15 Eco-Friendly Travel Tips For 21st Century Explorers

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15 Eco-Friendly Travel Tips for 21st Century Explorers

What is eco-friendly travel?

Eco-friendly travel is one of many phrases used to describe a form of environmentally conscious travel that focuses on protecting the natural and cultural environment we encounter when traveling.

This means being aware of our carbon footprint, reducing waste, and conserving plants, water, wildlife and respecting local cultures.

Why go “green”?

As travelers – who burn fossil fuels with every flight and bus tour — we need to do our part to address climate change. With nearly 1.5 billion global tourists traversing the world every year, it’s now more important than ever for us to reduce our individual impact on the earth’s resources and cultural treasures. 

The consequence of not considering our environment when we travel is accelerated global warming and the ultimate demise of the people, places and wildlife we love to visit. 

Instead, we should act in such a way that helps to preserve the natural environments, animals and local people we currently enjoy, so that we allow future generations to repeat the life changing experiences and encounters that we have experienced on our travels.

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Being an eco-friendly traveler is easier than you think

How do you travel green?

The first things that many people think about when it comes to eco-friendly travel is riding your bike around everywhere or staying in an eco-lodge every night. 

While some people go to extreme lengths to travel green, eco-friendly tourism includes so many smaller yet important activities that make a positive impact in the world when you travel.

Remember, that no matter what decisions you make on your trip, as long as you try your best to be environmentally aware, you’re doing your part.

15 Eco-Friendly Travel Tips

There are a wide-variety of practices that eco-friendly travelers can engage in. Here are 15 simple eco-friendly travel tips to help curb your carbon footprint when traveling.

1. Unplug before you leave 

Whether it’s a weekend getaway or a month long trip, make sure your home isn’t wasting energy while you’re away by unplugging everything in your home. Turn off the sprinkler system, lower the thermostat, and unplug as many appliances as you can – just having them plugged in bleeds energy. This not only reduces electricity consumption but also saves you money.

Street food at asian boat moat markets
Eat locally for an authentic culinary experience that tastes better and reduces carbon emissions

2. Eat & drink locally

Food and beverages that haven’t been transported long distances is easier on the environment, and far tastier! Avoid chain restaurants, visit farmers markets when you can, and look for stores and restaurants advertising local produce. Eating locally sourced foods means that you support local farmers, get a more authentic taste, and reduce your carbon footprint.

For drinks, consider drinking wine produced from local wineries, or beer made in craft-breweries. This way you’re not only supporting local production and minimising pollution from shipping, but able to experience a more authentic side of your destination.

3. Get a refillable water bottle

Plastic waste due to bottled drinking water is a very common problem. By bringing your own refillable water bottle, you not only save money buying water every day, but also reduce plastic waste and the demand for water that’s transported overland in trains and trucks.

Whilst not all countries have safe tap water, you can purchase water filters, purification tablets or bottles with in-built filtration systems to help clean the water and make it drinkable. Note this is all about harm minimisation, as there are countries where the only truly safe option will be to drink bottled water.

Caged Bengal Tiger
Avoid supporting mistreated animals

4. Do not buy souvenir photos exploiting wildlife or watch their shows

Think performing elephants, sedated tigers, and chained eagles. This is just painful to the animals involved and unsustainable from a conservation standpoint.

5. Bring a trash bag

Whether you’re going to the beach, local park, or on a hike, take a small bag with you and pick up any trash you spot along your trip. 

Take your rubbish with you wherever you go, and bring a spare trash bag for any rubbish you find

6. Don’t litter

Litter contaminates soil and water, kills animals who step on it or eat it, and plain just looks bad. Pretty self-explanatory.

7. Use public transport or car-pooling apps

When possible, travel by train and bus as these are far more energy efficient than car, and decrease the carbon footprint of travel per person. In developed nations, public transport is generally easy, fast and comfortable, and is a far more eco-friendly way of transportation. 

You can also car pool with ride-sharing apps such as BlaBlaCar, which connects passengers together between cities who share the cost of the journey.

8. Be an environmentally-conscious guest

At your place of accommodation, turn off the lights, air-conditioning and other electronic devices when you leave the room. Room service generates needless laundry, so hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door and re-use linens/towels. Avoid using the tiny toiletries supplied at hotels – a single bar of soap or reusable squeeze bottle of shampoo can last an entire trip.

