While travel is undeniably great for the soul—for growth, personal development and happiness, it’s undeniably not so great for the environment, with recent research indicating that tourism is at the root of almost 10% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
If you want to do your bit for climate change whilst also making the most of every opportunity you have to travel, here’s how to do so with sustainably in mind.
Where possible, avoid using all of the in-flight goods that airlines throw your way (and always come wrapped in what seem like impossible amounts of plastic packaging). Steer clear of the pillows, blankets and plastic-wrapped toiletry items, and simply bring your own neck pillow, large scarf (which can double as a blanket and is perfect if you’re travelling to colder climes) and your own toiletries. A reusable water bottle and your favourite snacks are other essentials—negating the need to take what the airline is handing out. Every little helps!
If you have to travel by plane (FYI, this study found that trains are a more environmentally way to get around), one of the easiest ways to limit the impact of your carbon footprint is to book nonstop whenever possible. Although this can often prove to be a more expensive option, it’s better for you (‘cause let’s face it—no one likes a layover), and the environment.
It’s no surprise that the more you pack, the greater your carbon footprint is—as the plane has to essentially ‘work harder’ in order to accommodate all of your belongings. Packing light is a great way of making your trip more sustainable, and it comes with the added benefit of being way easier to transport when you reach your destination. Double win!
If there’s one area to stock up on, however, it’s with reusable items that will see you through the entirety of your trip. While they might add some initial bulk to the amount you need to bring, they’ll save you a whole heap of waste throughout the course of your travels. Make sure to include a reusable water bottle, takeaway coffee cup (if hot drinks are your jam), reusable utensils, reusable bags for groceries and a menstrual cup if you’re expecting to get your period while you’re away. So easy, so environmentally-friendly.
When it comes to luggage—getting a hold of some reusable luggage tags will mean those big luggage stickers that create heaps of unnecessary waste can be avoided, and using the airline’s mobile app for your boarding pass negates the need to print one out. Once more for those at the back, every little helps!
Once you’ve landed at your destination, finding yourself a more eco-friendly accommodation option is a great idea. According to one study, Airbnb guests in North America saved 270 Olympic-size-pools worth of water and reduced greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 33,000 cars in just one year—so opting for a home away from home as opposed to a hotel (where convenience trumps everything) will greatly reduce the impact of your travels on the environment. If you do opt for a hotel, make your contribution more sustainable by opting out of daily linen changes and using your own toiletries.
When it comes to getting around—you just can’t beat seeing a new city or exploring a new area by bike. It’s great for the environment, great for your exercise levels, and is usually the best way to live like a local and fully immerse yourself in the local culture. Triple whammy!
Lastly, you probably don’t need telling twice—but eating as the locals do is not only the best way to truly experience a new place, but it also does the environment a real solid. Opting for local fare means you aren’t contributing to the carbon footprint that comes with importing food from overseas, and 9 times out of 10 it’s way more delicious!