There is more reason than ever to be an eco-traveler these days. Being a tourist doesn’t have to mean hurting the environment, and there are lots of little things you can do to lessen your carbon footprint on vacation. They needn’t be time-consuming, either. In fact a lot of these things happen to make sightseeing a lot simpler.
At tentree, we’re committed to seeing the world, and doing it in a sustainable way. That’s why we’ve put together this list of ways to jetset in an environmentally-friendly fashion:
Use up perishable foods
Your journey to being an eco conscious traveler begins before you’ve set foot outside your home. In the week before you’re set to leave, measure out exactly how much perishable food you’ll need before departing. If you leave a lot behind, there’s a good chance it won’t be good by the time you return from your travels and it will go to waste.
Prep your meals
Eating while you’re on the road or flying can be extremely wasteful. Food wrappers, plastic containers, single-use cups and cutlery – it all adds up pretty quickly. Doing a little food prep for your travel days can go a long way to reducing the environmental impact of your trip. It also keeps your food costs way down and helps you maintain a proper diet much easier.
Only pack what you need
It can be pretty tempting to overpack for a trip, whether it’s long or short. But consider the weight of all your belongings and that fossil fuels are likely to be what gets you from point A to point B. The heavier a plane or a car is, the more fossil fuels are required to get you to your destination. Packing only what you need and as light as possible helps reduce your carbon footprint, making your trip more eco friendly.
Unplug before you go
Before you leave your home, do a quick sweep of the house and make sure all of your electronic devices, with the exception of any needed for the necessary functions of your home, are unplugged. Even though your devices may be off, it’s still possible for them to draw power. This type of electrical use is called ‘phantom electric draw’ and is responsible for up to 23% of your home’s electrical usage according to a 2015 study. Pull the plug before you head out the door!
Book direct flights
Depending on how far you’re traveling, it may not be possible to obtain a direct flight. But if it is possible, even if it’s a little more expensive, it’s recommended that you book a direct flight. If you have to switch planes, it’s extremely likely that you’ll wind up having to use even more fuel to get you to your destination. Instead of flying in a (roughly) straight line, you’ll have to fly off course to reach your interim airport. Book direct when you can.
Use electronic tickets
Using electronic tickets helps reduce paper waste and is one less thing to carry around. These days it takes nothing more than a couple clicks to have everything from concert tickets to boarding passes sent by email and SMS. So much easier and better for the environment!
Avoid single-use hotel amenities
Some states and hotel chains have banned the use of single-use plastic hotel amenities, which is a good thing, but they are unfortunately still available in most places. Bringing your own soaps, shampoos, and conditioners from your home will help reduce the waste you leave behind.
Additionally, if your hotel has an environmental program, make sure to tell them that you appreciate that. Filling out comment cards may seem silly, but they do make a big difference in helping resorts to know what their guests want. Likewise, if you’ve stayed at a resort that seems wasteful it’s important they’re aware of how it could hurt their business.
Let your mobile be your tour guide
Instead of taking handfuls of brochures, snap photos of the most relevant information using your mobile phone. If you make an album for your trip with only the most relevant stuff, it’s also easier to flip through than shuffling through a stack of paper in a busy place. If you’re in a group, you can also share one map for everyone.
Support the local economy
If you’ve visiting someplace new, try to avoid chain restaurants and big box stores. Instead, make everything local. Eating locally grown food and buying handmade goods makes any travel experience more authentic. You’ll get to know the locals, and learn from their way of life. You can also be sure that your money is going directly into the community.
Use public transit
Most major cities in the world have adequate mass transit systems, from buses to trains to subways, that will help you easily get anywhere in the city. Choosing to take mass transit instead of renting a car is less expensive, easier on the city you’re visiting, doesn’t add to urban congestion, and reduces your carbon footprint. So many great reasons to use alternative modes of transportation.
Bring reusable items
Plastic bottles and silverware are always a major pollution problem in tourist areas, especially tropical ones. A lot of destinations that have unsafe drinking water aren’t known for having reliable recycling, either. It may be tricky, but you can do your part by buying a big bottle of drinking water for your room and refilling a smaller bottle to carry around. You may still need to buy water when necessary, but the impact (and costs!) will already be less.
See less common places
The impact of tourism can at times be significant – ask any national park employee what overtourism can do to a place. When traveling, it can be tempting to see all of the great, famous places pictured all over social media, but considering looking for the more obscure, underground tourist destinations that haven’t been excessively visited. You’ll get a whole new experience and one not shared by many travelers.
Pack a trash bag
Don’t even be tempted to unload gum wrappers and empty sunscreen bottles on the beach – instead, bring a garbage bag along. It’ll leave the sand nice and clean for the next visitors, and save the risk of these things getting washed into the water and harming wildlife!
Cover your footprint
Buying carbon offsets, especially natural offsets like tree planting, can help greatly reduce the impact of your travel. It isn’t a get-out-of-environmentalism-free card but it goes a long way to helping reduce your impact.
Pack out what you pack in
Packing out what you pack in doesn’t only apply to activities like hiking, snowboarding, and camping. Make sure that when you travel you’re leaving as little behind as possible – ideally even nothing. This is much easier on shorter trips but applies no matter how far you’re traveling. If you don’t want to bring it back with you, consider not bringing it with you in the first place.