Boy with lamb in jugle
Patronise companies that support the environment and local communities

9. Support green accommodation and tour providers

Patronise businesses that practise eco-friendly business practises or help contribute to the environment or local communities.

10. Smaller groups are better

When going on sightseeing or adventure tours, smaller groups usually have less of an environmental impact than larger ones. Before you book, ask what size the group will be.

Enjoy the thrill of exploring a new city by foot or on bike

11. Opt for walking or bicycle tours

See cities up close and personal by opting for walking or cycling tours instead of taking a bus tour. Getting around by bike or foot is a far more engaging, healthy and environmentally friendly experience.

12. Buy local goods

Buying directly from local merchants is good for jobs and the local economy. Items that are transported in (usually from China, Pakistan or Bangladesh) have a much larger carbon footprint.

Avoid products that endanger animals

13. Avoid products made from endangered animals and plants

Don’t buy souvenirs or other products made from endangered animals or plants. This is not only unsustainable, but you likely won’t get it back home through customs.

14. Practise responsible sightseeing

Consider the impacts of your behaviour when sightseeing. Here, the old adage rings true: “take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints”.

For example, when snorkelling, do not touch the coral or stir up sediment as this can damage the eco-system. Choose a reef-safe sunscreen as many chemicals in sunblock are harmful to coral.

When hiking, always stay on marked trails and do not touch or feed the animals you encounter. Always deposit your trash in marked bins or take it with you. 

When camping, light campfires online in designated fire rings (when permitted), and make sure they’re completely distinguished before leaving.

15. Take non-stop flights

It’s the take-offs and landing that consumes the most amount of fuel when flying, not the flying itself. If you can, choose a non-stop direct flight. You can use Carbonfootprint.com to compare the total carbon footprint of your flight options. 

Fly non-stop where possible to reduce your carbon footprint the most
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This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. These are all such awesome tips and will surely make a big difference. I really appreciate that you brought up not exploiting animals too. So important we stop supporting that! Thank you ♡

    1. Exploited animals is probably one of the most depressing things to encounter when on the road for sure. The less people there are that support these businesses, the less they will operate.

  2. Love this post! I always try to do my best and do my part, but I also know I could always do better and this is a great reminder of ways I can. I’m a Californian, so I proudly fit the stereotype of already being obsessed with recycling, bringing our own bags for groceries, and using a refillable water bottle! My husband and I decided to travel to South Africa for our honeymoon for so many of these reasons, especially #4 and # 13, and would gladly do it again! Thanks for bringing more awareness to the topic.

    1. Hey Stacy, thanks for sharing your experiences. I love California – the attitude people have there towards the environment and waste is similar to what we have in Australia.
      That’s brilliant. Each thing each person does is a contribution.

  3. When I travel, I try to be a conscious traveler. I do bring refillable water bottles, but sometimes that isn’t feasible. I eat local and always look for non-stop flights when possible. There are some things on the list that I did not know about, and I will try to implement them into my travel more! Thanks!

    1. Great to hear!

  4. If everyone brought a refillable water bottle it would be huge. Not just for travel either. I see many, many disposables left behind on game days.

    1. I know right. It is the #1 easiest change we can make to reduce plastic bottle waste which is a massive problem.

  5. These are some great tips for eco friendly traveling, many of the tips I already practice. Nevertheless, I found them helpful.

    1. I’m very glad to hear, Lavern! Thanks for the feedback.

  6. I didn’t think about the souvenir part. That’s quite interesting. Will have to keep all these tips in mind for our next trip.

    1. That’s just how I travel. It could be different from others.

  7. Great tips and I didn’t know about several of these. Thank you! I also like to bring my own metal straw (especially in Asian countries where they put straws into everything). And I use a solar battery charger, which I just hang outside my backpack during the day. It collects light and gives my phone an extra boost.

    1. Thanks for your comment Viktoria, and I appreciate your tips here. Taking a reusable straw is such a small thing to implement, but can make a huge different in the grand scheme of things if more of us do it.

  8. Hi Ray!
    Thanks for the great tips. People don’t really realize the environmental impact of traveling. My favorite tip is to travel in small groups to save energy.

    1. Hey Jackie, my pleasure. Smaller groups are both better for nature (and community) and better for your collective experience!

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