We’re smack dab in the middle of the summer travel season, which means that every single globetrotter has packed their bags and they’re ready to venture into another undiscovered corner of the world. Although travel is a life-altering, enriching experience that teaches us to open our minds, to embrace new cultures, and to appreciate our existence, it also comes with certain downsides. One of the greatest issues that your travel-bug can cause is your carbon footprint – your negative impact on the environment simply because of the various decisions you’ve made on the go. Keep reading to uncover how to reduce your carbon footprint when traveling.
If you’ve started making lifestyle changes to help keep our world cleaner and healthier, then it’s high time you changed some of your travel habits to the benefit of our humble planet and all of its inhabitants. Just in time to prepare yourself for your next travel adventure, let’s take a look at some of the ways in which you can make your globetrotting more Earth-friendly!
Green up your air travel
True, flying is the most convenient way to reach those secluded regions and remote areas that hide some of the most exotic nooks worth visiting. But when you can, opt out of flying and go for something better for the planet. However, when you need to get on a plane to reach your destination, choose greener ways to fly!
- Choose the economy class over first or business class. The latter two take more space per seat, which means they spend more fuel per passenger.
- Fly direct and nonstop whenever your budget allows you to. Too many stops and layovers mean more fuel since takeoff and landing burn the most fuel.
- Learn about the airline and its planes. Some airlines have more eco-friendly, fuel-efficient alternatives to old aircraft models.
- Look for carbon offset programs, so that you can at least fund and support a project that directly helps the environment.
- Pack light and bring less luggage. The heavier the load you bring with you, the more fuel the plane uses on your account. Every little thing you can do to offset your impact can make a difference if you do really need to book that flight.
- Fly to destinations where you can make a positive impact on the environment through volunteering and working in local organizations that support the environment. If you need to fly, then at least add places to your itinerary that need your help the most.
Stay in eco-friendly accommodation
As our awareness of the planet’s peril is growing, so are the opportunities for choosing green hotels, boutique and otherwise, local apartments, and sharing more sustainable options. Since ecotourism is on the rise, you can look up the reviews and find the most sustainable stay in the area.
Look for hotels that use eco-friendly furniture and design, that rely on seasonal produce and local farmers for their cooking, the ones that use green cleaning supply alternatives to replace toxic cleaning supplies (Alikats is a great example of this), and those that utilize green energy such as solar. Recycling, preventing water waste with smart systems, and energy efficiency should also be on your list when looking for that perfect Earth-friendly accommodation. Green hotels also work closely with brands that produce sustainable and recyclable skincare products, so that they can completely remove the plastic and other harmful ingredients from the equation.
While you’re there, your own choices can further make a positive impact. Learn and practice the ‘Leave No Trace’ principles and ask the hotel staff not to change your sheets and bring you fresh towels without your explicit say-so, which will in turn minimize your water usage and help prevent wasting this precious substance.
Pack light and think in layers
Wherever you’re going, you always strive to stay comfortable as well as safe. However, certain packing tricks apply no matter the weather conditions and the destination. One of the main ways to help reduce your carbon footprint is by packing light and smart for your next travel adventure while keeping comfort in mind. Choose sustainable products and durable, long-lasting fabrics such as cotton, bamboo, linen, and hemp, opt for light layers that can help you stay warm (or fresh) in any climate, and ditch anything that’s made with toxic dyes, polluting fabrics, or in an unsustainable fashion.
Of course, this is one of those long-term learning curves that your eco-minded lifestyle comes with. When you choose to ditch mass-produced garments made in inhumane conditions that harm both people and Mother Nature, you need to start learning about the brands you buy from. Once you become the master of label-reading, you’ll know which brands to trust, which fabrics protect our planet, and which garments will last the longest.
Focusing on light layers and packing less in general means you can hand-wash your garments to wear them more often during your travels. Finally, get a durable, lightweight travel bag or a backpack, and opt for lifelong accessories such as insulated water bottles instead of plastic ones. Not only will they keep your water fresh and the temperature of the water stable even if you’re visiting those sizzling hot regions of the world, but it’s one of the wisest choices you can make to kick plastic from your lifestyle.
