Traveling broadens your horizons, creates memories that last a lifetime, and even provides several health benefits. However, the potential negative environmental impacts of tourism continue to rise as travel becomes increasingly accessible and popular. For example, with nearly 1 billion tourists crisscrossing the globe every year, carbon dioxide emissions from planes are a growing contributor to global warming. Tourism can also result in increased waste, development, and pollution.
As a result, it’s more important than ever to be eco-conscious and do what you can to protect the natural and cultural landscape of the places you visit. The following green travel tips will help you to minimize your impact and protect the earth while you see the world, as well as preserve the environment for tourists that come after you and for the locals who will continue to live there long after you’ve gone home.
Before You Go
The heavier the weight that vehicles such as cars, trains, and planes have to carry, the more fuel they have to use to get to their destination. Because they have to use more fuel, more greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere. Therefore, packing as light as possible when you go on a trip can help to combat global warming.
If no one is going to be in your home while you’re away, be sure to turn off all of the lights, as well as unplug any electronics and appliances that won’t be in use before you leave. You can also turn down your thermostat and water heater. That way, your house won’t be unnecessarily using energy as you travel.
The most environmental mode of transportation for your trip depends on how far you’re traveling. For shorter trips, consider taking a train or bus instead of driving your own car or flying. If taking a bus or a train isn’t possible, a non-stop coach flight is typically the next best option for solo travelers and couples.
If you’re taking a longer journey and traveling on a non-stop flight isn’t feasible, do your best to use the most direct route with the fewest flights as possible, as take-offs and landings burn the most fuel and emit higher levels of CO2. Flying coach rather than first class is better for the environment because the seats are smaller, which means the plane can be more efficient and transport a larger number of people at one time.
If you need to rent a car, choose the smallest vehicle available and select a hybrid if possible. Try to avoid traveling in an SUV, as those vehicles produce significantly more carbon dioxide per mile than a smaller car.
During Your Stay
If you can, stay with friends or family while on your trip. Or, if you don’t know anyone in the area, consider booking a local’s place through a site such as Airbnb or HomeAway.
If you’re set on staying at a hotel, try to choose a green hotel that is locally owned and operated; has a recycling program in place; and has taken steps to reduce consumption such as installing energy-efficient lighting, providing low-flow toilets and showers, and utilizing alternative energy sources such as wind or solar power.
While on your trip, take care to keep your showers short, turn off lights when you leave the room, and reuse towels and sheets over multiple days rather than having them washed and replaced every single day.
Instead of driving, use public transportation, bike, or walk when possible to get around on your trip.