Traveling is one of the most enjoyable things you can experience, but doing so also comes with a certain amount of responsibility. Doing your part to be green and environmentally friendly at home is certainly important, but it's also something you should strongly consider doing while traveling.
There are plenty of ways that travelers can lower their carbon footprint. Being responsible is a choice, but there are plenty of relatively easy ways to do so. From lowering the amount of waste you use to picking up trash, the more people who pitch in and do their part means that our planet will be in better shape for years to come.
Sometimes all it takes it thinking about the locals where you're at to help you take a few extra minutes to practice sustainability. Factors that help you be more responsible while traveling include the types of products you use, the place where you stay, the activities you participate in, and much more. Being a responsible traveler is great for the environment and will also help you feel better about yourself.
Traveling is a privilege that not everyone can afford, so being wasteful and not doing your part doesn't seem like the right thing to do. Some people might be under the impression that being more responsible as a traveler will take away from some of the fun that you might have, but that certainly isn't the case. Doing the right thing for our environment feels good and you'll still be able to experience everything you want to while on your vacation.
20 Use The Right Toiletries
Most travelers fit into one of two categories. The first is those that are fine with using the soap and shampoo the hotel provides. The second category includes those that bring their own of every product they might need. Whether you’re staying in a hotel or going camping, one thing you can do is utilize environmentally friendly toiletries which also includes things like hand sanitizer, toothpaste, and hair products. Bringing your own might take up a bit more room in your bags but using those hotel products creates a lot of plastic waste. You’ll want to look around to find items that are green but also reliable.
19 Choosing Sunscreen
Traveling during summer usually means you’ll need to use sunscreen. Whether you’re spending time at the beach or visiting a state park, protecting your skin is important. It’s also important to protect the environment by using environmentally friendly sunscreen. We’re not just talking about the plastic containers that sunscreen comes in but also the actual sunscreen itself. One of the most common active ingredients in sunscreen is known to bleach coral reefs. Other chemicals are harmful to sea life and damage the ecosystem on the ocean floor. Luckily there are better alternatives such as sunscreens that use Zinc or Titanium Oxide which are natural and don’t harm the environment.
18 Bring Your Own Bag
Some states like California have started cracking down on the use of plastic bags, and for good reason. They can be especially harmful to the environment and they seem to be used everywhere. If you’re going to be traveling, try bringing your own bag such as those re-usable canvas bags you sometimes see at the grocery store. Several of those plastic bags end up polluting our oceans which can be very harmful to marine life. You don’t need to bring a lot of re-usable bags with you. Just carry one or two in your backpack or whatever you take with you when you’re on the go.
17 Pick Up After Others
There’s an environmentally friendly practice going on called “3 for the Sea”. It’s a simple concept that anyone can do and it’s great for the environment. All you need to do to participate is pick up at least three pieces of trash whenever you go to the beach. That means three pieces of trash that you find at the beach, not ones that you are responsible for. You’ll want to either throw away or go home with everything you brought yourself. Some scary statistics say that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than actual fish. You can also pick up a few pieces of trash while you’re on a hike or at a park.
16 Don't Waste Water Bottles
Disposable plastic water bottles are available almost everywhere you go. You might not find that to be the case when traveling abroad, but using them isn’t a good idea anyway. Those plastic bottles are just as bad as plastic bags and plastic containers for other products. A reusable water bottle is the best way to go for many reasons. First of all, you’ll be doing your part in helping the environment by not wasting plastic. You’ll also save money in the long run by only needing to buy one or two reusable bottles and filling them up for free. Your water will also stay colder than it will in those flimsy plastic bottles.
15 Re-Use Your Straw
Plastic straws have been the subject of controversy and there are plans to ban them in several locations. We know how bad plastic can be for the environment in the form of bags, bottles, and other products. Plastic straws are no better, and it’s easier to get them stuck in places they don’t belong. It’s recommended to get a reusable water bottle, and you can also get your own straw to use with it. Reusable straws can be used in any bottle or glass. Try buying some made from bamboo or other environmentally friendly products. Even if you do go with plastic reusable straws, you should be able to use them hundreds of times which is a big improvement from the one and done versions.
14 Go Local
To get the true experience of traveling you’ll want to do it like a local would. That means eating at local restaurants and shopping from small vendors. If you prefer to shop at Walmart and eat at McDonald’s you might be able to, but it won’t give you the full experience and won’t help you be green. Visiting a local farmer’s market or eating at a small food stand helps the local economy and most of those products have smaller carbon footprints than the ones that are mass produced for big box companies. Food from street vendors is often very affordable and delicious. If you can stay somewhere with a kitchen try making your own food from local produce.
13 Sustainable Souvenirs
Whether you’re bringing back something to remember your trip by or buying souvenirs for your family or friends, getting something that truly represents the places you’ve been can be the responsible thing to do. There are some souvenirs that might sound cool at first, but once you learn how they are made or the footprint they leave you’ll be likely to change your mind. Ivory and coral are two examples of souvenirs considered beautiful that damage the environment. Try to find an item that’s a better representation such as something symbolic of the country from a local and responsible artist or craftsman.
12 Home Away From Home
There’s a lot to be said for staying in someone else’s home while traveling. You’ll save money and really know how it feels to live like a local. You’ll also be doing your part for the environment. When someone opens up a room in their home or their entire place to travelers, things don’t change that much in terms of the amount of electricity used, etc. Hotels and resorts are luxurious, but they can quite wasteful. Whether it’s all the power that’s used or the little plastic bottles of soap and shampoo, a hotel has a big budget which means they aren’t afraid to use lots of resources.
