ecuador swing sustainable travel

Even the most dedicated of environmentalists are likely to turn a blind eye when it comes to travel. Why? Because travel is simply so rewarding. It’s a hard thing to give up. But let’s admit it: travel is a luxury more often than not, and it can have a significant impact on local and global ecosystems. So what is the solution?

Not traveling isn’t likely to be the answer. After all, travel is enriching, educational, and a terrific way to experience different cultures, cities, and people. For these reasons and more, it’s obvious that people (including you) will continue to travel no matter the impact it has. So how can you travel sustainably, while minimising your environmental impact? Believe it or not, it is possible. Here are some practical tips for sustainable travel.

Use Public Transportation or Walk

Once you arrive at your destination, you may feel compelled to rent a car or use Uber and taxi services. We get it… it’s convenient and flexible. But a single car transporting one or two people is a waste of resources. Plus, in many cities a car is hardly the most efficient means of getting around. Use the subway or walk instead. Not only is it better for the environment, but it’s often the best way to immerse yourself in the local surroundings. What’s better than taking a taxi from Manhattan’s East Village up to Midtown? Walking from the East Village to Midtown!

us national parks explore

You Control Your Carbon Footprint

So be proactive! If it’s true that traveling is a luxury, at least you can do your part to make it sustainable. The tips above are a great place to start but they’re hardly the beginning and end of the story. You can limit the length of your shower, turn off the lights in your hotel room when you’re away, adjust the thermostat so that your room is kept at a moderate temperature, recycle newspapers and plastics, and simply observe local daily life. Start today and travel free!

Minimise Air Travel in Favour of Land and Sea Travel

Did you know that jet aviation alone accounts for two percent of all greenhouse gas emissions? By 2020, this number could potentially double. Airplanes are incredible machines – they allow us to cross entire continents and oceans in a matter of hours – but they are also significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. If you are planning a trip locally, consider driving instead of flying. Thinking of going overseas? Hitch a ride on a cruise ship or even try to book passage on a freighter.

camper van camping

Use Energy Efficient Technology

Many people don’t realise that electricity production is responsible for much of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Yes, commercial industry and transportation play a large part as well, but electricity is everywhere, and most of it comes from “dirty” sources. If you want to minimise your environmental impact, use electronic devices that are energy efficient. When traveling abroad, this means using smartphones with energy efficient mobile processors, and laptops with extended battery life.

Eat Local, Buy Local

When in a different country or city, support the local community directly. Make responsible food choices by choosing locally harvested fruits, vegetables, and meats. Not only is there a terrific chance that your meal will taste amazing (when it comes to food, freshness counts!), but you will be mitigating the side-effects of agriculture and farming; mainly, the processing, refrigeration, and transportation of goods from farm to market.

food markets italy

Use a Canvas Bag for Shopping

Pollution comes in all shapes and sizes: greenhouse gas emissions, overuse of natural resources, and chemical usage, among other things. Remember the three R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Bringing a canvas bag on your vacation helps reduce the use of plastic and paper bags, and allows you to reuse your bag for the duration of your trip. Buy one bag, use it forever!

Don’t Litter

This one should be obvious. If you want to minimise your environmental impact, don’t litter! Not only is it unsightly and unclean, but littering allows trash and pollutants to make their way into groundwater, as well as our waterways. This can impact local wild life and pollute potentially potable water, making it undrinkable.

hindu pilgrims washing in ganges river india

Reuse Towels and Sheets

Speaking of reduce, reuse, and recycle, reusing your towels and sheets helps minimise both electricity and water use. By reducing the amount of energy that is required to wash the guests’ linens, you help lower the hotel’s electricity usage; by reducing the amount of linens that need washing, you reduce the hotel’s water usage. Imagine the net savings if everyone in your hotel reused their sheets and towels for the duration of their stay.

Use Electronic Tickets

Rather than printing your tickets, use electronic tickets. Many air carriers now offer electronic ticketing with QR codes which can be read directly from your smart device. Reduce paper waste and go paperless!

Guest Writer – Samantha Rivers

Samantha Rivers is a freelance writer who lives in Chicago (Go Cubs!) and loves writing anything in the lifestyle, beauty, travel, and career realm both online and print. When she’s not running the Upward Onward blog, she enjoys reading, finding new restaurants, being active outside, and indulging in a glass of wine or two.

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