Why is sustainable travel important and how can we ensure that we travel in a manner that keeps us and our environment safe? Well, that’s what this post is all about.
Now, there is no way we can address the issue of sustainable travel without mentioning carbon footprint. So let’s quickly look at what carbon footprint means and why sustainable travel is so important and then I’ll be giving you 17 awesome tips to make your travel worthwhile and greener.
What Exactly is a Carbon Footprint?
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A carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere. This is usually as a result of activities by individuals, organizations, services, products or places.
So, yes we all have a carbon footprint whether you are an individual or an organization. A carbon footprint is the sum of all the greenhouse gases emitted due to numerous activities like flying or even powering your clothes dryer!
Burning fossil fuels release the most common greenhouse gas known as Carbon dioxide. Cutting down trees and burning them results in greenhouse gas emissions, waste in landfills also breakdown into greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide and methane.
It is a known fact that the tourism industry is responsible for 8% of global green house gas emissions and a huge crisis threatening us and our environment is Climate change.
Climate change is driven by our activities which has led to emissions of greenhouse gases and our behaviors which have also resulted in shifts in weather patterns.
Our everyday actions such as heating buildings, driving, and flying, consume a lot of energy and produce carbon emissions. So it is important for us to be more eco-conscious, and take steps to protect our planet from serious harm.
In this post, we will focus on flying and how you can travel with a smaller carbon footprint.
What is Sustainable Travel?
Sustainable travel simply means being conscious of all our actions when we travel; so that we do not hurt the environment. We want to ensure that when we travel we do not contribute to pollution; instead what we want to do is protect our natural resources.
When you travel you want to ensure that the environment is not impacted negatively; rather your traveling should be beneficial to that community you’re visiting.
Why is Sustainable Travel Important?
Flying contributes to climate change. People travel for so many reasons and in some cases, flying may be the only way to get to your destination. If you are a frequent flyer, then being a sustainable traveler is important.
The only way to be a sustainable traveler is by being environmentally conscious so that the activities we carry out on a daily basis do not affect our environment negatively but leave a positive impact on the society.
Now let’s look at ways you can reduce your carbon footprint when traveling!
17 Best Ways To Travel With a Smaller Carbon Footprint
1. Fly only when necessary
Image source: Image: Viviana Couto Sayalero, Unsplash
If you’re able to take public transit or even carpool, please do so. Those options are better for the environment than flying. According to EPA, aircraft contribute 12 percent of U.S. transportation emissions, and also account for three percent of the nation’s total greenhouse gas production.
If you really have to fly, you must consider carbon offset programs that will benefit planet earth. Purchase carbon offsets that meet recognized standards such as the gold standard which is widely known as the highest carbon offset standard globally.
2. Book a direct flight
Flying direct is better for the environment because you use your more fuel, if you have to take two or three airplanes to get to your destination. Approximately 25% of airplane emissions occur during take off and landing; according to a NASA 2010 report. So next time you’re ready to fly, remember to book a direct flight.
3. Go for Economy
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First class takes up more space per passenger compared to economy. Flying first class also results in 5.5 times larger carbon footprint than that of economy. Choose the more efficient option, which is economy seating which takes up less space. You save money and also protect the environment at the same time.
4. Quality Luggage
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A luggage is not something you want to change every time you are going on a vacation; so getting one of high quality will do and the environment a lot of good.
Ensure you get one that has lightweight and that is of high quality which will last for years. This way you down on waste and protect the environment at the same time.
5. Turn off all electronics before you go
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It’s time to go away on vacation; before you step out the door, remember to check your faucet and shower head and ensure there are no leaks and that you have actually shut them off.
Turn them your thermostat and unplug all electronics. It is estimated that about 50 devices and appliances in the typical American household are always drawing power, even when they are off.
6. Know what you’re getting into before booking a tour experience
Do your research and ensure you aware of the full details, ethics and the rules governing the area. If you are going to be touring some communities and visiting animal sanctuaries, consider the local people who reside there because tours can sometimes be harmful to them and even to wildlife.
In such cases, taking photos with animals and even riding elephants may not be a good idea.
7. Book a Green Hotel or Stay Ecoconscious
Book a green hotel that has the following standards: LEED Certification, have recycling and composting programs in place, conduct waste audits regularly, uses renewable energy and eco-friendly cleaning products.
