After being shut in our homes for a year and seeing the world begin to repair itself, we’ve had the opportunity to reflect upon our impact as travelers and whether it’s a positive one. Moving forward, people are thinking more about sustainability and how to travel more eco-consciously. Being a sustainably-conscious traveler doesn’t mean vowing never to take another flight or only pitching a tent in the middle of nowhere. It’s all about balance, reducing the negative impacts of tourism, and maximizing the benefits for the communities, ecosystems, and individuals. Travelling creates more empathy, understanding, and passion for protecting the world we enjoy.
But where do you start? Sometimes it can feel overwhelming when you start to consider calculating your carbon footprint and carbon offsetting. Fortunately, there are some small simple things you can do to start making a positive impact on every step of your journey.
Choosing A Destination
If you’re still deciding where to go and don’t have your heart set on a particular place, then considering the sustainability of the destination can factor into that decision process. Picking places that are committed to sustainability not only supports their efforts but also signals to the world what kind of initiatives are important to travelers.
- Check out this list of 100 top sustainable destinations, selected based on their commitment to protecting the local environment and culture.
- Keep an eye out for news stories about destinations making big commitments, for example:
[Photo credit: Ann via Annie’s Escapes- read about her trip to the Azores here]
What to Bring
Packing consciously is an easy way to change your carbon emissions. Normally when we travel our single-use plastic consumption tends to climb, but there are a few simple things you can do to minimize that effect.
[Photo Credit: STIL via Unsplash]
- Packing Light: limiting the weight you carry on the plane/train/car reduces the amount of fuel used. Bring a simple color palette that you can easily mix & match!
- Reusables: This is where you can really cut down on single-use plastics. Plus, travel versions of these items can be collapsible so they won’t take up much space in your bag!
- Take a water bottle, metal or bamboo utensils & containers for snacks
- Bring a large tote bag for all your shopping
- Decant shampoos & soaps from your big bottles at home or go solid with shampoo bars that can go in your carry-on!
- Reef-Safe Sunscreen: Many of the sunscreens available have chemicals that harm the delicate ocean reefs, so be sure to choose a reef-safe sunscreen that will protect the local eco-system!
- E-Sim: See if your phone is e-sim compatible and use the electronic option instead of getting a one-time-use sim card when you land.
Sometimes you need to take a plane to get to the other side of the world. While flying is well-documented for its high carbon emissions, when your destination is thousands of miles away (or if you’re seeing multiple destinations in one trip) there are still a few things you can do to reduce your footprint.
- Non-stop flights: One-quarter of airplane emissions come from landing and taking off, so cutting your number of connections makes a big difference. A recent study found that “On average, non-stop routes reduced carbon emissions by roughly 100 kg/person relative to the next best connecting option”. Remember that a non-stop flight is different from a direct flight and only a trip that doesn’t land mid-journey will be effective here.
- Take the train: Once you get to your international destination, using a train to get from place to place is extremely effective. Generally, even diesel trains produce 84% less carbon than flying. According to the European Environment Agency, taking the Eurostar from London to Paris instead of a plane cuts up to 90% of the CO2 emissions! While there are several factors to consider including distance, type of train, and the energy it uses, trains are nearly always the best option over short to medium distances.
While You’re There- Think Local
Sustainability isn’t just about the environment and nature, it’s also about the people and the cultures. Being thoughtful and respectful of the locals and their homes will not only preserve the destinations you love but you’ll also forge deeper connections.
- Walk, bike and take public transport! Many cities have bike-shares available to get you from place to place.
- If you need to rent a car to explore the countryside choose a small electric car. It reduces emissions and makes it easier to drive those narrow country roads.
- Choose experiences and tours from locals that immerse you in the culture and put money back into the community. Try a cooking or craft class!
- Do a little research into the local customs and traditions, learn a little bit of the language, and increase the positive interactions you have with the local people.
[Photo Credit: Marissa via Annie’s Escapes- read about their escape to Thailand (and this Thai Cooking Class) here]
[Photo Credit: Alicia via Annie’s Escapes- read about their escape to Italy and how they stumbled upon this small restaurant in Bologna here]
- Support community artisans and vendors when souvenir shopping. Go for the hand-crafted unique pieces over buying too many ‘trinkets.’
- Order food like a local- it’s more likely to be in season, fresh, and locally sourced. Often, the best meals are from locally owned hot spots rather than a big chain
- Take your time and focus on just a few places – get to know the favorite local spots, contribute more to the local economy, and find those hidden gems that can only be found by stumbling upon them.
- Travel in the off-season. It’s tempting to go to the most talked-about spots, but they can suffer from over-tourism. If you have your heart set on seeing a specific popular destination, go in the shoulder season to help minimize overcrowding
Luckily it’s becoming easier and easier to be sustainably conscious when we travel. Implementing these simple ideas will already make a big difference. If you’re excited to focus on sustainability in your travels let us know! We can help you find the perfect environmentally-friendly hotels and local experiences to really round out your sustainable vacation.