25 Tips How to Travel More Sustainably & Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Your Travels
Traveling is a favorite pastime of many people. It’s always fun to travel around and see what else the world has to offer. Traveling can open doors, can offer life changing opportunities, and can lead to an experience that one will never forget.
However, even when on vacation, it is important to protect the environment and consider the carbon footprint of our travels. The following are 25 tips how to travel more sustainably in the new decade and how to reduce the carbon footprint of your travels.
Tips for more sustainable and eco-friendly travel
Before you leave: remember to turn things down and off while you are away.
Why waste energy and produce more carbon emissions than necessary when you aren’t even home? If you are planning to be away from home for an extended period of time, turn down your thermostat.
Also, be sure to unplug things, turn them off, and eliminate sources of phantom power used by your appliances and other electronics that might waste energy while you are away.
If you are just going to be away from home just for a weekend, you can still set your home’s thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer to save energy (and the associated carbon emissions that are produced) through the heating and cooling of your home. Programmable thermostats are widely available and allow you to set a schedule that adjusts your home’s temperature as you require.
Now, let’s get to the tips connected with the actual travel and adventures that await you.
#1 Book a nonstop flight and consider purchasing carbon offsets
Much of the carbon footprint of an airplane is in taking off and landing . Booking a nonstop flight minimizes this excess release of carbon dioxide and minimizes the impact to the environment.
A number of airlines and travel websites are now offering the option to purchase carbon offsets to compensate for the equivalent of carbon emissions that will be generated during your trip. This can be a good option when air travel is unavoidable.
The funding raised through the purchase of carbon offsets generally go to support various projects that help to reduce overall greenhouse gases in the environment, such as the clean energy projects, the planting of trees, or landfill gas capture.
#2 Travel by bus, ship, or train to your destination
Buses, trains and ships generally have a smaller carbon footprint than an airplane. Today, some public bus systems are using hybrid electric vehicles, further reducing their total carbon emissions.
And there are now even solar powered buses in some places around the world, such as the Tindo electric bus in Adelaide, Australia.
Additionally, traveling with these means of transport helps cut down the number of cars on the road.
Traveling alone in a car can be a necessity, but when going on road trips, always travel with other people to reduce the environmental impact. By hitching a ride with a friend or relative to get to your destination and you are reducing the number of vehicles required. This ultimately reduces the overall carbon footprint of your travel.
#4 Rent a hybrid or electric car
When in a new city, oftentimes it is easier to get around and see the sights by renting a car. When possible, rent a hybrid or electric car to reduce fuel consumption.
#5 When possible, walk, bike or use public transportation
#6 Try to go paperless
Traveling requires many documents. Try going paperless for boarding passes, maps, itinerary, or anything that can be accessed online to cut down on excess paper use when possible.
#7 Choose a sustainable or green hotel
Does the hotel have solar panels? Do they have a recycling program? Do they implement water saving mechanisms into their facility? These are all questions to consider when choosing a green hotel.
#8 Bring a refillable water bottle
This one is self-explanatory but is a great way to keep from being wasteful and polluting the earth with plastic bottles.
#9 Conserve water when showering, brushing teeth or washing dishes
Make sure to shower and avoid baths, always turn off the water when brushing your teeth and washing dishes.
#10 Avoid hotel laundry service
Many hotels wash each guest’s clothes separately . This means that a load of laundry might only contain a few pieces of clothing which can waste gallons of water.
#11 Put the “do not disturb” sign on the door
Putting this sign up on the door is a good way to limit your environmental footprint by limiting useless cleaning and the use of chemicals that pollute the environment.
#12 Hang towels after use
After showering, one tip is to hang the towels back up to let housekeeping know that you will use them the next day. Washing towels that have only been used once wastes gallons of water and can be easily avoided.
#13 Turn off heat/AC lights and unplug electronics when away for the day
Although not in use, a plugged-in appliance still uses electricity. Additionally, why heat or cool an empty room? Turning off and unplugging electronics goes a long way in saving electricity even when on vacation.
#14 Recycle or give back maps or brochures when done using them
Many places like zoos, amusement parks or other attractions provide maps or brochures to their patrons. This can lead to piles and piles of maps that have been used once or discarded. When finished, always return or recycle them to cut down on waste.
#15 Pick up trash while in nature and recycle
While on a hike or visiting nature, some people discard trash and other litter on the trail. It is always advisable to clean trash from nature to keep the area beautiful and help wildlife.
#16 Keep a distance from wildlife
When with wildlife, it is important never to interfere with their space. It’s always better to admire wildlife from afar.
#17 Never feed wildlife
Feeding wildlife is never a good idea. Not only does it cause these wild animals to get used to human contact, they start to associate people with food. Not only is this dangerous to the wildlife, this is dangerous to future adventurers in the area.
#18 Walk on designated trails and avoid trampling flora or distressing fauna
Preserving wildlife for future generations is important. When hiking, always stick to the trail to avoid damaging the wild ecosystem.
#19 Never take “souvenirs” from the wild
Avoid taking plants, animals or rocks from the natural environment. Think about what would happen if everybody did the same.
#20 Avoid buying souvenirs made from endangered plants or animals
Many places offer souvenirs made from locally grown products. However, sometimes these products are made from endangered plants or animal products . It is our job as responsible consumers to ensure that resources were not exploited for monetary gain.
#21 Buy local products
This not only helps support local people, it limits transportation of goods to an area which reduces the carbon footprint of a product.
#22 Support local green organizations
If you see that there is a local green organization, support it! If other businesses see that people value green consumerism, they will be more likely to follow.
#23 Take reusable bags with you to avoid using plastic
Everyone knows that plastic is bad for the environment. Even when traveling it is important to bring reusable bags to avoid using plastic.
#24 Avoid attractions or tours that involve wild animals
Many tours and tourist attractions take advantage and exploit wild animals such as animal shows, elephant rides or pictures with wild lions or tigers. However, purchasing these products entices the continuation of this practice.
#25 Respect local language, customs and traditions when traveling
Finally, it is always important to remember that you are in a new area and local culture could be different than you’re used to. It is advised to always research the area and learn about the norms in that area to avoid offending anyone and be a responsible traveler.
And what to do when you do not travel just for fun?
Traveling for other purposes is unavoidable for some of us. However, in some cases, travel may not be necessary, and there are simple, low or no carbon options available thanks to modern technology.
Many employers are now allowing their employees to telecommute from home at least a couple of days a week, eliminating a carbon-intensive commute.
For business trips, could a video conference or webinar training series serve the same purpose as face-to-face meetings or destination coursework and classroom trainings?
If your destination is nearby, can you walk or bike there instead of driving your car?
Can you combine trips to reduce the number of separate trips that must be taken?