How to Travel Sustainably in 2020
Sustainable travel is now one of those mainstream buzzwords being tossed around more than “catch flights, not feelings”. Alongside with this term, we’ve emerged with a new way of how we talk about, approach and fund our travels. And in all honestly, it was needed. Sustainable travel is more than just a temporary trend, it is a critical lens in which to evaluate tourism that doesn’t compromise our planet.
What is Sustainable Travel?
Otherwise known as green travel, sustainable travel looks at building better practices in the tourism industry that are aimed toward protecting the environment, minimizing consumption, reducing our footprint on the road and protecting cultural and natural heritage. This has become an increasingly important realization, as countries and communities around the world have noticed the built-up impact of tourism — from Venice to Machu Picchu to The Great Barrier Reef. The goal is respect these communities and to not leave destinations worse off so that they can exist for years to come.
From planning a trip, to packing for a trip to being on a trip — there are several ways that you can travel intentionally and eco-consciously. Continue reading to learn more about the steps you can take to be a better and more planet friendly traveler.
Important to note: We know that travel looks a little different right now. But we want to continue to inspire you with new travel content alongside the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates. Always check local government guidelines for the latest health and safety guidance before booking your trip.
6 Ways to Travel Sustainably
Choosing sustainable destinations
It all starting from choosing where you want to go. And choosing green destinations involves looking at places that boast eco-friendly activities and sustainable tourism. But it can also involve choosing a destination based on it’s more under-the-radar quality. And in many instances, this just means choosing an alternative that resembles your original idea, yet it’s less visited. For example, instead of going to overcrowded Amsterdam, consider Utrecht or Rotterdam; instead of Dubrovnik, consider Split or Zadar.
Research possible places ahead of time to see if there’s more local guesthouses and locally run tours that put your dollar directly into the economy. And lastly, pick places based on how easy it is to get around on public transportation, or better yet — places that are bicycle and pedestrian friendly.
Pack smart and sustainably
Packing your own reusable products will reduce waste, water and your footprint. This is an easy way to travel eco-consciously — and it’s so easy! Bring along reusable products like water bottles, a cloth shopping bag, metal utensils and a straw, a quick dry towel and even a container for any food leftovers.
If you’re going somewhere warm, opt for reef-friendly sunscreen that doesn’t have chemicals like oxybenzone which harm fish and other marine life. And ladies — bring those menstrual cups.
Traveling slow is one of the best ways you can travel sustainably. Instead of country hopping all over Europe in under two weeks, stay in one country or city and move at a slower pace. This is not only better for the environment, it’s also better on your wallet and energy, as you’re less lively to feel travel burn-out. It’s almost more enjoyable because you can experience a place more intimately and become more familiar with your surroundings. You’ll end your short trip in a place you entered as a visitor and will leave feeling like a local.
Stay at eco-friendly accommodations
Eco-hotels or eco-friendly accommodations are lodgings that have committed (even in the fine print) to prioritizing the environment in their business models. In practice this might look like offering soap and shampoo in bulk containers, using alternative energy, sustainable utilities and serving more local and vegan friendly food options.
You have to be careful to look deep at any hotel that uses the term ‘eco’ though. Otherwise known as greenwashing, some hotels may just put the label on without actually doing anything for the environment. Look for accommodations that are certified by a third party, such as Rainforest Alliance or the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
Consider transportation options
When you need to fly somewhere, try opting for eco-flights, which usually means using biofuel or that aircraft has winglets added to the end of wings to reduce fuel consumption. This also means the airline is taking steps to eliminate single-use plastic and using more environmentally friendly materials. Look out for the leaf eco-friendly icon when you’re searching for flights. If this presents a challenge, consider carbon off-setting, where you offset the fuel emitted during your flight by donating money into projects that are combating climate change.
Then once you arrive in a destination, try to take public trains, buses or walk as much as you can!
Support responsible tourism
This includes everything from shopping and eating local to participating in responsible wildlife experiences; basically it’s all about being respectful of local communities. It might be tempting to eat at a recognizable chain restaurant, but ask your accommodation staff where they like to eat and go there instead. Before taking photos of a local on the street, get their consent. And when it comes to seeing wildlife or animals, the best thing you can do is watch them in their natural habitat.
If all of us take these steps when we travel, then our world will be better off for it. Remember—take only photos and leave only footprints!