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How to: Travel Sustainably in 7 Easy Ways

by Michelle Konov

You know sustainability is on the rise when Booking.com adds a travel sustainable badge on their site! We covered 7 summer destinations you can’t miss in our recent blog, but not what it means to travel sustainably!

Worldwide now there are many countries and cities that are doing their best to keep tourism healthy and eco-friendly. It’s a difficult journey towards planetary health, but incredibly important. There are few ways to make traveling to far-away destinations truly sustainable (the gas used by airplanes itself is something else). Unless we somehow develop teleportation in the next 10 years, we’re going to have to make our other actions count.

I’m sure you’ve heard the same spiel about how we need to value the planet more again and again. You’re probably thinking that big businesses need to step up to the plate and do their part too – and we agree with you!

But there are still little things – easy things – we can do to make our footprint as small as possible. A little can go a long way!

airplane, travel, sustainable travel
1. Whenever you fly, do it non-stop

Passenger air travel produces the highest and fastest growth of individual emissions in the world. Aviation produced about 2.4% of total CO2 emissions globally in 2018. Non-CO2 effects also tend to influence the climate, such as warming from airplane engines.

Quite simply: the more airplanes you take, the more fuel is used. If there is the option of taking a direct flight rather than connecting in a bunch of places, that’s a great first step to your journey.

Airplanes also take a toll on the human body, as air pressure is quite low at high altitudes. Although the cabin is pressurized on an airplane, there’s less oxygen getting to your body, which can really make you feel drained. If you’re flying long distances, connecting flights can take double the toll from your body: all that ascending and descending can leave you feeling exhausted and more than a little irritable. [It can also put a lot of pressure on your ears!]

If you can afford to travel direct, why not do it? It’s healthier on your body and the environment.

2. Use an eco-friendly booking site

We mentioned Booking.com earlier. With their travel badge, you can see if the place you’re looking to stay actually values sustainability. Other sites, like Bookdifferent.com, also offer a similar service.

According to Booking.com, 73% of travelers say they would be more likely to book somewhere with sustainability practices in place, but 41% don’t know how to find them.

Sustainable travel agents like Lokal can also help you create the perfect eco-friendly trip that will also be fun and exciting!

book online, reserve, computer, online booking
3. Look for local tours and experiences

Booking.com and AirBnB have become quite well-known for its list of activities you can do locally. They tend to promote local business more in a very easy to navigate way. Supporting local businesses can help both the local communities, keeping everything in one area and reducing emissions.

Giving back to these communities is a great way to make sure that money is going where it should: local economies of places that you love to visit.

On top of that, one of my personal favorite websites for this is WithLocals, which can connect you with exactly the experience you want – done in a completely authentic way. Other websites like ToursByLocals, ShowAround, and City Unscripted have similar opportunities, as well!

tour, local tour, local community, give back
4. Eat locally

Eating locally-sourced food sounds a lot easier than it actually is, especially in a big city. Doing some research on which restaurants, farmers’ markets, food stands or shops you might find locally grown food in is a great place to start.

[Or you can ask around at the accommodations you stay at, or in the city!]

There’s something called the food-mile impact of your meals. This is a measure of how far the food has traveled before it reaches you, and it’s a great way of looking at the environmental impact of food.

locally grown food, sustainable food, sustainable living, sustainable travel

If you keep these food-miles in mind as you’re traveling, you’ll probably discover some absolutely delicious, authentic and ethnic foods… and you’ll be helping in saving emissions. It’s also another great way to help support the local economy!

5. Be careful how you consume

When you’re traveling it’s especially important to stay hydrated, because it gives you energy and ensures you stay healthy. Drinking clean water is equally as important, so a lot of the time we default to plastic water bottles when we’re on the move.

Making a small change and switching to a reusable water bottle (and one that can keep your drink cold) is a great way to minimize the use of single-use plastics.

Moreover, those little plastic bottles that you bring with you to hold shampoo and conditioner are a big no-no! Not only do we end up throwing them away after we’re done using them, but they never hold enough.

Solid shampoos and conditioners are now a thing–and they work pretty well. Investing in them as a travel companion is a great way to keep your footprint small!

And let’s not forget: the toothbrush. Plastic toothbrushes are things we’ve had since we were toddlers, wandering around and getting into all sorts of uncomfortable places. It’s really all we’ve known. But that doesn’t mean we can’t change!

Bamboo toothbrushes are all the rage nowadays, and for good reason. Bamboo grows fast and is a much more sustainable option for travel!

6. Travel off-peak

Now, you may be thinking: why would I do that? And what benefit could it possibly have on the environment?

Unfortunately, overtourism is certainly becoming a thing in recent years. This is basically just too many tourists at one time in one place. Imagine… Tokyo trains, if you will. And the environmental impact of simply having that many people in one place is huge.

At the very least it means a lot of litter on the streets, but it could also mean damage to fragile environments or ecosystems. It could even push up local rents if it went on for long enough.

Also, think about it for just a moment: do you want to do sightseeing when all you can see are other tourists? Visiting a new country is all about taking in the sights… of the scenery–not other visitors.

Not only that, but traveling off-peak is really great for your wallet, too!

travel, overtourism, crowded, off-peak
7. Choose your animal experiences carefully

This might be the most important one of all of these. [Of course, they’re all pretty important!] We recently did a blog post on some of the most endangered species in the world, and our campaign in partnership with Emirates Nature – WWF. These were wild animals that are on their last legs in this world, and that we really want to see back in their prime.

These numbers didn’t include the animals in captivity.

Now it’s time to bring attention to them, as well. Most animals in captivity are, unsurprisingly perhaps, not treated very well. Animal abuse in zoos and aquariums is not news to anyone. Many of the “gold-standard” ones in the world allow visitors to interact with the animals: petting, feeding, and taking selfies with them.

While these might seem minor, they are against the guidelines of WAZA (the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums) because they are experiences “where animals perform demeaning and unnatural behaviors”.

But this type of animal abuse doesn’t stop at zoos and aquariums. In fact, it worsens in tourism. It’s said that 3 out of 4 wildlife tourist attractions involve some sort of animal cruelty, often with beatings and meds to “keep them behaving well” or to “help them learn.”

So, before you take that elephant ride or a selfie with a tiger, or go to hold a sea turtle: do a bit of research, keep your eyes and ears open and see what kind of conditions the animals are in.

animal cruelty, animals in captivity, animal experiences, tourism

So as a recap: what do we want? Sustainable travel! When do we want it? Right now! (but probably not, because it’s hard to take a 2-week vacation from today, isn’t it?)

Let’s be smart, eco-conscious humans while we travel and keep in mind that we have a lot of the power, because we’re the ones spending the money.

As a takeaway, I know I’m certainly going to be booking more Green in the future!

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