Our ability to hop on a train or plane and turn up in a different country in a matter of hours is becoming increasingly easier. This can make it feel a bit like the world is becoming smaller by the day.
It's this luxury that allows us to explore new landscapes, try new food, and share in cultures different from our own. And it’s through these experiences we come to learn just how connected we are on our "little-big" planet.
Learning how we impact each other often wakes us up to our impact on the world around us and often drives us to make meaningful change.
So, how can we travel more eco-friendly?
There’s no escaping it, there’s a large carbon footprint associated with travel. It’s estimated that tourism and travel account for about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Opt for buses, trains, or car sharing
Ground travel simply creates less carbon emissions than air travel.
On top of increased CO2 emissions, planes also contribute secondary effects from non-CO2 emissions (like nitrogen oxides). When these gases are released at altitude, they linger longer than on the Earth’s surface and contribute more greatly to its warming.
Ground travel is without these secondary effects from non-CO2 emissions and has the added benefit of producing lower emissions per person on board.
If you have to fly, fly non-stop whenever possible
A substantial portion of a flight’s CO2 emissions occur during takeoff and landing.
By opting for a non-stop flight, you minimize the number of times you’re doing this, and so reduce your flight-related carbon footprint.
Prepare ahead of time!
A little planning goes a long way when it comes to being a more eco-conscious traveller.
Pack zero-waste self-care products
Ditch the shampoo bottle for a shampoo bar, can of shaving cream for a shave bar, bottle of body wash for soap, plastic toothbrush for bamboo, and your tube of toothpaste for tooth powder.
Not only are these things zero-waste which is amazing for the planet, they are great travel companions because they aren’t liquid. This means no spills for you and an accelerated security experience.
Most transportation companies offer paperless options for boarding passes and tickets, sometimes all it takes is downloading their app.
In our digital day and age there’s really no need for paper versions of these.
Save yourself the hassle of printing them out and the environment the paper waste!
Bring a reusable water bottle
Millions of water bottles are purchased each day and only a small percentage of them end up being properly recycled.
When you travel, bring a reusable water bottle with you. It’s easy to fill before you leave your hotel, at a drinking fountain while you’re on the go, or when you break for lunch in a restaurant.
If you’re headed somewhere where you typically can’t drink from the tap, consider purchasing a filter to purify your water.
If a filter isn’t an option, having your own reusable water bottle still means you can purchase one large bottle of water (5-10 L) that stays at your accommodation and continuously tops up your smaller bottle each day.
Not only is this more cost effective, you’re also reducing the number of bottles being wasted.
Pack a container or reusable snack bag
Fill your container or reusable snack bag with snacks to avoid eating that dreaded airplane food. This is healthier for both you and the planet!
On your trip your container can be used for takeout, to transport a lunch or leftovers, or to carry just about anything else.
Bring a reusable coffee cup
Paper coffee cups are often lined with plastic which makes them challenging to recycle. Unfortunately because of this, many of them end up in the landfill.
Avoid single-use cups by bringing your own! There are many collapsible options available as well as ones that will double as a water bottle.
If carrying around a mug really isn’t for you, opt to sit in a café and drink your morning coffee before heading out on your adventures.
Pack a reusable bag
Whether it’s shopping at the grocery store or the local market, transporting laundry, taking a few necessities to the beach, or heading out for a day trip, a reusable bag is a travel must-have.
They are light and compress down to nothing which makes them a great travel partner. Plus, having one will save you from needing a plastic bag to carry your items home.
What can you do when you get to your destination?
What you do while you're travelling makes a difference too.
Walk as much as possible
While ground travel contributes less to global greenhouse gas emissions than air travel, walking creates even less.
When you walk through a city as a traveller you get to engage with all your senses too, and often stumble upon hidden gems you would have missed otherwise!
Recycle and compost where you can
It can be tricky to maintain your regular recycling and composting habits when on a trip.
At your accommodation, ask the staff or your host where to put food scraps and any items to be recycled. If they don’t have bins for these, explain why this is important to you.
When out and about, hang onto items until you find a way to recycle them. Every country’s recycling bins will look slightly different, so if you’re struggling to find one, ask a local!
Support eco-friendly accommodation
Look for accommodations that have eco-friendly certifications, are conscious of their water and energy use, and have recycling and composting programs.
Hostels, Air BnBs, and guesthouses tend to have lower environmental impact than large hotels because they typically don’t wash sheets and towels daily, offer mini toiletry bottles, or leave hundreds of lights on 24/7.
Avoid buying souvenirs, or at least make sure they’re authentic
If you’re seeing the same souvenir everywhere there’s a good chance it was made in another country and shipped in to be sold to you.
Opt for photos instead of trinkets, they’re free and won’t collect dust later!
If you really want to bring something back home, seek out local artisans and be sure what you’re buying was handmade locally. This not only keeps the carbon footprint of your purchase down, but you’re also stimulating the local economy and supporting its people.
Consider offsetting your trip!
Between planes, checked baggage, trains, cars, buses, accommodation, excursions, tours, food, and purchases, the carbon footprint for a trip quickly adds up.
Some airlines offer passengers the opportunity to purchase carbon offsets from the airline directly.
If yours does not, there are many apps that exist to help you determine your carbon footprint and organizations working hard on reforestation and community-based projects around the world.
Whichever organization you choose, be sure it’s been vetted, has certification behind it, and that its initiative is having meaningful, immediate impact at reducing emissions.
Thank you for taking the time to learn how to become a more eco-conscious traveller. We hope this blog helps make it easier for you to travel with our planet in mind, and we look forward to hearing from you in the comments.
Ready to make your travel adventures a bit more eco-friendly?