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We’re all well aware that travelling and mass tourism can have a detrimental impact on our environment. However, for those of us with an insatiable wanderlust, there are ways to make our trips more sustainable.
In this blog post, we’ll share some of our tips and ideas for eco-friendly and sustainable travel that you can incorporate into your travel planning, from supporting local businesses to offsetting your carbon footprint.
What is eco-friendly and sustainable travel
Eco-friendly travel refers to travelling in a way that minimises negative environmental impacts. Sustainable travel goes a step further, It’s about being responsible in all aspects of your trip, from the environment to the local economy. By adopting sustainable travel practices, we can reduce our carbon footprint, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and support local communities.
Photo by Mantas Hesthaven
Eco-friendly and sustainable travel is important for several reasons. Not only does travel have a significant impact on the environment; including the use of natural resources, the production of waste and the emission of greenhouse gases, but it also has an impact on local communities and economies.
By choosing eco-friendly accommodations, supporting local businesses, and engaging in community-based tourism, we can help support the local economy and preserve the cultural heritage of the places we visit.
1. Choose efficient modes of transportation
Transportation is one of the most significant contributors to carbon emissions from travel. That’s why choosing eco-friendly transportation options is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce our impact. When possible, opt for alternative modes of transportation instead of flying, as air travel generates the highest amount of carbon emissions among all transportation options.
What is the most sustainable form of travel?
Buses, trains and subways are more efficient than cars and planes, especially for longer distances. Thanks to the improved accessibility of public transport, you now have the option to travel between countries using trains and buses. For example, the Interrailing system through Europe allows you to travel to 33 countries via train, similarly in SouthEast Asia with the bus and train systems spanning the continent.
Photo by Vlad B
When you’re exploring a new place, some great options to keep in mind are walking, cycling and electric scooters! Not only are these better for the environment, but it’s also a great way to explore the local area.
If you need to rent a car, consider an electric or hybrid car. They are more fuel-efficient and produce fewer emissions than traditional cars. Plus, some rental companies offer hybrid or electric car options at no extra cost.
2. Sustainable Packing
Switching to shampoo bars, soap bars, and toothpaste tablets can reduce plastic waste and are often more compact and lighter than traditional toiletries. I also recommend using reusable cotton pads to remove makeup, as these take up less space and result in less waste.
Photo by Miska Sage
Switch to eSIM
Instead of a physical chip that you insert into your device, an eSIM is already built into your hardware, meaning you can activate it remotely and switch between carriers and plans without having to physically change the card. This saves any waste from sims and their packaging, and saves you time when travelling to different countries.
The Best Travel SIM
Airalo is a global eSIM provider that offers affordable and flexible data plans around the world. You can choose from a variety of data plans for your destination country before you even arrive, ensuring that you have access to the internet as soon as you land.
3. Avoid Single use plastics and bring reusables
It goes without saying that one of the most eco-friendly practices you can take part in is avoiding single use plastics, and opting for reusables. When shopping or eating out, try to avoid plastic packaging and utensils; find products and restaurants that use sustainable alternatives like compostable materials or reusable containers.
Photo by Manny Moreno
When you travel, bring a reusable water bottle, utensils, and shopping bag. This helps reduce waste and saves money in the long run. Many destinations have refill stations for water bottles, so this is something we have done for years! Another great item to carry with you is a filtered water bottle or straw.
If you’re like us and enjoy hikes and walks, or you travel to places with unsafe drinking water, then a filtered bottle is great and means you don’t have to keep buying bottled water. They’re also particularly helpful in some places where it’s not safe to drink the tap water – consider one of these instead of single use plastic bottles.
The LifeStraw is one of the best bottles out there – it’s lightweight, durable and reusable making it a perfect addition to your adventure travel gear. LifeStraw claims that their filters last over 5 years, so you won’t even need to worry about changing the filter.
