for one that doesn’t contain this ingredient instead. This also applies to other toiletries, as well as the type of sanitary products you may use.
I hope that you found some of these tips helpful and that you now know how you can still enjoy travelling whilst doing so more sustainably!