It sounds simple: just be a responsible adult when you travel. But when you start the planning process, things get a bit more complicated. From the carbon emissions to get to your destination to the convenient single-use packaging when you arrive.
Lucky for you, there are some simple ways to make your next adventure friendly both for you and the environment.
Where are you going to stay?
Most hotels have an astounding negative impact on the environment. Hotel stays are part of the vacation, leading to guests to take long showers, change the linens on their bed daily, maintaining a steady temperature in their room even when they are gone…. it all adds up. Hotels contribute 60 million tons of CO2 emissions annually because of such practices. But what can you do to help? Luckily, many of the practices you use at home transfer straight into the hotel!
- Unplug appliances when you aren’t using them.
- Adjust the thermostat when you leave the room.
- Put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. That can help save over 6,000 gallons of water!
- Take shorter showers.
You should also take a look at where you book your stay. Just a bit of research on your destination can uncover eco-friendly hotels! These hotels make efforts to use sustainable energy, lower water usage, and reduce plastic waste. Many of these hotels also promote social inclusiveness, fair market competitiveness, and supporting their local communities.
Home sharing companies like Airbnb and VRBO are another great way to be more eco-friendly. Home sharing listings generate less waste, use less water, and drain less energy than traditional hotels. A 2018 Cleantech analysis of Airbnb found that Airbnb guest stays in North America resulted in lower greenhouse gas emissions equal to that of over 354,000 cars and waste reduction of 64,000 tons.
According to Airbnb’s website, in 2018, 88% of Airbnb hosts around the world incorporated green practices into their business, such as using green cleaning products, providing recycling or composting, encouraging guests to use public transportation or providing bicycles, or installing solar panels.
Like hotels, ecofriendly hostels can be hit or miss. However, most hostels do not offer room service, daily fresh linens and towels, and other wasteful practices. The act of room sharing in itself already reduces waste. When sharing a room, you are less likely to take long, luxurious showers and you are energy-sharing in a single room rather than parsing out energy and resources to multiple rooms.
Hostelworld recommends looking for Hostels that are community minded and source their food locally. They should also use eco-friendly furniture, linens, and bath products and avoid single-use plastics. Many eco-friendly hostels also offer sustainable transportation, such as bikes, group tours, and ride sharing.
What are you packing?
I’ve mentioned this before in travel tips, but pack light! The heavier your luggage, the more fuel it takes to transport by train, plane, car, or bus. It might seem small, but every little bit adds up to make a big difference in carbon emissions. According to Sustainable Travel International, “lightening your luggage by 15 pounds would decrease your emissions by about 80 pounds on a ten hour flight. Imagine if there were 200 passengers on your flight and they all packed light – It would eliminate 16,000 pounds of CO2!”
By packing light, you are focusing on what you really need on your trip. Include clothing that you can wear multiple times and is easy to wash on the go. Leave larger items like camping gear at home and rent locally, especially when traveling by plane and public transit.
Take a close look at the products you are bringing with you. While single-use products can be very convenient, they aren’t eco-friendly. Use your own reusable toiletry kits. That way you can refill them for every trip rather than tossing empty containers every time (pro tip, that will also save you a lot of money). For my toiletries, I’ve switched over to solid toiletries. Solid shampoo wastes less. A single bar is equivalent to three liquid bottles and they don’t use plastic packaging. In a traveler’s perspective, they are wonderful in the airport! By bringing all solid toiletries, I don’t have to worry about fishing out my toiletry bag to get through security at the airport.
Two items I always bring with me when I travel is a reusable water bottle and thermos. It is no secret that I absolutely love coffee and coffee shops. But getting the to-go coffee cups all the time adds up to a lot of waste. My Hydroflask is my go-to thermos! Not only does it help me reduce waste, but it keeps my coffee hot or cold much longer than those flimsy paper cups! Given that I can be very clumsy, my thermos is definitely a failsafe for when I’m out exploring with my coffee.
I also always bring my reusable utensils and straw, a reusable napkin, and a reusable shopping bag. These are all easy to wash at your Airbnb/hotel and really reduce single-use plastics on the road. According to the Ocean Conservancy, cutlery is among the most deadly plastic pollution to ocean life. If you must use single-use cutlery, make sure to get biodegradable. There are many single-use bamboo and plant fiber single-use utensils and straws that mimic their plastic equivalents. As Steven Alder, the founder of Clickeat, said, “Our goal is not to replace reusable things. We’re trying to redefine the concept of single use.”
Pack Environmentally Friendly
Do you need to wear sunscreen (hint: the answer is yes)? If you answered yes (which you should have!!!), then take a second look at the sunscreen you grab off the shelf! Did you know that many types of sunscreens are harmful to the environment? You can read more about the specificities in my blog post, “Is your sunscreen killing coral? The importance of reef-safe sunscreen”, but the TLDR is that switching to sunscreen with natural ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium oxide is safe to use near waterways. Most safe sunscreens will be labeled “Reef Safe” on their packaging.
Not only are solid shampoos travel friendly, they are also ecofriendly! Unlike many liquid shampoos, solid shampoos use all-natural ingredients that do not produce toxic byproducts. Just like liquid shampoos, there are different recipes for solid shampoos for different types of hair, from frizzy, to dry, to oily, and more. EcoGirl Shop is an excellent source for ecofriendly soaps.
How are you going to get to your adventure?
Transportation is one of the leading emitters of greenhouse gases. Planning out your transportation can help reduce your carbon footprint while still having a fantastic adventure!
- If you are travelling nearby, considering driving or public transit rather than flying.
- Make your car ride more ecofriendly. You can do this by reducing your luggage weight and ride sharing.
- Once you’re at your destination, incorporate environmentally-friendly transportation:
- Park in a central location and walk.
- When renting a car, try to get an electric or hybrid vehicle.
- Take public transit whenever possible.
- Use a bike to get around.
Check out these resources for more eco-friendly travel tips!
- New York Times, How to Travel Sustainably
- The Washington Post, What is ‘green travel,’ anyway? A beginner’s guide to eco-friendly vacation planning.
- Sustainable Travel International
- World Nomads, Top 10 Tips for Eco-Friendly Travel
Did I miss your best tip for an eco-friendly adventure? Let me know in the comments below!
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