Living consciously doesn’t mean that you have to swear off travel. While exploring the world will ultimately have an impact on the environment in one way or another, there are numerous ways to lower your travel footprint.
There’s no right and wrong way to do things when it comes to conscious travel nor do you need to feel pressure to adopt every conscious travel tip or hack. This list is merely here to help you make your next trip more responsible and guilt-free. Just remember that every holiday is different, so take what you need from the list and leave what doesn’t fit accordingly.
When you follow the principles of slow travel your trip will become more conscious and less impactful. Slow travel focuses on the reasons why you travel as well as how you go about it. It places value on slowing down, being mindful, and fully experiencing where you are. The best part is that every trip can be approached as slow travel, it has nothing to do with the speed or duration of the trip itself. Anyone, anywhere can learn the art of slow traveling.
When looking for a travel destination, consider looking closer to home. While we’re all eager to jump on a flight and head halfway across the globe, the most straightforward way to curb your footprint is to pick a destination that doesn’t require long-haul transportation.
Use Low Energy Transportation
Deciding how to get to our destination is one of the most important decisions when it comes to lowering our travel footprint. Make sure to choose the option that has the lowest footprint in and of itself. Set some ground rules for yourself about when you take a train vs plane vs car vs ferry.
Take Direct Flights
Sometimes you just have to take a flight, while I’d love if we could all be like Greta and take a boat across the ocean when we travel, most of us don’t have the luxury of time to spend 7 days at sea to get to our destinations.
However, when you do take a flight by opting for direct flights you can lower your footprint tremendously vs. when you have 2 or 3 flights. This is because most of the CO2 emissions of a flight are during take-off and landing.
Book With Eco-Conscious Airlines
Airlines are starting to take note of the impact that they are responsible. Some are handling it better than others, making their flights more responsible by using less single-use plastics and offering off-setting for their flights. Try to book with airlines that value the planet and are working towards a more responsible airline industry.
Pre-order a Vegetarian or Vegan Meal for your Flight
Eating less meat while traveling is a great way to reduce your footprint. Meat has a larger footprint compared to vegetarian or vegan meals. According to greeneatz, you can reduce your “foodprint” by a quarter just by cutting down on red meats such as beef and lamb.
You can start this before you even get to your destination by pre-booking a veggie meal for your trip.
This option is always available on flights that have a meal serves, as long as your book it in advance on your airline’s reservation page.
Packing has a bigger impact on your footprint than you might think. This also goes for when you need to fly. The heavier the plane is the more CO2 emitted, so try to keep your suitcases to the minimum — an added bonus is that you’ll never have to pay fees for having overweight luggage.
The last tip for lowering your travel footprint while flying is to opt for the economy class.
This is simple math, you can fit 3:1 people in economy vs. first class, and the more people that can fit on the plane fewer flights overall are needed.
Opt for local accommodations like Airbnb, locally owned boutique hotels, or guest houses. From energy usage to waste, staying local curbs impact on many accounts. When we stay at big chain hotels there is an enormous amount of energy usage (think hallways, large common rooms, etc). We’re also more inclined to use single-use plastics, be it toiletries or single-use coffee packets.
Support Sustainable Accommodations
When booking your stay, try to pick a hotel (or other accommodation) that values eco-friendly processes.
Google is helping make this easier with a new search option. To help promote Sustainable Hotels google now places an “eco-certified badge” next to hotels that are making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint.
For more information check out the Complete Maia Guide to Sustainable Accommodation.
Be Energy Conscious
Wherever you are staying make sure to be energy conscious. When we are at home we have the incentive of a lower electricity bill, but when we are on vacation we tend to lose our inhibitions —including those of saving energy. Make sure to switch off the lights and turn off the AC when you’re not in your room.
Make Use of the Do Not Disturb Sign
When we’re at home we don’t change our sheets on a daily basis, so why would we do this on holiday?
While it might be nice to sleep on fresh sheets every night, a lot of water is wasted on washing them. To ensure that your sheets don’t get changed daily put the ‘do not disturb sign on the door when you leave your room. This will signal to the maids to skip your room.
Or if you’d like your room tidied up, without your sheets being washed consider writing the housekeepers a note.
Eating local foods is a simple way to reduce your travel footprint. Apart from being more environmentally friendly, it’ll also give you a better understanding of the culture of the place that you’re visiting. Traditional and local cuisines have a smaller footprint because the ingredients are typically native to the region. Rather than importing ingredients that need to be shipped halfway across the world, this food typically travels only a couple of kilometers.
We’re all guilty of it. We go abroad and we end up buying the mass-made tourist trinkets, magnets, mugs, and little statues of the landmarks. We think it’s a good idea at the time, but when we get home they end up collecting dust in the corner somewhere or in the trash after a few months.
Buying from local artisans helps curb your footprint, while also giving you something that has more meaning behind it. It could be a piece of art that you hang in your home or a garment that reminds you of your trip every time you pull it out of your closet.
Use Public Transport
When it comes to getting around the city you’re exploring, make use of the public transport systems available. While it might be easier to call an Uber, taking public transport can help bring down your impact while traveling. If the public transport isn’t great, consider renting bikes or walking as much as possible. These are also great ways to get to know the city on a more local level, rather than just darting from A to B you’ll get to explore the in-between.
Bring Reusables From Home
Even if we are conscious of our waste in our normal life, sometimes when we are traveling we forget about these things. We buy plastic water bottles and accept plastic bags for the souvenirs we buy. However, it doesn’t have to be like this. You can pack your reusables that you would carry with you in your normal life, such as a tote bag, or a reusable water bottle.
This also goes for toiletries, consider buying reusable containers for your cosmetics and hair care products and make sure they are good quality (preferably not plastic) so you can continue to use them during all of your travels.
Rent/Borrow Special Equipment
If you’re going on an adventure holiday it can be tempting to buy all the gear that you need for the trip, but if you’re only going to use this gear once or twice a year, it might make more sense to rent the equipment you need on location. This can mean tents for camping, skiing equipment, or even wetsuits for surfing.
Even if you’re just going on a “normal holiday” you can consider renting your wardrobe for the duration of your vacation. For example the clothes needed for a week spent in Florianopolis, Brazil aren’t exactly what I’ll be reaching for in my closet when I am back home in the midwest. Renting your vacation wardrobe helps cut down on buying things that’ll sit in the back of your closet upon returning home until the fateful day they end up in the landfill.
Off-Setting Your Impact
You can always curb your footprint by offsetting. This should always be seen as an added bonus to the other tips for reducing your travel impact, rather than an easy fix. Off-setting can be done through many organizations and sometimes even directly through the airline you take or hotel you stay at.