Traveling is a carbon-heavy activity. There’s the fuel needed to get to your destination. Then the consumption and excess — the eating out, hotel services, rental cars. That’s why being an eco-friend traveler is essential, whether you’re staying in a minimalist hostel or an over-the-top cruise ship suite. Sustainable travel is easy when you have a plan. Here are some ways to lower your carbon footprint and travel eco-friendly when planning your next vacation.
6 Ideas To Travel Eco-Friendly:
- Visit an eco-friendly destination
- Pack Reusable Travel Accessories
- Travel Green
- Eat and Drink Locally
- Use Energy Like at Home
- Stay at Eco-Hotels
Visit an Eco-Friendly Country
When it comes to eco-friendly travel, where you visit matters as much as what you do. For example, countries like Morocco and Costa Rica invest heavily in protecting their beaches and surf spots from sea-level rise. Tourism is a major part of their economies. Because of this, they feel the social and financial impacts of pollution, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise more acutely than other countries. In contrast, the U.S. and Australia have rolled back environmental regulations over the last few years, despite promises made at the Paris Climate Agreement to cut carbon emissions. So, vote with your feet — visit countries fighting climate change. More of your travel dollar goes to support their environmental initiatives.
Pack Reusable Travel Accessories
Most hotels aren’t eco-friendly. Toiletries like soap and shampoo, cutlery, and garment bags are using single-use items made from non-recyclable materials. Discarded hotel products clog our landfills and oceans. And too much water and electricity go into cleaning towels and washcloths when replaced every day. Instead of adding to the waste, bring your own sustainable travel products. Pack reusable items like water bottles and squeezable tubes for dispensing liquid soap, shampoo, and sunscreen. Reusable utensils and straws made from bamboo are also reusable and pack easily in a suitcase or carry on bag.
If you can, skip the airline and head for the rental car department, train station, or bus depot. Aviation is still the worst mode of transportation when it comes to CO2 emissions. So, look for alternatives. But if you have to fly, book a direct flight. Takeoffs and landings are where planes spend most of their jet fuel. So, pay a little more for no layovers, and you’ll help the planet. When you’re at your destination, do your sightseeing via an electric car, bicycle, scooter. Or opt for public transportation — a great way to literally rub elbows with locals. And there’s always walking. Plan hiking and walking trips as part of your itinerary.
Eat and Drink Locally
When dining out, choose restaurants that serve meals made from farm-to-market ingredients. Meats, vegetables, and seafood from local farms take less gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel to transport. They reach your plate fresher and healthier too. Imported beers and wines need more jet fuel for delivery, longer refrigeration time, and extra packaging materials. If cooking yourself, choose locally-sourced ingredients. Shop at farmers markets and avoid fast food or supermarkets with shelves stocked with imported goods. Your travel dollar supports these local businesses and farms, letting them compete with international brands.
Use Energy Like at Home
Resist the urge to overdo it on electricity and water at your hotel or Airbnb. Keep in mind that you’re still paying for that 30-minute shower along with the electricity to run your air conditioner. While they won’t be on your bill when you check out, excess water and electric use cost the planet and local communities. Energy consumption accounts for around 60% of a hotel’s carbon emissions. Eco-friendly travel is about controlling your resource usage. Follow these tips:
- Always turn the lights off and adjust the thermostat before you leave for the day
- Close the blinds during summer and open them during cooler months
- Reuse towels and washcloths
- If you do laundry, wash in cold water
- Use a clothesline or the shower rod to dry clothes
- Take shorter showers at cooler water temps
- Keep doors to other rooms closed when not heating or cooling them
Stay at Eco-Hotels
Eco-hotels or “green hotels” incorporate green practices and products into their business models. Most lodgings have green amenities such as onsite recycling programs and meals made from locally-sourced organic ingredients. Housekeeping practices include using non-toxic cleaning agents and linen/towel reuse. And eco-hotels use bulk soaps and shampoos instead of individual packaging. Eco-hotels are perfect for sustainable travel.
But the best eco-friendly hotels have a Leadership in Energy and Engineering Design (LEED) certification. LEED certification means the hotel integrates sustainability into its design features. These often include buildings and furnishings made from sustainable materials, energy-efficient lighting, and rainwater collection. Some eco-hotels even produce their own electricity for lighting and air conditioning. Most booking sites have a “green hotel” section for eco-friendly travelers. But you can also look through the Green Hotels Association member list.