Go for natural activities
When you’re not traveling for business (but let’s face it, even when you are), you’ll be looking into all kinds of activities to fill up your itinerary. Although most countries have a wide array of attractions that somehow affect our lovely nature and the creatures that share our planet, you can steer clear of those that have the most negative effect and choose something pro-nature instead.
Nature tours that take you camping, hiking, and biking while you observe the local wildlife in their natural habitat is an educational way to travel and stay green. Instead of hopping on a city tour bus, you can rent an electric scooter or stroll around town for as long as your legs can handle the trek. Once there, try to stay on the trail when you hike.
You can also spend your time scuba diving, snorkeling, and surfing, all of which will serve as a perfect way to get to know the local life without wreaking havoc on Mother Nature.
Remember to double-check where your money goes before making a purchase. Here’s a good example of this: the Tinggly gift box. Every one of the eco-friendly packaged experiences this company sells helps clean the Planet Earth as a part of the company’s profit goes to sustainable projects to remove polluting plastics from the environment.
As a result, each one of its gifts helps to remove 15kg of plastics and offstes 200% of the CO2 emissions generated.
Join the local green initiatives
Found some litter on the ground during your explorations? Pick it up, find a place where you can dispose of the items safely, and preferably recycle the ones that are recyclable. You’ve noticed plastic piling up towards the edge of that long beach? Gather a few of your friends and start a holiday spring cleaning session to remove the plastic from the beach. But why not go a little further than that and look into local options to volunteer in the spirit of sustainability?
Local initiatives and organizations devoted to wildlife preservation, clean rivers, and lakes and building sustainable housing in impoverished regions are some of the eco-friendliest options you can contribute to while you travel. A little of your time and skill can go a long way in helping those regions thrive. Not to mention that you’ll immerse yourself into the local culture more and by the end of the journey, you’ll likely find yourself feeling more grateful for your own wealth in life, no matter how humble or vast it may be.
Finally, if you want to preserve those pristine and raw spots you might find along the way, consider avoiding geo-tagging your social media images to prevent over-tourism in places where it isn’t an issue yet. No destination needs that.
Walk, bike, or use public transportation
While you’re there, eager to explore, find the most sustainable ways to get from point A to point B every day. For starters, take a walk to the nearest locations whenever possible, so that you can reduce your carbon footprint. In fact, you can even pick the destinations that have the most pedestrian-friendly zones on the map, embark on a walking adventure, or choose the ones that have alternative transportation means such as a well-designed metro to help you avoid joining the traffic on four wheels.
Otherwise, biking around town and in nature is another great option, giving you a delightful perspective on your new destination. Nowadays, you’ll find that many densely-populated cities also offer electric scooters to simplify your sightseeing adventures, but also to help keep those cities cleaner and make sure they cut down on car usage.
If the weather doesn’t permit such ways of exploring, then using public transportation such as the subway, buses, trams, and trains is much greener than renting a vehicle. If by any chance you do need to rent a car, always opt for an eco-friendly, hybrid alternative! Add to that, you can share your rental with other travelers and reduce your negative impact on the environment.
Smart and sustainable shopping
Wherever you go, you’ll need to make a few purchases along the way, from sustenance to memorabilia and gifts for your family back home.
Starting with food, make sure that you buy local, seasonal goods from the farmers’ market, so that you support the local economy, and avoid imported goods that already have a truly staggering carbon footprint. Can you imagine the amount of fuel used in order to transport the food on a plane or a ship to your location? Let’s not even get started on their plastic packaging and wrapping to keep the food safe.
Related read: How to start your own small vegetable garden
If you’d like to surprise your loved ones and bring them something to remember your trip by, it’s easy to ask around and find local artists who create one-of-a-kind items that are also in line with your green initiative.
Find local artisans and ask about the materials they’ve used while making their goods (they shouldn’t be made of anything related to endangered animals, plants, or anything that remotely affects their natural habitat). Not only will you support their culture, but you’ll also ensure you’re not condoning any form of animal abuse or the use of plastic and other harmful materials for our planet. And, of course, never take part in wildlife encounters where people are permitted to touch animals.
While some of these steps may seem too insignificant, when you consider the accumulated effect of such small decisions made by each and every one of us when we travel – they can make a significant impact on the environment. Make sure to green up your travels, and you’ll lead by example!
Do you have any other tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint when traveling? Let us know in the comments below.