Booking a place that is eco-friendly is crucial. An eco-friendly booking site like bookdifferent.com can be useful when looking for a place to stay. You will be able to see eco-friendly ratings and their site will also help you calculate your carbon footprint.
If a green hotel is not available, you can still stay “green” by adopting environmentally friendly practices such as:
Reusing your towel: Just like if you were in your own home, you wouldn’t wash your towels every day. So just hold onto the towel you were given on your first day and reuse it. After all, you are only visiting for a few days.
Switch off the lights, Air condition/Heater and Television: when not in use turn off light bulbs and television just like you would if you were in your own home. People tend to leave everything on just because they are not going to be paying extra charges.
Return Brochures: you can return brochures to the front desk before you leave or simply refuse them on arrival. This will reduce the amount of waste you generate and
Take leftovers with you: toiletries you leave behind will be thrown away; so in order to protect the environment, it is advisable to take left over soaps with you.
Turn off Faucet: when not in use or when brushing turn off the faucet and only turn on when needed.
8. Ensure your visit does not hurt the environment
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It is important to pay attention to the area you will be visiting. How your visit impacts the lives of people and their environment. Traveling to an area experiencing drought is inconsiderate; except you are on a mission to render assistance to those in need.
Such areas have little water and it will be insensitive of you if you take showers 3 times daily and leave the faucet running while brushing or even demanding for new pillowcases, bed sheets and towels!
9. Eat Local and support local:
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Try to do some research so you know the types of foods available where you’re going. That way you already know what to expect and where to get these foods from. Local businesses usually have a smaller carbon footprint than bigger companies; therefore supporting them is just the right thing to do for our environment for the following reasons:
Fresh Produce: A lot of local farmers ensure their products are organic and free from pesticides. You will be satisfied knowing you are eating fresh and healthy foods. This is beneficial for you and the environment.
Less transportation: Purchasing local food also helps reduce what is known as “food miles“, which simply refers to the distance food travels to reach the consumer. Supporting local requires less transportation which also results in less pollution, habitat loss and congestion.
Protect Local Land and farmers: when we buy foods grown locally we support farmers who put in all the work and help them achieve success. Local farmers are compensated in turn for their products.
10. Pick up an eco-friendly souvenir
When its time to get a souvenir, don’t be in a hurry to just pick up a key chain or some plastic sunglasses. Instead, buy quality products from local artisans that make handcrafted products.
11. Take some reusable containers along
To cut down on waste and reduce your need for single use items, ensure you bring some reusable containers with you. Simply take a reusable bottle, a food container and a reusable grocery bag with you.
12. Walking, biking or public Transit
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Walking and biking are great options that will let you experience more of the city life. When biking or walking is not practical, consider taking public transit. This is better for the environment than having to rent a car.
13. Rent instead of buying brand new
Consider renting camping gear or skis instead of buying brand new. Sharing or renting is better for the environment. You save money and protect the environment at the same time. It’s a win win!
14. Take only essentials with you
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A heavy traveling bag equates to more fuel being used up to transport it; so take only what you need and start by taking a lightweight weight suitcase. For example, a sarong and a pair of sandals will do the job instead of packing towels, blankets, shoes, slippers and so on.
Also, take a few comfortable tops and pants along that you can easily wash. You really don’t need too much stuff when traveling; just the essentials.
Remove packaging from items you will be taking along. This will reduce the weight of your box.
15. Pick an airline that takes environmental standards seriously
A number of airlines such as AirFrance-Klm, Jetblue, Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, are committed to protecting the environment. Some are now serving environmentally friendly meals while others have upgraded their fleet to be more eco-friendly.
Alaska Airlines for example is composting coffee grounds and also going strawless.
So, before you travel do some research and select an airline that sees environmental protection as a priority.
16. Offset your carbon footprint
The first thing we need to do before we think about carbon offset is that; we need to do our part and take steps to reduce carbon emissions responsibly before we think about carbon offset. Carbon offset refers to a process of reducing green house gases in a manner that is economically sound. You can calculate and offset the carbon dioxide created by your trip.
Examples of carbon offsetting are investing in clean energy projects or even in tree planting projects. Trees store carbon and improve water and soil conservation. They also provide us with shade.
17. Visit places that need your help
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You can travel to places that need help such as developing countries. Developing countries need help in areas including education, they need food and also portable drinking water. Do some research before you go, that way you are able to figure out where you want to go and how you want to improve the lives of people in that community.
