By Christa Adams
Travel shouldn’t mean trample. Yet too often, visiting new — or familiar — places causes harm and damage to the very planet we’re setting out to enjoy. So, what is an eco-minded traveler to do — whether you’re heading home for the holidays or fleeing winter for an exotic, tropical locale?
Fortunately, there are ways to incorporate an eco-friendly lifestyle into the way you get around. So, before you start packing for Machu Picchu, the Great Pyramids, or your childhood home, consider these 10 tips to help you become a more responsible, sustainable traveler.
Every pound or kilogram adds up. The more you have, the more fuel and energy you consume. So, pack only what you need and avoid overpacking — because you know you won’t wear it all anyway —by planning your outfits in advance. You’ll save time in the morning and be a more sustainable traveler as a result.
And while you’re at it, be sure to pack SaltyLama’s eco-friendly laundry strips into the pocket of your suitcase. The biodegradable packaging is lightweight, slender, and hardly takes up any space. Not only is it a green-minded way to do laundry on the go, but once you’ve arrived at your destination, you can encourage others — say, your parents or other relatives, if you’re visiting home — to ditch the plastic jug of traditional liquid detergent for this sleek, sustainable alternative. Win, win!
Take longer trips
Maybe your company gives you two or three weeks of paid vacation time. Instead of multiple small trips, consolidate your days off into one or two longer vacations. You will be lowering your carbon emissions by catching fewer flights and wasting less fuel. Plus, you will be embracing slow travel by getting to know your destination better. You’ll quickly find that your travels feel more meaningful and memorable when you embark on longer trips.
Leave the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door
If you’ve bolted for parts unknown and are staying at a hotel, leave this sign on your door. Maids will know not to come into your room and refresh your towels, replace your soap, or wipe down surfaces. This will lower your trip’s carbon emissions by preventing unnecessary electricity usage (like washing towels that are perfectly good to use or vacuuming a clean floor) while also cutting down on the harmful chemical agents found in cleaning sprays.
Turn the heating/AC off when you go out
Unless you’re staying in a luxurious penthouse suite, hotel rooms generally aren’t very big. You can turn the heating/AC off when you leave and turn it back on when you return, and you’ll find that the room will quickly warm up or cool down. So, there’s no reason to keep it on when you’re not there. Pro tip! Don’t use the heating/AC unless it’s absolutely necessary — and try to turn it off by bedtime.
Skip the cruise
Going on a cruise may seem like the ideal escape from the depths of winter, but few vacations are as harmful to the planet. Sure, a cruise may seem environmentally sound — just sunbathing on the deck or swimming in the sparkling Caribbean — but take a closer look. Cruise lines damage coral reefs, which are essential to our planet's health, and they are known for dumping plastic and toxic waste into the ocean. Beyond that, cruises are stuffed with pesky plastic straws and single-use plastic. Still not convinced? Here are 5 reasons to never take a cruise.
Choose a ‘green’ destination instead
We don’t just mean natural beauty. Some countries are more eco-friendly than others. Countries such as Costa Rica, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Estonia are among the best countries for ‘green’ and sustainable tourism. These ‘green’ destinations support local culture and tradition, involve the local business community, protect natural habitats, and offer eco-friendly transportation and energy conservation as a daily life practice.
Local cuisine is such a vital part of traveling — it offers a better look at a country’s culture and lifestyle while also introducing you to new foods. And you never know when you might stumble upon a new-found favorite! As for being eco-friendly, local restaurants and eateries support the community rather than major corporations, and the food usually travels a shorter distance for you to enjoy it. So, we encourage you to practice sustainable travel by skipping on those familiar, low-quality chains. Instead, step out of your comfort zone and try new food.
Have your coffee ‘for here’
C’mon, you’re on vacation. What’s the rush? Sit in and enjoy your coffee the way it was intended and thank us later. There’s something special about sitting down, having a coffee, and watching the world around you — especially when you’re in a new city or place. As a result, you’ll pass on single-use plastic and reap the benefits of being an eco-friendly traveler.
Pro tip! If you must get a takeaway coffee, bring your own reusable coffee cup to cut down on single-use waste. Packing your own items to eliminate single-use plastic is one of the best sustainable travel tips to remember.
Get out of your comfort zone
If you’re accustomed to staying at all-inclusive resorts or chain hotels, try to step out of your comfort zone. Look into eco-friendly lodges or even embrace your more adventurous side with a camping trip. Since most major hotels waste vast amounts of electricity and water, we recommend researching a hotel’s sustainability model before booking.
Walk or cycle whenever possible
Sure, you can drive or use a rideshare app, but what if it’s a beautiful day and the place you’re heading is just a 15-minute walk away? Plus, walking is one of the best ways to get to know a new city! If you prefer cycling, see if your accommodation has bikes or investigate city bike rentals. Cycling is an eco-friendly way to get around, and it’s an experience in and of itself. Make it a fun adventure during your sustainable trip!
Looking for more ways to be an eco-friendly traveler and cut down on carbon emissions? Check out our guide to choosing eco-friendlier transportation!