This Is Your Year Simple Tips To Be A More Sustainable Traveler 

woman with red hair looking out onto a cityscape

Sustainable travel is about more than getting away. These sustainable travel tips will have you rethinking how you can get the most from your next trip.

Estimated Read Time: 7 minutes

Sustainable travel kind of sounds like a greenwashing campaign, doesn’t it? Like it’s an add-on someone can sell you, but the truth is it’s very real and it’s very important. 

In this blog we’ll break down not only what sustainable travel is but some sustainable travel tips you can easily incorporate for your next trip.

What Is Sustainable Travel

: A brown monkey sitting in a hot spring in Japan

Photo by Steven Diaz on Unsplash

Sustainable travel has three main aspects according to the World Tourism Organization. 

  • Environmental
  • Economic
  • Socio-Cultural

When sustainable travel is done correctly, there will be a balance between all three. 

In short, it’s about minimizing your impact on the environment when you travel, making sure the local population benefits from the tourism and isn’t left to clean up your mess, creating fair employment, and most importantly, taking care of the destination so its inhabitants and future generations can continue to enjoy it. 

When done well, sustainable travel actually creates a better experience for the traveler because you genuinely get to learn about a new culture and meet fascinating people. 

Why Should You Care About Sustainable Travel

a person standing to take a photograph in a crowded city center.

Photo by Fiaz Mohammed on Unsplash

When you’re going to a destination for the first time or the 10th time, that’s someone’s home. Someone lives there, works there, commutes there, gets their food from that place, and has family — perhaps even for generations. 

So while it’s a beautiful beach to you or an old building that feels like Harry Potter to you, it’s home for someone else.

Unsustainable travel has many effects that you can see while you’re there and some that linger once you’re gone. It mainly results in overtourism and the effects are not pretty. Overtourism includes: 

  • Pollution from cars
  • An overwhelmed electric grid
  • Skyrocketing rent prices for local residents
  • More waste than the local system can manage
  • Overcrowded roads and bridges
  • Disappearance of local animals and wildlife or habitat destruction to make room for resorts

Overtourism doesn’t just hurt the local population, it can ruin the destination for the rest of travelers. 

This is why we can’t have nice things! 

This Business Insider article lists 8 tourist attractions that had to close due to overcrowding and overtourism. A couple are: 

  • Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon in Iceland shut down due to an influx of tourists causing damage.
  • Overtourism resulted in significant damage to the ecosystem at Maya Bay in Thailand forcing the entire bay to be shut down from tourists.
  • Thailand was also forced to shut down a handful of islands after overtourism caused damage to 80% of the local coral reefs. 

What Can You Do To Be A More Sustainable Traveler? 

: Woman with a traveling backpack walks down a stone street in an old empty alley

Photo by Timo Stern on Unsplash

Is all hope lost? 

Do you have to re-do your bucket list? 

Can you never visit Venice again? 

Of course not! 

But you could restructure your bucket list to include just as cool locations that are off the beaten track. 

And if you must see a popular destination, go during the off season when it doesn’t put as much pressure on the local economy. It’s generally cheaper to travel in the off season as well! 

You could also choose a destination based on a location that needs your help — both economically and physically. 

Read on to learn some more sustainable traveling tips you can incorporate into your next trip.

How To Choose A Sustainable Travel Destination

interior of a room that contains a wood desk, a rug, an old fireplace with a vent in the corner

Photo by Filios Sazeides on Unsplash

  • Try to explore closer to home first to reduce your carbon footprint
  • Consider a Homestay instead of hotels or Airbnb’s
  • Use sites like Regenerative Travel, Responsible Travel, Wayaj, and more to book sustainable hotels and experiences. 
  • This article from Pebble Magazine lists 12 eco-friendly travel companies.

Getting To Your Destination, Sustainably 

Wing of an airplane in the clouds during sunset or sunrise

Photo by Tom Barrett on Unsplash

  • If you’re staying ‘close’ but traveling individually, flying is better. If you’re in a group, driving is better.
  • Consider a train for all of or part of your trip.
  • Use an airline that invests and uses biofuels.
  • Offset your flight with TerraPass or The Gold Standard.

