With almost 1.5 billion tourists cruising the planet each year, it is more important than ever to minimize the individual impact on a Earth’s natural and cultural wealth.
The irreversible changes caused by tourism leave a black mark on everything amazing about travel.
Eco-friendly travel requires a bit of effort at first, but in a moment you will find that it is easier than you think and will become more natural.
Not only will you feel better on the go, but responsible travel often contributes to a more authentic experience and encourages deeper connections with the people and places you visit.
You don’t have to stay at home, pay more, sacrifice your comfort or travel completely out of civilization to promote sustainable travel. All that is needed is to strive for:
- Protecting and preserving the environment you visit – Environmental pillar.
- Supporting the local economy – Economic pillar.
- Support for cultural projects – Social pillar.
Here are some simple tips to put the three pillars into practice and start traveling green:
It all starts with vacation planning. Be part of the latest slow travel trend. A simple rule applies here; the further you travel, the longer you stay here.
Get to know the destination better, travel around the area by train and be more spontaneous.
Choice of ethical destination
Less discovered destinations are usually more authentic, breathtaking and still without endless crowds of tourists.
Every year, the independent organization Ethical Traveler selects the best destinations from almost 200 developing countries according to environmental protection, social security and human rights.
By visiting the countries on these lists, you financially support their efforts to create sustainable tourism and at the same time encourage other destinations to follow them.
Transport – especially air transport – is the activity with the greatest impact on the environment when traveling.
For shorter journeys, therefore, avoid traveling by plane and prefer the bus, ideally the train – especially in Europe or other regions where train traffic is very fast and busy.
If you have to fly, we recommend choosing direct flights, which are often more expensive, but will save you time, worries and at the same time reduce the large amount of emissions produced by the aircraft during takeoff and landing.
Do you like first or business class? Larger space sounds tempting, but produces up to 5 times the carbon footprint.
When choosing a flight, make sure that the airline is a member of IATA and provides programs to compensate for the emissions produced when purchasing the ticket.
The airline invests selected funds to reduce your emissions, sustainable development and renewable energy.
Do you travel far more and want to travel by car? If your car is less economical, try renting a smaller and greener car.
Selection of ecological hotel
With the growing interest in sustainable travel, hotels are adapting to demand and becoming green.
Therefore, when choosing, focus on certified ecological hotels. There are dozens of certifications such as Green Globe, EU Ecolabel, etc.
However, be careful and check that this is a genuine certificate that has been approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
Accommodation providers meet the minimum requirements for:
- Sustainability, including recycling and the use of renewable resources.
- Maximizing social and economic benefits for local communities.
- Reducing negative impacts on the environment.
Instead of international hotels or large all-inclusive resorts owned by foreigners, you prefer to stay in smaller and locally operated hotels and accommodation facilities.
It is often the greenest travel option and you contribute to the local economy.
Pack as little as possible
Travel lightly and pack as little as possible.
Every kilogram counts when flying. Not only will your vacation be more enjoyable with less luggage, but you will also reduce the amount of emissions produced during the flight.
You can wash almost anywhere, so pack wisely and only the essentials.
Here is a clear list of things to do that will come in handy when packing.
Leave a light trail during your stay
Even if you don’t spend the night in an eco-friendly hotel, you can take a few simple steps to make your stay greener:
- Instead of taking a bath, take a short shower and turn off the water while brushing your teeth.
- When leaving the room, turn off the air conditioning, heating, television, lights or other electrical devices.
- Use sheets and towels repeatedly instead of changing them every day. Many hotels do not replace towels if you leave them nicely hung. If you are unsure, write a note to the cleaning staff or inform the reception.
- Leave “Do Not Disturb” on the door throughout your stay unless you really need to clean your room. This will reduce the washing of bed linen and the use of chemical cleaners during cleaning and electricity when vacuuming.
- Bring your own toiletries. If you use the hotel’s toiletries, take them with you and use them at home or for the rest of the trip, otherwise they will be discarded.
- Sort waste according to hotel options. If your hotel does not recycle, try to resolve the situation and take the waste away. Many developing countries do not have the means to dispose of items such as old electronics or used batteries. If you throw them away, they can stay here for hundreds of years after you leave. You’d better take them back home.
- Do not use the hotel laundry if you only have a few items to wash. Hotels usually wash each guest’s clothes separately – even if it’s just one or two items.
- Find out if your destination is having problems with resources such as water or energy and how it is produced.
Give the hotel feedback and write a review. Reviews help other travelers to make the right choice and hotels to improve services. Express your appreciation, or encourage management to turn green in the future.
Choose a responsible company
When booking a tour, look for accredited local companies that you can support with your money.
Read positive and mostly negative reviews on third-party websites like Google or TripAdvisor. Negative reviews often highlight real concerns.
Carefully study all tours involving a close encounter with an indigenous tribe or exotic animals.
Being able to touch them, cuddle them or ride them is a warning sign that something is wrong. Animals are often drugged or abused.
If you like wild animals and want to be close to them, visit their natural habitat.
There are thousands of reserves around the world that help protect animals and that you can support. Don’t forget to share your experience.
Use public transport, bicycle or walking
Instead of a taxi or car rental, use local transport or carpooling.
The impact on the environment will be lower and you will have the opportunity to meet the locals and experience an authentic experience.
But best of all, healthy walking; go for a walk around the area or ride a bike and take a trip through the countryside.
For long distances, consider buses or trains that allow you to see the country from the windows and get to know the locals better.
Do not use plastic bottles
Plastic waste has a huge impact on the environment. Its recycling is very low to zero in the world.
Still, although it doesn’t seem like it, eliminating it while traveling can be quite easy.
Use reusable bags and grocery bags on the go.
You will reduce the production of hundreds of bags and other plastics that may otherwise remain in place for up to five hundred years or end up in the ocean.
Eat, drink and shop locally
As with accommodation, support the local economy by buying products and tasting food made by locals.
Street food and local markets are usually the ideal place to see the preparation itself.
Avoid imported food and international chains where food is transported over long distances. This significantly reduces the carbon footprint.
You can also support the local economy by buying souvenirs.
However, prefer a souvenir made by local people, even at a potentially higher price.
Be careful when buying items made from endangered animals or plants.
In some countries, this is a crime that can get you in jail.
Another way to significantly minimize the impact on the environment is to eat less meat on the road and at home. Livestock is still the largest cause of CO2 emissions in the world.
When visiting the most beautiful places in the world, the saying goes: Take photos and experiences, leave only traces.
When hiking, always stay on the marked paths to avoid damaging the original flora and keep a safe distance from all the animals you will encounter.
Dispose your waste in designated areas or take it with you when you leave.
Do not touch corals or sediment when snorkeling or diving, as they may damage the fragile reef ecosystem.
Choose your sunscreen carefully; Oxybenzone, octinoxate and other substances are toxic, even in small amounts, to all marine life and corals.
These chemicals are found in most sunscreens, so choose the cream with the least damage, ideally protect yourself from the sun with a suitable t-shirt and do not use any creams when swimming in the sea.
Interaction with local people
Treat the locals with respect and show interest in their country.
Be open to cultural differences, learn a few words in their native language and read about the country before the trip to be sensitive to questions about clothes and behavior.
Just as you don’t want strangers to destroy your country, be considerate of the places where people live and will live long after you fly home.
Everyone can change the world on his own. Share this knowledge and experience in person or through social networks with friends, family and loved ones.
The more we talk about sustainable travel, the more we will travel green and protect the most important thing in life.