How to Travel Sustainably
We love to travel, immerse ourselves in new cultures, and bring home beautiful gifts for our loved ones back home. These months are the peak of travel season in North America, and have us considering how we travel and how much we leave behind along the way.
By reconsidering travel norms and embracing sustainable practices, we can make our journeys more comfortable, convenient, and environmentally responsible. Considering where we stay, what we pack, and how we get around all make an impact on our carbon footprint. Traveling sustainably not only benefits the environment but also enriches our travel experiences with a sense of purpose and mindfulness.
Low Waste Travel Tips
- Pack Reusable Items. From the airport to the hotel to exploring the area, having reusable items will make your trip more convenient and low-waste. Carry a reusable metal water bottle, coffee cup, and utensils to minimize single-use plastic waste when you eat out. More public spaces are now providing refill stations, where you get cool, fresh water in your own bottle. TIP: Avoid reusing plastic water bottles, which increases the chances of chemical leakage into the water you are consuming!
- Bring Tote Bags. A folded up canvas bag or two takes very little space in your luggage and will save you from using a plastic bag many times over.
- Look for Eco-Friendly Accommodations. More hotels, motels, inns, and rental homes now have green certifications and follow eco-friendly practices. Look into their claims (with an eye for greenwashing) and if they seem legitimate, support these efforts where you can.
- Eco-friendly Tourism Activities. Consider skipping the cookie-cutter amusement parks and shopping malls to explore the local parks, downtowns, and waterways. Rent kayaks or other equipment to spend a day on the lake, river, or beach. Take a hike through state and national parks, town parks, and historic sites. Explore the hub of the nearby town by foot, when possible, to find hidden gems in local makers and restaurants. Opt for eco-friendly tours and activities that respect the environment and local communities.
- Skip the cheap, plastic, mass produced souvenirs. If you want to buy keepsakes, choose items that support the local economy. You might pay more, but you’ll end up with something more meaningful and less to lug home.
- Use public transportation when it makes sense to do so, given safety considerations. For instance, taking a bus or train from the airport to your hotel is often easier than it seems. The key is to have it figured out ahead of time.
- Leave No Trace. Following the "Leave No Trace" principle of taking all your trash with you isn’t all that practical when traveling. It’s easier not to create trash in the first place by having your reusables with you. There are instances, however, when you will have disposables. Make sure you dispose of things properly, for instance seeing that your plastic and glass containers make it to the appropriate recycling receptacle instead of putting it all in the nearest trash can.
- Be out loud about your intentions. When making a purchase, not only can you refuse the offer of a plastic bag, but you can mention that you are trying to cut down on your trash, or trying not to use plastic–and it doesn’t have to sound preachy. You might find that people are in agreement with you, or are curious and will ask you more questions. I’ve had several meaningful interactions that began with turning down a plastic shopping bag, water bottle, coffee cup lid, etc. People are interested!