Exploring the world brings immense joy, granting us the opportunity to immerse in diverse cultures, savor a multitude of flavors, and behold the breathtaking marvels that adorn our Earth. However, travel also has a significant environmental impact if not done responsibly. The reassuring news for travelers is that the travel industry is actively embracing environmentally conscious methods, which in turn sets the stage for a more sustainable future. Consequently, there exist numerous avenues through which travelers can actively contribute towards minimizing their carbon footprint. By choosing sustainable travel options, we can all do our part to protect the planet for future generations.
Go Local and Support Small Businesses
Supporting locally-owned businesses in the destinations you explore is a prime approach to embarking on sustainable travel. Stay in locally-owned accommodations, dine in independent restaurants featuring locally-sourced ingredients, and book tours with small tour operators. These businesses are more likely to support other local businesses and keep money within the community. Some highly-rated eco-friendly tour companies include Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, and Exodus Travels.
Choose Eco-Friendly Accommodations
Your choice of accommodation can have a big impact on the environment. Look for hotels and resorts with sustainability certifications that implement measures like energy efficiency, water conservation, and waste reduction. Some of the top certifications to look for include the Green Key Eco-Rating Program, Green Globe, and LEED certification. Another option is to stay in an eco-lodge, like the award-winning Pacuare Lodge in Costa Rica which runs on solar power and limits its environmental footprint.
Offset Your Carbon Emissions
Air travel produces high amounts of carbon emissions per person. To reduce your impact, consider traveling overland when possible, and offsetting flight emissions. Many airlines and travel companies offer carbon offset programs where you can pay a small fee to fund environmental projects like reforestation that reduce emissions. You can also use independent offset providers like Carbonfund.org and Terrapass. Even offsetting one flight can make a difference.
Conserve Natural Resources
Make an effort to conserve natural resources like water and energy during your trip. Turn off lights and electronics when leaving your room. Reuse towels and linens instead of having them changed daily. Take short showers instead of baths. Dispose of waste properly and recycle whenever possible. Small actions by individuals can add up to big benefits for the environment.
Choose Sustainable Activities
The activities you choose on your trip can also be eco-friendly. Opt for walking tours instead of bus tours. Rent bikes to explore cities and towns. Go wildlife viewing in their natural habitat. Visit national parks and protected areas. Some popular eco-friendly activities include:
- Whale watching - Observe whales in their natural environment without disturbing them. Many coastal destinations offer responsible whale-watching tours.
- Safari tours - Go on photo safaris to spot wildlife in national parks and game reserves. Choose a tour operator certified for responsible tourism.
- Volunteering - Give back to local communities by volunteering on environmental and community projects.
Eat Local and Sustainable Food
Choosing locally-sourced and sustainable food is one of the most impactful ways to travel green. Support restaurants that use locally-grown organic ingredients and sustainable seafood. Try the regional cuisine made from native ingredients. Visit local food markets to buy produce, meats, and cheeses to cook yourself. Some tips for eating sustainably on your trip:
- Choose restaurants certified by the Green Restaurant Association which have sustainable practices.
- Kindly inquire about the origin and certification of the seafood listed on the menu, ensuring it aligns with sustainable sourcing standards established by the esteemed Marine Stewardship Council. Avoid overfished species.
- Buy organic, fair-trade coffee, chocolate, and other goods.
- If renting an apartment or villa, shop at local farmers' markets and cook your own meals using fresh ingredients.
Travel With Reusable Essentials
Bring reusable essentials from home to avoid single-use plastics on your trip. Pack a reusable water bottle, coffee cup, straw, utensils, and shopping bags. Some other useful items include:
- Reef-safe sunscreen - Choose mineral-based sunscreen without harsh chemicals that can damage coral reefs and the environment.
- Eco-friendly toiletries - Use shampoo, soap, lotion, and other toiletries that are natural, organic, and cruelty-free. Avoid those with microbeads that pollute waterways.
- Canvas bags - Carry foldable canvas bags for shopping and day trips. Refuse single-use plastic bags from stores and vendors.
- Metal or glass straw - Say no to plastic straws which pollute oceans and harm wildlife. Carry a reusable metal or glass straw.
- Beeswax or soy-based food wraps - Use reusable wraps as an alternative to single-use plastic wraps and bags. They are natural, washable, and reusable.
Choose Sustainable Souvenirs
Bringing home souvenirs is part of the travel experience, but many popular souvenirs like coral, shells, and products made from endangered species can be unsustainable. When buying souvenirs, choose locally-made, eco-friendly options like "Locally-produced art".