That’s my post on “why is sustainable travel important”. Obviously the easiest way to reduce emissions is to fly less; but if you really have to fly or just feel you need to see the entire world, trips can be made more sustainable. Just think about where you are going, what you need to take along with you on your trip and decide on how to get there in an environmentally responsible way.
I hope you found this post useful, if you have any comments please leave them below.
13 thoughts on “Why is Sustainable Travel Important and 17 Best Ways To Travel With a Smaller Carbon Footprint”
This is actually a really good post. A lot of people consider doing eco friendly things to better our economy but a lot of times when traveling all of that effort goes out the window. I’m on vacation and there are a lot of little things that I can do to make a big difference.
While most of the points are valid, I personally don’t agree that going for economy is better than flying first class. The place you’re at on the plane doesn’t change the amount of fuel burned. The opposite applies. Less people on the plane equals less heavy planes, equals less fuel burned.
On the other hand, fewer people per plane DOES equal more planes flying, and THAT’s a problem. If people truly want this to change, the accessibility of leisure flights should be reduced so that actually ALOT LESS people will be flying.
THIS will produce ACTUAL RESULTS, instead of fitting more people per plane and maybe increasing the cost so less people can afford it (aka going economy over first-class), which in my opinion, just isn’t drastic enough of a measure to produce ACTUAL change. It’s not like the people that go on vacations lack money. In most cases, they save up a bunch of money during the rest of the year.
Hi HFS! Thanks for your comment. Highly appreciated! Yes the solution to this will be for people to fly less. I would just like to add that when flying economy, carbon emissions from all the passengers would be reduced because the emissions are distributed over more people. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.
Good post! I noticed on the 17 best ways to travel about one third of those reference flying. I do see your point on economy vs. first class but what about the growing number of private jets for those citizens who can’t be bothered flying first class because they have the money? The problem with vacationers is their mindset. They are expecting to overindulge or do things in excess just being on vacation. We all should do a little more to reduce the carbon footprint.
I agree Bob! We all should do a little bit more to reduce our carbon footprint all the time. Calculating our carbon footprint on a site like wren.com is a good way to do something about the climate crisis. You can learn how to reduce your carbon footprint and even fund tree planting projects. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment..
I have not read about this topic for a while now, but saving the planet is always on the back of my mind. I don’t travel often, and if I do it’s to two places.
I havent done everything on your list, but I have done most of it. We bought good luggages and we have been using them for years now. I try and eat local food, and I don’t stay in hotels.
I didn’t think about some things you wrote, but thanks for letting me know. It’s always good to be reminded.
Saving our planet is very important and the time to do that is now! I’m glad you are already doing most of the things on this post on “Why is Sustainable Travel important.” Durable luggage, eating local are all great things we can do. Thanks for visiting and also thank you for leaving a comment on my other post about Carpooling definition. 🙂
Hello, what an important and interesting topic. My family has always tried to recycle, although I am sure we could do better. I always smile at young people who accuse my generation of not caring about the planet. We were the generation that used recycled Pepsi bottles, and recycled milk bottles. We canned our vegetables and reused the jars; we burned our paper trash and composted the vegetables and coffee grounds, etc. Sorry, I digress. I love the idea of limiting our carbon footprint, and my family tries our best to watch the size of our carbon footprint. Best of luck to you, CherrieAlesia
Hi CherrieAlesia! Thanks for the comment. Reducing our carbon footprint is very important because all we are trying to do is protect our planet. Thank you for sharing ways you and your family are trying to preserve mother earth. Keep up the good work!
I agree with you that we must become more conscious of all our actions when we travel. And it’s nice to have a post as yours to share with my community of travelers and backpackers. When we start taking conscious, it’s like saying thank you to the Earth that has given us so much.
Hi Ann, being conscious of our actions when we travel is crucial in order to save our planet. I’m glad you would be sharing this post about sustainable travel with your community. Thanks for leaving a comment.
This is a very important topic. 8% of carbon emissions being due to tourism may not sound like a lot against the 92% that is everything else but it is clear that we can do much better. I think that many good points have been made by other commenters. It is important to change our mindset when we go on vacation and not take it as a time when we can forget about minimizing our carbon footprint. Of all the 17 measures that you have proposed, which do you think would have the most impact? Thanks, Andy
Hi Andy! Thanks for your input on this important topic on sustainable travel and best ways to travel with a smaller carbon footprint. It is indeed important for us as humans to start doing our bit by taking steps to reduce our carbon footprint and and preserve the earth for ourselves and future generations. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.