Reduce the carbon footprint of your next vacation by following these simple steps to help you become a more sustainable traveler.
1. If you have the time, avoid traveling by plane at all costs. Try traveling by bus, train, or ship - these option generally have less environmental impact.
2. Book non-stop flights whenever you can! Although non-stop flights are generally more expensive, flying non-stop decreases the amount of carbon emitted from the plane during take off and landing.
3. If you must fly, be sure to book a flight with one of the 30+ IATA (International Air Transport Association) member airlines that provide carbon offset programs to neutralize the aircraft’s carbon emissions by investing in carbon reduction and sustainable development.
4. Drink local beers! I know it can be hard to stay away from your favorite beers, but try something new on vacation. Drink a locally brewed beer and who knows, you might fall in love. But even more importantly, your beer will have a lower carbon footprint by cutting down on transportation emissions. Be adventurous! Check out the top 10 best countries to drink the local alcohol in here.
5. Take your own reusable bag and use it! I do this all the time and always think to myself how many little plastic bags I would have wasted on my trip if I had not brought a reusable one. By taking advantage of this tip you could save 100's of plastic bags in a single trip.
6. If you forget your reusable plastic bag, then don't bag it at all. You want memories of your holiday to last forever, but you don't want the plastic bags from your trip to be floating around that long. Plastic bags can take up to 500 years to degrade.
7. Pack as light as possible. Every kilo counts when flying. Not only will your vacation be more enjoyable with less crap to lug around, but packing light also reduces the amount of carbon emitted during your flight. The more a plane weighs, the more carbon emissions it produces. Pack only what you need and the environment will thank you.
8. Ask your hotel if it has a recycling program. If they don't have a recycling program then put some pressure on the hotel and encourage them to start one. You can even point out that recycling is an added service for guests - something the hotel can use for marketing.
9. When booking a hotel, check for seals of approval from eco-certification programs, such as EarthCheck (Australia), LEED Certification (United States), Green Globe, Rainforest Alliance (Latin America, Caribbean), and Green Tourism Business Scheme (UK). If your staying in a country in the European Union, keep your eye out for the EU Ecolabel certification in your hotel which marks for environmental quality.
10. Always ask about your hotels carbon footprint. If the staff does not know, encourage management to calculate the hotels carbon footprint.
11. Find out what percentage of the hotels resources are sourced locally. Does your hotel hire local staff? Do they source their food locally? Do they decorate with locally sourced materials? Investing in the local economy tends to be far more sustainable.
12. If the tap water is safe were you are going, take a BPA-free water bottle you can refill over and over again.
13. If you are traveling somewhere with unsafe drinking water, try to avoid buying water imported from far away countries. For example, don't buy Evian (imported from France) in the United States.
14. Don't use the hotel laundry service if you only have a handful of items that need washing. Most people don't think about this detail, but hotels typically wash every guest’s clothes separately - even when there are only one or two items).
15. Hanging your towel up after each use is the universal sign that you’d like to use them again, so be sure to reuse your towels and avoid wasting water by washing a clean towel.
16. Stay at an ecolodge. If you can afford the more luxurious route, ecolodges are stylish and sustainable accommodation aimed at minimizing environmental harm and educating guests about local ecology.
17. After your trip, take any leftover shampoo and toothpaste with you. It's surprising how many unused portions of personal care products are often thrown away. Plus, you can reuse the small plastic bottles for your next trip.
18. Leave the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door during your entire stay at your hotel unless you actually need your room cleaned. This decreases chemical cleansing agents, electricity used in vacuuming, and the washing of bed linens during your stay.
19. Take showers, not baths. Showers use just 10 to 25 gallons of water, while baths can use up to 70 gallons. This is a tip you can even take home with you to save water.
20. When you leave your room, turn off all lights, heat & AC, and television. The easiest appliances to forget about can be the most wasteful because they are always switched on.
22. Don’t buy anything made from endangered plants or animals, unsustainable hardwoods, or historic artifacts!! Not only is it horribly wrong, but you probably won’t be able to get them through customs in order to get them home. On top of that, you can be arrested or given a serious fine for the purchase of endangered species.
23. Don’t take tours that advertise hands-on encounters with wild animals, for example riding elephants, holding a sloth, or walking with tigers. Doing such a tour means you’re supporting an industry that illegally captures, transports, and abuses millions of animals each year. If you wish to see a wild animal or be close to them, there are hundreds of thousands of animal sanctuaries around the world that have hands-on volunteer opportunities for travelers like you. You can support the protection of wild animals while getting your hands-on experience!
24. Do NOT buy souvenir photos from anyone exploiting wildlife, such as the famous performing elephants of Thailand or the snake charmers in Jemaa el-Fna square in Morocco. I don't care how cool you think it will look on your facebook or instagram... you look like an idiot for paying $1 to ensure the enslavement of a beautiful wild animal that stolen from its habitat to be exploited by dumb tourists.
25. Shop smarter if you are in a country with less environmental regulation than your home. Read labels, and ask questions like “What is this item made from?” It may be legally alright in their country to sell them, but you can still vote with your wallet by refusing to buy them.
26. Walk, bike or use public transportation as much as possible to get around. Not only does this cut down on gas usage and saves money, but it also gives you a great new way to see a city besides sitting in the back of a car or taxi.
27. When snorkeling or Scuba diving, don’t touch/step on the coral or stir up sediment, as it can damage the reef’s fragile ecosystem.
28. If your staying somewhere that is famous for reefs and diving, ask local businesses that rely on reefs and tourism how they are contributing to the protection and preservation of the reef.
29. There is power in numbers! Remember that smaller groups tend to have less of an environmental impact so travel with a small group tour that's environmentally responsible. Always be sure to ask what size the group will be before you book.
30. Find out how the tour operator gives back to the local community. This helps put pressure on businesses to do better. For example, ask if they hire local guides or if they take a leading role in preserving the area’s natural resources. Find out more about responsible tour operators here.
31. If your headed to the beach, bring along a small bag and pick up any trash on the beach. The sea creatures will thank you! Every piece of plastic removed from the beach can mean a life saved!
32. Hold on to your trash until you find a place to recycle it - especially if you are in a park or anywhere near wildlife as it is more important to permanently remove plastic from these areas in a sustainable way so that it does not return.
33. When hiking remember that marked trails are there for a reason. Stick to the path to avoid harming native flora and conservation work.
34. Make a point of seeking out indigenous artisans. When you buy directly from an artist, you’re not only helping them provide for their family, but in many cases you’re helping to preserve their culture.
35. Avoid resorts at all costs. The immense amount of money funneled into resorts tends to go into the pockets of a few, usually non-local, hotel owners. This means that all the money generated from resorts does not trickle down into the local economy. Also, if you lock yourself in a resort that has all the comforts of home, how do you expect to learn about history and culture of a new place?
36. Give back whenever and however you can. Many nations are badly in need of basic necessities that many people take for granted. Traveling gives you a unique experience that stays with you for the rest of your life. In return, consider giving something back, such as supporting a local charity or bringing needed supplies to isolated areas that do not have access to the products they need.