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Understanding Sustainable Tourism & How to Travel Green!

Written by Tali Love

This blog post was updated on September 27, 2019.

Sustainability and going green have become buzzwords and important issues in our world today. While many people make sustainability and environmental concerns a priority when they’re at home, they should start thinking about it while traveling as well. It might sound like a lot of work – you know the recycling policies in your own state and town, but what about in a different country, or even a different region? Keeping up with rules and regulations of wherever the latest cheap flight deals take you can be difficult and overwhelming. The good news is, there are many other ways that you can embrace sustainable tourism.

Think Before You Book a Flight
Sustainable Tourism - before you book

It’s no secret that airplanes aren’t necessarily the most eco-friendly method of transportation. They produce a lot of carbon emissions, which isn’t great for the environment. Actually, though, if you’re traveling by yourself, flying is a more green way to travel than driving, because of the number of emissions released from a car transporting one person.

If you do choose to fly, or if your destination is far enough that you need to fly, book a direct flight whenever possible. Airplanes actually produce the majority of their carbon emissions during takeoff and landing. By limiting the number of times you have to take off and land, you’re reducing your carbon footprint. You can also look for airlines that are involved in carbon offset programs to help neutralize their emissions.

Use Public Transportation at Your Destination
Sustainable Tourism - public transportation

You’ve made it to your destination in the most sustainable way possible, awesome! Whether you’re looking for a way to get across town or if there’s an awesome hiking trail in the next town over, you’ll need to find effective ways to move around. If possible, book a train or hop on a bus instead of renting and driving a car or even participating in a rideshare. Another option is to meet up with some locals who can not only show you the best places to visit, but they could go with you, making it a sustainable road trip.

With these tips you can travel green. With these cheap flight deals you can save some green. 

Think About Lodging Sustainability
Sustainable Tourism - lodging

If you’re staying in a hotel, see if they have any sort of sustainability certification. In the United States, there’s the LEED Certification, Australia has EarthCheck, and there are many more across the world. Be sure to ask your hotel if they have recycling, and what the process is. It’s also a good idea to see how much of a given hotel is “local.” That is, do they use local foods, hire local staff and use local decor? If a company is investing in the local economy, they are more than likely pretty sustainable as well.

Save Water
Sustainable Tourism - save water

Saving water might already be on your list of green initiatives at home, and it’s an easy one to carry with you when you travel. Start by bringing a BPA-free water bottle with you. Not only will you save money by not needing to buy water all the time, but you’ll avoid wasting plastic bottles. (This obviously doesn’t apply if you’re traveling somewhere that doesn’t have clean drinking water. Always be safe and buy bottled water if there are any health concerns.)

Stick with the old standbys of taking short showers, not baths, and turning off the water while you’re brushing your teeth. Hey, if it works at home, it’ll work abroad, too! Consider hand-washing your clothes in the sink if you need to do laundry, rather than asking the hotel to do it.

Save Energy
Sustainable Tourism - save energy

When you leave your hotel room or Airbnb, treat it the way you would treat your home — turn off the lights and television, and set the heat/AC to a normal temperature. Also, if you’re in a hotel or somewhere that offers cleaning services, consider skipping the service. Chances are you don’t actually need your floor vacuumed daily, and your towels probably go an extra day without being washed. You can help cut down on energy use at your accommodations and some major hotel chains even offer bonus points toward your account if you opt to do this.

Sustainable Travel for the Communities You Visit
Sustainable Tourism - communities

These tips for practicing sustainable tourism are great for helping the environment, but green travel is also about the people, culture and economy of your destinations. Try to buy only local souvenirs and visit locally-owned restaurants. This will help ensure the money you spend stays in the local economy, helping to really boost these travel destinations. Another great way to help the communities you visit is to find a place to volunteer. It’s a great way to positively impact the culture and economy of the local area, and maybe help the environment, too!

Think we missed some sustainable travel tips? Have you used any of these before? Let us know in the comments!

About the author

Tali Love

Tali Love is a seasoned solo traveler, trip planner and travel writer. She owns and operates the blog, there she writes about all things lifestyle and travel. Tali loves spending time in nature, good wine, theatre and documentaries. Find her on Instagram and say hello @with_love_tali

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