There’s a lot of waste that occurs in the travel industry, which can weigh heavy on eco-conscious travelers who want to see the world while causing the least amount of harm possible. Although it’s impossible to travel without increasing your environmental footprint, there are steps you can take to ensure you don’t cause more waste than absolutely necessary to see the world you love exploring. Here are a few smart ways to cut back on your impact while traveling.
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Consider Your Destination
If you’re a frequent flyer, you’re probably aware of the excess emissions that plane travel produces in our atmosphere. Depending on your vacation time available and where you’re hoping to travel to, you may be able to cut back on the flight emissions you are a part of:
If your destination is within driving distance (or within about 350 miles), consider making your vacation more of a road trip to avoid short-haul flights, as these are particularly bad for the environment. However, if you must fly, book an airline with higher occupancy rates.
Take a Train or Bus
This is a lot easier if you live in Europe where these are the most common forms of transportation, but it’s worth checking where the nearest bus or train station is to your hometown. Greyhound buses often run across the country and are usually less expensive than a plane ticket, so consider this if you have time for the drive.
Explore Whole Areas
This is typically done because it’s the most cost-effective way to travel, but decreasing your transcontinental flights is also an eco-friendly approach to traveling. If you’re traveling to Europe or Southeast Asia, try to go at a time when you can stick around for a few months and see as many countries as you can in each continent. In Europe, trains and buses are a primary form of transportation, so make sure to use them
Choose the Right Hotel
Hotels contribute a lot of waste as part of the travel and service industries, but there are some hotels that are more eco-conscious than others. When booking, look for signs of sustainable business practices, like long-lasting LED lights that reduce electricity use; energy-saving kitchen facilities, laundry, and air conditioning equipment; and reusable shampoo, soap and lotion bottles.
Use Public Transit
When you’re all settled in and ready to explore your city of choice, map out the areas of the city you’re hoping to see each day so you can plan out where you’ll use public transit and where you’ll be able to travel by foot. In large metropolitan areas like New York City, Paris, and Shanghai, there is an entire vibrant culture that you’ll miss out on by taking Ubers and taxis everywhere instead of putting in an extra walking mile here and there.
One of the best ways to take advantage of what a new city has to offer is by avoiding tourist traps and shopping local. According to HansenSurf, “Local cuisine is almost always going to be cheaper than checking out “American” style restaurants, and is super delicious too!” This is often the most affordable way to travel, and by shopping and eating local, you help the local economy thrive and get a real taste of the town’s culture. However, when shopping for local souvenirs, steer clear from any products that are made from endangered animals or fragile ecosystems, such as animal hides, tortoise-shells, ivory, or coral.
Although the travel industry is not very sustainable due to greenhouse gas emissions from flights and other forms of transportation, there are steps you can take to limit your environmental footprint. The shift is slow, but as more people seek out eco-conscious alternatives, demand for environmentally friendly options will steer businesses in that direction, which will open the doors for us, as a society, to make travel smarter for the planet.