As summertime approaches and vacation plans take form, it’s essential to consider how your trip can impact the environment as going on vacation can be more harmful than you think. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, about 8%-10% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions are attributed to traveling and tourism (Welle, 2022). While some things, such as mode of transportation, may be more apparent contributors to your carbon footprint, there are other things to consider. Let’s look at some things you can do to be a more sustainable traveler while making others “green” with envy!
What is Green Travel?
Green travel aims to minimize environmental impacts in different ways, whether by reducing carbon emissions by choosing a greener mode of transportation, staying in eco-friendly accommodations, or shopping from local communities (Woodley, 2023). While this may seem difficult, for example, when traveling far away from home where flying may be the most viable option, there are still plenty of other ways to decrease your carbon footprint. Even when flying, consider these five tips to help you do so more sustainably (Fotso, 2022).
Choosing a Destination
Remember, travel doesn’t always need to involve going to a different country. Staying close to home can be a significantly easier process (Woodley, 2023). Challenge yourself by trying to find a hidden gem in your city! You can also save a lot of money on transportation, which might mean more for food, souvenirs, and other fun activities! As about ⅕ of global carbon dioxide emissions come from transportation, this is one way to minimize your environmental impact (Fotso, 2022). Select greener rides as you tour the city, such as electricity-powered cars and trains, or go old-fashioned by foot or bike. This could allow you to stroll through streets you wouldn’t usually be able to access by car, adding to the novelty of it all!
If you do wish to travel further, consider sustainable destinations that will benefit from your visit. Bhutan, for example, charges tourists Sustainable Development Fees, which support education, farming, and Bhutan’s tourism industry (Woodley, 2023). Or maybe Ecuador, where the environment has rights, and 97% of the Galapagos’s landmass is monitored closely by Ecuador’s national park service (Sachs, 2017). At other destinations, choose hotels and lodging with energy-efficient and environmentally friendly energy sources, such as solar and hydroelectric power. You can learn more about what hotels can do to be more sustainable to guide your decision-making here (Advincula, 2023)!
When in Rome…
While you’re enjoying your stay, remember to be conscious of your environment. Little things add up, so being respectful and mindful of your surroundings is important. Here’s a list of things you can do while relaxing at your destination:
- When walking on trails or paths, do not litter and try to stay on the path. Avoid feeding animals and removing plants (WWF, n.d.).
- Conserve water and limit energy use (WWF, n.d.). This means turning off the tap and lights when you’re not using them!
- Dispose of your waste appropriately and ensure you do not put trash where it does not belong, such as down the toilet (WWF, n.d.). Reduce and recycle whenever possible.
- Opt for reusable bottles and bags when packing and heading out, and avoid single-use plastics (WWF, n.d.).
- Choose local restaurants and shops over chains for a more immersive cultural experience (WWF, n.d.)!
- Consider volunteering as a fun activity to give back to the community while spending time with locals (WWF, n.d.). There is no limit to what you can try, whether it be teaching a language or helping out on a farm (Woodley, 2023).
- Avoid purchasing souvenirs made from endangered species, such as animal hides, tortoise shells, and coral (WWF, n.d.).
Have a look at this article to learn about Leave No Trace Ethics (Ahmed, 2022). This program explains a bit more about how tourists should behave to minimize their harm to the environment!
The Way Back
It’s possible to have lots of fun while protecting the environment. Try out a few of the things suggested above, and you’ll see that you can still have a wonderful experience minus the waste!
Advincula, A. (2023, Mar 31). What are Hotels doing to be Sustainable? EnvironBuzz. Retrieved May 3, 2023 from: https://environbuzz.com/what-are-hotels-doing-to-be-sustainable/
Ahmed, A. (2022, July 15). How to Protect the Environment While Traveling this Summer. EnvironBuzz. Retrieved May 3, 2023 from: https://environbuzz.com/how-to-protect-the-environment-while-travelling-this-summer/
Fotso, L. (2022, Sept 20). Sustainable Travel: How to Limit Your Carbon Footprint When Flying. EnvironBuzz. Retrieved May 3, 2023 from: https://environbuzz.com/understanding-flight-carbon-footprints-offsets/
Sachs, A. (2017, May 18). What is ‘green travel,’ anyway? A beginner’s guide to eco-friendly vacation planning. The Washington Post. Retrieved May 3, 2023 from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/style/wp/2017/05/18/how-to-plan-an-eco-friendly-vacation-from-start-to-finish/
Welle, D. (2022, Dec 16). How bad for the environment is traveling? Hindustan Times. Retrieved May 3, 2023 from: https://www.hindustantimes.com/lifestyle/travel/how-bad-for-the-environment-is-traveling-101671188476172.html
Woodley, K. (2023, Apr 20). What is green travel and how can you travel sustainably? Worldpackers. Retrieved May 3, 2023 from:
WWF. (n.d.). Have an environmentally friendly vacation. WWF. Retrieved May 3, 2023 from: https://wwf.panda.org/act/live_green/travel/on_vacation/
Travel Sustainably: A Beginner’s Guide to Green Travel