11 Eco Accommodations
Staying in someone’s home isn’t the only way to do your part and be responsible when traveling. There are some hotels who practice sustainability, you just have to do your homework to find them. There are also other versions of green accommodations like hostels or camping. Some travel sites like Book Different will rate places to stay on their environmentally friendly practices and their carbon footprints. Sometimes staying at these places won’t even cost you anymore and they can even be more affordable because they aren’t wasteful. It also helps to have more to a room than you might prefer and bring your own supplies like toiletries and reusable water bottles.
10 Leave The Do Not Disturb Sign On Your Door
One simple thing you can do is to avoid having your hotel room cleaned too often while on vacation. If you're going to be staying for a day or two chances are you don't need the room to be serviced. Not only will you have more privacy but you'll also do your part for the environment. Energy will be saved by not having the room vacuumed and housekeeping won't have to waste harmful chemicals to clean the restroom. Sheets and towels won't need to be changed out daily so that also helps. If you can, avoid having the hotel do your laundry because they have to wash everyone's items separately which wastes water.
9 Take Advantage Of Public Transportation
Many travel destinations have a solid transportation system. Choosing to use it is a great way to do your part and make responsible decisions while traveling. Not driving yourself will reduce the pollution. While it may not seem like a big deal in some rural areas, it all adds up. Not adding to the traffic also helps you eliminate some noise pollution in the big cities. Public transportation is typically affordable and is sometimes a lot easier than trying to figure out where you're going in a location you're not familiar with. Try to walk as much as you can or ride a bike which also provides exercise.
8 Walk And Ride A Bike
You obviously can't walk everywhere, but you can certainly cut down on using motor vehicles at least somewhat. If you're in a location with a nice climate getting out and walking will make it all the more enjoyable. When walking isn't practical try to ride a bicycle which will get you there faster. Riding a bike doesn't contribute to any pollution or waste any fuel. Several cities have free walking tours and some also have bike sharing programs. If you mix walking and riding a bike with public transportation you can get almost anywhere you want to go without harming the environment.
7 Hitch A Ride
Hitchhiking is sometimes considered to be too dangerous, but doing so in other countries seems to be more appropriate. In Germany for example, the average number of people who travel in a car at a time is 1.5. That means there is plenty of room for passengers which can also lower the carbon footprint. You'll meet some interesting people who can give you advice on what to see and where to go. Instead of standing on the side of the road, try going to a gas station to ask if anyone can give you a ride. Be sure to be careful and if a situation seems too dangerous don't proceed.
6 Take Sustainable Tours
There are plenty of tours and travel activities offered by sustainable travel companies. Many times these are smaller companies of businesses who care about reducing their carbon footprint and helping tourists enjoy their time responsibly. Be sure to do your research by checking out these companies online to see what they have to offer and what they stand for. Sustainable travel is becoming more trendy so do your best to make sure they actually care about the environment and aren't just trying to make a quick buck. Supporting businesses who are responsible helps everyone and encourages others to get in on being green.
5 Be Careful Of Animal Exploitation
One of the coolest things you can do while traveling is to get up close and personal with some local wildlife. While it's an amazing experience, you need to make sure that those animals aren't being exploited in any way. One example of this is riding elephants. These animals are not designed to carry heavy loads on their backs, and the elephants are often captured illegally and treated very poorly. When visiting animals, think about the reason for the tour. If it's for selfish human gain like going on a ride it's probably not right. If it's just to view the animals in sanctuaries or other locations where they're being helped you're probably okay.
4 Pay For The Parks
If you like to visit national parks, you know how the fees can seem like they are out of hand. The entry fee is usually not terrible, but it can certainly feel like it's too much just to view nature. The fact is that these entry fees support national park conservation so you are doing your part by not trying to sneak in. Your money goes to help maintain the park including taking care of the grounds and the wildlife. If people don't pay to go visit these places they may be shut down and taken over by corporations who would certainly make them less sustainable.
3 Try Some Volunteering
If you aren't familiar with volunteering, it's a combination of tourism and volunteering. This helps you give back to the local community you are visiting. It's very important to make sure you are working with an organization that is responsible and cares about the environment. Unfortunately some groups are just looking to take advantage of free labor, while others are legit and doing their part. You might help clean up a beach or maintain a park or wildlife area. You'll feel good about yourself and get out and meet new people and experience new things. Do your research to find good opportunities where you're going and don't be afraid to ask questions.
2 Don't Fall Victim To Scams
This one seems a little obvious. If you know something's a scam, you aren't going to participate or give your money to it. The problem is that in some places you travel you'll see things that break your heart like little children begging in the streets for money. While they are hard to deny, in some places like Cambodia their parents actually instruct them to do that. In some cases these children are part of a large networks run by people who only want your money and don't care about others or the environment. If you feel generous do your research and give to a local charity that's legitimate.
1 Help Others Be Green
Once you've taken steps to become a more responsible and green traveler, now it's time to help others do the same thing. While traveling alone is becoming more and more popular, it's always nice to go on vacation with family or friends. Teach them some tricks to be more environmentally friendly and show them the error of their ways in a respectful manner. If someone you know doesn't care about the environment you might want to find a new travel partner who shares your values. One person can make a big difference, but two or more can multiply the impact of being a responsible traveler.