How to Be an Eco-Friendly Traveler

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INSIDER SECRET: Traveling responsibly can be as easy as packing items like reusable water bottles or metal straws or biking at your destination, instead of taking a taxi.

Eco-friendliness is on the minds of 87% of travelers want to travel sustainably, according to a 2018 study by But only 52% of people actually manage to do so, the study concluded. So, if you want to travel greener and need that extra push, the tips in this post will help you.

Follow these tips to become a more sustainable traveler. (Photo by Syda Productions/Shutterstock)

Consider your method of transport

According to data from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, trains use 30% less energy per passenger mile than cars and 20% less than planes. And let’s not even get started on cruise ships.

I’m not saying you should completely avoid planes, cruise ships and non-hybrid cars, but consider an alternative instead. Non-diesel train travel is a way to see the landscape and sit back and enjoy without having to drive or navigate. Or, consider a hybrid rental car, which you can recharge instead of having to fill up with gas.

If you do fly, consider doing so with a company like Qantas, which has a program to help flyers offset their carbon emissions.

Visit countries making an eco-effort

Choose to give your tourism dollars to countries, states and cities dedicated to protecting the environment. For example, Costa Rica has been at the forefront of responsible travel for years. California and Hawaii are the first US states that have banned plastic bags, and Montreal dwellers could face fines of $1000 for violating the plastic bag ban. Nordic countries such as Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark are known for their advanced environmental policies.

Stay at sustainable hotels

Many hotels around the world are doing their part — things like using efficient power systems, using recycled materials, and giving back to the community. Many of these hotels are family-owned or boutique spots, but some major hotel chains are working to make sure their properties are sustainable in unique and creative ways.

Hyatt’s Andaz Maui uses a solar hot water system, and all the glassware in guest rooms is made from recycled wine bottles. Marriott’s Element hotel brand properties feature recycling and water- reduction programs. Some larger hotel chains will even give you additional points for declining housekeeping, so check if your chosen property offers this option.

When booking, check if the hotel has environmental certifications such as LEED or Green Globe.

Walk, ride a bike or take public transport

Avoid gas-guzzling taxis and instead, get around in a more efficient way — on your own two feet. Walking, biking or even using an electric scooter is a way to put down your phone, see the sights and connect with your destination, all without contributing to air pollution.

Taking public transportation, like the subway, is also a way to see how the locals get around in their city  — and a bonus is that it’s usually more affordable than taxis or ride-sharing services.

Pack the essentials

Plan to bring these items:

  • A BPA-free reusable water bottle so you won’t need to buy small plastic bottles
  • Water purifying tablets when traveling where tap water is unsafe to drink, you can purify it using tablets so you won’t need to buy bottled water
  • A reusable tote bag that can double as a beach bag, laundry bag and more
  • Your own metal straw so you can decline plastic straws or have your own for spots that no longer provide them

Respect natural spaces

Although the saying “leave nothing behind but footprints” may sound cheesy, it’s true. Take all your trash and items with you when leaving the beach, mountains, parks or any other public place leaving no trace. Don’t feed wild animals, touch or alter the environment you’re in by taking anything (this is especially true when snorkeling or diving).

You can go above and beyond and pick up trash on the beach or hiking paths and throw it away — even if it’s not yours.

Leave no trace behind and respect natural spaces. (Photo by Bonnie Fink/Shutterstock)

Support locals

Try to support local businesses and artisans when visiting a new place. Respect local customs and dress respectfully. Learn a few words of the local language if possible, and always ask before photographing locals.

Doing volunteer work while traveling is a great idea, just make sure to vet the organization carefully and make sure you’re contributing to something good.

Websites like Pack for a Purpose offer information on donations that can be made to communities you may visit.

Use responsible tour operators

Hire guides and take tours that are eco-friendly, especially in national parks or when diving or snorkeling. If you plan to interact with animals, use caution and common sense on safaris or when visiting animal sanctuaries or zoos.

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