Ecosystems vary from location to location, and you may not know what environmental protections are in place wherever you travel. Adopting sustainable and eco-friendly travel practices is the best way to be a tourist without causing too much damage to the local ecosystem. Sustainable tourism focuses on protecting the environment while lowering your carbon footprint.

Travel will always cause environmental harm, but you can take measures to decrease your carbon emissions and improve things for yourself and your destination.

1. What Impact Does Travel Have on the Environment

Travel is a huge industry, and it makes sense why: People want to get out and see the world now more than ever. Tourist arrivals in certain areas reached 963 million in 2022, slowly climbing back to pre-pandemic levels. Travelers must know how to visit important destinations responsibly by considering how their actions affect the environment.

Whether you mean to or not, your travel impacts the environment — as a whole and at your destination. The tourism sector took a hit in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s been recovering since countries opened back up for visitors. Now more than ever, eco-friendly travel and sustainable tourism are essential and can help sustain countries that are suffering, both environmentally and financially.

People want their travels to go well. Despite tourism being more or less the same as pre-pandemic levels, people spend about 4% more on their trips. Though the amount might be negligible to some, you likely want to ensure you get your money’s worth if you spend more on your vacation. At the same time, you want to ensure your journey is a worthwhile experience and create memories while preserving the Earth by prioritizing sustainable and eco-friendly travel.

Eco-friendly traveling is a necessity. Travelers conscious about the environment will improve the world around them while enjoying the sights. Tourism negatively impacts the world, but being environmentally conscious can help people make the best possible decisions for the Earth while exploring new places.

Besides, traveling contributes to around 8% of all carbon emissions, thanks to tourism from high-income countries like the United States. People should see the world, but they should know how to travel in a way that’s better for the environment while also allowing them to make the most of their experience. There is a happy medium between traveling and being kind to the Earth as you take in everything it offers.

What Is Sustainable Tourism?

Sustainable tourism is exactly how it sounds: practicing sustainability when visiting destinations. You commit to keeping the land precisely as it should be. You build up the community by spending money in local shops and small businesses rather than opting for corporations that don’t put money into the local economy.

Sustainable tourism also ensures wildlife stays wild. You don’t feed the animals and affect the ecosystem in any way. You can preserve nature and the area’s cultural heritage by traveling mindfully and knowing your impact on the land. Everything you do in a region impacts the environment, so lowering your carbon footprint can help local communities thrive.

Opting for eco-friendly travel and sustainable tourism is a must. However, in a world post-COVID-19, it might fall on corporations to show interest in sustainable tourism development to get consumers on board. If you make sustainable choices while out of the country, you’ll create demand for sustainable products, whether single-use or reusable. It’s just one of the ways to make less of an impact on your travel destination while there.

How to Lower Your Carbon Footprint When Traveling

You should seek ways to lower your carbon footprint in all areas of life, but when you travel and interact with a culture and environment that isn’t your own, it’s even more important not to leave a negative impact. You never want to damage someone else’s home, whether a house or a forest full of creatures. Try these techniques to help support the community you visit rather than damage it.

1. Stay Somewhere Local

Instead of staying at a big chain resort, invest your money into a smaller place run by locals. That way, you can connect with the people who live there and learn more about the land while also figuring out which sights and activities to prioritize. These connections may also help you find other businesses run by residents, allowing you to funnel even more money into the local economy.

Staying somewhere local means the money you put into your lodging supports the families living there. Unfortunately, when you stay at a big-name resort, you often don’t have control over or knowledge of where the money goes. Supporting small businesses ensures you know it goes to a person’s livelihood rather than overseas.

This can also apply when choosing restaurants to dine at. Many local, community-based restaurants source their food more sustainably than fast food and major chains. Food that’s supplied locally produces less pollution than food that is shipped from across the world. Likewise, when buying souvenirs, look for locally run shops and handmade products, rather than cheap, mass-produced items, and you can easily bring home some gifts while traveling eco-friendly.

A small local guest house with homemade food in Albania

A small local guest house in Albania

2. Go in the Off-Season

Make sure you travel in the off-season. Picking somewhere to go when most tourists don’t visit will help you avoid the hassle of crowds and make you more relaxed. Also, since it’s the off-season, prices are more affordable — everything from lodging to travel might be cheaper than you expected.

One of the best reasons to go in the off-season is that tourists use fewer resources than during peak travel times. You won’t be adding to the mass depletion of resources or creating multitudes of waste when you visit. You’ll also support the economy so it stays strong throughout the year, not just in a single season.

3. Opt for Reusable Items

Sustainable tourism can be improved by bringing reusable items with you. Many airlines and other forms of travel have a weight requirement for luggage, so plan for them in your luggage. Reusables replace single-use items like straws, cups and more, which is good for the environment and saves you money. Plus, they come in handy in so many situations.

For example, in a place where drinking tap water may not be safe, you can bring along a reusable water bottle with a filter in the straw. You might have to replace the filter now and then, but it’ll be much more cost-effective and better for the environment than buying a case of plastic water bottles for the duration of your time there. You can save 156 plastic water bottles annually by switching to a reusable one, or even a filter water bottle like the Grayl.

