How to be an Eco-Friendly Traveler

Reliable and practical, here is how you can transform your traveling to make it more eco-friendly.

Traveling in an environmentally conscious way can be challenging. When we’re out of our element, our normal daily habits of recycling or not using plastic utensils might falter. Maybe the country you’re visiting isn’t focused on the environment like you wish it were or maybe it’s so eco-conscious that you feel like you’ve got to do something. Regardless of your travel destination, these are small ways you can change your travel habits that will make a big difference.


Step 1 here is to pack light. Now, I realize this may be difficult if you’re preparing for a 2-week vacation in Germany in winter, but packing as light as possible is good for the atmosphere and it might even be good for your wallet. The more weight that is loaded onto an airplane, the more jet fuel is needed to get the plane to its final destination. Basically, the more a plane weighs, the more carbon emissions it expels to fly. Ideas for packing light include bringing items that you can re-wear and mix’n’match so you don’t get bored with your outfits. Odds are you probably don’t need that fourth pair of shoes. Make of goal of trimming down your baggage. Our planet will thank you.

Here is a list of smaller items to bring with you:

  • Bamboo utensils
  • Bar shampoo and conditioner. Try to reduce those travel-sized items were load up on for vacation then throw out at the end. There are a number of new brands offering eco-friendly bar shampoo and the quality is comparable.
  • Water bottle. This seems basic, but it’s what people forget most often. We go through an enormous amount of plastic water bottles while traveling. If you’re venturing somewhere that doesn’t have safe tap water, invest in a filtered water bottle. They aren’t too expensive and worth the effort.
  • Reusable bags. If you plan to do any grocery shopping or souvenir shopping for that matter, bring those reusable bags instead of letting the cashier bag your new goods in a plastic one. You likely won’t use that plastic bag again and it will sit in a landmine or suffocate a turtle. Neither are great outcomes.

Also, before you go remember to turn off all the lights in your home and unplug everything. Turn down the thermostat, there’s no reason to rack up a heating or cooling bill when no one is there, and suspend your newspaper delivery until after you return.

Getting There

If you have the option of traveling by train or car, do it. Plane travel, while generally effective, is incredibly harmful to the planet. If you must travel by air, choose the most direct route possible. When a plane takes off and lands are when it uses the most fuel. Maybe even do some research before booking your flight to see what that airline is doing to make their planes more energy efficient. There are a few companies who are doing some pretty cool stuff these days. What’s another perk about traveling by land? You get to see and experience the landscape! This you won’t find in the air.

During Your Trip

Be aware of how much time you’re spending in the shower, if you’re leaving the lights when you leave because you’re not paying for it (by the way, you are), or if you’re using your hotel towel once then leaving it out to be washed. Putting that little “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door knob before heading out for the day can help save the planet some energy by not cleaning towels and sheets that really aren’t dirty. Likewise, looking into the environmental practices of your accommodations before booking is a great idea. You can choose to stay places that are making efforts to be energy efficient, places run by locals, not giant corporations, and that have steady recycling programs in place. Avoid single-use items if possible. Things like paper cups, brochures, and take away containers.

If you plan to do any outdoor exploration on your trip, don’t wander off the path. We humans already make it hard enough for plants and animals to survive. We are constantly forcing them to move and adjust the lifestyles to accommodate for our needs of development. If you have the chance to experience nature on your trip, I encourage you to do so but do it with kindness and awareness, please. Likewise, be aware of places that offer animal tourism. There are some places that offer safe and ethical homes to animals, but many that don’t. It’s best to avoid places where you’re allowed to hold a baby animal, ride an elephant, swim with dolphins, etc. Odds are these animals are cruelly trained, stressed in their cages when not being used as entertainment for humans, and possibly drugged.

It’s also a great idea to shop local. By purchases locally produced items, it decreases the need to products to be transported over long distance. Not only that, but you’re investing in the community, which is always a nice thing to do.

Happy travels!

Further Reading

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