15 tips for sustainable travel
Sustainability. It’s the word on everybody’s lips.
From sustainable fashion to sustainable cities, now more than ever we need to be super conscientious of what we are buying and how we are living in general in order to protect our planet.
The matter of travel is no different.
“Sustainable travel is about being a responsible traveller and making smarter choices in every aspect of your trip.” Lonely Planet
With more people considering the environment as part of their travel plans, now is the time to learn how you can make your trip more sustainable.
We’ve pulled together 15 tips to help get you going on your journey to sustainable travelling:
Before you leave, pack mindfully
Think backpack rather than suitcase, the lighter the better. There are some clever space saving bags out there meaning you can cram in more than meets the eye. Also, go for organic shampoo and bodywash bars over buying miniature plastic bottles, a quick win that will last a lot longer.
Check your sunscreen
Not an obvious thing to consider but a crucial one for those that will be swimming in open waters, especially divers. Avoid sunscreens containing oxybenzone, butylparaben, octinoxate or 4-methylbenzylidine camphor. Even a small amount can cause coral bleaching. Make sure you apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going in the water so the product can absorb into your skin. The Environmental Working Group has some great online materials on matters like this, check out their recommended list of natural sunscreens.
Learn about the local culture
Before you head off, do some research on the culture of where you’re visiting and learn the basics of the language. This is the most respectable way to travel too. Honour local customs once you land, get to know the locals and ask them for their recommendations.
Explore the rustic food markets and get your hands into the street food, try to avoid any restaurants that import produce from further afield. Locally produced = fresher, more delicious meal times. Always avoid global chains, you can grab a Starbucks anywhere!
Don’t forget your water bottle
Pretty simple and hopefully you’re already doing this every day. If you’re looking to invest though, the Brita BB11 Premium Filtering Water Bottle is pretty great and genuinely will keep your water cool.
If you can, travel over land
If you’re travelling within the Middle East, look at the opportunities for car sharing rather than taking a flight. You can even go one step further and look to use an electric vehicle to get you there. Top Tip: don’t forget to curate a road-trip worthy playlist before you drive! (IDEA:Go Pack ME could curate multiple playlists for different travel scenarios via Spotify?)
If you have to fly, offset your carbon emissions and fly direct
We know that there is a whole lot of world to explore and with hectic, busy lives, sometimes only a quick flight will do. When you’re booking a flight, always fly direct to your destination when possible and check to see if the airline offers carbon offsetting as part of their package. Failing that, carbonfootprint.com is a great resource to calculate your carbon emissions.
Avoid tourist ‘hot spots’
The road less travelled is always the best way to go. Overtourism has a huge negative impact on local businesses and the environment itself, so when in doubt try to avoid the over populated areas.
Pick up rubbish when you spot it
It’s as simple as that. If you’re hiking and you spot an empty wrapper or a betrodden can of soda, don’t just walk on, keep a cloth bag on you and pick it up.
From metal straws to cloth bags and solar powered battery chargers, there are so many ways you travel more sustainably and save money too. (IDEA: create a ‘Reusable packing list to follow on from this article)
Avoid buying dodgy souvenirs
Your grandmother doesn’t need another fridge magnet that has been Made in China. It’s nice to take gifts home but instead of buying something your family and friends may never use, we’d recommend that you buy local produce like olive oil, jams or sweets.
Don’t book onto a cruise ship
Cruise ships are terrible for the environment. Avoid at all costs.
Book group travel (it’s great)
Much better than travelling solo, you’ll meet amazing like-minded people and it’s the most sustainable way to go. Small groups are best (think 10-15 people); by limiting the number of people who visit any place at a time it’s much easier to manage the impact to the environment and minimize disturbance. Interested? Take a look at our adventures.
Check your tour operator is legit
Unfortunately there are a few rogue operators promising sustainable or eco-friendly travel that do not live up to their promises. When booking your trip, always ask clarifying questions about the best practices they follow, look for certifications and partnerships with local guides or community projects and regeneration, and use common sense to determine whether a tour operator is taking care to minimise the impact of their tours on the environment. Check out Gulf for Good who support sustainable charity projects for children via adventure challenges and fitness opportunities.
Leave no trace
As the saying goes, take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints. Always keep a cloth bag with you to take away your own litter, make sure you’re always using biodegradable products and never remove or add to anything that’s in their natural environment.