Sustainable Travel Tips: Packing 

An open suitcase containing a pair of short jean shorts, a patterned shirt, a small bag with toiletries. Outside the suitcase are a Chromebook, a camera, a postcard, sunglasses, and sandals.

Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

Packing the right things is more than what you’re going to wear while you’re there. Bringing your own plastic-free essentials helps reduce the impact you leave on your destination and prevents you from purchasing and disposing of plastic while you’re there. 

  • Keep it simple with a capsule wardrobe — a handful of interchangeable pieces that can make a plethora of outfits reduces the weight of your luggage everywhere you’re traveling. Bring items that wash well, dry quickly, and don’t take that top you bought 3 years ago and have been meaning to wear but haven’t taken the tags off. 
  • Bring a multi-functional bar soap like Dr. Bronners or our 3-in-1 Coconut Cleansing Soap. Hand wash clothes in your sink to rewear
  • Bring as much as you can in bar form — shampoo & conditioner, dry shampoo (technically a powder), & body soap to save on space and weight. Cut the bars in half to save more space. 
  • Reusable water bottle — seriously this is a huge way to reduce plastic waste! 
  • Consider an on the go water filter if you’re hiking or camping
  • Stasher bags for snacks during your whole trip, to store local produce, and even for leftovers!
  • Toothpaste tabs instead of tiny plastic tubes.
  • Reuse utensils or bring your own.

Keep It Sustainable At A Hotel

Refillable shampoo, conditioner, and body wash bottles in a hotel shower

Photo by oning on Unsplash

If you’ll be staying at a hotel, try and find one that already has eco-friendly practices. Try some of these tips to minimize your impact during your stay. 

  • Keep your towels hung up so housekeeping doesn’t clean them daily
  • Bring your own toiletries unless the hotel offers refillables (otherwise the hotel tosses them)
  • Let the A/C take a break 
  • Turn off outlets, lights, and TVs when leaving the room
  • Refill your own water bottles
  • Support a local cafe for coffee instead of using plastic cups & Keurigs
  • Don’t use hotel laundry — hand wash your items in your sink 

Sustainable Travel Tips: Respecting Local Culture

People walking on a bridge in Japan between lush trees and cherry blossoms

Photo by Amy Tran on Unsplash

The local culture is one of the main reasons you’re there and a big part of traveling sustainably. Try to do some research before you go to a new destination to learn common greetings and local courtesy’s (like tipping). 

  • Always respect local culture.
  • Sign up for activities, tours, and events that are locally owned and operated.
  • Look for sustainable experiences that give back and/or protect the environment.
  • Water conservation — learn what the rules are and follow them. Take shorter showers, turn off the water during your shower, keep the sink off when brushing your teeth, etc. 
  • Bring your toxic waste home to dispose of it properly — batteries, ewaste, etc.
  • Conserve energy where possible — line dry your clothes, turn off the AC, heat, fans, lights, TVs, and outlets when leaving your accommodation
  • Bring a universal adapter — so you don’t have to buy a cord or an entirely new product for a few days or weeks.

Sustainable Travel Transportation Tips: Getting Around

A train going around a curve with a person sticking their head out the window.

Photo by JK on Unsplash

When possible, walk! It’s a great way to get to know your destination and its neighborhoods. You can even find places you want to visit later.

  • WALK
  • Public transport
  • Bikes/scooters
  • Carshare when necessary
  • If renting a car, opt for electric or something small

Be A Sustainable Eater

Round brown wooden table with a french press, plates, cups, and a small potted chili plant

Photo by Kris Atomic on Unsplash

  • Shop local markets for fresh produce and snacks like nuts, dried fruit, etc and carry it in your stasher bags. You might even find restaurants at the markets where you can dine on a budget! 
  • Bring your own bag — it goes without saying but always have a reusable bag handy! 
  • If you do grab a plastic bag, try to reuse it later for laundry, trash, recycling, wet clothes, get creative! 
  • Drink your coffee at a cafe or bring own mug/versatile bottle 
  • Cut back on meat — a lot of other cultures have diets less centered around meat than the U.S. If you’re in one of those places, explore the options and try the local meat-free cuisine! 

Even if you incorporate only a few of these, you’ll already be a more sustainable traveler! 

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