Every trip has an environmental impact. This can range from fuel to plastic use to local conservation. This doesn’t mean we should stop traveling. But it does suggest that we make better choices when we travel.
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Becoming a more responsible and environmentally-friendly traveler means making small changes and decisions that positively impact the earth. These are some easy ways to be more eco-friendly travellers.
Find Eco-Friendly Accommodation
There are many environmental seals of approval that hotels can use to get their approval. This is known as LEEDS Approval in the US. In other parts of the world, there are programs like the Green Tourism (UK and parts of Canada and Italy), Rainforest Alliance (South America) and EarthCheck (Australia). If you are looking for eco-friendly accommodation, a hotel accredited is the best place to start.
If you want to go the extra mile, find out what sustainability initiatives the hotel has in place. You can check to see if the hotel has a recycling program or uses energy-efficient bulbs. Also, look into green laundry standards.
Take reusables with you
It’s a smart idea to bring as many reusable items as you can to help reduce plastic waste. You might also want to bring along small silverware sets (I like this bamboo travel set), metal straws and your own water bottle (they now have great collapsible options! You will also need a coffee mug, bags, and toiletries.
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Support local conservation
No matter how much time you spend in nature, it is important to support local conservation efforts wherever possible. You could hire a guide service, where part of the profits go towards conservation efforts or donations to local efforts.
If you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors, make sure to keep to the designated areas. Also, follow a Leave No Trace policy and clean up at any beach or park.
Even if your home is green, you will find that you have a larger carbon footprint when you travel. Because aviation is responsible for as much as 2 percent of carbon emissions, most flight providers offer the opportunity to purchase a carbon credit with your ticket purchase. There are some programs that allow you to buy these credits online if they don’t.
These credits are generally used to fund reforestation projects and energy efficiency initiatives. Make sure you do your research to find out how your money will be used.
Instead of eating imported food, which will only increase your carbon footprint, choose to eat locally-sourced foods that are fresh and in season. It is easy to do this by shopping at local markets or researching sustainable restaurants before you go.
Book with an Eco-Conscious Travel Provider
You should research any company you are considering hiring for a tour. Many major tour companies participate in the carbon offset program and support local businesses.
It shouldn’t take too much effort to find information on the website of a tour company if they are serious about their environmental impact.
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Be compassionate for animals
It is generally acceptable to observe animals while on a trip (safari’s or whale watching, for example). As long as they aren’t impacted by our activities or their schedules, it is okay to observe animals on a trip. However, direct contact with wild animals is not permitted. Harmful activities like riding elephants are also not tolerated.
This is a decision you should make. Make sure to investigate companies that are animal-affiliated before making any decisions.
Take public transportation whenever possible
Buses, while not generally the most comfortable, pretty much take the cake when it comes to environmentally-conscious transportation. Your carbon footprint will be significantly reduced if you use public ground transportation instead of flying.
Consider Your Souvenirs
Souvenirs are a great way to keep a memory of a place. However, souvenirs that directly benefit locals and have low environmental impacts are the best.
You shouldn’t buy Ivory and Coral items. But, you can go further and purchase your next souvenir from a local artisan. This will not only give you money back to the local economy but it will also result in a cooler item.
Recycling should be a top priority, no matter where you are located. Major cities and hotels have recycling programs. If you are concerned about not having recycling at your destination, you should get rid of as much packaging as possible before you leave.
An Environmentally-Friendly Packing List
Water bottles: I love to take my Nalgene water bottle with me on vacation (and a Steripen for those times when I can’t fill it from the tap). I also bring a travelmug in case I need to get a quick boost of caffeine for days.
- Toiletry bottles: I prefer to use refillable bottles instead of purchasing small travel toiletries.
- Cutlery: Metal or hard-plastic cutlery is better than plastic ones for camping. Don’t forget to bring your metal straws.
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- Bags: A reusable bag is a great way to go about your daily life. If you are prone to ordering take-out, a collapsible container is a good idea.