Why do you need to know about sustainable travel?
Well, traveling (especially traveling internationally), actually increases your carbon footprint because you're using a mode of travel like airplane, train, or car. As a traveler, you're also constantly consuming in your destination--and that has an impact on the environment. Climate change is continuing to wreak havoc on the world around us, making sustainable travel more and more necessary for the survival of the planet and for future generations.
Now, hold up--what am I saying... that you can't travel anymore in order to live a sustainable lifestyle? Not at all. There are ways to reduce your environmental footprint and travel sustainably without foregoing travel altogether.
One way to have a positive impact on the environment is to advance sustainable tourism as more and more environmentally conscious members of the tourism industry are finding ways to reduce their footprint.
Tips for Sustainable Travel
#1 Avoid Flying (if you can)
12% of all transportation greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the U.S. is contributed by the aviation industry. As a conscious traveler, try to avoid taking an airplane if it's possible.
Other modes of transportation may be more eco-friendly than others. If it's possible, take a train--Europe is a great example of where taking a train can be more rewarding as a traveler than taking a plane would be. Or, if it's possible to drive to your destination--say from San Francisco to Los Angeles--do that instead of booking a flight. Contrastly, driving from Los Angeles to New York might not be ideal for you or the planet, so taking a flight, in this case, would be the better option.
#2 Fly non-stop
In some cases, flying non-stop produces fewer emissions than flights with multiple stops. You can impact the degree of carbon emissions you contribute to by flying smart and taking the fewest stops possible.
#3 Don't buy travel size items
At least not specifically for your trips. The plastic waste that is accrued from travel size items being used and tossed away contributes to the growing plastic pollution in the world, and isn't exactly environmentally friendly, especially when you toss that mini size body wash in the trash in a country that doesn't have proper disposal methods.
A more sustainable way to travel is to refill smaller reusable bottles with a bulk sized product. If you do have some travel size items leftover from other trips (probably from before you read this article), you can save them for this!
*Bonus points for buying and using products with compostable or plastic-free packaging.*
#4 Take public transportation
Do your research on transportation at your destination as part of your planning process. Public transportation can be a more efficient alternative to renting cars or taking taxis depending on where you are in the world. Your thorough research will ensure that whatever option you choose is both sustainable and convenient for you. It's way better for the environment and you'll benefit from having exciting new travel experiences you might not otherwise have.
#5 Buy local
Buying local products might not necessarily be cheaper in other countries, but your money will be directly supporting the local shop owners as opposed to larger companies. Check with local guides to find establishments owned by local people. Local communities will directly benefit from your business and you'll feel good about where your money is going.
Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa | Courtesy of Hyatt
#6 Stay in eco-conscious resorts or hotels
The tourism industry can destroy native land, wildlife, and culture in different countries. Tropical islands and resorts can be among the most detrimental, but there are some out there that aim to bring tourists in while preserving the environment and the well-being of the communities around the properties.
You can look for eco-certification and standards at accommodations before booking. This can differ from country to country, so you should do your research on these certifications before booking.
These certifications are usually run by sustainable tourism or non-profit organizations to promote sustainability in tourism across the globe. They signify whether or not an establishment is eco-friendly by way of giving back to the community the lodging has built its property on, has been assessed for sustainability practices, or is acting on best sustainability practices. These seals of sustainability can mean a lot of things--some approving the establishment for improving anything from economic development to cultural heritage, or employing local people and even wildlife preservation.
By supporting these certified establishments, you're making a statement that eco-tourism can be sustainable and lucrative for other tourism companies considering new ventures. It's better environmentally and you'll help foster a travel trend the tourism world so desperately needs.
#7 Conserve water--always!
No matter if you're at home or abroad, try not to use water excessively. You may be on vacation but think twice before you fill up a huge tub of water or keep it running while not in use. Water conservation is of utmost importance when it comes to living sustainably as well as traveling sustainably.
LARQ Self-Cleaning Water Bottle in Monaco Blue
#8 Don't buy bottled water
Sure, you get water on the airplane, can buy bottled water at the airports, or you can purchase them pretty much anywhere in your destination and feel assured that it's safe to drink--but is it the most sustainable option? The answer is no.
You should always bring a reusable bottle with you on any trip so you'll have something to fill up with instead of adding to plastic pollution. For all you germaphobes out there who buy bottled water because it's safer than tap water in another country, it's a good thing there's a self-cleaning water bottle out there that uses UV-C technology to zap bacteria and germs to keep your water bottle and your water fresh. Oh wait, we're the only one. Yes, it's the LARQ water bottle and we hope you don't mind a little self-promotion, but it's probably one of the best things you can ever buy if you drink water.
Anyway, you get the gist. Save the planet one less bottle at a time, and please, just bring your own reusable water bottle next time you travel.
#9 The deal with cruise ships
So, you might want to brace for what I'm going to tell you next if you love cruises... Based on an investigation by the United Kingdom's Channel 4 television station, daily greenhouse gas emissions from cruise ships can equate to the emissions of one million cars. The air quality is so bad around some cruise ships that they can be worse than the most polluted cities in the world. If this isn't an argument for sustainable tourism, I don't know what is.
The fact is, we rely on cargo ships for imports and exports, and for consumers (everyone), it's going to take some sacrifices to help promote sustainable travel and remind ourselves to make more eco-friendly choices.
#10 Beware of greenwashing
Greenwashing is a marketing tactic that some companies use to promote their products, services, or technologies as eco-friendly. This can mean slapping the word "natural" on labels or creating imagery and packaging that makes it look like a sustainable product. By being aware of these tactics, you can help reduce your environmental impact by purchasing products that actually are better for the environment.
#11 Take a bike
Or a hike! Finding other modes of transportation like biking or just walking is the best form of sustainable travel. Instead of taking a car or taxi somewhere, look up some bike rental companies in the local communities. Bicycling is a fun way to really absorb the culture and views of the city you're in. If navigating a foreign city by bicycle seems daunting, schedule a bike tour!
Walking tours are also great because tour guides really know their stuff, and you can learn more about the local environment, the culture and be a conscious traveler. And hey, you'll certainly get your steps in so you can justify eating a whole baguette every day.
#12 Go Camping or Overlanding
Ready for an adventure? If you've flown just about everywhere, sometimes exploring your own backyard could be a great change from your typical vacation. Camping or Overlanding will allow you to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and be more one with nature--seriously, it's beautiful and it'll open your eyes to the lack of care we've been putting into it. Camping can be sustainable, but it can also be very bad for the environment. Follow these tips on how to sustainably camp and overland so you can leave your site exactly as you found it. Hint: no single use plastic involved.
The best tips for sustainable travel international that we can give is to be aware of tricks that will attempt to lure you in. Look more closely at labels and eco-certifications, be conscious of your choices in accommodations, support local businesses when you can, and help advance sustainable travel by spreading the word. The world is your oyster, just don't sh*t all over it.