Sustainable and Green Travel Ideas

If you’re an environmentally conscious person, it can be very difficult to justify going on vacation. The emissions caused by your travel contribute to global warming, and you’re aware that the presence of tourists can harm natural environments as well as local economies. As a curious and caring person, however, you want to learn about other places, expand your horizons, and learn to become a better citizen of the world and your own country. Is it possible to reconcile these two positions, in order to travel responsibly?

Is Your Vacation Eco-Friendly?

The first thing you need to do is give yourself a break. There’s a tension between the knowledge that big companies and politicians are the ones who can, and who are not, stopping climate change, and the suggestion that people make greener personal choices. The relationship between consumers and big business, and its effect on climate change is complicated.

Put as simply as possible: yes, a small number of large companies produce the majority of the world’s carbon emissions. However they do it to keep up with consumer demand, which means that consumers do certainly have some responsibility. Pinning climate change on individual choices is extremely unhelpful because our society has made carbon use essential to survival. Not everyone can cycle or bus to work, and not everyone can afford or even find organic food in their area. The real change is going to have to come from the top, but in the meantime, we can make our choices count by patronizing businesses that have made commitments to use green energy or more efficient fuel.

Unless you’re walking or cycling, your vacation is likely not completely eco-friendly. You can, however, inform yourself and make the best possible decisions to be as eco-friendly, or green, as possible.

Ways to make travel more sustainable

While traveling sustainably is currently sort of an oxymoron, there are ways that you can mitigate your impact and even generate positive results. This mainly comes from selecting your destinations and service providers carefully.

Choose Your Airline Carefully

Planes are some of the biggest producers of greenhouse gasses in transportation. Unfortunately, some locations just aren’t feasibly accessible without flying. If you need to book a flight, look for an airline company that uses more ecologically friendly and efficient fuel.

Try and fly via direct flights whenever possible, and remember that your activity always leaves a footprint. Start thinking about ways in which you’ll make up for the carbon you use and give back to the environment.

Use Public Transportation

Especially if you’re going to a big city, take the time to research the public transit schedules. Instead of renting a car, make use of transit options like trains and busses whenever possible. It’s a great way to get to know the area, too! Many cities have underground transit systems, and trains are a great way to take in the countryside.

Walk and Cycle Wherever You Can!

Many tourist destinations, especially places with natural beauty, offer walking, hiking, and cycling tours. Make use of these attractions! Some of the best experiences you’ll have traveling might be walking around a historic district or hiking a seaside trail.

Select an Eco-Friendly Destination

Try to pick locations that are ecologically responsible. Countries and cities whose governments have committed to reducing greenhouse gasses are great places to start. This includes members of the Paris accord, countries that protect their natural resources from private use, and countries that uphold and enforce the rights of their indigenous populations. A number of cities are considered to be extremely easy to walk around, which cuts a lot of carbon out of your everyday exploring.

Other important factors to consider in destination are about where you stay and where you spend your money. When you are researching what activities to do and where to stay, make your hotel choices carefully. Heavily traveled tourist areas normally benefit the international corporations that operate there, and very little to no money actually enters the local economy. Looking for local restaurants, family owned businesses, and locally owned hotels are ways you can contribute to local economies while you travel.

What is EcoTourism or Eco Travel?

If you’re looking to make a much larger impact, to offset the carbon costs of your travel as much as possible, try ecotourism. Specifically, this refers to visiting places with endangered natural environments and engaging in active conservation. This could be anything from planting trees to helping animal rescue centers to setting up fences to guard against poachers.

Ecotourism can also be a little less intense. There are so-called “eco-resorts” — tourist destinations that include energy-efficient buildings designed and built to have the lowest environmental impact possible, often located on large swathes of otherwise intact landscape. One such resort has popped up in China, close to Shanghai, which means it’s entirely possible to find ecologically sound alternatives within easy travel of major cities.

Even if you are staying in more traditional hotel you can minimize your footprint by taking walking and hiking tours, limiting your use of plastics by taking a reusable water bottle, refraining from littering or taking anything from natural environments. Little choices do matter, if enough of us make them.