Tips on Eco-Friendly Travel

Posted on Thursday, August 2, 2018

Sustainability is one of the most important aspects of my life; at home, it’s much easier to go green carpool, recycle, cut down on plastic, use less water, and buy eco-friendly products. But when it comes to ecotourism, it can be much more difficult to cut down on environmental waste, especially when it comes to transportation. To help, I’ve compiled a list of things you can do as a traveller to help the environment – and also what you can do at home.

Avoid the Plane

Well, I have to take a plane, you say, and you’re completely right. Unless a global metro emerges within the next few years – which would be super cool but highly unlikely – then you’re going to need a plane to get from home to your destination. However, there are ways to help reduce your CO2 footprint.

Fly Less: It’s not always an option to go on longer trips but if you can, going on a longer trip rather than more small trips will help reduce your CO2 footprint. On top of that, getting more direct and fewer flights to reach your destination will also help. If you take off/land fewer times, that’s fewer emissions being released. If you go directly from, say, DC to Paris, that’s fewer emissions than going from DC to Toronto to London to Paris. It’s something to consider when you’re booking a flight.

Additionally, it’s always a good idea to skip the plane and opt for a train or bus, which are much more eco-friendly. I personally hate flying – the ear-popping, the security, the “three-hours-ahead-of-time” rule – so going from A to B via a train or bus where I can look out the window and see the countryside is a win-win for me. If it’s doable to take transportation on land rather than in the air, it should very highly be considered.

Fly Green: Some airlines are much greener than others, reducing their CO2 footprint and emitting less on their flights. During my research, the following airlines popped up the most:

  • AirFrance
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Delta
  • JetBlue
  • KLM
  • United
  • Virgin Atlantic

There’s a lot of data out there about different airlines and their eco-friendliness, based on their policies and emissions (though the studies revolve around US and European airlines). Consider looking into an airline’s CO2 emissions, eco-friendly policies and awards before booking and one flight can help.

Since I’m no expert, here are some links with further information on more airlines:

atmosfair Airline Index 2017
The Most Eco-Friendly Airlines in the U.S. and Europe
Finnair found to be cleanest airline in new study
Eco-Friendly Airlines
World’s Greenest Airlines
How To Reduce Your CO2 Emissions Whilst Travelling

There’s also some talk of “offsetting” your flight by donating to a tree-planting programme, since trees reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. I’m personally not sure if this is a good balance but it never hurts to plant more trees! I’ve included some links below for further reading:

The Basics of Offsetting the Carbon Emissions From Your Flights
Carbon Offsetting
United Airlines CarbonChoice carbon offset program

Kiki from The Blonde Abroad also has a fantastic article on it here.

Use Public Transport

In certain areas, public transit is king where others, it could be non-existent. Look into public transit and consider taking the metro or train rather than a taxi or renting a car, since it’s much more eco-friendly. I also highly recommend walking since it’s a good way to get exercise, stay outside and see the places you’re in at a good pace. There’s a different experience walking from one place to another instead of taking the bus, and the only footprint you’re leaving is yours.

In the US, it can be difficult to live without a car, so consider getting one with eco-friendly features and good gas mileage to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your vehicle. Also, consider writing to your local government or representative asking about implementing public transit. Big changes start at home.

Dump Plastic

Don’t literally dump it, but break up with it. Plastic is evil and even those who don’t believe in global warming can’t deny that wildlife, especially sea life, is being severely affected by trash dumping. There are several ways to skip plastic when you’re home or abroad:

  • Get a good reusable water bottle. Bring a water filter if you’re travelling to a country where it’s not safe to drink the water.
  • Always use a reusable shopping bag. Many places also sell them as souvenirs so you can collect bags of all the places you’ve been, as well.
  • Stop chewing gum! It contains plastic and doesn’t degrade easily.
  • At the grocery store, buy product and food that is not in a plastic wrap or container. Also, stop using plastic produce bags and get some reusable ones, or don’t use them at all. Aside from small things like brussel sprouts, they’re actually quite worthless.
  • Don’t use straws, plastic cups, cutlery, and anything else plastic when you have the opportunity to say No.
  • If you have the opportunity, burn your trash. It’s not the solution to reducing plastic production but it does turn everything that was going to go into a landfill/the ocean into ash. This is a great idea for people who own a decent amount of land and can make a fire pit.

Look Into Green Accommodation

An eco-lodge can be a fun way to learn about and protect the environment while travelling, but it can sometimes be expensive and out of the way. Other accommodation does cater specifically towards ecotourism and can be more affordable and centrally located. If you can’t stay in a completely environmentally-friendly place, look into the initiatives your accommodation does have. Do they have the basics like recycling and optional room cleaning? Do they go above that and have initiatives like solar, water limits, and electricity-saving initiatives? It doesn’t hurt to see what your accommodation’s doing to help the environment and to plan accordingly.

Also be respectful of the environment whether you’re at home or in your accommodation. Don’t do the laundry if you don’t need to, take super long showers, or leave any water or electricity running when you’re not using it.

Be the Change You Wish to See in the World

That’s one of my favourite quotes. If you’re not eco-friendly, remember that it’s never too late to make the necessary changes. If you see someone else damaging the environment, talk to them and give them tips. If you see or work for an organisation that slacks on sustainability, have a discussion about it. A little word of mouth can go a long way and can have a huge impact on our globe.

You can also take the initiative on yourself by volunteering in eco-friendly programmes and taking the time to clean up other peoples’ waste, or take something recyclable from the trash to the recycling bin. It’s a shame that more people aren’t as caring as others but you can still help prevent that from affecting the globe.

You can want to change, but there’s a time to decide to change. I hope these ideas helped you get a better idea of what you and everyone else can do to help the planet at home and on the road.

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1 Comment on "Tips on Eco-Friendly Travel"

Vaibhav Mehta
7th August 2018

That was an informative read. I generally dont like vehicular emissions or electricity/water wastage in particular as far as being a person with an eco friendly bent of mind is concerned. But I liked the fact that you have given easy to apply details here. In fact being a regular gum consumer,I didn’t know chewing gum contained plastic. Will not be having it anymore.

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