4. Choose Eco-Friendly Accommodation
Choosing eco-friendly accommodation is another way to reduce our impact while travelling. Fortunately, there are many options available that prioritise sustainability and environmental responsibility.
Stay at eco-friendly hotels
Many hotels and lodges have received certifications for their environmental and sustainability practices, such as Green Key, LEED, or EarthCheck. These certifications ensure that the property has taken steps to reduce energy and water consumption, minimise waste, and protect the natural surroundings. Some properties even have gardens where they grow their own food or use composting to reduce waste.
We stayed at Ulaman Eco Resort in Bali, which is a stunning wellness retreat that is eco-friendly by design and practise, and is a great example of luxury accommodation combined with sustainable practices.
Stay at homestays or apartments
Another way to support sustainable accommodations is by choosing local and independent properties. These accommodations often have a smaller environmental footprint and support the local community. It’s also a great way to meet local people and experience the location in a more authentic way. We personally love staying in this type of accommodation because the owners and workers usually have amazing recommendations and fascinating stories.
5. Support Local Businesses
When buying from local businesses, we are not only supporting the local economy, but we are also helping to reduce the environmental impact of our travel by minimising transportation emissions. Here are some ways to support local businesses when travelling:
When buying souvenirs or gifts, consider shopping at locally-owned businesses instead of large chain stores. This not only helps to support the local economy, but it also allows you to bring home unique, handmade items that reflect the local culture.
Eating at locally-owned restaurants or street vendors not only supports the local economy, but it also allows you to try authentic, local cuisine. It’s always better to choose local restaurants over fast food chains if you have the opportunity, and it’s often a more fun and delicious way to experience the local culture.
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6. Eco-Friendly Activities
When travelling, we often do various activities that contribute to our overall travel experience. However, not all activities are eco-friendly or sustainable. By choosing activities that minimise environmental impact and support local conservation efforts, we can have a more meaningful and sustainable travel experience.
One way to do this is by choosing activities that have a minimal environmental impact, such as hiking, biking, or kayaking instead of driving or taking a motorised tour. It’s also important to be mindful of our waste and to choose activities that do not contribute to pollution or damage the local environment.
Another way to support sustainable tourism is by supporting local conservation efforts. This can include visiting national parks, nature reserves, or conservation areas that are managed and protected by local organisations. By paying entrance fees or participating in eco-tourism activities, we can support the conservation efforts and help protect the local environment.
7. Offset Your Carbon Footprint
While we can take various measures to minimise our environmental impact when travelling, it’s difficult to avoid emitting greenhouse gases entirely. However, we can offset our carbon footprint by supporting renewable energy projects or purchasing carbon offsets.
1. Calculate your carbon footprint
The first step to offsetting our carbon footprint is to calculate it. There are several online carbon footprint calculators available that can help us estimate our carbon emissions. These calculators take into account factors such as transportation, accommodations, and food consumption to estimate our carbon emissions.
Photo by Jeremy Bishop
2. Purchase carbon offsets
Once we have an idea of our carbon footprint, we can purchase carbon offsets to compensate for our emissions. Carbon offsets are credits that represent a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. By purchasing these credits, we can offset our own carbon emissions and support renewable energy projects that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
8. Slow down and get off the beaten track
In our fast-paced world, it’s easy to get caught up in the rush of ticking off popular tourist destinations, which results in many destinations becoming overcrowded and having a negative impact. Although it may be tempting to travel to those ‘insta-famous’ locations and tourist hotspots, slowing down and venturing off the beaten track can lead to some unique and truly remarkable travel experiences. In reality, these tourist hotspots are often overcrowded and you may have to wait hours in queues to get pictures.
Photo by Tyler Franta
This doesn’t mean you can’t visit these destinations, but research neighbouring towns, cities and countries that are less travelled. You’ll be guaranteed to find hidden gems and enjoy your time in these places without having to wait in queues or be surrounded by thousands of people. Not only will you be reducing the negative impact of mass tourism, but you’ll be spreading tourism benefits to local communities.
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