Pressing the water in the Greyl bottle, the best water purifier bottle out there / Beim Filtern mit der Grayl Flasche, der beste Wasserfilter auf reisen

Purifying water with a Grayl water filter

4. Make Less Waste

Opt for food options that make less waste. You don’t need produce wrapped in plastic when it has a natural casing that prevents things from getting inside. Choose items that won’t add to the waste you create. Recycle as much as you can and follow the local government’s rules about disposing of garbage properly.

If you menstruate, you can use sustainable options rather than single-use items. A menstrual cup or period underwear can help you cut back on pads and tampons. All they need is a wash, and you can continue using them as needed. While reusable items might take some getting used to, they’re a worthwhile option that will save the environment and your wallet in the long run.

5. Check Environmental Policies

You may notice that the local government has certain policies or laws you must follow regarding the environment. You’ll likely want to visit destinations with plans that prioritize the Earth and eco-friendly travel. Costa Rica, for example, doesn’t allow single-use plastics in their national parks.

These policies help you remember to prioritize sustainability in your travel. Plus, these places probably have sustainable single-use items, so you shouldn’t have to feel as bad for buying things from local small businesses while you’re enjoying your travels.

Amazing nature in Costa Rica’s national parks

6. Conserve Water

One of the best ways to leave no mark on the place you’re staying is to help your accommodations conserve water. You can take shorter showers, which might encourage you to get ready faster and explore more of your travel destination. Challenge yourself to use less water than you do at home because you want to preserve the environment you’re visiting and have so many more fun things to do on your agenda.

Aim to do laundry in bulk if you need clean clothing while abroad. Washing one or two things at a time is a waste of water. You should examine your clothes to note whether they’re truly dirty or if you can wear them again, especially if you only had them on for an hour or two. You can also employ this technique at home to decrease your water bill and be eco-friendly.

7. Unplug Devices When Not Used

Even if you aren’t actively using something, it can take up energy resources. Unplug everything you use whenever you leave your room. That might mean unplugging your phone charger or putting your laptop away when it’s not in use.

Getting a smart power strip is one easy way to keep yourself from wasting energy when you’re not in the room. They will notice when something is plugged in and not being used, cutting the power supply off and saving energy while your devices aren’t active. Alternatively, only charge your devices when you’re awake. Doing so will keep you more conscious of what’s plugged in and how long it sits there, using energy.

8. Opt for No Cleaning

You don’t need to have your room cleaned every day of your stay. If the hotel or accommodations you’re staying at offer cleaning services, opt out to conserve water. If you’re the only one in the room, you should be fine using the same linens for your entire stay. You can always ask for more towels if necessary.

It’s such an easy eco-friendly travel hack. You don’t need your sheets changed every day. If you don’t wash your sheets every day at home, you shouldn’t expect them to be changed daily while traveling. As long as you keep your room tidy, there’s no need for additional cleaning.

Eco friendly travel and sustainable tourism

9. Choose Airlines Responsibly

It may be impossible to avoid air travel based on your destination. You would not be able to get to some places if you didn’t rely on flying. Thankfully, eco-friendly airlines exist and can help you make better decisions while on the move.

While it might take a while for planes to craft the technology to catch up with net-zero emissions, you can opt for one of the many airlines that offset their emissions somehow. Some companies support eco-friendly fuel development or advocate for sustainable materials inside the cabin, making them trustworthy options.

10. Book Nonstop Flights

If you must use an airline and opt for one of the more eco-friendly ones, you should also book nonstop flights. You can go directly to your destination rather than stopping at places in between. Planes release more emissions from take-off and landing than any other part of the flight, meaning that you can reduce your carbon footprint by eliminating a stop between your starting point and destination.

This can be challenging since a multi-stop trip is typically much more affordable. If you have some flexibility in your travel timing, book your flight when prices are lower. However, if you can’t book a nonstop flight, see if you can take alternative transportation methods once you land. This is a more eco-friendly travel method to get to your final destination.

11. Carpool and Use Public Transit

One of the easiest ways to lower your carbon footprint when traveling is to carefully choose which transportation methods you want to rely on. Just because you can’t walk to a certain destination within a city doesn’t mean you need to drive there. However, walking is one of your best options, as people who walk over 8,000 steps a day are 51% less likely to die of or suffer health complications than those who walk fewer than 4,000.

You might opt for public transit, like a train or bus, to get where you need to go. If all else fails, download a ridesharing app and carpool with strangers to reach your destination. You may hear some excellent recommendations from them while traveling eco-friendly.

Travel More Sustainably Next Time

Research and information are your friends. Find out everything you can about your destination before you go, so you can be prepared for environmental policies or buy reusable items before your trip. Even a few subtle changes will greatly impact your carbon footprint and help you feel less guilty about traveling. Partaking in sustainable tourism allows you to enjoy the sights without causing damage.

I hope this article has helped you in learning how you can easily opt for eco-friendly traveling. This way, we can still enjoy mother Earth in the future.

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